Friday, January 31, 2014

No. 125 – Test for Echo

Performer: Rush
Songwriters: Geddy Lee, Alex Lifeson, Neil Peart, Pye Dubois
Original Release: Test for Echo
Year: 1996
Definitive Version: Different Stages, 1998.

Speaking of collecting …

After I got my drivers license, every once in a while, I’d drive to one of the two card stores in Columbus. One was on the West Side in an area called the Hilltop. The other, which I went to once or twice, was out east on Oakland Park Avenue. I wasn’t into set-building—filling out my old sets—so I can’t tell you what I bought back then.

A decade later when I moved back home and I WAS into filling out old sets, both of those stores were gone. Fortunately more than a dozen had opened in their place in the interim.

This was at the height of card collecting. Yes, Upper Deck already had messed up the hobby irreversibly by jacking up the prices, but cards still were a buck a pack for base sets by all the companies and usually less at card shows. Internet commerce was nascent, so eBay hadn’t yet destroyed card stores.

One day in September 1996, I got a wild hair and scheduled a card-shopping day. Now living in Gahanna with Debbie, I had a few shops I stopped at regularly, but there were a few far south and west that I’d never visited. I decided to hit them all.

As I recalled, I did this on an extra day off, like I took vacation rather than just a typical Monday. (This was when I still worked the Tuesday-Saturday shift at The Dispatch.) I believe this, because it seemed like I needed to get permission from Debbie for this excursion, or at least approval. Maybe not. Either way, the plan was to get up early, do my shopping and be home for dinner.

I had my want list and a list of addresses as I headed out. I decided to start south of Reynoldsburg near Lockborne for the first address. I thought it had a lot of promise because it was close to Rickenbacker Airport, a former air force base now a huge air-shipping hub, but it was nothing, or I couldn’t find it. It seemed to be just a distributorship that was listed inappropriately. OK, on to Grove City.

As I drove into town, I realized that I’d never been to Grove City, even though I’d lived in Columbus for most of my 32 years. It didn’t take long to see there wasn’t much reason to visit … except for the card stores. The first one was just north of the “downtown” area. If it didn’t have a sign out front saying “baseball cards,” I never would’ve found it. It was a guy’s house. The parking was his driveway.

Tentatively, I pulled in and hiked to the front door. It said open, so in I went, and, yes, it unquestionably was a card store. The owner redesigned his front room so it had glass cabinets and shelves loaded with boxes of cards. It looked like any other card store.

He had a ton of stuff, new and old. At the time, I was filling in Will sets through the Nineties, and I loaded up, because his prices were reasonable. I also nabbed older Topps cards I needed to replace miscut cards from my youth. I don’t remember how much I spent there that day, but I knew that I had found a good new place, and for the rest of the time I lived in Columbus, I visited that “store” on a semi-regular basis.

The next store was in the “downtown” area, and it was almost all new stuff—and Beanie Babies. Moving on …

I next continued my way around I-270 to Hilliard, another suburb with which I was unfamiliar even though Upper Arlington was close by. The first store I went to was in the middle the “downtown” area there. It was nothing special, but it began the most memorable part of the day.

While I was in the store, a summer thundershower came through, so I stayed a little longer than I might have otherwise buying time while it poured outside. When I left, we had blue skies for the first time that day. The setting sun was shining against puffy white clouds, and it was going to be a beautiful evening.

I headed to the next store on U.S. 40, and I flipped on the radio. A few days before, Debbie announced that she had heard the new Rush song. It had been nearly three years since Counterparts, and I was more than ready for some new Rush. Well, as I drove along puddle-lined streets, the new Rush song—Test for Echo—came on. It was the first time I heard this song, and it made an immediate impression: Sounds like Presto/Roll the Bones. LOVE IT!

Alas, the final card store on my list was closed—as in permanently—so it was time to head home. I was running a little late, so I stopped at a pay phone to call Debbie to tell her I’d be home by 6, if not by the time she got home … and to tell her I heard the new Rush song.

We went out that night. I don’t remember where, but I recall that it was someplace good. The whole day had been just a really good day. That’s how you want to spend a day off work, right?

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