Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Andi Shechter

Gone Monday morning. Oh, dear. She was one of my oldest friends, so this is going to be tough.

I first met Andi (originally short for Andrea, but she long ago dropped that entirely) at a meeting of the Little Men, the old line Berkeley SF fan club, in my early days at university, when Alva Rogers, the club secretary, gestured at the younger woman blushing shyly by his side and announced, "She said 'yes'!"

But if Andi seemed shy at first glance, I quickly learned she was not so at all. She was buoyant, talkative, energetic, outspoken, and had a knack of being at the center of everything that long outlasted her marriage to Alva. She became the doyenne of our fannish circle; as a young fan with social aspirations, I hung out with her whenever I could. I have many fond memories of being with her and other friends at the Magic Cellar in San Francisco, at Flying Karamazov Brothers shows, and other events.

One might think, and I suspect some did think, that I had the hots for her, but I didn't. She didn't attract me in that way. I hung out with Andi because she was fun to be with. Our conversations bubbled and squeaked, and her friendship was balm and a nectar. We reached closest collaboration when she was elected chair of the Little Men and I was her vice-chair, working together on arranging guest speakers and running the meetings. We developed a routine of calling me her pet vice, a joke which, as it turned out, lasted a lifetime.

But then I moved away and then she moved away, and our friendship became an occasional thing that was renewed completely afresh whenever we met. It was Andi who arranged, several years after the Cellar's closing, a reunion of its friends up at its owner Cedric Clute's home deep in the Sierras, a particularly golden meeting. I was both delighted and amused when Andi hooked up with Stu Shiffman, who turned out to be the love of her life, because I'd known both of them for years already. Once they moved to Seattle, I'd see them whenever I visited; occasionally she'd come down here; and a favorite memory of the Reno Worldcon was the successful arrangement of lunch at a casino deli: B. and me, Andi and Stu.

Andi was an activist in many ways. She ran conventions: first Star Trek cons from before I'd met her, then sf cons including Worldcons that she'd recruit me on to the committees of. For many years, though, her conrunning activities lay mostly in mystery fandom, where she became a mighty BNF. Our tastes in that literature had little overlap, so it was one topic we didn't discuss much, though I did once attend a Bouchercon because she was chairing it. But also Andi was firm in her support and activities in progressive politics, and also, of course, for disability rights.

Even in the early days, Andi often walked with a cane, and gradually debilitating disease, focused in her back, began to overtake her. Fortunately she was still walking, and having a good day, when the fanzine con Corflu held an incongruous joint event with the Friends of the English Regency, with which I was also involved. When the band struck up Horatio's Fancy, a figure waltz easy for beginners to pick up with an experienced partner, I asked her to dance. From her expression, it must have been a joyous experience, and perhaps the memory a comfort when she could waltz no more. Eventually she went about in a motorized wheelchair, and after Stu had a stroke he joined her in one too. That's how they were married, in the dinosaur museum at the University of Washington, and what another joyous meeting. Afterwards I dreamed that Stu and Andi were dancing. It was a big, vigorous two-handed turn, and they were in rude good health and having a glorious time. Life had closed that possibility off for them, but it was kind of the Sandman to send me the thought.

But then Stu died, and with the cessation of Potlatch my regular visits to Seattle ceased. Having missed Andi entirely on a previous visit due to her health problems, I went up last fall determined to meet with her above anyone else. And it happened. We met at her favorite coffee shop in Lake City where she was living. We sat and chatted for hours about life, literature, and politics just as we always had for over forty years. When it was time to go, I watched her wheelchair trundle slowly up the sidewalk towards home, and I had, though I didn't know it, said goodbye forever.

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