Sunday, November 8, 2015

{N(o) H(elp) [(N)eeded, (H)a!]}

Had a whirlwind early week headed out east to run through Portsmouth New Hampshire.  I flew from Chicago to Philly on an early flight where I laid over on the final leg to Manchester.  I could have flown direct with United (my preferred carrier) but they wanted double the price which was well outside the reasonable limits my employer allows.

My colleague picked me up at the airport and we made a few stops before he deposited me in Exeter where I was staying the night.  In search of food and beer (the usual suspects), I checked my phone and found a thrift store within walking distance.  I called to confirm they had vinyl and got the green light.  So I headed out.

It was about a mile I think and I came upon Wonderland Thrift in part of a strip mall shared with an Auto Zone and some other varied businesses.  I was just outside Exeter - in Stratham.  I found the book section quickly enough but my tunnel vision somehow backfired on me and for a few moments I became frantic wondering 'where are the records??'.  

Then I came upon them, right under my nose.  I found a large contingent of not only Canadian musicans/vinyl, but specifically French Canadian.  I remain very intrigued by a private press release from the east coast of Canada which I added myself to the discogs database.  For once I did turn back a Ray Price album with some trepidation; my real regrets are saved for the Verve release I left behind.  Freddy Fender has one of the best heads of hair I've seen around - is his music as good? I still do not know; I left his debut behind.

Besides the decent vinyl selection, their incoming donations sat in a true landfill just inside the front door.  Crucial times!

I stopped into BK and munched a chicken sandwich up with a glass of water, then stopped into an EXCELLENT deli next door to Wonderland called Great East Butcher Company.  I got a Reuben to go along with a 4 pack of Moat Mountain Oktoberfest brew.  More importantly, I got some awesome intel from the cook, Donavan: he told me he had been the sous chef at a place in Manchester called Republic Cafe and that I should check it out.  I made a mental note and thanked him and headed back to my hotel for a relaxing evening with the above bag of consumables and some trash on the idiot box.

The next morning my colleague picked me up at my hotel and we headed out to Portsmouth to conduct the business that brought me there.  Afterwards, he drove me back to Manchester where I had another room for the night, this time one with a 24 hour shuttle to the hotel.  But before we left town, I had him stop at the Savers in Porsmouth where I checked out their wares.  Nothing doing - not much to see.  They had stuffed the upper tier with magazines so they basically had half as many records as every other Savers in the nation.

I think I got back to Manchester about 5pm - we had to make another stop and also paused for a bite to eat.  I was feeling tired but I knew it was my only chance to get out and hit up whatever I could while I had time.  There were a Savers and a Goodwill but it would end up to be at least a 5 mile round trip.  So I took an Uber to the Savers and figured I'd walk back.

At my second Savers of the day I found a much neater, tidy bin stuffed with platters.  It was here I made my bones in New Hampshire: two Roger Miller records.  The first totally new to me, the second an alternate cover of an album I scored last summer in Florida.

I've seen these signs in Savers a handful of other times, it's usually some archaic and comical junk they have stashed like bricks of gold.  This time it looked like they only had one.  I can't imagine what they wanted for it...I can only laugh as I only paid $1 for mine.

I trudged on towards Goodwill, beginning to think I had bitten off a bit more than I could chew.  It wouldn't be fair to complain about jet lag on such a short flight(s) but I had never really recovered from getting up at 4:30am on Monday.  But I had far to go, despite the fact that dusk was setting in and it was getting cold.  But as I walked down Route 28 I saw something so far out of the corner of my eye I can only credit divine intervention or perhaps the years of experience and intuition I had developed.  I saw the marquee for a comic book store in the distance in a strip mall.  I was at least 1/8th mile away so I could see nothing but the sign but I knew that sometimes comic book stores carry vinyl.  I don't have any experience with such a store to attest to that but again: intuition.  Not wanting to walk down there for nothing, I checked my phone and jackpot - they have records.  So I crossed and headed down the ramp.

Newbury Comics is much more than a comic book store or a record store, or even the sum of those parts.  They have tons of books, magazines, memorabilia, T-shirts and more.  But I care about none of it, not even the 'more' - I was there for vinyl.

I flipped through their discs, many of them new and sealed and didn't find much.  I did have the slightly awkward moment of checking my parcel of Roger Miller records at the counter when I entered.  As I refused a bag at Savers, they were bare so the clerk was very confused initially and wondering if perhaps I wanted to sell them.  It was only a few minutes after that introduction that our relationship concluded as I retrieved my country classics and moved on.

My last stop was of course Goodwill.  They had one of the nicest record bins I've ever seen in a Goodwill, or anywhere.  This would be a joy for anyone to have in their home.  I wanted to discard those old box sets into a bonfire or a trash compactor as they worked hard to destroy the otherwise flawless aesthetic this wonderful bin shared with the world.  But alas, it is just a container and what matters is the filling of that sandwich, which was of course rubbish.  

Goodwill Manchester

Very odd...they had these 2 boxes stuffed with LPs in heavy cardboard sleeves.  I can only guess that they came upon a big load of unsleeved albums and made the investment themselves to pretty them up for prospective buyers.
Not desiring a repeat of my awkward moment in Newbury, I abandoned my vinyl leaning against a rock outside while I shopped.  I was scared someone would steal or otherwise deface my $2 of property but thank goodness, they were safe after the 7 minutes I spent inside.
I only wanted to get back to my room so my pace became hurried, I was hungry and tired and once again, had overdone it and pushed myself harder and futher, for reasons I never knew and still don't.  But the universe was not done with me, and I laughed uproariously as I saw the sign below right on my path, just a few blocks from my hotel.

I'm not sure if I should be grateful or sad, but I found the one in a million sign pasted to the front door.  Don't know if I'll ever be back in Manchester (or New Hampshire in general), but if I am, I'll make a stop.

With all possibilities of thrifting or digging through records exhausted, my mind moved to its usual places: food and beer.Something inside my screamed to 'take it easy' and go next door to 99 (a regional restaurant/bar, I had just been to one in Albany a few weeks previous.  But I still wanted to heed Donavan's advice from the day before.  Somehow, I got it together and hailed an Uber.  

I had some saganaki and a couple beers at Republic and found it to be a wonderful place that I think would excel in a number of larger markets outside NH.  But those couple beers were good so I had three more.  After 5 beers, I made some friends at the bar and we headed over to another night spot called Cotton where I had two martinis.  Surely this is where I went off the rails....not to be outdone, we went to yet another bar close to where I wanted to eat my dinner (the saganaki was just a snack).  I somehow muscled down a couple more brews in a daze where I was discussing baseball (!!!) with a townie.  I walked over to the Red Arrow Diner where I mashed in some kind of mess that was supposed to be 'prime rib' in alot of gravy with potatoes (should have had an omelette).  I was able to hail an Uber with 1% left on my cell phone battery and got to bed about 11pm - my alarm was set for 5am.  6 hours of sleep should have been enough but you never sleep very well when you are that drunk.  When I got up, I felt like I had taken a 5 minute nap. Somehow I dragged myself down to the shuttle and through security before I enjoyed two flights (the second in the middle of three seats, the first where I had to take a brisk walk to the lavatory when the nausea hit Defcon 2 (it was a false alarm, thank god)).  

I made it back in one piece, barely and slept double digits of hours that night, recovered and lived to tell the tale.  Hope you enjoyed it.

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