Wednesday, February 27, 2013

DVD Reviews Since....August

I've continued writing DVD reviews after a month away from them to readjust my priorities, to remind myself that I'm still writing them in order to keep an updated portfolio, but this time reviewing only what truly interests me, despite the temptation to ask Acorn Media for everything they have, which would put more pressure on me to review everything I've requested and to spend more hours in front of the TV than I'd want to because I have more books I want to read than DVDs I want to watch. As long as I don't look at the wholesale section of Acorn Media's website, which includes a list of upcoming titles, the temptation passes.

However, a month's hiatus means nothing in this blog because I just realized, while thinking about posting links to my latest reviews, that I haven't posted any links since August 8, a month and 6 days before we moved.

Here we go then, with my reviews since August, up to today's review of the Michelin Guide documentary Three Stars:

The Devil's Needle and Other Tales of Vice and Redemption

Dennis the Menace: 20 Timeless Episodes

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel


Holy Flying Circus (One of my favorite reviews of late)

The Sinking of the Laconia

The Decade You Were Born: The '40s

Red Green Show press release with a little from me at the top

The Callers

Master Qi and the Monkey King



The Decade You Were Born: The '50s

James Bond Gadgets

50's TV Classics

Secret Access: The Presidency

The Good Wife: The Third Season (My final review before we moved to Las Vegas)

The Halloween Tree (My first review after we moved to Las Vegas)

Battle Circus

Kiss Me

Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: The Complete Series

The Raw and the Cooked

The Clintons: An American Odyssey

Hazel: The Complete Fourth Season (My other favorite review of late)

A Simple Life

Three Stars

Next up for me is seasons 5 and 6 of That '70s Show and The Carol Burnett Show: Carol's Favorites (Collector's Edition), which came out on September 25, but I'm catching up on earlier DVDs since moving took priority as well as seeking full-time work.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

A New Collection

When I was eight, nine, 10 years old, I had a baseball card collection. I don't know why. I never watched baseball and I liked basketball more. It didn't make any sense. The bottle cap collection I had from Publix milk and orange juice made more sense. I even collected the rings around the caps and those came in handy when Mom helped me make a science project in elementary school that was a ring toss game.

I had a few pet rocks, and when I was heavily into aviation in my teens, I wrote to airlines and got from them those emergency information cards. I also got issues of their inflight magazines which led to my first published writing: A sidebar about Y2K prevention for Meridian Magazine, the inflight magazine of the now-defunct east coast-based Midway Airlines, when I was 14.

On our first or second visit to Las Vegas, when we ventured into Henderson, we stopped at the Smith's in a shopping center that includes a AAA office, Brooklyn Bagel, Popcorn Girl, the Cracked Egg restaurant, and Ohana Hawaiian BBQ, our favorite Hawaiian place so far in Southern Nevada. In that Smith's, I spotted a toy flour truck, which was hauling sacks of flour, and I bought it. It reminded me that when I was in kindergarten, I collected Matchbox, Micro Machines, and other kinds of toy cars. But this time, I wanted to do it differently, and so about a year before we moved, I began collecting toy working vehicles. I have a garbage truck, a school bus I bought at Six Flags Magic Mountain, a gas truck, an ice cream truck, a food truck (hot dogs, hamburgers and sodas), an airport fire truck, and countless others. I haven't found a taxicab yet, but I want one. Maybe construction vehicles, such as a cement truck, but I'm not sure yet. The only police car I've bought is a vintage Nevada Highway Patrol one that I ordered online, and will likely be the only one for me since it relates to my home. I'm not sure about fire trucks. I see them around all the time anyway. Maybe a Nevada one.

At Sprouts late this afternoon, I pulled basil from the rack of one of the refrigerated cases, basil that you can grow. I opened it up so I could smell the salty complexity of my favorite herb, and Mom asked, "Do you want to grow it?"

Me? No. Not here anyway. If I eventually decide I want to, I'd rather wait until we get to Pacific Islands in Henderson, after we get settled. But I'd rather buy ready-grown basil to use right away.

As we walked into the aisle where lip balm, ointments, pollen, and other natural products were, I thought about another collection. But nothing I'd have to physically collect. Something different from the norm of collecting.

No matter where we go shopping, be it Sprouts, Walmart, Smith's, Vons, Target, or even when we're just visiting shops on the Strip, I always look at the back of products to see where they come from. In fact, I did that at Sprouts, finding out that some kind of orange-infused lotion came from Salt Lake City.

Then I hit upon it: I want to collect city and town names. I don't mean Googling a state and copying those names into a Word file. I mean looking up whichever cities and towns I spark to and studying them, learning their history, even if I might not want to go there, such as, say, a town in Alaska (it always sounds too damn cold for me). The real beginning of this can be pinpointed a few months back, when we were new here and I decided that I wanted to learn more about Florida than I felt I did when I was there. I was born in Plantation, but we lived in Sunrise at the time. I really don't know anything about Plantation, nor what it was like in 1984.

Odd-sounding names will of course be part of it, as well as cities and towns in New Mexico, including, naturally, Taos. I want to do more than just looking at the back of a product and seeing a city name. I want to know where it is, what it looks like, what the population is, what kind of government they have, all of that. I'm already doing that with Boulder City, having begun studying it long before we moved, and I always have a yen to go back. But I want to know more of the United States. The biggies, such as New York City, Boston, Los Angeles, San Francisco and others, stay out. I want to know about the not-so-obvious cities, the history of those that are content with the size they are. It might help my writing, since I have two road trip novels in mind, but mainly, I want to know about what I can't see, what I can't experience every day because I'm here, and those cities and towns are there, over there, way over there, and waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay over there. I think this collection will be as fun to maintain as my toy working vehicles.

Monday, February 18, 2013

The Generosity at Hoover Dam

On the same page in Boulder City: Passages of Time that made up the previous entry, I also found this, which deserved its own entry:

"One of the unique features is the cafeteria-style lunch-basket room. The men file through, take an empty box, and fill it with whatever they wish. Sandwiches, pieces of pie, etc., are all wrapped in waxine bags. If a man wants only six pieces of pie, he can have them. By this method all are satisfied and there is none of the proverbial grumbling about the grub in the lunch boxes." -- New Reclamation Era, November, 1931.

Under that paragraph is this, which shows that generosity is possible anywhere, even during the hard work of building Hoover Dam:

"...We work it this way. I bring the sandwiches, another fella brings the fruit, another the cake. If we have anything left we give it to the guys who don't have anything to eat." -- Buck Blaine, Nevadan Magazine, Las Vegas Review Journal, 8/26/73.

They Began Badly, Too

Yesterday, I wrote about how I ate badly during our first few days as residents in Las Vegas, and that it eventually took its toll on me. Only after our mattresses were delivered, and when we began shopping for groceries, did I improve and turned my attention to becoming acclimated to Las Vegas as a resident, away from my days as a tourist.

In state history, I'm not the only one who did this. I put a book on hold from the Boulder City Library, commissioned by the Boulder City Library in 1981, called Boulder City: Passages in Time by Angela Brooker and Dennis McBride, the latter Boulder City's most famous historian. I checked this out of the Whitney Library last Saturday.

There's no page numbers in this book, but I found this at the beginning of the chapter about construction of Hoover Dam:

"It is a fact that there were a great many heat deaths in the canyon during the first summer down there. That was for two reasons. One was because of the heat, and the second was that the people working in the canyons had been on one or less meals per day for quite some time. And when they got down there and saw the Anderson Commissary there, with all this food stacked up to eat, they just couldn't believe it. They just gorged themselves and then went down in the canyon, and the heat'd hit 'em, and they'd keel over. The government, at that time, when all the deaths were occurring, asked Harvard University to send out some scientists to see what could be done to combat the heat. And they came up with the salt tablets to prevent dehydration. And every employee at the dam working in the canyon and those that weren't too, I guess, were required to have salt tablets in their possession at all times, and to take about one an hour. And it was determined that this did a great deal towards combating the heat prostration, although, once the people got used to eating regularly and not quite as much as they did when they first came there, it was all right." -- John F. Cahlan, Reminiscences of a Reno and Las Vegas, Nevada newspaperman, University Regent, and public-spirited citizen: typed transcript of a tape-recorded interview conducted by Mary Ellen Glass, Oral History Project, Getchell Library, University of Nevada, Reno, April 1968.

That's exactly what it was, with the food, but without the heat. I had gorged myself when I was a tourist and did it again without care in our first few days here, just for energy, while rapidly becoming exhausted at the same time. I can relate to those workers, and thankfully, just like they were, I'm settled here, and much more mindful.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Breathe Deep

"I now live in a village in the desert. Although we have left the city, it has taken my body months to slow down, to recover a rhythm in my heart that moves my body first and my mind second. I am learning that there is no such thing as wasting time, as whole days pass inside the simple tasks of making a home, meeting new neighbors, watching the ways of deer. My ears have just now stopped ringing as they adjust, accommodate this quiet, this calm in this landscape of time." -- "Red: Passion and Patience in the Desert" by Terry Tempest Williams

In Florida, I smelled the rolling ocean, the salt lingering invisibly in the air. I smelled suntan lotion and the dampness of the sand in Fort Lauderdale and Miami Beach. In a stroller at the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World, smoking was permitted more widely in the park and a certain brand of cigarettes today, though I don't bother to find out which, triggers memories of Walt Disney World, because those were the cigarettes in the Magic Kingdom, like the brand was a proud sponsor of Walt Disney World. I remember walking into the late Lox Haven in Margate and the heavenly heavy and salty smell of lox hit you as soon as you pushed open the door nearest to the carts on the inside. You'd have to push past the old Jews to get a number at the deli counter and then wait, and jostle them some more after your number was called and you wanted to get the attention of the man behind the counter before he went on to the next number. Being a young Jew long removed from Florida, I miss those old Jews, may they rest in peace, which seems likely by now. You never know what you miss about a place until you're existing where you don't want to be.

For nine years, I forgot how to smell, I forgot how to breathe. I couldn't bring myself to make more of Santa Clarita than was already there, which was a nothing of epic proportions. I'd go to the Pavilions supermarket every Friday and get close to the roast chicken, just to smell something different than nothing. The flower displays at the Ralphs supermarkets looked so dismal that I feared if I got near them, they would dramatically collapse ("No! Don't come near me! I'm hideous! It's not going to get any better!"). Malaise is the right word, the only word, for those nine years. I was relieved whenever we walked into the restaurant at IKEA in Burbank because Swedish meatballs, the way they had them, were at least a welcome change for what I usually faced every day, and every week. One of our last visits to anywhere outside of Santa Clarita before we moved was Golden Corral in Hesperia, our beloved buffet that we hadn't seen since Florida, this being the closest location for us in Southern California. The others were in City of Industry and El Centro, as close to the Mexican border as you could get without crossing it.

When we walked into Golden Corral, I wanted to fall to my knees and thank god for recovering part of the life that I knew, although it was a temporary relief. No matter, though, because we moved to Las Vegas not long after this visit. I still believe there should be a Golden Corral in Henderson, along with a White Castle on the Strip, and an IKEA somewhere in Las Vegas. There are plots of desert that would suit it perfectly. And besides residents' dollars, IKEA would also enjoy tourists' dollars. I think they forget about that when they say they're not going to put one here. But they should.

Finally escaping Southern California after nine years, we arrived in Las Vegas as residents last September 14, which now makes it five months that we've lived here, Valentine's Day being that marker. And yet, even though I was mindful that I was going to be a resident, I still traveled badly. Breakfast at McDonald's at Barstow Station in Barstow was two Sausage McMuffins with Egg, a hash brown, and a caramel McCafe Frappe.

I wasn't thinking. All we had in our empty house in Saugus on the early morning that we moved was a box of Cookie Crisp. I was starving. I just needed energy. Surely a bad way to go about it and it got worse, because that night, we picked up dinner from the Hawaiian place in Henderson that we like, in that shopping center on North Green Valley Parkway that includes Smith's supermarket and Brooklyn Bagel. The next night, we went to Wing Stop. You can see where this is going, without vegetables, without fruit. Add to that unpacking boxes and sleeping on the floor for a few nights after arriving and after ordering custom mattresses from a nearby mattress maker (which thankfully only took two days), and changing our licenses at the DMV, and getting my library card at the Whitney Library while totally exhausted, and I was a mess by the fifth day. I quickly learned that you have to immediately establish yourself in some way when you arrive in Las Vegas as a resident, some kind of routine to establish even as you're moving in. Otherwise, this city will eat you alive. After the mattresses were delivered and I finally got some decent sleep that night, I found my footing. I began the process of applying for a full-time job in the Clark County School District, first as a campus security monitor, and now as an elementary school library assistant. The process still has a little more time to go, but it will happen soon, and it needs to happen soon because Blue Shield of California is cutting off the medical insurance I pay for on my own, being that they've found that I don't live in California anymore. Well, duh. Four months since I've moved and they've only just looked at the address they were sending my bill to?

However, it took more time to become accustomed to the landscape around me. No matter how much I read and studied while I lived in Santa Clarita, while waiting impatiently to move to Las Vegas, none of it compared to actually being here. Now, I'm not an in-a-rush type of person like Dad is. I want my life to be as easygoing as possible. But silence here is different than silence in Santa Clarita. At our house in Saugus, you might hear a train whistle in the distance in that bowl-shaped valley at two in the morning, but you'd hear basically no traffic. Some coyote howling during the summer months, but not as much as the dark morning hours stretched on. No traffic in the neighborhood.

Here, you have to listen differently. Being that this is a 24-hour town, there's a nervous energy, a nervous humming underneath all of Las Vegas. It's constantly moving. When I walk the dogs at 11 p.m., there are cars still going by on the street outside my mobile home park. People are going to work, people are coming home from work, people are going out to gamble, whatever they're doing. Anything you want to do here, you can do. But even in Florida, living in Grand Palms in Pembroke Pines, I never heard this much traffic at night either. Things slowed down, tucked themselves in for the night, left whatever needed to be done until the morning. Dad was more surprised about this than I was, but I was still a bit flummoxed by it. I'm still amazed at how people manage to live, those who work at night. And yet, there's my North Carolina neighbor at the end of my block who's a member of the cleaning crew at the Thomas & Mack Center, coming in after the event or basketball game is over to go to work. He comes home early in the morning and goes to sleep until the afternoon. That's where the work is for him and so he goes.

But it's not so much that. There's a slower rhythm to the desert. You can go to the Strip and have a blowout time, but you can also search for the Las Vegas of old. There are museums here for that. They allow for reflection. And libraries in Las Vegas, Henderson, and my dear favorite in Boulder City all carry books about what Las Vegas used to be. The city gives you a choice. You can do whatever you want here, even drive out deep into the desert and let out a primal scream. I've never done that and have no reason to do that since I'm content here. Yet the desert looks after me just as it would look after you. Slow down. Take your time. Figure out what of Las Vegas would fit you and then pull it close to you to enjoy. Whatever you want, you can have it. That goes for residents just as much as tourists. As a resident, once you've balanced yourself soon after arriving, you're good to go.

That all ties into my learning how to breathe again after nine years of nothing. Soon after we got here, one of our early nights saw a steady wind throughout the valley and I was first relieved because this wind couldn't potentially spark a wildfire like the winds in Southern California could, what with all the mountains, but then I was so happy because I had waited so long to feel a true desert wind. It's always windy in Palmdale, just part of the landscape, but here, the wind feels like it dances with the landscape. There are nights when it's still and calm and yet when we drive toward Las Vegas from Henderson, we can see all those lights in the distance and they're all twinkling, seemingly without the aid of any wind. When I felt that first wind, I stood totally still when I was out walking one of our dogs and let it wash over me and all around me. I wanted to feel every moment of it, and I wanted to know it well. I breathed it in and it felt like the wind was made of all of us in Las Vegas, present and the past. Frank Sinatra was in the wind and so were the blackjack dealers on the Strip. Liberace was in there somewhere, and the cocktail waitresses at Caesars Palace were taking drink orders from in there too. The water show of the Bellagio was also dancing in that wind. Also in that wind, Bugsy Siegel was barking orders. I believe that the ghosts of Las Vegas only make their presence known when it's gloomy and raining. But the wind lets off a tiny bit of them, a reminder that we are here because of them, because of what they did before, because of what came before. I like that. It broadens my love of history.

Last Friday, I finally mastered learning how to breathe here and how to smell again. The day was calm when I went to get the mail and I walked to the left, to the end of my street and then turned right onto Lane I, as it's called, passing one street and then entering the next one on the right, my favorite street in this mobile home park because how close the houses seem to be across from each other, but how homey it feels. This street feels like it's protected from the rest of the park, interrupted by little traffic, not hearing much of the traffic outside the mobile home park, with other houses bordering it.

As I walked my usual route, I smelled perfume which seemed like the Macy's kind. If it was a plant that I had overlooked, I would not be surprised because plants here have a certain kind of power, few as they are, but that they're few may be why they inspire awe. Hardiness in the desert. Survival. I'm not quite sure yet what I'm supposed to smell in the desert. I know I haven't smelled sagebrush, the state flower, yet, because I would definitely have noticed. Scents do linger here, though. I've smelled fresh wood, dust from the remodeling of bathrooms in the clubhouse, stagnant pool water, tree scents from the wind blowing as I've walked around, and a lot more that I should work to categorize. I've never thought about smells as much as I have here, but it's the kind of state that makes you thankful to have a sense of smell.

I know to breathe slowly here. Life happens, as it will, and there are tense situations and responsibilities to meet, but there is also such joy in the simplicity of things, of standing outside and taking in all that's around you, especially on days when pollution from Los Angeles doesn't create a haze over the Strip. I walked around my neighborhood that Friday, so content, so at peace. I'm not sure where I would belong in Northern Nevada, as I haven't been there yet, but I know I belong here in Southern Nevada, and in Nevada entirely. I feel like there's so much for me to explore each day, and so much for me to see and smell and hear and even taste at times.

Then yesterday, Meridith and I walked five laps around the large perimeter of our mobile home park, covering every corner from the dumpster near the gate that separates us and the senior mobile home park from the inside, to the maintenance area where those guys and gal store all their stuff for repairs in the park, to the two RV lots where RVs are usually parked, but most of them are gone, their owners having gone to explore whatever of the United States they like. We walked twice around the mobile home park, and then at the beginning of the third time, after we passed the clubhouse, we were walking by the first house after that, and I stopped. The door of that house was open and something smelled so good! It straddled the line between a roast something and barbecue, but without the grill outside. Or maybe there had been a grill in the small yard covered up by that wooden fence and I didn't notice. I couldn't hear anything sizzling, though. It had to be from the oven in the kitchen. After the fourth time, Meridith jokingly suggested that I call Mom and Dad, tell them that they can have dinner without us (pork roast, stuffing, and cranberry sauce), and we invite ourselves in for dinner at that house. I was sorely tempted. It was 72 degrees today in Las Vegas and it was that kind of day. Doors were open, windows were open and a lot of people were outside, taking advantage of this unexpectedly warm weather that leaves us on Tuesday. This was the warmest day out of the past three days, which was why Meridith and I went out for a walk. And as we did those laps, and Meridith was telling me about her cafeteria job lately, I felt that same peace I achieved on Friday. I know now that it's in me and it's not leaving. Every time I walk outside now, I'm curious about everything. I want to know if those currently empty mobile home lots might have been occupied years ago. I want to know what holds a carport up. I want to know what kind of plants I'm looking at across from the beginning of Lane I. I want to know what in that maintenance area hasn't been used in years, but that they don't throw away because they don't feel like it. I want to know more about the RVs parked here. I want to know what kind of bulbs are used for the noirish orange lights on my street and all around the mobile home park at night, how long they last, and when they possibly need to be replaced next. In our first week here, I saw the maintenance people with a cherry picker, one person on it, rising up to the lights, opening the glass to that light, and cleaning the glass on the inside and the outside. I had never seen anything like that before.

Finally, I can breathe without worry, I can breathe without boredom, I can breathe knowing that every breath carries the full weight of the desert and all that it entails. I know that it gets mighty unfriendly in the summer, and I will experience that in due time, but to breathe this easily, and to really smell things, for them to linger like they do, this is where I belong. This place requires a thesaurus, but there are times when no thesaurus can ever help describe my experiences. I've done a little of that in this entry and in others, but it's not even a quarter of what I feel when I walk the dogs at night, which I'll be doing in a little while, nor when I visit Boulder City, nor when I'm on the Strip. I've said before that if you can't find anything to write about in Las Vegas, you should quit. I still believe that. But now I know that there are times when words can't do it. You can only stand still and let the wind embrace you. If there's wind tonight, or even a breeze, I will gladly give myself to it. Peace has never felt so good.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

The Right Time

Last Saturday, at the end of a few hours in my fantasy home of Boulder City that included Goatfeathers Too (annex to the main, sprawling antique store across the street), Goatfeathers (the main store), lunch at Mel's Diner (a middle-of-my-best-list patty melt with onions and swiss cheese), lots of chocolate covered things ordered at Grandma Daisy's, and finding out that TuTu's Books was closed for maintenance until Tuesday, we stopped at the Boulder City Library, my temple, my sanctuary, possibly above all other libraries in this valley. I don't think other libraries to see in Henderson could possibly compare to this one, even though I'm fond of the tall bookcases at the James I. Gibson Library.

With no room on my library card, I used Meridith's for three books I wanted: Finding Casey by Jo-Ann Mapson, which I saw was set in New Mexico and wanted it right away; Father O'Brien and His Girls by David Chandler, set in Las Vegas, and which I found in the Nevada Room (I want to read all the books in there); and Dog Days at the White House: The Outrageous Memoirs of the Presidential Kennel Keeper by Traphes Bryant with Frances Spatz Leighton. Bryant was the White House electrician who was there from Truman through Nixon, but took up taking care of the First Dogs from Kennedy through Nixon.

Meridith checked out those three for me along with a few books to read to Tigger and Kitty, and then I spotted The Care and Handling of Roses with Thorns by Margaret Dilloway, a novel about a regimented 36-year-old biology teacher who severe kidney ailments who's a rose breeder. I'm interested in flowers, but those other details seized my attention, because I am as regimented as her in my reading. Nothing can get between her and her roses (though that will likely change), and nothing can get between me and my books.

I decided that since three books from the Boulder City Library seemed like enough since I had all those other library books at home, and more books on hold to pick up the next day, I would put this one on hold and pick it up at the Whitney Library, my usual branch, the Sunday after the following one. I did, but after we got home from that day, which afterward included exploring the M Resort in Henderson, I wished that I had given that book to Meridith to check out as well. I badly wanted to read it, and that copy belonging to Boulder City, that should have been enough incentive for me since I prefer Boulder City copies of any books whenever possible.

But, as has been my experience in the past, there are times for certain books, and they may not be right away.

Take today. I picked up The Care and Handling of Roses with Thorns at the Whitney Library, along with my other holds. I was finishing Finding Casey and determined that that would be the next book I started, since I had waited a week and couldn't stop thinking about it during that week.

It has been such a nice day today. Recently, I finally became accustomed to the slow rhythm of the desert, which merits its own post soon. I have learned to breathe slowly and really smell the desert around me, and I feel good. Finding Casey was a gentle, understated wave of a novel that made me more curious about the plants of New Mexico and its customs, and what better atmosphere in which to start The Care and Handling of Roses with Thorns?

I am where I want to be, living a life that will soon be fully formed with the arrival of the job I want, and finished a novel that held such promise and delivered on it. And the middle of the afternoon was just as gentle as that novel, as the desert, unseasonably warm, but a welcome break from sweatshirts, which I don't like, having been born and raised and spectacularly spoiled in Florida. I'm now on chapter 4 of The Care and Handling of Roses with Thorns, on page 40. So far, it has been worth the wait.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

At First, Disappointment, and then Realization and Contentment

My subscription to New Mexico Magazine began today with the arrival of what I thought would be the Valentine's issue, but turned out to be the March issue. I was disappointed because I wanted to read about what's considered romantic in New Mexico. It would be the logical thing to get the next issue after I subscribed in January, but I guess I didn't subscribe early enough. I'll either see if a newsstand around here has it, or I'll order it from the website, as I did with the 90th Anniversary issue I bumped into at the Boulder City Library that introduced me to New Mexico Magazine.

Then I looked at the March issue: "25 Reasons to Love Taos." And it came to me: When I was 11, a confluence of events made me become a writer. It must have been brewing since 1992, when I was 7 years old in Casselberry, Florida, and copied by hand onto a sheet of posterboard an Orlando Sentinel review of the animated movie Bebe's Kids. That also eventually made me a film critic, but seeing those words come alive after each letter was attached had apparently made a deep impression on me.

That 11th year, in South Florida, I found in a thrift shop a huge book called The Most of Andy Rooney, bringing together his previous books A Few Minutes with Andy Rooney, And More by Andy Rooney, and Pieces of My Mind. I had seen him on 60 Minutes, when I knew the show to be a magnet for car commercials. There were a lot of those during the broadcasts. But reading Rooney's commentaries, about restaurants, woodworking, tools, winter, how cold it gets at night, I was amazed. I didn't know writing could involve all this! I thought you simply go to restaurants, you eat, you enjoy whatever of the experience you like, and leave. But to write about it? To dwell in corners, to notice decor, to see whether it's food or atmosphere that's most important? I never thought writing could be like that! I wanted to do it and after reading that book, I tried writing like Rooney did, but learned quickly what writing style is, that his voice isn't my voice, that my voice can be anything that I feel I am.

Then came Natalie Goldberg. I was gradually learning more about writing, and at my local library, I found Wild Mind: Living the Writer's Life. Here was a writer telling me to be playful, be bold, be daring, be free. Remembering some of the books I had read up to that age, including bringing John Grisham novels with me to class to read in 3rd grade (and I could read them, which made my teacher actually call my parents in for a conference, concerned that I was reading on a level far above my classmates, which never made sense to me), I thought writing had to be mostly formal in execution. You had a viewpoint, you pinpointed that one story you wanted to tell, you wrote all you could about it, and that was it.

But here was Goldberg, telling me to write about home, to go back there in my mind, to read my writing aloud to understand the rhythm of words, to write about spiritual experiences. Still surprised at what Andy Rooney wrote about, Goldberg made me want to write about everything on the planet, to discover who I wanted to be, to think, really think, about my life and what made up my life.

I checked out Wild Mind a lot. I wanted to absorb her book in my body and know it without picking it up, always guided by it, always prodded to do my best and my worst in my writing, and make that my best too.

Goldberg wrote about New Mexico, about Santa Fe, about Taos, because she lived there, and in other books of hers, it was noted that she lived, and possibly still lives, in Taos. I didn't think about it much at the time. I only knew she was the spirit I wanted to follow.

And then, in September 2011, came The Secret of Everything by Barbara O'Neal, who wrote How to Bake a Perfect Life, which I had only read because the front cover had a blurb by Erica Bauermeister, author of the deeply felt The School of Essential Ingredients, and that was enough for me. I loved How to Bake a Perfect Life and wanted to read everything else that O'Neal wrote, starting with The Lost Recipe for Happiness which was wonderful, detailed, emotional, vividly realized. But The Secret of Everything was it for me. It cracked New Mexico wide open. It is the reason I want to travel throughout New Mexico. I learned that the fictional Las Ladronas was a combination of Santa Fe and Taos, and I want to visit both. I fell hard for the beauty, the peace of New Mexico through O'Neal's descriptions, and out of everywhere I want to travel, I want to know New Mexico the most. I want to see every inch of it.

Reading it a second time last year, I realized that Natalie Goldberg started me on this path, but I hadn't known it yet. The Secret of Everything sealed my fate.

Walking back to our house from getting the mail, I quickly got over my disappointment of not getting the Valentine's issue when I saw "25 Reasons to Love Taos." As I learned just now from her Wikipedia page, Natalie Goldberg no longer lives in Taos. She lives in Santa Fe. But when I discovered her books, when she made me want to write and write and write and write, she lived in Taos. It's appropriate that "25 Reasons to Love Taos" is one of the stories of this issue. Goldberg gave life to the beginning of my writing life. This issue marks the beginning of my eventual travels to New Mexico, my desire to read the literature of the state, its history, its poetry, its desert, and its other landscapes. This subscription and this first issue is when I get serious about going there, moreso than before. Taos is here again, as it should be, another introduction, another path to begin.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Standing Still While Traveling on the Rails

Living in Las Vegas, you can't help thinking about traveling. Even if you're not doing it yourself, license plates in the parking lot of your local supermarket, of Target, of Walmart, and at intersections, pull you along.


Go to the Strip during the weekend and you will hear a British accent or two. But here you will remain, at home, a local. The tourists come and go while you go to work. This is a transient city, not just in tourist turnover, but residents, too. Some don't stay long. Las Vegas is merely a way station for them to figure out where they want to go next, and perhaps settle for good. Some come here with high hopes, but within months or a year, they can't stand it and leave for more agreeable destinations.

On the other hand, I am home. I'm not leaving. In the past week, I have seen nearly all of Flamingo Road while walking, and now I know it well. A permanent first step. Next I want to know Pecos and all the other streets, and more of Boulder Highway, which I have walked to the back end of Sam's Town. But I am also leaving soon, though not going as far.

In September, my family and I are moving to Pacific Islands, a forest-like apartment complex in Henderson that has such wispy trees, you wouldn't be far off if you spotted fairies playing among the branches. There, Las Vegas is always reachable whenever we might want it, and Boulder City is much closer.

I have already found my piece of home there, a chest-high wall I stand at in one section of the parking lot to look out at the railroad tracks across the way, separated by a deep wash below, and a fence above that:

The above photo is the first view I see when I walk up to that wall across from one of the apartment complex buildings, across the parking lot. That is graffiti you see, very well-done graffiti, actually. More thought is put into graffiti in the desert because we have more time with such an epic landscape. Sometimes it's just a matter of marking who you are and moving on, but some of it is like that, with depth and dimension. It doesn't seem to bother anyone. In fact, one of the times I was at this wall before I took these photos, I saw a woman walking her dog across from the tracks, near the graffiti. The City of Henderson does care about how everything in its limits is doing (though its recent City Council vote to allow The District at Green Valley Ranch to have vehicle traffic in place of the pedestrian mall it used to be is highly questionable, being that it was the most peaceful place in Henderson), but graffiti near the train tracks isn't such a big deal because no one really hangs out there. Except me, at that wall, and I like it. It's anonymous history.

Whenever I'm not working, whenever it's not too cold, whenever Hell isn't being simulated during the summer, I'll be there. I can't bring a folding chair with me because the view would disappear when I sit down. But I can stand there, with a book, reading some, and then looking out at the view, back and forth. That view inspires me, inspires my writing. I want to do more with my words when I'm looking at that. But that's nothing compared to when I look to the left, as far down as my eyes can take me:

When I look at the view right in front of me, I think a little about traveling, about the presidential libraries I want to visit. But when I look at that view, it's like this scene in A Clockwork Orange, but 100% less sinister and far more inspirational. The libraries become more vivid, as well as their surrounding areas that I might visit, too. I think about traveling throughout New Mexico, how badly I want to see the desert as they have it. I think about going back to Florida, visiting whatever of my old haunts are still left, to see how they've changed. I think about books I've yet to read related to all this, presidential history, books about New Mexico and Florida (I want to learn more about my home state than I felt I did when I was in school), and especially Stranger on a Train: Daydreaming and Smoking Around America with Interruptions by Jenny Diski. Every time I see this view, I always want to reread that book, even now when I'm just looking at this photo I took.

I also think about another person I will never know. On the morning we moved from Santa Clarita to Las Vegas, we stopped in Barstow, at Barstow Station, which deserves its own post for excellent train station theming that's only too appropriate since one side of it faces the railroad tracks, a bigger section than what I see at Pacific Islands. Meridith and I got out of the car first when we parked right in front of the fence through which we could see those tracks, to walk Tigger and Kitty, and while I was walking Tigger, a train swept by. There were boxcars on it, and empty spaces where a boxcar would go. Standing on one of those spaces where a boxcar would be coupled onto the train was a teenaged boy, who looked like he was in his mid-teens. I raised my hand to wave a bit, and he turned to look at me until he was out of sight. Maybe he was running from some kind of trouble. But for a brief second, I wanted to jump aboard with him and see where we'd go. I've never forgotten that moment, nor about him. I wonder where he is, if life has gotten easier for him, and if that was the case, I hope it has. There's travel for pleasure and travel to get away. I hope he's somewhere now where he can enjoy the former whenever he wants.

And then, after a few minutes, I snap back to where I am, standing at that wall, looking at those train tracks. For now, it's always time to go. I get in the car and Dad pulls out of the lot to wherever we're going next. But when I'm a resident there, when I return to reality, all I have to do is turn around and walk back to our ground-floor apartment, wherever it may be on the property. To have that view all the time and to know that Boulder City is closer than it is here in Las Vegas is all I need. I am home in Nevada, no matter where I am, but now I'll have my place, where I belong. And once in a while, I can watch one of the three daily trains rumble by from my spot.

My place. My home.

Monday, February 11, 2013

The Power of Imagination Under Fire

In my mind, I can, and have, sat in the Nevada Room of the Boulder City Library, with only the lights in that room on and all the other lights off.

I have walked back and forth through the half-bowl-shaped park beneath the Bureau of Reclamation building in Boulder City during the day, at sunset, and well into the night.

I have walked the UNLV campus many times and have gotten lost at least twice. I keep forgetting which way the bookstore is.

I have walked all around the Fashion Outlets of Las Vegas in Primm, on the exact state line between California and Nevada, when it's completely empty. I've played Galaga in the small arcade tucked away from the food court, which was also totally empty.

I have found where the pigeons of Las Vegas go at night, and have talked with them about their lives here, as well as asking if they have any cousins in New York City, and if they ever have the chance to compare notes.

I can change things in my imagination. That's the whole point of being a writer. I can do in my mind what I can't do in my life. I don't think I could speak pigeon well enough. But what's most frustrating to me is when something is totally immovable, when nothing I think about can turn it into its original spirit, before it became what it is. Some things don't have an original spirit. What they are is what they always have been and that's never going to change.

I have an odd interest in business, and maybe that's because I'm not in business. I'm not part of a corporation, or a growing company, and I don't know any corporatespeak. I don't know how to shift a paradigm, nor would I want to learn. I'm happy as I am. Yet I'm always curious about business trips, what's involved in them, who those people are that take them, what in their lives is interrupted when they take them, or if their jobs are their lives. Part of it is indeed inspired by watching Up in the Air, starring George Clooney, but the rest is wondering about how various businesses operate, how they approach various situations every day. Is there still humanity inside some of those businesses or has it been snuffed out by corporate monoliths that are so sure that the bottom line is the only line? Moreover, who are the people in these businesses? Where did they come from? Did they want to do anything else before they came to the business world or were they the kind so organized in elementary school, so good and quick with numbers, and later so full of ideas to further interests outside of their own that the business world just seemed natural? I'm tempted to read Bloomberg Businessweek once in a great while to see what those people in business are like. Back in Florida and California, my dad was a middle school business education teacher, so while I didn't pay a great deal of attention to his work because I was either also in school or pursuing other ventures, some of it seeped in. I don't like the sterileness of OfficeMax and Staples and Office Depot, but I do like standing in front of legal pads and binders and pens and paper clips and other business products, happy that they're useful to someone. I don't like how some businesses can destroy lives, can widen the gap between rich and poor, can harm the environment, but I'm still curious. I'm not as interested in the top as I am in the inside, those who work on the lower levels of a company to make it look impressive to investors and the media and others.

I bring all this up because last Friday morning, I was sitting in a wide room, at a large round table, one of many large round tables that clustered together in the length of the room, listening to the head of substitute services of the Clark County School District tell us what we needed to know. I kind of understand making meeting rooms bland because you don't want to emphasize one thing over another and therefore run the risk of offending everyone and making business life even more difficult.

This particular room, inside the Curriculum and Development Building on Pecos and Flamingo, off the main entrance, has a slightly raised platform, demonstrating why substitute services uses this to introduce new substitutes to how the SmartFind job system works, what the pay rates are, what you should do when you arrive on the job, etc. The head of substitute services seemed aware of how plain the room is, and in introducing herself, immediately made herself more personable by giving a few details of her life, including being an enormous fan of the University of Alabama football team. She had obviously done this orientation so many times before because she stuck to the serious details, while handing off other matters, including discounts offered in Las Vegas by having a CCSD ID card, to another woman in her department, whose name I unfortunately forgot. Both made an admirable tag team for giving the necessary information.

But the room, oh that room. I got a Brave New World/1984 vibe. While I listened to what Dr. Byrd told us that we needed to know, graciously scaling some of it back since much of it we had already picked up from the online training, I also looked at the dais she was on, the podium on which she had her papers and her bell to get our attention at the beginning of the orientation and after the break we got in the middle, the screen on the left, the screen on the right, and the two projectors embedded in the ceiling, pointing at both screens, showing Dr. Byrd's PowerPoint presentation.

Could anything else be made out of this room? What about a play? Unfortunately, Glengarry Glen Ross was the only one that came to mind, a more low-budget version.

Maybe improv comedy classes. The dais was low enough to at least be accessible. Dr. Byrd may have been taller than us during that orientation, but she was with us. She was there to help us.

I then thought about those trust exercises I've heard about in meetings, in retreats. That seemed to be the only other thing this room could become. Even the cabinets in this room looked plain. But even so, I still wondered about the history of this building. Does it only exist because the Clark County School District wanted a separate location for curriculum and development? Certainly I understand that because the main district office is its own maze, but doesn't have a great deal of room. There, you do what you can with what you have and it works. You also get great exercise from walking throughout it, which was ok with me when I went to get the TB test done, give the money order for the background check, get my photo taken for my ID card, and get my fingerprinting done. Unless you're working there, it's not the kind of building you spend a lot of time in.

Later on, as we reached the end of the orientation, I got a slightly different vibe. Former medical building? Maybe this room had been a meeting place for an HMO company that previously occupied this building? Probably not, because when you walk to the Pecos/Flamingo intersection from the building, as I did after the orientation was over, and cross to Flamingo and begin walking toward the Strip, to the Clark County Library, for example, you pass by medical row, which includes a few buildings stocked with medical practices and dentists, as well as Desert Springs Hospital. Just like car lots gather close, so do medical facilities.

Give me a scuff mark, a discolored tile that Maintenance will soon replace, a chip in a doorframe, something to show me that there is life in a building. Or even a shine to a floor that hasn't seen a shine in a while, almost a mirror that reflects the back door when it opens and closes. But I think there is life to the Curriculum and Development Building in a different way. When tourists come to Las Vegas, if they're first-timers, they think that the Strip is all that there is. I did, but then learned otherwise very quickly. Or if they're coming back for a third or fourth or 583rd time, either they do want to explore the rest of this valley or they never want to know the valley, only in Las Vegas for their favorite hotel, their favorite restaurant, their favorite show, their favorite nightclub. But this building, this is us. We live in Las Vegas. We love and hate and fight and strive and work and do all the things that anyone does in any other city. This building, invisible to you unless you either work there or need to go there as I did, is part of the fabric of this city. We have a school district. We have hospitals. We have restaurants that aren't on the Strip, and we have supermarkets, libraries, gas stations, and movie theaters, all part of what helps us live however we want to live every day. We do have a lopsided reputation because of what the rest of the nation thinks about us or how they use us, but this is us. Every building is important. Everything we do contributes to the present and the past. We walk into Sam's Town to gamble, or go to the bowling alley, and we follow those who came before, but we also can see artifacts under glass from the life of Sam Boyd, whose Sam's Town was but one casino in his portfolio.

The Curriculum and Development Building, in the context of contributions, does the same thing. We new substitutes follow those who came before. And we fan out to our different schools and meet new people and students and get acclimated to these schools and know which ones we want to sub at more than others, but it all started in that Curriculum and Development Building. That is its contribution to our city's history. A school district grows because of it. Yes, Dr. Byrd has a great hand in it, being the head of substitute services and knowing exactly what we're thinking and the questions we have by the experience she has had in guiding so many of these orientations before ours, but this building had to be there in order for this to happen.

History isn't readily apparent in Las Vegas, but it can be found and it is available. It's in books in libraries, it's in museums, and you can even find a little bit of it on the Strip with the Mob Museum at the Tropicana. To some, we are America's Playground, but away from the Strip, we're living day-to-day like anyone else. Even though it was hard to imagine anything of that room other than what it is, other than how plain it was, it's still part of this city, still doing what it can to contribute to what makes us Las Vegas. I like that, at least. It's difficult at times for me to understand that not every building can feel comfortable or allow me to use my imagination to consider it differently, but I am proud of what we can do. That's good enough for me, to feel that after nine years of feeling nothing. I'm home.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Someone's Domestic History Tucked Inside a Book

I've been reading Farewell, Dorothy Parker by Ellen Meister, about a timid, famous film critic guided to improve her life by the ghost of Dorothy Parker, who lives inside a guestbook signed by the entire Algonquin Round Table. When it's open, she can eat and drink and opine like the rest of us, the latter only the way Parker can.

I like the central conceit, Violet is worth watching grow a little from the beginning, and I should read the rest, being that I have three ghost-related novels in mind, and I should see how Meister plays with Parker being a ghost. But I think I've seen all of it at the beginning, when Violet feels Parker's spirit in her, and later inadvertently swipes the famous guestbook while at the Algonquin Hotel. Plus, I'm on page 92 and the story still hasn't moved much. I see that it's 301 pages, and I'm not sure I want to see it through. And when Meister presents quirks in characters, it feels like she's saying, in parentheses, "LOOK! THEY'RE QUIRKY!", with more exclamation points than that. Maybe I've already decided to move on, but I want to give it a few more pages. It's an advanced reading copy I bought from a seller at (it comes out on the 21st), and therefore I paid a little more for it, but I'm not going to continue read it simply because I spent more.

I've picked out my next book if it comes to that: Sex Sleep Eat Drink Dream: A Day in the Life of Your Body by Jennifer Ackerman. I'm curious about so much in the world, not so much about how bodies work, but this one has followed me for a while. Tracing one's body processes through an entire day sounds appealing to my mind.

Tucked inside the early pages of this book was a sheet of ads and coupons for Woolite and Endust. On the other side, ads and coupons for Bic multi-purpose lighters and Purell. Before looking at the back, I thought the person who might have read this book before me, or long before me, might have been a domestic sort. Perhaps they had these coupons already and used this extra sheet as a bookmark, as seemed to be its obvious purpose. Or maybe these were just coupons they don't use, so it should have some use another way. As long as the words are there and all the pages are there, and it's not marked up so badly, I don't mind finding things like these coupons tucked in books. It shows me that someone else read this book, that I'm part of a chain of readers who has read this book, and will read this book. The most noticeable evidence I received of someone having read a book before me was when I checked out a large-print hardcover edition of Whispering Rock by Robyn Carr, the third in the Virgin River series not long after we moved here, and it smelled like a chain smoker. I couldn't get through it because of that, and returned it the next week. That's evidence I can live without.

But little pieces of paper, lists, coupons, notes, some markings, such as passages underlined in pencil in this book, I like all of it. I get a bigger sense of a book's existence, how far it's come, which is one of countless benefits of libraries. Books are meant to be read, and little things like that show that they are. I appreciate that the most whenever I find a sheet of coupons or markings or whatever other kind of evidence.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

The Ghosts of Boulder City

Last Saturday, a friend of mine, a resident of Boulder City, my favorite city in all of Southern Nevada, showed me around. We went to TuTu's Books, which you have to climb stairs to get to, and I learned from Mom later that the block that TuTu's is on is actually houses that were divided for businesses to move in.

I want to move into TuTu's. The next day, I thought about where the biography section was, overlooking another block of stores, where I saw a man and a woman walking a dog below, and I wanted to replace the biography section with a bed for myself. I wouldn't need as big a TV as I have now. Just one to bring in Jeopardy!, The Big Bang Theory, and How It's Made, along with a DVD player for my movies. But being that I would have not only the books in TuTu's, but also my own collection, plus being within walking distance of the Boulder City Library, I don't think I'd watch TV all that often. Not that I do now anyway. For example, I Tivo'd Monday Mornings on TNT last night, which I want to see because it's based on a novel by Sanjay Gupta that I really like. I still haven't gotten to it.

We went to Goatfeathers, which is the largest antique store I've ever seen, with two upstairs areas, one of them for dishes and mugs and other kitchen supplies. And we went to another antique store where they've got a good handle on furniture, armoires and sturdy squat bookcases that I'd be hard-pressed to find in such good condition at the average furniture store. Later, we went to the Boulder Dam Brewing Co. for dinner, where I had an excellent blue cheese burger and the fries were pretty good, too.

But all that paled in importance, though refocused itself later, in comparison to the parking lot behind the Bureau of Reclamation building, where I was led to see the view of Lake Mead from there. I saw houses stretching to the lake, mountains cradling the lake, and I found the meaning of life. I felt such inner peace that I don't think I've ever felt before, not like this, not as pronounced. The other time I did, though it was far less than this, was every Friday in Pembroke Pines, in our development at Grand Palms, when I came home from school, and the sunlight through the trees, golden on the sidewalks, made it feel like the universe was aligned.

Then came the biggest discovery of all: Finding peace on Earth. We had bumped into my friend's former co-worker at that Bureau of Reclamation building, and she took us up to her office to see the view of Lake Mead from her window, which was also spectacular, but I always need the air around me in order to appreciate that view. I chatted with her for a few minutes, and then it was time to go, since she had work to do, even though it was a Saturday. But she had the right idea since there was no noise in the building, it was totally quiet, and certainly you could get a lot done that way. I told her that when I was in middle school and my teachers made us get in groups, I hated it because I always knew I could get the work done faster on my own. Ironic that those teachers were promoting socialization, yet would always tell us to be quiet and get to work.

We walked downstairs, back to the entrance/exit of the building, pushed the door open to the outside, went out, and went down the short stairs that rise to, and fall from, the building. In front of us was the half-bowl shaped park for dog walkers, joggers, and people like us, just strolling and looking around.

We started down the lip of the half-bowl, down that hill, and even though I couldn't see the sunset happening at that moment, I could feel it. The streetlights had come on, no sickly orangish glow here. Pure, gentle white lights. I looked at those lights in the park, and across the street at other buildings, and I felt peace on Earth. As my friend's former co-worker reminded me when I exclaimed my love of Boulder City, it is a unique situation. And she's right. Boulder City was created by the government to house the workers building Hoover (then Boulder) Dam, because they didn't want them living in Las Vegas, getting caught up in that debauched (their perception) lifestyle, and proving unreliable. A city manager was appointed in Sims Ely of Arizona, who ruled with an iron fist while sticking to the strict letter of the rules (no madness for power in that head), and there was no liquor, no gambling, and no prostitution allowed. I'm not sure yet if there was a curfew on the reservation, but there must have been. Actually, I think there was, because workers could go to Las Vegas, where they invariably did to spend their paychecks and have fun (those without families, of course), but if they were late getting back, they weren't allowed back on the reservation until the next morning, and I'm sure Mr. Ely had a few words for them.

Long after Boulder City passed from government to municipal hands, some of the same rules have stayed. There is alcohol now, but there's no gambling and no prostitution. That's mainly what helps keep the peace in Boulder City, that and the overwhelming friendliness of its residents and those who work there. I'm not sure if I would move there yet. For one, I'm close to becoming an employee of the Clark County School District as a library assistant, but I need to establish myself, and I could only get there if I know of a vacancy in the elementary school library there, and that I could transfer into it. But I need to accrue time working in the district.

Not only that, though. There is TuTu's, and there is a Vons supermarket at the edge of town, and restaurants, and those antique stores, and the Boulder City Library, but if you need socks, or shoes, or jeans, you have to drive to Henderson, or Las Vegas if you want to go that far. But it's not that difficult because my friend's former co-worker lives in Las Vegas on Windmill Lane, and commutes to Boulder City. It's much calmer there, which is probably what attracted her to it. However, you're obviously using gas to get to where you need to go from Boulder City, 14 miles out, however many miles it is to where you want to go (and there's also no movie theater in Boulder City, but the nearby Hacienda Hotel and Casino has a two-screen theater. For anything more extensive, there's Henderson or Las Vegas), however many miles back, and then those 14 miles back into Boulder City. But I'm gauging it based on where I currently am in Las Vegas. In Henderson, which we're moving to in September, it's closer to Boulder City. Five or so miles are shaved off of the drive. It may not be for me for now, but I'm still considering moving there when I retire.

Getting to the title of this post, there's always a hullabaloo in city history about ghosts living in the Boulder Dam Hotel, and it's likely true. My friend said that when she stayed there for six weeks to learn a new job within the Bureau of Reclamation after two years with the Bureau in Yuma, Arizona, she heard noises all around, and it wouldn't surprise me because the Hotel has changed ownership so many times and gone through so many iterations that it's never able to rest. But when my friend and I walked through Boulder City, I felt like there were more ghosts than just those in the Boulder Dam Hotel. I noticed them there, too, when I was with my family, going to the Boulder Dam Museum on the second floor, way in the back. I didn't hear the noises, but I could sense that the building was steeped in enough history that there were more figures wanting their stories told. I would be more interested as to why they ended up in the hotel. What keeps them there? Is it a kind of purgatory unknown to us? Or do they feel most at home there? I don't have a hardcore belief in ghosts, but I think that with some towns' focus on its history, like Buena Park where Knott's Berry Farm is, where its history hangs so heavily, there is a better chance that ghosts are around, wanting to be noticed, wanting their stories to be told.

Goatfeathers is where I began sensing those ghosts. Not sensing like ghost hunters do, but a feeling about it. I know that antique stores are fertile ground for ghosts anyway because of all kinds of things left behind either by death or by not needing them anymore. They all have stories. Sitting in front of me is a model of a 19th-century Victoria house in Charlotte, North Carolina. I bought this because it's the kind of house I wish I had if I didn't mind, and could afford, upkeep, and I had more money than God on a Wednesday. It's not only that this house was of the 19th century. It's that this sat somewhere in someone's house, maybe someone who collected models of houses like this one, who explored the different styles of houses, tracing them through history, trends based on the time period, perhaps.

In fact, when I looked around in Goatfeathers, I had this overwhelming feeling of wanting to tell stories about so many items there. Take, for example, some of the glasses I found. I could write a short story about the glass, either in a cupboard, or where it might have come from, or who used it. If I could find out where it had been, it would be eerie if I found out that the short story I wrote was accurate. It's not only that Goatfeathers encourages you to look around, but it also invites you to sniff out potential history of all that it stocks. We'll never know what the history was, but we can tell stories from what we feel about the history of those objects when we look at them. I think there are ghosts of sorts in Goatfeathers. They want their stories to be told. I don't think they care if those stories are accurate, which they're not meant to be. They just want to be noticed.

Down that hill, into the park, the ghosts were there, too. An old turbine from Hoover Dam sits in one section of the park, and it's part of it, but it's the same thing with those ghosts in the park, too, the ones who have lived there as humans, who have loved it: Find the story you want to tell, and that's acknowledgement enough for us. Even if it's just the atmosphere, that's good enough.

The history of Las Vegas is there, but you really have to dig for it. In my mobile home park, I sense its history only when it rains (as it will on Friday), and the sky remains gloomy with the threat of more rain. Otherwise, you have to dig. The Strip doesn't offer any time for reflection, but then, that's not the point of it. At least there are books that reveal all. But in Boulder City, the present and the past co-exist as peacefully as the landscape.

It's 4:49 p.m. The sun is getting ready to set here. But in my mind, I'm back in Boulder City, in that park, waiting for the streetlights to grow brighter as the sky gets darker, feeling so at peace that that's where I want to be forever. We're going back on Saturday, during the day, so Mom can see what Goatfeathers is like, and to eat wherever we're going to eat. There are so many restaurants in Boulder City, that while I thought of Mel's Diner because they have patty melts, which I love, Mom bookmarked the tripadvisor list of Boulder City restaurants, and I spotted Boulder PIT Stop, which also has burgers. So that's another one to consider. And Dad and Meridith haven't seen the list yet, so they may have other ideas too. It's great to have these choices again! But no matter if we decide on something that's far off from my original thought of Mel's Diner, I will have the Boulder City I love. It looks even more beautiful at sunset, but during the day, there's that same peace. No tension. Just history and the possibility of so many stories to explore. And the ghosts. They're always happy to know you're there. They want you there. So come in and wander. The peace will touch you too.