Front of a building with ACORN BOOKSHOP on the sign, windows and a front door of glass, flowers out front.

Indeed, a very near and dear friend has declared: my death is imminent, be prepared. Hospice forthwith. All good things must pass. Great things will always be remembered. Now what the hell are you going to do?

Acorn Bookshop hasn't just been a great little bookstore to me over the years – it's been one of my favorite places on our troubled Earth.

I have a favorite rock I visit and sit upon in Puerto Rico every time I go, to watch the ocean breathe and roll at me and the sun turn orange before it blinks its eye goodbye for the night.

Between that rock and the Acorn Books towering history section or its art shelves, when I'm not home laying on my sexy couch that never denies my ass, those are my two favorite haunts.

"Bookstore George" Cowmeadow Bauman, owner and proprietor, occasional tuxedo-ed in-store showman and raconteur, my favorite Connecticut Yankee (even though he's from Pittsburgh), sat me down shortly after the New Year in the store's back-office. He gave me the news: the Acorn was closing.

He'd hidden the store's worsening financial condition well with irrepressibly cheery persona over the years, Christine Hayes, too, his manager and my favorite Original Hippie Chick (aka Ramona Moon) who accessorizes better than Prince did. But like all brain food items, the Internet devours us like a beluga loves plankton – without thought, without effort but without an ecologically economic benefit.

Hell, yes, this is a personal thing: I love George and Christine. I can't tell you how many times I'd be sitting among the Hitler books and the Guadalcanal tomes and American Civil War battle map volumes, time traveling deeply while at the same time listening to the hearty George who'd be working the counter as he would trade a story, explain a policy, joke a bloke or just converse. I learned a bit about how to run an establishment with elan hearing him take phone calls or advise on how to sell a collection or just how good Melville really was. I admired the man's style, he often veered to the entertaining.

You don't find that at Target, Ace Hardware, or that incredibly stupid Odd Lots store across the street from the Acorn (the old Giant Eagle). I admired The Cowmeadow Man, really I did. I never didn't.

Sigh. Deep breath.

When he told me, I collapsed inside. We spoke a few minutes, we hugged for a moment and sincerely. Then I went to roam the shelves. But I was processing. I didn't feel right. I felt like someone had just poured a hundred pounds of crushed pine cones on me. The sense of loss was creeping over me something terrible. Like when I deserted my own mother's post-wake get-together at my sister's house in Richmond, Virginia. I just put had to get the hell out of their and go into motion.

So I said goodnight to George as he jollied it up with a couple unsuspecting customers, saddled up my bicycle and crossed Fifth into that stupid Odd Lots parking lot, in the dark. I couldn't pedal. I was tearing up. Goddamn it! Another great place gone down. No Acorn? Inconceivable.

The sense of loss that weekend was no different than a human death of someone close to me.

I have lost a friend, mentor, blood relative or extended-family member one p er year since 2011. Exactly one per year. 2017 was the only year I didn't. But I just didn't know the truth of what was coming.

I've only been back once to the Acorn as it starts its going-out-of-business sale with the end of February being The End. And I couldn't stay. I couldn't sit in the folding-cloth-backed chair in the history stacks like usual, reading a terrific Max Hastings World War Two narrative that instantly hooked me. George was holding forth, pretending like everything was normal, talking and joshing with a customer. But I just couldn't stay.

I bolted.

As Cowmeadow saw me heading rapidly out the door I heard him say, "Hey, John, wait, I want to talk to you for a second." But I kept my head down and without looking at him too-curtly and unintentionally rudely but honestly said, "I can't."

Because I couldn't. My eyes misted over ag ain as I unlocked my bike and floated across the parking lot again in the dark, lost at sea, lost in a strange world so cold and unfriendly to the tools of the Enlightenment. I just can't believe a place so fucking holy to me can just die on the vine and in reality, so few, so very, very few people care.

I'm sorry, George, I don't have the threshold for grief I used to. I'm getting older and it not only doesn't get any easier, it gets worse. Death is going to be the death of me--others' passing and the passing of their livelihoods.

I pedaled again across that stupid Odd Lots store parking lot, barely conscious I had a body with limbs working to keep me upright and not killed by a careening motorist.

But the truth was I felt so goddamn alone--again. One of the loneliest hours of my life was the night in Kabul I waited outside the military portion of the airport for my hote l ride to pick me up. It was pitch black, I was outside the heavily armed security perimeter of razor wire, road spike contraptions, sandbagged guardhouses with machine guns poking out.

Which meant I was in fair game territory. And with a small sea of parked cars I could see individuals in several of them, just sitting there, either waiting for an incoming flight's passenger, or maybe a chance to snatch up and ransom a dope from Ohio for all his family's money or the opportunity to offer his head on jihad Ebay. Yeah, I felt alone.

Leaving George abruptly and the Acorn for the second time after hearing the bad news only a week before, I felt like I was back in the black of that Kabul night. Soul sickness had set in the moment George told me the Acorn was soon to be history. The queasy feeling hasn't abated. I tried pedaling my guts out but it sure didn't work. That Kabul death-in-the-dark feeling had taken me.< /div>

The Acorn's Great Spirit gone? I am in despair.

George, I will try to stop by before you finally close your doors. I'm sorry. I just can't stand the end of a place that's been so good and kind and important to me. Pity poor Darryl Price--it's the third horse of a bookstore that's been shot out from under him since I've known him from My Back Pages back in the '70s.

Well, let me man the hell up, suck it up and say, thank you, George and Christine and Jack-In-The-Book (who took care of collectibles). Thank your for being the coolest, warmest, fun and funniest book store I've ever known. I've shopped you guys for what--20 years? I wish you the best, God, I really do. I don't want to you to see a grown man cry but I will stop in. When?

I don't know.

Between the Grandview Heights Public Library jettisoning 80% of their books in the last two or three years--leaving three giant rooms nearly completely bereft of books which also makes me sick--and the Acorn closing, I am in a bad, bad way. I'm not going to extrapolate and say America is, too. Because what the hell do I know? I just know I am. Maybe writing this has helped. We'll see.

Who knows, maybe George was going to tell me they found a sugar daddy benefactor willing to buy 10,000 books and leave them there or something.

Life is about loss, as Gene Hackman told Kevin Costner in "Wyatt Earp" as the young Earp sat in a jail cell awaiting hanging for having stolen a horse during a drunken fit of emotional self-pity over his wife's untimely passing. I'm not that bad. But I sure am going to miss hanging around 60,000 books and the cool people who watched over them.

I need my rock on my favorite deserted craggy Puerto Rican beach. I 

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