What's Goin' On

This shirt reminds me of Marvin Gaye and Melanie, who (Melanie, that is, not Marvin, alas) gave me this great shirt. I altered the sleeves and body, to fit more trimly.

This shirt reminds me of Marvin Gaye and Melanie, who (Melanie, that is, not Marvin, alas) gave me this great shirt. I altered the sleeves and body, to fit more trimly.

Day 2 of 30 day music writing challenge:

I picked up the phone. "Are you listening to What's Goin' on Again?" Jared asked.

I was at work at a lonely, quiet, used bookstore in the Northern Liberties neighborhood of Philadelphia. This was  pre-cell phone days, at least for us. Before Northern Liberties was overrun with hipster families with tandem strollers. Not that I really mourn the takeover. Back then, people, including a priest were hit on the back of the head with a brick and robbed in Northern Liberties.

Whenever I was alone at work, I listened to Marvin Gaye's 1971 album, What's Goin' On. Over and over again. I worked several days a week, most of them alone. Just me and What's Goin' On. Marvin's smooth, sweet voice were balm for my irritated nervous system. So good, so sad.

Business was slow. The owner, Jonathan, was rarely there. Occasionally, he smoked pot in his office in the basement. On rarer occasions, his wife came in with their infant daughter who always seemed to have a poop-filled disposable diaper that ended up in the bathroom garbage can only be discovered days later by my co-worker, Melanie, or me. We needed to do little detective work to find the days old diaper.

Looking back, Jonathan's wife was probably nursing in the office and the baby pooped each time. My take away was that I would never leave a poop-filled diaper anywhere for another person to find days later, especially not in an enclosed basement office. Though the poop-filled diapers of exclusively breastfed babies can go directly from baby's bottom to the washer (so I am told by reliable friends), days old diapers are no good. Nope.

Melanie and I worked together a day or two a week, enough for her wave her wand over my ovaries, causing wrenching cramps in my abdomen and making me bleed two weeks early. I had mostly lived with men, and yet this didn't happen when I lived at a women's college for a year. This didn't happen when I lived with two other boy-crazy women a couple years later. Melanie had serious uterine mojo.

I took a break from Marvin when Melanie and I shared a shift. I don't remember much about her taste in music. I think it was generally good. She had been a Bauhaus fan in another life. She told me sheepishly that she'd called out to Peter Murphy after a Love and Rockets show, "I love you Peter!" The pr*ck turned and gave her a cold stare. She was mortified.

A complex and interesting character, Melanie, was blonde and fair with a cool, earthy style. She was part hippie star goddess, with a dark, moody past that she carried forward. She was dreamy and shrewd. I believe she tortured me with Joni Mitchell albums and one hippie keyboard album on multiple occasions. All made me absolutely crazy. Melanie found this astounding.

On September 12, 2003, Johnny Cash died. I found out while Jared was driving me to the bookstore. We were passing a coffee shop, a popular spot owned by a photographer. [I can't find the name of the shop online.]. I cried.

WXPN, one of my least favorite radio stations (because it could actually be good but is so mediocre), played hour after hour of Johnny Cash songs, until Melanie exclaimed, "Enough!".

Within a year, Melanie and I were laid off. We'd never even actually needed a register, there were so few customers. We just had a cigar box with cash. The early 2000's were different days. Jonathan said he would run the store. I don't think he did. The bookstore folded.

Years later, I was reminded of the beautiful, strong, sexy cover of What's Goin' On when Barack Obama was photographed in a black jacket in the rain. The New York Times published the photo by Damon Winter (see here), whose work on the Obama campaign won a Pulitzer.

After seeing the photograph, I spent the day at my office mumbling, "He's so good looking" until my boss said, "All right!"