A Tale of Two Racks
Just to be clear: I never felt imprisoned, or controlled, by my television. We had enjoyed a harmless, casual relationship. My television never told me what to do, never told me who to associate with; my television never judged me, never questioned my motives; my television gave me my space when I needed it. It had been a good television, for the most part. Sure, sometimes it could be obtuse or aloof with its poor reception; sometimes it seemed like it didn't want me to watch the Mets game on Saturday afternoons. But, all in all, I liked television. I still do. It's just that I like my turntable more.
I had been considering giving up television for some time. It was around September 2007. If the Mets don't make it to the playoffs, I said, I'm getting rid of this thing. We all know what happened. It was the worst September collapse in the history of Major League Baseball. But I held on to hope, and held on to television. You gotta believe, after all. September 2008 came around, and I said: If the Mets don't make it to the playoffs, I'm getting rid of this thing. We all know what happened. But I held on.
But when Michael Lavorgna and John DeVore showed up with a turntable, something strange and unexpected happened: I began watching less television, started buying unbelievable amounts of vinyl LPs. Right around that same time, Iris Recordson Brunswick Street, just a couple of blocks away from my apartmentdecided to open their doors for regular business. Saturday and Sunday afternoons were spent on the old wood floors of Iris Records, getting my clothes all dusty and my fingertips so dirty with neglected LPs, searching for forgotten treasures.
The Pulaski Skyway of Vinyl LPs
My apartment wasn't prepared for this. First, I just propped the LPs up against the backrest of my orange couch. In the mornings, I'd wake and walk into the living room to find them smiling at me. Good morning, Bruce. Good morning, Chan. How are you today, Jimi? When I could no longer sit on the couch, I started stacking records up against my short stools. A stack of a dozen or so LPs soon became a stack of three or four dozen LPs; soon became impossible to move and stretched from the left side of one stool all the way to the right side of the opposite stool. I had the Pulaski Skyway of vinyl LPs arcing through my small apartment.
Then, I made space on the tall bookshelf, carefully placing vinyl records along the cheap chipboard until the shelf bowed in the center and threatened to collapse. I didn't like this very much at all. I spent days away from home fearing that the shelf would give way. I'd come home from a long day in the office to find The Band and Henry Fiol, Herbie Hancock and Sam Beam, all in a jumbled mess of vinyl and plastic and wood and carpet. Yet, more LPs would soon arrive. And soon arrive.
And soon arrive.
So, I made room on the small bookshelf. It worked out alright, except that the shelf only went ten inches deep, leaving a good two inches of my poor, homeless LPs hanging off into open space. I could not continue to subject them to this sort of abuse. They would need a proper home, and soon.
Nearly a year had gone by since John and Michael cursed me (blessed me) with that Rega P3. My own Rega P3-24 in high-gloss white with outboard power supply was now on the way, and I'd need to make space for it, too. I had been using Michael's Rega with a Denon DL-103 phono cartridge, stepped up through an Auditorium 23 transformer into the moving-magnet phono card of my Exposure 2010S integrated amplifier. This worked out fine; the extra connection of the step-up allowed me to place the turntable on a side table adjacent to the abhorrent television stand which housed my amp. Of course, this would not accommodate my new Rega. It would need a proper home, and soon.
A Very Generous Offer
Right around that same time, Jonathan Scull happened to be rearranging things at the old Chelsea loftputting art on the walls, moving sofas around, clearing off his Polycrystal equipment racksand, hey, would you like to take these racks off my hands? He had asked.
It was during the Rocky Mountain Audio Fest in Denver, Colorado. We were sitting at The Lift, a cozy, rustic bar in the lobby of the Marriott Tech Center. I was eyeing the microbrews. "So, I've got these racks," Jonathan began. He made them sound absolutely divine, in typical J-10 fashion. I told him it was a generous offer and I'd definitely consider it. Fine, fine, he'd send me some pics when we got back to NYC.
When we got back to NYC, Jonathan sent me some pics.
Indeed, the racks looked nice, but I nevertheless declined. I am so like that. I wrote:
These racks look great, JS, and it's funny you mention them now because I seriously need to do something. This vinyl addiction has gotten me into storage trouble. Currently, I'm using the bottom shelves of my cheap bookcases (purchased from Target for like $50) to hold my vinyl, but there are a couple of problems: 1., I've already run out of space and have more records kinda just propped up against whatever will hold them, and 2., the bottom shelves of my bookcases allow about two inches of overhang, and I'm afraid my records will be damaged. The other problem, though, is that storage units and equipment racks are crazy-expensive or ugly. You know the LP shelves that John Cusack has in High Fidelity? I want those! I just want something that looks like furniture, some decent-looking wooden shelves/racks. I'm thinking maybe the Music Direct LP racks or the Real Woods racks from Audio Advisor, but any way you look at it, you're spending about a buck per every record you can store. Maybe I'm being nave, but it seems expensive when you have hundreds of records.
I'm also again considering getting rid of my television, and just putting a nice equipment cabinet between my speakerssomething that'll hold my amp and CD player, and will support my turntable on top. Screw the television. Alls I ever watch are bad sitcoms and sports (and I can't stand the agony of defeat).
Anyway, I can't take your racks, Jonathan! It's a very generous offer and I appreciate it, but I would feel bad and I'm not sure they'll fit my various, silly needs. Thank you very, very much, though.
Jonathan was ferklempt:
Bu, bu, but I'm OFFERING you just what you need! Buy me a drink and we're even!
And Voila: Rack!
I enlisted Uncle Omar to help with the pickup. I figured Omar would get a kick out of Jonathan and an equally big kick out of the loft. Have you ever been to JS's place? There are palm trees that soar eighty feet high and monkeys swinging from vines and Warhol paintings on the walls and The Ribbon Chair and the most radical-looking, gold-lined hi-fi you've ever seen. And you should really take off your shoes. And it smells like incense and cigarettes and summertime. And you wonder what stories these white walls can tell.
We were there for just a short time, and Uncle Omar insisted on carrying the heaviest bits of the rack by himself. This was several weeks ago. To this day, Uncle Omar complains about his sore forearms and aching back. Those shelves, he says and says and says, must have weighed at least fifty pounds each, at least! I'm glad I didn't have to carry them. They were heavy. So I hear.
Putting the pieces back together again was a whole lot easier than carrying them down 16th Street and up to my apartment. Just a socket head here, a socket head there, and voila: Rack! We moved the abhorrent television stand into the kitchen for the time being, and set the Polycrystal rack in its place. So much cleaner, so much airier. We cracked open a couple of Dale's, and went about setting up the new Rega. It was a piece of cake, really. Even two idiots can do it, apparently. Finally, we sat down and listened.
I began, in my special way, with Betty Davis' They Say I'm Different. Larry Johnson's funky bass lines were impossibly tight and clean, and Cordell Dudley's guitar riffs seemed to go on and on forever, right through my old walls and way down Newark Avenue to flirt with the pretty girls on the corner of Grove. I was satisfied.
But all of this, no matter how delightful, did nothing for the masses of vinyl LPs that continued to trek across my living room floor and scale the old walls. After some searching online, I finally came across Gothic Cabinet Craft. I had walked right past Gothic hundreds of times, in the Village and in Hoboken and even in Jersey City, without ever thinking to go inside. What would I do with a headboard or a cupboard? I never realized that Gothic built LP racks, too! And nice ones, at that. And cheap, even:
Gothic's modular LP rack system starts with single cubes that can hold about 75 LPs for just $49, and goes all the way up to a 6-shelf tower that can accommodate around 900 LPs and costs only $288. These are unfinished, of course. Finishes add anywhere from $27 to $345, depending on the rack configuration and quality of finish. I went with the 3-shelf base unit, unfinished, for $149. It holds about 450 LPs. That's just $0.33/LPa screaming bargain! Had I opted to have it finished, it would have cost me an additional $93 for something simple like Colonial Maple, or an additional $176 for something wild and crazy like Cactus Green. But I'm a man; I can stain a wood shelf with my own two hands. I've painted model airplanes, I've seen This Old House.
In all my life, I had never stained anything but my jeans and a few other things I don't want to mention. But, really, it was no big deal. I went to Downtown Hardware and picked up a couple of small foam brushes and a pint of Minwax Ipswich Pine wood stain. Four hours later and several thousand brain cells lighterfor some reason, the scent of wood stain reminded me, unfailingly, of freshman year in high schoolI was beginning to think that the extra $93 would've been well worth it.
Nevertheless, there was something about this process that I enjoyed; that I was proud of. I felt like Bob Ross, I felt like Bob Vila, I felt like Art Dudley! I wanted to call people and be all like: Hey, d'you know what I'm doing right now? No? Can't guess? I'm staining a shelf, bitch. Yeah, that's right.
HOW YOU LIKE ME NOW?!
The Magic Happens
It came out alright, if I do say so myself. The Ipswich Pine complemented both my wood floors and the Polycrystal rack, and will look smashing with the pair of DeVore Gibbon Super Eights I dream of someday owning. The LP rack now stands in place of the small bookshelf. Books: Who needs them? I'm kidding. I love books. It's just that I love my LPs more. The small bookshelf and those lovely books that call it home are now in my quickly shrinking bedroom. No big deal about that, though. Aside from record cleaning and sleep, there's nothing much going on in my bedroom these days. The listening room is where the magic happens.
Amazingly, the LP rack is already completely occupied. There is no vacancy. And the stack on the floor, though smaller than what it had been, is already starting to grow. What next?
I've shown that I can stain a shelf, but can I knock down a wall? Tune in next time to find out.