Spin the Black Circle


Last weekend, I hosted a few friends from out of town at my home in Baltimore. One of the guests commented on the fact that I have an old turntable set up in front of my television on the first floor. I began to explain it’s origins, and immediately was impacted by a warm yet powerful wave of nostalgia…

The turntable was a gift from my father. I had just moved to Charleston, SC and my new apartment on King St. was above a record store. The store was effectively a hipster community center where those who shared a mutual appreciation for skinny jeans, fixed gear bikes, and punk music would gather and spout anti-Bush rhetoric. I frequented the store looking for undiscovered treasures from grundge era rock discarded by aging rock fans who had upgraded from CDs to iTunes.

I told my Dad this story, and he recalled a similar experience during his early twenties. Around that time, my dad was bouncing around Southern California, enjoying the beach and rocking out to Neil Young, Jethro Tull, and of course Led Zeppelin. The remnants of my father’s youth were neatly arranged across a rickety bookshelf, sandwiched between dog-eared copies of “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance” and “Bronco’s Brain.” During one of my trips home from the Low Country, my father admitted that he rarely if ever used his turntable anymore, and would be more than glad if I promised to take it off his hands and put it to good use. I accepted his offer, and now my turntable sits proudly in my living room as a tribute to the connection between my father and i.

It reminds me of him, his perpetual thirst for knowledge and his daily pursuit of perfection, which he sought through even the most menial of tasks.  I remember how he would describe to me the nuances of technology incorporated in a turntable, how sound was created from tiny grooves in the vinyl which were read by a tiny diamond at the end of the arm.  He would speak as he carefully dusted off the vinyl of the record, being sure not to touch the surface of the record, as he explained that oils from our hands could impede the production of quality sound.  He would then gently set the record on to the turntable, and slowly and precisely position the needle over the groove from his selected track.  He would softly throw the lever allowing the needle to drop, and as the diamond struck the first groove, the soft crackles and pops would utter out from the adjacent floor speakers…

My father never passed up an opportunity to teach me, and every day I recognize the value of my father’s lessons. During times of complexity and chaos, during times when I need to make difficult decisions, I find myself wondering what my dad would think. He always had a new way for me to look at or think through a scenario. While I miss the ability to solicit his advice and counsel, I know that the lessons he has provided will enable me to make the right decisions. The virtues he imbued me with make up who I am, and so long as I stick to them, I will honor him.

Today I celebrate the connection my father and I shared by using his turntable, which over the years has uttered his favorites from “Abraxas” to “Zuma,” but now it emits my favorites from “Kid A” to “Vitalogy.”