Tuesday, May 31, 2011

The Run of the House: Day 1

Yesterday, a little after noon, Mom and Dad started out for Las Vegas and Henderson, what we fervently hope will finally be the promised land, a new life that lets us enjoy life instead of trying just to survive it day after day as it generally has been the seven years we've lived in the Santa Clarita Valley. They stopped at a McDonald's in Victorville, which Mom said was the dirtiest she had ever seen (Understandable, since Victorville is mostly for just passing through on the way to other places from Southern California), and at the Grewal Travel Center in Baker where they did get the weekend section of the Las Vegas Review-Journal (It's called "Neon", as I learned. I either must have not noticed before what it had been called or I forgot), but I'm still not sure if they got me a Las Vegas Weekly. There's plenty of time for that because first, I wouldn't expect to find it in Baker, just Neon, and secondly, it'll be somewhere in Las Vegas. And if they don't find it, well, with luck, I'll have a lot of years to enjoy it as a resident, and actually read it, not skim through it like I do with the L.A. Weekly, in which only a few pages each week interest me. Everything in the Las Vegas Weekly interests me. In the late afternoon, they reached Fiesta Henderson, where they're staying. Mom was keyed up about Villa Fresh Italian Kitchen, in the food court there (they also have a Denny's, a steakhouse, a Mexican cantina, and a casino buffet) because they sell pizza by the slice and she hasn't had that in years. However, Mom seemed a little disappointed on the phone when Meridith asked her about it. I'll get the full details either later today or when they get back.

Meanwhile, all this activity means that Meridith and I have the run of the house. But with responsibilities of course. Yesterday morning, even though it was the start of the week, I decided to laze about in my bed and watch Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, since I read Julie Dawn Cole's book, I Want It Now!, about the experience of making the film (She played Veruca Salt), and I wanted to see it again to remember the details she had revealed. Right now, having slept about an hour and 20 minutes longer than yesterday (The dogs woke me up at 5:55 to let them out in the back, but I told them to let me sleep a little longer. No luck since my body had had enough of sleeping, so I rested until 6:20, let them out, fed them, then went back to bed to read until a little after 7, when I have breakfast), I've determined that I'd rather leave movies in bed for the weekend. I didn't feel like it this morning. Sure I want to rewatch the entire series of The West Wing, with as much as I can take of seasons 5 and 6 (the worst of the series because the production team never really regrouped after Aaron Sorkin and Thomas Schlamme were fired. Of course without Sorkin, the show will nosedive in quality, but the only writer to come close to Sorkin was Debora Cahn, who wrote the late season 5 episode "The Supremes", which guest-starred Glenn Close and William Fichtner, and she let the series save face with that one and a few others she wrote, in order to let it stand up wobbly and then regain some footing for season 7), but I don't want to lay there for most of the morning.

Meridith wrote down a list of what Mom wanted us to do while they were gone. Dust Mom's bedside table, dust around their bedroom, pull weeds, throw out old food from the cabinets and from the counter at the right side of the oven (expired stuff), scrub the toilets, the microwave, the tubs, the mirrors; put lotion on Tigger and Kitty's pads, brush Tigger and Kitty, put the bug repellant on their necks (It's done every month), and clean their ears. Also on her list is to clean her room and her closet.

As soon as Mom and Dad left, I got out the broom, and the dustpan, and a white garbage bag, put on gloves and went out to the patio to sweep around there. Dead pine needles fall on our patio, and so do these red things that crumble into the pebbles when you touch them. They can be swept up, and I did just that, sweeping it all into one big pile. The whole thing, since it was only on one side, took about half an hour, but it was quite a round of exercise.

Meridith did the dusting while I was sweeping, we had lunch, and then we threw out the old food into a white garbage bag so we could put it in the bin. Usually, the bins are picked up on Tuesday, but because of Memorial Day, we were told that if we had pick up on Monday or Tuesday, it would be the day after. I decided to roll them out anyway just in case, because you never know with this garbage company.

Fortunately, the day wasn't all chores. I spent part of the day and evening reading Cornbread Nation 1: The Best of Southern Food Writing. I still intend to embark on that crash course in Nevada history, either later today or in the morning tomorrow, but yesterday just felt like a day to bask in loving writing about Southern food culture and traditions. I wish the Oxford American had a food issue every year, since I became hooked on it with the 2005 issue, but missed out on the 2010 issue since it was sold out.

Dinner was unique for Meridith and I. It'd been so long since we got dinner from anywhere in the immediate area, and the first thought was Pizza Hut's Ultimate Stuffed Crust pizza, with the toppings also inside the crust, but we found out that the Pizza Hut nearest to us doesn't do that, even though that concept has only been around for a few weeks. We thought about Papa John's, and Meridith called to ask something, and found out on the recording that they had a deal for a medium pizza, four 20-oz. drinks, 10 wings, and a dessert pie for $20.99. So that's what we did, and we walked there to pick it up. The pizza was good, the wings were, too, and that dessert pie (called a cinnapie, cinnamon all over, along with white icing) was fascinating. They must have used pizza dough for that, too, but it didn't taste like pizza dough usually does afterward. I liked it all, but was also reminded about why I don't do this often anymore. When I was overweight and didn't really care, I ate like that all the time. But now, I know I can't, and I felt it.

I also found out that I can walk the hill up to our place much easier. I didn't even notice the hill was there and my legs didn't hurt after we'd reached the top. That is a major, most welcome change.

Today, Tigger and Kitty have to get brushed, then we have to put that bug repellant stuff on their necks, clean their ears, and that's it for me. The whole list is done on my end, and Meridith has to clean her room and closet. I'll probably finish White House Diary by Jimmy Carter, along with some time for the rest of Cornbread Nation 1. It's my ideal day.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

The Changed Dynamic

Every week, I have a set routine. Mondays through Fridays, I get up between 7 and 8 a.m., occasionally later than 8, and Mom's up long before that, so I say good morning and see if she needs anything. Then I have breakfast, always Cheerios and a banana. I'll probably deviate from that when I'm in Las Vegas with my folks, depending on if we stop at a 7-11.

Lately, Mom hasn't been on the computer in the living room before me, so I go on there, check my e-mail, read the DailyLit e-mails I get ("Poems of Emily Dickinson", stories about Abraham Lincoln, and "Many Thoughts from Many Minds", which is a 2,000+ collection of quotes that I use as a quote-a-day thing), visit MiceAge and Mouseplanet every Monday and occasionally during the week, also screamscape.com, themeparkreview.com, westcoaster.net, and I check the booksellers on abebooks.com who sell advanced reading copies of books. The latest one to come to me was Harold: The Boy Who Became Mark Twain, Hal Holbrook's autobiography. It's being published in September.

I've spent less than the three hours I used to spend on the computer in the morning because I don't have anything else to look at, anything to transcribe, and I'm not doing online research for my next books yet.

Lunch is always after 12 p.m., sometimes 12:30, the latest being 1. Then there's a lot more reading, and then after 5, I begin working on the Freelance Daily newsletter, which is always full of job listings. I get paid for this, so it's why I do it. Plus I can see what freelance jobs are being offered and if any relate to me. Not lately.

Weekends are different. The dogs wake me up to let them out to the patio to do their business, then I feed them, have breakfast, and go back to my room to watch a movie or two. Those are the only days I watch movies now, save for this week, with all the movies I recorded on the Tivo from all those channels that included the Showtime package, the Sundance Channel, and the Documentary Channel. Saturdays and Sundays are always more relaxed because the routine is more relaxed. It'll no doubt change after we move, because I'll be in pursuit of a full-time job, and that's fine. A new life, a new routine.

Because the school year is over and Dad and Meridith are home, the routine changes. Do I watch movies in the weekday mornings? Do I keep to what I always do? I may do the former tomorrow morning, but to finish the episode of The West Wing I was watching, the one from season 3 with the missing nuclear submarine, which guest-starred Hal Holbrook. Mom and Dad are going to be more rushed than I am, since they're looking to leave for Las Vegas and noon. And then on Tuesday and Wednesday, what? Well, lots of reading for one thing. I want to finish reading White House Diary by Jimmy Carter, since I've spent some time away from it and can now approach it more relaxed, since I broke that routine of researching all the time.

But movies on Tuesday and Wednesday morning, too? I can't really think of anything I'd want to watch, anything that I feel that pull for like I do for a few of the movies on the Tivo. So I'll just watch in the living room instead of my bedroom. Meridith will likely sleep later than I do, so I've got a few hours to myself. I like that.

Breakfast, lunch and dinnertime will all remain the same, but I like the change I feel, the opportunity to spend the day differently. You keep a routine in the Santa Clarita Valley just to feel sane with the isolated feeling this valley gives off. A routine in Las Vegas is just so you have the chance to experience everything around you and not miss a thing.

Do These New Scents Portend a Hoped-For New Life?

Maybe it's the onset of summer, or maybe I just never paid attention until now. Our garage, which smelled like my paternal grandparents' garage in Paramus, New Jersey--a musty gray smell that included not only their car, but also the metal tracks of the garage door, the big freezer, a few tools, and that concrete floor that got cold enough at night--no longer has that scent. It smells as if it's freshening up, the high winds of recent days pushing wisps through the small screens at the bottom, near the door in the back. I never recall it smelling like that at any other time. Does this place anticipate our intentions? Does it know that Mom and Dad are off to Vegas on Monday afternoon for that job interview on Tuesday? Is it aware of the success that will likely come in this venture and therefore is propping itself up for prospective new owners?

I hope that's what it means. I certainly feel differently. I no longer occasionally feel trapped by the patio walls, looking over at the community pool behind one of those walls, thinking that that's the only poetry to be found here, those empty chairs framed around the pool, one of the tables on the other side, near the bathrooms. I feel at peace with the place, no more conflict. I can let it go. I can forget and concentrate on what I've wanted for so long, what will finally happen. Meridith reminded me that one of the Henderson library branches is inside a mall. It's true. And since there are no polling stations in Henderson, voting also happens at the two malls in the area. I've wanted to live in a unique area so badly. And this fits my definition.

I feel no regret at giving up the DVDs I must, giving up the books I must give up in order to move with relatively fewer things. I know there are libraries there, and used bookstores there, and I know that I will find new authors there that I never thought about here. I am ready for my room to belong to someone else. I spent more time outside it than inside it anyway. It was painted particular shades of blue, the walls painted sky blue, the door painted a dark blue, but that's all I had that was me. I have framed prints by Chris Consani of Elvis Presley, Marilyn Monroe, Humphrey Bogart, and James Dean together at a coffee bar and in a movie theater. I never got to hang those up. No room. I'll finally have that chance and my new room will finally be mine, will bear all the hallmarks of my personality. I can seek out bookshelves and finally place my books on those; no more boxes as bookshelves. I can feel settled, content, ready to explore every facet of my new home, inside and outside.

I think this apartment feels the same way. We'll have a gracious parting, and then new people can move in, who I hope will love it more than I ever did. It deserves that after these seven years. Maybe it'll have someone or a few people who love Saugus as much as I love Las Vegas. These walls should have that.

The Final Library Holds

On Friday, I had an idea for Meridith that I wish I had thought of much earlier. She's wanted to read Abandon by Meg Cabot for so long, Cabot being the only author she reads regularly. She has nearly all her books.

I didn't reveal this, because you never know who's sneaking about online, and it's not paranoia that fuels this, but rather the need to keep my library card as it was. But since the last day to check out books from the Valencia branch is June 4, ahead of the transfer of control of this valley's three libraries from the County of Los Angeles to the City of Santa Clarita, and since all items have to be returned by June 10, I can put this forth now since nothing I can put on hold now would get there in time for me to have time to read it, and I lessened the number of books I put on hold so I wouldn't be bombarded by the end. On June 1, the County of Los Angeles is opening the Stevenson Ranch Express Library, which is a much smaller library with shorter hours, a more limited selection, but they allow holds. I could make my home library that one in order to keep my County of Los Angeles library card, but after Tuesday, after Dad's job interview in Henderson, it might not matter anymore, and instead, I would be learning about the policies of the Henderson library branches, and of the Clark County Library system.

On March 14, the County of Los Angeles cut off Santa Clarita residents from the other libraries in the system. Patrons could only put items on hold that were at the Valencia, Newhall or Canyon Country libraries. It became true on my sister's card, when she couldn't put books on hold because those books weren't at either of those three libraries.

Maybe it was because of my reputation of always putting a lot of books on hold at once, and especially the great number of books about the presidents for my research. The librarians at the Valencia library knew me well. And maybe someone working within that computer system sensed the avid reader I was, and left my card alone because of the high volume. After all, I've done this for the past seven years. Always a large number of books, always reaching the 50-item limit, though for the first two years, it was mostly movies, because I was still very much into movies. Actually, thinking about it further, the first policy was that you couldn't check out more items if you had reached a $500 limit. They assessed the value of the items, as all libraries do, and the system added it up, so there were times when I had to take the prices from the inner flap of the books and add it all up to see if I had reached $500. I was relieved when the policy changed to 50 items. It became a lot easier to manage.

My library card never changed. Any book I put on hold always came from other branches, such as West Hollywood, Agoura Hills, Hawthorne, San Dimas. I never had the trouble that Meridith had.

So on Friday, I asked Meridith if she could read Abandon by June 10th, if it came in before June 4. Whenever she gets a Meg Cabot book, she zips right through it, finishing it either the day she got it or the day after. She could do the same with this one. So I put Abandon on hold, counting on it to come in before Saturday. When it does, we'll make a rare during-the-week stop at the Valencia library to pick it up. I don't remember the first book I ever put on hold on my card all those years ago, but it's appropriate that the last book I put on hold should be for Meridith. I'd rather the last time be to help out, instead of the continual benefit for myself, which ended yesterday with six books I picked up that were on hold:

The American Presidency: An Intellectual History by Forrest McDonald - It's about the evolution of the presidency throughout history, what it has become, the power that has emerged, relations with Congress, thinking about where it is and what it is at that moment in time (1994).

American Original: The Life and Constitution of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia by Joan Biskupic - I decided to keep the Sandra Day O'Connor biography by Biskupic. I have plenty of time this week, what with Mom and Dad's trip to Las Vegas, and surely that'll be good for part of a morning and most of an afternoon. Scalia has interested me because of his love of opera and his dramatic, egotistical flair, and taste for life.

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz - On Friday, graduating 8th grade students from Dad's school went on the yearly Disneyland trip for the day. On the trip before this one, I brought along The Signal newspaper and an issue of The New Yorker. In that issue, which absorbed me on the entire bus ride to Disneyland (The Signal takes a mere two minutes since there's that little readable content in it), there was a short story by Junot Diaz that made me only partially aware that we were in the parking garage at Disneyland, waiting to get past the guard booth to the bus parking lot. The language of that short story was so real, so raw, so deeply felt. Not long after, I checked out his short story collection, Drown. I decided it was finally time to read his first novel.

Lyndon B. Johnson by Charles Peters - This is one title in the American Presidents series, published by Henry Holt and Company. Yes, the exact series I said I was tired of, but I'm psyched to read Robert Caro's massive three-volume biography of Lyndon Johnson, and I'd like to have an overview of his life and presidency. However, reading the first few sentences of the first chapter, I'm iffy. I don't like the writing. I'll see if I can get through it by the few pages after that first page.

How Stella Got Her Groove Back by Terry McMillan - I've always been curious about Terry McMillan's works. Now's the time.

Alphabetter Juice or, The Joy of Text by Roy Blount, Jr. - I also have Alphabet Juice by Blount from the library, so I might make a double reading out of both.

I had picked up seven books, but I returned 15 books. And thinking about Mom and Dad's impending trip to Las Vegas, I decided that I could use a crash course to refamilarize myself with what had become faded as we waited and waited for word in Nevada about a job for Dad. I went to the shelves against the wall at the back left side of the library, to where the few Nevada books are kept, and I grabbed all of them, except for The Last Honest Place in America by Marc Cooper, about Las Vegas, which I read and it didn't impress me.

Among the books I picked up was The Sagebrush State: Nevada's History, Government, and Politics: Third Edition by Michael W. Bowers. It's from 2006, but I'll take it. I want to finally learn everything about the history of a state, about its government and its constitution. I lived in and loved Florida, but I never paid a lot of attention to the state legislature. And all I know about California government, beyond there being the governor, a senate, and an assembly, is that they're so good at pushing all these propositions for voters. I want Nevada to be my next and final home. And I want to be deeply connected to it.

I've also got Nevada: A History by Robert Laxalt, from 1977; Las Vegas Babylon: True Tales of Glitter, Glamour, and Greed by Jeff Burbank; and the hardcover edition of The Money and the Power: The Making of Las Vegas and Its Hold on America 1947-2000 by Sally Denton and Roger Morris. I've eyed this book so many times, checked it out so many times, but still haven't read it. I was even thinking of buying the paperback edition from abebooks.com, but I'm going to take the chance now.

I also decided to check out one Charles Bukowski book I've read often from the Valencia library: Ham on Rye. I'm intimately familiar with this particular copy, one of the only Bukowski books I've not bought yet, even though I have many books of his poetry, as well as Post Office and the screenplay for Barfly. I know that the City of Santa Clarita is buying all the books in the Valencia, Canyon Country and Newhall libraries from the County of Los Angeles, and I hope this copy of Ham on Rye is treated well by whoever reads it next. I hope that that person is 20 years old, the age I was when I discovered Bukowski. I hope he or she is grabbed by the throat and pulled violently into these words, like I was.

I also decided to check out Supreme Courtship by Christopher Buckley, since I was thinking of buying it to read. Yeah, yeah, I know that's what libraries are for, and certainly when I reach Henderson, I'll check out a lot more books than I buy, because I want to explore every aspect of those libraries in Henderson and definitely the ones that make up the Clark County system (Henderson is not connected to the Clark County system. It's like Santa Clarita disconnecting from the County of Los Angeles system. But at least, unlike here, there's always other places to go.)

I appreciate what the Valencia library has done for me for these seven years, but I will not miss it. I need my libraries stable, not beholden to the whims of a wayward City Council so gung-ho on cutting the valley off from the rest of the world, since Los Angeles is pretty much the rest of the world in this region of California. We're already isolated by distance. We didn't need to be isolated any further.

When we visited the Boulder City library, I found librarians so pleasant, so willing to help, pointing out everything the library had for us for-now tourists from Southern California after learning of our intent to live in Nevada. I'm excited for more of that when we become permanently installed there.

An Accurate Portrayal of Las Vegas

Las Vegas differs for all kinds of people, so I can only speak based on my own experiences.

I watched "Lucky You" this morning, or rather fast-forwarded through most of it. I loathed the screenplay, but Curtis Hanson got it as a filmmaker: Las Vegas isn't a rushed edit as other movies show it. It is meant to be taken in slowly, a sensual experience that builds, evident in the pan-down shot from the Eiffel Tower replica at Paris, to the synchronized waterfalls at the Bellagio.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

The Trader Joe's Fridge

Eggplant hummus
Edamame hummus
Blue cheese and roasted pecan dip
Frozen tortellini bowl
Baby spinach
Small peeled carrots
Meatless corn dogs (They're better for me than regular corn dogs and I like them more)
Pomegranate yogurt with granola
Organic blueberry yogurt
Organic peach yogurt
Blueberry Greek yogurt
Three packages of roasted seaweed
More bananas to add to those I already have, to stretch to Wednesday, since Mom and Dad sure as hell aren't shopping after they get home from Vegas.
A couscous-centered salad that I had for dinner tonight.

All this, along with the frozen dinners I got from Pavilions, the bananas, spinach and carrots from there, the carton of Silk, the drink boxes of Silk Very Vanilla, the Simply Orange full-of-pulp juice, the Yoplait Greek blueberry yogurt, the Sabra pine nut hummus, the ready-made guacamole, and Meridith and I are set for when Mom and Dad are in Vegas. All of this helps when considering that they'll be deep in what we consider food heaven.

A New Las Vegas for Me

Before Dad, Meridith and I went to Pavilions, Dad spent most of the afternoon researching hotels off the Strip and away from the Strip in Henderson. There are some interesting choices, ones that we've only ever driven by, and that reminded me that I would like to see what The Orleans is like. I love the New Orleans theming on the front of the place, so there's bound to be a lot more to attract me. For example, Lily Tomlin's performing at the Orleans Showroom on June 18 and 19. I have to keep that in mind in case we're there, looking for apartments, if we haven't found one already.

When it comes time for Meridith and I to join Mom and Dad in this vast search, I will return to Las Vegas a lot lighter than when I was last there. Last May, the schedule I kept because of the book, the nocturnal living, the bad diet, the sometimes-little sleep all came to a head at a mall in Henderson when that anxiety hit me. Plus, Vegas always has the temptation to eat whatever you want and not care what you're eating. I care now. I know that breakfast, if it's quick and we go to 7-11 for it, will be that plastic container of Cheerios, soy milk (If they have Silk in a convenience store-sized container there), and a banana. We have a lot more choices than here in Santa Clarita for where to eat, but I think I'll be subsisting on bananas a lot during the day, especially with crisscrossing that entire valley. No more donuts for me, no chips, a lot less fried things. This is going to be my new, and hopefully final, home. I need to treat it like I'm already there.

Chiquita's Got Something

Dad, Meridith and I spent late yesterday afternoon at Pavilions getting a good number of necessaries, not only to restock the fridge, but also in anticipation of Tuesday, when he and Mom will be driving out to Las Vegas and Meridith and I will be home.

Mom insists on making sure we have enough, which is fine, but I don't need every snack in the world. My diet's been solid ever since the middle of November, when I felt comfortable with what I was eating, knew there were plenty of nutritional benefits, and that my calorie count wouldn't be vast. But I did want eggs again, for Meridith's incredible deviled eggs, which is the only thing I require on Tuesday, and especially if Mom and Dad end up staying in Vegas a little longer.

I needed yogurt, but $1.29 for the Yoplait Greek Yogurt is far too pricey, so I only got one blueberry and saved the rest of my yogurt search for Ralphs, which didn't yield much else.

In the produce section, in one of the refrigerated cases, I found something intriguing. You know how some fruit juices, like Odwalla and Naked, are pureed to drinkability? Chiquita came out with something they call a "crushed fruit snack", combining a few different fruits. Initially, I saw strawberry and banana, but put that back when I spotted blueberry and banana, and got two. There's three containers of blueberries in the fruit bin in the fridge, and when I run out of bananas, it's only for half a day to a day, but I was curious about how this one compares to all the others out there.

Well, this is a more thoughtful fruit juice. Because these fruits have been crushed, there's a thicker consistency. You can taste the fruit and not just a combination of all the fruits. My fruit juices of choice come from Boltwood Farms, when they're low enough in price. I imagine that the price of the Chiquita crushed fruit snack won't last for long, as it seems like an introductory price, but I'd get this wherever I could find it, especially in our Vegas travels, which certainly do eat up a lot of energy. At least for now, it's the most time I spend in a car in a day.

(This isn't a review. Chiquita provided no samples. These are just appreciative observations.)

Friday, May 27, 2011

A New Las Vegas for Us

Las Vegas continually redefines itself. Historical casinos change (Tropicana). Historical casinos close (Sahara). New casinos open (Palazzo), and the landscape itself changes, such as with the proposed ferris wheel that is soon to be built, that will be taller than the one in London and change Vegas's skyline. You have to expect that kind of change and adapt to it if you're either a repeat visitor or a resident. But when that change first happens, it's a shock. Not so much that you hoped it wouldn't happen (And believe me, I wish it hadn't happened), but that first time, you just can't believe that it's happening.

Dad called the America's Best Value Inn on Tropicana Avenue, the one we always stay at. We've known the manager there ever since we first came to Las Vegas because our dog Tigger was allowed there. There were pet-friendly rooms, not so much pet-friendly landscape for Tigger to do his business easily (He hated walking those rocks to find a spot to piss on), but just that we could do that was a relief because there was no one in Santa Clarita, no place that was reliable enough that we could feel good about boarding Tigger there.

The manager provided us with a decent, manageable rate every time we were there, well aware that we intended to become residents soon enough, as soon as the Clark County School District loosened up enough for Dad so he could find a teaching position there. Not only that, but he was such a nice guy, and was our introduction to the good people of Las Vegas, and we've found many others since, such as the two guys I met who run that movie poster business at the Fantastic Indoor Swapmeet on Decatur Boulevard.

When we last saw him, he had gone to the doctor about growths that he had and had the physical evidence of it with bandages. Unfortunately, it's gotten worse. Dad learned that he's completely cancer-ridden, couldn't continue on in the job, and was replaced. The new manager told us that she couldn't accomodate the rate the former manager had given us.

So Vegas changes around us. And we change with it. Dad's at the dining room table right now, thumbing through a AAA travel guide that he picked up at the AAA office across from the Valencia library on the way home, figuring out not only where we should stay (possibly nearest to or in Henderson, since we've got to look for apartments there and see what Boulder City has, too), but what hotel would provide the best rate for us. I don't mind not going to Hooters Casino Hotel as often as we did because of its proximity to America's Best Value Inn, but it really sucks that that great good man has to contend with cancer. He always made the time to chat with us whenever we saw his door open, and that made all the difference to us. It helped make us even more comfortable with the area, and certainly when I had my doubts when we got out of our rented SUV on that first night, and I looked around and thought that Vegas was even more desolate than I had imagined. It took a walk through the Mirage, and dinner at the Carnegie Deli to make me less uncertain, and that manager completely eliminated the rest of my doubts just in listening to our story about where we had come from, what we had intended to do, and recommending to us areas to look at to live and some restaurants, too. I truly won't forget that or him. The cancer news doesn't sound good, and I hope he's at least comfortable enough and can do whatever he has his heart set on in this forced retirement. He deserves that.

A Man Can't Dance Like That

For the past three days, I've been reading White House Diary by Jimmy Carter.

That's all.

It's a big book at 538 pages, especially with sometimes-multiple diary entries per page. It has been a huge help, especially for two of my books, being that Carter is an interesting president in what he read while in office, and why he read those books, once for political gain, other times themed to what he was doing, such as the steamboat cruise aboard the Delta Queen, where he spent a lot of time in the pilothouse, and also read Life on the Mississippi by Mark Twain.

But it's been a huge mistake to read only that for three days. I realize that now. Here I am, still futilely thinking that I can get through a majority of the presidential books I checked out before the Valencia library closes for the transition from County of Los Angeles to City of Santa Clarita control, and I'm going about this entirely wrong. Again.

When I was doing research for What If They Lived? and had an even tighter deadline than my published-again-by-30 one, not only did I check out a massive amount of books, and not only did I read them all, but that book was all I worked on. Every single day. Not much of a break for anything else beyond eating and sleeping.

I don't have quite the same mindset as before, especially owing to having lost a significant amount of weight since October of last year. But I don't want to feel that same pressure of having to read these books in order to get another book written. Then, I just did it. I had that deadline, had to do it, and I enjoyed some of it, especially the Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle, Paul Lynde, Brad Renfro, Aaliyah, and Heath Ledger essays (The first because of all the detail involved in his life as an intricate part of the silent film industry, Lynde because of all the clips I got to watch over and over on YouTube and I even Netflixed his Halloween special; Renfro, Aaliyah and Heath Ledger because there are no books about them and therefore my research was exclusively online and I had to put it all together like a big jigsaw puzzle, which was a lot of fun), but this wasn't really my subject. I do have favorite actors, but I've always been fascinated more by directors.

I love the history of the presidency and of the men who were our presidents. My favorite decades for presidential history are the 1930s on. I am just as comfortable reading about Truman as I am Carter. I am perhaps more fascinated by Nixon and Reagan because I've been to the Nixon library once, and the Reagan library numerous times, though I liked the Nixon library more.

But I don't want to grow tired of this. I can't feel again like I have to rush through these books in order to produce something. Every time this happens, I end up having to reorder my immediate reading list, like I will today. Besides White House Diary, I've also been reading an essay anthology called Bookmark Now: Writing in Unreaderly Times, a biography called Sandra Day O'Connor: How the First Woman on the Supreme Court Became Its Most Influential Justice by Joan Biskupic (I'm also fascinated by the personalities and inner workings of the Supreme Court, past and present), and Unstrung Heroes by Franz Lidz (I saw the movie starring John Turturro, Andie Macdowell, Michael Richards and Maury Chaykin and loved it, wanted to read the book, and I ordered the DVD for my collection, which I received yesterday). Further back on my reading list, what has remained there without being read much further yet, is Ask the Pilot by Patrick Smith (owing to my interest in aviation; a series of columns in which Smith answers questions asked about aviation in all its facets, mostly commercial travel), Malled: My Unintentional Career in Retail by Caitlin Kelly, and The Company We Keep: A Husband-and-Wife True-Life Spy Story by Robert Baer and Dayna Baer, about meeting while working in the CIA.

It's not the amount of books that causes the trouble. It's always the instance being too gung-ho about my research. Reading should always be a pleasure, no matter what you're reading for whatever purpose.

There's no question that I'm not going to finish reading White House Diary today. I need a break. Tomorrow, I intend to return the rest of the books in the American Presidents series from the Times Books arm of Henry Holt and Company. That's what I think began this trouble because it's all that I've been reading up until now for my research, and even though it's useful to me to get an overview of each president, I've become tired of the format and still I tried to force myself through them. Big mistake.

Do I want to continue the Sandra Day O'Connor biography? I'm only 13 pages into 432 pages, so it's no problem if I let it go for now. I'm further into Unstrung Heroes, 39 pages of 194. Plus, the story's an inspiration to me with all that eccentricity.

The bottom of my reading list will remain. I'll get to those books. I'm never worried about that. But I need to add a new book. I need something that lets me luxuriate in words, kind of like a spa massage to relieve the tension. Bookmark Now could do that to some degree, but I need something even more vast. Maybe Best of the Oxford American: Ten Years from the Southern Magazine of Good Writing. Florida is still the South, no matter the technicalities. Driving from a point in South Florida to Naples, it takes an hour to cross the state from east to west, and you drive through Alligator Alley, where alligators can be seen at the side of the road. That's southern. Don't tell me otherwise. I am proud of that. Southern writing is genuine. There's no attempts at posturing. No assumptions on anything. What you read is what was lived, proudly, tragically, never with a broken spirit.

Or maybe the first of the Cornbread Nation anthologies, subtitled The Best of Southern Food Writing. Intense passion for the South is right here. I learned about these when I read the 2005 food issue of The Oxford American. It's all food writing. There are some themes. Volume 2 is The United States of Barbecue. Volume 3 is Foods of the Mountain South. I have all the volumes, though I intend to go in order. So the first volume might do me some good today. I need words that don't have a personal purpose.

Mr. Carter's Plains, Georgia is as interesting to me as my old stomping grounds in my beloved state, but not today. Relief needs to come. And so does a better organizational plan so this doesn't keep happening.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Let Me Introduce You to Primm

If you've flown to Las Vegas, you've never known Primm. If you've driven to Las Vegas and you weren't coming from Los Angeles, you've never seen Primm. It is the pre-show to Las Vegas, home to three casinos: Whiskey Pete's, Buffalo Bill's, and the Primm Valley Resort and Casino. They've got a roller coaster called The Desperado, but I find most fascinating the relatively high-end convenience store near the state line. I don't know the name, but when you walk in, there's that long hallway leading to the men's and women's restrooms that has a huge framed map of the United States stretching all the way. That's to your left. To your right, just before the convenience store, is a tight bank of slot machines with stools. Then, there's enough space to find what you might want to eat or drink for the drive back. Mainly snacks and sandwiches, and of course there's coffee and all kinds of sodas. I miss Vegas Chips, which I had on one drive back. Those were made in Las Vegas, but no more. On our last trip, we couldn't find them. They'd just disappeared. It reminds me of one trip to Vegas (We always drive), after we passed Primm, and we found a riverboat-shaped casino that had been closed and pretty much abandoned. The next trip, we drove past Primm and that riverboat casino wasn't there anymore. It had been torn down, dismantled, but think about it: Only in the desert can a riverboat disappear like that. And that's when I knew that Las Vegas was for me.

Yesterday, I received a book in the mail I had ordered upon learning that becoming a resident of Southern Nevada may be more possible now than in years before. It's called In the Desert of Desire: Las Vegas and the Culture of Spectacle by William L. Fox. Fox writes about art galleries in casinos, the shark reef at Mandalay Bay, as well as how Las Vegas barely funds museums and zoos. It's of course also about the spectacle of Las Vegas, but, to quote the copy on the back flap: "This compelling, disturbing discussion of entertainment and the arts in Las Vegas shows how our insatiable modern appetite for extravagance and spectacle has diminished the power of unembellished nature and the arts to teach and inspire us, and demonstrates the way our libertarian society privileges private benefit over public good."

I'll read about all that later. I found this book while wandering through the listings on Amazon for books about Las Vegas and I immediately wanted it after I read the first page of chapter 1. This is Primm exactly as Fox writes about it. I've never known the border making itself apparent like that as Fox writes about it, but I do know that once you cross the border into Nevada, the road becomes much smoother. They're maintained a lot better in Nevada:

"The border between California and Nevada makes itself apparent ten miles before you cross it. When you drive around the last curve on Interstate 15 before descending from the eponymously named Mountain Pass and into the Ivanpah Valley, several enormous structures appear at the far end of the playa, a lakebed that since the Pleistocene ended almost ten thousand years ago has been more dry than wet. Three hotel-casinos, a discount mall, and a nearby 500-megawatt, gas-fired, water-cooled power plant flank the freeway, forming a surreal gateway into the state, one that declares, "Abandon reality, all ye who enter here." The allusion to Dante's Inferno is strengthened not only by the feverish temperatures of the Mojave Desert but also by the sight of the Desperado roller-coaster on the left at Buffalo Bill's. It's actually a "hyper-coaster" that is one of the tallest and fastest in the world. Its cars drop 215 feet and hit 95 miles per hour at the bottom, which in my book is considerably more like torture than entertainment. Las Vegas is still thirty-five miles to the north, but the address out here is 31900 Las Vegas Boulevard South. Only a range of hills, another arid valley, and 319 blocks to go.

The high-rise hotels of Primm rise out of the Mojave with nothing to buffer them from the floor of the scorched alkali flat. No trees, houses, strip malls. It looks like a set for a cheap cowboy movie, the Wild West architectural touches on Whiskey Pete's and Buffalo Bill's not even trying to echo a real western town so much as a cartoon one. The layers of resemblance are not coincidental."

Basketball As It Has Never Been Played Before

I know exactly what we did on our first trip to Las Vegas, I know exactly what we did on our most recent trip to Las Vegas. But I can't always keep straight such details as when we first went to the Pinball Hall of Fame and I found my heaven in all those pinball machines, or when we went to the Fantastic Indoor Swapmeet on Decatur Boulevard, and I found not only a laminated poster of my favorite Bond film, On Her Majesty's Secret Service, but also the two guys who ran the business who were just as passionate about movies as I am. Not only would I have been content to chat with them all day, but come the time we move, I would have loved to man their area of the swapmeet. I think it would have been an honor to work for them. (I'll see if they're still there, but that's not the kind of job I want.)

I don't think this story happened at the same time as finding that poster. I get the feeling, though, that it happened on our second trip to Vegas.

I still was interested in a career in aviation back then. And Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University had a building on the grounds of Nellis Air Force Base. So before we left for Vegas, I made an appointment with one of the admissions officers there, to see what was available, to tour the classrooms. Meridith had the same desire, at the campus of Le Cordon Bleu, and we had done that the day before. She got the better deal. They had free, fresh little pastries on trays in the lobby.

We parked near the security gate to Nellis, went to the little security office, and waited for that Embry-Riddle representative to show up, so we could get back in our car and follow her to the building. On the way, I got my first look at what Air Force barracks look like. Now, I know every branch of our armed services is about uniformity. You can't have wildly different personalities in a group if you want a tight, cohesive unit for defense. But looking at that depressed gray color of that building, I wonder: Did the Air Force take housing decoration tips from the Soviets? I determined that I could never serve in the Air Force or really any other military branch. What the armed forces does is heroic, but it's just not me.

After the discussion with the admissions officer, and after the brief tour, we went to a Wal-Mart near Nellis. This is where you'll find military families. It's quite possibly the most interesting Wal-Mart I've been to, because it genuinely matches the area. It's almost like the barracks themselves. There's no muck-about business here. You get what you need and you go. The mothers that I saw with their kids were very businesslike about what they needed to get. Nowhere in the three Wal-Marts here in the Santa Clarita Valley do you get that impression. Maybe only at the Stevenson Ranch Wal-Mart because it's the most rundown and you get that fend-for-yourself-because-we-ain't-doing-shit feeling there. At least at the Nellis Wal-Mart, they keep everything well-stocked.

While walking around that Wal-Mart, Meridith and I spotted basketballs. There's a hoop at America's Best Value Inn on Tropicana Avenue, where we always stay. And we didn't have a basketball. So we got a basketball.

Now, I loved going to Walt Disney World every weekend when I was little. It fired my imagination every time, even from the stroller I was always in. I loved the parades, and especially when performers would stop by during their route to say hello, since a lot of people in the park knew us that well, including monorail drivers. As I got older, and we visited less often because we lived in South Florida, I spent the entire day of every visit in Tomorrowland, never leaving, except to check in with my parents. I went on Space Mountain, the Tomorrowland Transit Authority, and Walt Disney's Carousel of Progress in a loop. My favorite time on Space Mountain was in 2000, when the guy manning the gate to the monorail at the Ticket and Transportation Center let us through after hearing about how we visited WDW all the time when we lived here. This was during Early Entry for hotel guests, when they'd get the run of the park for about an hour before the park opened to the general public. On that morning, I rode Space Mountain three times before it began to get crowded.

But I don't think Walt Disney World would have the same impact on me now as it did back then. I still fondly remember riding the Tomorrowland Transit Authority, Cinderella's Castle in front of me on one loop around the "Tomorrowland Interplanetary Convention Center" (It's where the ExtraTERRORestrial Alien Encounter was, and now Stitch's Great Escape is there), and loving that view because it showed me that some things can be combined agreeably, no matter how disparate they are. I don't think it would work for me today, even with the TTA's original soundtrack on my mp3 player (They replaced it with what sounds like a hyped-up, sugared-up advertisement for all the attractions in Tomorrowland, which is not at all necessary, because it takes you completely out of the area, and it shouldn't. The original soundtrack is far more imaginative).

It's said that Las Vegas is an adult Disney World. Having been there many times now, I agree. It's a hedonistic paradise, and exactly how I've always wanted to live my life. Not for gambling and drinking with reckless abandon, since I don't do either, and that's an amateur's way of experiencing Las Vegas, especially if you're still doing it on your fifth and sixth time there, but just because whatever you might be looking for there, chances are you'll find it. And most of the time, you'll find what you never expected. I've always wanted to live where people are unafraid to live, to be themselves, no matter how long they're there for. I get that impression not just on the Strip, but also in Henderson at a 7-11 we stopped at where the guy at the counter was good-natured, and in Boulder City, at the library, where they're proud to be where they are. It's not an act. It's genuine. Having lived in Southern California for seven years, I can tell when it's genuine.

The next morning, Meridith and I got out the basketball and went to the hoop, which is next to the pool area. Vegas is always at its peak at night with all of the lights, but to me, it's more fascinating in the daylight. It still maintains its appeal, though now you have to search a little more deeply for what you want. It's that kind of exploration that adds more to the nighttime experience, because you know the casinos even more intimately and especially the outside. You get to see more detail on the lion statues at the MGM Grand, the Eiffel Tower at Paris, and the opulence at the Palazzo. I'm still waiting to go to the Orleans Hotel and Casino. And I can't wait to go back to Eastside Cannery as a resident. It'll definitely feel different, locals' discounts for shows and other attractions notwithstanding.

For me, though, very few experiences can match shooting hoops at America's Best Value Inn, because Meridith and I were playing in the shadow of the MGM Grand. It's right across the street. Next to us is Hooters Casino Hotel. Next to that, if you squint, you can spot the Tropicana. Near the MGM Grand is New York-New York and you can see the facade clearly. Nowhere else can you play basketball like that. This is a truly unique spot in the entire world. Meridith and I have also played basketball there when it begins to get dark, and it's pure poetry that shows the dire need for a Las Vegas literary scene. I've found writers' groups in Las Vegas and in Henderson (I'm thinking about joining the one in Henderson after we get settled as new residents), and I hope they're writing about moments like that. Vegas doesn't only need what it already has in entertainment options and buffets and sex in many forms, but it also needs words that describe moments like that. During that one basketball game, Meridith and I saw the powerful white light at the top of the Luxor come on. This is my new Disney World. I know I can be happy here every day, and it's for moments like that which keep me going as a writer. If you can't find anything to write about in Las Vegas, then you shouldn't be a writer.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Tuesday's Drive into the Future

As it stands now, Mom and Dad are driving to Las Vegas on Tuesday for a job interview Dad has at a charter school in Henderson. This is it. This is what we have waited for. And it feels right. This is the time to begin living as we should, for complete happiness and satisfaction that each day has been well spent.

I've already made my one request known. When they stop at the gas station-cum-food court in Baker, the halfway point to Las Vegas, they have to pick up a copy of the weekend section of the Las Vegas Review-Journal for me. It's in the rack of free publications, at the bottom, next to the claw machine. I haven't seen it for so long, and I'd like to get reacquainted with it. For Mike Weatherford's entertainment columns, I always rely on the Review-Journal's website. It's not the same. I can't wait to hold a newspaper again, to know that this is my area's newspaper, and have it feel like home. I've waited so long for that feeling.

The plan is that they'll get to Vegas by Tuesday afternoon, Dad will go to the job interview, and then they'll drive back. With luck, it won't be long until we're back there again, all of us, looking for that one sizable apartment that feels like home. No home maintenance again. Let someone else handle a leaky faucet or a stove repair without it costing us anything.

Today, I found that there's a writers' group in Henderson. And of course there's the JCC (Jewish Community Center) of Southern Nevada in Henderson. So I'm set. Finally I want to live in my area, not just exist as it has been for these years in Santa Clarita. I feel like we'll get there, we'll get settled, I'll find a full-time job (I know exactly what I want to do), and life will be really good. That's all I want.

The Big Kahuna Done Differently

I was going through the listings for the Sundance Channel once more because, besides Brief Interviews with Hideous Men on Friday night, and The Big Kahuna on Saturday afternoon, the to-record list on the Tivo is awfully devoid of anything on the Sundance Channel, though I see now that it's because nothing else really interested me, though I did find King of California on Flix, so that's a good score.

The Big Kahuna is about three men who work for the same industrial lubricant company who are trying to attract a huge client that could make business very easy for them for a long time to come. Kevin Spacey and Danny DeVito play two salesmen and longtime friends, while the fresh-faced and uncertain-of-himself (as is expected in the role) Peter Facinelli plays a new guy, from the research and development side of the company.

I think the plot description has been the same for years, even when we used to subscribe to TV Guide when it was an actual TV guide. On the screen right now, with The Big Kahuna highlighted in yellow, the plot description is:

"Three traveling salesmen meet and find they are all waiting for the same potential client."

Completely untrue, yet utterly fascinating. That would work as either a separate film or a play. There is something there to be explored.

DirecTV: Sometimes It's Good

I don't watch as much TV anymore. As much. Notice that those two words are there. I could never be one who boasts about not watching TV. That's a choice, not an accomplishment.

In the living room, we have an ancient Tivo that requires resetting sometimes once a week, mostly every two or three weeks. We're not going to switch it out for a new model because it's a bitch to get DirecTV to do anything, and also it's useless to get a new model when we're not going to use it anyway, being so close to summer and potentially moving.

The ancient Tivo, however, is useful for things like the free preview DirecTV gave of their Choice Extra channels, which includes Boomerang (It's Hanna-Barbera heavy, but it is nice to see Popeye on there, too) and the Documentary Channel. Also free Showtime channels, and this has been going on from last Sunday. It'll cease after Saturday, but what a buffet to be a pig in! Better that than the buffets in Vegas, which I have no complaints about, being that they present actual food which is hard to find in this valley, but I don't do anymore what I used to do before, which was try to eat the entire buffet. I have that option with this free preview, except that I found that I get tired of The Flintstones and The Jetsons after about three episodes. I had set up the Tivo to record the entire week's worth of both shows, but that didn't last. Besides, it's not so much that The Jetsons lied to us about the cool futuristic stuff we were supposed to have, but I'm still waiting for the bad canned laugh track that's supposed to follow every single freaking thing I do. I had hoped that maybe Boomerang would air The Jetsons Meet the Flintstones before this free preview ends, but no luck, and I've wanted to see that again for years (I last saw it on videotape when I was 8 or 9). I guess seeing the Banana Splits again will have to do.

The Documentary Channel has been a boon for me. Yesterday, I saw a relatively short documentary called High Score, about an electronics repairman who's trying to achieve a record score on Missile Command. He owns the machine and films himself attempting the world record. It's one definition of unintrusive filmmaking, because with a guy like him, who needs graphics and overbearing music?

I'm psyched about seeing For the Love of Movies: The Story of American Film Criticism, which is a history of American movie reviewing. That's on Thursday afternoon. Late Friday afternoon brings Special When Lit, about the history of pinball. And then there's F..k (that's the title), about usage of that one special word that I only use on special occasions, which means not nearly every day.

The Nicktoons channel has only been useful for late-night marathons, usually four episodes, of Rocko's Modern Life, Rugrats, and Ren and Stimpy. I was hoping for Doug, but I haven't seen Rocko's Modern Life in years, and ever since Nickelodeon moved its airings of Rugrats to 6 a.m., Meridith hasn't seen that in a long time.

Showtime is where I've been the happiest pig. They've got uncut, uncensored comedy specials. Last night, I finished Jon Lovitz Presents, which has him doing stand-up, as well as featuring other comedians he likes, pretty much unknown names that should be known more, but more on a middle ground. Not complete fame. I think they'd lose much of what makes them good if they had it.

There was also a special featuring Aries Spears, which I've watched most of, and even though Martin Lawrence: Runteldat isn't a special, since it was released in movie theaters, uncensored is still good for me.

Movies have been Showtime's greatest contribution to making sure that the Tivo has at least 2% free space again, since 31% is an anomaly. The other day, I saw that Flix was showing My Dinner with Andre. In widescreen. I don't get to my DVDs at all during the week, so I watched the end of it and set it up for when it airs next, thankfully before the free preview is over.

On Showtime 3 today, The Joneses is on. I thought this satire of suburban consumer culture was brilliant (I miss Demi Moore like that. She needs to keep this up), but another DVD I cannot add to my collection. I already have to get rid of others again so I don't move with too much, but it won't be so hard to eliminate them this time since I know exactly what I want to keep, and unlike last time, it isn't everything. Besides, The Joneses isn't one I felt like I needed in my collection. It is a once-in-a-while-bask-in-greatness kind of thing and now's the time again.

On Monday, May 16 (I'm usually not that exacting, but I want to get this down for my own reference too), I Tivo'd The Las Vegas Story off of Turner Classic Movies, having waited at least a year and a half to see it again. It was released in 1952 and stars Jane Russell and Vincent Price as a newlywed couple, and Victor Mature as her former lover from a few years back. This is the Las Vegas of 1952, since it was filmed in Las Vegas. I had no idea though that it would become part of my intent to reacquaint myself with all that I had ignored about Las Vegas in recent times, since there was no movement on a move. That carried over to this past Monday, which had Saint John of Las Vegas, starring Steve Buscemi, on Showtime 2. That opening shot of the gas station near the Strip, that is the Las Vegas I know. I am as comfortable on the Strip as I am on the outskirts, though at times, the outskirts tend to be more fascinating to me because if you drive those outlying areas, you can continually see the Stratosphere tower. It's a permanent reference point for driving. You use the tower to figure out how to get to wherever you're going nearby. All this also ties in to recently when I began to get an inkling that a move may happen in the coming months, and I bought from abebooks.com Sun, Sin and Suburbia: An Essential History of Modern Las Vegas by Geoff Schumacher, who lived in Las Vegas for at least two decades, and In the Desert of Desire: Las Vegas and The Culture of Spectacle by William L. Fox.

Las Vegas has all kinds of spectacle, there's no doubt about that, but I read the opening pages of Fox's book and his description of Primm, which is just over the start of the Nevada state line, is exactly what Primm is, and that it's 35 more miles north before you reach Las Vegas. Our first time driving to Las Vegas, after we crossed the state line, Mom thought that Las Vegas was coming up when she saw the lights of Primm up ahead in the dark. But at least this time it's an evolution of thought and feeling in learning more and more about Las Vegas, and not a jarring get-used-to-this-because-this-is-all-we-have feeling that comes from the Santa Clarita Valley.

I found a wonderful surprise on the east coast feed of Showtime this past Tuesday. Fool for Love, starring Sam Shepard and Kim Basinger. I haven't read any of Shepard's plays yet, but I haven't seen Shepard in anything since Voyager, co-starring Julie Delpy, many years ago on videotape (I was probably 16 or 17 then), and I want to see him in this, particularly since it's an adaptation of his play. His western United States settings suit me, since that's where I am and I know them so well. Not quite his Arizona or his New Mexico, but just that spread-out feeling.

Besides those, I've also hit upon Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai on Showtime Extreme, Life During Wartime (I'm immediately curious about anything directed by Todd Solondz) on Showtime's east coast feed, Those Daring Young Men in Their Jaunty Jalopies on Flix, and The Village Barbershop on Showtime 2 (John Ratzenberger as a Reno barber who has to hire a woman after his business partner dies, or lose the business. I've seen a few minutes of it, and the setting reminds me of San Juan Capistrano, but that's not my reason for wanting to see it. Reno is my reason. I want to know everything about my future state, and this is the way to see Reno for now).

Coming up, I'm Tivoing Funny About Love starring Gene Wilder, Christine Lahti, and Mary Stuart Masterson (Flix), Gone Fishin' starring Danny Glover and Joe Pesci (Showtime 2. I've always liked Joe Pesci and this is one of the few films of his that I haven't seen), Ride the Divide on the Documentary Channel (about a race on "the longest mountain-bike route in the world"), Brief Interviews with Hideous Men (directed by John Krasinski and based on the David Foster Wallace book. Plus, Julianne Nicholson is always very nice to look at) on the Sundance Channel, Flamenco at 5:15 (about Spanish flamenco dancers instructing ballet students), also on the Documentary Channel; The Big Kahuna, again because I don't get to my DVD collection during the week, and there's no DVD player in the living room; and Little Children, since I remember so well the devastating dramatic impact when I first saw it, and just like The Joneses, it's time again.

Whenever there's a free preview of Starz! or Showtime or HBO, I always go overboard. I find so many movies I want to Tivo and I end up deleting many of them without watching them. This is that one instance where nothing I Tivo will go to waste. And I'm fortunate to have that for once.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Orson Welles at His Tiniest

Meridith called me yesterday after work, finding a box in the school library marked "Free Books." Did I want any?

Well, what's in it?

Mostly teen books. A few vampires, things you're not likely to ever read. But there is Me and Orson Welles.

Bring that one home.

The conversation went on for a lot longer than that, since she read me every title that was there, but I'll spare you all that.

She brought it home and it's a Penguin edition, a movie cover, with Claire Danes, Zac Efron, and Christian McKay on the front, all within the enormous back shadow of Orson Welles. Its size reminds me of the promise of books, not that I needed to be reminded. It's 7 x 5 x 0.5 inches, small enough for any interested middle school student to easily carry in a pocket in their backpack and still have room in that pocket for spare change (If there ever is such a thing anymore), Nintendo DS games, and that math test with a bad grade that they so desperately need to hide. It'll easily fit behind this book if it's folded over many times.

I compared the size of it to Mousetrapped: A Year and a Bit in Orlando, Florida by Catherine Ryan Howard which I have on one of many stacks to the left of my bed, and when marveling at how small this book is, it was the first title I spotted for comparison. Just briefly, Mousetrapped is Howard's story about working at a hotel on Walt Disney World property. Give me any book that takes place in Florida and especially at Walt Disney World. I'll read it.

Placing Me and Orson Welles on top of Mousetrapped, the tagline of Mousetrapped is still visible, along with the blowing leaves of one palm tree, Howard's learner license, a "United States Space Program" badge, the bottom of the American flag, and the bottom tip of Florida on a map. Amazon has the dimensions of this book as 8.5 x 5.5 x 0.6 inches. 12.8 ounces, compared to Welles's 5.6 ounces.

I love small books. I don't mind paperbacks that are near to bursting, such as Oliver Twist, because there's so much promise that you can store so easily and not be worried that you'll pull something trying to carry it. A majority of the books in my collection are paperback. Hardcover is only when it's absolutely necessary such as Finishing the Hat, volume 1 of Stephen Sondheim's life and lyrics, Lyrics by Sting, and a few books of Charles Bukowski's poetry.

Also, smaller paperbacks invite you in more readily. I had heard of Me and Orson Welles because of the movie, knew minorly that it was a book, and upon seeing the book in this form, I want to go in. I want to see what kind of Orson Welles is in store here. I want to know what gave Zac Efron his first shot at getting out from under High School Musical. I especially like how Claire Danes is on the cover with a sunny smile, and soon Showtime will start airing a dark drama called Homeland, in which she stars as a CIA analyst convinced that an American soldier who had gone missing for so many years and has now been brought home is actually a pawn of terrorists. Now that's acting.

At Wal-Mart, at Target, it's why I always look at all the paperbacks being offered. Maybe there's a story there that reaches out to me, and what an attractive package to contain it!

Monday, May 23, 2011

I Wonder, and Yet It's Futile Anyway

I've been thinking about this all day, but am first reminded of what Bill Murray's Don Johnston said to the kid who may have been his son in Broken Flowers:

"Well, the past is gone, I know that. The future isn't here yet, whatever it's going to be. So, all there is, is this. The present. That's it."

This morning, I sent a long e-mail to Sara, a good friend in Florida this morning about plans possibly afoot to move to Las Vegas. It's been going on for at least four years now, but the rumblings are stronger than before.

I told her about my love for Las Vegas, the history, that the Las Vegas we know was started by the Jewish mafia (Meyer Lansky and Bugsy Siegel), and though I don't condone how they worked, it's a point of personal pride for me. I love that the history is still there, and that you can feel it all around you. Boulder City was begun by the federal government to house workers building the Hoover Dam. No drinking was allowed and neither was gambling. That's still in the city charter, still active today. There are no bars in Boulder City, no gambling establishments.

The Santa Clarita Valley closes every night towards 9 p.m. It gets emptier and emptier, and is the same for parts of Los Angeles if you're not into the party scene. Las Vegas just keeps going, 24 hours a day, and you can step off and back on whenever you want. I love that I have that option and though I'll never adopt a nocturnal lifestyle ever again, that the choice is there makes me even more enamored of the city.

But throughout the day, I wondered: If we hadn't moved throughout Florida so many times, if I had had roots somewhere there, would I love Las Vegas as much as I do now? Would I have even known about Las Vegas? Would I have had a snap opinion about it like most people do without ever having been there? Vegas is wildest indoors, never outdoors. Amidst all the lights, the Bellagio waterworks, the famous volcano, there is a silence of sorts, the kind that encourages you to find whatever you'd like to do, to make the night yours. It does not move as fast as people think it does. You move fast throughout it. The city doesn't. It does provide that sense of reckless abandon with all the options available, but ultimately, it's your choice.

I don't really know. I came up with possible futures for dead actors in What If They Lived?, but I can't figure out who I would have been if I had continued living in Florida. It's not a lamentation, just an observation.

In that e-mail to Sara, I said:

"Living in Florida for all those years [19 years, from my birth to a year in at Broward Community College], I was fine. I loved it. I loved going to Walt Disney World every weekend when I lived in Casselberry [I was a tyke, mostly in a stroller at the parks], and I surely didn't mind Coral Springs and Pembroke Pines, because they still contained what I love about Florida, that even in condos and gated communities, the spirit of the state still exists in little crevices, such as the small waterway near the condo in Coral Springs that had tangles of tree branches, and sticks all around, and at Grand Palms in Pembroke Pines, you could just stand out on that golf course as the night took over, and enjoy such a vast panorama of stars with very few lights around you, so you could get the entire view."

History classes in school had Ponce de Leon, the Fountain of Youth, and what's referenced and striven for in Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides is actually my state's history. Have you ever been to St. Augustine and seen the Fort Matanzas National Monument? Did you know that Andrew Jackson was the military governor of Florida for nine months?

I want roots somewhere, finally. I feel like Nevada is where I belong. But I know that because of Florida, because of everything I saw, because of those history classes at Walt Disney World, I was imbued with a sense of exploration that has served me well, that gave me an insatiable curiosity. Every time I go to a casino in Las Vegas, on the Strip, I am impressed with the designs I see. I look around everywhere, in every corner, up at the ceiling, at all the details that were put into these places.

I think if I still lived in Florida, I wouldn't have known anything about Las Vegas. In 11th grade, an acquaintance was moving there and I thought to myself, "Las Vegas....isn't that in the middle of nowhere?" I thought it was a desolate outpost. Dad had been courted by the Clark County School District years ago, but he and Mom had the same concern, about round-the-clock schooling which would mean Dad wouldn't have gotten home from work until 10 p.m. Now, seven years in Santa Clarita, Mom wishes we had taken that chance. We could have worked out the logistics.

However, you can't change what has already been cemented. And I realize that I won't know what might have been had we remained in Florida. That's ok. I do know that I gained a sense of intellectual freedom in Florida. I was given so much, not only with Walt Disney World and St. Augustine and those history classes, but also my 11th grade English teacher, Roberta Little, who gave me Julius Caesar, A Raisin in the Sun, A Rose for Emily by William Faulkner, and The Glass Menagerie, which became my favorite play. Because of all this, when my family and I first went to Las Vegas, I went without any assumptions, without any beliefs of what it might be based on what I had heard. My only worry was when we pulled into the parking space in front of our room at the America's Best Value Inn on Tropicana Avenue, and the atmosphere felt immediately lonely, that I wondered what in the hell we were doing here. But after a few moments in the room to get settled and to put Tigger into his cage (We brought him with us because there was no one reliable at the time in Santa Clarita, and the Best Value Inn allowed pets) and turn on the TV for him, we went to the Strip and I felt better. Yes, this was for me. This freedom to do whatever you wanted, whatever you could find that appealed to you. I liked this a lot. There is no social fear here, no worry about what your neighbors might think, which isn't what life should be. I don't have it, but I can imagine other tourists shocked at the same thing that I love.

Wherever you live at the start of your life should begin to prep you for the rest of your life, to teach you things that can carry you through whatever might happen. Florida did that for me, and it's because of everything I learned and everything I experienced there that keeps me psyched about Las Vegas, that'll keep me excited when I live there. I'll handle the summer heat. Florida taught me that, too.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Smart Thinking

Tourism publications in Los Angeles aren't known for writing that makes you want to visit every attraction in the area before going back home to Ohio, Japan, Pennsylvania, or wherever you might be from. I suppose they do what's expected of them. Those who look inside each magazine find attractions that may interest them and they pursue them. Of course, there are also sturdy paper advertisements lining the wall to the right of the entrance to the Kodak Theatre shops on the ground floor which serve the same purpose.

I wish the writing was better, though. This stuff is copywriting at its most basic. You have to get people to want to visit these different places. You can't guarantee that their experience will be everything they could have ever dreamed it to be, but you have to set them off on that course, the one that puts money into the Starline Movie Stars' Homes Tour, for example, or the guided tour of the Kodak Theatre. Considering that Los Angeles is home to countless writers, so many with scripts in a drawer, waiting to become famous and with a power close to God, shouldn't there be more writers for these publications? Aren't there people who can put a few excited words together who love these places every single day, people who can go just enough below the surface to attract tourists? That's what Hollywood & Highland and other tourist-centered areas thrive on, so they should do better. I know that when people come here, they're not here to read, but a few words to get the gist of a place and to promote it well enough should always be present. These areas don't have the visual advantage of Las Vegas, so they do have to work harder at it, and that should include writing.

There is one publication I picked up yesterday at the Visitors' Center near the Kodak Theatre entrance, called L.A. The Place: Los Angeles County's Visitor Guide. There's coupons and information on attractions, shopping, and where to eat, but there is one thing included that is indicative of the area, that this city does sleep for the most part: TV listings.

It's listed on the front cover, and this is very smart. This is a monthly guide, and considering that a majority of the hotels and motels to stay at probably don't have DirecTV or any satellite service, they have TV listings for 6:30 p.m. to 12 a.m. each day in May. You won't find this in Las Vegas because that's a 24-hour culture. You pick your time to step off for a while, but that city keeps moving. TV is necessary for the tourists that stay somewhere at night. Those streets are truly empty. The Santa Clarita Valley, my area, starts closing up close to 9 p.m. each night, no matter what day it is.

Thinking about it more, maybe these tourism publications have it right, since there's also a majority of photos in each one. Maybe that's all they need. It works for their purpose and whoever wants to go to Legoland and Universal Studios and Disneyland and Six Flags Magic Mountain will get there. And then these magazines have done their job.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

The Older Years

Facing away from the handprints and footprints at Grauman's Chinese Theatre, I see a billboard atop a building to my left across the street, a huge poster for Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas. I am awed by this place, the history that I perceive to be here, the concentrated roar of Hollywood tour buses, touting glimpses of the stars' homes, the people dressed up as various movie characters on the sidewalk, taking photos, taking tips.

That was April 2003. It's now May 2011. If we're still here in late August, we'll have lived in Southern California for eight years. But we have changed. And I have changed. Those handprints and footprints were fascinating back then. All those people were there, those silent film stars, those abrasive wits like Bette Davis, and I think Buster Keaton is somewhere there, too. Charlie Chaplin, if not.

Meridith and I went to see them again today, the first time since that first time. We're more mild toward it now. It's there, but for us, it's just there. It's a part of this landscape that has been with us for all these years. But there is a markedly interesting difference: Meridith took a few photos of the stars that had been installed in the years after we saw this. That first time, she took photos with a disposable camera. This time, a cell phone camera. I asked her if we had had cell phones back then, and she told me that only Mom and Dad had them.

The billboard atop that building this time was of Johnny Depp as Captain Jack Sparrow for, of course, Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides. Back then, the El Capitan Theatre was just a glimpse on the way to where we could board a van for one of those stars' homes tours. Today, we went to see On Stranger Tides at El Capitan, and while the organist played what sounded like every single song in Disney's history, Meridith figured out how many times she and I had been here, both together and separately. There was the Little Mermaid sing-a-long, the same for Mary Poppins, and there was The Jungle Book, and now this. That was four for me. Meridith reminded me of a fifth for her: Ratatouille. She had gone to that with Mom. So five for her. If we're still here in September, it may be a fifth time for me and a sixth time for her, since they're showing The Lion King in 3D.

That day in 2003, I think we also went to the Hollywood & Highland Center, to see the Hollywood sign from a distance on the fourth floor. This time on the fourth floor, our purpose was Soul Daddy, the restaurant concept on America's Next Great Restaurant, which became the winner of the show and opened three locations: One in Manhattan, one at Mall of America in Minneapolis, and one at the Hollywood & Highland Center, on the fourth floor. Meridith watched that show religiously, since Bobby Flay was the host and one of the judges, and he's her favorite chef. Over those weeks the show aired, she thought that the grilled cheese concept, Meltworks, might win, but then figured, after Meltworks was eliminated, that Soul Daddy would probably make it, and she was right.

It is good. Really good. The focus is on healthier southern food, and I'm sure because of the startup costs, most of the sides are cold, except for the cheese grits, and the braised kale. Mom had roasted pork, with sweet potato salad and green bean salad. Meridith and I had the same thing, baked herb chicken, but she had wild rice salad and green salad, while I had sweet potato salad and cheese grits. I love grits, probably on an equal par with books. I subsist partly on Quaker Instant Grits. There's not a real prominent taste of corn in there. There's corn grit, as you'd expect, but a taste that would be close to cornbread, no. This had that taste. This was truly a different kind for me. The cheese taste offered itself up meekly, but never shouted. I was fascinated at that near-cornbread taste, though. Meridith thought I should have gotten two side orders of grits (since the meal comes with two sides), but I wanted to try the sweet potato salad, too, which was also excellent. Dad had the country style ribs with cabbage slaw, but I don't remember his second side. It might also have been cabbage slaw, since he's big on cole slaw.

Amidst our joint reflection on all those years, looking back at our younger selves, remembering what rubes we were when we came to Hollywood too and were taken by everything around us (It's not so much that it's a sham, because in some aspects it is, but just that when you live relatively nearby (as nearby as you can get via various freeways), it becomes more and more surreal. A lot of it is a Dali painting come to life, and forgive me, because that's the only kind of surrealism that comes to mind right now), I also got a look at my possible future. Not a flash forward where I see exactly what I will become, but something to consider.

Toward the end of eating at Soul Daddy, I looked out the floor-to-ceiling window across from our table in the back and saw a blonde-haired, bright-eyed woman (late 20s, maybe) with her baby at a table just outside that window. There was a stroller, she had in front of her what she was eating, there were things on the table for the baby, and that was it. Single mother. That's what it looked like to me, anyway. A husband or boyfriend might have been along later, but I go by what I saw at that moment.

She didn't look worn down by the baby. It seemed like this baby had strengthened her, given her a strong resolve to make life worth living in so many ways.

I feel like I've tangled myself up in my words. I don't mean that she didn't have that resolve before the baby. I don't know. But there was an energy I felt from her, even with that window separating us.

The baby looked at me, the mother looked down at the baby and then at me, and she smiled at me. I thought it was because the baby had looked at me, but when the mother looked back again and smiled, the baby wasn't looking at me.

I'm definitely not ready for a baby. I know that for sure. But over the past year, after getting out of, and far, far away from, my anxiety brought on by all that weight, I've thought that I'm most happy among my books. I'm excited each day by what I choose to read. I'm continually enthused by my research for my next three books. What else would I need?

It turns out that I wouldn't mind a smile like that often coming from someone like that woman. It didn't look like there was any doubt in her eyes, and it certainly didn't look like a polite smile designed to deflect me from looking at her further. It's the kind of feeling that can carry you aloft for a long time.

I didn't feel an urge to talk to her, but as we walked away, back to the elevator to head down to the cupcake place on the ground floor of the Kodak Theatre area, I kept sneaking glances at her. And I thought, and I thought, and I thought.

I keep thinking that pursuing this might be a lot of work, that I'd have less time to read, less time to do what makes me everything that I am. Seems like an idiot notion, though. To connect with someone with the same interests, who's as equally passionate about their life as I am about mine? Why wouldn't I want to have that balloon feeling all the time?

I'm going to do this. I haven't been serious about this before, but I want to find someone. I'm 27, and I've only dated in 7th grade. Never through the rest of middle school, never in high school, and never during most of my 20s. There wasn't anything that stopped me; I just never went for it.

I don't know if it's some part of human nature that's spurring me on, but I don't care. I want to explore. I know it can be difficult, frustrating, whatever, but I'm the only one of me that I have, the only one in this body. I want to see for myself. If anything, that kind of smile would be nice to see every day.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Plans for The Rapture

Reading The Last Campaign: How Harry Truman Won the 1948 Election by Zachary Karabell yesterday, I began planning my Saturday. I suddenly had a yen to watch Swing Vote for the probably 5,007th time. Then would come the usual stop at the newsstand for The Wall Street Journal Weekend and then the library, as usual.

I went to the Fandango website last night to see what the status was of the showings of Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides at Edwards Valencia 12. Meridith and I want to see it, but we figured on waiting until its second weekend in theaters for the crowds to thin out a bit.

I woke up a little before 8 this morning, and found Mom on the El Capitan Theatre website, the theater owned by Disney in Hollywood, which had just had a marathon of all four Pirates of the Caribbean movies. And I remembered that Dad had had a desire to go to the Diabetes Expo being held at the Los Angeles Convention Center on Saturday. When I first heard about it, I didn't mind going. Gets me out of the valley and all I need with me is a book and I'm good.

Mom had the right idea, though. Of course, she would go with Dad, but why should Meridith and I wait to see Pirates? And at the 1 p.m. showing tomorrow, the day of The Rapture, in which I hope to suddenly become the proud owner of a Mercedes wherever I can find one after the believers have ascended, there were two available seats at the right side of the ground level of the theater at the ends of rows J and K, one behind the other. That works for me and Meridith.

And since general admission seats are in the balcony, these seats include popcorn and a drink, but hopefully a themed popcorn bucket rather than the standard El Capitan one.

And last night, Meridith finished the now-only season of "America's Next Great Restaurant" and found that not only are one of the three locations of Soul Daddy, the winner of the show, in Los Angeles, but it's inside the Hollywood & Highland Center, right across the street from El Capitan. So we'll go next door before or after the movie to see the generally overpriced souvenirs and then to Hollywood & Highland. She told me they have cheese grits as a side, and it would be a nice break from the Quaker Instant kind I always have.

I don't think the end of the world would affect Hollywood much, though. It's pretty much a godless place, but I say that because the Big Bang Theory t-shirts offered at the souvenir shops in the area are too expensive. I want another Sheldon shirt, but not for $25. I was a rube when I visited the area in April 2003, but I wasn't that much of a rube.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

A Universal Beauty

It's 1994. Bill Clinton has passed a year in the White House. I keep playing Sheryl Crow's "Tuesday Night Music Club" over and over, and it becomes my favorite album ever. In that summer, I become fascinated by the concept of a double feature, when the South Florida Sun-Sentinel has an ad in the Lifestyle section that says, "Come for Angels in the Outfield, stay for The Lion King." I've never seen restrooms so crowded in between films at the GCC Coral Square Cinema 8 in Coral Springs.

Somewhere in that year, April or May, I'm at Universal Studios Orlando with my family; a one-day visit. It's the day after my part in a bowling tournament, the reason we're in Orlando from Coral Springs, 4 hours south. I didn't rank high enough for the next round, so here I am, at a better deal, since the most fun I got out of that tournament was the big arcade at that alley, causing me to nearly miss my turn twice. I love bowling, but that was one instance of boredom.

We traverse pretty much the entire park. E.T.: The Ride. The Funtastic World of Hanna-Barbera. Kongfrontation. Nickelodeon Studios, where we sit down to watch them tape three opening challenges on "Legends of the Hidden Temple" for separate episodes.

At one point during the day, someone comes up to us and asks if we want to take part in a survey, what turns out to be a taste test of juices with the labels covered up. I notice that one of them is Ocean Spray, but that matters nothing to me, not with what I've seen.

An apparition.

A temporary vision.

A brunette about my age (10) who knows just what I like, even though she doesn't know me.

Mature. Even at that age, I like 'em that way, and it must stem from reading since I was 2. Nothing that I read in those books brought on this preference, but considering that my 3rd grade teacher once called my parents in for a conference because I was reading on a level far above my classmates with some John Grisham novels I brought to class to read, I expect a bit more.

I wish I remembered our conversation. I wish I remembered exactly what she looked like, beyond the long hair and those brown eyes that seemed curious but didn't want to ask the questions outright. I know, it sounds a little silly, but you come upon something like this in a theme park, just like that, and you wonder how on earth it managed to happen on that day, in that spot.

Of course, the severe disadvantage for me was not prying a bit more, like trying to extract a phone number or something to keep in touch. Saw her briefly, talked a bit, and that was it. Of course, this was at a time when I thought every girl I was attracted to would be unforgettable, like years later my memories of them would still haunt me. And then, you get older, and those preconceived notions become disposable notions.

But right then, wow. I don't remember if I asked her where she came from, to compare the distance between that and Coral Springs, but I wanted her with me for the rest of the day. No chance, though, since it was time to go.

I do recall that in line for Kongfrontation, there was a girl named Bridget in line behind me, and we had a longer conversation than the one I had with that taste test goddess. Bridget was a little more bubbly, excitable, but that didn't work for me. Like that brunette, I prefer mystery, time to explore in conversation what a person is, what they like, what they don't like, what they want in life. Now that stems from books and also having written my own, which required exploring facets of the lives of so many actors from nothing. I had to start from nothing and find the books and read them and get out of them what I needed. That works for me with women, too. I don't want to know everything right away, but just some trait, some manner of speaking that makes me want more.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

No More Novels on DailyLit

Yesterday, I finished reading Paranoia by Joseph Finder. According to my Goodreads profile (http://www.goodreads.com/review/list/270540-rory, which you can also find in my links list under "Look! I read good!"), I started it on December 7 of last year.

It never takes me that long to read a book. But in this case, I read it through DailyLit (www.dailylit.com), which gives you a page a day via e-mail or a little longer, if you choose.

I chose Paranoia because it was a surprise to see a relatively recent book on there (well recent in paperback form, as that was published in 2006. It was first published in 2004), offered whole. You'd expect that with the novels of Charles Dickens, being in the public domain and all, but there that one was, full-length.

The plot sounded interesting, forced small-scale corporate espionage, and Finder is quite a writer, making every technical aspect easy to understand. He's not one of those aloof thriller writers who expect you to climb to Mount Olympus to even be able to understand what you're reading. He's like a friend telling you a story about something that happened. Your friend is going to make sure you know every detail, and that's what Finder does here.

In that span of time, between December and now, I bought all of Finder's books in paperback for cheap. I want to explore every other thriller he's written. I haven't started those yet (I also did the same with Tessa Hadley, after I read a short story of hers in The New Yorker, and just like with Finder, I haven't started reading her novels yet either), but I will get to his second book, The Russia Club soon (There was no reasonably priced copy of his first book, Red Carpet).

I liked getting a page a day from DailyLit (or rather a few compressed into one, since the mass market paperback edition is 448 pages, and there were 170 e-mails from DailyLit for it), but towards the end, I got impatient. I wanted to know how it all shook out, so yesterday, on "161 out of 170", I kept going. I clicked on the option of "Get the next installment right now," and I finished it.

I've done this before. On DailyLit, I read Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom by Cory Doctorow the same way, except I read it in one sitting. And then I did it again a few months later, craving it again. And then I bought the book from Amazon. I expect that's what Joseph Finder also hopes for in having Paranoia available for free, and that's exactly what he got from me. But I don't like doing this often. I prefer the real thing, real covers, real pages. I could never read Dickens like this. In fact, in the years before DailyLit, when I was doing a book report in middle school, I found A Tale of Two Cities available online, and I read it all online. That's not the way for me. Never do I want technology to take over how I read. For music, fine. An mp3 player was a godsend, because I don't have to cart around my entire CD collection on a road trip as I used to. And my mp3 player is always with me whenever I go out. I can understand that. But I will never, never, never, never get a Kindle. Give me stacks numbering into the hundreds. Give me that aging, yellowing smell of a book that perhaps has been read by so many across so many years and is now owned by me. I could never get the same pleasure of downloading a title to a Kindle as I do when I search for a particular book on abebooks.com and can compare prices and figure out what's the best seller to get it from. That happened last night with On the Volcano by James Nelson. I'm a huge fan of his The Trouble with Gumballs, and his son Jeff informed me that not only is he still alive, but he's still writing, and On the Volcano was recently published.

I appreciate having found The Trouble with Gumballs while searching for books about vending machines on the County of Los Angeles library website, but I wasn't going to do the same with this one. I wasn't going to wait. And abebooks.com had plenty of copies. So it's on its way to me.

However, I am going to wait for Nelson's The Poor Person's Guide to Great Cheap Wines and Everybody's Guide to Great Wines under $5 to get to me from whichever library will send it. I don't drink wine, but I do love good writing about anything. It's why I sometimes read the wine column in The Wall Street Journal Weekend.

This entry has really wandered, so I'll get back to the point: No more novels on DailyLit. During the middle portion of Paranoia, I could wait, and I was fortunate to discover Finder's other books, but that kind of discovery doesn't happen that often on DailyLit. The last time was Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom a few years ago, and as mentioned, that ended up the same way. But I'll stick with my discoveries in print. I'll get that feeling right then and there that I should have a book in my collection, and that doesn't happen often either, but when it does, it's a feeling that the word "euphoria" can't contain.

I'll stick with poems and quotes-of-the-day on DailyLit. Shorter and less time.

Night Moves

Last night was one of those nights in which I slept in sections. It doesn't happen often, thankfully, but I drift off, wake up, drift off, wake up. It doesn't happen five minutes later, but probably an hour or two, and always a dream involved. I was surprised that no dream involved the taping of the third- and second-to-last Oprah Winfrey shows last night, which I followed closely on The Hollywood Reporter website via a reporter who had a live chat blog going while the episodes were being taped at the United Center in Chicago. Both episodes are called "Surpise Oprah! A Farewell Spectacular" (They air on Monday, May 23 and Tuesday, May 24) and it seemed like nearly all of Hollywood was there. Tom Hanks, Tom Cruise, Katie Holmes, Beyonce, Queen Latifah, Jamie Foxx, Dakota Fanning, Usher, Kristin Chenoweth, Aretha Franklin, Will Smith, Jada Pinkett Smith (the latter two hosted the second episode, while Tom Hanks hosted the first, apparently), Stevie Wonder, Alicia Keys, and many other names I've forgotten. The two episodes were producers' choice. Oprah didn't know anything about what was going to happen. The NBA agreed to push back the next Finals game (Bulls vs. Heat) for this. That's power over many decades.

I know the different parts of the night. I figured that when I woke up the first time, it was 1 a.m. The next time was 3. The third time was probably getting closer to 6, since the heat clicked on and soon enough, Tigger came to my bed, licked me and got in. I never look at the clock and I'm never overly concerned about being awake during the night. I just shift and drift right back off.

It also rained during the night. Not a "Holy-crap-why didn't-I-build-an-ark" downpour, but just a steady rain that there's always too little of here in Southern California, but that's expected with the desert atmosphere, though rare in May. Usually the heat ratchets up around this time and doesn't stop until the end of summer. I'm all for rain as late as we can get it.

That's pretty much all I have.