Nostalgia: Vinyl Records Edition

A week or so ago I took my 12-year old son Julian to an unusual Bellingham restaurant.

Pel Meni sells Russian dumplings, called, well, pel meni, and besides a selection of soft drinks to go with the dumplings, that is all they sell. If you like a varied menu, this is not your kind of place. At Pel Meni, you can choose between meat-filled or potato-filled dumplings. That is it. They are served in a clamshell (compostable) to-go container, dusted with curry powder, drizzled with a spicy red sauce, topped with cilantro, and they come with a side of sour cream and a slice of rye bread. Yum.

But this post isn’t really about dumplings.

As you walk in the door, on the right, there’s a large metal rack with hundreds and hundreds of old, LP records on it, and there’s a turntable, and visitors are encouraged to play whatever they want. Very cool.

Julian had never seen a record player before in his life, and he was amazed! He knows that I have about 200 records on a shelf in our basement, but I haven’t owned a turntable in years, and so he’d never seen them in action. He’s seen cassettes, CDs, and Mp3 players in action, but not the old vinyl.

Together we browsed through the albums, and Julian chose the Talking Heads‘ first LP, which happens to sound great in analog, even with the pops and scratches. He was SO excited to take the record out of the sleeve, I had to coach him to keep his fingers on the edges, he placed the record on the spindle, ever so gently lifted the tone arm and slowly lowered the needle into the groove…

…and as the music burst forth from the speakers, Julian’s face lit up. He truly could not believe that this strange looking apparatus could produce sound. He now, very seriously, wants me to buy a record player so he can listen to my old vinyl.

Well, last summer I was at an arts and crafts festival and came across someone making these:

Get it? It’s a bowl, made from an old vinyl record, heated up and degradingly shaped into a serving dish for potato chips or popcorn. It seemed to me that the artist had pronounced vinyl dead once and for all, and it made me sad.

Then I saw an artist at Vendor’s Row on campus today selling paintings he’s made, using, instead of canvas, vinyl records as a novelty.

I love the dumplings at Pel Meni, but I admittedly go there to play the old records as much as I do to eat. Sometimes, late at night, when the place is buzzing with folks migrating there from the bars, a customer will camp out at the record player, playing DJ, and however unfettered CDs and Mp3s are from the sratches and pops and warping, listening to stuff like Steely Dan‘s Aja, or Pink Floyd‘s Dark Side of the Moon, or The Beatles Abbey Road on vinyl, warts and all, makes me very happy.

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