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June 13, 2000

I've written before about the amount of irritating junk mail that comes to our house and I'm sure you have your own problems with it. I admit that on some days if it were not for junk mail, the postman would have nothing to put in our mailbox. That's the only redeeming feature that I can think of. Well, sometimes, on a quiet day, it also gives me something to do. But, ordinarily there is little reward to be found sifting through those peculiar advertisements, mysterious prospectuses (prospects?), overweight catalogs, and assorted other pieces of unsolicited junk mail.

Once in a great while, however, something comes along that provides a moment or two of amusement, if you're easily pleased. For instance, I get lots of record club offers because my name has found its way onto several mailing lists. I swore off joining record clubs years ago about the same time that I discovered my membership in the Book of the Month Club was creating a storage problem. By failing to decline their monthly offers, I was automatically receiving (and having to pay for) numerous books that I did not want. Some of them were still unopened on my shelves, in their cardboard mailing cartons, because I had no interest in them. As you know, when you join one of these book or record clubs you agree to purchase some of them within a designated time period. The club sends you the name of a "Monthly Selection" which comes automatically unless you tell them "no thanks" in advance. Failure to decline the offer means the selection is on its way to your house.

Even with my learning experience as a member of the book club a few years ago, I actually also became a record club member. You'd think I would have known better. But yes, there's a story about this. My good friend, the late Jap Dotts, shared with me a great affection for Big Band music but at that time neither of us could afford to buy records. Then one day the RCA Victor Record Club sent me an offer in the mail that I absolutely could not refuse. Just by joining their club, I would receive without charge a never-before-released album of three 12-inch vinyl records featuring the wonderful Glenn Miller orchestra. CD's and cassette tapes were unknown at the time. Records were the medium of choice because that's all there was. More than 50 selections were on the records, and I had never heard any of them. The club had discovered my Achilles heel.

Jap listened as I told him the terms of the offer. I proposed that we join the club jointly, in his name or mine, with the understanding that we would only buy the minimum number of records required, and that we would take turns when it came time for us to make a purchase. Thus we would cut our costs in half. For some obscure reason that I no longer remember, I was to be awarded ownership of the Glenn Miller album. Jap was not as moved as I was by the Great One's sound. He agreed to all this, and I thought I had found nirvana.

We later dropped out of the club as soon as possible for budgetary reasons, but I still play that never-before-released album and I find pleasure in every vocal doo-wop by Marion Hutton, Ray Eberle and the Modernaires, each subtle phrasing by the reeds and brass and the saucy ad libs by saxophonist Tex Beneke. What a delight. Today I have Miller music coming out the wazoo (343 tunes on 21 vinyl discs, nine tape cassettes and 12 CD's) but this album is still a favorite.

This week I received a record club offer with an incredible hook. I can get 11 CDs for the price of one with "no obligation to buy another, ever. Guaranteed." The catch is, those first CDs have to be selected from their list of more than 130 titles. That covers such categories as "light sounds" (Neil Diamond, Barbra Streisand, et al); country, classical, jazz (Kenny B, Bob James, et al), Christian, gospel, Latin, R&B/rap, hard rock/metal, alternative and various kinds of rock. Not one Glenn Miller tune to be found. It was easy to say "No, thanks."