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Entry date: 7-11-2022 - Rye's Above part 2 - Things I made up

Dear Friends,


Here is Rye’s Above part two...enjoy.


*****


Rye’s Above was not the only idea Ben had ever had. There had been a lot of them over the years. As a kid, Ben wanted to open a pet store that specialized in birds and reptiles. He found both fascinating and during the mid-1960s, Ben read everything he could about both species. There wasn’t any place in Phoenix that just specialized in these two types of animals. Ben loved explaining to people that a bird and a dinosaur were closely related to each other, so it had to be true that birds and reptiles were practically family.


Then, in high school, Ben thought long and hard about revolutionizing the microphone stand. He never came up with a design he liked, but for a couple of years, he thought about making it easier to sing and play guitar. It seemed like there had to be a better way to design a boom mic stand, so they didn’t wear out so quickly, but it never came to fruition.


Most recently, in his early twenties, Ben wanted to open a shop that sold both records and tapes and music gear. He didn’t have any money, though, and the people he talked about it with argued that there was already plenty of both types of shops in town. Ben would say, well, there are, but not one that sells instruments and records.


Apparently, no one cared about having to go to two places to get your music stuff. Every once in a while, Ben would suggest bringing in some local music to sell at M.E.C., but his boss never seemed very interested.


“It’s just one more thing to keep track of, Ben,” said Sonny Kerr, the owner, shaking his head.


It was like a broken record. Ben was good at his job, but apparently “idea man” was not part of his job description. Ben could sell gear, though, and usually diagnose any repair issues that came in on the quick.


After a while, Ben stopped sharing his ideas. He enjoyed working at M.E.C., but he never had any extra money. Between rent at his apartment and what he chipped in for the practice space, he spent most of his money on music. Either seeing bands play at local bars, getting new gear, or buying records, he could count on what money came in from his M.E.C. job being pretty much gone before the end of each two week pay period.


He didn’t mind, really. What was he going to do with money? Probably just spend it on more gear. He wasn’t a car guy. He had the same Honda SR-5 pickup that his dad and grandparents got him for high school graduation in 1977 and it still ran like a champ.


Ben also rarely bought anything for himself. He had a stereo. It worked fine. He had a bed and a dresser and the rudiments of kitchen gear. He could even entertain the rest of the band or the very occasional female friend with his mismatched dishes and glasses. He didn’t worry about them not matching because no one would ever remember what they ate a slice of pizza off at his house anyway.


A spartan lifestyle seemed to work fine for Ben but was it what he really wanted?


He told himself on a regular basis to “keep it simple.” He’d learned some hard lessons in his early days of working at M.E.C. that the “hard sell” technique was not going to work for him. The more he pushed, the further people seemed to want to be from him.


After being there for ten years, he could size up a buyer from a looky Lou pretty easily. Buyers came into the store with confidence. They had money in their pocket, and it showed. Looky Lous kind of ambled in and wandered around without purpose. They were trying not to be seen and this was something Ben was very familiar with.


When Ben spotted a buyer, he would often let the buyer come to him. He was the only one in the front of the store most of the time. Sonny would be in the back in his office playing guitar, napping, or watching soap operas, and Darrel would be in his workshop. They were the only full-time employees of M.E.C.


So, Ben would pretend to be busy stocking merchandise around or looking through invoices until the buyer would saunter over like the cock of the walk and ask the first question. Sonny had told him many times that whatever he did, the only first question Ben should ask is “How are you today?” Beyond that, let the customer ask all the questions.


“They come here because we have the answers, my boy,” Sonny always said.


Lately, Sonny had been ending that statement with “young lady” a lot. They had hired a gal named Chantal Aguilar to work part-time a few months before and she was picking up the business pretty quickly.


Ben liked Chantal a lot. She was cute, a bit on the petite side, but had what Chuck would have called, “that sexy Mexican girl vibe.” She had a short curly bob and favored the skater punk look. On her first day, Ben, Chantal, and Darrel argued about the best Jody Foster’s Army song as the guys showed Chantal how to close up.


Jody Foster’s Army or JFA as they were more commonly known had been local Phoenix legends for a long time. Ben knew all the guys in the band, having played many gigs together over the years, and he loved their record, Valley of the Yakes. Chantal wasn’t hearing him, though.


“How can you say, “Guess What” is their best song?” she asked incredulously.

“Easily, it’s their best song.”

“What about “Beach Blanket Bong Out” or “Preppy” or, fuck, have you heard their cover of “Low Rider?”


Darrel had just been watching this take place. From the look on his face, Ben thought Darrel was trying to figure out what song to throw out there to impress Chantal. Ben knew that Darrel could give two shits about JFA, but he did like the ladies.


See you tomorrow.




This is what Ben's truck looked like.

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