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The Week That Was

First, hooray — I was a good citizen about working on the book this week, and I’m on track for finishing the new material by the end of the month. Another week to put together the brightest, shiniest synopsis and cover letter I can manage, and it will be ready to go out well before my next access to 8 1/2 x 11 and domestic U.S. postage.

What else? Oh, I did lose a night working on the book when this kept me in Manchester on Thursday night.

See, I head up there about once a week for work. It’s about the same commute as L.A. to San Diego or D.C. to Philadelphia.

I should have I figured the commute was not meant to be when I stepped out of my building and was nearly knocked down by a gust of wind.

But I figured, you know, it’s wind. It’ll stop.

Well, yeah — bad call, that.

I ended up spending the night at the Manchester Airport Hilton. No overnight kit, of course. The hotel hooked me up with a toothbrush and toothpaste and the other basics. Discovery: it turns out that mornings are pretty easy if you have no hair products / styling equipment and no make up to put on and no decisions to make about your wardrobe. I was ready to leave the room 15 minutes after I got out of bed at 5:30 AM. It was like I suddenly endowed with Virtual Manhood.

Anyway, the whole exercise of spontaneous lodging got me thinking about how many different places I’ve crashed in the last year. So on the slow train back to London I made a list. The answer is twenty-three. Most of those are hotels, the others are the homes of friends and family I stayed with while traveling. Three of them are home-like enough that I’ve, say, unpacked more than one suitcase and changed a light bulb (one each in Seattle, D.C., and London).

Is this good? Bad? Natural? Unhealthy? No idea. It just Is, I guess.

Bet Me

Bet me a dollar I’ve never shared a Table of Contents with Susan Sontag, Don DeLillo, Stephen Greenblatt, and Harold Bloom.

Go on, bet me.

You lose.

Yeah, I’m surprised, too. Really surprised. Unpleasantly surprised, despite the illustrious company in the TOC. The book was published in 1999, and I just found out I was in it.*

It goes like this: back in 1993-1995 I was in the dramaturgy program at the American Repertory Theatre’s Institute for Advanced Theatre Training. Part of that training included producing newsletter articles and program notes for the plays we worked on.

A few of the things I wrote while a student at the Institute have been out on ART’s website for years (here and here, for example) and I have no problem with that. The newsletters and programs were free, the website can be accessed for free, and the website promotes the theatre in the same way the newsletters did.

But putting that same material in a book and then selling the book for $28.95, with their own copyright notice at the front but no notice of individually held copyright for each contributor, well, that’s different.

I suppose they could argue the newsletter article was work-for-hire, although there was no contract involved and I didn’t get paid for the articles I wrote. Quite the contrary: I was paying ART for the privilege of attending the Institute. I’m still paying off the student loans, as a matter of fact.

Don’t get me wrong: it’s keen they picked my article for inclusion in the book. There are interviews with Milan Kundera and David Mamet in it, for fuck’s sake. I am honored to have my little article in this book. But not being notified, let alone asked? Come on. The permanent address on file with the Institute was still valid in 1999. Hell, it’s still valid now. That means they didn’t even make an attempt to contact me before using my work.

If back in 1999 someone had said, “Hey, we want to put your article in a book, sign this!” I would have said, “Cool, thanks!” and signed. I probably wouldn’t even have had the sense to ask for a contributor’s copy, let alone a token payment for the rights.

But now? Now I’m pissed. Flattered, and pissed. Turns out it’s possible to be both at the same time.

And you know, really, it’s not about the money — I can’t image they’ve sold many copies of the book, and my pro rata share the authors’ cut of any profit means they probably owe me, what, a dollar? Twenty bucks? An apology? Do they owe me an apology? I don’t know; I’m still trying to determine my pisssed-to-flattered ratio. I’ll decide what to do once I’ve got that worked out.

* By a weird coincidence, the TOC also includes an article by Elizabeth C. Ramírez, a faculty member and one of my M.F.A. advisors at the University of Oregon. In fact, the book was probably being assembled while I was still showing up at Liz’s office once a week to talk about my adaptation of Doctor Faustus. I wonder if she knows she’s in ART’s book?

Harry Potter and the Wunch of Bankers*

I finally got around to watching the new Harry Potter trailer, and had to pause it at the opening shot because that camera is going through my neighborhood. Tweak the angle a little, and that’s pretty much the view out my windows. The direness of the scene made me think it was Voldemort’s POV, perhaps on his way to work at the Credit Suisse building. Yes, yes, I know, that’s totally out of line. Everybody knows Voldemort works for HSBC.

Anyway, the closing shot shows broomed Harry on the same flight path, chased or chasing or just headed into town for Equus rehearsals, I don’t know.

* A wunch is the slang plural for a group of bankers, like a pod of whales or a murder of crows. If you haven’t spotted the joke, it lies in transposing the initial letters. Not that I ever sit in meetings and think to myself, “What a wunch of bankers!”

I’m Back

I’m writing this at the close of a weekend spent cleaning, nesting, and writing. Ahhh. Let me say it again: ahhhhhhh.

The writing was mostly correspondence and notes, but now the decks are cleared for the remainder of month. The freeze starts now: no personal travel, no visitors, no exploring the city. It’s just me and the laptop for the next fifteen days. This is a test. If I don’t have work ready to send out at the end of the month, I’ve failed. And if I fail, I have to change something.

Frankly I’m a little sick of change right now, so it’s just easier not to fail.

There. Now that I’ve gone on the record with my intentions, I can share the news that “Just Do It” has been picked for David G. Hartwell and Kathryn Cramer’s Year’s Best SF 12.

Way to bury the lead, huh?

This is, of course, ultra super duper cool, but it’s also a kick in the pants…there’s just something not-quite-right about re-selling the same story twice in a row with nothing new in between. If being in YBSF is a laurel, it’s pointy and poking me in the ass and there will be no resting on it.

Which is not a bad thing.

Go Go Golfcart!

Okay, I lied — I couldn’t spend much of my limited time in Seattle online. But hey, guess what? I am now rocking out in my apartment with dial-up, courtesy my DSL provider while (get ready for the shocker) BT fixes whatever the hell is wrong with the broadband connection. It’s like lending somebody a golf cart while their Ferrari is in the shop, but I’m so desperate I’m tooling around town in my golf cart, shouting at passersby, “Hey! Dig my golf cart! It rolls baby!”

So no pictures up until the Ferrari’s back, but at last I can send and receive e-mail at home. Woohoo!

Burn, Baby, Burn

Well, it’s 9:30 p.m. GMT, and the nearest internet access is in a hotel bar featuring cigar smoke, businessmen who can’t hold their liquor, and mad, mad, maddening Eurobeats. This explains why I never catch up on my e-mail.

I’m off to Seattle tomorrow, then it’s on to SoCal a couple of days later. Add in the trip to Marrakech last weekend (where I outlined a story that gave me The Feeling, as in The Feeling That This Story Could Find a Home Outside My Laptop, as in I Actually Know How It Ends), and I’ve got 31 hours on a plane inside two weeks. I think the word I’m looking for is “Yipes”. Or maybe “Gigantic Irresponsible Carbon Footprint”. Oh, wait — that’s four words.

Anyway, Seattle = internet access, so if I owe you e-mail, expect one soon.

Also, I’m gonna burn a hole in my Flickr account with stuff like this:


So hey, Escape Pod accepted “Just Do It” for podcastification. Which is super duper nifty.

Also, I’ve concluded my current battle with BT and have signed up for ADSL broadband with one of their competitors. So now they can do battle with BT, since BT still owns the phone lines. If all goes well, it’ll be 7-10 days until I have internet access (glorious, glorious internet access) from home.

I Should Just Start Planning for an Extra Day

So here I am posting from an internet cafe on Parliament Street, back after a visit to Dublin Airport, where I found out that my flight to London has been cancelled due to weather. Apparently 3,000 people are headed back into the city looking for accomodation. Thank you, E, for letting me crash with you one more night. I’m developing the theory that the difference between a disaster and an adventure is a comfortable place to sleep.

More later, because it seems wrong to sit here and write about Dublin when I should be out running around in Dublin, wind and rain be damned.

Where the Boys Are to Be Avoided

S arrived in London on the 17th, and adventures commenced that very night. The first took place at a pub called Waxy’s Little Sister, and could be called the Adventure of the Singing Midlander and His Drunken Middle Aged Daughter. It was surpassed by its sequel, the Curious Incident of the Men in Matching Shirts and Their Pal with Ming the Merciless Facial Hair, which went as follows:

Matching Shirt 1 eyes S while MS2 stands back and watches as Pointy Beard scampers around the bar.

I, creeped out by the lot of them, declare, “If Matching Shirt Guy comes over here I’m sticking my tongue in your mouth.”

S laughs so hard she has to put her head down on the bar. MS1 assumes this means she is totally smashed and decides it’s time to make his move (ooh, classy). I consider making good on my threat, but S is still face-down on the bar, laughing. Also, it would probably just encourage him.

Then begin many minutes of MS1 trying to convince S to go with him to the bathroom (again: classy!) while Pointy Beard darts in and out of the conversation and MS2 watches, watches. Note that there is no menace among them, just an enduring air of sleaze.

Then we left.

The next day started civilly enough at the British Museum, and ended civilly, too, because the man at the pub by Tower Bridge was a gent compared to the Creepy Trio. After a polite if disjointed conversation that included Al Capone, the Krays, and Elvis, he asked which part of London I worked in. I told him, and he confessed that he went there Wednesday lunchtimes to check out the women (apparently he has a rotation around London, different areas on different days). Somehow this confession was refreshing, and not gross. But maybe that was just relative to the previous night.

Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday was theatre, theatre, theatre. We saw Caroline, Or the Change, the new Tony Kushner play; Kevin Spacey in Moon for the Misbegotten; and Wicked. Wicked was good (heh), but I had more fun at Spamalot last month. Caroline was better, but didn’t live up to the hype I’d been exposed to. Moon for the Misbegotten was great, and Mr. Spacey did a damn fine job of not overpowering the rest of the cast, mostly because they — Eve Best as Josie and Colm Meaney (yes, Star Trek fans, that Colm Meaney) as her father — were damn fine themselves.

This is perhaps a good time to mention the invention of the Eugene O’Neill Play Drinking Game, wherein when a character takes a drink, you take a drink. This would yield a mere mild buzz in the first act of the performance of Moon we saw, but the second act yields alcohol poisoning (and would cost, like, a thousand dollars if you were buying your bourbon at the Old Vic bar).

Thursday morning we went to Paris. Via Luton, because I thought that was the small airport twenty minutes from my apartment by DLR. It isn’t. It really, really isn’t. Fate will be cruel indeed if it ever makes me go through Luton again. But at least now I know the locations of all five London area airports, as well as their relative pain-in-the-ass-ness. London to Paris via Luton was relatively inexpensive, but took four and a half hours of travel time.

Why didn’t we take the train, at a convenient two and a half hours? The equivalent of $500 per ticket, that’s why.

Paris, however…ahhhh. It was my first visit, a short visit, and additional visits will be required. We stayed near St-Michel Notre-Dame, and did our Thursday wandering in the Latin Quarter. On Friday we went to Montmartre and climbed up to Sacré Coeur for the view. Happy sigh.

But back to the title of this post:

On Friday the young waiter who served us lunch brought complimentary drinks at the end of the meal, then got all weird and shy. The even younger waiter at dinner should have gotten weird and shy, but didn’t. He followed me into the bathroom and asked for a kiss. Seriously, Men of Europe, I ask you: what is it with bathrooms? Then he did the same to S. Then he gave us each one of his glossy black business cards featuring his name followed by a trademark symbol.*

Then we left.

Then, already delayed, we got on the wrong train, and by the time we figured it out we were almost certainly beyond any hope of getting to the airport on time.

The next flight was at 9:45 a.m., and because this princess will not be sleeping in the airport while she has a credit card tucked in her tiara, I marched right to the nearest cheap airport hotel and got us a room. And that was where we encountered the aforementioned Richard Burton movie, which I now strongly suspect to be Bluebeard.

And now you know what I’ve been up to.

This week will be devoted to getting my flat in order (including further attempts at internet access) and writing. E is working in Dublin this week, and I’m headed over to visit him on Friday night. Two weeks after that I’m spending a couple of days in Marrakech because, well, because I can. And I will take notes for the pupae-stage Mayfly novel while I’m there, as I’ll be doing in Dublin…although setting a catastrophic food shortage in Dublin might be laying the historical resonances on a bit thick. But that remains to be seen.

* M and I discussed the idea of him calling M. Bains, claiming he found the card in my purse and flying into a jealous, threatening rage. That’d learn ‘im.

A Quick One Before the Café Closes

Still no internet access at home…no wonder I have the shakes.

I’m on my way home to write an honest-to-goodness post and not just a little postlet, but in the meantime I’ll leave you with something that occurred to me after a scene from a still-unindentified Richard Burton film:

Is there such a thing as necroplatonia? Like, you know, if you really enjoy hanging out with the dead, but you’re “just not attracted to them in that way”?