Old Books Are Best   1 comment

A Bookstore and Owner in Transition.

February 29, 2016

Some of my best friends are books. Not necessarily in a literal sense, but rather as an allegory. I recently spent some time with a favorite old book. Sitting in a comfortable chair IMG_1607near Highway One in Gualala, California I understood the wisdom of the old saying, “Old books are best.”

My friend Joel Crockett has decided to hang up his spurs. Heaven forbid, the rumor is true: the Four-Eyed Frog Bookstore is for sale. Sitting in that chair in the front of the bookstore this morning I recalled the adage that serves as the title of this piece. And I immediately understood that Joel is a chameleon. He’s a book, and a human being, a young mind, a senior citizen, a renaissance man, a curious fellow and a visionary.

I’m not certain anyone in 2003 would have looked on the horizon and seen past the looming juggernaut of an amazonian wave and pushed forward to open a bookstore in Gualala, California. But that was Joel’s vision of community. And what a vision. Like the village square of old, his bookstore has become a place for thinkers great and small, young and old.

Even with a near term retirement, Joel is still thinking about community. The importance of ideas, of quiet, and of conversation. I’ve thought about the authors who have come through the Frog over the years, and who’ve been welcomed by scores of devotees ready to devour every one of the author’s words; and authors who’ve come to speak with a small, respectful group of fans . . . or to no one at all. I remember my days of working in the music industry of the 1970s, 80s, and 90s, and the number of times I helped organize in-store appearances by recording artists and musicians. The same butterflies went through my stomach back then have traveled through Joel’s this past dozen years. Yes it’s disappointing when 2 people show up when the author deserves 200. But nevertheless, the event took place. With great attendance or with empty chairs, the author knew that the bookstore cared enough to invite people in. And with fans in attendance or not, IMG_1603the community is better for the event and although the author may not know it at the time, she or he too are better for the effort. Hundreds of times Joel could have said “no . . . you’re not that important, so I won’t host you in my store.” But 30 or 40 or more times each year, he did just that.

A book store is more than a retail establishment. It has been and will always be a place of community and for community. Now more than ever if the community supports the store, the store will pay us back with interest. I hope someone steps up and buys the Four-Eyed Frog Bookstore. For the Mendonoma Coast, and regardless of his future plans, we are grateful that Joel shared his time, his energy, his books with us. We are better for it. In Under The Tuscan Sun, author Frances Mayes wrote, “Any arbitrary turning along the way and I would be elsewhere; I would be different.” I hope someone has the vision that Joel Crockett had. To operate a bookstore on the Mendocino Coast. We are different for a turn Joel made. Happily.

Although all of the books lining the shelves of this wonderful landmark are new, they still exude something akin to time itself. I believe that the venerable Frog will continue. After all, Beverly Chew had his own sense of vision more than a century ago:

“Old Books are best!…
What though the prints be not so bright,
The paper dark, the binding slight?
Our author, be he dull or sage,
Returning from a distant age
So lives again. We say of right:
Old Books are best.”

Thanks Joel. From all of us.

David Steffen

©2016 David Steffen 

 

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  1. Pingback: Credit Where Credit Is Due | Jazzdavid

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