Monday, March 22, 2010

Thrift Store Stories

I’m back after taking a break from record collecting to do some nesting, that is, making some improvements around the house to make it more livable and wonderful. My house has become like my record collection in the mixture of high and low objects. By high, I’m referring to the Eames- and Nelson-designed furniture produced by Herman Miller or Vitra. By low, I’m referring to amateur, hand-made vases and vintage postcards and such. For the latter, I’ve been making the rounds at local thrift stores.

One of my recent finds was a portable cassette tape recorder/player from the 70s. The familiar squarish design—from bottom to top: a single speaker covered by a perforated metal plate, the tape transport with flip top, the row of mechanical control buttons that engage with a solid click, and a vinyl strap handle—caught my eye as it sat next to a pile of bread-loaf-shaped boom-boxes. I saw there was a tape in the machine and batteries in the compartment. So I pressed play to hear the tinny sound of Winona Judd. My reaction surprised me, considering I’m not particularly fond of Winona Judd or lo-fi audio equipment. I was transfixed by what I heard. I bought the tape player and listened to it in the car on the way home, not really minding the audible wow-and-flutter of this lowly piece of audio gear. It sounded so right. The nostalgic value of it certainly has something to do with its allure. But one thing I won’t be doing is listening to my favorite radio station with the tape player in hand, ready to press “record” when I hear the opening notes of a favorite song. At least in how we record songs, we’ve progressed quite a lot.

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