Travel Journal - California (book) dreamin’


In early January I received a phone call from a woman in Southern California who had a few thousand books for sale. She told me that the collection was from her deceased father who had been a physicist. After some talk of working at Los Alamos and other fascinating aspects of her father, I was intrigued. Since So. Cal is one of my favorite places to hunt books, I let my imagination run away and began planning a trip. In the meantime I asked the woman to send some photos of the books.

A week or so passed and I was starting to amass some decent appointments in Southern California: a few hundred art books here, a horse racing collection there, an engineering collection, etc. At this point I decided to bite the bullet and book the airfare. I also called my good friend Dr. K who so kindly lets me stay at his humble abode in Bel Air and asked if a bed was available for three nights. He obliged my request.

In passing, I mentioned to my friend J from Cleveland that I’d be going to LA on business. It so happens that J and Dr. K are comrades, so J decided to take a few vacation days and fly out with me. He’s a great guy with whom to travel and always has great dining recommendations. The trip was booked.

A week later I received photos of the alleged physics and astronomy collection that started this whole ball rolling. There were maybe 300 books in the photos and all were absolute garbage. After studying the photos carefully I had a hunch that something was not right. I then called the woman who confessed that some of her father’s friends had taken “some” books from the collection a while back. From my view the collection had been thoroughly CREAMED. What was left was not even good enough to be donated to the local Goodwill. Alas, one less appointment on the docket!

I then worked day in and day out to find more leads in the LA/San Diego area. The gods smiled upon me when I contacted a professor from whom I purchased about 400 books from two years ago. While he had no more books, he did turn me over to another man who was charged with finding a buyer for the library of a deceased colleague. It was a math library- supposedly 2,000 books. While this man did not have the authority to sell me the books, he WAS in contact with the heir who was the niece of the deceased. She lived in Maryland. After a few weeks of trying to get in touch with her we finally made contact and she confirmed that she would be in LA on February 24 and that we could see the books at that time. I was relieved that something solid was on the schedule.

By the time February 22 arrived I had 14 appointments scheduled for 3 days. It was 10:45 a.m. when J and I landed at LAX and quickly grabbed our two-wheeler from the baggage claim and loaded it in the cargo van. The first appointment was 2 hours south in Cardiff by the Sea. It was a beautiful drive with the weather at about 73 degrees and blue skies (as usual!). Appointment #1 was 800 anthropology books. The seller was a friendly retired professor. She and her husband had both taught for about 30 years. While there were 800 books, the vast majority were classroom texts, trade publishers, and general reading. I pulled out about 20 books and we haggled over the price. As usual, I lost and paid her $10 more than I wanted to. She was happy and I was indifferent. 20 books in a cargo van seemed mildly depressing at the moment and not the way that I wanted to start the trip, but it was early and I knew to keep my chin up. On the way out she told me about the “Cardiff Kook” ( as the “must see” attraction in Cardiff. Big J and I followed her directions and had a laugh over the half-naked surfer on our way to appointment #2 in La Jolla.

Part 2 to follow....