Tuesday, May 12, 2009

A Box of Candy, For Me, If I Subscribe to Your Newspaper?

My dad got the Sunday newspapers that morning, but I didn't look at them until yesterday. On a Sunday, in the L.A. Times, I'll look at the comics, the Arts & Books section, and possibly the rapidly fading "California" section, and maybe the front page. The next day, only the comics and the Arts & Books section. From The Signal, the exclusive newspaper of the Santa Clarita Valley which seemed worthwhile to work for at first, but soon became a stressful drag on my life, I'll only pull out their comics section, only because they have the full Doonesbury, which the L.A. Times doesn't have.

So, this was Monday. Therefore, the comics and the Arts & Books section from the L.A. Times and the comics from The Signal. I needed something to read in the car on the way to a haircut appointment, and it turns out it was all I had to read because I wasn't interested in starting "A Confederacy of Dunces." I know the acclaim that book has earned, but I need to be in a certain mood for it: Interested. I wanted to read it because of the New Orleans atmosphere. I was curious, and also harboring the disappointment that when my family and I drove cross-country for five days a little over five years ago, moving to Southern California, we drove through Louisiana, but couldn't stop in New Orleans because we had two dogs and a bird with us. Unfortunately, this was before Hurricane Katrina. One day I'd like to go there. I'd also like to go to New York City, maybe Colorado, and even more maybe, back to certain parts of Florida to see what has changed since we moved. Maybe.

Anyway, before we left for that appointment ("we" being my dad, my mom and my sister as well), I got the contents of our individual wastebaskets together, took out the garbage, took out the recycling and newspapers, all to roll the garbage and recycling bins out to the curb for pick-up today. After I dumped the newspapers into the recycling bin, there was a subscription advertisement from The Daily News. I only mentioned the Sunday newspapers because there probably wouldn't be much of a chance to mention it anywhere else in this blog, and it's not really that interesting to merit its own blog entry. And at the time, I thought it had come from one of those newspapers, even though my dad only buys The Signal and the L.A. Times on Sundays. Mind you, I had just gotten through pulling out my favorite Sunday sections, so that's why I was briefly confused.

I assume EZ Pay is a way for them to automatically take the monthly billing rate out of your checking account. The advertisement states that I can "Save up to 70% off regular home delivery price." I don't read the Daily News that often and they really are getting desperate, what with the cuts they made, and yet they want subscribers to read what looks like a significantly thinner newspaper. If I sign up for EZ Pay, I "receive a Gift Certificate for a 1 pound box of See's Candies." I can't stand See's Candy stores. They're too sterile to look like they're stocked with candy. Those black-and-white tile floors, the chocolates behind glass that looks like they replace it every day; I can't even be sure that the people who work there like candy. It's not so much the candy that bothers me about the ad, but that they couldn't think of anything else. Only candy? Not perhaps a knowledgeably chosen set of bookmarks for avid readers? Not a gift card to Best Buy for those who might want a DVD or CD instead of candy? No? Their line of thinking is that everyone loves candy, which may be true for most everyone, but I suppose they couldn't survey their readers and find out more about them? Why bother? Too much work, too much money, and too little time. Why try to get to know your subscribers? All you need is their money, not their life stories.

I'm not complaining, though. I understand that. A set of steak knives would probably not be ideal, but surely there could be something given away that would be more creative than candy. I'm not one to figure out what that might be. I'm not paid by The Daily News to figure that out. But if it was me, a quesadilla maker.

At the bottom of the ad, it says: "Offer good for new subscribers in designated areas only. At the end of 26 weeks, subscription will continue at the then-semi annual subscription rate unless otherwise informed." So if I wanted to subscribe for, say, the "Weekend Plus" package, I'd pay $25 for 26 weeks for the Tuesday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday editions, plus the Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday E-editions. Even though I spend enough time online for it to be considered a cry for help (though I wouldn't, but I know that I sometimes waste time that could be used for work I really need to do), I like paging through an actual newspaper. Whenever my family and I go to Po Folks in Buena Park, I go to the Orange County Register rack in front of the entrance to the restaurant and I get a copy. If I'm in a different place and find a newspaper rack wherever I go while I'm there, I like to get the newspaper that's connected to that place.

But The Daily News is asking for too much, even with $25 for 26 weeks. They knocked film critic Bob Strauss back to the news desk and replaced his reviews with Christy Lemire pieces from the Associated Press. Yeah, cheaper for the newspaper financially, but it also makes them cheap in personality. On the days when I was a substitute campus supervisor at La Mesa Jr. High, where my dad works as the computer/business education teacher, I especially liked on Fridays where I could open up their weekend section to Strauss' reviews and marvel at how doggedly this man worked. That much dedication through that many words and one could only imagine when the screenings were during the week. Some during the day, possibly late morning, some at night, surrounded by radio movie pass winners and others, but he pulled out those reviews easily, it seemed.

I wouldn't subscribe to a newspaper only because of the critic who writes movie reviews. Strauss wasn't one of my favorites (Andy Klein, formerly of L.A. CityBeat and now working for some entertainment-based offshoot of the L.A. Times online is one, Josh Bell of Las Vegas Weekly is another, and his reviews makes me look forward to eventually becoming a resident of Las Vegas; and Anthony Lane of The New Yorker is the top favorite of mine), but he was consistent. He loved movies and it showed, as well as the knowledge he had of them.

If I subscribed to a newspaper, it would be because I truly considered where I lived to be home. My parents subscribed to the Orlando Sentinel when we lived in nearby Casselberry, and to the South Florida Sun-Sentinel when we lived in Coral Springs and then Pembroke Pines, for which I wrote movie reviews for a few years in their Teentime pages which are in the back of their weekend Showtime section, published every Friday. Florida is naturally my home state because I was born and raised there. I considered Casselberry home because my fondest childhood memories come from there, and there were some in Coral Springs and Pembroke Pines, enough to become one, instead of two places, even though each condo was vastly different.

I woke up in each of those places every day, knew exactly where I was, knew how each one felt to me, knew how connected I felt to each place. That's home. Not as in "I've had enough being out so long, can we please go home?" but the steel-and-screws definition of "home." Solid and unwavering.

Here, north of Los Angeles, or the backwoods of Los Angeles as I call it, I don't get that same feeling. I haven't for five years. I've tried. It's not because I missed Florida all that time. It wasn't as if a week after we moved here, I wanted to go back to Florida. I was more curious about Southern California than connected. To me, this was the other side of the universe. Living among mountains was exactly that.

Newspapers have always mostly come to me for free from my dad's school. The Signal is delivered there every morning, and the L.A. Times used to be delivered there until their financial freefall. No more free newspapers for schools was their edict. No need to subscribe, and I wouldn't anyway because though they informed in some ways, it didn't feel like they had seeped into my blood. Anywhere you live should seep into your blood. You should feel roads before you see them, anticipate those places you expect to go. With these newspapers, I wouldn't be inconsolable if I missed a day.

At this point in my life, with co-writing that book previously mentioned, with hopefully starting online classes soon through Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in pursuit of that bachelor's degree, I'm looking for solidity. I want that feeling of home again. I want to wake up and know that where I am is where I want to be. I don't get that here, waking up in the morning. I get up, I know I have things to do, but I'm not thinking of my surroundings. And I want to do that.

This relates to subscribing to newspapers because we haven't subscribed to any since we left South Florida for Southern California. Five years of no newspaper being thrown against our door. Now, being that we have two dogs, one of whom was only in Florida with us briefly before we left for Southern California (he had been flown from Southern California after my mom decided that she wanted him after we had seen him in a pet store in Seal Beach, but we were already headed home), they don't know the sounds of newspaper delivery. Our next-door neighbor and his wife get the L.A. Times delivered around 4 a.m. and it either falls to the ground with a "thump" or bounces against the garage door. It depends on who's delivering it. But it doesn't wake the dogs, because one is usually asleep with my sister until around 5 a.m. when she comes to my room to burrow under my covers and sleep, and the other sleeps with my parents. It sounds far enough away, even though it's right next door, to not have an effect.

Las Vegas is our next and oh-please-oh-please-oh-please-let-it-be last move. As part of our new house, wherever in nearby Henderson that might be, I want to be sure that the Las Vegas Review-Journal is part of that. I've only been to Las Vegas three times, I think, but I know it's home. That city is constant inspiration for a writer. If you can't find inspiration in Las Vegas in any creative thing you do, then you should stop doing it. That is the truth.

I find it everywhere I go in Las Vegas. I find it in the Greyhound Bus Depot near Fremont Street on the way back to the car in a gated parking lot. I look at the people waiting for the bus, some with duffel bags, and I not only wonder where they're going, but where they've been. I remember the backpacker I met at College of the Canyons in Valencia (in the Santa Clarita Valley, obviously), who asked me to type something up for him after seeing how fast I type, who promised to pay me soon, but I got paid another way that night. There was no bus after 7 p.m. from College of the Canyons to the transfer station, so we walked to the transfer station. He told me that he had been in Vegas for a time and at the campus of the University of Nevada Las Vegas, there was a professor who had allowed him to sit in on his classes. He is one of the two most memorable people I've met in Santa Clarita, even as briefly as this. I thought about Vegas in that moment, not believing it to be so much a desolate gambling outpost, as I had believed when I lived in Florida, but was amazed at how willing this guy was to travel wherever. But why wherever? Was there something about each place he went that inspired him? I never saw him after that night, but I like to think he might be in San Francisco or even in downtown Los Angeles. I never asked what he did for a living, if he even had a job, because it didn't matter to me at the time. But I was very curious about what made him run.

Back to the withering point, Las Vegas it is for the next newspaper subscription. Hotel room occupancy is up because of the discounted rates, but the casinos are confident that people will eventually come back, so much so that MGM Mirage is increasing the rates for the summer. If they loosen the slot machines a little and make potential blackjack winnings more than they are now, they'll get people back. I know it's not only the gaming, but there has to be a little more incentive.

Las Vegas is the only city whose newspaper will never be in danger of folding. The Las Vegas Review-Journal and the Las Vegas Sun are all there is, and there's no real competition between them anyway. They co-exist. Couple them with the Las Vegas Weekly and because it's the desert, they survive. I want those papers to be mine everyday. And one day they will be.