FINAL HOBO ALLEY TONIGHT AT ACRES OF BOOKS


Jedediah Laub-Klein

Download: The Triffids “I Am A Lonesome Hobo”

Download: The Go-Betweens “Dive For Your Memory”

As everyone who’s read about half of anything I’ve written knows, it makes me sick that Acres of Books is going to be demolished. Knocking Acres over makes no sense at all: Building new lofts when we could be about three weeks from the New Depression? Snuffing out a loved (and solvent) landmark business just because screwy deals drafted decades ago demand it? Removing one of the last unique things that keeps Long Beach from becoming just some by-committee tryhard imitation of Santa Monica?

Of course the city will regret this at some point down the line—probably when people who are barely teenaged now climb into power and wonder what happened to the Long Beach their parents loved, and probably when some think-tank study finally discovers years from now that unrestricted construction of dingbat live-work lofts is about as healthy for a struggling downtown as a neutron bomb. I can almost hear the speeches now, and they sound a lot like the apologies the city had to make for the successive generations of fiasco built and rebuilt on the site that’s now CityPlace. But ideas as bad as this one breed too many bulldozers to stop, so Acres gets plowed under. They close for good Wednesday and the maybe-official wake will be tonight in the back at the last Hobo Alley. Bands will play, hot dogs will be cooked and a lot of respects will be paid. My respects below.

UPDATE: Bands are Steve’s own Lobsterboss, Santiago Steps and Arrow Down.

I feel deeply for the dehoused Acres folks and wish I could have done more to help than just poke weekly (and too weakly) at the RDA and the rest of the city govs that sell Long Beach off block by block. I often quoted Ray Bradbury when I wrote about Acres, particularly from the Martian Chronicles story called “Off Season”: “The old got to give way to the new.” I left the context out, but that’s line said by a man to a Martian, and the story ends with the lights going out on Earth forever as the big nuke war starts, and suddenly there’s no new left anymore. Everyone loses in that ending. It always seemed unfortunately appropriate.

But I don’t want to feel so bad about this. I interviewed Acres patron extraordinaire Robert Easton a bit back, and as wounded as he was, he could find a calm way to think about it:

To me a good bookstore really is a sacred place—a place for the sanctity of ideas. If you destroy those or desecrate them, it really is a crime against the human soul. Is there any bright side to Acres closing? Let me do it very subjectively. For me, the only bright side to this is that there was—and this will sound a little poetic—but there was an enchanted place like this that I could come to for over 50 years, and I still have the treasures and the memories of where I got them, and that will survive.

So. I will try and think like Robert thinks. I’m glad I found the place and went there often. Anyone who wants to visit a last time should come by the alley in back of the store tonight. It’s not a Viking funeral but Acres was a gentler place than maybe warrants that sort of finale anyway. I put up the Triffids song because it’s got a hobo hook and I like them a lot. But I actually heard that Go-Betweens song coming from that very back room in Acres the last time I went. I stood back there by the sci-fi hardcovers and listened to all of it, and decided that I would call that the last real goodbye.

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