Tireless readers of this blog may have noted that in October of last year, my wife and I took a Full Monty genuine big vacation to the West Coast where I was spawned, but had not returned to in well over 40 years. The trip was sparked last Spring by a comment from my stalwart friend Tom, who had recently been trapped into a bi-costal existence due to his changing job fortunes. This necessitated bi-weekly trips to the Berkeley area for a couple of years from his home in the North Carolina Piedmont.
My wife and I had long planned visiting Tom going back to the 90s when we were all living courtesy of the Tech Boom bubble. Tom stayed in it and I bailed in 2001, probably just months ahead of the auditor’s knife. But travel costs being what they are, we never had the budget to actually visit him, even then, and when he married and eventually moved to our state in 2006, it seemed like that idea had passed. Until March of 2014, when on a visit to us, and two years into his commuter hell existence, he offered to gift us with frequent flyer miles to visit him and his wife in SF while he was still working for the company that flew him out there for two weeks at a time.
So we said, “absolutely!” I began saving all money earned for the big trip. Not only would I be visiting California for the first time since my parents move away from it in 1972, but we would take in the SF Bay area, The Pacific Coast Highway going southward, and ultimately Los Angeles, where I was born many, many years ago. In Long Beach we would be visiting with Ron “The Man” Kane, whom I’ve known for over half of my life, but have only seen twice [2008 in Portland, 2012 in Atlanta]. Ron is all about buying music. I am too, but let’s just say that Ron has no governor on his accelerator pedal. He puts people like yours truly to shame as the big fish in small ponds that we are. Ron had met Tom in 2012 and when he found out that we were going to San Francisco before meeting up with him in Long Beach, before you knew it, Ron was planning a quick trip to SF earlier than that for a record run.
On the day when we went to The Haight, my wife preferred to take in the sights, so she went off on her own for a few hours. That left Tom and Elisa [his wife, whom I’ve known almost as long as Tom] and Ron to meet up and hit what many would call the ultimate record store in North America. I’ve known of the Amoeba Music phenomenon for at least a dozen years. The store in Berkeley opened in 1990. Their Haight store was in a former bowling alley and opened in 1997. The Hollywood location opened in 2001. All three have flourished in the Tribulation of Record Stores® that happened in the last decade.
When planning the trip became a reality, all spending on music stopped as I built up my stores of expendable cash for a once-in-a-lifetime chance at “big game hunting” as it were. I’ve spent my life on the East Coast and while larger cities have some amazing selections, the fact is that for the last 25 years, almost everything that I really want the most is only available to me by mail order. And that carried a heavy tariff of postal costs which are now many times more than that of the actual CDs and records. When these goods I want are only available from overseas, the loss of buying power can be profound. This would be a chance to see the best of what American stores had to offer without the penalty of postage. Plus, there’s nothing like diving in actual bins and inspecting the merchandise close up. With my sales from my collection last year, I managed to squirrel away a music buying budget of $450 over the six months prior to the trip.
When we met Ron, he was carrying at least 450 CDs in six cases on a luggage tote. For trade in. Ron trades in on one day, more CDs than most people own. Ever. We entered the large store with Ron and he got his credit slips – worth $600 and then we began hunting for music in earnest. The thing to remember was to pace yourself. With want lists on the personal device, and my cratedigger database at the ready, I began my spree.
Next: …Decisions to make