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Studio Buying Binge Log

Since this ongoing acquisition of music equipment shows little sign of slowing, I figured I would begin a record of my purchases, because I’m sure at some point, I’m going to want to look back at this period with a sense of awe and confusion.

For the longest time, I had somewhat the bare minimum of keyboards in my studio.  The Roland RD-600 and the Casio CZ-1.  The former because it was a workhorse and the latter because it was rare enough that I said I’d never get rid of it.  And as I’ve said before, I do regret every piece of gear that I’ve ever gotten rid of, and now, I have every bit of it back and much more.  So lets recap.

The impetus for this journey was a desire to re-record a lot of my old recordings in a higher quality.  And to do so, I would need the original instruments.  A lot of the newest music was done with software instruments, so that was a little tedious tracking down those bits of software.  Unfortunately, I can’t find the exact version of some of them, so the sounds are slightly different in the redos.

Going back a little further in time, one of the devices I had was the Yamaha SW-1000 – a computer sound card.  In studio form, this was the Yamaha MU-100.  I didn’t fully know that at the time and mistakenly thought I needed its earlier version, the MU-80.  So I bought an MU-80 in June, 2021 for $124 and began my work.  I then found out that device did not have the exact sounds I needed and that I really needed an MU-100.  10 days later, I purchased an MU-100 for $199.  There’s still a happy ending, because there were songs from even earlier from when I had the Yamaha SW-60 sound card in my computer, which was, in studio form… the MU-80.

Now, as I was reworking songs, there was a device that was needed and was a pain in the ass to find, the General Music Equinox.  I did finally purchase one in December, 2022 for a whopping $1200.  Its rarity sort of justified its cost and it will be a thorn in my side forever that I sold off my own 88-key version for so little.

And I think that’s when things really started to snowball.  Because now I was working on songs from an even earlier era – the classic 90’s version of my studio.  The only thing I had from that era was the MU-80, which replaced the SW-60 of its time.  Problem was, gear from that era isn’t all that cheap.  In January 2023, I located an Ensoniq ESQ-1 for $475.  This was the bedrock of all the songs from that era.  However, back then, I had all but one of the factory sound cartridges, and those cartridges remain impossible to find today.  Research led me to a mega-cartridge containing all the ESQ-1 sound libraries.  I bought one from a seller in Italy for around $130 in February.

Now it was time for another major purchase.  I had an Oberheim Matrix 6R back in the day.  I think I paid $650 at the time for a used one.  But it’s one of the worshipped devices that has appreciated over time.  They run $1200 or more, now.  I found a Matrix 6R that “needed work” and bought it for $800 in February, 2023.  After fixing it, playing with it, and discovering it didn’t have any of the same sounds I used to have, I purchased its cousin, the Matrix 1000, on a whim for $800 – again “needing work” – hoping it would have all the sounds I’d need.  This purchase is still waiting for parts for repair.  In the meantime, I’ve been using Sysex dumps on the Matrix 6 and making progress.

Drums in that era were handled by the cheapest drum machine available – the Yamaha RX21.  I found one for $100 in March, 2023.  The buyer took a week to ship it, then when I got it, it didn’t have a power supply and was packed terribly.  The good news is, it did work well.  The bad news is, it’s not the right model I needed.  This machine does not have all the sounds I need.  Additional research shows me I needed the RX17, not the RX21.  Lower model number, but more sounds?  Sounds about right for the era.  So the RX21 is cleaned up and once I get a power supply (not going to fuck the customer like I got) it’ll be ready for resale. Hopefully I can break even on it.  In the meantime, an RX17 is soon to be coming.

As I worked through the songs, it was comforting to see that the MIDI file could give me hints as to what device and patch was used for the track.  I could count on MIDI channel 2 being the Roland Alpha Juno 1 and channel 3 being the Matrix 6, channel 16 being the drum machine, and 6-10 being the ESQ-1.  But at some point, tracks with channel 4 started showing up.  What was that device?  The only other module I recall owning from that era what an Emu Proteus 1, but I don’t actually remember doing any recordings with it.  However, my memory must be faded, because there’s some patches that I know don’t exist on either of the three other devices.  So, a Proteus 1 is now being shipped.  It cost $135 and it’s from a store I purchased something from back in the 90’s.  Can’t remember what it was; it might have even been the ESQ-1.

So the studio has been rebuilt, but that is in no way the end of the purchases, because I’m not only trying to reconstruct old songs, but I want to do new stuff as well, and that means fresh gear for fresh sounds.  So I’ve been opportunistic and buying whatever I think seems cool, and I gotta say, there’s lots of gear out there.  At this point, I’m just going to use this post as a continually-updated log of the gear I find throughout the year.

One device that I picked up pre-pandemic (it’s a historical landmark now) is the Alesis QS-8.  I bought it at a thrift shop and it never worked right, but I only paid $100 for it and it just sat in my closet for years.  I did actually bring it back to life as detailed in another post, but its purchase was long before this buying frenzy.

In January 2023, I got a Korg DW-8000 on craigslist for $400 and a Roland D-70 from a pawn shop that needed significant work for $250. 

In February 2023, I got a Roland Juno Di at a pawn shop for $80 that doesn’t work and needs professional repair.  It’s sitting in my closet waiting for the shop to call when the parts come in.  Another pawn shop had a Kawai K3 for $300. 

In March 2023,  EBay tempted me late at night with an auction that was getting no bids.  That resulted in a Yamaha SY-35 for $175.  One night browsing at the mall, I happened across an unwanted Roland U-110 in a resale store for $100.  I also found a nice deal on a Kurzweil PC6 on craigslist for $300.  That one was sold as having problems, which I confirmed.  I poked around at the disassembled guts a few times and then somehow I changed the default startup patch and it started working and wouldn’t go dead anymore.  So that was a fortunate fix.

In April 2023, I found an Alesis QS6 at a pawn shop, originally $300, down to $150.  I got them to bring it to $120, because there was something loose rattling around inside. (It was a paint marker)  Because it wasn’t the 6.1 version, the sounds were anemic, so I decided to flip it on EBay.  It sold for $275 a month later.  I also made a small purchase of an obsolete Edirol UM-3 MIDI interface to extend my MIDI connections to 6 in/6 out.  I will still probably need a MIDI Thru box eventually.  It was a whopping $23.  I can support chaining one more UM-3, but the only other one for sale right now is over $60.  Pass…

In May 2023, I made the purchase of the Roland U-220 to continue the work on legacy recording reconstruction.  It was $130, which is a little under the going rate for that model.  It has a dead battery and needed a small amount of repair.  For something new, after I sold the Alesis, I poured that cash back into a new, rare, device, the Korg DSS-1.  It was $279 at a thrift store a couple hundred miles away.  I made the road trip and picked it up.  I’m stealing someone’s comment on the device and its nickname is “the aircraft carrier” because it is a comically large size.

Net total studio outlay to date (sales and purchases): ~$5,977.  Total devices: 20 + rack mixer.

Stay tuned for more madness…

Talking About Repairs

My latest project arrived in the mail today.  I’ll discuss that in detail in a bit, but first wanted to recap this whole journey.  I kind of fell haphazardly into the “buy broke and repair” thing with synthesizers.  And I’ve struggled each step, but in general, I’ve been successful and nothing has turned out to be as bad as I thought it was.

The one that started it off was the Alesis.  I thought it needed a change of capacitors to solve a voltage situation.  I changed them out and it made no difference.  but I didn’t break it any worse.  And I eventually got it working by cleaning some faders on another board – a solution that was not even on my radar.  I just got lucky.  That was a cheap thrift store find, so the only worry was disposing it if I ruined it.

Also in my closet is a non-working Roland Juno-Di.  I got it for only $80 at a pawn shop in non-working order.  So far, I have not had any success in fixing it.  In the quest for answers I purchased an oscilloscope.  I honestly don’t know what I’m doing with the scope, so it got me nowhere.  a local repair shop says the know it’s a chip that needs replaced and they’re waiting on parts to come in.  So that’s sitting and waiting.

Next up was an expensive purchase, an Oberheim Matrix 6R, at almost a grand.  and it was advertised as needs work.  Supposedly needs a new battery and a firmware upgrade.  The firmware ship was supplied.  I figured I could change the battery easily enough.  The end result was that the volume fader needed cleaned and that was all.  I swapped the firmware chip easily enough and it’s good to go.  I replaced the caps on the display board and the display looked great, but went wonky again when I reassembled it.  I’ve yet to take it apart and look further.  It’s serviceable right now.

Now for the newest item in detail.  Another expensive purchase of the same cost and same family, an Oberheim Matrix 1000 is the latest on the bench.  When I first got it and tested it, I got maybe a few notes out of it then it went silent.  I popped it open and inspected everything.  Things looked ok.  I cleaned the volume pot, which didn’t change anything.  The problem is, I didn’t know exactly what was supposed to be happening.  From the past repair videos that I’ve watched, I understand that the power supply should be feeding a 5v and 12v power to the board.  I broke out the multimeter and got measurements of less than half a volt.  It sounds impossible that the display would even light up with that little voltage.  That’s where I suspected the problem was, so I found a lone seller on eBay selling a used power supply (untested) for a reasonable price, and I bought it.

I then spent a lot of time watching other videos of repairs of the Matrix 1000, none of which had the problem I had.  But I did learn a couple of important things.  First that patches under #200 might be blanked out on a reset, so they won’t have any sound.  And secondly, that there was an indicator when the device was receiving a MIDI signal.  Hmmm.  With this info, I went back, reassembled the power supply into the device and tried again.  Changing to patch 333 still had no sound, but also, there was no indicator light saying it was getting a MIDI signal either.

And the “fix” was to wiggle the MIDI in jack.  Then the MIDI signal was received and sound was made.  So the problem wasn’t the power supply (but who knows, it may still be.  Now I’ll have something to compare it to).  But that MIDI jack does need changed.  Upon closer inspection, it is loose.  And that actually is a problem that was described in one of the videos I watched.  They swapped out the jack with a similar jack.

I thought about this over dinner.  I don’t know exactly what jack to purchase to ensure the pins line up correctly, and that sounds like a lot of trial and error.  What would be better, I think, is sacrificing one of the other good MIDI jacks and swapping it with the broken one.  I never expect to use the MIDI Out, but I will probably use the MIDI Thru, so I can pull the MIDI Out and use it.

That’s the plan.  I got home from dinner and started setting up the soldering station to remove the jack.  However, unlike capacitors which have two leads and are generally easy to wiggle out while the solder is liquid, this jack has seven pins and you can’t heat all of them at once to release it.  While the solder sucker did ok on most pins, I still could not get it free.  So I did what any frustrated hobbyist would do.  I threw money at the problem.

So I already have a multimeter, a soldering station, and an oscilloscope, what’s next?  Well, what I’ve seen on videos, which is envious, is a desoldering gun.  This device, you put it over a pin, it heats up the pin and solder, you pull a trigger and a vacuum sucks up the solder.  It’s the same as the manual solder sucker, but the soldering gun isn’t in the way.  That would reduce a lot of my frustration, which I’ve had right from the start.  My first repair attempt had me struggling horribly trying to clear a hole that had solder in it.

So that’s where we are right now.  What’s on the horizon?  There’s a synth sitting in a pawn shop where  I had made another purchase.  It’s in sad shape, with rust on the base, plus. it’s a synth I already have.  But, repaired, it can be worth about $450.  I’ll make an offer of $150 and maybe I can bring it up to a level where it can be sold for a profit, or better yet, a trade.

And what purchases can I expect to make during that repair?  I expect I will purchase a EPROM writer so I can upgrade firmware.  Looks like around $100 on ebay.

Going With The Flow

So how’s the big music project coming along, huh?  Dying on the vine again?

Actually, it isn’t this time.  I had last posted about a blocker that was keeping me from making any significant progress and that hurdle has been cleared and things are moving along nicely.  That novelty guitar has been sold, a bunch of stereo equipment has been sold, clearing out space and replenishing funds.  There’s still more to go there, but the timeline still moves forward.

The current item at the head of the queue is redoing a set of older tracks.  This buildup to this has been a series of costly equipment purchases, which are different from the costly purchases devoted to the next phase of new material.  Tonight, I just ordered the last piece to complete my recreation of my 1990’s recording setup.  Only one device isn’t accounted for and that’s being handled by a fairly accurate software recreation.  It isn’t exact, but very passable.

And the tracks are getting rebuild a little bit each night.  At that time, I had three keyboards and a cheap drum machine: the Ensoniq ESQ1, The Roland Alpha Juno 1, the Oberheim Matrix 6R, and the Yamaha RX21.  The Yamaha is on order now, and I have a slight issue with finding the patches that were on my old Matrix 6, but I am able to map out the ESQ1 and Juno sounds pretty well.  I can do one or two songs in a night and maybe 4 or more on a full weekend day.  Time is the thing that’s holding me back the most, but there’s no deadline, so it’s of little concern.

It is a little concern that with all of my projects, time is important because I need to get as much stuff done as possible before I burn out.  That’s usually the end game.

But it’s promising that I have lots of little projects in the queue that can be worked on independently, so if I feel burnt on one task, I can switch to something totally different.  Just keep moving forward.

Painting Looks Fun To Own

The title is a reference to the punchline from an old comic strip where a character wants to get into pottery and buys anything and everything for the hobby, unsure yet of whether the hobby will stick.  With the entire purchase laid out on a large table the question is raised,  what if that hobby fails?  Well, painting looks fun to own.

I’m having a queue problem with my music hobby, and I’m growing the queue for little good reason other than, it looks fun to own.  I’ve purchased a couple more keyboards since the last time I mentioned buying keyboards.  I’m not sure what the total is now.  Barring any "that’d be neat" items I happen across, I only have one more planned purchase to replicate the 700cb studio of the 90’s.  With all those elements, I will be able to work further back in the catalog and rebuild the original songs in higher quality than the old cassette tape of the era.

While that’s the goal in mind, I have a lot of steps I want to complete in order to get there.  i have an actual written list of the things I want to accomplish along the way.  A lot of that list is reducing the stuff I already have, and that’s where the blockages are happening.

I have to sound modules that are just too similar and I don’t need both.  The Yamaha Mu80 and MU100.  However, before I part with the MU80, I decided I should take advantage of the availability of the device by rewriting an old utility program I wrote back around 1996 that would allow the MU80 to be used as an effects unit.  Back then, I wrote it for the PC version, the Yamaha SW60.  I had later advanced to the Yamaha SW1000 in my computer but I never had an MU80 or MU100.  Now is a good chance to do that rewrite.

However, that old utility was written back in 1996, in Visual Basic 6.0.  We’ve moved on a lot since then, so I can only read the code as a guideline and I’m essentially writing the thing from scratch again.  And it’s rather a pain in the ass.  I have no idea how I cranked out that utility so quickly back then.  Youth…

But anyway, writing that program requires my programming desktop to use the MIDI interface, which means I can’t use it for any work on my recording PC.  And I decided I’m going to sell the chintzy novelty guitar I’ve been using for testing the utility, but I can’t really do that until I finish this application.  So it’s blocking me twice.  You know what, i should just use another guitar for testing.  Yes, they’re not as disposable, but they should survive the office environment long enough.

So there, I’ve talked (typed) myself into making a decision.  I can list the dumb guitar on ebay.  And I have CD players and other audio equipment to list as well.  I have a lot of CDs listed and the best have already sold off, so the rest are just taking up time.

In the future, expect something to be said about this dread in the back of my mind.  I have all these devices and nowhere near enough space to store them, set them up, or mixer inputs to plug them in and use them at once.

And also on the hot sheet, one of the devices I bought needs work.  Parts are being ordered and I’ll have another attempt at frustration with soldering.  I went through my pottery stage and I have everything I need to pick it back up again.

So Let’s Do This Again

So, for what seems like the 100th time in my life, I’m getting back into music.  Some things are a little different this time.  The primary difference is $$$.

A quick history of my keyboard collection.  In the 90’s, at the peak of my creative period, I had 3 main keyboards: the Ensoniq ESQ1, the Roland Alpha Juno 2, and the Oberheim matrix 6R.  The Juno and the Matrix 6 were sold off and I added a Casio CZ (varying models over time, but eventually the CZ1, which was top of the line), and later, a Roland RD-600.  A little later on yet, I added a General Music Equinox Pro-88.  I had these 4 boards for a long time, but eventually sold the ESQ1.  Then later, I didn’t think I needed two 88-key boards, so I sold the Equinox.  That left the Casio and the Roland.  And I got by on that.

But, I regret – REGRET – selling every one of those keyboards.  I should have just put them in storage.  I lost a lot of money selling every one.  And that regret has cost me as I try to reclaim those old sounds.

Now to the near present.  I wanted to "remaster" my old recordings and to do that, I needed the original sound devices.  I started from my most recent stuff and am working backwards.  So a lot of my newest stuff, I was using the Yamaha SW-1000 sound card.  This sound card is obsolete for computers now, but there was a professional module called the Yamaha MU-80.  I bought one.  It seemed like it didn’t have the right sounds, so I also bought an MU-100.  That was a wild goose chase, so now I have an extra sound module I don’t need.

Going back further, I needed the sounds from the Equinox.  This synth is quite uncommon.  If it does come up for sale, it ain’t cheap.  I scanned the internet hard, and eventually had to jump on one that suddenly appeared on eBay.  It was only the 76-key model, which was actually better for me.  And that was a big blow to the wallet.  But, it was just what I wanted.

Now inspired, I started seeking out other synths.  I picked up one from Craigslist for $400, a nice sounding Korg I’d never used before.  Then I made a pawn shop run and got a newer Roland synth that needed some help.  That one’s all fixed up and going good right now.  I made another pawn shop run and picked up a dead Roland synth that is queued for professional repair someday.  And along the way, I resurrected an old thrift store purchase that was sitting in my closet.  Finally, I made a long drive to pick up the one synth that started it all, an Ensoniq ESQ1.  Again, not cheap, but still, part of the plan.

I need to be realistic and say I’m probably never going to own another Oberheim.  They are even more expensive than the Equinox I bought.  And the Alpha Juno, I have a great software VST version of it that will suit my needs.

So where am I now?  Let’s take stock (in order of purchase):  Roland RD-600, Casio CZ-1, Alesis QS-8, Yamaha MU-80, MU-100, General Music Equinox, Korg DW-8000, Roland D-70, Ensoniq ESQ-1, Roland Juno Di.  That’s 10 that I count.

And where to put all these?  I only have a stand for two.  They’re in the closet, but they need cases, so now this is my new buying spree.  I’ve purchased 2 used cases in the last few days and I still need two 76-key cases and one more 61-key case.  I have two 88-key cases from when I owned the Equinox Pro-88.

To offset a little of this cost, I’m selling off a lot of duplicate CDs I’ve collected over time.  I also have CD players to get rid of.  Money comes, money goes.  Hobbies keep coming back.

So let’s do this again.

To SRQ

That’s Bradenton, BTW.

As work issues continue, and it’s been over three weeks at this point, I’m bouncing between the mindsets of "I need to take advantage of this free time" and "I need to be conserving cash and making contingency plans".  However, trying to be optimistic, I did break away on a Friday to go to on a thrift run.  I also had plans to go out of state on the weekend, but the success of this run put off that more-distant run for another week.

With my now routine procedure of building a list of starred places in Google maps for all the shops in the area to visit, I left the house right after the company’s weekly status meeting – around 9:30.  It will take me about 90 minutes to get to my first stop: an antique mall.  As I got closer, I realized I was really cutting it close on gas.  When my low fuel light comes on, I can pretty much count on over 30 miles left.  But still, once the needle moves below the E line, it gets a little nervous. 

Today I was taking the MX-5, so I did not have Android Auto to guide me.  I had a Garmin GPS, which didn’t have a lot of the stops in its POI database, so I had to manually enter addresses for most.  I tried setting up my phone in another window mount, but Google Maps was not giving me voice directions.  I tried using Android Auto on the phone, but Google has updated the software to only work when attached to a car screen.  That’s so lame.  So Garmin did what it could with the addresses I pulled from my phone.

I had to overshoot the first stop to get to a gas station, filled up and went back.  Traffic in this area is really stupid.  It’s a Friday morning, but it feels like a Saturday afternoon.  And anyway, nothing of note at the first stop.  The next two were "flea markets", which were really nothing of the sort.  The first was more like a vendor mall, which yielded one CD.  the other was just a hoarder.  But that was the intro to the city, and now I would be hitting proper thrifts.

It had been a while since I’d been to this area, so only a few places were familiar to me, many were new.  I can thank my pre-planning for the discovery of all the new places.  In summary, there were only two places that I really bought multiple CDs.  The first one I had been to before and it was a church thrift shop.  I got to hear a heated discussion between a Biden and a Trump supporter, which is always disheartening.  That got me to speed up my search and got me right out of there.

One shop that I hadn’t been to before was the crown jewel of my trip.  Usually, you can find one or two albums by an artist, but in this place, there was a large collection of early Neil Diamond.  He’s not one of my favorite artists, but I do have some albums of his and when I do have some of an artist, I try to complete the full discography.  Especially when I can do it cheaply and the CDs are early pressings.  And this was the case.  I picked out seven albums and actually left some behind.  Not much regret about leaving some, seven is plenty.  While pulling them out, I also spotted an early Olivia Newton-John disc, then another.  I grabbed three of those, one being a dupe of one I already had.  As it turns out, it was good I grabbed that dupe, because the disc inside was swapped with another, so I might’ve ended up with a mismatched case.  But the best news was that one of the ONJ albums was a highly desirable OOP album (out of print).  It sells on EBay for $50 (realistically priced) or $300 (unrealistically priced).  I left that shop with 13 discs.

By around 2:00, I was pretty hungry and tried going to a Wendy’s but they had a long line.  I then tried going to a Thai place, but it stunk so badly I wouldn’t have been able to sit there for any length of time.  I tried going to Jimmy John’s, but their lobby was closed.  I ended up at Chili’s for the first time in at least three years.  It was ok.  It made me sad that Chili’s used to have such incredible burgers and now they weren’t all that good.

And Chili’s was right near my last stop, which yielded three extra CDs, and I made my way home again.

So in summary, the whole trip was worth it for finding Olivia Newton-John – Totally Hot.  But overall, getting 22 CDs out of a run is pretty impressive.  Probably spent about $30 in gas, maybe $30 in discs.  I’ve been purchasing in cash when it’s under $10, so it’s kinda hard to track my total expenditures.  But it’s close enough.

To MEL

This week has been a not-so-good one with involuntary time off from work due to… problems.  I can’t really consider it time off, because it’s more like being on-call.  You can’t really relax and really take the day off because you don’t really know when you’re going to have to jump right back in.  Regardless, I did make a few half-hearted runs around the area and picked up a few CDs here and there.  But this weekend, I did want to make a concerted effort, and this time it was Melbourne.

Usually when I go to Melbourne, it’s at the tail end of going to Vero Beach, on the way back up north.  And Vero was my original idea, but I chose instead to make a shorter, closer run instead.  As it turns out, it was a very good run indeed.  I actually ran out of energy before I ran out of time or shops.

Performing my now-ritual of pre-mapping all the places to hit in Google Maps for Android Auto to utilize, I had a fair number of thrift shops and three music stores.  This time, I left earlier than usual, so I wouldn’t run out of time like I did last week.  I left the house around 8:00, hit DD for some breakfast and got on the highway.  I reached the first stop, a Goodwill, about 9:30.  I was like the second person there and when I was leaving, the cars were starting to come in.  But, nothing to be purchased there.

A lot of thrifts didn’t open until 10:00, so I drove around for more than I wanted to, wasting time.  But of the ones I did hit, I really only found one shop that had a number of CDs that were worth it.  I also found two antique malls that were not on my list.  I found a couple there.  Feeling a bit down by the lack of success at the thrifts, I pivoted and went to the first music store to hopefully get some positivity.

That music store didn’t have many CDs and the ones there were not that great.  But the owners were extremely helpful and went searching around their shop for more CDs for me.  The ones they found were better, but still not what I wanted.  But, then they found two MFSL gold CDs, one of which I already had and one I didn’t.  So I expressed interest in them and the owner went on Discogs to determine what price to charge.  Oh brother, here we go.

To my astonishment, she quoted me $30 for both, where I was mentally preparing for $50 each and prepared to walk away.  So, I made my first big score.  And they were happy, too.  They told me what other music stores had CDs (which were already on my list, but thanks).  And then they said to go to the flea market.  There’s a flea market?  Yes, with multiple CD vendors.  I couldn’t leave the shop quickly enough.

I got to the market and began tracing the rows.  Like the one last week, it had no directory and no map, but unlike the other, its layout was very simple: one long aisle with rows branching off it – no cross rows.  And I’ve not seen so many CDs at a flea market in a long time.  Daytona might not even have as many.  But for all that volume, the results were only ok, not excellent.  Probably 8 common CDs.  One shop had a coupled Glass Hammer CDs I had an interest in, but for some really weird reason, they priced them at $10 and $20.  No thanks.

It’s now 2:00 and I’m dying, dead on my feet, woozy, and stumbling.  I dig up a Carrabbas (which seems to be my new travel standard) and have a big lunch.  Then it’s off to another music store.  This store is much better than I expected.  I found one dupe target, one new target, and a few others of interest.  Maybe about $30 spent there.

I’m fading fast, so I decide to hit the one last music store and get back home.  This last place, I found three.  Two dupe targets.  I didn’t see everything, but what I didn’t see, the owner said is expensive stuff and he would look up prices for them.  And he was also waiting for me to leave as he was closing for the holiday weekend.  That was fine, I was pretty much done for the day anyway.

But then the guy wants to start talking.  Asks me if I’m interested in Santana.  I’m not, but he pulls out a sealed MFSL record box set from his showcase.  I think he said $4,000 for it.  Uh, no thanks.  He gets talking about how he closed on a local estate sale for a big local collector.  Not just big, massive.  Not just massive, unbelievable.  That sealed boxset was only one of many that the collector had.  The shop owner estimated the value of his collection at about $2M.  And he bought it for $380K.

Ok.  So.  I have thoughts.

First of all, how sad that the original collector had this incredible media and, as reported, an equally impressive stereo system, but never got to listen to some of the best recordings he owned.  He’s dead now.  He never got to hear them.  And for whatever he thought he was saving it for as an investment, he didn’t get that return.  He didn’t get anything, he’s dead.  His widow didn’t get the return on it either.

I’ve said in other posts that the size of a collection can negatively impact its total value, but there’s also a very small market for high-ticket items.  This shop owner is quite old himself.  Will he even sell those sealed box sets before he dies?  Will he see the return on his investment?  He surely won’t open the sets and listen to them, destroying the value of them.  The whole concept of investing in entertainment media is crazy to me.  Buy it and be entertained by it!

I definitely keep that in mind with my own collection.  The median value of my collection is about $16k.  Double that at the high-end and half that at the low end.  If someone going to pay me $30k for my CDs.  Of course not.  $8k?  Not likely.  $2k, possible.  I could add up all the gold CDs value and probably get $1000 just for them – sold individually.  But, my collection has been purchased cheaply and has been enjoyed at every stop of the way.  When I die, hopefully it will give someone one enjoyment instead of just sitting in a display cabinet.

Anyway, the tally for today: 30.  1 new gold, 1 dupe gold, 1 new target, 3 dupe targets, 1 dupe (potential upgrade), and 1 for its case.  The rest are new to me.

To RSW

RSW?  WTF is that?  Fort Myers.  Makes total sense.

So, to continue my shopping logs, today was a day to go to Ft. Myers, because I had found out there is a large flea market there.  In preparation, as I did with JAX, I went into google Maps and pinned all the thrift stores in the immediate area.  It’s been a little while since I’ve gone down that far, so I didn’t remember much of what was there.

I got on the road at around 8:30 and with a 2.5 hr drive time, I got into the area around 11:00.  As I got off the interstate, I saw a billboard for "huge flea market" at the next light.  It was not where my GPS was leading me, but I turned anyway.  The road took me to a different flea market.  Very interesting.  But it was not the market for me.  Not meaning any derision, this was a Hispanic flea market.  I was like the only white guy there.  There was only one booth that had CDs and they were all Latino artists.  So, while it was a huge flea market and if I needed produce or cowboy boots I would have been all set, there was nothing for me to buy there.

Back on track to the real flea market, FleaMasters.  It’s supposedly a very long-running market, so yay?  I arrive and park and make my way into the first building.  Within a few minutes, I find the "media" place.  It was a bookseller, but like many people who honor media, there were tapes, records, and CDs.

First off, everything was pretty disgusting, with a layer of dirt on it.  I can deal.  After maybe 50% review, I found one target CD.  The owner comes over to chat me up, says I must have an amazing collection if I’ve only found one CD so far.  He’s right.  We get talking about CDs and that’s pretty much the only thing he was right about.  Trying to tell me the target CD I had was a 2nd or 3rd pressing, probably from 1990.  Whatever.  He can be wrong, I’m just here to buy.  And everything is priced, so it’s not like he’s going to change the prices because I know what I’m finding.  In the end, I walked out with 6 CDs, only a couple of them dupes.  Probably about $5 each on average. 

Sadly though, that was it for the entire day.

I wandered around the sprawling market halls and got lost over and over.  It was beyond infuriating that they didn’t have a directory of vendors.  Even worse, they didn’t even have a map posted anywhere!  About 45 minutes later, I got back to my car with only the one shop to show for my effort.  Oh well, off to the thrifts.

Along with maybe half a dozen thrift stores, I also stopped at two record stores.  One had a sizable, but poor selection of CDs, and the other didn’t keep CDs at his store – he had a booth at FleaMasters.  Really, now.  I guess I’ll have to try harder next time.

I didn’t mention the sweating.  The market was HOT and the sweat was pouring down my back and filling my underwear.  Almost to the point I wondered if it looked like I was shitting myself.  And at one Goodwill, I found no CDs, but had to get a bottle of water ($2.50) and it was down in a flash.  That gave me a little more energy to go on.  But I think my body was in survival mode, because I wasn’t hungry, thirsty, tired, or angry.  I didn’t have a pressing need to go to the bathroom either.  That condition is probably dangerous for me.

I did stop soon after at Carrabbas and got soup and salad.  Downed a few glasses of liquid and got back on the road.  But still, by now, it’s after 2:00, my time is running short.

I made three more stops.  The Habitat ReStore was closed for the day, so really only two stops.  I tried to set the GPS for two more shops nearby and I was warned they would be closed before I got there.  Ok.  That’s the end of the day.

Set my course for home, hit a RaceTrac along the way, and cruised on back, with some rain showers along the way.  Arrived back home right at 6:00.  With the amount of gas I burnt today at the current gas prices, this trip was not worth the money.  Total outlay was about $30 and gas was probably about $50.  And a $20 lunch, yeah, definitely not worth the trip.

To JAX

This weekend, I took an overnight trip to Jacksonville.  On the drive out there, I remembered that I had made this trip before, and it wasn’t all that long ago, because on that trip I had seen another wagon on the road of the same make and model as mine.  Just so you know, my wagon is rare as golden shit.  In the entire time I’ve known of its existence, I’ve seen one – only one – on the road.

Yeah, so, when I had that memory, I started thinking about how my last trip went.  I couldn’t remember any of it.  None.  That pretty much told me the trip was uneventful and I wouldn’t want to do it again.  But here I was, going out there again.  Those who don’t remember history are doomed to repeat it.  Uh huh.

For this trip I was pretty prepared.  And now that it’s over, I think I now have a good protocol in place for my mega-runs.  I utilize Android Auto in the wagon with my phone for the GPS and music features.  The night before I left, I used Google Maps on my desktop computer and added all the stops I wanted to make as Starred locations.  This gave me a list of the places I wanted to hit, and more importantly, it showed star pushpins on the map, which allowed me to plan my next stop or group of stops.  When I was done with a place, I removed it from the list so I wouldn’t be confused as to where I’d been.  It was a pretty good system.

Then, as I was stopping at shops, I did remember some of them, but there were a lot that were new to me, so I don’t think I planned my previous trip very well and that was what led to disappointment.  Despite that, I still had a fair amount of disappointment on this trip.  The first half of my stops were productive, but the last part were not.  And I’ll dig into that in just a bit.  I was let down by the dining options I was offered and the hotel experience was a little on the annoying side.

But anyway, what I really want to get out involves the used music stores I saw.  I can sum this up in one statement: "Get your fucking shit together!"

A 2-store chain in Tampa that I frequent is the only one (outside of big businesses like 2nd & Charles or Barnes & Noble) that I’ve experienced that is doing things right.  And by that, I mean, their store is organized, fully inventoried, and priced fairly and accurately.  Now, I’m willing to let the guys that are running a shop in a flea market stall have a pass, because surely, they’re just hobbyists.  But if you have a storefront, or a semblance of a storefront, you need to act like a business.  Be clean, be organized.

The first place that left me infuriated was a guy operating essentially out of a warehouse.  He sold records, CDs, some equipment, and probably anything else musical.  I was only focused on the CDs.  When I reached the warehouse door entrance, there were some CDs in a metal rack, which seemed like a paltry amount.  But stepping in and looking around, I saw a literal wall of CDs in the back.  I made a beeline right for it.

Once at the wall, I sized up the level of effort I was going to make.  This is a wall of cubbies, probably 10 ft. tall (yes, well over my head – a stepstool was nearby) and probably 30 ft. wide.  CDs in many cubbies were double-deep.  The lighting was minimal, so you have to pull the CDs out to read anything.  ALL UNSORTED.  No sense in griping, just get to work.

After what felt like about 30 minutes, I had looked through 10% of what was there.  I was seeing the same garbage over and over in different places, none of it was interesting to me (I found one cd).  So I took a small break to rest my eyes.  I turned away from the wall and gave the whole place a once over. 

That wall… was a fraction of the CDs that were in that building.  There were CDs everywhere around me, literally piled up.  milk crates overflowing, U-Haul boxes filled and stacked, wire racks with small boxes stacked on top of each other.  An entire other wall of CDs.  An area you couldn’t even access with piles of U-Haul boxes, all full.  No mistake, this is hoarder-level shit.  I estimate there were probably 20k CDs in there.

I tried to work through it.  I took breaks and walked to the other sections, which had even worse lighting, and tried to find anything other than my lowly single CD.  I couldn’t do it.  I took my CD up to the counter and told the owner, there’s too much stuff.  His reply, "there’s another 15-16k in storage that we can’t even get in here." Holy. Shit.

I left the place furious.  In the way of people who have a reverence for media (especially book people), I was simply offended with what I saw.  The disregard for all those CDs.  I would like to believe that any rational businessperson would also be offended at the lack of care and accountability of the inventory.  This is what makes you money.  You have no idea what you have, what its value is, or any plan for how to move it.  It’s shitty business practice.  And from a consumer standpoint, you can’t tell me a CD of Lady Gaga, priced at $5, has the same market value as one priced the exact same with a title of "14 Biker Tunes".  The CD I bought was marked $5 (as I assume everything was), and I paid $4.  Tax accountability?  What’s that?

Enough of that hellhole.  I moved on to the next place, which was supposedly mostly records, but had some CDs.  I arrive there and it’s, well, sketchy.  I am loath to use the term ghetto, because it’s lazy shorthand for "the poor, run-down, black neighborhood", and because it carries a stigma of danger, which I did not feel, despite the sadness all around me and being the only white person in miles.  Maybe I’m stupid, blissfully aware, or maybe just not racist.

Anyway, when I entered this building, it was somehow worse than the warehouse.  In the warehouse, you had room to move.  In here, there was literally nowhere to go.  All pathways were "walk-sideways" width.  The primary one being blocked by a (fortunately for him) tall, thin black man.  I navigated around him with the only path available to me and ended up behind the counter at the cash register.  Well, no, this doesn’t seem right.  I backed out and kind of make confused gestures to the man blocking my way. He crams himself into a small area to the side to let me go forward.  I get past him and again, there’s nowhere to go.

So I’m stopped and seated in front of me is a harried black woman asking me what I want.  I stammer out a question as to how I can look at some CDs when there’s no visible aisles, lanes, walkways, nothing, in sight.  She replies that I can’t.  I have to tell her what I’m looking for and she’ll go and see if they have it.  Well, no, that doesn’t seem right, either.  I explain that my tastes are all over and I need to browse to see if there’s anything I’m interested in.  No, that doesn’t work for them.  Very well, thank you for your time.

On the way back to the car,another man calls out to me and asks if I found anything.  I was like, "Maaaannnn, I couldn’t even get in to see anything."  He apologized and said he was looking to move a lot of stuff out soon to give more space.  I said I’d keep him in mind and check back another time.  I assume he was the owner.  Sorry, bud, you have a lot more work ahead of you.

Those were the highlights (lowlights) of the trip.  It gave me a renewed sensation that I should open a CD shop, just to show people how it should be done.  but sadly, that’s probably not in the cards for me.  I have a lot more of my own life to live first.

And now, the trip log: ~12 thrift shops, 3 booths in a flea market, and 3 used music stores.  4 target CDs found at the flea market, 2 CD of interest, 4 CDs bought for their case.  5 issues of an interesting magazine to scan.  2 CDs of interest from Daytona flea market on drive home.  Total outlay was <$30

Superstitions

Elsewhere, I had made a post talking about buying new chairs.  Today I am going to pick up one of those chairs and the other I think I’m going to hold off on until a major sale, Labor Day I think is the next one.  But my decision to buy the first chair was more than just, it’s a good chair or it’s a good price.  I felt there was something else that was prompting me to buy that chair there.

One of my friends is very superstitious, not in a bad way, but more in a way of seeing signs in a lot of things that normally I wouldn’t even give a second thought about.  I feel she would understand this.  When I first went to the store, I wanted an office chair.  That term probably conjures up a very specific image in your head and that’s what I was looking for, whether it be a high-back or a low-back version.  At sometime shortly after I entered the store, I had the thought of, did it have to be an office chair?  Because for whatever reason, I remembered that when I was young and poor, I never had an office chair; I had used dining chairs.  I have a very faint memory of buying two chairs from the oddball/clearance section of a furniture store and those chairs lasted a long time and eventually disintegrated.

As you would expect, I was greeted at the door by a salesperson who asked me what I was looking for and I said I wanted to see everything, but was looking for a desk chair.  She let me go off but frequently kept checking up on me.  At one point I told I didn’t have to have an office chair, it might be fine to have a dining chair.  Then I commented that some of the desks in the showroom seemed to be using dining chairs.  And then we passed by her desk and this was her chair.

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I am very convinced that is the exact same chair I was using at my desk 30 years ago.  The color is darker, but everything else is the same.  The chair even still had its original product label hanging on it.  What a nostalgia trip.

Some people might just say that’s a coincidence.  Ok.  It’s also a coincidence that there was a singleton chair in the farthest corner of their clearance section with no matching pieces.  Not a set of chairs or a pair of chairs, just one.  And I was looking for one chair.  Sure, that’s entirely likely.  Well, yeah, I guess it is. 

People want to attach more meaning to things than may be warranted.  After all, aren’t we seeing the greatest mass delusion in history playing out right now?  But maybe having some insight and recognition can open you up to new possibilities.  Maybe if I hadn’t noticed her desk chair I wouldn’t have been inspired to search every corner of the building.  Who knows?

I just went looking.  I found it.  Yes.  That is the same chair.  Slightly different frame, but yes.

Apr 99 Batch (4)

And surprisingly or not, the new chair is going to be in the same function, the desk chair for my recording studio.