Saturday, April 30, 2011

Here's a Pinch

Among the many things gotten at Ralphs today, I decided to try those Werther's Original hard candies again. Nothing genuinely harmful to a diet, and I wanted to see if my tastes have changed in the many years since I had them. I didn't like them so much back then.

The copy on the back of the bag says that the creator of the candy, Gustav Nebel, "used the best ingredients--real butter, fresh cream, white and brown sugars, a pinch of salt, and a lot of time..."

According to the "Nutrition Facts", there's 45 mg of sodium in three pieces. So 45 divided by 3, and it's determined that a pinch of salt is 15 mg. For the pedant, calling it "15 mg of salt" may suffice. I'll stick with "pinch."

Friday, April 29, 2011

What a Great Name!

I finished reading a short biography of Jimmy Carter by Julian E. Zelizer, part of the "American Presidents" series published by Times Books, an offshoot of Henry Holt and Company, and I've moved on to Grover Cleveland by Henry F. Graff. It's likely that all you might know about Cleveland is that he was the only president to serve two non-consecutive terms, as our 22nd and 24th president.

After I transcribe what I need from each book in this series of books (and so far, I'm on the third book, though not in any particular order), I find the "selected bibliography" to be incredibly valuable. I open up a new Word file and save it as, say, "Jimmy Carter - Books" and enter into it whatever books the author used to write that book, those books that would be useful to me. I could use Amazon for the same purpose, but it's better for me this way to get a sense of the books that authors relied on, and also I don't always have to scroll through personally uncharted territory.

Instead of waiting until I'm done with this Grover Cleveland biography to make the "Grover Cleveland - Books" file, I decided to do it now since there's not a lot of books in the "selected bibliography" section, being that Cleveland wasn't as widely written about as, say, Lincoln or Kennedy or Clinton. There's another book titled Grover Cleveland that was published in 1968, and I love the name of the author: Rexford Guy Tugwell. It should be the name of a character in some whimsical novel.

Shoddy Music Choices at Westminster Abbey

I get that "God Save the Queen" is reserved for Queen Elizabeth II. Fine. But I'm disappointed that when Elton John walked into Westminster Abbey, the musicians didn't start playing "The Bitch is Back." There are some moments when decorum should be chucked temporarily, and that was one of them.

Oh, and Prince William for King. Not Charles. Yay.

The Royal Wedding. That Totally Happened.

I know it happened because Mom stayed up through the night to watch it, and is asleep now. I woke up during the night because of the light in the living room and the TV there, but went back to sleep not long after.

You're probably going to read the same thing elsewhere that I'm going to write: I didn't feel that great grasping need to watch it. I wasn't interested in all the proceedings. I needed my sleep like anyone else, particularly so I could continue my book research without falling over on the couch today, pen markings where they probably shouldn't be. I know. Probably not as interesting as the ceremony and all that.

Actually, the really interesting part comes later when Dad and Meridith get home from work and I get to find out who was absent today. Dad says he figures a lot of people will have called in throughout the district on a PNRW: Personal Necessity Royal Wedding. I just want to know if there was anyone who stayed up through the night to watch and then thought it would be a good idea to come to work anyway.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

The Horror of a "Just for Men" Commercial

You know that "Just for Men" commercial with the little girls? I like to think that the guy in the commercial wants to say so badly, "Get away, you heinous devils! You're not even mine! You live next door!"

I Hang My Head in Shame for Where I Find Myself

ABC 7 here in Southern Calfornia just ran a story about a Kate Middleton that lives here, and she exclaims, "My Starbucks card says Kate Middleton and I thought I'd get free coffee, but I didn't!"

It's the kind of story that says to the rest of the country, "Please mock us mercilessly."

I'm Comfortable

Late last night, I started reading Gerald R. Ford by Douglas Brinkley. Before that, I had read To America: Personal Reflections of an Historian by Stephen E. Ambrose, and was particularly taken with this passage on page 50, in which Ambrose's editor asked him to write a book on the building of the transcontinental railroad, but not focusing on the shady motives of the bosses involved, but rather how it was built, who built it.

He writes: "I needed six months to read the major items in the literature so I could see if there was a reason for another book on the subject. In the process, I discovered what a fascinating subject the building of the line was and is. I discovered that there was an alternative proposal to having the railroad built by private corporations. The government built wagon roads, dug and maintained harbors and canals, constructed bridges. Why not have the government build and own the railroad?"

Six months. I didn't have that luxury when I wrote my essays for What If They Lived? I didn't need it, because the concept was already laid out. The names were ready for me to choose. There was a deadline and it was time to get to work. I was entirely new at this form of writing, and there was no safety net. I just had to get to work and do it.

Then, I was freaking out inside about the entire project, about the sheer enormity of it, but now I'm grateful for it because I have the confidence to press on with my ideas, to make them real. Now I have the luxury to spend time reading "the major items in the literature," though I'm starting relatively small. Douglas Brinkley's book is one in the "American Presidents Series," with Arthur W. Schlesinger, Jr. as the General Editor, and published by Times Books, a branch of Henry Holt and Company.

From what I can tell, having checked out a good number in this series, the text doesn't go above 200 pages. As Schlesinger puts it in the Editor's Note that appears in all the books, "It is the aim of the American Presidents series to present the grand panorama of our chief executives in volumes compact enough for the busy reader, lucid enough for the student, authoritative enough for the scholar."

These are perfect diving boards for me. Maybe I'll find what I'm looking for here in smaller details. It gives me the background of these men and then I can go for the bigger books later on, many of which I have right now. Plus the "Selected Bibliography" offers up a heap of books that I might read in the months to come.

When I was reading Ambrose's book, I read about World War II, and I read about Vietnam, subjects that don't interest me as much as the presidency. But it also depends on the historian because Ambrose writes about it all so vividly, that I'm glad to learn more about these wars, and since they involved many presidents, I can place it in that context, which Ambrose gives as well.

Most important to me is that I'm excited about this. I see the other library books in my stacks related to this research, and I'm not intimidated. This is where I belong.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Haunting Poetry in History

There are countless moments in history that stop you short of getting through the rest of your day, making you really think about your place in the world in relation to great and terrible political figures, events in various histories, and those small moments that sometimes show that those you would believe to be above you in the annals of government really don't possess anything more special than simply being alive and living through the same emotions and day-to-day decisions that we do, though ours tend to be far less momentous, yet no less important.

What I'm driving at is from Going Home to Glory: A Memoir of Dwight D. Eisenhower, 1961-1969 by David Eisenhower with Julie Nixon Eisenhower. Eisenhower chronicles growing up as the grandson of Dwight D. Eisenhower, and all that entailed for his family, including John, his father, who served him for decades, including his eight years in the White House.

It's a fascinating story, full of those details that show that presidents, even with all that burden, are indeed human. And there's one particular sobering moment in that vein, toward the end of the book, in which news of Eisenhower's forthcoming death has gone through Washington and triggered many preparations, including a eulogy being written for Nixon to deliver at the memorial service in the Capitol Rotunda, and Lyndon Johnson at work as well:

"At the LBJ Ranch in Austin, Texas, a melancholy Lyndon Johnson drafted a statement beginning: "A giant of our age is gone." Four days later, he would stalk Eisenhower's funeral in Abilene like a ghost, barely noticed by many, eyes glistening in sorrow at the passing of a good friend."

During his presidency, Johnson consulted Eisenhower regularly, and also gave standing orders that a helicopter be provided for him to and from his farm in Gettsyburg, Pennsylvania, that he be permitted use of Walter Reed Army Hospital, and also Camp David.

That is indeed sad poetry, and it's also a testament to David Eisenhower's skilled writing that he can convey that and make one stop reading for a few moments to really think about that, between the Johnson that existed in the White House early on and the Johnson that endured such personal carnage as he oversaw a devastating war, such turmoil that extended to that point in his post-presidential life.

That's not meant to diminish the importance of those who fought and died in the Vietnam War, but as my focus for at least three books is the presidents, that's what I emphasize here.

As to my research, this book included, I don't skim the pages looking for keywords that crucial to the books I plan to write. I read each and every book because I love this subject. What better opportunity to go deep into all of this history?

Silky Muted Crunchiness

Obviously, if you douse Cheerios in a liquid, they get soggy. (Sidenote: I would follow a parenting blog called "Whiskey and Cheerios." Someone work on that, please.)

But my frustration in the morning has been that after I pour milk on my Cheerios, I only get a chance at the top layer being crunchy. Further down, the floating Cheerios have no chance. They're soggy by the time I get there. It could be that because my milk of choice is Alta Dena Fat Free Skim Milk, there might be something missing from that which milk with more fat might have. I don't know, and I don't have that much time to waste online this afternoon.

I will never give up milk and I will never give up cheese. Those in moderation, always. But lately, as part of eating a lot healthier, I've gotten into soy products. Don't gag. Have you tried Trader Joe's Edamame Hummus? It tastes like chicken salad without the chicken. Whenever we go to Trader Joe's, I always rush for the refrigerated hummus case for that and their Chunky Olive Hummus, which includes green and black olives. That taste is genetic, since my Mom loves black olives.

My foray into soy has included the Silk products, but in drink box form. Plain, chocolate, and most of the time without the straw that's provided because it's like sucking bubbles, so I use a regular straw so I can get it all in one shot.

I never thought to get Silk in the cardboard containers, since the boxes have always been enough for me. But Mom got the Silk PureAlmond with dark chocolate, and that was really good. So at Wal-Mart last Sunday (not the big one with the food center that we went to that night, but to the smaller one during the day), I decided to get the original Silk.

My body's still getting used to it, as evidenced by the gas that says, "Ok, we've no idea what this is, but at least it's not all that shit he used to eat all the time," but I love it. Yesterday, my first day with it, I opened it and the first cup was very plain. Later that day, it tasted a little nuttier. This stuff seems to develop over time, at least before when it's supposed to expire! I love that! I don't drink wine, so this is the only instance in which I can sense the taste of something changing, becoming more pronounced.

This morning, I decided to pour Silk in my Cheerios instead of the Alta Dena milk. And it was exactly what I wanted. The top layer still had the most crunchiness, but the layer below didn't give up so quickly. It couldn't possibly be as crunchy, but there was still a small crunch there. With the regular milk, I'd just eat the Cheerios and be done, not thinking anything further about it. But now, I take pleasure in there still being a crunch. It's quiet, but it's still there, and I love it.

The bigger Wal-Mart in this valley was selling three-packs of the Very Vanilla flavor when we were there on Sunday night. $1.07, with a red color over the price, indicating that they were not going to carry it after that stock had run out. I bought two three-packs, and I like it. I have it in the afternoon as a snack, sometimes with a granola bar, sometimes not. But my success with the original flavor, and with this flavor makes me want to try the others.

For the sake of my Cheerios, the original flavor will be the standard by which all other Silks have to abide.

That Was Too Close

I woke up at 8:03 in disbelief. 24 minutes ago. It was remarkable for me, because it's difficult to get back to sleep while Dad and Meridith are getting ready for work.

Generally, I need complete silence to sleep, and I got that after they had left, so I sank into what was indeed another world, for about 45 more minutes. Thankfully, it was only temporary, because I don't want that world. Ever.

I'm not sure what the circumstances of the dream were, what I had been doing up until that point, where I had been. Maybe I had been asleep in my room, maybe I had just come home from somewhere. That detail isn't important.

I remember there being dishes in the sink from dinner, and it was my night to do them, so I thanked Meridith for putting it all into the sink, and I told Mom that I would handle it.

I went into my room, and also into total shock. My nightstand was cleared of nearly everything I had on it; my books were neatly stacked around the room, some stacked in the boxes I use as bookshelves, spine side out, but there was one huge distinction: There were far less books.

The only stack that represented what I had had before in humongous stacks was next to my bed, and looked like it was on the verge of teetering like Jenga blocks. It wasn't that I thought I wouldn't be able to find anything that I was shocked, it was that I wasn't given a choice of what I wanted to keep.

Mom and Meridith were still sitting on the couch in the living room, watching TV, after I had taken in that horrific scene, and I rushed right by them into the master bedroom (which has a door leading into the garage) and shook Dad awake, demanding answers. He said, "You don't need that many books." I fairly shouted, "I bought some of those books for research!" And it's true. I have. Right now, there's a three-volume biography of Nixon by Stephen Ambrose in one stack, and another Nixon biography by Conrad Black under my widescreen TV, as well as a book about the creation of the Frost/Nixon interviews, all purchases inspired by my visit to the Nixon Presidential Library and Museum, but now for research as well.

After that scene, I rushed outside to the recycling bins, hoping they hadn't been picked up so I could recover what I knew I needed. Too late. The truck had already been there.

I walked down the street, dazed, looking in other bins, hoping that Dad had also put books in those bins and that the guy operating the recycling truck hadn't been too careful. As I did, a few teenagers put some soda cans in one of the bins and brushed right by me as I rolled one of those empty bins back to the curb. A bin as empty as I was at that moment.

I know I have a lot of books, and that my room is small enough to make those books look big. But you never, never, never tell a bibliophile that he or she has too many books. We know why we have those books. We know that we have a lot. But that is our life, or at least part of our life. We want as many of those pages as possible in a day. I know absolutely that that's the reason I'm here, living this particular life (As for past lives, I don't know, but I've always been mildly curious after watching that scene in Defending Your Life where Albert Brooks and Meryl Streep are at the Past Lives Pavilion), and that I will not give up books or reading for anything.

I also know that I won't keep all the books I have in my room. I have one inviolable rule for my collection, which remains separate from all those stacks of books: I have to have an overwhelming desire for a book to have it in my collection. If I check out a book more than 3 times from the library, I buy a copy for my collection. That happened with a few of my Bukowski books, as well as This Book Will Save Your Life by A.M. Homes. There are the rare exceptions, such as The Library by Sarah Stewart, an illustrated children's book about a devoted reader whose house is so thoroughly stocked with books that it creates some problems, yet she doesn't see them as problems until the end, finds a solution that benefits her community, and then goes on reading for the rest of her life.

I know the stacks of books in that book, because they're mine. This was one title that I chose for Meridith to read to Tigger and Kitty, since she reads to them every morning, and after we had gotten back from the library last Saturday, I took the stack of books I had chosen for them and read all of them, since they interested me in some way, too.

As soon as I finished The Library, I went to, typed in the necessary information (title and author) and bookmarked that page, and looked it up on Amazon and bookmarked that, too, with the intent of buying it, which I did late last week. The Library will be part of my collection because it is me completely.

I probably have a few hundred books in my room. But my collection totals about 40 books. 40 that I will keep. 40 that will move with me when we eventually move. As to the other books, I'm not going to become a bookseller after I'm done with them. I don't intend to become part of the AbeBooks community. Those books probably will end up going to Goodwill if I don't need them in my collection.

Every book in my room is there for a reason. It may end up not being an immediate reason, but it is an eventual reason. I know in that nightmare, Dad was looking to keep the house more organized, but it reminds me that I remain very much annoyed by the manufactured disdain toward education in this country. Being educated and being able to tell a "v" from an "n" is not elitist. This is who I am. Call me whatever you want, but in all my years of reading, I know that I could probably come up with a better insult than you can manage.

Yeah, that last bit is completely incongruous with the rest of my words, but I had to get that out somewhere, and I didn't want to spend an entire entry with it.

Monday, April 25, 2011

The Two Sides of Cows

We went to the Wal-Mart Supercenter on Carl Boyer Drive fairly late last night. Considering that we don't usually go out on Sundays past 8 p.m. since Dad and Meridith have work the next day, this was fairly late. But we still had things to get that we didn't cover on Saturday.

They're completely remodeling this Wal-Mart. Sections are being squished together, being moved, and in some cases, you can't find them unless you circle the entire store thinking that you might have missed what you were looking for, and lo and behold, there it is, near whatever that section used to be. This also makes for a shoe department that no longer looks like a department, but rather just a section of shelves with less brands than there were, at least until they figure out where they're putting everything in this conundrum of space. There's sheets of paper taped to shelves with blue tape from department heads (or maybe corporate department heads), indicating where everything should go, what kids' styles are being replaced in favor of ones that may sell better, and how the shelves should be stocked. It's going to be a while before this even looks like it once did, at least in actually having shoes.

These days, I don't wear my velcro shoes that often. They get the most use on the weekends, so they don't wear out as quickly as they used to. But even if I was looking for a pair, it would be hard to find here. Mom found one box that had two left sneakers in it and it took a box or two more to find an actual pair.

But that wasn't what compelled me to write all of this. There's a set of racks where leather shoes hang. If you walk swiftly past it, you get an overpowering smell of leather. It almost makes you gag as your knees buckle. It's like finding discounted Easter candy, but far less pleasant. Come to think of it, what this Wal-Mart and the one on Kelly Johnson Parkway (overlooking Six Flags Magic Mountain) had in leftover Easter candy wasn't all that pleasant anyway, not for me. I wanted more Cadbury eggs (stop your snickering; I figured there might be no chance in finding any more, but I still wanted to look) and Reese's candy eggs, the ones in those pastel candy shells with the fully peanut butter center. Nothing. Just Starburst Easter candies that shouldn't have even been there. I understand the fervent desire of candy companies to profit off of Jesus's resurrection as a perpetually horny egg stasher, but some candies don't go with Easter. If you're not Cadbury, strike one, and you're on a very short leash, so you'd better prove yourself quickly. Starburst already eliminates itself by those standards.

Anyway, back to the hanging leather. It fascinates me how that smell isn't at all one to want to encounter again, yet if you walk past a set of grills giving proper tribute to hamburgers and steaks, you've got heaven coming on a plate soon.

Bless the cow for being able to multitask so skillfully.

Damn You, Bourne! (Actually, no. You've already been damned enough.)

All the CIA intrigue in the movies The Bourne Identity and The Bourne Supremacy (I plan to rewatch The Bourne Ultimatum for the 54,892nd time next weekend) has got me on a suspense novel kick that includes the first three novels John LeCarre wrote (to see if I want to read any more beyond those), as well as many books about those who were in the CIA, such as Robert Baer, whose latest book, with his wife Dayna, is The Company We Keep: A Husband-and-Wife True-Life Spy Story, about how they met while serving in the CIA. I bought it from Amazon about two months ago, but hadn't gotten to it until last night, and it's so vivid in the telling.

Despite enjoying Laura Lippman's Tess Monaghan series so far, I've found that I read that more for the characters involved than the mystery at hand. In fact, I think that's why I'm keen on those CIA books, because the stakes are already established, and they get higher and higher, and that's where the pleasure is. Plus, the details revealed are always fascinating. It's also why I've begun reading Joseph Finder's works. He knows how to work the levers of a thriller to their maximum breaking point.

A life in books never loses its sense of discovery, and always delivers a steady supply of interesting titles.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

However, I'm Enjoying It

Initially, I started research for my second book with the intent to write one book. But as the research has gone on, I've come up with ideas for two more books.

Since they all involve the same subject, the presidents, but with different emphases, I'm now doing research for three books, since I don't want to go through those same books a second and third time.

The brain gets a good, strong daily workout in my attempt to keep in mind everything I need while I read the necessary books.

For You Jewish Sports Fans...

The final score from last night's showing of "The Ten Commandments" on ABC: God - 40, Egyptians - 0.

Next on ESPN, we'll have locker room reactions from, and interviews with, the defeated coaches and players...uh, well, instead, the 85th airing of today's SportsCenter is coming right up.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Crunch Time for a Bibliophile

As of today, Saturday, April 23, 2011, I've got six more Saturdays, including today, in which I can check out books from the Valencia library. On June 4, books can no longer be checked out from there, Canyon Country or Newhall, and on June 10, all materials belonging to those three libraries will be due.

Now, I don't know when holds being placed for materials from the other County of Los Angeles libraries will be cut off. I've been lucky because despite declarations that any items put on hold from those libraries have to be picked up from the Castaic library (separate from the three Santa Clarita branches), all the books I've put on hold through the online library catalog have come to Valencia. If this was not meant to happen, I hope they don't correct it. Not yet. I still need these weeks so I can keep bringing in presidential books for research for my second book. I need those books. As I've said before, without the County of Los Angeles libraries, I never would have been able to write my share of What If They Lived?. I don't expect to get through all the books I'd need, but just to get the relatively major ones out of the way and those notes transcribed and saved, so I have it and can be comfortable with either checking out what those three branches have come July 1, or buying for cheap whatever I need off of

But this also presents a new conundrum. Because though I'm dedicated to getting this research done, to figuring out exactly how I want to cover the material I'm bringing together, there's a play that keeps nagging me. Or maybe two plays. One takes place during Grad Nite at Disneyland (inspired by chaperoning my sister's Grad Nite in 2007), involving two sets of characters at different places in the park during the same hours, and the other takes place just off the lobby at the Grand Californian hotel, at two plush easy chairs, with a small circular table in between them, and a lamp a few inches behind the chair on the left, and a long, horizontal rose-patterned rug. I had my sister take pictures on her phone and e-mail them to me so I get the setting exactly right.

I've already spent time on the Dramatists Play Service website (, and spent some money there, ordering those plays that hew fairly closely to what I want to write. I want to see how those playwrights did it, how they staged their plays, how they presented those situations. I want to learn as much as I can from them. At the same time, I've also become very much inspired by the works of Sam Shepard, or rather his prose. About two weeks ago, I checked out as many of his plays as I could find, intending to read them. This week, I've got more presidential books on hold to be picked up, and those are crucial in the face of these dwindling weeks.

But maybe there is a way to still have Shepard's plays, even though I'll likely return them today to pick up the books I need. I'll just put them on hold again after I've returned them and picked up my books on hold, and hope for the best. I should have the same luck next week that I've had this week. With so many people having abandoned the Valencia library in favor of Castaic and other County branches in anticipation of the transfer of control from the County to the City of Santa Clarita (It's a lot emptier on a Saturday than it used to be), there's more space for me.

Oh, one other thing to mention. I hit upon this book in an e-mail I subscribe to containing Washington Post book reviews. It's called Founding Gardeners: The Revolutionary Generation, Nature, and the Shaping of the American Nation by Andrea Wulf. A rather unwieldy title, but important to me because Wulf wrote about the first four presidents' passion for gardening. This is exactly what I'm seeking. It can be done, and so can the aspect of the presidents that I want to write about. I just have to figure out how to do it and I'm sure this book can help in some way. I don't intend to buy it now, since it's just a little too pricey for me after what I've already bought in recent weeks, but I will soon. I want to see how Wulf wrote about Washington, Adams, Jefferson and Madison, and maybe there'll be inspiration in there for me.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Couldn't Do It

I did better than my record while at Broward Community College, in all the time I spent at Southwest Regional Library. Then, I didn't get past Moonraker. This time, I made it to Doctor No and this time, the run included Diamonds are Forever and From Russia with Love, both of which came after Moonraker.

Is it because I was reading them one after the other and perhaps got tired of their inner workings, the establishment of the missions, the woman beside Bond, the weapons, the descriptions of the food he ate, the details that Ian Fleming felt were important for us to know about the history of a place or of what Bond planned to do to defeat the villain?

I could never get tired of Fleming's food descriptions. I love descriptions of food in books, which is why, when I went on my latest shopping spree at (It happens once in a while, not always once a month, but it always goes above $30), I bought Literary Feasts (, a compilation of food scenes in various novels.

Is it because I mostly knew how Fleming tended to operate within his novels, when the villain would be revealed, when Bond would be introduced to the allies that would help him on his mission? No. I think it's because it felt like Fleming didn't care as much when writing Doctor No as he did with From Russia with Love, which preceded it. In From Russia with Love, Fleming gives 71 pages over to the murderous Soviet organization SMERSH before even re-introducing Bond. He describes the operatives, the plan that they intend to carry out (to ruin and then murder Bond and completely upend the British Secret Service), and it's more than what the feature films gave with SPECTRE. President Kennedy had excellent taste when he mentioned this as one of his favorite books.

Doctor No is a huge letdown. It has everything one can expect from the Bond novels by that point, but it's written without the same attention or the same intensity to make you be completely absorbed in Bond's mission. I was disappointed when Donovan "Red" Grant (You may remember him when Robert Shaw played him in the film version of From Russia with Love), doesn't appear until nearly the end of From Russia with Love, because he's described so vividly in physical form and in personality that it feels like he should have more to do besides just basically lie in wait for the moment to kill Bond on the Orient Express.

The same disappointment is there in Doctor No, because Doctor Julius No comes into the novel fairly late, and isn't much of an interesting figure. This is who Bond will battle? It's not much of a battle towards the end anyway, and it's no wonder the script for Dr. No changed that drastically.

Now, it could be that I need a break, but I'm not ready to continue, or even certain that I'd want to continue. The James Bond movies are my Star Wars, and I had hoped that the same would stand for the books. Not to own them (since I haven't come upon any I'd want to have in my collection), but to know them as intimately as I do the films. If I got bored with the next set of titles, I could always close them and return them, but at this point, so close to when the County of Los Angeles is going to hand over control of the Santa Clarita libraries to the City of Santa Clarita and cut off access to their hundreds of thousands of titles (and leaving me stranded in so many ways in my research for the books I'm working on), I can't afford to waste slots like that.

So maybe not now. Maybe not later this year. Maybe next year, or the year after that. The feeling may come again. But I'm not going to force myself back into it. That's not the right way to read anything.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

That's a Habit I Don't Need to Keep

After I woke up this morning and put my bedsheets in the washer (Kitty puked at the foot of my bed during the night, and I didn't feel like getting up at that hour to investigate, though I kept feeling a cold chunk of something whenever my foot wandered to the right side, and all I did when I saw it was sweep it up and put it in the garbage, but for the yellow stain there, washing the sheets was entirely necessary. Not sure what could have caused it, maybe a delayed reaction from the Passover plates we made for her and Tigger, but she seems ok now. Thankfully nothing beyond a stomach upset), Mom informed me that a nasty habit of mine had returned: Nastiness.

It's not random or calculated nastiness. I don't have the dark soul for either of those. But apparently, when I'm at work on a book, I tend to get short and snippy with those around me. Artistic temperament, maybe, but I thought that that's only earned after the third or fourth book. It's not so much devotion to the work at hand that I shut everything out, although Mom told me that when I'm working on one of my writing projects, I'm far removed from the rest of the world. I cannot be reached.

Now, I'm working on being more accessible. It's not fair to her, Dad and Meridith that I remain so aloof when I'm in the thick of that jungle of thoughts. But I can pinpoint where it comes from.

It happened when I was doing research for "What If They Lived?" One of the people I had chosen to write about was Carole Landis, a 1940s actress who led a tragic life. For each actor, I searched for the books that were available about them. For Landis, there was a book called Carole Landis: A Tragic Life in Hollywood by E.J. Fleming, published by McFarland & Company, which is notorious for very little editorial oversight.

I ordered the book from Amazon, since the County of Los Angeles library system had no copies, and I tried to read it. I couldn't. Fleming was so obsessed with setting up the time period, and not getting quickly enough to talking about Landis's life. Plenty of gossip abounded within the pages, too, and that became annoying as well. I couldn't find any part of this that I would have enjoyed enough to write about Landis's life and then speculate on what she might have done if she had lived.

I told Phil Hall that I wasn't getting anywhere with it, and e-mailed him my notes. I got rid of the book.

That's only one part of this habit. The other part is that I hate transcribing notes. I get so bored by the stupefying chunks of time spent typing handwritten notes into Word files. My vehement dislike for it began when I became an intern at The Signal and spent nine hours on my first day transcribing audiotapes for Stephen Peeples, one of the writers there. I became very good at quick transcription, but was very bored with the interviews and always having to strain to hear certain passages on those tapes.

When I transcribed the notes I wrote while reading 40+ books for "What If They Lived?", I couldn't stand sitting at the computer to do the same thing. I could read my handwriting, but after the 7th, 8th, and 9th pages, good lord, how much more did I have to go before I could tear up the notes triumphantly and then focus on the occasional frustration of making those essays read how I wanted them to read?

I don't mind writing. An idea comes into my head and I roll with it without complaint. But I enjoy editing a lot more. I love moving around words, playing with punctuation, figuring out how to make each sentence fit what I'm trying to do.

So it was with the same situation for "What the Presidents Read", my next book. Yesterday, I finally finished reading The Clinton Tapes: Wrestling History with the President by Taylor Branch. 668 pages. It took me a week to get through it. I didn't mind the policy discussions or the international matters covered, since I grew up during the Clinton Administration. I love history and I especially love learning about those who made it. Moreso, I'm nuts for presidential history. So Branch, a close friend of Clinton, recorded conversations with him as the events of his administration happened (more or less, because there were sometimes months-long gaps between when they would get together for these secret sessions, which were necessary so no one got wind of the intent of the project, which was to create an unassailable record of his time in office), and inside this book, you get insight into his troubled relationship with his FBI Director, Louis Freeh, as well as his distant relationship Janet Reno, and as much as the media wanted you to think back then that the Clintons' marriage was rocky during the Lewinsky scandal and could have fallen apart, that doesn't seem to be so.

Branch's writing tends to get somnambulistic at times, as he wonders about what he's supposed to be during the course of these recordings, whether he's supposed to sharply question Clinton, remain a sounding board, or gently suggest insights that could push the conversation into different directions. He does that many times, although I eventually understood that he was trying to grasp his place in this history, as it happened.

The most illuminating part of the book is the conversation that Clinton and Gore had after Gore conceded the election to Bush. I transcribed those pages verbatim (as I did for the book-related passages I need for my own book), because I want to use them for another idea I have. There's fascinating drama there.

So I finally finished the book late yesterday afternoon, and I spent the entire evening transcribing my remaining notes (As I finished transcribing each page from my pad, I tore it up and threw it out, as I have my notes saved on this computer and on my flash drive), which was tedious and frustrating, because when in the hell was this going to be over? Not the project, I mean, but just having to pull these words from the book into the Word file. And I got short with Mom and Meridith during the evening. I noticed a bit of that, but not completely enough to really think about my actions.

And I have thought about them. And it's ridiculous. They didn't write that book. Branch did. And I was short-sighted because this one book shouldn't cause all that trouble. I only thought about my immediate frustration, and didn't think about what this would lead to. Eventually, I'll have enough book-related information about Clinton and hopefully all the other presidents to write another book. And then I'll write it, and I'll write query letters to publishers and agents, pitching my book, and hopefully someone will find it interesting enough to publish it. And then I'll repeat the process with more books that I have in mind, both fiction and nonfiction. And I'll continue to do that, also with the plays I have in mind. This process widens my name. What problems could I possibly have with that?

Unlike the Carole Landis book, I can't close any of the books I'm reading for this project. I have to slog through them if necessary because I need lots of information. And not only that, but I'm doing concurrent research. While reading The Clinton Tapes, I came up with an idea for another book, centered on the history of a certain room in the White House. So while reading these books, I have to look out for two lines of information to cover both books.

I've got to watch myself now. Neither member of my favorite trio deserve to be sniped at. Despite my obsessed life with them, these are just books. Just varying chunky sizes of paper. I became a former film critic because I didn't find it fun anymore, with all the hype that never changes from year to year. Books are always fun to me, and that's how it should remain. And if any more books should frustrate me during this spate of research, I need to remind myself that there are more to come and there are equal possibilities of pleasure in those. I can't think of anything else I'd want to do. This is it.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Sometimes You Just Need a Box of Chicken

This past weekend, in The Wall Street Journal Weekend, in the Off Duty section, there was a page about Atlanta, under the "Adventure & Travel" heading. The bottom of the page is given over to people living in the featured area, and there was Cee Lo Green, Richard Blais from "Top Chef: All-Stars", designer Kay Douglass, and Kathryn Stockett, who wrote The Help. All gave their favorite places in Atlanta, and I loved Stockett's second-from-the-last pick in her column:

"Poultry Excuse: Kroger. I get my fried chicken--and much of my writing material--at the location in Brookwood Square. It will blow your mind--the chicken, the divorces. I once heard a pregnant woman tell her husband it wasn't his baby. He went right ahead and ordered an eight-piece box. 1745 Peachtree St. N.E.,"

Monday, April 18, 2011

Bettie Page's Banana Stand

Yesterday, after a long day that took us from one corner of this valley to another, including a stop at Moon Wok, the Bible of Chinese Food here, we went to Trader Joe's. Mom and Meridith went to PETCO next door first, but Dad and I went right to Trader Joe's.

No matter how much Trader Joe's disappoints me by what they take away (I still miss the microwave-in-bag spanish rice), I will never tire of this place. Not the free samples, not the pre-made salads that keep rising in price, not the frozen section with its always reliable supply of meatless corn dogs (which I like a lot better than regular corn dogs). And brother, if you want to get a look at more attractive female fare in this valley, go to Trader Joe's. A plumper behind is always appreciated.

That wasn't even the most interesting part of this long overdue shopping trip. At the banana stand, there were three employees there pulling the ripened bananas from the shelf below and putting them on top of the green bananas already stacked, because there were boxes on carts with new green bananas to be placed on that shelf below.

There was one employee working on this who was particularly fascinating. She had modest tattoos on her left and right upper arms, a tight dark shirt, and deep black hair. Maybe it was the eyeliner that did it, or her entire head, but she looked like a serious contender for a Bettie Page look-alike contest.

And no, I didn't stand there while choosing what bananas I wanted, imagining her in one of Bettie's outfits while she stacked bananas. Ok, I did.

And lest you think that was all that visit to Trader Joe's meant to me (It was 80%), I did quite well in gathering what I hadn't seen in so long, including my favorite chunky olive and edamame hummuses, a huge freakin' grapefruit, those meatless corn dogs, and more veggie burgers.

SAT Test Dream: Part None

Not one moment in a dream last night to continue what I hoped would be a recurring dream. Not an appearance by her, not any time, nothing. I did find myself in yet another theme park, which is helpful, since one of my (so far) two novels takes place during a day at a theme park, but I was disappointed.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

SAT Test Dream

The last time I had what could maybe be considered a recurring dream was when I had a series of dreams involving the same theme: A girlfriend. This led to what I did not know would happen, that I began dating Irene in 7th grade, right on the day of the Valentine's Day Dance, yes, that February 14th. This was in 1997, so it shows that I'm beginning to age gracefully toward my 30s.

I wish that the dream I had through the night from late last night on would become a recurring dream. I loved it, because of the fun and the boisterous spirit in it.

I was in some kind of testing hall for the SATs. I don't know why. I was sitting at one of the desks, wondering why I was even there, because I was 27, and there is no way the SATs would benefit me in any way at my age. Not that they did anyway, because I took them in 12th grade, and that was that. I didn't use it on a college application, didn't have to apply it to anything else I pursued, and I sure as hell didn't need it to get a book published. I'm not sure if I will when I seek a publisher for my next book, but I hope not, because I don't remember what I scored, but I'll bet anything that I did a lot better on the English section than the Math section.

In this dream, I didn't decide to become an annoyance, but it just happened. I was playing with some blue goo on the desk, spreading it around, even while the papers were there. I don't know why the desks were so close, and there were no partitions between the desks to prevent cheating, which I did, though not because I needed answers. Apparently, I didn't care.

There was a girl sitting to my left. I didn't get her name. She didn't need a name. She needed an excited description, a celebratory exclamation, a shout, a yell, a fist pump coupled with "YES!!!!!!" She had such a vast, happy spirit that I find so attractive in any woman. I think she was a latina, and what was also most attractive is that she made extra weight look good. Yeah, she was heavy, but in a way that accentuates all the right places. And she was so much fun. She had the same opinion I did about the SATs, but she was a few years younger than me. Legal, of course, but I'm not sure what her reason was for being there. Maybe she hadn't taken the SATs in high school and thought to do it now as a lark. Maybe it was required for something she wanted to do, even being in her early 20s. I don't know. The one thing I was absolutely certain of is that I wanted her. I wanted to run around the world with her without needing any kind of transport, or waterskis, or anything that would make a speedy trip. I figured we could just float on the wind and let it remain underfoot as we ran.

The test began, and I didn't bother to take it seriously. I looked around, I fiddled with the goo some more, I played with a few small toys I had on the desk. And then I looked over at the answers of the girl to my left, and the person to my right. And I was caught, and told to leave the testing hall. But I wasn't leaving the building without her. So I waited the few hours that it took for the testing to be complete. And she came out, and I was overjoyed to see her again, and so was she, and she rushed me over to her house. She wanted to introduce me to her entire family.

I thought she had such a dominant, boisterous spirit. I could see where she got it from. Her father was such a good-natured guy, incredible at a stove, constantly creating culinary masterpieces. He joshed me a bit, looking stern at one point, asking what my intentions were with his daughter, then bursting out laughing. He said he knew as soon as I walked in that he could trust me. There was nothing sticky there.

Her siblings were great, too. I didn't get as much from them as I did the father, but they seemed like they were comfortable with me, too.

And she, well, at one point, she wrapped her arms around my neck from behind, and put her head on my left shoulder, watching her father cook. The feeling from that alone was enough to make me hope that this dream continues tonight or some day soon. I know that I would also like that feeling in real life. That is pure happiness. I believe it is the one time that gravity would allow me to ignore its laws and just shake and shimmy with joy in mid-air.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

The Wall Street Journal Weekend

Ever since that Saturday in January mostly spent at the Fairmont Hotel in Newport Beach (, I've been hooked on The Wall Street Journal Weekend.

It started with free copies I found of it and The New York Times on a table near a pricey breakfast buffet just off the lobby. I took both to the pool, and sat a few rows behind poolside with my sister on plush burgundy pool chairs, and while she opened up "Sundays at Tiffany's" by James Patterson, I began reading both papers.

I liked that while most newspapers report the news breathlessly, in anticipation of it changing in the hours that follow your reading of it, this one seemed calm about everything, taking in all the facts in measured consideration. I don't remember the headlines on that day, but just like the Weekend edition I have today (I went to the newsstand early this morning when my dad had to bring the PT Cruiser to the repair place that's attached to the Kmart building, but not affiliated with it), the facts are all here, laid out smoothly for you to pull from it whatever you want, whatever your beliefs are.

It's the latter sections that make this newspaper one that I absolutely have to get every Saturday. In the "Off Duty" section, which is usually the last section unless there's an issue of Wall Street Journal Magazine included (It's mostly high-gloss fashion stuff), on that January morning, there was an entire page devoted to sandwiches and many of the different kinds, including po boys, along with insights from chefs about what they consider a great sandwich. And then, in the "Review" section that's before "Off Duty", there were book reviews, more book reviews than I usually find in other newspapers. And long ones, too, not just snippets within a column, although there is that as well.

Today's Weekend edition keeps up the same of what I've always expected every time I buy it. There's an above-the-fold article about the budget cut passed by the GOP, financial troubles at Bank of America, and below the fold is where you can find that which you won't find often in other papers. There's a long interview with a former stock market inside trader, and below that, a profile of a bus museum that did not catch on with the public, and it ends with the passion that Jim Lehrer of "NewsHour" on PBS has for buses, including owning one himself.

The Business & Finance section is hit-or-miss for me every week. I usually just skim through it, since while business can have drama for some in numbers, there's not much for me in it. That was pretty much what it was this week, except for an article about Angela Leong, fourth wife to Stanley Ho, a Hong Kong casino magnate, gaining control of a $1.2 billion dollar interest in his casino holdings and therefore his company for six years. There's bits of family drama in that article, and you wonder about the stories within that family, beyond what's been reported, what the conflict is like, especially with all that money at stake.

This week's Review section has the standard Joe Queenan column, this time about him tracing his ancestry and reporting it as only he can in his own wonderfully twisted take.

They have space within Review for a column called "Creating", and they profile people who, well, create things. Today is about whiskey distiller Chris Morris at Brown-Forman. I don't drink, but I like learning as much as I can about everything.

I haven't gotten to the "Off Duty" section yet, which encompasses (according to the strip below the name) "cooking, eating, style, fashion, design, decorating, adventure, travel, gear, gadgets." (There's dots between the words.) I know right off that the article on heels won't interest me, but looking below that, way below the fold, there's "Fresh Takes on Eggs - Four recipes from top chefs" on D5. That's definitely for me.

I like to try to read The Wall Street Journal Weekend each Saturday because I can devote as much time to it as it takes me to read nearly everything. Of course, that depends on when we go out, and when I get the paper, because I don't read it in the car. I don't like to shuffle a paper around in there. I got lucky this morning because I was able to get the paper far earlier than I usually do, and read almost all of the front section at the car repair place, and then skimmed through Business & Finance and got through about half of the Review section at home.

This was in the paper last week, and it's here this week too, a glossy sheet of paper advertising a subscription to The Wall Street Journal Weekend, which I would like. 52 weeks for $52 sounds ok, but the delivery time bothers me. I remember reading on the website for the daily edition that they'd deliver between 3 and 5 a.m., and being that we have two dogs and a front-door walkway gate that squeaks, no way. It's not worth saving $1.20 for the dogs to bark like hell at that hour and wake everyone up. Besides, sometimes at the newsstand, I come upon magazines I want to read, such as the latest issue of Ute Reader, which I would love to work for, as they read alternative press magazines, hundreds of them it would seem, and compile the best articles into each issue. Since I read every day, that would be the job for me, since it doesn't require reviews to be written afterward that would be published. I was a film critic. That's enough as a critic for an entire lifetime.

I remember when I was a kid how reliable Saturday morning cartoons were. Or rather, for me, Saturday morning programming, since the only cartoon I remember watching every single Saturday was "Garfield & Friends." I was also devoted to the "Mighty Morphin Power Rangers", and made sure to tape "Beakman's World", since I was still at my Saturday morning bowling league at Don Carter Lanes in Tamarac by noon.

I like that I have something on Saturday now that's just as reliable, and just as enjoyable. The same pleasure I felt for Saturday morning television is here, too, for The Wall Street Journal Weekend. Yes, a newspaper. I refuse to throw myself into the permanent technological rush hour that has so thoroughly dominated this country. I don't need to know everything that's going on in the world every single minute. I'm fine with getting my news occasionally, but I also require some thoughtfulness from it and that's what I get every Saturday.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

A Better Bond

Last night, while reading "Moonraker", I wondered why I liked it a lot more than "Live and Let Die", which I had read before it, going as chronologically as I can, at least with the Fleming books, since I decided to start on the Bond novels by John Gardner at the same time.

I finished it this morning, and I know why. It's because "Moonraker" is as compact as "Casino Royale." The card game that Bond joins to expose Sir Hugo Drax as a cheat at M's request is brilliant in its detail not only of the Blades club, but how Bond sets out to defeat Drax, the methods he uses, the history of what he knows in card playing. It's also interesting to see M differently here. He's usually the boss behind the desk, but here he spends time with Bond at this club.

Plus, Drax ties right into the rest of the story, so Bond doesn't have to travel far this time, getting special permission from Her Majesty's government to operate inside England, which is never the case, as MI6's Special Service (the "00" agents) operates outside of England, around the world, with no jurisdiction within England's borders.

But I know that I liked "Moonraker" because unlike "Live and Let Die", there's no interminable pages involving train travel. The only benefit for me were the descriptions of parts of Florida, and I always love to learn about the history of my home state. But all that time with Solitaire, who's as weak as Jane Seymour's Solitaire in "Live and Let Die"? It takes too long, and the excitement of Bond going after Mr. Big fades for a time because of those pages.

Gala Brand, the woman in this novel, isn't as interesting or really as mysterious as Vesper Lynd in "Casino Royale", but she is as strong as Bond in mind and skill, so it feels like an equal team at least. And the end of "Moonraker", which smashes all of Bond's assumptions about Brand and underscores why he can't have that particular world in which Brand exists as long as he remains 007, is shattering in its cold simplicity. It is indeed a cold world for Bond when he's not being that dashing, skilled agent.

Next is "Diamonds are Forever", and I think the last time I tried to read all the Bond novels, back in 2002 when I was attending classes at Broward Community College at its campus in Pembroke Pines, and hanging out all the time in the Southwest Regional Library (part of the Broward library system) next door, I only got up to "Moonraker." And since I didn't like "Diamonds are Forever" as a Bond film, I hope for better from the original work.

Fun Easter Horrors!

Easter candy's a lot more fun than Halloween candy, as evidenced by the pastel-colored shells on Reese's peanut butter eggs, and that there seems to be a lot more good ideas for Easter candy than just the typical Halloween body parts, although I wonder how a put-your-own-Jesus-together chocolate body would sell. I do love the chocolate crosses, and I wonder if those would indeed ward off Satan if you hold it stiffly in front of you while shouting, "The power of Christ compels you! The power of Christ compels you!"

Or maybe Satan is a chocoholic, too, and then you've found a friend.

Nevertheless, I still want to see a zombie Easter bunny that eats children and then the eggs.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Something I've Wondered

My part-time job happens in the evening, compiling job listings for a freelance writing newsletter. Fortunately, there's a program on the admin website for this newsletter that grabs up all the potentially viable listings on Craigslist and puts it together so that all I have to do is click the "Filter Content" tab, and there they are, one after the other, for me to decide what to put in.

There has been one thing overall that I've wondered in all the time I've done this, at least since Craigslist began advertising for an online documentary series profiling those who use Craigslist to search for whatever. Take this, for example:

"Native Spanish-Speaking Social Media Writer - Pet Communities"

No disrespect intended toward the purpose of the listing. It's a job, and a job is always good, especially for whoever gets it. But under all that business, the person who has posted the listing clicked the option that indicates: "OK to contact me about appearing in CL documentary series"

Tell me: Why is it always the godawful boring listings on Craigslist that have this indicated?

I've Found My Path

I spent part of the evening sitting on the floor at PetSmart in Stevenson Ranch in front of the sealed-off bird cages, reading "Moonraker" by Ian Fleming, part of my goal to read all the James Bond novels ever published. Mom and Meridith were looking at the birds, deciding if there were any that could make a trio of finches for us. (We have Mr. Chips and Gizmo, but Mom's still on the fence about another third finch. She believes it would be easier this time with only two, just like with two dogs, and certainly when we move.)

I got to page 124 in that span of time, but when we reached the car to head home, I was reticent about hooking my reading light onto this paperback copy, not for fear of tearing, but because despite however many pages I hold to the front cover to create a strong-enough base for the reading light, there's always a droop. So I opened up "Out of the Cracker Barrel" by William Cahn, a hardcover book, ostensibly about the formation of the Nabisco Corporation, but moreso about its founder, Adolphus W. Green. There is such depth of research and clear-eyed observation here. Cahn just wants the facts to be known and it's fascinating to read, along with the historical photos, which are astonishing in their clarity. These are really good black-and-white photographs.

After passing page 22, I couldn't wait anymore. Not that I wait until the end to read an author's bio, but I wanted to know right away who William Cahn was and what else he had done with his life (I just found out that the Walter P. Reuther Library at Wayne State University in Detroit has a collection of his papers, and that he died in 1976). And I got this:

"William Cahn, a Dartmouth College graduate, is a public relations consultant and author of several successful books, including The Story of Pitney-Bowes; Einstein, A Pictorial Biography; The Laugh Makers, A Pictorial History of American Comedians; Harold Lloyd's World of Comedy; Good Night Mrs. Calabash: The Secret of Jimmy Durante. He is also the co-author of The Story of Writing.

Mr. Cahn is particularly interested in the documentary form which permits facts or photographs--or both--to re-create history, whether of a man, an era or an institution. "When the author is more moderator than judge, a work of history comes alive. This is what I have tried to do in Out of the Cracker Barrel."

Mr. Cahn lives with his wife and three children in New Haven, Connecticut."

With that bibliography, Cahn clearly followed his passions. That's what I intend to do. Besides my next book, I've got two novels in mind, one of which will be based upon Don Quixote, and I haven't even read it yet. I like the gist of it, though, and I've figured out an unattainable holy grail for my Quixote figure. However, I'm not sure if I have any more ideas for novels beyond those two, but being that I'm 27, and have probably only seen barely 1/8 of the world so far, there may be more in the decades to come.

I'm also planning two books about condiments (yes, condiments), one involving the packaging of condiments. I know there's enough historical material for both books. I just have to dig for it.

I have a folder on this computer and on my flash drive for plays, and I've got at least 50 ideas. But out of those, there are 2 or 3 that really excite me, and I'm sure I can develop the others over time, if indeed there's anything there.

I don't expect to get rich off any of this. I know a full-time job will be absolutely necessary, but since I know what I want to do, and I'm passionate about either option, that won't be a problem.

But all of this is exactly what I want to do with my life. Actually, it is my life. It's my hobbies, too. I don't feel like there's anything missing. I'm excited every day with what there is to do as a writer. There have been shit days with my words, and there will be more shit days, guaranteed, but at least there'll be something written on those days that can be improved upon on the good days. I've always leaned more toward the editing side of writing, and despite the hardships, I'm grateful every day for those five weeks that I was the interim editor of the weekend Escape section at The Signal. It taught me not only about the pressures involved in getting the words into print, but also how to streamline them, to make them even better for readers.

I get to read and write every day. I can't think of anything else I want. Well, more books to read, but that's a given.

The Moment That Will Continue to Inspire Me Through My Next Book

Just like with "My Thirty Years Backstairs at the White House," I started reading "Write It When I'm Gone" by esteemed journalist Thomas M. DeFrank last night, and finished it late this morning. It's a series of three decades of off-the-record interviews with Gerald R. Ford, who told DeFrank he could print all this after his death. And DeFrank did. And while it yielded very little information for my own book, it's a remarkable, highly informative journey through the feelings and historical moments of America's first and only unelected vice president and president, which Ford did not like, and wanted so badly to be elected in his own right, but came to terms with it in due time in his post-presidential life.

In my notes, I took down names to look up, titles of other books to read, political names to look up, such as James Callaghan of Britain, but I found a moment in here that speaks to exactly what I believe in my own life: No one is above me and no one is below me. And I hold the same belief for presidents. They may have access to nuclear launch codes, and their words reverberate throughout the world, but they are human. Their historical position does not change that.

Ford showed that many times, being a gentle man and a good man. DeFrank writes this in his epilogue:

"All of us in this crazy business of journalism retain instances that stick in our brains, moments that really weren't newsworthy or happened past deadline, so they never made it into print or onto the air, but are memorable nonetheless because they offer an unexpected window into the character and humanity of a public life.

For me, one of those iconic insights occurred just four days after Gerald Ford became president, as he was fiddling with the speech he would give to a joint session of Congress in less than two hours.

Suddenly, Ford looked up from his text and a postprandial martini.

"Howard, have you had dinner?" he asked Commander Howard Kerr, the naval aide who had delivered the final speech draft to Ford's modest home in the Virginia suburbs.

When Kerr said he hadn't eaten, the new president led the officer into the kitchen and plucked the remains of the new First Lady's tuna noodle casserole from the oven. Ford spooned out the entree onto a plate and put it on the kitchen table. "Have some dinner," he told Kerr. "I'm going to go work on the speech."

Mr. President, I can't dedicate this book to you when the time comes, but I see now that you are the reason for this book. Thank you.

Another Great Review for "What If They Lived?"

Felix Vasquez, Jr. and I wrote for Film Threat ( at the same time, but our contact was usually limited to occasional conversations, and it's been so long since we've talked at length on Facebook. Phil Hall, the co-author of "What If They Lived?", had a copy of the book sent to him and here is the result:

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Research Has Begun for My Second Book

I've talked and talked about it, but talk isn't enough, as I've been pushed into beginning research for my second book, because of the impending handover of control of the Valencia library and the two other Santa Clarita branches from the County of Los Angeles to the City of Santa Clarita at the beginning of July. Without access to the County libraries, I would never have been able to write my share of "What If They Lived?"

Last night I started, and today I finished, "My Thirty Years Backstairs at the White House" by Lillian Rogers Park in collaboration with Frances Spatz Leighton, about Park's thirty years working as a seamstress and maid in the White House, first with her mother, Maggie, and then in her own right for the Hoover family. Very little in that book garnered anything I could use for my own book, but being that I love the 1979 miniseries that was made from it (and which I own on DVD), it was worth reading it again.

I have no publisher for this book this time, not that easily again like it was with "What If They Lived?", but I'm ready for the challenges in finding one.

Every Day a Little Death

Late last night, our white zebra finch, Ducky, died. Like Jules, who preceded him to the Rainbow Bridge, he was old, perhaps even older than Jules, by a few days or a few weeks. We can't be sure, but Ducky was getting older when we got him. We were told we could just have him, because that pet store owner didn't see anything in him anyway, thought that because of the generally dirty look he had and the beak that had been pecked by other finches to a misshapen form, what use was he?

Ducky was good for us, and in his new cage, his energy rose, and he would make sounds like an adding machine, that ringing sound, over and over.

The saddest thing last night was not that I saw his small, hunched figure at the bottom of the cage take his last breath. It was after I went to bed, and so I heard about it this morning, that Mr. Chips, who tweeted along with Ducky, and I guess was close to him.

Mom had taken off Ducky's cover completely and was doing the necessary work with Meridith, gathering Ducky's body (no burials allowed in our neighborhood) and putting it in a paper bag along with his favorite toys. Mr. Chips tweeted and when Mom pulled back part of his cover, she found him looking right at what was going on, with his beak on the bars of his cage. He never stopped looking. They were closer than I thought.

Ducky had been going for a long time. Gradually, he began to lose energy. His feet weren't carrying him the way they used to. And the adding machine noises faded. But, he was old. That's what happens. It's sad, though, because he was one of the stalwarts of our home. Not only a cute bird, but always there, always happy.

Right now, Mr. Chips and our new finch, Gizmo, are tweeting. Mr. Chips's tweets are more boisterous. Gizmo's tweets sound like a resolute cricket with a throat problem. But then, it's his second day here. He likes that everything in his cage is for him and he doesn't have to share anything with any other finch, like he did at PetSmart. Oh, and he's named Gizmo because he has the same coloring as his gremlin namesake. His was the easiest name to figure out.

It is quiet today, though. Just as much solemnity as it was when Jules died. It feels weird not having our adding machine anymore. But it is a cycle. Mom already has her eye on another finch, one that was in the same cage as Gizmo at PetSmart. I've no doubt that'll be part of our weekend errands.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Spring Break: Day 6 - Chores and Errands

Spring break is a chain of days off for Dad and Meridith, so with that much space available, anything can be done. And yet, errands of any kind only feel right on the weekend, when we do the majority of them.

Yesterday was a majority, but first in chores for me to do. I started the morning with some more of "Sordid Lives", which is based on a play by Del Shores, who also wrote and directed the film, but before I even found out it was first a play, I knew it had to have been a play first before a movie, because there's many monologues in the film, and instances where a character, with other characters, speaks at length and those characters listening either interject or just listen. It's not as obvious as, say, "The Big Kahuna," starring Kevin Spacey, Danny DeVito, and Peter Facinelli, which is entirely obvious since it takes place in one room. There are changes in location in "Sordid Lives", but you've really got to pay attention to find those moments that indicate that it was once a play.

I liked the cast. Beau Bridges is in it, Olivia Newton-John, and Leslie Jordan, who's known for Beverley Leslie on "Will & Grace", but here, embraces entirely another role, a cross-dressing gay man locked up in a mental hospital simply for being gay and being different, who idolizes Tammy Wynette and lip-syncs to her songs in full Wynette regalia in front of a medicated audience. Usually.

I finished it this morning, and now I'm curious about the TV series that was made. Netflix doesn't have it. Amazon does, but it's fairly pricey for 2 discs, even in the Marketplace section where the price is slightly lower. I also found out that Leslie Jordan's one-man show, "My Trip Down the Pink Carpet", based on his autobiography, is on DVD, and I think I want to see that more right now.

So, back to yesterday morning. A bit of "Sordid Lives", and then I decided on a shower, and then washing the dog's dishes (food dishes, water dish, the tray that all of them are on), and gathering the garbages to put together into the kitchen garbage to take it out to the bin in the garage, and the same for the recycling.

I did everything I could possibly do in one morning, and then sat down on the couch, trying to finish the rest of "The Good Fight" by Walter Mondale. The day before yesterday, we'd gone to Porter Ranch and Simi Valley, to PetCo, HomeGoods, PetSmart, the Reagan Library for lunch at the cafe there (best fresh potato chips you'll ever find), and to see "Arthur" (Mom went with me since she wanted to see it, too, and I liked it. I like Russell Brand and he did what he always does best in it, though I still have a soft spot for the original, not only because of how good it is, but als because years ago, after a concert at the Hallandale Park racetrack, Christopher Cross autographed my "Arthur" DVD case in two places), and there wasn't much time to read.

I was on page 255, and had 100 more pages. So it went through that half an hour, and then after I was done with lunch, and before we went out, and on the way to the newsstand (for my usual copy of Wall Street Journal Weekend), and on the way to the library, and in the library, since I still hadn't finished it by then. I sat down at the table we chose when we got there, and did.

34 books on hold, and I picked up 20 (after returning everything I had in my tote bag, including "The Good Fight"). I usually don't read everything I check out. There's a lot of titles that I put on hold when I'm interested in them and about a week later, that interest fades, not long after I've checked out those books. That happened with one book that was a profile of the world's most powerful law firm. It happened with a book about Coke called "The Coke Machine" ( I try to make it happen less, though. For example, all the books I have right now about the presidents, I need all those for my research. And I have a few books by Anthony Bourdain, which I won't read until I've read "Kitchen Confidential", because I want to be knocked on my ass and breathless enough to want more, just like I was when I read that excerpt in the "Best Food Writing 2000" anthology.

I also picked up the first few James Bond novels by Ian Fleming. I want to read "Casino Royale" again and really pay attention to the subsequent works, unlike when I was at the Pembroke Pines campus of Broward Community College in South Florida with the Southwest Regional library right next door. I read the books, including "Moonraker", but didn't really feel like I paid a lot of attention to them. Just read them to get through them. But being that James Bond is my Star Wars, I'm going to go for it again, including the ones that came after Ian Fleming.

The rest of the day was busy; a lot of walking, with PetSmart, Target, and I didn't mind any of it. The more walking to do, the better for this body. It's when you get past 8 p.m. and go to Chick-Fil-A for dinner and start to feel it, then later at 9-something at Pavilions to pick up a few things, that the tiredness really sets in. It's not a stiff kind of tiredness, but you soon know when you've reached your limit. And I knew that when we got home a little past 10 p.m., and I put the Chick-Fil-A nutrition guide in the restaurant menu folder in a drawer in the kitchen. I looked for it again on the table, couldn't find it, went to that drawer, opened the folder and there it was. But I didn't remember that I had done that. That's when I knew it was time to let the night be ruled by others. I was done with it.

Today is possibly lunch at Moon Wok, our Chinese food heaven. Besides that, who knows. It's just an average Sunday and I like it that way.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Spring Break: Day 4 - Home Again, Home Again, Jiggity Jig

I decided to get this in before the events of tomorrow, revisiting part of the updated Reagan Library (not the part that requires admission, but I do want to see what the souvenir store has, and also to look out at the view from the replica of the South Lawn) as well as having lunch at the Reagan Cafe, a few errands arround Simi Valley, seeing "Arthur", and then possibly going to Famous Dave's BBQ for dinner.

Yet another day at home and it turns out with good reason. Not that I'm getting restless, but I did get to that point this evening where I would like to see a different part of my immediate world. Not cabin fever. With all the books I have, I can leave through the words and come back whenever I want. The living room couch is my aircraft.

Rather, it's the anticipation of seeing "Arthur." I've seen the trailer so many times, and I liked learning that there's a new version of "Best That You Can Do (Arthur's Theme)" played over the end credits, which means Christopher Cross, who I'm a huge fan of, and the others involved in that song, gets some royalties. As if that wasn't enough, I also found out that Cross has a new album coming out called "Doctor Faith." It's been 13 years since "Walking in Avalon", and I understand, since it takes time for him to write those songs, but I hope he doesn't wait too long the next time. Once that one's released, I'm buying it.

It was a quiet day with Walter Mondale. An honest, well-meaning politician. You don't find that combination of words these days. I'm up to when Jimmy Carter has decided to make him his running mate, which is what I've been waiting for, to see what it was like for him being a rare vice president who worked so closely with his boss. The meeting of the two is particularly fascinating, in Plains, Georgia, the conversations serious and utterly intelligent, and the walk around Plains, with Carter talking about how his religion drives him in his decisions.

There was enough to keep me occupied up until then, with Mondale's admiration for Hubert Humphrey, and his career in the Senate. I've got 196 pages to go, so there's a lot more interesting tidbits to come.

And that's been it. Just me and Mondale's book. And probably tomorrow, too, but with the added feature of a car and my mp3 player while in that car.

Spring Break: Day 3 - Home

We stayed home all day yesterday. I'm used to it because I've got all the books I could ever want and a whole lot more when I'm done with those.

There wasn't much reason to go out yesterday. No great attraction we could think of us to propel us from Santa Clarita to places we haven't already been. But a day like this, any day like this, is never a waste.

For one, besides the books and DVD that came in the morning yesterday, I came upon something equally beneficial to me. I've waited to see "Somewhere" for a year, starting when I learned Sofia Coppola was making a new film. I loved "Lost in Translation," it's in my DVD collection, and I liked "Marie Antoinette," but not as much as "Lost in Translation." When it was time for the release of "Somewhere", I checked the official website every week to see if it would come to one of the two theaters in the Santa Clarita Valley. Never. Oh sure, "Country Strong" got a screen, but apparently, Focus Features didn't think we deserved having "Somewhere" on one of our screens. What, would some of our residents not have wanted to see part of the world they live in? Santa Clarita is stocked with those who work in Hollywood. Many movies and TV shows film here. The most Johnny Marco (Stephen Dorff) did that was related to movies was press junkets and going to a special effects studio to have a mold made of his head. The rest was just him living as a nothing man, really having nothing, being nothing, while it looked like he had everything.

I went to Amazon to see when "Somewhere" was coming to DVD, and I knew Netflix had made a deal with Universal to delay new releases for 30 days. "Little Fockers" came out Tuesday, but it won't be available through Netflix until May 3. "Somewhere" comes to DVD on the 19th, but I also found that 'Instant Video Rental' was available for $3.99. Since we were still home by mid-afternoon and obviously weren't going anywhere, I knew how I was going to spend the rest of the afternoon. I love that I can find a lot of titles on Netflix Instant, but I'm not keen on spending hours on a computer watching movies or TV shows, not like I used to with my own TV. I know essentially that the computer screen is just another screen, but it's not for me.

And yet, I wasn't going to wait any longer. So Amazon got my $3.99 for a 24-hour rental, which lasts until 3:19 p.m. today. The only reason I'm going to go back into the movie is to see Eliza Coupe's brief role in it again, as the Chateau Marmont tenant across the hall from Johnny Marco. I knew she looked familiar, having played Denise in the final season of "Scrubs" (what possibly came after does not exist to me), but I never knew she could look like THAT. Wow!

"Somewhere" is an interesting turn for Coppola, having been steeped in Hollywood history for a few decades, first having been the baby at the end of "The Godfather" and then as Michael Corleone's daughter in "The Godfather, Part III." She's lived this Hollywood. She knows it so well, and I was amazed at how accurately she portrayed publicists. That's pretty much what they are in that world. I've wondered how they can do that, shepherding the lives and works of others and never really forming their own identity. Ok, maybe they have an identity outside of work, but I mean really doing things for themselves, maybe making their own work. That's why I'm a former film critic, because I wanted to shepherd my own work.

"Lost in Translation" is still my favorite Sofia Coppola film. This one just takes time to know. It doesn't throw anything at you that you can immediately connect to. It's not that type of film. It's observation of this one actor, it's a meditation on what Hollywood is, the effect that it has on its actors. Not a documentary by a long shot, because surely it isn't this way for all its actors, but incisive enough.

Elle Fanning is an interesting presence, but just one part of Marco's life. Yes, she takes up most of the movie alongside Dorff's Marco, as his daughter Cleo, but Cleo is just there, just like Johnny's car is there, just like Johnny's room at the Chateau Marmont is always there. Everything's just always there, and yet there's nothing at all there for him.

There are times when what Coppola may have connected to is hard for us to connect to, scenes where we wonder when the story is going to move along. This didn't happen in "Lost in Translation" because Coppola not only had Bill Murray, but all of Tokyo. Here, she shows that Hollywood really is that barren. It feels like that. I don't know the Chateau Marmont, and I never will, but I know those roads and those freeways. There's one shot where Johnny drives by the Hollywood Bowl sign en route to the freeway. I know that sign. What Coppola captures there is 100% accurate.

Because Coppola likes long takes, there's one remarkable scene, when Johnny is in the Marmont's elevator with Benicio del Toro.

They wait in the elevator for their separate floors, there's some small talk about Johnny's room (del Toro met Bono in that room), and then they part. But looking at del Toro, it's amazing. He was a young henchman in the Bond film "Licence to Kill", and look at him now, older, weathered, with an intensity that seemed like youthful gleefulness when he was young. It serves him well now.

I might not have connected to "Somewhere" as much as I do to "Lost in Translation" because I know this world. I've not lived it, but I know it through the years I wrote movie reviews, through the Hollywood history I still study, though just as a side interest now. That scene in Las Vegas, which was at the Planet Hollywood Casino, the Las Vegas Review-Journal has a gossip columnist named Norm, who keeps track of the celebrities that have come through Vegas through the section of his column called "Sightings." Vegas partly thrives on the celebrity runoff from Los Angeles. But it's not as obsessed with it as Hollywood is. That's not all of what Las Vegas is, and that's what helps it remain its own unique self.

But as mild as I feel toward "Somewhere," it does make me impatient for Coppola's next film. She's got a fertile, creative mind that has given us so much and still has more to give.

It doesn't feel like we'll go anywhere today. Shopping at Ralphs seems more suited for the weekend, and tomorrow we're supposed to go to Simi Valley. I haven't started reading "Bossypants" by Tina Fey (not ready for it yet because when I read it, I want to read it all the way through), but I did start "The Good Fight: A Life in Liberal Politics" by Walter F. Mondale. It's a side effect of the research for my book, but I'm curious to see the Carter Administration from his perspective, being that he and Carter worked together very closely in those four years. And of course I want to know how he came to choose Geraldine Ferraro as his running mate in the 1984 election. Reading of his early life in the opening pages, it's apparent that that decision was already there. He's that much of a good and decent man.

So with this Mondale book, I'm good for the rest of the day. It doesn't take much.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Spring Break: Day 2 - Palmdale

We don't go very far for spring break. Nothing as extensive as back to Orlando for Walt Disney World, or to New York City, or any other locales in the east. I only want to visit every presidential library in the nation, and I'll get to that some day. I still have a lot of time and a lot of life left.

I've got no complaints about little travel. Where we go is usually interesting enough. Monday was Ventura, and it was nice to sit on that bench again, but this time not tired out from Galaga, and just with a book in hand, waiting for Mom and Meridith to get what they wanted from that trinket shop, and reading.

The plan for Friday is Simi Valley, because of Famous Dave's BBQ. My dad wants to go there again. Plus, it also benefits me, because I can see "Arthur", most likely at the Regal Simi Valley Civic Center Stadium 16 & IMAX. That's the first of many movies coming up that I want to see. Later this month, because of stupid Netflix's deal with Universal in having "new releases" a month after they've been released, I'm renting "Somewhere" from Amazon. I didn't want to have to watch it on this computer, but I didn't have a choice. I've waited so long to see it already, about a year, and was ticked when it didn't come to either theater in the Santa Clarita Valley. So I've waited. And I'm not waiting anymore.

May brings the fourth "Pirates" movie, and July has "Larry Crowne," starring, directed, and co-written by Tom Hanks (with Nia Vardalos of "My Big Fat Greek Wedding"), which looks like a genial comedy, with an impressive cast, including Julia Roberts who has easily thrown herself into this one with happy abandon. Who wouldn't with Tom Hanks involved?

Yesterday, we went to Palmdale. It's not quite where shopping centers go to die, since the Wal-Mart is always well-populated, and Buffalo Wild Wings was crowded last night because of 45-cent wings, but it is godforsaken territory. Las Vegas knows how to use the desert to its many advantages. Palmdale has more desert than anything else, because who the hell would want to do anything else here but eat at Sonic and shop at Wal-Mart? Yeah, it's not exactly well-loved, because there's not a whole lot to love. There's no serenity around, no moment of peace to be had in some empty field near the train tracks. It's almost like it's bothered by you being there and how about leaving sooner than later so it can finally have some goddamn peace? My former editor and friend John Boston always took every opportunity to make fun of Palmdale in his columns and he might be right. There is nothing, nothing, nothing. No reason to be there longer than you have to, no one around to defend it because there's nothing to defend, and those who might make Palmdale their home, well, they're hardier than I am. They see something there that I never will.

But now, our reasons for being there. Sonic was the main objective, since Meridith loves it and would easily order everything off the menu. I stood by a chicken wrap, a small order of chili cheese fries, and a bottled water, and later, a banana malt. They finally had bananas this time. They didn't the last time, and Meridith said that all they had to do was go across the street to Wal-Mart and get a few dozen, since Wal-Mart is right there.

We didn't go to Wal-Mart this time. No reason to go, and I thought about seeing what books they had there, but lately, Wal-Mart stocks crap. Not that I'd want to buy any there, since I already buy enough books elsewhere, but I live for those moments when a book sparks something in me. I didn't get that feeling later in the day at Tuesday Morning, where the only book that looked marginally interesting was a thick companion book to the PBS documentary, "Make 'Em Laugh." I didn't buy it. No spark.

We also went to Petco and PetSmart. Mom's still curious, still wondering if there's another bird for us. We looked at the birds at both places and at PetSmart, there was one finch that looks just like our Mr. Chips that took the end of a huge stick of millet and tried to drag it to its nest at the top of the cage. It was fun to watch, but our Mr. Chips is the equivalent of three finches. He hops around, he tweets, he gets pissed at his rings whenever he doesn't easily hop through them, and he snaps at them. He always watches TV. What other bird could we want when we already have Mr. Chips?

Still, Mom keeps looking, keeps considering. Three again, or is two good enough? I'm not concerned by the outcome. My stock in trade is in books and what comes out of those through my own writings. The birds are just one part of my life, and cleaning two cages, three, vacuuming, I've done it before. No problem there.

I'm not sure what today will bring, if we're going back to Palmdale so Mom can see that bird again, or if we're just going to bum around Santa Clarita on various errands. I don't mind. The mail came very early today (10:14 a.m. is incredibly early when it usually comes around late 2 to early 3 p.m.), and a slew of books arrived.

From Amazon: "Please Look After Mom" by Kyung-Sook Shin, and "Bossypants" by Tina Fey.

From Daedalus Books, one of my favorite discount book websites: "At Fault" by Kate Chopin, "The Invention of Everything Else" by Samantha Hunt, "Windy City" by Scott Simon, and "Schulz and Peanuts" by David Michaelis, in thick paperback.

Also from Amazon is "With Honors", which I like. I've always liked Joe Pesci, and someone living in a library has always appealed to me. Plus the dialogue is a lot of fun to listen to. You can see Patrick Dempsey be brilliant, before he became so self-conscious.

I'm still reading "Ask the Pilot" by Patrick Smith, and I pulled "The Poorhouse Fair" by John Updike out of my library bag. I bought Updike's "Memories of the Ford Administration" a few weeks ago and it fascinated me how it was published in 1992, and everyone was thinking about the election, and Bill Clinton, and here was Updike, thinking about the Ford Administration. That's my kind of author, but I want to see if that extends through his work. His powers of description are remarkable.

But even so, here's "Bossypants." I read excerpts in The New Yorker and I loved it. It's probably time to love it even more.

Even if we don't do anything really fun until Friday, well, that's fun of a different sort. I'm good until Friday with all these books, and then I'm itching to see "Arthur." I can't wait for that.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

The Perfect Description of Los Angeles

While reading "City of Angles" by Al Martinez, his take on the Los Angeles that has changed so much and yet so little in his eyes in the 30 years he has lived here, I began to think about what I've actually been seeking in wanting to take some piece of Los Angeles with me when I move, something to make sense of the entire experience.

Not that it's been totally surreal and I've wandered streets and communities for days on end trying to make sense of it, but there must be some somewhat easy definition of the entire experience. Now I realize, by Martinez's words, that there is no easy definition. Hell, there may not even be a definition. Los Angeles just is. And whatever you take away from it, well, it's what you have in that moment you decided to grab it, because what you left behind may have very well changed in that second moment since you took that piece. There are themes to Los Angeles, easily identifiable, such as celebrity, murder, gangs, shady politics, everything that indeed makes Los Angeles a "city of angles." But the personal feeling about the city? It depends on what you've gone through and where you are by the time you try to make some meaning out of all of it. And I've determined that if I don't find some meaning out of all my experiences, well, maybe there was no meaning to be found. It just is.

I yield the floor to Martinez, in the third-to-last paragraph of "City of Angles." This was circa 1996, post-O.J. Simpson:

"This isn't the L.A. I came to twenty years ago, all puppy-comfortable and kitty-sweet. It isn't even the L.A. that existed when I began this book. We've become like a David Hockney painting done in hell, a series of angles and facades that conceal chaos. There is no way to describe the city anymore. Anytime I figure I know the place, it changes, like restaurants that vanish overnight, like the mini-malls that spring up where gas stations used to be, like parking structures that swallow whole neighborhoods. We are too complicated to dismiss, too violent not to notice, too powerful to overlook."

Martinez is correct on all counts. I've never gotten as far as believing I know the place, but the changes are always there. I could tell you about the L.A. skyline, about driving past those buildings, about the parking garages and the small restaurants nearby. Then I could move out finally to Las Vegas, and you could come to L.A., and what I described to you may not be valid anymore. Because it has changed in its own dramatic way.

I still intend to read that anthology "Writing Los Angeles." But I don't feel that driving need to take some piece for myself. There is no piece that belongs to me. It's like a slingshot. Try to pull any piece of Los Angeles toward yourself, and it'll snap right back into place. Yeah, I have memories, but I'm still not sure: Was I looking for something so clear-cut as to make me feel good that I understood at least one aspect of Los Angeles? Did I want something that had a few shades of gray so I could chew it over for years to come, even after I've left? I truly don't know what I wanted now, but maybe that's as it should be. That's Los Angeles.