November 07, 2012

Thanks for the Past Fifteen

by Alan Beatts

A few days ago we celebrated the 15 year anniversary of Borderlands Books and, at the same time, the three year anniversary of the Cafe.  We had a big sale and a party afterwards.  It was all really lovely and a good time was had by all.

Leading into the party I went looking for some amusing trivia to thow into my "thanks for coming, now go have a drink" speech.  Here's a tid-bit that I especially enjoyed -- if you took all the books that we've sold in the last 15 years and placed them, spine up, on the sidewalk along Market St. in San Francisco they would reach from the base of Market St. at the Ferry Building all the way to the intersection of Market and Castro Streets at the base of Twin Peaks.

If you don't live in San Francisco, let me give you two other comparisons - The same line of books would reach from Lakeshore Drive in Chicago all the way up Michgan Ave. to the Art Insitute . . . and all the way back again.  And, for those who prefer New York, the line of books would go from Washington Square Park up 5th Ave. all the way to E. 77th St!

Any way you measure it, that's an awful lot of books.

A milestone like a 15 year anniversary is an obvious time to reflect on the past, which is what I found myself doing.  The end product of all the reflection was positive but the process wasn't really very pleasant.  As many of my long-term customers and readers know, I have quite a checkered past -- firearms instructor, labor dispute security officer, bodyguard, night club promoter, motorcycle shop manager and, for the past 15 years, bookseller.  As I was thinking about how I got here, as a store owner and 15 year bookseller, I realized on a visceral level just how messed up I was as a person through my teens and 20s.

Not that this was something I wasn't aware of at the time or later.  I knew that I was angry and violent.  I knew that I had a hard time functioning in a "normal" sort of way.  But time has given me more perspective and I see more clearly the problems that I had.  And the magnitude of them.

Opening the bookstore was probably the first thing that really started me on the way to coming to a relatively comfortable accommodation with the things that were getting in the way of me having a happier and more healthy life.  Now I have a much better perspective on myself, my failings, and the things that shaped me as I am.  I'm not sure I would have gotten where I am now were it not for Borderlands.

I know that running Borderlands has given me the chance to meet some of the best people I've ever known.  In addition I've gotten a job that I love and a way to make a living that is a million miles from what I had thought was my profession.

For that I am immeasurably grateful.

The gratitude that I feel extends to everyone who has helped Borderlands survive and succeed.  The people who've worked for me, the countless authors, editors, publishers, artists and fellow booksellers who've supported me, and, most of all, the customers who've kept me in business for these 15 years.  Words cannot express how thankful I am to each and every one of you.

It's been a great 15 years.  I'm pretty sure that I'm up for another 15, assuming that you're all willing to come along for the ride.

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