Sunday, June 5, 2011

Money Down and Looking Up

Mom was on the phone with us for over an hour, way past when I wanted to have dinner, though I had it just the same after. We had come home fairly late each evening, as late as nearly 7 p.m. can be, for the past two days, usually eating at about 7:30, and I wanted to try for earlier this time since we spent the day at home. No dice, not with all Mom had to tell us and sometimes repeat, but I understand, since she's genuinely happy about the apartment she and Dad found, so much so that we also learned that they put some money down on it to express their seriousness to the manager about soon moving there.

She described to us everything that's nearby, including Walgreens, Food 4 Less, and I hope Smith's is just as close. Everything will be open to us, she said. We can go anywhere, do anything; after we get jobs and establish ourselves, we can even get our own apartment if we want, since the monthly rent is so cheap in this complex. For now, I just want to follow the first two things. I want to get settled, find a decent job with a decent salary and decent benefits, and finally feel good about where I am, knowing it's where I belong. I know I've repeated that sentiment many times already, but I'm still turning it over again and again in my mind, amazed at this good fortune.

Mom did say that there's not a great deal of room in this apartment, so a large amount of books would have to go into a storage facility. I don't intend to do that. Whereas now I've bought books that I really want to read, my personal collection will remain small and will likely be the only collection I keep. And I don't come upon books for that collection very often. I hope bookshelves will still be a possibility. There's plenty of time to work that out, years in fact. With all that there will be to experience, I'm patient.

Muddy Waters

For dinner last night, Mom and Dad went to Lucille's Smokehouse BBQ at The District at Green Valley Ranch in Henderson. I crave going there again, for their cheese grits, real grits.

Mom ordered an Arnold Palmer, which is half iced tea, half lemonade. The waitress said that in the west, that's called "muddy waters."

It's not just at the Lucille's chain that that holds true, but also at the M &M Soul Food Cafe on West Charleston in Las Vegas.

With everything I'm hearing about our potential new apartment complex, that it has a full-size pool table in the front office, an indoor and outdoor jacuzzi, a sauna, a tennis court, two basketball hoops, and a pool, I'm ready to adopt new terms for this new life. I used to call that concoction an Arnold Palmer, but I'm fine with changing it. After all, moving to Las Vegas and the surrounding areas is all about reinvention. You have the rare chance to remember who you are and live however you want to live. This is my kind of start to that.

The Run of the House: Day 6 - I've Never Seen a Library So Serious and Forbidding

Because of the County of Los Angeles library system, I discovered Charles Bukowski, and spent a Saturday in our apartment in Valencia that first year reading Notes of a Dirty Old Man by mid-afternoon sunlight filtered through my dusty blinds slightly above my bed. Because of it, I discovered Quentin Crisp, who became one of my heroes, and taught me through his writings that to be yourself is the only way to live and any other way is wasteful. I discovered The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro, The Music of Your Life by John Rowell, and This Book Will Save Your Life by A.M. Homes, and all affected me so deeply that they all eventually became part of my collection.

The one book I am proud to have as a memento of the County of Los Angeles library system, not only in light of the loss to come from the City of Santa Clarita taking control of the Valencia library and the three other branches within city limits but also after we move to Nevada, is Subways are for Sleeping by Edmund G. Love, a chronicle from 1957 about resourceful homeless people living in New York City who make their day-to-day lives work. I had this book all throughout my time at College of the Canyons, checking it out constantly, shunning math homework in the cafeteria at a table in the back in favor of reading it again. I think I got more out of those two-and-a-half years of education from that book than from any class, though I did have some decent teachers. This book had come from the Norwalk branch of the County system, and when it came time to return it yet again, I didn't. It had been with me all throughout my time at COC. It belonged with me. So I told them that I had found out after we had gotten back to Santa Clarita from Las Vegas that it must have dropped out of the car at a rest stop on the way back (Not true), and I gladly paid $34: $29 for the book and a $5 processing fee. It will be an honor when I finally have bookshelves, and can place it among the other books I love.

Meridith and I went to the library yesterday to return a few books, ahead of returning the rest next week. Well, mine, actually. She returned every book on her card except one by Meg Cabot. It's appropriate that the last book on her card should be that, since she's a huge Meg Cabot fan. I returned 14 books, and still have 36 to return.

After getting The Wall Street Journal Weekend from Pavilions, and smoothies from Jamba Juice (I got a PB&J one with banana; Meridith got Blue Gummy Bear), we decided we were not going to go anywhere else until we dropped off these books. Heavy bags do not make for an enjoyable day, and so we started walking from the heart of Valencia to the library, past the mall, and fortunately, our shoulders remained where they should be after we were finally able to put down the bags and get the books checked in.

It was a sorry sight at the library. They had called on Friday and left a message to say that the two books I had put on hold would be available until 6 p.m. that day. Normally, when I had a huge number of books on hold, even those holds that I cancelled remained on the shelf not only because they were so many, but because they figured that I would eventually take care of it. Or they just didn't care to look because of the 34 books waiting for me on those shelves (34's just one number at one time. It's sometimes slightly higher). Because of the transfer of these libraries to the City of Santa Clarita, I knew they had to be serious about that deadline, but I figured that since they knew me, maybe they would let those books sit there, knowing that I would be there on Saturday. I couldn't get there on Friday because there was no car and we weren't in Valencia. Our radius was the Ralphs and McDonald's in the shopping center on McBean Parkway, extending out past Meridith's old high school, to the Ice Station, then to the Italian sub place and back. We weren't going to go to the library twice.

Walking into the library, I saw that they were serious. All the holds had been cleared from the shelves, sent back. Such a sad sight seeing so many empty shelves. That's not what a library should be, but that's what this library is, coupled with the self-checkout machines having been turned off. LSSI, the corporate outfit that's going to run these libraries for the City of Santa Clarita, has to do inventory, put new barcodes on the books, and are they going to buy these self-checkout machines from the County of Los Angeles, too? Not only that, but are they at work on a new online library catalog? LSSI is an outsourcing company for those within a city who can't do their own work to make a library function. I don't care what their intentions are, but being that this is an outfit primarily based on the east coast, they cannot know this valley as well as the librarians who had been in place already do. But this is how it is, being that no member of the City Council has a library card. They just want to save money by isolating this valley even further. I care less and less as the weeks go on, being that I'll eventually be living where people remain connected, where there's no such isolation. Henderson may have its own library system comprised of five branches, but at least it's run by the city. It's not been outsourced like this. Boulder City may be all the way in the back, but that one library is part of the Clark County system.

Even so, books should not be treated like this. A library should not look this barren. Months before, the option to buy books gradually faded. The books from those shelves and the turnstile shelves lessened, and soon enough, there was nothing left. Most of the books weren't worth it for me, but at least there was the opportunity to see what your fellow residents read by what they donated. Not anymore.

These three Santa Clarita libraries will close from June 18 to July 1, or so they claim, but one of the librarians said that they'll probably open back up after July 4th. That long without a library? I have no problem with that since I've built up a partial library with all the books I've bought online to read, though not in anticipation of this. But for others, this is inexcusable. A library should be always be accessible, not susceptible to the whims of an inept City Council and certainly not a for-profit company. Certainly checking out books free of charge remains, but libraries should never be monetized. I found an article just now about LSSI:

To me, this sounds like an instance of the City Council not wanting to figure out how to save the libraries on their own, and fobbing it off on a company that does not even know this valley, so they don't have to think about it any further. I wish my years with the Valencia library had not ended this way. I will keep track of what's going on with these libraries after I've become a resident of (likely) Henderson, Nevada, but only this aspect of the Santa Clarita Valley will continue to interest me. Nothing else. I say that now, but then once I have my Henderson library card and my Clark County library card, I may forget about all else after I've spotted the Nevada and Las Vegas history sections, learning what I really want to learn.

Ok, rant over.

Meridith and I left the library after returning the books and making our canvas tote bags significantly lighter, and walked the paseo paths that go past the car dealerships and to where the bike paths and walking paths are, to look out at all the trees that sit on the land that used to be a river. A lot of it is dry and cracked, but a lot more has grown there since we last saw it.

Then back through the paseo paths, to the Valencia Town Center Mall, from the food court to the second floor, past the Disney Store, outside to where the relatively new shops are, including Williams-Sonoma, which we tackled after lunch, because lunch was very necessary, especially lunch at Five Guys. Meridith had a bacon and cheese hot dog, and I had a cheese veggie sandwich, with mushrooms, grilled onions, pickles, tomatoes, mustard, and barbecue sauce. And of course their fries. You cannot eat at Five Guys without having their fries. It should be a law. And I want to know where they get their peanuts because I'd like to find the unsalted kind. The ones I got from Ralphs about a month ago were disappointing.

After Five Guys, where I also noticed that there's a publication called Florida Monthly that I unfortunately never knew about even with all the years I lived in Florida (The clip from the magazine they put up on the wall says "Since 1981")--though I did find the website after we got home--we went to Menchi's, where I found only two decent frozen yogurt flavors in peanut butter cup and pistachio. The red velvet flavor didn't taste close to red velvet and they really need to improve the vanilla and chocolate flavors. While we were eating our frozen yogurt, weighed down by all the toppings we had put on, I joked with Meridith that with all the sample cups we had had, we could have just left afterward.

Then we went to Sephora, where Meridith wanted to find a certain nail polish that you paint over the nail polish you have on, and it gives it a cracked look. She had wanted it ever since she saw it at the Disney store next to the El Capitan Theatre after seeing Pirates 4, and found it there. If you ever want to see one store where the employees have a great love for makeup of all kinds, that's where you go.

Williams-Sonoma was next, and the one thing I find disappointing is that despite the love they promote for cooking, they never stock any culinary memoirs. It's probably not the place to find Anthony Bourdain's books, but there are so many other good ones that should be on shelves next to the cookbooks. I understand that the point of Williams-Sonoma is to find different gadgets and pans and sauces and anything else you want to cook what you want, but reading about the experiences of cooking is equally interesting. However, at $24.95 for some books, I probably wouldn't buy those books there anyway, which may be why they don't stock them.

We walked back through the mall, with a stop at the restrooms near the food court, and then out to where the Edwards Valencia 12 is, to see what was left of Borders. Nothing. The sign was taken down, the inside windows were boarded up, and that was it. I've no sadness for it going out of business because they sold books entirely the wrong way. Barnes & Noble is all about books, and the feeling you get inside is one of wanting to read, to explore everything you can find. Borders just happens to sell books.

We also stopped in at the arcade next to the movie theater, played air hockey, and tried to win a plush Pac-Man from one of the claw machines. The claw on that one never goes down where you position it. It stretches to the side. Two dollars gone, but thankfully it was only two dollars. Meridith wanted to keep trying, but I told her, "That's how Las Vegas makes money," and we left.

Back to our old apartment to peek through the windows and see that it was empty, with stuff left by the previous owners (including two floor fans), and that was it. We got on the bus at the stop in front of Target and eventually, we were home and thoroughly worn out because this was the second day in a row that we had done more walking than we do even in a week. Jeopardy! and Wheel of Fortune were the order of the evening, along with a smaller dinner since we had eaten so much during the day. I had thought about beginning to read The Wall Street Journal Weekend, but I decided to save it until today. We're staying home today, it's quiet all around, and it's the perfect time for it.

Out in Henderson, I just got the news from Mom that the job listing Dad had responded to from the charter school on the Las Vegas Review-Journal website was taken down, so Dad may very well get a call soon. They're also looking at apartments again today and found some very nice ones. The one they're looking at again today is two bedrooms with two bathrooms, a living room, and a kitchen. I'm not sure if there is a dining room, too, but the plan for that one is to turn the living room into another bedroom for me, since Mom said she'd never make me and Meridith share a room. Or maybe it was the dining room. I hope so, because we need a living room. The apartment complex they were at also has a fitness center, a tennis court (Meridith's psyched about that), and lots of grass and trees for the dogs. She doesn't want them doing their business on rocks, and Tigger hated that during our first trip to Las Vegas when we stayed at America's Best Value Inn. Having grass for them is the biggest concern. We'll work through the rest.

It's possible that they may leave Nevada tomorrow, although they should spend a bit of time somewhere, since it will be their wedding anniversary. But as it stands, this will be the longest time any of us have been there, and from what we can see, it wil have been the most beneficial because we're so much closer to a true home, the kind that will make me proud to say that Nevada is my home state, and (probably) Henderson my home town. Life as it should be lived.