78 RPM records
78 RPM records

Sometimes spaces can mean as much to us as objects.  I remember walking down the creaky steps into my grandparents’ basement (“Hold the railing!”), peering into the darkness to see if the pool table was uncovered. After family holiday dinners, my grandfather George Smrtic would sneak away with my brother and me to the basement, where he would instruct us in the fine arts of pool.  Near the “No Gambling” sign, we would carefully navigate the cluttered piles of canned foods and detergent boxes surrounding the old table, sometimes looking for a clean line to a pocket, but mostly for any possible shot given the tight perimeter, where odd angles crammed an elbow against the furnace or my grandfather's work shirts. 

When the game ended, (usually with a grandchild-favoring “Last ball wins!”), we’d go into a farther corner of the basement, near a closet where George kept his boxing gloves (sometimes we’d get lessons on those too) and a window ledge of bowling trophies, to the cabinet record player and family 78 RPM record collection.  The colorful record labels and exotic music (we’d never heard polkas on the radio at home) conjured a strange world for my young ears, like hearing secret messages from another dimension.

I don’t shoot much pool as a grown-up, but I realize I’ve now spent years of my life listening to old records, searching for that same sense of mystery and comfort I found in that cluttered basement.  Sometimes I feel like my grandfather is listening with me.  

– Mike Smrtic

Relationship:  Great-grandchild of im/migrant or more Great-grandchild of im/migrant or more