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Mark Figlozzi is a Seattle writer and designer.
More snowstorms please.
No cars, everyone walking. The streets are motor-quiet but luminous and teeming with life. Grown men and women are laughing as they hop through slop, across icy rivers, from snowbank to slush island. Kids are going crazy but they were anyway.
Got an appointment? Someplace you need to be?
All bets are off.
I just bought, on vinyl, an album by Darling Cruel. It cost me four bucks, this old record pressed in 1988. The sleeve's corners were bent, but it was still shrink-wrapped: sealed airtight in shiny plastic. Twenty-one years old and it had never been played. I slipped a knife in, split the wrapper, pulled out a perfect, glossy black record.
This is a crazy album and before it was ever released some people believed Gregory Darling would be the next big thing. The record company spent a fortune recording this. Bombastic, melodramatic art-rock pop with all its gothic sins: big orchestras, shrieking guitars. Glittering gems intermingled with ambitious disasters. Darling's voice like a mad metal prince.
The release of his baby to the public didn't play out the way Gregory Darling dreamed, but what terrible beauty is here. He deserves better than whatever fate has made for him. Axl Rose, for one, owes him everything.
I love buying virgin vinyl like this that has never been played. You can't get closer to music without being there. Perfect, just perfect. Shiny and pristine - and richer and warmer than a cd or ipod. These soundwaves are 100% organic. They have never passed through a computer, never been digitized. Straight from the mad genius's mouth, through his mike and etched in wax. Look at the record and you can see them, those same vibrations. Made by hand and blood and breath.
But here lies the real cruelty. The first time you set the needle down you know you're destroying it, just a little, just a few atoms with each play. Each time that diamond glides across the surface, you are stripping away the music. Slow but certain destruction. And with a record like this – so obscure, so weird and flawed and forgotten – it's possible this is the last unplayed, pristine copy on earth. This very record playing in my headphones.
Now there are none. That kills me. It kills me.
But records are meant to be played.
Before I dropped the needle on this record, it was dead and gone. Now, for this one moment, it's alive.
This here is somehow just exactly what I love about summer nights.
Impossible to choose just one great love song for Valentine's Day, but if I had to, this is it. Still great - an understated classic from my favorite band of all time. Press play and turn it up.
All I do is kiss you through the bars of a rhyme
Julie I'd do the stars with you any time.
By the way: if you listen to the big, grand live version with your eyes closed, the two lovers are reunited at the end. At least I always believed so, when I was fifteen listening alone in my headphones and that was what I needed to hear. I could hear them falling into each other's arms just before the song ended.
Maybe it's not there at all. It's not in the lyrics. Not in anything he says. It's subtle. Like all of Mark Knopfler's best secrets, this one's revealed in the music.
Used to be it hurt a little more, getting roses for the one you love.
That paper-wrapped bundle of long-stems was hard to get - it represented the spoils of a heroic quest. This was back before you could get flowers at the grocery store. Maybe five years ago. Come Valentine's Day, you had to leave the beaten trail after work. Maybe you weren't riding a horse deep into a dark forest, battling thorns and foxes and wolves, but you at least had to get off at an unfamiliar bus stop.
You remember the places we went back in the age of florists - quaint, soulful shops tucked away in dingy storefronts or alleys between the taller office buildings. You probably still have one in your city, somewhere.
As the sun set on Valentine's Day, and the evening rush hour bloomed around you, you'd step out of traffic, turn down an odd alley. You might find yourself meandering down one of the quieter streets, stepping through jets of sewer steam and approaching a glass-fronted shop whose windows, this night, were fogged...