Monday, January 21, 2013

I Locked Myself Away Until It Was Done

So I think I could rank last week as one of the least fun I've ever had. I spent nearly all of it editing the memoir of Sy Richardson, character actor, after he contacted me, asking if I knew any editors that could do it for him and not charge him like they were agents taking commission (my phrasing, not his). I sent him my resume and he hired me!

His manuscript wasn't the torture I'm talking about. He's got quite a story to tell. It's just that when you go line by line and go deep into a sentence, to take care of punctuation and grammar and sometimes the way a sentence reads, you do lose sight of the rest of the book. You have a vague idea of what the book's about, what the author's after, but each sentence becomes its own valley and the pages crawl, because that's the thorough job an editor's supposed to do. I hope I did. I have to make one more pass at it tomorrow, to be sure I've edited all that's necessary and to gather my suggestions for what should be added, especially more about his guest-starring roles on Cheers and Wings.

The last time I did anything as extensive as this in words was when I wrote reviews for Screen It!, and those reviews sometimes took as long as this editing job did, or at least it felt like it. But I know that no matter how tedious it sometimes felt, I got to learn more about how he was hired for Pushing Daisies, and his role in Repo Man, and how genuinely nice Tom Hanks is, by what he did for the cast of Larry Crowne during filming.

But the editing wasn't entirely part of how taxing the week felt. While I was editing, the forms I had to fill out and sign, and the training I had to do for the substitute services department in the Clark County School District in order to be brought on as a support staff substitute so I can eventually apply to be a full-time elementary school library assistant, were sitting heavily on me, nearly crushing me. They have to be in no later than a week from today, otherwise my file will be destroyed two days later and I'd have to start the application process all over again. Every day that I would edit, because I wanted to read more about Sy's life, I'd have it weighing on me that I also had to get those forms done and the training done and go to the Substitute Services office to hand it all in. I'm going in person. No one's going to tell me that something's missing after I've handed it to them right there.

Today, I got it all done. I filled out the forms, I went through what must have been well over two hours of online training, and I printed out the applicable certificates at the end of the session, showing that I passed everything. Tomorrow afternoon, Dad's going to take me to the district offices and I'm going to give them all the forms and the certificates. After that, I wait. They check that I did everything and then once the background check is complete and they're satisfied, they'll send me an e-mail giving me details of when and where to go for my half-day orientation for substitutes, for which I'll only be paid after I complete my first day of work, wherever that might be.

How to celebrate? I don't do Snoopy dances. And the bigger celebration is reserved for when I get that full-time job. I know! I've got a few movies in my Amazon video library that I rented, that I still haven't watched yet, that are nearly all expiring later this week, save for Littlerock and Beasts of the Southern Wild, which expire next week. I don't want my money to go to waste, and fortunately, A Bird of the Air, The Village Barbershop, and On the Bowery are 7-day rentals, which begin when I activate them. Littlerock is a three-day rental, Goats is a 48-hour rental, and Beasts of the Southern Wild gives 24 hours.

I'll start with A Bird of the Air, even though I haven't read The Loop by Joe Coomer, one of my favorite novels, again, as that's what's A Bird of the Air is based upon. However, I do remember a great deal about The Loop after that first reading (yes, it became a favorite after just one reading), so it'll be fun to compare and observe what the movie changes around or compresses or doesn't use. I don't expect the movie of any book to be slavish to the book. I'll be happy if they get the tone right. That's all that matters to me.

Time to celebrate. I'm relieved, and I finally feel more relaxed for the first time in a week. I have to remember this when I embark on whatever writing project is next. Writing is difficult, no doubt, but it doesn't have to feel like a three-brick bowel movement. Maybe if I had done the forms and the training first, the editing would have not felt as difficult, but to me, Sy's work takes priority. And I got all the other work done anyway. So it all works out. But now, as Joel and then Mike always exclaimed on Mystery Science Theater 3000, "We've got Movie Sign!"

Monday, January 14, 2013

A Crate of Wonders

During our first year in Santa Clarita, at the apartment in Valencia, I took the garbage to the dumpster one evening, opened the massive white metal door, and faced yet again the choice of throwing the garbage into the dumpster on the left or the dumpster on the right.

I've long forgotten the choice because I didn't see the dumpsters when I opened the door. I saw a squat chest of drawers to be picked up by those working the garbage truck, whenever that would be. I didn't want the drawers, but I wanted to see if they were empty or if whoever had gotten rid of this chest had left something behind.

I opened each drawer and my jaw dropped and rolled. In two of these drawers were books!

I immediately went on the hunt. Was there anything I wanted to read, any author I had not read yet who might interest me because of the copy on the back?

I distinctly remember two books I chose: An anthology called Closers: Great American Writers on the Art of Selling edited by Mike Tronnes, and Little Green Men by Christopher Buckley. I also chose a few others, but in nine years, those titles have long disappeared from my memory. I think I gave them up when we moved from the apartment to the house in Saugus.

I never read Little Green Men, giving it up alongside those other unnamed books, though I have read Buckley's Boomsday, No Way to Treat a First Lady, and The White House Mess. Little Green Men may come by one day, but not lately and not in the near future.

Out of all the authors I read in Santa Clarita, outside of Charles Bukowski and a few others who are part of my permanent collection, Mike Tronnes has been with me the longest time, when I checked out his other anthology, Literary Las Vegas: The Best Writing about America's Most Fabulous City out of the Valencia branch of the then-County of Los Angeles library system, before the Santa Clarita City Council broke off the three Santa Clarita-based branches from the system to form its own library district. I didn't get all the way through the book then, most likely distracted by other books, but a year before we moved, I bought a copy for myself and read it in preparation for becoming a resident of this indeed fabulous city.

In fact, before I began writing this post, inspired after coming back from walking the dogs, I thought about Closers, and realized that I hadn't read that all the way through either. And I had moved from Valencia to Saugus with the copy I picked out of that chest of drawers. I gave that up, too, when I realized later on in Saugus that I had way too many books in my room, a product I realize now of hating where I was living, of having nothing to do in that cursed valley. So a little while ago, I bought a paperback edition of Closers to finally read all the way through.

The first time I visited Pacific Islands in Henderson, on the way back to Santa Clarita after leaving the Galleria at Sunset mall, I saw that the complex had dumpsters, and I hoped that if I lived there one day, I would eventually find either another chest of drawers with books in them for me to riffle through and see what I want, or at least a box full of books with which to do the same. I wanted that Valencia experience again, that excitement of finding books that belonged to no library, that I didn't have to buy. In some respects, books should be free, and here was the best way, books temporarily left to the elements, for anyone to find who wants them. I know the flipside of it, that it's awful that books were left to the garbage truck, to be crunched, crushed, squashed, spines popped and pages torn. But there was little I could do then. I couldn't rescue all the books, and some of them in those drawers looked like they were beyond saving.

It was the same when I walked Kitty about an hour ago and saw, next to the long, red dumpster that includes a gate that's another entrance to the senior mobile home park side, a crate of books. A crate of old books in two stacks. There were a few ancient law books in there, a crossword puzzle dictionary, and novels that were hard to understand, hard to know what they were. My wish for more literary situations like this had been granted (even though I still hope for the same at Pacific Islands), but it didn't look like there was much for me.

Digging a little deeper into the stacks with one hand while Kitty's leash was wrapped around my other hand, I found a novel called Moviola by Garson Kanin, the late screenwriter extraordinaire. It's a fictionalized account of the start of the movie industry all the way through to the present day, which in this case was the 1970s, and it looks like it's about the sale of MGM through a fictional lens, the main character being B.J. Farber, who's selling his famous studio. Surprisingly, I've never heard of this one, and since it's about movies, it's for me.

Upon finding another novel I wanted to read, called C.B. Greenfield: The Tanglewood Murder, I began to think that I had stumbled upon a crate that was on the senior mobile home park side. I think very few people of my generation would know who Garson Kanin was, but this other novel was written by Lucille Kallen, who wrote for Sid Caesar's Your Show of Shows. As I walked back with Tigger after finding that second novel (I found Moviola when I was walking Kitty, and went back when I was walking Tigger), I thought to myself that Anne De Salvo must have represented Kallen when she played Alice Miller in My Favorite Year, being that My Favorite Year was inspired by the production of Your Show of Shows. What other members of my generation would think of that so readily? This crate had to have come from that side because the dumpster is over here now instead of over there as it was during the holidays. Perhaps one of the seniors over there drove through the opening that separates the parks (the gate's locked at night. The entrance to the senior park is on another street) and dropped off the crate before they went out to wherever their errands took them, or maybe it was a family member who did that.

I had hoped to find more, but two is a good start and possibly presages what might come at Pacific Islands, that I might find readers there who offer treasures in boxes next to the dumpsters. I do wish people would donate them to Goodwill instead of me finding them. Yes, these two books found a temporary home with me which may be for longer depending on how they are, but what about the other books sitting in that crate? The law books might be well out of date and how old was that crossword puzzle dictionary? But different people are interested in different things, and if these books were at a Goodwill or some other donation center with a store attached, someone else might have gotten some use out of them.

I don't know how much faith to have in such a hope, though. A while ago, I wrote about returning Loser to the bookshelves in the clubhouse, and every time I've gone back to the bookshelves on my way to seeing if the mail came, it's always been there. Even today when I stopped by and picked up three books (including If Books Could Kill by Kate Carlisle, which I learned is the second in her Bibliophile series. I've got to start somewhere. After all, I learned also that C.B. Greenfield: The Tanglewood Murder is the second in Kallen's series), Loser was still where I returned it. It makes me wonder exactly how many people read in Las Vegas, but also makes me more motivated to hopefully instill a desire to read in the middle school students I'll see if I get that job as a library assistant. There needs to be more readers in Las Vegas. How else is the boundless creativity in this city expected to last?

Even though I'd prefer that those books be at a donation center of some kind for those who need them, I hope for more at Pacific Islands. We're going there tomorrow to begin the process of securing an apartment there before we're finished here at Valley Vista in September, so maybe, besides the train tracks, I'll see if there's anything near the dumpsters in those areas. Or maybe not. I'll stick with the train tracks because I don't want to make a bad impression. But once we're firmly established, I'm going to hunt once in a while. Sometimes when I'm taking out the garbage and recycling to one of the dumpsters (one of the dumpsters is for recycling, which I love, unlike here, where you throw out everything for the garbage truck to pick up), and sometimes just when I'm walking around the property.

Friday, January 11, 2013

My Own Train Tracks

One night, three weeks ago, in my mind, I stood at the edge of the ruins of the A building, the administration building, at College of the Canyons. I was back in Santa Clarita, lamenting this piece of campus history, which was only 20 years old. Granted, it smelled musty when you walked in, and the offices probably didn't have as much space as those working in them needed.

The new building that will be on the same plot of land is two stories, 46,000 square feet, and will have administrative offices plus the Child Development Center (sounds like someone's been reading Aldous Huxley). But whenever I go back to College of the Canyons in my mind, it's from when I was there as a student, to when Meridith and I visited for the final time last summer as part of our farewell tour of somewhat meaningful places in Santa Clarita. The only part of modern-day COC today that I mix in with my past is Hasley Hall, all metal and glass and concrete, somewhat grim in spots if you look directly at the concrete, but it's charming and aloof at the same time.

And yet, as I rack up more months as a resident of Las Vegas, College of the Canyons fades. I don't need that campus as much as I used to, grateful as I am to it for keeping me stable while I was in a whirlwind of trying to figure out what Santa Clarita was, what Los Angeles was, when we moved there nine years ago. Since I'm not there anymore, why dwell as much? Only Buena Park, Anaheim, and Baker are the clearest in my mind because I either have good memories, such as with Anaheim, cramped as it sometimes was, or I'm using them for novels or plays I'm writing, as with Buena Park and Baker, respectively.

When I go somewhere else in my mind now, my destination is one of three places. First is the University of Nevada, Las Vegas campus which is massive and you can easily get lost there, like we did our first time in 2007 when we were there as tourists and I wanted to get information about their journalism program, when I was thinking of pursuing a bigger degree. I love that campus, with all that it offers, all the tree-lined sidewalks with shadows that loom over the grounds when the sun is cocked at just the right angle, the bookstore that includes books about Las Vegas and Nevada, the cafeteria with so many choices for eats, and the arcade which is at least airier than the near-dark closet that the arcade at College of the Canyons was. I didn't spot any pinball machines, but I haven't been back yet since that first time. Plus, I have to go back because that campus will be an inspiration for a potential mystery series I want to write that's set on a college campus.

My second mind destination is the Boulder City Library, which I love much more than the Whitney Library and the Clark County Library, both of which I find useful, but only as refueling stops. In the Boulder City Library, I linger, I dig, I explore, I gape, I discover. I am forever grateful to the Boulder City Library not only because of how gently and carefully it treats books, not only for the Nevada Room with all those old books about Nevada, but also because that's where I discovered New Mexico Magazine, whose featured issue, on the day I went, happened to be the 90th Anniversary issue. What a perfect starting point for my fervent desire to travel throughout the state in the years to come. Two weeks ago, I bought my own copy of that issue, and today, I subscribed to the magazine over the phone. 12 issues for $19.95. And I'm sure I'll renew my subscription when it comes time, alongside Nevada Magazine, which comes out only six times a year, but is still useful. I love to remember that moment in my mind, finding New Mexico Magazine, turning the pages and discovering that people are as interested in the state as I am. Compared to the names in this magazine, I'm still a total amateur, but I'm willing to learn.

The third place I stop at in my mind will soon become my daily reality. When we went to Pacific Islands, an apartment complex in Henderson in either October or early November last year, I immediately found my favorite spot. You stand at the low part of a wall that separates the complex from a wash, in the parking lot, and after the wash, there are train tracks. Union Pacific trains and other trains pass through here, but usually only three times a day, as someone in the front office told us. When Mom and Meridith went for their manicure appointment at Ravella at Lake Las Vegas last month, Dad and I went to Pacific Islands to find out some more information, and I stood at that wall and watched a chemical train crawl slowly past, not wanting to risk any reactions from hydrogen peroxide and other volatile chemicals which were in white tanks where the cars would be on a regular train. Yeah, it's an unsettling thought, but Pacific Islands and the surrounding areas are still here, so the train drivers are obviously incredibly careful.

I love to stand at that low wall, across from covered parking spaces, across from one section of the complex that represents all the other sections in being a lightly-shaded forest, and stare at those train tracks, imagining my future travels, wondering where those tracks stretch to, and thinking about the teenaged boy I saw standing on an empty section of a train where a boxcar or a cargo container would go, while I was walking Tigger in the parking lot of Barstow Station in Barstow on the morning that we were moving to Las Vegas. I saw him, he saw me, I waved briefly at him, and he stared at me until he was out of sight. Not a malevolent stare, maybe just wondering what I was doing there. I also think about the backpacker I saw on one of our early visits to the Smith's on East Flamingo. He walked to the produce section with his pack on his back, took one banana, and turned right around and walked to the registers. I wondered where he came from, where he was going, if he had come off a Greyhound bus, or if he had a bike, or if he got rides whenever he knew it was necessary. I wrote about him somewhere else on this blog, but I've never forgotten him.

We have to stay here at Valley Vista Mobile Home Park until September 15, as the contract that my parents signed stipulates. But after September 15, I can walk from wherever we'll be at Pacific Islands to that exact spot that I like, and look at those train tracks whenever I want. We're moving again, this time to Henderson, and actually to where Mom wanted to move the first time, but then when Dad was hired, there wasn't enough time to make the arrangements for Pacific Islands to be our new home, and we had to choose what was immediately available. Valley Vista was it, and they allowed pets.

On Tuesday, we're going to Pacific Islands to fill out the necessary paperwork and give $45 each for what is either a security deposit or something else. I don't know, but I'm sure I'll find out before then, and I'm willing to pay because this is exactly where I want to be. The pool has a rock formation waterfall that sounds so soothing when you walk near it to wherever you're going on the property or even to the pool, and there are so many trees to look at and a few flowers too. Plus, people actually walk around, unlike here at Valley Vista where the only way you know that people live here are the cars that pass by. In fact, on our last family visit, we met one of the residents who was standing outside his door on the second floor and he told us that he's lived in Las Vegas all his life, has lived at Pacific Islands for seven years, and loves it. Every resident that I saw looked calm. It's said that the resident turnover at Pacific Islands is low, so that's why we're doing this on Tuesday to be sure that there's something for us by August, so we can snap it up and have that be the only time that we're paying rent for two places. That's how it has to be so that when we're done at Valley Vista, we can move right into Pacific Islands. No more walking up four steps to get to our back door. No more of Mom, tired from a day out, having to walk up those steps to the back door. Ground floor apartment. That's what we want and that's what we'll get.

When we were in Boulder City on Mom's birthday, which was also New Year's Eve, she said she loves it there, but doesn't think she could live there because the novelty of it would fade and she'd get tired of it. I'm not sure how true that would be with how peaceful it is, how there's very little tumult unlike what there is in Las Vegas. Not detrimental tumult, just the usual crackling atmosphere of any major city. The only inconvenience of Boulder City is that it's a fair drive to a supermarket or a Walmart or a Target. If you need to restock the refrigerator or buy a few things for your household, you have to plan.

I don't think I'll get tired of having the train tracks available to me all the time. I can daydream more often about where I want to travel. And there are days when I feel like my writing isn't going anywhere, and all I have to do is look at those train tracks to re-energize my writing, to remind me that I can go anywhere in my writing, explore anything, make it my own. It also has the strong effect every time of making me want to reread Stranger on a Train: Daydreaming and Smoking Around America with Interruptions by Jenny Diski. Maybe I'll do that before Tuesday, before I see those train tracks again.

Monday, January 7, 2013

I Found You Again and I Wanted You Even More

I saw you two Sundays ago. You were showing your spine, which doesn't really do it for me. I need to see all of you. I had actually seen you before this, but only online. It's hard to get a true sense of anything on a computer screen, even with all the information available about you, so it was nice to actually be able to see you in person, to look at you in full and consider if I really wanted you.

I have to be honest. I only noticed you because others of your kind have interested me before. In fact, without them, without you, I can'd do what I'm setting out to do. I need to learn from you how it's done so I can try to do it.

I was surprised to find you in the same place yesterday, a week later. I couldn't have you right when I found you because I didn't have any room for you. What's worse is that according to the system that would classify you, that would organize you among those of your own kind, you don't even exist. You were with your own kind when I found you, but there's no record of you in that system. It's like the powers that be that oversee you don't want to be bothered with the extra work to make sure that you count, that you matter. To me, you exist. To me, you matter.

I don't know how much that will change soon. I only know you from the outside. I haven't explored you on the inside yet. I don't know what you hold. I don't know what's waiting for me. Will I be as impressed with you as I was when I found you online, when I was first curious about those of your own kind? Will I be more impressed than that? Or will I be utterly disappointed? I don't know. I'm almost reticent about finding out because I waited for you for a week, waited until I had seen others of your construction off to wherever they go next, until I finally had space for you. I think no matter what, though, you'll still help me. If you're great, you'll show me what I should aspire to, what I should hope to accomplish. If you're awful, then you'll show me what not to do. Mainly, I want to know your rhythm, how you present the reason for your existence.

So here we are, An Appetite for Murder by Lucy Burdette. Presenting a Key West food critic is what got me here, and I hope it takes me further because I'm looking for a good mystery. Maybe you're it. What disappoints me is that if you're it, if I want to then read Death in Four Courses, your recently-created sibling, then I'd have to search every Las Vegas-Clark County library branch near me. But maybe you'll be like Julie Hyzy's books. I read her newest White House chef mystery, Fonduing Fathers, and while waiting impatiently for her next one, which she probably won't start writing for a while, I remembered that I hadn't read the other two novels in her Manor House Mystery series, Grace Interrupted and Grace Among Thieves, both featuring manor director Grace Wheaton. The library district has none of that series, so I ordered Grace Interrupted. But then, being that no paperback mystery novels are catalogued (when you check them out at one of the scanner terminals, at Whitney or any other branch, they show up as "One Adult Paperback"), maybe the district actually does have copies. The only novels in Hyzy's White House chef mystery series that appear in the system are those that were large print in hardcover. I remember seeing Affairs of Steak, the fifth White House Chef mystery novel, on the same revolving racks that I found you. But I can't go to every branch in my vicinity (which would be only Whitney and the main Clark County branch, which looks more like an abandoned DMV facility with a courthouse facade at the entrance). I love libraries, but every branch's mysteries would undoubtedly be different and there's also the chance that what I might find, I might have already read. These paperbacks come cheap online through, so if I like you enough, An Appetite for Murder, I know where to go next. If you're worth it, I don't mind waiting for your sibling to arrive in the mail. I'm just hoping Julie Hyzy is right, since she praised you on the first page after the cover, and there's also a quote from her on the back. I hope it's like when I discovered Barbara O'Neal when I picked up her How to Bake a Perfect Life and found a quote on the front cover from Erica Bauermeister, who wrote School of Essential Ingredients, one of my favorite novels, the sequel of which is coming out at the end of the month. I haven't had that kind of excitement in books in a while and I want it back again.

You're set in Florida, An Appetite for Murder, and for me, that's an automatic plus. Food's involved and that's always fun to read about, so that's the next plus. I read food critics occasionally, namely the Las Vegas Review-Journal's, so that's a smaller plus, but still a plus. I hope this works out. Excite me, please. Make me want more of you. Make me unable to live without you, as books should. That's my standard. Let's see how you do.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Home is a Library That Knows Me

I like the Whitney Library because it has books, just like I like any library that has books. Any library is my temple because of that. But most of the books I check out from the Whitney Library are from other branches, books that I've put on hold during the week, before my usual Sunday visit, the result of deciding what I want to read the following week, what I want to research for the books I want to write, what would excite me, what would make me curious.

Whitney is an ok branch. It has a much, much larger children's section, an entire room of its own, which I've never seen in any other library I've been to, not even in Florida. It's still part of the library building, but it's its own world, with shelves of picture books just the right height for little kids to find the books they want. There's also a much smaller teen section that also has its own quiet feel, even though it doesn't have the benefit of being as removed as the children's section is. It faces part of where the most foot traffic is, a stretch between the entrance of the library and the fiction and nonfiction sections. But it is quiet enough for any bookish teens to find a sanctuary there for themselves.

Yet, this isn't my library. I don't walk in and feel truly at home. It's necessary for me, it's valuable, but it's basically a weekly refueling stop. I go in, I get the books I want, I sometimes find a title on one of the fiction shelves that I put on hold on my library card for next week, and I leave. There's no connection, no sense of closeness. Even if I spent more time than just the usual half an hour, I don't think I would find it. The closest I've felt to any part of the Whitney Library is a multi-volume set of American surnames, of which I paged through one volume to see what would make a good presidential surname for one of the novels I want to write. If I was to spend more time at Whitney, it would only be for more time with that set.

I have visited my home library twice, though. Once when we were tourists of Southern Nevada, and on New Year's Eve, which was also Mom's birthday. She wanted to visit Boulder City again, which made me deliriously happy because I consider Boulder City my true home. I love Las Vegas, I love that dreams can become reality there, that the strangest visions you might sometimes have are probably somewhere in the city. But inasmuch as I want to write for the tourist publications I've seen that tout and brag and crow about everything there is to do in Las Vegas, I'm not the kind of person who always enjoys the tumult of the Strip, the crowds, the thousands of slot machines, the millions of ways in which you can either spend or lose your money. I do know that the Strip moves more slowly than the media would have you believe, but it's not slow enough for me. Boulder City is utter peace. Boulder City moves gently. It doesn't rush for anything. It doesn't create the latest hype. It doesn't try to get you to go here and go there and eat here and play over there. In fact, gambling is still outlawed in Boulder City, as it was when it started as the first planned community in the United States, built by the government to house workers who were building Hoover Dam. No gambling, no drinking, no untoward behavior that would get you kicked off the reservation, sometimes for a day, sometimes for good, depending on the severity of what you did. Boulder City isn't that strict anymore, but development of any sort is slow because that's the way the city wants it. I love the downtown area because instead of passing by the antique shops and restaurants and candy stores you see, you mosey on by. You take your time. You enjoy what you see, and become curious about what more there is. On its own, the Boulder City Cemetery is peaceful enough, but that kind of peace is spread out through all of Boulder City. It may happen earlier, depending on the years ahead, but when I retire, I want to move to Boulder City. I don't mind how quiet the town is. I don't mind that everything pretty much closes up shop by the early evening. All I need are my books, my writing, and the promise that those stores and the downtown area entirely will be open the next day for me to mosey on through if I want.

That includes the Boulder City Library, which is part of the Las Vegas-Clark County Library District, but also has its own website. Its rules are more stringent than any other Las Vegas-Clark County branch, such as a maximum of four people at any table, but it makes for a far more pleasant experience, such as the one I had on Mom's birthday, with the library our last stop before we drove out of the city to search for the Hacienda Hotel and Casino, near Hoover Dam.

When you walk in, you enter a small rotunda that has pictures of Boulder City's residents, men who worked on the Hoover Dam. There's a picture of one man scaling one of the many rock walls, another slightly colored of a man standing there with construction going on behind him, and my favorite, three men having lunch. Then, hung on a wall across from where you stand is an enormous quilt portraying a tall bookcase, created by a quilting club in 2004, each section done by a different member.

When I walked into the library proper, I knew exactly what I wanted: The Nevada Room. I believe the Boulder City Library has the only room devoted to Nevada history. In this room are books about Nevada, Las Vegas, Boulder City, Hoover Dam, and the Southwest in general. There are maps and documents to carefully examine, and reference books to peruse. There are two long tables, a collection of chairs, and framed pictures on the wall showing off various aspects of Nevada's history. When I first saw this room as a tourist, I wanted to read every book I found there. I still do, and though I can't physically check out each book from that room at the Boulder City Library, I know that when I look them up in the library catalog, chances are that Boulder City will be the only branch to have that particular book.

First, however, I wanted to find one book to check out. I was returning Tooter Pepperday by Jerry Spinelli, which I had finished reading the day before New Year's Eve. I knew what I wanted to check out, but it was all more than one book. There were a few Nero Wolfe novels by Rex Stout that I knew the Boulder City Library had. Oscar Levant published The Memoirs of an Amnesiac in 1965, and I knew Boulder City had what felt like a first edition when I saw it. You see, Boulder City is a safe haven for old books. It's hard to find a book that's over five years old in the Whitney Library. Not in copyright, but in whatever edition it is. For example, the copy of The Betsy by Harold Robbins that I checked out from the Whitney Library was from Boulder City. It was published in 1971, and this copy looks like it was from 1971. But it's well cared for. Books seem to be stitched up there when they need to be, new binding applied, new plastic covering given. Every word, every sentence, every page is important here.

I walked passed the Young Adult Fiction section, which is in an alcove next to the entrance. There are long shelves of books there, and while I was looking for The Memoirs of an Amnesiac, I stopped to look for any of Jerry Spinelli's novels, and smiled when I spotted Love, Stargirl, which was part of a box set I bought from Amazon that included Stargirl, the first novel, and a free journal. It was the first time I bought a book before I finished it, Love, Stargirl having been checked out from the library. I knew I needed both books only halfway through the sequel.

The biography section, on the opposite side of the library, didn't have The Memoirs of an Amnesiac. When I looked it up just now, I found that it's on a holdshelf for someone else.

I went to the fiction section, which was a revelation because I didn't have to squeeze past any shelves! I could comfortably walk past them, unlike at the Whitney Library where you have to decide if it's you or your tote bag full of books that's going to go through. Here, I reached the Nero Wolfe novels without having to tell my tote bag, "I love you! Never forget me!" Not to mention that I didn't have to bring my tote bag this time because I had reached my 50-item limit on Monday, as always.

I still have Fer-De-Lance, The League of Frightened Men, The Rubber Band, and The Red Box to read. I ordered them toward the end of my trying years in Santa Clarita, and moved them here with the rest of my books. I'd rather see where I get with those four. I've always liked the series, but I only have a yen for certain books at certain times. This week would have been Nero Wolfe's time if ghost stories hadn't gotten in the way, which I want to read to see how ghost stories were told throughout literature as I plan my own novels that are in the same realm. I'll probably be influenced by a few of them, but I mostly want to figure out the blueprints for these books, how these authors did it, what kind of devices they employed.

As I walked past the "A" authors on the far left wall of the fiction section, I spotted Timbuktu by Paul Auster and immediately reached for it and pulled it down. It's about a dog named Mr. Bones and his dying companion, Willie G. Christmas, as they try to find Bea Swanson, Willie's former teacher and greatest influence in his life, so that Willie can give Bea the key to the locker at the Greyhound station that contains all his manuscripts, and so that Mr. Bones can have a home instead of having to fend for himself after Willie dies. I first read it in September 2008, as I found out earlier today on my Goodreads account, and even though I hadn't thought about it since then, it must have stuck in my mind, because I wanted to check it out to see if I wanted it in my permanent collection. Was it really that good then? That first time, it must have been.

I carried it with me as I finally approached the Nevada Room. Timbuktu was my top choice, but maybe there was something in here that I'd want more.

The Nevada Room has silent reverence toward the state it represents in the books it holds. You come in here and it feels like you can know all of Nevada just by touching the books, not even picking one up and skimming the pages. I wouldn't go so far to say that there are spirits roaming this room, but there is a definite sense of history that would excite any Nevada knowledge seeker, like me. If ever I use this as a quiet research room, I know it'll always be welcoming and exude less expectation than the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences' Margaret Herrick Library did. No one's above you in this library and in this room. It's all yours, to seek out whatever you want.

I found an anthology called Literary Nevada that I went to the computer across from the check-out desk to put on hold because I knew by this time that I'd check out Timbuktu. I wanted it again. The only other book I wanted from the Nevada Room was Walking the Twilight: Women Writers of the Southwest, another anthology, and I put that on hold too. Later, when I checked my account before we left, I found that the copy in transit to the Whitney Library was the one I had held not even an hour before. There's a lot of other books from the Nevada Room that I want to read, and I know I don't have to memorize any titles. I'll find them in the catalog and they'll quickly be familiar again.

Mom loves this library as much as I do, and it's mainly because of the magazine collection they have. I didn't count, but I estimate that the library subscribes to at least 70 magazines. At the Whitney Library, the magazine room is barely a cubbyhole and it only seems to have the current basics, such as People. Here, you can find so much more, including "Aviation Week and Space Technology," "Trains," and others I've unfortunately already forgotten, except for one.

I knew this was my library because of its peacefulness, because of its appreciation for old books, because it still has its card catalog, even though they prefer the online version. But it also does what any library worth its weight in book gold should: It knows you. The librarians may not know you all that well and the only moments you may spend with them, at least at the Boulder City Library, is when you check out books (At Whitney, you use a self-checkout system and a human is only there if you have any questions regarding your library card. For anything else, you go to the reference desk). But the library knows. The library knows what you gravitate to as soon as you arrive, what you like to read, what you're looking for.

I went down the rows of magazines on the left side of the tables and chairs in between both parts, and then the magazines on the right side. I was surprised to find "New Mexico Magazine," which, until this moment, I didn't even know existed. I took it to the table where Mom was, sat down, opened it up, and took out my phone to put names of some of the writers in the magazine and book titles into a text message in my phone to look up later.

New Mexico Magazine. In the past couple of weeks, I've let subscriptions to "Oxford American" and "Poets & Writers" run out because they didn't feel like they fit me anymore. I like the writing in "Oxford American," but I'm not in the South anymore. Not that that's any reason not to read Southern writing, which I still do, but that's not me right now. I want to travel throughout New Mexico in the years to come. What better way to begin learning more about the state? I'm thinking of subscribing to it. $19.95 for 12 issues sounds like a good deal, better than what I'd have to pay to renew my subscription to "The New Yorker" if it was expiring now instead of September 2014.

After Mom was done with the magazines she was reading and we headed to the exit, we stopped at the new books which take up a few shelves directly across from the check-out desk. Mom was confused before because in the fiction section in the back, there were signs that said "Coming Soon" and she mistakenly thought that those were new books that hadn't been cataloged into the system yet. All of them. She hadn't noticed that under "Coming Soon" was a pair of handcuffs, and some other images related to murder mysteries.

The Boulder City Library is doing a Winter Mystery Reading Program that starts in two weeks, and it was advertised all throughout the library. This is Boulder City's own program. No other Las Vegas-Clark County branch is doing this. That's one of the signs of a strong community, that the library creates programs like this and actively promotes them. For this, there will be book discussions, and movies, and a Clue-themed party. If I was living in Boulder City, I'd go to all of it.

While looking at the new books, I found that the library knew me very well because sitting next to a book called Don't Know Much About the American Presidents by Kenneth C. Davis, which I put on hold after I got home, I spotted Fifteen One-Act Plays by Sam Shepard, one of my heroes. It was an expanded edition of The Unseen Hand and Other Plays, likely including more plays, possibly his latest works if there have been any. Presidents and Sam Shepard side by side, as well as another book called A Slave in the White House by Elizabeth Dowling Taylor, about Paul Jennings, a slave that was born on the plantation of James and Dolley Madison, who later became part of their staff at the White House. This is the library I want for all time. This is the library that knows me well. The Boulder City Library is not a refueling stop for me; it is the sanctuary I've always wanted. I know that we're going back to Boulder City possibly in the next few months, if not sooner, but I don't know how often I'd be able to get to this library otherwise. Boulder City is only 12 miles from where we are in Las Vegas, but it feels like another world, another life, with a lot of hills to drive over, and a higher elevation. You can't see Las Vegas from anywhere in Boulder City. I don't feel pressured or rushed by anything in Las Vegas, but if you ever want to breathe more easily, Boulder City is where you go for a while. I'd rather be there forever. I would never be bored there. And to have a library that knows who I am, and what I want in my life, is something I cherish and hold close. After this library visit, I can't see the Whitney Library for more than what it doesn't have compared to Boulder City. That's not fair to Whitney, I know. A library with a lot of books to choose from is still good and necessary. It's what I live for. But after we left the new books, before we reached the door, we saw on a bulletin board easel that the library was asking kids to make snowflakes that would be sent to the kids at Sandy Hook Elementary. That is what community means. I know it's at the Whitney Library too, though not as easily found, but it's much stronger in Boulder City. I belong there for that reason, for many reasons.

Mom's main concern is that if we move to Boulder City, what we feel about it will diminish because we'd be there every day. I don't think so. For one, it's the one place in Southern Nevada that truly feels peaceful. But also, I've never lived in a small town.

A few weeks ago, I met another neighbor in our mobile home park, a 60-70-something woman who had lived in Minnesota all her life and moved out here for the freedom to do whatever you want because in Minnesota, she was surrounded by people who wanted to do this and do that and why don't they meet there and go to that restaurant later? Not family, not all the time I'm sure, but neighbors always in each other's business.

Boulder City has the same sense of separation that Las Vegas and Henderson do. People go on about their lives and you're doing this and they're somewhere else. For friendliness, you can't beat Boulder City. For me, Casselberry was a suburb outside of Orlando, Coral Springs and Pembroke Pines were just small cities. I feel like I can walk around downtown Boulder City and find something different that interests me every time, while always having the opportunity to go back to what I love.

There are disadvantages, such as supermarkets and bigger shopping centers not being close by. If you need to go to Target or Walmart, you have to drive for a while. The only movie theater nearby is two screens at the Hacienda Hotel and Casino and that's closed and opened a few times already, with this latest attempt seeming to be the most successful.

It's a balance, though. You have to decide what you want, what you can live with, and can live without having as often as you've had it. I don't think we'll be moving there soon, or for many years. Henderson seems more what we need right now if we move again. It's a little further from the Strip and downtown Las Vegas, but it has almost as relaxed a lifestyle as Boulder City, but with a lot more traffic and shopping centers.

There's time, years and decades, in fact. But whenever I go to the Whitney Library, or to the main Clark County branch, neither can compare to my home. It's everything I could ever want in a library.