randy_byers: (2009-05-10)
As many of you will know, I just returned from a fifteen-day road trip in British Columbia and Alberta with an old girlfriend. I'm not going to use her real name here. If you know who it is, then you know; if you don't, you don't need to know -- and neither does Google. I'm going to call her Hortensia in this piece, because that's a pseudonym I used for her over twenty years ago in a fanzine covering difficult and intimate matters, as this piece also will. Please beware that some of this material is extremely personal and may be more than you want to know about me or her. Still, I will make every effort to be discreet about things that she wouldn't want me to talk about in a public forum, because it really isn't my place to tell her story.

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The view from Nanaimo on Vancouver Island

Suffice it to say that the trip didn't go well, or at least was fraught and difficult, with plenty of good stuff mixed in too. First of all, I don't think Hortensia was prepared for how beat down by the chemo I am right now, and she admitted as much at the end. She was frustrated by and impatient with my lack of spark and my inability to retain information such as directions. We spent much of our time together squabbling and bickering like an old married couple, sparring over my mental slowness and her incredulous putdowns of my failures of comprehension. To say that the romance had long since drained out of our relationship is an understatement. It was already gone by 2009, but the old married couple description is meant to indicate that we are still plenty close in a lot of ways. You have to be close to someone to really get on their nerves, right?

Worse than that, however, was the clash of what I'll call religious beliefs. Hortensia has in recent years developed a fascination for certain shamanic practices and what I think of as a New Age approach to life and health. She hadn't gone as far down that road in 2005, when I decided not to marry her after having agreed to in the first flush of our love affair in 2003, but the difference in religious/philosophical outlook was one of the reasons I came to believe (and she agreed at the time) that we weren't compatible. Now she's *really* into it, and from the moment we checked into the airport hotel where we had a more romantic stay in 2003, she started explaining it to me in great detail. Part of it was that she had just been to the Amazonian jungle in Peru and participated in some ayahuasca ceremonies there, and she was eager to share the powerful experience she'd just had.

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Hortensia had brought back Peruvian textiles depicting the ayahuasca plant and visions inspired by it

I've thought at times in the aftermath of this trip together that she was more interested in her healing process (she's trying to overcome trauma from her childhood) than in my health crisis, but I think it's more accurate to say that she rejects Western medicine and wants me to too. She believes that the shamanic practices she's following are superior to Western medicine, and she has in fact teased me that if Western medicine didn't cure my cancer, she'd drag me to the Peruvian jungle to try a different way. Well, by the end of the trip she was acknowledging that I would never let her do that. It spoke to the distance that had grown between us in the meantime.

I hesitate to get into an specifics about our disagreement, because I don't want to characterize her beliefs inaccurately or unfairly. To focus on the thing that probably set me off the worst, however, it seemed to me that she was saying that diseases such as cancer are caused by internal conflicts that we haven't been able to resolve. Thus curing the disease requires us to resolve those internal conflicts. To me this is blaming the victim. I mean, it's one thing to say that a smoker brings on their own lung cancer, but it's another thing to say that someone brings on their own breast or brain cancer. To me, it's even worse to say that it's up to the cancer victim to heal themselves by "resolving the conflict." I'll stop there, because there were other things Hortensia said that seemed outright bonkers to me, and I'm not ready to go there yet.

She told me that it was okay for me to dismiss her beliefs as "hippy bullshit," but it's my impression that I said things along those lines that really hurt her feelings. That's why religion, like politics, is such a dangerous topic to discuss. After all, she is pursuing these beliefs in order to deal with long-standing and devastating emotional pain that, among other things, she tried to self-medicate with heroin when she was in her 20s. By calling her beliefs into question -- by outright rejecting some of them as bonkers -- I was challenging the self-healing process that is bringing her so much relief right now. She is genuinely excited about the progress she's making, and I'm genuinely happy to see it, because I know how much she's been hurting all these years.

Which brings up another thing: Making up for lost time. She spent so many years lost to the world that she is trying to jam as much life and experience as possible into the time she has left. From my perspective it seems a bit manic, but I can also understand what's driving her. The agenda for this trip was largely focused on her connections and her needs, and in the past, when I've been less needy myself, this has been a recipe for grand adventures and new connections for me. It was still the case this time around.

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Hortensia (wearing, it should be noted, my Oregon hoodie), Will, and Lorna on Gabriola Island

We spent the first week driving around Vancouver Island in a rented mini-RV visiting old friends Hortensia had made when she was living there while her mom died of breast cancer in 2009. We spent a night with her mom's friends Alan and Carol, which was a bit difficult because Alan is now as deaf as a post and Carol is starting to lose her short term memory. Then it was off to visit Lorna and Will on Gabriola Island in the Georgia Strait, which was a complete blast, because both of them are total sweethearts and were very responsive to my situation. Will invited me to come back and sail with him on his trimaran whenever I want. Lorna was very maternal and pampered me to the max. Unfortunately this was also where my emotional reaction to Hortensia really spun out of control, and I got so angry that I couldn't sleep one night. As I sat in back of the RV spinning through my 3AM despair, I considered returning to Seattle. However, the whole desperate flight-impulse made me flash back to 1980 when I first visited Hortensia in Vancouver, had sex for the first time in my life, panicked, and fled back to Oregon, leaving her feeling abandoned and distraught. I swore that I wouldn't do that to her a second time, come what may.

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Hortensia repairs the sweat lodge

Fortunately this resolution calmed me down for our next stop, which was on the Cowichan reservation in Duncan. We stayed on the property of a medicine man who goes by the English name Fred. At Hortensia's request on my behalf, Fred had invited us to participate in a sweat lodge. I had never done one before, and here's what I wrote about the experience on Facebook:

'Did half a sweat lodge yesterday, lasting two rounds out of four. It was my first sweat lodge, and I had no idea what to expect, although I wasn't encouraged by Hortensia's reply to my question about what to wear: "Well, you're basically being boiled." [NB: After she read my post, she protested that she hadn't actually said that.] So it was incredibly hot and smoky, and it was so dark you couldn't see anything but the glowing rocks. I closed my eyes and felt claustrophobic and tried not to panic. Fred sat me by the door in case I needed to bail out early. The cool thing about that is that because I was one of the last people going in, Fred gave me the job of using cedar boughs to brush off the "grandfathers" -- the hot rocks -- before they were sent into the lodge. So even though my anxious state of mind meant I felt a little outside the ceremony, I still felt like I played my part. I enjoyed listening to the chanting and Fred's various incantations and speeches, and maybe I would have got more into it if I'd joined in the chanting. Afterward I chatted with a few of the participants, particularly the French-Canadian guy (Sylvain?) who had tended the fire, and that was a lot of fun, listening to the jokes and laughter and stories. He told me that one of the women who had participated was a former national Member of Parliament representing a district on the island. So it was an interesting experience, but I think I prefer to take my religious ecstasy served in the great outdoors of the rain forest, the reef, or the ocean beach.'

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The sporty red car

After we left Fred's place, we left Vancouver Island, traded in the mini-RV for a sporty subcompact, and headed for Alberta, where I'd never been before despite the fact that my father was born there. This stage of the trip was all about visiting Hortensia's family. (She grew up in Edmonton after ten years in Melbourne, where she was born.) In fact, when she contacted me after my GBM diagnosis, she told me she'd already been thinking of visiting Canada this year to see Aunt Helen, because Helen's husband, Roland, had just died. We stayed at Helen's log house in the Canadian Rockies near Mount Robson, and it was gorgeous and peaceful up there, as it had been at Lorna's place on Gabriola Island. I'd met Helen (and Roland) at Hortensia's mom's memorial in 2009. Helen was another very maternal person who pampered me shamelessly, although she also put us to work staining spindles for a balcony that had rotted and needed to be reconstructed. After that, we headed to Edmonton, where I finally met Hortensia's big brother, Lyall, who was great. Wonderful sense of humor and sense of centeredness. He's married to a Thai woman and is a Buddhist. We also visited Hortensia's niece, Elizabeth, who had just moved back from Toronto with her four year old son, Dash. I'd met Elizabeth before, but not Dash, and Hortensia hadn't met Dash either. Hortensia and Lyall had dinner that evening with their cousin Wendy (Helen's daughter), but by that time I was completely wiped out physically and emotionally, and I begged off.

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Helen and Hortensia

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The spindles we stained

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Elizabeth, Dash, and Hortensia

Hortensia was intent on pulling the family together. Elizabeth hadn't visited Lyall, Helen, or Wendy yet (only having moved back from Toronto a couple of months ago), and Hortensia exhorted her to introduce Dash to all of them. The family connections have obviously become more important to her, and the deaths of her mom and uncle, not to mention my cancer, have only impressed on her that the living connections can disappear before you know it. As with the shamanic healing practices for her PTSD, the focus on family connections are all about making up for lost time -- specifically that period when her drug addiction meant she lost contact with her family as well.

So the second week was physically trying because of the long drives involved. By the final day of the trip I was basically numb from exhaustion. It was also, perhaps pathetically, emotionally trying because it was all about Hortensia and not about me. I've really wrestled with this, because I would like to think I'm not such a complete narcissist. On the one hand, I think it was a good reminder that it's not all about me and that other people are dealing with serious problems too. I was also happy to see Hortensia becoming so family-minded, which I think is a very good thing. And again, the fact that she is feeling so much relief from her long-abiding trauma is incredibly good news. It was probably good for me to have the attention shifted elsewhere for a couple of weeks, just to break me out of whatever emotional ruts I may have fallen into. However, it's hard to deny that my immediate reaction to the stresses and strains of the trip, including not always being the center of attention, was to become a cranky, petulant, emotionally volatile pain in the ass. I was definitely on my worst behavior, which only added to my feeling that the whole trip had been a failure and a mistake.

With a few days to recover and gain some perspective through venting to friends and family, I'd have to say that a lot of this is an overreaction. However, the estrangement between me and Hortensia seems real, and maybe it was about fricking time. There's another side to all this that leaves me feeling horribly ashamed and pathetic: My need to cling to my old girlfriends so that I can feel that I haven't been a complete loser at the game of love. Well, I can only imagine Hortensia laughing her ass off at that. The reality is, my emotional neediness aside, whatever distance has grown between us doesn't amount to a hill of beans when you consider the strong connection we've established over the years. As she assured me at the Vancouver International Airport just before we parted, I will always be a major part of her life, and despite whatever grievances I now have, she will always be my first lover and the woman I came closest to marrying many years later. But I suppose we're both feeling more relieved than ever that we avoided the marriage trap. Who knows how much we'd be getting on each other's nerves if we really *were* an old married couple.

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Old friends

ADDENDUM: I showed this to Hortensia before I published it, to make sure I hadn't crossed any lines. Here are a few of her comments, which I offer as a counterpoint to my complaints:

I certainly come off as inconsiderate and self absorbed. I'm sorry that is your biggest impression. I guess that after Lorna's I was pretty unsure how to relate to you and went a bit into action mode. My coping mechanism.

Actually, I was expecting it to be worse. I'm sorry you felt I didn't really connect to your situation. I didn't know how to connect when you reacted so negatively to me.

I'm sorry if you felt I put you down for not remembering stuff. I didn't mean to, and I need to look at that behaviour.

You didn't mention the bear and the elk, and, remember, the long driving in the Rockies was so you could see them. Alone, I would have flown to Edmonton and rented a car there to go to Helen's!

Many thanks to Hortensia for her graciousness in the face of my grievances.

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The view of the Canadian Rockies from Aunt Helen's
randy_byers: (2009-05-10)
Thanks to [livejournal.com profile] daveon, who has a membership in the Columbia Tower Club, I finally made it to the top of the Columbia Center, fondly known locally as Selig's Phallus, since it was built by a man by the name of Martin Selig. At 76 stories it's the tallest building in Seattle, and it was completed in January 1985, pretty much exactly a year after I moved here. The views are spectacular, and the food is quite nice. Dave and I chewed over the Hugos brouhaha and the prospects of venture capital. A lovely evening. Thanks, Dave!

randy_byers: (2009-05-10)
For two days in a row I've left directly from work for a social engagement and not gotten home until late-ish. Both were related to the wedding of Andi Schechter and Stu Shiffman, which was held yesterday.

Amongst the group of people who came to town for the wedding were Rich Coad and Stacy Scott. On Tuesday I met them at John Berry's house (which I walked to from work because it's "just up the hill" from there), and we all went out for a beer and then to a Greek restaurant for dinner. It was a lovely, relaxed evening of stories and wisecracks and good cheer. Rich and I drank ouzo, and I reminisced about the time my brother and I were on Corfu in 1980 and met a bunch of guys from Lubbock, Texas, who bought a bottle of ouzo one night and invited us to join the party. We declined, but the next day we found the almost untouched bottle of ouzo at our hotel door. We drank it happily ourselves. Good times. Rich complained about the political correctness of modern fandom, and Stacy verbally rolled her eyes. John and I reminisced about the days when his street had only one restaurant, called the Surrogate Hostess and now long gone. Now the street is chockablock with restaurants and cafes and new condos. I got a ride back home from Rich and Stacy, and they came in to say howdy to Denys as well. They had never been to our house before, and of course talk turned to comic books once they saw Denys' massive collection. Fan talk.

Wednesday was the wedding itself, and it was at Burke Museum on the UW campus, so I just walked up there after work. Lots of folks were there, of course, including the winners of the Far Traveller Award, Mark and Priscilla Olson, who came all the way from Massachusetts. [livejournal.com profile] spikeiowa had brought badge ribbons in case there were badges, but we didn't need no stinking badges. Everybody was given a blue yarmulke, and most of us wore it during the ceremony. ([livejournal.com profile] akirlu was impressed that mine stayed on despite not being pinned to my non-existent hair.) It was the first Jewish wedding ceremony that I recall ever being to, so it was refreshingly different from past wedding experiences. A female rabbi presided over the lovely ceremony. I heard someone to my right entoning the Hebrew prayers along with her, and discovered later that it had been [livejournal.com profile] kalimac, remembering them from his own wedding twenty years ago. Carrie Root was in tears, and [livejournal.com profile] kate_schaefer eventually gave her a tissue. Afterward, Carrie thanked [livejournal.com profile] holyoutlaw for the tissue, much to his confusion. She hadn't seen who gave it to her, but thought it was him.

The meal afterwards was fantastic. I sat at a table with Denys and various old friends, but on my right was a woman I'd never met. It turned out that she has been Andi's massage therapist for twenty-odd years. I joked that most of the people at the wedding were either science fiction fans or therapists of some kind or another, since a number of Stu's therapists were there as well. In that aging crowd there were a number of other people who suffered from serious physical ailments of various sorts, and yet here we were celebrating a ceremony of connection and commitment against the tide of entropy, surrounded by the Burke's collection of fossils from ancient days indeed. There was music, and many smiling faces.
randy_byers: (2009-05-10)
Yesterday was the life celebration for my friend, Jay Salmon, who died unexpectedly almost three weeks ago at age 48. It was held at the U District cooperative school that Jay's daughter, Sophia, attended.

There was a great turnout of Jay's family and many friends from the diverse areas of his life and history. The woman who officiated over the ceremony was a friend of Jay's wife, Elonna, and I believe she does this professionally. She called herself a "funeral celebrant," which is quite a phrase. She was very good, even though she was just getting over a bad case of laryngitis. I spoke with her a bit before things got started, and she told me she'd be reading parts of the LiveJournal post I wrote after Jay died (which Elonna had pointed her to), except slightly edited for profanity and other non-family-friendly bits.

There were many sections to the ceremony. Two of Jay's brothers read poems that Elonna had selected. Susie (the officiant) wove together bits from both my tribute and the wonderful obituary that was written by Elonna's friend Tifany (with massive input from Elonna). In many ways the most difficult part of the ceremony for me was the friendship circle with Sophia and a bunch of her friends. I feel that I have been robbed of twenty to thirty more years of Jay's friendship, but when I think about what Sophia has lost, it's almost unbearable. At least I had 25 years with Jay. She got just short of 12, and she will never get to know her father as a grown woman. It breaks my heart.

There was a slideshow that (after some technical difficulties that made Denys quip sotto voce, "It's like a meeting at work!") included many photos I'd never seen, as well as quite a few that I contributed myself. In many ways the best part of the ceremony was when people got up and shared stories about Jay. That's when it became evident what a range of people were there, from childhood friends to the people he had just moved in with in October. (From them I learned that theirs is an intentional household, which Jay hadn't mentioned to me. They said they found him such a great fit that they decided his gender -- he was the first man in the household -- was not a problem.) I was perhaps most struck by a couple of guys who had gotten to know Jay when he lived in the previous place, over on Magnolia. They were young guys who had clearly found something like a father figure or mentor in Jay. They both spoke with great emotion about how much his advice and example (one of them was also the father of a young daughter) had meant to them. The final story was from a young girl -- a friend of Sophia's -- who talked about a time when she and Sophia dressed up like pirates and Jay chased them and tickled her till she bent over so hard that her pirate sword hit her in the stomach. Utterly perfect; perfectly Jay.

Well, lots of tears through all this, which I'm sure surprises no one. There was also a ceremony that involved everyone taking a river rock from a basket and infusing it with prayers or blessings or memories. The stones will be used in a fountain in the backyard of the house next door to ours, where Elonna and Sophia live. It's comforting to know that I'll be able to visit it in the future and listen to the fountain speak and think of Jay.

It was comforting to take part in the ceremony, and to spend some time with the large community of people who loved Jay. Over all, however, the ceremony -- and the anticipation of the ceremony in the days before -- left me feeling completely raw and overpowered. The grieving has come in waves, but it receded pretty far last week until I got to Friday. I've been listening to a lot of gospel and soul music since then. It helps, but it also intensifies the feelings of loss. Well, these tears have got to fall. I'm sure they will continue to do so.

A new age

Dec. 10th, 2012 09:10 am
randy_byers: (blonde venus)
This will take a longer piece of writing to do the subject justice, so tune in to Chunga 21 (probably) if you want the longer version. The short version is that yesterday I went to Heronswood Gardens over on the Kitsap Peninsula to celebrate the wedding of Jessica Amanda Salmonson and Rhonda Boothe. The law legalizing same sex marriage went into effect on Thursday, and part of the longer story is the story of how that law was passed by the state legislature and eventually confirmed by popular vote. The S'Klallam Tribe, which had recently purchased Heronswood, donated the space and the ceremony to any same sex couples who wanted to get married on Sunday. Five couples took them up on the offer.

I caught a ride with John D. Berry and Eileen Gunn. Also catching a ride with them was Wendy Wees, who was one of Jessica's old girlfriends and whom I hadn't seen in decades, as she noted when I got in the car. Also at the ceremony were Marilyn Holt and Cliff Wind and a friend of Jessica and Rhonda's from Bremerton whose name I didn't catch but with whom I chatted at dinner afterward. We ate at the buffet at the S'Klallam's casino, with archaic cigarette smoke in the air.

It's hard to describe the emotions of the day. It was sweet and weird and epic and intimate. I felt like an eye-witness to history. There was a reporter from the North Kitsap Herald interviewing everyone about the blessed event. There was a jazzy Christmas song playing in the distant background during the ceremony. The officiant was a complete stranger who only met Jessica and Rhonda fifteen minutes before marrying them. Their vows were taken from the wedding of Tiny Tim and Miss Vicki. My wedding present was the fossil of a snail that I dug up by a train trestle outside of Salem when I was a young boy. Conversations with old friends ranged across the world and throughout time. One should always take the ferry to a wedding. My heart is bursting. Film at 11.

Big time!

Dec. 3rd, 2011 12:18 pm
randy_byers: (beer)
I watched the Pac-12 football championship game at the Big Time after work yesterday. The Old Woolly Barleywine is always released on December 1st, so it was also an opportunity to sample this year's batch, which is very good as usual. The release of the barleywine always brings old regulars around, and I saw two of the old Big Time crew that I haven't seen in years. Mark, who left to start a brewpub in Port Townsend, told me that he has since gone to culinary school and is now a cook at a high end restaurant in Belltown. He has a girlfriend who's celebrating her 30th birthday, the dog. He headed out to pick up some gifts and food for her, and not long afterward his old girlfriend Dawn came in. We only chatted briefly, but it was nice that she came over to say hi and that she swung by to say goodbye as she left.

By that time another old timer, Greg, had sat down next to me, although he didn't show any sign of recognizing me, so I didn't say anything. Dawn gave him a hug before she said goodbye to me. When the University of Oregon pulled to a big lead over UCLA in the third quarter of the game, I got up to leave.

Greg said, "If Dawn knows you, you must be an old timer here."

So we chatted a bit, and I told him the last time I'd seen him, he was still a bartender at Flowers. Now he works for a game company in Redmond, although he still lives in the U District. He apologized for not remembering me.

Well, you know, I've been going to the Big Time since it opened in 1988. I've got a lot of memories connected to it. Later today Hazel is coming by to show me some designs for a handrail she's going to make for our outside stairs, and I'll tell her about seeing Mark and Dawn. Last night had a sweet feeling of reunion. Dawn thought the last time we'd seen each other was after the barleywine was released. Maybe I'll see her again in a few years.
randy_byers: (2009-05-10)
[livejournal.com profile] ron_drummond left a phone message a bit ago asking me to repost something he'd posted to a fannish list earlier in the day:

I've been living in a house on the banks of the Hudson River. The water is almost up to the ceiling of the basement, and it's looking like one or more of the dams upriver from us are going to break, so it's possible the entire main floor of the house will be flooded too. I got the books off of the bottom shelves of all the bookcases, and the two long wide flat boxes of Little, Big posters off the floor and onto a table top -- but it might not be enough. I had to leave to get some food and coffee in me -- electricity's out, and will be for at least three days, so no way to cook etc. Not sure where I'm going to sleep tonight.

In his phone message Ron said that when he opens the basement door, water is only about three steps down, but it hasn't gotten any higher in the past few hours. Whether the house gets flooded will depend on whether they release water from the dams upriver. Here's hoping that won't be necessary.
randy_byers: (2010-08-15)
And so a fond farewell to the [livejournal.com profile] fishlifters. It was a real pleasure showing you a bit more of the city. Come back sometime and I'll take you to Brouwers. Meanwhile, see you in Vegas next year!
randy_byers: (2010-08-15)
Last night I got together with [livejournal.com profile] wrdnrd and [livejournal.com profile] the_andy at Showa, a sake bar -- or izakaya -- in Fremont. I had mentioned it to [livejournal.com profile] wrdnrd when she posted about her love of sake on her blog. Suffice it to say that they know a lot more about sake then I do, and they gave me a primer over the first glass. The main thing I remember, other than typical alcohol content, is that the more polished the rice used to make it, the better the sake.

Showa is a cozy little place right above Chiso. As the website says, along with sake and cocktails they serve little food plates "like a tapas bar." We got a bowl of pickled vegetables and a couple of skewers of pork belly. I don't remember what the first bottle of sake was, but the second was unfiltered, so it was cloudy and sweeter than the first.

Conversation was good fun, and they told me about a couple of road trips, including the time they drove to Portland in their scooter and sidecar. Took ten hours. Oy. Crazy kids.

Well, more fun to talk about than to do, I suppose. I'd happily do that again. Showa was doing good business last night, so hopefully it'll stick around long enough for us to do a reunion tour.
randy_byers: (2010-08-15)
So [livejournal.com profile] surliminal is in town for a few days, and last night we had dinner at Kaosamai, a very good Thai restaurant in Fremont (apparently good Thai is hard to find in Edinburgh), and then went to a SIFF show, Fuck My Life (Que pena tu vida, 2010), which is a very funny Chilean rom-com. We saw it with [livejournal.com profile] surliminal's friend, A, and A's boyfriend, B. Which makes you wonder who C is in this story, but I digress. They were fun, and it was fun getting caught up with [livejournal.com profile] surliminal's complicated trip so far, as well as variegated gossip about hither and yon.

I think I've got things going on every night this week, including Friday when (skipping C for the moment) D and I are hosting a party for the visitor. Hope to see a bunch of you there. Meanwhile I have survived my yearly performance evaluation, and it actually seems as though I accomplished things this past year. More to come. Gotta run.
randy_byers: (2010-08-15)
Denys and I went to a dinner party at Marissa's yesterday evening. It was something of a blast from the past. It's probably been around a decade since I last did much hanging out with Marissa, I can't remember for sure. A couple of years ago she spotted me working on the traffic circle at the bottom of the hill, and we chatted for a bit. She was about to get married to an old childhood friend, about to move to Queen Anne. She suggested we get together for coffee and get caught up, but that never panned out. It seemed to me that the friendship was a thing of the past. Then suddenly out of the blue a month ago, she stopped by the house while I was away and told Denys she wanted to invite us over for dinner. Last night was the fruition of that invitation.

She had gathered a small group of people, as she always liked to do in the past. The only one I'd met before was Sue. Everybody was good fun, not exactly the kind of folks I normally hang out with, but smart and funny and friendly. The grilled shishkebobs were very good. They have a great craftsman on Queen Anne that they are working on remodeling from the studs up, and Marissa gave us a tour after dinner.

It was very strange trying to connect this party with the past. Lots of it felt very familiar. Marissa always liked to bring people from different circles together. I'm not sure if she was hoping to get caught up on the past few years or not, but it really wasn't possible under the circumstances. Maybe she preferred it that way, and it was actually fine by me too. She did ask me at the dinner table what had gone on in my life since the old days, and I just laughed and said nothing had changed.

It's actually hard to explain why it all felt so weird without going into more detail about Marissa's history and all the changes she's gone through. For one thing, she was a lesbian when I first met her, living in a boho loft down near Pioneer Square. Everything has changed. It's all good. I enjoyed myself last night. You live in a city long enough and old friends keep coming back around.
randy_byers: (2009-05-10)
Denys and I went over to [livejournal.com profile] janeehawkins' house last night for dinner with her and her housemate, Amy, whom I had never met before. Jane made Peking duck, because Amy had found a duck at the farmers market. It was delicious, served with Hoisin sauce and green onions. We yacked about Tea Party clowns and got the gory details on Jane's run-in with a deer on a West Texas highway. Which I suppose was an appropriate follow-up to Denys' gory stories of his days working in the Kidney Center. Amy served Fainting Goat ice cream made from goat's milk and pine tar, which was beautiful, and hey, didn't we all fell a bit faint by then?

A lovely evening with two lovely ladies, and a nice break from the routine for two old boys.
randy_byers: (2009-05-10)
Don Fitch told me a couple of years ago that President's Day was about the right time to prune roses. I recently read a gardening page on the web that suggested that the time was right when your forsythia blooms. So I went out to prune the roses today, which is President's Day, and sure enough my forsythia has its first blossoms.

I spent a happy hour pruning the roses and the dead raspberry canes, preparing the way for new growth. As most of you will no doubt be unsurprised to hear, I am also continuing to rethink my travel plans for later in the year. Sharee's announcement of her marriage to Greg and their plans to attend Worldcon is making me even more dubious of the wisdom of my going to Australia this year. One of the things that's frustrating about this for me is that I also can't go to Corflu Cobalt in the UK this year because of travel plans with my family. That likewise cancels out the possibility of going to Eastercon instead. However, it just occurred to me yesterday that Novacon in November is another possibility.

One of the reasons I'm eager to get back to the UK in the near future is that [livejournal.com profile] reverendjim has indicated that he might be up for a trip to Belgium to drink damn fine beer in its natural habitat if I get over there again. So when I tossed my idea out to the Fishlifters to see what they thought, I was delighted to get this back from Mark. It absolutely made my day. (I hope he doesn't mind my quoting a private e-mail. Mark, if you do, just let me know and I'll take it down.) Mark wrote, "Much as we'd love to see you in Australia, there's something cosmic going on driving you down this path, I feel. I mean they don't coincide precisely, but your email was sent just before -- and seen by us just after -- we were talking in the pub about getting you to come to Novacon, in the wake of your email about coming to the UK some time and setting off on a Belgian beer odyssey with Jim. The general consensus was that if you do this you should take Tobes too -- and probably a film crew."

Which sounds like so much goddamn fun that I'm tempted to book the trip right now. However, I'm not going to make a hasty decision. I'm reluctant to give up on Aussiecon, because Australian Worldcons are a once a decade opportunity, and while going to the UK would allow me to visit British friends I had hoped to see in Melbourne, I wouldn't be able to see my Australian friends, including a few I've gotten to know through LiveJournal but haven't met yet.

Yet there's no denying that the recent developments Down Under make the emotional terrain much trickier for me. I'm not sure I'm strong enough not to be a burden on myself, on Sharee and Greg, and on all my friends. But who knows? Maybe this whole thing is making me stronger even now. All I know is that I love my friends, who are absolute rocks. I'm getting by with a little help from them.
randy_byers: (colma 1987)
As some of you will have heard by now, Sharee has announced that she is marrying her new beau, Greg. She let me know earlier in the week, before she made a public announcement. I wish them a long and loving marriage. I'm happy that she's found someone to be there for her in the wake of losing her mother.

(Userpic chosen because it was taken in July 1987, right before Sharee married her first husband, Ben. Victor and I were in Oakland for Westercon, and we visited a cemetery in Colma with Sharee and Dawn, which is where this photo was taken. Sharee's mom and grandmother were also in town for a pre-wedding party, and I met them briefly outside Dawn's house -- the first time I'd met Sheilla, although I'd known Sharee since 1980. Look out, you rock'n'rollers. Pretty soon now you're gonna get older.)
randy_byers: (machine man)
[livejournal.com profile] daveon invited me over yesterday for beer, movies, and an excellent home-cooked dinner of Chicken Tikka Jalfreizi, Garlic Nann, Mushroom Bhaji, and something with spinach in it. Utterly delicious, eaten under the watchful eyes of his two Labradors. M. was at a networking gathering for women in business, so she didn't get home until later.

The movies were good goofy fun. First up was Destination Mars (2006), which is a low-budget, probably direct-to-video production from Dark Horse Comics that attempts to mimic the style of low-budget '50s sci-fi movies. It's somewhere in between an homage and a parody. The story is about a fleet of Martian flying saucers who come to Earth after the Martians learn of a planet-destroying weapon developed by an Earth scientist. The movie is very good at what it's trying to do, and the ending is perfect. It opens with a faux featurette about the lives of the cast and crew in the McCarthy era and beyond and about the discovery and restoration of the lone print of the film. At 80 minutes (including the featurette) it does not outlast its welcome.

After bouncing off a collection of sci-fi movie trailers and Vegas in Space (1991) ('The First All-Drag Queen Sci-Fi Musical Ever!'), we moved on to Roger Corman's Little Shop of Horrors (1960), which, no, I had never seen before. What an oddball little movie! I wasn't expecting all the Jewish humor and all the silly verbal humor. "It's a finger of speech!" Lots and lots of semi-vaudevillian shtick, which is both funny and just sort of ... odd. (What is the Jack Nicholson masochist scene doing in this story?) It's never all that interesting visually until the final chase scene across a landscape of old rubber tires. The tone is so close to off that I thought I wasn't going to like it at first, but a subtle silly weirdness got its tendrils in me ...

Anyway, thanks, Dave, for a lovely evening.
randy_byers: (yap)

Back row: My brother, Theo, my younger nephew, and me (with hair)
Front row: Antonia and my sister-in-law

So yeah, on Saturday I drove to Tacoma, picked up our Yapese friends, Theo and Antonia, and drove them to my brother's house in Corvallis. Theo lost his latest job a while back and hasn't been able to find another one, so he's planning to return to Yap in March. Antonia will stay behind to help take care of the grandchildren. This was our last chance to talk to Theo for who knows how long. On Sunday my sister came down from Salem to have dinner with us. Other than that, we sat around the house and "talked stories," as Theo calls it.

Theo is a great story-teller, and he kept me entertained on the five-hour drives in both directions and kept my brother and me entertained the rest of the time. (Antonia mostly stayed silent in the car, chewing betelnut and throwing in the occasional comment or answering Theo's questions when he asked her something in Yapese. She and my sister-in-law went out for pedicures on Sunday.) It was just like old times, out on Yap, or other times we've visited with them either here in Washington or one other time when I drove them to my brother's place.

We covered so much material, I couldn't even begin to relate what all we talked about. One general comment is that whenever we get together with Theo and Antonia, the talk is very Pacific. Micronesia, Japan, China, Korea, Taiwan, Philippines, Australia, West Coast America. (This time we talked about Chile, too, because my sister is looking to teach ESL there for a few months.) Mostly the talk is about Yap, of course. Memories, history, legends, stories, gossip, thoughts about the future, economics, politics, culture.

I don't know. It would take a special effort to convey the potency of the conversation for me. One tidbit is that Theo and Antonia had just spoken with a Yapese guy who remembered me as a classmate from Alaw, which was the second school I went to out there in the '60s. Most Yapese don't remember me, because I was just a little kid, and I had started to develop a minor complex about it. Even Theo says he doesn't remember me from the '60s, but remembers my dad and my brother instead. Sometimes I feel that Yap has made a tremendous imprint on me, but I have made absolutely no imprint on Yap. Which is actually probably true. Why would it be any different?

But that's another thing. Theo and I talked at one point about small towns and how insular they can be. "It's the same on Yap," he said. "We are distrustful of outsiders." Suddenly all my feelings that I don't really belong there, despite my strong feelings of attachment, were reconfigured.

This morning was a long discourse on naming, mostly because my brother was asking how names are chosen for children. It's an incredibly complex topic, because names of people are also the names of property. You are named for a piece of land, and that's where the quote in my subjectline comes from. You represent that piece of land, and when the property and name are assigned to you, it comes with some well-defined responsibilities to the village, which are in turn connected to a complex caste system. It really is the heart of traditional Yapese society, which has been heavily disrupted by the intrusion of a series of other cultures for over a century now -- first the Spanish, then the Germans, then the Japanese, then the Americans. The old way of life is almost completely gone now, but everybody still has their own taro patch, connected to a piece of land from which they take their Yapese name.

I think the biggest sense of wonder moment of the weekend for me was when my brother, Theo, I were looking at Yap on Google Earth. Lonnie had to go start the barbecue, so I drove Google Earth while Theo asked me to look at the ocean next to the island, trying to understand the currents to the east. And suddenly I saw it. I knew that Yap was a tiny chip (under fifty square miles) of raised continental plate, and I knew it was near the deepest point on Earth, called the Mariana Trench, or, near Yap, the Yap Trench. What I hadn't really seen before was the configuration of the continental plates. Yap is part of a small one that Theo thought was called the Philippine Plate. It's between the Asia Plate and the Pacific Plate. The Pacific Plate is subducting under the Philippine Plate, creating the Mariana Trench. It's pushing the Philippine Plate up, creating not only the island of Yap but also other Micronesian islands, including Belau, Guam, and the Northern Marianas. All these islands are the result of plate tectonics, as opposed to many other Micronesian islands that are atolls on the tips of submerged mountains on the Pacific Plate. Theo said he had read that in fifty million years, as the Philippine Plate is pushed up further and further, Yap will become as big as Japan. Which is utterly fucking mindblowing.

And that's just the tip of it. Just a tiny chunk of the submerged plate of the two-day conversation. I mean, here's another: Yapese legend has it that there was a powerful group of warlocks (Yapese magic is famous throughout the Pacific Islands) who upon the advent of the white men went to an island called Sipin north of Yap and pulled it under the sea to escape the disaster visited on the rest of their countrymen. I joked to Theo, "In fifty million years, Sipin is going to be pushed back above the sea." But is that a joke? Maybe the Yapese will have outlasted the invaders by that point. Theo gave me a look, but he didn't reply. Maybe he has his own thoughts on the topic.


Jan. 6th, 2010 08:58 am
randy_byers: (2009-05-10)
A fond farewell to [livejournal.com profile] ron_drummond, who should be on the way to the airport momentarily. Happy trails, old friend. See you in the ether when you reach the other side.

Last night Ron and I enacted an old ritual from the days when he lived in Seattle: pizza and beer at the Big Time. Good times! Totally mellow, like a fine aged wine.
randy_byers: (2009-05-10)
For only the second time ever (that I can recall) I've met someone in the flesh whom I first met through the internet. Yesterday I got together with [livejournal.com profile] e_compass_rosa, who is in town with her sister to empty out their uncle's storage locker. Their uncle, Sal, died earlier this year.

When I picked up the two of them, I was handed several gifts from the storage locker: five copies of Sal's poetry collection ("A seamless fusion of TV babble, Shakespeare, proletarian newspeak, the Bible, Fifties doo-wop lyrics, advertising, and cornball jokes." --The Poetry Project Newsletter), a Guillow's giant scale balsa flying model kit of a German Junkers JU-87-B Stuka, and an old jean jacket. And they say that LiveJournal is a waste of time!

The three of us headed to El Chupacabra on Greenwood, where E's sister was going to meet some other folks. We had margaritas and chips and guacamole, and E and A told stories about their uncle and about their incredible trip to Guadalajara to bring him back to California so he could die in hospice (and family) comfort there. Then E and I went to Madame K's in Ballard for pizza and the kind of fine gossip that you just can't get on LJ. After that we moved down to Hattie's Hat for a beer and more conversation about life, relationships, and creative aspirations.

As E remarked, the funny thing about meeting people who you know through LJ is that they already know more about you than a lot of other people in your life, just from reading your LJ posts. I think we were both worried beforehand that we would end up not having anything to say to each other face-to-face, but we actually talked our heads off like old Friends. Very much the same experience I had when [livejournal.com profile] holyoutlaw and I met [livejournal.com profile] kdotdammit earlier this year.

I think I actually have met most of my LJ Friends in real life, but there are at least a few more that I haven't. I should do a count to see how many. Look forward to meeting the rest of you Real Soon Now!

Meanwhile, thanks for all the gifts, E, and all the gossip. Hm. Did you ever finish the story of Sal's AK-47? Hey, you forgot the left-over pizza!
randy_byers: (2009-05-10)
Well, we had a reunion of the Carl Combine last night, with my anonymous housemate as the honorary host. It was just a few months over thirty years ago that three University of Oregon freshmen named Carl-sub-e, Carl-sub-i, and Carl-sub-pi drove from Eugene to Seattle to attend Norwescon, which was my first science fiction convention. Two of us were named Carl, so I was adopted as the imaginary Carl (thus sub-i). carl was Carl-sub-pi, the irrational Carl, and Carl L was Carl-sub-e, the natural Carl. Anyway, carl introduced us to my anonymous-not-yet-housemate on that trip, and we stayed one night at the house I would move into five years later.

So Carl L came up from Portland yesterday and took us all out to dinner at Kaosamai. After much head scratching, the Carls and I determined that the last time we'd all three gathered was at Robert G's 40th birthday party a decade ago when a whole bunch of the old Honors College gang got together in Eugene. But you know how these things go: we just picked up the conversation as though it had been yesterday. We still have a lot in common after all these years. For instance, none of us ever got married. Ha! (Not that Carl-sub-pi really has the option.)

Perhaps the most amusing thing about this reunion is how it came about. Carl L joined Facebook recently and found another college friend of ours, [livejournal.com profile] mlamprey, who pointed him to my LiveJournal. Then I tweeted carl. Well, okay, no, we actually just took it to e-mail from there. Anyway, this modern world, eh? Apparently it still has a niche for the Carl Combine. Hope you can join us next time, [livejournal.com profile] mlamprey! We can be dumb, wet, and plaid once again.
randy_byers: (blonde venus)
For the first time ever, as far as I can recall, I have met someone in real life who I first met through LiveJournal. [livejournal.com profile] kdotdammit is up here visiting friends and Friends, and she arranged for a movie night with [livejournal.com profile] holyoutlaw and myself. We went to Seattle's greatest movie palace, the Cinerama, and saw Crank: High Voltage. After that, it was off to Boom Noodle on Capitol Hill for dinner and yakkety-yak.

As I told Kim in e-mail, she was exactly how I thought she would be from reading her journal and looking at her pictures and artwork. She must be pretty good at expressing herself. She is high voltage, high octane, high energy. Conversation was a blast. One of the things I've always enjoyed about her writing is that she brings a perspective of growing up working class and of a hard tumble life on the streets, but also an intense interest in both trash and avant garde art, as well as a hard-nosed experience as a working mother. Like Sharee and my niece's husband she reminds me that my own childhood was very protected, if not down-right coddled. Like them, she seizes the day. Always a good jolt to any tendency toward comfortable numbness.

Anyway, the movie was not something I would ever have seen if not for Kim. It's a sequel. It's trash. It's a frenetic action film starring Jason Statham, but it's also very avant garde in its own twisted way. Some people compare it to Looney Tunes cartoons, which seems appropriate. Others compare it to John Waters in its assault on good taste. Okay, yeah, I can see that. I imagine it also has roots in the gross-out comedies that I have so studiously avoided in the past decade. It *is* primarily a comedy, I think. It is almost physically assaulting, and there were several scenes that had me absolutely squirming in my seat. This movie is not for the faint of heart. If it hadn't been funny, I'm not sure I could have taken it. I don't know that I can really describe the effect of the movie. The plot is that Statham's stud character, Chev Chelios, has his heart removed and replaced by an artificial heart. He has a few hours to get his real heart back. He needs regular jolts of electricity to keep the artificial ticker going. (Cue diagram-heavy parody of pseudo-scientific info dump.) Did I mention how frenetic the pace of the movie is? As for avant garde, it plays around with text a lot -- including subtitles for various foreign languages done in homage to trash exploitation films of yesteryear and joking intertitles like "9 seconds later" during a chase scene or little bits of explanation of rhyming slang that aren't quite subtitles. There's a lot of sophisticated -- or at least slick -- graphics work layered onto the pictorial surface. On the other hand, the ethnic and sexual humor is rude, crude, and socially unacceptable, quite intentionally offensive. The characters use faggot as an insult, but the cavalry is played by a group of black leather dudes. Oh yeah, and there are lots of tits, and an outrageous sex scene, and lots of male genital torture. And a strike by porn stars. And Bai Ling playing an incoherent pidgin-spewing crack whore. And David Carradine in grotesque yellowface. Luke said it was One Damn Thing After Another. Relentlessly.

It was the perfect freaky trash tasteless balls-to-the-wall movie to see with Kim, in the perfect Seattle theater. A great time was had by all. Of course I was still so buzzed when I got home that it took me a couple of hours to unwind and get to sleep! Might have had a little to do with the green tea we had at Boom Noodle, I suppose.


randy_byers: (Default)

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