In traveling through life, I've accumulated a pile of mental and emotional associations with music, where in just hearing the name of a musician or song can sometimes spark a memory or feeling. This is hardly anything terribly special, well maybe it is. It just goes to show that Proust was probably right, as anyone who focuses at all on music who knows about Proust would likely tell you. But this music as memory phenomenon doesn't only apply to Proust and Mahler, you know.
Just seeing this article on Oscar Brown Jr
a few moments ago reminded me this morning of that little precious little village where I spent a few formative years. I never heard Oscar Brown Jr perform and knew him only from a few records all those decades ago, when I was a young an impressionable person who wanted to see Oscar Brown Jr.
Anyway, just my desire of wanting to see Oscar Brown Jr put me in touch with my first version of a ticket shark. I'll say right now, I can't remember all the details of how this went down. But there was a small clasified ad in the local weekly offering tickets to one of Brown's concerts for five dollars.
That seemed very cool, very far out indeed (long before there was a phrase 'far out') that Oscar Brown Jr's name made the pages of our local paper even in a classified ad. But then when I called, there weren't many tickets left and they were ten dollars. "That's just the law of supply and demand" in so many words as it was explained to me.
Ten dollars was out of my range as a teenager. This is back when gas was less than a quarter a gallon mind you, and cigarettes had three pennies change held in cellophane on each pack when delivered straight out of the machine that took a quarter. And because mine was not a consuming, burning desire to see Oscar Brown Jr, I let that opportunity pass by.
I didn't listen to public radio then or watch public tv, but some of my friends or more likely their families did. It turned out, Oscar was putting on a well publicized concert, one in which he'd offered tickets as an incentive for people to donate to public radio or public tv. So this local entrepreneur with each ten dollar donation got a couple of tickets for free and he was selling them locally in town.
OK, he'd got the tickets fair and square, supporting a good cause in the process, and really he could do with them whatever he chose. He chose to place an ad in the local paper. Those classified ads designed to fill up what would have been an otherwise blank page in a no-news town, that is, a section that provided some sort of community communication, were a minimum of fifty cents at that time, if you counted up the words and multiplied by pennies, and he'd bought one of those ads to tout his tickets.
I don't know why that incident overall bothered me as much as it did.
Except that, well, for starters, the asking price for the ticket wasn't the same as the advertised price. And as a kid I couldn't help but think, "There ought to be a law ... "
And for some reason this memory reminded me of another involving a local policeman. We always had two local policemen in the village back then. One for the day and one for the night.
During slow and sleepy summer daylight hours, one of them embarked on mission to gather revenue for the city. On foot patrol around the village square, he began small one summer's day and confiscated an unlicensed bicycle or two he'd noticed leaning on their kickstands here and there throughout the village. As the season progressed into the searing heat of summer, he grew more determined, and soon he'd prowl around outside where the kids went in for a coca cola. He'd check out the iron horses resting on their sides on the lawn of the library when the kids were inside for story hour.
He always hit it lucky, like shooting fish in a barrel to find unlicensed bicycles especially in a small college town. When he captured an offender, he would roll the bike a block or two to the stationhouse and waited for the people to come in and report a stolen bike. Or maybe they never came in to report it.
When I went in to report a bike missing from its parking place, he asked me how long I'd had the bike. Well, it was nearly new, just a couple of years, and I was providing a description of stolen property, after all. He informed me he'd confiscated the bike because I hadn't bought a license. My bike was in jail. I had to walk two miles home to collect 50 cents and returned to pay the license. When I plunked the change on the counter, he informed me I had just paid for the previous year's license and now owed him another fifty cents.
I didn't like that too much, either.
He continued. One day, fueled by success and perhaps encouraged by his superiors or encouraged by the seeming lack of opposition and complaint, he rented or borrowed a truck with tall wooden sides. He drove to the junior high school and stalked the bike racks. He loaded every bicycle that wasn't currently tagged into the back of the truck and drove off. I think he was let go shortly after that last incident.
Great God Almighty, what an often crap little town that was. But I learned so much about merchant and mercantile proclivities, traits which seemed to drive everyone in town.
Interesting, though, isn't it, that people are comparing Oscar Brown Jr to the Last Poets nowadays ...