Does anyone remember Tower Records? Well, before their demise in 2006, they were the “coolest” record store around, with every artist imaginable from Manheim Steamroller to Van Halen. And to me, it served a special purpose, because it was the one place where my dad and I could be on neutral, solid ground; where we could hold off on fighting over whatever it was we used to fight about; where we could appreciate and understand each other. Well, let me take that back; he NEVER understood how I could listen to such garbage as Madonna and Duran Duran, nor could I understand, at the time, his fascination with all things Rag. Nevertheless, it was “our place” and we loved going there, together.
It always went something like this:
Pull up in his white, convertible ’69 Camaro, wait while he finished his cig, and rolled the top up (actually he never rolled the top up–he said he’d rather have someone just hop in than slash that precious canvas top).
Walk in with heart racing and eager anticipation.
“You can get two records, Mary.”
Head our separate ways, me to the Pop or Soundtrack sections and him to the Old Farts section.
Pass each other in the aisles and throw glances & waves across the rows of those now defunct, precious vinyl sleeves.
At the minimum, one hour goes by.
Eventually, we meet up at the register; him with a stack of gag me and me with a STACK of goodness.
Sift through my stack at his command and put them into two piles: ones I absolutely HAD TO HAVE, and the ones I didn’t really need but like totally wanted, you know like fer sure fer sure.
Combine both piles and buy them all.
Yes, I was spoiled.
Yes, that explains a lot about me. Moving on.
I would hug him and love on him as we walked out of the store, clutching the yellow plastic bags filled with hours of delicious listening.
On our drive home, top down, AM radio blaring, I would tear open the clear wrap, peruse the photos quickly and then go straight to the lyrics section. I HAD to know EVERY word to EVERY song. I started studying them, right there and then. Good thing I didn’t get to “Darling Nikki” before we got home the day Purple Rain was released (I’m pretty sure I begged him to take me on Release Day for that album).
I have no idea how often we took trips like that, but I would say it was at least a dozen, if not more, times during my childhood and high school years. There were “ups and downs” in my relationship with my dad, but those trips to Tower Records, always the one in Point Loma, were the “time-outs” to our on-going spats.
My dad was not great at showing affection, so he would do it through gifts. And music. In fact, music was his gift to me. I am eternally grateful for that.
Today, as I was driving the kids to the Sports Arena (a local sports/concert venue) to pick-up my tickets to the Disney on Ice show this weekend, I turned down the road only locals know about leading to Sports Arena; the road where Tower Records used to reside. In the midst of singing “There’s a party in my tummy” with my girls at the top of our lungs,” I stopped. I nearly had to pull over.
I looked towards the building, the home to so many of those precious memories of my dad, and it was gone. Well the building is still there but the bright-as-the-sun and blood red “Tower Records” sign was gone. The sign that had been a beacon through many of the tough times I had with my dad. And the place that was the band-aid, the hug, the genuinely magical daughter/dad place is now a Men’s Bad Suit Store. No music, no magic, just badly designed polyester.
Nostalgia was stabbing me as I drove past. I miss that store. I miss my dad.