As much as I would love to lead the glamorous life of a full-time music journalist (snicker), I do in fact have a “day job.” Policing may not be the most lucrative profession in the world, but it pays the bills. Mostly.
My job requires me to see and deal with terrible things. Recently, I saw something more horrible than usual. I won’t go in detail. Let’s just say I’ve never welcomed a distraction more.
With the forthcoming book, interviewing musicians, listening to new music, and writing, it can be argued that I lead two lives. If I’m not careful, the two can blend together, making it difficult to separate one from the other. Now more than ever, it’s crucial that I keep these two worlds apart. Granted, I have no trouble enjoying music in my patrol car. But under no circumstances do I want policing to interfere with my music.
Everyone has their way of ending the work day and moving toward something more family-oriented or relaxing. I for one have been pretty good about not bringing my work home with me. Still, the demands of the job can make that difficult. But I have devised the perfect way to go from one world to the other, letting others know where my mind is in the process.
It’s as simple as putting on a t-shirt.
More than a few of my friends like wearing law enforcement related t-shirts when they’re off duty. I have a couple myself. We’re proud of our profession, and have no trouble advertising it. Trouble is (for me, at least), those shirts make nearly impossible to get out of my “cop brain.” I need to unplug from my job. I need to turn that part of my brain off.
The best way to do that is to wear something as far removed from my job as possible. Music-oriented t-shirts are just what the doctor ordered. I come home at the end of my watch, take off my uniform, and put on a music-oriented t-shirt. BAM! I’m in a different headspace, and now I can relax.
When you seem me wearing a music-oriented t-shirt, it’s like I’m holding a sign over my head reading, “Do NOT ask me about my job right now!” It’s subtle, but — for the most part — effective.
At first, the shirts were all about my teenage daughter, and a tradition we started when I went to Baltimore. I went to a couple of record stores, and bought her a souvenir t-shirt from each place. When we visited Chicago last year, we made our way to a couple of record stores before leaving town. In addition to new music, I bought her a souvenir t-shirt from each store. She was annoyed with me when I told her I was going back to Chicago a couple of months later, and she couldn’t go because of school. I promised her I would buy her a t-shirt from whatever record store I visited. And so it began.
What does it say when I walk into a record store in Chicago, Memphis, or Nashville, and the first thing I do is make a beeline for the t-shirt section? I guess it says my child has me well trained. I try not to buy identical shirts for us, because what teenage girl wants to be “twinsies” with her father? There has been only one exception, but it was something we could live with since we both love LPs and the Netflix series Stranger Things.
I used to buy a t-shirt nearly every time I went to a concert. I had quite a stockpile. But after some time I just … stopped. I’m not sure why. Given the number of shows I attend these days, the shirt has to be pretty special for me to consider buying it, like this one I got from John McLaughlin’s show in Nashville.
Sometimes the record store’s t-shirts are better than the shop itself. Other times, the inverse applies. While I was in Nashville, I visited two record stores. Third Man Records — Jack White’s shop — is a great place to be a hipster. A great place to buy records? Meh. But I did like their t-shirt.
Conversely, Grimey’s is one of the best record stores I’ve ever seen. But I didn’t think much of their t-shirt. The store’s logo was too small, sitting in the upper right hand corner like a tiny Polo label. I bought one for my daughter, but not for myself. I regret that decision. I’ll be walking it back soon.
A good t-shirt makes for a good conversation starter. I usually get the most comments from the one I bought at Reckless Records in Chicago. The conversation usually starts with, “What the hell is that?” All right … maybe I crave attention sometimes.
Other times, I just want to celebrate a band I really love. I’m more than happy to spend an inordinate amount of time talking about these groups, and the music they make. And often, it takes little more than someone seeing the shirt I’m sporting.
The point is, the last thing on earth I’m thinking about is my job. And that’s a good place to be.
For a while, I was putting my music t-shirts under the body armor of my uniform. But I don’t do that any more. As I’ve said, it’s more important than ever I keep those worlds separate. Besides, a shirt like this one makes more sense under my uniform.
In addition to three more Chicago trips, I’m planning to visit Memphis, Kansas City, Louisville, and Cincinnati this year. I’m looking forward to visiting at least two record shops in each city. I really hope they have good t-shirts.
You don’t want to incur the wrath of a teenager, do you?