Astoria, Oregon is one of my very favorite places on Earth. Don’t get me wrong, I love the Puget Sound area and I feel fortunate to have spent nearly all of my days between Seattle and Puyallup. But Astoria feels like something more than my rather sterile South Hill community. It’s history, connections to the Lewis and Clark expedition, and it’s vitality are great draws.
Lorri and I took advantage of a miniature wargaming event at the Columbia River Maritime Museum on the Astoria waterfront and spent the Labor Day weekend in town. We hadn’t had a getaway in over a year, so we boarded the dogs and headed south on Friday.
After stopping in Longview for an hour or so to hit the thrift and antique stores, we continued south through Kelso and along Oregon Highway 30 and into town and to The Crosby House, the B and B where we spent our three nights.
We could have gone to Seaside and Cannon Beach. We could have visited Fort Clatsop and Lewis and Clark sites I know so well. But no. We did the thrift/antique store thing. From Ilwaco to Ocean Beach in Washington and all over Astoria we hunted for treasures.
I had a budget for records. I’d sold some in Lorri’s antique space. I also had some of my allowance left. I can tell you that the Washington side of the Columbia was a vinyl wasteland, where you could spend three bucks for an Andy Williams record in mediocre condition and be grateful for the privilege. In other words, not much there, definitely no treasures. It seemed that the shops we went in had jumped on the vinyl bandwagon without any idea what they were doing.
No, the real finds are in Astoria itself. The antique stores on Commercial street are quite good. No they aren’t dollar records, but they also have some very nice stuff. Unlike many antique stores selling records, their vinyl is priced fairly and generally of good quality. I saw some original copies of The Rolling Stones “Sticky Fingers” with the zippers on the covers. There were some great looking Led Zeppelin albums, and some nice records by the 80’s rock band Squeeze. I managed to find a 1969 Canadian re-pressing of Kinda Kinks and an original American pressing of Kinks Kinkdom. Neither are easy gets and they were very reasonably priced. The least interesting place in Astoria, oddly, was the record store, Rock and Bach. They specialized in all media including DVD’s and CD’s. Unfortunately almost all of their records are new pressings, and their used records are distinctly uninteresting. You’re much more likely to find just what you’re missing in an antique store or antique mall.
Honestly, that was typical of most of the shops that carried records. Good stuff, fair prices that would have been far higher in Seattle or Tacoma. I came home with a stack of vinyl that needs cleaning and cataloguing. Some will go down to Third Street, but most of it is mine.
Astoria is a wonderful place to visit, and has gone through an incredible transformation the past couple of decades. It used to be an economic mess, with its chief industries largely gone. But it has re-made itself with an emphasis on tourism. Astoria is packed with good restaurants and brew pubs. A steamboat runs up and down the Columbia with a stop in town for an associated bus tour. Really quite a bustling place, with support for the arts as well as a celebration of its long history.
But if you’re interested in vinyl, it’s a good place to find that too. Just be sure to bring your wallet.