Saturday, October 21, 2006

Getting and Spending

I'm in serious trouble. This week we discovered two local establishments that I sense are destined to take all my money: a massage therapy place and a used CD store. Both within walking distance, both down in the "village" section of Multnomah Village (which is the technical term for the area of Portland that we live in).

The massage therapy place was actually one of three such places, all within blocks of each other. The one that I went to is part of a "healing arts clinic" that also offers acupuncture and chiropractic work. What can I say? I had a great session there with Becca, who slowly and meticulously found trigger points I didn't even know existed, expending very little of her own energy in the process, and shunning the flashy repertoire that characterizes most LA therapists. Forgive me, but I can't help reading this as somehow exemplary of more general differences between LA and PDX. And speaking of those differences, get this: by the time I had arrived and filled out all of the necessary paperwork, I was about ten minutes late for the session, which was scheduled for 4 PM. Becca's question to me was whether it was alright if we went beyond 5 PM, so I could get a full hour session.

Was it alright if we went beyond 5 PM?! Holy crap, I love this town. In LA I would have been out on my ass by that time, whether I had been late or not.

Anyway, the used CD store is called Post Hip (you won't find it on the web, it's that small). Here's how the owner describes it in a free brochure entitled "The 2006 Portland Guide to Independent Record and CD Stores" (which lists -- count 'em -- 27 such establishments in the city): "Used Jazz Blues Classical Multicultural CDS. Hand-picked eclectic books cheap. Comfortable. Conversational. Gap-toothed amicable. Trendless commendable quality. Propitious prices. Munificent buying. Multnomah Village."

Indeed. Again with the comparatives (I'll get over this soon, I promise): I found that Post Hip kicked Amoeba's ass, despite the fact that the latter is a much more comprehensive, ambitious, and busy place. You see, the thing I like to do most at a used record shop is browse: an activity (some would say an art) that requires certain preconditions: a finite set of merchandise, non-pushy clientele, not too long of a line to get to the cash register, a sense of connectedness with the merchant. Amoeba violates all these conditions. It's like Costco for just music: it's great if you know exactly what you're looking for, but it's awkward and unweildy (and for some folks even frightening) if you just want to relax and explore. It embodies what Alvin Toffler called "overchoice," a phenomenon that (in the end) may be even more threatening to new music than American Idol.

At Post Hip, the parameters are doable. A tiny single-room shop in which I suspect the ideal shopping experience is to take frequent, fleeting dips into an ever-changing pool (can't wait to see what's on the racks next week). The proprieter / clerk (who Daphne is convinced must be independently wealthy, because he's surely got to be losing money with this joint) was jolly, even giddy. He seemed unwilling to let us leave when the time came. Not out of desperation or a desire to get us to buy more -- rather, he seemed genuinely, sort of irrepressibly friendly. How novel!

My haul included a copy of Ellington's SRO (a longtime favorite of mine that may even have been the first Ellington recording I owned, albeit originally in cassette form -- don't get me started on this one, but it's a live recording that swings like a motherfucker (thank you, Sam Woodyard), especially on the version of "Rockin' in Rhythm"); an untitled (or eponymous) Don Pullen / George Adams recording, originally released on Soul Note; a compilation featuring pieces by Peggy Glanville-Hicks, Lou Harrison, and Terry Riley (quite beautiful, and a hit with the kid; may need to comment on the liner notes in the weeks ahead); Herodotus' histories; and, I don't know, a whole lot of other stuff that I hope I have the time to actually sit down and enjoy someday.


Kris Tiner said...

You read Toffler? Wow, man... Previews & Premises pretty much rocked my world while I was an undergrad.

You and I are both fairly quiet dudes, you know - I'm convinced we never would have known how much we had in common if it weren't for this blogging business.

Speaking of which, I was in Amoeba today. You ever been there on a Saturday when they do their charity junk auction? It's a good idea, but the guy with the mic drove me absolutely nuts. Plus I get stressed out being in both crowds AND big stores, so I'm usually so mentally fried by the end of the Amoeba experience that I'm worthless for the rest of the day.

Still, managed to find some Feldman I was looking for (String Quartet 1979 on Naxos), some Earle Brown on CRI, Xenakis (Pleiades), the new Bert Jansch (check him out) and a Caetano Veloso compilation on Nonesuch. Just picking out those five discs was such a major (I agree, frightening) undertaking... I wish there was a neighborhood place down here that I could trust. Poo-Bah in Pasadena is great, but they're usually so far out of my way...

godoggo said...

I dunno. My approach to Amoeba's is mainly to stick to the used clearance bin. Got a couple of awesome Stu Liebig CDs for cheap.

I only ever read Future Shock, which I picked up in a used paperback shop in Cagayan De Oro. Apparently we should all be able to breathe underwater by now. I also liked the ostentatiously casual way he kept inserting the word "sex" into his musings.

Andrew said...

Yes, Toffler was a horny bastard. But then, it was the seventies (and Future Shock actually started as an article in Playboy).

The day before my journey up to PDX, I stopped in Amoeba to stock up on driving music. I was sort of pressed for time, and I had to wait about a half an hour to find a parking spot. Then I had to gulp down my coffee before entering. Once I got inside I found that I was essentially fucked because I had forgotten to bring my running list of CDs-to-get.

My feeling is that if you're gonna have to deal with the capitalist paradigm just to get your ears on some new music, then the process might as well be fun. And I realized as I was standing in line with about fifty other people that Saturday, my arms full of hastily-grabbed "product" (half of the CDs I picked up that day turned out to be crap, BTW), that I have never had fun while shopping at Amoeba -- despite the fact that I drool every time I enter the place. I know this because I have had fun at other shops around town -- Poobah, Aron's (RIP), Penny Lane, the Brand Library in Glendale (whoops, that's not technically shopping, is it?).