Another year, another dragon*con. The closest thing I have to an annual vacation. 5 days in Atlanta with friends and 50,000 additional crazy people. Less dancing on my part, this year, for various reasons. It’s a strange time… always seems to include fun, friends, tragedy, illness, food, lust, costumes, and more. There’s the old and cranky people, and the young and crazy. The obsessive, and the laid back. But you know… despite being 4 days full of often intoxicated, sleepless, hyped up people, everyone I have ever met there — in the halls, in the events, in the rooms, in the elevators — they have all been friendly and happy. That’s kinda weird.
Another year of Dragon*Con has come and gone. I think I have mostly recovered, now. Though I still haven’t completely unpacked.
What was new this year, for me? New people, as always. (Tiny, drunk lesbians. Impossibly sweet, little, Indian woman. The lady with the most awesome job ever. “Don’t panic” girl.) And dancing each night until 6am. (Well… white guy “dancing”). Hearing Bruce Schneier, Alice Cooper, James Randi, Anthony Michael Hall, Billy West, and David Prowse speak. Nothing really special from the vendors this year… a couple pins and some pieces of art. Though there was an awesome gift for a friend, found in the artists’ alley.
As always, the real enjoyment for me is relaxing with friends and taking pictures.
On my way back from a family picnic in NY. Looking at the photos… my family is so very white.
The family reunion was at the bass club in San Angelo again this year. Same old everything, but that’s kind of the point. Took Heidi. Family likes her better than they like me. But they’re quite disappointed to learn i’m not gay.
So one of my dream locations to photograph would be the shipbreaking beaches in India or Pakistan. When oceanliners, tankers, and cargo ships get too old to operate any more, they beach them in these places, and workers chop them to bits.
This isn’t clean, or safe, or tidy. These are people with no safety gear, in one of the most polluted places on earth, doing dangerous work. It’s the tail end of the commercial world. It’s the stuff every cyberpunk story is built upon.
Speaking of which, I missed a dream shot on Friday, in a decidedly less hostile environment. On the way home from seeing a movie — fittingly Bill Cunningham New York — I saw it. It must have been about 11:30 at night, when we walked past the H&M store in downtown DC. The business core of DC tends to turn into a ghost town around 6pm. So by that time of night — on a Friday no less — it should have been empty. But in the store, right near the doors, was a lone worker. She was sitting on the floor next to a white platform, and a little zone of light in an otherwise dark salesfloor. She was pulling white fluffy … things… out of a box. She’d puff them up, and place them on the platform. It was surreal and monotonous at the same time. And the sparse color palette and dramatic range of light made it all the more interesting to me.
Of course, for like the first time in forever, I had left the house without a camera. Poo.
But those are some of the points that floated to the surface, when I consider the whirlwind stew of crowds, panels, badges, Diet Cokes, swishy skirts, feathery hairpieces, earplugs, DragonCon TV, people-watching, masquerades, escalators, fountains, cheers, novelty tee shirts, kilts, stompy boots, steampunks, goths, fairies, mostly naked people, Krispy Kreme donuts, squinting at small print, shouting to nab the attention of friends, hanging off balconies, photobombing by accident, photobombing on purpose, nachos at Moe’s, the Hyatt bar, the smokers’ pavilion, the tracks, the joys, the trials, the confusions, the rewards, the unfortunate costumes, the brilliant costumes, the friends and the foes and the people who become your new best friends in the elevators, the mundanes who had NO IDEA wtf was going on they were just here for a football game OH GOD, air mattresses, corsets, hairspray, rum, devil babies, angel babies, running out of time, shopping for goodies, trolling for schwag, handing out handbills, trying to stash all the business cards and CDs and postcards that people handed me while I wasn’t carrying a bag, and trying to sound intelligent for hours at a time against all odds.
– Cherie Priest, DragonCon: The Recap
Things that strike me about Geneva every time I visit:
- trees, trees, trees
- slate sidewalks
- greeting strangers
- they big sky
- the big fucking lake
- children playing on the sidewalks
- Queen Anne’s Lace
- names ending in vowels
- the smell of fresh, green air
Click on any photo to be taken to the full set.
(Questions or comments about why so many pictures have attractive women in them, will probably be answered with “duh”)
Spent last weekend in Atlanta at Dragon*con. This was my second time down there, and my first time when I wasn’t obscenely sick. As expected, it was a lot of fun… a wonderful weekend. Got to see and do so much more, and spend time with a much wider range of friends.
What is it, this Dragon*con? Imagine every geek, nerd, dork, and freak you’ve ever met. Now multiply that by about 1,000 times. Send them all to Atlanta for 4 days of presentations on books, movies, tv, comics, and general pop culture; and make sure they have freaky costumes. 50,000 people. 4 hotels. Oh my.
Went to presentations by Lance Henrickson, Brad Dourif, George Takei, the cast of Firefly. Somehow managed to not buy a damn thing, despite hundreds of vendors. Went out to several REALLY good dinners. Took two trips to the Sundial, a rotating bar at the top of the tallest building in Atlanta, with amazing views. Spent lots of time with friends.
And I will so be back next year.
In a few hours, I leave for a convention in Atlanta. Thank gawd. Need to get away from work and idiots. Better to be surrounded by drunks and geeks and crazy people. (And those are just the friends I’m going with).
Back home, tuesday.
(Try and rob my house and Pixel will pee on you. Besides, I take everything of any value with me… the laptop, the camera, etc. Unless you want a stereo that hasn’t worked right in years.)
Last time I went:
I will travel.
I have some money right now. I want to spend it on travel, before I spend it on something silly like bills or food.
I can and will go anywhere in the world.* But… because I don’t relish the thought of a bus tour where you ride for 4 hours, get out and take pictures, ride for 4 hours, get out and take pictures… I kind of have a problem. Since I don’t drive, I either need to go someplace small or with excellent public transportation, or I need to go with a friend who drives.
So… does anyone have any thoughts about either? Does anyone want to travel this year, with company?
And even if you don’t… I’d love to hear suggestions for trips. I have a few places I’ve considered, (Scotland and Denmark, for family background; Indonesia for friends and cool places, Hong Kong, Singapore, and almost anywhere in the US.).
Have you ever been to New York City? I have, at least four times. And I like it. Just don’t tell anyone I know, because that could get me in trouble. I’m central NY, born and raised. But New York City just doesn’t come up spontaneously in discussions among “upstate” New Yorkers. Like some blemish you hope no one will notice if you don’t mention it. But I’m sure I can trust you to keep my secret.
I was back again, this past weekend; again visiting my friend Indri. She wanted to see an exhibit at the American Museum of Natural History, and who would I be to turn down a beautiful lady who asked me to show her lizards?!
It was very hard for me to come back from NYC. We essentially spent two days wandering around manhattan, on foot. No Times Square. No Rockafeller Center. We kept to the ass end of the island… Chinatown, the West Village, and surrounding areas. It was absolutely everything I love about city life, and everything that is being weeded out of DC. NYC* is the first city I’ve ever been to with the ability to generate and maintain it’s own culture. And you can absolutely see it in the faces of the people you pass. Here they are, living in this incredible collection of relatively ancient monoliths, immersed in the most active, vibrant communities I’ve ever seen, and yet these are the most down-to-earth people I’ve met. I’ve been out west, and I’ve been to the south, and I live in DC, and I can see why New Yorkers have a reputation for being mean. They have a strong directness combined with the ability to ignore anything that isn’t part of their immediate life.
I loved walking into store fronts, and finding a designer hawking his own clothing line. Or a cafe that doesn’t know the meaning of the word Starbucks. Breakfast on Sunday was at this great little restaurant … somewhere I can’t remember. Ice cream in Chinatown. Tofu from a man dishing it out of huge pots set into grocery carts on the street. And neighborhoods filled with real people walking down the streets with their friends.
The people. Holy hell, the people! I actually felt safer in NYC than in DC. Not because of any respective amount of crime. But there are just so many people on the street in NYC at every moment of the day, that any criminal would have to be incredibly brazen. And those aren’t the kind of crimes you can worry about. In relative contrast, DC seems almost dead. Our huge sidewalks spend more time empty than even partially used. And outside of one or two holidays, they’re never jammed with people. When I come home from late nights out, The six block walk from the subway to my apartment is always alone. I might pass 1 or 2 other people if I’m lucky, including the hookers.
And the architecture in NYC makes me smile. So much of it comes from times when building was still a craft instead of an occupation. As if the whole city was carved out of rock by a million different artists working spontaneously. No two buildings are the same, and no two facades look alike. And everywhere you go, you can find these little anomalies tucked away where you least expect them.
It really was an amazing weekend, just immersing myself in this beehive of life, and activity, and colors, and smells… . If Indri wouldn’t kill me in my sleep, I’d probably never leave her apartment to come back here.
But I came back, and I wasn’t particularly happy about it. Driving back into this city was like having a cold, wet blanket thrown over me. The streets are deserted. Ominous people lurk randomly on the corner, waiting to intimidate someone. It’s a city that was built for the express purpose of imposing it’s will on other people.If New York CIty is ‘experience’, then Washington, DC is “ambition”. For the next two days, I couldn’t believe I had enjoyed the weekend so much, and yet it was now so far away.
Welcome to DFW airport. Not the same old Airport. Just the same old airport.
The accommodations are certainly nicer than they used to be. Clean, new carpets. The chairs have all been replaced over the last few years. The walls sparkle with an anesthetic whiteness that doesn’t make you think of a damn thing. Each terminal is still the size of a small third world country. But the signage is usually effective enough to keep you well informed about where you need to run.
Technology seems to be gaining a slow, grudging place in the endless corridors. Samsung has littered flat-screen TVs throughout the halls, broadcasting a nonstop feed of CNN. Internet is a joke, with just the occasional T-Mobile “hotspot”. “Executive kiosks” and web terminals sprout up here and there. DFW is immense enough that providing access in any form would be a major undertaking. But really… stick up a couple hundred repeating wifi routers above the drop ceilings. And plug it in to a redundant series of dedicated lines. Even a bandwidth bill of a couple thousand dollars a month would probably be less than what an institution like DFW pays for toilet paper in a month. But at least I have decent cell reception here, which I didn’t at Washington National.
I rode the new people-mover for the first time. The cars are larger, and much, much faster than the old trams. (I remember ticking off the minutes in my head as I imagined my connecting flight climbing into the air while I was still hoping to make it around a corner).
The choices for food are miserable. More so than even most mall food courts. Big cities tend to pride themselves on their airports, filling the halls with regional promotions, and information kiosks staffed by senior citizens in “traditional” costumes. So why is “Chili’s” about as exotic as the food gets? Does no one want to run a real restaurant with a guaranteed source of customers? Do you really want to only feed greasy food to people who are about to be locked in a small metal tube for 5 hours? (Maybe if they put coin locks on the bathroom doors…)
The intersections between terminals is a bit scary. I wandered from an intermittently populated B Terminal, into a zone so packed with travelers looking
lobotamized traumatized, that you almost feel like you’re in the middle of an evacuation. But in this case, the lines are all pointed in, with people being ushered through security checkpoint to join the fray.
Gates may or may not be staffed. I’ve been here for about two hours, and have seen the ticket counter staff rotate in and out at least a half dozen times. A line formed, at one point, out beyond the rubber band barricades, while the only employee to be seen was cringing with his back to the customers, and head hung low, punching numbers on a handheld device, but not really seeming to do anything.
There is something so wrong about sitting here on a Friday night in my pajamas, doing nothing.
I should have painted. Or at least sketched. (God forbid I should go out). But I was full of self-pity, so I played video games instead. Games are my little mental anesthesia. I feel completely brain dead by the time I’m done. Bad for art. Good for distress.
You know… I think I’m starting to understand the New York City subways a bit. The first step, as with anything else, is to discard your ideas of how complicated they are in the first place. All human interaction with our environment is based on symbols. So trying to figure out things like traffic patterns and transit networks is no different. If one level of information is too complex, make it more abstract. (In my home town, I would watch every car on the street to decide what to do. Here in DC, I watch the lanes.) Once I’m on the train, I’m set. But… you know… figuring out how to get to the right train? I’m completely fucked. So I still gotta work on that.
Did I mention I was in NYC again last weekend?
I was dragged out there by a brutal woman who didn’t care how busy I was.
I was dragged out there by a beautiful woman who I’d been anxious to see now that she was ‘free’ again from visitors.
As much of a panic as they caused me, I really do love the Chinatown busses. They ferry people literally from the streets of one city to the streets of another. No terminals. No kiosks. No signs. No uniforms. Pay $17.50 and you’ll be 300 miles away by the time anyone notices. Okay… I probably should have thought more about how crowded a Friday afternoon shuttle was going to be. But still… I caught the second bus I tried for, and was only about 2 and a half hours behind schedule. The Washington Deluxe route lets you off at 34th and 8th; right across from the New Yorker hotel. This was the first place I ever stayed in NYC. It has a certain freaky grandeur. The neighborhood scared the shit out of me back then. But time has changed the place, and Friday night in that little corner of Manhattan is loud and bright. Busier, in fact, than during the day. (I’d had paranoid day dreams about sparsely populated sidewalks leaving me standing out like a purple elephant, with a sign saying “mug the tourist”.)
We went into Brooklyn on this trip, to see a jazz concert at the music conservatory. Apparently I’m working my way through the city one borough at a time. I can see what so many long-time NYC residents like about Brooklyn, though. What tiny bits I caught sight of through the rain (and rain, and rain, and rain…) and greasy taxi windows reminded me of all the character of Manhattan, but shrunk down to a human scale. (Well… once you’re away from the bridges, anyway). I actually felt safer walking to the subway after the show there, than I do most places in DC after dark. Could have just been blissful ignorance, though.
Earlier that afternoon, we went to the MoMA, to see the Pixar exhibit. The exhibit itself was fun, and certainly makes me want to see some of their movies that I’ve missed. But I was mostly impressed by some of the pre-production artwork. I was surprised how many early character designs were done as traditional collages. I haven’t seen anyone use the technique for practical purposes in what must be forever. (No. Photoshop doesn’t count.) Other than that, I probably enjoyed the color studies the most. Blocking out entire movies in highly abbreviated, highly abstracted scenes on long scrolls of paper. This great, super-condensed chunk of pop culture and art and motion and…
I got to indulge my New York City fetish on the way home, as we walked through Koreatown and stopped to pick up dinner from Madison Square Garden. Did I mention I have a serious thing for Asian pears? But since they’re roughly the size of a softball and weigh over a pound each, I didn’t think packing them home on the bus was going to work. At least not with my backpack already full of shit.
I pick on Indri, for sleeping late and taking so long to get ready to go out. In DC, thats a very ‘suburban’ thing. But until I sat here writing, tonight, it didn’t occur to me how much we did once the day finally geared up. Up through Rockafeller Center, MoMA, Koreatown, Dinner, Concert, Movie. That is very NOT suburban. And that was just us, having a slow weekend, and a sick host to boot.
My only deep regret is a lack of photos. The weather outside was primarily miserable the entire weekend. Friday and Saturday were all about rain, and Sunday was cold enough to stop me in my tracks, literally. A few pictures of Indri, of course. But otherwise, nothing. I really need to go back when the weather is less horrid, and I have time to wander.
A couple little addendums to my last entry.
The other thing you should know about Indri is that besides the whole “disgustingly cute” thing, (which she is apparently not going to let me forget), she is disturbingly smart as well. Smart enough that if she let it show, she wouldn’t appear anywhere near innocent. But beneath every puzzled look and cute grin, there’s another question that belies the engines churning away inside her head. And while she may not seem to always like being an adult, her reactions show an acute self-awareness and consciousness of everything she does.
If she’s anything like me, that probably drives her a bit crazy.
And then there’s New York City. Addendum Two. I think had been about five years since my last visit, and changes were visible. We arrived in Manhattan through the Lincoln tunnel, which comes out pretty close to the place I stayed the first time I visited, so I was able to immediately compare. That area just west of the Empire State Building has built up with traditional commerce a bit more. New movie theatre. More restaurants. Signs of life. SO for much of the city I saw. Certainly Starbucks has exploded since my last visit. More banks. More shops. Most of the national chains for just about any industry you care to mention. But what I love — what makes this New York City — is that even with all that, it’s still just a drop in the bucket. There’s just so much squeezed into every last inch of this city that even if every national chain of every possible industry opened a storefront in every square mile, it wouldn’t begin to fill all the businesses. In some places, the store fronts go three stories high. Indri, who’s been there for two years now (?) was saying how she still frequently finds new places when she goes out on the street.
Okay… maybe that wasn’t a short addendum.
Okay. Here’s another New York City thing for you. It’s dirty. It’s worn. It’s lived in.
And that really feels soooo good.
In most of the well travelled areas of DC, you’d be lucky to find a building that was older than 30 years, or hadn’t been significantly remodeled in that time. (The Washington Monument requires a complete face-lift every 8 years, or it starts to deteriorate. No joke.) We have people running machines that do nothing but take bubblegum off the sidewalk. Billboards are regulated nearly out of existence. Everything is square and anonymous. Soot and stains are sandblasted off at regular intervals. Vacant old-time department stores are remodeled into wonderful new office complexes. It doesn’t feel like people live here. It feels like people are here as an afterthought to the city. (Which is pretty close to the historical truth).
Whereas New York City bleeds people. You could never question it’s “lived-in” status. I looked at an ornate door handle in a lobby, that must have been at least 60 years old. It was on the door to the staff toilet. I’ve never seen a better example of organized chaos than Manhattan streets, especially after dark. The buildings are all from an age that remembered art wasn’t something in a museum, and design wasn’t just for brochures. There’s a visual maelstrom of shapes and sizes, between the buildings, and the parks, and the stuff that fills the cracks.
I read an article once talking about how Star Wars, when it came out in the ’70s, it was so accessible because it showed a grimy, lived-in future that reflected our own world, where so much of the sci-fi of the last 30 years had told us the future would be sanitized and soundtracked for our protection, (a la Star Trek). So if Washington DC is Star Trek, then New York City is Star Wars.
I actually thought this stuff about Indri and New York City would be brief. I had much more to say about work, and personalities, and cultural underpinnings. But it’s after midnight, and I’m starting to get tired. So go away and leave me alone until another night.
in case it wasn’t painfully obvious, I survived the rapids.
Okay… I seriously need to get my brain checked. I’m just now starting to fully recover from fracturing my right ankle.
So to celebrate I am going tubing down a river that includes Class 3 rapids.
I’m sure it would be easier to just step out into traffic.
So I survived Rochester, though with some lack of sleep. At one thirty this morning I was sitting in a Denny’s in New York finishing a strawberry milkshake. An hour later I went to sleep (again). Twelve hours later I was back in DC at work.
Was a great weekend, seeing a bunch of my old friends. With Jethro and Tera getting married… very sweet but makes me feel all the worse about my love life. Jaime and Kris’s kid has gotten so damn big, (but so damn cute too)
Rochester seems more different every time I visit. The city itself isn’t changing, but the differences are more noticable. It’s supposed to be the third largest city in New York, but it’s all so spread out. The edges of the city are boondocks material.
A nice retreat from the energizer bunny of citys that is the District.
I’m wondering why I have this log/journal in a directory called “intellectual”, when most of these ramblings seem to be pretty ‘chain-of-consciousness’.
I got this great book in the mail on Friday. I bought it on an eBay auction. It’s a history of my hometown, published in the 1930’s. It’s illustrated with all these great woodcuts of local landmarks. I tried posting a picture of it here on Friday, but blogger was acting up. Wiped out my whole post.
Whenever I go from Washington to New York, I pass through a small — very small — town in Pennsylvania called Canton. Nothing particularly stands out about the place. It’s population probably only numbers in the hundreds, or a couple thousand at best. I didn’t see any national chain stores or big business.
What I did see, when driving through last year, was a sheet of paper stapled to the utility pole. All it said was “yard sale. across from high school”.
It may just have been nostalgia from growing up in a small town, but this sign fascinated me. I can’t imagine anymore living in a place so secluded and rural.
Maybe it brought home to me how much my own life has changed. I once was part of that life that now seems so foriegn to me.
I’m certian that small town life and all it’s experiences is still in me, if for no other reason than how much the sight of Canton appeals to me every time I drive through.