February 21st, 2020

5th street los angeles 1905


After eight days stuck in this apartment I finally went out for a while today, and bought some stuff at Trader Joe's. I have fresh milk, whipping cream, yellow squash, mushrooms, a potato, a lemon, lemonade, and a giant chocolate bar. I'd have bought donuts as well, but they didn't have the kind I like. It doesn't seem like a very sensible assortment, but my brain is fried, so I'l give myself a break. I thought about stopping at Taco Bell for a burrito so I wouldn't have to cook anything for dinner, but felt a bit overextended for my first day back out so didn't. But I found a frozen teriyaki chicken rice bowl in my freezer so I microwaved that.

More interesting was my stop on the way to TJ's at the Goodwill store. I wasn't expecting to find much, since they had just had that whole store half price sale which I missed on Monday, and the shelves were in fact a bit thin, but i still found two things. One is another of those enormous art books, this one called Art Today (or Artoday, which is how it appears on the cover,) by Edward Lucie-Smith, which is a survey of art after 1960. I can't find a copyright date in it, but Internet tells me there have been two editions, one published in 1995 and a second in 1999. The one I got is the paperback, which might have been available only in the 1999 edition. It's in quite good condition, though.

The other book requires a bit of background. Harrison High, by John Farris, came out in 1959, when I was in high school, and was a somewhat celebrated work of popular fiction at the time. There was a lot of buzz about the author having been only twenty when he wrote it, and it was widely compared to another popular book of the time, Grace Metalious's Peyton Place. Both were quite lurid for the time, and caused much scandal. I did not buy Farris's book when it cam out, but a couple of years later I picked up a used copy at Pete's Cheaper by the Dozen used book and magazine store in Alhambra.

That copy was in a box in the garage of my house in Paradise when it burned, but I hadn't thought about it in decades. It was a surprise to see a copy on the shelf at the Goodwill store, and though it was not as old as the copy I'd owned it was old enough, with the original cover price being .95 cents. This edition was from 1967, and printed on the same kind of cheap paper, now yellowed with age, as the copy I'd bought at Pete's. Nostalgia overwhelmed me. I remember very little about the book, except that it was rather bad, and that I knew it was bad even when I first read it, but how could I resist buying it again? It was an act both mortifying and funny, rather as though I had unexpectedly walked in on my adolescent self whacking off.

I don't know that I'll ever actually read the book, but I do intend to dip into it here and there, and see if its past-its-prime prose triggers any memories of those days that, now, seem almost unreal to me. Maybe I'll find out whatever became of that kid who read that book while sitting in a plastic chaise lounge under the shade of an elm tree that has now been gone for some two thirds of a century.