Friday, March 23, 2012

The Ice Cream Parlor

Is having a freebie weekend at Amazon.  Yes, it was scheduled before the mini-mass mailing.  I cancelled it then reinstated it.  So go download it in time for summer.

Here's the background on it.  I was driving down Alisal Road in Gaviota California (well it might be technically Solvang, I'm not sure where the town line is) and I thought gee, I really want an egg cream.  This is pre-www, you could gopher but you wouldn't find much.  You had to actually research stuff.  Let me tell you, that can be really hard in California.

I went to the Los Angeles Public Library and went to the front desk.
Me:  Hi.  I'd like to access your photo archive for a book I'm writing on the history of soda fountains.
Librarian:  Our what?
Me: Your historic photos of Los Angeles like soda fountains, pharmacies, ice cream parlors.  Postcards, whatever.
Librarian: We don't have anything like that.
Me: (Stunned into silence for a change)
Librarian: The studios would have that for set building purposes.
Me: Oh great!  How do I access those?  Do I contact Warner Brothers or something?
Librarian: (with disgust) That's not open to the public!

I finally got help from a librarian in Cape May New Jersey, 3,000 miles away.

I'm from New York.  There's a Museum of the City of New York open to the public where you find all kinds of stuff.  Huge.  In LA, history is 15 minutes ago.

My cousin's wife, Jane Mushabac, wrote A Short and Remarkable History of New York City using the Museum of the City of New York for the illustrations.  I never dreamed a city as large as Los Angeles wouldn't have something similar.  Maybe they do but I couldn't find it when I needed it.

So I got an original dispensary recipe book from like 1909 sent down from a university library in Northern California and wrote the book.  It was supposed to be heavily illustrated and light on the recipes.  My agent sent it around and no one got it.  Finally it landed at Chronicle Books where they liked it and wanted to publish it.  The more it was discussed in-house the smaller it got.  It became a not-coffee-table book.  That was too expensive to produce.  Finally it became financially viable at about $10 in a gift book size, a few crummy photos, mostly recipes which everyone realized was stupid.  That ended The History of the Soda Fountain.

It sat in my computer for over 10 years.  2 or 3 years ago I said I can resurrect this as is.  I'll get some photos from public domain, I'll make do, I'll find some more actual recipes, I'll swap ingredients for things that exist now, and it's 99 cents, done deal.

That's what it is--a modest little ebook on the history of the ice cream parlor with quite a few vintage recipes.

It's actually about at the same place overall as whatever was the last freebie.  What was that?  Drawing a blank.  Cupid?

Weird day.

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