Aug. 24th, 2011

pryder: (Default)
No, I didn't get any kicks, or even Kix, on Route 66. Not that you really can anymore, the old Route 66 was decommissioned years ago though some pieces of it have been revived as Historic Route 66. Other parts, especially through mountain passes, are permanently gone because interstate highways were built on the right of way. I didn't go to southern California anyway; that will have to await some future trip. I DO want to visit LA someday, but it didn't happen this time.

So what DID I do? I'll start at the beginning, go on until I reach the end, and then stop.

Wednesday two weeks ago (August 10) I headed to Logan three hours before my flight time. (Why so early? The American Airlines web site had refused to give me a boarding pass for my first flight leg to Dallas-Fort Worth and so I was concerned that there would be a shortage of seats. When I got there the agent told me that their web site refuses to give out some of the seats (including most of the middle ones) forcing you to talk to an agent -- stupid on their part. (Even if they're reserving those for the last minute, they could have allowed me to select one on the day of the flight; I tried just before leaving home, and from the airport on my phone just before getting in line to talk to a human.) Even after wasting half an hour to talk to somebody and some more time clearing security I had a lot of time left, so I consoled myself with a hefeweisen from the Cisco Bay brewpub in Terminal B. I had a two hour layover in DFW so I had time for a Tex-Mex dinner at Pappasito's (not at all bad for a restaurant in an airport), then on to San Jose arriving late in the evening. Susan retrieved me; we spent the night at a motel in Hayward, where we had a nice snuggle.

After a day running around doing various things, including a visit to the Botanic Garden at Tilden Park, she delivered me to SLCC on Thursday, just in time for me to catch the dinner for the board and staff. We went to Pacific Coast Brewing and discussed the upcoming convention over dinner and beer; I had a nice stout and some slightly overdone fish and chips there. At least they had malt vinegar.

Friday morning I had some time off; I had promised to spend some time working at registration but not until afternoon. First I wanted a bit of breakfast and some cash; Chinatown was nearby and had a bank with a SUM ATM (one that I could get money from without paying fees) so I went over there and got some amazingly cheap things from a take-out bakery and dim sum place. I had a new-to-me leather jacket with me that I found a couple of days earlier at Boomerang's, but it had a broken zipper (but it wouldn't have been such a bargain otherwise), so I found a place in Oakland that could repair it. The repair place was a couple of miles from the convention but I had plenty of time, so I put on my walking shoes and hiked over to the Lakeshore area. I got to look around some of the stores while I waited for the repair, had a cup of tea at Peet's courtesy of Avacon (they gave us staff people gift cards as a thank you), and walked back in time to take my shift at the desk. It turned out to be a good thing I had that jacket along; there was quite a bit of cool weather during my stay (the high temperatures in Oakland during the convention were only in the low 60s) and the air conditioning in the hotel was overly aggressive. In the evening I went to Sitearm's dinner for presenters and track leaders.

Saturday was the first full day of the convention. It started at 8am with Rik's keynote speech; fortunately my body was still accustomed to east coast time at that point so it felt like 11am and it wasn't difficult to be up in time! After that I spent most of the day in my track's room, making sure my presenters were happy and that they had at least one enthusiastic audience member. I missed the presentations on mesh, though I did take a peek at the one on photographic lighting in SL. The lunch break featured Rob Humble's (CEO of Linden Lab) keynote speech, which was a bit of a mixed bag; Rod hit the important points and seemed to understand what is special about SL (unlike Mark Kingdon, who never did) but he was not a very charismatic speaker.

I had scheduled a social event for the dinner break to discuss virtual gender and real gender. The gathering time was 5:30, but by 5:45 only two people had shown up and they weren't really that interested in the topic (they had just come to have someone to be social with) so I let them go off by themselves and checked out the roller derby instead. (Besides SLCC, there was a roller derby tournament in the hotel that weekend. The Bay Area Derby Girls (B.A.D. Girls for short) were hosting three other teams: Windy CIty (from Chicago), Motor City (from Detroit) and the Texanators.) The first bout was from 6-8 (the dinner break time) between Windy City and Motor City; the girls from Chicago dominated it. After that was over I went back to the hotel to change into my gown and high-heel pumps for the Avatar Ball and hung out there for a while, but things were really slow so I went over to catch a bit of the second bout (between the B.A.D. Girls and the Texanators - the locals won big) while dressed totally inappropriately for the derby. After that I put on my OTHER outfit for Saturday night (black crinoline and red lace miniskirt and purple PVC crop top!) and returned to the ball for a while, but it never really got social critical mass so I also ended up hanging out at the Artathon for a while. (This year that was the main social space of SLCC; the lounge next door didn't see much use except late at night when the Artathon was closed.) Late at night some of us went up to the Woodbury party (supposedly a bunch of griefers who come to SLCC every year to wreak havoc, but this year they seemed to be on their best behavior aside from partying too late into the night and too loudly); I gave up at 2:30 but I gather it didn't shut down until 5:30.

It was a challenge to drag myself out of bed the next morning in time for Aliza's keynote but I managed it somehow. I didn't really have the mental presence to follow morning talks after that though, so I just checked in on my track to make sure everything was well and mostly hung out with Winter and Filthy at the Artathon instead. Lunch and the final keynote (by a panel of Linden Lab developers) revived me a bit so I was actually able to pay attention to the afternoon sessions; I skipped out of my track to catch Zinnia Zauber's talk on Authentic Avatar Brand, which was my favorite of the SLCC talks I attended this year. Achilles and his college professor took me out to a light dinner (we weren't up for a heavy meal after all the stuff the convention had been feeding us all weekend!) and then caught the evening screening of My Avatar And Me. Susan collected me and took me off to her friend Steward's house, where we had another nice night.

After a somewhat late start, we headed up to Napa where we had a lunch and a wine tasting, made a brief stop at Davis to say hello to her son, and drove off to Tahoe where her family owns a condo. The high point, as it were, of the drive to Tahoe was Echo Summit - 7,382 feet, the highest point on land that I have ever visited. (Before that it had been changing planes at Denver many years ago, trailed slightly by the visit to the top of Mt Washington. The highest place I had actually spent any significant amount of time was Salt Lake City, a mere 4,226 feet.) Tuesday we headed off to Reno; she had made a reservation to attend the Klingon Language Institute and get a beginning lesson in the language, and I tagged along and crashed it. We had lunch at the Manhattan Deli inside the Atlantis (the hotel and casino next door to the convention center), which turned out to be surprisingly good; the rye bread was disappointing (not enough rye flavor and it fell apart) but the meat was tasty and plentiful (one sandwich was enough for the two of us) and the half-sour pickles were pretty good (not up to Rein's standards but so few are). At dinnertime we went along with a bunch of the Klingon fans to Toucan Charlie's, a buffet inside the Atlantis, which had an amazing variety of food (Chinese, Mongolian barbecue, Mexican, a deli section, a full salad bar, and a few other things -- and a huge selection of desserts to finish it off) - none of it was outstanding but the selection made it a good value.

We decided to stay in Reno for a night and catch the first actual day of Renovation (this year's World Science Fiction Convention). I saw what is perhaps the least faithful film adaptation of Alice in Wonderland ever made (a Hanna-Barbera TV special from 1966), checked out the dealer's room, and saw Dr Demento's presentation. We went out to Sushi Pier for a filling meal of all-you-can-eat sushi; the place was surprisingly generous, they didn't try to make the sushi with tiny pieces of fish and lots of rice, and even the fancy maki were included in the deal. After dinner we returned briefly to the convention to stop in at the parties (I was especially curious about the Boston in 2020 party, which appears not to be a serious Worldcon bid but rather an excuse to have fun Christmas-themed parties, and then back to Tahoe.

The next day neither of us was feeling very energetic after all those busy days, so we hung out in the condo most of the day. I did laundry and caught up with my online life. Late in the afternoon we went to Taylor Creek for a walk through the woods, and then up to the top of Eagle Falls. By the time we got there it was too late to do the walk to the bottom; by the time we got back up it would have been well past dark. Afterward we had dinner at the Lake Tahoe Pizza Company, dining on a somewhat untraditional but very tasty pie called Acapulco Gold which is made on a corn-wheat blend crust. Besides our own leftovers we had more courtesy of a nearby table of Germans (according to Susan they just don't do leftovers) so we had pizza for both breakfast and lunch the next day.

On Friday it was time to return west. We did the long drive back to Palo Alto with no notable stops along the way, went to an English country dance that evening with a short visit to the Palo Alto Creamery afterward, and stayed at her old house that night. Saturday we went to a reunion of people from her high school (an informal one at a burger joint, not the big formal every-five-years kind), which was surprisingly fun for me considering that I didn't know anybody other than Susan when I arrived.

Sunday morning, her friend Stan was having a brunch in San Francisco. The logistics of that day were complicated because she was picking up two people at SFO airport (Jean and Anita) and Anita's flight was delayed. We picked up Jean and went to Stan's brunch, then I volunteered to return to SFO to pick up Anita so Susan could have more time with her friends. The pickup got a bit complicated by the fact that Anita and I didn't know each other and the overly obsessive guards at SFO wouldn't let me stop long enough to call Anita on my cell phone, so I had to drive miles away from the terminals to the cell phone lot so we could figure out how to identify each other and then return, all of which delayed the pickup by at least twenty minutes. We returned to the brunch, Anita had a crepe, then Susan delivered me to Amelia's house and the other three continued up the coast to English dance camp. Amelia wasn't going to be home until late, so I spent the rest of the afternoon on my own checking out her neighborhood and catching a movie (One Day) at the Balboa (a neighborhood theater).

Monday, girl's day out! Amelia and I went shopping and people watching on Haight Street (I got a couple of nice dancing skirts), had lunch at Toast in the Noe Valley neighborhood (she wanted to take me to Lovejoy's teahouse but sadly it's closed on Mondays, so we had to find a plan B), then visited the Japanese Tea Garden and the Botanical Garden. After all that walking she was a bit tired so we headed back to her place for a nap, then made a simple dinner of Rice-A-Roni (the San Francisco treat!) and asparagus, with cardamom ice cream for dessert.. I'm such a good house guest, I took charge of cooking the rice while she did the asparagus. Along the way we got in lots of conversation and some good hugs.

All good things must come to an end, and that time was Tuesday. She drove me to SFO in the morning. I had two packed but uneventful flights on Southwest - SFO to Denver and DEN to Boston, this time with a two and a half hour layover - plenty of time for a late lunch/early dinner at Rock Bottom (a nice Kölsch and a merely OK Reuben - the Manhattan Deli in Reno had better sandwiches). The flight to Boston took off a bit late but they managed to make it up in the air, so we arrived right around 11:30 as scheduled. I had my checked bag and was on the Silver Line by midnight, and arrived at The Buttery around 12:30.

OK... that's the outline! I'll make another post about the emotional highs and lows later.

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