April 01, 2008

Look out honey 'cause I'm using technology.

The technology I am using is called 2nd Avenue Records, and I have only just learned how to use it. It took a tutorial.

See, most music stores that I have shopped in have worked something like: music is out lying around in some kind of order, and you poke around until you find what you want. Self-serve. This generally suits me perfectly, because I have a pathological aversion to telling record store employees what I am looking for. It doesn't seem to matter whether I'm looking for something impressively cool or something totally embarrassing; I don't want anyone to know what it is until I have it in my hand. But 2nd Avenue Records doesn't give a damn about my neuroses, and, weirdly, I love them for it.

2nd Avenue Records is a glorious, wonderful, tiny independent music store that specializes in metal and hardcore but also has stuff that the Not That Hardcore populace wants to listen to. It's a tiny, tiny retail space stacked to the rafters with CDs and LPs. Did I mention it's tiny? I walked past yesterday and didn't believe it was a record store because it didn't take up half a block, and when I got inside I had a hard time figuring out where to step that wasn't taken up by various shit. I checked my bag in and was trying to browse discreetly among the mess, when an aging punk dude who may well have been the proprietor pointed out helpfully that that wasn't going to work. See, the LPs are all out in big racks like in a normal store, but the CDs are for some reason contained in a massive pile of boxes behind the counter. You have to tell them, "dude I gotta get a copy of Raw Power," and they'll drag out a shoebox or vodka case or something that says STOOGES in Sharpie on one side, and dump it on the counter in front of you and let you flip through it. And the shoebox or vodka case or whatever contains wonders unknown that even the other, hugely massive, local independent record stores don't have, and many of them are used and cheap and after a few minutes of agonizing decision you hand over 20 bucks and walk out with two CDs. Also, they're on your way home from work, which totally rules.

I'm in love with this whole business model. It's so outrageously old-fashioned: you go to a shop which is run by people who know what the fuck they're talking about, and you tell them what it is that you want and they understand and help you find it in the most useful, i.e. cheap, way possible. I love that this kind of knowledgeable, personal customer service exists only in the form of the scruffy, tattooed punk dudes at the tiny crappy crowded metal-and-hardcore record store. It strikes me as the kind of thing that makes corporate image consultants -- the kind who write customer service scripts that tell you how many times to use the customer's name and which places to smile and how much tasteful jewelry is allowed at the front counter -- put their heads in their nicely-groomed hands and cry.

I also love that it allowed me to sit at my desk today, in the full carnival of the second day of the term with everybody confused and frantic, listening to Iggy Pop made very small inside my speakers but nonetheless screaming at the top of his lungs. I can't begin to tell you how soothing it was. It's much easier to smile politely at a lot of people with identical frustrating problems when you have a tiny, tinny helper telling them all that their collective pretty face is going to hell. Even if they can't quite hear it, I know. I'm sorry, sir, what was that? Please excuse my associate; he's on drugs and has no social skills and is probably emotionally disturbed. I'd be happy to help you get into your classes.

The fact that my shrieking audio assistant and I were both at our desk until 7 pm today makes it incredibly likely that I will need to go back to 2nd Avenue Records before the week is out. It's only Tuesday and this is a short album, but if I can find one more that's as good I think I can get through at least Thursday. Maybe by Friday I'll just walk into the shop and ask the helpful scruffy punk dude if he can come to work with me for a few minutes and scream at people in person. I think that would keep requests for my help to a bare minimum for the next year at least.

Posted by dianna at April 1, 2008 08:06 PM