June 23, 2015

Today, I gave a lecture on the West Side of LA, and raced back across town to relieve my brother Alan, who is visiting for a while, from his duties looking after our son, Theo, while I was out. I had promised to stop by our video rental store on my way home to pick up a Pokemon DVD for Theo and his friend to watch for the rest of the afternoon. I was tired and ready to flop and, by the time I was just a couple of blocks from home, I’d convinced myself that I’d go home first and then ask him if he really needed to see that film – again! But at the last minute I decided I needed to keep my promise and pick up the DVD. It would only take a couple of minutes. I parked in the lot beside the video store, and since it was hot outside, I grabbed the Japanese paper fan I had brought in the car with me, thinking that I might meet someone along the way I could give it to, thus completing my Giveaway for today. Maybe the rough looking dude standing in front of the ice machine? Maybe the young woman asleep on the bench outside the Laundromat? No, they didn’t feel right…

I climbed the steps to Video Journeys, our wonderful local video rental store (see also February 28), and tried to remember where the Pokemon videos were. Not the anime section, the kids’ section, of course. I found the one I was looking for and headed for the checkout, but something seemed strange. The place was packed full of customers and there was a line about 20 people long running along the far wall of the shop. Well, I was here and I had the video, so I got in line behind a man with a beard in a dark blue t-shirt who was cradling a stack of DVDs. A bright-eyed and chatty woman joined the line behind me with another stack of DVDs and started talking to the man about the films she’d picked up – she seemed to know him. They chatted back and forth about the movies they’d picked up, and I thought at first that I might be separating a couple, but then I realized they weren’t together. They were both writers, “industry people,” a term used here in Los Angeles to refer to the many creatives here who work in tv and film. After a few minutes it became clear to me that they were buying all these DVDs, so I asked them what was happening. The woman explained that the store was going out of business and all the DVDs were for sale. My heart sank. My husband David, Theo and I had been coming to this store for years, and were doing our best to patronize the store as much as possible, even though Netflix was now our main source of movies. This was a sad moment. “This was the last video store on the East Side of LA,” the man in front of me shared. Now there was only one left on the West Side, in Santa Monica. I decided to stay and buy the DVD I had in my hand, in part to keep my promise to Theo but also to help the store out in its last days. I checked that all was well at home and settled into the line, joining in my neighbors’ conversation, all the while fanning myself with my paper fan. If the store had any AC, it wasn’t working today.

Out of the blue, the man in front of me asked, “Did you bring that fan knowing it was going to be hot in here?” I paused, trying to decide how honest to be about the fan and whether or not to get into my Giveaway Project. “Well, it’s a bit more complicated than that,” I began, “and you may have just got yourself into something by asking that.” When he looked puzzled, I told him about this project and my blog. He said he liked the idea and told me that he had got rid of most of his possessions a few years ago when he moved into his fiancée’s place in New York, and he felt so much lighter and happier for it. I had picked up a couple more DVDs while we were waiting, so that now I too had a small stack of DVDs, and we laughed at the fact that we trying to lighten our lives, yet were buying all these DVDs. The line moved pretty quickly as we chatted about films and careers and his wondering whether or not he wanted to stay in the “industry.” Perhaps, he would find the answer in a film, we agreed. Soon, it was his turn to pay, but he motioned for me to go ahead of him and said, “My gift to you!” He must be a good writer. That was my cue. I handed him the fan, and said, “And this is my gift to you!” Thank you, friendly stranger, Eddie, for sweetening what would otherwise have been a sad moment.

video-journeys-logo-left Thank you and farewell, Video Journeys!


3 thoughts on “June 23, 2015

  1. So sad. We and probably most of the people in the store probably brought this sad day upon us. I can’t count the number of times we’ve sat on our couch and ordered movies on Amazon, or utilized Netflix, while thinking in the back of our minds: we should be going to Video Journeys to keep them in business. We were always almost glad when we couldn’t find a film on Netflix or Amazon, and had to utilize Video Journeys – but that was the exception to the lazy rule.


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