The philosopher Isaiah Berlin divided everyone into two types: those whose knowledge was broad but not deep, and the reverse. One he characterized as a hedgehog, the other a fox, and I do not remember which animal reportedly had which intellectual profile.
But yesterday the Beloved and I met a man who knows many things well AND deeply, and I celebrate him. He’s BOB WIRTZ, and he’s on his way to Ohio to look at another huge record collection.
While we were in Portland, Maine, a lovable town, I spied a used record store on Congress Street. ENTERPRISE RECORDS was closed whenever I walked by, and it became even more enticing: records arranged neatly in browsers, a Jim Hall – Bill Evans issue in the window. On our last day in town, I walked over and stood in front of the window, disappointed that I wouldn’t get in. As I was about to turn away, the door opened and a compact, thoughtful man in a red floral shirt asked quietly if he could do anything for me. I identified myself as a jazz collector and asked if I could come in for a few minutes if I promised not to talk to him. He grinned, waved me in, saying that talking was OK, although he was on his way to Ohio.
Since I get overwhelmed easily, I was happy he didn’t have acres of jazz records — but (to paraphrase Spencer Tracy) what he had was choice: from Sweet Emma Barrett at Preservation Hall to Herman Foster to Sun Ra and beyond. I gleefully found a reissue of one of the Dicky Wells Felsted sessions (Benny Morton, Vic Dickenson, Jo Jones), a Columbia two-record Jimmy Rushing reissue which contained a few duets with Helen Humes backed by Ben Webster, and a Jim Robinson record that had the poetic Raymond Burke in the band — all for less than twenty dollars. My kind of music! When we fell into collectors’ conversation, I learned that Bob had run this store for twenty-one years and was interested in most kinds of music.
The conversation turned to more normal matters — like food — when the Beloved entered, and we told him that we were on our way north and had been told to stop at a famous tourist spot, Moody’s Diner, for its good food, its local color, its popularity. Bob said with great intensity, “You don’t want to go THERE! Everything there is straight out of the freezer!” He was fervent and compelling and offered an alternative in Gardiner, the A-1 Diner. And anyone who worries that people will eat poor food and warns them away from it is someone to treasure.
We found Moody’s Diner en route, and stopped in to see if Bob was right. Oh, was he ever! The iced coffee was distinguished only by being brown and wet; the packaged slices of pie had been left over from a James Whale film shoot, and the best thing was the restroom . . . .
Thank you, Bob Wirtz! May all your enterprises prosper.