Sunday, January 30, 2011

Only Pleasure in One Day

I wrote an entry long ago about Buena Park ( that I want you to keep in mind during this.

We went to Newport Beach early yesterday morning. An hour and a half to get to a board meeting of the California Business Education Association (CBEA) at the Fairmont Hotel. The most important purpose was to meet a representative of the Clark County School District in Nevada. It was so successful, that it's gotten me even more excited about wanting a job as a full-time campus supervisor. The representative couldn't stay long because of a 2 p.m. flight back to Las Vegas because Governor Sandoval's budget is still not final, and the district is still sussing out its maneuvering capabilities within the budget. There will be cuts, but as I hear it, there will be room for me. My resume made a great impression, not only the experience I already have as a campus supervisor, but also my first book, which I made sure stood out in bold under the "Achievements" sub-heading.

The meeting began, and Meridith and I walked out of the room, first encountering her disappointment that the gym across from the meeting room could only be accessed if one was a guest. But we found the door leading out to the pool, and I should backtrack just a bit. After we got to the hotel, and were being walked to the elevators by three women who had arrived already (and were quite possibly staying at the hotel, because this was day 2 of this CBEA conference, day 1 having been an evening meeting, and today, day 3, being a tour of the Fairmont facilities to determine if they'd want to hold their conference there in 2012), I spotted free copies of the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal on a table near the entrance to a $30-per-head breakfast buffet (what the hotel offers, I suppose, not what a business convention had for its guests), and took copies of each.

Meridith and I went out to the pool, to chairs about a row behind the row facing the spa and the pool. Meridith also noticed cabanas with yellow curtains and flat screen TVs, and wondered if we should take advantage of one of those and I told her no. We never go to places like these (not a complaint, just an observation, though based on everything else I saw in the hotel, I would love to live there), and we should be surrounded by the world, rather than shutting out the world. Being surrounded by the world included helicopters flying over often (There must be a helicopter flight school nearby), private Cessnas flying over, and commercial jets climbing out to destinations unknown to us. I spotted Southwest 737s, United Airlines 757s, and Alaska Airlines 737s, all coming out of nearby John Wayne Airport, which I guess is where the helicopter flight school must be located, and there must also be convenient runways for private planes.

We were sitting on plush, padded, burgundy-colored pool chairs, with the option to drape a towel over the entire chair, as two people who had arrived before us had done, and which all of the people who came after us would do, too. We didn't. It's rare that we get to sit in chairs like these. The pool our patio overlooks doesn't have chairs like these.

I started in on the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal, and Meridith took off her shoes and socks and started in on "Sundays at Tiffany's" by James Patterson. When I had reached a section of the Wall Street Journal that had a front-page article and recipes inside about artisan sandwiches, I handed it over to Meridith. She spoke to Mom by phone occasionally through our hour and a half at the pool (Mom's been ill for the past week and a half and is now beginning to get better, so yesterday was a day for her to rest even more while we were in Newport Beach). Towards the end, I spotted an early-20s woman who had walked into the pool area quietly, and when I looked up again from "The Remains of the Day" by Kazuo Ishiguro (My yearly reading of my favorite novel, sometimes twice-yearly, depending on what's on my reading list and what's been buried in my reading list), she was in the pool, and it was a fascinating sight. Not only because she was a woman, but because it looked like she had always belonged there. In fact, after I had watched, entranced, and had spent a few more minutes inside "The Remains of the Day", I looked up, and not only was she not in the pool, but I couldn't spot her. "The Remains of the Day" is always engrossing, but I don't think I wouldn't have noticed if she left. I asked Meridith, "Where's the little mermaid?" She didn't know what I was talking about, and I explained to her what I saw. It was a few minutes later, as we were getting ready to explore the hotel, that I saw her, lying facedown in a red bikini. What a vision. What a great start to what would turn out to be one of the most fulfilling days I've had in such a long time.

We were on the third floor, where the meeting room was, and the pool. We walked down those hallways, across long carpeting with peaceful-looking flowers in the design, and past doors with some room service trays next to them. One tray, which I call the All-American Platter, because it had to have had a burger on it, had a few french fries still on the plate, and ketchup smeared across it. There was also another tray, though I can't remember if it was this floor or a floor further up (10 floors in this hotel), in which we took small glass bottles of Heinz Ketchup and Grey Poupon to show Mom after we got home. It's something to consider, since we're not likely to use condiments all that much anymore, since we've all begun dieting. Well, Meridith has, Mom has, and Dad's slow to start, but I think he will start, and all this was inspired by me, who began the trend, which will no doubt become permanent.

Each floor had vending machines of different drinks, mostly the same on each floor and where the ice machine was in each hallway above the second floor. Gatorade, Coke, a Starbucks one, Powerade, and a few others, the bottles behind the plastic screen, and when you push the button under each bottle, the bottle vends from inside the machine. We didn't get anything from any of those machines because those were far too pricey. $3 for a Monster Energy Drink? I don't drink those anyway, but considering the number of room service trays we saw out in those hallways, I don't think those machines are used very often, not even by the Air France personnel that stay there. Well, maybe as a novelty if it's a new staff member.

I believe it was on the fourth floor that we spotted a sign next to double doors that said "Air France Lounge - 6:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m." I mistakenly, and rather stupidly, thought that there was actually an Air France terminal at John Wayne Airport. Not so. Rather, this is a convenient location for Air France employees, as it's 20 minutes from LAX. In fact, when we had finished walking the 7th floor, an Air France man had gotten into the elevator with us, and I mistakenly thought he was a pilot. I, as an aviation enthusiast, should have been more observant because during our brief conversation of American English, and French-accented, sometimes halting, English, I only noticed then that on his suit was not the three stripes of a First Officer, or the four stripes of a Captain. It turns out he was a flight attendant heading back to France. I asked him the most important question to me, if he was heading back on the 747, and he said he was, and I wished so badly that I could see it up close, but I doubt anything like that could have been arranged. After all, the man was heading back to work. Time to go back to Charles de Gaulle. A long flight back from LAX.

Every floor we walked, we went through each hallway, all the way back to the doors leading to the stairwells. I stopped Meridith a few times, told her to walk back a few feet, and then walk forth again, under the air conditioning vents, because it smelled like Disney air, what we noticed at Walt Disney World, at Disneyland, inoffensive air I'd probably call it. But not so much, just the freshness of it, air that lets you know, if you haven't noticed already, that you're truly somewhere different. As we went higher and higher, Meridith took a picture on her phone of the tennis court, and I noticed more and more of the color of that girl's red bikini, also that she had brought a book with her, and I fell for her a little more at each floor. I hoped that the book she was reading wasn't something by Lauren Conrad, and Meridith told me that she didn't look like the kind that would. I didn't intend to pursue anything further, I wouldn't hope to be bold like I wasn't at that pool in Orlando when those British girls were around, but it was enough for me just that a girl like that was there. After all, in the Santa Clarita Valley, I'm pretty much starved for women. Then, as we reached the ninth floor and looked out the long window there overlooking the pool, I noticed she was sitting with someone, maybe her mother, feet in the pool, reading her book. I know I would have had the perfect opening line, asking what she was reading, and maybe she was visiting from another state, which would have made it much more interesting, but since I was only in this part of the world for a day, and probably won't be back before we move (Not that it would matter anyway, since a hotel is always a transient world. The people change while the building and the jobs inside remain the same), I didn't see much value in it then. Now, as I write this, I do, but I don't regret it as much as not talking to those British girls back in 2000, because that was truly a novelty.

We reached the 10th and final floor, walked around, Meridith took a photo of the tennis court from that height, we walked the hallways, and that was it for the exploration. Elevator, please, down to the first floor. We got there, passed the bar and the restaurant, and went into the gift shop where the woman working there not only seemed to watch us the entire time, but seemed suspicious because we didn't buy anything. I have some sympathy for her, because, at least to me, it doesn't seem like a prime job in the hotel. It's just there in case anyone forgot anything, like some kind of lingerie pantyhose or something like that. Otherwise, it's ignored, because most people either have the books or newspapers they want, particularly those free ones, and surely they've brought along the magazines they want to read, because the selection available in that gift shop was pretty pathetic. I wanted to see if they had any peanut butter crackers, because I was a bit hungry, and had a yen for them at around noon, because I always have a bit of peanut butter at lunchtime. Not on a sandwich, not even on crackers, just a bit on a spoon instead of how much I always slathered on bread, 68 lbs. ago. The gift shop didn't have any of those.

Higher up in the hotel, Meridith and I spotted a Jamba Juice across the street, and she had a $25 gift card. Today was a day for breaking my diet, and why not begin in the right fashion? We walked out of the gift shop and were getting set to head across the street, so we could sit on the patio there, sip whatever concoctions we would decide to get from Jamba Juice, and wait for Dad to be available for lunch, but as we crossed the lobby, after I picked up a free Newport Beach magazine guide from the concierge desk, Dad called Meridith and told her he was coming down to pick up lunch from across the street, and wanted to make sure we were waiting in the lobby. So we waited, as long as it usually takes for Dad to get down from the discussions he has with those who share with him his interest in business education.

We looked for lunch, walking the sidewalk running the length of the outer hotel property, and then crossing the street to a small shopping center that looked like it had a few food places there. But that wasn't the shopping center to be. Rather, it was one that had a Korean BBQ place and Quizno's. Dad stood outside, talking and talking and talking to Mom while I waited impatiently, because I wanted lunch. I had eaten early that morning, as I always do a little after 7, and needed something. But better for Mom to have the good news about the warm reception from the representative upon seeing the resumes than to wait until later when she would have been more tired.

We went into the Korean BBQ place, where there was nothing that really stood out to me. Quizno's was the obvious option, and I saw in their nutrition guide that there was a veggie sub, but it didn't look like it in that shop (though I suppose with lettuce and tomatoes readily available, they could have done something). I ordered a Chicken Cordon Bleu, which had only 420 calories, so I was good (I watch the calories a lot more closely, and I keep my sodium intake low in the morning, gradually increasing it in the afternoon, and letting the evening be the time when I consume the most, though not with abandon). And it was good. We went back to the third-floor meeting room, Meridith had some kind of taco salad, Dad had a small sub like I did, but I forgot what he had. After lunch, Meridith and I had intended to go to Jamba Juice and also to a Mexican place that I hadn't seen that had quesadillas (A woman sitting near us had gotten quesadillas from that place), and I wanted one of those. But how do you leave a meeting room when there's a meeting in progress without looking impolite? It's not a matter of observing social conventions, but rather making the least noise possible. So we stayed, and I still had the three newspapers with me (on the 8th floor, I swiped the Orange County Register from in front of someone's door), and "The Remains of the Day". But instead of continuing to read about Stevens' trip through Salisbury, I looked through the regulations packet of the CBEA, learning not only of what the positions of President, President-Elect, Secretary, Treasurer, Past President and others entailed, but also the names of those who had received lifetime membership. At this point in the meeting, two people at the long table on the left (we were sitting at the one on the right), were going on about what the CBEA website should contain in order to drive traffic there and this big gentleman, who I think carried his weight better than John Goodman ever had in the years before he finally decided to lose weight, talked about having a blog on the website, to announce what was going on in the CBEA, important dates, etc. Then I realized what these board members were overlooking, and it came from the names of these lifetime members, as well as the decades in which they had received lifetime membership. There were some who had received lifetime membership "prior to 1950", and then there were the '60s, '70s, '80s, and so on. To me, this organization was ignoring its history. Beefing up the website is fine, having a blog on there is fine. But these names must have meant something. There was a gray-haired woman there who seemed well-versed in the minutes of past meetings, and no doubt she was an expert on the minutes of meetings held years and decades before. Had there ever been a time when she had looked at the historical archive the CBEA surely had?

There was also talk about what the CBEA could do to bring in more members, never mind the circumstances of business education teachers being laid off, thereby partly thinning the membership. But what I felt was being ignored was attention to history. What collaborations had there been in the '50s between the CBEA and various business communities? What partnerships had there been in the '60s and '70s? Think of the world events that changed history. In that context, I was also thinking of how the organization might have changed. I mean, look at how business was done and is done. We've gone from the typewriter to the Internet. That's a major leap. The CBEA should concentrate on what it did then, and what it does now. Obviously there's a fine line between necessary promotion and self-aggrandizement, but I think it could be made subtle, the CBEA's achievements and the history of where it has been.

Not only that, but what about interviews with past members, the ones that are still in touch with the organization? Looking at the list of members awarded lifetime memberships, how many from the '70s are possibly still alive? Why not see what they did as members and if there's anything they continue to do today that they carried with them from their time with the CBEA? There's a lot of untapped potential in the history of the organization alone to strengthen it. It can't only be about making a better website, although that's very important. It also has to be in remembering who you were and what you are because of who you were. I'm thinking about e-mailing the CBEA Past President with these suggestions, since I also gave her ideas for keynote speakers for the WBEA (Western Business Education Association, of which she appears to be the president) Conference, including reaching out to the Las Vegas business community, since they're obviously involved with business every single day. It's the only way to make Vegas work. There could be a lot of insight if the keynote speaker is a casino executive or someone high up like that, or maybe someone who manages a chain of stores in the area. And by that, it could be seen what business education does.

I wanted to wait until the meeting was over to talk to the CBEA president about my ideas (I do not want to participate in these ideas, I have no further interest in the organization beyond the time I spent at that meeting, but I think the CBEA is missing out on great opportunities within that can make them look better to current members and future members), but Dad told me that the meeting ended at 5 p.m. It was nearing 3 p.m., so out we went, out to the valet to bring our car over, and out to the South Coast Plaza mall in Costa Mesa.

We had not been to South Coast Plaza in two years. The last time, when I had seen that Boudin SF, an expert in sourdough bread, was there, I wanted to get a loaf on the way out, but had forgotten. I would not forget this time. I was also remembering the stores that had been in the mall the last time, and was amazed to find that even with the tumult of the economy, those stores, such as Puzzle Zoo, remained. Actually, it could be expected that Puzzle Zoo would remain, because people always need diversions of many sorts. I was hoping to find another writerly action figure like the one I have on my nightstand of Mark Twain, but no luck there. Just Edgar Allan Poe, James Joyce, and Twain together in a three-pack, from the same company that had made the one I have at home. I said to Meridith that it would be nice if the same company would make an action figure of Groucho Marx.

I found a small space shuttle for Meridith, with the NASA logo on one of the wings, and decided to get it for her only if I found something for myself. There were basketball action figures, of Kobe Bryant, of Dwight Howard, but none of Amar'e Stoudemire, my favorite player, the center of my favorite team, the New York Knicks. There was even a player from the Minnesota Timberwolves, but what does it take for the NBA to do the same for Stoudemire? I also found an action figure of Fran from the TV show "Dinosaurs," but no Baby Sinclair, which I would have bought right then and there. There were "Ren & Stimpy" action figures, too, but no Powdered Toast Man. There was also an old package with a Dick Tracy gangster, Pruneface, I think, but I would have only gotten it if it had been Dick Tracy himself, or Mumbles, which Dustin Hoffman played in the Warren Beatty film.

No basketball trading cards to be had, and the models of Boeing 747s were far too expensive for me. $35 for a Qantas 747-400 that you still have to work for, in snapping the wings into place, I don't want to work for that price. I want it already done. I wasn't disappointed, though, but rather glad that those airplane models were there for those who wanted them. Puzzle Zoo embodies every possible interest one could have with wood and cloth and game boards and action figures, and more expensive things, such as Star Wars memorabilia. But the one thing that became most valuable to me was on the revolving stand with magnets on it. And on there, I was able to do a quick comparison of the comedy I found funny back when I was growing up and what's considered comedy among young people today. There were magnets for "Fred", which I know aired on Nickelodeon and I was flummoxed. This is what's considered funny? A kid acting like a jackass on a sugar high?

I know I'm showing that I'm indeed getting older by this, as it has been for all previous generations (This argument will never cease), but then I found a magnet of Calhoun Tubbs, Blues Great, from "In Living Color." I never watched "In Living Color" when it originally aired, because I was in kindergarten. But I watched it in later years and on DVD, and Calhoun Tubbs, with his catchphrase, "Wrote a song about it. Like to hear it? Here it goes.", is a lot more funny than a kid who doesn't slow down to think about what he's going to say. It's not a matter of being self-conscious, but taking a breath for at least a few seconds. Calhoun Tubbs, always inappropriate at funerals, as played by David Alan Grier, knew how to do just that. I bought that Calhoun Tubbs magnet, and it's now on the lower half of the fridge. If there had been a magnet of Blaine Edwards and Antoine Merriweather of the "Men On..." sketches, I would have bought that, too.

South Coast Plaza hadn't changed a great deal since we visited two years ago. I think it benefits from being in an upscale area, where, even though the economy has affected many, it hadn't touched the people for whom 80% of the stores are geared, such as Gucci, and many jewelry stores. I'm sure visitors from other states have also been plentiful. Initially, I wanted to walk the entire mall, as well as the separate building connected by a covered walking bridge, because I hadn't seen everything in such a long time. But, considering that 80% of those stores aren't for me, and Dad's growing impatience (He doesn't like to spend too long in one place when he doesn't believe it to be necessary, even when it's something I like), the time at the mall was shortened considerably, and rightly so, since the stop after South Coast Plaza was Downtown Disney.

But, to get back to the mall for a bit, there were two major spots to hit in the first building. Williams-Sonoma was the first, since my sister, a fast-budding chef, loves that place. The only thing I didn't like about this Williams-Sonoma is that nothing was on the stove to soon be sampled. Only coffee was brewing in a most novel coffee maker, where the water supply was in a container next to the machine, connected to the machine. I was a little disappointed, but I liked how the atmosphere of culinary majesty was still there.

The second major spot was Vie de France, which has so many delectable French bakery goods. But that had to wait as we went across the bridge to the connecting building, where Borders was. I wanted to see what bargain books there was and if any interested me. On the way through the three floors, I found Sports Chalet at the top and stopped in to see if they had any Knicks jerseys. Of course not. This is Southern California. Only the Lakers exist here. Not even any Knicks action figures, just like at Puzzle Zoo, for which I partly blame the NBA, but also Sports Chalet for unfortunately being correctly biased, because who are the biggest customers likely to come to that store? The residents. So you have to sell the merchandise that matches the area. But I'm a Knicks fan. And therefore, I'm out of luck.

And now, Borders. As soon we walked in and I spotted the bargain bookshelves, I found "The Best American Travel Writing 2009" for $3.99, and "The Color Purple" by Alice Walker for $2.99. I snatched up both, and then found "Real Ghost Stories" for $7.99, necessary for my research for my second book. Meridith and I went to where the movie books were, hoping that my book would be there. No luck. Amazon has it, Barnes & Noble has it, but not Borders. Maybe purchases like my book to sell to customers is not a great priority because of the financial trouble Borders is in. I don't mind. I love Barnes & Noble, and I figured to give Borders a bit of money before they go down in flames later this year. I did find "The Simpsons: An Uncensored, Unauthorized History" by John Ortved, and I fearlessly decided to buy it, despite it being new and therefore $15. It was also in paperback, much more manageable than the hardcover version, and I found the same to be true with "Robert Altman: The Oral Biography" by Mitchell Zuckoff, which I found in the mail after we got home later in the evening. The hardcover version is so unwieldy, and thank god it sold enough to merit publication in paperback because despite 500 pages, it's easier to carry and hold in paperback.

Across from the registers were a bunch of boxes with books in them, discounted, and offered as "Buy 1, Get 1 Free." Right away, I found "The Anthologist" by Nicholson Baker. It didn't seem like there was anything else, but I didn't mind. Then appeared "Angler: The Cheney Vice Presidency" by Barton Gellman, again a case of the paperback version being easier to manage than the hardcover, as I had found out when I checked it out in hardcover from the library a long time ago. I flipped through "The Color Purple" and decided not to buy it. It would be better for me from the library.

So those were my choices. And the receipt, which came out to $33 and assorted change, showed that I had gotten "Angler" for free, paying $3.99 only for "The Anthologist."

Being that there didn't seem to be anything else to see in the Borders building, and certainly not anything else to buy, we went back to the main building, down to the first floor to Vie de France. We stood in line, and Meridith talked to Mom on the phone, asking her if there was anything she wanted. She reminded Meridith about a thick slice of bread, that was rather like sweet bread. I tried to explain it to the genial gentleman at the counter, but didn't do very well at it, so I called Meridith over. The man said it was a bread pudding-type bread, but he was out of it. I noticed a croissant with egg and what must have been sausage in it, and asked for that. It turns out the croissant had egg, sausage, and cheese, and I devoured the whole thing before we even left that area. Well worth breaking my diet for that one day.

That was it. That was all Dad could handle and we left the mall. Ever since Book Soup closed at South Coast Plaza, there's been little reason for me to linger for a while since then. And because I obviously wasn't going to afford anything at Gucci or any of the other high-end stores (I'm happy with my smaller-sized jeans from Kmart), there was no reason to stay longer anyway. Except for Boudin SF, which I swept into, grabbed up a bag of sourdough croutons, ordered up a good-sized loaf and a bread bowl, paid for it all, and I was out. I don't waste time when it comes to my sourdough bread. I like bread you have to work for.

We got to Downtown Disney at dark, and despite it being a Saturday night, it was pretty calm. On a stage with big drums was a musician named C.G. Ryche, across from the ESPN Zone. Good, deep, spiritual-feeling music, good for the soul. There was real concentration in his music.

Our goals at Downtown Disney were two: Dad likes the bagged Mickey pretzels from the confectionary store near the walkway to one of the entrances of the Grand Californian, more an out-of-the-way entrance. It doesn't announce itself, but if you know where it is, you benefit. We got to that store, found the pretzels, and Dad got two big green bags. I got a smaller blue bag, because I hadn't had them in a long time and this was a no-diet day anyway. Dad and Meridith also got a few cookies, an oatmeal raisin one for Mom, too, and we went to the Grand Californian.

I love the Grand Californian. I love that in some way, I can connect it to the night I was a chaperone on Meridith's Grad Nite trip at Valencia High. There is a reason for that. When we went through that entrance and approached two pairs of comfortable-looking chairs, a few feet apart from each other, with long rugs featuring only roses in front of them, I told Meridith to first take a picture of the rug. On a stage, it won't matter, because the audience won't see it, or not see it all that well, but I wanted it for my own mental atmosphere. I want to write a play set at the Grand Californian, in only these two chairs. I don't know who the two people are who will be in these chairs, I don't know yet what brought them there, beyond some vague idea of a cheerleading competition the two are chaperoning for separate schools or some kind of honor of those schools marching in a parade, but I do know that it's 2 a.m. when they sit down in these chairs. It's been a long day at Disneyland, a visiting day ahead of the performances in the parade or the cheerleading competition or whatever, and despite all the walking around the entire day, they are tired, but not falling asleep-tired. It's not quite nervous energy, but it's in the middle of somewhere. And that's all I know so far. I do know that I want to capture the atmosphere of that time of night (as I've had a lot of experience living those nocturnal hours), especially in the shadow of a darkened Disneyland. It's also an opportunity to tap into my love of all things Disney.

Meridith took a picture of me sitting in one of the chairs, and a woman was sitting near me in the other chair, oblivious on her cell phone. That actually helped so I can get a sense of the staging. And then, after that woman had left, I had Meridith take a picture of both chairs empty. Even though I'm at work on research for my second book, I still think about other projects, especially this one, and wonder if it would be possible to work on these concurrently. I'm not there yet, but maybe. I'm already having so much fun with the research for this second book, that maybe I should double the fun.

As we walked to where the restrooms are, off the gargantuan lobby, Dad was on the phone with Mom, who he had been talking with about restaurants, but in particular, one he had planned to take us to, even though he had brushed it off as being McDonald's when we asked where we were going to go for dinner, so he thought we wouldn't be able to think of anything else. But I knew what it was. I knew it was Po Folks, blessed spot in heaven for country fried steaks, sweet tea, and peach cobbler. I had planned to forego the sweet tea so I could have the peach cobbler. I didn't need even more sugar.

But Dad got off the phone with Mom and told us that Po Folks had closed, that the corporate headquarters in Panama City, Florida had closed the Buena Park location.

Buena Park has so many ghosts as it is. Historical ghosts, recently-deceased business ghosts, the ghosts of tourists who had been there, went back home long ago, and yet their presence can still be felt in some way. I'm not being kooky, but there's just that heavy, almost comfortable feeling of history there. You can sense that this town has seen a lot. And it must have certainly seen something with the closing of Po Folks. I guess those in charge decided that it wasn't worth having a location clear across the country because it likely took a bit more time to keep watch on that location than the ones in Florida and Alabama. That was the last location I had left. In Florida, I grew up on Po Folks as a tyke all the way through to my late teens. The same location I had been to as a tyke was the same location we went to all through my teens. Then that location turned really corporate and it closed not long after. Its biggest mistake was eliminating the one night of the week for all-you-can-eat country-fried steaks.

I wasn't heartbroken over the Buena Park closure. We didn't go there very often, but it was special when we did, especially the printed tablecloths with items listed from what must have been turn-of-the-century catalogs. I had been looking forward to the peach cobbler, when I figured out even before he said "McDonald's", that we were going to Po Folks because we were close enough to it. So where could we go now? No idea, but that wasn't the chief concern.

We got to the Grand Californian lobby, and it felt less awe-inspiring, possibly because I've seen it so many times, but no less inspiring. I've seen photos of the lobby when it was late at night and completely empty, and naturally, the feeling one gets from it being full of people and being completely empty differs, but it's also the design of it, the wood paneling, how high up the floors are, the shadows you see from people walking those floors. Oh, and the chandeliers and the big fireplace. And the kids sitting in small rocking chairs, watching Mickey Mouse cartoons. This is not a cloistered Disney property like some at Walt Disney World feel, though that is not a disadvantage. But here, you get a sense not only of the company at work, but also California itself, the history, the hunting, the wood lodges. And of course the tourists, a most interesting slew of people to go in and out of the building. None as interesting as the girl in the red bikini, of course, but you get a sense on the faces of those people of why some have traveled this far. This is truly an enjoyable time.

After that, we went to the World of Disney store. Nothing for me to buy, personally, but for Mom, a $35 print of a painting of the Partners statue, her favorite thing in Disneyland. Then we walked back to the entrance of Downtown Disney, but past it, since I wanted to see what had been done with the Disneyland Hotel ever since they shut off the waterfalls, closed the glass shop and tore the whole thing down to build new things. Mom was very disappointed when I told her this on the phone, but I was more disappointed because the back areas of the property were blocked off at the front. You couldn't get near there at all. I guess they're doing more work than I thought.

Before we went to the Disneyland Hotel, we stopped to look at the menu for Ralph Brennan's Jazz Kitchen. I liked the thought of eating there because of the jazz music and the New Orleans cuisine. But $24 for barbecue shrimp and andouille grits? Forget it. I'm content with my Quaker Oats Instant Grits at home. Andouille grits sound unique, but I'm sure I could make it on my own if I want. ESPN Zone had nothing either, and Dad said we could probably find something on the way home, maybe even a barbecue joint he remembered was on the 5 on the way back.

We ended up at Tony Roma's, which Mom found was in the area and called to find out exactly where they were. We parked in a small hotel lot, which reminded me of a Howard Johnson parking lot right at the start of downtown Las Vegas that we parked in to get to the smallish Cuban restaurant on the property. Being that this part of Anaheim was a tourist district, I expected it, and because of that Howard Johnson, I was used to it. It was no big deal to me to find a parking lot so narrow. It's what there is when you want to get the most space possible out of an area for the sake of tourist dollars.

After walking into Tony Roma's, and as the host was walking us to our table, Dad took two sections of that day's Orange County Register off the bar, and I did the same with the sports section. We sat down, I opened my menu, and I immediately found what I wanted. Two chicken breasts on top of rice, with creamed spinach on top of those, served with a "fresh vegetable." That's usually code for "your choice of a side." I was looking at the sides, spotted french fries, but did I really want french fries when rice is on the plate? I saw there was also "toasted garlic seared green beans." That sounded good. And it was a vegetable, so I'd be getting my personal vegetable requirement for the day. Upon ordering, the waiter told me that it came with broccoli. That was fine with me. Before that, I was still wavering on the french fries anyway, so it all worked out. My sister had some kind of pasta dish, a spicy one at that, and Dad had St. Louis ribs.

Whoever steams the vegetables in that kitchen knows how to do it, and that's the only way I can eat broccoli from now on. I tried them raw a few times, thinking that I had liked them that way once, but I didn't like them that way at all. The steamed broccoli was just crisp enough, yet soft enough to be the way broccoli should be. The flavor was still there. And the chicken with the rice and the creamed spinach, I don't think that was creamed spinach that came from some warehouse. They had to have made that in the kitchen throughout the day. It was different from what Boston Market thinks is creamed spinach, and different from the creamed spinach that Lean Cuisine has. It tasted comfortable, if you know what I mean. It was the perfect end to the most fulfilling day I've had in months. During dinner, Meridith saw some flashes of light outside and I figured it was the fireworks from Disneyland. That close to Disneyland indeed.

No dessert for any of us, though we did order a full onion loaf to take home, which we'll have with dinner tomorrow night. We walked back to the car, and for me, it was nothing to be in such a small area. It actually felt like home. I was reminded of what home might soon be.

We got home, and I was exhausted. Not fall-on-your-face exhausted, but the exhaustion that comes after living in complete pleasure the entire day. I went to bed a few minutes after Saturday Night Live came on, and I was probably out 20 minutes later, until the morning. I was still groggy at a little past 7, so I kept my eyes closed and rested until 8:18, which was better.

It's rare that I get a full day like this so full of everything I could want in life, including reading. I know it's up to me to make every single day like that, but it also partly depends on the circumstances surrounding you. I can find mostly equal satisfaction in the books I read every day, when they're really good, but I mean just going out there, just exploring like that, just walking every single floor of a hotel, just like that. I didn't think anything of any of the people I know somewhat on Facebook, or those to whom I write letters, or anything in my past, or anything in my future beyond my resume being seen by that Clark County representative. I was just there. I was looking out those windows at the hotel, and I was just there. The days are pretty interesting that way.