Wednesday, March 21, 2012
If I were the prince of darkness, I’d want to engulf the world in darkness, and I’d have a third of its real estate, and I’d have four-fifths of its population, but I wouldn’t be happy until I had seized the ripest apple on the tree. THEE. So I’d set about however necessary to take over the United States.
I’d subvert the churches first. I’d begin with a campaign of whispers. With the wisdom of a serpent, I would whisper to you as I whispered to Eve. DO AS YOU PLEASE. To the young, I would whisper that the Bible is a myth, I would convince them that man created God, instead of the other way around. I would confide that what’s bad is good, and what’s good is square. And the old, I would teach to pray, after me, "our father, which is in Washington."
And then I’d get organized. I’d educate authors in how to make lewd literature exciting so that anything else would appear dull and uninteresting. I’d threaten TV with dirtier movies and vice versa. I’d peddle narcotics to whom I could; I’d sell alcohol to ladies and gentlemen of distinction. I’d tranquilize the rest with pills.
If I were the devil I’d soon have families that war with themselves, churches that war with themselves, and nations that war with themselves, until each in its turn was consumed, and with promises of higher ratings, I’d have mesmerizing media fanning the flames.
If I were the devil, I would encourage schools to refine young intellects, but neglect to discipline emotions, just let them run wild, until before you knew it, you’d have to have drug sniffing dogs and metal detectors at every school house door.
Within a decade I’d have prisons overflowing, I’d have judges promoting pornography. Soon I could evict God from the courthouse, then from the schoolhouse, and then from the houses of Congress. And in His own churches, I would substitute psychology for religion, and deify science. I would lure priest and pastors into misusing boys and girls, and church money.
If I were the devil, I’d make the symbol of Easter an egg and the symbol of Christmas, a bottle. And what’ll you bet I couldn’t get whole states to promote gambling as the way to get rich. I would caution against extremes, in hard work, in patriotism, and in moral conduct. I would convince the young that marriage is old fashioned, that swinging is more fun. That what you see on TV is the way to be, and thus I could undress you in public, and I could lure you into bed with diseases for which there is no cure.
In other words, If I were the devil, I’d just keep right on doing what he’s doing.
- From a Paul Harvey Broadcast
Saturday, December 3, 2011
Police Officers Find That Dissent on Drug Laws May Come With a Price
By MARC LACEY
Published: December 2, 2011
Those remarks, along with others expressing sympathy for illegal immigrants from Mexico, were passed along to the Border Patrol headquarters in Washington. After an investigation, a termination letter arrived that said Mr. Gonzalez held “personal views that were contrary to core characteristics of Border Patrol Agents, which are patriotism, dedication and esprit de corps.”
After his dismissal, Mr. Gonzalez joined a group even more exclusive than the Border Patrol: law enforcement officials who have lost their jobs for questioning the war on drugs and are fighting back in the courts.
In Arizona, Joe Miller, a probation officer in Mohave County, near the California border, filed suit last month in Federal District Court after he was dismissed for adding his name to a letter by Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, which is based in Medford, Mass., and known as LEAP, expressing support for the decriminalization of marijuana.
“More and more members of the law enforcement community are speaking out against failed drug policies, and they don’t give up their right to share their insight and engage in this important debate simply because they receive government paychecks,” said Daniel Pochoda, the legal director for the American Civil Liberties Union of Arizona, which is handling the Miller case.
Mr. Miller was one of 32 members of LEAP who signed the letter, which expressed support for a California ballot measure that failed last year that would have permitted recreational marijuana use. Most of the signers were retired members of law enforcement agencies, who can speak their minds without fear of action by their bosses. But Mr. Miller and a handful of others who were still on the job — including the district attorney for Humboldt County in California and the Oakland city attorney — signed, too.
LEAP has seen its membership increase significantly from the time it was founded in 2002 by five disillusioned officers. It now has an e-mail list of 48,000, and its members include 145 judges, prosecutors, police officers, prison guards and other law enforcement officials, most of them retired, who speak on the group’s behalf.
“No one wants to be fired and have to fight for their job in court,” said Neill Franklin, a retired police officer who is LEAP’s executive director. “So most officers are reluctant to sign on board. But we do have some brave souls.”
Mr. Miller was accused of not making clear that he was speaking for himself and not the probation department while advocating the decriminalization of cannabis. His lawsuit, though, points out that the letter he signed said at the bottom, “All agency affiliations are listed for identification purposes only.”
He was also accused of dishonesty for denying that he had given approval for his name to appear on the LEAP letter. In the lawsuit, Mr. Miller said that his wife had given approval without his knowledge, using his e-mail address, but that he had later supported her.
Kip Anderson, the court administrator for the Superior Court in Mohave County, said there was no desire to limit Mr. Miller’s political views.
“This isn’t about legalization,” Mr. Anderson said. “We’re not taking a stand on that. We just didn’t want people to think he was speaking on behalf of the probation department.”
Mr. Miller, who is also a retired police officer and Marine, lost an appeal of his dismissal before a hearing officer. But when his application for unemployment benefits was turned down, he appealed that and won. An administrative law judge found that Mr. Miller had not been dishonest with his bosses and that the disclaimer on the letter was sufficient.
In the case of Mr. Gonzalez, the fired Border Patrol agent, he had not joined LEAP but had expressed sympathy with the group’s cause. “It didn’t make sense to me why marijuana is illegal,” he said. “To see that thousands of people are dying, some of whom I know, makes you want to look for a change.”
Since his firing, Mr. Gonzalez, who filed suit in federal court in Texas in January, has worked as a construction worker, a bouncer and a yard worker. He has also gone back to school, where he is considering a law degree.
The Justice Department, which is defending the Border Patrol, has sought to have the case thrown out. Mr. Gonzalez lost a discrimination complaint filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which sided with his supervisors’ view that they had lost trust that he would uphold the law.
Those challenging their dismissals are buoyed by the case of Jonathan Wender, who was fired as a police sergeant in Mountlake Terrace, Wash., in 2005, partly as a result of his support for the decriminalization of marijuana. Mr. Wender won a settlement of $815,000 as well as his old job back. But he retired from the department and took up teaching at the University of Washington, where one of his courses is “Drugs and Society.”
Among those not yet ready to publicly urge the legalization of drugs is a veteran Texas police officer who quietly supports LEAP and spoke on the condition that he not be identified. “We all know the drug war is a bad joke,” he said in a telephone interview. “But we also know that you’ll never get promoted if you’re seen as soft on drugs.”
Mr. Franklin, the LEAP official, said it was natural that those on the front lines of enforcing drug laws would have strong views on them, either way. It was the death of a colleague at the hands of a drug dealer in 2000 that prompted Mr. Franklin, a veteran officer, to begin questioning the nation’s drug policies. Some of his colleagues, though, hit the streets even more aggressively, he said.
Mr. Franklin said he got calls all the time from colleagues skeptical about the drug laws as they are written but unwilling to speak out — yet.
“I was speaking to a guy with the Maryland State Police this past Saturday, and he’s about to retire in January and he’s still reluctant to join us until he leaves,” Mr. Franklin said. “He wants to have a good last couple of months, without any hassle.”
Monday, September 12, 2011
Ann Arbor, Michigan (CNN)
-- The End.
It seems wrong to begin a story like that, doesn't it? Particularly a story about a bookstore. It should begin "In the beginning," or "Once upon a time," or "It was love at first sight."
Especially "It was love at first sight."
After 40 years in business, Borders No. 1, the company's original Ann Arbor store, is scheduled to close on Monday. By late August, posters on the windows declared, "NOTHING HELD BACK!" -- and that meant the fixtures and furniture as well. The goods -- books, but also games and puzzles and teddy bears and throw rugs -- gave off the sour tang of a picked-over flea market.
A lonely security guard stood watch; he was added just recently, an employee said, after a shoplifting incident.
Borders Rewards customers have been receiving e-mails for some time now, ever since the chain declared bankruptcy and announced it was closing its 399 remaining stores. A month ago it was "30 to 50 percent off!" Now it's "60 to 80 percent off!"
There was recently a sign taped to No. 1's front door. It said, "Now Hiring: Apply Online at Borders.com." It was serious -- the liquidators needed to hire part-time help -- but it seemed like a sick joke.
What happened to the love?
"Borders used to be chockablock with books," said Jonathan Marwil, a University of Michigan history professor and author of a history of Ann Arbor. "It has increasingly looked less like a bookstore than a bowling alley, with its wide-open spaces. Now they're selling children's dolls on the front counter. It's really pretty grim."
It was a place where employees were devoted to their jobs. They prided themselves on their knowledge of their assigned sections -- and everybody else's. It was a gathering place and community center, just up the street from the university's main campus.
"We worked when we didn't have to work because we didn't know we were working. We would go into the store when it was closed to do more work," said Sharon Gambin, who arrived for the 1982 holiday season and went on to hold several positions during a three-decade career. "That's how much we loved what we did."
It's an odd thing to mourn for a store. Mourn for the employees who have lost their jobs, yes, but the store? Just another box on the roadside. Hundreds more like it. Move it along, capitalism.
Woolworth is long gone; few were saddened at its passing. Circuit City went belly up; silence. Great downtown department stores have vanished, changed names, disappeared to that Great Retailer in the Sky. (Jacobson's, the upscale department store that once occupied Borders' East Liberty Street storefront, is but one example.) With rare exceptions -- the late Atlanta newspaper columnist Celestine Sibley once wrote a valentine, "Dear Store," to the city's now-defunct retailer, Rich's -- the public yawns.
They'll probably soon forget about Borders as well. To most of the country, it's just another big-box chain, another in a series of disappearing strip-mall storefronts. Indeed, there's an irony in its demise, for as Borders is blamed for killing off some local independents, now it has been done in by Amazon and the Internet. The circle may go 'round again: Former customers may turn to independents, if their towns have them. Or, if they rule out their local chain, maybe they'll just go back to browsing on Amazon.
A shame, because when done right, there's something about a bookstore.
It's a library, a gathering spot, a refuge, a journey. Often it's small, maybe an 800-square-foot storefront jammed into a city street. Or it's idiosyncratic: an old house or converted barn, a rambling lobby or strip-mall space. It may not even be in your neighborhood, but that's where you go.
At its best, it's crowded: sometimes with people, always with books -- books stacked to the ceiling. Books lined up in bookcases. Books spread out on tables, highlighted on platforms, displayed in twirling, 5-foot-high wire racks.
Don't know what you're looking for? That's part of the adventure. A bookstore is governed by serendipity. You walk in and the world falls away. There's no rush. It's just you and the books, these pockets of words and paper that somehow transport you to a different place.
The best bookstores have a certain feel, a certain comfort to them. They're stately but not forbidding. The employees are a mix of the young and the eccentric, college students and lifers. The front of the store features their recommendations, a little offbeat, a little intriguing. If you're looking for something specific, they know where to find it; if you don't know what you're looking for, they can be your Virgil and Beatrice, guiding you through the world.
It is a place with a soul.
For much of its 40-year history, that was Borders. Though it was a chain, with hundreds of locations around the world, during its best years it maintained the feel of a great, expansive local bookstore, the 800-foot space multiplied by 10 or 20 (and much better organized). The choices were manifold, the employees passionate, the adventure always beginning.
In some towns and cities, Borders was it.
"I find in books a comfort and a companionship, a refuge from an urgently insistent world," wrote Ann Miller in the Longmont (Colorado) Weekly about the closing of that town's Borders, its only new-book bookstore. "I am worried about the folding of bookstores like Borders and the lost opportunity for browsing. ... There was no better place for grazing the written word and for meeting the best of friends."
Joe Gable, who managed Store No. 1 from the mid-'70s to the mid-'90s, puts it more simply.
"My goal," he said, "had always been to make the Ann Arbor Borders the best bookstore in America."
Joe Gable came for love, too.
"I figured I'd work in the bookstore while I did the research. So I got a job at Borders clerking for $2.50 an hour," he recalled. His suffer-no-fools demeanor gets edgy when discussing Borders' later problems, but it softens when talking about the early days. "I had worked for a used bookstore in Madison while I was a graduate student, and I'd always loved books and the book business. And it just happened that the book business got really interesting and (Borders) evolved. ..."
By the time Gable arrived, Borders had been in business three years. Tom and Louis Borders, the brothers behind the name, both had U of M connections -- Tom had done graduate work there, Louis undergraduate studies. They opened a bookstore, the story goes, after spending $500 on a collection of books at an estate sale. (Tom is now an investor based on Austin, Texas; Louis, who founded the dot-com firm Webvan, is based in northern California. Tom declined a request for an interview; Louis didn't return phone messages.)
Ann Arbor, the kind of college town that describes itself as "six square miles surrounded by reality," was a scruffier place then, but in the 1970s -- as today -- it was one of the best-read cities in America. After short stays in other downtown locations and a change in focus from used books to new books, the brothers moved to a two-story, 10,000-square-foot storefront -- a former men's clothing store that dated back to the 19th century -- at 303 S. State Street.
Ten-thousand square feet. To sell books. It was an astonishing amount of space. "We're talking about 1974," said Benita "Be" Kaimowitz, who began work at Borders in 1975 and eventually trained the store's personnel. "There were no big bookstores." Kaimowitz, who moved to Ann Arbor in 1970, said she "went down there and just parked myself, and waited to get an interview."
Gable arrived just before the move.
"He had a vision of what a bookstore should and actually could be," said Jeanne Joesten, who joined Borders in 1986 and has held several positions over the years.
As manager, he kept the book-loving staff on their toes, highlighted some of the more obscure corners in the store's 100,000-title stock, went through the previous day's sales. He unpacked boxes and oversaw displays. He arrived early and stayed late.
"I saw this man every single morning sweeping the walk," said Gambin.
The Borders brothers had a feel for business. In the era before personal computers, Borders kept track of every single title on three-inch-square punch cards. Inventory was deep and rich. The inventory approach, an innovation of Louis Borders, led to a separate business, Book Inventory Systems, which the company supplied to other major independent book vendors. Tom Borders oversaw the store.
But it was Gable who reveled in books.
That often meant bucking the tide, not difficult in a countercultural college town that had been a center for the antiwar movement. Borders' employees, a crew of well-educated individuals who had to pass a qualifying test, were assigned specific sections and empowered to oversee them. Everybody cleaned the store; everybody pitched in on customer service.
Take the quiz: Could you have worked at Borders?
And everyone took pride in their knowledge of literature, science, publishing and, well, knowledge.
"Pre-Google, there was a spot near the front of the store where I could stand and say out loud almost any Google-y type question, and somebody within earshot would know the answer," said Kaimowitz.
The store's staffers included Steve Adams, the king of the sci-fi section; Sven Birkerts, who went on to become a well-known essayist; and poet Keith Taylor, who now runs the creative writing program at Michigan.
The store was richly stocked with works from small presses and university publishers, and often sold more of those titles than it did best-sellers.
"We used the term 'a world-class inventory' and didn't throw that around lightly," said Robert Teicher, the company's longtime fiction buyer. Gable prized merchandising displays dependent on several copies of a specific title, not just one or two. "We not only bought them, but bought them to be displayed," Teicher said. "So they would send us two copies, and Joe would get on the phone and say, 'I need seven copies. Or 10 copies. I need to display this thing.' "
They sold, too, he added.
"We were book people," he said.
iReport: Are there deals at Borders?
Falling in the river
Sharon Gambin had been a high school guidance counselor and, thanks to budget crunches, was pink-slipped twice in short order. While awaiting a new assignment, she applied at Borders.
As a child she'd fantasized about working in a bookstore -- about owning a bookstore. She once tried to talk her father into funding a bookstore. "Just craziness," she said.
"For me to get hired was like -- the thrill. Never realizing that what was happening for me personally was, how shall I say it? I fell in the river and I got swept up. As they say, I never looked back. It was a great match."
The store, she said, had its idiosyncrasies.
The receiving room was in the basement and there was no elevator, so books were stacked atop one another and carried upstairs. Nobody wore nametags. Gable gave pride of place to store recommendations over The New York Times best-sellers all the chain stores pushed. You could smoke, and everybody did. "There were ashtrays everywhere," said Gambin.
It could be a hothouse atmosphere; Teicher can think of at least five marriages that came out of the Ann Arbor store, including his own to Gambin. There were countless relationships, too, and stolen kisses in the basement.
The employees were proud of Borders' success. They shared in the profit of the store. They had a "funky little handbook" that specified Borders would be closed seven holidays a year so employees could spend time with their families.
"We'd have Christmas parties -- Joe would go around on Christmas Eve with an envelope, come up to you and shake your hand and say 'Thank you for your hard work,' " Gambin said. "On New Year's Eve he'd bring a bottle of champagne -- he'd say, 'Gambin, go to the liquor store next door and get some champagne' -- we'd lock the door and we'd have a toast."
Ann Arbor loved it back.
"Suddenly there were thousands of serious readers in town," staffer-turned-essayist Birkerts wrote in his book, "The Gutenberg Elegies." "They thronged the aisles of the store, asked questions, placed orders. The books had an aura, an excitement about them."
When the university wanted to show off the town, it took visitors to two places: Zingerman's, a legendary deli, and Borders. Locals knew they could find obscure philosophy texts and up-to-date computer science manuals, and they shared their love with the staff.
Jeanne Joesten remembers one couple, a pair of graduate students, who wanted the complete, multivolume edition of the Oxford English Dictionary as a wedding gift. They suggested putting the OED in a wedding registry, so friends could buy it for them a volume or two at a time.
"I went to Joe with the request and he grumbled, saying 'We're going to get stuck with (an incomplete set),' but he finally said, 'It's your baby.' So I did a memo to the staff and we set it up. And customers would come in and say, 'I want to buy volume H-L of the OED' and we'd sell it to them."
'Slowly, then all at once'
By the mid-1980s, the Borders brothers were eyeing expansion. The second Borders was in Birmingham, Michigan, in Detroit's northern suburbs, about an hour's drive from Ann Arbor. Before picking the spot, Tom and Louis engaged in a study. "They spent like a year there. They'd stand on a corner of Southfield and 13½ (Mile Road), clocking cars," recalled Teicher.
If the brothers were nervous about a second store, their worries faded quickly: "We spent years trying to catch up, business was so strong," said Teicher. "That was the power and the strength and the charm of Borders. Nobody in the Detroit metro area had seen that. They used to come to Ann Arbor to buy their books."
Pretty soon the budding chain opened a third store, in Atlanta, and a fourth store, in Indianapolis. By 1992, when the Borders brothers sold the chain to Kmart for about $125 million, Borders had 21 stores.
Some analysts have called the sale the first step in Borders' decline. Teicher doesn't agree.
"The sale to Kmart was completely transparent. The product of that was deeper pockets," he said. "We accelerated the store openings, which was always fun. ... Kmart had nothing to do with the decline of Borders. There was a synergy there that was positive."
The problems began three years later, he said, when Kmart spun off the Borders division -- which now included another Kmart book retailer, Waldenbooks -- and the company went public.
"When you become a public company, you have certain obligations, and in my opinion, when those responsibilities and obligations are not managed correctly, (they) lead to what we have now."
But during the '90s, the future looked rosy. Borders grew and grew, second only to Barnes & Noble. There was a Borders in Singapore. There was a Borders in the World Trade Center. The stock price flew high. At its peak there were more than 1,200 Borders and Waldenbooks stores, employing more than 30,000 people. Where did it go wrong?
Ask someone for the reason Borders went under and they'll give you a list. There was the Kmart deal and aftermath. There was the Borders Rewards program, which was offered free to customers, giving them little incentive to use it -- unlike B&N's plan, which charged a fee. Others point to the decision to sell CDs, which backfired when the music technology changed to downloads.
In fact, new technology began haunting the once-cutting-edge store. In 1998, Borders created a website but three years later handed its online business to Amazon; by the time Borders decided to reclaim its web presence in 2008, it had fallen far behind its competitors. Borders also was late to e-book readers, finally partnering with a Canadian company for its Kobo reader -- well after Amazon's Kindle and B&N's Nook took over the market.
Then there were misguided investments, overbuilding, personnel turnover. As Hemingway once wrote about a man going broke, it happened "slowly, then all at once."
"When Borders expanded, they brought in executives from supermarkets and department stores (all of whom insisted they were readers), and the result was a shuffle of titles and more downsizing against a backdrop of financial engineering, which only seemed to make matters worse," Public Affairs founder Peter Osnos wrote in The Atlantic.
For Gable, who moved to corporate in 1996 as a senior project manager and still witheringly refers to the executives as "the grocery guys," it was one frustration after another. At one point, he said, Borders spent millions renovating stores and then decided to create a model for the "store of the future," with different fixtures and carpeting -- none of which, according to Gable, could be retrofitted to Borders' 500 stores.
"They spend millions developing this stupid ('store of the future') and then six months later they pull the plug on it," he said. "So picture the money just pouring out. Then they get a new guy in. I say, 'What do we need?' (He says,) 'We need a new idea for a store.' 'Well, what could that possibly be?' 'Let's call it "the concept store." ' Let's have more consultants, and let's develop totally different fixtures -- metal fixtures -- and let's have a different layout, this time instead of a racetrack, people will find things by bumping into them!"
In other words, another "store of the future."
Meanwhile, the core of Borders' business, the focus on customer service and selection, had fallen by the wayside.
"You see the devolution here," said Teicher.
"Not only did they not pay attention to the selection," Gable noted, "they continued to downgrade the selection by emphasizing in its place things that were nonbook items. The point was that Borders was completely indistinguishable from B&N and the competition. The books that you could buy at Borders you could buy at Costco -- cheaper."
The customers, he said, knew it. Locals had always been sensitive about even the smallest changes -- Gambin remembers the horrified reaction when the Ann Arbor store switched from paper to plastic bags -- but the changes in philosophy were too much.
"A woman came up to me on the street a number of years after I left the (first) store, and she said, 'I have something to confess to you,' " Gable said. " 'You know I was a loyal Borders customer for over 20 years. I wouldn't even think of going anyplace else. I will never again go to Borders. ... It used to be I was able to find what I want, and if I couldn't find it myself someone would help find it for me. Now I go in there, and not only do they have this (nonbook) stuff, but nobody knows if you have the book or not.'
"The problem with the new guys," Gable concluded, "is they tried to take the book business, which is complex and boring, and make it simple and sexy."
'The treasure hunt'
The book business has never been easy. For a long time it was a relatively low-profit gentleman's game. Independents have often struggled; until the megastore trend, chains generally stocked a limited number of titles and focused on best-sellers. (Today's megastores still focus on the big names, giving The New York Times' best-seller list more play than Joe Gable would have liked.) It has remained a niche business. Even Amazon.com, which looms large over the industry, quickly started diversifying away from the book sales it was founded on; its recent commerce has been largely driven by electronics and general merchandise.
The Strand has survived by being creative. It has a thriving market in art books and advance editions. It has a strong presence on the Internet. During Borders' liquidation, the Strand reached out to Borders Rewards customers, honoring their discounts. After years coping with rent hikes and changing demographics, the store bought the building.
Bass still works the floor, a stocky man wearing a protective back brace and bold name tag, ready to answer questions from customers. That personal touch is the key, says his daughter and store manager, Nancy Bass Wyden.
"People want the tactile experience. They want the treasure hunt," she said.
"You try to keep some of the mystique of the old bookstore, but adapt," added Bass.
Indeed, bookstores today are dealing with challenges from technology and distribution, much like the music and newspaper businesses. They face competition from e-books, retailers such as Target and Walmart, and a variety of entertainment options unheard-of when the first Borders opened in 1971.
"Part of the problem is the activity of buying a book has become deculturalized. I can walk 10 minutes down the road from my office and buy the latest hardcover James Patterson book at (the supermarket) Stop & Shop," said publishing industry analyst Michael Norris of Simba Information. "Over the past 10 or so years, there are about 1,000 fewer chain bookstores, but 1,000 more Walmarts and Targets. And the Walmarts and Targets have no stake in the future of books."
Bookstore: A love story
For those who know No. 1, its demise is a knife to the heart.
Sharon Gambin, who had risen to No. 1's human resources manager and had the company catechism down pat, recalls a key incident with emotion.
"A few years ago, my heart was broken," she recalled. "They hired a man, who was a Borders GM, and gave him, the poor soul, the task of making Store 1 like every other store in the system."
Her voice breaks. "From that time, I went through a period of (asking), 'What am I doing?' "
Brian McDonald and Joshua Fireman, two U of M undergraduates, went through the sci-fi section with equal parts glee and sadness. They weren't born when Borders was founded, weren't alive when it started expanding, yet they knew it as well as any old-timer.
"I remember coming here from elementary school," says McDonald, an area native.
"It's sad," agrees Fireman, who also grew up in southeast Michigan. "I'm buying as many books while I can."
Ann Arbor will survive. Downtown is thriving, an eclectic and walkable mix of shops and restaurants. Thanks to the university, a highly regarded hospital system and proximity to metro Detroit's auto and engineering firms, the city remains a sturdy blend of small business owners, free spirits and intellectuals. It has generally weathered the worst of Michigan's economic downturn, and a prime 40,000-square-foot spot is sure to have takers.
"We'll bounce back OK," said Diane Keller, president of the local chamber of commerce.
Still, she can't help but lament Borders' closing: "It was a warm place to go. It felt like your Borders."
"I think there is a sense of loss," said Marwil, the U of M history professor and author. "Given what's happening to the whole book trade, I don't think there has been quite the investment emotionally. If Borders had collapsed in 1998 there would have been a real sense of grieving. This is like the shoe dropping. And Borders had lost a quality of individuality. But still ... you can't help but feel twinges of what was."
Soon, Borders will join other names -- Booksellers in Cleveland, Oxford in Atlanta, Kroch's in Chicago, Scribner's in New York -- as ex-bookstores, their storefronts left as empty as desanctified churches. There is still a market for distinctive, customer-centric bookstores -- Ann Arbor has Nicola's about two miles from downtown -- but they're harder to come by nowadays.
"I think that the national chain store model will have some kind of future, but in order to be successful they can't have a cookie-cutter approach for their retail locations," said industry analyst Norris. "There has to be something for local books and local authors other than a 2-foot-by-2-foot card table on the second floor. The stores should have a personality."
Gable has wiped his hands of it. He's been gone now for three years. He recently stopped by No. 1 and left feeling "bitter and angry." "The loss to book lovers is probably irreparable," he told CNN in an e-mail.
Gambin prefers to remember better times and a wealth of colleagues. It wasn't so long ago, she says, that the growing company was still filled with people who had roots at No. 1, friends who had started in the basement and had suddenly found themselves on top of the world.
More recently, she says, she tried to focus on the "books and the people" -- she repeats the phrase twice, like a mantra -- "so I could transcend the rest of the crap."
"But I grieved for many years and was angry for many years," she said.
And then came the day a year or two ago when she thought she couldn't do it anymore. She got a part-time job at a local college. Still, she couldn't leave Borders behind, working part-time. She's remained during the liquidation, helping out to the end.
Gambin is 64 now. She has spent almost half her life at Borders. She struggles to put a career, a business, a love in context.
"You're married to something and one day you wake up and it's a different person or something's different about them, and you keep hoping the good parts are going to come back," she said.
So let's try this again.
I feel like the America I grew up in received a mortal blow on 9/11/01. It wasn't killed instantly, but is dying, and too much of the freedom I cherished is gone.
The America I grew up in did not encourage neighbors to spy on neighbors, professional thugs did not grope or embarrass or harass travelers, photographers were not arrested and knitting needles were allowed in government offices.
I am still proud of my country, but I am not happy with it.
One added thought. I believe that part of reaching maturity is accepting the fact that there is really no such thing as physical security. No contrivance, no legislation, no training, no person, no environment, no institution, can keep you from harm. No amount of planning, worrying, and devising by you or anyone else will keep you safe. You are going to get hurt and you are going to die, but in the meantime you should just go out and LIVE.
The atmosphere of fear that engendered the Patriot Act and all the other restrictions on our liberty should not exist in a society of mature individuals.
Monday, September 5, 2011
Tuesday, July 19, 2011
Monday, July 18, 2011
2. This works out to $20,928 profit every minute!
3. Wal-mart sells more from January 1 to st. Patrick's day (march 17th) than Target sells all year.
4. Wal-mart is bigger than Home Depot + Kroger + Target + Sears + Costco + K- Mart combined.
5. Wal-mart employs 1.6 Million people, is the world's largest private employer, and most speak English.
6. Wal-mart is the largest company in the history of the world.
7. Wal-mart now sells more food than Kroger and Safeway combined, and keep in mind they did this in only fifteen years.
8. During this same period, 31 big supermarket chains sought bankruptcy.
9. Wal-mart now sells more food than any other store in the world.
10. Wal-mart has approx 3,900 stores of which 2,906 are super centers; this is 1,000 more than it had five years ago.
11. This year 7.2 Billion different purchasing experiences will occur at wal-mart stores. (Earth's population is approximately 6.5 Billion.)
12. 90% Of all Americans live within fifteen miles of a wal-mart.
13. Wal-mart has gross sales that total more than the total revenue of all but six of the countries in the world.
You may think that I am complaining, but I am really laying the ground work for suggesting to our government that maybe we should hire the guys who run Wal-mart to fix the economy.
A.. The u.S. Postal service was established in 1775. You have had 234 years to get it right and it is broke.
B.. Social security was established in 1935. You have had 74 years to get it right and it is broke.
C.. Fannie mae was established in 1938. You have had 71 years to get it right and it is broke.
D.. War on poverty started in 1964. You have had 45 years to get it right; $1 trillion of our money is confiscated each year and transferred to "the poor" and they only want more.
E.. Medicare and medicaid were established in 1965. You have had 44 years to get it right and they are broke.
F.. Freddie Mac was established in 1970. You have had 39 years to get it right and it is broke.
G.. The Department of Energy was created in 1977 to lessen our dependence on foreign oil. It has ballooned to 16,000 employees with a budget of $24 billion a year and we import more oil than ever before. You had 32 years to get it right and it is an abysmal failure.
You want Americans to believe you can be trusted with a government-run health care system ??
Monday, June 6, 2011
After the divorce, Bec started bugging me for a new bike, something called a "mountain bike." I'd seen a few around and wasn't impressed with the bulky frames and strange looking tires but I let her drag me back to Wheaton's for a sales pitch, close inspection and test ride.
The first thing I noticed was that they weighed a lot less than my old steel-framed 3-speed. The second thing was that more gears meant easier peddling, and the knobbed tires didn't slide around in gravel like the narrow "English" tires on my old bike.
So I gave in to progress -- and Bec's whining -- and bought a Trek 750 for her. Then I bought one for myself.Why be a Luddite??
We took them back to the store and she took off on a ride while I dug out a spray can of flat black paint. Bec liked how pretty her bike was but all I could think of was what a shining target for a thief mine was. Flat black over the whole bike cured that, and it rode and handled just as well as it ever did.
Bec and the folks at the bike shop were appalled, but I was happy. I have always valued performance over appearances and I was less paranoid this my now-ugly transportation parked in front of the store.
When Bec's bike was stolen even though it was padlocked and mine wasn't, I felt justified.I may have even rubbed in the value of obscurity and my smart decision and how wise I had been.
Unfortunately Mr. Murphy heard me, and decided to walk up and bit me in the butt. My bike was black, ugly and locked up so it didn't get stolen, but the tires/.rims/etc disappeared from it one dark night.
After I looked at the price of replacement parts and looked at the wear, tear, and souvenirs of crashes on the frame of my 750, I went back to the bike shop and got an 850. And painted it black again. And was quite happy with what I'd done till the deputy sheriff interrogated me about the possible possession of stolen property. Somehow a brand new bike with a fresh coat of black paint struck him as suspicious.
Luckily this was one of the few times that I could find a receipt when I needed to.