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George Leon Lowe

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Member Since: May, 2008

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Los Angeles Times Festival of Book / Fantasy of Scam?
5/9/2008 5:27:56 PM

How Need,Greed, Ambition,And Lust For Gold, Go Hand in Hand.
In August 2007 I received the vendors information I had requested regarding the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books. The festival was scheduled to be held on the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA) Campus Saturday April 26 & Sunday April 27, 2008. The vendors information said that in 2007 an estimated 150,000 visitors had attended the two day event. And that over 400 vendors had bought booth to sell books, foods, or hold seminars. Having heard rumors of great fortunes to be made selling books and other work of arts at what was described to be the largest book festival in the country, I began making plans to attend. After paying the full one booth fee of $900 I received the vendors contract package and proceeded to lay out the route to my El Dorado.

On Tuesday, April 21, 2008 after collecting all of the obligatory bon voyages from family and friends, I loaded my SUV to it’s maximum and set forth on my Westward Odyssey. Like the fortyniners of the 1849 California Gold Rush days my anticipation of riches in a mother lode (book sales) soared beyond my previous wildest dreams. This was it “I said to myself!” This was the opportunity for which I had been waiting lo these many years. It had finally arrived and I was going to take full advantage of it! The day was bright and beautiful around nine o’clock in the morning with light traffic after the hectic Chicago rush hour and I easily glided onto Interstate 57 heading South to pick up Interstate 70 West to St. Louis, Missouri, to pick up Interstate 44 West to Oklahoma City to Interstate 40 West to Interstate 15 South to Barstow, California, and then take Interstate 10 West to Los Angeles. But for some unexplained reason I missed my connection to I44 when I reached St. Louis. And by the time I realized what had happened I was still on I70, thirty five miles west of the I44 interchange. Well, I70 had been my default choice anyhow and so I altered my mind set and proceeded toward Kansas City and Denver, Colorado.

As anyone who has taken Interstate 70 West can tell you the scenery is simply spectacular when get about ten miles West of Denver. And I timed my journey so that I would drive through the mountains in daylight. It was a very good decision because driving through the high mountains at night with cars and trucks passing you going eighty miles an hour can be a very frightening experience. After leaving Colorado I enjoyed the almost equally scenic beauty of the canyons, mountains, and deserts of Utah and Nevada. I passed through Las Vegas and marveled at the man made gambling cathedrals which I would never visit. How sad I thought to myself what a mockery of technology, what a waste. But these cathedrals are spectacular! And they are beautiful. I then proceeded without incident to Barstow and West to the delightfully pretty little town of El Monte which is eleven miles East of Downtown Los Angeles where I spent a quiet pleasant restful night in a motel room. With a good night’s sleep under my belt I headed out the next morning a six o’clock to the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books to set up my booth. It was Saturday and I was one of the first to arrive. The Book Festival was well planned and I had no trouble finding and setting up my booth to begin raking in my fortune. Alas, around 1 P.M. The festival was in full swing and there was no crowd! There were perhaps a few thousand people scattered over the grounds but no crowds! At 3 P.M. I was now in a mental state of shock! It was crystal clear to me; there was not going to be any huge crowds of people, and this was not going to be my El Dorado! All of the other book sellers in my section began voicing their woes. What happened to the 150,000 people who were said to be expected to attend? Then to my dismay I realized that even if they all showed up the second day of the festival I was going to lose money on this venture. Needless to say, this was not what I had anticipated. And either my expectation had been too high, my dreams unrealistic, or I had been scammed! On the second day (Sunday) my fears were realized. The huge crowds never did arrive and although there appeared to be a comfortable number of people for the food sellers to make money, the book buyers never showed up. Also, in my estimation, about eighty percent of the people who walked through the section where my booth was located were families with children heading pass us toward the children attractions. They were eating food and clearly having a grand time at the festival. They did not have books in their hands or carrying bags filled with books. And they did not appear to have come to the book festival to buy books. I sold a few posters but very few books even after I marked them down to bottom line cost so that I would not have to haul them back to Chicago.

The L. A. Times Festival of Book had been well planned and well organized. The booths clean, neat & nice, and the monitors very friendly and helpful. However, the information in the brochure regarding an expected attendance of 150,000 people did not materialize. Perhaps 150,000 people did show up last year but this year they were no where to be seen. The festival of books was suddenly over, and like the fortyniners, I had followed what I had imagined to be a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow only to find a mirage. A bright simmering mirage not even as real as a 500 room gambling casino on Interstate 40, sitting 250 miles in the middle of the desert. I loaded my SUV with almost the same amount of books and posters that I had brought to sell and headed back on Interstate 10 to Barstow onto Interstate 40 going East passing by the huge surreal looking gambling casino in the middle of the desert.

This time I paid attention when I reached St. Louis. Merging onto Interstate 70 East, then quickly reaching Interstate 57 heading North I was home. It had been and interesting odyssey, taking two and one half days to travel to my destination and the same amount of time to return home. The weather had been wonderful and the wind was at my back both going and coming. Of course I did not realize my dream of book sales, riches, and or fame. But I now understand no matter who is selling it: “All That Glitters Is Not Gold”.

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•  Los Angeles Times Festival of Book / Fantasy of Scam? - Friday, May 09, 2008  

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