TLA was another matter entirely, though our outpost did mirror the DMV in decor and lighting. The employees perfected a demeanor somewhere between hungover and disdain, I suppose under the rubric of hipness, but their knowledge and love of movies proved contagious.
Something was lost in our community when these sorts of stores closed, probably in your neighborhood as well, a one-two punch to the sort of commerce that is unlikely to be replaced any time soon.
The stores promised the joy of discovery, opportunities to get lost in the archives of creativity while slowly releasing the anxiety from a long day or week. Granted, libraries offer many of these pleasures, but without the generous hours, conviviality, and noise.
At the book or video store, you could perfect the art of dawdling, what the Italians grandly term dolce far niente, with the promise of running into half the neighborhood. They were our indoor town squares.
And what remains in Chestnut Hill, our District Without Borders? Banks and more banks, eight in all, a literal reminder of which predators triumphed in our battered economy. Banks make terrific tenants, but they're cold neighbors. You might frequent your bank - although with ATMs, why bother? - but would never venture into the other seven.
We have coffee houses. I'm fiercely loyal to my local café - visiting another feels like cheating - but the experience is markedly different from browsing. Coffee tends to speed up life, and a lot of folks have transformed cafés into alternate offices.
Patrons often make appointments to meet friends for allotted slots of time, the tyranny of scheduling that governs work extending to leisure. Gone is the serendipitous pleasure of simply running into each other. Personally, what I want to belong to is the slow-time movement.
Our neighborhood has plenty of places that serve food - even, confoundingly, a dog bakery. (The recession can damage almost anything but not, it seems, the pet lovers' tendency toward unnecessary consumption, usually at shops with unfortunate names.) So we have plenty of opportunity to fill the belly, but not as much sustenance for the mind.
Instead, we consume books, movies, and music at home, using the search-and-destroy model of the Internet. Consumers rarely get lost on Amazon, stumble onto a treat, an unknown author or artist, an intriguing cover. It's all about commerce, not the trove of art.
On Netflix, we point and shoot, zeroing in on the specific. And we do all this as we observe little and talk to no one. Gaining convenience, we lose the ability to stumble across the unexpected or sublime. We don't browse. We rarely dawdle.
What the younger generation lost with so much technology is curiosity, being in that state of wonder. They think they know everything.
Well, young people have always thought they know everything. The difference is that now they can know almost anything instantly, the answer usually available with a couple of clicks.
Our Borders is now a beige elephant, all 18,538 square feet nearing two years of vacancy, an eyesore. Borders was once the epicenter of the commercial district. Empty for too long, the building is a hulking monument to a failed business model trounced by the speed and instant gratification of the computer age.
I never loved that store, but I loathe its absence.
Contact columnist Karen Heller at 215-854-2586, firstname.lastname@example.org, or @kheller on Twitter. Read her past columns at www.philly.com/KarenHeller.