Thursday, May 31, 2012

I'm Free!

Before I get to the main event, here are my latest DVD reviews. I'm saving the most important one for last:

The Woodmans

Treasure Houses of Britain

Diana Ross: Live in Central Park

Designing Women: 20 Timeless Episodes

Dirty Old Town

After I posted the Star Trek-related entry last night, I wrote the title for my next one, which was going to be "You Can't Feel the Ghosts Until Night Comes." I was going to explain how even though Santa Clarita has no desire for history, there's the feeling of ghosts at dusk and especially when it's completely dark, past figures that seem to want their history to be told, but don't come out during the day because no one busy enough then cares to know. I don't know who these past figures are, but before today, I sensed them. Maybe they only emerge at night because they know that the rare good writers and artists in Santa Clarita, though I haven't met any, are paying attention at night, are thinking and writing and painting, and maybe take inspiration from sensing the ghosts.

I was going to go into more detail than that, but I don't need to now, or ever. Early this morning, I finished watching the first season of Episodes, starring Matt LeBlanc, on DVD for a review, and it gave me my freedom from this region! I've gone from being continually frustrated here to being fully in transition to my new home in Las Vegas. Tonight, walking around inside the Walmart Supercenter on Carl Boyer Drive, I felt like a tourist for the first time since we first came to Southern California in April 2003. I feel nothing, just like most of the residents in Santa Clarita, I'm sure. When it's time to move (coming very soon), I'll carry nothing with me from here, save for King of California on DVD, since it's a good movie. As the Genie exclaims in Aladdin, I'm free-eeeeee!!!:

Thank you, Episodes!

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Space Mountain Leads to the Universe

I know that my passion in movies began in 1992 when I was 7 years old, and copied by hand onto a sheet of white posterboard a review of the animated movie Bebe's Kids. I saw my first movies when I was 5: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Jetsons: The Movie, which must have also had a part in it. When we had Jetsons: The Movie on VHS, I watched it over and over again, rewinding just before the main title sequence to hear those suddenly-orchestral notes of the theme song, and rewatching that artsy sequence while Judy Jetson (voice of Tiffany) sang. My then-interest exploded into a passion in middle school, when I spent summers watching as many movies as I could check out from the library, going back every week for more, and reading every movie history book I could find. Though my passion is muted now, and I'm much more choosy about what I watch, I still love movies.

I know that my passion for aviation stems from my parents taking me to Orlando International when I was toddler, to watch the planes take off and land. The passion remains, though no longer with a career trajectory.

I don't know where my passion for the presidents comes from, nor my passion for the Supreme Court, though I think the latter partially stems from my maternal great-grandfather, a good lawyer. It must have been somewhere in the genetic structure, though I will never go as far as him. I merely have an interest in legal proceedings, especially those of the Supreme Court and lower courts. That's all. I willingly read opinions of the Court, learning what I can from them and trying not to get fouled up by some of the terminology and legal references. It's more for me to learn, which I always like.

Over the past five days, my lifetime goal to read all the Star Trek novels ever published has gone ahead full force. I've read Star Trek 2 by James Blish, an adaptation of a selection of Original Series episodes; Star Trek Vanguard: Harbinger by David Mack (which has, according to Mack himself who answered my e-mail, an oblique tribute to Gilmore Girls by way of the residential area of the Vanguard space station being named Stars Landing (the town in Gilmore Girls being Stars Hollow). This after I e-mailed him, wondering if the names of the security guards of the landing party on Ravanar IV, Luke Patterson and Scott Danes, were a playful reversal of the names of Scott Patterson and his character Luke Danes. Mack told me that at the time he wrote Harbinger, he and his wife were watching old episodes on DVD, and new episodes on TV, and it remains one of his favorite series); and Star Trek Titan: Taking Wing by Michael A. Martin and Andy Mangels, which I excitedly ordered as soon as I read about it because in this series, First Officer William T. Riker of the U.S.S. Enterprise is now Captain Riker of the U.S.S. Titan. I haven't seen all the episodes of "The Next Generation" yet, but Riker is quite possibly my favorite character of the series. So this suited me perfectly.

And then Meridith recently brought home from the school library Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: Emissary by J.M. Dillard, which she found on one of the "Discard" shelves in a cabinet under the magazine display. She asked if I was going to read this particular series and I told her, "I'm going to read everything."

In those same five days, I ordered from Best Destiny by Diane Carey (about a soon-to-retire James T. Kirk thrust back into his past when he goes to a distant world called Faramond); Star Trek Starzgazer: Gauntlet by Michael Jan Friedman (28-year-old Jean-Luc Picard as captain of the Federation starship Stargazer, before he took command of the Enterprise); Star Trek 3 by James Blish (more episode adaptations); Star Trek Vanguard: Summon the Thunder by Dayton Ward and Kevin Dilmore (the second of that series); Star Trek: Vulcan's Soul: Exodus by Joseph Sherman and Susan Shwartz (Romulan Star Empire attacked by a new enemy called the Watraii, bringing together the Federation, Romulans, Klingons to try to fight it); Encounter at Farpoint by David Gerrold (adaptation of the pilot episode of "The Next Generation," and I should start reading that series of novels already); Star Trek Titan: The Red King by Michael A. Martin and Andy Mangels (the second of that series); and Articles of the Federation by Keith R.A. DeCandido (inside the Federation government).

Besides all this, I also want to watch every episode of every Star Trek series. I could do that now, what with "The Next Generation" regularly on BBC America and one or two other channels, and I'm sure I could find the Original Series somewhere on TV, but for now, it's one or the other, since I'm also shrinking my Las Vegas book stack ahead of getting a library card in the Clark County Library system. I'd rather get deep into many of these book series right now.

The cause of all this is Space Mountain at Walt Disney World, those star maps seen upon entering that building, the space music compositions heard while walking quickly through part of the empty line (I have all three as mp3s and listen to them often), looking up at the ceiling of Space Mountain and seeing those projections of asteroids and space rocks and shooting stars, and the ride itself, in seeing Mission Control on the way up, and seeing the model of that rocket ship when riding the Tomorrowland Transit Authority, which passes under the rising part of that track. I was entranced by all this and have never forgotten it. I know that this is what led to my curiosity about Star Trek and my desire to read all the novels. The outer space of Space Mountain can only go so far. Star Trek in all its variations goes much farther. And while I drive throughout Las Vegas and explore absolutely all that the Las Vegas Valley offers, I want to explore the entire Star Trek universe.

It's appropriate that my deep love of Space Mountain led to seeking out adventures in the Star Trek universe, being that my undying love for Walt Disney World made me who I am today, open-minded, always in pursuit of fun, taking pleasure in so many things each day, and led to my love of Las Vegas, which embodies all three.

One of these days I'll figure out why I'm passionate about the presidents. There has to be answer, but I'll think about it as I read more of those books, and write my presidential history books, and visit those presidential libraries. The answer might spring from any of that.

Places to Go, History to Study, People to Meet, A Country to Crisscross

A Floridian friend of mine is going to New York this weekend for her cousin's wedding, and once I shrugged off the envy I felt, what with The Strand in Manhattan, with its 18 miles of books, and the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum upstate in Hyde Park, I thought about all the states I must visit, mainly for the presidential libraries and museums they contain. It's quite a list:

The Herbert Hoover Presidential Library and Museum in West Branch, Iowa

The Harry S. Truman Library & Museum in Independence, Missouri

The Dwight D. Eisenhower Presidential Library & Museum in Abilene, Kansas

The John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum in Boston (I also want to try New England Clam Chowder in the New England region, and I read about the Union Oyster House, also in Boston. I want to go.)

The Lyndon Baines Johnson Library & Museum in Austin, Texas (It'll be my first time in Texas since August 2003 when it took two days to drive through on our way to Southern California. I don't remember much of it, except the heat)

The Gerald R. Ford Presidential Library & Museum in Ann Arbor and Grand Rapids, Michigan (I would like to see the Library, too, so I'll make time for that when I'm there)

The Jimmy Carter Library and Museum in Atlanta

The George Bush Presidential Library and Museum in College Station, Texas (I'll either spend a few days in Texas to cover the Johnson and Bush presidential libraries, or make separate trips. I just never imagined going back to Texas for anything, yet there'll I'll be for these)

The William J. Clinton Presidential Library and Museum in Little Rock, Arkansas (Especially important to me since I grew up during the Clinton Administration and want to see what I didn't pay a great deal of attention to then)

The George W. Bush Presidential Library at Southern Methodist University in Dallas (This will probably be open by the time I embark on any of these trips, and I've got a lot of thinking to do about Texas. Cover it all in one shot or separate trips? I first hope to earn enough money at my full-time job, and from freelance work I want to pursue after moving to Las Vegas, and I'll think about it further when I feel financially comfortable enough to start planning these trips)

And then there's others not run by the National Archives:

The Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum in Springfield, Illinois

The Rutherford B. Hayes Presidential Center in Fremont, Ohio

The William McKinley Presidential Library and Museum in Canton, Ohio

The Woodrow Wilson Presidential Library in Staunton, Virginia

The Calvin Coolidge Presidential Library and Museum in Northampton, Massachusetts

I'm disappointed that there isn't a library for William Howard Taft, considering that he was President of the United States for one term, then eventually Chief Justice of the United States, and responsible for the Supreme Court building as it looks today. His life should be a museum as well.

And, of course, I want to travel throughout New Mexico, triggered by reading The Secret of Everything by Barbara O'Neal. I want to see the entire state, just like I want to with Nevada. And I also want to go to Washington, D.C. to see the White House, the Supreme Court, the Library of Congress, and the National Archives building. Seems appropriate.

For now, before these extensive travels, I'll have Las Vegas to settle into and get to know intimately, and ransack the Nevada history sections at my future local libraries. Nevada (not just the Las Vegas Valley) gives off the feeling that you can try anything, and you should. I intend to. I'll grow my roots, I'll do research for the books I want to write, I'll visit all the casinos, I'll experience the Smith Center, I'll drive through Henderson and Summerlin often and stop at the shops that interest me, I'll attend a few UNLV Rebels basketball games, I'll go often to the Pinball Hall of Fame on East Tropicana Avenue, and more. I'll finally physically live the way I do in my heart and mind. It'll start with the Las Vegas Valley and it'll eventually extend to the rest of the United States.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Disappointment That Fortunately Does Not Represent Henderson

My writerly crush on The Henderson Press has come to a sad end. At the beginning, it was justified. Jeremy Twitchell made Henderson's City Council come alive in ways that could make other city councils across the country wish they could be covered like this. He had such passion for policy and exchanges between each member of the council that made you feel like you were there. It was important because these were issues that affected the city at large, and he made sure readers knew. He was part of the first wave of earnest reporters that made The Henderson Press good from the start, if a bit shoddy in its construction as those behind it tried to figure out what it should look like. But if the design looked a little wonky, the writing never was. Oh sure, Fred Couzens got a little too cute in his articles, but give him an issue with a lot of technical details, like the Pittman Wash, or what the Regional Transportation Commission was up to with the bus system in Henderson and he could help you understand it as if you had come up with the policy yourself. Give him any bloated jargon by the representatives of any business that had things to attend to in Henderson and articles by him would appear that probably helped those representatives understand their own business better too. Between him and Twitchell, I felt like I was part of Henderson, deeply invested in it, even though I'm not there yet. Whether as a frequent visitor or resident, I'm still not sure yet, but I felt such a strong connection to the city because of those two.

And Don Logay. Don "Lake Las Vegas Booster" Logay. But whereas a booster will promote the heck out of something with overly flowery language, Logay had such a passion for Lake Las Vegas that he never showed outright. He preferred to let readers suss it out for themselves, as it should be since he was reporting on activities in Lake Las Vegas and impartiality should be the number one consideration. Because of him, I learned more about Lake Las Vegas than I had when I was near there, but not completely there, when I visited the Las Vegas Valley the past few times. Because of him, I want to walk those cobblestone streets and feel what he felt through those articles.

I don't know what the factors were that led to Twitchell's departure. I do know that he was interim editor for a time while a new editor was sought, and did The Henderson Press even have a regular editor when it started? I can't be sure because it was never listed in the masthead. Maybe Twitchell had overseen it all this time and this was the first time he was credited. When I was interim editor of the weekend Escape section of The Signal for five weeks, I didn't want the full-time job. I couldn't have the full-time job. I don't drive in the Santa Clarita Valley, which is important for gathering stories, and they wanted someone who did. I didn't mind because I hated the stress of the job. I could meet the deadlines, but with the exception of Tom, who worked with me, putting the section together for me and suggesting where each article should go, I got very tepid support. I heard not a peep from the editor nor the publisher, only when something had to be changed, and then I wasn't informed about that change until after the issue had been published. With a better support system, it would have been easier.

Perhaps Twitchell wanted to be the editor, and he was passed over, and didn't like that this was the respect he got after how much time and effort he devoted to the newspaper, and decided to leave. However, his wife had had a child in the meantime while also writing for the paper, so perhaps he wanted to spend more time with his family than with the paper. Understandable. But the transition from the Twitchell Era to what exists now was rough, and still is from the standpoint of Vol. 2, No. 37, dated November 10-16, 2011.

But I have to go back further, to a little after editor Carla J. Zvosec took over. Under Zvosec, the City Council is pushed nearly to the back of the newspaper under "Council Briefs," and, so far, they're only allowed at the front if there's something potentially scandalous, such as the resignation of City Attorney Elizabeth Quillin over three DUI misdemeanor charges. On hard news, she's a fine writer, but the newspaper is missing a lot.

For example, articles end awkwardly, such as with Don Logay's "Bettie Page Suits Henderson," in the August 11-17, 2011 issue about a couple bringing Bettie Page stores to the Las Vegas Strip and around the country. Logay ends the article "The Golden Age of Fashion is back . . . thanks to Khomyakova and Bettie Page." This is not Logay. And it is not up to Logay in an article like this to declare that, since it's a profile that should not smack of boosterism like that. Just write the profile on the couple and leave it to readers to decide what they think. I suspect it's more Zvosec's influence than Logay's decision on that one, and I wish Zvosec would stop trying to push readers like this. The story is enough without editorialization. If the story is lacking, then gather more information, or find an angle that allows a fuller story to be told.

Jenny Twitchell used to write great columns about her life as a parent. Zvosec's influence, in the same issue as Logay's article, pushed her to include where Moms with sudden time on their hands from kids going to school can find activities, such as book clubs, and knitting groups. She couldn't trust Twitchell to filter it through her own experience, to figure out what interests her and mention what she researched in the attempt? This is not the Jenny Twitchell whose columns I grew to like. This is Jenny Twitchell via Carla Zvosec. By this, I sense a distinct lack of trust in the writers and reporters.

That's not even the worst of it for me. An article by Lori Wilk in the September 8-14, 2011 issue (Vol. 2, No. 28) about PRISM, an on-the-job fatigue software system, to determine if employees are fatigued, has no local angle. Do any Henderson businesses use this sytem? We don't know. Is the Henderson Chamber of Commerce aware of this system and are any of its member businesses planning to use it? Wilk doesn't say. Has PRISM been presented to businesses in Henderson? We don't know that either. There is nothing in this article to tie it to Henderson. It's interesting on its own, but being that this is a community newspaper, everything in it should have a connection to Henderson.

The Las Vegas Review-Journal can't cover Henderson all the time. The Henderson Press is the greatest link its residents have to learning about what's going on, a closer look at all of that, no matter that it's a weekly paper. But besides the annoying boosterism, which makes articles seem more like press releases as written by The Henderson Press (See the article about Sweet Tomatoes Express opening in Henderson in the same issue as the Wilk article, as one of many examples), there are painful missed opportunities as well.

In the "Community Events" section in the September 22-28, 2011 issue (Vol. 2, No. 30), the "Hot Spot of the Week" event is "Rick's Cafe Americain featuring jazz vocalist Laura Shaffer," at the E-String Grill on West Sunset Road, billed as "a re-creation of the famed music and ambience of the movie Casablanca." Why wasn't there a story about this?! Casablanca is one of the greatest, most famous movies ever made, and there are so many local angles to pursue! Who is Laura Shaffer? How did she get involved in this? Did she create the program? How many times did she and her bandmates (if they are her bandmates) watch the movie in order to pin down the sound and how long did they rehearse until they got it right? What interested the E-String Grill in hosting this? Who brought this in? This is a story! And all it got was a spot in the community events calendar.

I've peeked at later issues, including the latest, May 24-30 (Vol. 3, No. 21), and I'm seeing more of the same. More boosterism at the expense of actual reporting. Boosterism only works if you show. I can't entirely fault Jamie Barnard, an editorial intern, over the article about The Lakeshore Learning Store, but this sentence bothers me: "Lakeshore Learning Store, located in the Warm Springs Promenade at 1243 W. Warm Springs Road in Henderson, offers fun and unique products that really get kids excited about learning." Foul! Editorializing, yet again. Don't tell it; show it. And this is probably nitpicking, but I'll chance it: I don't think "Henderson" needs to be listed in that sentence. The newspaper is called The Henderson Press. I think those who read this will know that the store is in Henderson by dint of it being in this paper.

As for Josh Morris's movie reviews, which look like they've been around for a bit, I can confidently say that I'm relieved that Josh Bell is still the film critic at Las Vegas Weekly. He's my tonic after reading Morris, who writes too much about the plot and not enough of his opinion, or even to thread his opinion throughout his description of the plot and characters, which should always be a mix of both. I can't fault him though. I used to be as bad as this. I hope he gets better.

Also, Henderson has an Historical Society that I'm sure The Henderson Press hasn't tapped yet. There's a steady stream of stories to explore, moreso than just the gray "Historical Henderson" box under the Sudoku puzzle.

I'm disappointed in what The Henderson Press has become. It used to not be able to get enough of Henderson. Through Twitchell, Couzens' easygoing nature with technical details, and Logay's deep interest in Lake Las Vegas, it always wanted more and more and more and wanted to give just that much to readers. It used to be inside Henderson. Now it feels like it's above Henderson, looking out at all the land, bored with it. Fortunately, The Henderson Press is not representative of the entire city because I know it's more interesting than it makes it out to be. It holds its own next to Las Vegas. To me, it's just as interesting. I wish The Henderson Press felt that way and returned to being as hungry as it used to be for stories. They're out there, and they should be filling space instead of press releases in the guise of articles.

Even with all my grievances, I am glad that The Henderson Press is around. The events calendar is at least interesting, and the paper should pay more attention to that too in order to find more stories. There are so many people to talk to, to interview, to find out what's going on and to bring more vibrancy to this city through these pages. Those opportunities should not go to waste. It's become complacent, too comfortable with itself. It should do more in the city than just existing. It doesn't feel like Zvosec is pushing this latest crop of reporters to get better at this, to find more interesting stories, to dig deeper, to try harder, to perhaps even get more excited about Henderson. However, I'll never stop hoping that it gets better.

But I just can't do it anymore. I can't read every issue from front to back, every article from beginning to end. I skim now, because it's about all I can stand to do. The only real use I've been getting out of it under the Zvosec Administration is the crime map in order to learn street names, because I want to find out why these are the names (See, Henderson Press? That could be an article or a few). Otherwise, I see what the Henderson Libraries are up to when there's an article about them, though I can be stopped dead in my tracks by a well-written article, which does happen at least once each issue. So there is that. But it used to be more than just once an issue.

The skimming gets me closer to starting on the 5,432 issues of Henderson Home News on the Henderson Libraries website. Henderson Home News is what there was from 1951 to 2009 and I will read all those issues. I wonder if Zvosec has looked into that history, explored what that paper was like all those decades ago, what people cared about back then. Some of those issues are present today. I looked at that first page of that first issue of Henderson Home News and there's a lot going on on that first page alone. The Henderson Press, even with 24 pages, should look to emulate that. I always say that if you can't write in Las Vegas, you should quit. There are just as many stories in Henderson. If local businesses continue to be profiled, then there should be more about what drives those business owners, what makes them passionate about what they do, what brought them to Henderson if they're relatively new. There was an article about a frozen popcorn business that dips briefly into how it's made, but nothing about what interested that owner in creating this business, how much time it took to perfect that process, or how they attained the materials necessary to start that exploration. Just those two words, "frozen popcorn," are enough to trigger such curiosity about how it all happened, and those details weren't even covered. Businesses are important in Henderson, but there should be more about the nuts-and-bolts of them. The right angle, one that goes deep, can produce a great story.

The Henderson Press should bring people together as much as the city does on its own. I hope it gets better somehow. There are so many chances for that. They need to take them. What's the worst that could happen? Increased circulation?

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Another Reason to Learn the History of Street Names

I've found the inverse of my displeasure over Spiced Wine Avenue in Henderson, and another reason to learn the history of the city's street names. In the slightly revamped issue of The Henderson Press (smaller type, no e-mail addresses under bylines, addresses on the crime map pressed together rather than space in between), Vol. 2, No. 23, dated August 4-10, 2011, "Tobble Creek Ct." is listed under "Vehicle Theft" on the crime map.

I love that name! It's wonderfully unique, and a Google search of it reveals only numbered addresses in that area. No history in other parts of the United States, no reason for the name. It sounds like a sci-fi name, but I want to know perhaps who came up with it, but mostly how. It sounds like science fiction, and a Google search of the name alone shows a platform sandal by Jessica Simpson of that name, a slanted-sphere toy, and a slang term for a hot water bottle. Also a character in World of Warcraft, though that doesn't seem like a possible reason because surely this street name existed long before World of Warcraft. I'll see. I will find out. Once a resident, I want to explore every inch of the Las Vegas Valley and in this case, that includes street names, with this and Spiced Wine Avenue being my first missions.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Tired, But Satisfied

A call last night from the automated sub system for the Hart School District. A request for me to sub for the campus supervisor with my favorite hours, 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. The first time I've subbed since December, since furlough days made the campus supervisors skittish about taking time off during this latter half of the school year. Disappointing, but it was great to have work again, an hourly rate, and a check to come soon. I'm not sure if I'll be called in during the final week of the school year coming up, but I loved doing the job again.

I'm exhausted, of course. First, I had to go to bed earlier than I usually do, which I've no complaints about, even though my body made an epic attempt to get used to getting up at 6 a.m. instead of 10 a.m., and I was still tired on the way to work, also stemming from having gone to bed at 12:30 and having a little over five hours of sleep. I have to make adjustments. I need to start getting to bed earlier even though there's not a job coming up just yet. I need to because I need my body to be used to it by the time we move to Las Vegas. I need to be ready for job interviews and hopefully that position as a full-time campus supervisor.

I love the work. I love walking around an empty campus while the kids are in class, looking at the architecture (which isn't anything remarkable, since the buildings at La Mesa Junior High look the same as the buildings at Valencia High, my sister's alma mater), thinking about my reading, my writing, and, of course, seeking out some kind of history. At this moment, I'm thinking of all of La Mesa sitting there in the dark, gates locked, ghosts of history gradually emerging, more than they did today, even though I could sense them. There are untapped memories there. It's keeping in the style of the Santa Clarita Valley that brief glimpses of history are there, but aren't allowed to fully bloom. Always the future, as I've mentioned before.

Today was a busy day, mainly because on my first day back, I always overdo it. After the bell rang and the kids went to class for first period, I walked around and around and around the campus. John, the head campus supervisor, disappears into the campus supervisors' office, near the front gate, after the bell rings. I get it, because unless you're called, why expend the energy that you need for later, in supervising brunch (15-minute break) and lunch? I wasn't looking to impress anyone since I already know that I do a good, faithful job there. I should have taken it slower. But first, I wanted to get reacquainted with the campus, then have a few uninterrupted opportunities to look at the adobe-style building across from the office, and imagine that I was in New Mexico, where I hope to be many times in the years to come.

Most of my day was spent walking back and forth from the P.E. building. Kids to bring to the office to leave early, kids to go to the guidance counselors, one girl brought to one of the assistant principals because of a lighter in her backpack. By 11 a.m., I was already yawning. I wasn't all that tired, but my body sure wasn't happy. If there was a second day, a third day, I'd be used to it again.

I felt so satisfied today. This is what I want to do. I realized, though, that I have to make a few other adjustments, none troublesome. For one, in my finances, I need to put in a shoe budget. I'm going to wear out a lot of pairs of velcro sneakers, and I also have to buy protective insoles because I don't want to buy shoes with those already in them. I want velcro, and thus far only a certain brand that I wear right now. I'm happy to do that, because I'll be fully part of a middle school campus that I'll take as much pride in as I have at La Mesa. I've felt close to La Mesa, but not close enough. I can do the job, but I want to feel that connection in my job. I will in Las Vegas.

Generally, in this job, your days off are when the school has days off. You have the summer all for yourself, though I'll also seek work during the summer, in freelance writing. When the workday is over, it's over. You don't have to bring any work home with you, and you don't have to think about the day. The rest is yours, and your paycheck is secure. What more could I ask for? It's good, solid work. And in hindsight, it was probably inevitable, what with hanging around empty school campuses where my mom and dad worked, the same campuses where I attended middle school and high school.

To have a job I like in a hometown I love will more than make up for these nearly nine years in an unfeeling region. Judging from today, I still love it, so it'll be the easiest transition.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

My Favorite Henderson Press Article

I've read 25 issues of The Henderson Press thus far, and have liked many articles, but none have struck me as a favorite until now. Vol. 2, No. 20, dated Thursday, July 14, 2011, has an article on page 14 about 25-year Master Floral Designer Jill Ann Ferrero, who makes all the floral entrance displays at the Casino MonteLago in Lake Las Vegas. She also makes new arrangements in front of an audience every Thursday morning at the casino in the "Cerimonia dei Fiore" (Flower Ceremony). Ferrero is the kind of creative person I love to read about, and I'm relieved that writer Don Logay isn't as breathless in this article as he usually is about everything else in Lake Las Vegas. This was a terrific article with beautiful photos of two types of arrangements. It's going to be hard for any future article to top this.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Spiced Wine Avenue? Come On.

Ever since The Henderson Press became a weekly newspaper in Volume 2, No. 8, they've added a few things to fill more pages besides longer articles, including a City of Henderson Crime Map, pointing out where in Henderson burglaries, robberies, assaults, sex assaults, vehicle thefts, family disturbances, and narcotics happened. I read it just to learn street names. Crime will happen anywhere, and I'll just be careful and alert enough, keeping myself safe.

But now I've got research to do. I want to know who came up with these street names and why, if it was one person per area or many people. I like some of these names, such as Blueberry Lane, Warm Springs Road, Tullio Way, Coralino Drive, West Horizon Ridge Parkway, Zinnia Circle, and Bugle Bluff Drive. On the crime map in the Thursday, June 9, 2011 issue, Volume 2, No. 15, a vehicle theft happened on the 1500 block of Spiced Wine Avenue.

Spiced Wine Avenue? I thought some effort was made to give streets names that correlate to that particular area, either historically, or in observation of what a particular area faces, or something totally random but which makes sense in the context of the city. Some don't make sense, like Windmill Parkway, but it gives off a bit of imagination. Where the hell did Spiced Wine Avenue come from? Some wine-drinking contingent from Southern California that was assigned to name these streets? I want to know its origin, not necessarily to mock, but just to be able to shake my head knowledgeably. I can't accept that one.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

It's Time

For the past few days, I've been feeling it acutely: It's time to go. It's time to pack it up here after nine too-long years, taking only what we really need, and head on out to Las Vegas and start a new life that we've needed for all those nine years. I did some good here in Santa Clarita, writing a while for the Canyon Call at College of the Canyons, being the interim editor of the Escape section of The Signal for five weeks in early 2008, and I gained a few then-new favorite writers (now they're reliable favorites), but that's not enough. I've never felt close to any part of these lands, the people, the buildings. What I want, what Mom wants, what Meridith wants, what I hope Dad wants, is in Las Vegas.

I'm able-bodied. I can work. I want to be a full-time middle school campus supervisor. I've studied campuses closely since kindergarten, and known them intimately since 6th grade, when Dad resumed his teaching career first as a substitute teacher after 19 years at Southern Bell (which became BellSouth in the process). I followed him to Silver Trail Middle in 7th grade, in which the first half of that school year was spent at a cluster of portables near our condo in Grand Palms Golf & Country Club in Pembroke Pines (nothing fancy; we lived way in the back end), and then during that winter break, teachers and administration moved into the new school site that had just finished construction. I walked around that school many, many times, before any of my classmates and other students occupied it. I also spent 8th grade at Silver Trail, and then in 9th grade, at Flanagan High School, I went back to that former Silver Trail campus of portables, which became Flanagan's, because the main campus was so overcrowded that they had to place us 9th graders somewhere else. Mom was working on the main campus in their copy machine center, making copies for all the teachers, and then I joined her on that campus for 10th grade. In 11th grade, she moved to Hollywood Hills High School as a library assistant, and I went to school there for my final two years.

Attending College of the Canyons here, I loved late Friday afternoons when my cinema class let out (always an easy "A"), when the campus was empty and I walked around, looking at those hallways, feeling that utter peace that spread throughout those enormous three floors. And then being a substitute campus supervisor at Dad's school, La Mesa Junior High, I was very happy in that job. I love studying the architecture of these campuses, even if most of it is the same in this valley, as what's at La Mesa is the same at Valencia High. I didn't mind it. There was one building, across from the office, that felt like adobe architecture. I'd look at that and imagine that I was in New Mexico, where I want to be in the years to come, to travel throughout it.

I can be comfortable at any middle school campus in Las Vegas. I look forward to getting to know those kids, to making sure they behave while outside, to keep the school in good standing. I'm excited about this chance because I will finally be in an area whose history I can feel, whose history I want to explore. Not only is there one book I want to write about a certain aspect of Las Vegas history that has interested me for the few years I've known about Las Vegas, but I had an idea for a novel set in Las Vegas that I want to pursue. I won't be looking to prove anything about Las Vegas as other novels tend to do. It is a hedonistic paradise, and that's where I want to be. That's how I want to live. It'll be set in 1950s Las Vegas, because the historical figure involved lived during that time and visited Las Vegas during that time. There's a lot of research to do not only about 1950s Las Vegas, but about this figure himself, and the famous gambler who it's claimed escorted him around town, but apparently cannot be confirmed.

This will be my home. This is where I belong. This is where I can place roots and have a home base, and travel to the presidential libraries and smaller presidential museums I still want to visit, and travel throughout New Mexico, and know that I have a home to come back to. It's a comforting thought that I haven't had all that often because of how many times we moved throughout Florida and then here to Southern California, to Valencia, and then to Saugus a year after we arrived. It's there. It's all there. I told Meridith today that I'm going to be so relieved to have a library card, because more than that driver's license to come at the Nevada DMV, it means I have somewhere I belong. A home. A library. A home library. Home in all its forms. Streets and businesses and casinos and amusements to explore every single day. If you can't write in Las Vegas, you might as well give up writing. I can write there for sure. And I can live there for sure. I know it.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

More DVD Reviews

I've figured out how to write my main character in my somewhat art-driven novel, why he's so devoted to his art, what he hopes to continue to accomplish by it. I'm not sure yet why he's going to do what's presented to him, but I'll map it out soon. When I'm not working on this novel or my other books, I'm still keeping myself limber by writing DVD reviews, and I see that I haven't posted links to new DVD reviews since April 29. There have been a lot since Car 54, Where Are You?: The Complete Second Season. Out of this new batch, I'm most proud of my review of Raw Faith. 95 Miles to Go comes in second:

Carlos Mencia: New Territory

The Big C: The Complete Second Season

Tom and Jerry: Around the World

Raw Faith

Happiness Is... Peanuts: Team Snoopy

Young Goethe in Love

95 Miles to Go

Hazel: The Complete Third Season

Barney Vinson's Got It

I'm nearing the end of The Vegas Kid by Barney Vinson, and though the plot doesn't move much (I'm sure there's a climax coming along soon, though), Vinson mirrors the atmosphere of Las Vegas perfectly, especially this line at the beginning of chapter 17 on page 137:

"Sam was happy, though. He didn't mind being Sammy Duran or dealing crap at Blackie's. In fact, he liked living in the desert and being himself for a change instead of some chrome-plated cowboy."

Exactly. Las Vegas is all about being yourself, doing what you want to do, tapping into your deepest passions and bring them swiftly to the surface. I'm going to dive into so much after we move there, inside and outside of Southern Nevada.

I also love Vinson's "About the Author" paragraph on the very last page:

Barney Vinson was born in the U.S.A., raised in Texas, and moved to Las Vegas a long time ago. He worked as a dice dealer at the old Dunes Hotel, then went to Caesars Palace where he was the casino gaming instructor for another long time. He lives in a small house by the side of the road with the Vegas skyline in the distance and writes full-time, while his wife Debbie works and pays the bills; they take in stray cats by appointment only. Vinson is the author of 23 books (six of which have been published). The Vegas Kid is his first novel.

I want to be Barney Vinson, but not working in any casinos. I want to earn enough money to write often, and I want to live as he writes. He and I have the same sense of humor.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

One of My All-Time Favorite Lines about Las Vegas

As I read more and more about Las Vegas, I'm sure other all-time favorite lines will emerge, but it'll take a lot to top this one, from Las Vegas: Behind the Tables! Part 2 by Barney Vinson, when he's arrived at the Sands for the 35th Anniversary Celebration:

"I went through the door of the Sands and caught the blast of a thousand slot machines having dinner."

Wisdom from Benny Binion

In my attempt to shrink my Las Vegas book stack ahead of a transition to the Clark County libraries once I become a resident of Las Vegas, I just finished reading Las Vegas: Behind the Tables! Part 2 by Barney Vinson, one of the few truly great Las Vegas writers, since he worked in casinos there for well over 20 years and lived so many of the massive changes, and knows it so well. I've begun reading his novel, The Vegas Kid, and though Sam Durango is still in Los Angeles, I know that Vinson will get the feel of 1970s Las Vegas right.

Toward the end of Las Vegas: Behind the Tables! Part 2, he interviews Benny Binion, the giant of downtown Las Vegas, with a story that could very well have become a TV show if CBS' new series about legendary Las Vegas sheriff Ralph Lamb hadn't worked out. His Binion's Horseshoe Hotel and Casino, at least in his time, believed in treating the gambler with respect. However much money they walked in with was how much they could play. There was no limit, unlike the Strip casinos. I'm not sure yet if it's the same way today, but I agree with Binion's wisdom, which is actually his modus operandi:

I asked him to describe the Horseshoe Club in his own words, and he took his time answering.

"Well, it's got to be a friendly place. Treat people with courtesy, feed 'em good. Cheap. Good whiskey cheap. And give 'em a good gamble. That's all there is to it, son."

All of it applies to living life as well.

Then a Binion saying that is valid no matter who you are:

It was a wild and wooly time in the nation's existence. Prohibition was starting, a Depression was coming. Like Binion himself was fond of saying, though: "Tough times make tough people."

Amen, Mr. Binion.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

My Childhood and Adulthood as Hosted by Marc Summers

Part of my childhood involved hours and hours of Nickelodeon: Double Dare, hosted by Marc Summers. Family Double Dare, hosted by Marc Summers. Super Sloppy Double Dare, hosted by Marc Summers. What Would You Do?, hosted by Marc Summers. Make the Grade, hosted by Lew Schneider for a year, and then Robb Edward Morris for the final year. Legends of the Hidden Temple, hosted by Kirk Fogg. Figure It Out, hosted by Summer Sanders. Nickelodeon Guts, hosted by Mike O'Malley. And on PBS, there was Where in the World Is Carmen Sandiego?, hosted by Greg Lee, with a formidable force in Lynne Thigpen as the Chief.

They were all good hosts, enthusiastic, into the game, and Kirk Fogg was always game in swinging onto the set, but none of them could outmatch Marc Summers. He was having just as much fun as the kids, the families, and others in both Double Dare and What Would You Do? His sincerity was genuine, not staged for the benefit of filling time. When he asked questions about the families on Family Double Dare, he truly wanted to know. He thrives on people, while also making himself distinct.

I thought about this early this morning after watching an episode of How It's Made, Tivo'd from the Science Channel, and had a yen to watch Unwrapped on Food Network again. The same concept as How It's Made, but with food and drink. And there's Marc Summers again, with that same enthusiasm. It hasn't wavered all these years. He also appears as a correspondent on The Chew on ABC and insight into types of food is made more interesting because he's interested. I sometimes wish that he would host America's Funniest Home Videos, because Tom Bergeron strikes me as phony sometimes. However, Summers is best where he is with Unwrapped, The Next Food Network Star, and those occasional segments on The Chew. He's doing the same good in my adulthood that he did in my childhood.

Monday, May 14, 2012

History Sailing Lazily in Palmdale

Mother's Day. Standing in front of the hand dryer in the restroom at McDonald's, hitting the button once more to get my hands fully dry. Riffling through DVDs at Office Depot, happily finding that Rodrigo Garcia's Mother and Child still matters enough to be sold, even at Office Depot. At an outdoor table at Sonic, quickly retrieving fluttering napkins under the spell of wind, Palmdale's chief import. Finding Crispix on the top shelf of the cereal aisle in Walmart, across from Sonic.

I felt it in all those places. In that McDonald's restroom, someone was there before me. Not immediately before, or 20 minutes before, but further back. Way further back. I felt it on the road to Palmdale and past patches of desert on the way to Petco, and then PetSmart, and then Office Depot, then Sonic, then Walmart. The farther you get from the frenetic nature of Los Angeles and the willful historical amnesia of that part of the region, the more room there is for land to breathe, there's a bigger sense of history. I'm still trying to believe that people in Baker are living there by choice, but it's easy to believe that people in Palmdale are. I imagine them as descendants of prospects, settlers, people comfortable with living in such a barren setting, who could make their lives out of the wide swaths of dirt and bleached-out ground. The little grass that's there has to have been there long before anyone even thought of establishing Palmdale.

History doesn't press upon Palmdale like it does in Buena Park. It has a lighter touch, like it does in Anaheim, but it's more of a hands-off approach. It sails lazily in the sky like crows circling and circling above the Walmart parking lot. They have wind turbines in that lot to provide power in the store so that not as much electrical power has to be used. And I wonder about the process of that, who decided on it, what meetings were held, how long the construction took. But then I look across the street from where I'm sitting at Sonic, and I wonder what had been there before that shopping center.

The difference between Buena Park and Palmdale is that there's not as much a need to know the history of Palmdale because the history is always there somewhere. It's right out in the open; you don't have to explore as much. It's quick, whereas the history of Buena Park takes time to know. That's not to say that Palmdale's history is shallow, but you can know it right away, the settlements that were there, the artifacts that possibly remain.

Walking into PetSmart, I said to Mom about being in Palmdale, "Consider it a dry run for parts of Las Vegas." Some areas are as wide-ranging as Palmdale, with that much desert showing. Even with how dense the Strip is with people and hotels and shops and restaurants, you go around the back and there's the desert, going further and further the other way. That history is always available, and there are so many resources to tap to find it. It doesn't feel like Palmdale has quite the same resources, but surely they've collected their history somewhere, and keep it close because what came before cannot be forgotten, otherwise that section of the desert has nothing.

Because it's not near Los Angeles and therefore doesn't have the same "Forward! Always forward!" attitude, there is time for reflection in Palmdale. History will always have room. I don't think I could ever thrive there, but it's nice to know that history is alive in another part of Southern California. I just hope it remains.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Which Las Vegas Do I Want First?

I'm not overwhelmed by what's to come. I'm curious. I'm fascinated. All this will belong to me. What do I want to do first?

First, settling in. Then a car. Then a job. Then a library card and total exploration. I'll have the rest of my life to do what I want in Las Vegas, Henderson, Boulder City, Summerlin, and everywhere else in Nevada, all those roads to see, those mountains (mountains to not have to live in like I do here), and all that nature scenery. Plus I want to see my favorite view again, from that rock ledge near the Hacienda Hotel and Casino on the way to Hoover Dam, looking out at that ocean of desert.

The one thing I'm getting used to before we move over there is that nothing there is as split up as it is here, and as it was in Florida. Four hours to Walt Disney World from South Florida, which is understandable because that's where Walt Disney wanted it. To get to the Main library branch of the Broward County Library system, 25 minutes to downtown Fort Lauderdale, traffic or no traffic. Not so bad, but still time to take to get there. Different scenery was always welcome, but there was never a great connection because of that distance. I felt closer to the small gas station next to the entrance to Grand Palms Golf & Country Club in Pembroke Pines (where, after you pass through the security barrier lifted by a press of a button from the guardhouse, there's houses on both sides, and we had to drive two miles on the property to get to the Las Verdes condos, where we lived), but that was also because they made the best Cafe Cubano anywhere in South Florida. Even though I don't have caffeine anymore, I miss that.

I'm getting used to so much being available to me so closely in Las Vegas and Henderson and Summerlin and Boulder City. There's still a drive time to get anywhere, but it's not as disconnected, definitely not like driving freeways to get to Burbank, Pasadena, Beverly Hills, and Los Angeles from Santa Clarita. Getting to Ventura takes time too, and you never feel like a resident of California (not that I ever have anyway), just a tourist wherever you go. Depending on where we move to, I love possibly being able to drive to the Pinball Hall of Fame and come back to our residence and I feel as close to that as I did to that gas station. I may not see it all the time because of there being so much to do (although I would like to visit the Pinball Hall of Fame often; I think they also have Galaga), but it's there for me whenever I want it. It's always available and always welcoming. That's most important to me. If I go to the Cosmpolitan to see that art vending machine I've heard about (It looks like one of those old cigarette machines. You put $5 in, pull one of the handles, and someone's artwork comes out. It's a small piece, but still creative), there it is for me to look at. If I go to Caesars Palace to enjoy that wide open space on the casino floor, I can walk around as much as I want. I want to eventually find a slot machine that I can pinpoint as my favorite (I don't gamble anyway; I use them as a kind of meditation. A dollar in the machine and one line played every time, I just sit there and think about my life, about what I want to do, about what I've done, about what I want to write, etc.), and I know that every slot machine is open to me doing that. My dad's favorite is a video slot machine called Cops and Doughnuts, which is funny, but it's not my kind of machine. Nor are the ones that use "Q," "A," "K," "J," and "10" on its reels and aren't poker machines. There are so many of those with so many different themes, and it was disheartening to find that 80% of those at Fiesta Henderson were exactly that.

I can have all of Las Vegas, Henderson, Boulder City, and Summerlin. That's most important to me. Living here in Saugus, there's not as much access to the Valencia Town Center Mall as there was when we lived in one of the two apartment complexes behind the Pavilions and HomeGoods shopping center. Not that it's a mall worth going to now after Waldenbooks closed years ago and then Borders closed recently (though I've always liked Barnes & Noble better, but I'll take a bookstore here where I can get it), but at least it was there. In Las Vegas, malls will be there, casinos will be there, unique shops will be there, all those lights will be there, and I can have them whenever I want. If we move to Henderson, I can still have them. If we do move to Las Vegas, I can have them closer. I don't have to have them all the time if I don't want to, but the option is always there. Considering that I want to explore every inch of Southern Nevada, I'll want them all the time.

And after I'm settled in enough, I want to start planning my travels to New Mexico and all the presidential libraries in the nation, save for Nixon's and Reagan's. Already done, and I don't ever want to go back to Southern California. I won't have enough money right away to go, plus I want to establish my hoped-for career as a middle school campus supervisor first. I'm giving myself a year and a half to two years after we get there because there's so much in Southern Nevada that'll occupy me, and that sounds like enough time to squirrel away some money while also contributing to our household. But when I feel I have enough for whichever library will come first, I'll be ready. I'm very happy that I'll have a home base to come back to, one that I can actually call "home." I want my roots to be in the desert. We moved around Florida so much that I never could put my roots anywhere. Now it's time. I can split Southern Nevada into manageable chunks as necessary for what I want to visit, but I want all of it and I can have all of it. It's what I've always wanted, and I'm ready.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

A Car Listing Translation

I've been reading Vol. 2, No. 8 of The Henderson Press, dated April 21-27, 2011, the first weekly issue. I think it will be a stronger newspaper by being weekly, more attention to city issues, driven to find more stories in order to fill the pages, stories that matter. I think those will be in future issues, just like they were in this issue. And much more of a community connection. The people make it so.

There's a listing in the car section for a 1997 Honda Accord, selling for $1,400. No picture. Meanwhile, there's a picture of a 2005 Winnebago for $49,800. For that size, there'd better be a view of it.

I want to translate this ad into likely reality because I laughed at a few of the words listed:

"Must sell, moving" - I have another, more reliable car, and I'm not taking this piece of shit with me.

"2d Honda Accord" - When I was young and poor, I bought this car just to have a car. Now I have four doors, which makes two doors look like a swing set does to a rollercoaster.

"se a/c" - I have no idea what "se" means. I Googled it and came up with "Service Experts," and also found out that car people don't make the terms easy to know on the Internet. If you're not part of the club, we'll snicker at you until you notice and then we'll quickly start talking about oil changes, looking askance at you until you leave. Considering the mileage, which I'll list in a minute, I think it's at-your-own-risk air conditioning.

"Clean" - Just washed it. I couldn't reach the chip crumbs under the seats, though.

"200k miles" - Just put your wallet and credit cards on that tree stump over there and I'll set them on fire.

"needs tlc" - Hope you don't plan to eat, or go to the doctor, or see a movie, or do anything fun ever again.

"call for info" - You can call, but I'm going to be cagey about what I tell you and the only straight answer I'll give you is how I want you to pay me. Pay no attention to the loosening hose under the hood.

I'm thinking about getting a used Toyota Corolla after we move, and I'm going to make damn sure I don't get the same vibe as this.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Tidbits from the 12th Issue of The Henderson Press

There's still a whole lot to do before we can loudly cheer the Santa Clarita Valley goodbye, but we're getting closer to moving. Mom's homing in on possible apartments, and even a mobile home park at the foot of the Strip, near what used to be the Sahara, which is a retirement community of sorts, with lots of activities, and bus service to various places. Mom's deciding if that's really where she wants to be since she's not at that age yet, but it could be convenient, and maybe to be surrounded by elderly people who are probably nicer than my paternal grandparents were, more receptive, more attentive. There's a lot to think about, whether Henderson or Las Vegas, but no matter where we end up, I will explore every single inch of Southern Nevada first and then the rest of Nevada. Nothing will be too far from me.

This issue of The Henderson Press, Vol. 2, No. 7, dated April 7-April 20, 2011, has as its big headline, "Night of the Incumbent." All incumbents running for re-election to the Henderson City Council won in the Primary Election, with only the Ward IV seat not being an outright win, sending it to the June 7 general election. Jeremy Twitchell's article is wonderfully detailed about the wins and comments from the winners, as well as noting that for the first time since Vote Centers were established in the city, ending precincts, turnout did not increase. I get the impression from this article that with how the economy was going at this time, people knew that the City Council was doing everything they can to help them, and didn't want to elect anyone new, because who knows what they would do? What guarantee would there be that their actions would be for the good of the city? If sincere efforts are being made, let them continue uninterrupted.

Twitchell says that only "12.24 percent of Henderson's registered voters cast a ballot, down from 14.65 percent in the 2009 General Municipal Election." Those who voted didn't want such a jolting change. He also says that "this year's turnout is the lowest in a municipal election since the 2007 Primary Election, which featured only one race." That's not an accurate measurement. People aren't going to come out in great numbers for just one race.

Let's see what else is going on:

- Don Logay has an article here about a BMW rolling into Lake Las Vegas. He starts it with, "Apparently, homes in Las Vegas aren't the only thing "underwater" these days." Cue the loud groans. That's a Leno line. What happened? With Logay, it's an anomaly, but he couldn't think of a better way to start this? He says that a 100-foot crane was used to lift the car out of the water? He should have asked the operator of the crane if this has been done before, and start with that. If it's unusual, start it with, "For a crane operator, Lake Las Vegas usually isn't a premier destination. But the siren song of a sunken BMW could not be ignored." Something like that. The rest of the article retains all the good I've come to expect from Logay, continual interest in Lake Las Vegas. And just like Fred Couzens, he's a whiz at photos.

- Couzens writes about a proactive community incensed by the proposed 660-kilovolt transmission line that a single block of homeowners between Foothills Drive and Thoroughbred Drive. Every time I proclaim Couzens' latest article to be his best one, as I did in reading the 11th issue, he writes another one that supersedes it. He's found a comfortable niche in The Henderson Press and I can easily say now that I look forward to his articles as much as Jeremy Twitchell's and Don Logay, quite a change from when I used to dread them in the early issues.

- Karen Y. Lu wrote about the Police Commendation Ceremony Awards, detailing every award given, in thick, small-type paragraphs that take up one and a half pages on pages 8 and 9. It's a surprise to see this kind of community outreach from eight years here in the disconnected Santa Clarita Valley, but very reassuring, hopeful that a genuine community exists there. I've felt it in various pockets of Henderson and in the people I've met, and in the actually healthy-looking people I've seen walking throughout the Galleria at Sunset mall, and can't wait to see the rest of Henderson for that.

- There's a photo of Officer Forest Shields presented with the award for Henderson Police Officer of the Year by Chief Jutta Chambers. Shields looks like an older Andy Samberg.

- Couzens has another article about a 5-year-old girl with a "mysterious neuromuscular disorder" who was not expected to live past age 4, and the expenses involved in her life, heavy expenses, evenly detailed by him. He's getting much better at interviewing people about their lives.

- Karen Y. Lu's article about the then-upcoming 61st annual Henderson Heritage Parade perks me up more while waiting to move, because it's a strong reminder that Henderson has great use for its history. It never forgets when it started, and what it was. Lu writes that the parade began in 1950, three years before Henderson became a city. And this parade is led by Ethel M under the theme, "Chocolatiers for 30 Years," with 100 chocolate-themed entries.

- There's a fact box next to Lu's article, which includes this: "The state of Nevada purchased the entire townsite from the federal War Assets Administration in 1948 for $24 million." And: "When Henderson incorporated in 1953, it had a population of 7,410 and consisted of about 13 square miles. In January 2011, the city had an estimated population of 277,502 and an area of 103 square miles." The newspaper before The Henderson Press was the Henderson Home News, which ran from 1951 to 2009. The Henderson Libraries website has a vast archive of past issues, which I don't think I'll write about like I do for The Henderson Press because The Henderson Press was my first exposure to how news in Henderson is covered, and therefore means a great deal to me, though I'm sure to study more of Henderson's history, these Henderson Home News issues will be equally meaningful. It'll be incredible to read about Henderson from 1951, since I now found out that all the issues are available on the library website.

- There's a coupon from Johnnie Mac's for a $5.95 pasta lunch, "11am - 3pm Daily.", Sunday through Thursday only, expiring on the 15th. I wonder what kind of pasta they favor for it.

- The list of businesses that have The Henderson Press available (free, of course) is staggering. It's another example of how tight-knit Henderson is.

- Still nothing practical in the car ads. Nothing I would want, besides.

- On the right side of the car ads is a small ad for Lucky Star Super Buffet, mentioning a "valuable offer in the coupon section." It's at 617 Mall Ring Circle, south of Macy's. That's right in the Galleria at Sunset area. I haven't seen it yet, but I think it's still there.

That's the end of this issue. I'm debating whether to keep going with this because there's 44 issues total in Volume 2, and Volume 3 has 18 issues so far. Plus there's 5,432 issues of Henderson Home News for me to read. And I will read them all. Probably not all of them before we move, but some. Only when I write these entries do I read the Henderson Press issue featured and I don't read another issue until I feel like writing another entry. I can't do it that way anymore. I'm not really sure how to go about it yet; either an entry for every five issues, or something else, or maybe just keep a file of interesting things I learned and how Jeremy Twitchell, Don Logay, and Fred Couzens are faring, and then post some tidbits once in a while. My goal for The Henderson Press is to read up to the latest issue before we move. I'm sure of that. So maybe it's best to do this another way, because I still want to write about The Henderson Press. It's just becoming less feasible as a possible moving date gets closer. I'll figure it out. Plus I want to see Logay and Couzens evolve faster, because they are growing stronger. I used to think of Twitchell as the star of the paper, but Logay and Couzens have their own terrific skills to offer now, which makes it an evenly-shared paper, though I'm curious about if there are any proper replacements for Twitchell after he and his wife left. Plus, Couzens may not even be around in the current issues, and it'd be interesting to see what new reporters show up, because certainly there must be.

So that's what I think I'll do: I'll keep a file and post once in a while about the paper. I really want to see what happens next, especially since I just downloaded Vol. 2, No. 8, and there's the announcement on the front page that The Henderson Press is now a weekly newspaper. The pressure begins for the reporters, but hopefully it makes Twitchell, Logay, and Couzens even better, another reason for me to not write about it like this anymore. I can't wait to see how it turns out.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

History Erased

Three weeks ago, I learned from The Coaster Guy that the Six Flags Magic Mountain memorabilia in the Sky Tower had been completely removed, including the framed awards on two walls, bringing it back to its original form of people just riding the elevator up and looking at the view from all sides. I'm disappointed, because this was the one place in the Santa Clarita Valley where history was alive. History here is usually sad and decrepit. It has meaning, but it's not quite there because it always feels like regret. I know that people have history that they're not too proud of, but if we're talking the history of a place, the history of a valley, there should be more. And the Sky Tower Museum did have more. I agree with Kurt, the proprietor of the site, that it "was a great idea, but I don’t think it was executed very well." He's right on that count. The memorabilia was there, and so was that feeling of history being necessary. There were costumes and props and decommissioned seats from rollercoasters that didn't need those seats anymore, or didn't need to be a rollercoaster anymore. It was a random assortment, though. No chronological order, no theme. No section for rollercoasters, and then stage shows or outdoor shows, and then the overall park, such as it would be with maps from the 1970s. What Six Flags Magic Mountain should have done is train the employees in the history of the park. No tests or anything like that; just make sure that they can speak confidently enough about the history and answer any questions. In fact, they should have had a few sheets detailing questions most likely to be asked in the Sky Tower Museum.

If Six Flags Magic Mountain was run by a company that still cared about its history like Knotts Berry Farm is in Buena Park (a town heavy with the ghosts of its history, but not as gloomy as that sounds), they could consult former employees who might still be in touch with others throughout that division of the company, or known historians, and create exhibits that give people a full view of what the park was like back then. Have those former employees from long ago and those historians come up with a program that's palatable to the average visitor, and still detailed enough for the devoted fan. This is how the Sky Tower could have been best used, and with the benefit of that panoramic view, docents (as in paid employees that wanted this position) could point out where certain areas used to be and where the dolphin shows had been, and whatever else visitors might have wanted to know.

But would it have worked? Would there have been enough visitors to justify such a venture? Idealistically, I would hope so. But realistically, I'm not sure. Visitors who live in Santa Clarita just want the rides, and to get out of the heat for a little while during those months. Tourists want to see the park, and try to understand how in the heck people could simply walk up that huge frickin' Samurai Summit without either pulling something or collapsing from exhaustion, but on a not-too-steep incline so they don't roll down the hill. I would hope, even realistically, that mixed into those crowds are those interested enough in the history of place, to wonder what the park had been before its current incarnation, to try to imagine the park from the Sky Tower without all those rides, without those shows, without those food stands, and without the Sky Tower, imagining all that emptiness before it began to be filled in.

In the comments section of Kurt's post, he says that the artifacts were moved to Level P1, which is the "floor of the tower under the museum," now meaning under the panoramic view. It's amazing what's actually contained within the tower, as Kurt wrote in the early days of his blog:

"It stands 385 feet tall, has two observation decks around the 300 foot mark, and is serviced by two elevators. It can even be configured as a restaurant with the dining area on one floor and the kitchen on the other. Magic Mountain uses it as merely an observation deck, however they did furnish it with some historical park memorabilia in 2008 after a park employee suggested they create some sort of a museum."

Configured as a restaurant. Is the kitchen even up to code anymore? If they were to go that way, would they have to upgrade the equipment? This is what I'd want to know and also want to know if the dining configuration was ever used for any events. I'm sure it was, but these are the details that could have kept the Sky Tower Museum going.

Today, we four went to the Walmart on Kelly Johnson Parkway, the one that overlooks Six Flags Magic Mountain from a distance. Through willowy trees that have grown tall and bend airily in the wind, you can see the Superman: Escape from Krypton tower, as well as the Sky Tower. Superman: Escape from Krypton is having Lex Luthor: Drop of Doom added to it, which means clamping two separate tracks on each side of the tower, as a freefall kind of ride, or a drop tower ride, as they say. Who's they? Rollercoaster and theme park enthusiasts. I trust their word.

After we parked, I looked out at Six Flags Magic Mountain, at the Sky Tower and thought about that post with great regret. This is not a valley that's known for its history because it constantly presses on. We have to keep moving, we have to embrace the future, and then we have to discard that part of the future that has become the past and chase after the new future. Then the new new future. And, oh look! The new new new future!

One of the worst things happening to the Santa Clarita Valley, though few notice since it's financially in the crapper and wouldn't be if more people subscribed (though there's nothing worth subscribing for), is that the weekend Escape section of The Signal, the exclusive newspaper of this valley, has been cut down to 7 pages, which is basically nothing. I know. I worked with 16 pages when I was the interim editor and there was a lot more to play with. 7 pages in this edition is movie listings, an AP movie review of The Avengers by Christy Lemire (or at least I think it was The Avengers, though it doesn't matter), a few paragraphs from Chuck Shepard's News of the Weird, which is also part of the AP wire service for newspapers to use, and that's it. Nothing else. Nothing about this valley, and nothing about what's going on in this valley. Nothing to tell about its history, nothing to tell about anyone who might be doing something with its history, like a lecture or something. It's sadly a reflection on this valley because it is that shallow. Most who live here work in Los Angeles, and don't want to live in Los Angeles, so they come back here after work. This valley is the true definition of a bedroom community, minus "community," because there's no sense of one anywhere in here. Some people try, and I admire them for it, but it seems like a futile effort. How can it be done when L.A. is only half an hour south? L.A.'s not so great with its history either, as I learned from Taco USA: How Mexican Food Conquered America by Gustavo Arellano. A lot of whitewashing of history on Olvera Street, and a harkening back to the good old pueblo days, which didn't actually exist. History is only useful there if it's beneficial. Otherwise, what history?

Also in Arellano's fascinating history tour, I learned about San Bernardino, "about sixty miles east of Los Angeles," which was starting to become "America's fast-food incubator." Taco Bell began in the L.A. suburb of Downey in 1962. I read something about Anaheim in here, but I can't find it. While reading that section, I thought about Anaheim and Buena Park, and how both retain their history in many forms. They may not pay a great deal of attention to it, but they don't ignore it, they don't shun it, and they aren't ashamed of it. In the years before we began to be set on Las Vegas as our next and final residence (once I'm there, I'm not moving. It's where I belong and I don't think any other city in America would fit me so comfortably as Las Vegas does), I think I would not have been so angry toward the vapidity of the Santa Clarita Valley if I had studied Anaheim and Buena Park closely. I wrote about Buena Park in late January 2010, and I still feel the same about it. It's there for those who seek its history. It's not trying to be something it never was. Anaheim fascinates me because even though it would seem that there's nothing else outside of Disneyland, it feels like it has its pockets of history. All those past lives and past dates and past events are part of its fabric. It absorbed them and gained character from them. Whenever we went to the now-unfortunately-closed Po Folks in Buena Park, I always got a copy of the Orange County Register. The paper has always covered Orange County extremely well, but what interested me the most was Jonathan Lansner, the Register's real estate writer. How could anyone be interested enough in real estate to write about it? I can't understand it, but people are interested in it, and Lansner always writes about it so well, making such clear sense out of all the numbers. I wondered who Lansner is when he's away from the Orange County Register, what got him interested in real estate. History has always been accessible in Orange County. It takes some time to find, I'm sure, but it's there. There's no fear of being seen as old, as seems to be the mentality in Los Angeles and Santa Clarita. Perhaps that's why history is hidden or erased, as it felt upon seeing the photos of that empty Sky Tower floor and walls.

Then on Saturday, while Mom, Dad, and Meridith were out, remembering that Escape section, I thought about what I would have done to revive the section, if there was management willing to make it vibrant again, getting rid of the monotony that has poisoned it. I thought about more stories of community events, profiles of people with different hobbies, including gardening because that's always been interesting to me as an observer. Articles about Santa Clarita's history that include interviews with those who have lived that history or have studied it well. As much as I loathe this valley and will happily never go back to it once I'm gone, it needs this. It needs this attention. The entire area always looks so dry, and that's not because of the weather. It's because no one wants to try to prop it up, to give it life. It's the bedroom community mentality. The major flaw in my "plan," is finding writers who can write and are passionate about this valley, who don't mind being paid the pittance that The Signal barely offers. A new owner would be an improvement, but only if it was someone first rich enough, and secondly who has lived in this valley for decades who actually loves it and wants to see it made better, more active. This shouldn't just be a bedroom community. This is where people live, and I've heard that there are people who live here who have never left this valley. I take it to mean that they've never driven out to L.A. or Burbank or Pasadena or Anaheim or Buena Park, but I find that absolutely impossible. Considering what's offered here, how could they find anything to do? The library only goes so far.

I wish for more for this valley. As awful as it has been to me, I really do. But whereas Buena Park's ghosts remain, and its history is always there, Santa Clarita is heavy with apathy. It's there. People just want to do their necessary errands, eat wherever the booze is good, go to a movie, get out of this valley on a Friday night, and that's it. They get what they put into it. Maybe Anaheim and Buena Park are just more interesting because they're removed from Los Angeles and Hollywood by extension. They have their own distinct identities because of that. They're not clawing and yowling for the power of media. They are who they are, in all that they offer. At least history exists somewhere in Southern California.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Thursday: The True Peaceful Day in the Santa Clarita Valley?

Late Thursday afternoon. Walmart Supercenter on Carl Boyer Drive. McDonald's first there, and then some shopping, all with Mom and Meridith while Dad went to the 6th grade barbecue at La Mesa for incoming 6th graders, showing off his classroom and answering any questions.

Only when Dad has something going on in his school do Mom, Meridith and I have the nicest time in this valley. At the beginning of last September, when there was an open house at La Mesa, Mom, Meridith and I went to eat at Souplantation. Dad dropped us off there and then went to the school. The dining room was mostly empty, pleasant, soft music of an indeterminate sort playing throughout, and pasta and soup and breads continually available. I prefer empty places because of that peace, though I don't mind it so much in Las Vegas, because more people there means more money pumped into the local economy. In Baker, at the Grewal Travel Center, I prefer an empty men's restroom. More time to look at the bathroom graffiti, made with pen and marker, and scratched into the walls of the stalls. Country music, as is played there, sounds better when you're traveling. It's part of the moving soundscape.

At that McDonald's just slightly ahead of the entrance into Walmart Supercenter, but behind the racks of packaged breads and cake slices as you walk toward produce and next to the deli department, Meridith and I had grilled chicken Caesar salads, Mom had a Filet-O-Fish, and I also had large fries, while Mom and Meridith shared a medium size. Medium iced coffee for Mom, large sweet tea for Meridith, and a small cup for me that I filled with sweet tea. I didn't want as much as Meridith had. Dessert was a medium strawberry shake for me, a small strawberry shake for Mom (from a McMeal we got of 4 chicken nuggets and small fries, three chicken nuggets among us, and half a chicken nugget and four fries each for Tigger and Kitty after we got home), and their new Strawberry & Creme Pie that we split between the three of us, and learned that it's McDonald's take on a blintz, right down to the creme filling tasting close to sour cream.

We sat there in an, again, mostly empty dining room, which gradually filled up and was at its most crowded by the time we were getting ready to leave, to start shopping in Walmart. On a flatscreen TV on the left-side wall near the ceiling played the McDonald's Channel, which included some local stories from KABC, brief things from Reelz Channel, and other things I didn't pay any attention to. This visit had the exact same feeling as Souplantation. Just as peaceful, just as pleasant.

I know that Fridays in the Santa Clarita Valley feel like the universe is completely aligned, and also very empty, since many residents want to do something outside this valley. Even though it's probably not as big a number that leave as I believe, it still feels like a mass exodus, like I could do anything in this valley as a result and would not be bothered by anyone. I could pretend to be a member of the Ministry of Silly Walks on the paseos, or just spin around on the sidewalks of Valencia, or any number of other things within legal reason. I'm sure the mall is a little more crowded than it usually is on a Friday, but even so, it's not worth staying here on a Friday night when there's so much else to do in Los Angeles proper or Burbank or Santa Monica or other cities. I still find it ridiculous to have to navigate the freeways, go through so many mountain passes just to do what you want to do, which is why I'm never part of that exodus. Also because I don't drive here and won't. I don't like the roads, I don't like the tight turns, I don't like having to use the freeway system if I want something truly different from what the Santa Clarita Valley offers. I always had accessibility in Florida and it's what I will have again in Nevada.

But if Friday, including today, feels like a mass exodus has taken place and there's only the bare shell of this valley, then why does Thursday feel like the only truly peaceful day in this valley, like it's not worth being miffed at what always galls me in this valley in order to retain that good feeling? Is it because Thursday evening is that easy transition into the Friday that I know so well? Is it because with the weekend arriving soon, there's no reason to try hard at any venture, that relaxation will come and so we should start before it comes?

I don't remember a structure like this in Florida, where a Thursday felt like this. Perhaps that's because nearly all my years in Florida were spent in school, and then summers came, and after that was school again. I knew that Fridays were the best days because it meant I was done with school for the week. I never hated school, but picked out only specific things that made it worth it, and discarded the rest. I'll have that school structure again as a middle school campus supervisor in Nevada, but it'll be different because there's nothing at stake in the way of grades. I just want to do the best job possible, to know my campus intimately, to observe necessary safety measures, to make sure that the kids behave, and, in a way, to help foster peace among the campus. The best day at my job is one in which nothing much happens, or even nothing at all. And that's because the job's been done right.

But for now, here in Southern California, I wonder what makes Thursday feel peaceful. Shouldn't that be Friday? Friday should be a catch-all, especially with that mass exodus feeling. Or is it even because of these rare times in which Dad is at La Mesa and it's just me, Mom, and Meridith? It's certainly easier because Dad doesn't like to be at Walmart that long, and so shopping trips soon turn unpleasant. His displeasure is easy to ignore because we need a few things from there, and yet it hangs on the periphery. Not dark clouds, but not always easy to deal with.

So maybe because Dad had that open house in September and then the 6th grade barbecue last night is why Thursdays feel peaceful. Yet, we don't do that all the time, so maybe it's because, in a way, it feels like the valley is breathing easier because it knows it doesn't have to shoulder so many people on the Friday night to come. It doesn't feel like there's as much at stake. I've always gotten the feeling that people here live to win, in whatever they do. It's now how I like to live. I live to enjoy.

So now it's late Friday afternoon (the time stamp says differently, but it's 4:07 as I finish this), and there's that feeling of the universe having aligned, of the valley soon to be empty. I have to go to the Chase ATM later to deposit a check, and I know that when I get out of the car to go in, I'll look around and despite all the houses and apartments around, the area will feel barren. Always does. Fascinating to me, but not an ideal living condition. For now, though, Thursday will always be peace, and Friday will always be empty ground.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Tidbits from the 11th Issue of The Henderson Press

The evolution of The Henderson Press continues, with smaller, thinner bylines. Previous issues had bylines in bold with "Henderson Press" beneath the name of the writer. Now one font style fits all. For example, "By Jeremy Twitchell" is first, but below that isn't bold. "THP Reporter" is the same size and type as his name. Below that is his (now former) e-mail address: I like this. There's more room for potentially longer articles if need be, and especially helpful since this issue, Vol. 2, No. 6, dated March 24-April 6, 2011, has a Voter Guide for the 2011 municipal election, which may have necessitated the change in font, so there's more room for candidate statements and information about their professional and education backgrounds. This is when a local newspaper is needed the most and even before reading about these candidates, the layout looks organized and gives ample room to everyone running for various offices. I'm curious about why they want to run.

Let's see what there is in this issue:

- An article about general satisfaction with the city on various issues from a survey commissioned by the City Council and run by Kansas City-based research firm ETC Institute says that St. Rose Parkway is one of the city's fastest and busiest streets. Something to keep in mind when I begin driving these roads.

- In 2009, there were 132,395 registered voters in Henderson. For this election, there's 124,700 registered voters. There's no clear reason why.

- A record low voter turnout of 6.9% in 2005 triggered the city to establish "vote centers" throughout, in lieu of precincts, where any registered voter can vote at any of them. Voter turnout increased to 11.1% in 2007, and 14.7% in 2009. Interesting to find a city that actually wants to engage its voters.

- Statements by the candidates are at least cogent, all genuine, but one doesn't seem feasible (Does this guy realize what it would take to disconnect from the Clark County School District and establish Henderson's own school district? It likely takes more time than he could even imagine, it wouldn't be an easy task, and it wouldn't be worth getting away from the Clark County School District because everyone in Southern Nevada is connected. Doesn't matter if you live in Las Vegas, or Henderson, or Summerlin; all actions affect the entire region. A lot of people who work in Las Vegas live in Henderson (including comedy magician The Amazing Johnathan, of whom I'm a huge fan). Summerlin may not want to know Las Vegas, but they're just as connected. We're all together.

- These candidate statements also make me want to attend a Henderson City Council meeting one day. I'm curious about it, and have never been to one anywhere else. I'm sure I can find something to be interested in there much like I do with everything else in my life.

- I'm curious about who got elected. First time I think I've ever been interested in that outside of a presidential election.

- Fred Couzens has an article about improvements to be made on Water Street in downtown Henderson for a Rapid Transit bus system. Hard facts in here and Couzens handles them admirably. There's also a photo by Couzens of a bus on the Boulder Highway Express route. I hope in future issues, there are more and more photos by Couzens. They're remarkable every time.

- Couzens also has an article about Ameresco, an energy efficiency company, finishing out its contract with the City of Henderson with great success. This is his best article so far. His details about energy efficiency improvements are well-written and easy to understand for those like me who don't think about this all the time, and a black-and-white photo by him of the pool and slides at the Whitney Ranch Recreation Center should be hanging somewhere, perhaps on a wall at the City of Henderson Recreation Department, reminding employees of the good they do.

- Twitchell's best article so far is in here too, about the City Council unanimously approving construction of the Wigwam Surgical Center on the "south side of Wigwam Parkway, east of Eastern Avenue." He writes about the objections by the Scottsdale Valley Homeowners Association, which is south of the Center's property line, support by a resident of another neighborhood across from Wigwam Parkway, comments by the lawyer representing the developer, details about what the Center will contain, and how the City Council feels about it. The best articles in The Henderson Press provide a deeper connection to the community. This is one of them.

- Mayor Andy Hafen and his family had their own parade car in the 45th annual St. Patrick's Day parade. I love that as vast as Henderson is, the mayor is never too busy for such events as this one.

- Couzens is improving in community articles. He wrote about a modest philanthropist named Bob Ellis, and while he stumbled greatly with the wrong usage of "humble pie" at the beginning (believing it to mean that someone is humble, when its meaning is far from that), the rest of the article is touching. Ellis is an example of one reason I love Henderson and the rest of Southern Nevada: There's many people like this living there, good people, philanthropy or not.

- On March 27, the Henderson Symphony Orchestra hosts their 14th annual Young Artists Concert in which those young artists perform with the Henderson Symphony. No matter whose music they're playing, I would go to that, to support that.

- The Clark County Museum has a Pueblo art exhibit from March 9 to June 3. I would see that.

- In the transportation ads, someone's selling a 1995 Corvette Convertible for $13,400, with 85,000 miles on it. Supercharged. You've got to really have the money for it to want it, also the money way beyond that $13,400.

These issues are getting better and better. Interest and care are the two most important things for a community newspaper to have, and The Henderson Press has both. The Las Vegas Review-Journal can't cover Henderson all the time, and so The Henderson Press has stepped up enormously to fill the gap that would be there otherwise. Just like everything else in Southern Nevada, I'm sure it wasn't known that The Henderson Press was even needed before it started, but now that it's there, it's obvious that the city needed it. It has become an important part of the fabric of Henderson. It's believed that connections are tenuous in Las Vegas and therefore its surrounding areas. But The Henderson Press shows otherwise. There are fiercely loyal connections all around, people always willing to help, who are always friendly. To live in Southern Nevada, you can't have a fight-the-world attitude. Relax. Feel the world around you. Appreciate what's in front of you. Las Vegas survives because there is always understanding, the reputation of casinos notwithstanding. It is always there. It's the only way to survive in the desert.

I Belong to Nevada

In his book In Nevada: The Land, The People, God, and Chance, which I started reading on the way to Walmart Supercenter for a pleasant visit that I'll write about tomorrow--in appreciation of Thursdays in this valley that don't feel as combative as other days of the week--and also read while at Walmart, David Thomson describes the ideal Nevada resident:

"You have to have some of the patience and sangfroid of a ghost to get along there--you need to be not quite what you were, not quite alive to this world, but breathing history and with time in your veins."

I've got the patience and sangfroid. It comes from moving so many times, being pretty much rootless in my native Florida because nearly all the moves happened throughout there. I'm easygoing about anything. Nothing's permanent, and I understand that.

I'm not quite a film critic like I used to be; I write reviews for fun now, and while the thought of writing a book before I did it worried me to no end because of all the work involved, I want to do it again, and yet I still have to push myself to make a go of it.

I'm not quite alive to this world. I use Facebook, but not Twitter, I don't believe in keeping up on absolutely everything that's happening online, though I do read the news as necessary. I don't need to know every single movement of politicians. I don't need to know what celebrities are up to. I'm not one of those who are so wired and so connected that if their iPhone broke, they would go crazy.

Breathing history? I'm passionate about presidential history, interested in Supreme Court history, I'm reading In Nevada because I want to know everything about my future home state, and once there, I'm going to read every single Nevada history book available, while also studying New Mexico, which I want to travel throughout. I'm also interested in the origins of things and people, such as a book about pasta that I want to read and had put it on my immediate to-read stack, but then Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake by Anna Quindlen and God's Hotel by Victoria Sweet arrived in the mail yesterday from Amazon. I started In Nevada because I didn't want to carry the hardcover God's Hotel with me in Walmart. I wanted to leave it for home reading, where I can truly go deep into it.

Whenever I pass by buildings, I wonder who built them, the architects who thought of them, the construction guys who installed flooring and made columns. I look at parks and wonder what they looked like decades before our car passed them by. I think about each state and wonder how many of its citizens take pride in its history, or even pay attention to its history. I hope there are many like me. I'm always breathing history.

I'm 28. I have time in my veins, and as a writer, it's there anyway. It takes time to write a book, to write a novel. I know how I want to use time, yet I know that time does not belong to me. The clock will tick no matter what I do. But I will try for what I want in my life, in reading, in writing books, in finally having roots, feeling like I'm home somewhere.

By all this, I belong to Nevada.