sentimental journey

I noticed Ring Music closed. I looked it up, it happened last November. Me and John Larocque, genuflected members of the secret society of Sam Larkin. Friends long before he took over Ring Music, the store started by Marshall McLuhan’s son. I first heard of Mendelson Joe at Ring Music, there were some cassettes for sale that were a curiosity with hand written descriptions. After the fourth or fifth time that I was buying guitar strings, I took a chance and bought “not safe” a hilarious and brilliant record, especially “addicted” which seemed about hard drugs but turned out to actually be about cheese and pumpkin pie, Joe’s addictions. We both enjoyed our debts to Sam and his brother Terry, generous inspirational characters in our younger lives, open stage regulars. It was fun exchanging insights about legendary Mr. Larkin. John was a wallflower in a way, not a performer but some say the audience is part of the show, even more significant than the artist, he was in the business of enabling. His lover died 10 years ago or so, I don’t know if he ever got over it. His whole demeanor changed, he already was a quiet person but then the sadness in his face got deeper and heavier, grief pulled him into great darkness, but eventually he got it together, times heals everything. By the time Sam died in 2013, John was back on his feet and afterward Carolyn called him to help sort out Sam’s instruments. Sometime later, we had an amazing afternoon talking about the mysteries found inside Sam’s apartment which Sam always kept a secret but in fact was only ten minutes from Ring Music. Exactly why did he own a brand new never used diesel generator among the floor to ceiling stacks of books and recording tape? A long discussion ensued about the other secret space, that of Sam’s mind. We outdid each other sharing secrets we protected and cherished about the man. How did he get the temporary job teaching high school, he had no degree. How did he work on cargo ships in the great lakes? Did you know about the drag races Yonge street between him and kids from Rosedale? As the main auditor in the 70s he had many polarizing opinions about William Burroughs, Leonard Cohen and Joni Mitchell plus schemes for obtaining record deals with just one brick, a glass door on Bay street and one police car. Mcclellan and Stewart was interested in his books back when Kurt Vonnegut Jr. was first everywhere celebrated. In that back space of Ring Music, where John had two luthier stations and 50 stacked guitars against the glowing green wall, I always felt like being backstage at a prestigious concert. When Leon Redbone died a couple years ago, it was noticeable how he moved through life leaving no trace of who he was, where he came from. John Larocque doesn’t leave much in the way of footprints either. I hope he landed all right and wish him well.

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