Today was a perfect day to go downtown. Instead of the usual bright sun and searing heat, we had a heavy marine layer with a light drizzle. The temperature could not have gone over 68º Fahrenheit (20º Celsius).
I started by returning three books at the Central Library and picking up three other books to read in the next month or so:
Argentinian Juan José Saer’s The Regal Lemon Tree
Italian Pier Paolo Pasolini’s The Street Kids
Nina Revoyr’s Southland
From the library, I hoofed it to the Grand Central Market, where I had a delicious everything bagel with smoked sturgeon at Wexler’s Deli, which specializes in smoked fish.
Then it was on to the Last Bookstore at 5th and Spring. I picked up nice copies of two Sir Walter Scott novels at a good price: Kenilworth and Woodstock. I’m perhaps the only person I know who has the patience to read one of Sir Walter’s long and dilatory novels. Although he is not much read today, partly because he wrote in a difficult South Scottish dialect, I have always loved reading his novels. So I’ll have to consult the glossary at the rear of both books frequently. No problem there.
With my books in tow, I walked south on Broadway to 7th Street, past the abandoned old movie theaters where I used to watch all-night triple features with my old friend Norm Witty, then cut right on 7th Street to the Metro Rail station at 7th and Flower Street.
It was a good day, and I look forward to reading some good books.
Since the beginning of quarantine, I had only been Downtown once. It wasn’t pleasant because I couldn’t find anywhere to eat, and unless I went to Union Station, there were no restrooms around. Today I decided to go again, mainly to return three books to the Central Library. Although they were not technically due until next month, I thought that as I had finished reading them, I might as well take them back.
Also, I put a hold on three more books which I could pick up at the front of the library once I had been e-mailed that they were available. That would be a big plus, even though I still miss sitting down in the literature section for a few hours reading.
Afterwards, I stopped at the Last Bookstore at 5th and Spring Streets. Last time I went, it had been closed due to the coronavirus. Now it was open, but they did one thing that I liked. Before the virus, the place was crawling with young pseudosophisticates who didn’t care about the books, but took hundreds of pictures with their smart phones to document their spavined lifestyles. Now one has to pay five dollars for admission, which is refunded from the price of books purchased.
I can just imagine it now: What? I have to buy books? Reading is so lame compared to the wonders of my smartphone.
It presented no obstacle to me: I bought five paperbacks. They included three Dave Robicheaux mysteries by James Lee Burke, André Gide’s If It Die, and Isaac Bashevis Singer’s Gimpel the Fool.
As soon as I receive notification that my books are being held for me at the Central Library, I’ll make another trip downtown. And I will likely drop in at the Last Bookstore.
The bookstore at the corner of West 5th and Spring Streets in Downtown Los Angeles was one of the highlights of yesterday’s safari by Martine and me. I took eleven books to donate to the store and wound up buying four titles, including Eve Babitz’s Eve’s Hollywood, which I am currently reading with great excitement.
Interior of The Last Bookstore (2nd Floor)
I have been in Los Angeles for half a century now, and I look back at my time here with all the pleasurable hours I spent in bookstores that, for the most part, are no more. There was Papa Bach’s at Santa Monica and Sawtelle; the Westwood Book Company, Butler Gabriel, Campbell’s, Brentano’s, and Borders—all in Westwood; Martindale’s in Santa Monica; Zeitlin & Verbrugge on the West Side; Acres of Books in Long Beach; Brand Books in Glendale; and Pickwick in Hollywood.
They are all gone now. People stare intently at their smart phones and pretend to communicate—but really don’t. They say they could read books on their devices, but never seem to. Perhaps the whole idea of the book is dying while a new generation willfully enslaves itself to a handheld electronic device.
So kudos to The Last Bookstore. Be defiant! Be a dinosaur! Wave your standard proudly!
Don’t let anyone tell you he or she knows Los Angeles. Why? Because there’s too much for one person to know. There are broad swaths of the county which I have never seen, mostly to the Southwest, all those weird little communities along Interstate 5 like Hawaiian Gardens, Downey, Lynwood, Paramount, Bell Gardens, and Santa Fe Springs.
But thanks to today’s little safari, Martine and I know a little more about the area immediately to the Northeast of Pershing Square. We had three destinations and hit them all:
The tantalizingly named The Last Bookstore at West 5th & Spring with its grim motto: “What are you waiting for? We won’t be here forever.
The Grand Central Market at West 3rd & Broadway, which I’ve always wanted to visit but never got the chance to.
Across the street from the GCM is The Bradbury Building, built in 1893 and the location for scores of Hollywood movies, most notably Blade Runner (1982).
The big surprise was Union Station, where I arrived in Los Angeles on December 28, 1966, on the Santa Fe Railroad’s El Capitan train service. For decades, the station fell into disrepair and disuse as Amtrak hit the skids. But then the city decided to add a substantial suburban rail system called Metrolink, a growing network of subways and light rail lines, and a bus hub. Now its a busy place with new shops opening and crowds of people on the way to and from somewhere.
Tomorrow, the Expo Line will link Santa Monica to downtown L.A. with the nearest stop being a few blocks south of me at Bundy just south of Olympic.
It’s nice to know that, in this day and age, I can find something positive to write about without having to grit my teeth.
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