Justice For You

Erik Bitsui

I've owned around eleven or so copies of Metallica’s 1988 album ... And Justice for All — I’m not sure of the exact number but one thing’s for sure I need that album.

Sometime in the winter of 1988, I bought my first copy of ... And Justice for All, an audio cassette from Dab Nabbitts, a record store on San Francisco Street in downtown Flagstaff. I played Justice all the time until the black ribbon wore thin then broke from overuse.

The second and third copies of ... And Justice for All were wasted just the same but three times as fast because I carried the cassette tapes out of their cases in my heavy junior high backpack with all the school supplies and everything else I thought I needed to survive.

At the bottom of my backpack the audio cassette accumulated a bunch of crud in tape’s tray where the ribbon lay. I routinely had to blow away pencil shavings, bits of 0.7 mm or 0.3 mm lead, eraser dust, dirt, cinder and White Man’s tobacco flakes. After a while the ribbon slowly wore away and the cassette itself was soon crushed to bits.

My Justice tapes were also eaten by dirty stereos. If I didn’t clean the pinch rollers of my Walkman, the tape ribbon would stick to the dirty rollers and gathered into a zig-zagged bunch. Instantly I knew the garbled sound of the tape being eaten and ejected myself from my dream-state to stop the horror. When I opened the tape deck, the unraveled tape ribbon lay inside my Walkman like bird’s nest of soft feathers. So much of my life depended on the vital information held within. I had to pick up the delicate ribbon nest.

Copies four, five and six of Justice were all consumed by dirty, hungry stereos that gobbled and snapped precious tape ribbon. With hands of a surgeon I had to carefully reel the black ribbon back into audio cassette then clean the damn cassette rollers again and again.

When the ribbon snapped I had to repair the ribbon with scotch tape. Later, I memorized the repaired spot because every time that section came up the music would garble then the music would stop for a blink of an eye then started back up again.

I needed Justice in my life. Those monstrous tracks one to nine, all 65 minutes and 33 seconds of vital information became the motions of my thought process. My life’s breath rested within the thump-crashings of toms, snare, that China cymbal crash in “To Live Is to Die” and chug-chugging of ESP guitars with active pickups. Justice was my life.

After all that Justice and I had been through, I promised myself I’d take good care of the seventh copy ... And Justice for All. I never did find out what happen to that one.

I lent my eighth copy of Justice to a friend who never returned it. Many tapes and comic books were lost the same way. So if you, dear reader, ever borrow something always give the damn thing back! The dude who borrowed it later claimed I never lent it to him, the bastard!

In 1989, a piece of crap stereo somehow faded three of my prized cassette tapes including my ninth copy of Justice! That stereo was a nightmare and I later threw it out a window.

I bought the tenth copy of ... And Justice for All and took care of it as best as I could. I kept in its case and always kept the ribbon at the ends of its spools and played it on a decent, clean stereo. I still have that copy in storage.

Later that same year, I bought ... And Justice for All in compact disc form. This eleventh copy was played over and over again and eventually spun to dust. This CD copy also suffered the same fate as my cassettes by being scratched up in my heavy high school backpack. It really sucked considering how much money I’ve spent buying Justice all these years.

In 1993, my twelfth copy of ... And Justice for All on CD lasted me a long time but I lost it somewhere. Those next few weeks of my life without Justice were horrendous.

Then for Christmas my mother and sister gave me ... And Justice for All. I was shocked and very grateful.

“How did you know I wanted this album?” I asked.

They growled, “You’re always talking about it.”


about the author