Thursday, November 15, 2018

Where Are You in Your Mind?

Last night, while trying to get to sleep, I fretted about having so many ideas for nonfiction books and adult novels and YA novels and picture books and still more, and yet I haven't made much headway on any of them. Not out of laziness or ambitions being bigger than my abilities, but I guess it's the paralysis of choice. At least in the way I saw it before thinking about it more this morning.

I wish I could live in a library. Not necessarily a public library. Probably a college or a university library on a sprawling campus (the best kind), with enough space for regular exercise, walking and perhaps eventually even jogging, and a supermarket nearby, maybe some fast-food joints, a bookstore here and there (not only on the campus) to see what's being sold in the area based on what's continually in stock, and perhaps a movie theater or two. In this, I think about Lied Library on the University of Nevada Las Vegas (UNLV) campus, which is all on Maryland Parkway, which I consider the most vibrant corridor in Las Vegas, which, if continued to be developed properly, could be one of the great hopes for the city perhaps being known a little more for something else than what it already is and always has been. Further down is the Boulevard Mall, which includes 99 Ranch Market, Goodwill, Ross, Seafood City, which is the local Filipino supermarket, and a Wing Stop Sports bar which, if you know Wing Stop, is much larger than your average Wing Stop, with lots more individual tables, TWO soda dispensers, an honest-to-god bar with alcohol, which is considered amateurish by Vegas standards, and big flatscreen TVs all around. I would have wanted to live at Lied Library, if not for the extreme desert heat and cold that I endured for five years. But that library, my god. Not only was there always more than enough room to walk the UNLV campus, but in the two times I was there as a substitute library aide at Paradise Elementary, which is also on the UNLV campus, I got lost on my way back from Lied Library to the school, before starting work there at 10:30 a.m. Both times, I didn't think I'd get there on time.

The stacks inside Lied Library are so massive that they're located on three successive floors, four if you count the serpentine design of the Leisure Reading section on the first floor, which I never noticed until the final time I was there, as part of our family's farewell tour of Las Vegas, which was cut short at the Wynn on another day when the movers called and said they were going to come to move us out on Sunday, and it was Friday. I was impressed by the sheer number of interesting titles in the Leisure Reading section, which, being in a university library, was far more extensive than Ventura College has in its Leisure Reading section, but it's no less interesting here.

The stacks with call numbers A-HJ are on the third floor, HM-PR on the fourth floor, and PS-Z on the fifth floor, all under the jurisdiction of the Library of Congress classification system. And with what they have, with all the presidential history books I could ever want, translated novels from different countries, every subject that could pop to my mind on a given day (from architecture to music history (especially 1970s music) to various biographies and memoirs and still more), I could easily spend the rest of my life there if such a thing were possible.

And yet, there are other libraries throughout the country, too, such as the New York Public Library (the main, famous one) and other university libraries which very possibly hold as much, if not more as Lied Library. Chances are many of them do, though. It would serve to make me indecisive, but there are considerations which limit me, such as weather. Nothing on the east coast since it gets too cold in winter. Same with the Midwest and in the Great Plains, tornadoes and such, so I wouldn't want to root myself there either.

But that's what it comes down to: Roots. I don't have any. We moved so many times throughout Florida, twice in Santa Clarita (although we did end up in Saugus for eight years, after our first year in Valencia, but there wasn't much in Santa Clarita that made me feel rooted, although I do miss Stater Bros. supermarket), and five times in four years in Las Vegas, owing to various bleak circumstances, such as neighbors next to us and above us smoking constantly and the smoke seeping into our apartment, which caused us to move out after that year), as well as last year at Via Ventura here in Ventura, which ended with our dogs having a massive flea problem because they never properly treated the grounds, and now at the new Island View Apartments, behind the Ralphs supermarket. It's interesting, what with a fourth-floor rooftop deck that takes in a lit-up view at night of Oxnard and Camarillo, further to the west, that's far more impressive to me than the Las Vegas and Los Angeles skylines.

Therefore, to be connected to a place? To know it intimately? To feel a sense of civic pride in it? I don't know how that works, nor do I think I'd want to learn. Not that I think we'll move again so quickly, although I hope we don't, as it would be interesting lately to be in one place for more than one year, and by that I mean one apartment complex, but we didn't have a choice from Via Ventura to Island View. We had to get out of Via Ventura, which looks progressively worse and more desperate to bring in tenants since we left. Maybe there's a chance with Island View. There are a lot of problems within the apartment, which are actually much better than what we came from at Via Ventura and before that in Las Vegas. But they do take their sweet time in addressing them. When the Santa Ana winds howled through recently, an incredible draft blew through the gaps in the front door, which made the vertical blinds in front of the sliding patio door billow and I really felt it, since I sleep in the living room, my bed there and my bookcases nearby, towards the back door (it's a two-bedroom apartment, so my parents have the master bedroom, and my sister has the other bedroom). I like it because my TV serves as the living room TV and I've got the kitchen right there. What more could I want for a room? But that front door, which is actually considered the back door by the complex, since what is actually our front door, with our number on it, faces a hallway that leads to doors that open into garages also for rent by residents, needs weather stripping. I'm guessing right now, even though the manager of the complex came with the head maintenance guy last week to look over exactly what we needed adjusted and repaired, they'll run out the clock leading up to Thanksgiving and then let it sit until after Thanksgiving. Hopefully they'll address it afterward, but it's been sitting for so long. Even so, still better from all that we came from, including a bungalow in nearby Henderson, Nevada that had shoddy, stringy carpeting, black mold behind the washer and dryer, and a leaking air conditioning unit from the ceiling that not only required us to put a bucket underneath to catch the drops, but which broke down before the hottest day of the year that year, after a few times in which the shitty maintenance crew there insisted that nothing was wrong with it. It seems to me that matters of shoddy maintenance, as well as delayed maintenance, seem to only exist in the western United States. Never had that in Florida. Can't go back, though, what with hurricanes getting worse, and as a native Floridian away for so long, I've most likely lost my immunity to the humidity.

Anyway, through all of this, it took many years to realize that books, and moreso libraries, have always been my home. I seriously considered a career in aviation, first as a commercial pilot, and then an aircraft mechanic, and then a mechanic for Air Force One, before then trying journalism, which, even though I'm proud of what I did there, I left because I didn't want to live on an ulcer farm. And it was afterward that I realized how much libraries have been there for me. I started reading when I was two years old, and I particularly remember, before Hurricane Andrew hit South Florida in 1992 (we lived in Coral Springs, and only got the feeder bands, but they were fierce), worrying about not being able to return The Little Mermaid soundtrack on audio cassette to the Coral Springs Library, since they had closed right before it was due, and any fines that might accrue because of that. Fortunately, I don't think there were any after they reopened. I also remember ignoring my math homework from Broward Community College on Friday afternoons when I was in the Southwest Regional Library in Pembroke Pines, diagonally across from the then-tiny campus, in favor of looking for movies to watch on the weekend, which was how I discovered The Fabulous Baker Boys, starring Jeff Bridges, one of my favorite actors, which became one of my all-time favorite movies. In fact, since my dad dropped me off early at BCC before he went to work as a computer and business education teacher at Silver Trail Middle just down the street, I was always there before the library opened at 7 a.m. and spent my entire semester there before we moved to Southern California. Subsequently, I failed that college Algebra course and had to retake it when I registered at College of the Canyons in Valencia.

There are lots of other stories like that, and libraries have always been my one true home like that. Oftentimes, in my head, in my imagination, I go to those libraries I've loved. I spend time in the stacks at Lied Library, I walk through the Whitney Library on Tropicana in Las Vegas, proud at how they always consistently met the needs of that at times-downtrodden community, and reluctantly ignoring the awful, distracting tile flooring at the main Clark County Library on Flamingo, also in Las Vegas, to admire their paperback collection, as well as their eager interest in so many other subjects in the hope that others will be interested, too. I also look at photos on Yelp of the New York Public Library, as well as photos from inside other university libraries and imagine myself there. In each one, I feel like I'm home. It's why I like living in Ventura. The Ventura College Library is my favorite place in Ventura and between that and the holds I always have from various locations in the Ventura County library system, I'm never short of books.

All this helps me to not panic so much over all that I want to write and haven't begun yet. Those works can be a second home for me. Characters to meet and follow, ideas to expand on. Places in my imagination to explore, unusual things I've thought about that I wonder if others think about, and the only way to find out is to write them and see who reads them. It's more difficult, more challenging than simply opening up a book and reading, but I want to try. Our main computer here in this apartment doesn't feel as much in a dungeon as it was in that apartment at Via Ventura, so that's a start. Plus there's a lamp next to it and it actually becomes cozier at night. So there's some encouragement. Just try. Get up and try. And with enough effort, these stories I want to tell can come to feel like my life with books and libraries. Another place in my life to fondly call home. And I know it will never move.


  1. Living in a library would be lovely. It would be so quiet at night.


    1. That's what I'd love about it. All those books would be all mine and they take on a grander stature at night.