Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Thrift Shop Insanity

I've been culling the record collection of the local Goodwill store for a couple months now. It's funny how good records seem to grow or materialize in amongst all the crappie ones that have been sitting there forever, that I've gone through a dozen times or more. This morning, I was talking to a woman who was looking for punk records for her daughter. I've never seen any punk music at the Goodwill, but another fellow I talked to claimed to have picked some up from time to time (perhaps that's why I've never seen any). Personally, I like to buy up anything strange or unusual: Scottish dance albums, east coast ditties, dancercise albums. I'm not exactly indiscriminate (no Barry Manilow, for instance), just eclectic. Honestly, I don't even know why I buy some of the records I do.

However, sometimes you come across a gem, something that I would actually pay good money for in a record store--if I had any money. Like the 1979 Rapper's Delight 12" I found today, scuffed and missing its sleeve, but still playable. Rap music simultaneously was born and died with that record, so it's good to have a copy. Today records were on sale, five dollars for a bag, so I was busy scooping up all the disks I've been eyeing for a while, but never got around to buying because I didn't want to pay fifty cents for them.

The lady with the daughter who liked punk was specifically looking for Blondie. Strangely, the woman said her daughter hated disco, but I guess that Debbie Harry is something of a crossover artist. While I was busy contemplating an odd German pop organ recording, the woman pulled out a pristine copy of the 1984 K-tel Breakdance compilation from one of the bins that I had already been through. How could I have missed it?! This is the record that includes The Adventures of Grandmaster Flash on the Wheels of Steel, the track that first opened my ears to the wonders of hip-hop so long ago.

In hindsight, I should have said to the lady, "That's a disco record. Your daughter will hate it." Instead I said, "Wow! That's a great album!" Actually, I already have a copy of the album, but mine is all scratched while the one the woman found looked like it had never been played. Furthermore, I checked it out and the record still had the original instructional breakdancing wall poster with directions on how to do "the wave" and "the moonwalk"! Well, I already know how to do these moves, but I would have liked to have the poster anyways. Still, I kept my cool and told the woman that if her daughter didn't like the record, she should sell it on Ebay. I pretended to be above the whole situation, while really I was dying inside.

On the upside, I got some other excellent records, like a 1965 Bongo Rock collection, scratched but still fabulous to hear. This record was pointed out to me by a strange European man who told me a long story about how he was ripped off by a Reader's Digest record club for thousands of dollars. He pulled the record out, said it was scratched but had a neat cover, and then stuck it back into one of the piles. I tried to listen politely to the man and his rambling story for several minutes, but all I really wanted to do was dive for the record he had just shown me.

When I got home, I couldn't stop thinking about the Breakdancing album, and how silly I was not to even ask the woman if she really wanted it. Fixating on bygones is a bad habit of mine. I've discovered you have to find a way to outsmart yourself. I remembered that at the beginning of the Grandmaster Flash song on the Breakdance album, there is a ten or twenty second clip of Blondie mixed in, from her song Rapture. Blondie is what the woman had been looking for in the first place, and maybe her temperamental punkster daughter will get a kick out of it. Occasional close (but no cigar) calls with your heart's desire are part of collecting. A similar thing happened to me last year with a Dead Milkmen record, but I guess this is just the way things go from time to time.

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