Day Three: Friday 3rd May 2013I woke about 3am, tried restlessly and unsuccessfully to get back to sleep, then rose and turned on my laptop to write up such notes on the previous day as I could. I took the Emmenthal cheese I'd packed for my flight then not eaten, and the remaining gas station chocolate cupcake from the fridge, snacking on them as I typed.
At 7.30am I decided it was a reasonable time to seek company and so headed downstairs. In the lobby I discovered Jerry Kaufman. With the hours he works he like me has of necessity become an early bird. We chatted for a while then decided it was time to go for breakfast.
"There's this place I want to check out," he said. "It's a diner but they have great live music."
"At breakfast time?!" I said, appalled/fascinated by the thought of such decadence.
"Well, no," Jerry admitted, "but I'd still like to check it out anyway." This was fine by me so we set off, looking for Burnside Street.
"We go ten blocks down and three blocks to the left," said Jerry.
This was a reasonably long walk but I didn't care. It was warm and sunny but not yet so hot as to be uncomfortable. That would come later. As we walked we chatted about old friends and I took photos of anything that caught my eye. For example, the MLK freeway might be an ugly section of road, but it was ugly in ways that were fascinating to a non-American.
The further we walked the less salubrious the area became. As we turned onto Burnside it also became more architectually interesting.
"We're now entering the historic district of Portland."
"So built after 1920, then?"
"Yeah, that's about the size of it," chuckled Jerry.
The place we were going was called 'Doug Fir' and turned out to be in the Jupiter Hotel, which looked to my eye to be a fine example of 1950s Americana. Inside it was decorated in cut-log style. Eating at one table were a mariarchi band in the full matador-style black and silver gear. For a moment I thought we might get music with breakfast after all, but they were fellow customers and eating their own breakfasts. The outfits intrigued me. Had they just finished a gig, or were they heading to one? Surely they didn't dress like that all the time? Or maybe they did, costumed avengers who went from city to city fighting crime. Perhaps they were colleagues of Tacoman. I have to admit that I'd find a comic titled 'Tacoman and the Mariarchi Squad' hard to resist.
The waitress took our order, and as she headed away from the table Jerry said: "The nice thing about places like this is they always have attractive waitresses."
It was cheesy, like something '70s disco pimpstrut Jerry Kaufman might have said, but the waitress smiled. Whether it got us better service I couldn't say, but the food was fairly decent, if maybe a little greasier than I would've liked. Jerry had a bagel with lox while I feasted on a breakfast burrito - "a full breakfast in a burrito". It was bigger than I expected - not an unusual experience in America - and also a different colour.
"It's green," observed Jerry, "which means it must be good for you."
After we'd eaten Jerry kindly picked up the tab for both of us and we headed back to the hotel. On the way we passed a youngish guy shouting into a public phone.
"No, I'm in fucking Portland," he yelled. "I just got out of the drunk tank. Why are you crying?" It was a perfect little vignette, told in three sentences.
Back at the hotel people had started to emerge and were eating breakfast in the restaurant. We joined Doug Bell and Christina Lake who were tucking into delicious-looking plates of pancakes and eggs. Right then and there I knew what my breakfast would be tomorrow. I fired up my laptop intending to Skype Avedon, but she wasn't online. On the table next to ours were Rob Jackson and Mike & Pat Meara. I somehow missed them getting up, but spotted them outside a little later, climbing into a car with Nigel Rowe, who I hadn't known was at the con. As they took off for a wine-tasting - no, seriously - Nigel spotted me and waved. It had been at least a dozen years since we'd last seen each other. I was looking forward to catching up with him later.
Gordon Eklund, was keen to travel into town and check out Powell's, the huge and legendary local bookstore. Jerry and I had been discussing this very thing before going to breakfast, so the three of us decided to head out and do so before the day's activities got under weigh.
At the nearby local tram stop were ticket machines. You could either buy a two-hour pass for $2.50 or a day pass for $5.00. I opted for the former and slid three dollar bills into the relevant slot, whereupon a ticket was printed and change was given. Then it was Jerry's turn. He opted for the day pass, typed in the details it required, and tried to pay by credit card. The machine rejected this and deleted his details.
"You put your card in the slot," said Gordon. "Perhaps you have to press it to the touchpad instead."
This seemed plausible so Jerry typed in his details and tried again, whereupon the machine declared itself to be 'Out Of Order'.
"You broke it Jerry," I said, furtively checking to see if any transit staff were around and getting ready to declare I wasn't with this strangely un-moustached person vandalising valuable Portland Transit Authority equipment and had in fact never seen him before in my life.
Having destroyed one machine Jerry moved on to another. I followed of course, which meant anyone watching was unlikely to believe a claim of not knowing him. Drat. I watched nervously as Jerry approached the machine, already working on the story that I was but a poor, confused visitor from overseas who had fallen in with bad company. Amazingly, Jerry did not break this machine. After only a few minutes of pitiful fumbling he was able to hold his ticket triumphantly aloft.
Although someone watching might have erroneously perceived us as three old codgers unable to handle modern technology we were in fact fans and so of course Slans, superior beings whose mighty intellects could defeat any mere machine. Eventually. We had only missed half a dozen trams during our heroic battle with the ticket machines and so were able to enter the next one to come along with our heads held high.
The tram took us over a bridge across the river, its water sun-dappled and inviting. I took a photo. "Typically beautiful Portland view," said the woman sitting opposite us. "You can walk across the bridge on its lower deck and see lots more." This was tempting. Maybe tomorrow.
Powell's was as huge and impressive as advertised. I was deeply envious and wished that London had something that compared to it. Unfortunately, London has been shedding bookstores for years and never had one to match this for choice anyway. Since we all had slightly different wants we decided to go our separate ways and meet back at the entrance later. In the event this didn't actually happen. When I was ready to leave, I sought the guys out individually and told them I'd see them later. I had it in mind to check out a local comicbook shop and, following directions given me by the desk clerk, I headed out.
I obviously either misunderstood or misheard part of his directions because I totally failed to find any comics store. Footsore and weary, I climbed aboard a tram and headed back to the hotel. A few stops down Gordon Eklund got on. Was this man stalking me?
In the hotel lobby I spotted Michael Dobson. He was chatting to Rich Coad and Stacy Scott, who I hadn't seen in far too many years - 29 in Stacy's case. I joined them and Stacy and I bonded over shingles horror stories. This came about because of something Michael said:
"When you're in pain, doctors always ask you to rate how bad it is on a scale of one-to-ten, but depending on the pain you've experienced in your life that's going to be different for everyone."
"That's true," I said. "What's the most painful thing people here have experienced?"
After some conferring the consensus was: an abcessed tooth.
"Had one of them," I said, "shingles is more painful."
"I agree," said Stacy. "I've had an abcessed tooth as well. Shingles was worse."
"Two-and-a-half months of constant pain in my case," I said, "with five minutes of excruciating agony."
"Jeez, what happened?" asked Rich.
"The shingles was in my right leg," I said, "and I got a cramp on top of it. That was pain turned up to eleven, a total whiteout of pain."
Andy Hooper came through to tell us that the St.John suite, the room on the 6th floor we were using for programming, was now open and that we could all relocate there. Since the seating area in the lobby was tiny this seemed like a good idea. On the way, I lost Rich and Stacy but bumped into Lucy Huntzinger. Like most of us (Andy excepted) there was more of her than when last we'd met but she was instantly recognizable. We seated ourselves in the rows and reminisced while Andy & Carrie Root worked on Andy's dramatic presentation script at the front.
People gradually joined us and Lynn Steffan eventually set up registration in the corridor outside. This had a magnificent view over Portland but also acted like a greenhouse and it got very hot. How Lynn was able to sit there hour after hour in no apparent discomfort is a mystery.
With their panels about to happen, Mark Plummer and Claire Brialey finally showed up. They'd actually been at the hotel longer than anyone but this was the first time I'd seen them.
"Not *more* Brits?" I groaned. They laughed.
Mark had the sniffles. This was either highly significant or not, depending on whether he was to blame for the 'lurgy' that struck down several of us after the con. I don't think he was, but for a while there it was being referred to as "the Plummer Plague".
Turning around I saw that Robert Lichtman and Carol Carr had arrived. I'd never met Carol before and was eager to do so but what with them chatting to others I didn't get the chance then. According to the Pocket Program there were two panels this afternoon. I watched or at least half-watched the first but have no memory of the second. This is because I was at the rear of the hall and new people kept showing up and either milled around near the tables there or outside where Lynn was sitting. One of these was Geri Sullivan who, like all too many people at CORFLU, I hadn't seen in years and wanted to catch up with. She was just as bubbly as always.
The first panel was 'The Care and Feeding of the Modern Fanzine' and was led by Andy with contributions from Claire, Mark, Sandra Bond, and Rob Jackson, with Michael Dobson being invited up from the audience part-way through.. The main points of discussion were who your intended audience were (public or private) and how you generated participation. Knowing who your audience will be has always been an important part of publishing a fanzine but what does that mean in these days when we publish fanzines online and there could potentially be a faceless, silent audience of thousands reading them over and above the readership we're aiming at? Also, how do you get people to actually read your fanzine at all now that there are so many other things competing for a reader's attention in this information-saturated internet age we find ourselves in? Good questions, but by their very nature not easily answered. Mark also revealed that because of recent, seriously outrageous increases in UK postal costs, particularly for mailing items overseas, an online version of BANANA WINGS was being made available for the first time as were versions that could be read on Kindles and on smartphones. Given the proliferation of different devices on which stuff can now be read I imagine we'll be seeing more and more fanzines doing this in future. It's certainly something I need to consider for the updated version of THEN when it eventually appears.
After the following panel came the sorting hat where we were all sorted into different houses such as Gryffindor, Ravenclaw, Gangapuff and...no, wait, sorry. Next came the drawing of the name of the Guest of Honour from the sorting fez, which was filled with the names of all those members of the con too cheap to pay to have their's left out. And the 'winner' was Lucy Huntzinger. Despite Lucy's suspicions, this was not a fix.
We were not the only group in the hotel on Friday and we found ourselves sharing it with others.
"I hear a seniors' group is meeting here today," said Ulrika O'Brien.
"Yeah," I replied, "it's called CORFLU."
Ulrika laughed, but I was speaking only half in jest. James Charnock and family were here with his parents. So far as I'm aware they were the only people at the convention under 40. I think the majority of attendees were over 60 or will be in a year or two. These were my age cohort and people I was happy to be partying with, but given natural attrition, CORFLU may no longer exist a decade from now.
Come dinner time and I found myself heading out with Steve and Elaine Stiles, Gordon Eklund, Linda Deneroff, and Elinor Busby, pretty much an ideal number. Gathering larger groups of fans together for a meal makes herding cats look easy and can be both frustrating and very time consuming. Far better to my mind to latch onto a smaller group and take off quickly, which is what I did here. They were going for Japanese and, after being reassured this didn't just mean sushi, I happily tagged along. I began to have second thoughts about my decision twenty minutes or so into our long trek to the restaurant.
Our journey was an extraordinary one. With Linda on point, we first rode the tram a couple of stops north, traversed a park where groups of furtive youths were (I later learned) dealing drugs, marched through Macy's, took the escalator up to the top deck of a multi-level parking garage, entered a mall, crossed a bridge over an ice rink where adorable little girls who were not much more than toddlers were being taught to skate, descended to ground level again and onto streets where the sun beat down on us mercilessly. By this point my right foot had started to throb and I was limping, said foot having been left with neuropathic damage following the bout of shingles I suffered in 2011. Though this isn't much of an impediment most of the time there are now limits on my mobility that weren't there before. Fortunately, there were only a couple more blocks to go before our magical mystery tour finally ended and I was able to gratefully collapse into a chair, split-infinitives be damned.
With the exception of Steve we all had the chicken teryaki and it was delicious, as almost every meal I had in Portland was. Only Elinor did not enjoy her teryaki. Elinor was part of an earlier, legendary generation of Seattle fans from half a century ago and While we ate I quizzed her about the Seattle Worldcon of 1961 that she had been involved with running, and Steve chimed in with amusing anecdotes of his own about the con, none of which I can now recall, alas. I don't know if modern Seattle fans have ever sat down with Elinor and interviewed her about those days, but if not they should do so. It's all too easy for that history to slip through our fingers and be lost.
Back at the hotel the others peeled off while Elinor and I looked for anyone else who might be around. There was no one. So with the con suite not open we took up residence at one of the tables in the lobby where, eventually, we were joined by Randy Byers and Carl Juarez who with Andy Hooper form the 'Chungamvirate', the editors and publishers of that fine fanzine CHUNGA. Unless my memory is playing me false - always a possibility - this is the first time I've met Carl, who seems a bit quiet and reserved. We're joined in short order by Michael Dobson, and perhaps inevitably the conversation turned to fanzine publishing. Michael had been handing out copies of his zine RANDOM JOTTINGS #8, a handsome 112 page, square-bound and beautifully produced publication. It was the first issue to be published via Print On Demand and he was very enthusiastic about the process.
"They cost me $2.62 each, which was a saving of $1 per copy on the previous issue."
"Fuck, that's less than CHUNGA costs!" said Randy.
Given the size and production quality of RANDOM JOTTINGS #8, I can see easily others following Michael's lead.
Frank Lunney and the Steffans returned from dinner and got in the elevator so Elinor and I followed them. We ended up in the St. John suite where a fair number of people had already gathered to see Andy's dramatic presentation of the history of CORFLU. I took a seat in front of Rich and Stacy and was soon joined by Linda Deneroff and Ulrika, who sat themselves on either side of me. We were all there for Andy's dramatic reading of the history of CORFLU. This was read aloud from Andy's scripts by Tami Vining, Jerry Kaufman, David Levine, unknown, Lucy Huntzinger, Dan Steffan, Ian Sorenson, Alan Rosenthal, and Andy himself. Andy had spent a lot of time working on the scripts, and most of those reading his words gave excellent performances.
Immediately after the panel we decanted to the con suite for the evening's party, which was billed as 'Margarita & 30th Birthday Party - Your Host: Lucy Huntzinger'. New arrivals who showed up here, who had either just got in to town or been somehow missed by me earlier included Tom Becker and Spike. The large windows gave a good view out over Portland so when fireworks started bursting over a nearby stadium half the room stood there transfixed by the display. Personally, I didn't find it that impressive so I used the time to catch up with Nigel Rowe, who filled me in on what he'd been up to over the past dozen or so years.
Someone whose name I don't recall sought me out to ask me about fanhistory. He was apparently working on something to do with French fandom and wanted a few pointers. We agreed to get together at some point to discuss this but never managed to do so, though I did give him one of the small number of print copies of RELAPSE Pete Weston had sent me to hand out to people who didn't get the pdf version and had never seen an issue before. Oddly, only a few months earlier I'd been contacted by a fan who was researching the history of German fandom and wanted me to point him in the right direction. Fortunately, I was able to do so. Though I suppose I am, I still haven't got used to being regarded as an expert authority on, well, anything.
It's a truism about conventions that while parties are often the most enjoyable part of the event they're also often the part you recall the least about the next day, probably because alcohol. This was certainly true for me for pretty much every night at CORFLU. Before leaving the party for my room around midnight, I recall sitting on the floor in the bedroom attached to the con suite surrounded by Ulrika, Suzle, and Carrie Root. This was a very agreeable position to be in, but what we talked about I haven't a clue.