Monday, January 16, 2012

The Traveling Book Debate

In 2007, on our first trip to Las Vegas, I took a heavy bag full of books, despite the drive only being four hours, despite never having been to Las Vegas and therefore negating the need to read during my time there, or at least outside of our room at America's Best Value Inn on Tropicana Avenue, adjacent to Hooters Casino Hotel.

On subsequent trips, the bags got heavier, even though I barely read anything I had packed. Now here comes our next trip on Wednesday afternoon, and what do I bring? This trip is only two days, Wednesday afternoon to likely Friday evening (Dad's job interview with the Clark County School District is at 3 p.m. and we're going back to Santa Clarita right after he's done). Chances are Dad's going to go through the entire school day at La Mesa on Wednesday, with that day over at 3:10 p.m. Quickly home, barely a few minutes to put our bags in the trunk of our rented car (Probably a Kia Soul, which Dad likes), dogs in the car with us, and off we go to the kennel we're going to board them at in Canyon Country, and then out to Las Vegas. This seems like we'll be done at the kennel most likely toward 5 p.m. And it gets dark early here in the winter. So the first consideration is at least one hardcover book I can clip my reading light to, or a paperback that I've read far enough into that I can clip my reading light onto the first ten pages, or just enough to keep it steady.

Since I've not read any paperbacks yet that could hold my reading light, I'm thinking of the first Tales of the City omnibus by Armistead Maupin, titled 28 Barbary Lane, which contains the first three novels. I've wanted to reread the Tales of the City novels for a long time, and what better time to start? Two hours to Baker, along with my mp3 player, sounds right. Then there's the two hours after Baker, and then half an hour still after crossing the California state line into Nevada before reaching Las Vegas. No chance of seeing the billboards I like along the side of the road advertising shows and restaurants in Vegas. All dark.

So that leaves paperbacks during the day, but not very much, since I'll continually be looking out the window as we drive, seeing many of those streets in Henderson for the first time, watching for the route that leads to our new apartment complex, and most importantly, my family and I meeting the new manager there.

A vacation, however brief, is time to do things differently from what you do in your daily life. That obviously leaves out my research for my second book. No way am I bringing along any books related to it, despite my excitement about it. I have Everywhere That Mary Went, the first novel in Lisa Scottoline's "Rosato and Associates" series. I've also got The Ritual Bath, the first novel in Faye Kellerman's "Decker/Lazarus" series; Dog On It, the first novel in Spencer Quinn's "Chet and Bernie" series; and The Case of the Missing Books, the first novel in Ian Sansom's "Mobile Library" series. All mysteries, all first novels, and appropriate for this trip since this will be the first time I'll be seeing our new apartment complex, the first time I'll be going into Henderson knowing I'll be a resident there soon, the first time I'll feel like I'm truly home. So one of these books, or two, would be perfect. And three books would be enough in my canvas bag.

Or maybe four. Just one presidential book, even though it would seem roundly ridiculous to bring along Jean Edward Smith's 900+-page biography of FDR. FDR did dedicate Hoover Dam, footage of which is seen in a small screening room at Hacienda Hotel and Casino nearby, on a continuous loop. But there's no way I'd read 900 pages across two days, nor would I want to. It's the kind of biography I wouldn't want to read and then close for a while and then get back to it and then close it again.

None of this should matter since I'll finally be home. I can begin to see the local Smith's supermarket as a future resident, determining what I'd like to try in my first few weeks there, hopefully finding a sizable mustard collection more interesting than just two rows of French's. And there's also the novelty of a movie theater inside casino property, as it is with Regal Fiesta Henderson 12 inside Fiesta Henderson. Yet, books on this trip do matter, as they always have with me. And it's another first with me not carrying a heavy bag full of books, being more reasonable than before.

28 Barbary Lane will definitely go with me, then, and I've still got time to decide which two of those mystery novels I want to bring with me, and which presidential book I want from those three stacks of presidential books in the living room. Then that'll be it. No uncertainty, no falling back into that old habit. Las Vegas being about reinvention, this is a good start for me.

The "Poseidon" That Should Have Been May or May Not Have Existed

I've reached the end of my notes I've transcribed from my visit to the Academy's Margaret Herrick Library, looking right now at the brief notes I took on the Poseidon script by Mark Protosevich, though how much by Mark Protosevich could be debatable based on the number of people who wrote revisions. Did Protosevich step in after all those revisions, or was he responsible for the huge set pieces?

The front page of the bound script I opened at the library states "Previous revisions by David Scarpa, D.B. Weiss, Stuart Beattie, The Wachowski Brothers, Andrew Marlowe, Paul Attanasio, Akiva Goldsman, Kieran Mulroney & Michele Mulroney." Chances are that the Mulroneys were the first to write a Poseidon script, but it was deemed unsuitable and then Akiva Goldsman was put on it, followed by all the others. Too many viewpoints, too little coherency it seems. Andrew Marlowe is an interesting choice, being that he wrote Air Force One and Hollow Man, so he knew confined spaces.

Did any of these writers have the idea of the survivors being rescued in the opening minutes, followed by massive media exposure, and flashbacks to what had happened? It's something I may never know, but it is interesting that on that front page, it also says "Current revision by Akiva Goldsman." So they went back to him.

At the top right corner of the page is a list of future revisions, being that this particular script was the "Final White Draft - June 17, 2005." Future revisions happened on June 27, July 5, July 25, August 11, and September 12, in blue, pink, yellow, green, and gold pages respectively, most likely expanding on what there already was.

It turns out that even though some of the character descriptions are still shoddy, and didn't fare any better on the screen, Poseidon reads better on the page. Not surprising, but there was still a lot of wasted opportunity here. Undoubtedly, though, there will be books written about the current cruise ship crisis with the Costa Concordia and I'm sure Hollywood producers will try for the rights to various stories now. It's the way they are. But then, after the total failure of Poseidon when it was released, books might have a better chance.

Shots in "Lucky You" That Make Me Want More

Upon learning that we're driving to Las Vegas and Henderson on Wednesday afternoon, I extracted Lucky You from my completely full DVD binder (The other still has a few empty pages left) last night to refamiliarize myself with those streets I've missed so much, those views I've been away from for too long.

Lucky You was filmed in 2005, but not released until 2007, and The Aladdin, which is seen in the opening credits shots after Huck drives away from the pawn shop, became Planet Hollywood Resort and Casino by then.

Right when the movie begins, when Phyllis Sommerville, who plays the pawnbroker, is adjusting the earrings on that sheet of felt, "Las Vegas 2003" appears at the bottom of the screen and I immediately feel this hard pull of wanting to know what happened in Las Vegas in 2003, what it was like, what events there were, what changes there were, what whales gambled in the casinos ("Whale" being what casinos like because it means big profits for them, which is why they always offer comps to those usually very rich guests), what attractions opened, what attractions closed, even what the weather was like throughout the year. In 2003, I was visiting Los Angeles with my family, a mere four hours from Las Vegas, completely clueless about the riches it offers, even when you don't gamble. Understandable, since I was trying to figure out exactly what the hell Los Angeles was, this seemingly endless sprawl that you could spend years trying to find your place in, and still not have all that you're seeking.

That line at the bottom of the screen always reminds me of the history of Las Vegas and Henderson and Nevada itself that I still want to study. In fact, I have to put my research for Mayday! Mayday!: The Making of the Airport Movies on hiatus for this week. Today's going to be busy, figuring out what I want to wear while I'm there, if I can get away with a white Fruit of the Loom t-shirt under one of my designed t-shirts (I'm thinking of one or two Big Lebowski t-shirts), and then a jacket over all that, even though I've never been to Las Vegas in January. Today would also be the day to pack a few things, with the majority of the packing tomorrow. It's not much anyway. Just clothes for Thursday and Friday, and Meridith and I are sharing a duffel bag and so are Mom and Dad. Two pairs of underwear, two pairs of socks, two pairs of jeans, two shirts (I've looked at the temperatures which are quite cool, and am still thinking about if I should bring my blue sweatshirt. We'll be inside mostly, wherever we go, and our car will be a rental, so the heat will be quite reliable in there. I'm still not sure), and one pair of velcro sneakers. It's enough for me.

Tomorrow, just to get even more in that mood and feel some of that atmosphere through writing (Besides watching most of Lucky You again after I sign off), I'm thinking of plucking a few books from my Las Vegas stack. I could read through some of the books I have for my research, and the making-of movie books I have for guidance and inspiration, but I know that Wednesday will come up fast, and I want to be completely submerged in everything that I love, everything that I'm totally ready for.

Also in Lucky You, there's that shot after Huck (Eric Bana) has met Billie (Drew Barrymore), and he's riding his motorcycle down the Strip, past Caesars Palace, I think, with all those softly-glowing street lights lining the sidewalk. I'm not sure what street that's on. I still have to develop my navigational skills for Las Vegas and Henderson, but I repeat street names like Decatur and Tropicana, Sahara and Las Vegas Boulevard, Lake Mead Parkway and Boulder Highway, like the mantras I know they are.

Then Huck walks into the Bellagio poker room as the guy overseeing it is ordering breakfast over the phone for one of the players, and after the guy says to Huck, "Why don't you rest up a bit? You know we never close," there's a shot of one poker table where one of the players is eating a bowl of cereal. I look at that bowl and the dish under it, and I wonder where that bowl will go next after it's washed in the kitchens. What will that bowl be filled with and who will get it? I also think about the sheer enormity of the operations of these hotels and casinos and it's utterly fascinating to me. There are so many stories to witness and to write about. There's a reporter named Sonya Padgett in the Las Vegas Review-Journal who writes those stories. In July of last year, for example, she wrote about the MGM Grand's laundry facility in North Las Vegas. She lives the Las Vegas I love to learn about. It stems from monorail drivers knowing us when we went to Walt Disney World every weekend and parade performers stopping by on their route to say hello to us when I was a tyke. I knew that there was another side to Disney, that which was always in motion to keep visitors happy. It wasn't long after that that I learned about the Utilidors, the tunnels underneath WDW property, which is why you don't see Stitch walking through Frontierland. That's where the laundry facilities are for the park, costume shops, banks of computers for all the audio-animatronics in all the parks, and a whole lot more. That's why Las Vegas fascinates me in much the same way. I like the cocktail waitresses dressed in those pleasingly skimpy outfits at Caesars Palace, my favorite out of all the casinos, even those I haven't been to yet, but I also like to learn about what the custodians do to keep the casinos clean. It's always been who I am.

Oh, and there's also the scene where Roy (Charles Martin Smith), who wants to back Huck in the 2003 World Series of Poker, walks with him past slot machines at Bellagio, and I know that atmosphere so well, and I love to walk by and look at all those slot machines, quick glances at those playing at them. I always feel at home because I'm surrounded by so many different kinds of pleasure. What may not work for me works for someone else, but the option to have it if I ever wanted it is always appreciated.

This road trip to Las Vegas on Wednesday will be a relief. It's not just because I've been cooped up in Santa Clarita for so long that it's basicallly an "anywhere but here" feeling. It's also because I read the Las Vegas Review-Journal every day, and I visit the Las Vegas Weekly website at least twice a week. I want to hold actual copies. I want to read it in print. I want to get to know my local newspaper, to be very happy that I'll finally have a newspaper I know I'll read from beginning to end. I haven't had that since the Sun-Sentinel in South Florida. I don't read the Los Angeles Times because I don't relate to it.

It's also because I've seen those roads in Lucky You, and I know those roads we drove on previous trips, and I want them again. I want to see the traffic flow, I want to enjoy smoothly-paved roads, and I want to study them for myself, to begin thinking about routes for myself. What's the fastest way to go from here to here if there's a concert I want to get to in later years, say, Shania Twain when she arrives at Caesars Palace for her residency? What's the best route to take to get to my favorite restaurant? Even better, how close is the nearest library to our apartment complex? These are questions I can't answer in only two days, as this trip will be, but I can re-establish that base and work my way from that. I want everything that Las Vegas and Henderson mean to me and I know I'll get all of it.