Had it not been for its website’s About Page, the Last Bookstore could have been mistaken for a decades-old fixture in Downtown Los Angeles’ Old Bank District. At its current location only since 2009, the two-story space, deluged in volumes old and new, is suffused with not only scents of dust and books but also an anarchistic aura. “Last,” a strong, audacious word, defies adversity and time, yet it is often tinged with melancholy and despondence, isn’t it?
There must be an entity named the Last Teahouse or the Last Tearoom somewhere on this planet. I wish I had frequented a few local teahouses during their lifetimes. Tudor House, featured in T Ching post, Top Five Teahouses in Los Angeles, came with many recommendations, and Santa Monica is a nearby playground, but not once had I stepped in the 50-year-old establishment prior to its closing last year. Another tearoom listed in the same, Royal/T, where I had seen exhibits, hosted gatherings, and killed time, underwent the same destiny.
If only regular tea services could be reinstated at estates like the beautiful Greystone Mansion. I didn’t fully enjoy the murder mystery staged inside the manor but predict afternoon tea in the garden would be magnificent!
The teashops in California’s San Gabriel Valley seem to paint a different story. Not too long ago, a tearoom’s amusingly tedious menu prompted me to leave my business card and request an interview. Never contacted, I wondered why the business owner forsook a free publicity opportunity. It was not until last week that I noticed, at the exact same location, a Chinese restaurant, which strangely didn’t appear new at all. Near the San Gabriel Mission, another teashop went from being the franchised Tapioca Express, to Relax Station, to today’s Whatever Tea Lounge – just a few monikers I recalled. Whoever the next business owner, he or she certainly will not rename the venture the Last Teahouse, for it rouses images of the many last, past lives.
Independent bookstores’ struggles have charted cinematic works from documentaries such as Shelf Life to even romantic comedies, for example, the 1998 You’ve Got Mail. Do booklovers lament the departure of giant retailer Borders that had once tantalized small business operators? The book retailing business is not unlike other businesses, including the tea business. Saṃsāra, or cycle of existence, not karma, constitutes the thought of this very moment.
Images provided by the author.