In early 2011 a business called Classical Glass moved from Main Street in Over-the Rhine to a new location. Shortly thereafter Mike Markiewicz showed me the space they’d left. Classical Glass was a studio as opposed to a storefront, and the room looked dirty, dark and dingy. I had a hard time imagining it being transformed into a record store.
Mike Markiewicz didn’t, however. After all, he’d overseen Kaldi’s, Sibylline Books and Iris Book Cafe as they went from nothing to something. Each helped to make Over-The-Rhine a better place. But could he do the same with a record store? He believed he could.
Progress at the store moved at what like a glacial pace, to the point where I wondered if it was ever going to open, whereas Mike knew it would. Mike and I talked a lot back then, and he was pumped about the store. “This will be my masterpiece,” he said.
Even then, though, he was thinking beyond that. He kept talking about moving out into the woods and living a bare-bones existence after a few years of the record store. There would be music, but not the massive collections he had accumulated (and then disposed of) repeatedly. “Two hundred albums,” he said. “That’s it. Only the essentials.”
What Mike would take to the woods was revealed in bits and pieces to me over time. After Another Part of the Forest was in full swing, with records filling both floors, I continued to drop in on him. He always had a record he wanted to play me that he had to search to find, and sometimes it eluded him. In fact, it often eluded him. But when he did find the record I needed to hear, my musical universe expanded. Often during those visits our discussion would return to the records that he would take to the woods. The three artists he made it clear would definitely accompany him to the woods were the twentieth-century classical composers Martinu and Messiaen and the jazz musician John Surman.
Heavyweight stuff, in other words: the kind of music that, even though you listened to it while busses zoomed past and sirens howled in the distance, you left OTR and entered a different world, a place that was often dark and turbulent and was full of the “ugly beauty” that inspired a Thelonious Monk song title.
Mike passed away a week and a half ago. His death come suddenly, although the extreme exhaustion that was evident when I visited him during his last several months made the fact that he was extremely ill less of a surprise. When the store was getting up and running he predicted that he would head to the woods after three or four years. Ever since he passed I’ve been thinking about that trip he wanted to make but didn’t. On the other hand…
On the other hand, when a person names a record store Another Part of the Forest you have to wonder how far away the woods really were in the first place. Maybe he entered the woods when he opened the store, or maybe he’s there now. He always seemed oblivious to the noise and the commotion surrounding him. Quiet and introspective, he was tuned into something else. As many times as we talked, and as often as those conversations focused on big fat metaphysical issues, I must say that part of him remained elusive. “The world is too much with us,” Wordsworth said, but for Mike it wasn’t. He kept it at bay. He did his thing. He lived the way he wanted to live, a nonconformist who in spite of crazy odds did all sorts of good things for the best neighborhood in a city that people are finally starting to appreciate. I miss the guy more every time I return to his masterpiece. I wish that just one more time he could drop the needle on a record. This time, though, it’s my turn to drop the needle. Listen close, my friend. You’ll recognize the tune: