The Getty Center//Colum McCann Reading

After learning that Colum McCann was going to be in Santa Monica a few weeks ago, I quickly decided to spend the day in the area, since I would be on summer break. I'd been meaning to get back to the Getty for years, so it seemed like the perfect time. It was a beautiful LA afternoon and I had trouble committing to the art inside the building since the gardens were absolutely perfect. And while I tend to prefer doing these sorts of things with others, it was actually a little nice to go to a museum alone- I saw what I wanted, when I wanted. For those that live in the area, their current exhibition Overdrive: LA Constructs the Future 1940-1990 was fascinating. The Getty has put together an enormous collection of blueprints, architectural models, pictures, and video from the changing landscape of the greater Los Angeles area during the mid-twentieth century (no pictures allowed, unfortunately). A few pictures from my afternoon:

[a bit hazy, but still a nice view of West LA]
[I'm completely in love with their gardens]
[Up close]
[I really love chandeliers]
[Van Gogh]

The Getty closed at 5:30 and the reading didn't start until 8:00, meaning I had some serious time to kill. UCLA, my alma mater, happens to be conveniently located between the Getty and Bergamot Station, so I stopped for dinner and the obligatory Diddy Riese (an epic cookie shop that used to offer cookies for a quarter and ice cream sandwiches for $1; since my days on campus they've raised the price to 35 cents and $1.75, respectively). I had completely forgotten about the dinner time Westwood crowd- an amusing mix of hipsters, businessmen, and college students. It was nice to be back.

[right outside where I spent 4 years working in the Medical Plaza]
[getting ready for bikini season one ice cream sandwich at a time]

I made it to Bergamot Station with plenty of time to spare. Bergamot Station is an old rail yard in Santa Monica that has been converted into several art galleries. The space is incredibly eclectic and couldn't better fit the vibe of LA Talks' events. 

[a green car... get it?]

[no, this is not Pinterest...]

Colum McCann was of course wonderful (made even better with the Irish accent), and the LA Times' Carolyn Kellogg's easy wit and open-ended questioning was a perfect fit. McCann spoke about the anxiety he felt while writing Transatlantic after Let the Great World Spin- he had started writing another novel all together but made the change after Fredrick Douglas (a character in Transatlantic) wouldn't stop infiltrating his thoughts and writing. He compares novel writing to the difficulty of pushing a kayak out to sea, and quotes his friend Aleksandar Hemon that "it's all shit until it isn't." McCann admitted to his disdain for the label "historical fiction" and made sure to include episodes from modern times in order to avoid the category.

His emigration story is quite interesting. While growing up in Ireland his father, a rose expert who lectured in the US, would bring him back novels by the beatniks, including Kerouac. In his early twenties McCann, inspired by the American writers he loved, came to the United States with his bicycle and rode all over the country. Eventually he landed in Texas, where he went to college (and finally read Ulysses...) and began writing. 

I have to admit to actually getting my copy of Let the Great World Spin signed- this is the very first time I ever stood in the signing line (I just love the book that much). When I realized he was actually chatting with people I momentarily panicked, having no clue what I'd say to the man. Luckily he asked me if I was a writer, to which I responded "Maybe someday, but for now just an English teacher." He asked a few questions and I was out the door. It was nice to meet him, but I definitely won't make this a habit, given the fact I don't really care much about autographs. 

Oh, and I made it back home in less that 90 minutes, which was just icing on the cake. 

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