bald harpist

my fanfiction and my life in fandom

Let me begin with a practical question. I'd like to make my fan fiction available online again. Occasionally I've gotten emails from people asking to see "Gilgamesh," for instance, and I've been so harried I haven't even been able to deal with it, knowing as I do that this will involve digging around on my computer to find the thing (not guaranteed), and then figuring out where and how to post it. Inevitably I'm under twelve work-related deadlines when this happens, and I run away in cowardly fashion.

I'd like to put up all my old stuff -- Smallville, X-Files, and whatever else I may have lying about. Where should it go? And when I say where, I must ask for your kindness. Think of me as an alien who knows nothing about AO3 or anything else. Sadly, you will have to use simple words and short declarative sentences: "Go here. Press the red button. The instructions will be self-evident." That sort of thing. I think most of my stories have html tags in them for italics and paragraphs and the like, so hopefully that won't be a problem.

...And now for the "life in fandom" portion of our show. It's been ages since I've felt fannish about anything, and I'm somewhat melancholy about that; and I find myself thinking about old fan friends and wondering how they are, and whether anyone's heard from those who've gafiated, like Anna S. and Kat Allison, and whether those still treading the light fantastic in new fandoms are enjoying their adventures. Is anyone still out there?

As for me, I remain caught in the icy cold stream of work, which continues to claim every hour it can. Time has become my greatest lack and enemy. I dream of retirement, when I can write whatever I like, whenever I wish.

Are old friends reading this? The dogs are well -- Harry is nine! Isn't that incredible? He still has the health and vigor of a young dog, as I was reminded today when he loudly challenged a motorcycle. The garden is full of roses, and right now deer are dozing under the trees, just down the hill. I've discovered new authors whose work I seek out, and that no longer happens often enough. If only these moments weren't snatched out from under the crushing wheels of time.
bald harpist

a ritual in someone's garage

Do you wonder what's going on in the lives of old friends who don't post much any more? I do.

My big house reno started today, after days and weeks of preparation. All the furniture from the second floor is stacked in my garage like Tetris pieces. This morning the construction crew arrived as the dogwalker came, and soon all was chaos. Floors and walls were being covered in plastic. Painters arrived whom I had not called for. Phone calls were made and last-minute plans required urgent gallops through the house before I could leave, hauling a big suitcase after me, as I'd been warned not to sleep in the place for at least three nights if I didn't want to inhale "particulate matter."

I drove off this morning considerably late, wound down the hill, and parked in a narrow lane below a steep slope with a garage at its top, where I went inside and voted. I once wrote an essay in this journal about my first time voting, in 2004, when I was in my late 40s. I’d always believed (and continue to believe, for it is numerically correct) that my vote is, in a practical math sense, null; and that it makes no actual difference. In those years I generally tried not to bring up my voting history, or lack thereof, as it upset others to no purpose; they would, pretty much to the last man or woman, declare, “If everyone felt that way…!” – which does not speak to the issue. First, because everyone doesn’t feel that way, so discussing an alternate universe where they do is not an incentive; and second, if most people did feel that way, my vote would still accomplish nothing (though it would have slightly more value than it does now).

Over the years, however, I have learned many things. So this morning I climbed the slope to the garage, punched my card, and brought it to an old man who stood by the tabulator. He tore off my stub and showed me how to feed the voting card in (as the ritual would have been incorrectly performed if he fed it in for me). I did so. A Chinese-American woman who looked to be in her 60s sat nearby, watching the machine closely. She had a roll of stickers in her hand, and though her clothes were old, her carriage was regal. She saw the tabulator perform, and smiled at me warmly, saying in careful, heavily accented words: “Success! Your vote is successful. I will give you gold star.” She extended her hand with the graciousness of a monarch knighting someone, and attached the sticker to my shirt: “You are gold medalist!”

I laughed and walked back down the slope, a little worried about how late I would be for work. In the lane below I passed an old woman coming toward me with great difficulty, laboring step by step with a wheeled walker. I warned her the driveway to the garage was steep. She could barely hear me, so I repeated it more loudly and walked her to the driveway, where I called to the pollworkers, “This lady may need some help getting up there!” A big man came down to give her an arm.

You see, I have learned over the years that it’s not about the math of voting. It’s about a sacred ritual – a shared sacred ritual. (And, in California, it’s about researching props, but that’s another story.) It’s a symbolic act of shared trust, a promise that our combined future is something important to me; and now I understand that the people I used to argue with were wrong about the math, but right about the brotherhood of our greater tribe.
Mersheimer Donne moon

Harry's birthday

It was six years ago today that I drove out to the high desert to fetch home a dog I only knew from his photo online. Six years! I can't quite believe it. I remember how bedraggled and smelly he was, a lump of long white hair with dark eyes peering out. He sat up in the passenger's seat on the long ride home, still subdued at first from the anesthesia (he'd been neutered earlier in the day), then rousing himself to nose through the cassettes I had tucked in the arm rest storage. A born investigator. I told him "No," sternly, and when he looked back at me, uncertain, I petted him and said, "It'll be all right, Harry. You and me, kiddo." When I parked the car in my driveway and got out, he made a quick, panicked jump into the driver's seat -- "You're not leaving me!"

They told me he was two years old, which means he's eight now. Fifty-six in dog years. We're the same age. This is the year our ages cross; after this, he'll always be older than me, this tireless puppy I dubbed "the fastest dog in the West." He's seen the ocean, run wild at dog parks, threatened coyotes, and tried mightily to slip the leash and chase deer. This year, through sheer random chance, he encountered his first hill rat, and two more the same week. He hunted, pounced, and killed them all immediately, in workmanlike fashion, with a single shake; no catlike playing. I could only wonder at the power of his genetic coding.

I wish I could give him more to experience, while he's still playful and adventurous. He loves to explore, but I can't let him roam off-leash because he'll get into trouble. He loves to hunt squirrels (which he never catches; they taunt him from the branches), but again, I can't let him off-leash. Sometimes I read Mary Oliver's descriptions of her dogs running through the woods of Cape Cod and think, "If only." I'm still trying to strategize a way to let him play in snow.

He does know he's loved. A few weeks ago a gentleman at the park, well-dressed, with a French accent, watched as Harry made the acquaintance of two other dogs, and noted, astutely, "Harry thinks he's a star." I'm not sure how he picked that up, as Harry was simply sniffing at the other dogs in that evaluating way they have; but I've no doubt he's right. And no doubt I've given Harry every reason to think so, for I praise him extravagantly when I pet him.

Meanwhile, he stands guard over me when I'm ill, and if I cry he presses himself against me. Every day since he arrived, he checks the perimeter of the property, watching for threats to the homestead. When his little sister barks from another room, he comes running to save the day. (Although a brilliant dog in other ways, he has not yet figured out that sometimes she barks when I'm making a fuss over him and she's jealous. He invariably leaps out of my arms and runs to confront the threat. There's no trace of deceit in his body; when he's jealous he simply sulks eloquently.)

And every year he gets older, at a furious pace.
bald harpist

winter blossoms, rugs, and E.F. Benson

Thanks to everyone who weighed in on the rug! (And on the mystery vegetables.) I meant to get back online sooner, but I seem to only have a few productive hours a day right now, and by the time I get done the things I need to, I sit down at the table to post and find I'm spent. I've been even worse than usual at responding to email, too. I have a few short weeks before my work life is going to explode again, and my body seems to have responded by going into collapse. Not an awful collapse, nothing to be alarmed about, just a bit of protective hibernation. I emerge from it to get chores done and make the round of doctor's appointments I'd put off for so long, then I fall into a stupor. (But I even bore myself talking about this, so I'll move on.)

(For those wondering, the rug poll showed more people liked the red-and-gold, but a respectable number liked the arts-and-crafts, so it didn't seem you could go too far wrong with either. As for me, I decided to have my cake and eat it too. Not by keeping both; I realized, a little belatedly, that since my old rug was rust and gold, I could put it down again when I missed that color scheme, and use the arts-and-crafts the rest of the time. The old rug is a little small, it's true, but I can shift the furniture around and try to hide that fact.)

Here on the hill, the pear trees went through their January splendor, and at night I would sit in an armchair, looking at the fire, while I pretended the piles of white blossom visible through the window on my left were snow-laden branches. East Coasters who live in LA are reduced to such subterfuges.

The blossoms have almost entirely fallen now ("It's snowing," a neighbor said at my front gate), and magnolias are in bloom. Plum trees are starting to flower. In southern California, once December is over, nature has had enough of that nonsense, and spring is launched despite the cool temperatures. Coyotes have been roaming all over the hill -- yesterday morning Harry and a coyote growled and lunged at each other, and had they not been separated by a good strong fence, mayhem would have ensued. The other night at midnight, I took both dogs out for their before-bed walk, and on the way back Harry froze, staring. I followed his gaze to see a coyote standing between us and my house. Harry and Gracie let loose with a volley of barks, and Harry pulled crazily at the leash, unwisely trying to get to it. This particular fellow was more diffident than aggressive -- some of them are -- and he moved aside, though he kept watching us. I got the dogs inside, and went upstairs to get a look out the window and see if he was still there. Instead I saw my neighbor from down the street, out on his motorized wheel chair, wheeling around the road. It was late for him to be about, but when he does go out he usually has a small dog down by his feet on the scooter. I didn't want Verdi to be an appetizer, so I went out to warn them. I found the little dog wasn't there, but that my neighbor had brought out his cane, which he held across the arms of the wheelchair, ready to use. He'd heard the barking and thought the coyote might have attacked me or the dogs, so he'd come out to defend us.

I keep wishing I had a telescopic lens, because there are two coyotes who keep returning to the edge of my property, just downslope, to nap during the day. One of them is red as a fox. I'd love to get some good shots -- though even if I had a lens, I'd have to cope with my apparent inability to get the camera to differentiate the red coyote from the patch of sunlight it likes to sleep in.

Meanwhile, I have much to do in the house, and a great deal of research I need to finish, but my current guilty pleasure is E.F. Benson. I'd read his Lucia books, and I came across a copy of Secret Lives in London many years ago -- perhaps my favorite book on what it means, and does not mean, to be a writer -- but couldn't really get into one or two other books of his that I tried. Recently I discovered he'd written a huge raft of novels -- many of them nearly camp-free, unlike the Lucia books -- and since the Kindle copy was cheap and available, I ordered Dodo: A Detail of the Day. Dodo is a young socialite in the late 1800s who amuses London society by talking (occasionally witty) nonsense while being beautiful, and who marries the wrong man. There are two sequels, one where Dodo is closing in on 40, and one where she's in her fifties and dealing with World War I.

Benson assumes a certain level of literary education among his readers that flatters me. I keep haring off to Google to find out what Blake picture has little people saying "I want!" while putting up a ladder to the moon, or what Wordsworth reference to a boat a character is referring to. Or (less literarily) what it means when Dodo, at the end of the third book, totals up the changes the War has made and says "We all have parlourmaids now." Surely they had parlourmaids before? And the line is clearly meant to imply a negative, a loss. So I fished through bits and pieces online till I found -- I think in Mrs. Beeton's famous book, or was it the first edition of Emily Post's 1923 Etiquette?) -- a reference to the duties of a footman. Therefore my current theory is that the parlourmaid replaced the more gloriously ostentatious footman.

Half the fun of reading these books in 2012 is the entertainment of the Google digressions. You read about the carriages gathering outside a party at a fashionable house, and how the people streaming out during the course of the event choose between "two horses or one," with "one" winning due to the beautiful weather. And you are meant to understand that one horse means a Hansom cab, and then of course you have to see a sketch of a Hansom so you really understand.

Benson was the son of the Archbishop of Canterbury, and knew the sort of people he wrote about. Here's Dodo trying to get rid of an inconvenient ex-husband who keeps hanging around her country house: "Ah, my dear Waldenech, there is the motor come round for you. You will have to start, for I have at last trained my chauffeur to give no one any time to wait at the station. And you must not jilt the compartment I have engaged you to. It would travel to London all alone: so bad for a young compartment."

I'm currently reading Margery, and enjoying the enjoyment Benson obviously took in being an omniscient narrator with clear opinions of his characters that he does not hesitate to share. Of Margery's unlikeable guardian, he writes, "The rind of her torpidity had been pierced... And at this fatal moment she formed a plan. Without knowledge of all the plans that were ever formed, it would be rash to call this the most infelicitous possible, but it would be understating the case to call it very infelicitous indeed."

All charming enough, but he won my heart when he ended the second Dodo novel with a paragraph that was almost word-for-word the same as the ending of the first, but in a context that completely changed the meaning. And he knew his readers would get it, because although he's famous now principally for the Lucia books, at the time his novels tended to have "by the author of Dodo" written somewhere on them.

By the way, these are all available online for free at, in lovely archival copies that reproduce the typeface and sometimes the cover. I far prefer them to the Kindles, which are clearly OCR'd unproofed, leading to bizarre words dropped through the text like misread breadcrumbs.

More blossoms, just because they're pretty:
bald harpist

the great rug debate

Beware, interior design questions ahead!

I finally got rid of my old, secondhand, incredibly bulky TV and media cabinet that blocked two windows and seemed to own about a third of the living room. I got a flatscreen and put it above a new cabinet I found:

It created a lot more space in the living room, but now I found the rug was a little small for all that extra space. So I decided to do some rug testing -- I ordered two, figuring I'd try them both and send one back. I put both rugs down today and took pictures. The people with me tended to a certain preference, so just in case the order of viewing is significant, I'll show you them in the opposite sequence.

The first is a traditional red, gold, and green rug. If you go to this link and click "Next" three times, it'll show you the rug from different angles and distances:

The next is an arts-and-crafts rug. Again, if you go to this link and click "Next," it'll show different angles:

And finally, here are both together:

Now that you've looked without being influenced by my ideas, I'll say that I've always loved the idea of a red-and-gold traditional rug; they seem rich and luxurious to me. My present, slightly-too-small rug is rust-and-gold, and I love to watch the firelight flicker over it on a winter night.

Then one day, a couple of years ago, I glanced idly at a picture of a Brooklyn arts-and-crafts house for sale, and in the living room I saw this incredible rug. I thought, "I must find that rug!" And after much tooling around the Internet, I did. I still think it's an incredible rug. The two movers I asked to help me with this both loved it. One said, "As soon as we started unwrapping it, I knew it was special." They put it down and we all admired it and thought it went well with the room. And as soon as the red one went down, everyone said, "No." But after we'd looked at the red one awhile, and gotten used to it, and then looked back at the pictures of the arts-and-crafts rug, that didn't seem entirely right either. One fellow said, "The arts-and-crafts one does make the room look darker... there's an awful lot of burgundy."

I haven't done a poll in ages and have no memory of how one does it, so we'll hope this works:

Poll #1815035 The Great Rug Poll

Which rug works better in this room?

Red and gold traditional
Arts and crafts
Both good, apples and oranges
I cannot be confined to multiple choice questions.

In case my poll skills are nonexistent, please feel free to tell me your thoughts in Comments. While you're there, can you tell me what these flowers are:

or perhaps what these mystery vegetables are:

Thank you, wisdom of the Internet!
Marchant reading in bed

small domestic pleasures

I finally sent in Phase 2 of this project last night at about 8:30. I've been going so hard and so long on it that I tottered around today like one recovering from an illness. I am in dread that I'll be called any minute to discuss Phase 3, but meanwhile, I float in a sea of small domestic pleasures. Here are a few:

Several days ago I was sent a rugulach from Wolferman's, in a gold tin box, with no note. I only know of two people who are aware of my liking for Wolferman's, and both deny sending it. It is a mystery rugulach. But it is a delicious mystery rugulach, and I've been having a few pieces each morning with Williams Sonoma hot chocolate -- made not of powder, but of chocolate shavings, meant to be whisked into milk. I have a carton of peppermint and a carton of salted caramel, and I've been luxuriating in the latter, pouring it into one of the small Clarice Cliff cups that I designate as a "winter cup."

Before or after breakfast I usually take the dogs on a long walk, down and up the Hill of Verticality. On Christmas Eve, as I passed the house of the retired schoolteacher down the way, she suggested we bundle up all our dogs into her car and take them to the park, and so we did. In LA, the climate never reaches winter; the most you can expect is late fall, the equivalent of what on the east coast would be a late November day. I looked up into branches of ragged red leaves against a blue sky.

On the way back, as we swung around a curve on the Hill of Verticality, we passed the house of the man who moved in a year and a half ago and put up a tall fence that cut off the view of the schoolteacher and cut off the deer from access to their trail around the canyons. "Fie on you," said the schoolteacher, with the air of a ritual. I asked, "Do you say that every time?" "Yes I do," she said firmly.

That evening, as I continued working on my project, I looked up to see two enormous raccoons lumbering along my deck past the French doors. Another enormous raccoon followed a moment later. There may have been more I didn't see. I began to understand why my gardener keeps saying my plants are being devoured.

Then, on Christmas Day, I took the dogs out for their walk once again. This time my closer neighbors suggested we take all our various dogs to the same park. So we did, Harry and Gracie alongside two big standard poodles and one large and disobedient golden doodle.

You may recall that in my last post I described taking in a stray pit bull puppy. The owner, John, appeared the night of Christmas Eve with a bottle of huckleberry-flavored vodka. I gave him a rope bone for the puppy. Harry and Gracie were a bit puzzled by the whole experience -- dogs do not like their routines thrown off, and they're jealous, just like kids -- and something about it made Gracie reach for her personal best; for after nearly a year she used the dog bathroom twice that night. And once the next morning when I was late getting up.

It's too early to know if this means anything -- sadly, she's quite capable of forgetting about it entirely once again. There's a reason I named her after Gracie Allan. But it was a holiday delight as far as I was concerned. Here's Gracie on the deck today, walking toward me because I'd dropped to one knee for the picture. The jade plant behind her is covered with clusters of white stars, as it is every December.

I will add that it took her a year to not be freaked out by the burrow bed enough to figure out how to use it -- now she makes free with it all the time:

When I called my mother on Christmas Day, my brother answered the phone, and for the first time in his life asked me how I was. He made my life torment when we were growing up, and had inner acres of anger for much of the world -- but time has mellowed him; time, and perhaps the girlfriend he had for a while, before she died, and the dog he inherited and takes wondrous care of. My mother, for her part, now says "I love you" loudly and firmly before she hangs up, something she didn't do before. I sometimes think there's an evolution of human emotion in one's lifetime that works opposite to entropy: that as our bodies and worlds are falling apart, our emotions clarify and strengthen.

Other things I take pleasure in (this would be easier if I could embed pictures, but I don't know how, and I gather some people find it annoying):

The bellhop monkey on a scooter on my bookcase. I inherited this from the late fellow who lived in the house at the foot of my driveway, who died a few months ago and who ran the Griffith Park carousel. His house was filled with delightful objects, now dispersed to the winds. I think of him every time my gaze lights on the monkey. (I also got some ancient cameras from his collection, and use them as bookends.)

I found a cover for my Kindle Fire that I absolutely adore! Soft, soft, two-toned leather with a typewriter etched on it. Next to it is a book that was a Christmas gift, which delights me in how well someone knew me:

This next picture is a box of pleasures, of course, first because Harry is in it; because the purple stocking on the mantel, another gift, says "Harry and Grace"; because of the toucan fellow on my coffeetable, found in a small shop in Canada; because of the book of Vivian Maier photographs that recently arrived from Amazon. (And because there will apparently be an exhibition of Vivian Maier photos in LA in January.)

The winter days are clear and full of light.

And speaking of boxes, I've found that Christmas treat, A Box of Delights, available on YouTube, at least until someone makes them take it down.
deco woman white fur

and good wishes to all!

I've been working for the last few hours, then came downstairs and saw that the old-fashioned art deco clock on the mantelpiece said seven minutes after midnight, on Christmas Eve morning; and I suddenly felt the magic I used to feel at this time. I took the dogs out for their walk, and there was barely any wind; the world in solemn stillness lay. We walked to the first curve on the hill, where I could see the dark hills, the dark sky, and the lights in houses here and there.

I was particularly glad, because two nights ago I took the dogs out, and when we were at that very curve, the furthest point from home, I heard an unsettling animal sound. The alphabet provides poor resources for conveying such things, but if I had to, I'd write it as "BOWWWWW-OH!" Now, I've often listened to coyote packs howling nearby, and though they concern me, I haven't heard of any local coyotes attacking humans. The hope is always that I can scoop up Gracie in time and hold onto Harry's leash long enough to get home. The unsettling thing about this particular cry was not just that I couldn't identify the animal -- ("It's not a dog... it doesn't sound exactly like a coyote... could this be what a mountain lion sounds like?") -- it was the aggression packed into it. It sent the message "I'm looking for a fight." I can't explain why, but the second I heard it -- coming from somewhere down the slope to the northwest -- I looked at Harry and Gracie and said, "We're going home." Harry paused long enough to take care of business, looking at me with uncertain eyes; and the strange baying came again, this time from just down the road. I turned and ran. I ran all the way to my gate, holding a leash in each hand, up the last part of the Hill of Verticality, puffing and gasping and thinking that it probably wasn't the best idea for a 56-year-old out-of-condition woman to do this. But in all my walks with the dogs, I count on the fact that animals are reluctant to attack humans. If whatever-this-was was genuinely aggressive, I had no plan.

I never heard that cry before, and I haven't heard it since. But I was ready to appreciate tonight's gentle stillness, and couldn't help thinking of the lines:

And then, they say, no spirit dare stir abroad,
The nights are wholesome, then no planets strike,
No fairy takes, nor witch hath power to charm,
So hallowed and so gracious is the time.

Tonight's peace was also a fine ending to a somewhat chaotic evening. I'm embroiled in Phase 2 of a project and am committed to turning it in on Christmas; that means I need every bit of time. Today I took the dogs out in the afternoon to enjoy a few minutes of Dog Hour (when the neighbors go out with their dogs into the cul-de-sac and throw balls). A new couple just bought a house nearby and are having it renovated before they move in. The husband, Kevin, drove over and got out of his car to see how the workmen were doing. He was carrying a pit bull puppy in his arms. Of course, we told him he fit right in, but he said the puppy wasn't his -- that he'd found him loose at the bottom of the hill.

Well, we are all dog people here. I told him I could take the dog for the night -- I have provisions, and the owner was most likely nearby. Another neighbor immediately took a picture with her cellphone and went back to her house to print up flyers. A third neighbor got into her car and drove down the hill to inquire of people at the bottom if they had an idea who might own the dog.

Though I love the magic of Christmas, I am not a believer, and this time I thought of the words of "the Great Agnostic," Robert Ingersoll: "The time to be happy is now. The place to be happy is here. The way to be happy is to make others so."

Much of my evening was spent reconciling Harry and Gracie to the newcomer, and petting and soothing said newcomer. Rather to my surprise, though he was only here a few hours, I discovered that when you have three dogs in the house it is better to address each by a name. I called him Blue. And he answered to that! I was freaked and amazed by how easy it is to convey the meaning of "name." Eventually he settled down on the cushion under my desk and gnawed a rope bone as I worked.

Sometime around nine I got a call from Kevin, saying the owner of the dog had called him. At ten the owner came by with a bottle of blueberry-flavored vodka and best Christmas wishes. I invited him inside and we talked about dogs for a while; then he took "Blue" -- he'd only had him for a week! -- and the rope bone, Blue's Christmas present, and went off into the night.

And then I went back to work. This project has kept me ridiculously occupied. At the beginning of December I was trying to finish Phase 1 and hand it in; and meanwhile was getting closer and closer to a long-planned trip to Long Beach to spend two nights on the Queen Mary, that temple of art deco history. I left for Long Beach much later than I planned, and finally had to write to the person expecting my work that I would have to continue it on board the Queen Mary. He wrote back that he'd told others they could expect the work today. I trumped his card, emailing in reply that my ride was here and my suitcase was being loaded into the car. He then trumped me, saying, "Can you work in the car on the way? Since you'll have a driver."

For the next two days on the Queen Mary, my friend and I would randomly say, "Can you type in the car?" and burst into dark laughter.

Incidentally, while there, I fell head over heels for an amazing old cross-sectional illustration of the Queen Mary, clearly drawn to the aesthetics of the time. It was huge and magnificent, and I had to take dozens of photos to get it in. I only wish the center part of it were lit better -- I really don't think this art is properly valued, even by the people running the ship. But maybe I'm the only one to feel its delight.

Here's the merest taste:

For anyone who might care, here's the gateway page to the sets of shots I took of the cross-section -- wide-angle, mid-range, and close-ups (note you can click on these pictures to make them bigger):

Soon after arriving, my friend and I had noted there wasn't a great deal of room for luggage in the staterooms, and considering that people in those days must have meant business when they traveled between the US and Europe -- you wouldn't spend a fortune on a five-day voyage just to stay for a weekend -- there must have been heaps of luggage. Trunks and things. I said, "Probably they had you take out the clothes you'd wear on the voyage and then they put the rest in storage." As we examined the cross-sectional picture, I pointed and said, "Look! It's the luggage storage!" And there it was, suitcases jammed from floor to ceiling. (There's also the level where the grand old automobiles were stored, and the first-class and tourist-class swimming pools, and the three-story dining room... how could anyone not love this picture?)

And here are photos of the Queen Mary's art deco brilliance, including my stateroom:

Consider them my Christmas present! And to all a good night.
bald harpist

time has come today

In a couple of hours it will be my birthday. I was born in the early part of the morning, 56 years ago; isn't that amazing? As Methos says, the world was different. Barbarian horsemen galloped across the plains, slaying all who dared dispute their passage. People smoked in theaters. Seriously, they did; the air in public rooms was hazy with smoke, all the time. Ashtrays were built into the arms of chairs in auditoriums, or in the back of the seat in front of you. Driving drunk was funny. People -- both men and women -- thought that women were somewhat deficient in the brains department, though most of them wouldn't have expressed it so baldly. They'd be more comfortable saying that women were temperamentally and intellectually unsuited to demanding careers. African-Americans were Negroes, and if you went to a Catholic school, as I did, there were only a lonely one or two in a class. A surprising number of people could afford to buy houses without going into debt, though the idea of having more than one bathroom, or installing air conditioning, was outlandish and sissified. As were seat belts. A typewriter was the height of communication technology, far beyond most daily interactions. Unless your job or your training required one, you wrote everything in longhand, using the penmanship the nuns taught. (Electric typewriters were a fantastic breakthrough; you no longer had to practically break your fingers hitting each key. But god were they noisy.) "Lesbian" was not a word a lot of people understood, and years later, my mother had to ask me what the "Holocaust" was. Milk came in bottles, the way milk was supposed to; bottles deposited on our back porch, by a man in a white uniform, and when the cream rose to the top in winter my brother and I would eat it with a spoon.

This is the world my parents worked to prepare me to grow up into. It was blue-collar and tightly knit, and I knew fairly early on that I would leave it, though I didn't know then how much of it I could leave. How much the outside world would change.

I suppose to people five hundred years from now, the change won't be that great. Myself, I marvel. As that Bradbury story says, we're all time travelers, if we live long enough. Now if only we didn't have to get older and die to pay for the privilege, it would be pretty wonderful.
bald harpist


This was what it was like yesterday:

And this is today:

See that pretty, snow-covered tree on the right? As more covered it, this is what happened:

My mother tells me two big branches broke and fell from the trees outside her house, something that has never happened before. You wouldn't think leaves and snow together would make such a difference in weight, but I suppose it must.

I am still in New Jersey. Today was an object lesson in the new world of information: I needed to know how badly my flight would be delayed, or if it would be canceled. The phones at the airline were constantly busy. I checked their website, which only listed the normal departure time for my flight, with no indication as to whether that was simply routine automatic information, or whether it took the weather into account. Because the Newark Airport site mentioned long delays, and said to "call your airline" for more information.

The news people on TV started talking about airport delays of four, five, and six hours. And it was still not far past noon! Lots of storm still to come. Back to the airline site. It gives the option of getting a "status update" -- I signed up twice, for an email four hours from flight time, and a voice message three hours from flight time.

At four hours, the automated system sent me an email saying everything was hunky-dory. Why did I not believe it?

I used one of those "get a human" sites, called the airline again, and waited on hold for forty minutes. Finally someone picked up. They confirmed that they'd been hearing about a lot of delays at all the tri-state airports. I decided the website and the "status notifications" were lying liars, and that if I didn't want to be dozing on the floor of the airport at 2am, I'd better grab this chance to switch my flight to tomorrow.

And so I did. Of course, my hotel was sold out -- but fortunately they got a cancellation just as I was standing there sounding pathetic. So I have a room for the night! Good thing, too, because the phone at the front desk has been ringing constantly and I keep hearing, "No, we're sold out for tonight."

It's still snowing! I returned my rental car yesterday, so I'm trapped here, and the hotel doesn't have a restaurant. (There's a very fancy restaurant next door, but you need reservations well in advance.) But I'm sitting here by a fire in the main room, with a cup of tea, and things could be worse. I'd better go and buy some snacks before the ravenous crowds grab them all.
bald harpist

the snow of uncertainty

It's snowing hard here in West Orange, New Jersey. I'm checked out of my hotel and sitting in what they call "the hearth room," my possessions around me, waiting for a car to come pick me up and take me to the airport.

But the car isn't due for two and a half more hours. And my plane isn't scheduled to take off for five and a half more hours. If all goes well, I'll leave on time and fly home and see my dogs tonight before bed. Otherwise I may be sleeping at Newark Airport.

From my table here, I can see into a large courtyard -- layers of snow on the wrought-iron chairs and tables, bending the pine branches, making an icing top on the hedge. More snow pouring heavily down past the brick buildings, thick wet flakes. Two people have already gone to the doors and opened them to take pictures. I've taken a couple myself, but my USB cord is packed away in my big suitcase, left at the front desk, so I can't show you what it's like. The weather people are saying there hasn't been a snowstorm this big in October since the Civil War.

I wonder where I'll be sleeping tonight.