Saturday, December 3, 2011

Day 1 of a Four-Week Pleasure Cruise

It's not four weeks straight, just one day for each of the four weeks, though it is a pleasure and it feels like a smooth cruise.

Today was the first day, with a visit to Big Lots because Toys for Tots, in partnership with Six Flags Magic Mountain, is having its annual toy drive, which means this year that if you bring a toy worth $20 and over, you receive free admission to the park for that day. The toy drive is already in progress, having begun today and continuing tomorrow. We're going next Saturday, and the final day is that following Sunday.

I was at Big Lots back in September ( and was excited this time for the same reason: Books and DVDs. The rare times that we go there, I make sure my checking account has enough to be drained away. I don't ransack the store--I'm very choosy--but I always make sure I have enough for what I want. And for the toys, since I was paying for them this time.

Dad dropped Meridith and I off curbside at the entrance, to let us get started right away (since the dogs had to be picked up from grooming about an hour later), and after finding that there were no restrooms available in Big Lots, I reasoned that books and DVDs were more important than peeing, even though I was not comfortable, and made a beeline for the DVDs.

I go through every single DVD. I want to know everything that's there, and to make sure I don't miss anything. My objective this time was to find The Hunt for Red October so I didn't have to pay an Amazon shipping charge for it. At the bottom of the first set of shelves, I hit a jackpot I didn't even know I was looking for: Buster, starring Phil Collins, for $1.88. I had seen it twice, because of Phil Collins, and had idly entertained the thought of buying it for my DVD collection, but with the stacks of DVD cases in my room, how could I? I'd drown in DVDs.

But now with a DVD binder on the horizon (I'm looking at one that holds 320 DVDs), I decided that I should get those DVDs I want as part of my collection, and Buster apparently was one of those. On the same shelf was Ang Lee's The Wedding Banquet, which I had never seen, but want to, and for $1.88, why not?

Then came Revolutionary Road for $5, which I adore for the cinematography, especially when Frank (Leonardo DiCaprio) and April (Kate Winslet) are in the hallway of that empty high school after that disastrous community theater performance. I live for moments like that, because I've lived them. I loved being at College of the Canyons on a late Friday afternoon toward 4, after one of my cinema classes ended (I took those for fun, since they were easy A's for me), and there was no one else on the campus. If there was anyone else around, they may have still been in the library or their offices or still their classrooms. It felt like everything in the universe was aligned and there was total peace. I also like Revolutionary Road for the performances, and Sam Mendes is one of my favorite directors, which makes me even more psyched for Skyfall, the next Bond movie.

I spotted Collateral for $5, and remembered admiring it for the cinematography, for getting nighttime Los Angeles so right, but did I really need it again? Some time next year, I'll be a resident of Henderson, Nevada. Why would I want to dwell on what I've been looking forward to leaving behind? King of California, This Book Will Save Your Life by A.M. Homes, and Chore Whore by Heather H. Howard (Souvenirs from Santa Clarita, Los Angeles, and Hollywood, respectively) are exceptions because the memories are minor and mild, and I was never a celebrity personal assistant like Howard was. Her novel is one of the few to get the feeling of Hollywood right, what I remember as an outsider, and I'm fascinated by what she experienced on the inside.

So no. No Collateral. And then I found it: The Hunt for Red October! It came with a problem, though. It was part of a double feature pack with K19: The Widowmaker. I didn't want K19, but I definitely wanted The Hunt for Red October. It was $6, which I would be paying on Amazon anyway, and that would come out to a little over $8 with shipping and handling. I didn't know if this was a double-sided disc or if there were two separate discs in the pack. I shook it slightly and it felt a little weighty, but after I got screwed with the ridiculous packaging of the complete series set of Married with Children, I wasn't sure if I wanted this. And yet, once the binder comes, the packaging won't matter anyway since it'll be in the trash.

Poring over the DVDs in the final section of the wraparound display rack in front of the entrance doors, I spotted Silver City, directed by John Sayles and starring Chris Cooper. I've been curious about Sayles' films ever since seeing Sunshine State for a review for the Signal's Escape section in a column I called "From My Netflix Queue." I reviewed that one because of the Florida setting, and since then, I learned that Sayles also writes books, and read his Dillinger in Hollywood: New and Selected Short Stories, and knew that I had to see his other movies.

$5 for Silver City didn't seem as worth it as Revolutionary Road, particularly because I wanted that one, and Silver City had Cooper as a George W. Bush-type. Even though it's satire, it's not one that I'd see right away. I wanted to try something more serious from Sayles. (It turns out that $5 is actually a higher price, since Amazon is selling it for $2.55, and sellers on Amazon Marketplace have it for $1.20. Still not enough for me to see it right away.)

On the second-to-last shelf of that section, I found John Sayles' Casa de Los Babys, starring Maggie Gyllenhaal, Daryl Hannah, Marcia Gay Harden, Rita Moreno, Mary Steenburgen, and Lili Taylor, about six American women in a Latin American town who are each about to adopt a baby. With this cast, and this story, yes. This is what I wanted. For $1.88, yes. As soon as I found that, I put back Silver City.

Meridith was rooting through the toy aisles and came to me with the cart partly full, seeking toys that represented each of us. For her, she found a collection of toy pots and pans, and for me, a toy billiards set, since I like billiards, but can never play it well.

I darted over to the book aisles, and began scanning each title carefully. I immediately pulled out Best of the South: The Best of the Second Decade, "Selected and Introduced by Anne Tyler." These are 20 stories that Tyler chose out of the 186 that editor Shannon Ravenel chose in her twenty years of editing the yearly New Stories from the South anthology. I needed this and I would have it.

A book called In the Neighborhood: The Search for Community on an American Street, One Sleepover at a Time by Peter Lovenheim popped out at me. Sleepover? It turns out that Lovenheim wanted to get to know his neighbors in suburban Rochester, New York, especially after a murder-suicide shook the community, since it appeared that "no one knew anyone else," according to the copy on the inside flap.

He introduced himself to his neighbors and asked politely if he could sleep over. I want to know how his neighbors reacted to this. We writers can get away with some pretty weird shit, though this seems merely unusual. Very unusual. How could I not snatch this up?

Other books popped out at me: Things I Overheard While Talking to Myself by Alan Alda (I read Never Have Your Dog Stuffed, but it's taken all this time to get to this one), A Version of the Truth by Jennifer Kaufman and Karen Mack, Here at the End of the World We Learn to Dance by Lloyd Jones (A novel about the tango, from New Zealand at the end of World War I, to Buenos Aires in the 1950s, to present day, meaning at the beginning of the previous decade, since this was published in 2001), and The Handmaid and the Carpenter by Elizabeth Berg, which was a coincidence since I had ordered her The Year of Pleasures and Never Change during the week. I read The Day I Ate Whatever I Wanted: And Other Small Acts of Liberation in March, and really liked the short stories that Berg had written, but it seems that my pleasure with those had remained dormant in my mind until now.

While browsing the books, I decided not to buy The Hunt for Red October/K19: The Widowmaker double feature pack blindly. I slit the plastic on the side, enough to open the case a little, and was relieved: There were two discs. That means once I get the binder, I can chuck the packaging and K19, though I might watch it before I do, a little bit out of curiosity since Harrison Ford did well by me in Morning Glory, actually performing a role.

The lines at the registers were longer than usual, and Dad had to pick up the dogs (The grooming place was just down the hill from Big Lots), so Meridith went with him while I paid for the books and DVDs and the toys. As the lady at the register scanned the books, I noticed the most welcome sight of "Softcover $0.50." This was a surprise to me in September when many of the softcovers scanned as 50 cents and I was adding up $3 a few times as I collected a few softcovers, because I thought that's what I would be paying. (That was the price sticker on all the softcovers.)

After I paid for everything and rolled the cart to near the curb to wait for Dad and Meridith and Tigger and Kitty, I looked at the receipt for the books and DVDs. I had gotten every softcover book for 50 cents, including Best of the South, which had scanned as "Fiction Assortment 3." Only In the Neighborhood cost $5.

The toys came out to $87.98, which is enough for four tickets for me, Mom, Dad, and Meridith. Dad has one toy at $20, and Mom, Meridith and I have two toys each that total a little over $20. They all go to a great cause, and I get access to Ninja, so it works out wonderfully.

Next Saturday at Six Flags will be Day 2 of this four-week pleasure cruise. Day 3 is when I see Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol, probably the Saturday after it opens, and Day 4 is the start of the NBA season on Christmas Day, and the only day of late that I'll make an effort to get up before 9 a.m., since the first game of the day is on TNT at that time (Noon for the east coast), and features my favorite team, the New York Knicks, playing against the Boston Celtics. I'm psyched, because Amar'e Stoudemire of the Knicks is my favorite player, and Doc Rivers, of the Celtics, is my favorite coach. You'd think it would be Mike D'Antoni of the Knicks, but he looks like a schmuck, coaches like a schmuck, argues on the court like a schmuck, and I don't like schmucks.

Before the attack on the End of Line Club in Tron: Legacy, Castor (Michael Sheen) turns to the camera and says, "This is going to be quite a ride." I hope so, because this next visit to Six Flags will be the last, and I'm hoping that Tatsu and the Green Lantern rollercoaster suck up nearly all the people when I'm there so I can have Ninja all to myself and as many times as I want.


  1. I don't know how you did all that while needing to pee. Men have gigantic cast iron bladders. The books sound good. I think Revolutionary Road is very well made, but it's certainly sad.


  2. I have a steeled focus for books and DVDs. Meridith suggested walking down to the Sabor Latino Supermarket to see if they had a restroom, and I would have if I wasn't crunched for time, since the dogs had to be picked up.

    I see "Revolutionary Road" as a cautionary tale for newer generations, no matter that it takes place in the 1950s.