I’m A Whore. And Happy About It.

April 17, 2008 at 5:20 am (dull real life stuff)

The sharp-eyed few will notice I’ve added another link to the sidebar here; thanks to Steve posting about a show Finn’s Motel will be playing at Euclid Records, I discovered that the crew there does their own blog thing…and it is a very cool blog and worth your time to read.

And now that I’m thinking of my days at Euclid Records, I suppose I’ll relate about how important my time working there was to me, and how it shaped the happy directions my life has taken since. This is pretty dull, who-gives-a-rat’s-ass sort of stuff, but it happens to be the sort of stuff I wish someone would’ve told me when I was 18, instead of waiting until I was 31 to figure out on my own.

My story with Euclid actually begins as a customer. My freshman year of college, I was home for the summer and still consumed in a collapsing relationship with a high school girlfriend. That doomed partnership corralled all my time, but I’d still find time to make it down to Vintage Vinyl on the Loop occasionally, which also meant heading a few doors down to Streetside Records on Delmar as well. I can’t even remember what the heck it was I was looking for, but I couldn’t find it at either VV or Streetside, so the helpful guy at Vinny Vinny (Steve Pick hisself, I think it was) suggested I check out Euclid Records, and gave my country hick St. Charles self easy to follow directions (“Right on Skinker, east on Forest Park Parkway, left on Euclid, just past Laclede on the right.”) The store was at it’s original location on Euclid (by the time I worked there, it had moved diagonally across the street to Laclede, but stayed “Euclid Records”), and I’m not sure who was working that day. Maybe Tom? It wasn’t Steve, I know that. I remember I futzed around the store awhile, and ended up buying a cassette copy of “D Is For Dumptruck” because I’d heard the song “Back Where I Belong” on KCOU before I’d left Mizzou for the summer, and that tune sorta summed up what I was feeling about the relationship I was in. An auspicious beginning, because Dumptruck just ruled, and I always credited that ruled-ness with Euclid Records subconsciously.

Once I moved back home from school permanently, I ended up doing more and more music buying at Euclid Records. It was a haul getting out there from St. Charles (or U-City, when that was home), but usually worth it; I still remember some of my “Holy shit, I can’t believe they have THIS” scores: the Choo Choo Train comp Briar High, a couple of Flatmates 12″ singles, the Merry Go Round lp on vinyl (a stiff $19.99 price that was totally worth it).

I was also getting burned out waiting tables for a living, trying to get a freelance writing career started (yeah, that didn’t take at all.) I’d always heard from folks that the happiest people in the world were those who got to work for a living doing things they loved; problem was, I knew I was absolutely freakishly talented at the restaurant biz…but I didn’t really like it very much. What Dick Allen was to baseball, I was to restaurants. I figured I’d try some other things, to see if I could find that magical job I loved to make a career of, and what better thing for a music geek like myself to do but work in a record store? I never even thought about applying at Vintage Vinyl; no offense to those who have and continue to work there, because some of my best friends put in some serious time there…but VV was Wrigley Field to Euclid Records’ Busch Stadium. VV had a bunch of folks who were passionate about music and totally into it, but they also had a bunch of folks who were working there because it was a hip place to work. Euclid Records wasn’t quite as hip to work at, but it was where the music geeks and true believers congregated. It was the place for me.

I got the gig at Euclid, and I enjoyed working there. I dug the music we got to play, I loved the vibe of the Central West End, and it was a cool come-on to chicks, too–“Hey baby, I work in a record store…” Okay, a certain kind of chick. More than that, I enjoyed the folks I worked with–Joe, Steve, Patrick, Tom, Guy, Darren, Ben…couldn’t ask for a smarter, wittier, more charming group of folks to spend time with. We had regular customers who’d bring us coffee and bagels for breakfast, and who’d show up with beer on Christmas Eve and holidays, at which point Euclid Records sort of turned into Old Fezziwig’s. Good times. (I still remember one afternoon Ben and I talking about pre-World War I Ottoman Empire history and getting baffled looks from the customers in the store.)

But not good times. If someone described a dream job to me back in 1995, it is entirely likely they’d say “You get to listen to cool music all day long, talk music with smart music geeks all day long, and be constantly laughing” I’d say “Where do I get in line for that?” The reality of the job ended up being this, though: it was a job. Meaning, on days that I worked, it was six hours spent doing something for pay that I wouldn’t do for free. See, as great as Euclid Records was, what it helped me to discover about myself was that “work” was “work” to me, no matter what I was doing. Going to work behind the counter at Euclid Records was no different than going to wait tables at Bristol. Both those things were work, and it wasn’t long before I realized that I didn’t really prefer working at Euclid any more or less than I preferred waiting tables.

It wasn’t Euclid. That place was and continues to be, great. It was me. It took me years to figure it out, but eventually the light switch went on in my head: no matter what I’d end up doing for a living, it was going to feel like work. Period. In my head, I realized that even if I got a job that involved sitting on a couch drinking beer and watching Cardinal baseball, eventually that would become a chore, something that I’d rather not do. In my mind (and maybe this is universal, I dunno), I realized that “work” means “lack of freedom” for however many hours you’re working in a given day.

Thus armed with the self-awareness that, at least for me, one job was pretty much the same thing as any other job, I decided to give the restaurant thing my full attention and go into management. Maybe I sold myself out. Maybe I’m a whore for giving up something that I loved for something that paid better. I’ll grant both those premises. What I also know though, is that I’m pretty good at my job, and at some point during the last 10 years I’ve been doing it, the satisfaction of that has given me as much fulfillment on the job as anything I’ve ever done. And the pay thing? That helps me buy more tunes and do the stuff I want to do. So there’s that.

I just wished someone would’ve told me that work is work no matter what you’re doing when I was 18. Could’ve saved me a lot of navel-gazing in my twenties.

Oh. Happy Record Store Day, Euclid Joe!

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