When I left Lincoln Center I was bound for a record store located somewhere in that vast area between midtown and downtown. Academy Records and CDs is on 18th Street, which was convenient enough, since I could exit the subway only a block or two away from the shop. But when I got down there I was the thirstiest man in America, and you would not have believed how hard it was to find a drink down there. I found the store, but I couldn’t find a restaurant, cafe, or any other place where I could eat and get a beverage. Only block after block of beautiful old buildings. Finally, near Union Square Park I stumbled upon a burger joint that had a prominent soda fountain in easy reach of every patron. I ordered lunch, got my cup and sat down directly in front of that machine and drank soda after soda until I was so full I could barely eat.
Eager to shop, I walked briskly back to 18th Street and entered Academy Records. I could scarcely believe my eyes. Though not a large store, classical music CDs were stacked almost floor to ceiling. They were arranged terribly, though: Beethoven, Brahms, and Bruckner could be found on one wall, but Bach and other baroque composers were in a separate area, and that wasn’t especially substantial. The Romantics were clearly favored there, but that’s fine. Within minutes I had my arms full with Abbado’s set of Schubert symphonies, and Karajan’s set of Bruckner symphonies, at what seemed like bargain prices: a nine disc set for around $40. I was quite pleased, but then I happened to glance behind me to the right. A narrow corridor I assumed to lead to an employees-only area, or, at best, a room of LPs, in fact led to a whole other room of CDs, and those were the real bargain discs. They weren’t bargain in the sense of being bargain labels, like Naxos. On the contrary, the huge, bulging bins were full of Bis, Chandos, EMI, DG, and so on. They were not arranged in any order at all, but they were $2.99 per disc. I dropped the big sets I had in my hand and started all over. I snatched Neeme Järvi’s complete cycle of Gade symphonies; some Vaughan Williams; Britten’s War Requiem; and more that I cannot remember at the moment. I almost put all of it back, however, when I spied a massive opera wall, which seemed to have almost every recording I could think of. It didn’t have Kubelík’s set of Mathis der Maler, unfortunately, but it did have Davis’s Benvenuto Cellini, which I need, and almost all of Dorati’s cycle of Haydn operas, which I had not seen in person for almost ten years. I briefly contemplated putting back all I had and getting six Haydn operas, but those were not cheap, and I thought Miriam would be outraged at my insane spending. I stuck with my bargains, and left happy with a full bag.
The sky was clear and blue as I crossed over the Harlem River into the Bronx en route to White Plains.