Sunday, March 11, 2012

Socks, Books, and Nothing from New Mexico

Last Friday evening, Dad, Meridith and I went out to get groceries while Mom stayed home to rest. Our usual route took us to Sprouts Farmers Market and Pavilions, with a different stop at Albertsons because the fish looks better there now than at Sprouts. It turns out that Sprouts has merged with another company, and also plans to expand into Las Vegas, so that explains why the quality of foodstuffs there has begun to nosedive over the past few weeks.

At Sprouts, there was a basket near the refrigerated case that has containers of potato salad, cole slaw, tuna salad, chicken salad, pasta salad, and whatever other kinds of salads that aren't really salads that you can glop into plastic containers. In the basket were little bags of Zapp's Potato Chips, touting a "Voodoo" flavor, a mix of five flavors, and the words "Original Cajun Kettle Recipe" at the bottom of the front of the bag. "Cajun" could only mean it was from Louisiana, but this could also have been a case of something claiming to be Cajun, yet it was manufactured in, say, Minnesota.

I turned the bag over, and indeed, it was from Louisiana. Gramercy, Louisiana. That's authentic enough for me! And it made me want to get closer to where I want to go in the future, specifically New Mexico. One thing I like to do in a supermarket, at Target, at Walmart, at any pet store, is to turn various products over to where I can find out where they come from. So I vowed to find something that came from New Mexico.

We had an afternoon of errands today, all four of us. First stop was Walmart Supercenter on Carl Boyer Drive because I needed more socks. I wore out a few pairs to the point of holes in the heels, and found myself running out of pairs more quickly and having to put them in the wash more frequently.

I don't think a great deal about clothes. 90% of my wardrobe is printed t-shirts. I don't like jeans that are too-dark blue. As long as they're a close-to-getting-gloomy blue, and they fit, I'll buy them. I love buying socks and underwear because I only have to be aware of my sizes, find the bags that match on the shelves, and that's that. That's all I needed when I found Fruit of the Loom crew socks, with gray heels and toes. Five pairs, $5.77 each, and I bought two bags. I turned the package over and found a location of Bowling Green, Kentucky.

Mom wanted to stop at Dollar Tree in Canyon Country, next to Big Lots, for a mobile thing she wanted to hang at the front door to make it a bit cheerier until we arrive at the front door we want in Henderson after we move. Near the far left of the store, in between two sets of aisles, I found racks of books and got excited, which is normal for me, but these were racks of books that looked like they might be worth something to me, so I got even more excited.

I had no idea that Robby Benson, the voice of Beast in Beauty of the Beast, among other roles, as well as a fairly prolific sitcom director in the 1990s, wrote a novel about that experience, apparently inspired by directing six episodes of Friends, called Who Stole the Funny?. There are undoubtedly elements of Benson's experience in here, though it's up to the reader to pick out what might be true or what they think is true. The Publisher's Weekly review listed on Amazon states that "Benson offers in his debut a derivative parody of behind-the-scenes Los Angeles that fails to skewer any of its easy targets." Well, he hits a few, I think. I've not been directly in the industry, but I've met many flakes involved in it, and my dad has met many Hollywood parents as well, having taught their kids. What Benson writes possibly isn't that far off. I'm on page 141 already, which is a good sign that I'm seeing this one all the way through, and I do cringe at some of the personalities featured, but it's not because of Benson's writing. It's because I wouldn't be surprised if these people do work in Hollywood.

I also found America the Edible by Adam Richman, host of Man v. Food on Travel Channel, American Adulterer by Jed Mercurio, which describes JFK's philandering ways in the clinical language of a detached psychiatrist (though Mercurio isn't one, which I think would make it all the more fascinating), Boys and Girls Like You and Me by Aryn Kyle (short stories, and one of them is about a raid on a neighbor's meth lab that strengthens a friendship between a "solitary woman and a teenage Goth girl," so I had to buy this one!), and Model Home by Eric Puchner, which I wanted to buy when it was published in February 2010, but $17 seemed steep. It's been in paperback since September 2010, the hardcover edition is being sold for $9.47 on Amazon, and I got it for a dollar. It's about a family keeping secrets from each other, including the patriarch having made a bad real estate investment, and the children are distant. They're forced to move to the patriarch's abandoned housing development in the desert and have to face head-on what may tear them apart.

I can relate. My father rushed us here to Southern California after he learned that he wouldn't have a job at Silver Trail Middle in Pembroke Pines, Florida, because the state put more emphasis on the FCAT exam, which meant far less money for electives, including him. I knew nothing about Southern California, didn't even have time to try to get used to the idea in some respect, and then there we were, living in an apartment in Valencia, which I liked well enough because it was at least surrounded by a supermarket, the local mall, the movie theater, and if you had an extra half-hour, you could reach the library on foot. But when I was a student at College of the Canyons in Valencia, trying to learn about Southern California, trying to make sense of it for myself, the books that I read were about Los Angeles, not about the Santa Clarita Valley. There were no books about the Santa Clarita Valley. That I was reading about Los Angeles trying to understand that should have been my first sign that things would turn upside down here, as they have over the years, as we've not had lasting happiness in any of those years. And that there were no books about Santa Clarita Valley should have been a sign that this was not the place for me, that there wasn't some focus on its history, which is an indicator to me about how worthwhile a place is. If its history is there in some form, either with a museum or on display at a library or a section of a library with actual books about it, then it's worth it to me. This never has been. Plus, I won't drive the freeways here. This byzantine maze has been insane from the day we arrived. Is it any wonder that drivers in this region are always ticked off? I want to see what this family in Model Home goes through in 1980s Southern California, if perhaps some of them feel as I have all this time.

Five books came out to $5.44. Let me repeat that: Five books. $5.44. For that price, I got a total of 1,518 pages to read. For as long as books remain this cheap, I will be happy for the rest of my life. While I likely won't buy as many books as I have once I get my Henderson library card (which is valid in the Clark County library system once a certain sticker is affixed to it at a Clark County branch that makes it so), I love so much that I can have all this for so little.

Contrast that with the 99 Cents Only store in Newhall. Their book selection hasn't changed in, I think, two years. I bought the hardcover edition of The War Within by Bob Woodward then, and there are still copies there. In hardcover.

Seeing this, I've come to believe that the Dollar Tree is for the rare reader that happens to walk in, like me. The 99 Cents Only store is for those who either don't like to read or don't have time to read or only read once every few years. However, this observation is based on only one store. It may be different at a store in Las Vegas, and Mom, Meridith and I did go to a store in North Las Vegas, but all I remember there, because of my excitement over it, was finding a VHS tape of The Best of Beakman's World for 59 cents, which I've since bought on DVD. They might have had books. Maybe it depends on where the store is located. They might not have reason to stock that Newhall location with books for the reason that very few sales come from books.

Before Dollar Tree, before the 99 Cents Only store, we went to PetSmart in Golden Valley, where I turned over bags of food, and toys, and cleaning supplies, hoping to find something from New Mexico. Nothing. I'm starting to think that New Mexico must not be so business friendly, at least toward any businesses that ship out goods. I have books by people who live in New Mexico, so that's good enough for me for now. I still hope to find some item from New Mexico in a store somewhere. Maybe I'll find something during our next visit to Las Vegas and Henderson, and maybe in further exploration after we become residents. Since Nevada is a bit closer to New Mexico than California, there should be something. I want to feel that I'm getting somewhat closer to my desire of traveling throughout that state, and while books and music and art do their part, I want a tangible example, something I can touch that I know came from there.