By Randi Bjornstad
Scott Landfield is understandably nervous.
When June 2017 becomes July, will he still be able to turn the key in the door at Tsunami Books at 2585 Willamette St., as he has done for the past 22 years?
Or will his venerable independent bookstore, with its book-lined back room fitted with a stage that has hosted concerts, lectures, workshops, book-signing parties, poetry readings, community forums — even weddings — be shut up for good?
“Our lease is up June 30, and the owner of the building has told me the rent will double at that point, to about six figures a year,” Landfield said. “He has said through the months that he’s been looking at other possibilities, from tearing it down for a high-end ‘mini-mall’ to renting it as-is to a (marijuana) dispensary.”
It’s not that Landfield has given up hope since he learned earlier this year that Tsunami’s future was in jeopardy. In February, he started a fundraising campaign, with the idea of gathering pledges to cover five years’ worth of the rent increase, with the hope of getting a five-year extension on the lease.
So far, he’s taken in pledges for about half of the $250,000 he would need, and Landfield hopes that Tsunami fans and backers of indie bookstores in general will come through with the remaining pledges this month so he can show that he could cover the increased rent and keep the store open.
As with many “crowd funding” efforts, Landfield created an explanatory pledge form that describes the history of Tsunami Books, the need for help and the “benefits” that would come with different pledge levels, from certificates to buy books, records and tickets to Tsunami events to a blanket percentage off books and tickets for the new lease period to a commemorative plaque at the store’s garden entrance.
One Tsunami stalwart, Michele Graf, happened into the store on Tuesday
afternoon as Landfield sat in his cluttered office space in the front corner of the shop and handed him an envelope with “Tsunami pledge form” written on the outside.
Graf stood chatting with Landfield as he opened it and then enfolded her in a huge hug.
“I moved to Eugene in October of 2007, and shortly after I started coming to Tsunami,” Graf said. “I am a poet, and I got involved with Willamette Writers, and we meet here, so since then I’ve been coming regularly.”
In fact, when she released her own book of poetry, “Lifelines,” she chose Tsunami as the place to have the celebration and book-signing, “on 11-11-11,” Graf said. “I remember it well. I really like this place.”
Landfield feels certain that with the cooperation of the building owner, Tsunami Books can meet its obligations and maintain its unique role in the community.
“Since the recession has ended, things have been improving steadily, and Tsunami is making a fair amount for the people who work here now,” he said. “But this is a very difficult time for employees — the staff is on edge, not knowing whether we’ll still be here in a few weeks or not.”
Even so, “Everything we’re doing is as if we’re going to succeed,” Landfield said. “And we’re hoping that we will be having a major celebration soon.”
In the meantime, Tsunami Books continues with a full slate of literary, musical, theatrical and even scientific events through June.
Coming Events at Tsunami Books
Saturday, June 10
7 p.m. to 8 p.m. — Kenny Reed and Stone Cold Jazz plus open mic poetry. Sliding scale of $5 to $15 also includes admission to the Sex Slam.
8 p.m. to 11 p.m. — Following the jazz concert comes the seventh annual Love/Sex/Romance-themed Poetry Slam, featuring Mozley Watta and other special guests. Open to people 18 years and older. Sliding scale $5 to $15 (includes the jazz performance).
Sunday, June 11
4 p.m. — Poets Dorianne Laux, Joseph Millar and Maxine Scates present their work. Laux has written six books of poetry; “The Book of Men” was a finalist for a National Book Award. She and her husband, Joe Millar, co-authored a recent book, “Duet.” He also has written six books of poetry, including the recent, “Kingdom.” Scates’ three books of poetry have garnered the Oregon book Award, Pitt Prize and a Pushcart Prize.
Friday, June 16
8 p.m. — Doors open at 7:30 p.m. for performance poet Melissa Rose and musicians Mood Area 52 in a fundraising Rent Party for Tsunami Books. Rose will perform “Baggage,” the true story of her adventures as a touring poet. Mood Area 52 plays a blend of roots rock, instrumental tango, jazz, blues, Balkan, ranchera, American folk, country Brechtian cabaret and classical. Many of the band members are public schoolteachers. Rose opens at 8 p.m. with Mood Area 52 playing at 9:15 p.m. Tickets $5 to $20 on a sliding scale, available at the store or by reservation at 541-345-8986.
Saturday, June 17
8 p.m. — Theater, comedy, readings and storytelling, featuring George Walker (formerly of the Merry Pranksters) and Brian Hassett. Walker will read from his chapbook, “Trouble Ahead, Trouble Behind.” Hassett will read from his book, “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Jack Kerouac. The two will become Jack Kerouac and Neal Cassady, reading from “On the Road.” Donations at the door, split three ways.
Thursday, June 22
7:30 p.m. — Doors open at 7 p.m. to old-time music legend Alice Gerrard and the Piedmont Melody Makers, with guitar, fiddle, banjo, mandolin and bass. $18.50; available at the store or by reservation at 541-345-8986. Video clips on You Tube.
Friday, June 23
6:30 p.m. — Meet and Greet followed by 7 p.m. talk and book-release celebration for longtime healer and teacher Nicki Scully, who presents “Sekhmet: Transformation in the Belly of the Goddess,” about a shamanic ritual that brings about deep-rooted alchemical transformations.
Thursday, June 29
7:15 p.m. — Astrology: Oregon’s Celestial Event of the Century,” presented by mythology and locational astrologist Dale O’Brien presages the Aug. 21 solar eclipse, including this and previous eclipse paths, as well as interpretations by ancient cultures. Those who attend will receive safe filter eclipse viewers, which can be worn with or without regular eyeglasses.