Sunday, May 29, 2011

The Changed Dynamic

Every week, I have a set routine. Mondays through Fridays, I get up between 7 and 8 a.m., occasionally later than 8, and Mom's up long before that, so I say good morning and see if she needs anything. Then I have breakfast, always Cheerios and a banana. I'll probably deviate from that when I'm in Las Vegas with my folks, depending on if we stop at a 7-11.

Lately, Mom hasn't been on the computer in the living room before me, so I go on there, check my e-mail, read the DailyLit e-mails I get ("Poems of Emily Dickinson", stories about Abraham Lincoln, and "Many Thoughts from Many Minds", which is a 2,000+ collection of quotes that I use as a quote-a-day thing), visit MiceAge and Mouseplanet every Monday and occasionally during the week, also,,, and I check the booksellers on who sell advanced reading copies of books. The latest one to come to me was Harold: The Boy Who Became Mark Twain, Hal Holbrook's autobiography. It's being published in September.

I've spent less than the three hours I used to spend on the computer in the morning because I don't have anything else to look at, anything to transcribe, and I'm not doing online research for my next books yet.

Lunch is always after 12 p.m., sometimes 12:30, the latest being 1. Then there's a lot more reading, and then after 5, I begin working on the Freelance Daily newsletter, which is always full of job listings. I get paid for this, so it's why I do it. Plus I can see what freelance jobs are being offered and if any relate to me. Not lately.

Weekends are different. The dogs wake me up to let them out to the patio to do their business, then I feed them, have breakfast, and go back to my room to watch a movie or two. Those are the only days I watch movies now, save for this week, with all the movies I recorded on the Tivo from all those channels that included the Showtime package, the Sundance Channel, and the Documentary Channel. Saturdays and Sundays are always more relaxed because the routine is more relaxed. It'll no doubt change after we move, because I'll be in pursuit of a full-time job, and that's fine. A new life, a new routine.

Because the school year is over and Dad and Meridith are home, the routine changes. Do I watch movies in the weekday mornings? Do I keep to what I always do? I may do the former tomorrow morning, but to finish the episode of The West Wing I was watching, the one from season 3 with the missing nuclear submarine, which guest-starred Hal Holbrook. Mom and Dad are going to be more rushed than I am, since they're looking to leave for Las Vegas and noon. And then on Tuesday and Wednesday, what? Well, lots of reading for one thing. I want to finish reading White House Diary by Jimmy Carter, since I've spent some time away from it and can now approach it more relaxed, since I broke that routine of researching all the time.

But movies on Tuesday and Wednesday morning, too? I can't really think of anything I'd want to watch, anything that I feel that pull for like I do for a few of the movies on the Tivo. So I'll just watch in the living room instead of my bedroom. Meridith will likely sleep later than I do, so I've got a few hours to myself. I like that.

Breakfast, lunch and dinnertime will all remain the same, but I like the change I feel, the opportunity to spend the day differently. You keep a routine in the Santa Clarita Valley just to feel sane with the isolated feeling this valley gives off. A routine in Las Vegas is just so you have the chance to experience everything around you and not miss a thing.

Do These New Scents Portend a Hoped-For New Life?

Maybe it's the onset of summer, or maybe I just never paid attention until now. Our garage, which smelled like my paternal grandparents' garage in Paramus, New Jersey--a musty gray smell that included not only their car, but also the metal tracks of the garage door, the big freezer, a few tools, and that concrete floor that got cold enough at night--no longer has that scent. It smells as if it's freshening up, the high winds of recent days pushing wisps through the small screens at the bottom, near the door in the back. I never recall it smelling like that at any other time. Does this place anticipate our intentions? Does it know that Mom and Dad are off to Vegas on Monday afternoon for that job interview on Tuesday? Is it aware of the success that will likely come in this venture and therefore is propping itself up for prospective new owners?

I hope that's what it means. I certainly feel differently. I no longer occasionally feel trapped by the patio walls, looking over at the community pool behind one of those walls, thinking that that's the only poetry to be found here, those empty chairs framed around the pool, one of the tables on the other side, near the bathrooms. I feel at peace with the place, no more conflict. I can let it go. I can forget and concentrate on what I've wanted for so long, what will finally happen. Meridith reminded me that one of the Henderson library branches is inside a mall. It's true. And since there are no polling stations in Henderson, voting also happens at the two malls in the area. I've wanted to live in a unique area so badly. And this fits my definition.

I feel no regret at giving up the DVDs I must, giving up the books I must give up in order to move with relatively fewer things. I know there are libraries there, and used bookstores there, and I know that I will find new authors there that I never thought about here. I am ready for my room to belong to someone else. I spent more time outside it than inside it anyway. It was painted particular shades of blue, the walls painted sky blue, the door painted a dark blue, but that's all I had that was me. I have framed prints by Chris Consani of Elvis Presley, Marilyn Monroe, Humphrey Bogart, and James Dean together at a coffee bar and in a movie theater. I never got to hang those up. No room. I'll finally have that chance and my new room will finally be mine, will bear all the hallmarks of my personality. I can seek out bookshelves and finally place my books on those; no more boxes as bookshelves. I can feel settled, content, ready to explore every facet of my new home, inside and outside.

I think this apartment feels the same way. We'll have a gracious parting, and then new people can move in, who I hope will love it more than I ever did. It deserves that after these seven years. Maybe it'll have someone or a few people who love Saugus as much as I love Las Vegas. These walls should have that.

The Final Library Holds

On Friday, I had an idea for Meridith that I wish I had thought of much earlier. She's wanted to read Abandon by Meg Cabot for so long, Cabot being the only author she reads regularly. She has nearly all her books.

I didn't reveal this, because you never know who's sneaking about online, and it's not paranoia that fuels this, but rather the need to keep my library card as it was. But since the last day to check out books from the Valencia branch is June 4, ahead of the transfer of control of this valley's three libraries from the County of Los Angeles to the City of Santa Clarita, and since all items have to be returned by June 10, I can put this forth now since nothing I can put on hold now would get there in time for me to have time to read it, and I lessened the number of books I put on hold so I wouldn't be bombarded by the end. On June 1, the County of Los Angeles is opening the Stevenson Ranch Express Library, which is a much smaller library with shorter hours, a more limited selection, but they allow holds. I could make my home library that one in order to keep my County of Los Angeles library card, but after Tuesday, after Dad's job interview in Henderson, it might not matter anymore, and instead, I would be learning about the policies of the Henderson library branches, and of the Clark County Library system.

On March 14, the County of Los Angeles cut off Santa Clarita residents from the other libraries in the system. Patrons could only put items on hold that were at the Valencia, Newhall or Canyon Country libraries. It became true on my sister's card, when she couldn't put books on hold because those books weren't at either of those three libraries.

Maybe it was because of my reputation of always putting a lot of books on hold at once, and especially the great number of books about the presidents for my research. The librarians at the Valencia library knew me well. And maybe someone working within that computer system sensed the avid reader I was, and left my card alone because of the high volume. After all, I've done this for the past seven years. Always a large number of books, always reaching the 50-item limit, though for the first two years, it was mostly movies, because I was still very much into movies. Actually, thinking about it further, the first policy was that you couldn't check out more items if you had reached a $500 limit. They assessed the value of the items, as all libraries do, and the system added it up, so there were times when I had to take the prices from the inner flap of the books and add it all up to see if I had reached $500. I was relieved when the policy changed to 50 items. It became a lot easier to manage.

My library card never changed. Any book I put on hold always came from other branches, such as West Hollywood, Agoura Hills, Hawthorne, San Dimas. I never had the trouble that Meridith had.

So on Friday, I asked Meridith if she could read Abandon by June 10th, if it came in before June 4. Whenever she gets a Meg Cabot book, she zips right through it, finishing it either the day she got it or the day after. She could do the same with this one. So I put Abandon on hold, counting on it to come in before Saturday. When it does, we'll make a rare during-the-week stop at the Valencia library to pick it up. I don't remember the first book I ever put on hold on my card all those years ago, but it's appropriate that the last book I put on hold should be for Meridith. I'd rather the last time be to help out, instead of the continual benefit for myself, which ended yesterday with six books I picked up that were on hold:

The American Presidency: An Intellectual History by Forrest McDonald - It's about the evolution of the presidency throughout history, what it has become, the power that has emerged, relations with Congress, thinking about where it is and what it is at that moment in time (1994).

American Original: The Life and Constitution of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia by Joan Biskupic - I decided to keep the Sandra Day O'Connor biography by Biskupic. I have plenty of time this week, what with Mom and Dad's trip to Las Vegas, and surely that'll be good for part of a morning and most of an afternoon. Scalia has interested me because of his love of opera and his dramatic, egotistical flair, and taste for life.

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz - On Friday, graduating 8th grade students from Dad's school went on the yearly Disneyland trip for the day. On the trip before this one, I brought along The Signal newspaper and an issue of The New Yorker. In that issue, which absorbed me on the entire bus ride to Disneyland (The Signal takes a mere two minutes since there's that little readable content in it), there was a short story by Junot Diaz that made me only partially aware that we were in the parking garage at Disneyland, waiting to get past the guard booth to the bus parking lot. The language of that short story was so real, so raw, so deeply felt. Not long after, I checked out his short story collection, Drown. I decided it was finally time to read his first novel.

Lyndon B. Johnson by Charles Peters - This is one title in the American Presidents series, published by Henry Holt and Company. Yes, the exact series I said I was tired of, but I'm psyched to read Robert Caro's massive three-volume biography of Lyndon Johnson, and I'd like to have an overview of his life and presidency. However, reading the first few sentences of the first chapter, I'm iffy. I don't like the writing. I'll see if I can get through it by the few pages after that first page.

How Stella Got Her Groove Back by Terry McMillan - I've always been curious about Terry McMillan's works. Now's the time.

Alphabetter Juice or, The Joy of Text by Roy Blount, Jr. - I also have Alphabet Juice by Blount from the library, so I might make a double reading out of both.

I had picked up seven books, but I returned 15 books. And thinking about Mom and Dad's impending trip to Las Vegas, I decided that I could use a crash course to refamilarize myself with what had become faded as we waited and waited for word in Nevada about a job for Dad. I went to the shelves against the wall at the back left side of the library, to where the few Nevada books are kept, and I grabbed all of them, except for The Last Honest Place in America by Marc Cooper, about Las Vegas, which I read and it didn't impress me.

Among the books I picked up was The Sagebrush State: Nevada's History, Government, and Politics: Third Edition by Michael W. Bowers. It's from 2006, but I'll take it. I want to finally learn everything about the history of a state, about its government and its constitution. I lived in and loved Florida, but I never paid a lot of attention to the state legislature. And all I know about California government, beyond there being the governor, a senate, and an assembly, is that they're so good at pushing all these propositions for voters. I want Nevada to be my next and final home. And I want to be deeply connected to it.

I've also got Nevada: A History by Robert Laxalt, from 1977; Las Vegas Babylon: True Tales of Glitter, Glamour, and Greed by Jeff Burbank; and the hardcover edition of The Money and the Power: The Making of Las Vegas and Its Hold on America 1947-2000 by Sally Denton and Roger Morris. I've eyed this book so many times, checked it out so many times, but still haven't read it. I was even thinking of buying the paperback edition from, but I'm going to take the chance now.

I also decided to check out one Charles Bukowski book I've read often from the Valencia library: Ham on Rye. I'm intimately familiar with this particular copy, one of the only Bukowski books I've not bought yet, even though I have many books of his poetry, as well as Post Office and the screenplay for Barfly. I know that the City of Santa Clarita is buying all the books in the Valencia, Canyon Country and Newhall libraries from the County of Los Angeles, and I hope this copy of Ham on Rye is treated well by whoever reads it next. I hope that that person is 20 years old, the age I was when I discovered Bukowski. I hope he or she is grabbed by the throat and pulled violently into these words, like I was.

I also decided to check out Supreme Courtship by Christopher Buckley, since I was thinking of buying it to read. Yeah, yeah, I know that's what libraries are for, and certainly when I reach Henderson, I'll check out a lot more books than I buy, because I want to explore every aspect of those libraries in Henderson and definitely the ones that make up the Clark County system (Henderson is not connected to the Clark County system. It's like Santa Clarita disconnecting from the County of Los Angeles system. But at least, unlike here, there's always other places to go.)

I appreciate what the Valencia library has done for me for these seven years, but I will not miss it. I need my libraries stable, not beholden to the whims of a wayward City Council so gung-ho on cutting the valley off from the rest of the world, since Los Angeles is pretty much the rest of the world in this region of California. We're already isolated by distance. We didn't need to be isolated any further.

When we visited the Boulder City library, I found librarians so pleasant, so willing to help, pointing out everything the library had for us for-now tourists from Southern California after learning of our intent to live in Nevada. I'm excited for more of that when we become permanently installed there.

An Accurate Portrayal of Las Vegas

Las Vegas differs for all kinds of people, so I can only speak based on my own experiences.

I watched "Lucky You" this morning, or rather fast-forwarded through most of it. I loathed the screenplay, but Curtis Hanson got it as a filmmaker: Las Vegas isn't a rushed edit as other movies show it. It is meant to be taken in slowly, a sensual experience that builds, evident in the pan-down shot from the Eiffel Tower replica at Paris, to the synchronized waterfalls at the Bellagio.