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Curtis Cartier salutes the three places in town where you can still find the mighty compact disc.

By Curtis Cartier

It was 1993 when I bought my first compact disc. Finally agreeing that my 10 cassette tapes, ranging from Pearl Jam's Ten to Alvin & the Chipmunks' A Chipmunk Christmas, had seen better days, my dad presented me with a Bose CD player boombox and a Warehouse gift certificate worth $20 for my 11th birthday. I can remember bringing home a brand new copy of Smashing Pumpkins' Siamese Dream and peeling off the layers of stickers, cellophane and more stickers until it revealed the maroon and silver friend that would become my constant companion for years to come. Lyrics were read, artwork was admired and each song was memorized and treasured. And while I followed a similar ritual with the thousands of CDs I'd buy over the years, I, like a most of my generation, would watch as the CD fell from grace, replaced by its more convenient cousin, the MP3. In Santa Cruz, there are only three stores left where authentic CDs are sold, and all are within two blocks of each other. So to you proud three, thanks. Without stores like you, I wouldn't be the person I am today.

Streetlight Records represents everything right and good in a music store. Rows of discs, with colorful hand-drawn labels differentiating Black Metal from Drum 'n' Bass, stretch out in an expansive floor of possibilities. While video games and DVDs have taken on a bigger role at the store over the years, Streetlight still boasts the largest selection of music in town. Dan Randall, one of the store's music buyers, says that while all record stores are struggling to make ends meet, he thinks there are still enough CD connoisseurs to keep the shop afloat.

"I remember a guy coming in. He bought a CD, opened it in the store, put the CD in his Discman and told us to throw away the rest," Randall said. "I think that just shows how people aren't concerned with owning the complete product anymore."

First opened in 1969, Logos Books & Records is the granddaddy of Santa Cruz music shops. Watching the CD lose out to the MP3 is not the first change in format that the local media bastion has weathered. With a great selection of books and vinyl to complement the friendly staff, the store also gives the most cash for trade-ins and usually has the cheapest prices for CDs.

Stalking the lonely music aisles with his used copies of Soundgarden's Down on the Upside and Nine Inch Nails' Year Zero Remixed, UCSC graduate Sean Bailey says he doesn't trust downloads and enjoys digging through bins for his treasures.

"If anything, it's good to support local business," he says. "With downloads you can get viruses and you don't have the full album that you can hold in your hands."

Borders: corporate scum? Perhaps. But the fact that a mainstream bookstore still keeps a CD section is enough for a bitter Gen-Xer to take heart. The overpriced and understocked selection in Borders' half-dozen rows of CDs mostly caters to the classic rock and jazz crowd. General Manager Mike Jackson says he's watched the section get smaller and smaller over the years.

"It's a scary time for music stores," he says. "I just hope we'll still have a music section in the next 10 years."

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