Thursday, October 29, 2009


The residue of feelings from what might have been is still somewhat in my body, less in my shoulders now and more around my heart, where I'm sure it'll fade. It hasn't left my mind, which is still mulling over it and trying to figure out what I was after.

It happened in a dream, either in between more dreams about a variation on Walt Disney World (with robot arms on the monorail track putting a monorail train together in front of a crowd), or before those. I had an idea for a novel. Not an idea to work out over time. A full, workable idea complete with well-drawn characters, confidence in plot, mood, the crux of each chapter, and above all, my ability to write it. At one point, I thought I had woken up after the dream, but I was still asleep. And when I woke up, I was still very much aware of what had happened, and mentally beat myself up over not being able to remember any of what that novel would have contained. I knew I could have done it. Had I remembered, had I written it all down, I could have worked on the outline today, finished it, and began writing the first few pages tomorrow. I was that sure of what my subconscious mind had worked out. I don't know if it would have been a bestseller. But right then, I didn't care about that. I wanted to write it. That's all that mattered. I knew I would have been interested in it all the way through the days it would have taken to write it.

I'm sitting here right now, thinking about when it all was clear, and I'm so vastly disappointed. That idea was right there. I don't want to search for it through pieces of other dreams; I wanted all of it whole. I'm mildly comforted by my mind actually being able to come up with a story idea that would have worked, so maybe there'll be something that sparks when I'm awake, but still, I would have liked to have it to work on right now.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Tuesday: The Understandable Bitch

I know it wasn't your direct doing, Tuesday. No one can control nature (though some try), not even days of the week.

But this fierce northerly wind, which, according to the NOAA website, at 3:36 p.m. in my area, was at 37 mph sustained, with 55 mph gusts, had to be your plan. I was having a half-decent dream this morning, involving old haunts in Florida, when I was jolted awake at 10-something, my subconscious mind suddenly becoming aware of today's weather. I've never liked the wind in Southern California, especially when there's no rain to accompany it, and you know that. Right now, outside the window next to the computer, I can hear the leaves on that tree being battered fairly regularly. It settles for a few moments and then the wind's voice gets louder.

Oh, and I'm sure you know how much I love my next-door neighbor's windchimes, which remind me when I'm in bed of how heavy the wind is. I sometimes wish for a gust strong enough to blow them to the floor of their patio, but then remind myself of that kind of damage and I immediately rescind that desire. The lesser the wind, the better for me, but that's not how it is today.

I understand your need for this wind today. You're an ignored day of the week. People intimately know Saturday and Sunday because that's the weekend. Monday is famously reviled because people have to go back to work. Wednesday is hump day, which makes people think about the Friday coming up. Thursday is that one day before Friday which people endure because they know Friday is next.

But you? Tuesday? What distinction do you have among the days of the week? You're another day of work; you're another day of ho-hum, following Monday. You really don't have anything going for you. Sure, people might think of you in relation to what's on TV in the evening, but that's also done for Mondays, Wednesdays, Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, especially for Tivo purposes. So I can understand the wind. Right now, the National Weather Service has a high-wind warning in my area in effect until 6 a.m. tomorrow. Yesterday, it was until 11 a.m. It may please you, but you must also remember that you're done at midnight. Wednesday takes over the wind, and how appropriate that it begins to slow down during the morning, and lets people not worry about it (though I suspect I might be one of the very few to worry, being that I'm not a native of Southern California and have not fully gotten used to this), and begin to think about the Friday to come. Sheesh. You lose either way, huh? The winds are set to become more powerful tonight, so you have some notable command to come, as the hours feel like they go so slow during these events, but as of this moment, you only have 7 hours and 3 minutes left to enjoy it. Meanwhile, I'll be working tonight (I hope) on that book, maybe finishing the fact-based portion of my essay on Dorothy Dandridge, anticipating enough time after I'm done for one or two episodes of Black Books, which came from Netflix today. The only time you'll even enter my thoughts is when I hear the wind next to me while I'm on the computer. Then you settle for a moment or two, at least from my vantage point, and I forget you again. But, It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown is on ABC tonight, so you'll be ignored during that too. With all of this, I understand why you are the way you are right now.

(The latest readings came in from the National Weather Service at 4:36 p.m: 42 mph sustained, 56 mph gusts. I hope it stays that way for the rest of the evening and doesn't get worse, but knowing your attitude, that's probably not possible.)

Saturday, October 24, 2009

This is a Friday Night

Come with me. I want you to see this. It's high up in this part of Canyon Country. Just wait until we turn the corner into the parking lot at La Mesa Junior High, my dad's school. Here, he's the computer and business education teacher. Fine work for him, and with having worked 19 years for Southern Bell, which then became BellSouth and was bought up by AT&T years later, he has real-world experience hopefully invaluable to the students he teaches. The technology changes, business practices change, but I think the basics he puts forth every year, such as writing a resume, a business letter, e-mails, they will always remain important.

Yes, here we are! Let me park in my dad's spot in the third row farthest from this awe-inspiring view. Good. Ok, out we go.

Closer to the fence now. Look at that. All those lights. When we moved here six years ago, I never imagined any part of the Santa Clarita Valley could look this beautiful. I imagined so with parts of L.A., such as the skyline, the inside of Union Station, the area surrounding Staples Center, the Walt Disney Concert Hall. That was all confirmed for me over time. But this view, this constantly delivers. Just imagine all the neighborhoods, all the small stores, all the big-box stores within all that you're seeing. I've never tried to learn exactly what areas we're looking at. Not that it reduces the potential for imagination for me, thinking about what those people under those lights might be doing at this moment, but it never seemed necessary in all the time I've lived in this valley. I'm not sure if one of those clusters might be the shopping center where Big Lots is, as well as the groomer we once took our dogs to. There's also a barbecue restaurant there suitable for a once-in-a-while visit. We don't go to Los Angeles every Friday night to find something to do, not with trying to keep the miles low on our PT Cruiser so we can have those miles when we're driving around Las Vegas and Henderson, exploring further and finding the house we want when it comes time to move there. I like it here for Friday nights anyway. All of the valley feels hushed. It's as if it acknowledges the stresses of the past week for its population and adopts a feeling that adds to the relaxation of the residents, indeed if those residents feel like relaxing. Most do, I'm sure.

Now, to get onto the campus. I'm hoping the custodians are about in various classrooms, cleaning. Here we go, past the Multi-Purpose Room, or MPR, as they call it. There's a stage in there, but hardly used for anything. No plays, no musical performances. It would cost more to have anything here in the evening, and the district doesn't have a whole lot of money.

There are two doors there as we approach this gate to our right. The one directly in front of us leads into the gym. The one to its right is where the custodians hang out, also where all their supplies are. It's locked, so they must be around the school, but look at this! This heavy, black-painted gate is ajar. There's enough room to get in.

In front of us is the courtyard. This is where the kids gather every morning. That door to our immediate right is where they keep an ice cream machine, pretzel storage unit, and I think there's something for nacho cheese. There's also lockers for the campus supervisors, and a desk. To our left are the boys and girls bathrooms. One of the assistant principals has an obsession with graffiti in them and it's a good obsession, but it also involves a camera. Every time she gets wind of graffiti in the bathrooms, out she goes from her office to the bathroom with a camera. She prefers strong photographic evidence. Best for when the artist is caught and brought in.

To our right in a line is the small cubbyhole-like room where they keep the brooms for sweeping after brunch and lunch, all the litter that never found the way to the garbage cans. After that, the side entrance to the MPR and the door to its left is to get into the kitchen. Tight space in that kitchen. There's no proper cafeteria in this school. The kids eat outside during brunch and lunch. When I was in 11th and 12th grade at Hollywood Hills High School, I remember that there was a cafeteria, but never used it. I preferred one of the benches outside, with a book.

Before we go where I want us to be, since the sun is beginning to noticeably set, let's stand right here, in front of these three long steps, leading up to what sometimes serves as an outdoor stage area. Most of the time, kids sit in that area, eating lunch. This wide rectangle of grass in front of us is called the quad. To the left over there is one pathway with classrooms on either side, in the middle are a set of classrooms and to the right are more classrooms. The office, if you face to the right, is that set of double doors right there, right where that golf cart is parked and further down is the library and my dad's classroom.

We'll walk past the middle section of classrooms since it'll get us faster to where we have to be for this. There's science teachers, English teachers, history teachers, and other teachers spread out all over. Don't worry about that open door. That custodian doesn't even see us. I haven't been here in so long as a substitute campus supervisor that I don't think they'd recognize me at first glance.

Yes, right through that small gate. The cars that usually park alongside this sidewalk are long gone. This is where I went to all the time when I was a substitute campus supervisor. I'd bring a book and if the radio was quiet, no calls for students to be escorted to the office, I would sit here and read. This is where I discovered Nero Wolfe in Fer-de-Lance. I'm him in being content with not going out at all. I think there were two or three other books I read during the time of my temporary work, but I don't remember what they were.

Now, to this fence right here. Stand right there. See that? That set of houses pressed against that lonely foothill? Now look to your right. Just a road leading into and out of this one area. That's it. Yes, it was surprising to me too at first. I couldn't imagine anyone living in such isolation, but they do. Not to be bothered by anyone. I bet there's not even a homeowner's association because they probably take care of things by themselves. No need to consort with neighbors on any matter. I've watched cars drive out and drive in during the mornings and sometimes there are plumbing trucks and delivery trucks. The usual assortment of vehicles for a given day, just more noticeable in this microcosm.

In the daytime, there's far less movement. But I'm curious about the movement in the nighttime. By now I'm sure two or three people in this neighborhood have come home. I'm sure the rest are on the way or they've already come home by the time we've come here and have already gone back out with wives and family, if that. For those that are still at home, I wonder if they're going out later, if there's any shopping to do, or a restaurant they've wanted to try, or a movie tonight that warrants breaching those crowds. Two movie theaters here only: Edwards Valencia 12 and Edwards Canyon Country 10.

If you want to sit for a minute back there on that sidewalk, that's fine. Or if you want to see what this view looks like from other vantage points, that's fine too. To me, this is a Friday night. Later, maybe, we'll go down there and see what the school looks like from down there, see if it's easy to spot. I should think it is. When I first saw these houses, I wondered why anyone would want to live below a school. It's similar to when I wondered why anyone would want to live in those houses overlooking one of the parking lots at College of the Canyons. But in the case of these houses, it's quiet, as you see.

I was curious, that's why. I saw these houses during the day, sat there, sometimes ignoring calls from the radio because I wanted to finish a chapter in whatever book I was reading, or I was watching a delivery truck back out from that cul-de-sac. Sometimes a water delivery truck stops by. You see, on various websites devoted to the Santa Clarita Valley, the same names appear. And they all seem to espouse the idea that this valley is a community. It's not. Only they're the community. Besides them, I think there are probably 100 or 200 more like them, but that's it. This valley is 275,000 people. Most don't care about the machinations at City Hall or those trying unsuccessfully to run for a seat on the City Council, or any of the programs City Hall tries to promote. Most, I think, don't want to live in Los Angeles, so they live here. They don't mind commuting every day to L.A. On the weekends, they'll go to certain parts for whatever they want. But they live here because they don't want the pressure of Los Angeles, and that's perfectly understandable. But a community? No. Just a number of people with the same zealous beliefs to spout off about as often as possible. To me, this valley has always been the backwoods of Los Angeles. But this kind of hidden-away neighborhood has always fascinated me. What those rooting and hooting for Santa Clarita have never understood is that there's no overall community, as they'd like to be. There's only sub-communities. Neighborhoods, mutual interests, but nothing with such togetherness for everybody. And that's fine. This seems like the kind of valley to have that. The San Fernando Valley is even more spread out than this and it's hard to imagine even sub-communities existing, outside of the porn industry there.

Ah, there we go. Two cars pulling out. Italian restaurant? A movie? Some supermarket shopping? Maybe the Valencia Town Center Mall, though I could never understand why. That BJ's restaurant, maybe. But that mall has no vitality. Every other store touts clothing, and the bookstore closed long ago. That's my favorite store, which may be why I've never been keen on going to that mall often. There's nothing there to my taste. Compared to the malls in Moreno Valley and elsewhere, our mall is made up of nothing special or worthy of repeat visits.

To me, this is one of the rare spots. If you pass by enough tract housing as you drive by other areas, there's no imagination to it. There's nothing to consider about the people who live there. But there are a few stories remaining for the writers who look for them, such as here. I've always wondered if there's one resident who sits on his driveway in a patio lounge chair, just looking up at the night sky. Living right next to that foothill, there's less lights, so certainly the view has to be better than it is here with these lights on behind us.

Quiet tonight. No other cars pulling out. Guess it's a night in for most of these people. Seems reasonable. They've seen enough road during the week, in the early morning and in the late afternoon, so why would they want even more road? Seems like the only other time they would is on a vacation to somewhere. Tivo catch up, book catch up, seems like better ideas than spending more money than necessary and perhaps regretting it later. Plus there's also the Farmer's Market at College of the Canyons in the morning. Every Saturday. Or Saturday is simply the better day to run necessary errands. You start in the morning, you get home in the late afternoon or the early evening, and the trunk's filled with things from the supermarket, from Target, from Wal-Mart, wherever what one needs can be found and less money can be spent. Sundays...well, it's football season, isn't it? Or nearing football season?

It's peaceful here. That's why I've always liked it. It's away from all the other noise of the world. For me, it was away from the noise of the schoolday. I only really worked at my job when it was brunch and lunchtime later. All the kids are out in force then and supervision is necessary. Otherwise, why overextend yourself? Didn't do much for me when I was here. But as long as I got that spot behind us and a book to spend some of the day reading, I was happy. And unlike when I worked futilely at The Signal, I took no work home with me when I left for the day. I made sure my timecard was filled out and I left. The little left of the afternoon and the coming evening were all mine.

Time to go, I guess. I'm always reluctant to leave this. Oh, I've got other places to go, just not right now. Yet, I know that I probably shouldn't spend the rest of my evening here. You're probably tiring of it too. Nothing else to see. Salads being tossed in kitchens, lasagna being put into the oven, garlic bread being made, steaks sizzling in pans. That's a good idea, actually. Something to eat. I'm tempted to take you over to that barbecue restaurant I mentioned, but I think BJ's feels right for tonight. They have their own beers, if you feel inclined, their own root beer too. Have you ever tried a Pizookie? Nothing to shout about from the top of Samurai Summit at Six Flags Magic Mountain, but it feels like the right kind of dessert for right now. Have whatever you like. A steak, one of their nicely made sandwiches, a salad if you like. I'm buying.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Little Pleasures That Make Any Given Day More Inviting

- Twining's Cold-Brew Lady Grey tea. My favorite kind, now also sold in cold-brew bags. Very convenient, particularly during the summer months, though this came out after summer was over. Still, I love having it and will probably keep buying it even in winter, provided they still stock it in winter. And why not? I'm sure some people eat ice cream in winter.

- Hungry-Man fried chicken TV dinner. Jeopardy! comes on, and I go to the dining room table (which is merely the right side of the living room if you're sitting on the couch against the wall on the left, if you're sitting at my place at the dining room table), and there is microwaved satisfaction, three pieces of fried chicken with some crunchiness from the skin. I love turning each piece over, seeing what they offer, which is big enough for me. To me, it's hearty, good-natured simplicity. There's mashed potatoes and corn, and that's easy. The corn goes right into the mashed potatoes, stuffed right in there. The brownie's always been a downer to me. Not that I don't like it. It's chocolate and that says enough. But it always felt to me like they should attempt a cobbler. Apple, peach, just something. Looking at reviews of the meals online, this one had an apple-cranberry crumb dessert in 2007. Now it's a Duncan Hines brownie and I could see why they went with that because first, there's a deal to be made in product placement, and since Duncan Hines makes the brownies, that's one less thing the company has to make and it saves them money. Maybe a cobbler would be asking too much. Besides, whomever pops this in a microwave either doesn't have much time to think about what a better alternative dessert would be, or doesn't care, because it's the end of the day and there's some sitcoms coming on to carry a stressed mind away from the source of that day's stress. I wasn't raised in the true South, but in Florida, I grew up on grits and cobbler. It's just how I think.

- Tortilla chips - This only cropped up again recently. My three favorite foods are fettucine alfredo, quesadillas, and nachos. Fettucine alfredo is always at the top. Doesn't matter if it's with chicken or without. Quesadillas and nachos always fight over the second spot. If my sister makes quesadillas, then nachos have to sit in third place. If the nachos are Cheesecake Factory nachos, then quesadillas have a long way down after they've been pushed. I got into tortilla chips again just to have the basic beginning of nachos. I tried Trader Joe's yellow, organic tortilla rounds and those were very salty. I liked them, but I'd also forgotten that tortilla chips can be had without the salt. In getting tortilla chips from Ralph's (some anonymous brand for $2), I forgot that again, but intend to get them without salt next time. Maybe some salsa too. To me, the crunch of a tortilla chip is far more convincing than that of a potato chip, which always sounds too busy. The crunch of a tortilla chip is decisive. One bite and it's loud.

My pleasures are not only food. Those are temporary moments. Live the moment and then it's gone, being churned into goop and glop and energy and more glop in places unseen, and designs unknown, at least until the next time you enter the bathroom.

There's also:

- Books. General, I know. I love opening different books and finding voices from all around the world. I'm reading "The Tracey Fragments" right now (because it's due again this Sunday (my local library's also open every Sunday from 1-5 p.m.) and I've a feeling someone else has it on hold), and the author, Maureen Medved, is Canadian. I love reading writers from the South, I love reading David Sedaris, I love when a voice emerges that you never imagined could be possible in words. I love disappearing for hours at a time into paragraphs, not at all intimidated by there possibly not being paragraph breaks for pages at a time. I just like to disappear into other words for a while. Not necessarily words. Sometimes a semi-colon in the middle of a wide-ranging thought is enough for me.

- Being out on the patio at 2 a.m. Just to stand outside, look over the wall at the community pool and the still spa, the few lights still on on the mountainside with dozens of houses, the uniform plant life around the area, the trucks parked in the neighborhood lot that I can see from my vantage point, imagining that I own them for those few hours, and especially the stars, which, with less lights now than there were at the condominium in South Florida, I can see more clearly and can easily make out the Big Dipper and the Little Dipper. And sometimes I just like to connect the stars with no thought toward constellations.

More of my little pleasures soon.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

"I Want to Flyyyyy Awaaaaay; Yeah, Yeah, Yeaaaaahhhhhh."

Chippy and Chloe, two of our finches, their kind wasn't meant to be caged, or they hadn't been sufficiently domesticated when we got Chippy, who was a baby then, and who didn't mind being in a cage. He didn't have a clear sense of his world yet. Feather-growing and getting stronger were more crucial.

Over the past few weeks, Chippy was more vocal than ever, nipping at Chloe, she nipping back, squawking and squawking when they fought. It scared our dog Kitty (part miniature pinscher, part terrier), who would walk low past their cage (which was between my finch Jules on the right, and my sister's finch Ducky on the left) into one of our rooms because she didn't like the violent noise.

It was apparent even months ago that we had to do something, but it didn't go as far as it did until today. When I woke up this afternoon, I went out to the living room and found Chippy and Chloe's cage gone. Mom, who had found Chippy in a pet store and bought Chloe some time after, had gone to the patio in the morning, opened the cage door, and they bolted into nature. Mom was still broken up about this when I had found her in the living room, because she had also considered possibly finding Chloe a new home, and keeping Chippy, who was her favorite. But these finches' nature could not be quelled. They belonged to the wild. They had obviously been captured from the wild and brought to whichever pet store Mom had found them at. Despite having a moderate number of birds over the years, I'm no expert on birds or breeds of birds, but I posit this: If someone had intended to domesticate whatever breed of finch Chippy and Chloe were, it would take some generations of hatchings. The first group would get used to being in a cage, if that, the second group would be a bit shaky, but would become accustomed, and I think only when the third group came along would you have a breed that was used to that life. When we cleaned the cages of Chippy and Chloe, Ducky, and Jules, we wouldn't have any trouble removing the cage from the tray when we'd begin cleaning Ducky's and Jules's cages. We'd lift and set the cages on the dining room table with newspaper on it, and they'd sit on the perches while they were being lifted and set, no problem.

But with Chippy and Chloe, we needed the portable fan to keep them inside. We turned it on, made sure they were sufficiently planted against the other side of the cage, lifted quickly and set it down quickly. Truly, that should have been the first indication that they didn't belong in a cage. But how were we to know? These were Mom's birds. She wanted them, so there they were in this row of cages

Now that middle cage is gone and there's a direct path for Kitty to her pink couch, set against the glass covering of the fireplace we never use. Her stuffed dogs are there, and so's her Abby Cadabby doll.

Personally, Chippy and Chloe's swift departure has not left me as torn as Mom, but I do wonder where they are. I hope they're safe, I hope Chippy's incredibly happy now, and I hope that they've found another group of wild finches to quickly ingratiate themselves with, maybe have a few little ones of their own. I don't know if they were that way in their cage, but why not in their natural habitat? And I know they might not even be together, that maybe they flew their separate ways, but hopefully they found something. I went out onto the patio an hour and a half ago, looking out at the community pool, looking further out at the trees and the dark mountainside rife with houses side by side, and I thought about where they might be. I hope in a small way that maybe they'll fly back our way, sit on the ledge of our patio, just letting us know that they're ok. But being that they were in a cage for all the time they were with us, I doubt they know the way back here. Like Ducky, Chippy and Chloe were never near a window in their cage. Maybe they saw things from the side of their cage, but not fully.

I'm not sure I really miss them. Granted, the routine of refilling the birds' water dishes is taking less time now with one less to refill, and I only have to refill two food dispensers now, but for the time they were here, there was a comfort to me in having them there. There was a routine to which I was contributing, giving them what they needed, and it felt good. Ducky and Jules are still here, so I still have it, but they contributed a little bit to the centering of my world in times when it was trying. It still is, of course, life always is, but they were there and I appreciated that.
But we had to make a decision. We didn't want Kitty to be scared from them fighting, and she, to be honest, is far more important to us than Chippy and Chloe. Being that she was a rescue dog from Alaska (abandoned in the extreme cold and vicious when first found; on her first night with us after we picked her up from Bob Hope Airport in Burbank, she slept alone on the couch, but she soon got used to us and now she is one of the great good things in our world, along with our other dog Tigger), she's still jittery from many things, despite living with us for a number of years now, and this was one of them.

Strangely, my finch Jules was astoundingly vocal today. He actually jumped to the bottom of his cage, took out a piece of the litter and began playing with it, hopping up and down on his perch and then all around his cage, tweeting incessantly. He never did that during all the time Chippy and Chloe were with us. Mom thought he was a "couch bird," but it turns out that he must have been just as bothered by Chippy and Chloe's arguing as we eventually were.

I won't forget Chippy and Chloe. They were a part of our years here in Southern California. But you can't repress someone's true nature. Chippy and Chloe knew exactly where they were going when Mom pushed up that cage door: Out into the world that they knew so well, even if they didn't know this particular area. It's air, it's trees, it's the promise of other birds or whatever they might have been looking for in their little lives. I also face the reality that something might have happened to them already, a bigger bird snatching up one or both of them, but that's life anyway. What happens, happens. We just have to go where we feel we need to go.

Thanks you two. You did ok by me.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Jesus. What the Hell's Going On, Brain?

A suicide? In my dream? The near-heartsickness of yesterday's dream was harrowing enough, but I think this topped it. I had become enamored of a girl I met in a high-end bookstore, full of rare editions and tables filled with people talking about all kinds of literature. I spotted her at one of the tables, but it's still strange to me how I can't remember any pertinent details about her. I think the most I remember is that she was a brunette. She was also apparently a criminal, the crime unknown to me, yet totally familiar to the heavily-armed law enforcement tracking her that I encountered later on.

She kept eluding my grasp and my attempt at a conversation. I don't know exactly what I liked about her, but I wanted her, and so I followed her, running when she attempted to flee the law enforcement that had caught up to her at an apartment complex. She ran to the roof, I was on the third floor in a hallway, and I saw her jump from there, quickly passing from the roof, right by my eyes on the third, then the second, first, and blammo. Right on top of a car, smashing the roof, killing her. I remember running to the car, totally devastated at this tragic outcome, seeing only black pants and high-heel boots splayed out.

What the hell has my subconscious been taking in lately? This is the saddest any of my dreams have ever been. Mostly, I'm at some variation on Walt Disney World. It's not WDW as you know it, but I know it is, despite different rides and merchandise. Or else my dreams are about mutual attraction and the killer internal buzzing from that, as it was with yesterday's dream. This dream is totally unfamiliar to me, and I hope not to have it again. I don't even have nightmares, but I think this is as close as I'll get.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

To the Girl Walking Her Dog with a Multi-Colored Umbrella in Hand

(This isn't in the vein of those Craigslist Missed Connections ads, because this girl is nearby, though some height up from me, and there may be another time that she comes down my way when I'm outside again. Plus, there's no way she'd come upon this entry since she doesn't even know who I am, but there are some thoughts that I feel compelled to write as if she might find it.)

I finally had a dream I'd been wanting for weeks, one where I was clear of mind and emotions and knew exactly what I was saying and feeling like it was right. Basically, the person I'd like to be, but only have the courage to be in my dreams so far.

I was in some kind of a classroom, though it wasn't the kind typical of education. Something was playing on a screen and there were people around, but it seemed like so much was going on at once. Kathryn Joosten, who played Mrs. Landingham on The West Wing was sitting next to me and I thanked her profusely for her invaluable contribution to a TV series that's still my favorite, even with it having been off the air for three years.

Then, a beautiful black girl walked in and took a seat in the vertical row of desks next to mine and there was a spark between us. She felt it, because she looked at me again after she'd passed by me. I was intrigued by her because she walked with such self-confidence. She was sure of herself and the world around her and I liked that. There didn't seem to be any mucking about with her, and that's what I like.

I'm not sure if she and I talked while near each other. We might have, though I believe that based on what came next, it was brief. It may have been an introduction, it may have been a comment on the day so far, it may have just been a simple hello. But I remember that the time had come to leave that classroom and she had come up to me hoping for a more expansive conversation. I think I brushed her off indifferently, but I don't know why. My face fell when I saw her rush out with disappointment on her face and she might have been near tears. I rushed out of the classroom, leaving behind my backpack, my wallet, my cellphone. I never do that, anywhere.

I caught up to her, stopped her and first told her that I left everything behind in that classroom to quickly catch up to her, and I never do that. Then I explained straight out why I had done what I did: I was 25 years old and hadn't had a girlfriend since I was 14. I wasn't sure how to act, I wasn't sure what to do. This surprised her, but also relieved her in showing that it wasn't her personally that made me act like I did. I liked her very much too. Unfortunately at that moment, I woke up. But in that dream, I felt like my heart was soaring when I saw her, like I could make this work. It felt like there was nothing inside my body dragging me down. I could have floated.

And, as if some force of nature had sensed my disappointment in that dream ending abruptly, you were outside, walking past my neighborhood. It was raining and I had just walked both of my dogs because they hadn't been outside since early this morning. I hadn't expected it to rain like it was, thinking that the weather would have held off until early tomorrow morning, as was predicted. But there was the rain, and after seeing the garbage and recycling bin lids open outside, I knew I had to dump the water out of my family's garbage bin (the recycling bin lid was closed), and I had to do it soon.

So I did, right after drying off Tigger (part miniature pinscher, part Italian greyhound). I went to the curb and you were coming up the street, holding a multi-colored umbrella (sections of separate colors in a circle), and walking what looked like an unhappy pitbull. I glanced at you and then put the garbage bin on the ground and pulled up the bottom so the water would fall out. I put the bin back on the ground, pulled it back up and quickly closed the lid. I took the recycling bin and began to roll it back to the house. But I stopped. You intrigued me. You looked to be about my height, 5'5" or 5'6", and perhaps my age, or maybe in your late 20s. I hoped you weren't 44 years old, just to pick a random older number. I still don't know, but you looked like you were about as old as me.

You either live in the development right above mine, taking the road up there, or the one at the top of that mountainside with four houses there. After I rolled the recycling bin back into the garage, I went back out for the garbage bin (always an order: recycling bin first and then the garbage bin because it sits next to the garage door), and I saw a piece of your umbrella from where I was standing. Then, I saw you walk back down with your dog, even though it was still raining. Did you sense me looking at you? Were you possibly interested too? Did I idiotically lose yet another chance with yet another girl? If you were coming back down to complain to me about my staring, I apologize. But to see the sight of you walking your dog, with that umbrella that was happier than my own (stripes of dark colors), in noticeable, though not heavily pouring rain, it was inspiring to me. I wonder if you were out with your dog at that time because he (or she) had to go out or you just liked that weather and wanted a reasonable excuse to go outside to experience it. If the rain starts up again later this morning, I don't think I'd go outside to stand in it, even with a proper coat and umbrella. Not that I think I'd look crazy, but there's much work I have to do and I don't think there'd be another sight as enchanting as you. I don't remember seeing your face, but I think with how you were walking, interested in the rain, that I'd easily give it a chance. I don't walk my dogs in the front that often. I use the patio because it's a simulation of the terrain in Las Vegas, so my dogs are used to it when my family and I eventually move there. I didn't want to reveal that, just in case there might be a chance to get to know you and possibly more, but we've been here six years and there may not even be a job for my dad next year as a business education teacher based on how they keep talking about cutting education in this state.

If we meet each other again and talk, and if there's a connection there, I'll be disappointed only because having lived here in Saugus for five years (our first year was in an apartment in Valencia), you might have lived here around the time I moved here, and maybe even earlier, and I could have had more time with you. It would have made the days in this valley far more interesting than they usually are. And if we don't meet again, you've done well as my temporary muse. I wrote this not only to go over the event in my mind again, but also to get mentally limber to continue my share of a book project. Now I want to write that essay on James Dean just for you. I know you'll probably never read it since you don't know me or my name, but what the heck, motivation to write for you is enough for me.

I love the rain, especially after the hot, dry winds this valley endured some weeks ago, so thank you for making a bright day even brighter.

P.S.: If you were actually attracted to a guy wearing a zipped-up, thin black jacket and red sleep pants with the Dr. Pepper logo stamped all over, then I made a huge mistake in not starting a conversation with you.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Ok, It's Probably Time

To balance the sometime-stress of this book project and to have a reason to keep going so I can hopefully finish the majority of the writing by the end of the year, I'm finally going to figure out how to post pictures on here that can be clicked on and maximized. Yes, this is for the titular reason for this blog, to post those library receipts and analyze why people might have checked out what they checked out.

I tried a little bit after I started the blog and thought I'd be content with just having the scanned receipts posted as they were (hoping that you readers would be ok with squinting), but I want them as big as I see pictures on other blogs. That way, you can see every wrinkle from when I either had that receipt in my pocket or in my Two and a Half Men canvas tote bag (received when publicity was high for season 1 on DVD).

The Fumes Are Fading

When does childhood end? Is it 18, according to the law of a state, or is it when being a child has ended and becoming a teenager has taken over? I wonder about this because of some major, jarring changes in my past. I obviously still have fond memories of my past, but certain changes in those details make me wonder if childhood reaches all the way to 18, even when you're getting used to being moody and constantly horny. In March 2000, the last time my family and I spent a full day at the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World, I was 16, and I sure didn't look 16 in one of the photos my sister keeps in her scrapbook, taken at the entrance to the Ticket and Transportation Center. I look like I'm 9, not 16. 10, maybe, but that would be pushing it. In that one picture, I don't look like I grew into anything.

That day at the Magic Kingdom was the last day I rode the Tomorrowland Transit Authority in Tomorrowland. During my Grad Nite in 2002, I looked forlornly at the TTA, which was closed because they didn't want rowdy teenagers damaging anything. The same went for the Carousel of Progress, which was being used to put up photo backdrops for graduates (or future graduates; I only know that my class hadn't graduated yet) to have pictures taken and purchase them.

I loved the TTA. I loved the deep, almost robotic voice announcing what the vehicle was approaching ("NOW APPROACHING, SPACE MOUNTAIN," "NOW APPROACHING WALT DISNEY'S CAROUSEL OF PROGRESS."). I loved going past Mickey's Star Traders and as we approached Autopia from on high, hearing, "Hi there, Tomorrowland travelers, this is Mr. Johnson in Skyview Hovercraft One, bringing you the latest Tomorrowland traffic report. As usual, everything is perfect on Tomorrowland's Super Highway. Back to you in TTA Central." Every time we went to Walt Disney World, before that one day, I was always content with spending the day in Tomorrowland. I had Space Mountain, I had the Tomorrowland Transit Authority, and I had the Carousel of Progress. I didn't need anything else. My only regret is not having tried out the Timekeeper, which was closed and replaced with Monsters, Inc. Laugh Floor, installed and opened long after my family and I moved to Southern California.

I followed the Tomorrowland Transit Authority on YouTube. Once in a while I'll get bored with whatever work I'm doing and look it up on YouTube, watching onboard videos from 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, sometimes going all the way back to the video from 1991 to see what it was like then. Recently, the Tomorrowland Transit Authority reopened after sufficient time for Space Mountain to undergo refurbishment that would require use of the separate, walled-off track they have for maintenance before you enter Space Mountain. Now when the vehicles go into Space Mountain, there's a lot that's behind walls, such as views of the rollercoaster as well as of the line to board. The TTA underwent a few changes too. Multi-colored lights were installed with red shining on one part of the track, green shining on another, and blue elsewhere. I could live with that. Watching videos post-reopening, that's an improvement.

I know that theme parks will change. Attractions will be taken out, new attractions will be put in to try to attract a bigger crowd. The ExtraTERRORestrial Alien Encounter was eventually taken out because it was deemed too scary (and, to me, it was, but it contributed much to the ambience of what Tomorrowland should feel like), and replaced with Stitch's Great Escape. Based on business, I understand that.

I believe childhood does indeed end at 18, but runs on fumes until at least a few years later. While you're getting used to a bigger, more complex world, you need anchors to keep you in a state of mind conducive to understanding whatever's going on in your life. For me, one anchor was the Tomorrowland Transit Authority, but more specifically, that voice track from the overhead speakers that put you into Tomorrowland. Every video I watched, that narration was always there. And now, it's gone.

It remained after the TTA reopened, but as I've read it, the narration was changed after park closing on October 1. Now it's got one of those hyperactive voices designed to attract the attention of kids who probably already have enough trouble paying attention for a few seconds at a time. It takes you completely out of Tomorrowland by pointing out the many attractions available in Tomorrowland which is completely useless because generally, by the time you've entered Tomorrowland, you know what attractions are there, or if you don't know yet, you probably will because the TTA is not likely to be the first attraction you go on. By the time you go on TTA, you want a break from the crowds, you want to recover after waiting in line for Space Mountain, if that. The idea of the TTA is to ride above Tomorrowland, to take in a different view, to consider different perspectives, not to be told what there is to ride and see and shop at. The old track did also point out what was there, but did it just to point out where you are at that point in the ride, what you're passing over. It never pointed out Stitch's Great Escape. The area that houses Stitch's Great Escape was always called the Tomorrowland Convention Center, and it was convenient at the time of the ExtraTERRORestrial Alien Encounter too. It added more to the imagination, of the possibility of strange new lifeforms showing off whatever they wanted to show off, such as X-S Tech touting their teleportation technology. That was always the point.

I don't expect to cling to anchors all my life. I understand I'm getting older. But there are some things one might establish for themselves as standard-bearers that they hope would remain standard-bearers. For me, it was the audio track on the Tomorrowland Transit Authority that contributed greatly to the experience. It allowed me to use my imagination to fill in the rest of what Tomorrowland could be. I cherished that the most. But I guess since I am 25, 7 years removed from 18, my childhood has stopped running on fumes and has basically stopped completely.

A lesser shock, though still surprising is learning that the Muvico Paradise 24 movie theater in Davie, Florida is now Cinemark Paradise 24, after the financially-foundering chain sold it and a few other theaters to the Cinemark chain. From video I've seen, it looks like they kept the Egyptian theming, not that they had any choice, and I definitely won't have any inkling of whether there's been any change in the service there beyond the cosmetic sort. I spent a few years going to Muvico Paradise 24 every Saturday to see a few movies and write reviews of them for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel's Teentime pages (found in the back of their weekend Showtime section every Friday). I have many fond memories of it, but this change doesn't shake me as much as the TTA change.

I think maybe I wouldn't be so stunned at the audio track change if those in Imagineering had written a track in the same style as the one that lasted for years. They only had to stay within Tomorrowland, point out the attractions, but do it in a way that you're not taken out of the experience. Also, they should have employed a better voice actor. This Disney Channel-type voice is the worst for the attraction. (this is the new TTA spiel) (this is TTA with the new lighting which I wish had been installed years ago. The white lighting was nice, but I could have easily gotten used to this.)

The above link also has the old spiel.

As I said to my sister today, "It's not my Tomorrowland anymore." I should have suspected that when they tore down the Galaxy Theater, where I saw many shows from my Disney World-provided stroller. Back then we lived close enough to WDW that we went every weekend and sometimes during the week just for dinner. Some of the changes being made to the Magic Kingdom, such as a far more interactive Fantasyland (including Gaston's Tavern, the Beast's Castle for dining, activity monitors while in line for Dumbo, and the Little Mermaid ride), are beneficial, but I hope that even with the economy the way it is, some loving attention can be given to Tomorrowland. It needs more. It should have more for a generation as yet unknown that I hope will embrace Tomorrowland as I did, and I hope there are a few kids who do now. And I also hope those kids can at least ignore that inane spiel and just enjoy the experience of riding above that section of the park and into Space Mountain.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Resident Authors/Visiting Authors

Writers come to my house all the time. Granted, they're completely paralyzed up and down, glued between two covers and made up of hundreds of pages rather than flesh, bone, fingers, toes, arms, legs, and all else that makes up a human package. But they're here. Right now, Kazuo Ishiguro is in my room, perched atop a pile of issues of The New Yorker, touting "Nocturnes," five short stories he wrote, the second of which sounds a little similar to the first, but fortunately veers away from what the first was after. Craig Ferguson's on a shelf in the living room, with "American on Purpose." I know about his drug use and his first major role as Mr. Wick on "The Drew Carey Show," but I want to know more. I want him to be completely open and from what I've read elsewhere, he is. If that's the case, he'll make a fine and most welcome houseguest.

E.L. Doctorow is also here, with yet another story to tell in "Homer & Langley." He also has the distinction of being a resident author in my room, as I own a copy of "Ragtime." Most of the time, he's a guest here. I think the only writer who can truly be considered a resident is Charles Bukowski, in poetry, prose and fiction that could only be called fiction with names and some situations changed, but every word is mostly his life. He's set to drop by as a visitor for the first time in years with "Dangling in the Tournefortia," which I had read part of on, and thought about purchasing it, but was glad to find it available through the County of Los Angeles public library system. Bukowski is also residing inside one of my makeshift box bookshelves, many books behind others, and on the floor in front of my closet with "Portions of a Wine-Stained Notebook." I think I need to pull him into the light again. It's been too long since I've paged through his posthumous collection "The Night Torn Mad with Footsteps."

There's also Edmund G. Love, an appreciated resident, with "Subways Are for Sleeping," which I read while attending classes at College of the Canyons for about two years and it sustained me through both those years. I remember sitting in a booth next to a window at the back of the generally empty cafeteria, math homework open in front of me, having given up trying to make sense of any of it. I opened "Subways Are for Sleeping" and read stories of homeless people making their own kinds of homes in New York City through creative resourcefulness and resilience. A year or so ago, I kept the copy I knew I had checked out most often, from the Norwalk library branch (sent to me when I put it on hold), claimed I'd lost it while at a rest stop outside of Las Vegas, and paid $34, $29 as listed for the book, and a $5 processing fee. After the dozens of times I checked it out, I felt it truly belonged to me because during the times I had the copy from the Hawthorne branch checked out (it always depended on which branch picked up my request), the Norwalk copy always remained untouched. Nobody was interested in a basically obscure book from 1957. I felt it should have a home with me and it's here. I like to keep writers alive who may be considered unknown and therefore dead by everyone else. Alive to me at least.

I wonder about the book's origins. Where was it before it ended up at the Norwalk branch? Was the Norwalk branch open in 1957? I don't think that year matters so much because on the inside first page, there are date stamps, four of them, under "Return On or Before" and the first date is "JUL 7 1977." Maybe this copy, perhaps with a book jacket, entered the system in 1977 or maybe earlier. I wonder who it was with when I lived in Casselberry when I was little and then in South Florida when I was older. Back then, was someone as interested in this book as I am? Parallels like that always fascinate me.

I love the resident authors in my room and I enjoy the company of those visiting authors. They always have something to say, and they always give me something to think about, even if I don't like how they say what they say. There's never a shortage of varied voices here.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Where I Want to Be

Before I begin, I must say that I just pried off the plastic lid from a container of leftover gemelli pasta (a strand of pasta wrapped around itself) with mushroom alfredo sauce, sniffed it, and I now have a strong craving for my dad's tuna noodle casserole, with actual noodles, not crunchy Chinese ones.

Now, to the main subject: I am convinced absolutely of where I want to be in my life. I may have written about my desire for a career in aviation before, namely at an airport, but it hasn't felt like an overwhelming desire. I think it's because I've been so involved with this book project that I haven't been able to think fully about that forthcoming part of my life. For the past few weeks, I've pushed myself away from that book and have been able to relax. I continued work on my share of that book a few hours ago, by sending out a few e-mails pertinent to my research. Only this time, I didn't feel the same enormous pressure. I opened a Word file containing research on silent film comedian Mabel Normand and for the first time felt like I was going to get through this. It's partly because of the break I took from working day after day on this, but it's also because the manuscript deadline was extended to April, because Phil Hall, who came up with the idea for this book, has updated editions of his two previous books being published in January 2011, and he wants this book to come out at the same time.

During my desperately needed time off, the only aspect of aviation I returned to was a book-length profile of JFK airport by James Kaplan called "The Airport." I checked that book out a few months before I began this project, still uncertain of what kind of career I wanted in commercial aviation, but I figured that the book would be able to help me out, with the interviews it has with various employees in different positions. Nothing pops out yet, but I still have to read the second half of it. Last Friday night, however, I realized I was going into the right field.

Dad picked up my sister and I from Edwards Valencia 12, where we had seen the Toy Story 3D double feature. Before we went home, he had to stop at Barnes & Noble to pick up a calendar my mom wanted for the kitchen next year, and had clicked on the option on the Barnes & Noble website to pick it up at our local B&N. We went there and I wanted to see if the latest issue of The New Yorker was there, the one I'd received as the first in my subscription. Nothing there, but suddenly, I felt the urgent need to see if there were any aviation-related magazines on the shelves. The fifth set of shelves to the left revealed that there were, including one I think I hadn't seen since 1998, about a month after I attended a weeklong aviation summer camp at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach, Florida, a 30-minute flight to Orlando from Fort Lauderdale International, and then an arranged drive to Daytona Beach with a service that would take me to the campus. I loved the camaraderie among all seven of us who were there, how we immediately formed a tight bond because of our mutual passion for aviation, private and commercial. One of the attendees was already working on becoming an airline pilot and while I wasn't certain what the rest were planning to do in aviation, I knew at the time that I had first wanted to be an airline pilot, then wanted to be a mechanic, and then a mechanic for Air Force One. But I now have no desire to join the Air Force, so that's out. I do remember that when I was 11, I spent an inordinate amount of time on the computer at home in Coral Springs, looking at pictures of crash sites, mangled wreckage, and reading up a lot on the Federal Aviation Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board, thinking about perhaps seeking a job with one of those organizations. I became even more interested after the crash of ValuJet flight 592 in the Everglades in 1996, and then the 1997 crash of a Fine Air DC-8 cargo plane in Miami on a field next to the Miami City Rail Yard, right after takeoff. The cause was insecure cargo sliding to the tail portion of the plane, after which the plane stalled and crashed. I remember the huge number of news reports and I watched all I could possibly find.

The magazine I hadn't seen since 1998 was Airways, and I immediately flashed back to the particular issue that I spent hours looking at. It was from September, and it had an article on the perfect airline meal, which I read over and over, but I also looked at the many photos of airliners and other airplanes, and drooled over the advertisements for model airplanes and inflight cockpit videos. I daydreamed about what I'd buy and considered if I could convince my parents to buy me that 5-hour double VHS tape set about the Concorde, with two flights featured on it. That set is now on DVD from ITVV (Intelligent Television and Video) and I'm just waiting for them to put it into the NTSC format, which is currently out of stock on their website.

I'll put it this way: Do you perhaps remember spending hours looking at Playboy when you were sure your parents weren't around? I was the same way with that issue of Airways, with exactly the same focused interest. The issue of Airways I picked up at Barnes & Noble has a Northwest Airlines Boeing 757 taking off from a runway at McCarran International Airport, seemingly in front of the Encore. The '50s style font on the front says "Las Vegas Airport." I can't take it as a sign yet, even with my family and I still planning to move there, because I haven't yet begun the online courses from Embry-Riddle. It's going to take some time to get my bachelor's degree in professional aeronautics. But it's a sign of hope for me. I've chosen a career path where people always have to go somewhere, just like my sister wants to be a chef, and people always have to eat.

Anyway, it happened again, just like back in 1998. I flipped through the magazine, after staring at the cover for a full 5 minutes. You read it right. I was disappointed to find that in their "News from the Airways" section, amidst pictures of various aircraft, there were no Boeing 747s, which is my favorite aircraft. But the rest, what heaven! An article on the success of an African airline, one on Copa Airlines in South America, the history of Braniff's 'El Dorado Super Jet' 707s, and the article on McCarran, the reason I eventually paid over $6 for the issue.

When I write movie reviews, there's always a nagging feeling of insecurity: Am I saying exactly what I want to say or am I overly concerned with sounding somewhat witty? Have I described exactly what I want to about the film, or do I--god forbid--have to rewrite that paragraph? (I'm begrudgingly getting used to rewriting paragraphs and pages.) I do enjoy writing movie reviews, but maybe not as much now. When I originally thought that this might be a viable career (long before newspapers began crashing, and after I initially decided against a career in aviation because of the complicated math that I thought might be involved (it might still be, but I've never liked math beyond the four basic functions)), I didn't want to be Ebert. I wanted to be me fully; I wanted to attend screenings and spend my mornings going to movies. However, it's become less fun. I don't care about the Oscars and I hate being sucked into that part of the year through my association with the Online Film Critics Society through those awards. Last year, I watched as many films as I could so I could be relatively informed when it came to putting forth my nominations and then voting for the winners of the OFCS awards. I spent all that time and then what? Nothing. I just spent a major chunk of hours watching movies (which isn't bad. I still love it, but on my own terms), sent in my ballot, and that was it. No tangible benefit to me. It's the same thing with watching the Oscars. Nearly four hours and then what? You've spent four hours watching glamorous people trying to be even more glamorous, accepting awards, laughing for a few minutes at the host's opening monologue, and you haven't gotten anything out of it afterward. All the stars are off to their after-parties and you're sitting at home blankly on your ratty couch.

When I looked through this issue of Airways, when I got home and went to the website, looking through the past issues available for purchase, I didn't feel any of that. I didn't feel any doubts, I didn't feel any insecurities; I felt totally pure; I felt like a full person. On the shopping section of Airways' website, I found an issue from February with the main article being about the 40th anniversary of the Boeing 747. I looked further back, remembering when the Concorde had crashed in France and the subsequent retirement of all the Concordes, and I found an issue from February 2004 with the headline, "Concorde: End of an Era." Perhaps a cliche when used in other circumstances, but definitely not here. It truly was. I bought both issues without wondering if I really needed to. There was the Boeing 747, one of my favorite aircraft, and the Concorde, my other favorite aircraft. $4.50 for those issues plus shipping? No problem. Shipping came out to be $3.26 by First Class Mail, but I went for it. Then I went looking for that one issue from 1998 that gave me so many hours of pleasure and fantasy. I found it. September 1998, with the front of a Japan Airlines jet on the cover. $7.50 plus $3.26 shipping and it would come to over $10. Did I really want to do that? I did.

Then I got an e-mail from someone at the magazine in charge of shopping operations on the website who informed me that the shipping charge had been lowered to $2 because the United States Postal Service doesn't recognize custom rates, or something like that. In this case, they charge $2 shipping for archival issues instead of $3.26. What a nice way to be reintroduced to Airways beyond the issue I got from Barnes & Noble!

Movies and aviation have always been parallel passions. When I was 7, I copied word-for-word a review of the animated film Bebe's Kids (1992) from the Orlando Sentinel onto a sheet of posterboard. That must have tripped something. When I was a toddler, my parents always took me to Orlando International Airport to watch the planes take off and land and I was told that even back then, I could identify what kind of plane it was. I know now from that memory, from the great fun I had at that weeklong summer camp, from my reaction then and now to Airways Magazine that I'm home again. I want to be near commercial airliners. I want to stand in awe for hours (if possible) in front of a Boeing 747. I want to admire and examine closely all the parts that, to me, came together to create one of humanity's greatest achievements: The ability to fly.

I still have the binder from that summer camp with all the contact information of my fellow campmates. I'm going to see what they're up to. Surely they're on Facebook by now, one or two or three of them at least, and maybe they can offer me some career advice. I'm absolutely sure that Phillip has become an airline pilot by now. A few months after that camp ended, he went back to Embry-Riddle as a student.

I'm still going to write. I still want to try writing plays, I'm sure I've got material for essays after these movie-driven essays are done for the book, and maybe I'll attempt a novel. However, I'm not looking to write the Greatest American Novel since I don't have any ideas yet. And I'd be content with just writing a novel. Fortunately, with living in Las Vegas, I believe that if you can't find anything to write about there, you should not be a writer. There are so many stories to be found there every single day that you could spent months sifting through what you've seen in one day. I remember the friendly Honduran man who sat in our row when we went to see Mamma Mia! at Mandalay Bay. While we were waiting in line for the restroom during the intermission, he told me and my father all that he and the people with him were planning to see. It was clear that soon seeing Barry Manilow, Chicago, and a few other acts, he had saved for this trip for a long time. And the pride in his voice when he talked about staying at the Venetian, it truly sounded like he was loving every minute. I never asked what he did in Honduras, but I know it probably isn't as wonderful as Las Vegas is in those moments. I didn't ask him for an e-mail address with which to keep in touch and I'll likely never see him again, but I'll always remember him. And I'll always remember the guitarist whose chords I heard after we'd parked back at the Best Value Inn on the last night of our most recent trip to Las Vegas. I heard him and wanted so badly to go up to the second floor, sit with him a while and ask what he was thinking about while he looked out at Hooters across from us, the Luxor pyramid, a bit of the Tropicana, the MGM Grand and, if you leaned over far enough, a piece of the facade of New York, New York. I think he probably saw more because he was higher up. But I also wanted to know where he was from and where else he played that guitar. There will always be enough stories to inspire me, and, working at an airport, that doubles the chances.

This may be surprising, but the most valuable thing I have in my room is not any of my DVDs. Not Mary Poppins, not The Remains of the Day, not The Jungle Book, not The Swimmer, not 84 Charing Cross Road, not The Fabulous Baker Boys, not My Blueberry Nights (if you've never clicked on my profile, these are my seven favorite films, as ranked). I treasure my paperback copy of "The Remains of the Day" by Kazuo Ishiguro; I love the books I have about the Boeing 747 and the Concorde, as well as a large-sized book documenting all of James Bond's gadgets and cars in the movies (up to The World is Not Enough. I've not yet bought the latest edition which includes Quantum of Solace). I love the copy I have of Roger Ebert's Movie Yearbook 2003 which has my question to him about a line I didn't understand in the David Mamet film Heist.

I don't remember if it was during summer camp or after, by mail (I'll ask him if I find him), but Phillip gave me an actual manual for a United Airlines Boeing 747-100. It's all together in an official United Airlines binder, and includes a fold-out map of the cockpit. I love this far more than anything else I have in my room. And maybe that's the ultimate sign that I'm finally going to where I should be in my life.

Monday, October 5, 2009

I Want to Curl Up into a Memory

Every time my parents fight, I think back to all the times they've previously done so, and at times, it's a blur. There are specific jagged-glass moments I remember, explosive verbal sparring and loud voices that I was sure would not end well. But in these latest fights, at the end of last week and last Sunday morning, I've thought more about a moment in 2005, when my mom, my sister Meridith and I went to the Paseo Colorado shopping center in Pasadena while my dad went to some meeting related to his work, though how it related has long faded from my memory. We went to Gelson's, which there at least was a relatively tiny, yet significantly-priced supermarket, to get some things for lunch (The Gelson's in Encino is an equal shock in price-checking, but with more to offer, though I suspect with the area it's in, those who shop there don't worry about the prices). On the way there by foot, Mom told Meridith and I that she and Dad were done fighting. Days before, there had been yet another verbal battle that made our collective futures unknown. There are words and considerations related to those fights that I don't want to think about right now because of the near-silence of the house in this night, but they always cause great stress, even when doing one's damndest to ignore them.

I don't really remember the severity of that fight, but I do remember a cooling flood of relief when she told us that, so it must have been one of their worst. I think I had more faith in that statement than most other times they had stopped fighting, because I thought it would last. I hoped it would last. Naturally, it didn't last. There have been what must by now be hundreds of fights ever since we moved to Southern California in near-to-late August 2003. Some last only a few minutes; some, as you've learned, last for a few days. When Mom spoke those golden words, I wondered what had caused it to cease. I've always thought there might be some invisible, frayed string still holding them together, but then there are some details not suitable for this entry that make me wonder just how in the hell they've managed to stay together all these years. I've sometimes thought divine intervention caused them to stop, but God would have needed to pay attention all the time to make that happen. I always go back to the invisible string.

I know the fight will continue later today. Whether early in the morning, preventing me from falling asleep until Dad leaves for work, or later in the afternoon when he gets home, I'm not sure yet. Dad never seems to want to make an effort anymore to improve relations, not that he really tried before. Over the years, he's been downright vindictive, nasty, uncaring, you name it. But as before, I don't want to get into those parts right now. Rather, to push out of my mind whatever the possibilities might be today, I want to curl up into a memory. I want to go back to March 21st, my birthday, and one place in particular: The Buena Park Mall, formally called Buena Park Downtown.

We'd come from Downtown Disney, where we spent the day, and Mom asked me if I wanted to stop at the mall. Buena Park, adjacent to Anaheim and near Disneyland, is nice to visit, but if you lived there, you'd notice how depressed it looks. That depression actually gives it an advantage. It directly offers you whatever you might want without ostentation or fanfare, which was the case in this mall. Walking downstairs, you'll find one large store devoted to work uniforms for nurses, for chefs, you name it, they have it. Or at least they had it when I was there. There was a major clothing chain there called Steve & Barry's, which went out of business after it was revealed that they hadn't been paying their vendors, but they had incredible t-shirts. I lost count on how many "M*A*S*H" shirts I bought from there.

I quickly knew the reason I wanted to go to the mall, which was part curiosity about what was there now, but also because we passed by a storefront currently occupied by a liquidation company selling off books from a failed small chain. Huge discounts. I needed to go in. And when I went in, I froze. This was a long-sized store, with tables and tables of books piled on top, the price stickers firmly on the covers. As I discovered after scouring the entire store, not all the books seemed worthwhile. But when I walked in, I was ready to put a bed inside, my 46-inch widescreen TV, and continual transportation service to Disneyland. I felt such joy at seeing all those books that I didn't bother walking the rest of the mall, as my parents and sister did, preferring to look at each stack and see what I might want. Books for $3 and under. There had to be something there and there was, including a book of Spalding Gray's last monologue along with reminiscences by friends and fellow great writers, such as Eric Bogosian. I felt a small pang of sadness, knowing that these books would not be read more widely, but hey, I was there, and my brain was all that mattered. I would read them and that was good enough for me.

I loved being left alone in this makeshift bookstore. The only other person there was the girl at the register, reading something. Some other people walked in, two weren't impressed and walked out. I loved not being asked if I needed help, or not being able to immediately find what I wanted. I didn't know what I wanted. I would only know if I saw it. I considered a few literary anthologies, but there were many years of books for one particular title and chances are I'd just read them and possibly not get anything out of them. They were inexpensive, but my room was already filled with a lot of books, 80% not read. I wanted to give those unread ones a chance.

At one point, I saw "Here at the New Yorker" by Brendan Gill and my hands shot out reflexively and grabbed it. I love "The New Yorker" and had then wanted to read everything about the history of The New Yorker. I believed that one might have been up to the task of poring over part of the magazine's history through the experience of that writer working there. Still haven't read it, but I'll get there.

I spent what must have been at least an hour and a half there, to where we almost didn't get to Po Folks, a Southern style restaurant I grew up on in Florida. I wanted to go there for the country fried steak, red beans and rice, macaroni and cheese, the biscuits, and peach cobbler. Especially the peach cobbler, because we once got there near closing time and by the time we finished, they really wanted to be closed and we had to take home the peach cobbler, which is not advisable. It belongs with vanilla ice cream. Their vanilla ice cream. Not Breyer's. Not Ben & Jerry's. I'm sure it's not their own vanilla ice cream, but it blends well with the peaches.

To me, Buena Park is one of the most honest locales in Southern California. What you see there is exactly what you get. The people you meet there don't take on any airs. They are who they are. It's not exactly a matter of pride, considering the state of many of the neighborhoods in the area. I'm sure some live that way because it's all they have, only themselves, only their personalities, only their honesty. You work what you have. Buena Park Downtown feels exactly the same way, despite being owned by the same company that owns the Paseo Colorado. I prefer honesty over any other trait because you know where you stand right away. There's too little time to be had on earth to be any other way. The only time Disneyland ever achieves this state (not that it should be realistic, because it's Disneyland after all) is at night, when the trams take guests to the parking garage and parking lots. They're tired, their feet hurt, it's time to go home. It's been a swell time, but there isn't anything more. If you're ever on one of those trams, take in the gasoline smell emanating a little bit from the tram when it gets going and look around. Suddenly, this part of the Disneyland property feels exactly like Buena Park. It's the only time they firmly connect.

It's 48 degrees outside, and I'm still thinking about that temporary bookstore. All those wordy possibilities, all that excitement I relish every time I open a book. I doubt it's still there, but at least it gave me that immense pleasure when I was there. That's what I love.