Wednesday, November 22, 2017

the stories behind things I've done

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1. Lunch with Le Guin: I was working on a bibliography of her work, and visited by appointment to go through some of her papers and books. I was there all day, and we had lunch: sandwiches and tea, and the Tiptree Award, which was a huge bar of chocolate sitting on a sill, off which one hacked a small chunk with a knife. I was also formally introduced to her cat. (This was long before Pard.)

2. Worldcon. I was the Hugo Administrator, so yes I knew who won, and I made the button just to tease people.

3. Walk around a country: I pose this as a conundrum, and people have a hard time guessing it. They realize it must be a small country, but give names like Monaco, which is on the Mediterranean and consequently a foot circumnavigation would require one to walk on water, or Liechtenstein, which would require one to be a mighty Alpine mountaineer. In fact it was a 45-minute stroll down city streets through a modestly hilly neighborhood, and I undertook it as a quaint way to pass the time while B. was attending mass conducted by Pope JP2 at St Peter's in ... all right, can you guess the country now?

4. Drama with a live geyser. When I chaired Mythcon in 1988 with Le Guin as GoH, I appointed the late Leigh Ann Hussey, a devoted fan of Always Coming Home and a remarkable expert in Kesh culture, particularly its music and drama, entertainments coordinator under the title "Kesh consultant" and let her rip. Leigh Ann threw herself into the job: she designed Kesh-style name badges, made Kesh musical instruments and led the opening procession with them, helped Todd Barton lead the chanting of heya, and put on a production of a short play from the book, "The Plumed Water," a ritual celebrating the Calistoga geyser. On the day after the con, a number of us rented a small van and toured the Valley of the Na, the book's setting. Leigh Ann was our party's expert in all the local botany as well as Kesh lore. We finished up at the geyser and found it, luckily for us, erupting. This is not Old Faithful where you have to keep a quarter-mile away; you can go right up to this geyser and stand under the fringes of the spray. Unusually, the geyser kept on going, and Leigh Ann pulled out a copy of Always Coming Home and quickly organized another whole reading of the play. The geyser didn't stop until after we were finished.

5. Gerald Ford's chair: My late grandfather was a businessman in Grand Rapids, Michigan, in 1948 when he joined a group of moderate Republicans who wanted to do something about their rock-ribbed isolationalist congressman. They supported a challenger in the Republican primary, a young lawyer and veteran named Gerald R. Ford, and in the surprising success of this plan there hangs a tale. Throughout Ford's rise in Congress my grandfather stayed in touch with him, as prominent local businessmen are wont to do with their congressmen. He was proud of the connection, and the shelves in his office developed a few signed photos and the like. In 1972 when my family visited D.C. we stopped by Ford's office and introduced ourselves to his staff. Ford wasn't there; as I recall he was in China; but I had my photo taken sitting in his office chair. (And the Woolsack? Snuck a quick sit while taking a tour of Parliament.)

6. The sound of one hand clapping: Fold your fingers over and slap them against the base of your palm. This only makes a sound if you have really long fingers. I've found this talent useful on occasion when I want to applaud a performer but only have one hand free.

7. Car that rolled over and played dead: It was a one-car auto accident just like it sounds. Fortunately I was uninjured, save for it being too painful to walk down stairs for several weeks afterwards, notable as I then worked on the fourth floor of an old building with only an alarmingly rickety cage elevator which we preferred to avoid. The accident was on a deserted stretch of I-5 in the Central Valley; the tow-truck driver deposited me in a wind-swept farming town some distance away, from which I took the bus home.

8. Roadless Alaskan fishing village: Best vacation B. and I ever took was a cruise through the archipelago of the Alaskan panhandle by small ship, one small enough to fit up the odd nooks and crannies of the isles. Our most obscure land stop was at the arrestingly-named Elfin Cove, an exceedingly tiny and obscure fishing village on the tip of Chichagof Island, miles from the nearest equally obscure other human habitation, with a secluded harbor, no ferry service, and no other access except a seaplane dock. Our ship had to anchor outside and land us by skiff. No land transportation at all except your own feet taking you along a boardwalk circling the harbor.

9. Eaten a haggis: See item 4 on the list of common things I've only done once, "Visited Scotland." The first one was at a food stand outside the train station in Edinburgh: I'd just spent all day on a train with nothing to eat except utterly vile BritRail sandwiches. The haggis tasted good; I'd gladly have it again.

10. Four states: It's the Four Corners, where AZ NM CO UT meet. There were four of us boys. We were there on a family vacation. The obvious thing to do was to pose. I positioned us while our father took a photo. I stood in CO because it's the oldest of the four and so am I. That's the kind of thing I was the kind of 12-year-old who knew offhand.

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