Just to let you know, we will be closed on the 4th of July this year. We'll have regular hours on Friday, 7/3 (9:30-5:30) and 7/5 (9:30-3:30). Have a safe holiday and we will see you soon.
Sonoma County has given us the go ahead to open up the store to in-person customers with a reduced capacity on Saturday, June 6th! We are so excited to see everyone, but please keep in mind the following:
We have been thinking about how this might look for some time now and we want to assure you that we are ready to address your health and safety concerns. Here is what you can expect:
Our hours will be from 9:30 a.m. until 5:30 p.m. everyday, except Sunday when we will be closing at 3:30 p.m. for a weekly deep-clean. No one will be allowed in the store unless they are wearing a mask that covers their nose and mouth. All staff members will be masked and gloved. When you enter the front door there will be a table with hand sanitizer and gloves: we ask that you stop there first and either use the sanitizer or put on a pair of gloves. Only seven customers will be allowed in store at a time; all are expected to keep social distancing in mind and maintain a six foot clearance between people. This might mean that you cannot browse the fiction tables until someone else moves away--please be mindful. Ask before you reach, allow others to make room, share the road, so to speak.
We will continue to offer no-contact pickups in the back garden area, so the back door will be locked. If you know what you want (and you don't want to browse) we will be happy to take your phone order and have it ready for you in the garden. At the desk you will find tape markers on the carpeting; as we are not installing plexi-shields we ask that you stay behind these marks. Form one line (six feet between) and go to the first open of the two cash registers. Sorry but no debit cards (pinpads) at this time; we will run all cards as credit cards.
We have removed most of the chairs in the store--we can't allow you to sit for long periods at this time. Every hour we will sanitize all doorknobs, keyboards, telephones etc. The bathroom will be locked. You can ask for a key, but if we have not had the time to clean it between each use, we will have to say no.
At this point in time we will not be accepting any used books, either as a donation or for store credit. We are working on a plan to use an appointment system but we need to keep things clean and safe so for now please do not drop off any books. The same will apply to potential consignments: we have to wait and see how things work, so no consignments at this time.
This may sound like a lot of rules and regulations and it is not our wish to discourage you from coming to see us. (We miss you!) This is a transition from shelter-in-place to a brave new world and we hope you understand that we are intent on keeping our staff and our customers healthy.
We thank you for your continued support and we want to do all we can to fulfill your book-related needs. We can make recommendations for all kinds of readers, anything between baby books and the newest mystery thriller. Call us, come by, we are booksellers--it's what we love to do.
Some of you send me emails after you read my weekly missives, telling me how thoughtful and affirming I am, how much you look forward to my words of encouragement and/or wisdom. Well, let me now gently disabuse you of those notions.
Okay, let me amend that: I'm glad you feel better. I hope whatever I come up with helps. But I guess what I want you to know is that for me, at least, these essays are an act of pure selfishness. I write them not to enlighten anyone (although if that happens, that's fine, that's just an added perk); I write them for my own sanity. And really, I don't pretend to know any more than you. I have no brilliant solutions, but like you, I read the paper and I turn on the television and I see that things in this country are terribly, horribly out of whack these days.
Everywhere I go, the word "normal" is invoked with a reverence I've never heard before. We crave what is normal. We ache for what is normal.
That's because it's not normal to have a global pandemic that has killed north of 100,000 Americans and counting. It's not normal to have a government that has such a ham-handed response to our suffering countrymen.
That's because it's not normal for forty million Americans to be suddenly without work. The pain and anxiety this has generated is unprecedented. For decades, Americans have been told that government is the problem. That we should all be self-reliant. And now we don't know if we'll ever have our jobs again. We lay awake at night, and in the meantime, our government is printing up money and passing it out like there was no tomorrow.
That's because it's not normal for there to be two Americas, one for whites and one for people of color. The whole country seems to realize that at last, and the whole country is sickened by the blatant murder of black citizens at the hands of police.
That's because it's not normal that we have a president who is a pathological liar, who refuses to take blame for any of his mistakes, and who, it seems, is genetically incapable of feeling the pain of others. Not only that, he takes childish delight in tossing gasoline onto any story that has his name on it.
None of the above is remotely normal. And what strikes me most is that the bonds, agreements and tacit understandings we've shared since our founding as a society have suddenly, for now, at least-- evaporated. The legal glue, the trust that we thought always held us together through thick and thin, is gone. You see it in the streets of Minneapolis. You see it in the jarring rhetoric of congressional committees. I've been thinking a lot about this. Trust is one of those commodities you can't really put a price tag on, but when it vanishes, that's serious. Democracy depends on trust.
Yesterday, because I desperately wanted a normal experience again, I drove with a friend out to a restaurant in Napa. And we sat in the sun and ate lunch and a waiter came along and asked if everything was okay and we said yes, it was wonderful (even though the food was only so-so). We smiled and ate and thanked the waiter when he refilled our water glasses and it was just like old times, which is to say, normal. May such days come again.
I have always been a maker of things. As my mother tells me, when I discovered scissors, tape, and yarn, there was no stopping me ("Do you know how much trouble a toddler can get into with those?") When I was nine, I reverse-engineered the art of draping clothing, using various soft bodied dolls and a plethora of straight pins. I used to listen to A Little Princess on tape from the library, and dress my dolls according to the various plot points. When I was fifteen, I made my first knitted sweaters. When I was sixteen, I made my first lap quilt.
This coming week marks the one year anniversary of the death of my wife, Lilla, and to say it is freighted with emotion for me is, well, an understatement. I went out to the cemetery the other day to pay her a visit. I don't do it as often as I probably should, in part because it's a bit of a drive, but mainly because whenever I do, I realize again just how important a role she played in my life and, in the wake of all that's happened since, how much I've taken hold of my own destiny This is as much a shock to me sometimes as losing her: to see how much in one short year I've changed.
We were partners, she and I. We took turns dreaming. She agreed to take our two small children and come with me to live in Japan for a year; I agreed with her to leave our happy home in New England and come back to California and start a bookstore from scratch. It was a dance, and often, my role was that of the junior partner, in that I appreciated the various visions Lilla had for our future and was mostly willing to go along with them (I did balk at the romance of camping across the United States, I remember, and she eventually owned up that that was one of her dumber ideas.)
But now I'm on my own, which means that my judgments (informed, uninformed) are irrevocable, and no matter what I do, at the end of the day I own my mistakes. Suddenly, things are grim, existential. There is no partnering, no palming it off on the misguided thinking of your mate. No shock absorber or shoulder to cry on. You do your best to think things through and cross your fingers. You never want things to go wrong, but the truth is, things go wrong from time to time. That's the nature of the universe: you can only control so much
The one year anniversary of a death, the yahrzeit, it's called in Judaism, is important. The rabbis say you are supposed to grieve for a year, then, after that time, you are instructed to move on, renew. That's the tradition, although I've found that while I've been grieving steadily over Lilla, it has not been as simple as reciting a prayer each and every day. There are days when I miss her terribly, and others when she's almost a perfect stranger, when I have to remind myself that she was by my side for forty-four years. Days when I see her reflected in the bookstore and in casual conversations, and other days when she's absent altogether.
I can't see how I will ever come to the point where she will fade entirely from my memory--not after so many years, so many mutual experiences, the pain, the joy, so much back and forth. But a year has passed, and of course I want to have a fresh, new life. Or let me put it this way: it would be refreshing to have a new life, especially in the time I have remaining. How one goes about that, though, is another matter.
It took them many months to construct her marker. She's buried in a lovely spot, quiet and unencumbered by other graves, and it is a beautiful green stone slab. Simple. Elegant. I think I did well in choosing the elements. I'm sure she would have approved. I stood there and thought about her. And I laid a bunch of lilacs over the marker as a present. Here, I thought to myself, here Lil, I brought these for you.Then I picked up nearby stone and laid it down it as well. Stones is another thing Jews do: we lay them down on graves to show that we were there. That we haven't forgotten. That we're reliable and we'll be back.
Lest you think it's easy to write these words, I probably ought to tell you, it isn't. It tears me up, in fact, but I force myself to do it because not only does it keep me connected to my previous life, it's the only way I know that will pave my way into the next. I don't believe in angels or God. Grief, on the other hand, is real. And grief and redemption are interwoven, at least in my mind. It's how I roll.
If you’ve been watching the news (and who hasn’t?) lately, you will know that the rapidly spreading coronavirus has created fear and in some cases, panic, in California. The governor has told us not to congregate in numbers larger than fifty. It is not yet a law, but he strongly suggests it, and of course, on medical grounds he is right.
The short-term economic impact of such an action will surely be devastating for Sonoma--bad for large corporations, but even worse for the rest of us, mom-and-pop operations just loping along, even in the best of times.
Readers’ Books takes the health and safety of our customers very seriously, and we will never compromise on that issue. We also feel a deep responsibility to our staff and to all you book-lovers out there who would be bereft if deprived of the wealth of new books coming on the market. To further compound the situation, Sonoma public libraries have announced that they will be closed until the end of March at least.
So what to do? Some of my friends in the book business have decided to close their doors until the craziness passes. The virus will abate eventually. Warmer weather is ahead, and that’s a good thing. But you can’t put an exact date on when or how severe our local experience will be. It seems to be related to population density, and it also seems that social isolation, or just staying at home, will be a big part in winning this coming battle.
For the time being, we’ve decided to keep our doors open. We will be curtailing most author events, we will also be closing an hour earlier than usual, at six. Our reasoning is that this is a small town (low density), we think (hope) we fulfill a vital need in this community, and it is very rare (nowadays especially) that we find anything even approaching a crowd in our store. The truth is that book browsing is a largely solitary occupation. People come in one at a time and mull over this or that table, make their purchase and leave, sometimes without ever saying a word. It’s rather monastic, in fact.
We can understand why you might want to hold off on consumerism for now, but we urge you to consider the long term effect. We are doing everything we can to keep the wheels greased, but we need you to step up as well. And it’s not just Readers’ Books I’m talking about, it’s all the small, local stores you love to patronize. If you want this garden to be around in the days and weeks to come, it’s the same story--you just have to water it. Even if you don’t have an immediate book need, here’s one easy idea you might take to heart--how about calling up and buying a gift certificate to put toward future purchases? We’ll happily mail it out or hold it for you and you’ll have some of your Christmas or Hanukkah taken care of! Christmas in March! What a concept.
As I said, we are monitoring this thing on a daily basis and will let you know. We want to stay in business, yes, but we also want what’s best for all of us. Meantime, wash thy hands.
Just in case you missed it, Readers' Books owner Andy Weinberger is proud to present his first novel, An Old Man's Game: An Amos Parisman Mystery. It's a PI novel like you've never seen before, featuring retired private eye Amos Parisman, who is hired by the local temple's board when a controversial rabbi drops dead over his matzoh ball soup at Canter's Deli in Los Angeles. As he looks into what seems to be a simple, tragic accident, Amos uncovers a world of treachery and hurt that shakes a large L.A. Jewish community to its core.