mail.

I need to explain about mail.

When I was at the University of Hartford, working at WSAM, the mail became the focal point of my day.  Particularly my last semester, during which (if you’ve been keeping up with the story, you’ll understand) I had no classes.  Essentially my day revolved around the mail.

In the morning – or, depending on what I had done the night before, the afternoon – I would wake up, shower, and go to the Student Union and pick up my mail.  While I was there, I would also pick up WSAM’s mail.  WSAM’s mail always included a stack of promotional records, usually 10 or 15 new ones a day.

For a music fan, there’s not much cooler than that.  Ten or fifteen new records in the mail, every day.  Plus there were posters, T-shirts, and other promotional trinkets.  It was like Christmas every day.

I’d grab the mail, bring it down to the station, and open up all the new records.  Then I’d go with Walt, Tucker and Art, and we’d get something to eat.  After lunch I’d huddle in the production studio and listen to all the records that came in that day.  Then I’d leave them for our station Librarian to file away with the other records.

If somebody else picked up the mail, it fucked up my whole day.

After I left college, Sandy moved up to the Cape, and I moved back to New Jersey, to wait the 30 days or so before our wedding.  This was 1991; I had a computer and an email account but paid $12 an hour for connect time.  Sandy had no computer.  So email was simply not a possibility, and neither was the phone, because we had no money to afford the toll call.  Therefore, Sandy and I would write each other letters every day.  That month inbetween graduation and my wedding date featured a daily letter from Sandy.  So every day, I had something to look forward to in the mail.

Because of those things, I am obsessed with the mail.  Every day, the letter carrier brings something cool for you to open up.  If a day goes by and the mail sucks, it deflates me a little.

Sometimes, when at WSAM, someone else would go and pick up the mail, and then actually bring it back to the station and open it.  When that happened, I would lose my mind.  It killed the excitement of being able to open the package and see what was inside when I got into my office to find a pile of records on my desk.  I’d walk into the mail room and see a package from, say, Atlantic Records.  Then while I was walking across campus, I’d try and guess what was inside.  

Hmm.  I called Matador Records last week and asked them to add us to their promo list.  Maybe this is a package from Matador, coming from Atlantic (Matador had an affiliation with Atlantic when I was in college).  How cool would that be – to have a new Superchunk record to listen to this afternoon.  Or maybe it’s not from Matador, but maybe it’s the new Lemonheads EP I’ve been hearing about.  Man, I like the Lemonheads.  I hope it’s the Lemonheads EP.  Or maybe it’s some new band I’ve never heard of – they’ve been signing some great new bands lately; I wonder if it’s something like that?

Then I’d open up the package and find a press release, all by itself in a record-shaped box.  Or some crappy record by a top-40 artist or something.

When Dromedary was beginning to take root and we still lived in Lodi, I would make the 20-minute drive from my office in Paramus to our apartment, just to get the mail.  I’d eat lunch in 15 minutes just so I could have something to open each day, in the middle of the day.  If the mailman hadn’t arrived yet, I would just sit in my living room and stare out the window, waiting for him to pull up in his official US Post Office station wagon.

Once, I got home and the station wagon was parked in front of our apartment when I got home, and the mailman was inside.  I went into the apartment and had lunch, periodically checking to see if he had dropped our mail into the mail slot in our door.  I finished my lunch and stood in the window, waiting for the guy to come out with my mail.  I stood there, staring at my watch, waiting for the mail, realizing I was already late getting back to work.  So I walked outside and looked in the window of the station wagon, to find the mailman sitting there, sound asleep.

I knocked on the window.  Twice.

He woke up, looked at me, and rolled down the window.  “I’m sleeping,” he said.

“I’m waiting for my mail,” I told him.  He just stared.  “I want my mail.  I come home every day to get the mail, and I’ve been sitting inside, waiting for you.  I have to go back to work now, and I need my mail.”

He leafed through a pile of stuff and handed it to me.

“Good night,” I said.

Okay?  So I’m obsessed enough with the mail to wake up the mailman.  I’m obsessed enough with the mail to drive home from work every day to get it.  Obsessed enough to plan my entire day around picking up the mail.

And I put an ad in the paper soliciting demo tapes from bands, and then went away on vacation for a week, leaving my apartment with Rich.

On Monday, I called him at home.  “How’s the cat?” I asked.

“She’s fine.  I fed her and changed her water.”

“Umm, any mail?”

“No.  Just bills and stuff.” he said.

Tuesday, I called again.  “How’s the cat?”

“Dude, she’s fine.”

“Anything come in the mail today?”

“No.”

Wednesday, same thing.  

Thursday, I called.  “How’s the cat?”

“You got a demo tape today.”

“Oh, really?” I asked, nonchalantly.  My heart leaped.

“Yeah.”

“Who from?” I asked.

“Radical Sole.”  I recognized their name from the club listings in the E C Rocker.  They played a lot of shows, and got a decent amount of coverage in the magazine.  It was Thursday, and I could not wait to go home and open the package.

Friday and Saturday dragged on as if they were the longest, most miserable days ever in the history of the planet.  Sunday morning I was practically up with the sun, packing up the car and getting ready to go.  I drove like a maniac.

When we got home, all of the mail was in a nice, neat pile.  At the top of the pile was a brown Jiffy mailer.

It had been opened.

I stood there and stared at it for a minute.  Then I picked up the phone and dialed Rich.  He answered “Hello?”

“Fuck you.” I said.  He just started laughing.  “No, fuck you.  For real.”

“You’re home?”

Fuck you.

“I’m sorry,” he said.  “You didn’t think it was possible for me to not open that package, did you?”

“I can’t believe you did that.  It’s the first package we ever got.  Til the end of time, that’s going to be the first package we ever got from a band.  It’s my company.  You opened the first package.”  I was so angry I couldn’t even put it into words.  Really.

“I was pretty proud of myself, actually,” he explained.  “I just opened it today.”

WHAT?!” I screamed.  “You left it unopened all week, and then came to my house on a day you didn’t need to be here, so you could open MY MAIL?!”

“It’s not any good,” he said.

“Dammit, I don’t want to know how good it is!” I yelled.  “That’s mail fraud, what you did!  That’s breaking and entering!  I can’t believe you opened my mail, and then told me how good it was!”

“It’s funk-o-metal garbage,” he said.  I slammed down the phone.  I was seething.  Sandy was laughing.

I dropped everything right there in the living room and opened the package.  Or re-opened it.  Rich was right: it was awful.  It was bad, bad funk-metal stuff with a singer who couldn’t sing.  The lyrics were atrocious.  The first song was one of those self-promoting “we’re awesome” songs that had an opening lyric that said “From the R, to the A, to the D, to the I, to the C, to the A, to the L, to the S-O-L-E.”  Then proceeded to tell you that the band would kick your butt “right in the hole.”  Worst lyric I’d ever heard.

I swear.  I found a tape of the song.  So, for your benefit, I present Radical Sole – the first band to ever send a demo to Dromedary Records.

~ by Al on January 11, 2009.

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