January 9th, 2006

The Day Job

I'm one of the few writers I know who loves their day job. In fact, I love it so much I sometimes worry about getting some big film job that might take me away from it (I have gotten some of those in the past, but I just cut my hours back for a a few weeks).

I'm a used bookseller; I like to think that means I sell books in both of my careers. I work at The Iliad Bookshop in North Hollywood. We're one of the last of the great used bookstores in Southern California - Hollywood Book City, Dutton's, Old Town Books (in Newhall), Green Ginger Books (in Reseda) and probably some I'm forgetting or don't know about have all recently gone the way of the dodo. Why? Because independent businesses can no longer afford the rent in Southern California.

Our landlord here at Iliad just tried to jack up our rent 70%. We've been here for 18 years. We've brought class to a neighborhood which otherwise is home to rat-infested, long-closed restaurants (the building immediately to our right), video stores which now cater to porn (the building to our left), and lots of homeless people. Our beautiful mural has become a community landmark. We've frequently been voted one of the best bookstores in L.A.

Of course none of this matters to one more greedy landlord, who idiotically thinks he can exact a huge amount of money for this space, when it quite obviously will sit vacant for a very long time before he comes down on his price. And the neighborhood will once again be ruled by pornmeisters and derelicts.

We, meanwhile, are buying our own building (at the corner of Chandler and Cahuenga, for you locals). It's 1.3 million dollars. That's insane, of course, but our owner is mortgaging everything he has to raise it. He's taking a huge risk. We think we'll do well in the new area; we'll have to.

Why even bother? Because we love books. We have a ridiculously idealistic notion, that people should have easy access to good, cheap used books. We love book people; we have a whole roster of regulars whom we know by name and taste (one of our most recent: Henry Rollins). We love to talk books, buy books, sell books, trade books, find books. Heck, we even like to smell 'em. At least one of us likes to write 'em, too.

Next time you buy a book, imagine how much poorer your life would be without books. Or with nothing but the typical Barnes and Borders selection of new self-help bestsellers. Then do us all a favor, and go patronize an independent bookseller. If you come by Iliad, introduce yourself, and we can chat. About books, of course.