WRITING STUFF: LAST NIGHT IN L.A. - INDEPENDENCE IN LOS FELIZ
Last night I was on a book panel at the Los Feliz Public Library, just down the road from the Griffith Park Observatory and just up the street from Skylight Books, site of the former literary institution, Chatterton's, a raucous, beat, hip and oh-so-charming bookstore now long gone. But Skylight, now celebrating four years, is a wonderful bookstore, with many of the things that made the old Chatterton's attractive to me in my long-gone youth. Beloved independent bookstores, how I seek you out and spend as much time (not to mention money) as I can in your comfy nooks. Skylight hosted a book signing a couple of years ago in which I was a participant. It's one of my new Hillhurst landmarks. I won't miss Chatterton's anymore: I have Skylight.
Cheers for PEARL YONEZAWA, the Library Manager of the Los Feliz Public Library. In an eclectic Los Angeles neighborhood which is also home to the local Public Television Station (KCET) and a myriad of fab little ethnic eateries, this library has expanded from a one-room building across the street to two rooms and finally the magnificent modern structure that it is today, serving a diverse and literate community.
Pearl booked us in for an evening of chat about LANDMARKED FOR MURDER and how to write short stories and where do we get ideas and how do we do research. All writerly stuff, and so much fun! Up in front were mystery writers Michael Mallory (who also moderated), Gayle Bartos-Pool, Jinx Beers, Darrell James, Pamela Samuels-Young, A. H. Ream and Susan Kosar Beery. And me, too.
And there was icy cold water and fruit salad (!) for everyone. Even though there was a heated local political thingy going on at the same time elsewhere (groups for and against the serving of liquor at the new restaurant at the Griffith Observatory) which took a few of our expected participants away, we still had nearly a full room. It was fun and lively and Pearl did things like reserve parking spaces for the participants.
The magnificent SARNO'S was once just around the corner on Vermont, a knock-your-socks-off Italian restaurant and bakery. Opened in 1946 by Umberto Sarno of Naples,.. Alberto, brother of Umberto, joined them in 1964, after years of voice studies in Italy, stood up one day to sing to the customers, and the coffee shop was turned into Sarno's Caffè dell'Opera. Alberto "served up Puccini nightly with the pasta, drawing a clientele that included Sophia Loren, Jimmy Durante, Gina Lollobrigida, Tony Bennett, Mario Lanza and—when he was in town—Alberto's friend, Luciano Pavarotti."* The pastry chef in 1960 was Antonio Neiviller - who in 1987 opened Il Capriccio on Vermont, just down the block. Sarno's closed in 2000 and is now the Vermont Restaurant. I will miss SARNO'S.
*quote from "In Los Feliz, Life Will Be a Little Less Sweet," by Beverly Beyette, Los Angeles Times Southern California Living; Part-E, Aug 1, 2000, pg. 1
Okay, there's always one in every crowd. Once last year at a similar book talk in a library auditorium in Burbank- a large one - it was raining and a lot of the people sitting before us had just dashed in for shelter. One guy sitting up front looked homeless: unkempt, scraggly beard, old Army jacket, plastic bags at his feet.
He asked a lot of interesting questions, though - and he turned out to be a famous screenwriter.
But last night the guy in the old Army jacket with the plastic bags at his feet turned out to be a Scientologist with a persistent interest in Hermann Hesse's Steppenwolf. Sigh.
Aside from him there was a great assortment of interesting people who nodded and smiled when we up on the stage mentioned our favorite authors.
Let's hear for the odd ones out - even if they don't want to talk about the stuff you want to hear. Even if they need a bath, a new focus or a new plastic bag for their notebooks, they're the ones I remember, the ones who will make a repeat appearance in a story someday.
THREE BEAUTIFUL THINGS
RICK'S BURRITOS in Pasadena. It's the home of the best taco burgers on the planet, but they're going to close down and move. Maybe they'll re-open. I have been reveling in their food for more than 30 years. They have been in business for 40 years. I had my last Rick's Taco Burger last night - hope it'll hold me until they get back up and running.
Loz Feliz Branch Library
APPLE PIE. It's what's for breakfast sometimes. There are three tiny apples on the Fuji tree this year. We transplanted it at the wrong time of year, but had no choice as the concrete went in and it had to be moved to its new permanent home. Not enough for pie this year, but next year should be glorious!