Wednesday, August 31, 2011

The End of My Netflix Account

It began on March 21, 2005. It ended at 10:44 p.m. tonight, Wednesday, August 31, 2011. The first disc of the first season of The Practice has to be received by next Wednesday, September 7, and it will be. I'm done. Because of my now-permanent love of reading, I don't need Netflix as badly as I used to. Movies are always available somewhere, such as on Turner Classic Movies, and I may use Redbox for The Beaver, and Friends with Benefits when that comes to DVD. I'm content with those options.

My Fry Realization

Since the breakup, I've been discovering who I am, what I love, what I want. This won't be the only entry about that.

After watching the second episode of the first season of The Practice after lunch (I need to send the disc back by Friday, even though Netflix gives 7 days to return outstanding discs after you cancel your account, but I'll be done with it by then and I want to get it off my hands), I spent the rest of the afternoon reading Hamburgers & Fries: An American Story by John T. Edge. There was much more about hamburgers than there was about fries, and that's probably as it should be, being that a burger is always the main focus. The fries are an afterthought. "Done with the burger. Oh look, fries!"

While reading about Edge's quest for good fries in Philadelphia, I thought about what kind of fries I like. Shoestring? Crinkle-cut? Thick? Thin? I'm good with any kind of fry, as long as it's crisp enough and doesn't give in easily to the potato interior. Even together, there has to be a separation of sorts between the outside and the inside. Each has to be distinctive.

Then I read this, on page 161, and I immediately knew what I like:

"But the highlight comes at a friend's birthday party, when I meet youngster Ben Robling. He's a staffer at Di Bruno's, the city's premier vendor of fine Italian cheeses. When I broach the subject of fries, I expect him to grab a wedge of Gorgonzola dolce and beat a hasty retreat. But he beguiles me with the story of a night he spent at his neighborhood diner, tucked into a corner booth, drinking a bootlegged bottle of Alsatian white, and digging into an aluminum pail of fries smothered in mozzarella and checkered with bacon. "Everything I've learned about how food and wine are supposed to work together was on that table," he says. "At that moment, you could have offered me a slab of foie gras and a glass of Sauternes and I would've turned you down flat."

I can't eat like I used to. I have memories of my knees hurting often, my feet hurting after very few errands, no real center of gravity. I was top-heavy and gut-heavy. But I also have memories of chili-cheese fries. I'm not sure where, but I remember baskets of them, and I regret to say that I only shoveled them in. I vaguely remember the mild spices of the chili, my joy at the melted cheese, and the weak and soggy nature of the fries under the chili and the cheese. I didn't mind. They were chili-cheese fries!

When fries merely accompany a dish, such as wings at Wing Stop, I use mustard, whenever I can find it, though Wing Stop doesn't have it. But no need for that there, since they have blue cheese dip. But when there's the opportunity to have fries covered in something, I go for it now only if I've been so good with my diet that I can afford one day of transgression.

Nevertheless, when I'm a resident of Henderson and have full access to the Las Vegas area, I want to find a diner or some place that has chili-cheese fries or fries covered with some other tasty combination. But I'm also looking for fries that can withstand a barrage of chili-cheese. I know that if enough chili is dumped on an order of fries, the fries get soggy because of the heat of the chili and the weight of it on the fries. I'm hoping there's a place in Vegas that has a balanceable ratio, and crispier fries that can handle that balance.

I also hope that I'll find some interesting combinations on top of fries. Maybe mozzarella and bacon pieces. I like the exploration that comes with chili-cheese fries, those cheesy crevices, that perfect combination of chili and cheese on top of one fry. This is how I prefer fries, and I will search. I won't search often, for the sake of my weight, but it's going to be fun.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Goodbye Netflix

It started out as a birthday present, and as a desire, in 2005. I had heard about Netflix, and was frustrated by my local library not readily having DVDs of The Bourne Supremacy and Before Sunset, both of which I wanted to see badly. And suddenly, March 21, there was my opportunity. Three DVDs at a time. And I could watch those right away.

Now it's the final week I'll have Netflix, and I can't count how many DVDs I've gone through with the service, how many Mom, Dad and Meridith have watched as well, but I do remember that in the last year, we switched from three DVDs to one. Cheaper, and streaming was still included. And I'm cancelling my subscription just like others have. DVDs and streaming in the same plan aren't permitted anymore. They charge separately. And I liked having the convenience of a DVD being sent, because most of what I watched wasn't available through streaming, and I also liked reminiscing about my childhood with such shows as Mighty Morphin Power Rangers and Beakman's World, both available through Netflix Streaming.

My final DVD came down to a decision as well. Two weeks ago, I deleted my entire queue, all 433 titles, as well as the 100 or so that were in my streaming queue. After, the site always implored me to have at least 6 titles in my DVD queue. I didn't need six. I wasn't going to watch that many by the end anyway. I've been Tivoing Boston Legal off of TV Land, and, having regained interest in the writing style of David E. Kelley, I became curious about The Practice, of which Boston Legal was its spinoff. I wanted to see it from the start, so I added the first disc of the first season to my queue. But when I went into my nearly empty queue, I saw that The Beaver, starring Mel Gibson and Jodie Foster, and directed by Foster, was at the top of my queue, and I was curious about that one. So what was it? Satisfy curiosity or delve more into the worldview of David E. Kelley? I still want to see The Beaver, and I will some day, most likely through whatever library in Las Vegas has a copy, but I like to go with what currently interests me, keeping up the momentum. So the first disc of the first season of The Practice will be my final DVD. And I probably won't watch all of it anyway. Tomorrow's the 30th, the DVD comes in the mail tomorrow, though I'll begin watching on the morning of the 31st (I don't spend any time in my room during the day, and that's where my DVD player, VCR, and 46-inch widescreen TV are), and have to get it back out by Friday, since the next billing date is on Sunday. Netflix isn't taking any more money from here.

Technology and the opportunities to watch what you like have changed in 6 years, with Amazon offering new services, Hulu existing, iTunes, and so many other opportunities. Plus, having rediscovered my passion for reading and realizing that that is what I love the most in life, I don't need Netflix as much as I used to. The Beaver is available for rental on Amazon. Maybe I'll do that.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Home is So Accessible

There's a company called Just Planes, which specializes in cockpit videos. They show pilots doing walk-arounds of the aircraft before flight, explaining what they're doing, the cameras are there during the preflight preparations, and during takeoff, and during the flight, and landing. Today they're doing a "Hurricane Irene Special Sale!" on certain DVDs: "For a limited time today as the storm is over our area!"

I had to take advantage of this, so I went to the website (First, which, when you click on the "Shopping Mall" link, leads to, and the discounts to be seen), scrolled through the "World Air Routes" offerings, and found "Carnival B727", a Boeing 727 flight from Ft. Lauderdale to Newark, which I wanted because in 1994, when my father's grandmother was in the hospital, we flew from Fort Lauderdale International to Newark International on a Delta Airlines Lockheed L-1011, and I wanted to see the route from the vantage point of a Boeing 727. It turns out that this particular program was the first one filmed by Just Planes 20 years ago in 1991 (3 years before my flight). I kept open in a separate browser to check the running time of the program to be sure I was getting a decent value, and though this one is a short 55 minutes, I didn't mind paying $10 because I want it for sentimental value.

Continuing my scrolling, I came upon Corsairfly B747 (Caribbean), a program with my favorite aircraft, the Boeing 747, in this case the -400 model. 2 hours for $15? Sold.

It turns out that not only is the company selling some of their cockpit DVDs at a discount, but also their airport DVDs, filming takeoffs and landings at various airports. Looking at that part of the site, the obvious DVDs are sold out, such as New York JFK, Los Angeles, and London Heathrow. But oh lord, what do I see here?! Las Vegas! Regular price is $19.95, sale price is $10. I clicked on the link, and I felt my heart race. A 3-hour program! A total of 340 takeoffs and landings! I don't care when it was filmed because McCarran International is a crucial part of Las Vegas history.

And this makes me love Las Vegas even more. Among aviation enthusiasts who have bought DVDs from this company, the obvious airport DVDs are sold out. But there is my home, so accessible to me. It's always welcoming, no matter in what capacity.

Friday, August 26, 2011

A Perfect Day

I hear about how love can be found when you least expect it, and it's time for me to believe that. I want someone, but at the same time, I'm waiting until my family and I move to Henderson to begin again. But at the same time, I'm also realizing what I truly want, and enjoying how I've found it.

I want someone who feels such happiness when they read a book that they want to jump up, stay there, and fly through wherever they are. For me, yesterday, it was at the Walmart Supercenter on Carl Boyer Drive, part of a long, but utterly satisfying day that included a proper haircut by a tiny, fascinating woman named Kim at her 36-year-long store next to Caruso's II, the second Italian restaurant of the same name in this valley (Mom and Meridith got their hair cut too, and it happened yet again like it did all the other times, that the good things only come along when we're preparing to move. That has to stop, and thank god for Henderson for that, because the good things are always all around).

At one point there, walking with Mom and Meridith through the air freshener aisle on the food side of that massive elephant of a store, I was so deep into reading How to Bake a Perfect Life by Barbara O'Neal, and I got to the part where Ramona and Jonah are spending an evening at his house, rediscovering each other, and it felt like tears were going to come to my eyes. My heart was swelling so fast, I thought I was going to be pulled up into the air, high above those air fresheners and looking across at the soy milk, wondering briefly if we needed any more of the Silk Very Vanilla milk or the dark chocolate almond milk we get from the same brand.

I loved that feeling. I have it again today as I finish this wonderful, lovely gem of a novel, and look ahead to starting Major Pettigrew's Last Stand by Helen Simonson. I want this for all time. I want someone who knows that feeling in books, who lets it overtake them completely.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

What is Satisfaction? It is This.

I spent the late morning and the entire afternoon reading the rest of The Imperfectionists by Tom Rachman, and I felt such deep satisfaction, such calm happiness from having become so absorbed in this story about a failing newspaper in Rome and all its inhabitants, editors, writers, reader and publisher alike. Rachman's quiet genius is in each chapter telling the story of each character, while sprinkling the others in as cameos, bringing it all together with what feels like a proper epilogue. And I loved it. I loved the book, I loved that feeling I got from having read something so good that afterward, I went to my priority reading stack and pulled out How to Bake a Perfect Life by Barbara O'Neal. So far, it's good, direct in its approach in this story about a woman taking in her daughter's stepdaughter while she goes to Germany to attend to her severely burned soldier husband in Afghanistan. There's lots of breadmaking involved, and though anything food-related always holds my attention, and I feel so involved again, I want this more often than I had it before. More reading. Lots more. Now if this same, lasting feeling can be found in a relationship, I'm all set.

The Ghosts Have Disappeared

I had a dream during the night that released Lisa completely from my heart and soul. She had vacated my heart early yesterday evening, but I still had brief thoughts of hope that she would eventually find whoever it would be that would make her happy.

In this dream, I was involved in a production of Sweeney Todd that starred Angela Lansbury, and one part of the dream, though not crucial to what happened, was that I wanted to ask Lansbury what she thought about Tim Burton's film of the musical.

The backstage area was this huge, opulent mansion, with deep tile hallways, gold trim on the ceilings, floor-to-ceiling windows with cloudy sunshine pouring in, partitioned beds, and very nice buffet spreads. In one part of the mansion, I was running through a tile hallway for some unknown reason, and I spotted three women far ahead of me, two my height, one slightly smaller. They leaped into the air and disappeared.

Who were they? Did they represent what I had liked about Lisa, that she was a voracious reader, a writer, a lover of old movies? Did one of them represent her voice, which had made me melt the first time I heard it on the phone and lasted all the way through to the end? Was one of them representative of how attractive I thought she was? I don't know, and I'll never know, and it doesn't haunt me, because the ghosts have disappeared. That's what they were. I think they did represent her in some way, and that's it. Today, I'm myself again. I'm happy. I've been reading The Imperfectionists by Tom Rachman and I had forgotten in those two-and-a-half months how much I enjoy just sitting for hours and reading, especially when the story is as absorbing as this one. I have missed this so much. I'm loving recovering all these parts of myself that I will never abandon again.

I knew I was back to myself when I woke up at about 10:10 this morning and heard "Singin' in the Rain" streaming in from my sister's room across the hall, and wondered if she had Turner Classic Movies on. So I went to her room, found she was still sleeping, but earlier, she had put on a Paddington Bear DVD for our dog Tigger, and Paddington was dancing around in the rain in a raincoat and black galoshes. I have returned.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Final Boarding Call - "Welcome, Have a Seat and Read a Book"

Before 6, when I let the dogs out, a fly buzzed in, swooping about the kitchen, zooming to the ceiling, lingering near the blinds that cover the window behind the sink, and dashing in front of the oven. It was frantic, didn't know where it was, but clearly didn't want to be in here. And I didn't want to deal with trying to squash a fly throughout the house. The fly got close to the patio door, I opened it, and out it went, clearly more satisfied with being out there. And I realized that now I am that fly. I wasn't frantically buzzing when I first might have been unhappy with Lisa, and it took the end of that final blow-up to realize that I was unhappy, but I know now that I am happier, that I couldn't do with her what I wanted in a relationship. I spent so much time trying to change myself to fit in this relationship that I didn't think of myself, didn't stick to what I wanted, what I had been looking for. She met much of what I hoped for, but as I saw, not the important things.

I bring this up because in the late afternoon, while I read the rest of The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight, I felt her packing up and beginning to leave my heart. Any regrets I had had before, of something I thought I should have done, had faded. I wondered briefly if I could go back to her, see if maybe she was still open. It wasn't something I had considered the first time, but I wanted to test myself in thought, and definitely not. No reason. What you see is what you get. And I eventually didn't like what I had gotten, so there was no point.

Now I sit here, and she's briefly in my thoughts as I write this, but she's vacated my heart. There's plenty of room for whoever might be next, though I'll take my time, give little by little and see how it's received before I do more. I can't give so much again. I want to take chances in love, but that was just far too much.

Along with getting More Notes of a Dirty Old Man from City Lights Books via UPS, there were a few papers with the book, such as a small catalog of what else City Lights has published so far this year. And there was a City Lights bookmark, the front of which has a rocking chair with "poet's chair" painted in yellow at the top of the chair and a poster above it with "Welcome, Have a Seat and Read a Book" in blue. That's what I have come back to, that rocking chair (though it's a couch here), and that sentiment. I started reading The Imperfectionists by Tom Rachman, I'm considering what writing projects I should pursue next, and I'm going to write a lot more in this blog than I have in the past two-and-a-half months. I feel comfortable here. My space (sponsored by Blogger). My thoughts. All here.

Now to whatever's next.

Feeling Better

I feel like today will be my final day of recovery before I return to myself. After I woke up late this morning (It seems like I've been sleeping longer and later, after 11 a.m. instead of 10 or 10:30 over the past two days, as if my body is recovering from all of this too), I continued reading The Statistical Probability of Falling in Love by Jennifer E. Smith, which is coming out in February 2012, and which I managed to snag an advance copy of off of, half-motivated by having been in love at the time, and also because it takes place over 24 hours, and I have a notion of writing a novel like that one day, but am not sure yet in what way. I like it so far, and even through the pains I have felt in heart and head (A headache brought on by the stress of trying to tell Lisa that what I felt should have mattered more than comparison to general other people, "most people," as she put it, lasted through yesterday and last night and finally dulled after I took an aspirin and now it's gone. Much like her), I have not given up on finding love. I will just go about it more slowly, more cautiously, and remember never to abandon myself, to find someone that appreciates me for me, everything that I am. I bear no ill will toward Lisa. I learned from this experience and I will carry it with me when I look to date again, which will be after my family and I move to Henderson. But I will not let it color my view of other women. I want to give them as big of a chance as I gave Lisa, and see what fits, what truly fits.

Also, UPS dropped off a package containing More Notes of a Dirty Old Man: The Uncollected Columns by Charles Bukowski, which City Lights Books just published. My Bukowski collection grows, also because the other day, I ordered off of War All the Time: Poems - 1981-1984, as it contains my favorite writings ever about Bukowski's experience at a racetrack, in a section called "Horsemeat." I like having this new book in front of me, the new insights never known as widely about Bukowski until now, and one of the very few things I'm grateful to Southern California for having introduced to me, because I don't think I would have even thought about Bukowski had I still lived in Florida, though I may have been happier. Even so, Henderson will make me happier, I know that, because of all the opportunity to come, including the JCC there, and it'll be nice to have a kind of community again, especially in the apartment complex that we'll be living in. Pool table in the main office, swimming pool, jacuzzi, sauna, basketball court (I'll be shooting hoops there often), tennis court (For Meridith), easy access to the Review-Journal (drop in a few coins, open that door, and you've got it), and a free weekly newspaper called Henderson Press, which I read two issues of that Mom and Dad had brought home with me along with a slew of other publications from their most recent trip to Las Vegas back in June, and I really felt like I was reading a paper that belonged to a place, that felt like it came from somewhere. The Signal here in the Santa Clarita Valley doesn't even have 1/10th that kind of connection.

I think by the end of today, my heart will be open again, but I will give little by little and see how it's received before I give more. And once in Henderson, I'll be ready again. I'll be ready to date, to have fun, to see who might be there who could be the one I want, the one who can give so much to me as I would to her. And maybe that headache receding was the sign that my body and soul are ready to move on. I think so. I feel it today. I feel better. I'll make it.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Things That Mend a Broken Heart

- Finding that the blue cheese dip at Wing Stop wasn't properly mixed, and discovering a huge chunk of blue cheese in my plastic Solo cup, dipping a wing in, seeing that it's tightly-packed and only a bit breaks off, and deciding to save the rest for the fries. I showed Mom this, and she said, "Someone's looking out for you."

- At the Wal-Mart Supercenter on Carl Boyer Drive, reading a profile of Jeff Bridges in Malibu Magazine, and relishing his sense of humor, because in The Big Lebowski, the Chief of Police in Malibu screams at The Dude (Bridges), "Stay out of Malibu, Lebowski! Stay out of Malibu, deadbeat!" And putting Bridges in my list of personal heroes because I was reminded that not only is he a musician and singer and actor, but he also paints, writes, makes ceramic heads to sell at Zen retreats, and takes photographs, most of which happen on the sets of his films and which he gathers together in a book at the end of the shoot, including notations and anecdotes, to give to the cast and crew as a kind of yearbook of the experience. The most endearing part of the profile was the final sentence in which he was trying to answer the interviewer's question, then said, "What were we talking about again?" It's not that he's scatterbrained, but he just CRUISES! He moseys on through life.

- Receiving an entirely coincidental e-mail from a good friend (I had a crush on her in 9th grade, and she didn't want to pursue it because she was in a long-distance relationship with a guy at the time, but her zeal for life, her passion for what she wants to do as a lawyer, her vast interest in reading and writing make her a wonderful friend), telling me that during her law school orientation in Tallahassee, she was told that it's important to "keep your hobbies during the madness that is the first year of law school," and wants to keep writing, so she started a story she's had in her head for a few years. I needed a friend the most when I ended things with Lisa last night. The reasons will remain private. But I appreciate that this dear Florida friend was right there, and hadn't even known right then what was going on with me. She knew who I was, as a person, and an author, and wanted to know what I thought about the rough draft of the first page of her story. That meant so much to me.

I'm feeling better, and I will recover. I now know that I can't give myself full force, with such full devotion, as I seem to when I really want something. I need to give little by little, see how it's received, and then go from there. Not right now again, no searching, but after my family and I move to Henderson. Then I will begin again, and more cautiously.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Things Recede Here

Today I was thinking about Po Folks in Buena Park. It closed last September. It probably wasn't doing the business it used to because things had changed that I didn't even notice. The country-fried steak was still good, and so were the sides, but Mom had noticed that the portions had gotten slightly smaller and the sweet tea was, well, not as sweet. I think the last time we were there, there weren't as many people, and this was in the evening.

Things recede here. You find what you love, you live happily with it for what turns out to be a finite amount of time, and then there it goes. But that's another thing: There's more "like" in Southern California than "love", at least from my perspective. I loved Po Folks because I grew up with it in Florida and therefore, by extension, I loved it here. I've liked Six Flags Magic Mountain and a few times, I thought about getting a yearly pass so I could go every weekend. That feeling passed every single time. I liked the Valencia library before the City of Santa Clarita took control because that's where all the books were. I could check out whatever I wanted and put on hold from other libraries what I was looking for that the Valencia library didn't have. And now the City's in charge of it to some extent (They've ceded most of their control to the corporate outfit LSSI which runs libraries so the city governments involved don't have to) and I don't go there anymore. I don't feel that same connection, the same love for reading that I got from those shelves, even though most of the books remained there for months at a time, riffled through, but still untouched, unchecked out, unloved.

Dad, Meridith and I went to Pavilions yesterday, which is right near our old apartment in Valencia. The woman at the bakery told Dad that this store is operating so far in the red that it's likely to close in December. I like Pavilions. It's better lit than Vons, its counterpart nearer to our place in Saugus. I like to actually see clearly what I'm buying. Obviously it's not my ideal shopping experience (That would be Smith's in Las Vegas), but I work with what I have for now, and that's my favorite for the occasional pick-up and also for $5 Fridays, where they have many items on sale for $5, and not old stuff either. Fresh roasted chickens yesterday were $5 and we had that for dinner last night. But, yet again, something else recedes. Something that I liked. Not loved.

The Santa Clarita Valley is never good at maintaining tangible connections. You get to where you want to be at times, but it's always tenuous. What you like, what you live with, can be gone not long after. But at the same time, who cares? It's always a mild feeling. I need more passion. I need stronger connections. Yes, this would be about the time that I mention Lisa, so there you go. But for places to go, experiences to have, I also need a city that I know can keep up the feeling for me, that always has something I can latch on to and know it will be there for a good amount of time. The Pinball Hall of Fame in Las Vegas has been around since 2006. 5 years, but it's still there. It still has its character, its aim, its reason for being. This is what I want. I want to feel so many connections with one city on any given day. And that city is Las Vegas. Things don't recede there.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

McNugget Mountain

The reason I haven't written in these past couple of weeks is not because I realized that this would be my 300th entry and therefore freaked out into a night in Las Vegas that is so legendary, no one can remember it. I wish I was in Las Vegas. I want my Lisa as badly as she wants me. But a bit more time to wait until Dad gets a job interview and we go out there for that purpose and to choose the apartment we want in Henderson, and I'm not leaving until I see Lisa.

The reason I haven't written is because I'm very much in love, and given the choice between writing in my blog and talking to Lisa either by phone or text message or AOL Instant Messenger, well, I love you readers, but you're not Lisa. However, I am adjusting, putting back into my life what I did before Lisa, such as this blog all the time, but now I have the added benefit of my life being brighter because of her. Plus, my next book isn't going to get written by just sitting around. And that my muse is also a writer is, I'm certain, a dream very few writers enjoy. So what better person to show what I'm working on and get valuable opinions?

I decided to write today because Mom, Meridith and I were at McDonald's inside the Wal-Mart Supercenter on Carl Boyer Drive, and from my vantage point in that booth, I was facing the poster advertising 20 McNuggets for $4.99. Mount McNugget looked organized. It wasn't total chaos, no nuggets precariously perched on the edge, no nuggets spilling as the photo was taken. But I looked at that mountain, and I thought about a lot of things. I thought about what I had received from nearly eight years in the Santa Clarita Valley. My feelings now about this valley is that I want to get the hell out of here already and never return for any reason. There is no sense of history here. There is a shallow grasp of the meaning of things, and then what was learned one day might not even be all that important to build upon on another day. The most you can find in history here is that the smaller Wal-Mart on Kelly Johnson Parkway has been remodeled to such an extent that I absolutely cannot remember what it had looked like before the remodel. But that's what history is here. What did things look like, if you can even remember them, before they changed? What did the Valencia Town Center Mall look like before the outdoor shopping area was added? Maybe this valley doesn't want you to know what came before. The future, only the future. Because the present is pretty shitty, and the past, well, what happened in the past again? I can't remember.

I've got a new mountain to scale: My future. The peak will be wedded and family bliss with Lisa, along with more books published. That's all I want. I want a good job that makes me comfortable enough financially, and I want all the time in the world with Lisa and our future children. It may be a hard mountain at times, but I have the oasis of Lisa and everything else to come.

So, 300 posts. May there be 300 more and then 400 more and still thousands more. Because I can't wait to see what happens.