Thanks to the ballparkification of East Village, Golden Hill has become a new haven for the homeless. However, the area is still dominated by working-class Latino families (63 percent of the neighborhood population, according to census data), first-time homebuyers (some wags refer to it as a retirement village for hipsters) and an older guard of veterans and longtime residents. Some of the old salts remember back when muggers, rather than Brazilian steak houses, were the ones skewering meat in the Gaslamp.
Because of the high housing turnover, Golden Hill has also become a hotbed of garage sales. The trend has inspired my mission: to wade into this diverse swath of humanity and--armed with only my wits and $10--bring home some killer tunes.
My first stop is at CRASH, a residential substance-abuse treatment facility on E Street. The house itself is one of the many massive Victorians in Golden Hill that have been claimed as professional offices or divvied up into apartments. The sale is run by two women--one shy and shorthaired, the other a Victoria Beckham look-alike with impossibly cool sunglasses and well-coiffed hair.
Unfortunately, their music selection is sub-par. I stop for about three seconds on the career retrospective of Richard Elliot, the former Tower of Power sax man and latter-day porno jazz stalwart. I gasp in disbelief that Blue Note--the label of hard-bop titans like Horace Silver and Art Blakey--stooped to putting out what may be charitably described as background music for making background music. I'm slightly more tempted by the Christian, biker-mullet stylings of the Darrell Mansfield Band but ultimately press on without purchase. I do, however, make a mental note to download The Doobie Brothers' 'Jesus is Just Alright' at my earliest convenience.
Several blocks away, Dawn and George are movin' on up--to North Park. As is the custom when humans relocate, they're using their front lawn to purge the superfluous details of their lives. Dawn's in her mid-20s, friendly and direct. Judging by her collection of discs for sale, she attended more than a few Bud-Light-and-Zima-fueled dorm dance parties during the second Clinton administration.
Club remixes of 'Cotton Eyed Joe' and 'Total Eclipse of the Heart'?
Sisqó, Backstreet Boys, the Timbaland-produced Romeo Must Die soundtrack--each 45 minutes of meaningless filler wrapped around a semi-legit banger ('The Thong Song,' 'Quit Playin' Games,' Aaliyah's 'Try Again,' respectively)?
Days of the New?
Che--wait, what the fuck? Maybe Dawn speckled her social life with a few nights of pot smoking and swimming in reservoirs. I'd be in a position to judge if I didn't eerily feel like I was looking through a wormhole at my own college days.
These are the kinds of discs that seem to have survived the first post-college moving sale due to lethargy and the second due to oversight. They are damn well not invited along for the third.
I fork over a dollar to become the proud owner of The Show soundtrack, which features the solid Erick Sermon/Method Man/Red Man joint 'How High.' With another dollar I procure the dance remixes for reasons that aren't entirely clear to me.
When planning this hunt, I had envisioned Faustian tradeoffs between Hüsker Dü's Zen Arcade and Los Tigres Del Norte's 'Contrabando y Traición' (an early-'70s corrido about drug smuggling and murder that's the 'Stairway to Heaven' of norteño music).
So far, those dreams are dashed. Moreover, I remember why I don't make attending garage sales a standard part of my weekend. Namely, they start way too early, they always seem to coincide with record heat waves and the merchandise consists of the least-valued possessions of people of limited means.
Lee's sale is my last stop. I'd come by his place earlier in the day, just as he was setting up. He offered me a George Foreman grill, which I declined. When I asked about music, he responded with a smile. 'Well, what do you like? Do you like the rock? Do you like the hip-hop?' he said, arms gesticulating. 'Or do you like more soothing stuff?'
My conversation with Lee leads me to believe he shouldn't part with his collection of soothing stuff. Lee is a decorated veteran of three combat tours with the U.S. Army and, at various points in his life, a fan of Testament and Yanni. He's still living with the effects of a spinal-cord injury sustained during his service in the '80s. He's also a recovering heroin addict and a recent widower. His wife passed away 10 months ago. During her second bout with cancer, she began taking his VA-prescribed morphine. Eventually, she overdosed, dying while Lee was asleep. Lee has nightmares and post traumatic stress disorder.
Lee is friendly and talkative. He tells me about the time a friend picked him up in a limo that once belonged to the Hell's Angels. They, plus Lee's date, went to see Testament at 4th & B. He tells me stories about his military service that are better left untold. He tells me about his nightmares. He tells me how Yanni is a genius at weaving tones and textures into soothing music. I realize, perhaps for the first time, that 'soothing' is not always a pejorative term. The Yannis and the Richard Elliots of the world may agitate the average music snob, but they may just calm a decorated vet in the midst of a crippling flashback.
Lee doesn't have much music for sale, but I manage a solid purchase: Phil Collins' No Jacket Required, which I get for a dollar. Lee throws in a dubbed tape of Yanni's Live at the Acropolis. I offer him another dollar, which he refuses.