Better a Witty Fool than a Foolish Wit

Inner Workings of My Twisted Mind.

You’re Like an Old Friend, Come and See Me Again

When I was a teenager my life revolved around music.  There were very few activities I participated in that didn’t have something to do with music.  I woke up every morning at 5:45 am (after staying up until the wee hours trying to finish my homework) to go to Jazz Band.  I talked about music with my friends, my fashion exuded music and immediately told everyone who saw me exactly what kind of music I listened to (punk, for those who didn’t know me back then).  My last class of the day was music oriented (either band or the spring musical, depending on the day and time of year).  During the spring time, when working on the musical, I would be at school until 10:00 pm working on the music.  Even when I wasn’t at school, I would rehearse with the band I played bass in (named Stalin’s War in the way that only disaffected youth can name a band), often until the 7:00 pm cut-off, when the neighbors would start complaining about the raucous music coming from our guitar player’s garage.

I listened to music constantly.  In the car, it blasted out of the speakers I blew out multiple times.  At home it blasted out of my parents stereo, whose speakers I also blew out.  And in all other instances I had a discman (seems like an 8-track player now) and a small collection of cds to choose from.  It’s no surprise that one of my favorite places in Santa Cruz was Streetlight Records.  I spent hours browsing through cds that I had browsed through hundreds of times hoping to find some gem that I had previously overlooked.  My Marie Callender’s pay check often was deposited directly to Streetlight and its seemingly endless possibilities.

I won’t lie, when I was a senior in high school (and pretty much done with my high school and Santa Cruz in general) I would ditch class with a friend or two and drive to Fremont only to hop a Bart Train to Berkeley and loose myself on the corner of Telegraph Ave. where Rasputin and Amoeba face off.  Those were days of endless joy.  Lunch at Blake’s, dips in to Cody’s books (may it Rest in Peace), and hours finding all the cds I couldn’t find at Streetlight.  There were even times when I made my mother drive me to San Jose (blech) to the mega-Streetlight on Bascom where I would find yet another Sid Vicious poster for my perfectly crafted walls (seriously, I just needed to cover that damn choo-choo-train wallpaper).  Needless to say, as restless and agitated as I was at the tender ages of about 13-20, music provided the solace that I sought.

Actually, one of the deciding factors of my move to Los Angeles was the fact that the behemoth Amoeba mothership store opened on the corner of Hollywood and Cahuenga, a place that I still visit on at least a weekly basis, if not more.  I absolutely can’t stand shopping for music online, mainly because there is no hope of finding a hidden gem as there is in a great record store.  Also, and this is what I love about Amoeba, there is no hope of finding the great bargains.  I once bought 19 cds for $95.  I know in my generation of mp3s and iPods (don’t get me wrong, I love my iPod), I am an anomaly that still buys cds.  Though, I really don’t believe that I’m an anomaly, as Amoeba is still around and seems to be doing great business (if the constantly full parking lot is any indicator).

All that being said, I do also happen to work at an independent book store, which, like independent record stores, are a dying breed, due in large part to innovations like amazon.com.  Now, I actually like Amazon.  I use it on an almost daily basis as a research tool and I occasionally order from it (though I usually go through powells.com for books I want and head down to amoeba for music and movies).  My love of record stores was sealed in high school, in the hallowed walls of Streetlight, the plastic cd cases clacking loudly against each other as people browsed through the endless possibilities of music, but my love of book stores was truly solidified in London.  Sure, I love Book Shop Santa Cruz, and have some great memories of sitting in corners of the store (and the tent) as my mom read me Ferdinand the Bull on the floor.  But in London I learned the calming effect of a book store.  Whenever I felt homesick or morose (due usually to the weather) I would pop in to a Waterstone’s and spend an hour running my fingers over the possibilities of all the different worlds I could suddenly be transported to if I opened any one of these books on the shelf.  I usually succumbed to the 3 for the price of 2 deals and left with a small bag of possibilities and a lighter heart.

Last week I went down to San Diego for the day to visit a friend of mine (sorry I didn’t stop by AJ and Steph, you were still at work by the time I left), and was on the prowl for a cd by Ryan Bingham (i.e. the guy who just won a Golden Globe for best song from Crazy Heart).  I, as I am a modern gal, googled record stores in San Diego on my phone and came up surprisingly short.  It was shocking really.  My friend and I drove all over the place looking for record stores that sold actual CDs and not just old expensive vinyl (not that I don’t love vinyl, I just wanted this one CD).

I guess what made me really sad was the fact that one of California’s largest cities didn’t have a record store.  Ryan Bingham isn’t the kind of guy you can find at Border’s (not that I shop there) and there were a few little stores that just didn’t have the room to carry everything (though they were very nice and offered to order the CD for me).  For the first time in my life I was aware of the fact that I was in a place that didn’t have a music store.  And then it hit me, the detriment that these big box chain stores have wrought on American life.  Now, I’m not about to go off on some rant about how fucked up corporate America is, but I will say that I felt this heavy sense of tragedy as I walked away empty handed.  I think we’ve lost that feeling of non-hegemony, of finding these little treasures in the veritable sea of sameness.  And for me, that’s why I work where I work for the little money I make.  Maybe I’m helping some kid find solace by pointing them toward “Youth in Revolt” or “The Perks of Being a Wallflower.”  Maybe I’m helping in the same way some nameless salesperson at Amoeba helped me when they showed me The Sex Pistols or A.F.I.  When the guy at the comic book store handed me a copy of Watchmen and Superman: Red Son.  The way a professor did when he handed me Maus.  The way another professor did when he sat and watched Darkwing Duck with me on a weekday afternoon.  And I’m hoping seriously that we haven’t lost that.

P.S. If you’re in San Diego, start a record store….there’s a vacuum.

Peace, Love, and Solace,

Julia

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January 24, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | 1 Comment