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AN OLD PETTY CRIME, REPLAYED 30 TIMES

"The Bee Gees In Concert? Geez! There's gotta be something better on television," I mumbled to myself. For some unknown reason my hand reached for a blank videotape to record the songs to listen to at a later date. At first that idea didn't really make sense.

Although I knew a lot of their songs, I've never been a huge Bee Gees fan. No sooner did I unbelievably say, "Hey, these guys still sound pretty good," then they started in on the song, "The 1941 Mining Disaster." My mind instantly flashed back to the 60s when I was around 10 years old and first heard that song on the radio.

I loved it. I had to buy it.

So I rounded up my friends and we walked to the Sheridan-Harlem Plaza. We made our typical trip to the food store to get our daily consumption of Zing (orange drink) and Twinkies. Yes, nutrition was alive and well back then. I know what you're saying. Orange drink, Twinkies and buying a Bee Gees record at the same time? Stop your laughing and let me finish the story.

Anyway, I walked into Neisner's (a small department store) and told my friends I had to look for something. I wandered off alone to the music department and located the song I "had to have" on a 45 RPM record.

I dug into my pocket and found only 18 cents. There was just one more copy left on the rack. All of the other 45s had lots of copies but only one left of mine. This may sound ridiculous to all that know me now, but up to that point in my life I could have been nominated for sainthood, or at least winner of the 10-year-old division of a "principles and morals" contest.

But I had a real dilemma here. I had money at home. I needed to stop for a moment and calculate the odds of walking a mile home, finding 75 cents and returning in hopes this one copy would still be there. The risk was much too great, and I quickly realized I couldn't take the chance. I looked to the left and right with the innocence of a nervous bank robber, took the 8-inch round disc and shoved it down my pants and ran.

All the way home my friends asked me why I was walking funny but I told them some lie they didn't seem to feel the need to follow up on. Back then you wouldn't have been the envy of your friends to steal. It was more like, "I'm telling your mom you stole something. She's gonna ground you - big time."

So I got home and must have played that record for over two hours. I loved that song.

I passed the money on my dresser a dozen times that day wondering if it was too late to go back and pay. I'm not sure if it was laziness or indifference, but I never, ever, went back to Neisner's again. Oh, I walked by the store window and peeked in a number of times, but I figured the minute I set foot inside, the sirens would blare and I'd be locked up until I was 74 years old.

So here I am in a cold sweat recalling my childhood of crime just as the song ended on television. I was glad I taped that Bee Gees Special. I must have listened to that one song 30 times. So who says music doesn't transcend time? Not me.

And do you know what profound learning experience that robbery taught me, one that I still carry with me today? I still love that song.

JIM SCHNEEGOLD lives in Cheektowaga.

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