January 20, 2008

During : Read Me Second

Picture was borrowed from here and this is just one section of the store!

Whoever was quoted as saying "to travel is better to arrive" has clearly never been anywhere worth going to. It wasn't my turbulent flight to Iceland that warmed my heart nor was it the anorexic roads I often pondered "wait, are we still driving on an actual road?" that made my spirit soar. It was standing at Thingvellir among enormous tectonic plates spilling forth water at tremendous and angry speed that I thought yes, this very moment is the climax and release I had been waiting for.

Destination Amoeba may sound less exotic than sacred viking territory but it is sacred to me none the less. This kind of relationship with record stores may be disturbing to many but think how dull this tale would be if I said I went to some big record store and it was pretty cool I guess. I may own a sub par intellect and have even less of a talent to express it with words but darn it I am one passionate record collector. It brings me great pleasure to turn my obsessive love for music inside out and put it on display for all to shake their heads at.

As we searched for a parking space inside a multi level garage near the store I began my typical anal retentive check list of preparing to shop. Do I have my record wish list with me? Check. Do I want to keep my jacket on or suffer momentarily in the cold so I can shop without the hindrance of an extra layer? Jacket remained on. Do I leave my bag in the car and just bring my wallet or shall I lug the whole purse with me? The small bag came with me as it also carried my cell phone which may be needed at a later time. You never know what records you might find for a friend and a quick call to them will tell me whether or not a purchase should be made for them. My last personal shopping tick is making sure I have chapstick. This isn't a record store thing, I just hate having chapped lips. Once this list has been mentally worked over from beginning to end, I prepare to shop.

Entering Amoeba feels a little like what I imagine a kitten feels like when entering an airplane hanger. There is so much room to explore and play, so many stimulating items to investigate that for a brief moment anything seems possible and the feeling that follows is nothing short of bliss. There is something absolutely addictive about a controlled environment where literally endless discoveries await you. Your mining for sounds that your ears could exponentially benefit from hearing. Your senses could potentially be tickled in a way that is the audio equivalent to tasting Pop Rocks for the first time. One of the records you purchase and add to your collection could contain the song you walk down the isle to or rely upon during a bad break up. To the point, you just never know and I love the gamble of entering a store and unearthing God knows what.

The day after my trip to Amoeba a friend who works there was telling me some 300 people work at the L.A. location. Mind you they are not all there at the same time but I think that should help to give a stranger to the store the impression that this isn't your basic hole in the wall record store. Your experience there is truly the Moby Dick of record hunts only there isn't just one white whale, there are hundreds if not thousands.

My friend also shared with my a slightly intimidating bit of news as well. An older man recently collapsed and died at the Amoeba counter (or was it in line to the counter?) from a heart attack. People give up the ghost every second of every day, I understand this, but at a record store?


I have seen all types at record stores over the years but never a dead body. There doesn't seem to be an official news report about this incident (I hear death isn't great for business) but I can understand how one's heart might give out at this place. It truly is that epic and overwhelming on every possible scale.

One last tidbit of information about the store and it really doesn't get any more L.A. than this. They have a rule that reality TV shows are not allowed in their locations with cameras rolling. In fact they can't shoot inside at all. Celebrities are stripped to music fan status at this location (maybe all of them?) and realistically the star status people are the ones with name tags who get paid to be there. Take that Hollywood.

I spent just slightly over 2 hours weaving myself in and out of each row occasionally cursing under my breath because I am not tall enough to read with ease the CDs and LPs at the back of each row. I lost my friend within seconds of walking though the front door so my limited time there was spent alone without any distraction. (excluding the girl with black lip liner and no lisptick carrying something that looked like a whip who was blocking a portion of the "B" section) I moved as quickly as possible from isle to isle yet barely saw more than 1/10 of their stock. As someone who enjoys the feeling of completion in anything I start, I pouted on my way to the checkout section feeling like I had failed in my race against the clock.

On a good note, I made it out alive which is more than I can say for everyone.

1 comment:

  1. a 300-person payroll is just insanity. i think at its peak (circa 2001-2002) the plan 9 i worked at had maybe 25 people. i wonder how many of those are full-timers.

    things i remember from my one trip to amoeba (april 2002):
    "high art" on vhs (still got it - hoping to get the dvd used)
    pop by gas on mille plateaux - i was still wrapped and i think i paid 10 bucks for it. it's out of print and selling for a ton of money on amazon now.
    spending about $60 after 2 hours of looking - i put a bunch of stuff back right before checking out.