Thank You

Thank you, woman in Wegmans who looked at me today and then, when I looked, glanced away only to look at me again. It has been longer than I care to consider since I was last checked out and I'm over the moon that it happened today.

It was a challenging day at work. I wasn't sure I knew what I was doing but kept doing it. After a day like that it's not Miller time so much as Wegmans time for bagels to break my wife's and daughter's Yom Kippur fast and a bag of pistachios for me. That and to people-watch. In the bakery aisle I got bagels and slowly made my way to dairy humming Springsteen's — "Western Stars" — until I remembered we didn't need cream cheese. I went to the back corner thinking I might get beer but decided against it and turned down the snack aisle so I could decide against a bag of chips. I grabbed pistachios hoping they're maybe least a little healthier.

Along the way I saw two guys laugh near the flowers, a small child pointing at her teeth less to show me than to count them (she was on twenty-nine when I passed, which I thought was optimistic), a woman limping in high heeled sandals, three old people hanging onto carts being gently pulled by quiet people with faraway eyes every one, a woman in black dress, heels, and make-up fit for a state dinner, three college women carrying fancy water bottles and wearing black running tights, and one dog being trained to help others. Don't pet. That dog's working.

At the registers the old woman ahead of me paid with her "Oh, it's so easy!" she said. The boy nodded, eyebrows raised. After she left, he scanned my pistachios and I told him, "five bagels." I tapped my phone (so easy!) and thanked him. Picking up my bag, I looked at a woman looking at me. She turned her eyes away then looked again and turned away. I smiled, not at her (creepy!), but at getting checked out. Day made.

Now, sure, I might have had ink on my shirt in the shape of a gunshot wound or a split down my pants (two things I've had at Wegmans before), but no, so I'm going with the odd notion that she checked me out and riding that high. Why not?

Thank you, woman in Wegmans who checked me out today. It's hours later. The sun is down. Yom Kippur has ended for my wife and daughter (I'm not Jewish). The moon is up and there I go, right over it, into the heavens.

Western Stars, Bruce Springsteen

For a while it has been mostly used vinyl, old records, that I've been after. Then a couple months ago my friend and I went to Albany for a show, stopped into Last Vestige Records, and I went through every record in the rock and jazz sections twice but couldn't find a single one to buy. Some of that is due to luck — there's no telling what I'll find on any given day — but a lot of it has to do with having built out my collection to the point at which the used albums I might want are too pricey and rare. There's just not that many old albums I need right away. Sure, I'll find some time to time as I have since that trip to Last Vestige, but I've reached a kind of tipping point.

This morning I'm listening to Bruce Springsteen's Western Stars on my turntable and thinking that it is one of several newly-released albums I've bought lately. There was Brad Mehldau's spectacular Finding Gabriel (which seems to have been mastered much better for vinyl and CD than it was for streaming), and I've preordered Mehldau's Live In Tokyo which is one of my top five desert island albums. There have been others and more are on the way. This is the way to listen to new music.

I stream these albums too. Or at least, I do until I buy the records and they come with an MP3 download. Then I copy the MP3 to my computer, spare hard drive, and phone so that I'm listening to something I bought. (I'll stream them too just to make the streaming company pay the artist a cent and a half or so, but I prefer to play the copy I own.) Streaming is fine. I'm not going to complain about something so convenient, but today I walked into The Sound Garden, grabbed Springsteen's Western Stars out of a display right up front, talked with the clerk about the album, drove home, put the album on the turntable and sat down to listen. My daughter rode with me to the record store and looked at stickers and t-shirts while I paid for Bruce's album. We talked about prom and stopped for coffee. Streaming's fine, but doesn't touch this kind of experience.

I just finished side D of Western Stars, pulled the album from the turntable and put side A back on. I'll listen again and again and again because it sounds and feels so good. Anyone who isn't raving about this album isn't listening. Or maybe they're listening to the stream and just aren't paying attention. Digital can have that effect on a person. Even as I'm typing this, I pause and savor what's playing. It's so good I have to stop writing now and go listen. I'm curious: What album will be next? Will it be old or new? Who is it going to be and where will I be when I find it? How will I be feeling when I let it spin for the first time? I wonder all these things, but for now this album is about all I need and answers all the questions I need to ask.