Thursday, November 18, 2004

Don't Mourn, Buy Books

Smartmom was close to an hour late to the "Don't Mourn, Socialize Party" at the Community Bookstore on Sunday night. But as luck would have it, the party was in full swing and there were at least three or four unopened bottles of wine still on the table when she got there.

The intense and talky crowd crowded into the small cafe in the back of the bookstore, which shares a space with the cozy, couchy children's book section. Catherine, standing up on chair, sweetly called the room to order soon after Smartmom arrived with the question "Whose depressed?"

A big sigh emanated from the crowd. Groan. Chatter, chatter. Groan. A few admitted that they were "through with being depressed, it's time to do something."


And that was the whole reason behind the bookstore's little pow-wow -- a constructive coming together of all those blues with the blues in the Slope to talk about ways big and especially small to move forward.

In her brief talk, Catherine reminiced about the weeks after September 11th when the bookstore was an epicenter for Slope progressives. Apparently, her willingness to display opinion articles from newspapers around the world caused quite a stir. The store endured brick throwing and unflattering graffiti due to the left-leaning print-out taped to the front window. She was called "un-American," by some for sponsoring speaking events with progressive journalists and the author of "The Bush Dyslexicon."

During that weird, ultra-patriotic period after the attacks, Catherine took the time to engage in a constructive dialogue with one of the most vociferous opponents of the store's post-9/11 activities. The two actually talked very openly and honestly about their opposing views -- they worked hard to understand one another.

Sunday night, Catherine was pleased to report that she'd recently run into Mr. Vociferous, whom she hadn't seen in ages. Apparently he'd been off-Slope campaigning for, none-other-than, John Kerry.

Dialogue -- it can lead to unexpected results.

Catherine then shared a goofy/great idea that's been percolating in her brain: Pen Pals. She wants to create a Pen Pal program between people in the blue and red states -- an effort to bridge some of the distance, some of the mis-understanding, some of the fear.

Crazy? Maybe not.

She invited others to share their thoughts. A woman who runs a group called "Community Relief" is organizing a night of Iraqi culture with food, music, art, poetry, dance, and theater. Back in 2002, she organized a similar event for Afghanistan. Indeed, a night about Iraq would be a great way to appreciate and understand the people the U.S. is waging war against.

A gay journalist talked about what a difficult time this is for gay people -- and not just those in the 11 states that outlawed gay marriage and many other rights for gay couples. She said it didn't help that people like Bill Clinton and other democrats were blaming Bush's win on gay activists for putting "our stupid rights" on the front burner of national attention and on the ballot.

She proposed developing a program in red states like the one in Colorado Springs called "Food For Thought" where Colorado Springs residents have been sitting down in small groups and talking. This grassroots effort is easing tensions in a divided community by creating a space for honest dialogue among people who come from different parts of town and hold opposing positions on a host of social, moral, and political issues.

The cafe was a-flutter with ideas -- election reform, adopt-a-state, anti-war and anti-draft rallies, speaking to high school students about the draft, sister cities, connecting with a bookstore in a red state, fighting Ratner's downtown stadium plan and more.

Somehow it was fitting that in this most chatty and food-oriented of communities, many of the ideas revolved around talking and eating.

More importantly, another get-together is in the works. Here's an e-mail Smartmom got this morning from one of the attendees of Sunday's event...

...but first, one small thing: Smartmom encourages everyone to shop at Community Books for Hanukah and Christmas gifts this year. Ignore the "Goliath" on 7th Street. Community Books can order whatever you need and it's a great way to support an enlightened, community-involved bookstore. Park Slope can't do without it.

Dear people who came to our wonderful "Don't Mourn, Socialize" party (and interested others),

Thanks so much for turning out last Sunday. It was so encouraging to see you all drinking wine and meeting each other and pondering what other diabolical, lefty things you might like to do in the near future.

Here is some quick info on our next meeting: It will be Sunday, December 5 from 5 to 7 at Community Bookstore, 143 Seventh Avenue between Carroll and Garfield.

Don't worry -- there will be ample time for socializing at the meeting, as well as time for planning things we might want to do to advance joy and worldwide freedom from bombing and things like that.

If there are any ideas or projects you've been thinking of, please bring them. Or if you just want to continue to talk with your progressive neighbors, by all means just come and hang out.

If anyone has any questions, you can e-mail me at minkowitz @ or call me at 718-857-9275. Feel free to forward this to your friends, including people who weren't at the first one.

Incidentally, thanks so much, those of you who (unsolicited!) brought extra refreshments, and enormous thanks to Catherine Bohne of the Community Bookstore, who was a superb host.


At 10:23 AM, Blogger mamainwaiting said...

thanks for the piece on the bookstore party. I was wondering how that was- One thing, i don't think we're waging war on the Afghan people - I thought the taliban and the terrorists who have infiltrated that country??? Yes, they can order any books at Community books and they do it as fast as Amazon. Good idea to encourage shopping there for the holidays. I look forward to attending their next party... caroline


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