I love going out and giving my $10 away. However, I have to admit there have been a very small handful of days when I am just not motivated. This is one of those days. I was not feeling well and just wanted to go to bed, but I forced myself into some presentable clothes and headed out in the drizzling darkness.
I saw a man sitting in a folding chair on the sidewalk of Connecticut Avenue. He was wearing a long sleeve shirt opened up with a white t-shirt underneath, jeans and flip flops. His calm, easy demeanor unaffected by the light rain that fell on his shoulders. Andrew is the owner of KULTURAs Bookstore at 1728 Connecticut Avenue which is nestled on the west side of Connecticut just north of Dupont Circle. It’s a wonderful shop featuring second-hand and rare books as well as small but unique collection of consignment clothing. They even sell some handmade ponchos commonly found in parts of Latin America. I had been in the bookstore during the snowpocalypse we had last winter. “We opened during the snow storm, so you must have stopped in during the first week,” Andrew told me. This was KULTURAs second stint in the Dupont area. Andrew explained that he and his wife had had a store in the area for a long time but in 2006 they packed the family up and moved 3,000 miles to Santa Monica, CA where they continued with KULTURAs.
The rain started to pick up and we walked inside where he sunk into a chair behind a wooden desk. “The timing wasn’t ideal given the economy,” Andrew said referring to the fact that after three years they decided to move back to DC last fall. “It was fun though…we had a blast!” He told me about their house that overlooked the Santa Monica Bay. “I’d go surfing with my kids before school,” he reminisced as he propped his right leg up on the edge of the desk.
His upbringing consisted of periods of time living in DC, Detroit and Texas although he said he felt most comfortable in the Los Angeles area where he has family. After graduating from the George Washington University with a degree in Latin American studies, he spent a year studying at the Universidad de los Andes in Colombia. “I even took a weaving class there!” he told me. I mentioned that I had spent a few weeks in Manizales, Colombia this year and he knew the area.
He married his wife in the late 80s and now has two children; one in high school and the other in college.
Andrew is easy to talk to. The conversation naturally drifted to the topic of owning a bookstore. “I like interacting with people,” he says. “Someone will come in and ask for a particular book and then you discover there is an entire story behind why they are looking for that book.” I could relate to this. It’s similar to what I have said about the Year of Giving – everyone has a story. KULTURAs gives store credit for books that they buy. Andrew says that can be exciting as well. “Sometimes you find a real treasure!”
I was interested to hear his opinion about the long-term outlook for books. It seems that technology is murdering the traditional print media. The timeliness of news makes it a perfect subject to be transmitted via computers and handheld devices. Magazines and books have also been threatened by Kindles and Nooks. “I think physical books will diminish significantly,” the 52-year-old says pointing out that younger generations prefer to get their information online. I do think books will begin to be read more on electronic tablets and devices we haven’t even dreamed of yet, but perhaps there will still be a strong attachment for some people to have a physical book in their hands. Maybe it’s the sound of cracking open a new book or the musty smell of an old book or perhaps it’s just the idea of turning pages that attract some of us.
Speaking of books, I wandered around KULTURAs. I saw lots of interesting books about art, architecture, cooking, philosophy, etc. They even have a good number of books in foreign languages. But it was Donald Miller’s first book Through Painted Deserts that caught my eye and ended up going home with me. A friend of mine was recently talking about Miller and a conference of his that she was attending in Portland, Oregon. She is a fan and I thought I would pick up his book and give it a chance.
As for the $10, Andrew said that he was going to use that to buy some groceries.
When I left I realized I felt much better. Maybe it was just getting out of the house? Maybe the Year of Giving helped in some way. For a half hour I forgot all about how I felt, the work that went unfinished that day, or the emails I still had to write.For more information on KULTURAs, check out their website or stop in and visit them at: Dupont Circle: 1728 Connecticut Avenue, NW Tenleytown: 4918 Wisconsin Avenue, NW