Before we walked into All Amusement, before I knew what was in there, Mom decided to go back to IKEA with Dad because he hadn't eaten. It turned out that instead of the trio going to Universal CityWalk, they had been talking in the car for 45 minutes, and moved their conversation to a nearby Starbucks. Convenient and cheaper, and in attempting to make us residents of Henderson, the conversation was much more important than the setting. Nothing moving on that front yet, but I hope it was the conversation that does it for us.
Mom told us that she and Dad would meet us at Barnes & Noble and off they went, and off Meridith and I went into All Amusement. Tokens were required for the games, two each for Galaga and pinball, four for air hockey. I played Galaga first and reveled in the discovery that if you press the "fire" button firmly, hold it for a second, then lift your finger off it, your ship keeps firing and you don't have to keep pounding the button. Cheating, yes, but the only chance I got to play it that way. Other times, I'm always pounding that button as if I'm suddenly a butcher behind the counter, and ducking and weaving as if the aliens are firing at me. Funnily enough, during the bonus round when the aliens fly down in a row or in another lockstep pattern and you try to eliminate all of them, I eliminated all but two. My aim sucks when I can fire without making an effort. It's more honed when I have to do the work.
I saw Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring when it was in theaters, and I liked parts of it, but it's not my kind of genre. Therefore, the Lord of the Rings pinball machine I saw was not for me. Now, The Simpsons Pinball Party machine, well, I still have a picture that I drew of them when I was in 1st grade. Therefore, my machine. I remembered also playing this at the arcade at Ventura Harbor Village, but this one was better-calibrated. I was a million points away from a free game, and could have easily gotten it, but it went down the left side and into the drain without a chance to hit it back up into the board.
Meridith and I never play air hockey competitively. We're always just grateful to find an air hockey table since we don't go to arcades often. The last time I remember going to one was back in June (), also for Galaga and air hockey. Unlike that table, there was no chance of keeping accurate score with the table we played at, since it was so slow to keep score and therefore we got a few more turns out of it than what you can usually get for four tokens. Up to 7 points and then the table shuts off. We got three extra turns.
The last time we were at Ventura Harbor Village, I remember really playing that air hockey table like a madman, whacking at that puck mercilessly. Now I reserve that energy and insanity for Galaga.
This time, I played it calmly. Didn't matter if I won or lost. Doesn't change the curvature of the earth, or the state of affairs anywhere. Meridith loves air hockey like I love Galaga, so I'm always happy to indulge her. While I played, I was thinking about what I could use as an outlet while I write my second book. I've got months to go before I start writing even a chapter, with an outline to slowly form while I get more and more information, but when it finally happens, what do I use? I've got books unrelated to my research, lots of them; I've got my DVDs, I've got whatever will be on the Tivo in our new apartment, with Jeopardy! always an evening staple. Then I've also got the Pinball Hall of Fame off the Strip, where I've been three times and have worshipped accordingly. It doesn't feel like the writing will be that hard, but I can't write all the time, and I'd love to just stand at a pinball machine, idly thinking about my book, while hoping to get a free game out of whatever machine I'm playing. It's ironic because there I am playing one game already and I should be enjoying that, but it's that sense of achievement of doing more on a pinball machine. Plus, it's safe to say that I love pinball out of anything else I could play at an arcade. That dollar you're likely to use at a slot machine on the Strip as your way of gambling cautiously is what I put into the change machine at the Pinball Hall of Fame and dash to my favorite machine. I'm perfectly satisfied with not getting a financial return on the money I spend there because I'm doing one of the many things I love about living.
So when Meridith made a few goals, I simply reached down, got the puck, and continued. I like the rhythm of the game, the clacking of the puck against the sides of the table, that determined look Meridith gets after a few times when I successfully block her. It's not vicious, all in fun, but I know that look because it's my look whenever I'm playing pinball or Galaga.
The game over, we left All Amusement and I spotted Maui Wowi Hawaiian Coffee & Smoothies, which showed off bottled drinks in a window, including water, which I desperately needed after that game and which I was sure Meridith wanted. I bought two regular-sized Arrowhead bottles, got 50 cents back, and decided to go back into the arcade and play Galaga once more. Still awful at it when the fire button is stuck.
The Barnes & Noble across the street from IKEA is very much about books, though very quietly. There's no outspoken staff recommendations on cards under certain books in the new releases, and this doesn't seem like the kind of location to have storytimes or book club discussions. It's just here to sell books. Come in, motivated by some book you want to read, find it, perhaps discover something else you want as well, and eventually leave. That was the exact order for me.
In the mall, I was thinking about those editions that Barnes & Noble hawks of, say, five Jane Austen novels together, or a few Dickens, or Gray's Anatomy, or any other book that looks like it has a leatherbound cover with a long, thin fabric bookmark inside and gilded pages. Specifically, I was thinking of The Ultimate Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. I have the 2005 movie tie-in edition of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, but wanted the other books without having to pay for them separately. 815 pages of Douglas Adams for $25 seemed like a good deal. As soon as we reached Barnes & Noble, I went straight for the table stacked with those editions and found it. You have to want a book that has the eyeless round green being sticking its tongue out at you. That's my kind of book.
Whenever we go to this Barnes & Noble, I always look at the magazines since we rarely go to this one and they've got a much better selection than the one in Valencia. Nothing like The Normal School this time, and since this had been the third day that I was walking great distances, or what seemed like great distances, I had to sit down, and I did so on the floor in front of the writing and history magazines, which included science fiction anthologies which I picked up and held on to as I walked through the rest of Barnes & Noble, but decided that if I wanted to read more science fiction, I had to decide first which aspects interested me because it's vast.
While sitting there, I found Writer's Digest Yearbook Presents The Writer's Guide to Creativity. I didn't have the idea for my second book laid out like I do now, but I felt like I needed this since there's an interview by Anne Lamott in it. And headlines on the cover such as "Make the Most of Your Writing Time!" and "How to Write Your Way Out of a Rut" made me consider that there will be times when I need those articles. Ruts do happen. They don't last very long with me, but I know what they feel like.
I went into the fiction aisles to see if they had all of Barbara O'Neal's books and there was How to Bake a Perfect Life, The Lost Recipe for Happiness, and my favorite: The Secret of Everything. I went to the science fiction aisles and walked right back out after 10 seconds. So many authors, so many worlds. I'm a little intimidated by it, but I keep in mind that there are humans in these novels and they have emotions and problems and joys and sorrows and problems solved just like I do. On days when the writing's not coming, I'll remember to see what kind of science fiction would interest me.
Back in the fiction aisles, I remembered how much I had enjoyed The Tortilla Curtain by T.C. Boyle because he observes aspects of real life slantwise that brings new meaning to them. The typical things of each day are made different, more interesting. And then, there was 691 pages that made up T.C. Boyle Stories, and one of the rare times I don't mind paying full price for a book, because $20 seems justified for that many pages, especially with the promise of most likely getting the same satisfaction I had before.
That was it. That was all I needed. The magazine, The Ultimate Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy and T.C. Boyle Stories were enough. One thing I plan to do once in Henderson is haunt the library book sales as well as the used bookstores. I find a lot more at those because there's a bigger chance of discovery of what you've never heard of before that instantly appeals to you and you wonder why you hadn't found it before because clearly it was made for you. And then you think, "Enough of that. It's enough that I've found it and I'll start reading and that'll be that."
I don't lament that there's not a community feeling to the Burbank Town Center properties because it knows what it is. It's not trying to be something it isn't like many areas in the Santa Clarita Valley. I was there for those purposes, I got what I wanted, and there was nothing more than I wanted. That seems to be how it goes for all other shoppers there.
Now, this was last Sunday. Today, we went back to Fry's so I could get another 400-slot DVD binder, and back to IKEA to eat. Last Sunday, Dad brought home some of the ribs he'd had there, I tried a piece on Tuesday, and wanted more. The cornbread that had come with his ribs was just sitting in the fridge, so I had that too, and I wanted all of IKEA's cornbread. If there's some kind of chemical agent in this food that's meant to enslave Americans and turn us into zombiefied consumers, moreso than usual, I'll take my chances.
This time, I had the ribs and the cornbread and found out that the ribs came with fries, so I had mustard with the fries, as well as spinach and cheese crepes and an almond cake with buttercream and butterscotch, the latter the main attraction of the cake since I love butterscotch. Every single time we go to IKEA, the food is excellent. It didn't change. There is a rigid consistency there that I wish many institutions in our country would learn, with the hope that things would get better by implementing it. IKEA can do it with Swedish meatballs alone. Ok, they've got a lot to answer for with the instructions included in those hopeless build-it-your-damn-self kits, but that consistency is awe-inspiring.
On the way home, we stopped at the Walmart that overlooks Six Flags Magic Mountain, and in the electronics department, there were holiday movie DVD displays. Last week, I got in the mail from Amazon A Charlie Brown Christmas, which is my favorite Christmas special. At Walmart, I found National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation, my favorite Christmas movie. Any Christmas movie that has a SWAT team busting through a house is my kind of Christmas movie. Every time Cousin Eddie's dog yaks up that bone under the table and the whole thing shakes, I lose it, needing time to get off the floor and resume breathing normally.
I don't count today's errands as part of the four-week pleasure cruise, just an observation that some of what we did last Sunday carried over into this Sunday, sans the mall and Barnes & Noble. When we parked at IKEA, I was thinking about Galaga again, but it's not worth the stuck "fire" button. It's the one video game for which I like to make an effort. I don't play anything else.
Weekends like this one that include rollercoasters, pinball, Galaga, Swedish meatballs, macaroni and cheese, pumpkin pie, new books bought in a bookstore, DVDs, air hockey, crepes, do not happen often here. When it does, it's total pleasure without question. So it shall be where I know I can find this kind of happiness all the time. This is good training.