Don’t write off struggling bookstore

Published on June 29, 2011 by

Back in the fall of 2003, my band, MDIII, was born out of an assumption. The organizers of the brand-new Sweetport Arts & Music Festival asked me to open up the festival as a solo act, meaning singing to canned music, instrumental tracks.

Needless to say, I was not thrilled with that proposal, having sung in live bands for years. The contact person saw me doing karaoke way back in 1989, so I guess that was his frame of reference. I came back with a counter-offer of a trio: myself, a keyboardist and a drummer, and voila!

MDIII was born. I called keyboardist Greg Detroy and drummer David Young, two guys I had worked with in other bands — Street Talk and Harry Ellis’ Deep Intentions — and as they say, it was on.

After our one-hour set on McLevy Green, which put us on the front page of another newspaper that will go unnamed, I was approached by Dr. Georgia Day, owner of the nearby Rainy Faye Bookstore.

She knew me as a journalist/poet but not as a musician. Needless to say, she was pleased to find out I was a vocalist with many years of experience. That began our friendship and MDIII’s association with the bookstore.

Let me start by saying that I have always been an avid and voracious reader. If not for that fact, I wouldn’t be a writer, visual artist or a vocalist. The thirst for knowledge acquired by reading has shaped me as a man and artist.

As a young man, my refuge from potential mischief was the library and bookstores. I was able to avoid many situations that weren’t good for me by burying my nose in a book, a win-win situation. I grew up in a strict household where accountability was demanded. It was either do the right thing or be a knucklehead. Needless to say, even without music as part of my creative DNA, this was a place that I would frequent.

Rainy Faye is a small place, located on the John Street side of the Read’s Arts building at 1042 Broad St., two blocks from its old location across from the Burroughs-Saden Library. I call it an oasis in a creative wasteland because for a long time, it has been a downtown epicenter for culture and knowledge. Picture this, as I have participated and witnessed some great nights at the bookstore.

Imagine this place transformed into a performance spot. Once you move some furniture, set up some round tables, slide in some chairs and light some candles, yes, we do that here, you have the makings of a magical evening.

Add some tasty appetizers (yes, I’ve done some cooking for MDIII events), a little drink (some folks remember my rum punch) and a solid band with a set list to die for, and you have an event that can only be matched if you go to New York City, which is a lot more expensive.

We have had some fantastic nights here, and while I’m biased, the musicians I work with are all very gifted. Steve Clarke, Pat Marafiote, Scott Lebish, Al Ferrante, Tim Mallory, Liviu Pop, Don Mulveany, Detroy, Young are all well-respected area musicians. The constant theme for our Rainy Faye shows is great music, food, conversation and people. We have yet to fall short in those departments.

However, where we do fall short is support. Support is a constant dilemma with the bookstore, and there are a number of reasons for that: Some people find it hard to equate live music with books; many people here don’t read, or they choose to do so online; downtown Bridgeport closes down at 5 p.m., and most people flee the area, never to return.

I suspect that is due to the longtime stigma this city has. And that’s only on the event side. Rainy Faye hosts myriad events — book signings (where else can you meet F. Lee Bailey and Wanda Sykes?), poetry readings, meetings and discussions, and support is at times non-existent.

Don’t forget the segment of the population that thinks everything local should be free. Most importantly, the main source of revenue, the books, seems to sit there, dying to be read. These combinations have brought this vibrant place of culture to the brink of extinction.

As I write, Rainy Faye struggles to survive, and after more than a decade may have to close its doors soon. Dr. Day has worked very hard to keep this award-winning and highly acclaimed establishment open.

She has performed good and generous works in the Greater Bridgeport community, but sadly, it has not often been reciprocated. Her plight is directly related to the apathy of this city. On some occasions, I have helped her out in-store, and I am truly struck by the many people who have come into the place, only to ask for change for the parking meters without paying attention to where they are.

We are in serious danger of losing the bookstore, and if that happens, there will be a void.

This venue is virtually irreplaceable.

To that end, on Sunday, June 26, MDIII will attempt to start the efforts to save the bookstore.

It is our hope that this will set off a chain of small events that may hopefully turn into a big one. We cannot do it without help from the city, the mayor’s office, area merchants, those who have benefited from Dr. Day’s generosity, supporters and fans of MDIII, past and present, and most importantly, the residents of Bridgeport.

We promise to make this a great event, and we stand on that promise. All we need is you. SAVE OUR BOOKSTORE!