The House at 19 Barteljorisstraat

Reading about the Secret Annex in Anne Frank’s The Diary of a Young Girl reminded of another secret hiding place I once visited and had written about in Life or Death: Surviving the Impossible. Like the Annex, this hiding place was well disguised and like the Annex, it harbored refugees targeted during the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands in World War II.

Here is a recount of a post I wrote in 2015 after my visit to 19 Barteljorisstraat.


Waiting outside the green door for the tour to begin

From the street, 19 Barteljorisstraat in the Haarlem district just outside of Amsterdam looks ordinary enough.  A shop on the main floor, living quarters above, the same configuration as dozens of other buildings along the busy, cobbled street.  Little outside hints of the story of courage inside, one that I read and wrote about, and that has lingered ever since.

The Ten Boom watch shop with living quarters above

On a recent trip to Amsterdam, I wrangled a day out a tight schedule and convinced my wife to accompany me on a group tour of the house.  Along with twenty others, we waited at a dark green door in the alley way until our guide ushered us inside and up a flight of stairs into what was once a living room.  After setting the scene for what we would see later, she guided us up a tight, winding staircase to a small room at the top of the house. Free of furnishings now, the room looked much like the exterior of the building.  Ordinary.  Hardly the stage for a courageous story.  Yet that’s exactly what occurred in this plain looking space.

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Winding, narrow stairs connect small rooms.

During World War II, when the Netherlands was occupied by Nazi Germany, forty-eight-year-old Corrie ten Boom, her sister Bessie and their father, Caspar, lived and worked at 19 Barteljorisstraat.  They ran a watch shop on the main floor and lived above. Risking death, the ten Booms harboured Jews and other refugees, hiding them until safer quarters could be found. Keeping the operation secret from the Gestapo was difficult, and each day the threat of a raid grew stronger.

View from the upper storey

To hide their ‘guests’, the ten Booms and members of the Dutch resistance constructed a false wall in the room at the top of the stairs.  Over a period of 6 days, ‘customers’ flowed in and out of the watch shop carrying cleverly disguised items – hammers, trowels, bricks or mortar — tucked inside briefcases, boxes or rolled-up newspapers. Working unnoticed, they constructed a brick wall across the rear of the bedroom to create a secret room — a hiding place for ‘guests’  should the Gestapo come calling.

The space behind the false wall

To supply oxygen, workers rigged up a ventilation system. They made the new wall look as old as others in the house, and installed a bookcase on the left side of it.  A sliding panel, 60 centimetres by 60 centimetres in the bottom of a storage cabinet became a hidden door. Because it was constructed out of brick, the wall absorbed sounds and hid the hollowness behind.

Our guide shows the hiding place

For a year and a half, the ten Booms harboured refugees and lived dangerous double lives while Nazi security tightened.  Then in February 1944, the Gestapo showed up at the house.  With just seconds to spare, six ‘guests’ squirreled into the hiding place, dropped the sliding panel, and stood shoulder to shoulder while soldiers searched the house.  Convinced that Jews were present somewhere, a sentry was posted outside.

The sliding panel below the bookcase

After 47 hours confined in the tight space, the ‘guests’ escaped, but Corrie and her family were not so fortunate.  Arrested and interrogated, they were confined to prison cells and detainment centres in Holland and Germany.  Bessie died and so did her father, but Corrie lived through the experience. After the war, she co-wrote The Hiding Place, a book about the secret room, and she toured the world spreading messages of forgiveness and renewal until her death in 1983 at the age of 91.

Corrie ten Boom
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The Hiding Place has been translated into many languages and published numerous times.

Today, the ten Boom watch shop on the ground floor is still operational, though different owners now run it.  The upper floors are a museum, and the brick wall in the small room at the top has been opened so that visitors can see the tight space behind, and marvel, as I did, at the courage it took to defy the enemy patrolling the streets outside.

For the full story or details about the house, check the official website of the Corrie ten Boom Museum or read Behind the Brick Wall in Life or Death: Surviving the Impossible.

 

Book Review: The Diary of a Young Girl

Recently, in preparation for a possible trip to Amsterdam in the Fall, I read Anne Frank’s The Diary of a Young Girl. I was hoping to learn more about the Nazi occupation of World War II, the Holocaust, and the Secret Annex – now a museum – where thirteen-year-old Anne Frank and seven others hid for many months before their capture on the morning of August 4, 1944.

Anne Frank called her diary Kitty and she began each entry with Dear Kitty, just as one might do when writing a very personal letter to a friend. And personal, the diary is. From June 12, 1942 to August 1, 1944, Anne wrote about joys and sorrows, friends and enemies, wartime victories and defeats, the onset of puberty, plight of the Jews, hopes and dreams, and the daily challenges of living in a tight space with 7 others. She wrote volumes about the conditions in the Secret Annex, sharing information about everything from the moldy potatoes that were a daily staple to the buckets that replaced the toilet she and the others were not allowed to use.

Whenever someone comes in from outside, with the wind in their clothes and the cold on their cheeks, I feel like burying my head under the blankets to keep from thinking, “When will we be allowed to breathe fresh air again?”
Friday, December 24, 1943

Did Anne expect millions of people would one day read her very private account? Not exactly. According to the Foreword, Anne hoped to publish a book based on her diary when the war ended. To that end, she began rewriting and editing her Version A diary, changing text, adding and deleting passages, to create a Version B diary. When Otto Frank, Anne’s father and the only survivor of the eight confined to the Secret Annex, decided to go public with it, he handpicked passages from both diaries to create a more sanitized Version C. He omitted details that he considered too personal or that might sully the reputations of Anne and the others.

Relationships here in the Annex are getting worse all the time. We don’t dare open our mouths at mealtime (except to slip in in a bite of food) because no matter what we say, someone is bound to resent it or take it the wrong way.
Thursday, September 16, 1943

Since its release in 1953, Version C of The Diary of a Young Girl has been read by millions. I read the most recent edition, however, which is a compilation of the three versions and the most complete and consequently, the most personal, too.

The tragedy of World War II became very real when I viewed it through this thirteen-year-old’s perspective. Anne Frank was a blatantly honest and gifted writer, and it is the world’s loss that she died in a concentration camp just before the war ended. She had a wicked sense of humour and despite the seriousness of the subject matter, I chuckled at her clever and often cynical descriptions. At the same time, I found myself hurrying through mundane passages and flinching when I reached others that just seemed too intimate to read. At those moments, I felt like an intruder, peeping into Anne’s personal life without her explicit permission.

I sometimes wonder if anyone will ever understand what I mean, if anyone will ever overlook my ingratitude and not worry about whether or not I’m Jewish and merely see me  as a teenager badly in need of some good plain fun.  I don\’ know, and I wouldn’t be able to talk about it with anyone, since I’m sure I’d start to cry.
Friday, December 24, 1943

Standing outside The Anne Frank House on our first visit. Unfortunately, we never thought to secure tickets.
Crowds line the street waiting to enter The Anne Frank House

On my fall trip to Amsterdam, I hope to visit The Anne Frank House. It will be my second attempt to see the interior of the Secret Annex where Anne and the others lived. On a previous trip, my wife and I failed to secure tickets in advance and could not enter. Having read The Diary of a Young Girl has made me even more curious and I will not make the same mistake again.

Tonight the guns have been banging away so much that I’ve already had to gather up my belongings four times.  Today I packed a suitcase with all the stuff I’d need in case we had to flee, but as Mother correctly noted, “Where would you go?”
Saturday, May 1, 1943

 

 

Off to the Weiner Dog Races

In my middle grade novel, Coop the Great, my protagonist is an elderly, cynical dachshund named Cooper. Coop’s a down-and-out dog, adopted and rejected many times. When he meets Mike, a different kind of owner, Coop’s life takes an unexpected turn.

This dachshund, spotted along a trail in Phoenix, was the role model for Cooper and the inspiration for the story that followed.  He seems to be saying: “So I’m different. So what?”

Ever since I started writing the novel, I’ve been eyeing dachshunds. I’d never paid much attention to them before, but suddenly I saw them everywhere, trotting on tiny legs, resiliently plodding after their owners.  When I heard about the 22nd annual Wiener Dog Races while I was in Phoenix, I was intrigued.  The tag line on the Wiener Mania page of the Arizona Adopt A Greyhound website made it sound like fun: Come join us for this great family event where over 200 Wiener Dogs will complete over a 50 yard race track for bragging rights and terrific prizes!” 

Of course, I just had to go.  Lucky for me, my wife, Jo, wanted to go, too.

Crowds swarm Turf Paradise field in Phoenix.  Dachshund owners are an enthusiastic bunch.

Only pure-bred dachshunds can compete in the Wiener Races. Variety is the name of the game here. There were dachshunds of every size, stripe, colour, and attire.

Participants pay a $25 fee to enter, then rally others to support the cause.  The money raised goes to Arizona Adopt A Greyhound in their ongoing effort to find homes for retired racing greyhounds.  

Everyone gets into the act!

With 5 categories ranging from Juvenile Racing Wiener to Senior Racing Wiener, there are races to suit every dachshund.

Setting up
And they’re off – sort of

We had a great time at the Wiener Dog Races, but it seemed to me that the contestants had the most fun of all.

 

A Bookstore Like No Other

Wherever I go, I hunt for bookstores.  Not so much the chains like Barnes & Noble or Chapters.  They serve a purpose, but one is almost like the other no matter where you go.  My favourite bookstores are those one-of-a-kind independent types that reek of flavour and individuality.

I didn’t expect to find a bookstore in the town of Oia on the island of Santorini.  Santorini was one of our stops on a Mediterranean cruise that Jo and I did recently.  Oia is perhaps the most frequently visited place on the island, famous for its white buildings topped with blue roofs that hang precariously on steep cliffs above the sea.

On the day we visited, Oia was crawling with tourists like us. The main walkway was clogged with people snapping pictures of the spectacular views or poking their heads into the many quaint shops that sell ouzo, olive oil soap, gold jewelry, figurines of the goddess Athena, and all shapes and sizes of matia, the legendary blue eye that wards off evil for  those who wear it.

The bookstore could have been easily missed, sandwiched as it was between the many shops selling novelties.  Jo, ever the observant one, noticed it first.

“You’ve got to see this,” she said, pointing to a sign outside.

The Atlantis Bookstore is more cave than building.  To enter, you must take a flight of steep stairs to the region below.

The bookstore is a network of small rooms, each one packed with books.

There were signs everywhere – quotes from books, quotes from authors, invitations to participate in literary events, invitations to browse the racks.

And even a sign from the proprietor.

At every turn, visitors were encouraged to wander, explore, pick up books and read.

A highlight of our visit was the discovery of an unusual object hanging above a very low doorway.  Jo, who journals on each day of our travels, described it this way:

The funny part is that someone had bound a pillow to the top of the door, where no doubt, many had experienced a a blow to the head if about 5′ 4″ tall and not looking.

The Atlantis Bookstore in Oia was an inviting and unique place to visit.  For booklovers like us, it hit all the right marks – warm, welcoming, with a diverse selection of books, in a setting both beautiful and inspirational.  Perfect!

In Search of Barolo

We came to Turin, Italy, in good part to find Barolo, a small village about an hour’s drive away.  

Barolo is a picturesque place, full of history, impressive medieval structures, and an exclusive product known the world over – .  Barolo, the deep red wine that bears the village’s name.

We’d been to Barolo five years before, and we remembered it fondly.  The village is quaint and normally filled with tourists. Many tour in groups, or like these cyclists from Canada and the U.S., ride from town to town, enjoying the scenery and the challenge of navigating the hills and cobblestone streets that connect them.   In September, when we visited this time, the busy season had pretty much ended.  The streets were quiet, but the shops were still open.

The village of Barolo has many wine shops that offer tastings of the region’s wines, but Jo & I set our sights on Damilano’s, the winery we had visited on our first trip to Italy.  We had such a good time then and had learned so much about wine making that we deemed a repeat visit necessary.

We hoped that Marcella, the gracious and knowledgeable host we had before would still be there.  Lucky us.  She was.

Marcella studied wine chemistry in London. Her understanding of wine dynamics was obvious. Prompted by our many questions, she educated us and our palettes, once again. She poured generous servings of several Damilano wines, then briefed us on the individual personalities of each one.

Under Marcella’s watch, we learned a few things about wine chemistry and Barolo wine production:

  • Only wine produced from grapes grown on the hills around the village can bear the name Barolo.  Purchase a bottle of Barolo anywhere in the world and you can be assured the wine was produced here.
  • The soil around Barolo is heavy in clay.  Grapes grown here have unique qualities that contribute to Barolo’s one-of-a-kind taste.
  • Every hill around the village offers something different – different chemicals in the soil, different exposure to the sun.  Wine produced from grapes on adjoining hills, or sometimes even on different sides of the same hill, will differ in taste and quality from each other.
  • Barolo wine sits in oak casks for 3 years before being bottled.  Pull a Barolo off a shelf in a wine shop, and you know it is at least that old and probably even older.
  • Properly stored and aged, Barolo matures over time.  Give it another 5, 10, 20 or more years, and the tannins diminish, bringing the true taste and quality forward.
Grape crusher at work along the streets of Barolo

We spent an hour and a half at Damilano’s.  We worked our way from Lange, the least expensive but still wonderful variety produced by Damilano, to Liste, its most expensive and full-bodied Barolo.  We left happy, a bottle tucked under my arm that will be ready to open in 5 years, just in time to celebrate a certain someone’s landmark birthday.

Our next stop wasn’t far away – next door, at a charming restaurant serving the most delicious pasta, made fresh the Italian way.

Treasure Hunt in the Museum

We came to the British Museum with a purpose in mind.  In hindsight, it was probably a good thing that our focus was narrow because the British Museum is a rambling place, filled with thousands of antiquities.  Our Frommer’s Easyguide to London gave this saucy description: “If you don’t know what to look for, the Museum will be a stupefying series of rooms notable mostly for the zombified tourists staggering through them.”

In that respect, the guide was right.  Dazed tourists, numbed and overwhelmed, were everywhere.  But Jo and I came with a list of items to track down.  All we had to do was find them.

I’ve had a life-long interest in treasure.  Writing Lost Treasures: True Stories of Discovery and Mysteries of Time gave me the opportunity to delve into the subject.  Several items from the books were on display at the Museum.  This was my chance to see them,

The Rosetta Stone

Truly a marvel.  It was discovered in 1799 by Napoleon’s soldiers as they set about demolishing a walled fortress near Rosetta, Egypt.  Until then, no one knew how to interpret hieroglyphics, but the stone was coded in three languages – one of them hieroglyphics – all delivering the same message.  By comparing the hieroglyphic message with the two other known languages, Frenchman Jean-Francois Champollion cracked the code and unleash thousands of years of previously lost Egyptian history.

Mildenhall Treasure

Discovered by Gordon Butcher in 1938 as he plowed a field in Mildenhall, England, the Mildenhall Treasure yielded a vast array of objects – dishes, bowls, goblets, spoons, ladles and coins.  The treasure dates to 400 A.D. and was likely buried by a wealthy Roman family to hide it from invading armies.  It is the single most valuable find of Roman silver ever located in Britain.

Sutton Hoo

In 1939, archeologists probed earthen mounds on the property of Edith Pretty, near the estate of Sutton Hoo in Suffolk, England.  Deep beneath the soil, they discovered an immense burial site likely of Viking origin. Among the goodies: the remains of a boat over 8 metres long, gold jewellery, gem encrusted swords and scepters, silver bowls, dishes and spoons, a gold purse containing twenty-seven gold coins, and helmets like the one shown above.

The Hoxne Hoard

The Hoxne Hoard was found in 1992 by Eric Lawes who was using a metal detector to find a hammer in a field near Hoxne, England,  In all, the Roman treasure yielded 14,780 coins as well as assorted jewellery, pepper pots, ladles, silver toothpicks and silver spoons.  Historians believe that the treasure was hidden in the ground around 400 AD by a wealthy Roman family during a time of war.

Traveling on the Heels of Terrorism

Jo & I at Buckingham Palace, the day of the Parsons Green attack. We didn’t know then the severity of the problem.

My wife, Jo, and I were in London when the latest terrorist attack occurred.  We heard the news on BBC television around 8:45 am, just a few minutes before we were planning to head out of our hotel to catch the subway to Buckingham Palace. The announcer couched the news in gentle terms: “There’s been a security breach at the Parsons Green Station.”

It sounded mild, just a precautionary note, not much more.  Besides we were catching a different line at the High Street Kensington Station – not the one running a few stops away at Parsons Green.  What’s to worry about?  So we ventured out anyways.

Throughout the day, we heard little more about the incident other than a few brief announcements at various subways stops directing commuters to find alternate routes and avoid Parsons Green. Only later that evening when we were watching TV, did we hear the full report.  This was a terrorist act.  A bomb with a timing device had gone off a bit too early to do its intended damage.  Nevertheless, it injured 30 people, one a 6-year-old school boy.

Security was tight at 10 Downing Street

Even though this was the 4th terrorist attack in the London region this year, It seemed to us that most Londoners took the news in stride.  They went about their business like usual.  We heard no discussion on the street, but at every venue, security was obvious.

Although we have our share of violent activity in Canada, fortunately we’ve had nothing of this scale or frequency.  Mass attacks are rare.  As tourists, we tried to adopt a life-goes-on attitude, but we became fundamentally different travelers in the days that followed.

We no longer took our safety for granted.  We became more aware of our surroundings, of the people brushing up against us, of the sirens blaring down the street.  We plotted escape routes when we visited places.  We noted exit signs, the doors leading elsewhere, the flow of human traffic.  I noticed for the first time, a security guard in the hotel lobby.  Perhaps he’d been there all along, I couldn’t say for certain, but I breathed easier knowing he was there now.

We became more suspicious, too –  of people dressed in different garb, of those with wild-eyes or unkempt looks, of those speaking different tongues or hauling strange packages.  On the subway, I found myself moving away from these people, or at the very least keeping a careful watch on their every move.

Tower Bridge, site of an earlier terrorist attack this year..

When we flew out of London a few days later, security at the airport was tight.  Perhaps it had been this way before, but this time I was acutely aware of the precautions being taken. When I was asked to stand by as an inspector rummaged through my carry-on and plucked out a bottle of some liquid that I’d forgotten to declare, I felt – not annoyance as I might have before – but gratitude instead.  And when we stood in line for customs in Rome later that day, and I found myself beside a suitcase that someone had left unattended on the floor, I felt a surge of anxiety that refused to go away.

Terrorism maims and kills those directly affected, but in my case its tendrils reach much farther.  Overnight,I become less trusting, more suspicious, more fearful, and more intolerant of differences.  I accepted losses to my personal freedom without question. I believe there are many others who, like me, are building walls of protection around themselves, and casting suspicion, doubt and blame upon others in the name of safety.

Perhaps that’s the ultimate damage enacted by terrorists.  Perhaps that is their ultimate goal, too.

Location…Location: How Setting Influenced My Story

Among many uncatalogued photos on my computer, I have a number taken while I was writing my middle grade novel, Missing in Paradise.  The photos remind me of a research trip and how just being in a place can influence one’s writing.

In 2005, the book was just a vague idea without firm characters or a substantial plot.  The story centered around a teenager who discovers a treasure hidden in a wilderness location but I knew little else at that point.  Then I happened to read a newspaper article about a prisoner-of-war camp that once stood in Manitoba’s Riding Mountain National Park. I was intrigued. Could this be the far-off setting for my story?

To investigate, I drove 180 kilometers from Winnipeg to Riding Mountain National Park, then hopped on my bike to ride the final stretch – a bone-rattling 11 kilometres down Central Trail to the site of what was once Whitewater Prisoner-of-War Camp.

Built in 1942 to house German prisoners captured in World War II, the camp had been dismantled in 1945.  Of the original buildings – six bunkhouses, a large cookhouse and dining room, quarters for staff, a hospital, barn, and even a powerhouse for generating electricity – not one remained.

I was disappointed to have come so far for nothing.  Then, as I turned to leave, I noticed two blocks of concrete behind a cluster of aspens.  Rusting rebar poked through the mottled surface.  Clearly, these were the remains of a foundation that once stood on the site.

The two concrete blocks, the only remnants of the old powerhouse

I sat on one block and scanned the scene. I was in a clearing, choked with tall grass and peppered with trees.  In the distance, I caught a glimpse of water – Whitewater Lake, the camp’s namesake.

German prisoners at Whitewater POW Camp

In 1945, this had been a bustling place, filled with buildings and occupied by prisoners captured during the war.  Men had once stood in this same place.  They’d looked across the very same clearing. It took only a bit of imaging to picture the scene.

I knew then that this would the final destination for my treasure-hunting characters. It took a while to work out the plot, but when it came to writing the scenes at Whitewater Prisoner-of-War Camp, they came easily.  Visiting the site solidified the details, making them real to me, and by extension, hopefully real to my readers, too.

Here’s a small sample from the book when Nate, the main character, visits the old site with his treasure-hunting pals, Simon and Marnie.

I took out the aerial photograph of the camp. Simon and Marnie crowded around, trying to catch a glimpse under the flashlight’s narrow beam.  The buildings of Whitewater Camp radiated around a circle with the mess hall at the centre. On the far left stood Whitewater Lake. Between the lake and the buildings, tall pines rimmed the clearing. “Look. There is only one building at the camp with a clear view of the lake.”  With my finger, I traced a straight line from the lake through an opening in the trees to the camp. “There.”

“The powerhouse,” Marnie said.

“The powerhouse,” Simon echoed.

In 2014, I returned to the Whitewater site. This time a marker clearly identified the locations of buildings that once made up the camp.

Journeys by Journal

Jo’s Journal – ITALY 2011

My wife, Jo, journals every day while we travel. She’s been doing this for almost 15 years, faithfully reflecting on the previous day’s activities over morning coffee. Each major trip deserves a new journal, and by now Jo has amassed quite a collection.

According to research studies, journaling offers many mental and physical benefits to those who habitually record their thoughts and feelings. Journaling…

  • Strengthens immune cells called T-lymphocytes
  • Decreases the symptoms of asthma and rheumatoid arthritis
  • Ups the I.Q. by increasing vocabulary
  • Boosts memory
  • Improves comprehension
  • Untangles emotional knots, allowing the writer to solve problems and move forward rather than dwell on the past
  • Lowers stress and anxiety
  • Improves communication skills
  • Furthers creativity: Writing, especially writing quickly, occupies the analytical, rational left side of the brain, thus freeing the creative, intuitive right side.

And the list of benefits goes on. But for Jo and many others who journal daily, the motivation to write goes beyond this harvest of benefits.  When I asked Jo why she journals, she cited other reasons…to chronicle life… to process the everyday … to reference later.  I’ll add another – to leave a legacy.

Recently, on our way back from Arizona where we had wintered for 3 months, we repurposed one of Jo’s journals. The drive home took days and the route we followed cut across miles of nothingness.  There wasn’t much new to see along the way – just an endless ribbon of grey highway.  This was nodding off material of the first degree.

On one particularly long stretch, Jo pulled out a journal from our time in Italy a few years ago. While I manned the wheel, she read to me. What a difference that made!  As Jo recounted each day of our 5 weeks in the land of amore, the miles flashed by. Together we relived moments that we’d mostly forgotten.  We laughed about the times we got lost on roundabouts, sighed over descriptions of luscious meals we’d enjoyed, and marvelled at the enduring construction methods of the ancient Romans.  In short, we journeyed together anew.

Jo ends each of her journals with a summary.  She polls me with questions like “What did you like?”…”What would you not want to do again?…”What was your favourite day?” …   She writes several pages reflecting on the entire experience from both of our perspectives.

After she finished reading to me, Jo closed the book. “Would you go again?”she asked.

“Sure,” I said.

But then, somehow I felt as if I just had.

Bookmans, A Very Different Independent Bookstore

Wherever I travel, I like to check out independent bookstores in the area.  Chains like Barnes & Noble or Chapters-Indigo offer much the same fare across the nation.  Each Independent bookstore, though, is unique, and I’d count Bookmans Entertainment Exchange in Arizona as one of the most original.

Started 38 years ago, Bookmans now operates six stores in Tucson, Mesa, Phoenix and Flagstaff.  Based on the concept of “buy, sell, trade”, Bookmans relies on customers for their eclectic inventory and an assortment of in-store-events that range from art exhibits to yoga classes.

When I visited one Saturday morning recently, the place was a busy hive.  Young and old roamed the aisles, looking for just the right articles to purchase.  Others came in carrying boxes of items they wished to sell – books, CDs, albums, comics, musical instruments, electronics, video games, knickknacks and whatnots.  Maps at the door showed the locations of various items. If that wasn’t help enough, friendly, knowledgeable staff guided treasure seekers to the proper destination. 

I asked one employee how the Bookmans’ system worked.  “Each item is appraised,” he said, unpacking a box of DVDs. “We check Amazon, Craig’s List, Barnes & Noble and other outlets to determine a fair price, and we check our inventory to see if we need more of the item.  Once we fix a price, the seller has two options.  Take the cash.  Or take a store credit.  Store credits are often higher than the cash option so many people opt for that one.”

Bookmans is far more than just an independent bookstore. It is philosophy passionately churned into action.  An advertisement in a local community resource guide put it this way: “Stepping into a Bookmans alters your view of what buying used is and should be, and our philosophy of DIY creativity, integrity and community involvement has helped make us one of Arizona’s most beloved local businesses.”

I left Bookmans empty-handed.  It wasn’t because I couldn’t find things I would love to own.  I’m on a mission to declutter, not accumulate more.  Given the store’s mandate to ‘sell what you don’t use, buy what you need’, I think Bookmans is fine with that.

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