Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Bar blogging, books, and music

Well, the below two posts were a little rough; I'm not used to this live blogging thing. Missed parts of the conversation between Don and Mike (where Mike explained that yes he had heard of the bag ordinance and no, he'd voted against it).

I spoke with Pete Bowers during Mike's musical event about the possibility of bringing the Into the Woods cabin to the library land; that would be nifty to get that historic building back in action again. From
An excellent coffeeshop/alternative bookstore located in Fairbanks, Alaska very near UAF and next to the Oaken Keg. Yours truly slaved there one summer cleaning books and pulling espresso for darkness starved poets, celtic musicians, drunken carnies and your average itinerant Alaskan workers.

Into the Woods paid $7/hr. in books and a portion of the evening tips. The other portion of the tips went to the mandatory 11:55pm run to the Oaken Keg for Into the Woods Afterhours, a key reason to work there indeed. There's nothing like drinking beer with your employer at 2 in the morning and wishing it was dark so you could actually get some sleep.
And an entry on the end of its existence as a bookshop and indeed, a cabin in the woods where it was built:
A small town bookstore/coffee shop died too quietly January 1, 2001. Into the Woods was the renegade bastion of human evolution; set neatly off from the road it was hidden from everyone by old and cool Alaskan forest.

I worked there off and on for a few years and in that time we had weekly Celtic jams, French classes and films, a G'wichin table, Green party meetings, song writing workshops, poetry readings and several surprisingly well-received concerts. Open noon to midnight every day we could find a willing worker the bookstore was one of scant few businesses in this mostly frozen (frozen in so many more ways than literal) town that didn't encourage the sterilely generic Seattle-Starbucks look that is growing so hip up here.

Our last year was too much of a struggle though. The owner had to take a job up North to keep the shop open and summer light-all-the-time mania burned out our over-worked employees at a monthly turnover. Finally an unfortunate and overly principialed brawl with the land owner (the University of Fairbanks) left us owing back rent, no access to the bank roll and a letter of eviction.

So, we rallied the troops and wrote a petition, spoke with the President of the University, raised money to cover back rent, cleaned up the land and worked on the shop itself. Then we asked for another chance. In retrospect I think we were too idealistic to think that the University would take our bid over the possibility of renting the land to some commercial business that would bring in far more money than our beautiful no-profit.

We moved 8 years of books and life out of the cabin then decided to take the shop with us. In an endeavor unlike any other people filed diligently out of the proverbial woodwork to help move out and move the building. The actual structure of Into the Woods is now 3 miles out of Fairbanks waiting empty in different woods.

Last month the University evicted the neighbors on the old land and razed their house, taking quite a few old trees out with it. We resorted to civil disobedience and took 5 dead stumps back to the University in time for Earth Day. We left them at the Commons, the cafeteria, the dorms and at the office of the President. Nailed to each stump was a signed letter stating our disbelief of their total disrespect for the originality and heritage of the land and a high class glossy photo of an amanita from the land. A couple days later we spoke with the President to gauge his reaction... he smiled blankly on a said he had absolutely no idea of what we were talking about.
The university didn't end up leasing the land to anybody. The trees are still standing, the property remains an empty lot. But the cabin was rescued, along with the manuscript that describes its history. Pete Bowers and John Goodhand have had it, still ready to move, on property near Cripple Creek Tire & Auto (now known as Everything Auto, I think, but nobody calls it that). Pete wants to use it as a place for music and poetry slams, which I think is just fine. We could move the library books associated with both, open it up as a place to practice or jam, put out a donation jar to pay for electricity and fuel, and keep it going in the spirit it developed as a bookstore and coffeehouse back when Connie Huffman was running it.

Into the Woods revived!

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