Sunday, July 29, 2012

The First Time for a Book is Only the Beginning of Pleasure

When I first read The Memory of Running by Ron McLarty, learning about the lifestyle of grossly overweight Smithy Ide, I tiptoed through those rows of words, slowly taking in what Smithy had to tell, about his parents dying not far apart after a car accident, about his next-door neighbor Norma, who, when she was nine years old, was hit by a Volkswagen and ended up in a wheelchair permanently, about learning that his troubled sister Bethany died of exposure in Los Angeles, about the bicycle trip he decides to take to Los Angeles from Rhode Island to retrieve her body.

I wasn't sure what Smithy would offer me, what I would pick out for myself from his story, what I would hold close to me. As I slowly reached page 75, then 100, then 135 and so on (as slow as a speed reader can), there was so much I wanted to hold close to me. I loved the burgeoning relationship between Smithy and Norma, who always loved him, even when she was a kid. Smithy always pushed her away when he was 11 and then in his teens, but she never pulled away from him, never wanted to, not even when the family didn't visit her much and then not at all after her accident. Yet she still looked out through the blinds in her house, watching the family. They considered her one of them, even to Smithy's chagrin at times.

I bought The Memory of Running in paperback, because I checked it out of the Valencia library a few years ago, but never read it, and was curious about it again. After I finished it, after traveling with Smithy in my imagination, I knew I had to keep it. This novel had affected me, made me also see the benefit of sticking, at least partially, to the diet Smithy made for himself of fruit, mainly bananas, and tuna. Good, as long as you keep moving, keep your body active. I couldn't do it to the extent that Smithy does, but it's the one trip he had to make, to discover what he was in those years of dealing with Bethany's voices and the subsequent visits to Bradley Hospital for it, and who he is now, the kind of person he can be. He's the only one left of his family and it's a sobering task to take on.

Despite the many books I could read before we move, and therefore have less to move with (it's not likely that I'll want to keep most of the books I read. In my Goodreads account, under "proudly owned," The Memory of Running was only the third book this year that I put in my permanent collection. Since then, there have been three others, including The Loop by Joe Coomer, which you must read. It's kind of, sort of like The Memory of Running, except instead of bicycling cross country, Lyman, an orphan who works as a courtesy patrolman on the highway of Dallas at night picking up tires and other debris on the roads, tries to figure out what the parrot that has just come into his life is trying to say, believing that it has answers to his life, his past, understanding that past. It's quirkier than that description for sure), I took The Memory of Running out of one of the boxes in which my permanent collection of books rests. I wanted to read it again, to see what it feels like to me now.

It's the first time I've read the same book twice in one year. The Remains of the Day merits a once-a-year reading, but if I like my permanent collection that much, then I should dig into it as often as I feel necessary. Never mind that there are so many other books I want to read. Never mind that I could very well end up reading Angelina's Bachelors by Brian O'Reilly for the second, third, and fourth time this year (I read it again a few days ago and loved it even more). Never mind that I want to read Greyhound by Steffan Piper again and Taft 2012 by Jason Heller again after I finish The Memory of Running. These books, and all the others in my permanent collection, are meant to be read. They make up my mental sanctuary for myself and for my writing. I am excited about reading the beginning of the Nero Wolfe series of novels again, intending to read the series all the way through now, but I'm even more psyched to read Greyhound again, to travel on those Greyhound buses with young Sebastian Raines and relive his bus-ride friendship with Marcus, to read that moment again when Sebastian discovers Hall & Oates, and plays a few of their songs over and over.

I don't know why I haven't read my favorite books more than once a year, if at all. Today, I also learned that Erica Bauermeister's next novel, The Lost Art of Mixing, is a sequel to her The School of Essential Ingredients. I also proudly own The School of Essential Ingredients, and I want to read it again to prepare for a wonderful way to start the new year, since The Lost Art of Mixing is coming out on January 24. I have that much faith in Bauermeister to have written another gently emotional, involving, deeply descriptive novel.

And, scrolling through the second page of my "proudly owned" list, I noticed This Book Will Save Your Life by A.M. Homes, the only novel that captures completely what modern-day Los Angeles feels like. It's going with me, of course, but I should read it again, before we move. Another way to say goodbye to such a perplexing region.

It won't take me long to read these novels again, anyway. Not that I want to rush them. I want to spend more time on that Greyhound bus, to be in that nighttime cooking class headed by Lillian at her restaurant in The School of Essential Ingredients. But right now, I'm on page 154 of The Memory of Running after speeding through the beginning and what followed, faster than when I first read it. That first time, I was discovering what it contained. This time, I know what happens, but I want to experience it again, to feel all those emotions, to be touched by Smithy and Norma gradually connecting again, albeit by phone while Smithy's on the road. It feels just as strong as if they were together.

These books are mine. They're what I know through 26 years of reading so far. I should use them to counter the dry spells I sometimes have in my reading, when I'm not connecting with book after book. It sometimes happens. One of my eventual goals for my collection is to have every single Andy Capp book ever published. He's my favorite comic strip character, and he's still just as funny as he was at the beginning. I've also ordered all three of Sam Shepard's short story collections. He's one of my heroes, for writing that truly captures the feeling of desert living, but not Vegas desert living. Vast emptiness, which is beautiful and unsettling at the same time, before becoming overwhelmingly beautiful. I've met a few of the people he writes about, and he's got them down perfectly. You don't go into the desert without Sam Shepard. He helps make sense of the desert and makes you want to see more, to feel more of it, to stare in awe at what's out there. I wish there had been a Sam Shepard when my family and I moved to the Santa Clarita Valley. That would have made things a lot easier, just in understanding all this.

Yep, I'm going to do this. The last book I wore out from reading so much was Coldfire by Dean Koontz, which, now that I think of it, I want to read again. I bought another copy last year. My favorite books should be just as worn out. There's so much to enjoy in them again and again. And just like that, I also have a yen to read The Loop again, no matter that I only just read it for the first time last month. I know that just like The Memory of Running, I'll be reading it faster because I know what happens and want to feel its power all over again.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Walken Will Be Walken

I'm reading For My Eyes Only, John Glen's memoir about his career and especially as director of all the '80s Bond movies, and I love this piece about Christopher Walken ("A View to a Kill"):

"The only problem I had working with Christopher was his habit of wandering off while we were on location. I'd turn my back for a moment, only to discover that he'd gone for a walk somewhere. I ended up giving one of the junior assistant directors the sole responsibility of keeping an eye on Christopher and making sure he was around when I needed him for a shot. This became something of a game for Christopher and as soon as this guy was distracted for a second, he'd nip off in the other direction."

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

New DVD Reviews

These five new DVD reviews sparked little passion in me, although I liked George Gently for its approach to mysteries, especially being set in late 1960s Northern England. An actual period piece for mysteries, striving to be accurate. I'm psyched about the series set for Mighty Morphin Power Rangers which spans the Original Series to Lost Galaxy. That may be where my passion lies, examining my childhood from my current perspective. I'm expecting that one soon.

Fortunately, it's the search for what gets me excited about DVDs that keeps me going, as well as interest in what I review, and all these DVDs were interesting, especially the camerawork in Foreign Parts:


Joe + Belle

The Story of the Costume Drama

George Gently: Series 4


Washington: Behind Closed Doors

Foreign Parts

Genetic Chile

Mr. Belvedere Rings the Bell

As It Was Before It Goes to Someone Else

The carpet next to and behind my TV turned from white, with all that accumulated dust, to green yesterday. My makeshift box bookshelves are no longer bookshelves, but rather boxes with books in them, boxes that are still surprisingly sturdy after eight years. 20+ bags filled with books, stuffed animals, and other things are sitting outside at our front door walkway, waiting to be picked up by Vietnam Veterans of America, which has a local branch here. They said they'd pick up as much as we have, and so not only is it the best way to clear all this out, but we're doing a mitzvah at the same time.

This place is looking like it was when we moved in, before someone else buys it. It's surprising to see my room so organized now, but I didn't bother until now because I never cared about this place. In Las Vegas, I'll care enough about our new home to keep my room organized, because I know I'll be home.

Besides all this, and still more cleaning to do by the end of the week, I'm motivated to finish reading all the issues of Henderson Press up to the latest. I still have the print edition my parents brought back from their recent trip, but I'll read the rest online. Looking at the website, I have 26 issues left. It's grown to 24 pages, but still good for many quick reads.

And a few days ago, Dad had a question that I was quick to answer: If I could go anywhere in Southern California once more before we move, where would I want to go? I answered, "The Buena Park Downtown mall and Downtown Disney in Anaheim." Those were two of the only cities that truly felt like cities to me in this region, full of personality and never ignoring their own history. I want to go to both once more, also because Buena Park Downtown will be a research trip for me since I want to get a feel for the atmosphere again, as a few scenes in one of my future novels takes place there.

That's been it. Still lots to do to get to where I know I'll write more than I ever have.

Friday, July 20, 2012

A Comfy Goodreads Account Leads to Questions about Personal Space in My Life

Since 10th grade at Valencia High in 2005, Meridith has filled a quarter of a notebook with titles of books she wants to read. Most of them she crossed out because she wasn't interested in them anymore, but she's always added to it and checked off those she already read.

In our progress toward moving, which now includes cleaning out this place to make it look palace-like so one of our two realtors can come back next week to take photos to post online, Meridith was looking through her notebook, seeing which titles she read lately, which ones she's still interested in, and which ones she wanted to cross out. Watching her do this for a moment, I had an idea: How about a Goodreads account? I've had one since 2007 and it's served me well all this time, given that my to-read list on the site now holds over 4,000 titles, which would be impossible to write down in a notebook, though that's not the reason I signed up for an account five years ago. I wanted to keep steady track of my books and I know that I read a lot in a given week, so here was a site in which I could look up all the books I have, put them in my account, make different shelves of different names, and figure out what I want to read next based on what's in my to-read list and what Goodreads recommends through its mostly-stagnant recommendation program, which perhaps doesn't work for me now because I've read and rated 640 books, and perhaps Goodreads thinks I've got a handle on this now and don't need the recommendation program anymore. Perhaps I don't, but it's still fun to look through.

Meridith agreed to the idea and I helped her sign up for an account and gave her a tour of what the site offers and how she can organize her books. She rated a great number of Meg Cabot's books, made sure she became a fan of her and Hilary Duff on the site (their pages include blog entries linked from their official websites, so Meridith will also see that in her feed when she logs in), and put the books she wants to read into her to-read list. After she was done, her account showed that she had rated 107 books, she's currently reading The Last Chinese Chef by Nicole Mones (one of my favorite novels which is part of my permanent collection), and has 175 books in her to-read list, along with 26 in her "my favorite books so far" list and 26 in her "owned list." Only one book, Sundays at Tiffanys by James Patterson, is not part of her "owned" list but is in her "my favorite books so far" list.

After we finished setting up her account at 1:30 this morning, I told Meridith how much I envy her. I've had my account for five years, have added a monsterload of books, and last year, I turned my regular account into a Goodreads Author Profile, owing to my first book, What If They Lived?. I can't turn back to the sheer simplicity of Meridith's new account. I want whatever publicity I can get for my first book and for myself and my writing as I work on my next books and hopefully have them published in the years to come. My account is an endless rock concert of books, whereas Meridith's is a small shelf in the corner of a comfy room, with a recliner in front of it, and a tableside lamp or a bigger lamp next to it. Sometimes I wish I could have her account, but I need it the way it is. I've read a lot since I was two years old, and I'm happy to finally be the full-time voracious reader I've always wanted to be, but the utter peace of Meridith's Goodreads account gives me pause, makes me think about what I want in my life.

I think back to that visit to Legoland in Carlsbad, after which we drove to Hash House a Go Go on 5th Avenue in San Diego, and parked in a nearly empty lot a few blocks away, putting a few dollars into the slot that corresponded to our space in the bank of slots next to the sidewalk. Walking to Hash House a Go Go, the blinds of a window in a bungalow were open and I saw this tight little room with bookshelves full up, a tall lamp in one corner of the room, and a puffed-up large red leather easy chair in front of it. I wanted to live in that room right then and there. I wanted a room like that and I wanted it to feel as comfortable as that one looked.

Now I have that chance. Mom told me and Meridith that we need a bullhorn and GPS to find our way in our new home. It's half bigger than this place, with four bedrooms and two bathrooms. Since where we're living is all rentals, the cost is obviously much lower, and the plan to have Meridith and I share a room if it had been an apartment has been chucked aside. We'll have our own rooms, and this is where deep consideration comes in for me. I want bookshelves, real bookshelves, not the boxes I've had to use as bookshelves for the past eight years. So I'll see what's available in Las Vegas. I'll also finally be able to hang up my pictures, including prints of two Chris Consani paintings: Classic Interlude and Java Dreams.

I still have to research what kind of bed I want in my room, since we're not moving with the mattress I have on the floor, and I don't want to end up sleeping on the floor for a few days, as it will have to be on the first night. I want to make sure, though, that the overall feeling of my room is just like Meridith's Goodreads account, just as peaceful, and which can also double as gentle writing space. Depending on how big my room is, I may get a recliner later on, but not right away since I need to earn some money first. Bills will not be a problem since they're going to be split between the four of us, as has been arranged even years before this move.

Looking at photos of our new home that were sent to us by the manager of this property, there's a small backyard area that I can't wait to use. I can put a lawn chair out there and read for hours on the weekend if I want. I will devour everything that Las Vegas offers, but I want to live my life with as much peace as possible each day. I think any stress that might horn in will just roll off me because I'm battle-hardened from my nine years here, from writing for the former Canyon Call newspaper at College of the Canyons, from writing for The Signal, from all the times before that we've moved. Las Vegas will be my home, and I will treat it accordingly. A small, reserved life ironically lived large. I like the thought of that.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Loving Words

I love words. I love what they can do. I love that through a vast collection of them totaling anywhere from 100 to 200 or more pages, I can visit the Supreme Court, I can spend time in New Mexico, I can learn about various rooms in the White House, I can learn about the men who occupied those rooms. I love the comfort and stability words bring, as important to me as how walking through the College of the Canyons campus in my two years every late Friday afternoon helped me maintain my stability in my confusion about what Santa Clarita was, what it all meant, some inkling about what it was supposed to be. I love that through words, I have learned more and more about the history of Las Vegas, my future home city, seeing in my mind those streets that I'll soon drive, discovering what they were long before they were those streets, what was on them, what they replaced over time.

I love how I can sit on the couch for just an afternoon, read an entire novel, and felt that I've been somewhere entirely different, living a life I'll never live myself, but which I want to know. I love how with words I feel a kinship with writers who inspire me, writers that I want to emulate and yet establish my own style, and writers whose books make me want to do the best I can as I set out to write my own. I love that through words, I have learned more about the Airport series than Universal ever offered through its two-disc DVD set in 2004, a set I still proudly own. I love that I've learned so much about Jennings Lang, executive producer on the three sequels, just from reading old articles in family scrapbooks. I know that if it was possible to meet him (he died in 1996), I would have really liked him, since we both push for what we want, and both talk a mile a minute. My co-author can attest to that, after meeting him two weeks ago (more on that in a forthcoming entry).

I love that yesterday, I finished reading Supreme Conflict: The Inside Story of the Struggle for Control of the United States Supreme Court by Jan Crawford Greenburg, and it made me think of the biography I have of retired justice David Hackett Souter by Tinsley E. Yarbrough that I've tried reading many times before, but never made it through. It's not that it's bad (Souter is one of my favorite justices, mainly because of his quiet personal life, which included having to move a new, more expansive home after he found that his family's farmhouse (owned by his late parents) could not structurally support his book collection), but just that it was never the right time to get into it. Reading more about Souter in Supreme Conflict and figuring that those details are in this biography since Greenburg mentions it at the beginning of her notes section in the back, I want to see what else this biography holds for me to learn.

I love that because of words, I'm telling you all this right here. There are so many of them to use, and I chose all these. And after this, I'm going to go back to that Souter biography, probably finish it today, and see what I want to read next. There's so many choices, and I'm never intimidated by that. I love it. All because of words.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

No One's Coming, But They Keep Trying

There we were today, the three of us waiting in our trusty, aging PT Cruiser while Dad went inside La Mesa Junior High to his classroom to print something he needed to send in the mail to a potential principal in Las Vegas. He parked horizontally across two spaces, getting us as close as possible to the view we had always liked, a view previously unobstructed by the slanting solar panels that provide a kind of roof over every parking space in the employee lot. The view is still as expansive, but now there's shade. It's a bowl-shaped jumble of houses and brush and roads and huge, circular, tan-colored water storage tanks, giving further evidence that this valley can be nothing more than the gloomy suburb of Los Angeles it has always been. However, it's never felt to me like a suburb because is a suburb really supposed to be 30 miles away from the city that feeds it? A suburb is supposed to be on the outskirts, sure, but not that far out, not when it requires a freeway or two to get there.

Mom and Meridith looked out at the view, but I merely glanced at it and then stared at what I could see of the school, the entrance to the office, the entrance to the Multi Purpose Room (MPR, as it's called by the administration over the walkie-talkies whenever they needed a custodian to open it), an entrance to the gym, the entrance to the custodians' office, the main gate leading into and out of the school, the only way the students can get in.

I always did the job I was hired to do there and I'm proud of that. I was a vigilant, careful campus supervisor, but that's not what was on my mind as I looked at those sections of totally empty campus, the only car in the lot besides ours belonging to the tech guy who fixes the computers and other technology around the school. Only when a campus is this empty do the ghosts come out, the ghosts of its history, wanting to be noticed, to be remembered. I know they're there and I can always feel them, but I wonder who they are. I looked at the doors to that particular entrance into the gym and wondered if there was some student who made a half-court shot on that basketball court inside and decided he wanted to be an athlete. I looked at the doors to the MPR, which inside has a small stage, and wondered if a student had ever stood on that stage, looked out, and thought of all the stories he or she could tell through their actions and emotions, and decided that they wanted to be an actor. I thought about the library, which I always liked, and wondered if a student ever read widely of those books, inspired enough to try writing on their own. Are those kids out there in the world now? Was it possible that La Mesa Junior High had produced such students? This isn't the kind of school whose alumni would want to have a reunion, since the students always struck me as having their own small groups, but never an overall camaraderie conducive to the spirit of the school. Students come, they learn, they go home.

Is there a history about this school that goes back years before we arrived in Santa Clarita? I think it's there somehow, but isn't allowed to bloom because of its location in a valley that always rushes headlong into the future and never slows down enough to consider what it is and where it has been. It's regrettable, but I hope there's some student, some future writer, who maybe sees more, much more than I ever could. Because when I walked around the school while I was a campus supervisor, when the kids were in class, the ghosts of its history called out then too. What did they want me to know? What were they trying to point me toward? Across from one of the special education classrooms, there's a large window that, behind it, has shelves with all kinds of artwork on them, such as pottery, clay figures, photographs, small paintings, and I always wondered who these students were, where they were at that point in their lives. Did they create those pieces, take those photos, paint those paintings because they genuinely felt something that they really wanted to express, or were they just doing it in order to get a passing grade on the assignment? I imagine it was a balance of both.

I know that these ghosts would not guide me to what they want me to know. I would have to figure it out for myself, if I was interested enough in this valley, if I wanted to try to make more out of it than it currently is, than it probably always will be. Besides my job, the only use I ever got out of the entire campus was that one building across from the office, a take on adobe architecture that inspired me to just stand far enough back on it to see the top as well, and imagine that I was in New Mexico. I'm grateful to it for that, for giving me those few moments when the kids were in class and I could do that. I want to travel throughout New Mexico so badly, and this was my way of going there briefly, at least for now.

But what of its history besides gradually aging buildings? There are many, many middle schools in this valley and what makes one different from the other anyway? They all take in students and then a few years later push them out into high school. The names of the middle schools don't lend themselves to much history: Sierra Vista, Placerita, Rancho Pico, Castaic, Canyon. I do wonder if those names were chosen as a reflection of the valley or just what real estate forces came up with when they built and built and built. The only real history of the schools is in one of the districts being called the William S. Hart Union School District, but I doubt anyone really thinks about William S. Hart anymore. It's just not the valley for it.

But the ghosts will keep calling, keep wailing, keep hoping for someone to come along to notice them, to acknowledge them, to see that they were there before, that they did many things in this valley. They'll still be at La Mesa, they'll still be in my neighborhood, and in fact, I still sense those ghosts whenever I roll the garbage and recycling bins to the curb every Monday evening and back every Tuesday evening. I look at those hillsides and wonder if there were any cowboys back then. Did this valley ever have an adventurous spirit? I want to think that it did, but my first visit here, in April 2003, was on one of the rainiest days this valley has apparently ever had, very cold, and with pinprick rain. No life at all in this valley, and not only because of the rain. I should think a lively city would show it, even through the rain. Something interesting, something to look at, something to think about and see that, yeah, this something is so very much a part of this city or valley that it's impossible to imagine it without it. I didn't get that feeling there. I should have known.

But I leave without animosity, because to dwell on it is to waste more time that I can use in my new home. Someone else may sense those ghosts of history and do something for them, or the history, whatever it may be, will just keep on fading. It's as hard the 106-degree heat today, but that's the way it goes here. I mildly hope for it, but I don't count on it. I'm glad to have felt those ghosts, especially in Buena Park, Anaheim, Ventura, and San Juan Capistrano, where I know history will always be safe and acknowledged. But Santa Clarita has been a prime example of the kind of living I can't stand. I need history around me, I need to know what happened before I got there, and also long before, and I could never find that path into it here. Those ghosts will keep trying, though. I'm sure of it.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Meeting a Great Man Again

This afternoon at Chipotle, located almost directly across from Edwards Valencia 12, I leaned against the single railing in front of the registers, waiting for my still-cooking large chicken and cheese quesadilla with extra cheese, while Mom and Meridith already had their burrito bowls, and Dad had his salad of lettuce, beef, and a little bit of sour cream. He's not much for Mexican food.

I stared at the woman putting toppings on burritos and burrito salads for people ordering, trying to will her to check on my quesadilla. I vaguely heard people tell the woman what they wanted, and then my hearing faded up and I heard "Rory? Rory?" I looked to my right, and it was Sy Richardson with whom I had seen Larry Crowne last year at Edwards Valencia 12, which he had been in with Tom Hanks, but only briefly in the opening scene, the rest of his scenes deleted. He played a clerk answering Larry's call for a price check. I hadn't seen him since then, but I had seen his guest-starring role on a recent episode of Rizzoli & Isles, which I had never seen before, and Tivo'd only his scene. He was really good, and proved yet again that he's a consummate actor, each role different. You couldn't tell in that appearance that he was the coroner on Pushing Daisies.

We shook hands, I asked him how he was doing, then complimented him on his performance on Rizzoli & Isles, and asked him how he had felt being on one of his favorite shows. He said to me, "I felt like a kid in a candy store." He's saying this to me, but in my head, I'm thinking, "I'vegottogetMeridithI'vegottogetMeridithI'vegottogetMeridith!" Sy and his ever-beautiful wife are inching toward the registers, getting ready to pay, and I told Sy that I'd be right back.

I ran to the table and said hurriedly to Meridith, "Come with me!" We walked back to the register, I tapped Sy on the arm, and he turned, and I said to Meridith, "He played the coroner on Pushing Daisies!" They shook hands and I think Meridith was just surprised. Mind you, she had met Chi McBride ("Emerson Cod") and Bryan Fuller (the creator of Pushing Daisies) at the Paley Center event at the Cinerama Dome a few years ago of a screening of the final three episodes, but I had raved about Sy so much and she was just amazed that there he was on TV, and on the DVDs I have, and there he is, warm-hearted and gracious as ever. He asked Meridith if we were going to the movies too, and she said no, we were just having lunch with our parents. He said he was going to see The Amazing Spider-Man.

Sy seeing Larry Crowne was obvious, but thinking about it now, him seeing The Amazing Spider-Man with his wife, I can tell he really loves movies. He's the genuine definition of a working actor. He goes where the work is. I asked him what he was doing next and he said that he's going to Louisiana for a month to be in August Wilson's Fences. I just looked at the date on my first entry about Sy, and that was July 8, 2011. It's July 5, 2012, and there he was, going back to Louisiana.

We parted, since I got my quesadilla and it was time to eat, and he and his wife went to sit outside for their lunch. After a few minutes of arranging the salsas and the guacamole and Meridith folding down the top of the paper bag of tortilla chips, I realized after all my talking about what had just happened that I hadn't gotten my iced tea yet. I went up to the dispenser and there was Sy's wife, getting a few napkins and some plastic forks and spoons. I said to her that I told my sister the other day that Pushing Daisies should have lasted for eight seasons. She said to me that they really loved being part of that show, and I told her of Bryan Fuller's next projects, that of Hannibal, about Hannibal Lecter before he was imprisoned, and Mockingbird Lane, a remake of The Munsters for NBC. I also said to her that I hope Bryan Fuller remembers her husband, at least for a guest role on one of these shows, definitely The Munsters since he'd fit easily in that style again, considering his role on Pushing Daisies.

We parted again, I got my iced tea, and sat back down.

Lunch over later, we collected all our trash, got up to leave, and I was glad to see that Sy still at the table outside. I walked over to him, he saw me and said, "Have a nice afternoon," and we shook hands again. I said to him, "If ever you're in Vegas, you let me know." He said he would, and that was that. Unlike much of what I've experienced in Santa Clarita, I know he means it. This is his home base, but he's not of this valley. He goes where the work is, he travels for it, and he's always interested in it. He's a real mensch. I hope he visits Las Vegas because I would love to show him around my hometown. I didn't ask him if he's ever been there, but even if he has, it would be an honor to spend time with him there.

He was on my mind the rest of the day, and well into tonight, because of his news that he was going to Louisiana to be in Fences. I found out from his Facebook page that it's going to be at the Shreveport Little Theatre. I couldn't stop thinking about how he's probably studying the text, learning his lines, thinking about how he's going to play it, and eventually he'll be working with a cast and director and learning more from them, because an actor never stops learning. But above all, it made me realize that it's time to get off my butt and finally write the books and novels and plays I want to write. It's time for me to work as a writer like he does as an actor. Oh I'm working on that book about the Airport movies, but I need to do more. I need to do research for my books and novels, though the Vegas-centered ones will wait until I get there, have access to those libraries, and become fully acclimated to the area, which won't take long, but I need to know where past casinos were and drive to those locations, where current casinos sit, to see for myself. Same with Fremont Street, since one of my Vegas novels takes place in that general area.

Sy goes where the work is and so should I. Sure it's all in my mind for now, save for research I've done so far and some paragraphs I've written, and so I need to mine that more. Get it all out and see where it takes me.

Funny how I coincidentally met up with him again the day before I go to the media preview for Lex Luthor: Drop of Doom at Six Flags Magic Mountain. One great day before another potentially great day.

Sy also indirectly reminded me that I need to stay in better touch with the people I really like. That includes him and a few other friends, including one who contacted me today after a year. That was too long.

I didn't know I needed a few moments with a great man, but now that I've had them, I'm a new man. Time to get to work and follow through, not just do a little bit and go back to reading. Thank you, Sy!

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

A Random Assortment of My Life

There's been nothing going on to merit a full entry on its own, at least not until later Friday or Saturday, because on Friday morning, my co-author on my book about the making of the Airport movies has invited me along to the media opening of Lex Luthor: Drop of Doom, a 400-foot freefall ride clamped to both sides of the Superman: Escape from Krypton tower at Six Flags Magic Mountain. Ever since leaving San Diego and his job at a magazine there, and moving back to Venice, he's reconnected with publications he's worked for, and that includes an amusement park magazine that assigned him to write a profile of this new ride. He has a comp media pass for this that can get him and one other person in, and that's me. He has the ulterior motive of us finally meeting face to face and being able to talk more about the book than we have in past weeks since he's been busy with other writing assignments and working with a '70s actress on her memoirs. Plus, he may still have the Lang family scrapbooks that he's keeping safe for actress/singer Monica Lewis while she moves to a new house. She was married to Universal film executive Jennings Lang who was the executive-in-charge on Airport (he watched the dailies and made sure everything was going ok, but with a producer like Ross Hunter, he had nothing to be concerned about), and then produced the sequels. Lang died in 1996, and according to my co-author, the scrapbooks potentially contain a lot of information that only I might be looking for. He's already pulled out what he wants for the book, but wants me to have a look as well. He goes for an overall view. I want to go in deep. We're a perfect match in that way, also because of his connection to the Lang family, having worked with Lewis on her memoir, which was published in May of last year.

So I get free admission into Magic Mountain, and it's going to be my Third Farewell Tour. I want to go to all the spots I've liked, including Pistachio Park, and maybe, just maybe, up the Sky Tower to the now unfortunately empty floor, freed of all its historical artifacts, which were the one thing that distinguished Magic Mountain from the rest of the Santa Clarita Valley, that acknowledgement of its history. However, it has the benefit of being set apart from the rest of the valley by its location to the extent that you don't feel like you're in Santa Clarita. But that history was still important.

Nevertheless, this is the perfect opportunity to say goodbye to Magic Mountain, to silently give my thanks for the many times it sustained me, helped me keep my sanity in this valley. Plus, I've never been to any media event like this, so why not have a totally different experience at Magic Mountain than what I usually had?

- Next item on my list in Notepad of things to write about is my latest DVD reviews, or at least my DVD reviews since May 31. I can't believe it's been that long since I've posted anything about them. I liked my reviews of seasons 3 and 4 of That '70s Show, and I finally sorted out my feelings about Tyler Perry in my review of his Good Deeds. He would be better if he doesn't push so hard, and there's one scene in Good Deeds that shows a potentially great future for him as a filmmaker. So here's the many I've done since my review of Episodes:

Zero Bridge

Law & Order: Criminal Intent: The Seventh Year

Love is On the Air

Trial & Retribution: Set 5

That '70s Show: Season Three

That '70s Show: Season Four

Miss Minoes


Designing Women: The Final Season

PTown Diaries

Tyler Perry's Good Deeds

The Fairy

Father Dowling Mysteries: The Second Season

- In my reading of all the issues of The Henderson Press, I'm on Vol. 3, No. 3, January 19-25, 2012, I'm happy to say that I can amend my opinion of the weekly newspaper. Editor Carla J. Zvonec has finally stepped back from writing every single article in order to actually manage the paper, and not only are her editorials well-written, but finally the Henderson Press has focus and passion for the area again. There are outstanding reporters in Buford Davis, Guy Dawson, and Brian Sodoma, and the level of silly writing that used to plague these pages has dropped dramatically. Unlike Don Logay at his worst, these reporters realize that the paper is about the city, not about them. I liked Logay for his passion for Lake Las Vegas, but I hated how he was so obviously marketing it instead of just reporting it. The writing is much sharper and the profiles of various people in business and businesses themselves do more than just point out that they're there. These reporters are finally finding out that there's a lot of interesting stories in these businesses.

After Mom and Dad came back from Las Vegas and gave me all the publications I wanted to read (including that week's issue of Las Vegas Weekly, a few issues of Las Vegas Seven, and Friday's edition of the Review-Journal), I found the latest edition of the Henderson Press and was very happy. Henderson won't be my home, but I know I'll visit often and I'm confident of always being well-informed because of the Henderson Press. They've finally reached a zenith from which I hope they never come down.

- Today, in honor of Independence Day, Turner Classic Movies showed 1776, one of my favorite musicals. As I watched yet again the business and arguments of the Second Continental Congress, I came up with an idea that could either be a biography if I can find enough information, or certainly a novel. So much has been written about John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, and others in that Congress, but there's been very little written about one of those figures. A novel set around that debate on independence from this man's perspective could be interesting. I know that the debate probably wasn't what it looked like in 1776 (For example, Richard Henry Lee said to John Hancock that he had to decline a spot on the committee to draft a Declaration of Independence because he was asked to serve as governor of Virginia. In reality, his wife was ill), but it would still be something to see it all from this one perspective I want to pursue. I've gotta start writing some of these novels so I can keep my list manageable.

- Around where we're going to live in Las Vegas, there's nine Wienerschnitzels, five Sonics, a Walmart, a Vons supermarket, a 7-11, a Smith's supermarket, the Whitney library branch, and I'm sure I'm forgetting a few other things. Everything's accessible, and it's far back enough from the Strip to feel separate from it yet make you want to go as often as you can.

1776 is the only movie I've watched in full in a while. I'm favoring books more and more now and sticking to it. In the past three days alone, I've read five books, including The Age of Miracles by Karen Walker Thompson and Zombie Spaceship Wasteland by Patton Oswalt. When will Patton Oswalt write another book? He's got another career in this if he wants it and I want more from him. Also, read The Fault in Our Stars by John Green. Don't even ask "What? Why?!". Just do it. It may very well be the best book of this year and many previous years, even though it was published this year.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

I Couldn't Believe It Until It Was True

Over the past five years, Dad has occasionally recounted stories of people he's met through his work at La Mesa and other residents of Santa Clarita who say that they have lived in this valley all their lives and have never lived. If Dad was to be believed, these people did all their errands in Santa Clarita, did not go to Los Angeles for anything, or Ventura, or Burbank, or Anaheim, or any other part of the Southern California region. I don't know if that stands for vacations as well, them never going on vacations to anywhere in the U.S. or internationally, but I've never pressed for that kind of information since it never really interested me. Plus, that sounded impossible. This valley offers little enough as it is. If they lived in Ventura or San Juan Capistrano or Anaheim, I could see them never leaving where they're living for anything. But Santa Clarita? To do anything interesting here, you have to leave, or at least go to Six Flags Magic Mountain for the day, which is separate enough from the valley in presentation and what it offers to not feel like part of this valley.

Last Thursday, at the Walmart on Kelly Johnson Parkway that overlooks Magic Mountain from the parking lot, a significantly heavyset, balding guy in his 60s, who mopped sweat from his forehead at one point, even though the store was air-conditioned, took the same turn as I did round a corner of the store and the aisle narrowed between us. I let him go first, and then we got into a conversation about the day, then about freeways, and then into his history. He lived in New York City in the late '50s and early '60s, then moved to Santa Clarita in '68 or '69, back when roads would dead-end, long before the valley looked like it does now. It was all farmland. He's lived here since then, doesn't like how rude kids are here, hates Las Vegas (he still believes that it's partly run by the Mafia), and asked me if I was seriously going to buy the pair of Rustler jeans I was holding onto, a light blue pair that I favor more than the dark blue pair I have now, but which I still wear because it's not ripped, and I don't like to spend money on jeans unless I have to. This time I had to, to replace one pair that doesn't fit me, that I thought fit me when I bought it long ago. It's not a matter of weighing more than I did then, just that I miscalculated. So I have this new pair (I told the guy, just laughing it off, that I wasn't thinking of buying it, to deflect him from his subtly derisive question), and I'll look for another when we go to the Walmart Supercenter on Carl Boyer Drive. One more pair will do it and then I'll have three and that will be enough.

Anyway, during the story of his arrival in Santa Clarita, this guy told me that he finds it a waste to go to Downtown Los Angeles to a show because of all the traffic that surrounds the Staples Center and the Ahmanson Theatre. He continued talking, and I responded with nods of understanding and vocal acknowledgments, but in my mind, I was thinking, "You can't be serious! Oh my god, Dad was right! These people, previously fictional to me, do exist!" I didn't think much of the guy, because he seemed too bitter to me to be able to live life comfortably (Yeah, there's crap in life, but it's not all bad. It's all in how you live it and how you meet the circumstances you face), but here was proof that somehow, some way, people make their lives here. Now I believe it.

I consider it to be the valley further separating from me and vice versa. It's giving me information and truth I don't think I ever would have discovered if I stayed here. It's a farewell gift to me. Besides, as soon as I get to Las Vegas, I'll forget it all anyway, so there's no harm in it revealing such truths.