I had a turntable that wasn't working right -- the sound was only coming out of one channel -- so I called the guys at Bullseye Records, 1627 E. Irving Pl., for advice.
Clerk Ken Chrisien suggested I take it to "Cranky Uncle Trotsky," a guy on the East Side who repaired record players from his apartment for years.
I liked the idea of giving my money to a local guy, so I Googled this cranky guy, actually found more information about him, and decided to call.
Turns out, his real name is Ralph Larsen, a former TV repair man and Milwaukee County social worker who has run a word-of-mouth business, called Cranky Uncle Trotsky's Vintage Stereo Repair, for 30 years. The business offers turntable and receiver repair.
A few minutes later, I pulled up in front of his Warren Street building complex. Larsen was sitting on the porch, waiting for me. Large cardboard cutouts of Snow White's dwarfs filled one of the windows and I noted the resemblance between Larsen and the friendly looking characters.
Hence, thanks to the aforementioned friendly-looking-ness, I followed him into his apartment, where a small brown dog named Scooby greeted me amorously. (Basically he humped my leg for the remainder of my visit.)
Larsen led me to his kitchen, which was stacked with turntables and player parts scattered across the table. One cabinet was filled with styli.
"I started fixing these things when I was a kid," says Larsen, 69. "I wanted a hi-fi set, but I couldn't afford one. So I went to Goodwill and Salvation Army and picked up old sets and figured out how to fix them because I wanted to play records."
Larsen still spends time combing thrift shops and rummage sales for record players, many of which he repairs and sells. He specializes in "large, elaborate record players" but can fix basically any model.
Larsen, who grew up in Bay View, says he fixes one or two electronics every day. He charges on a job-by-job basis and accepts barter.
"I just had a customer tell me he didn't have any money, but he gave me this trunk filled with interesting stuff," says Larsen. "People give what they can afford. That's how it works."
Larsen says he will, however, give an estimate before tackling the job if the customer prefers. He will set a price and then call the customer if he runs into problems and needs more time or parts to complete the fix.
He charged me $20 and after 15 minutes of repair, my record player functioned like it was at a 1977 garage disco party.
From 1980 to '84, Larsen ran a short-lived Milwaukee-based music magazine called The Milwaukee Review. He published the periodical without ads because he felt other local music mags at the time pandered to advertisers.
"A lot of reviews were kissing ass to get the ads, and I didn't want to do that, so I charged for my magazine instead of getting ads," he says. "But I guess I lost out."
Larsen says he got his nickname "Cranky Uncle Trotsky" from a combination of sources, including the movie "Bride of Trotsky." He says he also got "quite cranky" when the United States invaded Iraq.
Years ago, Larsen advertised his business via flyers that read "Join the 33 1/3 Revolution!" and in 2003 offered a 10 percent discount to anyone who said something "bad" about the war.
Larsen has always been a fan of the local music scene and claims most of his albums, cassettes and CDs are local. Although he has a fair share of CDs -- which he refers to as "modern stuff" or "new stuff" -- he does not fix CD players.
"I'm not a Luddite," he says, smiling. "I'm not opposed to the modern stuff. I just don't know how to fix it."
Molly Snyder grew up on Milwaukee's East Side and today, she lives in the Walker's Point neighborhood with her partner and two sons.
As a full time senior writer, editorial manager and self-described experience junkie, Molly has written thousands of articles about Milwaukee (and a few about New Orleans, Detroit, Indianapolis, Boston and various vacation spots in Wisconsin) that range in subject from where to get the best cup of coffee to an in-depth profile on the survivors of the iconic Norman apartment building that burned down in the '90s.
She also once got a colonic just to report on it, but that's enough on that.
Always told she had a "radio voice," Molly found herself as a regular contributor on FM102, 97WMYX and 1130WISN with her childhood radio favorite, Gene Mueller.
Molly's poetry, essays and articles appeared in many publications including USA Today, The Writer, The Sun Magazine and more. She has a collection of poetry, "Topless," and is slowly writing a memoir.
In 2009, Molly won a Milwaukee Press Club Award. She served as the Narrator / writer-in-residence at the Pfister Hotel from 2013-2014. She is also a story slam-winning storyteller who has performed with The Moth, Ex Fabula and Risk!
When she's not writing, interviewing or mom-ing, Molly teaches tarot card classes, gardens, sits in bars drinking Miller products and dreams of being in a punk band again.