Sunday, December 27, 2009

A Name for the Beep, and....MERINGUE!!!!

With the beep from the spa now reaching four days in not seeing the futility of calling out for someone, I'm thinking of naming it. It's become a household companion, though it's far quieter from inside the house. But it's ever-present, just like Tigger and Kitty.

"Annoying Fucking Noise" doesn't work because it doesn't annoy me as much as it did Mom when she was near the patio door and heard it for a few seconds.

Nothing related to the sound. Not "Beepy" or "Beepie," not "Incessant-Lee" (purposely written that way), not "Relentless." I'm thinking of "Jimson" (for this, not related to the weed; I just like the name) or, well, I don't know. Something else might come to mind later, but that's all I have right now.

I don't know how the spa operates when it's off. The jets obviously aren't running. They're clogged. But I think they actually try to work at various intervals during the day. It's got to be the leaves, though. The cold weather last year did not cause the spa to bubble up enough to have a layer of meringue. When I was out on the patio with the dogs this afternoon, that's what it looked like, complete with fluffy peaks.

It is a nice diversion from the brown hills struggling to be green, and the mountains on either side of the freeway. I think it actually is one of the most interesting sights in my six and 1/4 years here. Better than the same SUVs from Stevenson Ranch with the same soccer moms. Better than the same gaggle of bothersome, nosy seniors gathering on the same street corner every day with their dogs. I need to disturb them one day by emphatically waving at them when I leave the complex for some errand. I can't forget that before we move.

I'm Broken, But I Don't Beep Like That

For the past two days, an incessant beeping. No one else noticed when it began because their windows and kitchen doors and sliding doors leading to their patios are closed tight against the cold. Same during the day. Still, the beep. I noticed it because the dogs do what they need to on our patio. I stand out there, making sure they go, and I heard this.

Is it coming from the utility closet to the left of the neighborhood pool, behind the signs with all the rules that people ignore, yet seem to follow? Is it some alarm clock that refuses to shut off, even if the plug is pulled, even if the batteries still powering it are taken out? Creepy, but no. Neither of these.

It's from the circular spa a few feet diagonal from the bottom left corner of the pool. A few days ago, or maybe just a bit longer than that, we had fierce winds that grabbed leaves from the trees and threw them into the pool, also into the hot tub. Filters or pipes must have become clogged, setting off this beep-beep-beep-beep-beep-beep. I'm guessing the spa also tried to foam up a bit because that's on the surface of the water now, more of it than usual.

Two days, becoming three. None of us nearby residents can get to it to do anything (not that we know how to anyway), because after the Homeowners Association deemed poolgoing season to be over for the year, back in late October, they put a lock on the security gate that none of us residents have a key for. This started on Christmas Day, so obviously, no one would have done anything because of the holiday. It's not that bothersome anyway. But that beep. It's demanding. I wonder how that meeting went to decide the alert mechanism for immediate repair. How does someone decide on that type of sound? Is there a company that specializes in that and sent a catalog for that particular company to decide on what sound they wanted? I've got problems in this life, as everyone pretty much does, and I want that too. Send me that catalog!

However, I am truly eternally grateful that whomever was in charge of installing that spa did not choose Jim Carrey's "Most Annoying Sound in the World" from Dumb & Dumber.

I'd be surprised if anyone left a message on the HOA's voicemail to fix this. These aren't the kind of residents who care about their neighborhood. The biddies, with their yapping dogs, keep an annoying watch on the neighborhood, but the particularly annoying ones nearby don't live close enough to the spa to hear the beeping. I'd expect it not to be fixed until the spring, unless they actually need the guy who sifts leaves from the pool to come earlier to do just that. Maybe he knows something, or they know someone else for it.

This is my neighborhood. Feel that excitement. That, and Christmas light "icicles" put up without imagination. And not even the ones that look icy. Strings of white lights hanging over the tops of garages do not count. Why can't the biddies just get a ladder from their garages and breathe on that section of their roof? They'd have real ones right away.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

The Quiet Comfort and Joy of the Newhall Library

The Santa Clarita Valley does not lend itself to a penchant for exploration of all corners of one's home surroundings. I only state that as a non-native, having lived here for merely six years, but you get into a pattern. You stick with what you know. There are two Wal-Marts in this valley, one a Supercenter, two Targets, both the same, two Ralph's supermarkets, one a Fresh Fare, and so on. You know what you can find at the regular Ralph's in Valencia, and what's at the Fresh Fare that you can't find at the regular Ralph's. There's not a lot of desire to seek out something different within the valley, and the valley recognizes this by not changing much on its own. Even to this day, Santa Clarita is still only known by its one major landmark: Six Flags Magic Mountain. Tell someone you live in Santa Clarita, and they might not know where you are. Mention Six Flags, and they get a general idea of where you are. It's pretty typical, and I learned that when we went to Six Flags as tourists, back in April of 2003 on a day with a stinging chilly drizzle: I only knew the rollercoasters in front of me as I walked the park. Even on Goliath, which takes you fairly high before pointing you down steeply, I didn't notice the entire working valley behind it.

Another example would be the Michael Douglas film called King of California. His character emerges from the "Santa Clarita Department of Mental Health," which doesn't exist, and it's obviously why writer-director Mike Cahill set his film here, even though a good portion of it was filmed at other locations. The valley easily gives itself up to stand in for other locations because there's nothing distinctive about it.

When the Valencia library closed for two months in early December, I immediately decided to pick up my holds at the Canyon Country library. Valencia offered a bookmobile parked in the lot there for picking up holds, but I wanted an actual library. I wanted to browse if I felt like it. And having been to the Canyon Country library, enamored with its massive back wall full of novels, that's where I wanted to be every Saturday. Then, reality, as documented in the entry "A Library Stocked with Disappointment." However, I was wrong about the Newhall library. Very, very wrong. A Wayne Szalinski-designed building, maybe, but not what I discovered.

Mom decided we'd start in Newhall today, wending our way to Canyon Country. Though the library looked ridiculously small when we drove past it last week, she wanted to see the inside, and I could return my books. So we parked in the small lot to the right of the building and walked the sidewalk in front of the building to the entrance. We walked in, and regret cascaded through me. Six years in this valley and I couldn't think of being a regular patron of this library? Right as you walk in, you see the new books across from the checkout desk. Teen books on the left, one set of shelves devoted to those, and the rest from there to the right, full of new books. After that, to the left of the new books, are two locked vertical glass cases containing DVDs to rent. $1 a day. Star Trek was in there, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and many others I liked. To the right of the case on the right were the DVDs to check out on one's library card. To the left of the other case were the CDs. Both sets of shelves protruded into the children's book area, but what an area. This is where any little kid should discover words and all the marvelous things that can happen when they're linked together. There's a window big enough to let in some sunshine, right where it's needed, right where kids can sit and read.

The right side of the small, yet oh-so-valuable building, is devoted to adult and teen reading. Novels, travel books, the Meg Cabot Collection (it can be called a collection here, much to my sister's delight, who noticed a shelf full of hardcover Cabot books, and cloth-lined baskets on each side of those novels, filled with Cabot paperbacks), biographies, all on shelves that are close enough to each other to browse with immense pleasure in a devoted reader's heart, yet far enough not to be overwhelmed by the books, as it admittedly tends to be with the Valencia branch where three people in the same aisle is a bothersome crowd.

We and an elderly woman at the library catalog computer were the only people there at that hour. Mom looked at their magazine selection, which is far better than what Canyon Country offered. They had the magazines she regularly reads at Valencia, as well as the table space to stretch out a bit, plus a window near the ceiling which allowed sunshine to beam on the table we were sitting at, next to the magazines.

The books to buy were to the right of the exit, a modest yet truer collection than I've seen at the Valencia library. Truer, because you can actually know a little about the people who donated these books and magazines. There was a Joyce Carol Oates novel, Middle Age: A Romance, and Model Airplane Magazine. Meridith first thought the magazine title was "Modern Aviation," and I perked up because I wanted to read more about the Airbus A380 than I have already. It's an ugly, ungainly-looking airliner, but I'm fascinated by its construction and what led to its creation, besides the apparent need to carry more passengers than the Boeing 747. No matter, though. I was happily surprised to find that someone in this valley read Joyce Carol Oates and someone was into model airplanes. I imagine there are more, but I'm glad just to know that there are a few, because I never expected it here.

Sitting at that table next to the magazines, with the sun having a clear view through that window, I wanted this to be my library. I imagined books of my own lining these shelves, and I would definitely move my bed there as well as everything else in my room. And there would be room for it. Plus, most importantly, the people working at this library looked like they actually wanted to be there. They were pleasant. This library is so relaxed, so welcoming, and it showed when I asked one of the librarians if I could bring the box I took from the Valencia library that used to contain my holds. I told her that I put a fair amount of books on hold and she said that I'd have some stiff competition. I joked that she didn't know me yet. She called someone working in the back, most likely the manager of the branch, who allowed it. I thought of bringing the box to Canyon Country, before I fully experienced it, but that would have been useless anyway, because only two of my holds were on the first shelf. The rest were sitting above the first shelf, at the top. I wouldn't have needed the box anyway. But because the Newhall library keeps the holds on shelves behind the counter, and because it looks like the shelves would sag once my holds arrive there (for the next week only), I'm happy to give them my box. It looks like it'd have a wonderful home there.

I wish I had gone to this library five years ago (our first year, we lived in an apartment in Valencia, and walking to that library was very convenient). This would have been my sanctuary, getting me away from all that frustrates me about this valley. After five years, I don't think I would have been so unsatisfied here, maybe a lot less, as some frustrations always remain. Or, you know, maybe this is the valley's attempt at a peace offering, knowing that I'm excited about becoming a resident of Las Vegas, wanting me to eventually leave it on decent terms. Makes for an easier transition. I just hope I can find a library in Vegas that matches this total-happiness-in-every-part-of-my-body experience.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

The Last Book for Research

Carole Landis: A Tragic Life in Hollywood by E.J. Fleming is the final book I'm reading right now for research for What If They Lived? And I've realized through the 40 pages read so far that despite the overall tedium of the research I did in the previous months, I still enjoy reading about the history of 1930s Hollywood, the studio system, the iron-clad contracts, the gossip rags, Louella Parsons, the premieres, everything that's more interesting than what there is today in Hollywood. The weekly media masturbation to box office totals doesn't have the same panache as Louis B. Mayer's many quirks.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The Earlier Wrong Words

Forget those last three sentences in the previous entry. After I posted that entry and went to bed, I remembered in the darkness that there's one more day of pure pleasure to come next week: A day in Anaheim at Downtown Disney and Buena Park at Po Folks Restaurant, where we used to go in Florida when I was a tyke and older. I subsisted happily on their country fried steaks and when there was an all-you-can-eat special for them, we always went. Then that location changed owners, it became unfortunately corporatized (logos of various other companies that supplied them were on the menu), the all-you-can-eat specials were dropped, and they closed because of lack of business. We went once after the ownership change and that was it.

The one in Buena Park does not have all-you-can-eat specials, though they make a decent, fork-cuttable country fried steak. Add on hush puppies, sides of macaroni and cheese and rice and gravy, and peach cobbler for dessert, and it's the kind of satisfaction that makes you forget all other aspects of your life, allowing you to completely enjoy the moment.

We last went to Downtown Disney and Po Folks on March 21, my birthday. Depending on what transpires with this potential move to Las Vegas, this day next week may be the last one to both places. I don't yet know if we'll also stop at Buena Park Downtown, my favorite depressed-looking mall, but even though I secretly hope it will be there, that liquidation bookstore had better be gone. Not that I wouldn't spend any more money on books for now after Goodwill last night, but my room's small enough already. That bookstore looked temporary anyway.

This time, I will bring my journal with me and I'll be sure to write down everything I experienced, especially the rustic lobby of the Grand Californian, which has wood paneling all over, which reaches to all three floors. I love sitting on one of the couches in the middle of the lobby floor, being awed by it, as well as watching people walk left and right and right and left on those higher floors from my vantage point. This will be one of the very few things I'll miss about Southern California when we move.

I hope this will be as good as my birthday was.

Monday, December 14, 2009

A Spontaneous Evening

Usually, I never go out on weekday evenings. I've got to write, I've got the newsletter, I've got enough to do. But when there is the promise of books, I remember that the evening also exists in later hours, and I make sure there's some cash in my wallet.

Mom had an old walker to give to Goodwill. She started using it a few years ago and it's given her back problems all this time. Last Saturday, we stopped at Saugus Drugs, which is nothing like your Walgreens or your Rite Aid. No shiny tile floors, all carpet, and they also sell windchimes and figurines which sit in vertical glass cases. While Meridith and I were playing with recliners that moved up and down by remote, near the pharmacy counter in the back, Mom and Dad looked at the walkers behind us. I didn't listen to their entire conversation with the manager who eventually emerged at their request, since I was seeing how far up the recliner would go before I'd fall off, but the manager went in the back and found a walker Mom wanted. It was slightly defective, something about it not fully extending, but Mom took it, and the manager also gave a discount of about $20-$30.

There are two Goodwill locations in Santa Clarita. We only knew that one, a truck on Soledad Canyon Road, took dropoffs. The other, on Bouquet Canyon Road, a few minutes from our house as it turns out, is a full-on store with racks of clothes, recliners, golf clubs, mattresses, trinkets, coffee mugs, TVs, videotapes, CDs, and, most importantly, books. I woke up close to 3 p.m. today and hadn't planned on going out. I needed to get back to work on the book. But after Mom found out that to-be-discarded items could also be dropped off at that Goodwill store, I shaved the noticeable beginnings of an always-annoying-feeling beard and got dressed. And I had a spontaneous evening.

I thought it would be a little bit of a drive through the valley to the Goodwill store. I'd forgotten that Bouquet Canyon Road is a right from the exit of our development (we're in entrance 2 of Mountainview Estates), then straight on past La Petit Academy and the corner Circle K, keep going through two traffic lights, and finally across from 7-11 in a very cramped shopping center. Then a left turn in, past Rite Aid, a right turn, and there it is, not quite on the edge of the property, because of some sort of medical building next to it, but you get the feeling that the abyss must be nearby.

Just a few feet from the entrance to the Goodwill store, I spotted the books, to the far left in the store, facing shelves of coffee mugs, glass things, figurines too. I carried in Mom's former walker, left it at the counter, as the person at the register said to do, and I walked to the books, first looking at the VHS tapes, marveling at how much time had passed since I owned The Lion King and other Disney movies on videotape. I browsed the CDs as well, finding nothing that I wanted to own, and what might have interested me, such as a CD of Lenny Kravitz's hits (I used to own a copy), looked more scratched than I find reasonable. Then, the books.

I'm very discerning about what I want, but I don't know exactly what I want until I see what's available. As my eyes pass each title, there might be a word in the title or an author's name or something about the cover that trips that command in my brain to reach out and take that book from the shelf. Also the prices: 99 cents for softcover, $1.99 for hardcover.


Fahrenheit 451 ($0.99)
Topdog/Underdog by Suzan-Lori Parks ($0.99)
Love Letters and Two Other Plays: The Golden Age and What I Did Last Summer by A.R. Gurney ($0.99)
Damon Runyon by Jimmy Breslin ($1.99)
Tinsel by William Goldman ($1.99)
Old Songs in a New Cafe (Selected Essays) by Robert James Waller ($1.99)

And, before we left, after a final look at the books:

The Agenda: Inside the Clinton White House by Bob Woodward ($1.99)

I don't remember going to Goodwill in Florida. I remember a few thrift stores, with instruments inside glass cases, and racks and racks of clothes nearly taking up the entire space of one store, and even then, I still gravitated to the books in those stores. I didn't notice anything else about those stores beyond my cursory glances, but I noticed a lot about the items in this store, such as the tiny Alaska ceramic cup my Mom bought to put bathroom cups in, in honor of Kitty, our beloved part miniature pinscher/part terrier, who we adopted from Alaska. The cup has a design of the state, blues and greens all around. But looking closer at what else was for sale, I saw a coconut-shaped storage container from a Catamaran Cruises company (I know there are many, but I forgot the name of this one), a coffee mug from the Ramada Express Hotel and Casino in Laughlin, Nevada, a coffee mug from West Virginia, and big candles with wicks far too low to be effective. These things really travel. As I walked those aisles, I wondered where these items had come from, where they had been in the houses they had once sat in. I looked at the house figurines, made in the United Kingdom, and wondered who had once loved these items, if they had spent time looking at it from all sides, staring at the windows and wondering about the kind of people who might live in such an abode. These things contain so many stories, yet mostly, previous owners cannot be found on any part of them. There are some stains, some chips, but it's not always enough to sense the person who owned the thing. The only commonality among all of it is that no one wanted them anymore. Either there was too much to move with from one state to another, or it was a gift someone didn't want, or someone had died and their family members, already deciding what they wanted from what remained of that person's life, brought those items to Goodwill. Looking at all those items, I don't see the people that brought them to Goodwill or even the people who owned them. Only shadows, really, and speculation.

However, I found part of my childhood there: A particular set of stencils with letters, numbers, shapes of airplanes, ships, and some animals. Living in Florida at that time, I never thought about California or any other state in the country, except the one time we all flew to New Jersey in 1994 to visit Dad's grandmother, who was in the hospital. When I saw those stencils this time, I was surprised they existed anywhere else. Here they were, with "Gina" written in crayon on the front of the box, which looked ragged. I wonder when Gina outgrew them.

Dad decided to drive to Newhall before we went to the 99 Cents Only store, and there, amidst the narrow roads and aged buildings, we found the Newhall library, which looked like a Wayne Szalinski-designed building. The parking lot couldn't possibly fit everyone who wanted to go there, though judging by how many people live in Newhall, and thinking of those who are apt to go to the Canyon Country and Valencia libraries, completely ignoring this section of the valley (and there are thousands), the parking lot might very well be adequate. But looking inside from the car, wow. Those shelves looked like you'd have to insert yourself into a stick figure maker before navigating them. I could already smell the must that had to be lingering in there. Not sure now if we're going there on Saturday after we leave the Canyon Country library, though I wouldn't raise a fuss if we didn't. Mom thought the Newhall library we'd see was the one to be built. She thought it had been built already, but that's not going to happen for a long time, and by the time it does, we'll likely be residents of Nevada.

The 99 Cents Only store presented a bounty of Minute Maid fruit punch in an overgrown juice box, small boxes of granola cereal, Lipton Brisk Tea in big bottles, and Best Foods' Honey Mustard (Hellmann's for those of you living east of the Rockies), which might be interesting for a change since I always buy Ralph's-branded honey mustard. Typical stuff shipped from Inter-American Foods in Cincinnati, Ohio. Of the many things I miss about Florida, I sorely miss the Publix supermarket and the items they'd make on their own in Central Florida, such as eggnog, milk, and ice cream, though I'm not sure if they ever made their own mustard. It's possible, but growing up in Florida, I was always keen on mayonnaise for ham and cheese, ketchup for beef bologna. I never noticed if one of the brands of mustard sold there was their own.

Then, In-N-Out. Wonderful, wonderful In-N-Out. I didn't care that it was getting close to 7 p.m., that I still had the newsletter, that many essays in the book still loomed, that I'd forgotten to Tivo Jeopardy. I loved the evening so far, and a 3x3 burger (3 patties, 3 slices of cheese) was the best way to continue my uninhibited happiness. French fries and a strawberry shake, too. Fries for Meridith and Mom as well, and I think Mom just had a cheeseburger, while Meridith had a double-double (2 patties, 2 slices of cheese). Completely satisfying. It's what all the days of one's life were made for.

I'm nearly done with the newsletter, having started late, yet I don't feel like continuing to read that Carole Landis biography. I don't feel like organizing the essays I still have to write. I want to scoop up all the books I bought at Goodwill and figure out which to read first. But it's 2:04 a.m. and reality has set in again. Less than three hours before I extract myself from the online world and my work on this computer and try for a few pages, or 20 or 30, in the latest library book I'm reading, which is The Best American Nonrequired Reading 2009, always reliably edited by Dave Eggers. After I'm done writing my share of this book, I'm going to begin signing up for online courses through Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in pursuit of a bachelor's degree in professional aeronautics, but I'm also going to make sure I spend a lot less time on here. It's convenient to put my thoughts down here, but sometimes I miss keeping a journal. That should be concurrent with this, and I do bring a composition book with me in the car, but the books I bring, the New Yorker issue I haven't read yet (I'm all the way back on November 9), I don't feel compelled to pick up my pen and write a few thoughts. The last time I regularly used a journal was in early February 2006 when Dad and I went to Sacramento to tour the state capitol as part of a group from a business education organization. On a highway there, I jotted down my observations of a truck carrying an open-air load of carrots and, on the way back, touring part of Hearst Castle, and picking up two pies from the bakery at Casa de Fruta in Hollister, facing stunning dark green hills. Couldn't and wouldn't forget any of that.

I'd like to have many more evenings just like this one. But for now, it's impossible to simply throw off whatever I have to do in favor of pure pleasure. Maybe after this book is done.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

A Library Stocked with Disappointment

I had been to the Canyon Country library before last Saturday; two or three times.

When Dad went there on the way home to give work and collect it from one or two students who couldn't attend La Mesa for a time for whatever reason, I, tired from spending the day as a substitute campus supervisor, would wander and then stop in front of rows of shelves containing books of essays and books of plays. I would beam at the back wall full of shelves of novels, wanting to eat it all. I would look for names I never heard of and see if I'd want to know them and their chapters and their characters and their views of the world.

Because the library in Valencia closed on December 7 for two months for renovations (more computers, a dedicated teen area, new furniture), and because the three other libraries in the Santa Clarita Valley, including Canyon Country, are closed on Sunday (Valencia was the only one open from 1-5 p.m.), I have to go to the Canyon Country library on Saturdays, which, as it turns out, is not such a jarring change. Granted, it was a little strange not having to access the library website during Saturday Night Live at 12:30 a.m. to renew books and see what I need to return in order to pick up the books I have on hold, but I really enjoyed today. I got up and it felt so much more easygoing. I still have that book project sitting heavily on me, but I didn't feel it as acutely as on past Sundays, when we'd go to the Valencia library towards 3 p.m. (mainly because I sleep late well into the day, and because Sunday has always been a laid-back day for the rest of the family), attend to other errands, go to Ralph's to either shop fully or just pick up a few items, and likely get home a little before or a little after 7 p.m. The pressure would build as soon as I got home. I'd be too aware that I had to put together yet another Freelance Daily newsletter (compiling three days of job listings from Craigslist and other websites for the freelance writer subscribers), and while working on the newsletter, my mind would be nagging me about the essays I still had to write, about the books I still had to read, which are now down to one, a biography on Carole Landis.

That's the only thing that I really like about going to the Canyon Country library on Saturdays: To feel at ease even with an enormous workload. Sunday now feels like the kind of day where I could jump into the air and float, if it were possible. I could walk above the couch and play limbo with the top of the doorframe leading into the kitchen, and amble across the neighborhood pool just over the left patio wall, looking down and smiling at the view.

The library itself doesn't give the same pleasure. Spending only a few minutes there, there are no problems. One of the times I was with Dad, I found a few plays I wanted to check out, borrowed his card (mine was naturally full), and used the self-checkout computer. This branch has four of them, and I can see why. Those clerks who have to work the front desk wish they didn't have to. They don't like to work, they're not helpful, and they don't look beyond the obvious places.

I returned 12 books in order to pick up the books I had on hold (the limit is 50 items). I found 10 of them, checked them out myself, and went to one of the only computers that are solely for the library catalog. I had 48 books checked out (owing to instances where I may not be interested in one or more of the books after I start reading them, but mainly because I really, really, really love books), and thought I had miscalculated again, even though I was certain I had correctly counted 12 books in my bag. There was one I apparently hadn't picked up, and I went to the front desk to see where it was. This girl, who must have been 18 or 19 or 20, maybe even 21, didn't care about helping anyone. It was obvious. I said straight out that I had a book on hold that wasn't on any of the hold shelves, and that it wasn't Oliver Twist, as that was also available to pick up, but I wasn't ready to pick it up that Saturday (I'll pick it up next Saturday). She kept asking if it was Oliver Twist I wanted to pick up, and I kept saying that it was a different book, finally showing her the title within the pages of my account that I printed out from home. She looked at my account after scanning my card, and went to the hold shelves, even though I had already been there and hadn't found the book. She came back, telling me exactly what I had told her: The book wasn't there. She then explained that she couldn't do anything else, and to call back in a few days to see if they had located the book, because the books on the carts near her were the only other holds to be put on those shelves. There was nothing in the backroom.

Big help. I put my card back in my wallet, thanked her, even though I didn't mean it, and I went to the table Mom and Dad were sitting at, Mom not at all pleased with this library and for good reason, with many pushy people there, and other people of uncertain character. If a bag was left on a table, they might look inside and take whatever attracted them. I only realized this after I came back a second time and Mom told me she moved my bag next to her for that reason, as there were some people sitting behind her and Dad who looked like they had that exact idea.

That second time out on the library floor, I decided to look again at the hold shelves to see if the front-desk paperweight had truly not found the book. She hadn't, and as it turned out, neither did I. I honestly didn't think to look above the first shelf when I picked up the other books. Two of the books I intended on checking out were sitting there, and I realized that they'd probably also put future holds of mine there, as there hadn't been room on the first shelf with my other holds. But the girl couldn't see above the first shelf? I don't expect anyone to fake enthusiasm they don't have. If a waitress at, say, Red Robin, is having an off day, I don't mind there not being a smile, as long as the order is correct and the bad day doesn't splatter on me. But at least that waitress would be doing her job, just like I expected that girl to do her job. That's what she's there for. She should do it and be dissatisfied about her life later. How hard is it to look above that first shelf? I have a good excuse in that this was my first time picking up any holds from this branch. I didn't know right away. The reference desk was no better when I asked for specific directions to the Newhall library for Mom. Same attitude there. So much resentment in the building that you could choke from the fumes. Even the books feel it. They look so depressed, including my favored back wall. There's one librarian who shelves the books wearing red gloves. I understand the hullabaloo over the swine flu and am all for assuring one's safety in health, but I don't wear gloves when I look at the books. What has traumatized her so about them?

My sister had an excellent suggestion earlier this evening for next Saturday because of the family plan to see what the Newhall library is like: Go inside, pick up the books on hold, and leave. Don't linger any longer than necessary.

I agree. I can't spend as much time in that library as I can in Valencia's. If we aren't halfway out of California to Las Vegas by February 1 when the Valencia library reopens (meaning that no one's called Dad yet, offering him a job, or we're not yet in the process of planning that move to Vegas, or in Las Vegas looking at houses), I'm going to kiss the floor at its entrance. I'm not going to be so annoyed by those librarians who take too long to check in items, or those who don't understand what I'm looking for (I'm not vague in asking for what I need. I always want my books quickly). At least they're doing their jobs. At least they're efficient, even when I get that one librarian who doesn't understand that I already looked in my box of holds for that book and it's not in there, and actually goes to the box under the counter nearest to the self-checkout computer to look. I miss her, I miss them, I miss books that look like they're living a good life on those shelves.

Monday, December 7, 2009

The 16-Word Woman

16 words from her, earlier tonight on Facebook. The chat looks different from what you'd see in a chat window on Facebook because it's a bitch to paste anything here, so I had to copy and paste everything from the particular page I was on and then delete what I didn't need. The letter "u" in place of the word "you" counts as a word since this is the Internet and I don't have time to nitpick. I know "lol" would count as three words, but again, the Internet. Let it count as one:

"Sheena - 9:06 p.m.
hey u

Rory - 9:06 p.m.
what's up?

Sheena - 9:06 p.m.
what u doing up so late

Rory - 9:06 p.m.
It's only 9:06 here on the west coast.

Sheena - 9:07 p.m.
wish u could be here lol....good nite

Rory - 9:07 p.m.
question: did you go to Hollywood Hills or Flanagan?

Sheena is offline. - 9:14 p.m."

I don't know Sheena. Yes, she's a Facebook friend, and her profile states that she graduated Hollywood Hills High School in 2002, the same year as me (the only reason she's in my friends list). Except I never expected anyone to notice or remember me in any of my classes (I don't think she does specifically, just that we went to the same school). I moved to different schools pretty regularly, except for a long stretch at Riverside Elementary from the second half of second grade to fifth grade after my family and I had moved from Casselberry (near Orlando) to Coral Springs, Florida. I went to Hollywood Hills in 11th and 12th grade, moving with my mom, who worked at Flanagan when I was in 9th and 10th grade, and who decided to take a position at HH as a library assistant/clerk. In 11th grade, I basked in the joy that was my English teacher, Roberta Little, who wasn't an extroverted type, but she exuded pure love for stories. She had us read A Rose for Emily by William Faulkner, we talked about Julius Caesar and The Great Gatsby and also saw the films based on them, the former with a robotic Jason Robards as Brutus (entirely lacking the passion and fiery anger that Brutus needs), the latter so slow and so plain with Robert Redford as Gatsby and Sam Waterston as Nick, even with its lush production design, with billowy curtains and white, white sofas. It seems more emphasis was placed on that than the performances, than the need to try to make the film feel like the experience of reading the book, which is much more significant.

I also fondly remember two class periods spent watching A Raisin in the Sun, starring Sidney Poitier, and how riveted I was watching John Fiedler as Mark Lindner, trying to dissuade the family from moving into their rightful new home, because of that neighborhood he represented not wanting black people to move in. I loved silently observing how I knew that Fiedler voiced Piglet over the years in the Winnie the Pooh films, yet that's what consumed my classmates. The drama didn't matter to them as much as excitedly pointing out that that was Piglet, and that was fine. At least I noticed the dramatic tension.

I also had two outstanding history teachers, one being Craig Forgatsch in 11th grade. To the other students, he was out-and-out crazy, but he made history vivid. The other history teacher, whose name I unfortunately forgot, stuck to the hard facts in history, definitely not as manic as Forgatsch sometimes acted, but she clearly loved what she taught. There were days when the lectures truly dragged, when I just wanted to get out of there, but I understood it all. Nothing about the American Revolution was lost to disinterest in her class. Between her, Forgatsch, and Mrs. Little, I think that's how I developed a fierce love for plays, literature and history. I read a little of all in middle school, checking out Gone with the Wind from the library at Pompano Beach Middle in 6th grade and a host of other books, but never to the degree that I do now. I think without Mrs. Little, I probably wouldn't have latched on to the great and grand works of Noel Coward and Neil Simon with such devoted fervor. And without Forgatsch and that other history teacher, I wouldn't be as fascinated with the American presidency.

So I have absolutely no idea if I had any classes with Sheena, or if I talked to her at lunch (I always kept to myself, only occasionally talking to others). The only girl I remember well from Hollywood Hills is Stefanie Markham, who had the best pair of legs I'd ever seen in high school and still today, especially when she flirted with me at a school newspaper awards ceremony sponsored by the South Florida Sun-Sentinel at the Museum of Art in Fort Lauderdale, and leaned them against my pant leg.

Looking at Sheena's photos on Facebook, in a bikini, wearing a black bra shown from behind, looking over her shoulder while probably standing on a bed, showing off a wonderfully ample ass clad in a pink thong, wearing a nearly-gauzy short pink nightgown, I see that she loves a steady stable of men when she's not working at Miller's Ale House. The photos don't only suggest that. So do Facebook status updates indicating that she wants some "play time" and doesn't like men who are still little boys. And so on.

"wish u could be here lol....good night." That bothers me the most. 16 words and that's all she was leading to. I asked one question, because I'd forgotten where she went to high school, and she couldn't even answer that. I like whole words, always have. I don't mind "you" shortened to "u" online, or "lol," but I hate when they're overused, as they are here. To me, there was only pure shallowness in thiat conversation. I wanted to know what classes we might have been in, what made her think of me after all this time. But I won't even know that. I wish I did, just out of curiosity. I wouldn't pursue anything further. I don't want to. I like women who have time for more than 16 words.