Saturday, May 29, 2010

On Baltimore's Own Guru Records

I was two sips into an incredibly strong and pungent bloody mary during lunch at Bertha's in Baltimore's Fells Point neighborhood when Emma pointed out a sign on the sidewalk: Own Guru Records. What luck, I thought. Here, we chose to come to Baltimore for a belated birthday adventure, and we pick a lunch spot right next door to some random record store.

As we sat there, I mentioned to Emma that it seems like there sure are a lot of people stopping and gawking at this store. I pictured some ridiculous selection of records in the window, or perhaps any number of other attention-seeking gestures independent shops are wont to employ.

We finished our lunch and head outside. Upon first glance, I saw what intrigued everyone: Above you'll see the front door of Own Guru Records. Yes, it's that little bit in the middle, a skinny black gate that leads to a similarly skinny, wooden-floored hallway past a few apartments and into a backyard. This concerned me. To gain entry, one must ring a buzzer, and an employee comes and unlocks the gate and lets you in. Once you enter, the gate is immediately locked behind you. I remember, only half-jokingly, asking Emma if we were about to be kidnapped or something. The thought did cross my mind.

Eventually, the strange little hallway and backyard environment gave way to what appeared to be a shed. Indeed, it was a shed. A shed full of records, with the owner repeatedly droning, "All records 15 percent off, books 25." There's maybe 10-square-feet of walking space in the entire place. I had to move out of the way for people coming and going multiple times. But it wasn't that big of deal, especially when you remember that that was the case because they had so many records there.

But it took me a solid five minutes to gain my bearings. I still wasn't sure where I was exactly. I felt like there must be something illegal going on, given the strange practices of this business (multiple times, the owner asked newly-entered customers if they locked the door behind them, and a number of them were literally escorted by another employee to the store's other location. I didn't visit). It was all very strange.

Eventually, though, I started looking through the crates and crates of records. Emma immediately found a copy of Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band. It'd been on her list of must-find records for some time. I made my way around the shop, and found a host of great records including The Jimi Hendrix Experience's first effort, Are You Experienced?, which was the only studio Hendrix album I didn't have before today. I also found a copy of Thriller. Those two finds alone would've been exciting enough. But no, there was a bunch more (check out the link.)

But aside from today's success, the store just has a lot of character. It only has vinyl, which I greatly appreciate. As strange as my first five minutes of interaction with it was, the rest of it more than made up for it. I struck up conversation with the man behind the counter. The records were solid. It was a great all-around experience. What more could you ask for?

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