Literary Vacation: Los Angeles, Vroman’s

Last week I flew out to Los Angeles for the weekend and visited my brother, grandfather, uncles and cousins—basically my whole dad’s side of the family. No one knew I was coming (except for my brother and one uncle). When my brother and I went to visit my grandfather a few hours after I arrived (I pulled the “hide behind the tall person” tactic), I was sure the shock was going to kill him. Thankfully it didn’t, but it was definitely nice to make him happy.

I had no concrete plans when I went to California. That is, I didn’t have a set itinerary at all. In some cases that’s terrible vacation planning, but on the other hand it’s perfect. I had optimal time to visit with my grandfather whom I haven’t seen in seven years.

The only plans I really had in California (besides visiting family, which I did all 3.5 days I was there) was to go to the Hollywood Walk of Fame and be a tourist:

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Which I did,

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Happily.

and go to Vroman’s Bookstore in Pasadena.

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Which I also did,

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Again, happily.

Both of these things I did Monday afternoon with enough time to visit my grandfather one more time (even though I had seen him that morning) before my brother dropped me off at the never-confusing LAX airport.

Besides placing my hands where Judy Garland had placed hers almost 60 years ago (and finding out our hands are the same size!) and seeing the newly unveiled star for the Backstreet Boys (yay for getting concert tickets!), I really wanted to stop by Vroman’s. If I had to cut anything out of the non-existent itinerary, it would’ve been the Walk of Fame.

I researched bookstores and author graves I wanted to visit out in southern California. There is Book Soup in West Hollywood; Chaucer’s Bookstore in Santa Barbara; Skylight Books and The Last Bookstore both in LA. But there was something about Vroman’s. Besides it’s perfect location (to where we were staying and visiting), Vroman’s is the oldest and largest independent bookstore in So Cal. Established in 1894, Vroman’s has a perfect location on Colorado Blvd.

When my brother and I walked in from the back parking lot, it felt like the main entrance. I was too excited deciding which direction I wanted to go, but my brother put both our awe into words: “For an old bookstore, this place does a great job feeling modern.” And it did. I didn’t take any pictures inside, except for the one above, but my brother was right. Despite Vroman’s being almost 120 years old, it felt alive. There weren’t that many people walking around (It was also 6pm on Memorial Day), but there were still enough employees to cover registers in the front, the back and I believe it was a gift registry section (or something similar). Besides the books (obviously), there were Vroman’s novelty items and knickknacks, as well as Out of Print t-shirts and merch.

Initially I planned on buying a book from Vroman’s just to say I did, but after having spent a chunk of change at Barnes & Noble the day before at Americana, I told my brother to make sure I didn’t. Now, I don’t know if I’ve shared this with you yet: My initial instinct is to always go toward the fiction section and find all the Joyce Carol Oates books. of her 150+ titles, I believe there were only 5. A little disappointed, I meandered toward other shelves. Behind me was the recently released books. What tipped me off on that tidbit was seeing two or three shelves of Dear Lucy by Julie Sarkissian, which is on my reading list. The further I wandered into that aisle, I saw Oates’ latest book The Accursed. Okay, fine. I have plans on reading it anyway, but since it’s the last book of a series I wanted to hold off. Alas! The book sitting right in front had a sticker on it: Autographed Copy.

There was no way I was going to pass this opportunity. My brother could see it in my eyes how badly I wanted this book. I was near tears at the thought of owning, let alone holding, a book that Joyce Carol Oates had signed. Yes, I know, a little dramatic, but I’m a girl so I can get away with that, right? …

Behold, my newest prized possession:

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The only way this could have been better is if I actually asked her for her autograph. But for now, this’ll do.

Needless to say visiting Vroman’s was the best decision of my LA adventure in addition to visiting family, of course. And seeing Star Trek. Star Trek was awesome.

Although I wasn’t able to hit up the other literary “hot spots” I had hoped, I’m beyond happy with Vroman’s. And I didn’t even see the whole bookstore yet! That only means I’ll have to visit again soon. Maybe next time I’ll give my relatives and friends a heads-up too.

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