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Captain's Music And Me


Captain's Music was our friendly neighborhood music store when I was a youth. It was a small storefront with products from the American Musical Supply catalog and some cozy rooms in the back for teaching music. My best friend and band mate Bryan had gotten a job there and managed to get the owner, Tom Kaptain, to hire me as well.

Tom was a very different kind of boss, at least from my experience, and his open, often intuitive and gentle approach afforded me many opportunities to learn some early life lessons. He was very agreeable about the schedule, we even clocked ourselves in and out and paid ourselves right from the register. Beyond just learning the art of dealing with customers, he encouraged me to stay busy when my instinct was just to bide my time. So, wipe down the display cases, tune the guitars or even change the strings if it seemed necessary. Ya know, working.

In time, like everyone employed there (maybe 5 of us) I was eventually given keys to the store and pretty much carte blanche to come and go as I pleased. Tom encouraged me to come in after hours and record with my trusty Fostex X-15. I wrote a lot of bad songs and through experimentation learned the basics of recording in those back studios. I remember finding the book "Be Here Now" by Ram Dass while snooping through his desk drawers. After a while, I was even given the responsibility of opening the store a few days a week. This would lead to my downfall.

It was different in those days. The phones were tethered to the walls and frankly I don't think I had Tom or store manager Sky's home phone numbers or anything. So, as the story goes, one morning I awoke with a fever and cold symptoms. I didn't feel capable of getting my ass to the store in order to open up shop. Lying there in self pity, I knew Sky or Tom would be in around noon and I guessed the store would just open late. This is what you call very bad and unacceptable business practices. When they discovered I had not opened the store, needless to say I was fired.

The next day or so, I had a meeting with Sky at what I recall as a Pizza Hut near the store. Over unsweetened ice tea and in a clear, reasonable way, he explained how I had dropped the ball (or to put it more accurately "fucked up" though that was not Sky's tone). He was trying to encourage me to man up, go apologize and get my job back. He knew Tom would be fine with taking me back. He was teaching me, but I wasn't listening. I was prideful in the worst way and convinced myself I was somehow in the right and I was the one who deserved the apology. Also, I was stinging with embarrassment because I knew - there was no fever - and deep down, I knew they knew it too. But, they would have still taken me back.

There's a great series of lessons I learned from that experience. It's fourth dimensional and the layers fold in and around themselves. Responsibility, honesty, trust, friendship, compassion, self-deception, pride, the list goes on. And not just from this one experience, but many others that were afforded to me from my time at Captain's Music.

And to Tom who passed away just recently, thanks for giving a scruffy young musician a chance and an environment in which to grow.