Still no coffee table

Still no coffee table, but a groovy wooden chair, bi-colored, for El Nino to warp beyond recognition, or Sketch. Found it at the Goodwill in Glassell Park that used to be the world’s most berserk K-Mart. I remember when a team of physicists from Cal Tech went in there to study Brownian Motion and were never seen again. Some say they were atomized by a Blue Light Special. Some say they married Armenians in the shoe department. Some say they were sold as patio fixtures. Soon afterward K Mart closed and remained empty and silent but for the screeches of gulls. Suddenly, as if by magic, it became a Goodwill. Or a Goodwill Galleria. There’s even a Goodwill Outlet Store. That’s a concept that made me think for a moment. The stuff poor people and hipsters didn’t buy winds up at the outlet store. Is there a 99 cent store outlet store? Anyway inside the Goodwill Galleria it’s like a Goodwill mall and there’s a store and a diner and planters and various offices and doorways and places, and it’s all very clean and orderly and friendly. We went through the double doors into the regular store. No coffee table. Well, coffee tables, but not what we’re looking for. Especially as we aren’t looking for beat up crap. Some people who shop at thrift stores for furniture are picky. Snooty even. That’s us. So we turned our noses up at the crappy, junky, or nice but wrongly shaped coffee tables and fixed our eyes, instead, on the groovy chair. $4.99. Plus our old people discount. We are old at Goodwill. We’re at that awkward age where we are old enough for senior discounts at thrift stores or on the little tram thing at the Zoo, but we pay full price at movie theaters.

Anyway, it’s a nice chair. Perhaps you’ll sit in it and feel special.

I also bought three LPs. One, inexplicably, by the Amboy Dukes, since I don’t like the Amboy Dukes. Another, mysteriously, by Harry Nilsson, as I have never bought an album by Harry Nilsson before. And the last one was what they used to call a loss leader, which was logical, because I have always dug loss leaders. I remember they used to cost a dollar or a quarter or something from Warner Brothers and would be full of tunes. I discovered things though those comps. Will I discover anything here? I only recognize one song (Dixie Chicken). I feel myself being dragged back into the 70’s. Stupid clothes and easy sex and Deep Purple in leisure suits. Disco Monk.

The only jazz I saw were some John Klemmer albums, all smooth, though I didn’t look very far. The record stacks were in a mess. I remembered why I had stopped looking for records at thrift stores. Then I remembered once finding an extremely rare Sun Ra LP between the Mantovani and Barbara Streisand at a thrift store in Pasadena, which I later sold for a lot more money to some excited vinyl geek, so I looked a little more. But I quickly gave up on finding another Sun Ra album, or even a Turk Murphy LP. Of course, had I found even one jazz album, I would likely not have bought this Amboy Dukes album, which, with the Nilsson album, had been pulled out of the stacks by some nerd along with a Dave Clark 5 album, which was a mess, played to death. So I think I bought those records because they were sitting there. I hate to think what else I would have bought had it been sitting there.

I also got a highly technical volume on dinosaurs, full of the long latin names and arcane anatomy that makes me such a hit at parties. Then we stood in the check out line behind two guys in dresses buying more dresses. Sparkly, spangly dresses, short and shiny dresses. They couldn’t buy all of them, apparently, and sighed and tsked and went back and forth trying to decide among the little pile. As they debated they talked girl talk with the pretty checker, who was much more girl in the right places than they could ever be, which bothered them. Ah well the one said, and went back to deciding on which dresses to buy. They held them up and debated the colors in Spanish. Purple was azul, pink a roja. The clerk threw us a glance and smiled. I flipped through my dinosaur book. Outside the glass doors a cold wind was blowing and everything seemed frozen to the touch, and the new moon was a hint on the horizon.


Records are so hot now. Burning hot. Paycheck blowing hot. Obsessively hot. Get a life hot. Stacks of platters. Analog, baby. People lining up on record store day and they don’t even know why. U2 just downloaded their vinyl only album onto an old Big Country LP I didn’t even know I had. Weird.

I liked it better when CDs were king and no one bought vinyl. CDs were everything. Digital baby. It’s the future. Box sets. Booklets with really long dull essays. You could play CDs in the car and not have to listen to Jim Ladd at all. Records were sad. They scratched. Surface noise. You had to get up off the couch to flip them over. A drag. Analog. Unhip as unhip could be. Unhipper even than cassettes. And that is unhip.

I’d stopped buying albums, too. I was getting rid of them. Giving them away. Dumping them at the thrift store. No one was buying. I was into cds. Digital. The future. Then one day Rockaway Records here in Silver Lake was having one of their huge sales. I wandered into the room in the back. It was full of records. Out front the CD bins were a desperate struggle and here was nobody. Literally nobody. Not one customer. It was hushed. Untouched. Archaic. A window into a ridiculous past full of styluses and RPM’s. I wandered along looking at one of the dozens of shelves. I realized I was looking at hundreds and hundreds of jazz LPs. And this was the $3 and under room, and everything was 75% off…..which meant the most I could pay was 75 cents. I pulled out a Sonny Rollins LP priced at twenty nine cents. At seventy five percent off that would come to, umm, seven cents.

I’d found a new hobby.

I’d find incredible stuff, walk out of Rockaway with fifty or sixty records for twenty or thirty dollars. The sales went all weekend so I’d do that on Saturday and Sunday. Get me a hundred records. A month later there’d be another sale. The record room would be full of more albums than before, and was just as empty. I’d be there for hours, leaving with another fifty records. I’d be the only one in line buying vinyl. People eyed me suspiciously. The clerks rolled their eyes. Maybe they’ll be valuable someday, I said. Yeah right. Meanwhile people are fighting over the CDs.

Since even record collectors hated jazz back then the pickings were mine. All mine. And there was world music, all kinds, platters from everywhere. And impossible as it is to imagine now there were amounts of soul and sixties stuff that people were buying on CD only. They wouldn’t touch these. You had to get up and turn then over. Talk about a buzz kill. No one had to get up and flip a CD over. So all this sealed, or mint, or as close to mint as near mint vinyl could be went ignored. Except by me. For maybe five years it was heaven. I ran out of room. Too many records. Some I’d never played. Some I didn’t even remember buying. I was beginning to worry.

Then suddenly vinyl was hip. I was saved. Damn.

The good thing, though, was that I resold most of the records at more than I paid. All that fire sale vinyl paid the rent a few times. People pay ridiculous money now for vinyl. Some guy will show me a record he paid thirty dollars for. He’s thrilled to death. Maybe I picked up the same record a decade ago for a buck, say, or six bits, or even a quarter. Seven cents. I never tell them that, though. It’d be mean. Though no one would believe me anyway. So I just say cool….

You know, you can get amazing CDs for fifty cents now. Find them everywhere. Thrift stores are overwhelmed with them. No one buys them. I have way too many. It’s embarrassing. I can’t even read the tiny print in the booklets anymore. They’re a drag, compact discs. Digital. Unhip as unhip can be. Unhipper even than cassettes. And that is unhip. I should know. I have too many cassettes, too.


Where the rent money went.