Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Just a Bench, the Words, and the Wind

Reading is an even more heavenly pleasure when there's nothing technological surrounding you, when you have nothing to do.

Before she left with Dad for Las Vegas, Mom told Meridith to go to one of the two nail salons near our neighborhood and get her cuticles cleaned. Mom got her nails done at a salon at the Henderson Galleria mall.

Meridith chose the Ocean Nails Spa, near the Grand Panda Chinese restaurant, a Starbucks, and a Subway. I don't like the fumes in those places, so I took a bench at the far end of that chunk of commerce building (There's also a dentist's office, and a dry cleaners) and opened to where I had left off in Cornbread Nation 1: The Best of Southern Food Writing. I brought along some tape flags with me since I usually copy down titles and authors on a yellow legal notepad on a small clipboard, and I didn't want to bring all that with me.

There was only the sounds of traffic and a hydraulic hiss from inside the dry cleaners, what sounded like a "tee", and then a scant few seconds later, a "tah," and a noticeable cool wind which made me glad, after about 10 minutes, that I had brought my jacket. I looked up occasionally to see if Meridith had come out, but I was deep into reading about southern food and food culture. I was gone. Solid gone. I loved that I was in this one spot in the entire world, doing exactly what I wanted to do. That's all I needed.

The Run of the House: Day 2

Mom and Dad found a condo in Boulder City, and a comparison to living in Santa Clarita.

It turns out that there's more to Boulder City than just its main street area, which is small enough to truly be called a small town. There's no casinos, no bars, and it feels so relaxed, not faux-relaxed like big cities sometimes try to do with small spaces. It is genuinely quiet, with that peaceful feeling everywhere. The bowling alley, with four or five lanes, is only open for a few hours in the afternoon. There's the Historic Boulder Dam Hotel, which feels like the Dragonfly Inn on Gilmore Girls. Really.

And there's a museum on the second floor of the Boulder Dam Hotel called the Boulder City/Hoover Dam Museum that covers the history of the city and the dam, since they're both interconnected. Boulder City was begun by the federal government to house the workers building the Hoover Dam. The nearby Hacienda Hotel and Casino (outside city limits, naturally) has a small screening room where they run the government film about the Hoover Dam on a loop, and looking at the website for the museum reminded me that I want to see that film again, besides the actual Hoover Dam itself of course, more than we've seen in the past by just standing at the side. Especially the new bridge that goes over Hoover Dam, right into Arizona, into another time zone.

We knew all this about Boulder City (except for the museum. I don't think we went far enough into the building to find it, or maybe it was closed that day), but not about how far Boulder City stretched in housing, which is more than just the immediate area surrounding the town heart and joints and skeleton.

So, this condo. It's two floors, with relatively steep stairs, as Mom tells us. There's a game room, an office for Dad, and a balcony on the second floor, with enough room for me to claim it as my new reading and writing space. This Saugus apartment has been so small that I've had to use the left side of the couch in the living room and the arm of that side as my reading and writing space when I'm not using the computer for book writing or blog entries. I'm thinking of a small bookcase on that balcony.

It's three bedrooms, three-and-a-half bathrooms. Mom said that there's either one bedroom downstairs and two bedrooms upstairs, or two bedrooms downstairs and one bedroom upstairs. I'll get it right later.

The garage is a four-car garage, and there's a small room in the garage. Mom excitedly told us that the garage is bigger than our entire apartment. Well then, I'm ready right now! All I've got to do is see if I can get away with taking a few more books than I had intended. My 50-book collection is going, but as to the rest, only what I want to read so badly but haven't yet.

Dad had the job interview yesterday, and this morning at 10, they want him to come back and teach a lesson in Microsoft Word to 6th graders for 10 minutes. This is a big test for Dad, because for the past seven years, he's taught only 7th and 8th graders. But he can do it. Mom got him a proper shirt for the occasion from Kohl's at the Henderson Galleria mall. It was intended to be a Father's Day present, but Mom told us that Father's Day has been covered, since he didn't bring a shirt with him that would be appropriate for this. He didn't know that it was going to happen, so luckily he has Mom there.

They went to the house last night (I should say "condo", but considering how big it is, I'm calling it a house) and talked with the 89-year-old man who owns it, and is hard of hearing. He's selling it because his wife died not too long ago. She loved living in Las Vegas, and died four months after they moved to Boulder City. It's sad, but 89 years old, and however old his wife was, I attribute long living to Las Vegas. I feel happy about this great chance, nothing physically bothering me, and I know I'll flourish there.

Now here's where the comparison to living in Santa Clarita comes in: Mom and Dad left the house and not far out, the PT Cruiser started gushing coolant. We don't have a proper mechanic in Santa Clarita, certainly not the one Dad's used for all this time, and now realizes that he has to find a better one, who knows exactly what he or she is doing. Fortunately, the car started again, and since they were close enough, they went back to the house and asked the man if they could use his phone to call AAA. He agreed, and at the same time, his neighbor from across the street was making him dinner.

In Santa Clarita, no one would be that gracious to let you inside their house to use the phone. Here, you'd better be carrying your cell phone. And a neighbor making dinner for another neighbor? You mean, we have neighbors in this area? I thought those were just empty houses with lights that come on automatically at dusk and click off before midnight comes.

You will never find a neighbor making dinner for another neighbor like that, certainly not an elderly one. If they're old, there's the Santa Clarita Senior Center and a few senior living facilities around. Never will you find it like that here. And that kind, gentle act shows that we're finally moving to the right place.

So not only does Dad have the big teaching test this morning, but they're probably up right now to take the shuttle that Fiesta Henderson (where they're staying) provides to the nearest car rental facility, only a few blocks away. They'll tell me which one it is later. I keep thinking Hertz. I might be right. It sounds familiar.

(Addendum: I just talked to Mom. It's an Enterprise shuttle from Fiesta Henderson. We've used them before when the PT Cruiser has undergone repairs at that lack of a mechanic.)

This necessitates staying another night. With that test, and the car rental, and whatever else might transpire after the test, Mom doesn't want Dad driving back here today. We're fine. When we went food shopping on Friday and Saturday of last week, we made sure we got enough just in case this happened.

For Meridith and I, yesterday was quiet. Meridith cleaned out her closet, filled two bags with clothes she wants to donate to Goodwill, gave me a huge load and a half of laundry to put in the machine for her (I added to the second load the shirts I intend to wear this weekend), and then went to the other side of her room and began putting what she wanted to throw out into a black garbage bag and what she wanted to donate into a white garbage bag, which became three full white garbage bags. At the same time, she had 1220 AM on her radio, which is the "Hometown Station", as they call themselves, in Santa Clarita. Decent music in the afternoon, news often, and it kept up the quiet rhythm of her working in her room.

Meanwhile, I wandered between couch and computer. Right now is exactly how I started yesterday morning, with webcomics, with writing on my blog, with seeing if there's Advanced Reader Copies (ARCs) of books on which interest me. Nothing lately. I'm hoping there'll be ARCs of It's Classified by Nicolle Wallace, the sequel to her "Eighteen Acres" some time soon. It's coming out in September, which means it should be available as an ARC soon enough, if one of the sellers of ARCs that I like picks it up. Recently, I snatched up Harold: The Boy Who Became Mark Twain by Hal Holbrook, and that's being published in September, too. I was hoping that I'd find It's Classified soon enough, and have it to read on one of our future road trips to Las Vegas. I've already got one book ready to go for that purpose called On the Volcano by James Nelson, the author of The Trouble with Gumballs, which I loved, and you can see how much I love it ( It's Nelson's first novel and holding it yesterday, it felt like I should read it on the way first to the Grewal Travel Center rest stop in Baker, and then to Las Vegas. I'm also thinking that the biography I have of Diamond Jim Brady by H. Paul Jeffers. And I've also got all of Tessa Hadley's novels and short stories (I became hooked on her writing after reading a short story of hers in an issue of The New Yorker), so it's going to be a lot less difficult to figure out what to bring with me to read on a road trip. I used to bring a 20-pound bag of books with me on those trips. No more. I've become more efficient.

The arm of the couch holds White House Diary by Jimmy Carter, which I still have to finish, Cornbread Nation 1: The Best of Southern Food Writing, Bookmark Now: Writing in Unreaderly Times, a January/February 2011 issue of Saveur called "100: Chefs' Edition" in which chefs reveal their favorite things, foods, restaurants, ingredients, tips, etc. etc., and In Nevada: The Land, the People, God, and Chance by David Thomson. I still have the books I mentioned in a previous entry for that crash course ("The Final Library Holds"), and I might start on that today. There's still time. Not as much as years ago when the Valencia library was still fully connected to the County of Los Angeles system, but I'll make sure that I'll at least read The Sagebrush State: Nevada's History, Government, and Politics: Third Edition by Michael W. Bowers, to learn about the state's Constitution, and The Money and the Power: The Making of Las Vegas and Its Hold on America 1947-2000 by Sally Denton and Roger Morris, which I've wanted to read so badly ever since Las Vegas became a possibility, but never found the space for it in my immediate reading list. It has that space now.

Meridith worked on her room with breaks for lunch and dinner. Yep, all day yesterday. I was assigned to take the full white bags to the living room and the black garbage bag to our garbage bin at the curb. That arrangement worked for me.

Mom's insistent that Meridith get her nails done, especially to get her cuticles fully cleaned out, and there's a nail place that's a short walk from us, so she might do that today. I think I'll go with her, not to sit inside with all those fumes, but just to take a walk. I'll bring a book with me and wait outside, since it's supposed to be relatively warm today at 73 degrees. As to what else, I don't know. Reading is obvious, and I'm happy that Jeopardy! and Wheel of Fortune are on tonight, since they were pre-empted last night for game 1 of the NBA Finals, which I'm not watching very closely.

For me, it's enough that I have this time, which may be all I get before the militaristic regimen of moving begins. We've still got more things to throw away, to donate, and I've got to figure out exactly what I want to bring with me and get rid of, which will likely involve a few more DVDs.

This is the first time I've felt at peace with this apartment. I don't feel like I'm fighting it, like I used to, and I'm ready to let it go, because I never felt anything for it in the first place. Let it go to someone or a few people who can give it more than I ever could.