Monday, December 10, 2012

A Book Goes Forth

I rushed through my lunch, washed the dogs' food dishes and water dish and tray, and quickly made Mom's lunch because I wanted to get to the clubhouse of our mobile home park before it closed at 3 p.m. You can get into it after hours if you call security to open it up for you, but there's not a lot to do there to merit spending more time than the usual few minutes. There's a flatscreen TV on a table with a couch and coffee table in front of it, there's a wider room in the back with tables and chairs, a small kitchen, a water cooler, and a fireplace. Unless one of the residents is holding a birthday party or some other party that necessitates opening up the clubhouse after hours, or the front office is having an open house, as they are on Friday with hors d'oeuvres and punch (With $900 a month in rent, I had hoped there would be pie or something more significant), that area isn't used much. The maintenance guys read the paper there in the morning, evidenced by the day's Review-Journal left lying around, but that's about all the play it usually gets on a daily basis. If you see cars lined up next to the entrance of the clubhouse, then you know something's going on, but most of the time, silence.

There's also a tiny gym with some broken-down equipment that probably has no hope of being repaired, plus that room could use a paint job. But being that the playground is missing the horses that were on springs, and the basketball court could used new hoops and nets, I don't think the gym will see anything new for a long time, if ever again. There is a list of things to be fixed, and I know there are financial considerations involved in doing so, but considering that they recently rented a bulldozer to pull out the plants growing next to the entrance and exit gates, I don't think there'll be much in the way of other cosmetic freshening. I can understand middle school basketball hoops maybe not having nets, since bureaucracies take time with whatever needs to be done, but the basketball hoops and the playground here are part of the face of this mobile home park. Part of the problem lies in many people moving out, including one now-empty mobile home across the street from us, and empty lots not being filled with anything except trash and bicycle parts and tiny bits of litter. It's not so bad as to mirror the city dump, fortunately. I think it gives the lots still more history, but empty lots means less money coming in. We are buried pretty deep in the valley, despite being near Sam's Town. Our entrance faces the back wall of another mobile home park across the street, so it's not as easy to find. The benefit is that security almost, almost seems superfluous, though I'm glad to have them. I see them during the day when I walk the dogs, when I go to see if the mail came, and when I walk the dogs late at night. They keep close watch. We hear sirens elsewhere around our park, but never within.

For me, the most important room in the clubhouse is diagonal from the TV and the couch. A little past the middle of the room to the right is a pool table with one of those long stained-glass lights you'd find above a pool table in a bar. Next to the pool table and further back are sturdy wooden bookcases, and to the left of the first bookcases against the back wall are two easy chairs and a table in between. This may well be the quietest library in Las Vegas because I don't get the sense a lot of people use it.

In August, before we moved, when Mom and Dad went back for Dad to sign his employment contract and to see Margaret, the manager of our mobile home park, to let her know that we were finally on our way, I sent with them a sizable portion of the books I had accumulated over the past few years in Santa Clarita, for the library in our mobile home park and the senior mobile home park which backs right up to ours. In fact, both are nearly mirror images, with the clubhouse of the senior mobile home park the same as ours, and Margaret oversees both.

When I finally got to see the library in our clubhouse, I saw that some of my books made it onto those shelves, and some went to the senior mobile home park, as I expected. Most of the presidential ones went to the senior mobile home park, and I imagine their bookcases are more packed than the ones here since some seniors there may have a bit more time on their hands.

Since the day I saw the library in the clubhouse, I've been there many more times, more often than before in recent weeks. You can take out any books you want and they trust that you'll return them. There are no cards, no sign-out/sign-in sheets for the books. Books obviously rank way below the rent check.

It's hard to believe that anyone besides me takes advantage of what there is in these bookcases. I've plucked so many from the shelves and brought them home that I now have two stacks of books that came from there. Some of the books, such as Memories of My Melancholy Whores by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, used to be mine, when I had bought books instead of getting a new library card when the City of Santa Clarita opened their own library district after they broke off from the County of Los Angeles. I despised that action because the valley was isolated enough already. That only served to isolate it even more.

In those bookcases, I also found the third and fourth books of the Percy Jackson series by Rick Riordan, which I was excited about since I like this series much more than the Harry Potter series, and I had finished the second book of the series in April. I still haven't read them yet, but I'll get to them soon, if my library books don't get in the way again.

Yet, I made time over this past weekend for one of the books from that library, namely Loser by Jerry Spinelli. I had heard of Spinelli because I had heard of Maniac Magee, but I never read it. Not until I read Loser. Now, I put it on hold on my library card and I want to read everything else he's written. I think that's because I've never grown up in the traditional sense and probably never will. When I began as a substitute campus supervisor at La Mesa Junior High in Santa Clarita in 2006, I was popular among a group of the kids there because I had been one of the AVID tutors in their science and math classes. AVID's a program designed to push kids toward college without considering that there may be other avenues students would want to explore (The world always needs car mechanics as long as there are cars, and that doesn't necessarily require four years of college), and the teachers involved were always stringent about what should be done. We couldn't chat too long with the students outside of the work involved, we had to help them with whatever questions they needed answered. But I was an easygoing sort and usually joked around with the kids whenever I had the opportunity, and they liked me for it. To them, I probably seemed less stodgy than their teachers.

Besides that, my father worked at Silver Trail Middle, the same middle school I attended in 7th and 8th grade, so I've seen campuses more up close than most students do, especially in the morning as teachers and administration come in, and after school, when all the other students have left and the hallways look wider empty.

So I can read Jerry Spinelli's novels without hesitation. And besides, these kinds of novels are written by adults with the same mindset I have, though I don't have in mind any adolescent novels of my own to write. Or not now, anyway. I do have an idea for a short story that involves a girl going from being a little kid to a teenager and then to her twenties, an odd sort of way of looking at it, but that's been it so far.

The one major thing that Spinelli did for me with Loser is give me permission to breathe. Spinelli seems to have had as much fun writing about Donald Zinkoff as it is to read about him, and it's especially refreshing how Donald goes through his early years, not caring what anyone thinks about him. He's truly himself and that's all that matters. Spinelli writes in a playfully mischievous manner that I love that has told me, through his style, to relax. Don't get so worried about the work to come. If you like doing it, then it will turn out well. I was so relieved to hear that from another author, to understand again that while it can be hard, it doesn't have to be hard. Now, instead of worrying about potential story problems in my novels, I just go for it the way I thought about it and deal with the problems as they might come along.

My plan for returning books to the library in the clubhouse was three at a time or at least a significant handful if they're thin paperbacks in order to restock the shelves well. All that I've taken out could fill one shelf. To return one at a time seems like a waste of a walk, but I had to do that with Loser. I wanted someone else to find it, to be as overjoyed as I was with it. Hence the rush to get through my chores so I could get to the clubhouse before 3.

While I walked to the clubhouse, making a right turn halfway up my street, walking past one street with mobile homes on both sides, and turning into the next street, my favorite street because of how peaceful and removed it feels from the noise of the day and night (not as much noise, but the sirens can be heard clearly at night and I'm sure it's slightly muffled on that street), I told the book that I was taking it back home, to be discovered by someone else who would hopefully be as excited about it as I had been (I've read many good books lately, but none that had me as psyched as this one). I went inside the clubhouse, and made a right to the bookcases. Initially, I was going to put it against the copy of Joy for Beginners by Erica Bauermeister that I used to own, but it wasn't at eye level. You'd have to bend down for it. Me, I scour entire bookcases and bookshelves. I'll always bend down to look at every title. But some don't. They make a quick sweep of the shelves that they can immediately see and if nothing interests them, they walk away. I wanted to make sure that this book is seen, and so I put it next to Leaving Cheyenne by Larry McMurtry, which I owned, but didn't read, and a Babysitters Club book. Before I left, I said to it, "Make me proud."

And then, of course, after that, I scanned the shelves and came away with There's a Boy in the Girls' Bathroom by Louis Sachar (It was read aloud in the Intensive Literacy Program I was an aide in during one summer school session at Sierra Vista Junior High in Santa Clarita, but I want to read it on my own), The Testament by John Grisham (I want to read Grisham's novels that came after The Runaway Jury, my favorite novel of his), and Knit One, Kill Two by Maggie Sefton, yet another title in the Berkley Prime Crime Mystery line. I'm still keen on writing a mystery novel that I may stretch out into a series, so I want to see how others do it.

So not only is Loser ready for another hopefully eager reader, but now it has more room to breathe. The next time I go to those bookcases, though, I hope it's not there. I hope some intrepid young reader has taken it to read and soon be delighted at the treasures it contains. Or an adult reader. Either way, it needs to travel again, but I hope it's as well cared for as it was here.