About Me

A blog wherein a literary agent will sometimes discuss his business, sometimes discuss the movies he sees, the tennis he watches, or the world around him. In which he will often wish he could say more, but will be obliged by business necessity and basic politeness and simple civility to hold his tongue. Rankings are done on a scale of one to five Slithy Toads, where a 0 is a complete waste of time, a 2 is a completely innocuous way to spend your time, and a 4 is intended as a geas compelling you to make the time.

Friday, September 12, 2008

To Live and Die in LA, Part 2

The one thing I couldn't do on a car-less visit to LA was head out to the suburbs to visit bookstores.  So I decided on this visit to pursue a costly but pleasant alternative, hiring a media escort to join me for 8 hours of exploration.  What is a media escort?  When an author goes on tour, the escort is the person the publisher hires to meet an author at the airport, get an author to the hotel, to the event, to any media that might be planned in the market, and as time permits to do drive-by stock signings at stores besides the one where the event is taking place.  Ann Binney was recommended to me by Tina Anderson, the wonderful publicist at Penguin who recently, and sadly, departed after offering a lot of assistance to Charlaine Harris and other authors of mine.

We agreed to meet at the Mission St. stop on the Gold Line light rail, so I started the morning walking from the Marriott to Union Station to catch the train.  I went a few blocks the other way to walk along 7th St., and then north on what was called "historic Spring St.," one block east of Broadway.  There aren't really enough signs on historic Spring St. to explain why it is, just one that I found on the north end that mentioned that it was the Wall St. of the West, and which spoke about the historic buildings still on the street.

The light rail arriving at Union Station with the morning commuters was standing room only with hardly room for another passenger.  A little less crowded in the reverse direction, and a pleasant ride up.  After carefully considering whether to add bookstores in the San Fernando Valley or in Orange County to my tally lists, I'd decided to do the OC, in part because it seemed like unfinished business from two years ago when I'd been in Anaheim for WorldCon without making it a relatively short distance down Harbor Blvd. to do the Costa Mesa bookstore thing.  So we headed South, starting off at the Borders in Cerritos, and then along to the B&N in Orange, the B&N and Borders in Tustin (stopping at the Whole Foods in Tustin for lunch), the Borders in Costa Mesa, the B&N and Borders at/near South Coast Plaza, and then the B&N in Huntington Beach and the Borders on Bellflower in Long Beach.  Almost all of these were stores I'd never been to before.  The Borders in Cerritos was relocated from my prior visit in the late 1990s, which was also the last time I'd visited the Long Beach Borders.  The Cerritos store is a very low volume one, the Long Beach one a prosperous one where authors of mine have signed, and the B&N in Huntington Beach clearly the f&sf leader of the stores visited.  In fact, Brandon Sanderson will be signing there in October, along with stops at Dark Delicacies and the Borders in Torrance.  But the most enjoyable and pleasant of the stores we visited was the South Coast Plaza Borders, where I found huge staff recommendation displays for Brandon Sanderson courtesy of  Jaeson.  Jaeson wasn't working that day so I left a note to thank him for his support, and also said hi to Brian, another big fantasy fan at the store.  Jaeson gets extra kudos from me for being the only bookseller I've left a note for to actually send a follow-up e-mail to me.  Did they not pass the notes along at other places, do people not care?  I just get really really happy when I go to a store where there are big fans for a JABberwocky author.

I hated to part company with Ann. It was wonderful to have someone to share the day, and I can only hope she survived having to hear my stories (rants?) for eight hours.  She dropped me off by the Century City mall, after the usual song-and-dance where people from car-based cultures like LA refuse to believe that I really mean it when I say I'm perfectly happy to be dropped a block or two away from my destination if (as here) it means it might help the driver to speed on her way a little more quickly.  I was very pleased with the day because the goal had been to have me at Century City at 4, and we managed to do pretty much everything I'd hoped to accomplish on the day while going just a very few minutes long on our schedule.

I met up with my client Jeff Gelb at the Century City Borders, and he was kind enough to then take me to the B&N in Westside Pavillion en route to dinner and a bookstore at the Borders and Whole Foods adjacent to one another in El Segundo, followed by an after-dinner visit to the Manhattan Beach B&N and then the Borders and B&N in Torrance.  Some deja vu on this; the Whole Foods in Tustin and El Segundo are like clones.  The Torrance stores were old hat, but all the others were new.  With six new Borders added, my count is now up to 197 and I'm nicely on target to get to my 200th by the end of the year, which is one of my goals.  The Borders in Torrance is a very very strong store, one of the first superstores in the South Bay and holding up well, and I was quite taken with the Borders in El Segundo as well.  Both meals at Whole Foods were yummy!  It's always nice to spend time with Jeff because we have similar interests, if not always similar tastes, in comics and movies and other things.  He dropped me off at the Redondo Beach stop on the light rail, and I had a long if uneventful ride to downtown on the green and blue light rail lines.  It may actually be somewhat shorter to take a rapid bus line into downtown, but depending in part on if you know the schedule for the bus, which I did not.  But that has fewer stops, and you don't go east to then double back west into downtown.

My plan for the next morning, if I woke up early, was to walk to Beverly Hills along Wilshire Blvd.,, around 10 miles, and I did wake up early and did set out along Wilshire, helped by the fact that my 10:30 had been moved to the next day.  Unfortunately, I got a call that my 11:30 couldn't do 11:30 any more, and could I come in earlier, so I had to give up on doing the full walk and take the bus part of the way.  But the part of the walk I was able to do, from downtown to Wilshire and Western, was a delight.  It turns out there are a series of Angels Walk self-guided tours in LA, and this stretch of Wilshire is among them.  So all along the way there are large canister signs on the sidewalk (excuse me, stanchions, which you can read here) that describe the history and architecture and infamy of some of the more important buildings along the way.  I found myself reading with great fascination about two gorgeous old department stores, one converted into use by a law school, and famous old residences and the Wilshire Blvd. Temple and the Wiltern Theatre and more.  The saddest of all is for the Ambassador Hotel, the once famous and glamorous hostelry where Robert Kennedy was assassinated, and which was torn down to make way for a school.  I'd read articles about this a year or two ago because preservation groups were trying very hard to save it, and I still cannot believe that a way couldn't have been found to preserve more of it than just an entrance pillar at the driveway, which it wouldn't surprise me if it gets whacked "accidentally" by a backhoe before the school is finished.  Well, if I'm ever back in LA I'll have to pay more attention to the Angels Walk locations.

There are 3 varieties of bus running along Wilshire, the regular #20, the Rapid #720, and the Rapid Express #920.  I've read the fancy buses have some ability to hold a green light or end a red light for just a few seconds so they can go along the way a little quicker, and I got on a 920 at Western that made only 2 stops going the 6 or 7 miles to Beverly Hills.  So I did my 11:30 at 10:00, was able to move my 12:30 to 11:30, and then had several hours before the True Blood premiere.  I had lunch at Bombay Palace, which I liked.  A good mulligitawny soup, and a tasty okra dish even if the okra itself was a bit on the tough side.  If my meetings had been on their original schedule I would have combined some walking and some cabs or buses to get to Hollywood for the premiere, but since I had an abundance of time I decided to walk the whole way, compensating in part for the abruptly abridged Wilshire walk.  Alas, this meant I was walking in the heat of the day with the sun beating down instead of doing it before the day had a chance to heat up totally.  But I walked up La Cienega to visit the Borders there and to pop in to the Beverly Center (not worth a ride up four flights of escalators just to get to the mall), then over on Beverly to the Grove and the Farmers Market.  I hadn't been to the Farmers Market since 1979 and was disappointed.  I did buy a scoop of chocolate malt ice cream that was good but not worth $4.  Up Fairfax past a stretch of Jewish and Kosher restaurants/stores (decent hamentashen at Canters), then over Melrose to Golden Apple Comics (a very good store for funny book and graphic novel fans) and then finally up to Hollywood Blvd., over to Musso & Franks for a drinks meeting, by which time I was kind of totally exhausted and spent, and then over to the True Blood premiere which I blogged about a few days ago and which you can read about here.   I thought about taking a cab back to downtown from the premiere but decided to take the red line subway which was kind of the whole idea of the trip; no matter how much money I make I think I'll always be a bus and train and foot guy so long as the body holds up.

Friday morning I woke up, packed, and hopped on the #720 bus from downtown to La Cienega to meet with my client Mayer Alan Brenner, and one of the very first authors I sold (Catastrophe's Spell to Sheila Gilbert at DAW).  Mayer is one of my earliest clients and has recently found his muse again, and has also allowed free download of his earlier books thru Creative Commons licensing, which you can check out here.  We chatted for a bit at La Cienega Park in Beverly Hills, then I walked a half block up for what had originally been my 10:30 on Thursday, then lunch with Randall Rosa, the producer who has an option on the Nightside books, (pretty nifty website Randall has, actually, and if you're looking for a nice french onion soup in the LA area click no further) then a quick meeting with Don Murphy, who has an option on James Robert Baker's FUEL-INJECTED DREAMS.  His office is beneath the sign of the giant Kermit, quite literally.  I relaxed on a shady bench in the lot for a few minutes, reading my newspaper, then took the Red Line out to North Hollywood, walked over to Dark Delicacies, hung out for a bit with Del Howison and Sue Howison, and then Lisa Morton came by and we hung out some more, and then Del took me to Bob Hope for my red eye back to NYC.

All in all it was quite a nice trip, in part because I finally did LA on my own terms and somewhat on my own power.  On my next visit to LA, if I can get to the Valley bookstores from Woodland Hills to Northridge to Santa Clarita and points in between, I will have pretty much visited every major bookstore from Mission Viejo in the Southeast to the far ends of the Northwest, but for now there's that one quadrant to get to.  I hate the red eye and kind of vegged out on Saturday.  I got horribly behind on newspapers and have been slowly catching up over the past week.  It's been nice to have a full week in the office for the first time since the week of  July 21.  

I'd still like to do one more tennis blog.  I haven't blogged much really about my Willamette Writers/Denvention trip.


Lynxswift said...

Great to hear that LA is walkable with so much to see. I wouldn't of had imagined it as so. I'll have to note that since I don't drive. Sounds like they have a much better bus system than the nightmare we here in NYC. I've waited 30+ minutes for a bus on many occasions :(. I'm just glad our subways are easy to get around in and fast :).

Maria said...

Excellent write-ups, both part 1 and 2. Thanks for the "media escort" information; another aspect of which I was unaware, though I had heard the term once before.

And double (perhaps triple if it turns out I like the book) thanks for the click to the e-book. Will be checking that out pronto. I'm only basing it on the title, but it sounds like my kind of thing.

Walk on.