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I woke up this Monday morning severely jetlagged and with just a touch of sadness.

Last Wednesday, my wife flew to Phoenix, AZ to attend a medical conference (she's a board certified geriatrician specializing in internal medicine). This is nothing new; she attends medical conferences at least three times a year. On most of these occasions, my stay-at-home dad duties kick into high-gear for the usual three to four day absences she's gone.

However, last week's plan called for me to watch the kids just for two days, send them to my in-laws for the other two, and fly out to Phoenix to spend a short weekend with her. Sounds good in theory.

Last Friday, after posting two yuleblog entries, my overnight bag and I drove the short 15 minutes from our house to Fort Wayne International Airport, hopped onto an American Airlines flight to Chicago (35 min including a GREAT 45 seconds flying over Wrigley Field upon approach) and picked up the connecting flight to Phoenix (3:25).

I was then driven by airport shuttle to the JW Marriott Resort & Spa - Desert Ridge, approximately 20 miles north of downtown Phoenix. I noticed a huge outdoor mall across the street from the resort site - the Desert Ridge Marketplace - that contains a Barnes and Noble plus a Tower Records. The shuttle driver pointed out that there was another shuttle that left the Marriott on the hour and 1/2 hour to the mall. This looked promising.

I was greeted at the hotel entrance by my wife, who had just completed her business for the day. As I unpacked, she told me about all the amenities that the resort had to offer. She mentioned the mall across the street and I stopped what I was doing to hear about it.

"It's an okay mall. They've got a Barnes & Noble and a Tower Records that's closing..." she said matter-of-factly.

"WHAT???" I almost yelled.

She stated they had "GOING OUT OF BUSINESS" signs posted everywhere, 10% - 25% off all the prices. I began to think about this. This store location was pretty far removed from the main population and Barnes & Noble was just across the way. This Tower was probably underperforming and they decided to close it down.

We made plans to get some dinner and just relax for the rest of the day. The following day, Saturday, was when she and I would head over to the mall.

Saturday afternoon, we went to Barnes & Noble first to pick up some reading material for the return flight less than 24 hours away. We then went across to Tower Records. The neon glowing letters in all their signs confirmed it - "CLOSING FOREVER". The store was packed with customers trying to get bargains. I was busy trying to find their Christmas music section. After a walk up and down the aisles, I couldn't find it so I asked an employee.

"Excuse me, do you have a Christmas music section set up anywhere?"

"Sorry, we're not getting any Christmas music in this year." she said resignedly and began to walk away.

"One last question: I've never heard of a Tower Records closing before. Why this location?"

"All the stores are closing," she unloaded. You could have hit me with a Tic-Tac and I would have crumbled to the ground.

"A big time liquidator company bought out Tower and they chose to close them down." she finished.

(What happened? Click on this article link to read the whole story.)

As she walked away, I began really hearing the music the store was playing: "Never Can Say Goodbye" by the Jackson Five, "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road" by Elton John, "The End" by the Doors. The whole experience was numbing.

I began to think about my days living in Chicago and taking special midnight trips with friends up to the Tower Records store on North Clark Street. I always found something special and unique whenever I was there thanks to the deepest catalog of ANY record store on the planet.

This was the place I found my copy of Dread Zeppelin's "The First No-Elvis" when all other record stores told me it didn't exist. While looking through their bins in 1993, I found my copy of "Merry Christmas From The Sonics, The Wailers, and The Galaxies". On my last visit before I moved from Chicago in the summer of 1996, I walked away with a copy of "The Beau Hunks Play The Original Little Rascals Music".

Every visit was an experience, every CD an unearthed treasure. And thanks to a stroke of a pen, it's all going to end. I walked to the store counter with my two CDs in hand. In a loud voice so the other cashiers could hear me I said:

"Kudos to the person who came up with the playlist." All four cashier's turned to me and broke out in smiles.

"Someone finally got it!" "I'm going to make my own CD now. I'm inspired!" To the end, Tower employees always had fun at their jobs.

I paid my money, wished them all well, and as I left the store the song "Goodbye Stranger" by Supertramp started playing. Someone was playing a cruel (but funny) joke on me now.

I once wrote a paper in college about the album that changed your life. I chose "Breakfast In America" because it was the first album whose lyrics I understood and spoke to me on a different level. If you don't understand, you'd have to read all 230 pages of the paper I wrote.

"Goodbye stranger, it's been nice
"Hope you find your paradise.
"Tried to see your point of view,
"Hope your dreams will all come true."

For all the memories Tower... thanks... and goodbye.