Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Home? Not Right Now.

My bookcases are 5-year-old moving boxes, with stacks of books in the front of each, and unfortunately unseen stacks of books behind. I know what books make up those invisible stacks, but I want to see them all. The many works of Charles Bukowski should not be hidden at all. It's impossible not only to rearrange without spending half a day at it, but also to make sure that the box used does not succumb to the forces of gravity, books sliding down to the carpet, as two do, the two nearest to my widescreen TV.

During the recent abominable episode of Saturday Night Live hosted by January Jones, I upturned the wide, canoe-shaped blue container we use to put newspapers in to eventually dump into the recycling bin in the garage, and used it as a table for bowls of cheese sauce and salsa for tortilla chips during the show, for me and my sister. We haven't had a coffee table ever since we moved here from South Florida. We didn't take our old one with us. No room. If I had had a craving for chips and salsa in the old apartment in Valencia, the island in the middle of the kitchen would have been suitable for usage, but not for location. Too far from the TV in the living room.

I have two framed prints by Chris Consani of Humphrey Bogart, Elvis Presley, James Dean, and Marilyn Monroe sitting on the aisle of a carpeted movie theater, and at a bar, with Dean behind the counter, Bogart looking up from a newspaper, and Elvis checking out Monroe's rear, which is clad tightly in a pink dress. I think I got those prints not long after we moved here in Saugus, and they've been sitting in big white bag ever since. In fact, the only reason I'm pressing ahead with this book project despite fading interest is so when I eventually hang these pictures on walls new to me, I don't have to feel ashamed every time I look at them. Monroe and Dean are two of the names I'm writing about in this book. But there is good news for both of their essays. My introduction in the essay on Dean is three pages, should probably be less, and there's not a proper connector yet from the experience of not making a whole lot of lasting decisions at Universal CityWalk, to Dean's life. But at least there's something there. For the Monroe essay, I figured out how to write it, with hopefully the guy I need to talk to giving me enough information about the yearly memorial he holds for Monroe in Westwood. I'm hoping the history of her life was discussed at the most recent memorial, so I can put bits of that into the essay and move on.

Anyway, this current place was never meant to be permanent. Mom never liked it, and it wasn't worth putting holes in the wall to hang up pictures that may have been taken down in a few years to be moved elsewhere. Permanent is the word I seek now in my life.

I'm holding off on a new bed until we finally make it to Las Vegas. I need it, but the less to move with, the better. I can't wait for the day when I feel what a bed is supposed to feel like.

There's a lot we all have denied ourselves these past six years. The apartment and this place are too small for so much. The couch in the living room used to be in the living room of my dad's uncle's house. At first, it smelled of dog piss (his dog spent a lot of time on the couch), but the smell eventually faded and we keep a bed sheet tucked into the couch, on top of the cushions, a bed sheet we don't use anymore but which is clean enough for this purpose.

I miss having a desk. I'm not sure how far my old one traveled. I know I had it when we lived in Coral Springs (Florida, of course), and it was in a corner of my room in Pembroke Pines, under the window overlooking our front walkway, right next to my closet. (Oh, a closet. One of those too, please. A bigger one.) But I don't remember if I had it when we lived in Casselberry. I do know that I grew too big for it. I think by now, I would look like Alice trapped in that house after she grew inside it. The chair would be exactly that small.

As it has been since the first day here, my bed is my workspace as well as my sleeping space. It has not been a fruitful arrangement, but it must continue until we're settled in Nevada. A bed will be the first thing I get. A desk will be the second. I need a thinking space badly. I don't want an outrageously expensive desk, with glass paneling on cabinets below, but sturdy enough, and a chair comfortable enough.

All of that leads to this: I want to be home already. I want to know that where I am is where I belong, not just biding time until we're off to wherever we have to go to next. We moved around Florida enough times, and we had lived in the apartment a year before we moved to Saugus.

I don't necessarily fear what's to come. I've been through a lot already in moving. My family and I traveled for five days from South Florida to Southern California, and the only time I saw the state capitol building in Tallahassee was when we were on our way out. I'm concerned, of course. It's a lot of work again, though thankfully, it'll only be four hours or so from here to Las Vegas, not the five days and the nightly stays in hotels that accepted pets. Our last stop before Santa Clarita was Blythe, in a motel room so dirty, so grimy, that we all slept in our clothes. Meridith turned on the showerhead and four dead bees fell out of it. I feel like those bees, only in that I feel that stiff here. During the last year, it's been a kind of damaging inertia. There's the book, but I don't feel like I've really done anything truly worthwhile this entire year, truly fulfilling.

You know, these thoughts of Vegas have been going on for two years, ever since I came upon a job listing for a writer at the Las Vegas Sun on journalismjobs.com and thought that might be my way in to getting to where I wanted to be, as a film critic somewhere. Mom heard about it and was immediately gung-ho about Vegas, at 2 a.m. Not only about that potential job, but about all that Vegas offers. More to do there than there ever will be here. I had many pairs of pants to put in the wash this past weekend and in checking the pockets of each, I pulled a ticket out of one of the pockets of my formal black pants, a ticket for "Mamma Mia!" at Mandalay Bay, from September 28, 2008, still in the same condition as when I had it that night. So it's been over a year since we were in Vegas.

We'll have to pack again, we'll have to re-organize ourselves when we get there, we'll have to be sure the pets are ok while we're driving there (two dogs and three finches), oh yes, and actually finding somewhere to live, which we haven't done yet because no one's called my dad about a business education teaching job for him. He still has applications to finish for online schools, so it'll still be a while. But I do feel at home there. And I can't live through another season of Santa Ana winds. I can't stand that nervous feeling in my stomach when those winds essentially become all I think about, waiting for when they're supposed to die down. I never got used to it like the denizens of this valley obviously are. Yesterday, a wildfire flared up east of San Juan Capistrano, one of my favorite places in Southern California that I almost seriously thought about living in if we had become lasting residents. According to the L.A. Times website, the fire reached 250 acres, but at 10:04 p.m., was 75% contained, with full containment expected today. That's fine. But I can't stand worrying about that at this time of year. Evacuating once in October 2007 was hard enough. I don't always want to know what time of the year it is. I want September to quietly slide into October. I know that the summer temperatures in Las Vegas are reasons for hibernation in arctic air conditioning until September. I can live with that, but I can't live with the threat that these usually hot, dry winds can cause major risk to my house. We live across from a not-heavily brush-covered hill, but you can see the age of the brush. There was rain a few weeks ago and somewhat of a sprinkle last week, not enough to turn anything green, but this brush is brown and gray. I can't wait to live on flatlands again, like I did in Florida. I think that's what first showed me that Las Vegas could be home. That, and being introduced to Vegas food by way of the Carnegie Deli and their monolith-tall sandwiches.

The Santa Clarita Valley is someone's home. I know that. They can easily live here. I don't know how, but I'm not going to smirk and laugh at their belief that this is home. They have a rhythm here, a comfortable pattern, and many things that drive their daily existence that they feel could only be fulfilled here. I want to find what they have and embrace it for myself. It's not going to be right now, it may not even be for the next few months. But I know my chance will finally come, to know a place intimately and feel that it's mine. I could never get tired of Las Vegas, not with all it offers for a writer in just a day. I know it could work.

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