Thursday, December 31, 2015

New Year, New Me?

Maybe. At least a first novel, which I've begun writing after so many months of hemming and hawing. And I hope to write more here, as I have all the more reason to, what with the novel and the book reviews I still write for BookBrowse. I want more outlets, and this is a good one to continue.

Monday, November 16, 2015

The Center of the Las Vegas Universe

The center of the Las Vegas universe is not the Bellagio fountains. It's not the marbled entrance to Caesars Palace. It's not even any part of my beloved Cosmopolitan, despite many of its unsettling changes under new ownership (UFC-style fights in The Chelsea? It worked better solely as a classy music venue).

To find the center of the Las Vegas universe, you have to enter the Miracle Mile Shops just outside the parking garage entrance nearest to the doors that open onto the hallway that leads to the Saxe Theater. Just past the eggshell-colored shutters, on the left side, you'll find an unusual sight, a calm oasis. You'll find Street Corner News.

At this tiny hole-in-the-wall, with just enough room to walk past the racks of snacks up to the refrigerated cases full of whatever bottled concoction you want, there are some magazines as well, and when I was there a few months ago, the proprietor said that they used to sell books, but no one was buying, so they stopped selling. The two most popular places to buy books in Southern Nevada are still the Barnes & Noble on Stephanie Street here in Henderson, and Hudson News in Concourse D at McCarran International Airport. The former because once in a while, you discover a book that you need right then and there, that you just have to pay full price for just to have it (On October 21, when the USA Today was published with the Back to the Future Part II wraparound cover, and I'd reserved a copy at that Barnes & Noble, I found Out on the Wire: Uncovering the Secrets of Radio's New Masters of Story with Ira Glass by Jessica Abel), and the latter because some people like to browse and find a magazine or a book that can help them ignore their flight. The last time I went to McCarran, I was impressed by the sheer quality of magazines, and the books, too. Hudson News really respects readers.

The most important feature at Street Corner News at the Miracle Mile Shops, what makes it the center of the Las Vegas universe is an iced tea dispenser called Miami Iced Tea. I'm a Florida native, but it wasn't the Miami part that drew me to it. I always seek great iced tea. I hope for it. I crave it. And just like the water dispensers in the MGM Grand hotel lobby toward the beginning of the summer, this one also had lemon slices and orange slices pressed against the glass, holding back the onslaught of iced tea absorbing their flavors.

If you're feeling overwhelmed in Las Vegas and you need a breather, this is where you go. Vegas barely allows these moments, and should be treasured even more than some of the awesome sights here, such as....that Walgreens! And that one over there! And that one being built as the largest one ever in the history of the Las Vegas universe! And of course the one downtown!

Of course, there's more than that. But that iced tea dispenser, and a peaceful, slow stroll around the Miracle Mile Shops--returning to Street Corner News for refills at various intervals--can do wonders in restoring the equilibrium of frazzled tourists. Residents, too. I want to go back there some time soon.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

September? Already?

In the interim between when I posted and now, it has become September. And I've been busy. Perhaps not too busy to post, but I haven't had the interest over the summer to do so since it was so hot, although this was the first summer in three in Southern Nevada that I've finally learned to at least tolerate the season. That was helped along by the air conditioning going out in my family's apartment the night before the hottest day of the year.

Fortunately, we made enough noise that we were pushed to the top of the list the next day for repairs and even though it was unbearable, even with soaking t-shirts and having lots of water in many different ways (including splashing oneself), I finally began to understand the heat here. You can't fight it, but you can protect yourself enough against it so that it doesn't become as monstrous as it usually is. More water, certainly, but also not putting so much stock in it, like worrying about how hot it's going to get. It's the summer. It's what it is. At least in the winter, you can be outside for a few minutes longer if you're bundled up enough. I'm going to be learning that soon enough.

And the reason I'm going to be learning that soon enough is that I finally got a job at an elementary school here in Henderson, close enough to my own neighborhood! Of course, that will change when we move from our current residence back to where we used to live last year, and then I'll be even closer to this elementary school, although the closeness is debatable. But consider this: Right now, in the mornings, I take the bus to just after the small Green Valley and Silver Springs intersection, across the street from Pacific Islands, which is where we're moving back to early next year, if not sooner, depending on if our current apartment complex will let us out of our lease owing to mold and other issues inside this apartment. We've contacted a few other people to see if it can be done, including the Office of the Ombudsman here in Nevada, which seems to oversee apartrment complexes as well.

Anyway, taking the bus to Green Valley and Silver Springs, I walk to the Green Valley and Silver Springs intersection, cross it, then walk to the Green Valley and Robindale intersection, and cross the street to Robindale. It's a little over a mile to my school, which lately has been 25 minutes. Sometimes I get to time it, and sometimes the music teacher picks me up on the way, usually about a half mile there. I'm becoming more and more well known in this school, and it's the kind of school where everyone is amenable toward everyone else. It's nice to work in this kind of atmosphere.

The job is what I've wanted for so long: I'm a library aide! Every single day, I get to work in a library, and the Friday before last was Staff Development Day across the entire school district, so not only were there no students that day, but teachers and specialists alike went to meetings elsewhere, including my librarian, so it was the first time I had a library all to myself that wasn't at home! I nearly counted my two weeks and a handful of days as a substitute library aide at Rowe Elementary two school years ago, when that school didn't have a librarian in the budget, so the library aide ran everything. However, in that case, I only had the library to myself in the morning. This was an entire day! And it went way too fast.

I love my new library. The nonfiction section is in the central part of the library, right when you walk in, and it surrounds the tables in the middle and the storytime rug area to the right. Then on the other side of the library is the rest of the nonfiction section on the left, the fiction section on the upper right, and the picture books on the lower right. There's also room on the top of the stacks to put books that might be interesting for the kids, so I also have a lot of fun doing that. And unlike volunteering every Saturday morning at the Green Valley Library, nobody changes my picks. It's all my own. They've all gotten a fair amount of traction, and I'd say that at least 10 books that I put up top were checked out. A good average. Tomorrow, since the first period of the day in the library is a prep period, I'm going to take down all the books and replace them with others. I've come up with a method in which the three books on top of each section of the stacks represents the three sets of shelves in those sections. So the first book represents the first shelf, the second book the second shelf, and the third book the third shelf. It makes it easier not to have to put a book away in a section far away from that particular part of the stack.

Plus, this week, the Scholastic Book Fair begins on Friday, and everything needed for the Book Fair is being delivered on Wednesday. There'll be a lot of boxes to open up, and a lot of books to put on the rolling metal bookcases provided. I can't wait to see what appears for sale besides what was advertised on the Book Fair DVD shown to the students, as well as what was in the flyer.

I'm also still writing book reviews, which is always worthwhile, and still reading, of course. This is only the beginning, I'm sure, and I'm not only glad to have this job, but also to see where it will take me.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Four-Day Fantasy Bliss

Today, I volunteered at the Green Valley Library, an unusual day for me to do it, because the library's closed tomorrow, Saturday, Sunday and Monday. It's always closed Sunday and Monday because that's how it's been ever since I got here, and probably even before, during the economic crash which caused two branches to be closed (the Malcolm branch and the Galleria branch, inside the Galleria at Sunset mall), and then hours were scaled back. More recently, albeit many, many months ago, hours were taken from the Green Valley and Gibson branches in order to open the Paseo Verde branch, the flagship branch, on Mondays. So instead of the Green Valley Library opening at 9:30 a.m., it opens at 10. There were other changes in the operating hours, but I've long forgotten what they were.

Normally, I volunteer on Saturdays, but that was impossible this week. And yet, I wish I could. I wish I had keys to the library, access to the alarm codes so I could spend the 4th of July weekend there. The library would be entirely empty and only for me. I would probably have breakfast on the way there, and bring lunch with me. Of course, I could spend all day and all through the night in the Green Valley Library, but I do have family in humans and dogs and birds alike, so I couldn't be away for that long. I'd let some time pass before returning, to build up the anticipation again.

I'd walk in through the back door, put my stuff down behind the circulation counter, and shelve whatever still needs to be shelved, any holds that might be left on that cart and certainly books sitting on the carts nearest the fiction side of the library. That would take all of 20 minutes to a half hour, depending on the workload.

I wouldn't turn on any of the computers. That wouldn't make any sense to me, because I'd be there for the library, not for the accompanying technology. I love the DVD section, the nonfiction DVDs on one side and the movies and TV shows on the other, and of course the audiobooks, but I would only want the books, and enough light in which to read whatever I'd want, whatever I could find. It would be the perfect setting in which to read Country, Danielle Steel's latest novel, which I only want to read because part of it takes place at the Wynn here in Las Vegas, and I want to see how she portrayed it (It has absolutely NOTHING to do with my mom being a huge Danielle Steel fan when I was growing up, and me reading a good number of her novels in turn, out of curiosity). But on the Claim Jumper shelves, which has copies of books that have a long number of holds, these copies available only at this particular library, there's no copy of Country. Disappointing, but I move on.

There's a shiny, squashy brown leather armchair in front of the new books for children, next to the separate children's area. I think I'd spend most of my hours there, as it's very close to the reading recliner I have at home. But most important to me is getting to know the collections completely, all the books I probably have missed while restocking the various displays in the library as a volunteer, all the DVD titles I haven't seen yet that could be intriguing for some other time, and knowing all the picture books there truly are in this library, because those shelves are packed tightly There are some books that when you pull them out, two try to come out with them, either on one side or on opposite sides.

I'm not sure what books I would want to read. Part of me would just want to read in the spur of the moment, and another part of me wonders what Nero Wolfe mystery novels they have that I might have missed. There was an omnibus I had read, but I think that's the only major one there. And yet, there are also the Robert Goldsborough continuations, of which the library has a few. Perhaps it would be time to try them again. But there's also presidential history, and one or two movie books I haven't gotten to yet, and Bob Stanley's history of pop music ("Yeah! Yeah! Yeah!: The Story of Pop Music from Bill Haley to Beyonce") and....and.....and.....

Then there's also the thought of what books would be in the spirit of spending four days alone in this library, books to represent in print the blissful peace I'd feel, great comfort, quiet eagerness, amazement at how many books there actually are when you have them all to yourself. I'm sure the books and other materials would want some rest during these four days, time to themselves, but I think a caretaker like me would not be a bother. Not every book gets attention when patrons are browsing. I would do my very best to give each one attention, even if it's only in lingering passing, to at least notice it. Overall, they make up a relatively hefty collection, but in getting specific with them, they're merely themselves, one after the other, each one with different stories to try, and ideas to explore. For example, I have my religion. It's books and libraries. But I'd want to see exactly how many books there are about Buddhism in the library, which I've been curious about for anthropological reasons. Also because there are times when I do feel monkish, when I would love to have a library as a monastery. I did that once, at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences' Margaret Herrick Library in Beverly Hills, when I was doing research for a book that may never happen. It truly is an American monastery and heaven for a movie buff like me. I would want to see if I could capture that same monastic feeling in a library that truly serves a whole community, not just a piece of one. I think I could. Sadly, I can't live in a library (although my room sometimes come close), so this would be the next best thing.

(Speaking of that, I can now reveal this: Two weeks ago, I was hired to be the new library aide at Cox Elementary, which is in the general vicinity of my neighborhood and is very much the next best thing. I finally get to do what I want to do! I hope that this will lead to doing even more of what I want to do, which is simply to contribute everything I can give to libraries through my work for them. I should think a year and a half of volunteering at the Green Valley Library while waiting on a position there (the part-time shelver position would be enormously convenient because it would boost me to nearly 40 hours a week), and the year and a half I spent as a substitute everything in the school district, including a great many stints as a substitute library aide show that already. My new job will show it even more.)

In reality, I will never be able to get into the Green Valley Library during this July 4th weekend. My imagination will do it for me throughout the days.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Summer in Vegas

Want to visit Hell? Visit Las Vegas! Come enjoy the temperatures that make this valley Satan's winter home!

It's only bearable with air-conditioning. We lost ours at 5 p.m. the day before yesterday, and spent a good portion of yesterday without it, though thankfully while one of the maintenance guys in our apartment complex was fixing it, replacing the exploded compressor and the fan and the fan motor. It makes me appreciate not only having air conditioning, but understanding even more the effect of the heat in this valley during the summer. You'd think the previous two summers would have done that too, but the air conditioning never broke down during either of those summers.

The Saturday morning before this happened, I actually went to the Green Valley Library the earliest I ever have to volunteer, because of the heat. I took the bus to the Green Valley and Sunset intersection, as I usually do, walked to the back door of the library, rang the doorbell, and one of the two children's librarians let me in, they the first two to be there that early. I loved it because not only could I start on my work at 8:00 a.m., before the library opened at 10:00 a.m. (the first part of that work was shelving all the holds which took up all the shelves on one side of a massive, ugly, though reinforced and heavy-duty cart, and one of the shelves on the other side), but the library is completely empty at that hour. I have it all to myself, full run of it if I want. I'm going to do the same next Saturday and the Saturday after and so on until the heat breaks, or if I'm hired by them as a part-time shelver, a position that's opening up in July for August. After a year and a half of volunteering for the library, I'm going to do everything possible to try to snag that job. It may fit in nicely with another job I'm involved in, but don't want to reveal just yet until the papers are signed some time this week. Once they are, I'll finally be able to do what I want to do, having spent an official year in the school district to get to this point (the year and a half I spent as a substitute everything doesn't count according to the district, but that's ok, because the experience I had during that time helped me get here).

So I'm still here, finally cool enough again, but with a lot more happiness on the way.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015


Not dead. Busy with work, as a resource room aide at an elementary school here in Las Vegas, busy with writing, including my book reviews and books I'm toying with writing (including a possible illustrated children's book, which surprised me. Not illustrated by me, since I don't have any of those skills, but someone if it sells), and busy with life. I'm out of practice with writing a blog, but surely there's much to write about from these past few months, this long gap. I just never had that driving interest to contribute anything here, not when there was a book review to work on (as there will be tonight, ahead of a near-late May deadline, which makes me want to finish the review earlier so I can get more books to review. After all, that's money I'm sitting on), not when there were books to read, not when there were movies to watch, not when there was more life to see in Las Vegas, a lot of strange, yet interesting life at that.

I will try, though. After all, this is my blog and no one else's, and I don't want it to gather ever more dust. I'll see what I come up with.