I live in a pretty eclectic area. There’s an abundance of Vietnamese, Thai and Cambodian restaurants; used clothing stores litter the boulevard; a patchwork of people cruise the streets at all hours. Mike and I take Rusty on frequent walks through the neighborhood, enjoying the snug craftsman houses and lush yards packed with native plants, as well as the colorful rush of humanity.
A few weeks back, we first discovered the record store. A tiny closet of an establishment, it sells used music from the ages before iPods and streaming. The scruffy proprietor agreed Rusty could accompany us into the shabby looking store, and we split to divide and conquer.
The presence of music from my childhood immediately charmed me. The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars. All the Rage. The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway. Even the I Wanna Dance with Somebody single my mom used to put on while sweating it out with Jane Fonda in the living room.
Mike, on the other hand, went right to the 8-tracks.
“Nat! I used to have one of these!” he called to me excitedly. “Did I tell you about it? My 8-track player?”
“Yes,” I replied, wandering over.
“Man, I used to sit and listen to music for hours on that thing,” he said, hypnotized by the square cartridges that now belong to folklore and age-based jokes.
“We didn’t have one. My parents had a record player.”
Since I’d already regaled him with stories about my parents’ rather intimidating record collection, I went back to thumbing through stacks of faded albums. I felt a little smile play at the corners of my mouth, remembering the first time I put on Led Zeppelin’s IV, finding “Battle of Evermore” and “Stairway to Heaven” in the grooves. We weren’t allowed to touch the record player, but at fifteen I had little use for rules, especially ones having to do with music. Thus, when I chanced to have the house to myself I’d play songs you couldn’t really hear on the radio anymore, fascinated with the pops and crackles imbedded in the music.
After we’d left, we both silently continued on our walk, each wrapped up in our cozy memories of youth. As I considered returning to pick up used copies of Vs. and In Utero to replace my tape cassettes, a thought interrupted my mental filing system.
“Mike, how do you think a used record store stays in business? I mean, yeah, this is a pretty hipster area, but still? A record store?”
Mike suggested reasonably, “Maybe it belongs to the owner of the building and he can afford to keep it open at a loss.”
“Yeah, maybe,” I said, unconvinced.
I mean, sure we were charmed by the place, but we didn’t buy anything. I couldn’t imagine out of date technology, no matter how cool, could be a lucrative trade.
Then I decided on my catchall conclusion for unquantifiable financial success:
“They probably deal drugs out of the back,” I said, half-joking, half-not.
Mike caught the cue. “Oh, totally. Did you smell the weed when we walked in?”
I guess you can put a price tag on nostalgia, I thought to myself.
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