Monday, November 28, 2011

That Old Feeling Again

Every month or so, I get an insatiable yen for anything to do with Superman, Captain Nemo, and Zorro. I want every Superman comic ever made, every book to do with Superman, Captain Nemo and Zorro, and every TV show and movie centered on the three of them.

But about a day or two later, the yen fades because of other books I want to read, other movies I want to see. Last month, it got as far as me watching most of Superman: The Movie from my sister's massive DVD box set that I got her for her birthday a few years ago. It includes all four Christopher Reeve Superman movies, as well as Superman Returns from 2006, cartoons and serials featuring Superman, and documentaries, along with a director's cut of Superman II and an expanded version of Superman: The Movie.

This time, it won't go away. I need to give some time to this craving. So in my room at this moment, I have 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne, of course; Captain Nemo by Kevin J. Anderson, and Zorro by Isabel Allende. I also have the Zorro: The Complete Series DVD box set, which is the early '90s Zorro TV series. And I have the Smallville pilot on the Tivo, back from when it aired a week before the series finale (Or was it right before the series finale?)

But that doesn't feel like it'll be enough. I need more. So from Amazon, I ordered The Mask of Zorro, The Mark of Zorro (1940, featuring the greatest swordfight in movie history), and Disney's 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. From AbeBooks (, a slew of titles: It's Superman! by Tom De Haven, The Last Days of Krypton by Kevin J. Anderson, Enemies & Allies, also by Kevin J. Anderson (about Superman and Batman reluctantly teaming up), The Death and Life of Superman by Roger Stern, The Other Log of Phileas Fogg by Philip Jose Farmer, which involves a search for Captain Nemo, who's actually Professor Moriarty from the Sherlock Holmes stories, Voyage into the Deep: The Saga of Jules Verne and Captain Nemo, a graphic novel about Jules Verne writing 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, and Captain Nemo by Jason DeAngelis and Aldin Viray. Even though manga doesn't interest me, that one does because of Captain Nemo.

Oh, but we're not done yet. Remembering that the Warner Bros. Studios store site ( still had its Cyber Monday sale going (from which I ordered the third season of Night Court earlier in the day for $8.15), I searched for Superman DVDs, hoping that in the section of heavily discounted TV DVDs, the ten seasons of Smallville would be available, of which I was only interested in the first season to see if I like it enough to want more.

No chance of that, as they remained pricey at $47.95 each. But what about Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman? Yeah! I was an addicted nine-year-old when that first season aired. I especially loved a scene in which Clark Kent flew as Superman to China to pick up Chinese food, though as I learned, that had happened in a later season.

There on the Warner Bros. site was the first season of Lois & Clark for $12. And the first season of The Adventures of Superman with George Reeves. And Superman Serials: The Complete 1948 & 1950 Collection. Done, done, and done. I don't think this craving is going to wear off by the time any of these books and DVDs arrive. Thank god the books are always cheap.

Just now, while typing the Superman Serials title, I was reminded of the Dick Tracy serials, the 1990 Warren Beatty movie (which I watched a lot at the same age I was hooked on Lois & Clark), and the Complete Chester Gould's Dick Tracy books available, volumes of them. Thankfully, that feeling passed without kicking up anything in me. Dick Tracy doesn't have half the same effect as Superman, Captain Nemo, and Zorro do, though he's still a deeply rooted interest.

This is why I will always believe that the inside of my head looks like the sets on Beakman's World. Because not only am I thinking about these three great fictional figures, I'm also mulling over my desert playlist, full of music that I think represents, for me, Las Vegas, Henderson, Boulder City, and the surrounding desert, and wondering if Matchbox sells its cars individually, not just in packs. I really want that city bus.

The Flour Truck of Henderson

In Casselberry, in the late '80s, my four-, five-, six-year-old self loved plunging his hands into a rectangular plastic wastebasket filled with toy figurines and cars. Hot Wheels, Matchbox, Camaros, a Lamborghini, and a car wash set and a racetrack that hooked up on one end of a table, and letting the car go at the top, hoping it would build speed fast enough to race through the loop-the-loop on the other end. All with so much to love, though in hindsight, no clue why.

I guess it was the young American boy thing to do, probably the same reason I had a collection of baseball cards in a binder, though I liked basketball much more. I also read Motor Trend when I was eight and nine, but I don't think I was looking at and admiring specs and engines. Maybe just the cars themselves, the shapes, the style.

On the second-to-most-recent trip to Las Vegas, I returned to that little boy form, in a different aspect. We spent a lot of time in Henderson, deciding even then if that's where we wanted to live, exploring the area, seeing what fit and what didn't. We stopped at a Smith's supermarket, and I walked around in awe because it felt like a neighborhood supermarket should. It felt like people cared about what they bought, whereas at a Ralphs or Vons here, people just grab what they need on an errand, throw it into the cart, zoom right into the checkout lane, pay for it, and zoom right out. At that Smith's, it felt like people took their time to shop, to buy what they truly wanted, what would fulfill them.

It was also a supermarket of unusual sights, namely a circular display outside one aisle filled with toy cars and trucks. Toy aisles at Ralphs and Vons are perfunctory and brief, filled with cheap crap to buy only when you're heading to a birthday party that you really don't want to go to, and you have to bring something.

Here were cars, VW Beetles, school buses. I looked at all of them, picked a few up, not for nostalgia's sake, but out of curiosity, because I still have that part of me. I discovered that my taste for cars had been replaced by working vehicles: School buses, ice cream trucks, street cleaners, daycare transports, moving vans and trucks, anything with a daily purpose.

At that display, I found a flour truck, dark brown at the front, lighter brown in the back, with doors that open on each side, and light peach-colored bags of flour that are highest at the top, and seem to have tumbled toward the bottom. On the left and right side of where the bags of flour are held, the logo of the "Diamond Flour Co." is stamped, and each side says, "Good Quality & Good Service." It was probably about six or seven dollars and I bought it. I wanted it as a reminder of a good place, and to start a collection of working vehicles.

That collection grew by five at Target in Valencia on Friday night. While Mom and Meridith looked at styluses for the Nintendo DS (since we'll need some new ones soon), I found a Curious George doll that reminded me of kindergarten at Sterling Park Elementary in Casselberry, and Mrs. Moffat let each student take home the Curious George doll for one night and bring it back the next day. At the end of the year, one of us got to take it home for good, and it wasn't me. It sure wasn't as big as the one that I picked up. I hope there is still something like that in some kindergarten classes.

After I showed it to Mom and Meridith, I put it back and then stopped at the Matchbox aisle to see if there were any airplanes, namely commercial airliners. Nothing with real-life airline logos on them since that's too specialized and it's what hobby shops and stores such as Puzzle Zoo are for, and especially "The Airplane Shop" near McCarran International in Las Vegas, which I'm jonesing to visit the next time I'm there.

Looking more closely at the packs of cars available, I spotted a five-pack with a street cleaning vehicle ("City Cleaner"), a moving truck ("Move-It"), a blue-and-green polka-dotted ice cream truck ("Polka Dot Ice Cream Co."), a daycare bus ("Child Care Learning Center"), and a red van for roadside service ("Mobile Vehicle Service"). I grabbed it, loving that I could get these five for nearly $6. I'm not sure if I'll have another plastic rectangular wastebasket filled with these kinds of vehicles, since I'm far more choosy than I was back then (If it was a car and the wheels moved, I wanted it) and I intend to treat these much more carefully.

Right now, I'm searching on Amazon for what Matchbox cars are available, and so far, there's a water truck, a garbage truck, a "Wildfire Crew Transport" truck, a dump truck, an RV camper, a dry bulk truck, a cement truck, a forklift, and a city bus I'd really like to find. And thinking about the Cheeseball Wagon food truck from the food truck festival that opened the newly refurbished Auto Row in Valencia early in the year, from which Meridith got a t-shirt, toy food trucks would be most welcome in my collection. I hope there's some enterprising minds thinking about that.

That Long, Peaceful Night

DirecTV had a free preview weekend of the Starz! and Encore channels, and I Tivo'd a great number of movies, deleting all the episodes I had recorded of The Good Wife to make room for them, along with episodes of Anthony Bourdain's No Reservations that I probably wouldn't watch despite my interest in them because many, many, many books take priority.

Early yesterday evening, I watched most of Same Time, Next Year, which is really skilled at understated dialogue, so that the laughs are bigger. The playwright Bernard Slade who adapted his play into this movie knows rhythms in dialogue and words within lines, such as when a pregnant Ellen Burstyn says, in reply to Alan Alda's question about whether she's comfortable, "In my condition, it's hard to be comfortable in any position."

I haven't finished it because I wanted to see if I could focus again on an entire evening of reading the rest of Blood, Bones & Butter by Gabrielle Hamilton, which is wonderful in the descriptions of a career as a chef, a career that didn't take a traditional path, but is incredibly tedious in the Italy section toward the end. The same vacation dredged up over and over through different contexts. Mostly, I wanted to see if I could read a 304-page book in one day, since I had started reading it after I got up at 11 that morning. I can, but it's mighty hard when I've only got a tenuous connection to a book. I connected to a few things said, and loved the culinary descriptions, but it took some willpower to get through many portions of it. It wasn't a matter of forcing myself; I just wanted to see where the story went, though more out of curiosity than interest.

And yet, I loved how the evening turned out because the TV was off, I was sitting on the couch reading, and the entire living room was silent. Just me and a book. Mom, Dad and Meridith were in the other room, Mom resting because of heartburn, Dad watching his Korean soap opera, and Meridith reading Chore Whore by Heather H. Howard, one of my favorite novels, and one she was curious about.

Reading like I was, I felt so light inside and so did the air around me. I was exactly where I belonged. On to the next book and more of the same!