Los Angeles just got a little less interesting. The landmark bookstore on Melrose has closed. According to the story, it may or may not reopen as a bricks-and-mortar operation. God forbid it only tries to keep virtually afloat. I've never cared to read books about spirituality, except for a traipse through Paramahansa Yogananda's Autobiography (prompted by the liner notes of a favorite progressive rock LP from the '70s) and Ram Dass's Be Here Now. Now that I think about it, the Hildegard von Bingen thing grabbed me, too, also spurred by a musical connection. But I visited Bodhi Tree a handful of times when I lived in L.A. It was a beautiful, fun, waste-an-afternoon sort of bookstore. The LA Times article doesn't quite do justice to the place. It doesn't mention that the Bodhi Tree actually consisted of two bookstores: the main storefront on Melrose featured the new volumes in a range of disciplines and various paraphernalia of metaphysical/paranormal exploration (incense, crystals, bells), but a separate space around the corner was packed with used books, where all sorts of book lovers were likely to find all sorts of books.
On one of my last visits there, I was on a mission specifically to find recordings by the great sitar player Nikhil Banerjee. The Bodhi Tree had nearly the entire catalog from Raga Records. I brought home about a dozen of his CDs from that visit.
In 1999, Sisterhood Bookstore on Westwood Blvd. closed, largely due to the loss of customers to the then relatively new Borders across the street, perhaps also due to the upstart Amazon. (Ugly irony: the oldest feminist bookstore in the country, Amazon Feminist Bookstore in Minneapolis, has had to change its name to True Colors following the rise of the online Amazon empire. It, too, appears to have an uncertain future.) I had been volunteering for the store, and I attended a benefit on its behalf a few months before they finally had to call it quits. It, too, was an unusual, fun bookstore, serving local and remote feminist and LGBT communities, as well as the students in departments at UCLA whose faculty opted to support the store by using it in lieu of the campus bookstore for course readings. After it closed, I'd often drive by the old site, which had become a cardboard box and moving supply retailer. Westwood Blvd. had become much less a destination. Now, of course, Borders across the street is also shuttered.