Record Collector's Corner
One evening, a couple of months after we opened, a student from Drury University came in, and told us she'd written a short story about Heavy Heads, and asked us if we'd like to read it. We were floored that anyone would take the time to do such a thing, and we graciously said yes! She admitted that she'd written it before she'd actually visited the shop, but also said that after visiting, that our record store was almost exactly as she'd envisioned. Her story is one that details just how powerful and personal music can be to each individual, and she's way better with words than we are. With her permission, we've posted the story, and we hope you get as much joy out of it as we have. Thanks again Alyssa!
Comfort is Relative
Starr was uncomfortable in a lot of places. At her job, school, her own apartment.
Comfort was something she thought about every second of her life. Except, in order for Starr to
be uncomfortable in a lot of places, she had to be comfortable in at least a few. The one and only
real place she found it, wasn’t actually a place at all. For her, comfort rested in music.
Sound was an entirely different dimension to her. She could exist between the waves of
notes each different instrument created. She could slide on the lyrics as if they really were a
bridge. Colors whizzed by her head every time she listened to a song for the first time. Music
was a beautiful, whimsical place where she could exist as herself for an infinite amount of time.
She thought about all of these things as she prepared herself to leave work for the day. On
any other Friday, Starr would be headed home, but today…today was different. Heavy Heads.
Heavy Heads was her favorite record store—one that until two days ago was a 45 minute drive
from her apartment. Bub (Barney) and Joanne Rosenthal decided to expand their infamous music
shop, and hosted the grand opening of Heavy Heads #2 on Wednesday. Starr had never met the
Rosenthal’s, but she wanted to. Heavy Heads was only three blocks from where she worked.
Starr needed to get over there ASAP. She’d been thinking about it all day.
Purse and canvas bag in hand, Starr all but nearly toppled down the stairs to the sidewalk
and city noise below. She was met with the familiar smell of a recently completed rain and the
feeling of sunshine. Sunshine brought her a 2/10 amount of comfort. Rain brought her a 3/10
amount. It was nice, but out in the open, literally anything could happen, her comfort level
quickly stooping to 0. Starr started to walk down the sidewalk.
Make eye contact with every person you see. Take your hair out of that ponytail. Act like
your phone is ringing. Answer it, but don’t let it distract you. Make sure whoever is following
you knows there is someone on the other end who will hear everything. Starr was talking to
herself at a rapid pace as she quickly scanned her surroundings. Three blocks. Three blocks until
comfort. She could make it.
She counted each step under her breath, “One, two, three, four, five…fifty.” She
continued walking straight across the crosswalk, her stomach upside down and backwards for
fear of the car to her right traveling all too fast, well above the marked 20 mph. She ran the rest
of the way until she was safely back on the sidewalk, a 1/10 comfort level. She willed herself not
to cry as she rechecked everything in front, behind, and to the side of her. Two blocks left.
“One, two, three, four, five…fifty.” She turned left around a corner, bumping into a man
who was approximately eight inches taller than her, and wore reflective sunglasses. In them,
Starr saw herself: a frantic, vulnerable 20 year old woman with no one to accompany her. She
sprinted away from the man as fast as her size seven and a half feet could carry her. She sprinted
until she was bent over, trying to catch her breath. When she looked up, she was met with the
familiar logo of Heavy Heads painted on the glass door in front of her.
She brushed her bangs out of her eyes, gathered her breath, and pulled on the handle.
Instantly, the shop felt smooth. The air inside was just the right temperature, and each breath she
took felt whole and relaxed. The walls were painted black with bohemian tapestry and band
posters hung up in almost every corner. Crates upon crates of vinyl were categorized by genre
along the walls and on tables in the center of the store. Starr took a deep breath. Her nose was
met with the faintest smell of cigarette smoke and old vinyl. The Chili Peppers were playing out
of the speakers above her head. She smiled. 8/10. This was definitely the most comfortable she’d
been in a while.
Not really sure what she was looking for, Starr headed towards the back of the store. She
found single artists like Bob Dylan, Elton John, and her favorite—Billy Joel. She practically
drooled over the crate to look for her favorite album. She thumbed through each record carefully.
Piano Man, River of Dreams, Streetlife Serenade, The Stranger—there it was. Glass Houses. She
picked up the vinyl, delicately slid it out of its sleeve, and gave it a onceover for scratches. She
saw a small thin mark at the top, but nothing that would cause a skip. Done.
For the next 10-15 minutes she roamed the store, thumbing through crates of classic
rock—stuff her dad used to listen to. Thank you dad, for your excellent taste in music. She
drifted over to the more modern stuff, finding new and unopened records from artists she had
heard on the radio. The newer records didn’t quite play the same as the original stuff, but they
were still good—of course, this depended on the producer behind them. Sometimes they got the
sound just right.
After sauntering through the remainder of the store, Starr came to the conclusion that
nothing would be as great of a find as Glass Houses. She headed to the front to checkout, not
really wanting to leave. This was the safest she’d felt in a really long time. The guy behind the
counter met her with a smile, not in the least bit making her uncomfortable. He was cute.
“You need a bag?” he asked.
She met his eyes, “No, that’s okay.”
She gave him a $20, and he handed her the change. For a second, Starr paused. She
glanced down to the glass countertop full of adapters and turntable replacement parts. Taped
underneath the glass—Starr noticed a picture of what looked like the boy and an older couple.
“Is this you?” she pointed to the picture.
He nodded, the slightest hint of a laugh in his eyes. “Yeah, that’s me. That was taken on
my first day. Started working for Heavy Heads a couple years ago. My hair was a lot longer
She moved closer to squint at the photo. “Who are the people you’re with?”
He actually laughed this time. “That’s my aunt and uncle…they run the place. Obligatory
“Wait, that’s so cool. You’re related to the Rosenthal’s?” she said under thinly veiled
excitement. He looked up at her with the faintest smile and the slightest tinge of pink in his face.
“Yeah, they’re pretty cool. They’re basically my favorite people on the planet. I love
them a lot.”
“Yeah, I can see why. You love music too, then?”
“Oh, for sure. I mean, it’s kind of required in my family, but I think I’d love it anyway.”
She smiled and looked up at him again—making awkward eye contact. Suddenly, she’d
run out of things to say and felt a prickle of panic inch its way up her spine. Of course he loves
music. He works in a record store. Her heart leapt to her throat as her brain overcompensated for
the silent space between them. She looked everywhere but at him. 6/10.
To her left, a man made his way to the register. It was time for her to leave. She felt like
she should say something else before making an embarrassed mad-dash to the door, but she
wasn’t sure what.
“Um…thank you. Okay. Bye.” She slid Glass Houses off of the counter and into her left
hand. She felt her face growing hot as she somewhat stumbled to the door. Her other hand had
just rested on the handle when she heard his voice behind her, “It was Will, by the way.”
She turned around, feeling slightly more justified with the space she was taking up in the store.
“Starr,” she said with the beginnings of a smile. She heard the door jingle above her as she
headed back outside into the afternoon air. Despite the awkward silence, Will almost made the
store a 9/10. Almost.
She started her trek down the sidewalk, her apartment another two blocks away. Usually
she would be riddled with nerves, but a single disc of comfort resided under her left arm. She
shifted it across her chest, closer to her heart.
As soon as Starr got back to her studio apartment, she threw her purse and canvas bag
onto a tiny, fit-for-one, dining room table. She triple checked the lock on her front door, and then
headed over to her bedroom area. Starr shuffled her turntable out from underneath her dresser,
and plugged it into the wall. Carefully, she slid Glass Houses out of its sleeve, and set it onto the
record player. She turned the volume dial until she felt the click, signaling the player to turn on.
She lifted the lever and moved the arm as the record started to spin. Starr scrunched her right eye
shut, her tongue sticking out slightly between her lips, as she lined the arm perfectly with the
beginning of the first song, “You May Be Right”.
She let the arm drop. It fell smoothly until the needle found its way into the grooves of
the vinyl. Starr sat with her back against the wall, knees up to her chest, eyes closed. She smiled
as comfort filled each and every last ounce of space in her apartment. 10/10.