Sunday, November 2, 2008

My First Record

When I was six years old, my grandparents took me to Funtown, an amusement park of the day located on Stewart Avenue in Atlanta. (Funtown closed in 1966. Here's a link to an interesting description of it.)

In an arcade on the property was a booth where, for the princely sum of 50 cents, one could enter and make a 2-minute recording. Insert two quarters, press the button, wait for the light, then take your best shot at a spot on Hullabaloo or Shindig.

Approximately 10 minutes after the recording ended, a miracle happened. The mysterious guts of the machine began whirring and groaning, and out of a slot slid a shiny yellow 45 rpm record.

I mean it when I say that the first "real" record I made some 16 years later was no more a dizzying experience than this one. I clutched that piece of lemon-colored plastic in my chubby hands as if it was a circle of sparkling magic.

I kept it as the years passed. I grew older, and it was a source of amusement to me. But, it was always a cherished possesion that, as I moved through my chaotic late childhood/early adulthood, I could put my hands on when I needed.

Then one day, it was gone. Just gone. It never had a specific drawer or box where it lived. I just knew where it was. But, it wasn't there any longer. Reaching, my hand closed on emptiness.

I am a notorious packrat, and I have hung onto all kinds of things far less important to me: clothing, paperbacks, 4th grade geometry tests, pocket lint.

But not my first record. It's gone.

I sometimes dream that, on that grand day when I finally begin to sift through the detritus of my life which clogs the attic of my house, I will find it at the bottom of an ancient pasteboard box full of prepubescent drawings.

Until such a momentous event it remains that most desired of lost things. For me, it is Shakespeare's "Cardenio"; Orson Welles' "Heart of Darkness"; Robert Johnson's unrecorded catalog. The one thing lost to me that I would most like to find.

Who knows? That attic is full of pasteboard boxes.

(By the way - the song I "sang" was "Hello Muddah, Hello Faddah." I forgot the lyrics halfway through the song and just hummed the melody until the "recording" light went off.)