Guestroom Records: A Love Story, Sadly

I received some bad news from the doctor last week. Deep in my head and alone in my thoughts, I retreated to the one place in town where I can find the true solace that I longingly crave, my local record store.

In Oklahoma City, it’s usually Guestroom Records at 3701 N. Western. In dire need of heathenistic hymns of modern love and lusts for life, heartbreak hotels and sheer heart attacks, it always seems to be my home away from home. Spending an hour or so in there last week, the twee tunes spinning overhead might have normally bothered me, but that day it was certainly a nice bit of balm to comfort me as I perused their new arrivals, first the compact discs and then the records over by the counter.

Having a bit of a minor flashback, I’ve always wondered why these little discs of sound were so important to me; I imagine that, for me, my headphones were always an escape from the malfeasance of this world, a place where no matter what I’m feeling, the music is right there with me, feeling it with me in a way no actual acquaintance ever has. There’s no one to chide you for feeling like you do, and sometimes, that aural shoulder is all you really need.

And I really needed it that day.

The new arrivals had some pretty good picks, but nothing that fit into the dark and dreary mood I’ve made for myself. Walking over to their massive wall of bargain bin discs—I always find some sort of treasure here; last time, I found the Kinks’ Think Visual for a buck, an album I had been searching for after I loaned it to a friend and was returned scratched beyond belief—and I took a cursory look.

Cursory because the wall isn’t organized, and it’s really best for most people to abandon hope before searching through there, usually ending with crawling on your hands and knees in the most pathetic position to catch those discs on the very bottom. I didn’t feel like going that far this day—that’s more a Saturday afternoon ritual, I reckoned.

There’s other guys in here too I noticed, guys who look like me, dress like me, and probably feel like me. To be forty and spend your time mulling over records that few people would ever want to even listen to, is, I admit, a mostly melancholy existence that few will ever understand. It’s impossible to bring friends or lovers to the record store with you, because to them anything longer than fifteen minutes is just masturbation at thirty-three revolutions a minute.

Walking down the aisles of the new and used records—rock, punk and rap—ranging drastically in price, I’ll lovingly admit that Guestroom does have one of the best selections this side of Austin. And, even better, the staff here is some of the nicest people I’ve ever had the pleasure to deal with, not that I ever really have to deal with them, but still, it does matter.

Sorting through the soundtrack records, a few out of print ones that I downloaded years ago have come back in style; it forced me to remember and realize that I’ve never really gotten into the whole iPod thing—sure my ex-wife got me one about ten or so years ago, but it finally died earlier last year and, with that, I was done with the mp3 revolution.

Instead, I continued to move backwards in time and got myself a new record player, which, truth be told, is the best way to listen to music, with the horrid exception of, after thirty minutes of quixotic listening, having to go and flip album sides. At least it’s not like the eight-track—you’d be in the car air-drumming along to Black Oak Arkansas and it would break off in the middle of “Lord Have Mercy on my Soul” to switch tracks internally and that momentum would be lost. But, I guess even that dead format has its champions. Every dead format does.

As I was about to walk out, empty-handed—it’s has happened before—a black light of despair manifested from my sacred heart right down upon a new copy of the Cure’s Disintegration on vinyl; sure, I’ve had a copy of the CD for over 25 years and have desperately played until it was opening time down on Fascination Street, but I devoutly wanted to passionately be musically morose in my loneliness this Valentine’s Day on 180-gram vinyl—the weight of lovelorn souls, apparently.

Purchase dutifully made, I turned and gave Guestroom a look back, almost as if I’m never going to make it back again. I hope I do, and you know, when I die, I want to die as I lived, in a record store, clutching a partially used gift certificate in one hand and an unauthorized bootleg or two in the other.

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