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.