Sunday, March 29, 2009

You Never Forget Your "First"

Venturing through Boston's Chinatown yesterday on the search for the Hong Kong import DVD of the recent John Woo movie, Red Cliff, I walked by an old haunt: Kneeland Electronics.

I say old haunt, but that's not quite accurate. It's a spot I've stopped by a number of times, perusing their DVDs and admiring their various posters, doo-dads and appliances. It's one of those places -- a neighborhood shop that seems like it's always been there. Never touristy or overdone in it's decor, bright, clean and well-operated by the same people; friendly folks who enjoy making suggestions and helping the consumer decide what's right for them.

Kneeland also has a special significance for me, as well. It's the store where I bought my very first Asian DVD, something I've become quite practiced in over the years. The movie was Dream Of A Warrior, a not-great Korean action flick with Leon Li. The film wasn't a classic by any means but I was intrigued enough to continue seeking out cinematic fare of the like -- a Jackie Chan film or two, works by Zhang Yimou (Hero), Steven Chow (Shaolin Soccer), Johnnie To (A Hero Never Dies) and how many others I can't recall. My purchasing has waned a bit recently, but I always stop into the store for a brief moment whenever I'm in the neighborhood, if not to buy then to just enjoy it's presence.

But sadly, those days are over. Kneeland Electronics is gone. Showroom empty, shudders down, window posters removed. This is nothing new in our current economy, of course. Lots of our favorite stores, coffee shops and such have vanished in recent times, be it due to changes in customer needs or the difficulties of business operations. Walking by, I stopped in my tracks almost disbelieving what I was seeing. I was struck with a sadness at the sight of the place being locked up. I find myself thinking of those who ran Kneeland, hoping that they're okay and provided for. With all the changes happening to the downtown Boston area, especially in Chinatown with the arrival of several incongruous, new high-rise luxury condo towers, I couldn't help but wonder how much longer the neighborhood has...

Moments later I found the Red Cliff disc I was looking for at another nearby shop that I frequent and purchased it, along with three or four more DVDs. I didn't really need them, and in the end I might have to skip a meal or two in order to afford them. But I guess it's my small way of making sure that another local merchant can stick around a little while longer. The next time you get a chance, and if you have the extra time and money to spare, think about doing the same. And feel free to discuss a shop that means or meant something to you in the comments below. :)

Dedicated to other cool spots from the past: Disc Diggers (Davis Square), Mystery Train (Newbury Street), Flipside (Brookline), CD Spins (Newbury Street), Fuddrucker's (Boston), Oasis Video (Lechmere), City Video (Boston), Cinemasmith (Brookline), Sony Theaters Nickelodeon and Cheri (Boston), Gary's '50's Diner (Keene, NH), Luke's Record Exchange (Pawtucket, RI), Tri-Boro Cinemas (North Attleboro, MA), Mon Kou (Attleboro, MA).

Knowing **1/2

DVD/Home Video:
Contact (1997) ****
Space Ghost: Coast To Coast Season Five ***1/2
Memoirs of an Invisible Man (1992) ***1/2
Under the Volcano (1984) ***1/2
Red Cliff II (Hong Kong) ***1/2
Red Cliff (HK) ***
Once Upon A Time in Corea (Korea) ***
One Night in the Tropics (Abbott & Costello, 1940) **1/2
National Treasure: Book of Secrets **1/2
Aliens Versus Predator: Requiem **1/2
The Producers (2005) **1/2


Tim said...

Damn, sorry to hear they've gone under! I never bought quite as much there as some other places, but I liked their setup and nice staff. They will be missed.

--mcc said...

5.23.09 UPDATE:

Kneeland is open for business again! :)

Sadly, some of our other favorite local Chinatown shops have disappeared or are in the midst of doing so.

Best of luck to "Upstairs Guy Imports" on Beach Street and "Our Guy" also on Kneeland Street.