Things I Dig Up

For about five years, I resided in Troy, New York. It was one of the three cities in the “Tri-City Region,” the other two being Schenectady and the state capitol, Albany. Schenectady and I never hit it off. My only forays included hanging out with a semi-crazy goth girl I met while she worked at a comic shop (back when I was into comics) and to drop my friend off at the Vonnegut-famous GE facility where he worked.

Troy became my home when I took over the apartment for a friend-of-the-friend, which I look back now with some amazement that I got such a huge place for only 350 a month. The standard of living in Troy was cheap. Five bucks was enough for a filling dinner from one of the places down near Little Italy, ten bucks if you waned to go Chinese. Of course, the wage I was pulling then wasn’t that great and even with meager bills, I wound up broke and depressed. 350 is still pricey when the job you work only grants 240 a week.

Albany was great because it was big enough to pull in bands headed north to Montreal or south to NYC on their tours. It was a perfect stop in between the more lucrative markets. It was also a decent place to catch good music on the radio. It was about eight to nine years ago when I moved down and the mp3 player was still too expensive and cell phones were still thick enough to cause a concussion when thrown hard enough at someone. The radio was still a primary method for music and luckily, both the SUNY Albany and RPI had a thriving history of quality college radio stations.

Outside the Santeria shop that was on Quail Street, the same street where Last Vestige can be found (a great used CD/record store, if they’re still around) I only knew Sir Walford as the source that there was a thriving Jamaican/Reggae scene in the area. It was probably him and the Dub channel on GTA III that led me to own a pair of TROJAN DUB boxed sets. That phase was short lived after discovering the inherent homophobia of the island culture, but at least the music is nice. I should dig those up, now that I like it. That and those Augustus Pablo records.

The other main show I liked was Screams From The Basement, on WRPI. Focusing on punk, garage and the genre of music that is “Motorhead,” it was a great show that always started right after I got off of work on Thursdays. The best part of the afternoon, since Thursdays are typically my unlucky days, was hearing the first three-swipes, like the sound a kung-fu chop might make in the air, before the theme music kicked in.

I found out the song years later, after moving to New Haven. It’s one of those great joys that I hope somehow persists in this growing digital age, where I can instantly know EVERYTHING thanks to a specific app I can download on my phone. Don’t know a song, Jason? Use SHAZAM to identify it. Don’t know a book? Why, we’ve got something for that, too.

Greater information does threaten to take out some mystery in life but I think these are old mysteries. There will always be new discoveries to be made because the human is a flawed creature by design, not capable of remembering everything. So some kid today will have the same burst of outright glee that I had when I was in the parking lot of a North Haven Barnes and Noble when “The Mark of Zorro” by the Challengers came on my iPod. After a good three year absence from my mind, all of a sudden, I was back in my old Chevy on the way back from work, not sitting in a Buick on my lunch break. It wasn’t kung-fu strikes but the sword of the mythical hero carving his trademark Z.

I had found the album in my research into surf music for a project. I had no idea that the Challengers were behind Jim’s selection for his Screams From The Basement show, and knowing that he went with a classic surf song than some punk or metal B-side made my memories of that time all the better.

These small things keeps a man going in the face of certain and inevitable doom and ruin, y’know? Enjoying the sunset at the end of all time.


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