By Steve Graham
Chapter 4 – Jamie teases Kayla and talks audio with an old neighbour
The day after the morning yoga class, Jamie approached Kayla and said, “I think we have a friend in common.”
“Stuart from the stereo store down the street. I was in there to pick out an anniversary present for my husband Paul. We got chatting, your husband and Stuart are old friends apparently.”
“That’s right. Kev, my husband, and Stuart were best friends in high school. They lost touch when Stu went off to university but they’ve reconnected since he came back to run the family business.”
“You seem happy today Kayla. You’ve got a bit grin on your face. Oh, and why didn’t you tell me you work at the Victoria’s Secret store?”
“There’s no keeping a secret around Stuart,” said Kayla. “I was just thinking about something he said when we spoke on the phone a few nights ago. He’s a sweet guy, he keeps teasing me that I have a sister I won’t introduce him to. I think he’s kind of lonely working in that ‘guy’ store.”
“He mentioned your ‘secret sister’,” Jamie remarked smiling.
“I just don’t like to mention where I work, it’s fine, but hectic at times, I like to switch it off. You meet some nice people but I still have to get my game face on. Yoga is sort of my anti-work.”
“Well, that explains the cool yoga wear.”
Still smiling broadly Kayla said, “I’ll let you know when the next sale is on.”
“Not too soon. I have Paul’s anniversary present to think of first, I’m just on my way to Stuart’s Stereo to pick it up. Oh, and I’ll tell Stuart your sister is dying to meet him,” taunted Jamie.
“Don’t do that!” Kayla laughed as they parted. “He’ll never believe anything I say.”
Nice girl, thought Jamie as she walked away. She always seemed a bit aloof but a sweet personality once you get to know her. With that and the looks of a supermodel, it’s no wonder Stuart asks about a sister.
As Jamie approached Stuart’s Stereo, a man about her age came out and started walking towards her. As they got closer she started to smile. “Patrick Brown, I haven’t seen you in ages. Are you playing hooky today? Who watches the money when the bank VP deserts his post?”
“Hi Jamie, sort of, yeah. I was just up to see how Dad’s making out and I stopped in here before heading home.”
“How’s he doing?”
“Great,” remarked Pat. “Dad was just sort of rattling around in the house after Mom passed away. But it seems he’s gotten a new lease on life. He’s even found himself a few audio pals in the seniors’ building, they get together most days after lunch to listen to some of Dad’s old jazz.”
Jamie rolled her eyes.
“What is it? Oh, I know,” he continued before Jamie could speak. “Paul bought Dad’s old turntable and now you have to live with an audiophile. If a man has an obsession he shares it with everyone in the house. Jan and the girls give me grief about it from time to time too. Look, I have half an hour before I have to head home. Do you want to get a coffee and catch up a bit? If you have time, my treat.”
“Sure, what I have to do will keep for a while. We could just go in here,” Jamie motioned to the café next to Stuart’s. “They do a decent coffee and the music isn’t loud so you can actually have a conversation.”
“It’s nice in here,” said Pat, bringing the coffees to their table. “Like you said, the music isn’t overbearing.”
“Paul and I went to that place next to the mall last year for our anniversary. The music was so loud we couldn’t talk. We left before ordering, came home, opened a bottle of wine and had freezer pizza.”
“So romance isn’t dead after all,” remarked Pat with a big grin.
After coffee and some family catch-up, Jamie and Pat were standing in front of Stuart’s Stereo. “Pat, what are those things on that piece of equipment in the window? They look like the Edison bulbs I’ve seen in the hardware store.”
“They’re electronic tubes. A lot of high-end audio equipment use them. They’ve made a bit of a comeback in recent years.”
“Are they the same sort of thing that’s in my Dad’s old shortwave radio?” asked Jamie. “I didn’t think they even made them anymore.”
“Yes, similar in concept to radio tubes but specialized for audio. They’re still made in Russia, China and a few other places. Tubes almost disappeared completely but it was electric guitar players that kept them alive before audiophiles ‘discovered’ them again.”
“So what’s the big deal with them anyway?” queried Jamie sceptically.
“Done right, they’re a way to better musical enjoyment. They have a ‘completeness’ if you will that you don’t often get with non-tube equipment. Plus, they look cool in a Fritz Lang kind of way,” Pat added with a bit of a grin.
“Sounds like this isn’t the first time you’ve made this speech. My wifely radar tells me I hear a husband who’s made this pitch before.”
Pat laughed, “Guilty as charged, your honour. If ever you want a job at the bank let me know, we need someone who can see through spin.”
“All wives have that ability, Pat, so level with me,” teased Jamie, “What’s the latest thing you’re trying to spin so I can be on my guard when I hear it from Paul?”
“Already been spun,” Pat replied, cocking his head in mock triumph. “Jan wanted a kitchen reno ever since she started watching ‘Leave it to Bryan’ on HGTV. I told her that making an open concept kitchen and living area would likely require some structural work in the basement below. ‘You’ve seen Bryan do it’, I told her. Jan and the girls got their designer kitchen/greatroom, an updated laundry room and a new powder room and just coincidently I got my listening room in the basement. Fran and Sam tease me that I’m ‘Doctor Evil’, going to my secret laboratory. It’s the cutest thing when both of them put a pinkie in the corner of their mouths and give me the look to go with it.”
“You men must collude,” remarked Jamie. “Paul wants to do the same thing with James’s old bedroom in the basement. I asked him, ‘What if we have grandchildren? We’ll need that bedroom when they come to visit.’ Paul replied that he’ll sleep in the basement. ‘Might be sooner than you think’, I told him. But thanks for the tip about combining it with a kitchen reno.”
“I should let you go and get out of here before I get Paul and myself in any more hot water,” Pat said, smiling.
“Actually, I was heading into Stuart’s Stereo when I saw you come out Pat.”
“Really?” inquired Pat. “Don’t tell me you’ve got the audio bug too?”
“No chance! I’m just picking up an anniversary present for Paul. After last year’s debacle I thought I’d give him something he wants. I think it’s for your Dad’s old turntable.”
“That’s great, Dad was happy to have it go to a good home, he was fond of his old stereo, but especially the sound of vinyl with the Technics. Oh, by the way, Paul was looking at Dad’s old Heathkit amplifier at the yard sale. It didn’t sell but I just couldn’t bear to send it to recycling. Tell Paul I’ll bring it up next time I come to see Dad, a gift from one audiophile to another. It needs some work but it should sound great with a few new parts and a fresh set of tubes.”
“Oh, thanks for nothing Pat,” but Jamie was smiling as she said it. “You’re just encouraging Paul’s new obsession.”
Pat picked up on Jamie’s teasing and replied, “At least he’s at home and not out carousing, and an audio hobby is a lot less fraught than couples counselling.”
“I’ve heard that excuse recently in the same context, but thank you Pat, that’s a very kind offer and I’m sure Paul will be pleased. Actually his new audio hobby has been a great stress reliever for him, what with James in B.C., both of our girls at university, and work especially hectic lately.”
“You’re very welcome,” replied Pat. “Even though it seems an insular hobby, there is a bit of a shared purpose that unites audiophiles.”
“The next time you come up to see your Dad, bring Jan and the girls with you, I’d love to meet them. Heather will likely be home, I’m sure she’d hit it off with them too. We could have a barbecue. Bring your Dad over too, you guys can talk stereos.
“That sounds nice. It will do Jan and the girls good to get out of the city, and I’m sure Dad would get a kick out of seeing someone else enjoy his old gear. I still have Dad’s old records, though they’re not really to my taste. If Paul’s into traditional jazz and big bands I’m sure Dad wouldn’t mind me passing some of his LPs on. I just can’t bring myself to put them on eBay even though I’ve made triple digital back-ups.”
“Thanks for the offer, I’ll pass it on to Paul. I see you left Stuart’s empty handed,” Jamie remarked. “Didn’t he have what you want?”
“Stuart just sold the thing I’m after but he’ll order another and I’ll pick it up in a couple of weeks when I’m back up to see Dad.”
“Well, I’m sure that it wasn’t me that scooped your new audio gizmo, my budget only stretches to a hundred dollars. Even if you don’t bring Jan and the girls up next time, stop by and see Paul if you have time. I’m sure he’d love to chat with a fellow audiofiend,” Jamie remarked with a mischievous look.
Pat laughed, shook his head and replied as he turned to leave, “Tell Paul I’ll stop by next time and pass on some listening room tips I picked up from my reno. But only if you’re out of the house. We don’t need you spoiling our fun.”
“No chance,” replied Jamie with mock seriousness. “I’ll be keeping a close eye on you two. The last thing I need is half the house given over to audiophool stuff.” She laughed and shook her head as she turned to enter Stuart’s Stereo.
Next time: Jamie discovers the truth about Anna.