Day Two: Thursday 2nd May 2013It was 2.30am when I woke, needing a pee. I slipped across the corridor to the bathroom to do so, hearing someone moving around down in the living area. Back in the bedroom I was too jazzed to get back to sleep, so I turned the light on and fired up my laptop. This seemed the perfect time to jot down some impressions of the previous day so I'd have something that I could expand into a full report later. Trouble is, I had taken no notes the previous day and was a bit fuzzy about the details. Starting at the beginning seemed a non-starter, so instead I jotted down what I could remember as it came to me, confident I could reassemble these fragments into something resembling the correct sequence later.
And it worked. I wrote for about an hour until I'd exhausted my memories, then turned off the laptop and settled back for more sleep. This never came. What did were more recollections, so I turned the light back on, fired up the laptop once again, and started typing. This sequence repeated itself a few more times until I actually had the outline of a decent opening chapter to my trip report.
Around 7am I heard someone get up and decided I should, too. It was Carrie, taking the opportunity to catch up on some newspaper reading while Andy was still abed. It had been him I'd heard moving around during the early hours, toiling away on some last-minute tasks for CORFLU.
"You fell asleep almost instantly after going to bed last night," said Carrie.
"I did?" I said. "How could you tell?"
"Oh, I could hear you," she said.
I couldn't believe what she was saying.
"Are you suggesting....I snore?" I said.
"Don't worry," she said, "you're not very loud - just loud enough to be heard through the door."
This is a foul calumny.
In a lifetime of sharing a bed with myself not once have I ever heard myself snore. Avedon sometimes makes this same absurd claim. Had she put Carrie up to this, I wondered? I wouldn't put it past her.
I had promised Avedon I'd Skype her when I was able to assure her I'd made it to America and hadn't plunged to a fiery death. As this was my first opportunity to do so I asked Carrie for the password to the guest account on their broadband. She happily provided this, but it wasn't recognised. So much for that idea.
Carrie was heading out to do some shopping, so I took the opportunity to go for a little walk around the community. Carrie suggested I should head down past Nathan Hale High and check out the creek beyond, so I did. It was sunny if slightly cold as I set out, but warmed up significantly as I walked. Andy and Carrie's neighbourhood is hilly and as Andy later explained to me they live in a valley where there is fairly substantial run-off from the surrounding hills. The creek I was checking out was part of the drainage system and the park I found had been built as an overflow for this system, an anti-flooding measure that doubled as a nature reserve. It was actually pretty impressive. The late Anna Vargo had apparently been on the work crew that built it.
When Andy eventually arose, he cooked us all bacon'n'eggs, though he had some difficulty eating it himself thanks to medication he was taking.
"I love the open layout of American houses," I said.
"Yeah, this is a really good party house," said Andy, "though that time we had over a hundred people here I did fear for the outside deck. If that had collapsed...."
Some years ago, in a house about a hundred and fifty yards from my own, they threw a party and crowded in more people on the upper floor than it could take. Several were killed when it gave way, so I understood Andy's concern.
After we had eaten we stepped out onto the outside deck so that Andy could sit on the stairs leading down to the garden and smoke weed to settle his stomach. This also let us take in the by now glorious sunshine and admire the long lawn spread out before us. It was going to be a hot day. As fans will, we talked about fandom and absent friends, during the course of which I mentioned I was now 58.
"You're only eight years older than me?" said Andy, in surprise.
"Jeez, I know I'm not the shining example of youth and vigour I used to be but I didn't think I'd gotten *that* decrepit," I said.
"Given how prominent and long-established you already were when I got into fandom I'd always assumed you must be older than that," he explained.
"Wait, so instead of a decrepit 58 year-old, you assumed I was a well-preserved older person? I'm not sure that's better."
It was sometime after 11.30am that absolutely positively everything that would be needed over the weekend was packed away in the hire car and we pulled away from the Hooper-Root residence, and something like twenty minutes later that we pulled back up outside it so that Andy could retrieve the camera he had forgotten.
Before getting out on the open road we had to pass through Tacoma. As we did so Andy briefly rolled down his window.
"Smell that?" said Andy. "That's the famous 'Tacoma Aroma'. They still have a couple of paper mills in town."
"Can't smell a thing," I had to admit. "My nose is still too clogged. Though whenever anyone mentions Tacoma I still chuckle at how, when they first moved here back in the day, Patrick Nielsen Hayden was intrigued by this superhero who kept appearing in the headlines of Seattle newspapers: 'Tacoman Rescues Child'; 'Tacoman Captures Criminal', etc. I love the whole idea of a superhero who names himself after a snack."
The journey to Portland was as fascinating as American roadtrips always are to a Brit. As well as the roadsigns pointing to exotic places there was also the alien scenery. As we drove along we saw Mt Rainier, Mt St.Helens and Mount Hood to our left, each in their turn. The weather was brilliantly clear so all of them looked magnificent. You could see the gash in the side of Mt St Helens where the eruption of May 1980 had blown out the side of the volcano. It was now a third of a century ago but Patrick had been in town on that day. Hearing the explosion, he had turned to see a mushroom cloud rising behind buildings in the distance, in the direction of Boeing field. I bet that was a brown-trouser moment.
Crossing the bridge over an extremely wide river I spotted an official sign that read (and I swear I'm not making this up):
LITTER AND IT WILL HURT.
Wow, hardcore! And yet, I couldn't argue with how memorable and impactful it was. (Yes, I did just write 'impactful', sorry about that. In my defence, this is a report set in America.) I found myself wondering if other warnings might benefit from this approach:
LOOK BOTH WAYS BEFORE CROSSING ROAD OR DIE
RAILROAD CROSSING AHEAD. TRAIN SMASH PUNY CAR
PED XING: FISTS OF FURY
We stopped off twice on our journey, once at a gas station where I bought water and some delicious chocolate cupcakes, and once to eat a meal at a place called 'Izzy's'. Despite the name this didn't appear to be Jewish. They offered an all-you-can-eat buffet, so I did.
When we arrived at the Red Lion hotel - a name that sounds like a pub to a Brit and so was instantly welcoming - we were confronted by a horde of fans milling around in the lobby, having nowhere to go.
Despite falling earlier in the week and hurting his leg, Art Widner - in his mid-90s and still going strong - had driven up from California, a two day trip.
"Not one I think I'm ever gonna make again," he said. "I need a drink. Let's find a bar and I'll buy you one."
Nearby was the coffee shop and they were serving booze so in we went. Art had a Scotch and I had a Coke having (mistakenly) understood them to have no beers other than Coors and Bud - I try to take a "when in Rome" attitude to travelling, but there are limits. Knowing my interest in the period Art started telling me about the 1930s.
"People moan about conditions now but, really, there's no comparison," he said. "Back then there were no jobs at all and if you couldn't work you starved. I spent ages pounding the streets looking for work. If a burger- flipping job had existed I'd have been delighted to take it. There's a joke they used to tell that illustrates how desperate things were. It's about a guy looking for work who comes across another guy in a river. 'Help, throw me a line,' he says, 'I'm starting a job today'. So the first guy asks him where this job is. As soon as he tells him he runs off, leaving the guy in the river to his fate. Rushing into the manager's office he says 'the guy supposed to start today is in the river so I'm here for his job'. 'You're too late,' says the manager, 'we already gave it to the guy who pushed him in'."
There's an old saw about conventions that states that if you sit in one place long enough the rest of the convention will eventually come to you. This certainly proved true for us. First Frank Lunney and Gary Mattingly found us, soon to be followed by Clan Charnox (Pat, Graham, son James, daughter-in-law Shell, grandaughter Eloise), and then a veritable flood of people.
Rob Jackson handed out copies of his latest fanzine INCA #9, which included photos he had taken during SunCon, the 1977 Worldcon. One guy in particular stood out in these, what with his luxuriant 1970s porno moustache, the disco-era pimpish strutwalk, and the laid back attitude that said "why yes, baby, I *am* wearing a medallion under my silk shirt. Why don't you come over here and unbutton that shirt down to my belly-button for all the ladies to see?"
Yes, it was Jerry Kaufman.
In one photo Moshe Feder is holding Jerry's fist, which is between Gary Farber's legs. I do not judge, but I was shocked. I thought it was *much* later than this that ordinary people started dabbling in making their own gay porn.
Doug Bell & Christina Lake showed up accompanied by...Ian Sorenson? This was unexpected, and I reacted as anyone would.
"Why do people always groan when I appear?" asked Ian.
Getting up from the table I managed to knock my glass over. This had nothing to do with Ian's arrival. Fortunately, I'd finished my drink. Unfortunately, this being America, my glass was still mostly full of ice. Fortunately, only one leg got wet. Unfortunately, these were the only trousers I had with me. Fortunately, we've now reached the end of this paragraph.
Doug told me they had been touristing with Spike and that at a gift shop on one of the impressive local mountains she had bought a small model of a beaver.
"And, yes," he assured me, "we did make all the obvious jokes."
I'd have been shocked if he hadn't. It's good to see younger fans maintaining traditional standards.
Everyone moved up to con suite when it eventually opened its doors at 7.30pm. A three-room spread at the end of a fifth floor corridor, it looked as if it would be a fine space for partying. As we entered, so Dan Steffan announced the immortal words:
"The beer is in the jacuzzi!"
Isn't that wonderful? I want those words on a T-shirt. Nor was he kidding. The beer was indeed in the jacuzzi, and the jacuzzi was hard up against the bar. I don't know who would design a room like that, but I want to shake their hand. Next to the jacuzzi were two beer kegs. These contained a beer everyone simply referred to as 'red'. As soon as I tried it it happily became my drink of choice for the remainder of the con. Had the con suite been open more often then I'd have drank more of it.
I got a big hug from Lynn Steffan and a sweaty handshake from Dan. It was great to see them both again after so many years. Both now had longer hair, and Dan had acquired the long, shaggy beard of an old testament prophet, dark and shot through with grey.
Lynn was handing out badges to people, which was how I discovered I was number 060. They missed a trick there. Given the fund that brought me over they should've made me number 050. John & Eve Harvey arrived (006 and 007 respectively) and revealed they now live in France full time.
"Oh I can tell," I said.
"How?" asked John, looking puzzled.
"It's the accents. I can barely make out a word you're saying anymore."
"Oi, stop taking the piss," said Eve.
"Sorry, could you repeat that?"
When we compared trip notes we realised we'd be on the same flight out of Seattle the following Tuesday.
"Great, we might be able to sit together!" I said.
"'Fraid not," said John, "you're cattle class and we're premium economy."
"So no associating with riff-raff like me, then? Quite right, too."
John laughed, but did not disagree.
"We can't get into those seats anymore," Eve explained. "Unlike you we're *fat*!"
I considered mentioning my diet here, the one I've followed all my life that consists of eating whatever I want in whatever quantities I feel like, but decided on the better part of valour.
As I predicted, this was the night when jetlag really bit me. I crashed at the ridiculously early time of 9.30pm. No sooner did I pull the sheet over me than I was asleep. Tomorrow was the official start of CORFLU. I was looking forward to it.