“The Record Store at the End of the Universe” by Rob Geisen

I think I’ve figured out why the movie Waterworld was considered a bomb when it was initially released in 1995. (Or, using record store math, 8 years after Andy bought Albums On The Hill).

Kevin Costner doesn’t drown in it. Not once. When the end credits show up, he’s still around! And if I learned anything while excessively-thinking-about-this tonight in an attempt to not-think-about the Other Stuff, it’s that audiences love it when Kevin Costner drowns.

It’s true. Message In A Bottle? Big hit. Kevin Costner drowns in it.

The Guardian? Remember? That rescue-swimmer movie he made with Ashton Kutcher? That thing made money, even though the only two people I know who’ve watched/loved it (on multiple occasions) are Helen and me.

[Trigger Warning: I get anxious when I feel like people are thinking about making fun of my favorite Rescue Swimmer movies, so knock it off.]

So, The Guardian. What a movie! Costner drowns in that one too.

Which leads us Theodore Sturgeon-style to the next question (“Every advance this species has ever made is a result of someone, somewhere, looking at (their)
world..neighbor..cave..or (themselves) and asking that next big question”–TS); Question 1. Am I using the ‘;’ back there right?, and 2. If Mr. Costner can drown successfully, both creatively (If we give him points for Paul Newman’s performance in Bottle) and financially, why does he not drown successfully in Waterworld too?

Because some smart-ass with no affection for cinema decided to give him gills, that’s why.

Go Fuck-The-Fact that people love it when Kevin Costner drowns in stuff. That it makes them feel emotions, makes them want to be better humans, and fills them with an urge to stand outside somewhere grilling something while wearing a big sweater.

“Gills would be cool!”, some jackass once said, after coughing up his treadmill during another miserable goddamn breakfast spent coasting on a phone.

And, hell. He’s not wrong. Gills are cool, if you’re The Creature From The Black Lagoon. But Kevin Costner’s not The Creature. The Creature didn’t spend his time building a baseball field in the middle of a lagoon, as the crew of The Rita watched from the deck of their boat, worrying about the goddamn thing’s sanity.

You put Waterworld Kevin Costner in The Creature From The Black Lagoon, and that movie no longer works. Even though they both have gills. Why doesn’t it work? Because in the Costner version he’d end up stealing The Rita and riding off into a soggy sunset.

In the original version, The Creature falls madly in love with the first lady in a one-piece swimsuit he’s ever seen, attempts to introduce himself by joining her for a romantic swim, and he gets shot to death and dies underwater, alone.

The Creature doesn’t survive his own lagoon movie. Big hit!

Almost all of my favorite movies not starring Kevin Costner end like that, with the misunderstood pro/antagonist dying for the crime of loving something about this world too much.

King Kong, Frankenstein, Rutger Hauer in Blade Runner, Ryan Gosling in Blade Runner 2049, Simba’s dad in The Lion King, Rowdy Roddy Piper in They Live, the shark from Jaws.

Fuck, I’m sorry. It’s at this point in the article that I realize I’m drifting, purposely pulling myself away from the point I’ve set out to make. Why am I doing this? Because my immediate response to accepting something I have no intentions of accepting is to paddle around it for as long as possible, like Kate Winslet clinging to that goddamn door in Titanic, trying like hell to pretend that the boat didn’t just get iceberg’d out from under me, that if I can hold on to the debris long enough without freezing to death, things will go back to the way I would like them to be.

But that’s not the way this Universe works. I know that. So, what’s the point that I’m making here, as I sit floating around the fact that Albums On The Hill may be closing its doors forever? That everything, including my favorite stuff, is designed to end. But I’m trying like hell to put a positive spin on it. Because this ‘Last Hurrah’ article shouldn’t be depressing. I don’t want it to be depressing. It should be a thank you. A celebration for what’s been, not a funeral for what we’ll have lost.

But in order for me to pull that off, I have to believe it. I need to convince myself that the ending of something I love is a good thing. So in an attempt to do that, I’ve tried to find answers in cinema. Concrete examples of brilliant things not lasting forever, and being ok with that because in their ‘not lasting’, they’ve made the world (or the movie) a better place for just being in it for as long as they were.

But I’m so goddamn moody, and I’m failing miserably. I can feel the door beneath me writing its own goodbye letter. It’s had enough of me. The door’s tired of my rambling failure towards optimism too.

But fuck that door. We never really hit it off in the first place. This article needs to be written. This thing about endings needs its own ending, but I know if I keep going about it like this, it won’t happen. In an attempt to avoid the inevitable, I’ll still be sitting here 4 months from now, many thousands of pages later, and I still won’t be done with it. I’m almost never done with ‘it’. I’m stubborn that way.

But I’m also self aware! I know I need help. So I called the only person who could help talk through something like this.

I called Helen.

“Wait, what are you trying to do now?” Helen asked. And in the asking, I felt better, because she still sounds like Helen.

“I’m writing this article for The Boulder Poetry Scene about Albums, because the record store might be closing forever. The article’s supposed to be about Andy and how he’s my hero, and I’m gonna write about his epic influence on the writing and poetry scene, and how Albums On The Hill has played an important part in supporting and keeping the poetry scene alive in Boulder for all the days that I can remember since I moved out here in 1997, (or, using record store math, 10 years after Andy bought Albums On The Hill), how he he set it up so we could run poetry readings upstairs at the store in the early 2000’s and then when he had the Bistro, how he let us run weekly reading over there, and then how when he didn’t have the Bistro anymore he found us a new home for the reading series at The Burnt Toast, and how when we didn’t have The Burnt Toast anymore he set it up with the owner of the No Name Bar so we could run readings over there, and how some of the best times I’ve ever had were at those Bistro readings, you remember the Bistro readings, we did the Baobob book release readings there, and how he bought extra copies of my Love Does Stuff book and sold them at the store, and how the only thing better than being at a poetry reading with Andy Schneidkraut watching over everything from behind the bar is when he’d pop out from behind the bar and step on stage to read something he wrote. I want the entire thing to be a big Thank You to Andy, and I want him to know how lucky I feel just knowing the guy and how much I love him, and how much everyone else loves him, all those kids that started reading at weekly open mics he was responsible for starting, and how years later the grown up versions of some of those kids started their own readings, and how over the years the poetry spread and it was all because of him, and that even though we might be losing a record store that has been important to many thousands of people for the past 35 years, that even the greatest things end, like Kevin Costner in The Guardian, and that what counts is that he created something that was important, something that still matters, and that the world would be an even bleaker place without him and the things that he made happen in it, so maybe endings aren’t the end of the Universe after all, that we might be losing the record store now, but that it will still exist in the things it influenced and the memories of the influenced, and the important thing is that we still have Andy. I want to be optimistic, goddamn it! Because for as long as there is a world, it will always love Andy!”

“Yeah, so what’s the problem?” Helen said.

“I’m maybe 1,000 words into this thing and I’ve only mentioned Andy’s name once.”

“Damn it, Robbie,” Helen said.

“You know I don’t deal well with endings! I had an idea that was Rome. No, wait, that’s from Gladiator. I had a concept for how to pull this off, but I’m having a hard time convincing myself that endings aren’t the end of the world, and I promised myself this thing wasn’t going to turn into a eulogy, so I’m working things out.”

“What’ve you got so far?” Helen asked.

“I’ve got around 3 pages about Kevin Costner movies, how Waterworld bombed because Costner didn’t drown at the end.”

Helen laughed, a sound that holds a special place on the top shelf of favorite things I’ve been fortunate enough to witness the human voice achieve. Other sounds that sit beside this on that shelf are: Listening to Jack Collom yodel and read poetry in his living room. Listening to Wayne Winsett (one of my favorite pals and the guy behind Boulder’s iconic Comic Shop, Time Warp) talk about all of the things that we both love and have in common. Listening to Stan Brakhage talk about film during those Sunday CU days. Listening to my daughters laugh anytime. Listening to Adam Duritz yell my name outside the Fox in the late 90’s while I was standing in line next to a recently ex-girlfriend who was laboriously making out with her new boyfriend in front of me in a semi-vindictive way, Adam screaming that the guest list was full (We’d hung out the night before this. Back then I was always running into Adam Duritz.) and that the only way they were going to let me into the show was if he walked me in with him personally. And listening to Andy talk anywhere, about everything.

“I love it!” Helen said, “Maybe it’s a goddamn Mandela effect thing, but I thought he must have drowned in Waterworld even despite the gills.”

Helen Mandela-ing Costner’s fate in Waterworld led to the two of us intentionally Mandela-ing Coster’s fate in all of the other movies that he didn’t drown in, pretending that every Kevin Costner movie ends with the earthy leading man dying a drowning death. You’d be surprised to find how much comfort can be found in something like that.

Bull Durham? He drowns in the dugout.

No Way Out? He drowns with Sean Young’s underpants tangled around his head.

The Postman? Tom Petty holds his head in a mailbox full of water while humming “It’s Good To Be King.”

Drowning With Wolves? Oh, he drowns all over the place in that.

I don’t know how long we went on about this. Time is a diving board and water is everything we don’t know about everything that has figured out a way to exist.

When we were done with Costner, Helen mentioned that Gorbachev had recently died.

“Did he drown?” I asked. “I could use that in the article maybe, if he did.”

She told me he didn’t.

“Ok.” I told her, before looking down at my laptop and quoting an outrageously long Hunter Thompson composed curse.

“We’ve been talking for two and a half pages!” I said. “What if this thing’s way too long now?”

“Don’t make a dick joke.” Helen said, maybe because when we were together during that almost an entire decade of the early 2000’s, I was just hitting that ‘high water mark’ of a serious penis metaphor phase. Almost everything back then could be accurately reduced to a skillfully placed dick joke.

“It’s not a dick joke.” I promised her, because it was true. “I’m not obsessed with my penis anymore. Not like you were used to. These days I’m crazy-into old science fiction writers. I’m looking for answers there. I’m determined to figure out a cure for Loss.”

I always never want to stop talking to Helen, but inevitably all of us always get what we don’t want. With the phone call ended, still reeling from the contact buzz of inspiration that always sinks in after just having reconnected with her, I set about the task of ending this article.

Albums On The Hill is having a ‘Last Hurrah’ opening right now. Starting Thursday and ending on Monday. The store will be open from noon to five and then maybe it won’t be open again after that. I could call Andy to find out for sure, but honestly I don’t want to fucking know. Just like I don’t want to know if Helen is still with the Shitty Guitar Playing Jesus guy that I know she’s probably been with for the past 10 years. Like I said, I don’t deal well with this ending shit. I could ask her, obviously. But I just don’t want to 100% know for sure. I’m fucked up that way. I just wrote an entire novel about it.

I put Andy in the novel. He’s the only character that’s based on a real person that I didn’t change their name. In the book, he’s still Andy.

Albums On The Hill’s in the book too, but I did change the name on that one. In the book it’s called Albums Off The Hill. Because the entire thing takes place inside a burnt casserole in a fictional version of Longmont, and the record store’s located on flat land. It isn’t on a hill.

I told Andy about this a while back, after having recently finished the second draft I offered to send him the manuscript so he could read the bits where I mention him, make sure he’s ok with it. And probably also seeking approval

He said, “I’ll read it when it’s published,” and then he smiled.

Because he’s a goddamn rockstar like that.

It was one of the greatest things I’ve ever heard said out loud.

[Wait. Hold on a minute. Let me check something. Cells, interlinked.]

And just like that, we’re at 2,500 hundred words. Damn it. In article years, that’s like, I don’t know 48 to 94? And I just looked out the window, my deadline for this article is out there on the lawn making out with that goddamn Titanic door. Can’t they see I’m otherwise occupied?! Where the hell is Adam Duritz when you need him again?!

So, yikes. In closing, I just wanna say this:

“Your faults as a son, is my failure as a father.” I say this, quoting Marcus Aurelius, to the article that I’ve just written.

And on the topic of fathers and sons, Andy’s son Dan made a documentary about Andy and Everything a few years back called Old Man. Anyone reading this who hasn’t watched that, I defer to that. Anything I was trying to accomplish in this thing, as far as shining a light all over the greatness that is this human being we call Andy, Dan has already accomplished, on a photographically-epic level. So I want to tell everyone they should watch this. (next step: You will click. On. The link.)

Watch Old Man | Prime Video

And after you’ve watched that, read this. Because we’re ending things now, and we’re ending them here. (I swear to FUCK someday I’ll get good at this.) And if we’re going to end all of those things at the same time, we should end them the right way. Classy. With an undefinable sense of style.

We’ll end it with one of my favorite quotes from Dan Schneidkraut’s Old Man. Andy, talking about restaurants, in a restaurant.
(I love ya, man)

“You can’t download a good lasagna.”
–Andy Fucking Schneidkraut!

Rob Geisen, aka “Get in the Car Helen,” is the author of Paper Thin, Beautiful Graveyards, and The Aftermath etc… He was co-editor of Baobob Tree Press and co-host of the Album’s Bistro, Burnt Toast, and NoName readings in Boulder.