The End of an Era
The Monterey County Herald calls the closing of the Thunderbird Bookshop "the end of an era." If that is so, there are so many other signs of its demise--this era--and questions, in my mind, as to what will replace it.
Is it not a coincidence that the first of the baby-boomers will be turning 60 next year? No, more like this year. That's the generation that is now graying seriously and whose era is now on the ebb. And the Thunderbird was, in a sense, a product of the 60s. Oh, its founder, May, was a pre-war child, but she and her clientele found their inspiration in the tremendous idealism of the 60s--the enthronement of nature and human values, which were quickly slipping into the jaws of a menacing corporate world, a mega-capitalism for which the only value would be money. In the 40s and 50s, her kind were the prophets, the idealists. In the 60s, they discovered their validation. The people of the 60s discovered the importance of relationship, the inherent goodness of the body, the joy of sex, the importance of natural foods and exercise, the importance of human values over those of commerce. "Stop and smell the roses," was the 60s motto.
Out of that world sprang the Thunderbird. It was a place where people could find good books, gather over coffee or lunch, meet authors. The Thunderbird occupied the place of a jewel in the ring of stores that made up the Barnyard, a rural-style shopping village outside Carmel, where the setting was as important as the shopping. Year round something was blooming in the many flower beds, and often times live music drifted among the shops.
But that world is drifting away. I see the same forces at work in Monterey, as the City Council seems determined to cut off Safeway's lease in order to negotiate a deal with Trader Joe's to take over the property there on Munras St. Even in the face of popular uproar, the Council has set its jaw. Now, you would think Trader Joe's would be the obvious choice for a product of the 60s, and that's true in principle. But in the case of Monterey, the value at hand is real people. We have here a real community, with real inhabitants, that is being hijacked by commercial interests that want to turn it into a theme park. It's a tourist destination, a night-time haunt, but not a place where real inhabitants can go to shop. Even now, there is no hardward store in Monterey, no variety store, no kitchen-supply, no stationery store, and soon there will be no full-service grocery. But the value of a living, working community of people has taken second place to the primary value of pulling in those tourist dollars.
I wake up at night wondering what will take the place of these waning vestiges of the 60s, when human workmanship was still important, when artistry meant something, where a place for human beings to gather counted. Can we hang onto our Paris Bakery, our Morgans', in the face of Starbucks?
What will it take for the new generation to wake up and smell the coffee?