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How to Start a Record Collection: Summer Edition

The dog days are upon us.
The dog days are upon us.
Kema Keur

Collecting records can so frequently be about the chase or the dig. But it's 100 degrees out there and frankly it's about to be too hot to do anything besides drink Topo Chico over crushed ice and slurp paletas all day. So the digging, the digging will have to wait till fall. Summer, she is for sharing.

These Texas summer nights have been a little rainier than I remember in recent years, and though they are cooling our normal fireball of a summer, the temperature still creeps. Still, complain about the heat as we do, I wouldn't trade them because of the slowed-down pace they bring. The heat eases a Texas evening, offers the spontaneity of a summer storm and brings the satisfaction of a night swim.

See also: -How To Start a Record Collection, Part I -How To Start a Record Collection, Part II -How To Start a Record Collection, Part III (Record Store Day Edition)

It's in this season that we turn to the house. A temple of recycled and cooled air we can count on. In no other season do I quite so willingly turn down last call or invent a reason for a house party.

Late on a warming Saturday night I find myself with a group of friends outside an event trying to figure out what to do next. In this moment I understand why the summer and house parties mix so well: We are all collectively unable to make any decisions and are sweating profusely.

With no pool in our collective gains, we make way to a living room. Beers and mixers are picked up. And ice, plenty of ice. Food is scavenged, platters appear and are refilled, and beads of water sweat down the side of a bourbon and rocks. And the player spins. All of us taking turns outdoing the previous guest's selection, pointing out Prince's birthday or a vinyl record we are surprised to find in the hosts' collection. Previously dead in this heat coma, the routine of the house party breathes new life into the group every half hour or so. About the length of time for Side A to complete.

Pick needle up, put needle down. Flip record. Refresh drinks. Pick needle up, put needle down. Flip record. Refill the olive bowl. Pick needle up, put needle down. Flip record. Smoke on the patio. Notice the fireflies. Pick needle up, put needle down. Flip record. Remember those Thin Mints you hid in the back of your freezer.

In our favorite watering holes and dancing halls there is no exhaling and then reviving -- the heart beats continuously. Each song blending seamlessly into the next one, necessarily so, our nights underscored with no gaps so that you won't know how long you have been somewhere, or comprehend the beginning and ending of something. One long backbeat keeps you dancing, keeps you drinking until you hit a wall, the overhead lights come on and the night is over.  

At home, I notice the record player single-handedly keeps the party coming back to life every 30 minutes. Each flip buys us a new half hour. Each new record discovery buys us an additional hour. A second bag of ice melting in the sink keeps the beer even colder. And the air conditioning is pushed to its limits, but even a modest collection of records keeps everyone out later than they mean to be. The records also provide a slow dance when the crowd exhausts.

It's hot outside, y'all. Everyone is bound to go in, like they do every summer. If I'm not in a pool, I'm under a roof. It's a scene I've seen before, but not one where the record player got the credit she deserves. Not one where I recognized this symbiotic relationship Texans have to summer, to heat and to sitting down somewhere comfortable with someone comfortable.

There were so many reasons to start a record collection. To have a tangible symbol of something I am passionate about. To have reasons to return to record stores for meandering marathon browsing sessions. To get into confrontations with infuriating record store employees. To enjoy perfect and surprising gifts from loved ones. To stop being jealous of other people's collections and finally claim my own.

But now I am sitting here, letting the condensation of a bourbon and rocks drip onto my leg; it's cold and it feels good. I drunkenly try to keep up with the conversations buzzing around me. Watching a new friend flip through a poorly organized rack of records, I grow comfortable that a July and August of living rooms and backyards and night swims await us all, and in that flash I appreciate that I have a whole new reason to collect: 3 a.m. in a Texas summer.

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