I was just getting down to my evening (yes, I know it’s after midnight, but hey) reading of blogs when I read over on whump.com that Kepler’s closed today for good.
I’m extremely sad, but I had noticed some of the signs. The other day, mom and I went to Kepler’s, where they were having a “buy three books, get one free” sale. I bought two books on software engineering (from their very lean computer section), mom bought an art book of funky Japanese schoolgirl clothes, and we got Rick the latest from Lois McMaster Bujold.
I started working at Kepler’s on 9/10/01, which means my second day there was 9/11. I can’t think of a more surreal day to work in a bookstore — people came in just wanting to Do Something, to share the fact that they were utterly and completely in shock. Ira Sandperl came and talked to people about peace, as Ira was wont to do. I don’t know if he’s still alive; he was quite old and frail last I saw him.
Clark Kepler is an extremely cool person. In the rush of Christmas season, he’d be in the store, helping everyone. When I had a long register line, he was right there helping with gift-wrapping. He’s another person I’d work for again in a heartbeat (in addition to Marie). I can’t imagine what a heartbreak this is for him and his staff.
Few people, even the locals, realize how influential Kepler’s was and how much change one small bookstore helped cultivate. Ira taught and influenced many people, Joan Baez among them, about peace. If you really looked hard, he and Roy Kepler were the foundation of a great deal of the anti-Vietnam protests that took place in the sixties.
Also, back when the Grateful Dead lived in Menlo Park (about two blocks from where I now reside), they rehearsed at Keplers, though Roy thought they were a bit too noisy. And, of course, even though he will always be thought of as an Oregon writer, Ken Kesey was living in Menlo Park — and frequenting places such as Kepler’s — when his landmark work, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest was written, and for good reason: his experience at the local veteran’s hospital was pivotal to the development of the work.
One thing I can say about Kepler’s: it was the only place I’ve ever worked where everything, absolutely everything, I was interested in was useful. Everywhere else I’ve worked, no matter how cool, there were always things that weren’t “relevant” to the job.
May everyone involved land on their feet. I sure know that Clark has some of the best booksellers in the business.