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Newsletter Number 62 • January 27, 2010
Ever since I first learned to read I have had a love affair with reading and books— I remember as a child finding books my father had purchased and reading them for pleasure. In my adolescence I moved on to discovering the treasures offered by the local library. I don’t remember frequenting any bookstores, however, until I went to college.
As I have progressed through life I have become more and more enamored of bookstores. Before we moved to Fairfield, the highlight of every trip to our visit to Fairfield was going to 21st Century Books. I felt like a kid in a candy store. On each of my visits I would buy and ship so many books back to California that when I returned home I would find that I had purchased enough books to last me many months. It was always very exciting for me.
After we moved to Fairfield, one day my wife, Dena, came to me and said “Lenny we have to do something, I ran into Sharon and she told me that she and Tony were planning to close the bookstore and that I should come and get all the books I would want before they were sold out.” We soon thereafter met with Tony and Sharon and decided that 21st Century Books could still be a financially viable business. We thought that if we raised more capital, moved to a better location, and established a good website that we could break even or even turn a small profit.
Thanks to the support of so many of you, both Fairfield residents and our friends and customers all over the country, we have managed to do OK since we re-launched the new store. Yes, we have been losing money, but the negative cash flow has not been so large that we could not continue to underwrite the venture in return for the tremendous benefits we personally derived and for what we perceived to be the contribution to the town and its citizens.
Unfortunately, during the last two years, given the weakening economy, the increased popularity of electronic media like The Kindle, and of course due to the ever increasing competition from Amazon, our losses have grown to the point that we finally have to face up to the reality that we cannot continue this endeavor into perpetuity.
Tony has expressed our predicament perfectly, comparing us to a blacksmith or buggy repair man at the beginning of the 20th Century. There is practically no way an independent bookstore can thrive or even survive in our modern society. We are in excellent company, as we close our store, in that we are exiting at about the same time as one of the great spiritual bookstores in America, The Bodhi Tree, (located in Los Angeles) is closing its doors.
I really want to thank Sharon and Tony for having created one of the greatest bookstores on the planet, and for having nursed and nurtured it during its great growth phase and then having carefully taken it into its final retirement. I especially want to thank Tony for turning me on to so many great books that have not only enriched my life, but some of which have significantly altered my outlook and understanding about the deepest and most profound questions or issues that any human being can confront. I truly believe that Tony has been like a pastor or a priest to his flock, leading his readers into the most heartwarming, mind-expanding, and spiritually developmental readings to be found anywhere.
Thanks to Tony, Dena and I have discovered the marvelous writings of Ramesh Balsekar, and his disciple Wayne Liquorman. We have enjoyed the privilege of spending time with Ramesh in Mumbai, and with Wayne in a number of venues. The modicum of wisdom that I have been able to absorb from their teachings has enabled me to put this experience into perspective and accept the necessity of this action without remorse, regret, or any second guessing.
Very few people are fortunate enough to live out their dreams and fantasies. For years I wanted to own and operate a bookstore. Thanks to Sharon and Tony and the wonderful and supportive friends and customers who have purchased books from us over the years I have fulfilled that dream. It has been everything I would ever have hoped it could be and even more. We will shed no tears, and we will not look back over our shoulders; we will continue to go with the flow in this life and appreciate the new adventures and opportunities that will inevitably open up for us. We have learned to accept change, as we have learned to accept so many things.
I love quotations. Treasury of Spiritual Wisdom, compiled by Andy Zuko is one my all time favorite books (Thanks Tony for discovering this one for me). I knew if I picked up my copy and leafed through it I would find an appropriate gem of wisdom to conclude our last monthly letter: “Times of change are times of fearfulness and times of opportunity. Which they may be for you depends upon your attitude towards them.” Ernest C. Wilson
Once again I want to thank all of our loyal friends and customers and hope that you too will accept the necessity of this change with a positive attitude.
There is always the final time.
Job, family, friends, lovers.
Always the time waits and the end arrives.
If I had to make a comparison to what my present situation is similar to...
I would have to say a blacksmith or a horse buggy repair man at the beginning of the 20th Century.
Long ago …
The upstart Fords and Chevys would be the erasers of the blacksmith’s career…
Auto savvy people would pass the horse buggy repairman’s workshop and say
“Hey look a buggy man THAT IS SO 19th CENTURY”
In the 21st Century… Amazon., downloads, E books and the Kindle are the erasures of the Independent book store model.
And all the tech savvy people are walking past my door thinking…
“Hey look an Independent bookstore THAT IS SO 20th CENTURY”
So just as the outdated blacksmith had to cope and learn automobile engine repair...
So Independent bookstore employees ( such as I) will need to cope and accept that progress and technology always thrusts forward and the waves created do wash over slow moving obstacles.
What did I expect?
A few final thoughts
Over 5 years ago, Len suggested we write a monthly newsletter.
“A monthly newsletter!” I thought” “What on earth will I find to write about every month?”
As is the case with our most treasured gifts... There is at first an initial resistance... Bordering on rejection.
Through my monthly writings I was able to express my inner thoughts… allowing me an opening to myself.
A silence grew as I wrote.
So a gift was given to me through the newsletter.
I learned much about myself...
And you learned more of me than you probably bargained for.
Thank you for allowing me this expression… since growing silence was a direct result.
I am also thankful for the gift of this spiritual bookstore which allowed me to be in its company for over 26 years.
I also thank Len and Dena for the gift of 5 extended years of being nurtured by this environment…
To the many customers who ordered through us… when prices at online dealers where often less… Thank you, you have helped our business survive as long as it did.
And lastly I need to be grateful for the closing of the store as well… as this is another hidden gift...
For letting go of someone or something can be our hardest yet greatest spiritual lesson.
“You lose your grip and then you slip into the masterpiece” Leonard Cohen