Apropos of nothing, I was thinking about the Chelsea Drug Store recently, a place I have never visited. (I briefly blogged about it a year ago.) It was a trendy media store in London that was seen in a sequence from Stanley Kubrick's A Clockwork Orange (1971); it was the futuristic "disk-bootick" Alex is shown walking through, trolling for devotchkas. A fascinating web site describing this sequence is here. When I first saw this film as a sixteen year-old (!), I thought, "What a cool place! It looks like Tower Records!"
Unfortunately the Chelsea Drug Store is now a McDonald's. Next time I'm in London I may want to eat there just to be able to say I did. The place is also mentioned in the Rolling Stones' song You Can't Always Get What You Want: "I went down to the Chelsea Drug Store/To get your prescription filled…” My wife always figured that this reference had something to do with illegal drug use, an entirely reasonable assumption in the case of the Stones. I see there is a Virgin Islands version of the Chelsea Drug Store which has as an advertising slogan, "Get what you Need."
Anyway, the Chelsea Drug Store, as depicted in the film, appeared to be the flashy sort of 1970's place which catered to the media desires of the youth culture and the New Left - as I realized back then, very much like Tower Records in Los Angeles, on the Sunset Strip, one of my teenage haunts. Tower Records was a hip place to visit practically any time of the day or night to get a record, a copy of Mother Jones or Rolling Stone, some Zig-Zag rolling papers or find some audio accessory you needed. A comfortable hang out for counterculturalists, in other words. The place seemed to be always staffed by grumpy hippies. Mannnn, these customers are a draggg. One establishment type was in here asking for a Tchaikovsky quadrafonic tape, you know, man? Tchaikovsky. Bummer.
It occurred to me that the modern counterpart to the now-defunct Tower Records is the Apple Store, which, as I wrote, I visited on Monday evening. Despite its closed source, proprietary, big corporate reality, Apple has successfully convinced people that it's the countercultural alternative to the Windows world of business computing. Certainly it has attracted a league of the faithful who annoyingly assure me, "It just works." (Except when it doesn't - my son loaded Lion, the newest operating system, on my wife's Apple laptop and it's annoying the hell out of me.)
At any rate, strolling in the store and calling up ghastly Internet images of bloody rugby players from my club's website to put on the iPad screens (hahaha - I'm subversive!), the atmosphere and experience seemed strangely familiar. Then I realized it was almost exactly like visiting Tower Records as a teen, except nowadays the thing is computing, streaming video and mp3s rather than audio components and Lps, cassettes, 8-track cartridges and open reel tapes. The same left wing counterculture exists in both places, however... nobody ever got thrown out of an Apple store for being an Al Gore environmentalist. Neil Young's Let's Impeach the President (Bush), anyone?
My wife and I looked at the wall rack of grossly overpriced iPhone protective cases. (Thirty frigging dollars for a small hunk of plastic?) I'll settle for a black one; let's face it, anything other than that or a NFL design will look gay. My smart wife will, as usual, opt for something red to go with her red leather wallet and checkbook case. Trad classy - that's her aesthetic.
Today I partially prepare us for the near future extra monthly iPhone data charges by calling Cox Cable - our Mortal Enemy in the Digital Age - to cancel our pitiful cable television service. Untethering ourselves, so to speak. We pay almost $26 a month for crap. We can now rely on broadcast television for stations - which I call Back to the Sixties. I put up a good, American-made antenna in the attic and it does a great job of pulling in the local D.C. stations and network affiliates. Mirabile dictu, it even has Universal Sports, so I can watch Rugby World Cup matches! Why buy cable TV?
We have also considered untethering ourselves from the wired phone network as well, but... we're in our fifties. Unlike young people, we're used to high quality voice comms that doesn't go down whenever there's a cell phone usage peaking event like an earthquake or some extremist representative of the Religion of Peace piloting a passenger jet into a skyscraper. And on that uncharacteristically eyebrowing raising phraseology I'll close for the day.
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