"Do you have anything about the Council of Nicea?"
"I'd like to find a book about Edgar Cayce."
"I want to learn how to meditate." . . . "I'd like to learn how to heal with crystals." . . . "Where can I go to study vegetarian cooking?" . . . "Can you recommend a good Gestalt therapist?"
Chances are someone or some book at the Bodhi Tree bookstore on Melrose Avenue can answer all those questions.
To walk through the door of this refuge is to enter a world of possibility. On the interior side of a large, circular front window, body-work supplies (knobbles and body bliss beads) are piled high near "a celestial compass," "a complete biocycle kit" (to predict cycles of mind, body and love), and fragrant soaps wrapped in Chinese paper.
In a rear room, self-help audio tapes with subliminal messages counsel how to overcome jealousy, smoking and overeating, how to develop will power and do astral traveling. Behind the cashier's counter are stacks of music cassettes. "There's waterfall music under 'waterfall,' " a young salesman says in response to a customer's question.
Under indirect lighting, shoppers sipping herb tea wander through a series of small rooms filled with rack after rack of books . . . Oh, yes, the books. There are books on acupuncture, Buddhism, Christianity, childbirth, dance, death, diet, graphology, herbs, holism, homeopathy, hypnosis, I Ching, Judaism, kundalini, martial arts, massage, meditation, Native Americans, the occult, peace, psychics, psychotherapy, rebirthing, tantra, trance and yoga.
On a recent Saturday afternoon, absorbed book stalkers lined the narrow rows between bookshelves and waited in 20-minute lines for the cashier.
Co-owner Phil Thompson estimated that book sales have risen 25% to 30% since the TV movie "Out on a Limb," starring Shirley MacLaine, aired on ABC a few weeks ago. Most requests have been for books on reincarnation, psychic Edgar Cayce, and other book titles mentioned in the show, Thompson said.
Stan Madson and his wife, Fran, founded the store in 1970 with co-owners Thompson and his wife, Elsa, (and Dan and Marj Morris, who left the business in 1973).
"Many more books are available now than (were) back then," Madson said. As a result, the store now adds 50 to 100 new titles to its stock each week. And the Used Book Annex, just behind the main shop, buys and re-sells used books in an equally thriving business.
The owners said the shop has turned into a hangout for regulars, a psychological refuge for others. "Most customers are sincerely searching for something, and we teach our staff to take each request seriously," Madson said. "And a few come here in dire straits. At times, they return and tell us that we saved their lives--they found a teaching, or a teacher, or a group they really needed."
'I Could Spend All Day'
Kelly Brady, 39, an interior designer, ran his finger along the spines of books on Buddhism. The eyes of spiritual masters from Eastern and Western traditions peered down on him. Their photographs line the walls of the shop. "It's my first time here," Brady said. "I could spend all day."
And Claudia Nodel, 30, a New Yorker, pointed to the reason for the shop's success: "I love it here. I spend more money here than anywhere else, except for car repair."
The Bodhi Tree, 8585 Melrose Ave., Los Angeles; (213) 659-1733.