Bodhi Tree bookstore closing, a boomer experience
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Update: The Bodhi Tree finally closed on December 31, 2011
Bodhi Tree Bookstore
Your Last Chance
for this Authentic
One of the hallmarks of growing up during the changing times of the 1970s was the alternative bookstore which seemed to spring up in each neighborhood, especially near college campuses. The Bodhi Tree bookstore, in the West Hollywood district of Los Angeles, was
one of the leaders in this spreading wave. Started in 1970 by Phil Thompson, Stan Madson and Dan Morris, the Bodhi Tree was as much a gathering place for young Boomers as it was a bookstore.
I remember going there during its early days to read notices of happenings posted on the walls, then buy a copy of the I Ching or other musty volume, and pick up a free alternative newspaper to get a different view than what was in the L.A. Times. Phil and Stan, who are still there today, were nurturing spirits who arranged book signings for new talent and new ideas.
Over the last fifteen years they have invited me back two times to read from a couple of the books I have written. It's worth noting that the individuals who came to those events at the Bodhi Tree were among the most well-read people I had ever met. This one-of-a-kind gathering place also attracted well established talent, with Deepak Chopra, Eckhart Tolle and others luminaries appearing from time to time.
Being so close to Hollywood, you could also see the 'glitter-ati' at the Bodhi Tree, dressing down to blend in. Shirley MacLaine was one of those, who had such strong feelings about what she discovered there that she wrote a blockbuster book in the 1980s called "Out on a Limb," and gave large credit to the Bodhi Tree. This caused a mushrooming of attention for this unassuming bookstore, to the extent that many people from other parts of the country made special trips to L.A. feel that experience themselves.
Now, for better or for worse, the Bodhi Tree and its fellow book shops around the world have been so successful introducing questing lines of thought that the major book chains have picked up the most profitable titles -- and of course cut the prices. Amazon now lets you shop from your computer -- instead of standing on creaking wooden floors, feeling gold-imprinted covers of arcane volumes, and stumbling across works you otherwise would have missed. The competition and tough economic times have caused a playing out of the song Puff the Magic Dragon, in which Jackie Paper comes no more. Decreasing sales in recent years have forced Stan and Phil to turn the hourglass for the last time, and the sands are running out.
The property on which the Bodhi Tree stands has already been sold, though the escrow will not close until after the end of this year. The new property owner will not be continuing the store. So Stan and Phil are looking for someone to buy the hallowed name and unique inventory of books, and keep some part of the Bodhi Tree tradition going in a new place.
That means this is the "last call" if you want to see this talisman from the heady days of the Beatles, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, headshops, and record albums that were actually imprinted on records. Today the Bodhi Tree is still a bit of a timewarp experience, where you walk its narrow aisles, pull unique volumes from the shelves, and turn pages carefully while breathing the faint scent of incense which usually wafts on the air. If you come to pay a final visit, you will almost certainly come away with a book you will treasure. If you wait too long, you may find only a flat field, with a puzzling hint of incense.
How to find the Bodhi Tree
Note: Phil and Stan at the Bodhi Tree did not pay for this.
It's a tribute to an icon that will not pass this way again.
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written on the subway walls,
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Simon & Garfunkel - Sounds of Silence album
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