Sounds like the title of a horror movie, maybe Dudley and a gang of teen-age buddies are drawn to a giant vampire plasma TV sitting in the desert. Or some crafty beyotch who thinks that environmentalists caused the Gulf oil disaster and gets the word out through her minions as thousands of terrified brainwashed Americans gather at her side. This Gathering is not a horror movie - though it began with a desperate call for help. This gathering is the opposite of vampire television or a cold-hearted political calculation.This gathering happens every day at Dudley's, a downtown independent used-book store whose owner, Terri Cumbie, has a deep commitment to community - not hypothetical community, but hard-work community. Language groups, including my own writing circle, book clubs and free writing classes for kids meet in the store for modest or no rent. Every Friday local bands play for free. She pays them and hopes the audience will buy enough books and drinks to give a profit. Too often her customers tell her they treasure what she has created - and buy nothing. Two weeks ago, Terri sent out an e-mail to her list saying that the bookstore was in peril of closing the day after Memorial Day. She had run out of money.
I read her message and was furious. I'm furious a lot these days. Who isn't? My favorite bumper sticker: If you're not outraged, you're not paying attention. As a writer who pays attention to corporate publishing, the disappearances of independent bookstores (thanks to customers who save a few bucks at big-box stores or online), the increasing lack of people who read books, much less buy them, I'm too often near-paralyzed by frustration. Not this time.
I hit Reply All and wrote "Meeting this Sunday 3 p.m. to save Dudley's." Be there and walk your talk. I'd been in the store too often and seen people raving about how charming the place was and leaving without buying anything. I'd seen well-intended people tell the owner that they were sending her their best healing manifestations. Dudley's (indeed all our indie bookstores) doesn't need to be surrounded with rainbow light - they need customers. Three o'clock Sunday arrived. The big upstairs room was filled. A facilitator had already posted sheets of paper on which people could sign up to help. It could have been forty years ago - a time when many of us were paying attention and many of us were outraged. I received an e-mail a few days later with Terri's wish list.
Here's where you come in. Read what she wants and find something you can do. Chuck Bowden wrote in Blood Orchid: Imagine the problem is that we cannot imagine a future where we possess less but are more. Imagine the problem is a future that terrifies us because we lose our machines but gain our feet and our pounding hearts.
Walk your talk, compassionate readers of The Source. And find another little piece of your hearts.
Terri's wish list: She needs help with fundraisers, finding bands, performers and working out dates. She'd love you to drop by Dudley's Bookshop Café at 135 NW Minnesota Avenue to buy books, beverages and crafts. And I suggest you drop a few or a lot of bucks in the tip jar. Dudley's needs artists to create a new sign and designs for a logo. Journal-makers are needed to make collage journals for sale. Computer lovers can sell rare books on Amazon. There is furniture to be mended and countless on-going fix-it jobs. Flea market and garage sale fans can go to sales and buy good used books. There is always a need for volunteers to work in the store, so Terri can think and/or get away. Saturdays are two-hour time slots between 10 a.m. and 7 p.m. or drop in anytime if you have an hour or so for shelving books, etc. Stay up to date by checking: http://dudleyshelpers.wordpress.com/ You'll find your place.
Note: This wRite comes to you courtesy of Tina Walker-Davis, owner of Camalli's Bookstore - she gave up her chance to star in this column so we could get the word out! Welcome to how real community works.