On a yearly basis I spend a week in Los Angeles. It’s all part of a master plan assisting my son Gram maintain his bicoastal family heritage. And to all intents and purposes it is a successful opportunity for me to connect with what was once a near daily ritual in my life: shopping in music (I actually STILL call them “record”) stores.

Amoeba Music on Sunset Strip is now my only music mecca. Sadly told, most of my music purchases these days are a result of “shopping” on Amazon. I’m not much of a downloader, although I frequent apps Spotify, TuneIn Radio and Soundhound and their abuser-friendly iTunes buy-in. Excepting some rather feeble and filthy gasps, record stores have “virtually” vanished. New York City still sustains a few rude and dirty brick and mortified shops but NOTHING compares to Amoeba.

I do occasionally frequent their equally terrific website, and my first experience with Amoeba was its first store in Berkeley in the early ’90s. Quite honestly if  I’m lucky enough to get on the cloud side of the pearly gates… I want my heaven to be me, my family, my friends, a full music system and Amoeba Records.

What’s so good about this store in a “retailing blueprint” way? Everything.

What might initially appear as cluttered chaos is actually brilliant customer-flow browsing of every source of music media including records, CDs, DVD, magazines, books, memorabilia, clothing, ETC! And I’ll be damned but every Amoeba sales associate I’ve ever encountered seems to know where every single sound is, and when they don’t they immediately get you to an expert who does. And when that person gets you to your treasured topic, they ask if you’d like some suggestions about related music, and if you want to continue privately browsing they fade away.

And that “browsing” is an inexhaustible pleasure. New and used merch is clearly marked. Near endless aisles of choice are easily navigated, and those sales mavens are constantly arranging the stock back to an incredible orderly system that belies the shop’s free ’n’ easy, funky face. Checkout is an engaging pleasure. They simply will not let you leave unsatisfied and, believe me, I’m a tough cookie when it comes to satiating my music quest.

So listen up optical. When it comes to things like online eyewear, that mega big-box store a few blocks away or any number of challenges confronting you in the future, those are NOT threats when it comes to me specifically. But DO pray Amoeba doesn’t decide to sell eyewear.   

James J. Spina