THRIFT STORE ADVENTURES: September 30, 2011 (the end of the line)

Before I searched, I had no idea when I last did an installment of Thrift Store Adventures. I looked, and the last one I wrote was in March 2009. Any of you who have followed me or my writing know of my record collecting ways and my love of vinyl, and yet it has been 30 months since I did this? What in the world happened?

Since it has been awhile since I did an installment, I should explain what this is. Thrift Store Adventures was/is a section where I would devote some words to my record purchases at thrift stores, pawn shops, and garage/yard sales. I grew up going to thrift stores, and while it may have been for economical purposes with my parents, it was also the best and cheapest way to find and buy music. I’ve discovered a lot of music at thrift stores in the last 30 years, and because of it I was briefly employed at a thrift store, specifically to have first crack at any incoming vinyl. Instead, they put me in women’s clothing to sort and fold clothes, covered in insecticide. After two days at that job, including a trip to the social security office because I had to prove I was a U.S. citizen even though I’ve been one since birth (i.e I know my SS# but didn’t have a card, and when I returned with temp card, they were shocked, as if I was going to fake my way in.), I left and never returned.

The thrift store had become the haven for the tossed-out and thrown away records, and whenever I would go out of town, thrift store were the hot spots, as I wanted to get as much cheap records as possible to bring it home and listen, and possibly resell. I’m a collector, but I enjoy playing the records too, touching the vinyl, covers, and inner sleeves, sniffing that mustiness and hoping someone had some good listening experiences with it.

In the last few years, money has been tight and as a lot of collectors will often say, “it’s either eating on a McChicken budget or finding heat”, “heat” being the term one uses when they score a “hot” record. Basically, I had to prioritize. It hasn’t stopped me from visiting thrift stores to browse, but there has been a major shift in the importance of vinyl at thrift stores, at least in my region. I remember years when I would be able to walk into a store, head to the record section and see the racks with four to six rows, sometimes more. I’ve always had records around me, and yet I fully understand for the rest of the world, it is now an “antique”, a thing of the past. As MP3’s continue to be the primary source of music consumption, I’ve seen more compact discs. Since they are digital, they are now “prized” and often placed behind the counter in order to prevent theft. The record, on the other hand, is the ugly, outdated beast that it has been for the last 25 years, but it almost feels like I have to go out of my way to find them, if I find any. To make a long story short, record supplies have dwindled, sections have been reduced, or basically all of the good records have been picked over and I’ll only see the same Anne Murray, Helen Reddy and Merrill Womack records I’ve seen countless times since I started going to thrift stores for records.

I did this section not only to log some of my purchases, but to share my knowledge of the records, or to talk about a discovery that had been unknown to me. I like to buy records and not listen to them beforehand, even though I have a portable. I’m sure bringing it on my drips would have saved me a lot of money, but then, as now, I have a heart for the crap. Yes, I want music that rocks, that’s funky, that’s dope, that’s the shit, call it what you want, but I also want music that will make me listen and go “why was that made?” or “who were they trying to sell that to?” I eat that up, and it was great to share that with my readers.

I’d like to think that it’s because of my location that the record supplies are shrinking. I’ve been looking to move to Portland, Oregon, a city that used to be my mecca for all that is vinyl. Magazines like Goldmine would often say that Portland was the last holy grail for all that is sacred about records, if you wanted to fulfill your vinyl addiction, you could do it there. There was a time when all I would do in Portland was go to thrift stores, find some cheap food, and that’s it. Boring. As I have been looking seriously into Portland, I’ve been looking at much more than just music. In fact, in the last few years, I still look for music but it’s not a priority as it once was. I have found Portland to be a bit more in sync with who I am and what I’d like to be. The people whom I have met with are great, and I want to be there to know more. I have wondered that when I do move, will that spark my interest in going to thrift stores again? To be honest, I think it will always be there. I love cheap bargains, I love to find out what people tossed out, and of course these records can have good resell value. But will it ever be on the level that it used to be 10 to 20 years ago? This may be a first for me, and it may shock some you but: no.

Record collecting is an incredible hobby, one that I’ve learned from immensely, and yet I’m able to go to any thrift store, head to the record section, take notes, go home, do a Google search, and download almost every album on that list for free. I search, buy, and collect records for that “thrill of the hunt”, but as I get older and want to reduce my collection significantly, I no longer want to be locked down or held back by boxes of records that take a lot of time and energy to transport from Point A to point B.

Maybe it’s a sign of me getting older, or “growing up”, and yet it’s almost as if I’m archiving that part of my life. I’m not one of those celebrated diggers who is able to visit every major city, walk into homes and warehouses, and just pillage the place. I like reading stories about those who do this. I wish I was someone who had the luxury and locale to do this, but I’m not. There’s a church in town that has a huge storage facility, I used to drive past it all the time and go “damn, I wish it was mine so I could fill it with records.”

A few things changed my outlook on things. Outside of being tight with money, it was after watching the documentary film Vinyl. I saw elements of me in it, not with everyone but it was enough. I’m a music numbnut and will be for life, but I did not want to be someone who was stuck in my kitchen, memorizing K-Tel album track listings in different configurations, rocking back and forth as if that was the only thing I cared about. I also go back to the morning I was T-boned in a car accident, after leaving a Goodwill to (what else?) buy records? That accident had absolutely nothing to do with records or music, but it had to do with my life and realizing I had to do more with it.

This marks the end of Thrift Store Adventures as a column, but then again who knows. I think as I take on more writing opportunities, which I hope makes it possible for me to travel and meet my subjects, it will lead to me moving from my current location and move to Portland. Maybe different opportunities will take me elsewhere, but right now, Portland is my goal. Thrift Store Adventures was never meant to be anything but my way of saying “I bought some records, check out what I bought, here’s a song or two.” The majority of my entries had been from the same circle of thrift stores in this area, with occasional trips out of town, and that’s not fun. I don’t blame anyone for not wanting to read any more entries, especially when other collectors are able to tour, travel, do DJ sets, or run record labels in large cities while I struggle to move the hell out of a small podunk town. Could I become a DJ, tour, and rock some people, hell yeah, I’d love that chance. I have ideas I’d like to do and pull off, and maybe as I do more writing, articles, and books, I can include that as part of my marketing plan.

For years, I’ve wondered when (not if) I’d stop having fun writing Thrift Store Adventures. I’ve always wanted to take my writing to a higher level, but to use an old music term, I’ve been “bubbling under” for too long. If doing more writing leads to more traveling and opportunities, then I will definitely return to talk. For now though, I will officially put this column into storage.

A big mahalo nui to anyone and everyone who came across me and my writing with Thrift Store Adventures, and I hope you’ll continue to read and support what I do here at My love and admiration for music will never go away, and good records will never be out of reach. However, putting a cap on this section has been long overdue, especially when I haven’t been able to devote my time to it as much as I’d like to.

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