This is the latest installment of my continuing series of articles about the six years I worked at the Tower Records store in Greenwich Village. This past October, the chain was sold to a liquidator and is going out of business by year's end.
I got a lot of recognition from my last article in this series, when I talked about the widespread drug use I saw when I worked at Tower Greenwich Village back in the 1980s. The Manhattan-based web site Gawker.com picked it up, and my daily readership jumped by about tenfold.
I don't know if the same thing will happen with this article, but this maybe one of the most truly bizarre stories I can possibly tell. As soon as it happened, it gained a place in all-time Tower lore.
Tower Records always attracted a steady stream of colorful characters, and most of them were from places all around the country and had moved to New York City at one time or other. One of those characters was a friend of mine who I will call "JV." (I've been careful in this series not to mention any real names, as I don't want to embarrass any friends of mine out there, even if many years have passed since these stories took place. I hope JV doesn't mind me relating this legendary story to all my faithful readers out there.)
JV was one of those people you meet in life who always seems to make you laugh. I got on with him very well, as we were both huge baseball fans in a place that was not exactly overrun by sports fanatics. He always had a good joke to tell or a funny story to relate.
In late 1985, I was with JV one night, and he told me that his beloved pet, a small mouse, had passed away. JV decided that he wanted to give his late friend "a Viking funeral," namely he was going to put the mouse on a raft and set it on fire on the East River. He had plans of bringing other friends along and making it a grand spectacle.
On the night he told me, for reasons I cannot remember, he decided that he had to store the mouse in a cool place. (I believe his refrigerator was broken at the time.) He couldn't have the funeral that night, so he made a fateful choice of putting the dead rodent in the refrigerator/freezer of the break room in the Tower employees lounge. I think he was only going to keep it there just for the one night.
But unfortunately for JV, that night one of the maintenance guys who worked at Tower looked in the freezer where the late mouse was and found him there all wrapped up in a bag. The guy absolutely flipped out of his mind and immediately went to our store manager with what he found.
The mouse was tracked back to JV, and the manager had no choice but to fire him. I felt really badly for JV. He got along well with our manager but he had little choice. Eventually, JV went to work with another Tower store down south, and actually came back to work at the Tower Greenwich Village store a couple of years later, as our manager had moved on to another store.
The story became the stuff of Tower legend, and it became known as "The Rat In The Freezer." It has been told and retold down through the years by those who were working at the store at the time, including myself. (I know I'm probably leaving out some other important details, but it was 21 years ago. Even my memory, which I've always thought was pretty good, isn't what it once was.)
JV now lives on the West Coast, and I saw him back in 2004 at a friend of ours' wedding in California. We even reminisced about the fateful night in 1985, and all we could do was laugh about it.