Advertisement

David versus Goliath: me and my High Street record store against the Ohio State University.

Who shall win? First, what's the problem, mate? Ahem, ah yes, the problem--as stated by OSU is, ready tailgaters?--the level of volume my lone, beat-up, pathetic six-inch sidewalk speaker puts out during store hours. You're thinking, aren't you? How could some dinky record store (our motto: small and getting smaller) and it's dinky speaker get phone calls and visits from the Columbus Police? At the behest of America's biggest university? How? Well, I'm not kidding. And it's been happening for some years. Backstory, please, right? Here it comes. I've been putting some sort of speaker out on the sidewalk every morning since Moses wore short pants. I give it a little volume so passersby get a little groove on for the few seconds they're walking by. Not hugely loud, not usually. But loud enough. Ah, but the devil does lie in the details, does the bastard not? So, maybe, oh five years ago or so, I get a phone call from a crotchety sounding woman who didn't introduce herself, indulged in no conversational niceties, made no effort to acknowledge the importance of my livelihood, nothing. She just went into her demand: turn it down. This is Ohio State calling. Period. Sometimes during my Iggy Pop "Raw Power" moods I'll admit, we rock like hell. Loud. But I remember I was stunned because I was playing some soul music. OK, even soul music can be played loud, too loud, supposedly. Though I don't think so. But this old bat was serious. So I tried to work with her. I said, OK, hang on...went and turned it down by 25 percent. "How's that?" She gave me some ambiguous answer that made no sense. Turns out--and this took a couple years before I figured it out because she wasn't adult enough to explain it to me--she was merely the dean's conduit for whatever school of whatever and as secretary to whatever school's dean she wasn't the one hearing it. God's truth: I tried cooperating for some time. She was, well, she was rather arrogant. She never gave me her name, her building, her position, her phone number--nothing. Just said over and over, like a robot “turn it down.” She didn't care how important it was to the store's financial livelihood--my livelihood. Across the street from me, directly, are the Wexner Center's huge north garden tiers. On the other side of that is College Avenue with the School of Music. Some 75 yards up High Street is Arps Hall. She'd never identify the source of the complaint. She also never would explain what the windows were doing open in the middle of winter. That's right--they're goddam windows were open! In the winter! I assume because individual rooms couldn't regulate their heat, thus a major waste of taxpayer money, no? To cool down in the winter, they opened the windows! And children are going without whiskey in Ireland. That's some shameful shit. So, sometimes I'd turn it down, sometimes not. Usually I did. It's just she so sounded like The Mummy. Hard to respond to someone who terribly reminds you of the arthritic Mrs. Schultz, Strongsville Junior High School cafeteria study hall monitor whose untimely promotion had her following me from junior to senior high school, we both being living nightmares for each other. She sent an obnoxious Polish-born professor (I asked him where he was from) to lay down the law on me one day. But he made the cardinal sin of interrupting me in my own store so I had the pleasure of kicking out a tenured member of our out-of-touch elite academy that hasn't a clue how the real world works but sure doesn't mind mucking it up when it gets the chance. Then the police started coming. I'll say this for the Columbus cops I've had to deal with: they know a threat to the peace of the public when they see one and these guys know a record store rockin' the sidewalk on North High Street at 1 p.m. is not one of them. But I always complied. I ain't stupid. Besides, cops have helped me out a dozen times at least over the years dealing with the real jackals of High Street. Thank you, fellas. Your next Toby Keith CD is on me. Then I got a seven-page legal letter threatening me with being charged with a criminal offense. Six pages of it was just the city's noise ordinance copied and attached to some silly OSU legal eagle page of threats and highfalutin language, the likes of which I used to wipe my ass with back in the day when I was bootlegging Rush posters. Thus it was last Friday as I was playing a Buddy Holly CD, The Bride of Frankenstein calls, croaks her dried-up request like a certain no-doubt-and-hopefully deceased study hall monitor who busted me repeatedly for reading Rolling Stone magazine and National Lampoon. I then get another call half-way through the follow-up to Buddy, Paul McCartney's "Band On The Run." Then the cops show up when I was playing a Booker T. and the MG's album, which was sort of mellow, so that made me look good. Again, the two policemen were cooler than shit. This is not the kind of call they take too seriously but they do take it. They said what most of 'em do: "Look, we don't think it's that loud. But just turn it down, can you?" And fuck it, I do it because they're being reasonable, they're talking to me like a human being, we laugh at the stupidity of it all and then we talk about what the rest of their day might be like. Done. She once called during a Quincy Jones album. Oh yeah--and a Simon and Garfunkel album. Right now I'm playing the soundtrack to the Doors documentary, “When You're Strange.” So if you're gonna need a cop in the next 15 minutes I'm afraid you're going to have to wait until “Hello, I Love You” is over and done with because Robbie Krieger's guitar is one fuzzed-out electric rock'n'roll machine of death and destruction. Can the Ivory Towers be made to come tumbling down thanks to Johnny Go's imitation of Gabriel's Horn? Or will rock'n'roll be destroyed by The Man and His Matriarchal Mummy of Peyton Place sound and fury? Why would would anyone want to tame High Street? No matter what, I think it's a funny story where the cops come off looking like the good guys--for once.