About a year ago I would go swimming at lunch time as often as I could, I had a year pass. The road past the pool is busy and you have to wait at the traffic lights most times. On the corner opposite where I would wait stood the last video store in town. It was amazing to see it go to battle against the 21st century powers. The building, (which has housed the video store for over twenty years) has deteriorated over the years. The sign filled with dead bugs, lights had blown and never been replaced.
I remember when it first opened, I was a child and it was a place full of excitement. Televisions in three corners of the store would blast out the new releases, you had to go through two doors to enter, there was a dedicated in and out, they sold toys and chocolate near the exit, the staff all wore nice uniforms and smiled, it was like visiting heaven, where everything you could ever want to see was available. I remember the new carpet smell, the shiny video cassette covers, the excitement when the video was there to rent, the disappointment when it was out. In a corner was a children’s play area, there was an in store magazine you could take home and read. Posters on the walls smiled out at you with images of hollywood’s greats, a life sized cardboard cutout of James Dean stood by the classics isle, his fingers cocked in a strange gang sign. There was a dedicated horror section with skulls on the shelves, there was an adult section which I would accidentally walk by.
The store closed down six months ago.
It was, as I have said, the last one. I looked in the window just before it went. A fat man stood behind the counter, he did not wear a uniform, just a shapeless track suit top. He had an unkempt beard and just stared out to the back wall. No one in the store. I felt so sad for him. I watched through two cycles of the traffic lights. A woman and two small children came in, at least he had someone.
The televisions were gone, except one that was playing but it was mistuned and the picture would scratch and jump. Nothing was clean, the windows were vandalized. The return chute had something sticky smeared all over it. The business was dying dragging itself on, afraid of death.
I remember being in a video store when I was three, I remember I had my mother rent ‘The Empire Strikes Back’ for me. I was in love with video stores all my life.
During the last few years I could not stand going into them. I felt so self-indulgent, I felt ashamed. It was like masturbating in public. I stopped going, I would rather watch what I wanted in other ways, if I really wanted a DVD I would buy it online.
The death of video stores to me, was the end of the 20th century.
James Dean was long gone.
The last time I looked inside the video store, all the shelves, counters, everything was removed. The carpet was pulled up and there were strange stains on the ground. The roof had been damaged, something had knocked a hole through and the plasterboard was falling down. They covered the windows up last week.
THE BOMBER is out now