Wednesday, December 22, 2010

R.I.P. East West Books

Yesterday's Winter Solstice (as non-astrologers refer to the Sun's ingress into Capricorn) and Mercury/Jupiter square found me experiencing a sense of loss and auld lang syne: after I left the office (yes, I'm now working in an actual office part-time for the first time in 5 years!) I decided to make my annual pilgrimage to East West Books to pick up Jim Maynard's Celestial Influences wall calendar and datebook. As it was not an overly cold evening, I walked down to 14th St. and 5th Ave. I passed many chichi shops doing brisk business, but when I arrived at where East West was supposed to be...well, it wasn't. Just a vacant space. A woman smack-dab in the middle of middle age was standing right outside, looking so annoyed I decided she was also looking for East West; it turns out she wasn't (looking for East West, that is), but she told me that they'd closed this past summer and that the website was still live and that the owner was still looking for another space.

Back in the mid-nineties, East West Books was my respite from the New School across the street, where I was an unhappy, fish-out-of-water grad student in the teacher trainer program. In that one year, I must've browsed through nine-tenths of the books in East West's astrology section (I did buy some of them, as well as calendars and datebooks). I also admired the crystals, wind chimes, and Eastern trinkets.

I haven't been a "regular" at East West in many years, but would still make a point of visiting a few times a year, mostly when I was in the neighborhood and needed to buy a gift for someone, and once I attended a lecture at the upstairs cafe that was added a few years ago. The fact that East West is no more is another nail in the coffin of Old New York--or at least, the Old New York that I knew, which I realize isn't the same as the Old New York of the '60s, '70s, or '80s. Still, for over 30 years, East West was the go-to place for local astrologers, hippies, New Age lovers, and disenchanted students, and now it's gone, and leases are ridiculously high in the city, and most likely an Applebee's, Starbucks, or Rite Aid will take its place, and that really, really sucks.

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