Robert (gurdonark) wrote,

Sunland-Tujunga Library

Sunland and Tujunga comprise two neighborhoods of Los Angeles. Both areas, though, feel quite remote from Los Angeles. They're ordinary working-blue-collar areas, tucked away in the gorgeous Crescenta Valley. It's not hard to imagine the look of the area if one has seen the movie "ET: The Extra Terrestrial", because that's where the filming took place. One rides a bicycle up a Verdugo Mountain bike path for fun, or plays in stucco tract homes.

Sunland and Tujunga existed long before Los Angeles became an endless suburb, stretching to the horizon, stopped only by immovable ocean and unbuildable hill. Originally, a utopian community bought land in the area, following the theory of a founder who envisioned people who worked in the fields all week, and then rode an hour into town for culture. The rocky soil and resistant chapparal of this gorgeous but not Iowa farmfieldish area put paid to this idea in a matter of a couple of decades. In the little preserved community center which now serves as a museum of that time, my favorite story is the woman who came to farm, but broke into tears when she saw the dry, impossible conditions present at the commune. I can relate how one can travel cross-country to seek out utopia, but then just cry when one "arrives". Ultimately, the communists became the first real estate subdivision developers in the region, creating, in effect, that utopia known as the Los Angeles suburbs.

Between Sunland and Tujunga, right off Foothill Boulevard, they built the Sunland-Tujunga library. I know that the modern trend is to disparage anything which is not art deco or art nouveau or some other cool and worthy thing when it comes to public structures. But the Sunland-Tujunga library is a simple, cool red brick. It's a good place for books and their readers to be books and readers.

My favorite part, though, is that they pre-designed a little Friends of the Library used bookstore in the front part of the library. There used books are sold for a pittance. Many of those books are incredibly old, as Sunland and Tujunga always had literate pioneers and artists settling in the foothills. To go there is to go to a treasure trove of unexpected delights.

I used to go and buy and read and then eBay off the vintage books I did not want to keep. But my favorite memories are not mercantile. I liked going on a Saturday to Savon Chicken, a little fast food Armenian roasted chicken place, for lunch. Then I'd drive the short way over to the Sunland-Tujunga Library and browse that used bookstore. I might cap off the day with a drive into the Angeles National Forest, where I'd walk the little Pines trail, and listen to birds sing among the chapparal.

I have a special weakness for used bookstores which stock very old books at very low prices. I have no dose of antiquarian in me. I just like to read unlikely reads with the "otherness" which "out of print" vintage books can have. Here we have a pleasant Allen library which is serviceable and good. But it lacks that "otherness".

Sometimes I like to roam estate sales, looking for quirky books for a dollar or two, hunting for a cool, book-filled room, a Sunland-Tujunga library for a day.

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