(credit: AP/Times-Standard, Shaun Walker)
A 6.5 earthquake is a big enough deal to make you run, not walk, down the street to make sure that your bookstore is still standing and that your husband is not trapped under a pile of rubble. It's a big enough deal to make you call someone out of the area — a parent or sibling — to let them know that you are okay because the phones are probably going to go down in a minute and you don't want them to fret. It's also a big enough deal that they will then activate the family phone tree so that everybody else gets the news before they see it on TV that night.
Fortunately, however, it is not a big enough deal to cause anybody to lose their house or attend a funeral or wonder if it's gotten any easier to get assistance out of FEMA these days. Most of us didn't lose anywhere near as much liquor as this grocery store did, and things were pretty much put back together 24 hours later. It was amazing how well even the most amateurish earthquake safety measures worked. The earthquake retrofit on our bookstore's 1879 building was done by our elderly landlord who insisted on doing all the work himself. It passed inspection, but the real test isn't the inspection, it's the next earthquake. And it passed. At home, the thin metal strap held the hot water heater in place, the little bits of putty under the glass lamp kept it from sliding off the table, and every bookcase that was bolted to the wall stayed bolted to the wall.
This one, however, was not.
This bookcase holds about half of my gardening books–everything but the big coffee table books and the more rare or vintage books. For months now I've been meaning to go through them and get rid of the ones I don't need or never read in the first place. Now that they have been conveniently dumped on the floor for me, it's time to sort them into piles and donate the ones I no longer want to the bookstore.
I'm motivated to do a garden book purge in part because I need the bookshelf space, but in part because I just want to lighten my load psychologically. Because we own a bookstore, it's much easier for me to let go of books. I know that I can always get more if I need them. There's something about owning 50,000 books that are all neatly shelved and arranged at the store. It makes me feel like I can let go of some of the ones I have here.
What do I find myself keeping? Books that my friends wrote. Books with beautiful pictures. A few indispensable reference books. But that's it. The rest of it can go.
Anybody else doing a book purge in the new year? If so, what do you keep and what do you toss?
Oh, and one last thing about the quake: I was driving my car when it happened. It felt like a tire had blown out. The car was wobbling all over the road. I pulled over and watched the glass front of an auto dealership wave like a flag waving in the wind–and then not break. Then I called the bookstore and got no answer. Then I called my mother to tell her I was okay. Then I went straight to Old Town to check on the store, my husband, and our employees — and then we both went home to see what surprises awaited us at the house. It looked like we had been robbed: drawers open in every room, odds and ends knocked off shelves, and a little broken glass, along with all that cracked plaster.
All the while I was snapping pictures and posting them on Twitter. Just, you know, to help get the word out. An hour later my dad called to say, "I just saw a photo of your office on the Bay Area news!" To my surprise the photos went all over the interwebs and to various media outlets, and I spent the evening fielding calls from TV news producers around the country in between sweeping up. The next day the reporters were in town with their badges and fancy cameras, but for the first 12 hours, it was just us regular folks with our iPhones. New media and all that.