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Personal Narrative: The One Dollar Bin

It’s a bit over 8 PM and the house is completely still, no one is home except for me. All that is heard is the rapid typing of the keyboard, and Jim Morrison’s voice resonating from my record player. Most people fear being left alone, but not me. I welcome it as a friend, as truthfully I am never alone. Yes, I have my friends and family who I love dearly, and never fail to be there for me, but at the hardest time of my life, I found a new passion. Record collecting. Now, I should start by saying that I am a nineteen-year-old college student, who frankly doesn’t know what she wants to do with her life, and majors in engineering.

But also, I should say I bought my first records when I was sixteen. Many people of the older generation think that the so called “hipsters” are the only type of people who collect records. Truth is, it’s not true. And while yes I do love my beanies and flannels, I am not at all a hipster. In fact, I began collecting for a whole different reason. Record collecting has become my anti-anxiety medication. But I didn’t start seriously collecting until mid-2015 when I already knew that one day I’ll be lucky if I have a place to sleep. I’ll start my essay by stating that, music has always been a major part of my life.

Well, art in general. I remember my parents taking my sister and me to museums, plays/musicals, and chamber concerts. When I was three years old my mom started teaching me how to play Cello, and when I was nine, I began playing Oboe. For the majority of my school career, I was participating in the school’s theater program, singing in the choir, and taking part in the music ensembles. And I basically lived in the band room throughout High school. So early on in life, I was taught to appreciate music and art. I think this is one of the many aspects that drew me into collecting records.

The madness began in April of 2014. It was my Junior year of High School, and I was finally on spring break. Everyone knows that Junior year is one of the most stressful times of High School, SAT/ACT, college visits and constant anxiety to get above and A on everything. That is what it was like for me, but on top of that as dysfunctional as my family already was, it only got worse. My grades also dropped that year, and I began to feel extremely lonely, but the type of loneliness where you feel as if there’s no one there to help you.

Another contributing factor to that loneliness was the summer before my Junior year, I began working in NYC for the summer, and after a summer of meeting new friends, I had to go back to New Jersey, and I absolutely hated it. In those eight weeks, I became closer to my friends in NYC than the friends I had back at home. The fact that I couldn’t see them didn’t help the situation. With all of these things going on, my constant fight to overcome my anxious nature only increased. My panic attacks worsened, and I felt trapped. I looked for every outlet I could to help me stay at ease with myself.

I already played in the school band which gave me some level of serenity, but not completely. It wasn’t until Spring break that I finally found that outlet. I visit the city during my breaks to visit friends and do my seasonal shopping spree at my favorite thrift shops. One day during spring break in 2014 I was walking in East Village looking for a small shop to snoop around in. I came across a record store, I don’t remember the name but all I remember is that in the front there were about four tables outside, with milk crates full of records.

Under the bottom of the tables were a few worn-out cardboard boxes which seemed to take their final breaths. The minuscule strings that kept the box together would fall apart under the weight of all the records. Right above the boxes was a cardboard sign reading ‘$1. ’ With huge black arrows pointing at the boxes. Ahhh, the famed Dollar bin. I decided to sift through the box and see what I could find just to hang the record on my wall under all my music posters. At that moment, I wasn’t planning to become a collector. Just about after thirty minutes I found two of my childhood albums.

Boston’s self-titled album Boston and Billy Joel’s The Stranger. I returned back to New Jersey and hung the records on the wall. Just out of complete curiosity I began looking at record players, and at that moment I thought, ‘hmm wouldn’t it be cool to start collecting? ’ So I begged my dad for a record player, and in December of 2014 I get my Crosley. I remember the day my dad agreed to get me a record player and I already began buying records. While I don’t recall every album I bought, I do want to say I got at least five records, on top of The Stranger, I also got Glass Houses.

I even remember my mom asking me “are you sure dad is buying you a record player? ” I remember nodding enthusiastically as I spent my work money on a few records. So when December came, I FINALLY got my record player, and much like a young child, I ran upstairs, quickly plugged in the record player and begun playing Billy Joel’s It’s Still Rock and Roll to me. This excitement to this day has never left. Sadly no one has told me that record collecting is an addicting hobby, and two years since I began collecting, I managed to collect a total of two hundred records.

While the collection keeps expanding, with every record I risk eviction, as well, my mom isn’t too pleased when a record is stashed in my closet. However, I am sure she understands just how much happiness it brings to me. While I may have a huge number of records, each record has a story behind it. I am able to tell you the reason I bought that record, where I bought it, and the significance it has on my life. While record collecting gave me a hobby, it also gave me hope. One who doesn’t collect records will never understand the exhilaration one has when they walk into a record store.

No matter which record store I walk into, I feel at home. Around me, people who love these plastic disks. It’s a family, one that has no boundaries. No matter the age, genre of interest or background if two collectors begin to talk, it’s as if they’re family members who haven’t spoken in years. Record collecting has given me so much more than no room in my closet, and no money in my pocket until trading a few records. But,it was the community of fellow collectors gave me a feeling of family and belonging. The moment I step into a record store, the anxiety I feel out in public isn’t as severe.

The friendships I have built over one record is amazing. One of the best friendships I created was mid fall of 2013. A friend I met online had the same taste in music as I did, and later on, the same obsession. I remember teasing him when I got Billy Joel and Meatloaf records which he lacked(we both loved both artists), we began sharing the albums we bought, sometimes envying the albums we had. Then this year, during the semester, my new found friends from my music class just walked out thirty minutes before class was over to head down to the local record store.

During that visit, we got to know each other even better. Laughing over our favorite bands, and getting excited when we found the record we were looking for. Then there was April 16, 2016, Record Store day. A day when thousands of vinyl enthusiasts flock to their local record stores to get their hands on a Record Store Day exclusive. I woke up at 6AM, got a cup of instant coffee, and arrived at the shop by 6:45 just to be standing near a dumpster, wrapped in a blanket behind sixty or so other collectors.

During that two hour wait,I struck up a conversation with two men as we went back and forth discussing music. How it changed since the seventies, and sharing opinions about how we felt about the inductees in this year’s Rock N roll hall of fame. If one would take me back to 2014 when I bought my first record, I’d laugh if you’d tell me that I’ll be standing in a long line two hours before the opening hours of a record store to get my hands on a limited edition record. But there I was, and I got that Monkees mono which is now one of my prized singles.

While I shelled out almost a hundred dollars that day, there’s no better feeling, than finding the album you were looking for. The unexplainable excitement one has as they try to get home as fast (and as safely) as they can to place the record on the record player. Or being able to spin your favorite album over and over, getting a deeper appreciation for music. Besides creating new friendships, there’s also the bonds you create with independent music store owners. There’s one record store in NYC that’s called The Thing.

It’s more of a thrift shop, which is probably what my future home will look like. It’s the size of two basements (The top and garage floor). And from floor to the ceiling there are milk crates, after shelf of records. Now, if you’re claustrophobic, it’s probably not the best place for you to visit. But it’s one of those places where you have to take the day of just to look around and find what you need. The place is completely disorganized (My future record room will be meticulously looked after so everything is in place alphabetically ordered, I go severe OCD when it comes to organizing my albums).

It’s one of my favorite stores for underground and ‘graveyard’ albums. Over the many years I have been coming there, I created a bond with the owner. I always make a stop there when I visit the city, and he remembers who I am even after months of not showing up. For me, it means so much. I grew up as I guess you could say a loner of sorts. I had some friends but not as many as my other peers had when I was in Elementary and Middle School. And for the most part I felt as if I was third wheeling, and many times even my friends wouldn’t even notice me.

But the fact that this one store owner remembered who I was meant so much to me, and reminded me again why I love the record collecting community. But that moment also taught me that there are people who notice, and are willing to take their time to find out how you are, and make you feel wanted. It is much more that collecting records have given to me. Growing up my home wasn’t exactly the best. I got new clothes, was fed and all that, but when I was nine my parents divorced and while I may have been young, not having both parents living together really broke my heart.

When I joined the community, it gave me that feeling of family that I never was able to feel, as going from one parent’s home to the next every other week isn’t the best way to say that your family is close nevertheless say that you have a family. As I grew older, and more responsibilities piled on my plate, I realized that there’s no better feeling than coming home after a stressful day, and putting that favorite album on the record player, and lay on your bed and just listen to the deep bass of analog sound.

While I do get playfully teased by a few friends who label me a hipster because of my obsession, I just remind them that there’s so much more to a vinyl than the nostalgia some say it brings. Having the physical copy of your favorite album makes that album much more personal. You have to take the record out of its sleeve, and if it’s a used record you can smell the worn dusty smell, then take a record brush, and dust the record off. Then you have to place the needle ever so gently on the record, at first to hear some crackling, and even if it’s a new pressing here some scuffled noise.

And then, a deep sound of music is emitted from the speakers. After the first side of the record is over, you have to flip the record to continue the album. And unlike a digital format, once you lift the needle off the groove, you won’t be able to find the place you stopped. And there will be many tries until you find the place you left off. It’s hard to imagine that two used albums from the one dollar bin would invite me into a community of music lovers.

A community that was able to give me much more than just the feeling of belonging, but also the feeling of family. However, one of the most important things collecting has ever taught me. Sometimes, you need to lift the needle off the record as life stops for a moment because of stress, family, or life in general, and you may not find exactly where you stopped, but if you really want to, you’ll find a way to get close to the spot where you left off, or just start the song from the beginning, or just move to the next.

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