randy_byers: (Default)
2016-07-23 Brig, Molly, and Me and Carl's Wedding.jpg
Brig, Matt, Molly, and me


I've been trying to take it easy since I got back from Canada, but I had one more bit of traveling almost as soon as I got home. My old college friend Carl L. was getting married to his old love Kari in Portland on July 23rd. I was feeling so wiped out I almost decided not to go, but then I asked myself, "When will you get a chance to see Molly again?" So it was the reunion of old college friends that inspired me to jump on the train to Portland.

Molly was basically my first girlfriend, and amongst other things we lived in the High House with Carl in I believe 1981. When Carl and Kari visited me on my previous trip to Portland, Kari and I figured out that I had actually first met her at Molly's wedding in the 1980s. Molly was instrumental in bringing Carl and Kari together both back then and in their more recent reconnection. Molly is a writer too and a very good one, and I always expected that she'd have sold a novel by now. We talked about that and about how career and children got in the way, but she also told me that she had finally, after years of trying, found a publisher that was willing to look at one of her manuscripts, so I wish her all the best on that front.

I hadn't seen Molly since our old college friend Brig got married, oh, maybe fifteen years ago? I hadn't seen Brig since then either, and I didn't expect to see him at Carl's wedding, since I had asked Carl whether he'd be there and Carl had said no. Well, it turned out that someone else couldn't make it, which opened up a seat for Brig in the tiny pioneer church where the wedding was held. Brig is someone I went to high school with, but we didn't become friends till we went to the college. It turned out that he was throwing a party later that day for a bunch of old high school classmates and I was welcome to come over and play if I wanted to. I didn't want to. For one thing, it sounded like they would be drinking more heavily than I was up for at that juncture, and for another I'm really not very interested in my old high school classmates. For me high school was a semi-traumatic experience that I happily left behind. Brig was from a social group that I think enjoyed the high school experience much more than I did.

2016-07-23 Carl and Kari Dancing at Their Wedding.jpg
Carl and Kari dance at the post-wedding reception


The wedding ceremony was beautiful and very romantic, telling the story of how Carl and Kari have renewed their love over the years while other things came between them and marriage until now. Carl is my age (mid-fifties) and this is his first marriage. Kari was married once before and has a 19-year-old daughter (who sang "Amazing Grace" at the ceremony, alone and a capella, which I thought was extremely brave of her). I found the ceremony a little uncomfortable, especially coming in the wake of my trip to Canada, because the love story presented was very similar to the one that Hortensia and I tried to tell when we almost got married following our reconnection in 2003.

Still, I was very happy for Carl, who is a total sweetheart in my books. I hope he and Kari can live out the rest of their days together, happily ever after. I don't know Kari nearly as well but really enjoyed chatting with her on my previous visit to Portland. She seems like a pretty grounded person with a good sense of humor.

2016-07-23 Me and Molly at Carl's Wedding.jpg
Me and Molly after all these years


It was great to see Molly too, although it inevitably inspired other thoughts about my so-called love life and What Might Have Been. She and Matt have two children, Patrick and Isabella, who were both there as well. I believe Patrick is in his early 20s and Isabella is about to graduate from high school. I look at Molly and Matt and think I couldn't have done what they did. I couldn't have been a father, or at least I never wanted to be one. Why not? Why did I go down the path I took, in which I developed occasional uber-romantic infatuations which rarely developed into any kind of real relationship?

My sister and I have discussed this several times, and she, who has also mostly stayed out of realtionships, says it's a preference we have. There's something to that. I've said before that I don't want a co-pilot. I don't want someone with whom I'm constantly negotiating decisions. I want to be independent and do whatever the hell I want to do without argument.

But there's more to it than that too. There's the romanticism. The idealism. The impossible desire for connection with the perfect soulmate. The resulting disappointment and loneliness. I've learned to live with the loneliness, because the alternative has been self-hatred, and fuck that noise. But there doesn't seem to be any resolution of the conflicting desires -- for independence and for romantic submission -- even at my advanced age.

So the old thoughts and feelings tumble through me endlessly, and the nostalgia of a reunion with old friends stirs up ancient dilemmas.
randy_byers: (2009-05-10)
1980 in the Leaning Tower of Pisa


June 18, 1980: Night Train Fever. A name spoken into the void. The tilting tower of Pisa. VILION LASTELF -- The Story that Became A Name; The Name That Became A Story.

My mind is a grab bag, a sad slag, a golliwag.

The climb to the top of the Bell Tower (Campanile) of PIsa is interesting. On the stairs moving up the tilting side, it feels almost as if one is climbing down against gravity. Very odd. The view at the top is quite beautiful. Most of the buildings in (clean, quiet) Pisa have red roofs (rooves?) The wall of the old city is very much intact and winds through the new buildings like the shed skin of an ancient reptile. Nearby is a stadium, similar to the ruined amphitheaters of Pompeii. All is well. The sky is spotted with clouds of the cotton ball variety.

Last night's train ride was probably the strangest that we've encountered. We knew beforehand that it would be fairly crowded, so I was prepared to be depressed. When the train arrived, we rushed into the first second class car in sight -- it was full. So we got off, and I was thinking the whole time that the train would pull out as we walked to the next car and we would be chasing it with our heavy luggage because we wanted to get out of Naples. We got on another car; it was a sleeper. We moved down the aisle to the next car; it was a sleeper too. The conductor in that car shooed us back to the other. Lonnie decided to go exercise his first class capabilities. I was angry. The conductor in the other sleeper shooed us on. I was really angry, not because of the conductor, but because things were rather a mess. Here we were dragging our luggage through narrow passages, crushing people who didn't move, not finding any rooms, being shooed on by conductors, sleepy and knowing there were six hours to go. We found a car to stand in. Lonnie came back because he couldn't find a first class seat. Of course, the conductor found seats for Mom, LaVelle and me in this car, and I got the most comfortable situation (as it turned out). I still only got about four hours of sleep.

In the half light of the compartment I thought: I speak a name into the empty darkness and it grows. But where did I get the name and why does it grow?
randy_byers: (colma 1987)
This January was the 30th anniversary of my move to Seattle, and this has of course got me thinking about how much things have changed in that time. I was 23 when I moved here, and so the weight of life experience now leans more on the after-Seattle side of the balance than the before-Seattle side, although things that happen during your formative years tend to have more weight than things that happen once you're more settled into a routine. The four years I lived in Micronesia from age five to nine had a disproportionate impact on my consciousness. Yet the Seattle years more than hold their own, even on the scale of formative experiences. Maybe that's because I was a late bloomer.

Deep dive into the history ... )
randy_byers: (2010-08-15)
It suddenly occurred to me this morning that ten years ago around this time I was falling in love. It was only four months after my TAFF adventures in the UK, and four months later I'd be traveling to Australia for the first time. Magical transformations were in the air.

I have a very good life, but my 40s were really something else: Corflatch, Yap, Chunga, TAFF, Sharee, SFFY and the Hugo, presiding over my niece's wedding, epic Worldcons in Glasgow and Montreal, chairing Corflu Zed, the Brussels/Novacon/SFContario trip shortly after I turned 50, new friends all over the place. We're talking hither and yon. It was when I became most fully myself, for better and worse, but mostly for the better, I think. So far my 50s haven't been quite so eventful, but it's still early days yet.

So here's to all that. Here's to falling in love, whenever that was or will be.
randy_byers: (2010-08-15)
A Facebook post by [livejournal.com profile] reverendjim and a lovely letter of comment on Alternative Pants from Mike Meara have reminded me that a year ago on this date I was in Antwerp with Jim and [livejournal.com profile] pingopark. We were dripping wet, because we had been walking around in a storm. [livejournal.com profile] pingopark and I were looking plaintively at Jim, who was examining the guidebooks to see if there might be any interesting pubs open on a national holiday, since the ones we had come to Antwerp to visit were sadly closed. He settled on Paters Vaetje, and we had found our haven from the storm.

Mike pointed out (albeit in a kindlier way) that I looked like a zombie in all the photos of me in Alternative Pants. Indeed, it's true. Here's one (not in the zine) of me looking like a zombie in Paters Vaetje. It may not appear so, but I was one very happy zombie.



Meanwhile, happy Novacon to those of you lucky dogs who are able to attend. Cheers, y'all!
randy_byers: (Default)


Denys just posted this to his Facebook. I'm not sure I'd ever seen this picture before. I have a couple of other photos of this haircut, which earned me a reprimand from my bosses at Aetna Insurance. In the end they allowed me to do bleach checkerboards, without the color. Ha! Denys says this was from April 1986, but I think I did this before our Unbirthday Party that year, which would have been in March. I loved me some skinny ties back then too.
randy_byers: (2010-08-15)
Ten years ago on the Saturday of Memorial Day weekend, I woke up and, unusually enough, didn't smoke a cigarette first thing before getting out of bed. In fact, I didn't smoke a cigarette all day long, and I haven't smoked a cigarette since.

I don't remember when exactly I started smoking. It was a fitful, gradual process that probably began at rock concerts in my senior year of high school, bumming my first smokes from my best friend, Reid. I know I was a regular smoker by the time my brother and I traveled to Europe two years later in the spring of 1980, because he tried to bribe me into quitting while we were over there. I blew smoke in his face, and for some reason he didn't beat the shit out of me. I did quit a couple of other times over the years, including once for over two years after I moved to Seattle in 1984. I blame my old girlfriend Robyn for my fall off the wagon that time. She was a party smoker and would smoke one or two at the bar when we went out. That looked like fun to me, so I started smoking one or two at the bar too, and before long it was back to one or two packs a day.

It's been so long now since I was a regular smoker that it's hard to remember what it was like. Part of me doesn't want to remember. The other day I was trying to remember if I used to smoke in my parents' house when I visited. I know Mom would've let me, but was I really that inconsiderate? I feel ashamed of how much second-hand smoke I subjected my friends to over the years. It was also such an unconscious habit that there aren't really a lot of memories associated with it. The one smoking-related moment I pulled up this week in anticipation of the anniversary was from the lead up to the first Gulf War in 1991 when Robyn and I were marching in a protest that shut down the northbound lanes of Interstate 5 downtown. Why is this memory so clear? We sat down on the pavement of the freeway with the other protesters, and I lit a cigarette and handed it to Robyn. She took a drag, handed it back to me, and said, "I'm glad you're here with me." I guess it was the intimacy of the shared cigarette amidst the excitement of the protest on that audacious public stage that burned it into my memory. It felt like a movie moment.

I probably still have a scrap of paper around here somewhere with the scrawled note, "Nicotine has me by the tits." I was fatalistic about my ability to kick it. When my nephews came along, they were subjected to the new anti-smoking propaganda at school, and they used to harass me about my smoking. I guess another thing I'll always remember is when the family was flying out to Yap in December 1998. We flew through Seoul, and when we landed there I made a beeline for the exit so I could have a smoke after thirteen hours of deprivation on the flight. My nephews came with me. The younger nephew was five years old.

"Why do you smoke?" he asked.

"I'm addicted," I said. He didn't understand the word. "My body needs it," I explained.

A couple of days later his mother told him to stop sucking his thumb. "But my body needs it," he explained.

Yap was actually the excuse I used to finally quit for good. I had told myself sometime in the '90s that I would quit when I turned 40, for health reasons, but when 19 September 2000 came around, I couldn't do it. Nicotine had me by the tits. But my brother was planning to go out to Yap with his family for six months in 2002, and I wanted to join them for part of that time. Money was tighter for me in those days than it is now, and I knew very well that I was spending over a thousand dollars a year on cigarettes. So in May of 2001, I determined to quit smoking so I'd have more money for Yap. I've never looked back.

When I quit for two-plus years in the mid-'80s, I used to have intense dreams about smoking. Typically I'd be smoking in my dream and feeling terribly ashamed -- afraid that somebody would catch me. I don't remember dreaming about smoking when I quit ten years ago, but then again maybe I've just forgotten the dreams. There's a folk mantra out there that the process of quitting goes in stages of threes: three days to go through nicotine withdrawal, three weeks to get it completely out of your system, three months to escape the cravings, three years till the danger of backsliding is past. The mantra helped me at the time, and if I still have any cravings for a cigarette, they are very few and far between.

I don't miss cigarettes. I apologize to you if I made you share my smoke in the past. I pat myself on the back for ten years of freedom.
randy_byers: (2010-08-15)
Sorry if that last post was a bit raw. Feeling clearly is hard work, and I didn't put in the work on that one.

So let me try to take this deeper. This is actually something I was thinking of writing a year or two ago but decided was just too much navel-gazing. Maybe it can be therapy instead. Or therapeutic navel-gazing, or something.

Cutting to the quick )
randy_byers: (2010-08-15)
So as I was writing about Joanna Russ over the weekend, I thought it might be cute to find the paragraph of hers I'd mimicked and post it along with my version. So last night I pulled out the ancient folder containing the story I did this for, "Singularities". It smelled of mildew, although the paper all looked clean. Notebook paper with handwritten text, typewriter paper with typed text. There was the Seal of approval that carl had drawn for me when I was feeling down about the quality of what I'd written. And here were two different versions of the paragraph I had based on Russ. Loooooooong paragraph. Starts off well, but uh-oh, quickly becomes pointlessly weird and stilted. So I looked at the second version, which takes it more in the direction of the story I wanted to tell. Well, there's more story there, the weirdness is more pointed, but boy is it stilted and disconnected and inhuman. I read the first paragraph of the finished story, and it was so horribly over-intellectualized that I immediately stopped. This was bringing up bad memories.

So I pulled out the slightly-less-ancient folder that contained the novella, "Recognition", which was the longer version of the same story that I wrote after I moved to Seattle. Started reading the first paragraph, which was completely different from the original opening -- and boy was it horribly precious and confusing and over-written. I looked briefly at the notes that Victor wrote after he read it, and his first point was that the shifting verb tenses was a bad idea. No shit! What the hell was I thinking?

I put the folder away, and I spun out. I got really upset. I had to leave the house. And I was surprised by how upset I felt. I thought I'd put my dream of being a great writer behind me. I thought I had found a niche of amateur journalism that made a lot more sense for my personality. And I think I have. What I didn't realize is that moving on didn't mean those old feelings of failure, disappointment, and self-loathing from the era of trying to write fiction had been resolved. Wow. I can't say I missed those feelings! What a cesspit.

So I went down to the Pacific Inn and ordered a two-piece fish and chips. I drank a couple of pints of fine local beer. I watched NBA basketball for an hour and exchanged quips with the bartender, Bobby. And I went back home, and I read a few pieces from Dave Kehr's collection of movie reviews, and everything was fine. Ugly feelings back in the folder, back in the file cabinet.

I know this is kind of a cheat. There's more I could say about why I failed as fiction writer, and particularly about how over-intellectualized I was as a young man and how much work I put into learning how to feel (one of the insights I gained from reading Russ was how much work it is to feel clearly), and how much help I got from my friends (and from a counselor) doing so, how much I still fail on that front (c.f. romantic relationships). How much the learning process led my writing in a different, less ambitious, direction that is a much better fit for who I am. And there, that's my outline of a deeper self-portrait. I feel rattled even saying that much. Funny where a little fond nostalgia for the old days will lead you.
randy_byers: (powers expdt)
Yesterday [livejournal.com profile] ron_drummond and I were talking about Joanna Russ, and he told me the story of how he first heard of her and of the series of important connections that followed from that. It's a great story, and I hope he writes it up. It involves Chip "Samuel R." Delany, and it got me thinking about the likelihood that Chip was also the one who, less directly, introduced me to Russ' work.

There's no way to know for sure, but I pulled out my log of all the books I've read since March 29, 1979 just to see what it would tell me. I was still 18 at the time I started the log, and I had been a big science fiction reader for several years already. Memory tells me that I'd read Delany's Babel-17 in the fall of 1978 and hadn't been impressed. (I'd bounced off Dhalgren in the eighth grade in 1974, the year it was published.) Then I went to my first science fiction convention, where I met Denys, and Denys urged me very strongly to try Delany again. And because I was so bowled over by Denys, I did try Delany again. My log book probably does reflect this. Delany's The Einstein Intersection is #9 on the list, which means I read it sometime relatively soon after March 29, 1979, which would be about right for a post-Norwescon timeframe. The record shows, to no one's surprise, that I worked my way steadily through Delany's oeuvre thereafter.

One curious thing I learned from looking at the log is that the first book I read by Thomas Disch was On Wings of Song, which I read shortly before the next date I recorded, which was July 7, 1979. (I had read fifty books in that four month period. It probably takes me two or three years to read fifty books these days.) Delany, Disch, and Russ were my trinity of great writers in those early years at college. My theory going into this historical exercise was that Chip's critical writing about Disch and Russ is what turned me on to them, but my log book doesn't necessarily support that theory when it comes to Disch. My thought, which Ron had also suggested, was that it was Delany's collection of essays, The Jewel-Hinged Jaw that introduced me to Disch and Russ, but I apparently didn't read that until December 1979. By then I had already read 334, The Genocides, The Puppies of Terra, Echo Round His Bones, and Fun with Your New Head.

However, the log does seem to support the theory that The Jewel-Hinged Jaw is what brought my attention to Joanna Russ. Four entries later comes Alyx (the Gregg Press edition), and later in January 1980 I also read And Chaos Died for the first time. I read The Female Man, We Who Are About To, and The Two of Them in March. The log confirms my memory that And Chaos Died was my favorite: I reread it in February 1981 and then again in December 1981. Turns out I misremembered something else, however: I did reread We Who Are About To, in 1982, and I reread all her other novels over that period too. I haven't gone through all thirty years of my log, but from what I did look at it appears that the only other novel of hers I read a third time is The Two of Them, and it's probably true that I've always liked that one slightly better than the more famous The Female Man too. I read And Chaos Died a fourth time in 1989, and I haven't looked any further than that. In 1989 I would've still been hoping that I could write something like my favorite Joanna Russ novel.

In my personal pantheon John Crowley joined the original trinity slightly later in time. (Eventually Disch fell out.) I discovered him on my own, as far as I can tell. The log confirms that I read The Deep first, in 1980. I have a very clear memory of reading the paperback in the dilapidated easy chair that carl and I had in our apartment in Eugene. What I didn't remember is when and in what order I read the rest of his existing work. The record shows that I read Beasts sometime between March and August 1981 and that I read Engine Summer in August. That one I remember reading in the upstairs bedroom of my parents' house in Portland, where I was staying for the summer. I read Little, Big in February 1983, and that's when Crowley joined my pantheon.

Well, I don't know why I felt compelled to share all this. I guess Joanna's death triggered the memories. Someone recently pointed me to a long blog post an artist did on how to train yourself creatively, and one of the guy's suggestions was to read everything by your favorite writer and then read all of your favorite writer's favorite writers. That's what I was doing back then. If I saw a book with a blurb from Delany, I read it. I pored over his essays about Joanna Russ, and carl and I pooled our money (a buck-25 each) to buy Sharee a copy of Fundamental Disch, which Chip edited. It was exciting times, and my brain was exploding with new input. I dreamed that someday I'd join my pantheon as one of the greatest science fiction writers of the era. Well, a boy could dream in those days. It was a good dream to chase after, even if what ended up catching me was something entirely different.
randy_byers: (colma 1987)
I've been walking to work along the Burke-Gilman trail for over twenty years now. (Eventually I'll get there!) Over the years I've tried several times to remember where it was that a certain old friend of mine used to live back in, oh, 1986 or so. It was an apartment with a balcony just up the hill from Lake Union, and we had some crazy good times in that apartment, back when I was still doing my best to live the rock'n'roll life style. Memory said it was on Eastern Avenue, but every time I've looked at the apartment buildings on Eastern Avenue in these past twenty-odd years, none of them have looked familiar. Eventually I concluded it was actually on 1st, because a couple of the apartment buildings on 1st looked more or less the way I remembered the building looking.

So this morning on the walk to work, I was thinking about my little black address book, because I was wondering whether I should take it with me when I leave for Mexico tomorrow morning. The answer to that question was No, but in thinking about the address book I started thinking about how I don't use it as much as I once did, because I now have an address database on my PC that I use more often. And I was thinking about what addresses I have in my address book that aren't in my database, and whether I should transfer them.

Then I got to 1st and went through that whole thought process about my old friend's apartment again, as I have occasionally done in the past. I looked at the apartment buildings, and a couple of them looked like likely candidates, but which one was it? And it suddenly occurred to me, because I had been thinking about it for other reasons, that my little black address book is so old that it might actually have my friend's old address in it. So I pulled it out of my bag, and sure enough there was the old address. It was crossed out (along with four or five subsequent addresses for the same old friend), but I could still see that the address had been on Eastern Avenue after all.

Well. This illustrates the process by which false memories are formed, for one thing, because I really had convinced myself that the apartment had been on 1st. But because my current job is all about databases, it also got me thinking about how if I'd transferred all the current addresses from my little black book into my address database and thrown the book away, all the historical addresses would be lost, and I quite likely never would have gotten rid of my false memory. Not that it matters much, in this particular case! Yet I immediately realized that I'd already overwritten addresses in my address database a number of times, and I began to wonder how I could replicate the historical aspect of my little black book. Well, obviously I would need date ranges on my address records. So I started thinking about the best way to configure the date ranges, and about how to replicate the crossing out of old addresses so that I didn't use them by mistake ...

And I realized that I am sooooooo ready for a vacation in Mexico.
randy_byers: (colma 1987)
Recently I wrote about the movie The Kids Are All Right and tried to argue that it was a new kind of story because it presented a new kind of character in the sperm donor. (The lesbian spouses/mothers are also arguably a new character type leading to new story types.) I was talking about the movie with my neighbors on Saturday, and E told me she knows a woman who has a child by a donor whose sperm has produced 150 children. This mother belongs to an internet community of women who have children by the donor. This modern world! And all this finally made me remember that I donated sperm in my mid-twenties. (Not as a teenager, but hey, I was a late bloomer.)

TMI under the cut )
randy_byers: (colma 1987)
This movie made me sad, and not just because it's a sad biopic about a young girl from a dysfunctional family who was chewed up and spat out by the music industry. It made me sad because it reminded me of my best friend in junior high and high school, Reid, who wore platform shoes and colored sunglasses and ostentatious rings and did his best to act like a rock'n'roll badass in the backwater city that is Salem, Oregon in the mid-'70s. He was a musician and composer and was so good on the piano that he earned the grudging respect of our classmates, along with their contempt and ridicule. They called him Elton Reid, because he loved Elton John. He was always in trouble with the school administration, always in trouble with his parents (his father was a judge), and he and I got arrested twice -- once for egging the house of a girl we thought was cute, and once for shoplifting science fiction paperbacks and rock albums. He'll never get a cheesy biopic made about him. He was just another talented guy going through a hellish adolescence who ended up supporting a family working 9 to 5.

It made me sad because it reminded me that I was in my mid-20s before I tried to reinvent myself as a cool rocker punk dude, and reminded me of all the insecurity and unhappiness behind that attempt, and how I wanted to stand out, be recognized, be somebody, and ended up just another confused face in the crowd -- "It's easy to see that you are one of us/Ain't it funny how we all seem to look the same?" How many stupid things I did to try to have a good time (mostly involving drugs of various kinds), how many good times were had, how little ground was gained through it, how distant it all seems now. How I'll never again go home with Robyn after a hard night of exhilarating slamming on a concrete floor in front of a tiny stage. How fraught with unhappiness and confusion even going home with Robyn always was.

It made me sad because it reminded me of another best friend, Tami, who loved Joan Jett, who was the member of the Runaways who didn't get chewed up and spat out by the music industry. I always thought Joan Jett's music was total cheese, but Tami thought she was the bomb and made me see it too. We saw Joan play Rckcndy with the Gits after Mia Zapata was murdered, raising money to pay for a private detective to investigate the murder. They called themselves Evil Stig for the night. I'll always remember Joan Jett reading the lyrics from Mia's notebooks, as they stumbled through ferocious versions of the songs. I'll always remember the air of anger and intensity and amazement of that show. Joan Jett earned major respect from me for doing that. Only this morning I remembered that after the show Tami somehow got us onto Joan Jett's tour bus out in the parking lot. I can't remember if we saw Joan Jett herself. I felt out of place and uncomfortable and just wanted to get the hell out of there. And these memories are sad because Tami and I ended up heading in different directions and that friendship has been stone cold dead for five years.

So this isn't very much about the movie, which is an average biopic with good music and a couple of good acting performances. It starts in 1975, and I have memories.
randy_byers: (2009-05-10)
I don't remember how old I was when my paternal grandmother gave me the dog-shaped pillow, but I was old enough that I felt embarrassed by it. It was an abstract dog shape, a flat design, with a square body and a little square for a head, with plastic eyes on both sides, and a littler square for the ears and two squares representing the front and back legs. It was covered with checkerboard squares of plush orange and plush leopard print in some kind of artificial fabric and filled with what feels like bits of styrofoam. It seemed to me, however old I was, that it was for a little kid. I was too grown up for that crap, but I was politely thankful to grandma. Or so I remember it.

What I don't remember is whether I used the pillow at all at that age. I'm pretty sure I must have put it away at some point, if not right away, because I don't remember having it with me in college, and I'm guessing that it only came out of the box again when I moved to Seattle after college. I do remember telling my girlfriend Robyn that I'd named it Flem, after the Faulkner character, Flem Snopes, and because I loved the word "phlegm". Robyn loved Flem, probably more than I did. By that point, in my mid-20s, I considered it some kind of ironic nostalgia thing, but it wasn't too long before I was hugging Flem tearfully in the wake of my break-up with Robyn.

That was over twenty years ago, and Flem has become a natural part of the landscape of my bed by now. Mostly I don't even think of him. He's just there -- another pillow. But when I got sick this weekend, Flem was the perfect pillow to put on top of my regular pillow to keep my head at the right angle so I could breathe at night while I was congested. As sentimental as it is, I felt my grandmother reaching through time to comfort me in my time of sickness.

I wasn't particularly close to either of my grandmothers, though I loved them both and they loved me. It just seemed natural, I guess. I have things that both of them gave me -- an afghan, two quilts, a crystal bowl, and a tray made from sliced walnut shells. And Flem. I take all of it too much for granted, but every now and again I stop and remember and feel my grandmother's love. It's a comfort, even now.
randy_byers: (Default)


Because she's at sea and can't stop me, I'm posting another picture of Sharee from the batch of scans I got from Andy Porter yesterday. All the pictures are from the 1980 Norwescon, and most of them are of her in costume, like the one I posted yesterday. This is one of two non-costume shots. It looks very '40s to me, and not just because it's black and white. The hair style and jacket look old-fashioned to me too.

It's hard to think about that era without thinking about what a stupid child I was at that age (an older man of nineteen), but I guess we all have to learn the hard way. And what did I learn? That I'll always be stupid about certain things! I just have a cognitive bias that way. The unknown known, as Michael Dobson put it in a recent Facebook post about risk analysis. Appropriately enough.
randy_byers: (2009-05-10)
The wave of reminiscence about the 1969 moon landing has got me thinking about the significant lacunae in my shared experience with even Americans of my own generation. We were on Yap island in Micronesia from the summer of 1966 until the summer of 1970. I was five when we moved out there and nine when we moved back. One thing that means is that I didn't watch TV for those four years, so for example I missed Star Trek on its first run and only caught up with it in reruns. It also means that I missed following the first moon landing on TV.

Yap wasn't completely cut off from the world, but it was pretty close. One memory I have is of sitting in our neighbors' parents' airconditioned bedroom listening to Sgt Pepper's on a reel-to-reel tape deck. The cover fascinated me. Both my brother and sister went to school on Hawai'i, and I remember my brother bringing albums back with him. For some reason the one that sticks in memory is the Lovin' Spoonful. "Hot town, summer in the city/Back of my neck getting dirty and gritty." I think the Animals was another one. On the other hand, the radio station out there played almost nothing but country western, and I got a good dose of Hank Williams and Jim Reeves and Patsy Cline. I didn't catch up with the pop music of the era until we got back to the States. My sister's copies of the red and blue Beatles anthologies and Abbey Road, which she left behind when she went to college in Indiana, were instant favorites.

For the most part I got caught up with everything I missed, but it's like getting caught up with a historical era you weren't around for. [livejournal.com profile] holyoutlaw remembers tanks in the streets in Chicago during the riots of the late '60s. To me, those riots are something I've only read about in books and seen in documentaries. I'm not sure the Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy assassinations even registered on me at the time, although I started taking piano lessons when we got back in 1970 and one of the songs I taught myself to play and sing was "Abraham, Martin and John".

One of the odd things about all this is that I've read enough about and from the era and listened to enough of the music, seen enough of the movies and TV shows and documentaries, heard enough first hand stories from friends that it seems like I was there. American culture is permeated with the Sixties. It almost comes as a shock, as when thinking about the first moon landing today, to remember that I actually wasn't around. Then I remember how much I felt like a stranger in a strange land when we returned from Yap. I was an outsider, just slightly out of key with my peers. Even in college one of my favorite professors (she taught Shakespeare) told me that learning that I'd lived on a distant island as a child finally helped her understand something she'd sensed about me. (I was vainly pleased that there was something mysterious about me in her eyes.) It took me a long time to get over that feeling of not quite belonging, and it is only these little jolts of estrangement that make me realize that for the most part those feelings are a thing of the past. It's just that it was a past I didn't share with you.
randy_byers: (shiffman)
So in March 1979 the Carl Combine traveled from Eugene to Seattle for Norwescon. It was my first science fiction convention. Our surrealist spirit guide was Carl-sub-pi, the irrational Carl:




More Carls below ... )
randy_byers: (2009-05-10)


Courtesy of Carl-sub-e, a photo from an underrepresented era: the college years. This was taken in 1982 in Eugene in the house on High Street where he and I both lived for a year, along with my girlfriend, Molly, and her friend, Lisa. I loved that manual Olympia typewriter. Our friend David described typing on it as like sticking your fingers into a blender. I thought I was going to be a serious science fiction writer in those days, even though I was already almost totally blocked when it came to writing fiction. It took me nearly another twenty years to finally get a clue that I didn't have what it takes, helped along by the realization that fanzines could work for me as a niche for personal and non-fiction writing.

Carl also sent some pictures from the Carl Combine's trip to Seattle for the Norwescon in 1979, and I may post some of those later.
randy_byers: (colma 1987)
Last night I realized that this month is the 25th anniversary of my move to Seattle and into this house. I moved here in January 1984. I can't remember what the date was, but it was pretty soon after New Year's, maybe the 4th.

I've lived in this house for over half my life, which I figured out this morning has been true for a year now. Bizarre. I moved a lot when I was in college, as you do, and when I graduated and moved up here I swore I'd never move again. So far, so good.

For the most part, it has been just me and Denys, who has lived here just over thirty years. When I first moved in, paul was still living here. After he moved out, Steve moved in briefly. By the time he moved out, the $320 rent we were paying didn't seem like too much for two people to handle. The only other person who has lived here since was Denys' foster son (if that's the right term), Daniel, who moved in for a couple of years after his mother died of cancer.

Denys and I are perhaps an odd couple, but we've obviously worked out pretty well as housemates. We bought the house sometime in the mid-'90s. I can't remember the year, but it was right when housing prices started to climb sharply in Seattle, thanks to the tech bubble. We were still paying $320 a month rent, because Norvin never raised it, but we knew that the window on affordability for us was closing. I have mixed feelings about home ownership, since I'm not much interested in maintenance or home improvement, but it does keep the rug from being pulled out from under us. Fremont is a great neighborhood, and I've always liked living here. When [livejournal.com profile] sneerpout visited in 2001, she said it looked like I belonged here.

Perhaps even more scary is that next month will be my 20th anniversary at the University. I started there in February 1989, still looking something like the icon on this post. I wrote about stasis in the '90s recently, but this longevity of home and workplace are more like stability, I think. Putting down roots. Well, at least Denys and I have been able to provide basement space to a variety of friends who needed temporary long-term storage.
randy_byers: (Default)
Well, I really should be cleaning the house for Vanguard, but instead I'll use the looming chore as motivation to write.

So I got together with Hazel at the Big Time last night for the Alumni Employees and Customers Night of the 20th anniversary celebration. Most of my questions going in were asked and answered, I think, but that's neither here nor there. One of the challenges for me in Hazel's renewal of our friendship is that it makes me think about how dysfunctional I was in many ways during the '90s. As I've mentioned at least in passing here, I spent the decade pining after Hazel from various distances, occasionally encouraged by dates when she was between boyfriends. The early parts of this pining were pretty pathetic and mostly confined to my journal. Eventually I outted myself to her, and it was better after that, even if still pathetic. At least we had become friends by that point and I got some affection from her that way.

Why did I remain fixated on her for so long when she was so obviously not interested in anything other than friendship? That's the question that always comes up when I see her now. The best theory I've come up with is that following a series of heartbreaks with Sharee, Robyn, and Nahid, I preferred an unrequited longing to a painful rejection or break up. Still, why not just give up on romance and relationships entirely? That's more or less what I did when I finally decided to stop pining after Hazel after a couple of disastrous date-like interactions in 2001. (Thus Sharee was forced to hit me with a clue-by-four in 2003 when we got together. Good thing she chose to be persistent! Not that I wasn't encouraging her "subconsciously". Ah, what a tangled web we etc.)

Anyway, there are other aspects of my life in the '90s that in retrospect look like stasis, particularly in terms of my writing. When I started writing for Apparatchik in 1996, I finally started edging my way into a niche where I could be productive creatively, although it took another four years or so for the real explosion to happen, sparked by the Seattle Corflu in 2000. That's also the year I turned 40, and I've often said that my 40s have been my best years. Perhaps that's when I finally shed the expectation that I was some kind of genius and could accept and engage with my limitations. Including my romantic limitations, for sure. I accepted that I was going to be single, and that it was okay. Well, it seemed like a good theory at the time.

I'm just rambling, really. Procrastinating from housework. Last night, standing with Hazel in the Big Time, where I first met her in 1991 -- getting on toward twenty years ago! -- and watching other former bartenders cluster or stand alone looking vaguely forlorn, I felt a little removed from it all myself. This was not my family, not my community. My community is coming to a party at my house tonight. Integrating myself into that community is what I did during the '80s. It has borne creative fruit in the '00s. What did I get from the '90s? Maybe I just got lost for a while.

"It's like we were all living in our own little bubbles," Hazel said.

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