The San Diego CityBeat recently ran a post by Alfred Howard about his favorite profession and music store where he currently works: OB’s “Cow” at 5029 Newport Ave.
The Cow is a special place. Where the sidewalk of America ends, the neighborhood regulars congregate to gaze at the vast blue expanse of the Pacific. Nearby stands a museum of sorts—4,000 cassettes on the wall, 8-tracks in the back and vinyl for days. We even have Waterworld on LaserDisc (so help me, God, I will sell that thing). …
He describes his position as clerk:
I feel a weight of importance behind my position—I’m a kind of preservationist. The way we take in songs has so much to do with the memories they create: mix cassettes mingling with my first cigarettes in borrowed cars of youth, my mom’s records playing through the house when I was first feeling the Braille of my surroundings. One day at the store, a little girl came in with her pops and asked what a cassette was.
“Honey, that’s how we used to listen to music,” he replied.
She held it up to her ear and said, “Daddy, it’s broken.”
Howard describes his passion, his history, and the quirky people who come into the store on Newport Avenue.
I behold the kooks and quirks of Ocean Beach. I’ve seen an elderly man build a fort of VHS tapes in the corner of the shop. I’ve seen a sun-ruined lady slowly apply ChapStick to her entire body while blocking the doorway. I had a crazed-looking girl play the most frantic air drum solo to a song on Hole’s Live Through This; she propositioned me for both sex and a job, but received neither. A young man once asked me if we had any good White Power music. As a black man, I didn’t really know how to field that question. However, it’s worth noting that we do carry some powerful white music—try The Zombies’ Odyssey and Oracle.
He describes his nostalgia for the store and its current location, as it plans to move:
after 20-plus years, the store’s going to move to a new location across the street. The space where we are now will become a sports bar—basically, the antithesis of all that we were. As Ocean Beach’s streets get a little drunker, with irate fists punctuating last call, some of the neighborhood color fades. But as we brave our new home early in the New Year, I know we’ll survive. The neighborhood needs its musical narration—the sounds in the background that pull us forward.
In addition to working in OB’s record store, Alfred Howard plays in three bands: The Heavy Guilt, The Black Sands and The Midnight Pine.