I had a week off, and had initially planned a trip to Los Angeles for a few days, but decided to stick closer to town.
The deferral of a LA trip was allegedly to save money, but I ended up on a marathon shopping spree that took me every Zia Records location and probably cost me as much as the LA trip would have. But LA will still be there in a few months. Heck the earthquakes appear to have migrated to the East coast!
For any record and CD collectors left out there, Arizona has quite a few excellent stores.
I know what I am talking about-my job has enabled me to scrounge used CD stores all over the US, in Canada, in several European cities and even in Seoul, Korea.
How didja think I ended up with so many? Sorry UPS guy, you're only delivering a piece of this mess!
Zia Records is an eight location independent chain with four stores in the Phoenix metropolitan area, two in Tucson, and two in Las Vegas. I have been a shopper there for more than twenty years, and they have been in business for thirty. They rank among the best I have seen. It's been almost a decade since I've been to the East Village stores (9/8/2001 was my last visit), but the Zia chain was a close second to the village for selection and equal in value.
There are a lot of other stand out independent stores in Arizona (Revolver Records, Twist And Shout, to name but two), and an avid (read:lunatic) collector could round out his southwestern trip by visiting Bookman’s (four locations in AZ) and Hastings (three AZ locations).
You really could spend a week CD shopping. That canyon is just a hole in the ground, anyway!
To visit all of those stores would have involved trips to Prescott, Flagstaff and Bullhead City, and I’d recently been to all three, so I decided to be the first addict to hit every Zia location in the chain in a week.
Eight stores….three cities…two states…and more than fifteen hours behind the wheel.
I got into the car a little after eleven and drove south towards Mexico.
South towards Tucson as well.
Stopping once for water when I hit the northern outskirts of Tucson, I made my way to my first location…
Since I only get to the Tucson stores once a year, I always manage to find something. As the CD list prices have dropped, so have used prices, although as my collection has grown, what I’m looking for gets more and more elusive.
I’d read an article about Barclay James Harvest in a recent progressive magazine, and was looking for a used title to check them out. Not in the cards, although I did find a Hot Tuna title I’d been looking for and a couple of B.B. King cd’s I did not have. Not to mention a James Brown disc I didn’t realize I was searching for, and for good measure, I bought the in-store playing copy of a CD by Michael Grimm (it kind of grew on me).
For the record, I was going to stop at Twist And Shout, an indie store I'd read about, but they're closed Mondays. I still had not come up with the thought of hitting all the Zia stores-I was just killing time so far.
On a normal Tucson trip, I'm also hitting two Bookman's stores and Oracle is the last store of the day. And as tired as I am of going through CD bins, I always find something.
But since I got a late start, Oracle was store number two, and the last one.
Finding something today was no problem, I had a bunch of lower priced CD's in my hands that I had to put back. After all, I had decided against the LA trip to save money, so I still had to maintain some feeble semblance of a budget.
Highlights here were three Radiators discs for $2.99 each, and a Jack Bruce solo disc.
Back to the highway and back to Phoenix.
Tuesday, I had some errands to run, and wanted to get my car waxed (detailed sounds so pretentious, and essentially they're waxing it), so no CD shopping. While waiting for the car, I came up with the bright idea to drive to Vegas.
It's more than a four hour drive, and it's a hot one in the summer. With the mercury topping 113 degrees, it was a hot drive. It was on the drive up that I came up with the idea of hitting all the stores-after today I'd be half way there, and I thought that the odds were good that no one had ever done it before.
Vegas traffic always seems to be bumper-to-bumper. I wish I'd have been able to visit in the seventies. That show with Robert Urich always made Vegas look like a town with casinos, nowhere near as busy as it is in the new millennium.
Fortunately, the Zia locations are off the strip, so at least the traffic moves.
This is only the third time I've been to the Vegas locations, but like Tucson, I seem to manage to find something each time. Since it was later in the day and I was hot and hungry, I was a little less dedicated than in Tucson (I think I flipped through every CD in stores there), but wouldja believe I still found a few items of interest, including three John Mayall titles, a Steve Howe disc of Bob Dylan covers (guest singers) and the tenth anniversary edition of the Pete Yorn debut (a second dfisc collects b-sides and rarities).
I was a little disappointed when I got home-the cashier made it a point to look at every disc as if examining it for condition, but did not tell me that two of the John Mayall discs were pretty scratched up. Fortunately, they play without skipping (although I am sure one of the AZ stores would have buffed them up for me.
By this point I was pretty hungry, so the Sahara store got a quicker pass through than I normally would have made.
I did find two Barclay James Harvest titles (remember I said I was looking for them?) and a couple more blues titles. For some reason, blues discs can be elusive used, but this was a good week for them.
The cashier at the Sahara store was excellent-she identified two of my discs that were scratched and buffed them. She even let me bum some scotch tape to put my temporary tag back in place for the drive back to AZ.
I have never explored Las Vegas' other indie stores, although I have read about a few. There was one I tried to visit last year, but it was closed Saturdays. Since it was after five, and I was hungry and wanted to shower before I ate, and since the hotel was close, I gassed up the car and beelined for the hotel.
I was staying a few blocks away from Zia at the Palace Station casino. $20 for a room, $15 for an "amenities" fee, which still gets you a cheap room.
It all evens out, though. I got heartburn at the $15 buffet and did not sleep well.
The up side to that is that I was on the road by 6:30 and got to drive with the top down for a few hours. Vegas traffice was a lot less hectic at dawn...I guess every city has to sleep sometime.
Once the sun was up, it was hot, and the top went back up.
The effect of the sun through the windshield was negating the five hour energy drink and the caffiene in the two diet cokes I had consumed to keep me alert.
After making a pit stop (read: bathroom break), I drank another five hour energy. I managed to make it back to Phoenix around eleven am, and bummed around the house the rest of the day.
Friday arrived with a lot of cloud cover (cooler temperatures) and more errands to run, but I still managed to hit two of the Phoenix-area stores.
Close to the ASU campus, and usually a treasure trove.
Today not so much, but since I’d already scoured four other Zia locations this week, I was being less thorough and more choosy.
I found John Hammond and Nazareth titles that had been on my search list.
The cashier, a very pretty young lady, made me feel really old.
I spent more than I’d planned to here. Someone must have sold their blues collection because I found a few Jimmy Thackery titles that had been eluding me, and also found a Joe Henry disc and another old Nazareth title.
The Syd Barrett and Peter Banks finds were just plain excess.
I got a raised eyebrow over the Hanson Christmas CD, but it was two bucks and I collect Christmas CD's.
I toyed with stopping at the Thunderbird store, but since that is the store I shop at every week, I thought it fitting that I finish there.
Two more stores left...and two days left in the week.
The timing of this adventure was not the best. Zia has a Labor Day weekend sale (buy four used, get one free) that I was unable to take advantage of in the six stores I'd already visited.
However, since it would have been far less enjoyable to do all this in a three day weekend, I'd live with having to pass on a few free CD's. Maybe I'd reap the benefit of the sale today.
The Chandler store is a long drive, so I usually get there every couple of months. I usually leave with a stack of stuff, but had just been there a month ago, so did not know what to expect.
As luck would have it, I did find five titles, and so was able to get one free.
The most interesting title was Roy Rogers' Blues On The Range. By now, you have figured out I often buy things without having heard them first but have pretty good luck at it. I also found Paul Shaffer's debut CD and The Outlaws' live album, Bring It Back Alive.
Good hunting-I'd been looking for both of these.
It was fitting that my "marathon" end here. This store is almost home for me. I see these people more than I see my family.
My family all live in Philadelphia, so it's not really as wierd as it sounds.
This is the store I hit every week. I remember once seeing our old CFO in here on A Tuesday night. She asked me what I was doing here, and one of the employees said, "he lives here."
I said, "it's true-they have a cot for me in the back."
Stephen T. McCarthy and his brother Nappy find it odd that they have NOT run into me in this store. I ran into my friend Mike here once, and his reaction? "Figures."
Once again I ended up spending more than I planned (sorry, Visa card) because I found a plethora of blues titles.
This was a really good week for my blues collection, bad week for my retirement fund. I also found a solo disc by John Paul Jones (if it's not the guy from Led Zep I'll feel pretty silly).
As you can tell from the artists I've mentioned, Zia really has a deep selection. I barely looked at their country section, and not at all at their metal and rap/R&B sections.
Now I could have done this in a shorter time frame. If I really pushed it, I could have been done in three days-Zia stores are open from 10 am to midnight, and had I planned this out, I'd have hit two of the Phoenix stores that first day, leaving the last two for the day I drove home from Vegas. But I was on vacation, and had nothing but time on my hands.
If anyone does it in less time, be sure to let me know. It would be nice to know I'm not the only one who needs therapy. I'd recommend the months of November through March for the best weather conditions.
To anyone who is not a collector, this is insanity. To many collectors, it may be odd as well. But you gotta be doing something, and with the exception of breaking my solemn vow to cut back on CD purchases, this is a pretty harmless pasttime.
To any CD collectors out there who happen upon this, please post a comment and tell me about the stores in your area. The more of us who talk about the hobby, the better chance we can keep it alive.
Listen, most retails stores are gone, and the ones that are left have less floor space devoted to CD's than I do to my cat's litter box. Goldmine is down to a monthly magazine. The only way to get the younger generations back into this hobby is to hear about it from us old-timers!
Record collectors could have had just as much fun with this as I did-Zia stocks a lot of vinyl, although you do not want to leave vinyl in your car in Arizona and Nevada in late August.
So there you have it. A journey no less epic than the one Frodo embarked on...as historically significant as the expedition made by Lewis and Clark.
Now I gotta go re-alphabetize my collection...