Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Tuesdays in Limbo

If you ever visit Ventura, arrive on two different days, for contrast.

I recommend mid-Friday afternoon, to start, because as the day goes on, the town gradually unwinds. By the time you get to 6 p.m. on, before the town begins to close down, there's an unhurried vibe that's especially lovely downtown amidst the restaurants, such as Dargan's Irish Pub and Restaurant, as well as the antique shops and the consignment stores, and certainly the bookstores, too, especially the Calico Cat Bookshop, which you should try before it closes at 5. It's nice just walking down Main Street, to California Street, where the Erle Stanley Gardner building stands stately on the corner. This is where Gardner hashed out the first few drafts for his first Perry Mason novel. Stand here at dusk, looking up at the building, and you feel a sense of history that lingers, which seems rare in Southern California. But it's here for you to look at, to think about, and not just by the plaque next to the side door of that giant concrete dignity.

The same feeling is almost as prevalent at the Pacific View Mall, particularly in the food court. It feels muted, almost defeated, but there's a kind of quiet you'd be hard-pressed to find in very many other malls. Macerich, which also owns The Oaks mall in Thousand Oaks, which I consider the best mall in Southern California, seems to leave the Pacific View's second floor to the ravages of time, what with how they don't seem to make an effort to attract new tenants to empty storefronts up there. The Oaks has The Open Book, my favorite bookstore in this region, and for that reason, I was given a $25 gift card to it as one of my recent birthday presents. The Pacific View Mall could use a bookstore, too, because inasmuch as there is the beach in Ventura, and downtown Ventura with various interesting shops (and window displays! I love living in a town whose downtown area has window displays!), and Ventura Harbor with its attached Village, it doesn't take long to cover everything Ventura offers. I like having it that way, without the constant rush and hype of Greater Los Angeles. I lived with the tumult of Las Vegas for five years, and before that, nine years of living 30 minutes north of Los Angeles in Santa Clarita. While there were visits to Anaheim and Pasadena and Buena Park and Van Nuys and Woodland Hills and so on from that, I always flitted between towns. In here and then gone. To IKEA and then gone. To Downtown Disney and then gone. I never knew those towns for themselves, although Buena Park with its heavy ghosts of history continues to fascinate me, and I've recently become interested in Burbank, after going back to my palace temple that is Porto's Cuban Bakery after five years away. Not to live there, or in Buena Park, but just what it is. For example, I had no idea that Warner Bros. Studios is just down the street from Porto's, at least not until this visit. I thought it was further out.

Every night, Ventura gives you space to think, to plan, to possibly even relax. I've never lived in any town before that allows it. But while it's a stringent space of time any other day of the week, Friday nights just gently unravel to whatever you want to do. You could even get the same feeling browsing the magazine racks at the Barnes & Noble on Telephone Road. Even just walking around Ventura Harbor Village before getting ice cream at Coastal Cone has the same effect.

On the flip side, there's Tuesdays in Ventura. Markedly different from Tuesdays with Morrie, in that Morrie was more alive than Ventura is on a Tuesday. This is actually more fascinating to me than Friday nights in Ventura. There is nothing in Ventura on a Friday, and by that I mean that Ventura on a Tuesday is the physical manifestation of being in Limbo. This is where you go if you want a preview of what that might be like, if your religion insists that Limbo is part of the afterlife.

The town is a total blank. There is absolutely no energy you can sense from the cars driving on Telephone, not in Ralphs, not in Walmart, not at the harbor, not at the mall, nowhere! I think of the ghosts that burst through the windows at the ceiling during "Once Upon a December" in the animated Anastasia, but without the dresses or anything else colorful. And this lasts all day! I don't know if this is the town's day for regrouping, but you could go from one end of it to the other and then on to State Route 126 to Santa Clarita without having a sense of what Ventura is.

Maybe it's the town's way of insisting that residents and visitors alike take this one day to add their own spark to the town, to see that spark for themselves, unencumbered by what the town usually offers. You know, do your own thing, find your own bliss, and don't let us bother you. I like that possibility, but it gets disconcerting for those of us who live here. It feels like a possible Twilight Zone episode in which the town disappears beneath your feet.

Ok, so I've gone on and on about that, but Ventura is reliable in that when Wednesday hits, it's back to business as usual. It rises again and covers everything. But I know why this consumes me. Adding to what I mentioned above about flitting in between towns, I've never known one town on its own terms. I've used a town, a city, for the resources it has for what I need, but I've never thought about it on its own. Never any reason to. But here I am, away from the noise of bigger cities, the demands, those expensive experiences that you must have that only benefit those who are selling them. I have my libraries, especially my beloved Ventura College library, and I know where to find my equally beloved Vietnamese iced coffee. That's all I need. And it's new to me to slow down like this, but I think I can get used to it.

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Life in Pieces

I am not Minnesota like Garrison Keillor,
nor Florida like Carl Hiaasen and Dave Barry,
not even New Jersey like Richard Ford.

I am pieces of all the places I lived in
as different as the time zones
in which they sit.

I am the candle store at Old Town in Kissimmee, Florida,
transfixed by one color being sensuously carved into many,
from one long bulk of wax.

I am Tomorrowland at Walt Disney World,
my home whenever I was there all day,
happily lost in the glitter of stars,
and the promise of tomorrow.

I am the view of the twinkling canyon in the night,
from the hilltop parking lot of La Mesa Junior High
in Canyon Country in Santa Clarita,
during some event or recital held there,
able to see it thanks to my father
having to be there for whatever was held inside.

I am The Cosmopolitan on the Las Vegas Strip,
before it was stripped of its creativity and
welcoming light and encouraging art,
digital, music, and otherwise,
when an investment group that did not understand
its pulsing power,
took over and gutted it.

I am that cream-colored hallway to the hotel lobby at
Green Valley Ranch,
elegant, graceful, with music
that made me think that whoever
programmed The Cosmopolitan
had fled there.
I miss pretending to feel wealthy
down that hallway,
all its gently artistic touches
mine. All mine.

Lately I am the library at Ventura College,
lost in the stacks,
but not lost like that,
overjoyed to discover books that I didn't know existed,
that very few there today knows existed.
I cannot easily find or know home
with how many times we've moved,
but the college library is a start
like all the others.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

The Library for Wandering

I have here two lists, written on ramen noodle sticky notes (yes, really. I got them for cheap at the Box Lunch store at The Oaks mall in Thousand Oaks). One is of three books I had intended to check out from the Ventura College library when I go there next, such as another academic analysis of Don Quixote titled Don Quixote: The Knight of La Mancha, and Peanuts and Philosophy, part of the publisher Open Court's series of pop culture and philosophy books.

The other list takes up three and a quarter ramen sticky notes, and are other pop culture and philosophy titles from the same publisher available at the college library that I thought I might also be interested in, such as The Princess Bride and Philosophy, Monty Python and Philosophy, Facebook and Philosophy, and 12 others.

I realized that this is all wrong.

I checked out Futurama and Philosophy from that list, and couldn't get through it. Some of the essays were thin as it is, but I realized that this isn't the way I want to learn about various approaches to philosophy. I already have a stringent, though wide-ranging, list of books I want to read from the Ventura County public libraries. They're all holds that I pick up at the Hill Road Library, which is convenient for that, but not so much for browsing. I'd do that at the E.P. Foster library downtown, but despite being curious about their separate science fiction section, I haven't been there for a while because I know what I want to read at the moment.

In my pursuit of science fiction, I thought I'd simply look it up in the Ventura College library catalog and go page by page, checking out every single book over time that has even the slightest whiff of science fiction. The first one was The Three-Body Problem by Cixin Liu, apparently an enormous presence in Chinese science fiction.

Huge mistake.

I can't dive in like this. I need to start small. I need short stories. I need anthologies. I need to find out what within science fiction interests me and pursue that, while occasionally stopping in for those that don't quite interest me, but might still be worth a read. I can't be going into (currently) heavy novels like that one and just expect to fall in easily. I need time to know what feels right for me. And I have two anthologies, one that I bought from The Open Book at The Oaks mall, and the other Infinite Stars, an anthology of space opera and military science fiction that I checked out from the Hill Road Library, a copy sent to me from the Ojai Library. I'll start with those, finish the latest issue of Asimov's that I bought at Ralph's last month, and go from there.

Being that my Ventura County library stacks are already well-planned, I shouldn't be doing the same at the Ventura College library. I need at least one library that I can simply wander, and I should be taking advantage of this particular library being open again for a new semester, open to me. Yet, I did notice that there's a science fiction and fantasy essay collection from Ursula K. Le Guin called The Language of the Night in the college library that I want to seek out. And in the philosophy realm, I have been curious about Epicurus for a long time, and the college also has a few books about him. That's where I should be going.

But as to the other three slots available on my card, I need to feel free. Just take it all in. Examine the stacks closely. Find out what I spark to that I may never have considered before. Yes, I want to read Robert A. Caro's epic biography series about Lyndon Baines Johnson, and I know that the college library has all the volumes available. I bought the first volume from Calico Cat Books before I was able to get a college library card, so I need to read that first. So maybe, just maybe, I'll be able to start on those soon enough. But I should be going in again without a plan, like it was the first time after I had plucked The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane by Lisa See off the top of the Leisure Reading stacks, after waiting for months to read it (I had it on hold at the Henderson Libraries, and then we moved). I had no idea what the rest of the library contained, no idea what else I wanted to read, and I simply wandered. I need to do more of that. This is one library that requires that kind of time, to tour my mind through these stacks and just be. Just let go and be carried by the books.

Besides, this is the first time anywhere that I've lived that I've had access to a college library. Despite my feverish love for the formidable Lied Library at UNLV, we didn't live near enough to it to go all that often, and in fact, we didn't. The usual traffic from Henderson to Maryland Parkway, plus the seemingly permanent construction zones along the drive, as well as the campus charging for visitor parking, didn't make it worth it. This one just takes a short bus ride. That's it. And once off the bus, you face the library building dead on. Pure convenience.

It's time to start truly living in these stacks. I can't wait to feel at home again by this.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Sondheim Through Time

On Sunday, January 26, 2014, my family and I, two years into living in Las Vegas, with three years to go, went to the Stratosphere for free admission to the Stratosphere Tower, being offered to Nevada residents for that day. We had gotten there in the early afternoon, bypassing the long, snaking line of tourists waiting to pay to get in, with the intent of staying at least through the early evening, to see a Las Vegas sunset from that vantage point and how everything begins to come alive from that point. Knowing that, I decided to bring along the biography Stephen Sondheim: A Life by Meryle Secrest, writing about one of my heroes.

Today is Sunday, January 14, 2018, 12 days shy of it being four years since I started reading that biography (I remember this because my Goodreads account, on my Currently Reading shelf, still has the listing for that biography all the way on the bottom, with that date, the oldest listing I have on that shelf). Not that the biography was bad from where I stopped (All told, I read about 30 pages while we were in the Stratosphere Tower, distracted by the 360-degree view), but since then, it's been for lack of trying, distracted by other books, wanting to stretch out what I don't know yet about Sondheim, watching Six by Sondheim countless times, as well as DVDs of two productions of Company, the original staging of Into the Woods as well as the movie, Sondheim: The Birthday Concert and a few others. It's a lot more fun to see his work in action, which has been the distraction. But still, I want to know how he came up with all those musical treasures. I've given this long weekend over to reading about some of my favorite people, and books by some of my favorite people: Phil Collins, through his memoir Not Dead Yet; this Sondheim biography (I have Sondheim's own two books, Finishing the Hat and Look, I Made a Hat, and I might delve into those afterward), Armistead Maupin's memoir Logical Family, and possibly The Autobiography of Jean-Luc Picard by David A. Goodman and Uncommon Type: Some Stories, Tom Hanks' first book, all short stories centered on typewriters.

This particular Sunday is time travel in memory at its most head-snapping. I spent a good chunk of the afternoon today finishing Not Dead Yet on the patio of our apartment here in Ventura, in unseasonably warm weather. On weekends, when we're not out, Dad tends to watch marathons of The Golden Girls and while a great deal of it is well-written, I get sick of hearing it all the time. So to the patio I went, unfolding the sole brown lawn chair we have out there.

And yet, on that Sunday in 2014, I had a jacket on, even inside the tower because we were planning to go outside, to where some of the tower's main attractions were, namely Insanity, which dangles riders out over the Strip while furiously spinning around, and X-Scream, which plummets riders to the edge of its tiny track, and then rises up and pushes them back, doing it a few times. Next to the exit of Insanity is the best view of some of the rundown apartment buildings surrounding the tower. By that time, we had moved twice already, from the Valley Vista All-Age Mobile Home Park on Cabana Drive in Las Vegas, to the Pacific Islands Apartment complex in Henderson, all the way in the back, blessedly removed from traffic noise, but cursed by heavy smokers in the apartments above us and next to us, which seeped into our apartment. The complex did nothing about it because "everyone has the right to do whatever they want to do in their own apartment." However, after the remodels they did of the apartments as they became vacant, which surely cost them a pretty penny, I wonder how they feel about that now.

I started reading Stephen Sondheim: A Life when we had found seats in front of one section of this view, in the distance the screams of those bungee-jumping from the top of the tower (we got near to that area, too, and watched the process over and over and over. The ones who set up those were jumping were impressively precise. This wasn't a careless, cigar smoke-filled attraction. There were real lives involved in this and those employees were aware).

The view was overlooking Dad's school then, Fremont Middle, and this is where we would be for a while. Because of the offer, and the visitors in that long line coming up here, the tower was crowded, so you get seats where you can find them. And this was good enough. I was paying attention to what I was reading about Sondheim's childhood, about the indeed separate lives of his parents, but not as attentive as a fawning fan should be. Of course, it was the view, one that's impossible to see anywhere else like this in Las Vegas. I didn't imagine myself as Godzilla, stomping all over the city. I hadn't gotten to that point yet, when living in that valley became harder. I was just amazed at how far the concrete horizon spread. It didn't feel as crowded as Los Angeles looks from a similar height, but it was insistent. Bring in the tourists, let them leave, but try to pen in at least some of the residents because a great deal of them will still get away. As it was for us.

This Sunday, in 2018, I began rereading the beginning of the biography on our first patio, on the left side of our apartment (the one on the right side of our apartment gets too dirty too quickly, with pigeon feathers from those nesting in the crevices that the roof line of these apartments offers, as well as the pigeon shit that falls onto the patio from up there. This complex is none too quick to try to rectify the apparent health problem that could result from that), a corner view that faces part of Telephone Road, as well as a view of those walking on the sidewalk across the street, in front of the Peppertree Condominiums. When the temperature is as warm as it was today, and the wind is wispy and just a little bit talkative, it's perfect. Yesterday had the best weather we've had in five months of living here, and today was just a bonus.

It's quite a distance from trying to grab seats wherever they became available in the Stratosphere Tower. This town is much quieter than Las Vegas could ever hope to be in certain parts, so besides why I started the Sondheim biography this weekend, it's also the perfect atmosphere for it. I can concentrate here. I'm not distracted by any such view, nor any potentially drunken souls (none of that either where I live), nor any constant clamor to buy souvenirs (I had my fair share even while living in Las Vegas. I had two t-shirts listing the names of all the casinos on and off the Strip, myriad sets of playing cards, and I still have my Cosmopolitan t-shirt from before the faceless new owner, the Blackstone Group, killed off its confident, artsy spirit). Sure, walking around the inside floor of the Tower and outside where those rides are is not exactly the best place to be reading a significant biography of Sondheim. I know that. But for that many hours, usually seeing what there is to see in less than an hour and then picking out what I like the most to spend more time with, it just seemed reasonable to bring a book in case there was a stretch of time that I wanted to say that I had read a little something in the Stratosphere Tower. I might well have been the first person to bring a book there, knowing the tourist value of the place. That always worked better at Siegfried & Roy's Secret Garden and Dolphin Habitat at the Mirage, where it became my tradition to bring Paper Towns by John Green with me to read (I wasn't as into the place as Meridith was because of the dolphins, but I loved that relaxed atmosphere that encouraged visitors to sit a while if they wanted and worry about nothing), but here, why not have the chance to sit in front of one of the windows offering that expansive view, read for a bit, and have that view to look at for a while. I think it could elevate a great many novels.

I know that's not what Las Vegas is for, for pretty much everyone who comes to visit. In fact, it's not even what it's for for most of those residents. But for me, it was just to have a moment of artistic accomplishment in front of me in the way of that biography, to read about how someone else did it. I don't have the same ambitions as Sondheim, although I do want to write a few plays, but my admiration for him is boundless.

And here, in Ventura, it feels like a universe away from Las Vegas, and that's how I like it. There's more time in this town to simply be, to explore whatever you feel like in books, in being on the beach, in strolling downtown, whatever you can think of. Vegas always threw everything at you, all at once. It wasn't as frenetic as Los Angeles, but if it wasn't work you were worrying about, it was the weather (it was frigid that January, hence the jacket), or when to go food shopping (especially in the summer at 110 degrees, when you had to go as late into the night as possible so the milk would last until you could get it home), or the cigarette-smoking neighbors on their patio whose smoke always drifted right to where you could walk out into the rest of the neighborhood, and so much else. This town is better for the rest of Sondheim. I can read about his life more seriously here.

Perhaps one of the reasons I hadn't read much of the Sondheim biography that Sunday in 2014 is because it was the one time in what became five years in Las Vegas that the city felt completely calm to me. I could look at it from above and feel like maybe, just maybe, I could manage to live here. Of course, that was before the cigarette smoke in our apartment got worse, and before we moved a few more times within Henderson. But for that one day, it was possible, although I do think it was the first time I had seen any city from such a height, 1,149 feet up. It even made Las Vegas seem reasonable. Seem. The reality never matches it. It's at least better here.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

The Forge of Empires Conflict

Being in between jobs right now, I get on the computer every morning. I check my e-mail, log onto Facebook for a little bit (I don't fall into the Black Hole of Lost Time, though), check various job listings, apply for any that look possible (at this point, I don't look to have an overwhelmingly desirable feeling about them, but that there's something in each of the jobs that would interest me, such as doing back-office work at an Ethan Allen location, owing to an interest in interior design and wanting to see people have the home design they may have dreamed of for years), search the library catalog for any books I meant to search for the previous night, or that still remain in my bookmarks on Chrome that I still have to hock the Ventura Library District to buy. Oh, and of course my own writing, novels that I'm researching, picture book ideas I'm looking to expand, poems I'm trying (I don't know how much of an interest I have in poetry yet).

So why would I want to spend even more time on the computer? Why, when I have so many books I want to read, and one DVD binder with movies and TV series I haven't watched yet (I want to try the Canadian series L.A. Complex again, which aired in 2012 on The CW, and which seems appropriate now that I'm in Southern California again. I also have the entire run of As Time Goes By, because of Judi Dench, but I want to get beyond the third episode already, actually take time for it)? Besides that DVD binder, I also have a few DVDs scattered between my bedroom area (actually the dining room area of this apartment, but because the apartment smaller than what we came from, without a third bedroom, we converted it into my bedroom) and my bookcases that I want to watch, too.

And then I stumbled onto Forge of Empires.

No, this story isn't going to end the way you think it might.

I haven't spent obsessive hours upon hours and days upon days playing it, starting from the Stone Age and working hard so I can travel through time this way. In fact, I haven't even signed up for an account yet. I just sit there at the front page, reading the information they have for potential new users, their blog announcing updates, and watching the citizens in the shadow of the castle on the front page go about their work. I've only done this since last weekend, the kid with his nose pressed against the window of the toy store, though I'm not wide-eyed, nor wishing for this or that, or that I could go inside and have everything that I want.

I remember FarmVille and Mafia Wars on Facebook. I don't remember exactly why I started playing them, but I think a few Facebook friends were playing Mafia Wars and I traded with them on various items and whatever else was involved there. I've long since forgotten. But I remember that you had to wait for energy to be replenished, with a countdown clock indicating when you'd have more of it. As to FarmVille, my old farm is still active, right down to the 2010 New Year's ball drop pole I put on that farm. I still go in every now and then to play with it, when it all actually loads properly.

So I imagine that Forge of Empires also has the same clocks there, that you have to wait before various things are replenished. I see also that it's a SimCity type of game, spanning the Stone Age, then the Bronze Age, the Iron Age, the Middle Ages, the Colonial Age, and the Industrial Age. I like that kind of historical bent. But still I sit in front of its homepage. Still no account created. Why?

This morning, I realized why. Even while being attracted by the graphics, the possibility of seeing right in front of my eyes what these various ages might have looked like, and to build a city and make it work, I'm a writer. I'm working on creating my own worlds through novels I hope to see published some day. I'm already seeing to the lives of my characters, who are also seeing to my life in that sometimes I'm simply transcribing what they say, as it has happened to countless other writers.

But it's not only that. Looking at the front page of Forge of Empires, and the graphics, and indeed some of the YouTube videos that have been posted about the game, such as the tutorials and the time-lapse footage, they only serve to strengthen my interest in reading historical novels. Just like watching The Lion in Winter recently made me seek out novels about the English monarchy, Forge of Empires does the same in other ages. I went looking for Steven Saylor's series of Roman novels featuring Gordianus the Finder. I'm thinking about novels set in the 1930s, my favorite historical period to study. I'm wondering about the 1890s. I remember the musical 1776, and David McCullough's 1776 comes to mind, which I still haven't read.

I think, for me, Forge of Empires is best as inspiration to seek out historical novels, biographies, and other non-fiction works so I can venture through those time periods that way. I can't keep staring at a screen more than I usually do in pursuit of what I need in my life (a job) and what I want (to write these novels and other books). Each day is already short enough.

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

The Mandarin Orange Lottery

Ever since my family and I moved back to Southern California and felt we were settled enough in Ventura, Mom and Dad began playing the lottery again. Not to as great an extent as those slot machine players I'd see sitting for hours at the casinos we went to in Las Vegas, nor the poker players who looked like they had been there for days. The important things, like when the Powerball goes above $300 million. Same with Mega Millions. Of course, in response to this, Dad went a little overboard with tickets, playing six sets of numbers on one ticket and a few on another. Understandable, though, just for that slim chance. It's the usual assertion that all it takes is one. I suppose it's worth a try in that way. Thankfully, not all the time.

When we lived in Santa Clarita, Mom loved the scratch-offs. Again, there was a limit. Just a certain amount for the month for scratchoffs, mainly the dollar ones, unless there was something that looked interesting in the slightly higher-priced ones. It's the same here again. Just a scant few dollars a month for scratch-offs, although with Dad's additional interest in it, we've bought a year of those Year of the Dog scratch-offs. In our house, it's been 27 years of the Year of the Dog. So it fits us.

Myself, I only do a scratch-off if presented with one, such as it has been with Year of the Dog. One I did had two $888, but not a third. You need three to get the amount. The latest one netted me $2. Enough for two more of those scratch-offs, but I'm not going to chase down the $888.

However, I will chase down the glory can of mandarin oranges. Sure you can get mandarin oranges anyway, especially canned, but I only like to get them at Ralphs because they're the only ones that are steeped in mandarin orange juice, not light syrup.

I usually get four or so cans every time we go to Ralphs since I like to have it every day. But opening the cans is a gamble, my kind of gamble. Sometimes you get a few whole mandarin orange segments, along with mandarin oranges that look like they were shot to pieces by a gun from Men in Black. I had one can the other week that was nothing but that. Sometimes you'll get the mandarin orange massacre along with a few thinly-sliced pieces of mandarin orange, lopped off from a bigger mandarin orange segment. This is why I like to buy cans with different dates on it. All of them now expire in 2020, but there are some with one January date and others that are two days earlier. It might be different days of production for wherever this is packaged, so I want to see what different days have brought.

The day before yesterday, I hit the jackpot. I opened the can, dumped the mandarin oranges into a small bowl, and every single mandarin orange was plump and whole! No ragged pieces! No thin slices! In the five months we've been there, that we've been shopping at Ralphs (we also go to Vons and Trader Joe's, especially for the latter's new tuna salad, which is a masterpiece, and reminds us of the slightly smoky tuna salad we used to get from Lox Haven in Margate, Florida), I've never gotten a can like this. It gives me hope that this particular Ralphs store, the only one we have in Ventura, will get more.

Of course, I don't get canned mandarin oranges just for the hope of that. They're the only oranges I eat, and the only way I prefer them. The less work I have to do with peeling, the better. And it's always interesting to see the differences between cans. I prefer gambling with 89 cents a can.

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

My Home in Space, Through Time, In the Future, and Within Alternate Histories

I've been thinking about the meaning of home for a few months, ever since moving again. There are parts of Ventura that feel home-like to me, but at this point in my life, I don't think I'll find an overall home I can become attached to. Not that I want to move again, but I don't have the expectations anymore that I used to whenever we moved. I've learned. I'll take whatever comes here. So far it's good. It'll be better when I'm hired somewhere.

However, within that thought process, about places I've been to, places I've lived in, favorite things in my life, I think I hit on something.

The second movie I ever saw, when I was 5, was Jetsons: The Movie.

My favorite childhood movie was Flight of the Navigator.

I am hopelessly devoted to Blade Runner, Tron: Legacy, and Oblivion.

Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom by Cory Doctorow occupies an important place in my permanent book collection.

Every time my family and I went to Walt Disney World, to the Magic Kingdom, I always spent the day in Tomorrowland, circulating among Space Mountain, the then-Tomorrowland Transit Authority, and Walt Disney's Carousel of Progress, as well as the arcade adjacent to the exit of Space Mountain (from the inside) and the entrance (from the outside).

I own nearly the entire run of Red Dwarf on DVD.

There are other examples, like the Nerd Trivia page-a-day calendar I recently mentioned, especially seeking its sci-fi bent. I also realized, paging through one of my DVD binders, that I have the complete series of the cult hit The Middleman, which I loved when it aired on then-ABC Family, and practically wailed over its cancellation.

But the earlier ones, those above, that's what factors into this: Science fiction, even in what some might consider some of these imperfect forms, has always been a beacon in my life, beckoning to me. But I've never really paid attention to it.

Until now.

In seeking a stable home for myself, I know now that it'll be science fiction. Specifically science fiction novels and short stories. My New Year's resolution is to immerse myself completely in them, not only to find my world(s) within them, but also find inspiration in the universes they conjure, hope for me that my own, comparatively earthbound writing, can be as good, as all-encompassing as these works are.

As my past experience with science fiction indicates, I'm a geek nomad. I've never taken sides between the Jedi and Trekkies (or Trekkers, whatever you prefer). I do lean more toward Star Trek than Star Wars, but I will eventually see the new movie. I like going from, say, an issue of Asimov's Science Fiction to Firefly, and then from Firefly to whatever Kim Stanley Robinson has going on lately. To quote from my previous post about the Nerd Trivia calendar:

I think if I was to appear in space-based science fiction, I would be the cargo captain with the rundown, yet still reliable ship who's always ready to be sent anywhere in exchange for a sizable donation to the Help Keep Me Alive Fund. I wouldn't race headlong into danger, or seek out some potentially risky adventure. Just let me drift among the stars, taking in the universe at my own pace (save for when there's cargo to transport).

I don't think it's only the sheer scope of science fiction which seizes me, though. It's not only the wonders that can emerge from thousands of words, making me wonder how someone did all this, made this world simply through words (it's never simple, of course). I realized that it's also the architecture in science fiction that I want to study closely.

When I was a tyke, my parents and I (and then my sister) lived in Casselberry, Florida, so close to Orlando that we went to Walt Disney World every weekend. I was in a stroller and I guess then the castle itself and the buildings made to look like different lands made a deep impression on me, though I didn't know it then.

While five years of living in Las Vegas was hard, there were those days when we went to The Cosmopolitan, the Wynn, the Mirage, the Bellagio, and other hotels, and I loved that elegant interior design and was curious about who had done it, how they planned it, what they enjoyed in their lives that inspired them to decorate as they did. Obviously under the edict of a Steve Wynn, of course, or even someone with lesser power than that, but it was still them. They were the ones who made it happen.

For me, in science fiction, it would be the size of staterooms in starships, how various captains decorate their own quarters, how much room there is for an overcrowded population to live in, say, a futuristic Los Angeles. How are such cities powered? What thought goes into what a starship will contain? Such questions as that will undoubtedly poke at me while I read.

I don't think I'll write about science fiction novels and short stories extensively here. I already write reviews for BookBrowse, and I don't want to do it that way. It'll probably be when the mood strikes me, when I spot a building or transport or some neon-filtered way of life in the far-off future that I want to write about, to wonder about it further.

Whether this portends me one day writing science fiction, I don't know. I have two ideas for short stories, one which involves holograms in a supermarket, and the other an earthbound non-futuristic short story collection set in the outskirts of Las Vegas, in a rundown former motel-turned apartment complex that faces the back end of the McCarran International parking garage, which has got to be the biggest parking garage in Las Vegas. The rest of what I want to write, my ideas list, is not only resolutely earthbound, but doesn't involve science fiction at all. I think for the most part, I just want to absorb everything it offers and apply it to my own work. Just something for me, not always to try to push out to the world. I'll wander and then come in with what I've found that interests me. This blog won't be overtaken by such an adventure. It'll still be different things.

(Postscript at 5:10 p.m.: This whole thing makes more sense now. I just remembered that when I was growing up, I always told my mom that I would build a time machine. In trying moments over the years, she's always asked me, "Where's your time machine?" No wonder the Back to the Future movies are among my favorites, the third one my favorite of the trilogy.)