Shopping for vinyl

2 weeks ago

I’ve been record shopping online and around Austin for about 15 years now, so I’ve acquired quite a few opinions on the matter. Here’s my take on finding the best deals, the best selection, and avoiding the dreaded “bent corners.”

Online

Amazon

I get about 75% of my new vinyl from Amazon. If I hear about a new album, even if it’s not coming out for months, I pre-order it on Amazon and it shows up at my door the day it’s released. They also offer the lowest price by adjusting the purchase price when the album ships. But maybe the biggest plus for Amazon (aside from Amazon Prime) is that they really have packaging figured out. I’ve never received a damaged album in all the years I’ve been buying from them.

Amazon Marketplace (or whatever they call it now)

I stay away from the Amazon Marketplace. For a brief period of time I used it and thought I was being clever by saving a few bucks. And then 3 out of the first 4 albums I purchased showed up damaged and had to be returned. Overall, I usually won’t buy individual albums from anyone but Amazon.

Insound

Insound was one of the very first to the online vinyl game. I used to do all of my new vinyl shopping with Insound before Amazon arrived on the scene. They do have a nice “most popular” chart for vinyl releases.

Discogs

Musicstack

Gemm

I’ll lump these 3 together because they’re all fairly similar. I get 90% of my used vinyl from these services. They’re all essentially marketplaces, but they’re very well vetted and I only buy from reputable shops. Most of the larger sellers have their catalogs on all three services.

I’m a picky collector … I usually know exactly what I want when I’m shopping. On these sites, you can search for specific albums and then see which stores have them for sale. The only downside is you may run into multiple shipments, but I usually just browse one sellers catalog to save on shipping. On a packaging note - most reputable sellers know how to ship used vinyl correctly in order to avoid the dreaded “bent corners” (shipping the vinyl outside of the sleeve). 

I probably use Discogs the most. It’s the easiest to use. Musicstack isn’t far behind, it’s just a little less user-friendly. Gemm is the hardest to use, and as a result I use it the least.

eBay

Nowadays, I only use eBay for record lots. About two years ago, I realized I didn’t have any Elvis records. I found a 40 album lot (with some patience) that I scored for about $50 bucks. Individually, it probably would have cost me closer to $200.

I never buy individual albums on eBay. It’s too much of a crapshoot with shipping and packaging. 

Around Austin

Waterloo Records

I love that their vinyl section is slowly overtaking the CDs. I used to get all of my new vinyl from Waterloo and I still try to buy there as much as I can. It’s also one of the only places to find vinyl from local artists (I recently picked up a sweet limited edition of Okkervil River’s latest). Pro tip - vinyl is 10% off on Tuesdays.

End of an Ear

I love End of an Ear and I’d shop there all the time if it was closer to me. With a 2 year old, it’s just hard to go record shopping in person. The owner is great as well - very helpful and unpretentious. Support your local record shop! 

Half Price Books

I don’t waste time at Half Price Books anymore. I go to a local record shop instead. About 5 or 6 years ago you could find a deal, but they price anything decent accordingly now. Actually, go here if you want to get a .50 copy of the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack. They’re not picky about what they take in, so most of the selection isn’t great.

Thrift Shops

Same as above. A total crapshoot on quality.

Antone’s Records

I used to shop at Antone’s when I lived closer to campus. A true gem of Austin with tons of history. Great little shop.

Breakaway Records

Breakaway is my neighborhood record shop in the Highland Plaza. There’s a great coffee shop next door as well. It’s a great way to spend your Saturday.

Hole In The Wall

6 months ago

The Hole In The Wall is a fixture on The Drag at UT. It’s a relic of another time. A time that included places like the Dobie Theater, Showdown Saloon, and Sound Exchange.  All we’re left with now are places like Tyler’s, Urban Outfitters and the Co-Op. But The Hole is still hanging around. They’ve been with us since 1974 and were actually on the chopping block when they temporarily closed in 2002. They were saved early that next year by the owners of Austin’s Pizza and since then, they’ve expanded their stage and added some delicious food from East Side King. But last I heard, they still don’t have a telephone and they still celebrate Doug Sahm’s birthday.

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I used to work across the street from The Hole in an old campus building that was demolished many years ago. I’d go in and sit at the bar for lunch 3 or 4 times a week. Partly for the $3.99 cheeseburger and fries, but mostly to chit-chat with the bartender Brooks Brannon. Brooks was a bit of a Willie look-alike with his red bandana and wooly mustache and had been slinging drinks and performing on stage for who knows how long. It’s been a while since I’ve stopped into The Hole for lunch, so I have no idea if he’s still around. But I can’t imagine the place without him. 

Matt’s El Rancho

7 months ago

Matt’s has been serving some of Austin’s best Mexican food since 1952. It’s rare to find a local restaurant still going strong after 60+ years… especially one that has been run by the same family. Matt Martinez was a golden glove boxer that got his start selling his wife Janie’s tamales from a pushcart in East Austin. They kept expanding the business until they settled into their current location on South Lamar in 1986.

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I actually worked at Matt’s for about 2 months in college. Why only 2 months? I quickly learned that driving from my campus dormitory to South Austin during rush hour wasn’t the best plan (or being at the restaurant until 1 am on weekends). However, the thing I remember most about my time there was Matt’s insanely loyal customers. Rumor has it that the restaurant was President Johnson’s favorite place to eat and he would send Air Force 1 to Austin to fetch their famous Chili Relleno. 

2013 Reading Log: Kids Edition

8 months ago

This might as well be the real reading log. These are the books that I’ve read to my 18-month-old daughter at least 30 times apiece in the last year. 

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Guess How Much I Love You by Sam McBratney. Illustrated by Anita Jeram.

The Napping House by Audrey Wood. Illustrated by Don Wood.

Go, Dog Go by P.D. Eastman.

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The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle.

Bear In a Square by Stella Blackstone. Illustrated by Debbie Harter.

Are You My Mother? by P.D. Eastman.

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I Love You As Big As the World by David Van Burnen. Illustrated by Tim Warnes.

The Noisy Book by Soledad Bravi.

A Fly Went By by Mike McClintock. Illustrated by Fritz Siebel.

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Tickle Time! by Sandra Boynton.

Way Out in the Desert by T.J. Marsh and Jennifer Ward. Illustrated by Kenneth Spengler. 

Quiet Loud by Leslie Patricelli.

2013 Reading Log

8 months ago

I’m pretty excited to bring the ‘ol reading log back for another tour this year (2012 log here). This time around, I kept regular notes on what I was reading in a Field Notes notebook (Texas edition of course). Speaking of, I’ve always loved the Field Notes motto - “I’m not writing it down to remember it later, I’m writing it down to remember it now.”

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Born to Run: The Bruce Springsteen Story by Dave Marsh
This book was written about Bruce in 1979. I got chills reading it. It’s a time capsule… I felt like I was taken back in time to the dark alleys of New Jersey to share in the excitement of watching an artist become a legend.

Autobiography of Mark Twain, Volume I: The Complete and Authoritative Edition by Mark Twain
This was a hard read for me. I wanted to learn more about Clemens (and maybe this wasn’t the right book for that), but I mostly found it to be a bitter old man venting about politics, rivals, work, etc. The section co-written with his daughter Susy was absolutely touching, though.

Born Standing Up: A Comic’s Life by Steve Martin
Steve Martin is a national treasure (and native Texan to boot). I never knew what a huge draw he was as a stand-up comic (performing to over 50,000 at his peak). He has a very conversational writing style that’s easy to follow. Reminds me of Johnny Carson a bit.

iWoz: Computer Geek to Cult Icon: How I Invented the Personal Computer, Co-Founded Apple, And Had Fun Doing It by Steve Wozniak
“Hey… remember that time I made the Apple II. That was awesome!” Steve Wozniak is many things. A writer he is not. It was interesting to hear things from his point of view, but unlike the Jobs biography you only hear the good.

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David Crockett: The Lion of the West by Michael Wallis
Everyone knows about the Davy Crockett portrayed in popular culture, but this book explores David Crockett- the larger-than-life frontiersmen from Tennessee. Don’t be fooled - the real Crockett is equally as fascinating as the mythical one.

The Eagle and the Raven by James Michener
Originally meant to be the 4th chapter in his epic novel Texas, The Eagle and the Raven is a short account of the lives of Santa Anna and Sam Houston. An easy read - and I must say, it made me want to learn more about Santa Anna.

The Gates of the Alamo by Stephen Harrigan
Out of all the books I’ve read on the Texas Revolution, this is the one I’d recommend. It’s a historical account of the Alamo as seen through the eyes of 3 fictional characters.

3 Roads to the Alamo: The Lives and Fortunes of David Crockett, James Bowie, and William Barret Travis by William C. Davis
The extensive attention to detail was too much for me on this one. If I had to do it all over again, I’d just read the last 200 pages that make up the actual Battle of the Alamo. Couldn’t put it down when I got to that part.

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Hereos of a Texas Childhood by Kinky Friendman
Should be required reading for all Texans. Kinky talks about who he thinks are the 23 most important people in Texas history.

The Towns We Left Behind by Bob Bowman
Bob Bowman was a local historian in my hometown of Lufkin (who sadly passed away this year). He does a wonderful job of documenting the many ghost towns left behind in the wake of the East Texas lumber industry in the early 1900s.

The Outlaw Trail: A Journey Through Time by Robert Redford
After filming Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, Robert Redford took a group to retrace the steps of the Outlaw Trail which runs from Wyoming to Utah. Nothing groundbreaking here, but there’s a lot of amazing ‘70s photography.

University of Texas Football Vault: The Story of the Texas Longhorns by Steve Richardson
A great gift - it’s basically a scrapbook style coffee table book on the history of Longhorn football. Lots of neat pull-outs, pop-ups, etc.

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The Last Coyote by Michael Connelly
I couldn’t put down Connelly’s books this year. They are all part of a series that centers around LAPD detective Harry Bosch. Connelly does a really good job of keeping the pages turned.

Trunk Music by Michael Connelly
Another Harry Bosch book. And today’s episode takes us to… Vegas! A little more formulaic than his other books, but still a fun read. I got into Connelly after tearing through most of Dennis LeHane’s novels.

A Darkness More than Night by Michael Connelly
Connelly introduces a new character, a retired FBI agent named Terry McCaleb, in this book. A nice twist on the series. Probably my favorite of Connelly’s that I read this year. There’s another series with McCaleb that I plan on reading next.

City of Bones by Michael Connelly
Yes, another Harry Bosch book. I believe this is the 8th book in the series. It’s fun to start picking up the patterns in Connelly’s writing style. Read this one in a weekend.

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The Blessing Way by Tony Hillerman
I discovered Hillerman on a family vacation in Utah. His novels center around Joe Leaphorn, a Navajo Tribal Police detective. A different twist on the detective novel that I’m slowly starting to get hooked on.

Dance Hall of the Dead by Tony Hillerman
The follow-up to The Blessing Way. I found the second book in the series much easier to follow (almost too easy, in fact). Enjoyed it enough to pick up the third book this year.

Mediterranean Caper by Clive Cussler
I’d never read a Clive Cussler novel, so I figured I’d give it a try. The main character, Dirk Pitt, is kind of a direct-to-video James Bond. And he’s not terribly likable. Actually, he’s kind of a dick.

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The Rogue’s Game by Milton T. Burton
I discovered this book from Texas Monthly’s Summer Reading List. It’s set in the oil boom of the 1940s and you never know the main character’s identity. I’d say it’s a cross between Raymond Chandler’s Double Indemnity and The Sting.

First Blood by David Morrell
Yes, this is the book that Rambo is based on. Not quite what I expected and it was a little dry at times, but it was fun. Books like this remind me that I should seek out more mindless entertainment when I read.

Grove Drugs

10 months ago

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The old Grove Drugstore got it’s start as the Morley Brothers Drugstore back in 1871. Vernon Grove bought the business in 1933 and his tall, brightly lit neon sign was a 6th street landmark for decades (look at all the sexy neon in this old photo). 

However, you might not recognize the sign right away. The city bought the building in the 00s and turned it into the Austin Visitor Center. They did their best to repurpose the original sign, and it’s still there. 

Maria’s Taco Xpress

11 months ago

Inking done. Next steps - scan into illustrator and vectorize. 

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Capitol Saddlery

1 year ago

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The old Capitol Saddlery building is one of the more interesting ones in Austin. In 1878, it became the town’s first permanent firehouse. Around 1932 a man by the name of T.C. “Buck” Steiner acquired the building and made boots there until he was 101 years old. His grandson Bobby took over the business and moved it up to Highway 183 in 2007. Like so many others, the original hand-painted sign is hanging on for dear life.

So Austin developers haven’t turned the old building into a condo development yet. But it has been turned into a ridiculously gaudy Venetian-style residence that was recently listed for sale at a cool $4.4 million