Saturday, April 30, 2016

The Struggle

The struggle is real, believe me.  Besides the thousands of hours I have spent during fruitless visits to dirty old thrift stores, I spend a lot of time on the phone assuring that the places I visit have vinyl before I head in that direction.

Below is a rare text exchange between myself and somehow who is apparently the proprietor of a thrift store in Wausau Wisconsin.  I tried to plot my course to hit a spot on my way up and this was conveniently located.  There was no number listed but I found it with minimal effort on their Facebook page.  I called a couple times, there was a mumbled voice mail greeting which I could not interpret and I left no message.  My two calls were a few hours apart and after the second one I lost interest with all the other spots in Wausau.  I called at 9:05am in the driveway before I left Chicago and again at 11:42am when I was about to roll into town.  You can see this started hours later, I was ironically in another local thrift store when I received the first message.

I post this mainly because I am amused at the 'this is a private number' part.  As if I am infringing on people's privacy.  Again, this is clearly listed - quite publicly - on their Facebook page which I refuse to share and help promote.  Who begins a text conversation with a random missed call, and begins it with 'hey'?

Oh, the trouble I've seen..........

St. Vincent [Portage WI]

As I returned from a totally fruitless journey from central Wisconsin, I was rewarded with a bevy of vinyl, the likes of which never before seen!  I stumbled upon just one more store that I had to inspect on my way.  My work vehicle runs on E85 so I have to plot my stops for fuel, I checked the map and did some quick navigation to see that Portage was on the way and looked large enough to have a few gas stations.  So I got off the expressway and on the 3 mile ride to the station, I rolled right past yet another St. Vincent!

I decided to fuel up first, and stop by on the way back.  I did, and I rolled quietly inside to see what could be seen.  As has happened so many times before, I saw no vinyl.  When that happens, I look for books as they are often displayed together.  I saw the sign, and I was magnetized into the back room...

Surrounded by bookshelves on all walls, the record bin sat happily in the middle of the floor.  Less happy was me; it held nothing of interest.  So, I carried on.....

Marshfield Mania En Masse

After the beating I took in nearby Wausau, only a real masochist would come back for more.  But I had to drive to Marshfield and my awaiting hotel, and more thrift stores lurked there.  How could I resist the brutality? (Answer: I couldn't).

Goodwill Marshfield had some really interesting bins, pinned to a pegboard.  Never saw anything like this before and it is interesting enough of an option to keep in the back of my mind.  The contents however were far less interesting than the containers, save for one rarely seen Engelbert album.  

I quickly tried to locate a nearby St. Vincent but when I arrived it looked a lot more like a soup kitchen than a thrift store.  The facility was HUGE but after my inspection I decided there was no thrift store and I was too disheartened to care anymore anyways after 5 strikeouts in less than half a day.  At that point, I gave it up for the night.

However the next morning, after completing my tasks in town, I headed back towards home.  And again, I had to cruise by St. V's, and this time from the opposite direction.  And it was there, high above the road and only seen from a 1/4 mile away by land, or otherwise by hot air balloon or dirigible the beacon I had been looking for. 

So I parked in front and took a rainy jaunt around the place trying to find the damn door! I finally found it in back (I later learned there was one on the main drag not 10' from my vehicle) and I headed in.

The place was huge, I finally realized there was more lurking below me and having the records actually acknowledged on the sign was a comforting touch.
It was indeed a large bin - and while I bought nothing I did find a few worthy of note.  Actually that isn't true - the Tom Jones live record I've owned for ages and I do see it with some regularity.  But when will I find the 2xLP? Never seen one, ever (though I could buy it online for a few bucks I'm sure).  The 5th Dimension album I searched for long and hard before I completed the discography (well, their first 8 albums at least).  And while this is not the Canadian press (which I later attained), I did once hold this Pickwick reissue in my collection after scoring it at a garage sale (and later making it into a hand-me-down to my girlfriend).  And it is indeed a great album, and a potent debut.

War in Wausau

It is ironic that given the proximity of Wisconsin to Chicago, I get up there less frequently than far away locales like Texas and New Hampshire (should be going back there in a month or two).  But I did reap the rewards of a trip to central Wisconsin and while I (SPOILER ALERT!) came back with absolutely nothing, it wasn't for lack of trying.

I had a meeting at 2pm in Wausau and it was about a 4 hour drive.  This gave me enough time to swing into one store before I headed to the plant.  St. Vincent is always a safe bet and this turned out to be a pretty big, nice one.

But alas, their lonely upright of milk crates contained nothing but a bunch of junk.  Oh well, upwards and onwards I go....

After my meeting, I needed to drive to Marshfield but before I did I had the whole afternoon to take advantage of the prodigious number of thrift stores in town.  Next up was Hope Thrift, who I had called ahead to assure they had a cache of vinyl.  After receiving confirmation, I was on my way.

This place was pretty big - lots of furniture and lots of back rooms in a maze-like compound.  I found these giant sagging racks of platters along the back wall of an out of the way room.  They were all stored vertically so I cracked my neck and got to crawling around to inspect them as best I could.  And like the Chinese sailboat - we had a serious JUNK on our hands.  Bye bye.

I have visited a Bethesda Thrift in Appleton long ago and I found a nice score over there.  So it was nice to have a familiar face and I launched into my inspection without hesitation.
This place had a solitary rack along a wall which was chock full o' crap.  More neck craning revealed that I and started to laugh at my misfortune.  Bust after bust.

As I started to head out, I noticed a singular milk crate just chilling in the middle of the store near the register.  Apparently they have an in-house record grader who decided this was the cream of the crop and needed to be quarantined from all the Mantovani in the bookshelf.  They were individually priced at varying levels.

While this may qualify as a 'vintage/collectible' item, eBay's price points are surely no kind of  benchmark in my book.  But more importantly, all this vinyl was at best moderately above the level of interest in the bookcase.  No thanks!
At this point, my obsession was in full force.  What kind of an idiot would continue to roll around in these haunts with so much bad luck? Myself would be the answer, and my travels at this point are truly irrational.
Would you return you hand to a hot stove after it just burned you? Or would you learn that doing so would inflict pain and you ought to take up another pastime? Lets just say that my hands are quite crispy.

Besides the beating I took in this record bin, I also got a terse word from the clerk who felt the need to remind me they closed at 4pm, upon my arrival at 3:50pm.  Good news for her: I am fast when paging through jackets, and this landfill held no interest anyhow.  See ya, Wausau.  It's been real and it's been fun...but it hasn't been real fun...

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Vinyl Spectacular, Palatine

I was approached by the people that put this together who asked if I would put together a seminar regarding record bin construction, a topic I have covered here at length.  At first I modestly assumed that it must be some kind of prank - who would legitimately consider me enough of an 'expert' to give my opinion on the matter? Well turns out someone did, so I followed through and made it happen!

After racking my brain on what I could possibly use as a visual aid in lieu of a PowerPoint (something I perhaps have learned to use as a crutch after giving too many presentations at work) and eventually came up with what I call my 'joint tree' - it demonstrates three different ways to anchor your shelves within your build, in both 2x4 and 2x6.


I threw this together from the pics on my blog and built it in MS Paint.  The resolution was something like 8000 pixels wide.  Then I sent it off electronically to FedEx Office online where they printed me a 24x36 poster for about $45 bucks.

I celebrated my birthday for a while and my girlfriend got me something really intersting.  I had seen commercials on TV a bunch of times and she picked up on my obvious desire for the device.  It is made by a company called Kreg and it is a simple jig that you use with a C-clamp and a drill to put 'pocket holes' in boards.  It is difficult to explain better than that but the below pic should help.

I had the kit for a few weeks but never made time to take a close look at how it worked.  So I thought that it would be a good point to touch on, something to discuss for people who are maybe thinking about building something but aren't quite sure what they want to do.  So I thought I'd throw together 3 boards, just a 'corner' perhaps, to illustrate how the screws are hidden and how strong it is.  But once I got the hang of the kit, I couldn't stop so I quickly put together the box!  I decided to take it a step further and stain it instead of paint it and it came out really nicely.  This was only a single $9 piece of 3/4" CDX plywood and it took me about 30 minutes to cut and assemble.  I could do a lot better but I could also do a lot worse!

I figured I should have something to hand out to help promote the site so I went and got some cheap 7" records and put some simple labels on them with the domain name and logo.  You can see them in the box above.

At the 25th hour, I got the word that there WOULD be a projector and laptop available - so I had just the day before to assemble my presentation.  I am pretty happy with it - you can see it here

So Sunday morning with my 'business cards', LP crate, 'joint tree', power and presentation, I took the early (for a Sunday) drive out to Palatine.  The event was at Wolff's Flea Market and the market was up and running as always, the record fair was tucked away in a back corner of the facility.  I wanted to get there early enough to catch the first speaker, Nick.  His presentation exceeded my expectations on what kind of material he might cover - very interesting.  But almost as interesting was the fellow who sat next to me, also quietly listening - and eating a bag full of cucumbers! 


I was so fired up and ready to go I could hardly wait.  I congratulated Nick on his excellent seminar then spent the next 30 minutes or so trying to dig some vinyl of my own, before it was my turn to take the stage.

Well it was time to go and of course it was a blur.  I know I enjoyed being up there and I had some nice chats with folks afterwards and a few people seemed to like it too.  It was just really nice to be validated for 30 minutes out of the over two years I've been writing, and well over a decade that I've been collecting.

So I went to head out afterwards and said my goodbye to Chris who has invited me.  I thanked him profusely and offered him the box as payment after he had mentioned how much he liked it.  He refused to take it - but said he would buy it! I told him I'd be happy to get my $10 back which was essentially what I spent on materials.  I will enjoy building another and I can do better (this was basically just a prototype), so unloading it for a few bucks was a bonus.  Then he took it a step further and offered me a Vinyl Spectacular 'Crew' T-shirt! Totally gracious offer which I readily accepted.  But he wasn't done!

As I was walking out he asked if I had found any good vinyl.  I actually had not - I was pretty tired and hungover and really just wanted to get some breakfast.  And honestly, I get kind of overwhelmed at these things, when I see that much vinyl I kind of blank out everything I am looking for and become a zombie.  Well he took his new box and walked over to a table full of vinyl (apparently he was a vendor as well), and dumped the contents of a cardboard box into my box, and put it on display! Then he told the girls behind the table that I had $20 credit to take whatever I wanted! Hell, I was just happy to be asked to speak - all these gifts, it was almost too much! I swiftly found a Blue Note classic for $10 and decided to call it a day.

It was really awesome to get to chat with people and hang out - I guess I realize that I make this too much of a solitary endevour and there is a whole world out there of like minded individuals who aren't elite, and are just like me.  It was a privilege to get to speak and the gifts I received were just totally unexpected and so appreciated.  What an excellent day!

Goodwill [Tampa FL]

Nearing total exhaustion at the end of my week spent working in the Ruskin/Gibsonton area, I tried to swing by a St. Vincent (Ruskin) and had trouble finding it, then got called back to the job site before I could investigate further.  Later that afternoon, my work finally completed, I spent my last night in the Westshore area of Tampa.  I checked into my hotel and took a shower then immediately took the #36 bus north on Himes to the Goodwill 'Super Store'.

They came equipped with a display option for their vinyl I had not run across in a Goodwill before (though I did see one elsewhere recently).  They actually had an unbelievable handful of vinyl snuggled away amongst the junk.

I rambled on recently regarding my hunt for the Johnny Rivers album you see here - of course this one is in far better condition than the one I scored.  The record you see upper right I scored a while back at my favorite thrift store (now sadly closed) and clearly there was an Al Kooper fan in town who donated these because lower right is another of his projects.  That album I grabbed out in Ohio almost a year and a half ago.  I'll admit to not giving the Mike Bloomfield collab album much rotation but 'Projections' I have done some critical listening to.  The closer for side A bridges the gap between a number of genres and can really suck you in.  Highly recommended.

This of course leaves the album upper left which I am familiar with of course but have never encountered in the wild.  When I was a kid, I had a box of my mom's 45s from when she was a kid.  How I wish I still had those! I had the single for the track most famous from the LP.  And as I guessed, the album was indeed worth more than a $1 and I will carry my regret for a while.  As you can see it is in pretty clean condition as well.  I also see now that it was produced by Kit Lambert, On a recent flight, I watched an awesome documentary about him and Chris Stamp who managed and largely discovered The Who.  Highly recommended.

I hesitated to replace an album I just got, only to knock the condition level up a couple points and I also hate to carry vinyl on planes.  I've done it a number of times and I never get used to it.  I am always so scared they are going to get bent in the overhead bin.  Totally irrational but a 'real' worry nonetheless.  So while carrying a single album on the plane seems like too little reward for my concern, I could have grabbed the Arthur Brown album AND 'Rewind', which clearly seems like the right choice now, but alas it is too late.  So go spook what I left behind - it's waiting for you.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

"Heart of Texas" Goodwill [Waco TX]

My night in Waco was one to remember, but their vinyl selection won't be bringing me back anytime soon.  The bottom rung of a small bookcase was all they had to offer and of that, only a later album from Rog (seen below) caught my eye, and even that could not induce me to purchase anything.

Still, it was a true experience to be.....

Upscale Resale and Thrift [Lockhart TX]

Only an idiot would drive three hours south from Dallas to Lockhart for barbecue but that is exactly what I did.  I scouted a number of locations for vinyl but none panned out - all were out of business.  Ironically, I included Upscale Resale in that list as I was driving out of town when I swerved dangerously to stop by what was obviously it's newest location!

They did not disappoint with no shortage of vinyl, much of which was mid 80s R&B - a strange subgenre never before seen in bulk of this level.  That did not interest me, but a couple oddballs did: an early Gord album, and a Bob James 9th (which falls beyond the current 8 album threshold I am enforcing).  The RTF record is certainly not something I need - I own their effective discography - but I left it up top for the next person who stops in to peruse in the hopes they might broaden their horizons to one of my all time favorite albums.

The Vintage Freak [Bedford TX]

I've been at this long enough that sometimes I shake my head at my own irrational actions and why I carry on, despite a mountain of reasons to turn in.  I felt so worn out the late afternoon I discovered The Vintage Freak in Bedford, Texas that by all accounts I should have called it a day.  I'm glad I didn't!

After my standard thrift store circuit in a new town, I did a Google Maps search for 'record store'.  Generally these interest me less but I am clearly a glutton for punishment.  This place was so close to my hotel, and was the only one in the list which was still open, I knew I couldn't pass it up.  I had a bit of trouble finding it, as it is part of a complex and it's storefront is not on the main drag.  But after exploring deeper back into that empty parking lot, I saw the sign.  And away I went!


I was immediately greeted by clerk Eric, who I mistook for the owner, given his zest for his occupation (can you blame him?).  He pointed out the new releases and asked if I needed anything in particular, then I had at it.

I came up soon on the Canadian issue of Kim Mitchell's biggest album - I grabbed the US version long ago and have toyed with ordering this version online (as I figured it downright impossible to find it in the states, much less in Texas!).  And for only $4 the deal didn't even make sense!

I continued to browse the store and could not help but to admire greatly the A&M monument they had on the wall - too many copies to count of the TJ Brass classic.

Eric later took me aside to show me a collection of stand up arcade games they are putting together - this reeks of an successful idea back home of which they could not possibly be aware - I only wish I'd be around to pump quarters into these things! He said the collection will eventually be moved to the open storefront on the street front which I had driven past.

The Vintage Freak also has a large amount of Pyrex - another obsession of mine. I grabbed a piece for my girlfriend's birthday (the next day, when I would fly back) to add to the bounty of gifts I had already accrued.  I paid my tab and was ready to leave when Eric pointed out a few new boxes near the front door which contained a plethora of Engelbert records! I swiftly grabbed a promo version of an Epic album I already had as well as a comp I had never seen before which I also had to add to discogs! Scores abound! The Vintage Freak is a world class record store that would succeed in any market and I consider it a privilege to have visited and picked up a few items.  I hope one day I can return.  Until then, I wish them only the best of luck in their future business.