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Gonzo Report: Part Time Lover sells the sound

Vinyl vibing

Part Time Lover: hear it up front, buy it in the back.
Part Time Lover: hear it up front, buy it in the back.

As we approach the Art Déco facade of Part Time Lover in North Park — where Bar Pink operated for over a decade — I remind my wife Shelley that I’m on assignment. Because Wednesday is date night, but the place’s the grand opening falls on this day. So this is our date. Unlike Bar Pink, there is no live music. Instead, vinyl DJ sets are curated by Folk Arts Rare Records, which operates a small store in the back.

Place

Part Time Lover

3829 30th Street, San Diego

The building stands out, what with its dual theater marquees reading “Records” on one side and “Liquors” on the other. The doorman, Ethan, explains that serving times will be longer than expected due to the opening day crowd and the working out of some operational kinks. Ethan came to San Diego with his family “on holiday” from London, and his father proclaimed it paradise, moving them out here six years ago while Ethan was still in high school. I ask him to say “Iron Maiden,” which he politely does with a confused smile. Shelley doesn’t bat an eye, because that’s just what I do when I hear a foreign accent.

On the other side of the door, the music — more specifically, the volume of a sound system powered by vintage tube technology — catches me off guard. Loud enough to be heard above the full house conversations, drinks, and laughs, but clear, with no frequency dominating and straining the speakers. I head toward the restroom, at the far end of what looks like a warm tunnel, thanks to the inevitable line — a line exacerbated by only one working bathroom. The warm tunnel effect is a combination of lighting and wallpaper decorated with an infinite pattern of drunken cartoon elephants from Disney’s Dumbo, the “NP” logo above them.

I chat with a man named Masaki, who says booze and friends, not music, brought him to the bar. He’s from Japan and tells me he has traveled the world learning how to make the ultimate broth for ramen, which is served at an East Village restaurant that he co-owns called BeShock. I also ask him to say “Iron Maiden.” When it’s finally my turn to use the bathroom, I risk spending too much time in there, as I’m fascinated and frightened by the toilet that opens its lid as I approach. I wonder if it’s going to pee for me. I decide not to wait, and instead handle the task myself.

Shelley visits the record store out back in a failed hunt for rare Prince vinyl. The supernatural acoustics make conversation easy in this room, which is sealed off from the bar music. After Folk Arts’ current owner Brendan Boyle announces a price over $200 for a customer’s lot of less than five albums, I find I must ask why. It turns out the lot includes a rare copy of Herbie Hancock’s LP Gershwin’s World, which the buyer, artist Kolten French, says he needs to own after hearing Boyle spin it earlier. Boyle tells me it may have been released on a shoddy-sounding CD during that format’s introductory period and need say no more, as initial compact disc pressings had legalese printed on them that translated into “taken from analog tapes, this new digital medium is going to sound like shit.” French’s obsession with obscure jazz ties into his art, as he demonstrates with the pictures he shows me of an illustration he did featuring sax player Hank Mobley taking a smoke break, and a lamp he carved from a solid piece of linoleum that depicts Miles Davis’ entire band.

On the way out, I hear the Queen Of Disco herself, Donna Summer, from her 1976 concept album Four Seasons Of Love. I wonder if the original four-panel calendar and merch inserts are still inside the well-worn sleeve I spot the DJ handling, but decide not to ask. I just feel better believing they’re still rubbing up against their hot vinyl partner nearly 50 years later. Shelley knows what happens when I hear Donna, and shoots me a text saying she’s outside. It’s not meant to hurry me along. She understands that’s impossible.

Any date with my wife is an adventure, but I feel like I should balance the scales by doing something she wants to do. She declines dinner and says she would like me to watch an episode of Melrose Place with her while she deep-dives into a complete guidebook for Fox TV’s long-gone Beverly Hills, 90210 spinoff. Without a word of mockery. I agree to her terms. No one can tell me that I don’t suffer for my art.

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Part Time Lover: hear it up front, buy it in the back.
Part Time Lover: hear it up front, buy it in the back.

As we approach the Art Déco facade of Part Time Lover in North Park — where Bar Pink operated for over a decade — I remind my wife Shelley that I’m on assignment. Because Wednesday is date night, but the place’s the grand opening falls on this day. So this is our date. Unlike Bar Pink, there is no live music. Instead, vinyl DJ sets are curated by Folk Arts Rare Records, which operates a small store in the back.

Place

Part Time Lover

3829 30th Street, San Diego

The building stands out, what with its dual theater marquees reading “Records” on one side and “Liquors” on the other. The doorman, Ethan, explains that serving times will be longer than expected due to the opening day crowd and the working out of some operational kinks. Ethan came to San Diego with his family “on holiday” from London, and his father proclaimed it paradise, moving them out here six years ago while Ethan was still in high school. I ask him to say “Iron Maiden,” which he politely does with a confused smile. Shelley doesn’t bat an eye, because that’s just what I do when I hear a foreign accent.

On the other side of the door, the music — more specifically, the volume of a sound system powered by vintage tube technology — catches me off guard. Loud enough to be heard above the full house conversations, drinks, and laughs, but clear, with no frequency dominating and straining the speakers. I head toward the restroom, at the far end of what looks like a warm tunnel, thanks to the inevitable line — a line exacerbated by only one working bathroom. The warm tunnel effect is a combination of lighting and wallpaper decorated with an infinite pattern of drunken cartoon elephants from Disney’s Dumbo, the “NP” logo above them.

I chat with a man named Masaki, who says booze and friends, not music, brought him to the bar. He’s from Japan and tells me he has traveled the world learning how to make the ultimate broth for ramen, which is served at an East Village restaurant that he co-owns called BeShock. I also ask him to say “Iron Maiden.” When it’s finally my turn to use the bathroom, I risk spending too much time in there, as I’m fascinated and frightened by the toilet that opens its lid as I approach. I wonder if it’s going to pee for me. I decide not to wait, and instead handle the task myself.

Shelley visits the record store out back in a failed hunt for rare Prince vinyl. The supernatural acoustics make conversation easy in this room, which is sealed off from the bar music. After Folk Arts’ current owner Brendan Boyle announces a price over $200 for a customer’s lot of less than five albums, I find I must ask why. It turns out the lot includes a rare copy of Herbie Hancock’s LP Gershwin’s World, which the buyer, artist Kolten French, says he needs to own after hearing Boyle spin it earlier. Boyle tells me it may have been released on a shoddy-sounding CD during that format’s introductory period and need say no more, as initial compact disc pressings had legalese printed on them that translated into “taken from analog tapes, this new digital medium is going to sound like shit.” French’s obsession with obscure jazz ties into his art, as he demonstrates with the pictures he shows me of an illustration he did featuring sax player Hank Mobley taking a smoke break, and a lamp he carved from a solid piece of linoleum that depicts Miles Davis’ entire band.

On the way out, I hear the Queen Of Disco herself, Donna Summer, from her 1976 concept album Four Seasons Of Love. I wonder if the original four-panel calendar and merch inserts are still inside the well-worn sleeve I spot the DJ handling, but decide not to ask. I just feel better believing they’re still rubbing up against their hot vinyl partner nearly 50 years later. Shelley knows what happens when I hear Donna, and shoots me a text saying she’s outside. It’s not meant to hurry me along. She understands that’s impossible.

Any date with my wife is an adventure, but I feel like I should balance the scales by doing something she wants to do. She declines dinner and says she would like me to watch an episode of Melrose Place with her while she deep-dives into a complete guidebook for Fox TV’s long-gone Beverly Hills, 90210 spinoff. Without a word of mockery. I agree to her terms. No one can tell me that I don’t suffer for my art.

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