Ordinary Miracles

Last time I traveled to California, I sat at San Jose International Airport waiting for my flight to be called, hooked up to my iPod and distracted by my book, when a man whose plane had just arrived entered the gate with arms outstretched in a “Y” above his head. He was mumbling, as if on a cell phone with one of those wireless speakers. Something about his excited presence was out of place. But he was smiling. No, truly beaming. Was he about to greet his wife or a friend?

He looked right at me and briefly caught my eye. Not usually one to avoid connecting with people this way, for some reason I turned away, uncomfortable with such direct eye contact.  Was I mistrusting because I was at the airport where incessant loudspeaker chatter dictated the threat level and therefore how scared I should be of the slightest anomaly? Of a man who acts more boldly than the typical airport automaton? Of a man smiling?  

As he passed by me, I heard him call out: “I’m in America! My first time in San Jose! What a great country!” with arms still extended, truly savoring the moment.

I finally found my smile, too late to connect with him, but amazed at the simple joy of what I just witnessed. A few other passengers waiting for the plane to DIA finally looked up from their laptops and we exchanged small, contented smiles. I started tearing up, thinking about this country and thinking about Obama.

I don’t know who the man was or why he came to the U.S., but I am so very lucky to have shared the experience with him, even if in a very small way.  As I sat there taking it all in, I noticed Sarah McLaughlin’s “Ordinary Miracle” playing on my iPod, a perfect soundtrack for the moment. 

I agree with him: this can be a great country. So here’s to good thoughts for a great country on inauguration day…  and for many more ordinary miracles to come.


So Sad to See Stacey’s Go

Last week, when the Shelf Awareness  newsletter brought the news that Stacey’s Bookstore was going out of business, I was heartbroken. I haven’t stopped thinking about it since.

Stacey’s was my go-to book haven when I lived in San Francisco. Right next door to my office, it was where I took a (very!) extended lunch break to stand in line to get It’s Not about the Bike signed by Lance Armstrong (he was so much shorter than I expected!), where I could always find the perfect book along their staff recommendation wall, where I still return every single time I’ve been back in the city over the last four years.

For someone who has zero willpower to walk past a bookstore, and even goes so far as to orchestrate road trips to include bookstore visits, the increasing casualties of these indie staples get me in the gut. Will my kids have access to indie book enclaves? Will my only source of books be Amazon, Costco and Walmart?

Here’s the deal, folks: support your independent bookstores. A couple weeks ago, David Streitfeld from the New York Times wrote an article, Bargain Hunting for Books, and Feeling Sheepish About It, that still fires me up. If you claim to be a true book lover, then aren’t those couple of extra dollars woth it?

For the last several years, I’ve worked at indie bookstores, not for the paycheck, but for the pure love of books, for the intelligent, curious and open-minded community who gather there, and because of a commitment to make sure independent bookstores don’t meet the same fate as the local specialty shops of our parents’ and grandparents’ generation.

R.I.P. Stacey’s.