So it’s cold, and windy out. Maybe for good now, I can’t say. Normally, when it’s cold, I just throw a few extra layers on and push myself out the door. But I learned long ago how useless it can be to ride a bike with the cold wind bearing down on you. Pedaling is one thing in the wind; doable but not particularly fun. BMX in any form is another thing altogether; not particularly doable, not particularly fun (and if you’re a vert rider, kinda dangerous.)
So no BMX today. Rather, I ran some errands. First was the bookstore. I wrote a thing about a band for a certain skateboarding magazine and hadn’t seen it yet, so I pedaled against the wind to the bookstore to check it out. Next, I needed a new winter hat. So I pedaled against the wind some more to American Apparel and did the responsible thing; buying a hat made of recycled cotton that’s marketed using underage girls in thongs, head bands and gold chains.
From there, I didn’t really have a destination. But I did have a $5 bill in my pocket and distinctly remembered that at what essentially amounts to a different era in time, there was a record store down the street which had a pretty sweet dollar bin. So again, I pedaled against the wind, to a place that probably won’t be around in six months to a year, a (mostly) independent record store. For the life of me, I couldn’t remember the last time I had entered a record store. I’m not exactly nostalgic for the days of old when I frequented record stores up to the three or four times a week, but tonight did bring me back to what will soon be a forgotten time. Surrounded by maybe four or five other 30-somethings perusing the used vinyl and CDs, I started thumbing through the selections.
At another time in what’s now history, there used to be something I called the “Record Store Stack Switch.” Person A would be moving from left to right, thumbing through selections, while person B would be moving right to left, thumbing through the same selections. At a certain point, both parties had to acknowledge each other, switch places and keep on searching the stacks of CDs or vinyl. It’s not a terrifically big deal; more of just a quirky, occupational hazard for the record store frequenters. But the awkwardness of the switch always made me silently giggle on the inside. Tonight, I managed what will probably be the last record store stack switch I’ll ever have in my life. Me, moving left to right. Unknown 30-something with glasses, pea coat and a Neneh Cherry CD moving right to left. I took the outside, backed up and let him through. He mumbled something that resembled something like a thank you. We kept on moving in our respective directions.
It got me thinking. I honestly do like buying music on the Internet. I like randomly thinking of a song that I want to hear and being able to hear it within five minutes of that thought. I like getting drunk and spending way too much money in the iTunes store. And I like not having to buy more furniture to house my abnormally large selection of CDs. But I am going to miss the sociality of buying music before the Internet age arrived.
Record stores were, at one time, truly strange and wonderfully dark places, full of awkward music fans, diehard collectors and know-it-all clerks that laughed off any honest questions you might have. You could spend hours in there and not get hassled. Eventually, if you were a return customer, you would develop a quixotic relationship with the clerk/know-it-all DJ of the store, and he or she would be able to suggest new releases for you according to your tastes. And more often than not, you’d have to pull a few record store stack switches to get to the one record or CD you had been searching for all summer long. It was one of the most enjoyable social experiments I’ve ever partaken in, bringing people from all walks of life together, listening to the clerk blast the A-side of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, and peeling open the CD packaging to read liner notes as your car warmed up in the parking lot.
Okay, so I got a little nostalgic. Shoot me. The record store is just about dead. And with it, the sociality and physicality of buying music. Something the Genius feature on iTunes will never understand…