Saturday, December 10, 2011

"...Gold...and Frankincense...and Frampton..."

Wouldn't be Christmas without "It's A Wonderful Life".

And amongst all the iconic images and catch phrase lines of dialogue that have woven their way into the fabric of our everydays, one particular line seems to pop up, for me, often throughout the year as the adventure of the life continues to unfold.

"Strange, isn't it? Each man's life touches so many other lives. When he isn't around he leaves an awful hole, doesn't he?"

That thought has been, and continues to be, a source of both amusement and pride, depending on the given situation.

And, now and then, comfort when the water is low in the down phase of "sometimes the surf is up, sometimes the surf is down".

A friend of mine from bygone days is having a birthday this week and a little reminiscing about said days brought back both a fond memory and a renewed reminder about how we all affect, subtly, seriously or even satirically, each other on the shared road.

(excerpt from "I've Never Heard Of You, Either", @2010 by Blurb Publishing)

Peter Frampton was not amused.

Well, hell, I was just kidding.

In a work environment that can be very labor intensive and frequently chaotic, what with thousands of CD’s, tapes and assorted other merchandise items needing to be priced, stocked, dusted and protected from theft, it was only natural to expect that we would, occasionally, want to go off the well trodden path and come up with a few things for our own amusement. After all, those M.A.S.H. guys did some pretty wacky things and got away with it because everyone just sort of silently understood that it was their way of keeping from losing their minds in the madness. (not to equate the horrors of war with the running of a record store, but, unless you’ve done retail at Christmas, just ease off on the rush to judgment, okay, pal?)

We came up with a few little diversions from time to time. One I was particularly proud of (since I created it) was something we called the “trivia card”. Simply described, it was one of those plastic cards that sits in the stock bins, you know the ones that have the artists name on them so you can tell where the John Denver leaves off and the Frank Zappa begins, which we embossed with little bits of trivia about that particular artist. (...”Did you know that Andrew Gold, the singer/songwriter who created ‘Thank You For Being A Friend’ is the son of Marni Nixon, the lady who dubbed the singing voice of Natalie Wood in West Side Story?”)

The customers seemed to enjoy them, especially when we went a little left or right of center (“.....Sonny is a Congressman, Cher sells face creams and their daughter is a this a great country or what?”).

Sooner or later, though, it was inevitable that we would piss somebody off.

Hey, show me the way, Pete.

I had made up a new batch of cards and, feeling particularly witty that particular day, included this little tidbit of info under the name


“....artist whose album ‘Frampton Comes Alive’ is the best selling live album of all times...go figure...”.

I thought it was funny.

The staff thought it was funny.

Customers thought it was funny.

Peter Frampton was not amused.

I dodged the bullet, being occupied when Mr. Frampton came by, but Rob Esparza, one of my assistants had to do a very quick tap dance for the miffed musician. (....”what’s this?” “oh, you know, Mr. Frampton, go figure just means it’s hard to explain phenomenal success like yours”.....”oh, is that right...well, uh....I don’t think...” “well, sir, if you are offended, we apologize and here {sound of label being ripped off}’s gone..” “well...”)

I thanked Rob for falling on the sword for my attack of the witties. And, I was, in a spirit of good humor, content to let it go…until….

Not two hours later, my boss came to me and informed me that our main office had gotten a call from Mr. Frampton’s management office expressing their sincere unhappiness with the ridicule we had inflicted upon the aforementioned Mr. Frampton.

Well, shit, Peter, you sort of validated the whole “go figure” thing with that little temper tantrum, didn’t you?

Convinced that discretion was the better part of retort, I let it drop.

But not before I made up one last bin card for the benefit of staff and friends to use as a prop when telling the story:

“ was a joke, Peter...lighten the fuck up...”

Admittedly, that story doesn't necessarily qualify as a memory of the misty water colored variety Barbra Streisand warbled about.

But I think, if you stretch the point, you can see the threads of our humanity that weave in and out of the story, threads that take on a special meaning as family and friends gather to share a very special time of year.

There's humor and harpiness, vanity and victory, quiet determination and quick thinking, sacrifice and silliness, folly and friendship.

One, and all, essential tiles in the mosaic of the lives given us by the God whose kid is having a birthday this month.

And just as Harry Bailey wouldn't have been around to win the Congressional Medal of Honor if George Bailey hadn't pulled him out of the icy lake when they were kids, so, too, perhaps would my life not have taken me to success as a writer and radio personality had I been fired that day because Rob wasn't around to pull my bacon out of the fire.

"...Each man's life touches so many other lives...."

An unconventional, but, I'd offer, totally appropriate thought in this season.

Not to mention the other, equally unconventional thought that might best be remembered when the frantic frenzy of said season starts to overtake and overwhelm.

"...lighten the fuck up..."

Happy birthday and Merry Christmas, Rob.

Oh, and Peter...Merry Christmas to you...and...see above...

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