why i trip
I was spellbound. I quickly became a one-woman tour company for the Spanish Kitchen until I exhausted everyone I knew who would see it with me. Then one day it was sold and turned into a spa.
The first time I felt that rush was when I first saw the Original Spanish Kitchen restaurant. I was winding down my college career and winding up my career in journalism with my first job in Hollywood. To make ends meet I worked as a waitress. One slow dinner shift, I picked up a trade magazine called Tables and read the story of the mystery surrounding a restaurant that suddenly closed down one night in the early 1960s. The writer said it was still sitting there, frozen in time. I had to see it. My shift ended and I drove down Beverly Boulevard and found the building. I plastered my face against every window. The tables were not completely bused, the kitchen looked like the staff had walked out in the middle of a shift. I remember a huge can of peas on the counter.
Not long after that, I landed my first real writing job in TV News. The catch was that it was only going to last five months. I took the job and then planned a trip to Europe when it was over. And one book, in particular, set me on a path, I see now, that was headed straight toward this—the thing I’m doing here - tripping on books. The book was Europe 101. It was, as the title suggests, everything you would want to see on a trip to Europe and why. On the flight over I opened the book and started reading. Something came over me.
I got it in my head I needed to see EVERYTHING in the book. I made that guide my mission, my obsession. I couldn't stop myself, I saw everything the pages told me to see from Versailles to the Sistine Chapel to a gelato shop in Florence deemed the very best. I even ordered to the suggested flavor, I remember that, but not the flavor.
When I returned home to Los Angeles I fell into a withdrawal of sorts from the pattern of reading about things and then going to see them. Then, I remembered I had read on that trip, The Fitzgerald’s and the Kennedy's. Suddenly, I was back in business. I headed straight to the Coconut Grove at the Ambassador Hotel. I had decided to find the spot where Bobby Kennedy was shot. I drove down the wide driveway, noticing the hotel was on its last legs. I parked the car and walked around and found a busboy who weirdly knew the whole story. He took me to the exact spot where it had happened. He pointed out where Sirhan Sirhan had fired the fatal shots. Just being there, in that hallway gave me such a rush. It was my first real literary rush of reality experience.
Over the next decade, I got married and worked full time as a news writer and producer. I was busy but I never lost my lust for literary travel. In the early years, I dragged my husband on adventures, like the one where I had us tracing the path of destruction left by the collapse of the St. Francis Dam. William Mulholland built the dam out near Santa Clarita, North of Los Angeles, to store the water the city had "redirected" from the Owens Valley. I read about it in Kevin Star's book Material Dreams. We explored the ruins. Then, drove along the path the wall of water traveled as it rolled over a series of small farming towns. The water destroyed the towns and killed about six hundred people before it finally dumped into the sea in Ventura. I had to see it all, every single town. I remember thinking I had married the right man as my husband patiently drove me along the road to Ventura, from one town to the next. And then when I started really digging into the writings about the dam collapse we went farther away, to the Owens Valley. I had read the words of Mary Austin who lived in the Owens Valley and wrote about how the city of Los Angeles swooped in and stole its water. We checked out the Owens Lake, a dry lakebed now and the aqueduct William Mulholland built to take the water from the Owens Valley and deliver it to Los Angeles.
And then the kids came – three -- and I folded them into my literary travel program whenever I could. On a family vacation in Boston, we hit the Freedom Trail ... HARD. I have vague memories of my little family breathlessly trying to keep up with me, in 90-degree heat, as I held up the map and knocked down one big bronze medallion after another picking off places like Old North Church and Paul Revere's house. We did back off of our grueling pace for a few moments to make way for and marvel at those bronze replicas of the duckling stars of the children's book Make Way for Ducklings.
A few years later another of our family adventures became grueling, but I still say it wasn't my fault. It was a side trip I took with my daughters to check out Mile 157 while we were vacationing in Oregon. Mile 157 is a stretch of beach on the Oregon coast and it's the subject of a book called Strand by Bonnie Henderson. I had to see it. We woke up in Black Butte and drove three hours to a beach north of Florence. We rolled down the dunes and hiked out to the beach. We walked along the entire length of Mile 157.
At the end of it, I suggested we take the path through the dunes back, which we did and that move turned our hike into an exhausting trek - the dunes part - through loose sand. The girls proclaimed, at Foster Freeze, when we had finally returned to civilization and still had a three hour drive ahead of us, that this might have been the last time they would trip out with me on a book.
Luckily for me, there are some who look forward to and actually enjoy tripping on books with me. It's my Traveling Book Club. I started it when my husband took a job in San Francisco and we moved to Northern California. I missed my Los Angeles friends and my LA book club, so I decided to create a Traveling Book Club. It's a simple concept. We read a book and then travel to the place where the book is set. I started with Tales of the City by Armistead Maupin. It was a big hit. And now fifteen years later we're still going strong and my wild literary imaginings have turned into an annual adventure.
But for me, it doesn't stop there. I trip out on books as much as humanly possible. I read, I go, I see and I write step-by-step guides to help you create your own reading and traveling adventures. As you can see here, I'm at the point of no return. I’ve logged some miles and some great adventures and I've felt the rush of reality over and over and over. The thrill never stops for me. I hope you can discover it and have fun tripping on books too!