Contrary to what my featured image might suggest, there is really nothing worth taking with you to your grave. It’s the memories of you, the ones that live on after you are gone, that matter.
Russ Solomon, the founder of Tower Records, passed away some time ago. This may not mean much to most of you, but my partner in life and I spent countless hours at Tower Records in New York, when the chain was at the top of its game. Russ Solomon lives on in our fond memories.
Our musical interests ranged – then as now – from popular music to jazz and classical music; from oldies and goldies to new releases. Anything and everything we ever thought to ask for was available at Tower Records in the good old days. If we didn’t find it ourselves, the knowledgeable sales people would soon find it for us.
During our time as customers, Tower Records had already grown from its original start in what used to be Mr. Solomon’s father’s drugstore to a thriving chain of music megastores. Not only was the selection mind-boggling, the prices were right too, and the stores were always well-stocked. They didn’t “run out” of special offers and new releases 2 hours after they were announced.
In addition to this, you could drop in anytime between 9 AM and midnight. In practice this meant that after a full day of sightseeing in New York, you could still spend a few hours shopping your favourite music.
In theory Tower Records did everything right. It offered a unique service at reasonable prices. But as so many others, Mr. Solomon underestimated the effects of digitization and the Internet on the music industry.
His problem was that he was pure brick and mortar. At a time when others realised that they had to cut costs, he still expanded his business and incurred more debt. The rest is history. The saga of Tower Records, which took Mr. Solomon from his father’s drugstore to owning nearly 200 stores in more than a dozen countries, ended in bankruptcy.
Sadly my partner in life and I were part of Tower Records’ downfall. We were among those unfaithful people who left Tower Records behind, when music could be downloaded over the Internet.
These days my music is provided by Spotify, while I click away on Amazon, buying both Kindle books and consumer goods. At the same time my granddaughter is shopping on Alibaba, buying fun little gimmicks.
I still miss my evenings at Tower Records, and my coffees at Barnes & Noble with my latest book finds. But there is no going back.
Sometimes you can revisit times past in a good museum, however.
I was not overly enthusiastic about visiting the Automobile and Fashion Museum in Malaga, but I decided to tag along when my partner in life suggested a visit. I do have a soft spot for both cars and fashion after all – and for my partner in life.
It turns out the museum was just what I needed. A dip into days past. To a time before digitization and the Internet took over.
On the other hand, this too was a time when technological advances suddenly changed people’s lives: by offering newer and better means of transportation. It started with what looked like a horseless carriage, and evolved into something called the automobile.
To the privileged few the automobile was a way of expressing themselves and indulging in their interests.
Who could resist a tour in the picnic car? Not to mention the understated elegance of the white and black Paige car, which was once dubbed the Most Beautiful Car of America.
Soon cars like the Studebaker above were available to more and more people, from the affluent middle-class to Chicago gangsters (if movies are to be believed).
And finally the ordinary men and women got their affordable cars.
Technological advances usually come with a price tag that few can afford early on. It struck me once again, how significantly digitization and the Internet have shortened the time span from early adoption to mainstream use.
Though I loved to spend a moment in times past, it was only a temporary escape. The outside world did not stay put. Donald Trump had to backtrack on his steel and aluminium tariffs, but the countries affected by the tariffs still include China and Russia. Am I the only one, who worries about whether or not this will drive China closer to Russia?
Putin has been busy in so many ways: annexing the Crimean peninsula, destabilising Ukraine by supporting separatists, setting himself up as a key player in the Middle East, meddling in the US presidential election, and poisoning Sergei Scripal and his daughter. Just to name a few activities. Why not encourage Trump to begin a trade war with China. Wouldn’t it be nice to step in and lend a helping hand to Xi Jinping?
But let’s keep things in perspective.
Life in Malaga moved on at a steady pace when we visited. Very few were interested in anything these three world leaders did.
They barely made the news, which were instead filled with the concerns of the Spanish pensioners and the internal political situation.
Which is as it should be. There is not much we can do about these three power-hungry world leaders, but there are still many things we can do to make life better for each other.
The imprisonment of fellow countrymen for political reasons is not one of those things, however. Sadly the sunny promenade above is not the full picture of Spain today.
In politics some measures, be they trade wars or extreme political retaliations, are difficult to reverse. Once the bridges have been thoroughly burned, it is hard – if not impossible – to go back.