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Gayle's March Letter

Gayle ShanksDear Bookstore Friends,

It's a blustery day and I'm sitting on my couch as I type this letter, watching red bougainvillea blossoms swirl around outside my windows. The rain that fell last night and on and off again today was welcome, a much-needed drink for our thirsty desert plants. The veggies I planted a few months ago with a drip watering system got their first delicious soaking from the sky.

FlowersThis season of vegetable gardening, my first since I was an ASU student in the '70s, was mildly successful—the brocollini was bitter and quickly went to seed, only half my lettuce grew, and the flowering sweet peas had only a few blossoms. But we did eat many tender snow peas and are still harvesting arugula, kale, chard, and lettuce with high hopes for the heirloom tomato starts I bought from Southwest Gardener a few weeks ago. The leeks look like they're alive but haven't grown much so far. Maybe they need heat. After all, what do I know about vegetable gardening? I intend to read one of the many books we carry in the store and stop just winging it!

More FlowersI've spent many days at the Capitol so far this month, listening to our representatives shoot down a bill that would have required Amazon to collect and remit sales tax on behalf of their customers. Some of them said that the bill was somehow unfairly singling out Amazon. (That hundreds of Arizona brick-and-mortar stores like mine are required by law to collect and remit sales taxes every month doesn't seem to impact their notion of basic fairness.)

Naturally I'm frustrated. Even Utah has passed this kind of legislation; their bill sailed through both Houses with little opposition, and they are more conservative and wary of taxes than Arizona. Or so I thought. Strange how our bill has bogged down, and sad for our state, which could use both the money and the support for our local business community. No idea where this will go next, but I'd say it's over for this legislative session, unless a miracle happens.

Kiva robotsIn the meantime, an interesting sidenote: Amazon paid $775 million in cash last week for an army of little orange robots that, according to the New York Times, "will most likely replace human workers in Amazon's warehouses." In addition to avoiding sales tax, does this now mean the "hundreds of jobs" they claim the company has brought to the Valley (they operate four distribution centers here) will soon be slashed as their warehouses move toward automation? Time will tell.

WeinzweigI've drowned my sorrows in books, and have a few good ones to recommend. Ari Weinzweig from Ann Arbor's famed Zingerman's Deli spoke at the store earlier this month. He's written a great book on running a business, A Lapsed Anarchist's Approach to Building a Great Business, that has filled me with inspiration and new ideas.

Truth Like the SunOne of my favorite writers, Jim Lynch (Border Songs), has a new novel coming out in April called Truth Like the Sun. Set in Seattle during the 1960s and the 2000s, it concerns politics, the Seattle World's Fair, and the building of the Space Needle, foreshadowing the tech revolution that followed.

God's HotelI also read a great narrative non-fiction title, God's Hotel by Victoria Sweet, another April release. It chronicles the life and experiences of a young doctor working in the Laguna Honda Hospital in San Francisco, the last remaining alms hospital left in the country—a descendant of the "Hotel-Dieu" that cared for the sick in the Middle Ages. Dr. Sweet is able to practice medicine in a manner that allows time for patients and doctors to bond and transform care from the impersonal use of high tech tools to hands-on diagnoses that take the whole body and mind into consideration. I'm going to meet Sweet in San Francisco in a few weeks, and can't wait to tell her how much I enjoyed her book.

So, the bumps in the road get mitigated by great books, a bit of weed therapy, or a nibble of a tender piece of kale fresh from the garden. We continue the search for a second location in Phoenix, and it feels like we're getting closer to finding a great place. Stay tuned. Visit us and tell us what you're reading and what's growing in your garden.


Questions or comments? Email Gayle at

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