Tales of My City

I’ve been looking for a new book to read for a few days now.  I wasn’t quite ruined by the last book I read, though I did find it mostly entertaining.  It was a library book that I picked out right before my trip to Chicago because I assumed it would give off the vibe of “Don’t sit next to me on the plane *ahem*  I like extra leg room”  and since it worked for 3 of the 5 legs of my flights, it appears I was correct in that assumption.  (Would you sit by someone reading this?  Me either.)  My shelf of checked-out library books has dwindled, so out of necessity I have been aimlessly perusing my own bookshelf lately, which frankly is a collection large enough that if I devoured every unread book available I could probably stay away from the library for at least a year or two.  But since they are kind enough to subscribe to all the good magazines I like, and I already have to stop by weekly to keep up with the Kardashians and Justin Bieber’s hair and all that, reaching for one the books I already own first rarely ever happens. 
(Sidebar:  What are you reading right now?  I need to pad my library reservation list too since that is also quickly dwindling!)
So when I headed over to Peet’s to grab some tea and say hi to Garrett this afternoon, I was thrilled to see Sacramento Bee’s Books & Media section abandoned at an empty table.  On the front page was a feature article on Armistead Maupin, as he is doing a reading at the Library Galleria this week to promote his new book.  It was such an entertaining article and it reminded me of my years living in LA in an instant.  I talk about my life in LA sometimes on this blog, but definitely not enough.  I’m going to fix that.  It was such a fun and unique time in my life and full of stories – and today’s article reminded me of that.    
You see I moved to LA when I was 19 because a friend of mine at the time was going to school down there.  I had taken a hiatus from college, my dad had just died, and really my life had a complete lack of direction – why not move to LA, I thought?  So I did.  And I immediately got a job at Peet’s Coffee & Tea in Brentwood (fun fact:  the Peet’s I worked in was actually the old location of Mezzaluna Trattoria of OJ Simpson fame, and years earlier in the midst of the famous trial while my parents and I were looking at colleges we must have driven by it a hundred times so my mom could film it at every angle because she was so wrapped up in that trial!)  

One of my responsibilities at that store was Community Marketing, which was just a fancy title for schlepping thermoses of coffee to big events to promote Peet’s and then sitting there with a smile on my face serving all evening.  I thought it was a giant pain in the ass at the time, and my car’s light colored interior definitely suffered dragging brewed coffee back and forth through LA traffic, but looking back I got to hang out at some very cool events for free just because I was serving coffee:  Food and Wine festivals, concerts, chi chi parties, you name it and chances are I served coffee there.

One of my favorite events to serve was the UCLA Hammer Lectures & Readings Series  which featured lectures by prominent authors, musicians, and artists.  I would serve coffee before the event started and then I could sneak in and listen to Elvis Costello talk about his songwriting process, or Margaret Atwood discuss exactly what she thought of literary criticism.  It was a thankless part of my job for which I most certainly wasn’t not getting paid, but the benefit of eavesdropping on such uncensored fantastic talents was pretty inspiring to me at the time and was an incredible perk, especially since I was so lost in my life at the time. 

One of the final lectures that I attended was one featuring Armistead Maupin.  He spoke of his travels and of San Francisco.  He detailed the catharsis of writing one of his most famous novels and coming out all in the same year.  He talked about AIDS and how no one was discussing it when he started writing about it, about film and about music.  He was the kind of person who you wanted to invite to your cocktail party and sit next to wide-eyed the entire evening. 

After the event I was carrying all of my gear out to my car parked in this back alley, certainly bitching in my head about how I should not have to be doing this so late at night – and it must have been written all over my face because all of a sudden out of nowhere I heard someone say “Need a toke?” and then a giggle to himself.  I turned around to find the event’s Guest of Honor outside smoking a joint all alone, and I couldn’t believe that this super famous author was willing to lend me an ear and a puff.  I declined at the time because I was 20, and a do-gooder, and the sheer shock of someone openly smoking marijuana on the University campus was almost too whacky for my sheltered little mind to even conceive of, but he had such a kind face and was so earnest in his effort to let me know “It’s here if you need it.”

Of course after that encounter I went out and picked up a few of his books, though I have never actually cracked the spine and read one.  Not for any particular reason either, except that I have a lot books and most of them end up sitting on the shelves unread because of my penchant for library books.  And when I thought of that story this afternoon while drinking my tea, it pretty well convinced me that Tales of the City needs to be my next book choice, even if I do have to do some digging around on my bookshelves.  And hell, with the annoying Monday that I’ve had today, don’t think it hasn’t crossed my mind to head downtown later this week and take him up on that long overdue offer.  I think we all know that my do-gooder tendencies still have a stronghold even 10 years later though, so chances are it’ll probably remain just a memory.

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