From selling musical instruments to music stores across the United States, to being paid to stand around and look pretty for one day in New York (can you believe that for one day someone wanted me to be a model?), I have had many professions/titles/job descriptions/roles. To date, owning a record store was the absolutely best job I’ve ever had. I am a product of my childhood and early adult life, so after years of watching Empire Records, High Fidelity and Pretty In Pink over and over again, I decided that my life would never be complete without my very own record store. I could finally be Ducky dancing awkwardly down the aisles, lip-syncing to Otis Redding. I could have my very own Rex Manning Day. Best of all, I could realize my life’s full potential and just be John Cusack, because whether they admit it or not, every single guy in their 20s/30s secretly wants to be John Cusack. The possibilities seemed limitless.
Like Karl Marx’s dream of communism by way of socialism, I thought my small business owner’s dream of success would be attained through having my very own softball team. In quite a few successful small businesses you see group photos (normally of children) in uniforms with the store’s name emblazoned across the front. What could possibly be better? Rather than having a team for the kids, though, we opted to have an adult coed team where I would be co-captain with a really good friend of mine who, unlike me, actually knew a little about good old sportsball. I was number 45 (rpm) and, like Bruce Springsteen, my shirt said ‘The Boss’ across the back. We were the Volume Cds Record Nerds or just Nerds for short.
What we lacked in athletic ability we made up in good intentions. Practices were always fun, if underattended, and often ended with most of the participants shuffling over to the bar afterwards to relive their crowning achievements of the day over stale beer and greasy food. Games generally seemed to go one of two ways. Near misses were infrequent, but often led to higher team morale. More commonly, our games made our opponents look and feel like the Harlem Globe Trotters. We weren’t intentionally letting them win, but we did often come off as comic relief. Collectively, we were much better at coming up with imaginative shit talk than we were at playing sports, so I like to think that if there was a ranking for that we would have clearly been number one. We had a lot of fun out there, so that was all that really mattered.
If memory serves me properly, The Nerds won exactly one game that entire season. It was towards the end of the year, and little did I know this game would end my short-lived softball career for good. I was nowhere near a great player and often felt as if I was aspiring towards mediocrity. My last at bat of the year found me feeling great though, so I swung for the fences. It was a line drive shot deep into left center field. I made it past second with the ball still at the fence, rounded third and the ball was still sitting somewhere in the outfield. As I was stepping onto home plate, an opposing team player had just picked up the ball, far far away. I hit an inside the park homerun, a lifetime achievement in my entire personal sports history, so you could imagine my confusion when the catcher, who happened to be a lady just slightly larger than myself, tackled me as my foot was touching home. My right foot was coming down and she threw her shoulder into my hip, sending me flying over her back to land perfectly upon my left elbow. Within seconds it was swollen to about twice its normal size. We did win the game, but I lost an arm in the process.
As a small business owner, I couldn’t afford certain luxuries that other people seemed to take for granted. Things like health insurance, doctors and hospitals were just outside of my personal reach. I looked up how to treat elbow injuries online and after a couple of days of seemingly improper care, my girlfriend at the time convinced me that I desperately needed to go to the hospital. I found out that my elbow was definitely broken. The upside was that at least now I knew the actual problem. The downside was that the doctor, after finding out that I didn’t have insurance, broke down the economics of a cast versus a sling. After hearing the numbers I opted for a sling. He gave me very specific instructions on how to take care of it, which I followed to the letter. Thankfully now I have two fully functioning arms, although I do often wonder how John Cusack would be at softball.