Saturday, April 4, 2015

Reflections On Owning Long Cold Winter

When I was a kid, I had an overwhelming passion for two things: music and baseball. I would spend hours on end staring at my Topps sticker yearbooks, or my baseball card collection, reading stats, absorbing the team players, and learning all I could about the history of the sport.

With music, I was the same way. I would listen to the radio endlessly. I read the linear notes to all of the albums and cassettes that I owned, and then I would read the linear notes from my mother’s record collection. Both baseball and music were huge for me.

So how on Earth did I come to choose one over the other? Why not enjoy both endlessly until my dying days? Well, there always has to be a number one, if for no other reason than prioritizing. When I was 14, Cinderella released Long Cold Winter, their masterpiece album, and I had to have it. I saw the video for "Gypsy Road" every day on MTV and the song was just fantastic! This was an album that I yearned to own.

But, like any typical teenager who had not yet entered the working world, I had no money. I had spent it all on baseball cards and other assorted junk. I also had no job, because at 14, I wasn’t quite yet of the age where I could work, but I was certainly at the age where I could spend money. And my $2 weekly allowance (yes, you read that number right) did not allow me many choices when it came to buying stuff. A $9.00 cassette would take weeks to save up for. In the teenage world of instant gratification, that might as well have been a year.

So, one day, that would turn out to be life altering for young Ryo, my stepbrother and I went to the local shopping mall. For some reason, my stepbrother always seemed to have money. Either he was a savvy saver, or my stepfather gave him money (perhaps out of guilt) that was never provided to me. I mean, seriously, who gets a $2 allowance? So, while roaming the mall with no money in my pockets, I stopped at Sam Goody to browse through the new cassettes.

There was Cinderella in the new release rack, just taunting me. I stared lovingly at the cover, with a little drool spilling out of my mouth and running down my chin. What was I to do? I HAD to have that cassette. Thinking fast on my feet, and out of other options, I proposed a deal with my stepbrother on the spot. It was a deal that I did not think he would accept.

I proposed to him that I would give him ALL of my baseball cards, every single one that I owned, if he would buy that Cinderella album for me right now. As I tried to read his face with my heart thumping away, I thought for sure that he would say “no deal.” To my surprise, he showed an opening.

“Every one?” he asked. “The entire collection?”

“Except for the Rickey Hendersons!” I blurted out. Rickey Henderson was by far my favorite baseball player and I wanted to salvage at least a small piece of my collection.

He looked at me for another moment and then slowly nodded. “It’s a deal.” I was shocked. I was finally getting Long Cold Winter, the coveted Cinderella cassette. Yes, I had paid a high price, but to me it was worth it. Baseball cards were a thing of childhood, but glam metal music, well that was a sign of the angry, puberty-stricken, changing teenage boy. It was that particular moment in the Sam Goody that changed my life forever.

My step-brother bought me the cassette and when we got home, I gave him my entire collection of baseball cards, minus the Rickey Hendersons. It was two copy paper boxes filled with cards in meticulous condition and I would miss them. To me, however, it was  deal well worth the price I paid.

From that fateful day on, I really started building my music collection. No longer buying baseball cards or spending time reading the stats on the back, I became a music geek, consuming linear notes life a fat kid housing a candy bar.

I still have that Cinderella cassette. I’ve since gotten the CD and loaded it onto my IPOD, but I refuse to recycle or sell that cassette tape. That tape is a remembrance of my change. It’s a moment in my personal history that set the stage for many years to come. I will own that tape until my dying day.

Every time I see Cinderella live, or listen to Long Cold Winter, I look back fondly on that moment in my life. To this day, I still stand behind my decision. Music has brought a lot of joy into my life and has shaped me into the man that I am today. Had I chosen baseball, who knows where I would be, but I am happy with the person I’ve become. And I owe that all to a single choice I made many years ago.

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