Greetings from Prague

It would have been jauntier to write that in Czech I suppose, but I can’t make heads nor tails out of this language. I think during the past century when they were ruled by the Commies all the spare vowels were executed for anti-establishment sympathies, leaving a surfeit of consonants, which they insert in odd places. With French, or Spanish or Italian, I feel like I at least have a fighting chance to make an educated guess, but I’m at sea when it comes to Czech.

That being said, this isn’t a post about Prague. I’ve been here for a couple of days and when I return on Monday I’ll have a couple of posts (hopefully after attending Guy Fawkes night somewhere in London.) Right now I’m in Bohemian Bagels, catching up on the world. My Google Reader has gone bonkers with the news that Cactus Records is making a triumphant return to Houston after rising rents forced it from its original home on Shepherd.

I’m very happy to hear that Cactus is back. When my musical tastes first started to emerge and quickly diverged from “mass-market” music, Cactus was the place to go for everything. It may be my imagination, but 10 years ago Best Buy and Circuit city didn’t stock nearly as wide a variety of music as they do today, and even today they’re still not comprehensive and whatever their featuring is probably something I don’t care for. I suppose Sam Goody (and Tower Records in other parts of the country) was around, but while they had a slightly wider cross-section, they often didn’t put much emphasis on what I liked. Cactus had nearly everything, and realizing their niche, focused on stuff that wasn’t widely available elsewhere. I suppose they were carrying on the tradition from when the record store was a destination and one of the places where musical trends were born and nourished. That was really before my time, but I would guess that role has diminished with the reach of the internet and the explosion of so many different forms of media. I remember going to see musicians in-store for free at Cactus. There was always the likelihood you would hear something on the sound system that sounded good and broaden the scope of your interests. It was there that I first heard of an Austin radio station called KGSR and Waterloo Records and the annual KGSR Broadcasts album they put out each Christmas. I think I ordered one through Cactus as early as ’97.

Besides some nostalgic pleasure, the story of Cactus prompted me to think about how I look at record stores nowadays. The thought also extends to bookstores, because they’re both up against stiff competition with the likes of Amazon.com and 2-day shipping, along with every other internet site that puts nearly the entire corpus of music and literature at your fingertips. I’m nowhere near the first person to talk about this, but I thought about the impact that its had on my habits when shopping for books or music. Even though I live in Austin, where Waterloo Records is located I hardly ever visit, unless I’m out for no particular purpose and happen to be close. I’m sure that there are folks who consciously make the decision to shop at places like Cactus and Waterloo, out of a sense that they want to support local shops like them, but I don’t. Downloading a new CD from iTunes or eMusic (or even Amazon) is so fast; figuring out which album that song I heard on the TV show I’m watching is now one Google search away. Once you’ve done that, why get in the car and make a 45 minute round-trip? It’s only a couple of clicks away. Basically, what it comes down to is that the savings in money and time using the internet just don’t make it worth the added expense.  So, while I’m happy to hear Cactus is back, I guess I should enjoy it while it lasts. And maybe go to the record store when I get home.

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One Response

  1. Were you able to see the cathedrial with the human bones while in Prague?

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