Last September, on a Saturday, we went to Legoland in San Diego and then to Hash House a Go Go which serves huge portions that make you wonder if they've reinforced the table underneath to hold it all.
To get to that Hash House, the original Hash House, as we learned, we had to park in a lot in which you stuff dollar bills into the slot amidst a bank of slots that corresponds to the numbered space you parked in. That was a few blocks from Hash House a Go Go, so we walked past bungalows, a rare instance for me to marvel at people living in the midst of what looked like a kind of downtown San Diego. Maybe it was actually part of downtown San Diego. Obviously that thought shows that I know nothing about San Diego beyond Sea World and where we were, and even then I couldn't tell where we are.
Passing the bungalows, there were blinds open in one window, revealing a very small study/library with a lamp in a corner, a small plush red leather couch and a matching red leather easy chair. Right away I wanted to live there. Forget the other rooms in that bungalow, I just wanted that one room. I loved how small it was, how private, and that the bookshelves were tall enough to promise whatever adventures you seek in words.
On our walk back from Hash House a Go Go to the car, we passed that same window, but the blinds had been drawn. But I've never forgotten about that room, especially today, reading The Tortilla Curtain by T.C. Boyle, about an illegal Mexican couple's battle to survive in Southern California, living in a ravine and looking for work, and a gated-community couple who want to keep the world out, though the husband is more conflicted than his realtor wife because he writes a nature observation column for a conservation magazine, though it's debatable how much nature is left and especially how much beauty when the Arroyo Blanco Estates homeowners association wants to erect a high wall against the rest of the world, trying to keep out the coyotes (which snatched up the couple's two dogs) and everything else they see as a threat, including illegal immigrants.
I know this world. I live in this world. I see it differently. You do what you can here, whoever you are. You live however you can make it work. The most we have in my Saugus neighborhood (located at the ass end of the Santa Clarita Valley) are people who don't pick up after their dogs, though that means nothing to me because I've never witnessed it and therefore it isn't my problem. It's just the problem of those for whom it's a genuine concern and those nosy types who walk around looking to stir up trouble just to make themselves feel good.
Oh, but I know all about homeowners associations, how the board is populated by little Caesars who know that this is the only kind of power they will ever have, and they're gleeful to use it and abuse it.
Anyway, as I read The Tortilla Curtain, I remembered how I need to make more time for books like these, to inspire me, to reignite my love for understated fiction, of which Boyle is an expert, and stocks it with so many observations that are ironic, absurdly funny, somber and sad. I know for sure that I want to read all of his other books.
And I remembered that study/library, and how this is a perfect book for that kind of setting because you rise up from that room and out into the world, into this particular world, and when you return, you can sit comfortably, pondering everything you've read. And then the shelves beckon again. I want a room like that one day.