On Lent, Loopholes, and Lobbying
I’ve been a record collector for as long as I can remember. Among my earliest memories are those of my sister keeping toddler me entertained by stacking up her Beatles 45s and sitting me next to the record player. Guaranteed bliss.
I started vacuuming 45s from around age five whenever allowance and, later, paper-route income allowed; in Cooperstown, my money went to the record department at Newberry’s or down Main Street at the Richfield Stereo Center. Bresee’s, Jamesway, Record Town, and Barkers were my prime Oneonta targets. Mom knew where to find me in department stores.
Keep in mind we’re predating on-line immediacy by roughly 40 years here when I say I’d track down the more esoteric titles through mail-order catalogs that arrived from far-flung addresses like San Luis Obispo, California, and Terre Haute, Indiana. I’d send away for the catalog – usually four pages of single-spaced typewritten delights unavailable in Cooperstown or Oneonta – then carefully choose the one or two records I could afford. Down to the post office for a money order and a stamp and, six weeks later, I’d get my new treasure in the mail.
One adolescent year, one of my brothers set the bar impossibly high (or so he thought) when he suggested I give up buying records for Lent. Our parents proudly raised us in a devout Catholic household, so Lent carried appropriately great weight. After a lifetime of giving up candy with relative success for the 40-day observation, I figured I could go just fine without buying a record. I took the challenge.
The mistake he made was laying down his no-record gauntlet a few weeks before Ash Wednesday. I had time to prepare. Without thinking it necessary to tell anyone, I sat down with my catalog, found a couple of titles, bought the money order and the stamp, and sent my envelope off to California.
Bingo, six weeks later – when we were three weeks into Lent and really feeling the pinch of giving up whatever it was we gave up – I got home from school one afternoon to find a little box that had come for me in that day’s mail.
Mom asked me what it was.
“Just a few records,” I said.
“You gave up buying records for Lent,” she reminded me.
“I did,” I agreed. “I bought these BEFORE Lent.”
Cue the howls of objection from nearby siblings, who argued into the early evening that I should be disallowed from opening the box until Easter Sunday. I stood my ground. Technically, I demanded, I was keeping my Lenten sacrifice. I said I would buy no records during Lent. I bought these nearly two months ago, I said, well before Lent began.
Mom, I remember, did not take sides in the debate. By this time in her life she had refereed enough sibling-on-sibling argument to leave it to us to work out through either a few hours of sniping or prolonged periods of advanced sniping. It was always one or the other.
This one went on for a few days, if I recall correctly, but I stuck to my guns. It was not my fault they had arrived smack-dab in the middle of a dreary and unending March that just happened to coincide with the already-somber Lenten observance.
Not my fault, but quite possibly the result of deliberate pre-planning. I plead guilty to Liturgical manipulation in the first degree.
Surely it was the first step on a slippery slope that found me on a career path to becoming a lobbyist for more than 30 years, wandering the halls of the Capitol in Albany arguing my case often on the merits, but occasionally on technicalities not too far afield from my original sin of calendar timing.
For those who observe, Lent begins this week. I’ve not yet decided what this year’s sacrifice will be – my Dad always would tell us he was giving up dancing for Lent, so maybe that. I’d better be careful how I handle it, though – one never knows how the decisions we manipulate today will affect our futures.
Love it! Years ago, when fruit was truly seasonal, my dad always gave up “watermelon and strawberries” for Lent!