This is the fifth in my series of remembrances from the days I worked at Tower Records in Greenwich Village. Tower is undergoing liquidation and will shortly go out of business.
I've always had a certain reputation throughout my life. I guess it's always been as a rather nice guy that most people seem to get along with. When I got to Tower in 1984, I came across a literal cross section of humanity working there.
There were aspiring rock musicians, jazz musicians, actors, skinheads (the non-racist ones), writers, punks, goths, rappers, metalheads, and hard rockers. I've generally made friends with people easily, but when I started working at Tower, I was one of the very few middle-class, baseball-obsessed Brooklynites there.
I made friends with just about everyone from the groups mentioned above. As time went on in the store, I seemed to be the guy in the middle, as there would be clashes between certain people who didn't get along for one reason or another. I always seemed to be putting out "brushfires" between those warring factions.
But one common thing among many of those folks who worked at Tower during the 1980s was the presence of a certain element: drugs. It was what I called "The Roaring Eighties"and that for many people was what they did for recreation. There were times I felt like I was the only guy in the whole store NOT on something. For all of my life I have steered clear of drugs, as they have taken the lives of many good friends of mine. It pains me at times when I think of those good friends of mine who got hooked on coke, heroin, or whatever, and their lives ended up consumed by them and many did not live to see the age of 40.
I always careful not to turn into a preacher when it came to drugs and my pals at Tower. I had all kinds of illegal substances offered to me gratis when I was there, and I always politely refused. I remember one time at a Tower Christmas party I walked into a bathroom and saw about four sets of legs in one stall. I knew it was something illegal was going on, one way or the other. I was able to climb up above and see above the wall of the stall, and I yelled out, "Freeze! It's a raid!" I saw it was four friends of mine drawing lines of coke in the stall. They looked up and smiled, and went about the business of getting high.
Booze and marijuana were moved the drugs of choice among people I knew, and I did enjoy a cold brew from time to time. I remember one time I went to a friend from Tower's bachelor party, and I got as drunk as I have ever gotten in my life. (I have a very low tolerance for alcohol, so about 4 or 5 Buds probably put me away.) I had to work the next morning which was a Sunday. If I were to call in sick, I might have risked getting fired, because everyone knew I was at the party (and my boss had that as a rule). I was on the train into Manhattan with the worst hangover I've ever had. I had to run the first register shift from 9AM to 1 PM, and I literally thought I was going to die. I remember keeping this huge garbage can next to the register in case I had to throw up (I didn't). After that little incident, I vowed I never wanted to feel that way again. (It RARELY has happened since...)
I never drank during work, but I can remember those days dealing with friends who had one too many during their lunch breaks. It always seemed to happen when I'd be covering their shifts. I was always the guy everyone could depend on I suppose...
It's hard for me to believe that it's been nearly 16 years since I worked at Tower Greenwich Village. Time marches on for all of us, and unfortunately, Tower itself will become just a memory soon. I'm sorry I haven't posted in this series in a while, but the next part will be early next week. And it will be one of the truly bizarre events in Tower history.