And Into These Boxes
"Up for another?" asked the e-mail.
It was from Michael Lavorgna. I opened it. He wrote:
I heard from Patrick Amory and it's looking like we are going over his place this Friday for a Road Tour. Patrick, besides working for Matador Records, has a huge collection of rare classical recordings and knows a boatload about them. His system: original refurbished Quad 57s, Leak or Radford amps, a Shindo Monbrison preamp, and a Garrard 301 in a new LignoLab plinth. We'll be doing stereo and mono.
I had other plans, but how could I pass up such an offer? My other plans would have to wait.
And, besides, Patrick's place is only a couple of blocks from our office. I walked from here to there, passing brownstones and office buildings, parking garages, banks, and delisthe usual Murray Hill scenery. I walked along the same few streets I've walked along time and time again, expecting nothing.
You know how it is to look up from the sidewalk and into someone's home? If you live in the suburbs, this is something you might not know. But here, in New York City, where apartments open out onto busy streets, you almost can't avoid it. You walk along and wonder about people and their lives. We claim these boxes and into these boxes, eternities are crammed. Sometimes, after a long day, your eyes are drawn to the warm lights of candles or chandeliers, and you wonder what bodies ignite these things. You walk along and wonder. What are they doing in there? How long have they been here? What's it like inside?
Can you imagine the stories, the music, the views?
I got to where I was going, and gave Michael a call.
"Hey, man. I'm downstairs."
"Oh, you made it!"
"Yeah, do you guys need beer or anything?"
"No, I think we're good."
There was something in his voice.
"Alright, cool. I'll be right up."
You walk by these buildings all the time, and you think nothing much about them. From the outside, they're almost all the sametall and ugly and gray. One blurs into the next until you make it to your destination. But what's inside?
Inside, a doorman directed me to an elevator. He even pushed the buttons for me. White walls and a short corridor to Patrick's place. The door was open, and that says so much. I let myself in. Patrick was talking with the others and had a big smile on his face. He set down his glass.
Patrick greeted me and so did his home and so did all of New York City. Vintage furniture decorates the room in red and white and walnut. To the left are shelves bursting with compact discs, while the right holds all the vinyl. Along the adjacent wall, you'll find volumes and volumes of lovely books, spines of green and blue and gold, reaching up to the ceiling and searching for space. More books are piled high upon a glass coffee table, more vinyl rests against the table's legs. The turntable, the Quads, the tubes. The Radford amps look like something you'd find in an old computer lab. We walk onto a thick, white rug, and I wonder if I should remove my shoes.
Near the kitchen, there's a small dining table, bottles of wine, mixed nuts, cheese, crackers. A wall of windows looking out onto the impossible city. Another open door leads into the sky. Patrick's wrap-around terrace offers a special view of the Chrysler Building at one end and the Empire State Building at the other. And you see the tops of the buildings for the very first time. And you look down to the shapes and you wonder where they're off to tonight.
Inside, I'll sink into a chair and listen to Brahms, and all of the noise from outside will be taken away. We'll listen for hours while the sky turns from blue to gray and the tall buildings begin to glow.
"The atmosphere," I'll later write to Michael, "and the selection of musicthose incredible 78s and the other early pressingsand Patrick's encyclopedic knowledge of all he shared with us, overshadowed the sound by far."
But don't for a second think that I didn't enjoy the sound. The sound was utterly intoxicatingcoherent and involving and addictive. The more I listen to tubes, the more I feel that my own solid-state-based system is missing something. It was my first time listening to Quads and, while it became clear that they have their certain musical preferences, it was also obvious that they are special. The system, as a whole, was as open and inviting as its owner.
Patrick selects an album, holds it out for us to see, and begins to tell a story.
More than anything, I'm now thrilled to know that inside this otherwise ordinary building lives a very extraordinary individual, one who owns an outstanding collection of music and a desire to share his passion for it. It makes me wonder what treasures are kept behind all these other walls and windows and doors. Hi-fi can be anywhere. Can you imagine the stories, the music, the views? Michael Lavorgna's Road Tours are so important because they provide looks into these personal things. For many more excellent photos and another view of the evening, visit Michael's "Road Tour: Exit 17."