12/18 - Bakersfield, CA, with grandparents 12/19 - Flagstaff, AZ, at a motel. Aren't Blair and Laura somewhere nearby? 12/20 - Las Vegas, NM, until the 29th. Passed through Albuquerque, probably narrowly missing Ranjit at the time.
7 AM on the 23rd: Smoke alarms go off. Smoke is visible. Images go through my head of those families you always seen on the Xmas Eve news, burned out of their homes. "This family won't be having a very merry Christmas this year...." Made worse by the fact that I had a dream the night before leaving for vacation, in which the Armory burned down. As a result of the dream, I brought all my diskettes, both computer and keyboard, with me on the trip-- didn't want them out of my sight in case something happened to the house while I was gone. As I result, I brought four years of music composition and two years of writing to my parents' house, and it catches fire. It was just their gas furnace-- bad control valve caused the flame to burn too high or something. House was fine, disks were fine, but the temp was below freezing every night and the heater was now a scorched ruin. Fun.
They didn't like me at the Albuquerque airport scanner thing. "Please put all your metal objects in the tray." So I remove, from my pockets, two bullets-- a .50 cal with the original lead replaced with a carved turquoise projectile, and a Sharps .45-70 that I bought on a keyring in Barstow on the way out. They almost refused to let me on the plane.
They were also irritated when I pulled nearly a hundred 3.5" floppies out of my duffel bag and set them on the counter. Fuck them.
Other than that, Albuq is a neat airport. Display models of all the kinds of airplanes that have been in and around Albuq., with plaques on each saying what and when and why it was there.
"Gee Bee Racer: 1951, Air Races" "Air Force One: Numerous landings from 1968 to 1976" "SR-71: 1966-, Classified"
Played a lot of Super NES at home and X-Wing down at my parents' computer store in town.
Lots of local foodstuff from my Mom. Pinon nut coffee with chocolate, salsa, ultra-spicy jerkey, etc. Bottle of scotch, as always, from my stepdad. Legos, a silk shirt, leather moccasins. Lots of nice stuff but nothing way out.
I bought myself a pair of Oleg Cassini slippers in Santa Fe. Got some other stuff, but the real prize was a copy of Linda Moulton Howe's An Alien Harvest, which is a big ol' book on cattle mutilations, UFOs, and the govt. coverup of same, signed by the author. One really good thing about New Mexico is that you can find excellent UFO nutcase reading EVERYWHERE.
The night I finished reading it the first time (read it three times while I was there), "X Files" came on-- the episode dealt with USAF pilots testing planes made from crashed UFO technology. I think I know already what my story idea obsession for 1994 will be. No more black holes for a while; I know where they keep the Ebes on ice!
Three days to drive out; three hours to fly back.
One of my two checked bags arrived at San Jose just fine. The other missed the transfer at LAX-- we did change planes pretty goddamn fast-- and wound up in Oakland. Katherine understood that I couldn't give her her Xmas present because it was in another city. About ten other passengers on my route (flight 362 into LAX from parts east, change to 1576 into SJ) also lost baggage. I got mine back this morning-- delivered by a taxi from San Jose. Southwest airlines probably spent more on taxi fare to deliver my bag back to me than they got from my ticket in the first place. No wonder the airlines are losing money.
I haven't been on a big plane since I was four. I cannot understand the concept of people who fear flying. I was sitting right over the trailing edge of the right wing and enjoyed the hell out of it.
I'm going to fly at night if at all possible for the rest of my life. By day, cities look like scar tissue from a great height. At night, you can see all the lights and pretend that the ground looks prettier than it would without the city.
Just after take-off from Albuq, the plane banked hard left to make the turn to the west, and during those few seconds, I saw the most beautiful thing I saw in all of 1993. Below, the lights of Albuquerque. To the left, the wing of the plane, glowing with reflected moonlight. Above, stars and the moon itself. And in the center, a huge tower of near-complete darkness, Sandia Peak, dotted only with occasional patches of moonlight reflecting from snow.
If I had to lose all but one memory of 1993, that would be the one I'd keep.
I spent the entire flight out with my nose pressed to the window, looking (as I always do) for UFOs. Twice, I thought I had something, but they both just turned out to be secret military black box project aiircraft. One of these days, the Schwa will reach out and touch me, but not this time.
I arrived on the evening of December 27th. There was some slight confusion at the airport, but catastrophe was narrowly averted.
I was introduced to my future mother-in-law. I think I get along with her better than Jade does.
Everyone told me that NYC was going to be cold, it being the Northeast and winter and all, but it was really quite nice the first few days. I was reminded of San Francisco on cold days. Fear not, gentle reader, this was merely an extended warm period-- a freak of the weather-- and it would soon go away, with dire consequence.
On the 28th, we trained down to DC and it was here, at this point, that I came to understand all the jokes I've ever heard about New Jersey. The only way I can describe taking a train through Jersey is that it's like watching the film Roger and Me scroll by you for an hour. As we passed through Trenton, over a river, I thought to myself, "This is probably the Delaware river or something. You know, some of America's richest early history was fought for right around here. I bet Washington's Christmas Eve crossing landed within just a few hundred yards of this place-- probably right over there... by that huge rusting sign that says 'Drink something-or-other Milk'... near the rotting, crumbling factory...."
Depressing place, Jersey.
In D.C. there was another bit of confusion, not as potentially drastic as the one at JFK airport, but everything was again sorted out. A fine meal was had by all, and Stevi's apartment was filled to the bursting by eager minds jockeying for position, hoping to read just one more tidbit about the repeal of the Prohibition. The rest of what transpired there cannot be revealed until the Final Days.
Then it was off to crash the night at Paul Lord's, and it was at this point that I really began to get a feel for how fucking small the scale of the East Coast is, because we took a subway from D.C. into another state.
Kids, it takes an hour to fly a fucking Cessna into another state from the California coast. Y'all got some dinky fucking states out there.
The D.C. metro is very much like the BART (the closest thing to a subway we have around these parts). I say this for the benefit of those who are familiar with one, but not the other. New York subways could not be mistaken for the BART/DC Metro on their best days. But that is another post, I think.
I saw very little of D.C. other than the neighborhood around Stevi's and Union Station, but I saw more older men in trenchcoats during that one evening than in the entire rest of my life put together. Compare this with New York City, which I would have to say has the most uninteresting, average-looking human population I have ever seen.
The night of the 29th, did the Broadway show thing. Damn Yankees, one of the few musicals on the planet I am not utterly sick and tired of. I was able to genuinely enjoy it.
I think the 30th was the day we did Sony Wonder, which is this "hands-on technology lab" at the Sony Building. Waited an hour and a half in line, but it was free and much of it failed to suck, so it was a fine way to spend the day, but it was way too dumbed down in a lot of ways and of course it was mainly a way to advertise Sony stuff. Reminded me that I really ought to do the Exploratorium more often.
Hm. There needs to be a t.b Tactile Dome trip. File for future reference.
Also, this was the day that Jade's mom got married to her boyfriend of eleven years. There's gotta be some kinda weird, extended post about this particular event, but I really should let Jade find it.
On the 31st, went to the Natural History Museum (the bus ride there being my only exposure to Central Park the entire trip) and Ed Gaillard, to look at meteors, radioactive materials (sadly, ores only-- no refined U-235), and "Mollusks and Our World". I want an MPEG of "Mollusks and Our World".
It was more or less at this point that I got frightfully sick.
New Years Eve plans called for a gathering at Camelot (Music FX: Flintstones theme, lyrics of "Canetoads... Meet the Canetoads...") but I found that by about 5PM I was unable to move. My body was wracked with ice, my face was burning, every ligament and tendon in my body felt like it was being stretched, and the slightest touch against my skin was sandpaper dragged over a sunburn. Follow-ups to be set to alt.sex.bondage.
Before the trip, Jade and I promised that no matter what else, we would not spend New Years Eve watching the fucking ball drop on Times Square. So, of course, that is what we did. I bundled up in several blankets in the living room and we watched Dick Clark get younger and younger on TV.
So my plot to meet the Canetoads was foiled (though not entirely-- details in a bit), but we did make a couple of calls out to California I think, shortly after midnight. (Voice FX: Criswell saying "Helloooooo, California. Greetings from the fuuuuuuuture... from the yeaaaaaar NINEteen NINEty FIIIIIIIIIVE....")
New Years Day, I did nothing at all. Literally. I woke up late that night and we watched the first half of Wild Palms on rented VHS. It failed to impress me about as strongly as the second half did when I saw it the first time around.
From here on out, things began to pick up speed because, of course, we were at the halfway point and now we were running out of time to do everything.
We did dinner somewhere in here with more of my future in-laws, Jade's Aunt Marion and Uncle George and two cousins, plus associated friends. I am going to like my in-laws more than Jade is going to like hers, I fear. We were throwing food around the table, making fun of each other, shouting.... Compare this to a dinner with my Utah relatives. When I was a small child, my Grandmother told me a story once over dinner about a little boy who made too much noise with his silverware, so his family threw him out on the street. Fun, my Utah relatives, but this is a digression that can wait until the fateful day on which Jade gets to meet all of them. Still a ways away; they don't even know I'm engaged yet.
Paul Lord came up for a job interview somewhere in here, and crashed the night. Jade and I went to see Heavenly Creatures in a theater that has a subway running directly below it. Great. Every time the film gets a little spooking, this almost subliminal rumbling begins-- the noise of an approaching storm, a hint of the violence to come. No, just a train.
On the 4th, we did Greenwich Village and met one of Jade's exes. Well, one of Jade's EX-es, one of the big ones, y'know? I didn't mention it at the time, but I gotta tell you, hon: David looks like Curtis Yarvin blended with Weird Al Yankovich.
He was also a vegetarian, the first one I encountered while I was out there. Now, you know, this is another one of those weird East Coast vs. West Coast things: the East Coast is fairly vegetarian free and people are smoking everywhere. However, Greenwich Village is like a little isolated island of California thought or something, because I noticed that there were a lot fewer people smoking on the street, in stores, etc. and this is where the first vegetarian popped up.
Yeah, the first. There was a second one, too. Same day. Man, it's bad enough that I gotta put up with every public place being filled with smoke-- at least I was taking some measure of satisfaction in knowing that I could have any fucking food I wanted. Bring on the scorched flesh, fat, greasy, yeah baby yeah, with sugar in the desserts and real cream and all that shit. But no, no no no, we finally get around to ordering a New York pizza, so that I can see how much better it is than lame wannabe California "New York Style" pizza, and David insists on vegetarian.
So, in my experience so far, genuine New York pizza sucks compared to California "New York Style" pizza.
Then we hunted for music and books and stuff that one can't normally find in mainstream shopping areas. I found a program guide from a mid-Eighties H.R. Giger art show and we bought a compilation disk of some various techno stuff and a book of psychedelic art and things like that, and then we went to see the movie and after that it was off to Indian food with Ed G again, and Larne and Annie and the elusive Jim. So I got to meet the Canetoads except for Grendel-- appropriate, of course, since one of the few things I was told by several people that I really needed to do while in New York was...
-- From: the stark fist of retribution <firstname.lastname@example.org> Subject: Re: reject those stale european new years' eve traditions! To: Crisper Than Thou <email@example.com> Date: Thu, 1 Dec 1994 20:50:30 +0000 (GMT) > Jade and I is gonna be in NYC for NYE, so we shall have to miss out, but > we're going to have to look into t.b activities on that side of the country > for the occasion, because we are NOT going to go watch the apple drop. it is vital that you contact grendel immediately. you do know this, right? m --
Note here, also, one of my many iterations of "We will not watch the ball fall on Times Square". Ho ho ho, Merry Flu-Bug.
At any rate, Larne and Annie and Jim and Ed and Jade and I dined at this fine place at the end of Indian Food Row, which is about fifty Indian restaurants all within a block of each other.
No, really. No exaggeration. You have to see it to understand.
(Larne: the jumping Canetoad is on my desk at work. It has already provided hours of diversion for my various cow-orkers. I thank you once again.)
The next morning, it was off on the longest taxi ride of the whole trip, from the Upper East Side to JFK. My other experiences with taxis during the trip had all been fairly nice, actually-- no problem getting one, minimal traffic terror, not too far to go. But this one was pretty hellish.
And yes, every single taxi I rode in was driven by someone with little or no command of the English language.
For that matter, 90% of the conversations I overheard in public the entire trip were in foreign languages.
In fact.... You know... I don't think there are any English-speaking people in Manhattan, except for a few people I know personally.
The flight back was uneventful. We changed planes in St. Louis, where it was also frightfully cold, and there was audible joy among the passengers when it was announced that the temperature in San Francisco, as we began our descent, was fifty-five degrees F.
Despite the fact that trip was filled with bad timings, illness, directions confusion, failed events, etc. I would say it was still a fine, fine vacation. I spent a few more days at home doing nothing at all before going back to work, where I have been doing nothing at all.
At no point during the trip was I mugged, shot at, or pickpocketed.
I have decided to add New York City to my list of cities that have character (and thus can be considered worth not utterly destroying)*, despite the fact that its character is surly, stained, weary, old, and beaten all to hell. The first few days, I wasn't too thrilled with it but by the third or fourth day, after I'd eaten at Papaya King and learned to maintain my balance on subways which accelerate at 12 G's, I felt I understood enough of NYC's attitude to adjust, if I had to. In fact, by the last few days, I was ready to snatch some purses and hit some pedestrians, spit and smoke and not look where I was going so that I could avoid eye contact. "New York City would be a fine place for me," I thought.
But then we got back to California and I realized I hadn't seen a real, live tree in over a week and I decided that getting used to New York City was about the stupidest thing I could ever do in my life.
So here I was born, here I will live, and here I will die-- even if I have to drop the bombs myself.
* - Big cities which have character include San Francisco and Vancouver. Big cities which have no character include Los Angeles and Albuquerque.