A Message of Thanks
from Nancy J. Peters, Co-Owner of City Lights Books
Recently Lawrence and I have been reminiscing. This year marks the 50th anniversary of our friendship and partnership at City Lights, and we’ve been talking about past struggles and the good times, but most of all about the exhilaration that comes with a long life lived with poetry and great books.
I could not have envisioned just a year ago that a pandemic would turn the world upside down so quickly and confront City Lights with a serious danger to our survival. I was at the bookstore one day in mid-March and the next morning the doors were closed, the city shut down. It was soon clear that it would be a long time before people could gather closely in social spaces again. But the bookstore? The publishing house? San Francisco’s landmark literary meeting place? Lawrence had been confident that he would be leaving this thriving cultural enterprise as his legacy to San Francisco. But now? It was unthinkable that we could simply vanish into thin air. The old normal was gone forever and City Lights would have to improvise and grapple with a tough situation. Fortunately, we have Elaine Katzenberger at the helm and a bright and resilient crew working hard to meet the challenges at hand.
Our GoFundMe campaign solicited your help, and your massive response has been utterly astonishing and much appreciated. A multitude of people is responding to our call for help, and I want to thank everyone who has donated so generously — old friends, colleagues, and writers and readers everywhere. I’m overcome with gratitude when I see the names of people I know, the customers I’ve met only briefly at the bookstore, and the beautiful strangers from all over this stricken and chaotic world.
You can’t imagine what a joy it is for me to read the inspiring notes you’ve written about your ex-periences of City Lights and your tributes to Lawrence. I’ve been reading some your words to him every day. He says he can’t believe this is happening. “What? Over nine thousand people— Impossible!” And after a pause, “Wonderfull! We want to open again as soon as we can. We don’t want to disappoint them.”
An update from Elaine Katzenberger, CEO and Publisher of City Lights Books, after just a day and a half of our campaign…
I’ve just returned home from a trip to North Beach. It was time for my weekly visit with Lawrence, who lives just a short walk from City Lights Bookstore. I wanted to tell him what I could about the absolute torrent of love and support we’ve received since the launch of this campaign just yesterday morning, but to be honest, I found it impossible to describe. How can I ever articulate the impact of seeing a community of people from all around the world respond so immediately and enthusiastically to our call for help? Especially now, when so many people are thrown into their own financial and existential insecurity? Knowing that City Lights is beloved is one thing, but to have that love manifest itself with such momentum and indomitable power, well, that’s something I don’t quite know how to find words for. We sat in silence a while, and then Lawrence asked me, “When is the store going to open up again?” and I had to say, “We still don’t know… nobody knows what happens next…” and then we sat in silence a while more.
After I left him, I went over to check on the bookstore. I’ve been going by the shop every few days, ever since we had to close the doors. When I get there I flip on all the lights and greet the stacks. I walk through the three floors of that sweet space and I speak to it like an old friend. Ostensibly, I’m there to make sure that nothing is amiss – what about that leak in the basement, it’s been raining again— but really I just want to drink in as much as I can, to breathe that air and take it home with me. And I’ll admit, when I’m there I have pangs of nostalgia about how normal it used to feel to just show up for work each day and assume that would never end, and I worry about how long it might be until we can all come back, and I worry that it could take a long time, or worse, maybe we humans will never be able to gather like that again…
But today is a triumphant day, and I was there to put signs in our windows that say THANK YOU FOR ALL OF THE LOVE AND SUPPORT!!!
And right now, here on this campaign site, I want everyone to know that we are incredibly grateful. And we’re so proud and honored.
The fiscal support we’re receiving here will help stabilize us for the next couple of months, and that will enable us to begin planning for the future. That’s critical. But beyond that, the outpouring of love we’re receiving is invaluable. I’ll tell you honestly that we’re all feeling a little giddy from it right now, and though there is a TON of work to do, this puts a strong wind at our backs. We’re taking today to breathe that rarefied air, and then tomorrow it’ll be time to roll up our sleeves again to try to find the way forward beyond this crisis. That uncertainty still looms, but we are all SO GRATEFUL to have reached this point. THANK YOU SO MUCH!!!
I need to add a note here to say that we’re going to keep this campaign active for as long as there is interest in supporting us, and we will be extremely grateful for any additional funds. Although we’ve reached our goal quickly, we are still on unstable ground, and the truth is that we’re not used to asking for help, and so we set a rather modest goal. Anyone who would like to support us further, we encourage you to please do that, and please continue to pass the word. We’re committed to finding a way to bring City Lights forward, and the support we receive here will help us do that!
Thank you from the bottom of my heart,