One of my most prized t-shirts in my collection is of the comic strip character Andy Capp, my favorite, hoisting a wooden case of three bottles of booze on his shoulder, clearly happy to have his favorite thing in life with him, wearing a sprig of holly behind one ear, and giving a thumbs-up. It's no wonder I wore that t-shirt today when I went out with Mom and Dad and Meridith. I had exactly that kind of day, one of the greatest of my life.
It began before I woke up, an e-mail in my inbox at 10:05 from the Warner Archive Collection. I woke up at 10:33, which I can do easily whenever I'm not working as a substitute campus supervisor, which seems to be often so far this new school year. In that case, I don't go to bed until after 2 a.m., but before 3, since I've either got books I want to read or TV shows I want to watch on the Tivo and I enjoy the silence of the night.
I found the e-mail from Warner Archive a little after noon. I looked at every single one that came in for the past few months, hoping for the day that Travels with My Aunt, starring Maggie Smith and based on the novel by Graham Greene, would be released on DVD through the Warner Archive Collection, which had to happen since Warner Bros. owns countless MGM titles from way, way back, including 1972.
I opened the latest e-mail, spotted the words "'70s Cinema," and my heart started going a little faster. I scrolled down a bit, to the images of the DVDs to be released and...OH MY GOD! I excitedly called Meridith over and showed her. Travels with My Aunt was now available for purchase! And I had e-mailed them about three months ago, asking them when it was going to come out, and to please, please, please release it soon. I bought it on VHS about a week after the Valencia library pulled it from its circulation. It's one of those rare instances in which I like the book and the movie equally, and both can easily stand separately, with the end of the movie a clever and necessary change from the book.
I went right to the Warner Archive site, ordered it, and so what that it came to $24 total? This is going to be one of the grande dames of my DVD collection, and I've no qualms about tossing my VHS copy because Warner Bros. has remastered the movie, and the clip provided on the site (http://www.wbshop.com/Travels-With-My-Aunt/1000239737,default,pd.html?cgid=ARCHIVENEW) shows a pristine picture and clear sound. And it'll be nice to see my favorite parts over and over without having to rewind a videotape.
Barely a few minutes after I ordered it, I received a press release from a PR firm (I'm still on the e-mail lists of many, despite being a former film critic) announcing that owing to the success of The Lion King 3D, Disney is releasing Beauty and the Beast 3D on January 13, 2012, Finding Nemo 3D on September 14, 2012, Monsters, Inc. 3D on January 18, 2013 (a few months before the prequel, Monsters University, arrives on June 13, 2013, in 3D), and The Little Mermaid 3D on September 13, 2013. Meridith is especially excited about the latter, her favorite movie. I'm happy that Disney is converting Monsters, Inc. into 3D, because the climactic doors sequence will look stunning like that. Plus, the East Australian Current in Finding Nemo will reap the same benefit. But despite its failures in theaters and on home video, I wish that Disney would take the risk of converting Treasure Planet into 3D. It's Treasure Island in outer space for the most part, the ships are mostly computer-animated, Long John Silver is a cyborg and is half-hand drawn animation and half computer animation, and there's a lot of galaxy scenery that would be awe-inspiring in that form. I hope that these future releases do equally as well and possibly better than The Lion King so these opportunities continue and possibly lead to Treasure Planet getting the same treatment. It's worth a try. But of course I say that without being an investor in Disney or running the company. So I can.
Mom decided to go back to Fry's in Woodland Hills to return some key rings that it turns out she didn't need, and to look at the others they had, to see if we needed any more for the net in the trunk, rings to latch onto the hooks there. And then came Walmart in West Hills, a surprising one, not because of how it looked in the front, with curved signage, but because of a store nearby, in the same shopping center, which seemed strange because despite the "Crown Books" banner at the top of the building, the store below was selling Halloween costumes and related accessories. Perhaps Crown Books had once been there but didn't take down the sign?
Meridith went with me to see if there was a discount book store, and we rounded the corner of that building, and I found heaven. In two ways. First with the tables full of books I spotted on the inside, and a sign against the glass that said, "Book Heaven - Every Book for $1". That section was on the other side of the store, a lot of square feet of space for books.
I looked over as many titles individually as I could. I stood against tables with the spines of paperbacks facing the ceiling and I pulled out whichever ones seemed interesting, read the back quickly, skimmed the first page if my interest went that far, and pulled to me what I really needed, what I could not leave Crown Books without. This included a book called Do Bald Men Get Half-Price Haircuts?: In Search of America's Great Barbershops by Vince Staten, who visited 300 barbershops across the country. I also found, by Jane and Michael Stern, Dog Eat Dog: A Very Human Book About Dogs and Dog Shows. I'm a dog lover, so that immediately went into my stack. There also came a novel called Bed Rest by Sarah Bilston, about a pregnant woman confined to her bed for the final three months. And State of the Arts: California Artists Talk About Their Work by Barbara Isenberg, which I picked up at the very end of my long exploration and needed it because there's a piece by opera director Peter Sellars, one of my heroes because of his true uniqueness, that you look at him and think that it could only be him. He lives according to what he loves. That's all that matters.
At the end, I came away with 10 books for $19. And even so, there were some books I picked up, like The First Rumpole Omnibus by John Mortimer, thinking I might try Rumpole of the Bailey again, but decided not to. The Supreme Court of late is the only interest I have in the law.
And Meridith found a book I absolutely needed to buy and did: Wayside School is Falling Down by Louis Sachar, which I read as a kid and loved, and this edition from the '90s by Avon Books is the original cover I remember, as well as the original illustrations. This will be snug in my permanent collection.
Then came the Sherman Oaks Galleria, a mainly outdoor shopping, dining and entertainment center. Fuddrucker's is there, and Mom wanted to go there to eat. We walked in, and I looked at the back of the place and found a Galaga arcade machine. But before that, I ordered a chicken cordon bleu sandwich and chili cheese fries. Then, once we found a table and I got my drink of watered-down Hi-C fruit punch, I asked Mom for a quarter (I didn't have any) and went to play. And it was pure bliss. I like having it on Nintendo DS as practice, but it doesn't compare to standing at that machine, slapping the fire button as fast as I can, eliminating as many aliens as I can before all of them stack up and begin flying down, firing their weapons. I ended fairly quickly at 20,000 points, owing to a dumb move that eliminated one of my ships right away, and then went to eat. After I was finished, I opened to where I left off in The Borrower by Rebecca Makkai, and Mom, noticing that I was done, asked if I wanted another quarter. I first said no, because she was still eating and I didn't want to interrupt, but out came another quarter, and a better game, reaching 50,000+ and the ever-reliable level 10 that I can never seem to get past, and I didn't this time either.
But this was perfect. A lot of my favorite things so far during the day, and it continued with a small pumpkin pie I found on a circular tray under a plastic cover at the counter when Meridith was ordering cookies for Mom, Dad and herself. I love pumpkin pie and I got it. It was mild pumpkin pie, reliable enough for the flavor, but nothing notable, though that was ok. I was living fairly low-key pleasures throughout the entire day, so this tied into it very well. But as I told Dad before we left the house for Fry's, I couldn't wait for him and Meridith to go back to work so I could eat normally again. I know that it's my choice with what I eat, but given the opportunity to indulge in really good chili cheese fries at Wienerschnitzel, and so-so ones at Fuddrucker's (The chili used for these fries is just a salty dark brown covering, with meat to show that it's chili, but with little enthusiasm), and a chicken salad melt and curly fries at Jerry's Famous Deli in Woodland Hills, I grabbed it over and over. Six days with Dad and Meridith home, there were obviously going to be changes in eating habits, but I look forward to getting back to my usual eating, my regular diet.
After Fuddrucker's, Walmart in Panorama City, which has a heavy Hispanic population. We were the minority of that Walmart, but I was envious of those who shopped there. First, it was the standard Walmart we once knew before they made all the changes that turned it into a slick operation. It's a true neighborhood Walmart, with a major difference being that it's two floors, accessible by escalator or elevator, which we've never had in any Walmart we've been to, here in Santa Clarita or in Florida. The Lion King was playing on DVD on flatscreen TVs across from the electronics department, and it was at the part before Scar's "Be Prepared" number, so I had Meridith watch it with me so I could point out to her where Jeremy Irons drops out and Jim Cummings replaces him (because Irons blew out his voice after shouting, "You won't get a sniff without me!"), and the differences in their voices if you pay attention closely. Meridith noticed.
And once we got back down to the first floor, we unexpectedly found the entrance to the Panorama Mall, which looked comfortably worn. Everything was on one floor, all the stores across from each other were close together, and it felt like a community gathering place, evidenced by those who were playing chess at small tables outside La Curacao, an Hispanic electronics store. We went in there too, and man, if only Santa Clarita had felt like this for eight years, had felt like a genuine community like this was. I don't know a great deal about Panorama City, but this part at least felt like people gathered often, that there's more closeness. All we've got in Santa Clarita is plastic to bounce off of when you try to get close enough.
Nevertheless, this was the kind of day that everyone should have, in which a great deal of what you love is threaded throughout. It's why I believe in hedonism. I remarked to Meridith in Walmart that it was amazing that I had enjoyed many things that I loved in one day. Just one day! Reading, ambient music, and my favorite TV shows such as Jeopardy! are part of my daily life, but not usually to this extent. And this was incredible through and through. For me, all this was the definition of living.
Dad and Meridith will be back at work tomorrow, and I'll have my diet again, which I need back badly. But most importantly, I'm going to aim to have more days like the one I had today. I'd like those feelings constantly. It's wonderful! What better way to live?
(Addendum at 12:31 a.m.: I just pulled out of my bag of 10 books Like I Was Sayin'... by Mike Royko. This was from the Book Heaven side of Crown Books, and was a dollar. The price sticker is still on the book, and it was affixed on September 25, 2010. Maybe it had been moved around somewhat since then, and maybe some people had flipped through it, but it's been there until today. Over a year. Among many reasons I love discount book stores, this is one: Nowhere else that sells books will you find price stickers with the date of origin on them.)