watching the wheels

Tower trumped

By Wayne Wood

Tower Records is closing. The entire chain has declared bankruptcy, is selling out its stock, and will soon be gone forever.
Nashville didn’t really have a big full-line music store before Tower came—the closest was probably the old Discount Records store on Elliston Place, which had already closed when Tower opened. And I don’t think there is going to be a real full-line music store when Tower is gone. The future belongs to the download.
The first time I walked into Tower, a week or two after it opened in 1988, I had settled on two purchases within my first, oh, 30 seconds: a copy of Robert Johnson’s King of the Delta Blues Singers Vol. 1, and a rare LP by R & B saxophone king Eddie “Cleanhead” Vinson. When I took those items and a couple of other finds to the checkout, the guy behind the counter said that what I was getting was so cool he was going to give me a Tower T-shirt, which I wore proudly to mow the yard for several years. Now that I think about it, they were probably just giving the shirts away as a grand opening promotion and I would have gotten one if I’d been buying Barry Manilow’s Greatest Hits and a copy of “Elvira” by the Oak Ridge Boys, but at the time I believed him.
It was a signal that the dominant format in music had changed when, after it had been open a couple of years, Tower put its CDs in the center of the main floor and relegated vinyl LPs to a smaller and smaller enclave along the back wall. The first CDs I ever bought—Steve Winwood’s Chronicles and REM’s Fables of the Reconstruction—I bought at Tower.
I wonder where all those people who work there will get jobs now. Tower employees had the largest collection of tattoos, piercings, unusual hair colors and unconventional and/or non-gender-traditional dress of anybody doing mainstream retail. The place had such an easygoing dress code I half expected to find somebody working the register naked some day, the better to allow customers to appreciate all the assorted and variously placed ink and metal.
Of course, I know why Tower is going away, and it’s partly my fault. Tower once had three stores in the same West End location: Records, Video and Books. At the height of its influence, I used to be in one or more of the Tower stores several times a week: renting movies, checking out new music, browsing in the bookstore.
The bookstore died first: Amazon. com and the opening of the superior Borders across the street did it in and it closed a few years ago. No big deal; it wasn’t the best bookstore in town by a long shot, despite having the most interesting-looking staff.
Tower Video was once one of the most eclectic video stores in the city, but Netflix and the (inferior but still pesky) Blockbuster on the next block cut deeply into the vid biz. I still have an account there but haven’t used it since I joined Netflix.
Which left music. At one time, I bought new music at Tower and used music at the Great Escape, period. Over time, I started buying as many CDs from Amazon as from Tower. Tower’s trump was never price, it was selection—but Amazon, since its inventory is virtual, has an endless selection, as well as generally better prices. And the day Apple introduced iTunes, Tower was fatally wounded; it’s just taken a few years to die.
Lately, I guess I would stop by Tower maybe once every couple of months, usually to buy a CD I wanted and didn’t want to wait for Amazon to ship. I get some stuff now from iTunes but its selection is spotty. Still, you can’t beat the convenience of downloading to the computer and loading the new music directly onto an iPod. And, of course, you can still find anything at the Great Escape, if you’re willing to wait long enough and root through the new (used) stock looking for it. I’m gradually completing my Beatles CD collection there.
When Life magazine stopped weekly publication in 1972, I heard a TV newscaster say that although the medium in which he earned his living was largely responsible for the waning influence and closing of that American publishing institution, he was still sorry to see Life go.
That’s it, exactly. In the past 18 years the changes I’ve made in my purchasing of books, videos and music have taken business away from Tower and helped it slide into bankruptcy. I probably wouldn’t do anything different—I like Amazon, Netflix and iTunes—but I’m still going to miss stopping by the store on West End, finding some interesting new music, and marveling at the checkout about how many piercings it is possible to make in a standard issue human head.

(Wood is editor of House Organ, Director of Publications for VUMC, and author of Watching the Wheels: Cheap Irony, Righetous Indignation, and Semi-Enlighted Opinion, which is a collection of past columns.)


November 2006


The Rest
of the Story
Sierra Sekulich's heart and lung transplant last November was only the beginning. An update about the extraordinary connection between two families united by tragedy and hope.

The Magic Bus
Two VUMC employees talk about the money they've saved and the friends they've made on the Bellevue bus.
Health Plus
Health Plus is in its new headquarters, and brimming with fall activities.
And don't forget to Hold the Stuffing

Breast Center Mammographers
offer experience, perspective

by Heather Lagore

Mammographers at the Vanderbilt Breast Center include
(standing) Sue Fox and Diane Harris, and
(seated) Pamela Jeanneret and Debbie Nicholson.

Sue Fox, senior radiology technologist at the Vanderbilt Breast Center, knows the importance of mammograms, and brings that experience to her job every day.
Make that personally knows the importance of mammograms.
Eleven years ago she was working as a mammographer at a small hospital in Lake Forest, Ill., and things were a little slow. So, “to make it appear we were busier,” she says, she decided to have a mammogam herself so she could see what it felt like. At the age of 38, she was two years younger than the recommended age to begin getting mammograms, but she remembers that afternoon telling the technologist to “give me the full compression that the machine is capable of giving—I want to feel what all the fuss is about.”
Several days later the results were back, and they went beyond a mammographer trying to understand her job better and making the clinic look busy. The mammogram showed a cluster of micro-calcifications in her left breast.
Fox had two children, ages 7 and 8, and was facing surgery, and after that, radiation therapy.
“It was a hectic time,” she says now, with notable understatement. “I had been working part time in the afternoons. My treatments were in the morning. I never missed a day of work while in [radiation] therapy.”
Now, 11 years from the day of that life-saving offhand mammogram, Fox knows she has something extra to tell the patients she works with every day.
“It all worked out well for me,” she says. “Over a decade later and I am cancer free. I am still a mammographer, but now I have a different perspective.”

150 years of experience
“I believe all patients should feel they are getting the utmost care from the most experienced staff around,” says Lisa Crawford, who has been at the Vanderbilt Breast Center since 1994.
Patients who come to the Vanderbilt Breast Center can count on a great level of experience in their mammographers. The mammographers at the Vanderbilt Breast Center, including Fox and Crawford, collectively have more than 150 years experience performing mammograms.
• Crawford, a 1979 East Tennessee State University graduate, spent several years working as a diagnostic X-ray technologist before deciding to specialize in mammography. “I have seen wonderful things happen here,” she says of the Vanderbilt Breast Center.
• Pamela Jeanneret became interested in the medical field as a child when she went to oncology appointments with her grandmother. She has been an X-ray technologist since 1995 and at the Vanderbilt Breast Center since 1999, where she found her niche as the primary interventional mammography technologist. “Technology and techniques are constantly improving, making radiology an exciting career and an exciting place to be,” she says.
• Vicki Wilson, came to mammography as a mid-life career change. She moved from being secretary to the dean of students at Volunteer State Community College in Gallatin, to student in that school’s radiologic technology program, to develop and teach in that same program. She came to the Vanderbilt Breast Center last year after working as a mammographer at Centennial Medical Center for several years. She was also president of the Middle Tennessee Mammography Society from 1994 to 2005.
• Diane Harris, is manager of the Breast Center. She completed her training in 1987 after working to support herself, her son and her grandmother, as well as earning money for school, with a varied smorgasbord of jobs including, she says, “a cook, a construction worker shoveling gravel, a car salesman and a grocer.” She earned a bachelor’s degree in 2003, 30 years after beginning college, and is currently working on her master’s degree from Vanderbilt.
All the mammographers are proud of the work they do, and Sue Fox is Exhibit A: “I know first hand how important my work is,” she says. “A mammogram saved my life.”

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