anghara: (travel icon)
There was this woman, this morning.

She wore a jacket with fake fur at cuffs and hem and hood, and polyester trousers, and carried a gleaming white fake crocodile-skin bag with gilt chain handles. She’s Jewish, she speaks three languages (English, French and Hebrew – that’s how I know she’s Jewish). She lives in Toronto, Canada, in a condo which she bought with the money which was her half of the settlement in the divorce after her marital home was sold, but the condo is in her brother’s name for legal reasons. She was in New York for a cousin’s wedding; there were 624 people there, and the food was very good, and she danced all night – and there were some 400 people at her own wedding – and she was married for 12 years before she got the divorce. And she has a 19-year-old son who is “still a baby”, but who left home at 17 to go to college and shares a flat at a University in a town which his mother does not live in with another young man because, well, young men will be young men and he can “have girlfriends there and do whatever he wants” without his parents knowing. He doesn’t like talking on the phone and he never calls his mother so she doesn’t telephone him either because he doesn’t like talking to her and he NEVER calls and so she emails him instead and asks him how he is and he's like, "Okay" (which seems to be just as bad as the phone situation but I guess at least it's in writing...)Oh yes, his name is Alexander and she always calls him that but he doesn’t like that either and likes to go by Alex. And he was named for his great-grandfather, his mother’s grandfather. Who is dead. And she likes to go to singles dances in Toronto because she was trained as a dancer, she used to dance on point shoes and “perform in front of an audience” so she likes dancing and she used to teach dancing at an old folks home (old folks on point shoes? the mind boggles...) and she actually met her husband – her ex, that is – at a dance when they were both twenty years old and at college but even though they knew two months into the relationship that it was “Serious” they didn’t get engaged until she was twenty five. And she likes “going to school” so she just gets any diploma or certificate that’s going, and she hangs them all on the wall in her condo, and the “other” wall (don’t ask me…) has her son’s awards and achievements and certificates, and she has “more than fifty” pictures of her son in the apartment, on walls and on shelves, and here, she had some pictures with her, this is her son right there, isn’t he handsome, he is so tall, he’s six foot – his father was six foot two so that’s probably where he gets the height because she herself is only five foot three although that’s quite tall, you know, but some women are taller than her and others are shorter and her own father was a six-footer so maybe that’s where she gets her own height (such as it is) from and her father was from Montreal but she lives in Toronto now and her divorce was pretty awful because her lawyer was a crook who charged her for all sorts of stuff he didn’t actually do but then she got her cousin to be her lawyer and he sorted everything out – he’s an HONEST lawyer, not like the crook, and she wrote a letter by golly, and the Canadian Lawyers Association ("or whatever they are called, you know") can actually PULL THE LICENCES of lawyers like that so she wrote the letter because she felt they ought to know. And she won a crossword lottery something or other – entry fee $1, prize $10000 – and her sister-in-law didn’t believe her until she showed her the receipt from the lottery people and now she has the crossword and that receipt framed because it really WAS a one in a million chance and she used the money to pay off bills and for her son’s education so it went to a “GOOD CAUSE” and now she likes to go and gamble because she always wins something, she just has to think that something is lucky and it turns out to be lucky (human rabbit’s foot, that one…) And where was the bus driver from? Did he have children? Here are some tips about how to raise them when he DID get some (he didn’t own to any actual progeny at this moment in his life, but hey, advice is always useful, eh). And she’s renovating the condo so she had to really think about this trip even with all the lucky lottery winnings so she found a cheaper way to get from Toronto to New York which is you get a bus to Buffalo (“you’ve all heard of Buffalo?...”) and flying to New York and it’s really only half an hour in the air because the rest of the time you’re going up or coming down, and really, did anyone know about Buffalo? It snows a lot there, but not as much as in Toronto, or perhaps more…

I deliberately did not paragraph that screed.

This woman was another passenger in the shuttle that took me from my Rye hotel to JFK. We shared the van for some forty minutes – she, I, the driver and another hapless passenger who happened to sit next to her – and honestly, she did not SHUT UP for the entire trip. She was still talking to the driver as he was coming back into the van after he had dropped her off at La Guardia, in order to take me the rest of the way into JFK. I know it’s mean and catty but I really do have a glimmer of understanding as to why her marriage ended in divorce. The poor man probably left in order to hear himself think. I was in her company for forty minutes and I was already ready to run screaming; that martyr of a husband endured this for twelve years. Or maybe she built up to it, I don’t know. But HOOOOOOOOLY COW she couldn’t stand the sound of silence. Or she was in love with her own voice.

Or maybe she was just lonely and going back to her empty condo in Toronto, and was clinging desperately to an opportunity to hear herself talk and know that other human ears were listening.

I don’t know. But one of the saddest things that can happen to you as a person is to have the only feeling in others of your species as you leave them be one of profound relief.

She still had a wait at the gate, and then that flight, and then the bus ride from Buffalo to Toronto. I wonder if she simply re-wound and started again with a fresh audience.

ANYWAY, I have to point out that I am posting this blog on the plane. Yes, Ladies and Gentlemen, we have on-board WiFi. This is… pretty nifty. (Especially since I get to check mail, and if everything goes like it went on the outward leg I could not seem to connect to the San Francisco airport wireless network at all, at all – so this is my fix for the day. From the blue skies above America, I send you greetings…
anghara: (Default)
We here. We tired. We did well... right until we got thrown noggin first into rush hour traffic in downtown Portland... in the dark... in the rain. I had to circle the block twice in order to get to the place where I could leave the rental car, but I got it there only about five minutes later than I said I would on the rental agreement. So, the Camry is safely in the hands of its rightful owners and I don't have any driving to do for a while. Hallelujah.

Today... was a challenge. I used every wiper speed the car had. Before we left our hotel we had a 4 AM mini-storm that actually *woke me up*, driving against the windows in a frenzy of rain and wind; after that, the weather turned on a dime, from bright sunshine to heavily overcast and foggy to drizzly to driving rain to wind that shoved me sideways on the road on open bridges where the gale came howling in from the sea. While on a short driving break, eating chicken harvest soup and Stollen bread in a roadside cafe in Florence, OR, we overheard some fellow travellers complain of having been hit by HAIL. At least we missed that.

We drove up the 101 almost all the way and that road is the biggest chameleon I've ever driven. It switches without warning from narrow country road to urban street with stop lights to double-lane carriageway to divided freeway-like highway, there and back again, you simply never knew what was going to hit you next and with what speed limit. But my GOD it is spectacular, and the Oregon coastline is fantastic. I stopped once or twice to take some pictures in a howling gale and we shall see how that turned out.

Then just after Lincoln City we turned on to Route 18, and that took us pretty much all the way into Portland.

I'm tired. I really am. I drove three hundred miles today. My powers of concentration are shredded and flapping in the Oregon ocean gale; I am about ready to go grab a bite to eat, take a long shower to wash off the dust of the road, and collapse into bed.

Tomorrow, Orycon. See some of you there, perhaps.

anghara: (Default)
We departed our Internetless motel bright and early - or dark and early, anyway - and drove off into foggy drizzle. The entrance to the Avenue of the Giants was only a handful of miles up the road and we found it without difficulty... and crossed some sort of permeable barrier into a land of pure magic.

If other people left their hearts in San Francisco... I have left a part of my soul in the land of the big trees.

In the beginning they were still big enough to dwarf anything I'd ever seen before, but that quickly changed, and they grew ever bigger, broader, wider, more magical, with faces etched into ancient bark.

Our first stop, only a little way into the Avenue, was the "Living Chimney Tree". This astonishing creature was completely gutted on the inside by a ferocious fire, and you can now go into a "room" inside the tree, some 12 feet across, and look straight up into open sky - the thing is completely hollow.

The tree is hale and hearty and obviously still living because there are green needles on it outside.

The fire happened in *1914*. The Great War was still raging at the time that this giant burned. Women were still wearing long skirts and long hair and button-up boots. NINETEEN FOURTEEN. For nearly a century this tree has stood here, living, breathing, its heart ripped out by fire.

I cried.

We went on. We stopped for breakfast eventually in a place called the Avenue Cafe, on the opposite side of the road to which a little house stands surrounded and dwarfed by no less than six giant sequoias. (The Cafe, by the by, while we're still on things cullinary, serves quite the best pancakes I've had in a VERY long time. Just for the record.) Fed and caffeinated, we drove on.

And I whimpered all the way.

The road winds throught groves of gigantic trees, some of which stand RIGHT next to the road, if you reached out your arm out of the window of the car you could touch them. Traffic was light to non existent, we had the place largely to ourselves and it was the most heartstoppingly beautiful, amazing place I have ever ever ever ever ever seen. I have hundreds of photographs of trees - but they have one thing in common, and that is that they consistently fail to pick up on the SCALE of these things. Because you're taking pictures of, well, trees - and on a photograph they look very much like, well, TREES - but when you're standing underneath one, looking straight up a trunk that goes on forever and gasping at the unbelievable beauty of it all, it's quite a different feeling.

I told [ profile] rdeck that the what I got from these trees was a sense of royal and dreamy detachment. They gaze down upon us and sigh - We are here. We have always been here. Touch us, mayflies, and then vanish while we endure, we live, we go on. We go on.

I cried, more than once.

Someone along the way circled one particular spot on the map we had of the Avenue, and said, "If you stop nowhere else, stop here." The place was called Founder's Grove, in honour of the founders of the redwood national parks. And so we saw the sign for Founder's Grove, and dutifully turned in.

And I cried.

The Founder's Tree is huge and stately and dominates the entrance of the nature trail. But a little beyond, lying on its side after it fell back in 1991, is a tree called the Dyerville Giant. It is... impossible to take in. This tree's exposed rootball is THREE TIMES MY HEIGHT. I walked along the length of it that remains, fully one hundred and fifty paces, and at the end of this the tree, lying sideways, was STILL above my head - broader, even at this point, than I was tall. And that was not the end of the tree, which went on for two thirds again as long off into the forest.

I cannot even imagine this giant as it must have looked when it was still upright. Nor can I imagine the sound of thunder it must have made when it fell. Or the shaking of the earth as it was pulled out from it, and stretched its length out upon it. One felt as though some sacrifice was necessary, as though there should be a shrine where one could kneel and offer up dreams in little redwood caskets and pray for life and love and immortality. Because this... this is a fallen god of ancient times. There is no other way to describe it.

We spent more time than we meant to in Founder's Grove, because we couldn't tear ourselves apart from it. But the day was waning, and we needed to get a move on.

"We could leave the Avenue and go back on the 101," [ profile] rdeck suggested.

"No," I said firmly, and I was driving so I had the final say. "So long as this thing continues, we're on it."

Further on, nearly at the end of the Avenue, we came upon the Immortal Tree. This tree has survived two lighning strikes (its height has been noticeably diminished by these), a flood (there is a fish affixed to it to mark the high-water mark of the great flood, and it's QUITE considerably above my head) and man (there is a mark where people tried to hew the thing with axes, and failed miserably in the attempt). It survived all of this, and it's huge, and hale, and hearty.

I went up to it, and I stroked its bark, and I kissed it.

"Live long, and prosper," I whispered into a crack of its weathered 'skin'.

And I cried. Again.

Another grove or three or four, some with more of the grandpappy old trees that had us both so enthralled, and the Avenue came to an end. We left it reluctantly; I saw a car swing in from the 101 on its way south down the Avenue, and I sighed.

"I envy them," I said.

Back on the 101, we were making good time... but we couldn't let go of the trees.

A little further along the way we spied another "scenic alternative", so we turned onto that. Somewhere along the way a sign said simply, "Big Tree". No more, no less.

So we swung in to see.

My giddy aunt. They weren't kidding. No statistics for this one - no height or circumference or diameter or anything - but it's, um, BIG. *REALLY* big. Gawpingly big. Huge.

We visited it, made offerings to it in our hearts, and drove on.

The detour delivered us back to 101 in relatively short order, after more groves of redwoods on the way, and then we stopped AGAIN - just outside Klamath - to take a Redwood Ride. They have this little cable car thing set up, and you climb into a gondola and are carted up this steep slope - halfway up the redwoods, and you're a VERY long way off the ground - to a viewpoint at the top. Unfortunately the viewpoint was a sad loss because we were yet again socked in with fog - but the ride was spectacular, both up and down, and the views of redwoods in the mist were gorgeous.

We saw a few more trees here and there on the way up the 101 from there, but they were getting smaller and scarcer. I bid them farewell, with a devotion that will remain undying, with love and awe and humility. A part of me will always remain here in these groves, drifting in the dreamy shadows, stepping softly on needle-covered soft springy ground.

I will never forget the redwood groves.

We swung down to the spectacular coast, and eventually crossed from California into Oregon. Currently ensconced in a hotel in Gold Beach, in a room with an ocean view and a little pot-bellied gas stove in the room - and a bed so high that it feels like it belongs in a princess-and-the-pea fairy story.

TOmorrow, we hit the road and go straight to Portland. It's a little more of the coastline, just a little more, and then it's highways all the way in.

See you on the other side.
anghara: (Default)
Monday November 18

The fog that crept in while we were having dinner the night before was still with us when we woke this morning. Pretty solidly, it looked like when I peered through the windows.

“Eh, it’ll burn off by ten o’clock,” the ever-optimistic [ profile] rdeck said, with conviction. “Besides, the windows are all fogged in anyway, so it probably isn’t as bad as you think.”

Eh. In order. It didn’t burn off by ten (our B&B landlady suggested 11 AM as an alternative but as it happens she was wrong too – more on that later), and while the windows of our room WERE in fact a little misted up – well – so was the outside.

Well. We busied ourselves with breakfast around 9, and took off for a final walk down to Fort Bragg downtown at about 10, and the back street we were on was quiet an empty. A sign tacked on a lamp-post informed us that it was forbidden to ride bicycles, skateboards or horses on the sidewalk; we didn’t see anyone breaking the law, although I was really holding out for a bronco.

In front of the First Baptist Church, a hopscotch grid was chalked on the pavement – the first time I’ve seen one in oh, a gazillion years. The wave of nostalgia was completely unexpected. I was just – so – well, I was so SEVEN YEARS OLD again. It took an effort of will not to stick my hair into pigtails and start hopping. A little further on the pavement someone had chalked the words THINGS WE ARE THANKFUL FOR and surrounding them – sometimes in heartstoppingly painstaking childish handwriting – were the responses to that. They were… fantastic. Here’s just a selection:

My Baby Brother
The Harvest
Meeting Friendly Christians
Fall Colors
Sun and rain
Hippies (no, I am not kidding. It said that.)

This is a cool and interesting place.

We dropped in on the very nice local bookstore, Cheshire Books, which promptly set up a small display of my paraphernalia in the shop which was very nice of them. On our way back– and I was cameraless, alas – we chanced on a building straight out of a Wild West Hollywood movie with a sign that said no more than “Golden West”. It was painted up front, but that had been done some time ago and someone should have been thinking about a fresh coat about five years back – but the sides, visible from above the lower neighbouring house on one side and the alley on the other, were chronically dilapidated. The windows showed a range of eclectic coverings meant to do duty as curtains; at least two were bed sheets in a previous life, one was intriguing but unidentifiable from the street, and one was a crochet afghan. It honestly looked like a home for down-on-their-luck ladies of the night.

A little further up the street a storefront bore a pair of signs that were the most perfect example of irony I have ever seen. The one above said simply, “Bait”. Well, you might argue, this is a seaside town, people fish, ergo, bait. But just below it there was a sign advertising the lottery, with a come-hither announcement that the jackpot was now something in the order of $70 million.

Bait, eh..?

Back up to our own lodgings, from which we had already checked out, and we paused to look at the house directly across the street from the place we had stayed in.

“It looks a little iffy,” [ profile] rdeck suggested.

Iffy didn’t begin to cover it. One of the panes of the upstairs window was frankly missing; the roof was in a parlous state; the siding was three different colours where it had weathered differently and/or fallen off altogether; and something appeared to be grievously wrong with the foundation at one end, resulting in a perilously sagging porch and a downstairs window that kind of drooped at an odd angle. The house looked like it had suffered a major stroke and that nobody had managed to get to it in time for the damage not to be kind of permanent.

But it was now close to noon and we had places to go. So we loaded up the chariot and pressed on.

Into the fog.

Which got thicker and more drifty and more fabulous the further we went. We paused at one seaside view stop and I took some pictures of the angry choppy pewter-coloured ocean under the blanket of fog, rocks and foam and seagulls all soft and formless through fog. The road sometimes wholly disappeared into fog ahead of us, just dived in, only reappearing as I literally crashed the fogline, disappearing into another bank a few hundred yards ahead. It was WILD.

We stopped at another outlook and the coast was fantastic – great crashing breakers, cormorants perched on drenched crags, spray, mist, white foam on dark sand, and a handful of ravens flitting through it all cawing ominously. I took a picture of one of them, the one which posed in the spirit of human-avian cooperation until I was practically next to it before squawking when I got a shade too familiar and spreading huge black wings and rising into the drifting mist. It was all very Edgar Allan Poe.

The road twisted and turned and twisted. I began to really respect their signs – when they indicated a curve on the road and said max speed was 15MPH, they bloody well meant it. But the problem was that I couldn’t fathom why one curve had a warning sign and a mileage limit on it while another – just around the corner – was allowed to sneak up on you unawares. We developed a game of it – “That’s a fifteen!” – “That’s no twenty!” – “What, twenty five? We can do that in our sleep!” – “WHOA! Ten?!?” But after a while I was really starting to look forward to a straight road. Just a little bit of straight road. Please.

We meandered and twisted away from the coast after a while, and the fog magically vanished leaving us in bright sunshine. In that interval we chanced on a redwood grove picnic area and went for a stroll. We were the only people there; we might have been the last people on the earth, just us and the trees. We saw our first real old-growth redwood, and I wept at it – we stood rapt and listened to the silence of the redwood cathedral while green light filtered down from the treetops somewhere unimaginably high above us. I took pictures. Lots of pictures. LOOOOOTS of pictures. Have to download some of these puppies soon.

Onwards, but we were losing the day and the light by now, and we were also getting returns of the patchy fog every so often. We stopped to do stuff like drive the car through a drive-through tree (yes! I DID IT!) and then stop off to admire something called a Grandfather Tree with a circumference of FIFTY FIVE FEET. Go away and think about that for a minute. I’ll wait…

I didn’t want to miss out on any of the Avenue of the Giants stuff, and that was coming up, and the light was dying on us. So we turned off the highway in Garberville and bunked down for the night in a place called the Sherwood Forest Motel (I kid you not. I guess they figure one wood is as good as another…), had a quick meal in a nearby café (nothing like the one we had the night before…) and retired to recharge electronics and crash for the night. No Internet, though – so I am writing all this up on the evening of the 18th, and you will get to see it… whenever I get hold of the Internet for long enough to upload it to the blog.

We’re ready to start out bright and early tomorrow. Avenue of the Giants for as long as that takes – we have several scheduled stops but plan to stop elsewhere too if the mood takes us – and then after that we get as far as we can get before we break for the night. The car has to be delivered to the rental people in Portland OR before 5:30 on the 20th. We have two days to get from here to Portland.

Piece of cake.

Next report, after the Redwood Encounter Day.
anghara: (Default)
And I might, just as soon as I download some pictures I took today. But right now I is a tired little bunny.

I left the hotel after breakfast for a lightning round of bookstores in San Francisco - the young lady at the front desk of the hotel obligingly took my list and rendered it on a map for me so I could plan a round trip that took in as many stores as I could. Well, I visited Barnes & Noble, a plethora of indies ranging from the funky to the astonishing, and in the process I WALKED AROUND SAN FRANCISCO. By the time I crawled back up Van Ness Avenue on the way back to the hotel I knew I would miss at least one more bookstore but by this stage I was counting blocks and praying for no more hills because just one more itty bitty one would have probably had me sitting down at the foot of it and asking someone to carry me.

I made it. It was a beautiful day. I met a lot of people. But I is TIRED.

We went out to a very pleasant dinner with [ profile] swan_tower and her husband to a nice little Italian restaurant. Which was five blocks down and two across from the hotel.

We walked it. I, after a day of walking, managed yet another fourteen SF blocks. And let me just remind y'all, for those who might have forgotten the significance of this, that [ profile] rdeck *walked the hills of San Francisco*.

Bed now. Am TIRED.
anghara: (travel icon)
I'm off again - off to the Kidlitosphere '08 conference -

Will be taking computer with, this time, so blogging shall probably occur - as will writing, since I've got a while on planes etc. which can be put to good use. I aim to at least finish the initial version of chapter 30 while on the road. After that, there's two more chapters at the most of story left to do, plus a shorter epiloguey type end-bracket. I'm figuring - including #30 when it's finally done - maybe 15000- 20000 more words.

Which makes it come in under 200K. So THERE [grin] (Hey, [ profile] csinman, if come in under 200k do *I* get chocolate?...)

20000 words. It's a doddle. It's three days' work, tops.

Of course, then I have to go back and go over the whole thing again and neaten up any straggly loose ends, which will likely take me another week or so. But it's SOOOOO nearly done.

I'm getting the first bands of end-of-novel antsiness already, like an approaching hurricane.


Off to do some last minute packing. Flying out tomorrow morning. Portland here I come (again).

(Note to self. When the kilitters go on the outing to Powell's, *leave wallet at home*...)
anghara: (travel icon)
Left Laramie amidst much hugs and fond farewells by 7:30AM - actually, it was a little more complicated than that, I was getting a lift in with Steve Gould and Laura Mixon and David Marusek, and I was supposed to meet them outside to load up the car at five to seven so we could go grab breakfast and then go immediately. Well, I couldn't sleep until some godawful hour - 3 AM or something stupid like that - so I got up, went on the net, and finally crawled back into bed about forty minutes later - and then fell asleep like poleaxed and woke up at 10 to six and it was a good thing I had packed the night before because I literally fell out of that room and started the day racing. Grab breakfast. Get into car. Okay, the next bit was restful because we went the back way and it was scenic to the max, but still - get into Denver airport. Ask if there are any earlier flights I could go on standby for. There were two, one at 11.44 and the other at 1:44, and I was put on standby for both but not checked into my actual booked flight which was supposed to leave at 2:50. So flight #1 turned out to be massively overbooked with supposedly ticketed passengers outnumbering the seats on the plane never mind any standby possibilities, and then flight #2 was delayed first until 2:30 and then until 3:00 which would have meant leaving LATER than I was supposed to so I raced back and got checked in to my flight - and it was playing ping pong with gates, I swear, there was a malicious force at work - first flight at gate 47 (THAT way) the second flight at gate 27 (Back in the OTHER direction), customer service (to get checked in - back across towards 47 again) and my own flight's gate (37 - back the OTHER way. I was halfway to looking for the candid camera.

No Internet at Denver. They have free WiFi, it told me I was connected and gave me an excellent signal, but I could not open a single thing in the browser. Twenty minutes with a tech support guy on the phone (they gave me a 1-800 number) yielded no joy. Growl. Didn't have time or the concetration to do anything much else. Fell onto flight, finally, which was on time. Am in Seattle, waiting for my final flight back to Bellingham. I will have been on the run at a furious pace for over 12 hours by the time I get into Bellingham. I am just... fuzzy around the edges by this time, dammit.

Tired. Tired tired tired.

Launchpad was worth it.

[ profile] maryrobinette beat me to what I had already thought about doing - and would have done if the Internet hadn't been so annoying today - and that is, do a final Launchpad post with links to all of my reports in chronological order for those who don't want to wade back all the way winnowing them out. So I'll do that tomorrow.

From HOME.

God, I can't wait to get a good night's SLEEP.

Hope the folks at Denvention are having a ball - will someone tell me how the Launchpad panel went, please?...

Back to work tomorrow, sorting out stuff I brought back/learned from Launchpad, I have a story to write and I have to get back to my novel (which I optimistically brought with me to work on while at Launchpad and, um, didn't do much with over there (when do you think I got the time to write those copious blog reports...?) So - back to, as it were, Earth tomorrow.

See you soon somewhere under glow of the Milky Way.
anghara: (Japan 2)
Breakfast was had in the room, in preparation for picking up tour at 8:20 in the foyer of the OTHER hotel in the complex (just for fun, there's a Hotel Grand Prince Tanakawa and a Hotel Grand Prince New Tanakawa...) First sign of trouble, torrential downpour as we stepped out of the door of OUR hotel to go across the gardens to the OTHER hotel. Luckily this place is *civilised*. There are complimentary umbrella stands at both ends. You picks up an umbrella, and then you leaves it on the other end when you're done with it. What can I say - once again - CIVILISED. And what's more you get a choice - plain green serviceable common-or-garden umbrella, or waxed paper Japanese umbrella straight out of Japanese ink paintings. Pretty cool. I may have to go back down and have my picture taken with one of these pretties.

Anyhow. Tour.

Picked up bus and then got told, this is not your bus, this is pickup bus, we are just taking you to the bus depot - where we arrived in a breathless rush, fell into the building, were herded to the proper ticket counters by smiling Japanese women who were handing out maps and more umbrellas, and packed onto another bus for our tour. Our guide introduced herself as "Junko - it's Junk with an O at the end. Our driver' name is [and I've forgotten what it was] but you can just call him Mister Driver if you can't remember." Junko was a round-faced and humorous person whose commentary was constantly amusing - I particularly liked, on our approach to the Tokyo tower which is essentially modelled on the Eiffel, her offhand comment about how it might be observed to resemble "...that other tower in France." And this tower was TALLER. By a hair, but taller. So there. Take that, Paris.

We went up to the tower observatory and were treated to sweeping if a little fuzzy-around-the-edges views of Tokyo. In certain directions there were glass and steel forests of skyscrapers, and even a glimpse of something that might have been the Landmark Tower of Yokohama, in the shadow of which we had spent Worldcon; in other directions there were temple pagoda roofs, or else just a jumble of serried ranks of rooftops that seemed to have very little to do with one another and resembled a spilled box of Lego bricks.

We descended the tower, pausing in the little shop at the bottom of the tower to pick up refreshments - they had orange KitKats, YAY! And, uh, iced Starbucks lattes (and anything iced and caffeinated was greatly appreciated, since the day was already turning into a muggy mess....) The bus departed, driving through several shopping districts with vast acreages of huge billboard advertising, and arrived in due time at the outskirts of the Imperial Palace near Edo Castle. We could only walk on the periphery of the moat (we can has pictures! [grin]) and this is when the day began to dissolve in celestial water. Copious quantities of it. What began as a mild drizzle suddenly turned, in the space of the five minutes this walk took, into a torrential tropical downpour - I trotted gamely under this deluge holding my umbrella over my camera and feeling my knees getting soaked and drips and dribbles off the back edge of the umbrella down my back; we crossed the road back to the bus in a wet untidy tourist scrum and piled back into the bus helter skelter... all of us except a couple of finicky Russians who apparently decided that they wanted to wait out the typhoon under a nice convenient shelter and the bus just had to WAIT. Junko was almost moved to stop being polite at one point. However, our wayward tourists were retrieved by a couple of their friends, and Junko said - still very politely - that the next time anyone was late for a scheduled departure the bus will just have to leave without them, so there.

We drove through the Ginza district to Asakusa, part of "old TOkyo" (which, according to Junko, if you count all the 26 cities and so many towns and 8 villages that make up Greater Tokyo, has THIRTY MILLION INHABITANTS - the mind, it boggles) and went to visit a Buddhist temple which has an incense burner which, if you wave its smoke in your direction, is supposed to make you beautiful, or whatever. (So, when I come home,if I seem different...) The temple backed onto a covered narrow shopping street crowded with stores selling lanterns, incense, sandals, fans, geisha wigs, hair ornaments, masks, kimonos, and other Japannerie. But we only had some twenty minutes for the temple and the street, in toto, thanks to the tardy Russians, so we poked around a bit, took a few photos, and walked back to the bus through a landscape which had just got soaked and was now steaming in the sunshine.

Next stop, via the double-decker Tokyo expressway, was a pearl production facility and store. A very nice young woman explained how pearls were cultured, and then someone won a lucky pearl (not me). But because I have had some good news recently, I DID make a purchase at the pearl shop. JPGs to come. Promise.

People could choose to be bused back to their hotels at this point, but [ profile] charlieallery and I decided we would strike out on our own at this point. We found an Irish pub called Finn MacCool's to have lunch at (and I has photo of the English gaijin eating pork and ginger with chopsticks in an Irish pub in Japan. The mind it boggles all over again...

Weather was getting abominable at this point, with humidity enough to curl my hair (literally) but we gamely tackled the subway system and found our way around quite nicely, thank you very much indeed ([ profile] charlieallery:"We OWN Tokyo subway!!!") and returned to Ginza, where we wandered around a bit more, popped into a few stores, took more pictures, and then decided we felt a tad pooped so skedaddled back to the hotel.

We WERE planning on going out for supper but we both felt too tired to venture out far - and so after an abortive attempt at a local steakhouse (the set menu ran to 20 000 Yen a person - I mean, YIKE) we had dinner in the same cheerful restaurant that we had done the previous night. But before we had done that, we got some bad news. Our tour operator had called in to tell us that we were to spend the next day grounded in TOkyo, thanks to the imminent typhoon - and that our tour would be moved forward one day which meant that we basically would not be going up Mt FUji in a major storm. I was in a bit of a blue funk over that at supper, and [ profile] charlieallery said something like, well, I wouldn't be surprised if the coach driver told the operators, well, sod THAT for a lark - and after that I could barely eat my beef pilaf because I was laughing too hard to swallow. I mean, I was picturing in my head every Japanese person I had met on this trip so far, and I could not imagine one of them, not ONE, telling anybody to sod anything for a lark. Possibly, "Please to be sodding off, if it isn't too much trouble, thank you very much". With a bow. The idea of a Japanese driver turning on the tour operator just... floored me. and after that the night went the giggle way fast and we couldn't stop. Out came the Dr Who references and the Monty Python references and damn, but it's good to have a friend around who shares ALL your cultural background and have to utter the first syllable of a word before an entire sketch takes form in the air between us and then dissipates elegantly, while we're both still wiping tears of laughter off our faces, to make room for the next.

Anyhow, the upshot is that we're ever so slightly screwed by this inconvenient typhoon, but we gallantly rose to the occasion and since we are going to be stuck in Tokyo tomorrow and cannot count on anything that's OUTSIDE because we had a taste of that typhoon rain and it wasn't much fun thank you we made plans to visit several local museums catering to history (the Edo period of Tokyo), growing bonsai, Japanese swords, and Japanese arts and crafts if we have time. We had enormous fun figuring out stations and rail lines on maps that would not cooperate and then finding the same recalcitrant station in the same moment and squawking "Ichigaya!" at the same instant as the place finally caught our eye (at which point I added, "Gesundheit..!"). Typhoon or no typhoon, unless they shut down the entire city tomorrow morning, we has plans. We will immerse ourselves in Japanese culture, and we will go and LEARN something. The sword museum even advertises that it hands out pamphlets on the care and feeding of Japanese swords, and hell, both of us are writers. This is RESEARCH.

And with a bit of luck we pick up the rest of the tour on Friday - Mt Fuji, Hakone, Kyoto, and then back to Tokyo, the airport, and home.

Hot and tired and damp and frustrated at the vagaries of weather... and having a wonderful time.

Sayonara for now.
anghara: (Default)
Getting lost in Tokyo.
Tokyo is the most confusing city in the world. The streets have neither names nor numbers. The numbers on buildings are not sequential. You will get lost. Don't worry about it. It's part of the experience. Ask for directions frequently. Draw yourself maps.

The little buildings on corners with cops sitting in them are koban-- police boxes. They exist to help lost people. Go in and ask for help. If the cop does not speak English, say, "[place] wa doko desu ka?" Try to get him to draw you a map. He will be happy to help you out.

Or ask strangers. They may not know where you are, but if they do, they will be sympathetic. At any given time, Tokyo has thousands of lost tourists wandering about in circles.

As a last resort, if you get really hopelessly lost, you may have to go to the nearest train or subway station and take it to a stop you're familiar with.

(From the Nippon 2007 site, reprinted from Rachel Manija Brown's accounts of travels in Japan.)

Looks like "Get lost" is not considered an insult in Japan [grin]
anghara: (Default)
What with one thing and another, I got *sidetracked*. So, before I get sidetracked further, here's a short account of the COnvention That Was over the last weekend.

First off was Friday, with the full-day Master Classes being presented by four of us - yours truly, Matt Hughes, Lisa Smedman and GoH Barbara Hambly. It really was a full-day affair, with 34 people sitting there in the audience while the four of us talked and taught and itneracted - and there were a lot of exercises and do-this-and-do-that things. Barabara Hambly had a scene-setting exercise which provided lots of fun as well as a learning experience. I was last, with my topic of "keys to character" - and the discussion ranged far and wide, with talk of stereotypes versus archetypes and what either individually or both together mean for a story in which they occur - the shorthand for differentiating them appears to be that a stereotype is something you RECOGNISE and an archetype is something you UNDERSTAND on a fundamental level without even knowing why you understand it so completely. It was fun, and instructive, and if invited back next year I'm SO there.

My first panel was barely an hour after the Master Classes concluded - a panel on Where History Ends and Fantasy Begins, and it was a vigorous, interesting panel with articulate fellow panelists who had a lot of pertinent things to say and a lively and participative audience. A good beginning to a convention.

Saturday [ profile] rdeck and I first went to a couple of panels as audience - one was a panel on immortality and that was a thoroughly wonderful one, with a bunch of things that triggered a bunch of story ideas - not just for me, I saw lots of other people taking notes. That was followed by a panel on Global Warming, which had Donna McMahon, VCon's current treasurer and a friend, on it as a panelist. It was a sobering, even somewhat grim, panel, but it was painfully honest and it asked a heap of questions that need to be asked *and answered* RIGHT NOW before things get much worse than they already are. (There's always ONE twit in the audience, though, and for this particular panel there was one guy who complained that there was "nobody on the panel to speak to the positive aspects of global warming". He was roundly told that should there be any they would be few, and very quickly smothered under the weight of the displaced millions as huge masses of real estate disappear beneath rising oceans and a billion dispossessed people try to find higher ground...) Then we had lunch at the Irish Pub place attached to the hotel, and after that it was MY show.

I had a panel at 4 PM, a reading at 5:30, another panel at 7, and another at 10. A full day's work in an afternoon.

The 4 o'clock panel was FUN. It was entitled "How I write a novel", and it was a bunch of writers talking about writing, which is always a joy. There was lots of laughter, and lots of heads nodding in the audience at one or another comment which hit some sort of personal triumph or disaster - and although it was one of the better attended panels it wound up being one of the more intimate ones.

The reading went okay, and I had brought extra copies of the booklet with the excerpt which I was reading which all disappeared from the freebie table so you might say I had a bigger audience than turned up at the actual reading itself. But A member of my reading audience did say, at the conclusion of my presentation, that she didn't usually go in for YA stuf - but that she would be keeping an eye out for THIS one. ALways good news.

We spent a brief and pleasant interlude with Rob Sawyer and an entire posse of other people at the nearest pub-like place, and then I had to run to my next panel.

The 7 PM panel was on "shadowy characters", and I was moderating that one. It kind of meandered a little as we wound up talking about all KINDS of shadowy characters, not just the basic implication of someone not entirely good. There were a lot of lovely comments from the audience ("If you can have someoen who is irredeemably damned, can you also have someone who is undamnably redeemed?") Turns out we all liked shadowy characters. At their most benign they are the comic relief tricksters; at their most dangeous they are the black soul of the universe; in between they are the characters who are the catalysts and the triggers and the pivots for our worlds and the events that unfold within them. They are essential. May the Gods, whichever Gods they pray to (or are), bless them all.

We went up to a party in the intervening period between the end of this pannel and my late-night one, and spent a brief but pleasant time chatting to various friends and new acquaintances for a while until I had to excuse myself and go down to my 10 o'clock, which was entitled "When the heroine isn't blonde, 18 and a size 3" - but the blurb of the panel didn't make it clear whether we were attacking ageism, sexism or general stereeotyping and it developed instead into a conversation between the three somewhat tired paneilsts who were probably a little too laid back at this point to be coherent and the handful of audience who were interested and involved enough to stay up for the panel. We were actually told by one audience member, after, "thanks for not blowing off this panel,it was great". Again, always good news.

Then I went up to another party while [ profile] rdeck sensibly went to bed; and after that I went to the midnight showing of teh Rocky Horror Picture SHow. Great, as always. But it also meant I hit the sack after 2 AM...

...And on Sunday we got up, packed, stowed our stuff in the car, and then went for a late and very pleasant breakfast in the company of someone we had met that weekend - she'd been at the Master Classes and after that our paths kept on crossing and she bought two of my books and is generally a very nice lady. Following that we went to the swordsmanship display and workshop put on by Vancouver's Academie Duello (you can learn more about them here) - and the first hour of that consisted of the two instructors showing off various techniques and various weaponry and the second hour consisted of "Get a sword and swing it yourself" kind of activity. They had a limited number of practice longswords, the real thing, and then a bunch of wooden ones which people could use to swing and parry with - but I'm a writer, dammit, and I tell true lies for a living, and wielding a wooden sword is of absolutely no use to me whatever - I need to feel the heft of the real thing, the reach of it, the weight of it, the sounds it makes, the things it can and cannot do. So I got myself a real broadsword, and learned to thrust and parry with it, and although it was inevitably awkward (one is afraid of swinging this thing too wide and putting someone's eye out, after all) I think I got into a rhythm of it after a while and even managed some grace. Either way, I had myself a WONDERFUL time. Everyone should swing a broadsword once in their lives...

Then we had lunch.

Then I sat down at the empty autographing table and had a few of my hardcovers in front of me... and actually sold one or two right there and then. All in all, I sold ten or eleven books over the course of the weekend - which isn't bad for three days' work...

Then [ profile] rdeck got coopted into a poetry reading panel, where I joined him about halfway through, and that was fun (SF&F poetry has a WICKED twisted mind...) and after that we went in to a panel concerned with Spirituality, Religion and Ethics in SF&F - which overran by at least ten minutes and would have cheerfully gone on for another three hours if allowed. There are so many viewpoints, and so many takes on the whole idea, and so many examples where it was used in this or that way, and so many examples from real life which - if you tried to use them in fiction - would get you flatly rejected as utterly implausible, that neither the panelists nor the audience could talk fast enough - but the panel ended and we all had to go away and clear the room for the next lot, or at least disperse to the CLosing Ceremonies which were on next.

We, on the other hand, moved on to procuring a cup of coffee for the hard working panelist (myself) because I was starting to get yawny and I had another panel to go. TO which, at 6PM, we went, in full expectation that there would be maybe three panelists and two members of the audience. But (someewhat surprisingly, given the timing of it) this panel on YA fantasy/SF turned out to be one the best panels of the convention. The three panelists - myself, Lisa Smedman and moderator Jennifer Taylor - clearly had lots to say and plenty of ideas and the questions from the audience were pertinent and interesting - and there WAS a genuine audience, some eight or nine people, which was respectable indeed for that time slot. We lingered a moment of two, after, to talk to a few people, and then we got into the car and drove home.

It was too much to hope that we would hit the US border when there was nobody there - but we only waited for twenty minutes or so (there have been worse wait times. MUCH worse.) and we got home around 9 o'clock.

(Apropos of nothing in particular... Home smelled like winter when we got out of the car - the air was cool, almost frosty. There were leaves on the ground. Fall is here. I'm happy.)

All in all - my thanks to Clint Budd and Donna McMahon for a well-run, well-organised, interesting con. I heard rumours of various on-going "catastrophes" as we crossed paths with various members of the concom over the weekend but if there were any catastrophes they were kept under wraps very well and dealt with by responsible parties with a commendable degree of discretion and dispatch. I enjoyed this one. Much.

On to dealing with real-life issues and problems, now... and on to Austin. In only a few more weeks. More airplanes. Sigh. I do enjoy cons - and WFC is one with a special character - but I'll be glad when this trip is over and I won't, at least in the NEAR future, be expected to face an airport again...
anghara: (Default)
Back from VCon, in Vancouver. I'll tell y'all a bit more about it tomorrow. For now, I'll go cat fussing and then bed.

Here's a teaser: I swung a broadsword. A REAL one.

That was MAJOR fun.

Tomorrow. Come back and read all about it.
anghara: (Default)
16 September 2006 - Whittier and the Midnight Sun Express: Into the Interior )

17 September 2006 - Denali: The Day of the Mountain )

18 September 2006 - Fairbanks: The Day of the River )

19 September 2006 - Homeward Bound )

keep watching that Gallery. I've just added a few more, but I'm having a spot of trouble with some of 'em - however, rest assured, there ARE more pictures coming.
anghara: (Default)
...or at least the beginnings of Alaska.

As requested, 8/9 September 2006 - Leaving Home )

10 September 2006 – At Sea: The Inside Passage )

I've tried not to be too overwhelming with pictures, but I will be updating this gallery as I go...
anghara: (Default)
Lemme just sort out the drifting piles of baggage accumulating in the spare bedroom and the hall, and download my 1300 photographs, and pull myself together again for Real Life (tm) - and I'll be back to tell you all about it.

In copious detail.

You've been warned.
anghara: (Dunavska)
Yesterday I packed up Momma and took her off to Victoria, British COlumbia, for the day. I'd never been there either, so it would be a brand new experience for both of us, and it's been a stressful few months for her. She deserved a little something to unwind and relax, and Victoria, by reputation, was just the ticket.

Outbound )

Luke the laid back horse and tea at the Empress )

Coming home )

And on the whole... )
anghara: (Default)
...there is just a 5 AM start between me and the other coast of the States.

Well. Lunacon.

Suffice it to say that Fun Was Had, and that the organizers turned a hotel-under-construction drama into a hilarious running gag, with posters declaiming "Hotel d'Isastre" with pithy comments underneath festooning every available wall, and it became kind of interesting to duck wet paint, rail-less staircases with signs like "Usable stairs that way" and "Beware man eating stairs" tacked to strategic barriers redirecting traffic, and other signs proclaiming that through the door upon which they were taped lay something called the "unlabeled women's room" (there was some discussion whether one con attendee's attire, which included a logo-ed sweatshirt and therefore a "label" precluded her using the facilities...) The Coffee House venue migrated between the two lobbies and the "Meet the Pros" function became something of a follow-the-leader event (and anyone who could actually find the bar got a drink out of it eventually...)The panels were good fun, particularly the one about language - lots of words which usually languish in dictionaries got more of an airing in one hour than they must have done in a very long time. We're writers and readers. We love language. And man, did we show it.

That was the con - and I already mentioned that I used the occasion to wander into New York and get to meet up with the Publishing Industry in person - and that in itself was pretty much worth the price of admission. But then there was more - and it's at this con, in particular, the annual pilgrimage I make to the East Coast, that I get to spend time with a dear friend I don't see nearly enough of - [ profile] alexjay, bless you for coming, and thank you for wandering through the halls yelling "hear ye hear ye" when my scheduled reading was about to start (even if I was hiding behind the lectern at the time). It feels like there's never been a time when I didn't know you, and that's good.

Other encounters included [ profile] dr_pretentious, and I got to meet a new favourite writer, [ profile] naominovik, and even be on a good panel with her. A good convention. It is one which I think will become a fixture in my professional year, for as long as they keep asking me back.

Well. It's over. I'm off to pack my bag right now, and then I'll to bed early - perhaps even get some sleep - tomorrow I rise before the sun...
anghara: (Default)
At the airport (yay for wireless, and all that!). My plane was originally scheduled for 1:30. When I got here the departure boards had us at 1:35 - okay, I can handle five minutes.

Now we're due to depart at 2:30. Strong winds at Newark, they tell us.

I so don't know if the strong winds are likely to die down sufficiently to be navigable within an hour. I mean, if they could fly in them we'd be flying now, right...? Siiiiiigh.

This means I'll be in at Newark at well past 10 PM local time. IF, that is, we depart on time this time. I can see getting there at midnight and collapsing in a heap.

At least I'm flying first class this time around so it won't be too onerous once up in the air - but aaaaarh, dammit all, i don't like sitting at airports and just WAIIING. I don't like waiting, period. That, in fact, is one of the absolute WORST aspects of my chosen career, if writing can be said to have a worst side - the waiting. The waiting to hear about whether a book is accepted for publication or not. The waiting for a contract. The waiting for a cover. The waiting for publication. The waiting for reviews.

The waiting for the out-of-print remaindering [sigh]

well, but we got off the track just a tad - right now it's just the waiting for a plane. It's now just past one o'clock, and we aren't even supposed to be boarding, under the new time, for another hour. I'll stay connected and update as necessary... I still hope to see everyone on the East Coast on schedule...

May 2009

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