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.