Saturday, May 06, 2006

When The Lights Go Down In The City

The sad sequel to The Great Crown Books Robbery.

After The Great Crown Books Robbery, Umlaut found himself working at an indie bookstore: A Clean Well-Lighted Place For Books (ACWLP... It's from a Hemingway story, dude..). At its zenith, ACWLP had 3 locations in Larkspur (Marin County), S.F., and Cupertino (Silicon Valley). I was employed at the Cupertino location, off and on, from 1989-93. The pinnacle of my power at ACWLP was when I was a book and periodical buyer. Good times.

In hindsight, ACWLP was without a doubt the single most influential place I've ever worked. It was there that I was exposed to authors, books, and music that set me on the path I find myself on today. It was also because of ACWLP that I had many memorable experiences... Such as:
  • The Cupertino ACWLP store moved from its original location in The Oaks shopping center (where it had been for around 15 years) to a larger space on the other side of the same center. On the final night in the old space, one of the last customers was Dave Meniketti, lead guitarist / vocalist for Y&T. Music Geekness ensued on my part.
  • On Fridays and Saturdays the store would stay open until midnight. In order to clear straggling customers out we would put Einsturzende Neubauten on the stereo and crank the volume. To their credit, the vast majority of customers always got the message.
  • A surreal night that began with an in-store event with author William Kennedy that ended at a bar in San Francisco's North Beach and included close encounters with Kennedy, Francis Ford Coppola, Don (Father Guido Sarducci) Novello, AND Tim Roth.
  • October 17, 1989... 5:04pm. I was just about to finish my shift when a couple came to the front counter to ask a question. Suddenly, there was a rumbling sound and the entire building started to shake. The rumbling seemed to be coming from the back of the store. The power went out. The rumbling got LOUDER and as I looked up EVERY book was flying off the shelves and crashing to the floor. The couple who I had been helping hit the floor; I grabbed the counter with both hands. I felt the floor lift up under my feet. The rumbling moved on and it became eerily quiet. No one said anything. As I was just comprehending what had happened, an elderly woman entered the store, approached the counter, and asked me if I could help her find a book. I looked at her and said "The store is closed..." She looked around and left. After we ushered the remaining customers out, my co-workers and I stood around a car parked in front of the store and listened to the radio reports. The assistant manager went to the deli next door and bought some beer; it was Coors. It was by far the best beer I've ever had, before or since.
Those are but a few ACWLP memories that I could remember off the top of my head.

The Cupertino location closed well over a decade ago. Sadly, it was announced this week that the last remaining ACWLP location in San Francisco has been put up for sale by the original owner. It's the end of an era for sure, like, totally.

Click HERE for the complete, sad story.