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Blame the brats for untimely death of Sam the Record Man

As soon as I heard Bobby Sniderman announcing the death of Sam the Record Man on radio yesterday morning - for the second time in less than one sorrowful, digital decade - I fell out of bed, rolled up a crumpled newspaper and bravely broke into my adolescent son's bedroom, threatening to belabour him about the head with my crude weapon.

Like one Scarborough politician, who once described in council how he "really smacked" his own five-year-old son with a hockey stick for attempted shoplifting, but "didn't try to break his legs," I was tough but loving.

My own sleepy-eyed but fast-moving offspring perceived his crime easily enough. In my imagination, there were little white wires dangling from his ears even as I lined them up for a glancing blow. But he danced away, dismissing my rage at his complicity in this event - the death of records and the concomitant destruction of the sacred landmarks of my youth - as snidely as he had pushed away salad the night before.

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"I don't eat leaves," he said then. "I don't buy records," he said later.

That was that. My rage wilted like oily arugula.

I know it's not his fault. It's the fault of the greedy music business - for reasons I no longer understand but fully endorse.

It's technology. It's even the Sniderman family, which put the company into bankruptcy in 2001, with itself as primary creditor, and in hindsight should have left it there.

It's creative destruction. It's the way things work. I know all that. I'm just sick of it.

How can human beings live in a world that mocks even the simplest loyalties? I'd sooner kick Sam's than dust off the earlier, premature eulogy, of which there will be many variants published and broadcast today.

Nostalgia is no antidote to the disease of incessant destruction. Its billowing abundance is prime evidence of the sickness.

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One long dream ago, somebody proposed to commemorate the Riverboat coffee house in the new development scheduled to replace the rickety Victorian row where it once thrived, in the heart of the thoroughly dead and now embalmed village of Yorkville. (Insert perfumed memory of the young Joni Mitchell here.)

At first there was to be a new Riverboat, then maybe a plaque. But after looking at the soulless lump of mock luxury that has since erupted from the site, I hope the idea is dead.

Does it help that the new generation expresses enthusiasm for an obsolete technology known as vinyl? (Anything but records: They can't say that word.) My otherwise feckless son recently attended a Canadian folk-rock concert - just like his dad did! - where the band sold vinyl. Surely that's good.

But no, it's not. Their enthusiasm is infected by irony - another symptom of the disease of never being able to trust anything, or have shrines - and thus becomes mockery. Our earnest affection for the neighbourhoods where we grew up, the places we hung out, the familiar stores, "45s" and "album covers" all becomes a lovable weakness they accentuate by imitating in playful travesty. The brats.

But let's not be too harsh. Their time is coming. Nothing is more painful than to see their own little local allegiances bud, knowing that those too will no sooner blossom than be swept away. It's a mean old world. Save the Sam's, spoil the child.

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