Gravity Payments Local Business

Shop for the Stories

I’m looking for a Christmas present for my 17-year-old son and I think I’ve hit upon an inspired idea.

Inspired or maybe insipid. You never know with teens.

Here’s what I’m thinking. … Have you seen the Cameron Crowe film “Almost Famous”? It’s about a 15-year-old kid name William Miller who goes on assignment for Rolling Stone in the 70s to profile a rock band on the rise. (Amazingly, the movie is based on Crowe’s own life.)

William’s musical epiphany comes when his sister gives him a collection of classic LPs. “Pet Sounds,” by the Beach Boys. “Bookends,” by Simon and Garfunkel. “Led Zeppelin II.” “Axis: Bold as Love,” by Jimi Hendrix. “Blue,” by Joni Mitchell. “Blonde on Blonde,” by Bob Dylan. “Tommy,” by The Who. “Big Hits (High Tide and Green Grass),” by the Rolling Stones.

(I’m drooling just writing those names.)

Anyway, my son and I both really liked the movie.

Then it hits me.

“Did you say Zeppelin?”

I’ll get those albums for my son. Or as many as I can afford.

Since I need vinyl, there’s only one place to go: Bop Street Records. According to the Wall Street Journal, my local record shop is “one of the five best music stores in America.”

The owner, Dave Voorhees, greets me when I walk in. When I tell him my plan, he says I should go to his classic rock section in the back. It’s got more than 50 artists, and, in an astonishing feat of memorization, he proceeds to list them all without taking a breath, all the way from The Allman Brothers to Frank Zappa.

“Uh, did you say Zeppelin?” I ask dumbly.

He nods.

I show him my list.

“I don’t have ‘Pet Sounds,’ he says. “Or a great copy of ‘Blue.’ But I have a lot of the others. Let’s look.”

The store has more than 500,000 albums. The man has some kind of memory.

He spends the next 30 minutes picking out the best copies of the Dylan, Hendrix, Stones, and Zeppelin albums. We look through three not-quite-pristine copies of “Blue” and he knocks the price down. He throws in “After the Gold Rush” for free.

Along the way, he tells me that he performed small consulting roles for the TV show “Twin Peaks” and the John Cusack movie “High Fidelity.”

Out into a downpour, completely elated

He’s a native Seattleite who went to college in upstate New York. When he got to college he’d never heard of the Velvet Underground. He got his start in business on a trip to Texas where he came across a trove of 3,000 blues albums. He’s been selling records for 40 years.

He spritzes each of my purchases with a special cleaner and hand-writes me a receipt.

His business partner rings me up and wraps the albums against the weather. I walk out of the store into a downpour, completely elated.

The poet Muriel Rukeyser wrote that the universe is made of stories, not of atoms.

Why do I shop with independent merchants?

For the stories.

They make my life so rich.

Here’s to a story-filled holiday season for you and yours.

(And here’s hoping my son likes his gift.)

— Jeff Williams, Copywriter