Monday, April 28, 2008

Requiem For a Bookstore

For those of you who've done letterboxing in my hometown of San Luis Obispo, most of you seem to gravitate to my Bookstore Box. The really hardy among you go so far as nabbing the Walking Tour letterbox, hidden in the same bookstore though you wouldn't necessarily know it unless you started working out the clue.

Last week, I learned, much to my sorry, that Leons is going out of business. Shutting the doors for good. It's very sad for me--I've haunted those aisles of books since I was a kid. I don't remember a time when that bookstore wasn't there.

The doors will close for the last time in mid-May, but I'm leaving town tomorrow and won't be around again before then, so I retired the two boxes from that store yesterday.

Terribly sad, because both of the boxes are two of my favorite plants ever. =) Daring, dashing, and planted entirely without permission. (Not that I recommend doing so, but it is exciting!)

Let me introduce you to the boxes.

The original Bookstore Box was in a film cannister, but it didn't "stick" very well using magnets and after the stamp broke, I replaced it with a new (and improved!) stamp with a magnet in it and removed the logbook. Kind of wish people were able to make comments on that box online, the irony being I implemented that very feature just days ago. (Complete coincidence.) So the last dozen people or so I have no saved record of their messages. That's the stamp you see below the book. You can't really see the stamp image well in this picture, but it's a book with the name of the store written in it.

The second box was actually planted with the knowledge and help of one of the employees there (who has long since moved on to other life pursuits), and is the only "letterbook" box I've ever created. It's a pretty slick design, I thought. I bought a book that fit my specifications--in an area of the store that got little traffic, high on shelf where people would be less likely to browse, that was large enough to hollow out, and was non-descript and boring enough that nobody would ever consider picking up.

I spent that evening and the next day hollowing out the book, sewing together the pages, embedding magnets into the pages and washers into the cover so the book would stay closed if it were moved around, then covering up the mess with page I printed about what letterboxing is about. Not only is the page informative in case someone accidentally found the box (a very real possibility since it was literally in plain view), but it hid all that sewing, magnets, and washers quite well.

About 24 hours after I purchased the book, I returned to the bookstore and smuggled in my altered book. =)

While I cannot be 100% certain that nobody ever discovered that letterbox by accident, in the five or so years it had been there, nobody has ever been known to find the box who wasn't actually looking for it. Nobody has ever signed into the logbook who didn't have a signature stamp of some sort with them. Not even any of the employees there ever discovered it by accident. Pretty amazing for a box in plain view for the last five years!

And of course, the Walking Tour box was the original walking tour box. I later created the Portland Walking Tour, Seattle Walking Tour, and Boston Walking Tour, but the original walking tour was here in San Luis Obispo and at the time of its creating was the only one, and thus is not called the San Luis Obispo Walking Tour.

I can't replace either box anywhere else. The Bookstore Box was a stamp specifically designed for this particular bookstore while the letterbook was custom chosen for exactly where in the store I wanted it--it wouldn't be in an ideal location in any other bookstore. So both boxes will be retired.

I'd like to create a new walking tour of San Luis Obispo, but I need to carve stamps, find plaques (new ones, just to keep things interesting!), and find a hiding place for the box. Not sure when that'll happen, but someday....

So yesterday, I walked into the bookstore and smuggled out my boxes. Kind of felt like shoplifting, being all sneaky like that, but technically speaking, I had bought the book already and the other was just a stamp. =)

And alas, the boxes are now officially retired--permanently.

I would like to share some of the comments people wrote in the logbook for the Walking Tour box. I'll keep names anonymous in case someone doesn't want credit for what they wrote, but I enjoyed many of the comments that were written and now that the box is retired, I feel like it's safe to share some of my favorites. =)

"Consider this your warning, Ryan!"

"I never imagined I would sign into a letterbox while sitting on a toilet. Hahaha."

"Ryan, you have the mind of a criminal." (Also noted that they too, were stamping in in the loo.)

"I stamped in in the Nancy Drew section! =)" (Okay, you can probably figure out who wrote that one!)

"You're an evil mastermind, Ryan."

"Lovely day for walk!"

"We needed all three lifeline for this one!"

Rest in peace, boxes. Rest in peace.....


Anonymous said...

Oh, tell me Ryan you are coming to Oklahoma for our Boxin' on Tulsa Time gathering, ha ha. Sure would love to have you. May 17th Keystone State Park, see event page for better directions. Oh, won't you come, please, please, please?

Well, doesn't hurt asking even if you can't make it. :~)

So sad about your book store closing up. I remember when the library closed up I used to go to when a kid, sure was sad. I didn't haunt the aisles as you, probably, too young at the time, but sure liked playing hide and seek in there from my Mom, ha ha. Had those wood floors and you could hear a pin drop and the skuttle of tiny feet, so she pretty much knew where I was at all times. Out back of the place it had these Crepe Myrtles (as I got older) that were cool, from the hot sun, and fun to play under too. They drooped down and it felt like a little cave or something under there. Fun memories, and I thank you for that.
Have a great day!
Okie Dog

Anonymous said...

That is just an absolutely fantastic idea for a box. Sorry it had to be retired.

Anonymous said...

Sounds like they should have a monument (or headstone, whichever you prefer) resurrected in their honor. Or maybe put in a museum!

Anonymous said...

Darn! And we were going to do a trip up the 101 this summer to be sure to hit the SLO boxes. I was looking forward to the bookstore ones.

Anonymous said...


We understand your pain. We have lost a couple of bookstores in places we visit or vacation over the past couple of years -- these stores have been a part of our lives for decades. We love books and we love the independent bookstore experience (not so much the "big box" bookstore experience). We hope you will find a new independent bookstore to haunt.

The LBs look like they were great fun and we are sorry we will never get to find them. We know you enjoyed them while you had them!
T-N-T (TRH N T on AQ)

Knit Wit said...

Sorry to hear about the loss of your hangout. Thanks for giving us a peek at the "retirees" though. :-)

Knit Wit

Anonymous said...

Nooooooooo! As a person who has visited many used bookstores around the country, I can attest that Leon's is one of the best ever. So sorry to see it go the same route of so many of its compatriots over the last few years.

-- Princess Lea

Anonymous said...

Amazon claims another victim. I have a letterbox series whose clues begin with a wonderful used bookstore in downtown Long Beach. The city has been trying to buy it out for development for years. Sadly, recent reports seem to indicate it may finally be happening. I feel your pain.


Frisco Wood Floors said...

The Bookstore Box was a stamp specifically designed for this particular bookstore while the letterbook was custom chosen for exactly where in the store.