The car had driven by my friend John (not his real name), and I once already, but I hadn’t paid it or its driver any more than cursory attention then. I only noticed it when it abruptly accelerated away from us a few minutes earlier in the same lane it was in now.
I waited, wondering if it was one of our 12th grade classmates showing off his new car, but what I saw through the passenger window once the car pulled alongside us, was a guy suffering from male pattern baldness with a tidy leer blossoming on his 40-something year old face while assessing my friend and I.
I maintained eye contact with him for the few seconds the passenger window allowed it, and watched the car as it sped up after passing us again and turned right at the first intersection it came to. The same intersection he turned right on during his first pass.
When I asked my friend if he saw what just happened, he said he hadn’t. He was checking out the punk rock records he had just bought. It was a hunt for records that were imported or released from underground bands that had brought us to Hollywood in the first place. While there was a Tower Records close to our homes, they didn’t carry the real rare and hard to find recordings we were looking for. There were various underground head shops and indie record stores that carried what we wanted, sprinkled around various exits off the Interstate 10 freeway, but this night, I had told my mom that John and I would be at the local mall and we ventured by bus, since neither of us had cars, to Hollywood to see what Melrose Avenue’s Bleeker Bob’s, Vinyl Fetish and a couple other record stores had to offer us.
I myself had found five records between the shops that I had spent months looking for, including Tony Macalpine’s Edge of Insanity, but unlike John, I tended to keep a quiet watch on my surroundings for safety’s sake.
After convincing him of what I believed the intent was of the guy in the car, we both agreed to wait patiently as if we might be interested, then throw the bottles of soda we both had at the guy’s head as soon as his next circuit of the block pulled him alongside us. Then, we’d run and find a bus stop on a better populated street, but our bus arrived within a minute of us coming to this decision.
After taking our seats, we both looked for the guy in the car to offer him up single fingered gestures of vulgar dismissal, but he never showed and the night turned back to talk of music and school classmates until the driver stopped mid-route sometime later to get a homeless guy off of his bus. What the homeless guy did to upset the driver, I don’t know, but when the homeless guy wouldn’t exit, the bus driver grabbed him and the homeless guy immediately sunk to the floor and laid on his back, spreading his arms and legs out while grabbing a pole attached to one of the seats with one of his hands.
People seated next to where this was happening, scattered to other seats or standing areas to watch as the bus driver yelled at the homeless guy to get off his bus and kicked him in the side a few times when he still wouldn’t comply. “Why don’t you leave him alone?” One of the passengers complained to the bus driver and a few more meager protests were raised by concerned commuters to no avail while the homeless guy never uttered a word one way or another. He simply did his best to make himself more trouble than the effort was worth by anchoring himself to a seat post and laying on the ground. It was another ten minutes before the bus driver managed to literally drag the homeless guy off the bus.
Those efforts got John and I to our desired stop in just enough time to watch the bus we were supposed to transfer to drive away right as we were pulling up. The hour wait for the next bus to get us home was going to get us to our final stop sometime around 9:45 that night and deposit me six blocks from my house. Since I found my mom’s rules unreasonably strict, I rarely told her were I was really going, so it was important that my lie still hold up so she didn’t start paying too much attention to what I was really doing with my free time.
Walking through the front door at 10:05 PM, sweaty from the six block jog to my house, I confronted the question of why I was home so late on a school night when the mall closed over an hour earlier with an irritated complaint of a friend who worked at the mall telling John and I to wait up for him outside the mall while he closed the store so he could walk with us home. Unbeknownst to us, his manager held him up with a meeting. I had given my watch to John to hold for me until the next day, so my admission, “I forgot to wear my watch today”, could be joined with an outstretched arm, bare at the wrist, until I communicated that, “I didn’t realize how late it had gotten until my other friend came out to join John and I. As soon as I realized how late it was, I ran all the way home.” I wasn’t considered to be very intelligent, so my absent-mindedness fulfilled her expectation of me. She didn’t question me any further about it, opting to send me to bed instead under threat of not complaining that I’m tired in the morning.
The experiences that surrounded my purchases that day made the ownership of those records all the more important to me, but there was something else to it as well. There was a sense of owning something that might not be available to the next would-be purchaser because with underground bands, you never knew when they might break up or their label might cease to exist. Knowing this added a different dimension to owning the art and it is with that spirit of scarcity in mind that I’ve decided not to do reprints of the physical items that aren’t actual books that I’m making part of The Pilgrimage Vignettes. From the Storycards to the bookmarks to whatever other concoction I might dream up, unless I express otherwise for a specific item, once my initial print run is gone, anyone trying to find copies of those parts of the story will have to find someone willing to part with their copy. I won’t be reprinting those parts of the story past the initial run in any other media form either.
I know that I haven’t labeled anything with the word “collectible”, so I’m telling you now. The idea is for them to be collectible, like some of those records that I bought way back when, that can’t be found anymore unless you know a fan or an ex-band member. Consider it “voluntary scarcity”.
Have your own story of an ‘art hunt’? Comment it, I’d love to hear it.