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Support Your Local, Prick Independent Music Store Pt. 2: Indie vs. Mom & PopCommenting on yesterday’s rant, Noz rightfully pointed out that I “should draw a distinction between ‘Mom & Pop,’ as in the general interest, privately owned community catering record store, and ‘Indie,’ the cooler than thou underground/specialty spot” adding that it is “the former is what suffers the most from the mega stores.”. I would certainly agree that the indie-ish stores have more of a core audience but I’d also add that I have an equal lack of sympathy for the Mom and Pops. The illusion that something non-corporate or “underground” is automatically better or worth supporting on principle alone, is something I grew out of by the time I got to college. Most Mom and Pops are run with the same degree of ruthlessness and disinterest in music as a Best Buy or Wal-Mart. I was recently at a Mom and Pop I frequent and heard the owner, pushing around the employees before telling them “Put that Taleeb Kwalee display out” and walking out the door.

The Mom and Pop can rip you off or fuck you over because they don’t have to answers to higher-ups. They are corporate stores with a martyr complex (they’re being run into the ground, you know) so they justify their shady tactics. For five years, I worked at a Mom and Pop video store and in that time, never missed a day of work that I didn’t find a replacement for, worked just about every Holiday (because the owner would never schedule herself or her daughter to work on such days), and when I got a real job, which significantly cut-down my hours, they let me go.

On Christmas, the only holiday they closed up for, they would sometimes leave a note on the door claiming that they would be open on Christmas. On December 26th, the manager would tell you to charge the customers for not returning the movie on Christmas day unless they tell you they came up yesterday to find the store closed. I simply didn’t do this because I felt more of a connection to the customers than the store but the fact those tactics, forcing employees to lie and manipulate, remind me of the complaints regularly mentioned about big-name stores.

At first, I was idealistic about working in a Mom and Pop (and used the non-corporate cred. to get girls, just mention some anti-corporate signifiers and the panties drop!) but events like the Great Christmas Hustle of 2004 made me realize this wasn’t any different than working for a corporation. I stuck around because I was too scared to find another job and you could do shit like smoke weed behind the building or play softball in the parking lot but even those fun times, I would’ve traded for a Thanksgiving off and a decent pay raise.

In retrospect, I realize that had I worked at a Blockbuster or Hollywood Video, as diligently and for that length of time, I probably would have rose to some kind of managerial position and maybe even gained some kind of health benefits. At this Mom and Pop (and many I’d imagine), the possibility to move-up is non-existent because the owners function as the workers as well and while idealistic types see that as somehow warm or human, it really just means you interact with the person that fucks you in the ass instead of never seeing them because they sit behind a desk hundreds of miles away.

I was at a friend’s house a few weeks ago and flipping through the channels, the friend’s roommate asked to stop on a channel showing some super-obvious documentary against Wal-Mart. Wanting to spare the room an anti-Wal-Mart rant, Monique blurted out “I love Wal-Mart” and I smugly concurred (because a real discussion of Wal-Mart’s good and bad qualities wasn’t going to develop). The smug roommate (No disrespect to you P.K, but you gots to chill) responded in a voice suggesting a more relevant counter-point than the one he had, said “Oh, you’ll eat at Holy Frijoles and shop at Wal-Mart?!” (I’ll explain Holy Frijoles in a moment). He thought he was somehow finding a discrepancy between us happening to eat at some hipster restaurant earlier in the evening and shopping at Wal-Mart. I seriously forgot that anyone around my age still held such simplistic, black and white opinions on independent and corporate entities which, as I said yesterday, are really easy to have when you’re young, well-off, and single and therefore, don’t have to shop at a place like Wal-Mart.

Where was I? Oh yeah, Holy Frijoles. Holy Frijoles is a sort of hipster Mexican restaurant located in one of Maryland’s most popular bastions of both coolness and Balda’more-ness, Hampden, MD. Hampden has the unique population of young, decent-minded hipsters and lower-middle class White trash (“Dude, there’s so many ugly people around here”-JJ), somehow living nearly together, mostly peacefully, primarily due to their united negrophobia. Seriously, black people just don’t live in the surrounding area known as Hampden. My father at the ripe old age of 18, somehow managed numerous Royal Farms Stores in Baltimore (dude’s a go-getta but was raising me along with my 17 year old mom, so he had to be) including one in Hampden and from a very young age, spoke of the hypocrisy of “bohemian” places like Hampden which uses the lower-middle class whites to appear anti-elitist, all the while scoffing at the occasional black customer and/or refusing to hold the door for black truck drivers carting in their cigarettes and donuts (Dad also voted for George Bush; The world is complicated.).

One of the most striking things about Holy Frijoles is the way one can see back into the kitchen, revealing a cramped, dirty room totally out of ‘Das Boot’ full of black people making my 8 dollar burrito! Wonderful! You will never see these guys out of the kitchen and in the restaurant, the closet you’ll get to an ethnicity “on the floor” is those indie guys that look like Fez from ‘That 70s Show’- it’s like God created this specific indie type for the indie chick who won’t date black dudes but needs to rep her liberal arts education open-mindedness and goes for some American Apparel-wearing Beaner…but I’ve digressed now haven’t I? The point is, if the jerkoff who runs Holy fucking Frijoles ran a big business it seems like it’d be a lot like a Wal-Mart.

Written by Brandon

August 22nd, 2007 at 9:23 pm

Posted in Indie, Wal-Mart, hipster