Thursday, July 21, 2016

San Diego Bound

Just a short post, but a necessary one.

The Saturday after next, my family and I are going to San Diego for four days to see what it's like. This summer has been particularly taxing, and especially wearisome on my mom, who can't handle the kind of extreme hot and bitter cold that Nevada summers and winters specialize in. She's getting older and consistent weather would be better for her. Also, there's the San Diego Zoo, and she's always wanted to live in a city that has a zoo, and this is a zoo that she's been to before.

But for us, it's also reconsidering where we are in this place and in our lives. Las Vegas and Henderson hasn't been the home we hoped for. We figured, wrongly as it turned out, that with so many people coming from so many different cities that there would be a genial openness, that creativity and imagination would abound under such auspices, that we could get to know the Strip and outlying areas and casinos and daily and weekly enjoy it all.

The people, for the most part, are closed off. The tourists, as would be expected, are given the white-glove treatment, while residents barely get any discounts. We live this every day, and they can't even manage a deep discount on residency shows? They'll make the money back three minutes later!

Considering the number of apartments we've lived in, the lies we were told, the air conditioning not fixed properly and broken down before the hottest day of the summer (last year), the leaks in that same apartment, the noise upstairs in our current apartment that's vindictive and nothing has been done about it yet, it's too much for us already. In our first year, at Valley Vista All-Ages Mobile Home Park, we had essentially a metal cargo container, which is what all mobile homes feel like. Understandable. We had to live somewhere to get established. That summer was brutally hot as well for us, unused to such heat, and my mom slept with two fans going in her room, and then the electric bill for that summer was astronomical. Then came where we live again now, that first time a year after Valley Vista, and there were smokers above us and next to us who smoked in our apartments, and the complex said they couldn't do anything about it because people had a right to do what they wanted to do in their apartments, no matter the health hazard. Well, that second year, as my mom said, we had to get used to it because we were here. Maybe it would get better.

It didn't. It hasn't. I especially don't like having to hibernate during the day in summer, being told that it's best to go out either early in the morning or late at night. Get your groceries at 3 a.m. or 10 p.m. I want to get to know my city. I want to see everything that it is and know those streets as well as I know the books in my home library. I want to know its history, but history here disappears in a puff of smoke and debris, as it was last month or so with the demolition of the Riviera hotel tower. Not that it was any great loss at that point because it was a shithole when we went to see that Russian ice skating show in 2007 when we were tourists, and I'm sure it got much worse by the end. Even so, there's no promotion of its history. The Strip doesn't want to know. What money can it make right now? THAT'S what it wants to know. And I'd be ok with that if it offered more in the way of getting to know it. But it doesn't want to be known. It wants to be revered on the surface, but do not go any deeper.

It's not wrong to have hopes about where you're going to live. Why shouldn't we? We look forward to a place and what it possibly offers. We visit it and plan where we want to be, and you bet we visited Las Vegas and Henderson many times before we got there. And I thought it could be home. I wanted it to be home. I was tired of moving. But we've had to move five times in nearly four years, because of various circumstances including the smoking and the neglect we experienced in our previous apartment complex, before returning to our current one. It's not worth it if you have to struggle so much during.

Now, I'm not raising hopes as fervent as I had for Las Vegas and Henderson. I'm being cautious this time. The rents in San Diego do concern me, as it does my mom, but we are a family of four, and I'm sure my dad, my sister and I can find jobs before we get there. I know what I want to do, my sister knows what she wants to do, and my dad is dynamic in the business education field, so he'll have no trouble finding his niche again in San Diego. But we have to see where we want to be first, what works for us, what's feasible for us. I want to know a city, historically and otherwise. I don't want to be trapped inside by merciless summer heat anymore. I want to see my city during the day, too.

So we'll go. We'll see what areas of San Diego interest us and then pursue them. But there's no turning back. We're not staying here in Henderson. My mom can't handle another summer like this one. I don't want another summer like this one. I want to enjoy my home. I want to see everything it offers. I want to study its history. I hope this will work out better. A small hope right now. But still some hope.

Sunday, April 3, 2016

The Stunted Memory of One Book's Origins

I know that I got this copy of The Memory of Running by Ron McLarty from AbeBooks, but I don't know which seller I bought it from. Possibly Better World Books in Mishawaka, Indiana. Or Thrift Books out of Auburn, Washington. One of those, or another entirely.

This copy's not as special to me as my copy of The Remains of The Day by Kazuo Ishiguro that I bought at a now-sadly-defunct bookstore in downtown Palm Springs called G.W. Books whose owner looked like he lived there. I wanted to be him so badly.

Nor is it as important to me as my hardcover copy of Subways are for Sleeping by Edmund G. Love which I paid $34 for at the Valencia Library, then part of the County of Los Angeles library system, claiming it lost because I wanted to keep it for myself. It had come from the Norwalk branch of the County, but I had carried it with me so often at College of the Canyons, usually reading it in the cafeteria there instead of doing my math homework, that I felt it was mine more than it was Norwalk's.

Yet, this copy of The Memory of Running, which I think has supplanted The Remains of the Day as my favorite novel, has served me well. I think I've had it as long as we've lived in Nevada, about three years and six months now. I first read The Memory of Running in Valencia, checking it out from the Valencia Library, and maybe I bought a copy for my collection there after I had read it. Maybe not. But my rule of thumb, at least back then, was that if I checked out a book more than three times from the library, then I'd buy a copy for my collection. That happened with The Remains of the Day.

This copy of The Memory of Running is browning a bit, and there is a a thick black discount mark at the bottom of the book, along with a dot next to it, probably telling potential buyers how much it will be. But I think there was a price sticker on the back because some of the backing from that is still over the barcode. There's also some gray marks on the pages if you hold the book closed, and I know that's from when I dropped it somewhere. Not a puddle, fortunately, but some dirt somewhere. Accidentally.

I could get some more use out of this book. The spine hasn't worn out yet and all the pages are still intact. But I worry about my favorite books going out of print. Angelina's Bachelors by Brian O'Reilly, for example, published in August 2011 and discovered by me that October, now goes for $20.72 on Amazon. A Year at the Movies by Kevin Murphy, my copy of which is fraying and which I checked off what movies I've seen, fetches $15.99 on Amazon.

Looking through the listings on AbeBooks for Angelina's Bachelors and A Year at the Movies, I find that I can get a new copy Angelina's Bachelors from a seller in Avenel, New Jersey, another in Lewiston, New York, and I can get a new copy of A Year at the Movies from that same seller in Lewiston, New York, another in Powder Springs, Georgia, and a third in Enumclaw, Washington.

This would be nothing new to me. I have two copies of Tales of the City by Armistead Maupin, although they are different editions. However, this would be of the same edition, and why would I need two copies of the same book? For one, these books are among my permanent collection, books that I will keep for the rest of my life, that I will search high and low for replacement copies should I ever need them. These are dear favorites, and Angelina's Bachelors became my mom's favorite book after I got her hooked on it. It seems that she and I share a taste for novels in which people are good to each other, no matter the problems that waylay them.

It doesn't matter where these two books come from if I buy new copies. I have no connection to Washington State, nor to Georgia, though I would love to visit Savannah, Georgia one day. And yet, The Memory of Running is a different case entirely. Deciding that I wanted a new copy to replace my current copy, a cleaner copy that can age more naturally from time and repeated readings, I looked for it on AbeBooks, and stopped dead at one listing I found for it.

It should be known that I desperately want to visit New Orleans one day. I don't think I'll necessarily go into it with wide-eyed idealism, but I feel there are parts of the city that match my soul, the relaxed soul I wish I could have. I look at photos of New Orleans and I feel such a pull toward it. I want to walk those streets. I want to see those balconies. I want to duck into those shops, and some of those bookstores, and have that food which means so much to me, including grits and other things. I want it, and I've read about it, and I've seen some movies that seem to have gotten it right, including Jon Favreau's Chef for the brief time it was there, and I want to fill my soul with it.

So when I found a copy of The Memory of Running residing at Dionysos Books in New Orleans, that was it. That one seller in Lewiston, New York was cheaper, but that didn't matter. I could have a book that spent time in New Orleans! That bookstore operates three miles from the French Quarter, but who cares? It's all New Orleans to me. I can hold it and imagine its place in the city. And maybe one day I'll be able to bring it to New Orleans with me. It's not Walker Percy or John Kennedy Toole or Poppy Z. Brite or Tennessee Williams, but it was there. With it, I can dream.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Listening Through the Static and Hoping

In July 2014, Pulse 96.7, an exclusively dance music station, apparently came on the air in Las Vegas. I thought it had been a few months ago, but according to an interview with programmer Joel Salkowitz, it was July 2014.

From my room in this bungalow at Green Valley Country Club near Green Valley and Wigwam here in Henderson, when I first heard about it a few months ago, I couldn't get it at all. I could hear it in the car, but barely a signal in my room. Hold the antenna up a little, and it was only minutely clearer through the heavy static. Drop the antenna and it dropped too.

Now, a few months later, with the antenna still below, there's dance music through the static. The sound rises and falls back on its own, but I can hear more of it. Not like the crystal clarity of one of the omnipotent Clear Channel stations, but it's there.

This coming Friday, my family and I are signing a lease back at Pacific Islands, past Green Valley and Robindale (which I walk every weekday morning, up Robindale, to get to work at Cox Elementary), near the holy intersection of Green Valley and Warm Springs, just before the train track. At that intersection, you take a right, and you get to the rest of Henderson. A left, and you start on Las Vegas. It's the best crossroads for us and one of the reasons we're moving back, after the cigarette smoke in our apartment from above and next to us chased us out well over a year ago.

At our new apartment, which will be at the front of the complex, we have a dumpster across from our patio, behind the carport parking, the recycling dumpster to our left, next to the smaller second entrance, and the front office directly to our right, which means the mailboxes are right there, and the small gym my sister uses. We're more exposed than where we were last time, but the front of any apartment complex is always taken care of better than the rest. Pacific Islands is also remodeling the apartments with new paint jobs, new appliances, new lighting fixtures. Even the carports have been repainted and new street signs are blue with white lettering. Sure the rent's gone up a bit because of this since the last time we lived there, but one of their new policies is that if they either spot someone who hasn't picked up after their dog, or one of their neighbors tattles on them, they're charged $50. I hope this will lead to a policy about smoking inside the apartments, especially considering the hefty investments they've made in the remodeling. One of our new neighbors, across from our building, smokes on her patio. So be it. She has 11 grandchildren and is quite the formidable matriarch. She's earned it, and it's not that often during the day. Plus, there's significant space between the front door of our new apartment and her patio.

It's in this setting that I hope Pulse 96.7 comes in clearly. I don't go to nightclubs in Las Vegas, I don't attend DJ shows, I've never been to the monstrously profitable Electric Daisy Carnival at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway. But I love the music. It expands my imagination. I've loved it since the mid-'90s, listening to Power 96 in South Florida when I was in middle school.

Even putting the transience aside, this town is hard to get used to at times, still after two years, because people aren't that open, maybe because of the transience. But I need some stability now, especially after the year of Green Valley Country Club having to fix the overhead air-conditioning unit 11 times (they're awful about fixing anything here), and it crapping out the evening before the hottest day of the year. We had to fight with them on the phone to get them to come fix it the very next morning, and they did. It took about 4 hours after 9 a.m. hit and they began work. There were a lot of soaked t-shirts in order to keep cool, a lot of spraying our two dogs and two finches with water to keep them cool, and it's why I'm used to summer here now. Not just tolerating it. Used to it. I know even moreso what to expect when those temperatures hit the high 90s and well over 100. I can live with it now, hopefully with better air conditioning this summer. But then, the air conditioning units are far better at Pacific Islands, since they're on the ground and not ridiculously overhead, so I know it'll work, just like it did last time.

Add to that the leaking shower faucet in the bathroom my dad and I use, and having to move from the first-floor unit of a two-floor apartment building across the street here because the upstairs neighbors were very loud, and the kids in the neighborhood used to scream around the grass across from our three windows, and they even used our car as a scooter ramp, scratching it. Thankfully, the insurance covered that, but we couldn't handle it over there. Unfortunately, we traded all that for a drafty unit. Terrible in winter, whereas the previous apartment actually held heat, and when it rained, you couldn't hear the rain at all.

So yeah, I'd like some actual stability, and I think it starts not only with the fact that this is the last place for us here in Henderson, but with music that I've always loved and have never been able to find easily here until now. Online, sure, but I don't like to be on the computer all the time. Being that there's no hill after Green Valley and Robindale, hopefully that will help in Pulse 96.7 coming in clearly. For now, I will listen through the static. I will make it the station I wake up to every morning until we leave for Pacific Islands and hope that I can make it the station I wake up to every morning over there. Recovery from moving. Recovery from having moved five times in a little over three years. Time to start living again. Music that I've always loved and should listen to more, and a new apartment to actually live in, to decorate the right way for us (instead of all these boxes, which we're finally going to get rid of), is a proper start.

Thursday, December 31, 2015

New Year, New Me?

Maybe. At least a first novel, which I've begun writing after so many months of hemming and hawing. And I hope to write more here, as I have all the more reason to, what with the novel and the book reviews I still write for BookBrowse. I want more outlets, and this is a good one to continue.

Monday, November 16, 2015

The Center of the Las Vegas Universe

The center of the Las Vegas universe is not the Bellagio fountains. It's not the marbled entrance to Caesars Palace. It's not even any part of my beloved Cosmopolitan, despite many of its unsettling changes under new ownership (UFC-style fights in The Chelsea? It worked better solely as a classy music venue).

To find the center of the Las Vegas universe, you have to enter the Miracle Mile Shops just outside the parking garage entrance nearest to the doors that open onto the hallway that leads to the Saxe Theater. Just past the eggshell-colored shutters, on the left side, you'll find an unusual sight, a calm oasis. You'll find Street Corner News.

At this tiny hole-in-the-wall, with just enough room to walk past the racks of snacks up to the refrigerated cases full of whatever bottled concoction you want, there are some magazines as well, and when I was there a few months ago, the proprietor said that they used to sell books, but no one was buying, so they stopped selling. The two most popular places to buy books in Southern Nevada are still the Barnes & Noble on Stephanie Street here in Henderson, and Hudson News in Concourse D at McCarran International Airport. The former because once in a while, you discover a book that you need right then and there, that you just have to pay full price for just to have it (On October 21, when the USA Today was published with the Back to the Future Part II wraparound cover, and I'd reserved a copy at that Barnes & Noble, I found Out on the Wire: Uncovering the Secrets of Radio's New Masters of Story with Ira Glass by Jessica Abel), and the latter because some people like to browse and find a magazine or a book that can help them ignore their flight. The last time I went to McCarran, I was impressed by the sheer quality of magazines, and the books, too. Hudson News really respects readers.

The most important feature at Street Corner News at the Miracle Mile Shops, what makes it the center of the Las Vegas universe is an iced tea dispenser called Miami Iced Tea. I'm a Florida native, but it wasn't the Miami part that drew me to it. I always seek great iced tea. I hope for it. I crave it. And just like the water dispensers in the MGM Grand hotel lobby toward the beginning of the summer, this one also had lemon slices and orange slices pressed against the glass, holding back the onslaught of iced tea absorbing their flavors.

If you're feeling overwhelmed in Las Vegas and you need a breather, this is where you go. Vegas barely allows these moments, and should be treasured even more than some of the awesome sights here, such as....that Walgreens! And that one over there! And that one being built as the largest one ever in the history of the Las Vegas universe! And of course the one downtown!

Of course, there's more than that. But that iced tea dispenser, and a peaceful, slow stroll around the Miracle Mile Shops--returning to Street Corner News for refills at various intervals--can do wonders in restoring the equilibrium of frazzled tourists. Residents, too. I want to go back there some time soon.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

September? Already?

In the interim between when I posted and now, it has become September. And I've been busy. Perhaps not too busy to post, but I haven't had the interest over the summer to do so since it was so hot, although this was the first summer in three in Southern Nevada that I've finally learned to at least tolerate the season. That was helped along by the air conditioning going out in my family's apartment the night before the hottest day of the year.

Fortunately, we made enough noise that we were pushed to the top of the list the next day for repairs and even though it was unbearable, even with soaking t-shirts and having lots of water in many different ways (including splashing oneself), I finally began to understand the heat here. You can't fight it, but you can protect yourself enough against it so that it doesn't become as monstrous as it usually is. More water, certainly, but also not putting so much stock in it, like worrying about how hot it's going to get. It's the summer. It's what it is. At least in the winter, you can be outside for a few minutes longer if you're bundled up enough. I'm going to be learning that soon enough.

And the reason I'm going to be learning that soon enough is that I finally got a job at an elementary school here in Henderson, close enough to my own neighborhood! Of course, that will change when we move from our current residence back to where we used to live last year, and then I'll be even closer to this elementary school, although the closeness is debatable. But consider this: Right now, in the mornings, I take the bus to just after the small Green Valley and Silver Springs intersection, across the street from Pacific Islands, which is where we're moving back to early next year, if not sooner, depending on if our current apartment complex will let us out of our lease owing to mold and other issues inside this apartment. We've contacted a few other people to see if it can be done, including the Office of the Ombudsman here in Nevada, which seems to oversee apartrment complexes as well.

Anyway, taking the bus to Green Valley and Silver Springs, I walk to the Green Valley and Silver Springs intersection, cross it, then walk to the Green Valley and Robindale intersection, and cross the street to Robindale. It's a little over a mile to my school, which lately has been 25 minutes. Sometimes I get to time it, and sometimes the music teacher picks me up on the way, usually about a half mile there. I'm becoming more and more well known in this school, and it's the kind of school where everyone is amenable toward everyone else. It's nice to work in this kind of atmosphere.

The job is what I've wanted for so long: I'm a library aide! Every single day, I get to work in a library, and the Friday before last was Staff Development Day across the entire school district, so not only were there no students that day, but teachers and specialists alike went to meetings elsewhere, including my librarian, so it was the first time I had a library all to myself that wasn't at home! I nearly counted my two weeks and a handful of days as a substitute library aide at Rowe Elementary two school years ago, when that school didn't have a librarian in the budget, so the library aide ran everything. However, in that case, I only had the library to myself in the morning. This was an entire day! And it went way too fast.

I love my new library. The nonfiction section is in the central part of the library, right when you walk in, and it surrounds the tables in the middle and the storytime rug area to the right. Then on the other side of the library is the rest of the nonfiction section on the left, the fiction section on the upper right, and the picture books on the lower right. There's also room on the top of the stacks to put books that might be interesting for the kids, so I also have a lot of fun doing that. And unlike volunteering every Saturday morning at the Green Valley Library, nobody changes my picks. It's all my own. They've all gotten a fair amount of traction, and I'd say that at least 10 books that I put up top were checked out. A good average. Tomorrow, since the first period of the day in the library is a prep period, I'm going to take down all the books and replace them with others. I've come up with a method in which the three books on top of each section of the stacks represents the three sets of shelves in those sections. So the first book represents the first shelf, the second book the second shelf, and the third book the third shelf. It makes it easier not to have to put a book away in a section far away from that particular part of the stack.

Plus, this week, the Scholastic Book Fair begins on Friday, and everything needed for the Book Fair is being delivered on Wednesday. There'll be a lot of boxes to open up, and a lot of books to put on the rolling metal bookcases provided. I can't wait to see what appears for sale besides what was advertised on the Book Fair DVD shown to the students, as well as what was in the flyer.

I'm also still writing book reviews, which is always worthwhile, and still reading, of course. This is only the beginning, I'm sure, and I'm not only glad to have this job, but also to see where it will take me.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Four-Day Fantasy Bliss

Today, I volunteered at the Green Valley Library, an unusual day for me to do it, because the library's closed tomorrow, Saturday, Sunday and Monday. It's always closed Sunday and Monday because that's how it's been ever since I got here, and probably even before, during the economic crash which caused two branches to be closed (the Malcolm branch and the Galleria branch, inside the Galleria at Sunset mall), and then hours were scaled back. More recently, albeit many, many months ago, hours were taken from the Green Valley and Gibson branches in order to open the Paseo Verde branch, the flagship branch, on Mondays. So instead of the Green Valley Library opening at 9:30 a.m., it opens at 10. There were other changes in the operating hours, but I've long forgotten what they were.

Normally, I volunteer on Saturdays, but that was impossible this week. And yet, I wish I could. I wish I had keys to the library, access to the alarm codes so I could spend the 4th of July weekend there. The library would be entirely empty and only for me. I would probably have breakfast on the way there, and bring lunch with me. Of course, I could spend all day and all through the night in the Green Valley Library, but I do have family in humans and dogs and birds alike, so I couldn't be away for that long. I'd let some time pass before returning, to build up the anticipation again.

I'd walk in through the back door, put my stuff down behind the circulation counter, and shelve whatever still needs to be shelved, any holds that might be left on that cart and certainly books sitting on the carts nearest the fiction side of the library. That would take all of 20 minutes to a half hour, depending on the workload.

I wouldn't turn on any of the computers. That wouldn't make any sense to me, because I'd be there for the library, not for the accompanying technology. I love the DVD section, the nonfiction DVDs on one side and the movies and TV shows on the other, and of course the audiobooks, but I would only want the books, and enough light in which to read whatever I'd want, whatever I could find. It would be the perfect setting in which to read Country, Danielle Steel's latest novel, which I only want to read because part of it takes place at the Wynn here in Las Vegas, and I want to see how she portrayed it (It has absolutely NOTHING to do with my mom being a huge Danielle Steel fan when I was growing up, and me reading a good number of her novels in turn, out of curiosity). But on the Claim Jumper shelves, which has copies of books that have a long number of holds, these copies available only at this particular library, there's no copy of Country. Disappointing, but I move on.

There's a shiny, squashy brown leather armchair in front of the new books for children, next to the separate children's area. I think I'd spend most of my hours there, as it's very close to the reading recliner I have at home. But most important to me is getting to know the collections completely, all the books I probably have missed while restocking the various displays in the library as a volunteer, all the DVD titles I haven't seen yet that could be intriguing for some other time, and knowing all the picture books there truly are in this library, because those shelves are packed tightly There are some books that when you pull them out, two try to come out with them, either on one side or on opposite sides.

I'm not sure what books I would want to read. Part of me would just want to read in the spur of the moment, and another part of me wonders what Nero Wolfe mystery novels they have that I might have missed. There was an omnibus I had read, but I think that's the only major one there. And yet, there are also the Robert Goldsborough continuations, of which the library has a few. Perhaps it would be time to try them again. But there's also presidential history, and one or two movie books I haven't gotten to yet, and Bob Stanley's history of pop music ("Yeah! Yeah! Yeah!: The Story of Pop Music from Bill Haley to Beyonce") and....and.....and.....

Then there's also the thought of what books would be in the spirit of spending four days alone in this library, books to represent in print the blissful peace I'd feel, great comfort, quiet eagerness, amazement at how many books there actually are when you have them all to yourself. I'm sure the books and other materials would want some rest during these four days, time to themselves, but I think a caretaker like me would not be a bother. Not every book gets attention when patrons are browsing. I would do my very best to give each one attention, even if it's only in lingering passing, to at least notice it. Overall, they make up a relatively hefty collection, but in getting specific with them, they're merely themselves, one after the other, each one with different stories to try, and ideas to explore. For example, I have my religion. It's books and libraries. But I'd want to see exactly how many books there are about Buddhism in the library, which I've been curious about for anthropological reasons. Also because there are times when I do feel monkish, when I would love to have a library as a monastery. I did that once, at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences' Margaret Herrick Library in Beverly Hills, when I was doing research for a book that may never happen. It truly is an American monastery and heaven for a movie buff like me. I would want to see if I could capture that same monastic feeling in a library that truly serves a whole community, not just a piece of one. I think I could. Sadly, I can't live in a library (although my room sometimes come close), so this would be the next best thing.

(Speaking of that, I can now reveal this: Two weeks ago, I was hired to be the new library aide at Cox Elementary, which is in the general vicinity of my neighborhood and is very much the next best thing. I finally get to do what I want to do! I hope that this will lead to doing even more of what I want to do, which is simply to contribute everything I can give to libraries through my work for them. I should think a year and a half of volunteering at the Green Valley Library while waiting on a position there (the part-time shelver position would be enormously convenient because it would boost me to nearly 40 hours a week), and the year and a half I spent as a substitute everything in the school district, including a great many stints as a substitute library aide show that already. My new job will show it even more.)

In reality, I will never be able to get into the Green Valley Library during this July 4th weekend. My imagination will do it for me throughout the days.