Independence Day

No, not the movie – the occasion! And, yes, it’s a perfect day to reflect on our country and where we’ve been, where we are now, and where we’re going. And yes, of course I’m going to mention my books, ‘cause it’s MY blog!

To begin our brief history lesson: our country was founded on the principles of freedom and representation. I contend that while we still have some of the former, we experience very little of the latter.

We originally left England – nice euphemism for the Revolutionary War, yes? – because our rights had been cut, taxed, and we had no representation in Parliament. So we changed things, and grew, and improved.

Then something happened.

Our rights, our freedom, began to be severely curtailed by laws, ordinances, and regulations. Now, every civilization needs rules, points of order, and even the ubiquitously named “rules of law.” Ha. But soon everything was being taxed, regulated, and ruled upon.

For example – and this could get very long indeed, but it won’t: when we had our cleaning business, we were supposed to charge customers a “use tax.” What did this cover? The cost of cleaning supplies that were washed down the drains. True story. Let’s say we used, oh, a quarter cup of toilet bowl cleaner. First, we had to figure out the cost of the bottle, how many quarter cups were in that bottle, divide out the cost of the quarter cup, and then list it as an itemized tax on the customer’s bill.

What moron came up with that?

Whenever anyone has any kind of grievance, a new law is laid down. Don’t even get me started on the so-called “public safety” laws. And representation? Many, or most, of our representatives have law school educations. Not going to pick on lawyers (Bill, don’t read this part!), but there’s a local ad here on TV, late night of course, where this attorney is telling people that, if they are in an accident, call her – because YOU HAVE RIGHTS! YOU HAVE THE RIGHT TO GET COMPENSATION FROM THE ACCIDENT!

No wonder we’re in so much trouble. Sheesh. It makes me cringe just to write about that commercial.

No, folks, you have the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Well, unless you’re a baby in the womb. Sorry, had to throw that in. Liberty? I’ll let Webster be the arbiter here:

1: the quality or state of being free:

a : the power to do as one pleases

b : freedom from physical restraint

c : freedom from arbitrary or despotic control

d : the positive enjoyment of various social, political, or economic rights and privileges

e : the power of choice

And before anyone makes reference to the baby comment and the last part of Webster’s definition, let me remind you that a baby should have a choice too. End of soapbox.

So, do we have liberty? Within reasonable boundaries? This is a tough one, and hard to argue. We can mostly do as we please: we can sleep late, eat whatever we want (unless you live in NYC, sorry), work or not, go anywhere we want, etc., etc. Most of us aren’t physically restrained, unless we’re in prison and then, well, there’s that whole choice thing. You chose to break the law.

“Arbitrary or despotic control.” There’s a zinger! Let the comments begin!

“Positive enjoyment… ” Frankly, I think Webster’s lost his marbles – as opposed to what, negative enjoyment? But it continues with “social, political, or economic rights and privileges.” Yes to this – these should be available to all.

The pursuit of happiness – again, not to be confused with yet another Will Smith movie –  is exactly that. The PURSUIT OF. Doesn’t mean you’re entitled to be happy. I hope you are, but there are no guarantees. Are we still allowed to pursue happiness? Well, yes, as long as we follow the laws, and we already covered the fact that are just plain ridiculous.

Think what America could accomplish if 1) our lawmakers actually knew what was on the books, and 2) they got rid of some of the BS. Wow!

This is getting quite long, but one more thing: where are we going in this great country of ours? I’ll leave you to answer that question, but I’ll tell you that my books are inspired by what I’ve seen, what I’ve researched, and what I know. And yes, it’s fiction. Or is it prediction?


What Is a Bookstore?

A bookstore can be many things: it can be a section in a big box store; it can be a huge commercial enterprise, with many products that are not books or accessories, products that include toys or games or magazines or a coffee bar or puzzles or anything else that’s profitable. I’m speaking of local independent bookstores, not big box, not chains, not non-book stores that stock a shelf or two.

An independent bookstore is a local community treasure. Now, I use the word “treasure” guardedly, because that sounds so trite and well, odd… Nevertheless, it’s true. Indies are there for the people, not the corporation; indies are there for the community, not for some faceless CEO.

What, your town doesn’t have a bookstore? Are you sure? All on the Same Page has been in business for 18 months, and we still have people walk in who say they didn’t know we were here. And, too, we have people who come in and quickly walk a big circle around the perimeter only to say, “I’ll be back.” Some do, some don’t. Unfortunately, “coming back” doesn’t pay the bills.

It’s a tough time for everyone, but bookstores seem to be particularly hard hit. Folks can manage to get a gourmet coffee but draw the line at a $3 book. A lot of people talk about “supporting local business,” but most seem to opt for the “good deal,” like buying from Amazon. I’m about 99 percent sure that Jeff Bezos needs your ten bucks a lot less than your neighborhood bookseller does. When bookstores take a hit, it seems to come from all directions at once: taxes, regulations, loss of lease, low customer turnout, and so forth.

(Lest anyone thinks I’m whining about customers, let me assure you that we have some GREAT ones! They come in frequently, they chat, they browse, they order, they purchase – and they recommend us. And this happens a lot! When I say we’re hard hit, I mean that we need a lot more of THESE customers and maybe fewer look-see-leaves, ya know?)

And you’ve all seen the meme making the rounds: when you support a local business, you aren’t helping a CEO buy a second or third vacation home, you’re helping the proprietors pay for their kids’ education, or their mortgages, or their bills in general. And of course, you’re helping that local business – BOOKSTORE – to STAY in business!

The St. Louis Independent Bookstore Alliance is a loose organization of local St. Louis bookstores; I could name them all, but if you click on that link you can find them – and I’d hate to inadvertently leave out anyone… We’re a great mix of styles, too, we all have a different look, a different feel, a different focus.

And if you pick on one of us, you’ve taken on the entire Alliance.

Yes, folks, I’m talking about The Book House. The Book House is located on Manchester Road, in Rock Hill, Missouri. It lives in a 150-year-old Victorian home, and it’s been there for 30 years. An absolute booklover’s paradise, it’s crammed full of ALL THE BOOKS! New, used, rare – they have it, and they know exactly where to pull it from the shelf.

But you know what? The city doesn’t seem to care about any of that – the history OR the books. Or the booksellers. Seems the city has decided that it’s okay for an OUT OF STATE developer to buy the property – which The Book  House has been negotiating to purchase for years – and to tear it down, replacing it with a storage facility. Yep, you heard that right. Rock Hill doesn’t care for history. Or books. Just more ugly profit.

Nothing wrong with profit; we’d all like to have it. But do booksellers and book lovers understand the balance between profit and doing what’s right? YES! Does Rock Hill? It doesn’t seem that way. Ditto for that developer – bottom line, always, right? And ruin history – and books – for a small community three states away. Nice.

It ain’t over till it’s over! Here’s what YOU can do:

First, go to and sign the petition – it’ll go to the mayor of Rock Hill as well as the Community Development Commission.

Second, call these people and voice your complaints:

Call Rock Hill City Hall (314) 968-1410

Call the developer Bill Bowman at Great Northern Developers 586-703-9882 or 734-996-9979

Call the media – Kirkwood-Webster Times, Riverfront Times, Post-Dispatch, TV stations, radio stations, your local Patch, etc.

And third, come to the meeting at Rock Hill City Hall on May 8, 7:00 p.m. to join the rest of us!