Thursday, December 27, 2012

Closed for good

A familiar scene all across America on Christmas day. 2:00 PM. Photo: JH.
Thursday, December  27, 2012. Cold Nor’easter-like winds and cold rain blowing across Manhattan last night, howling outside my window. Snow all around to the north and the west. It’s that final week of the old year where you feel like everyone’s just waiting around for the final holiday which is now only four days away.

On this past Monday afternoon before Christmas Eve, Archivia, my favorite stop-by-and-browse (and buy) bookshop, closed for good.

Aside from the astronomical commercial rents on the Upper East Side which make it almost impossible for any small retailer to run in the black, Archivia was suffering the economic tortures of the publishing damned: Amazon. This has been further exacerbated by the appearance of the Kindle. Perhaps printed books on paper will become entirely obsolete (and therefore valuable collectors’ items).
One of the signs in the window at Archivia.
I could mourn those facts because personally I love bookstores and I love books, not only to read but simply as objects in my home. But such is the progress, if that is the correct word, of the technological age. Where it is presumed there are infinite planetary and inter-planetary power sources to keep our machines running so that we can read, learn, communicate and progress. Infinitely.

Cynthia Conigliaro,
who founded Archivia, had a good business and a good location (hence the big rent). However, in the book business, she could not obtain the discounts or the advertising help from publishers that she needed to keep her product moving in the volume that could meet her daily business expenses. And then there was and is Amazon.

A couple of Christmases ago, one of her wealthier clients wanted to buy 50 copies of one particular coffee table book as gifts for friends. Except: she wanted a discount. Cynthia figured out that she could give the customer a 5% discount which would cover everything but leave not a penny of profit.
In Better Days down at Archivia (The Hawks-Ledermans in front of the Archivia window which Kitty designed).
The customer reneged. I’m sorry, the customer replied, but I’ll have to go to Amazon. Which she did. Saving herself at least $1500. Fifteen hundred smackers. Which could go to (a small quantity of the fueling of her private jet, or assist the monthly utility bill on one of her several houses, or the social security tax on her various household staffs, or help with the insurance on her multi-million dollar art collection). After all, she was only being practical, and she was/is not alone in her fiscal choice.

One of the ironies of our “expanding” consumer society is that in its expansion, via the web, it is subsuming the elements of community as we’ve known it for the past several thousand years – that is, those places where you see other human beings, neighbors maybe, friends, strangers. Up until these “modern” times, we humans have flourished to this point in communities with social contact and presence.
Much of this is disappearing in the name of “convenience.” Convenience seems to be the father of our modern social dilemma: faulted communication, lack of community and extinction of what in the past few generations has been called Manners but is fundamentally Courtesy, the glue that keeps us together as a society.

People often ask me these days how “society” has changed since I started down this path about twenty years ago. Because it has changed and everybody knows it. We’ve wandered away from each other, placing our spiritual necessities on machines – with power sources that are infinite. Or conveniently presumed to be so.

Meanwhile outside my windows, with a power source that is indeed infinite, Mother Nature is howling, blowing the last of the leaves from the trees along the side streets of the city, washing the sidewalks and the roadways and getting us ready for the new day dawning in just a few hours.
Amsterdam Avenue, 5 PM.
Meanwhile the little ones out there in this town, some of them at least, were down at Doubles – the private club in the Sherry-Netherland – last week for their annual “Santa” party, with an appearance of the jolly old fellow himself, giving a lot of his fans the opportunity for a photo with him. There was also face painting with Daisy Doodle – what ... you don’t know Daisy Doodle? Then there was dancing too with DJ Matt for the younger set – in a world where age is “relative.”

Among the families partaking of this very exciting day (all captured by Cutty McGill) were Eleanora Kennedy and Anna Safir, Jessie Araskog and Kathy Thomas, Mai Harrison, Emily O'Sullivan, Adrienne Silver, Bonnie Strauss, Karen Cohen, Kristin Thompson, Sasha Leviant, Nick Acquavella, Alatia Bradley-Bach, Blair Husain, Michelle Smith, Doug Steinbrecht, Wandy Hoh, Margot and Randy Takian and the list goes on and on ... or rather, went on and on until Santa had to leave and prepare for bigger moments that lay ahead on the morning of December 25th. Ho Ho Ho, to all!

Contact DPC here.