Bringing Back Old In A New Way

A piece I wrote for the South Pasadena Review (originally published in the 5/22/14 issue)

Have you ever watched an old movie you knew you liked, but couldn’t remember what it was about? Well I bought that movie recently at a thrift store and was so delighted to relive it, as if I had never seen it before. Honestly, even as I watched, I couldn’t remember what happened next! So because I was pleasantly surprised by it’s charm and surprised by a completely new way of seeing it with modern eyes, I’d like to revive a 16-year-old oldie but goodie: You’ve Got Mail.

In our 126-year-old city, 16 years is hardly “old.” But as in “You’ve Got Mail” we, too, have a beloved children’s bookstore (with Toys too): The Dinosaur Farm, a seasoned business at 20-years-old this November and still standing proud.

The days of AOL and the ancient dial-up tone via modem are all but gone. But at the heart of this good story, the gist lives on and still relevant today… the take-over of a super-power over a little guy’s business, the power of books, getting to know someone deeply through their words (online, through snail mail and otherwise), and “frienemies” who become more through forgiveness and kindness.

Nora Ephron, the director, screenwriter, and all-around comedic/relational genius weaves together what some people might call a “predictable plot.” Yes, you know it’s going to be a happy ending. The guy gets the girl. All is well. But how she gets there is what’s so magical and endearing. And that’s the ride that is so worth the journey.

If you know me, you know I love children’s books, children’s book authors, children’s bookstores… you get the picture. So in the movie, when a small privately-owned children’s bookstore is threatened by a larger discounted super bookstore, I can’t help but think how things have changed and yet, are still the same today… Now, even the brick and mortar superstores are threatened by even bigger online super-duper “stores.”

The whole publishing industry is being turned upside-down by the way we read our books on tablets and download material that has never been touched by a professional editor. At first, those who love the feel and smell of quality words on printed paper were up in arms. This new turn was a travesty! To many, it still is. But with more regularity now, the industry is learning to roll with the punches and trying to evolve well. Newer and bigger, albeit often more impersonal, business inventions are inevitable.

And the little guy continues to chug forward. Even our own Dinosaur Farm finds ways to compete with the growing market. Not only do they have sales online, but they excel in customer service (knowledge in helping to pick out the perfect present and free gift wrapping). They cary unique items the “big boxes don’t have,” says owner David Plenn. Finally, they strive to live up to their motto: “Not your ordinary toy store!”

So as Tom Hanks’ and Meg Ryan’s characters discover, we, too, can stay true to our better selves, and turn our enemies into friends and find love along the way… whether it be in business, in relationships, an obscure book or an old movie.

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Meg Ryan in her beloved children’s bookstore. Photo courtesy of blog.hgtv.com

 

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