Harold’s August vacation, day one—preparations

Thursday started out reasonably enough. It was a day for errands and laundry and such. The errands included the quest for tires… my car had desperately needed new ones. I thought I’d try CostCo… since they’re supposed to have all sorts of deals and stuff. And they did have tires for about $5-$10 less than what I’d seen elsewhere. But the membership costs $45, so it isn’t a win.


And, as it turns out, Sears had slightly less name-brand tires (Dunlops) that seem to work just fine, and were a lot ($25/tire) cheaper. The remainder of the day included exciting things like laundry, buying a mini-fridge to stick into the car, running gaming, and doing all the packing. I also got some batteries and film for the camera. I hope my old 35 mm camera still works… and I won’t find out until later. The film was relatively cheap, so I now have four 24 exposure containers to go through on this trip. Given how rarely I generally take pictures, it’s going to be a bit of a challenge to go through them all over this trip. We’ll see…


Shortly before going to sleep, I poked around on the web to find out what the Comicon schedule was going to be. See, one of my goals was to see if I could get my Buffy rug autographed by some of the cast. Sadly, Emma Caulfield (Anya) was going to be there on Friday, but I couldn’t get down there until Saturday and stick with my original plans to see people in L.A. But the good news is that Joss Whedon (series creator and really competent story teller) was going to be presenting at 3:30pm Sat. afternoon, so I could see him… and maybe try to get the rug signed. And Terry Moore, artist from Strangers In Paradise was presenting at 1:30pm… so I could see him, too, and find out what the deal is on him putting a picture of my other rug into the magazine.


I was sufficiently excited at the prospect of seeing Joss, and trying to figure out how to get him to sign the rug, that I had difficulty falling asleep. That and something I ate, I think…


Harold’s August vacation, day two—Off to LA!

After a fitful night sleep, I woke up at about 8 and got set to go. My original plan had been to get up a bit early… maybe 6 or 7, drive down to LA, wander around Rhythm & Hues and see people for a bit, then visit with Mike, Elaine, and Cassia, and stay overnight at Charles’ Malibu place. I figured it’d take about 5 hours to get to LA via the 5, and another hour to cross it, so I could have lunch with people at R&H, hang out around LA, and then move on to the dinner plans with lots of time to spare.


Unfortunately, with an 8am wakeup, that wasn’t going to happen. So I got myself together, said my final farewell to Einstein, and hit the road. Since I wasn’t going to have buckets of time to spare, I figured I’d take 101, since it’s much more scenic.


That drive went as expected. The view out the window was nice, and the driving was easy, most of the way down. I stopped in Solvang for gas and such… I was contemplating visiting the tourist trap stores, but decided against it. I took a few pictures out the window on the way down of cool mountain scenes and such. And a picture of the island off the coast (somewhere above Santa Barbara) that’s connected by a bridge that looks cool.


The first hint that something was wrong with my scheduling plan came at about 1:30 or so, when there was a brief traffic jam in Santa Barbara. It cleared up, and I made my way painlessly into the edge of the LA basin. I got to Thousand Oaks at about 2:30.


That’s when I hit the real traffic jam. See, I think I’ve blocked out of my memory how bad LA traffic really is. I know that every time I visit, I’m always late getting to Mike & Elaine’s to visit with them. But I never remember why.


It took two hours to get from Thousand Oaks to Rhythm and Hues in Marina del Rey. I was expecting about 1. 405 had bumper-to-bumper, stop and go traffic. When I got over the Sepulveda pass, I gave up on the freeway and took surface streets. With the help of my trusty LA street map, I made it through Santa Monica safely (driving past 14 Below, just to make sure that James Marsters (Spike on Buffy) wasn’t singing that night), and got to R&H at about 4:30. Since I was supposed to meet Mike & Elaine for dinner at 6, I figured that left me about a half hour to wander around.


As it turns out, you really can’t go home again. The building was the same, but I only found three or four people that I knew. Others were theoretically around, but I couldn’t find them. So I left a couple of messages on whiteboards and business cards under door frames, ran into Perry on the way out, and left at 5:15pm.


R&H is in Marina del Rey. Mike and Elaine live in Glendale. I knew enough not to take the freeway, and I figured that it’d take about an hour to make the drive on surface streets. At 5:45, when I’d only made it to Pico & Robertson, I knew my estimates were off, and I called Mike and Elaine to warn them that I’d be late meeting them… again… (I really need to work on that.)


Doing lots of cutting around in LA, I managed to get to their place at 6:45. At that point in the day, I’d spent about 5 hours driving freeways at reasonable speeds, and about 3.5 stuck in LA traffic. At several points in the process I commented to the world around me… or at least to my radio… that I really don’t like LA. The driving just sucks.


But I did get to Mike and Elaine’s intact. Charles was there, as expected. So was Cassia (Mike and Elaine’s almost-2 year old daughter). An added bonus was the presence of Ami Rintoul nee Choksi, and her 5-year old daughter Miranda. I hadn’t seen Ami in years… possibly since school. And I’d never met Miranda. There were kids everywhere… it was really cool. Cassia seemed to be shy, so I didn’t get to chat with her too much. But Mike and Elaine and Ami and Charles and I got to do some catching up.


We went to Clancy’s Crab House for dinner… which is the same place we went out to when I last visited a year ago. I’m starting to wonder if they’ve torn up all the sets for restaurants in Glendale, and this is the only one left. But dinner was nice. It was also some sort of jazz night, so halfway through dinner a jazz band started playing. They were pretty good… but also loud enough to step on the conversation. On the way back to Mike and Elaine’s, I got cold enough to catch a case of the shivers (ick). I’d packed a jacket for journeys to cold places, like North Dakota. I wasn’t expecting to need on in LA. Ah well.


We got back to Mike and Elaine’s, and I quickly got tired, so Charles and I wandered off to his place. He lives in the Malibu hills, so it was another 45 minute drive across town. Fortunately there was no traffic, so the drive was less stressful. His house is up and around in the hills… the drive was a lot of fun, in the same way that the driving video games are fun. And when we got to his house, I looked outside, and could see stars. In LA! Stars! Maybe even the Milky Way.


His house was pretty nice. Very spartan, but with tall ceilings and such. Apparently it was built using a particularly artistic architect. Charles and I sat up until 1am talking about life and such. And then I finally collapsed on his sofa bed mattress on the floor. (I usually find sofa bed frames really uncomfortable, but the mattresses work ok on the floor.)


Harold’s August vacation, day three—Comicon!

I woke up at around 8, showered, and went out to breakfast with Charles at about 9. In honor of vacation, I had hot chocolate and French Toast for breakfast (yum!). And I hit the road heading south at about 10. I figured that it’d be a little tight to catch Terry’s SiP presentation at 1:30pm, but it really shouldn’t take more than two hours and change to get from LA to San Diego.


Those of you reading carefully will note the sinister foreshadowing in the above statement.


PCH was clear. I-10 was clear. 405 had a couple of minor traffic snags, but was fairly clear once I got past LAX. Along the way, I saw an ad and turnoff for some sort of toll road to San Diego. I vaguely recalled hearing about some sort of private road being built. But the traffic was generally reasonable, so I figured it wouldn’t be necessary.


I-5 to San Diego sucked.


Basically, most of the trip, until actually getting to San Diego, was bumper-to-bumper, start-and-stop traffic. I still hate LA traffic. I really do. Leaving LA to live in the Bay Area was such a good idea. I mean, rush hour traffic on Saturday morning? Ick!


I didn’t actually get to San Diego until about 1:45. I eventually parked in the garage near one of the transfer stations. I also discovered, after my four-hour trip from LA, that there were no bathrooms available in the vicinity. After much frantic searching, I found one in a local homeless mission… The convention center is on the edge of a not particularly nice neighborhood of downtown. But no mishaps occurred, I got my rugs and camera together, and wandered to the convention center.


There was a bit of a nasty line for registration, but I got through it reasonably well. I even ran into Terry Moore in the hallway, but he was busy chatting with someone else and didn’t notice me waving the rug around again. No matter, I thought, I’d see him later.


With registration complete (at about 2:40), I wandered down to the show floor. I practically walked into the Abstract Studio booth… Terry wasn’t around, but I showed the SiP rug to the people in the booth, who were appropriately appreciative, as were the people standing around. Terry was supposed to be back to do autographs from 3-5, which was going to overlap a bit with Joss’ presentation, but I figured I’d catch him. I wanted to get a photo of him holding the rug, and to offer him another opportunity to get a picture of it for the comic. Terry’s wife was a bit confused by this; she was of the opinion that he’d already run a copy of the photo. So we were all confused, but I figured I’d ask Terry later.


I went upstairs at 3:15 to be sure I got a seat for Joss’ presentation. As it turned out, that wasn’t really necessary; the room was huge. Oh, and along the way, I found out that Joss was supposed to be spending an hour from 5-6 signing autographs. So I didn’t have to catch his eye during the show; I could just find him later.


The presentation before Joss’ was by Julius Schwarz and Ray Bradbury. I got to see Ray Bradbury! He was telling all sorts of old geezer stories, which were appropriately amusing.


Joss showed up afterwards, with lots of applause and such. He was as entertaining as ever, with a number of interesting Buffy bits… as well as a few scenes from Firefly (nothing too spectacular, IMHO. We’ll see how the real show works). Tidbits of note:

  • Faith will probably be back this year, in both Angel and Buffy.
  • Darla is very dead. Drusilla will probably return. The Gentlemen will not return. No straight answer was forthcoming about whether Amber would return, as Tara or someone else.
  • Episode 5 will include a flashback to earlier stuff in Anya’s life, including a song from the musical that we didn’t get to hear her sing.
  • The musical will be coming out on CD in mid-late September. (I subsequently promised Joss that I’d buy a copy, but that’s another story.)
  • It is uncertain whether or not SMG will return after season 7 is over. Joss commented that any of the ensemble characters could lead a show…
  • Waterworld wasn’t his fault. J
  • Joss was really tired.
  • While there may be brief moments of happiness coming for the Buffy characters, they won’t last.
  • Spike didn’t ask for a soul, but it was what he really wanted…


And then it was back to the show floor. I got in line to get a picture of Terry with the rug. He said that he actually received the photo of the rug that I e-mailed him, and was all set to run it in issue 52’s letter column, but the column ran long. I took a picture of him with the rug, and someone took a picture of both of us holding it. Terry will wait until I can send him one of those pictures, and then (hopefully) pick one to stick into SiP. –beam-


By the time I was done with Terry, there was a huge line waiting for Joss autographs. I showed the rug to the line, got appropriate oohs and aahs, and eventually an offer from my new-found long-lost friend Corina (sp? I wish I could remember names…) to join her in line. While chatting with her and her friends, I also learned that Amber Benson was signing autographs about 4 rows away… but with tickets required. I wandered over quickly to ask if I could get in line anyway, showing my rug and looking pitiful. The lady behind the counter said to come back later, and we’d see…


So I waited in line, chatting with people about Buffy and such. I kept showing the rug to people… and got a number of requests to take pictures of it, which was very gratifying. Joss eventually saw me holding it up in line, and did a wonderful double take… and then looked a bit frightened. I smiled. It was very amusing.


I eventually got up to the front of the line. He was amazed by the rug, and I talked a bit about how I made it. He asked me to back up with it. “Farther!” “Farther!” I leapt over a couple of chain fences holding autograph-requesters in queue, saying “Excuse me! Pardon me!” a lot. Joss stood up on the chair in his autograph area, so he could see it from far away. He was very amused.


I wandered back, and explained my fiendish plot to have everyone from the cast sign it. Joss signed it on the side, writing, “To Harold—This is the Frikkin’ Sistine Chapel—Joss Whedon”. I beamed. Pictures were taken of the two of us holding the rug. I sang my filk line from the musical for him, “I’ve got a theory / that Joss is dreaming / and we’re all stuck inside his wacky Broadway nightmare”, and he laughed. So apparently he hadn’t heard that one before. I also asked him if he’d be willing to sign my unofficial CD of the musical, and he looked shocked and said, “Bootleg?”, and then signed it. I beamed, thanked him for the entertainment, wished a moment of happiness for the characters (which he looked uncomfortable about) and then I said, “Well, at least a moment before you muck up their lives again”, which seemed a bit more satisfactory.


Then I asked Corina, just to check, if she might happen to be Jewish and single. Alas, she was neither, but was apparently flattered by the question. Somewhere along the line I gave her my card, and asked her to remember me in case she met anyone appropriate and in fandom. One can never tell.


She followed me over to Amber’s signing area, where they were just finishing up. I looked appropriately pitiful at the person who was controlling the line, and he said he’d let me in. Amber eventually saw the rug, looked stunned, and went back to autographing. About ten minutes later, she finished up, and signed the rug. She mentioned how this gave a whole new meaning to people’s comments about her being a rug-muncher. I thanked her for the entertainment, and moved on.


It was about 6:30pm. The floor was going to close at 7. With Corina following behind, I ran through as much of the Golden Age booths as I could, looking for Actions. I found four that I liked enough to buy in various places before time ran out. And I managed to flip through all the books in the Golden Age session before I left, so I didn’t think I missed anything.


Then it was back to pick up the car. Since the machine used for paying for parking only gave change in quarters, I’m now the proud possessor of 68 quarters. I’ll find something to do with them.


On the way out of town, I tried stopping at a hotel cluster to see if there was somewhere local I could stay, so I could go to the parties and such. Apparently I was feeling in a social mood. But the desk clerk claimed that there wasn’t a hotel room available at his hotel, or anywhere in San Diego as far as he knew. I sighed, and hit the road.


I’m staying (and writing this summary) at a random Best Western in El Centro, about halfway between San Diego and Yuma (at the California/Arizona border). There’s a treadmill downstairs to exercise at. And this is definitely desert territory; the air outside was pleasantly in the high 80’s, even at 10 at night.


Now it’s time to figure out where to go from here…