Rough Draft Complete!

I finished the rough draft of the sequel to Aluminum Leaves yesterday.

It is a rough draft, but not that rough. Maybe it’s closer to a first draft. How about a 0.5 draft?

It’s called Copper Road and I’m pleased to report that some of the action actually happens on the story-world’s Copper Road, a caravan route.

I’m thrilled to have it all on the page, even if it is bit like bread dough that has risen and risen and is oozing over the sides of the pan. At least it holds together (I think) and it can be shaped.

What happens? Erin and Trevian must locate the portal that let the nasty pink parasites through into Trevian’s world. They hope to permanently close it. Things don’t always go according to plan, though.

Meanwhile, Trevian’s sister Aideen tries to hold her family and her family’s company together after her father has a serious accident, and someone stages a takeover of the company. Soon, Aideen is running out of options.

What can you expect? Here’s a list.

  • Ambushes and bandits
  • Flash floods
  • Enigmatic caverns
  • Two love stories
  • Parasites! Magic! Horses!
  • Double crosses and desperate plans
  • Boardroom skull-duggery
  • Old books and Hello Kitty
  • Chocolate.

See anything you like?

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The Portolan Project

One of the little joys of attending a convention is that I always learn something brand new to me. This year at FOGCon, on the Archive panel, I learned about Portolan maps. First drawn in the 13th century, portolan maps existed primarily to guide pilots safely from one harbor to another. Thus, they rarely mapped the interior of a landmass.

The idea of maps designed to guide explorers to a safe harbor caught the imagination of Mary Ann Mohanraj, who was one the Guests of Honor. She had already founded the Speculative Fiction Foundation. Having discovered portolan maps, she imagined a Portolan Project, designed to help emerging writers in the speculative fiction field navigate.

In the project’s own words:

“We’re also interviewing emerging writers from across the planet, developing a better understanding of the international speculative fiction landscape, and the challenges and opportunities for writers in both independent and traditional publishing. We have academics helping us build a searchable database of speculative literature, to make it much easier to find stories that are relevant to you and your own work. ”

This looks like a cool project. Mohanraj is a professor, a writer and an editor, and most recently published a beautiful Sri Lankan cookbook. Here is a link to the Speculative Fiction Foundation, and the Portolan Project.

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First Impressions

The across-the-street neighbor before this one sometimes worked in Mendocino County, on the house of a couple who owned a winery. He did finish carpentry for them. On the property was a large barn that housed three barn cats.

During the Camp Road firestorm, the couple lost some outbuildings, and part of their house was damaged. They stopped the improvements and planned to move away from the property. They made no plans for the barn cats. Neighbor had befriended one of them and he adopted her.

Barn Cat was a small cat, with greenish eyes and short hair with tabby markings. She had a slender body and long legs for her size. She adapted quickly to their house and yard, and to my surprise, mostly stayed in their yard, unlike Neighbor’s cute little dog Lola, who delighted in bolting across the street, yapping gleefully, every time she got out of the yard, regardless of whether a car was coming.

Barn Cat was a powerful hunter. Neighbor had a lot of pride in her for that. One time, when I led Lola back across the street to doggie-jail, we got to talking. Barn Cat sat near his feet, her tail curled around her paws. “She’s fierce,” Neighbor said. “She killed a crow the other day.”

“I, she, what?” I love crows, but my reaction wasn’t caused by favoritism. Circle of life, nature red in tooth and claw, yada-yada-yada. I just didn’t believe it. Crows are nervy birds and Barn Cat wasn’t even as big as an adult crow.

“Yeah. I went out in the backyard and she was dragging up a crow’s head and neck,”he said.

I decided that this I believed. She might have found or scavenged the corpse of a crow that had been killed by a hawk, or a raccoon, a car, or even died of natural causes.

A few days later I went out to put water in the dog dish by the sidewalk. The usual pair of crows had lighted on the streetlight post, the way they always did. Neighbor came out. Lola took advantage of the situation to race across the street and flopped down near my feet, tail wagging. The crows looked down, silent. Neighbor yelled, “Lola, get back here!” and came across the street, Barn Cat trotting at his heels.

The two crows immediately started alarm-calling.

Crows make lots of kinds of loud sounds. There’s the yelling they do when they see another crow. There’s the “Hey, there’s food here!” call. There’s a warning-off call to another crow, which seems to be mostly about status. There’s a low-pitched, almost growly sound I’ve heard a single crow make as it dive-bombed a hawk. And then there is alarm-calling, which you will recognize even if you’ve never heard it before. It is urgent. It is unmistakable.

As Barn Cat trotted over to Lola, the crows alarm-called and called. They danced on the lamp post. One flew into the next door neighbor’s tree, and the other onto the roof. They flew in a circle, alarm-calling, then took refuge in the redwood tree behind our house.

Those crows knew Barn Cat. Knew her, and knew she was a threat.

My opinion of the “killed the crow” story changed instantly.

The moral of this story is, first impressions can be misleading.

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The Food Service Conundrum

Obviously, I had a good time at FOGCon. Before I plunge into this post, I want to say again that the Walnut Creek Marriott is an excellent host to this event. I love the Marriott. One thing in particular that I love is that every hotel worker I meet, from the housekeepers in the hallway, to the valet parkers, to the front desk, are cheerful, friendly, and go out of their way to help me if I have a question or a problem.

But then…

The restaurant and lounge are called Atrio. Service at Atrio was strange, whether in the bar/lounge or the dining area. And, while this is going to read like a complaint, it isn’t really. It’s more of a puzzle to be picked at or worried over (the way a dog worries a chew-toy) than a complaint.

And that said, the conundrum of food service could be a problem for someone, depending on their schedule.

The lounge and the dining area are one large area, bisected by the actual bar which has tall walls to support a flatscreen TV and cupboards with lots of bar-related supplies. The same servers work in the dining area and the lounge. The restaurant also provides room-service, food to be picked up at the host station, and on-site banquets.

There was almost never a wait for a table at the host station. Whether I was with a group or alone, I was usually seated in less than one minute. It was after I was seated that things got weird.

Usually, once I was seated (again, regardless of how many at my table) it would take several minutes for someone to check in with me. Sunday morning for breakfast I was seated right away. I told the host I did not want the buffet and needed a menu. Then I started talking to the person next to me who was also at the Con. After about six minutes he said, “Has somebody been by? I didn’t see anybody.”

The host came by, frowned at my bare table, (no water, no coffee, no menu,) and went off to get me a menu. “I’ll have someone here right away,” he said, and about three minutes later a breathless server arrived, apologized and asked if I wanted coffee. I got my decaf pretty quickly, but it was another five minutes or so before she took my order. I should point out that more than half of the people I was watching were using the excellent breakfast buffet. There were three servers bringing out food, so the dining room did not seem under-staffed. Here’s the other weird thing; a server came up to me (not my server) with a plate and said, “Omelet and hash browns?” I said no and she went away. She had no idea which table ordered what, and plainly was trying to match the food to the table — as if they didn’t have a system for that.

That happened at more than one meal. “Pizza margherita and Atrio burger?” “Um, no, Caesar salad and chicken fingers.” “Oh, okay, sorry.”

Eventually I got my oatmeal that morning though. I was in no hurry, so it wasn’t a problem, but it was strange. And if I’d been scheduled for a 9:00 am panel, I might have left without my food.

As challenging as it was to get food, it could be even more challenging to get a drink in the bar.

Yes, that’s right. It was harder to get a drink. Where do food establishments make their profit? At the bar. Still, one afternoon, I was sitting with a good-sized group in the lounge. After ten or fifteen minutes, a server approached us and asked if we wanted something. There were six of us and one had ordered when he was alone, before we descended on him. We started ordering, and the person to my left said she needed her check with the drink because she had to leave right after. So did the person to her left, and the person to that person’s left. (They were all attending the same event.)

The server said she understood and went straight to the bar, where she got their beverages and their checks. When she came back, I said, “I would like to order something too.”

“Yes,” she said. “I’ll be right back.” She walked past the bar and into the dining area.

After ten minutes I got tired of waiting. There were two of us who hadn’t been served, so I got the other person’s order and went to the bar, ordered and brought back drinks. We were halfway through our drinks when the server returned. “Oh, I see you got drinks,” she said. “I’m sorry I didn’t get back.”

Is this just weird, or what?

I think, seriously, that she got grabbed to deliver some room service or help at the on-site banquet that was happening in another room. I think this is part of the problem; no one really has a station, and people get pulled off to go do other stuff. There is also a line-of-sight problem; if you are expected to serve in the lounge AND the dining area, you can’t see either space from the other space. Possibly, my drink server — okay, not-drink-server in my case– had three tables fill up in the dining area while she was trying to help us, and had to at least get orders in. And then maybe she had to carry around a homeless pizza margherita and try to find its table.

I’m writing this because food service has been an issue at each FOGCon I’ve attended.

Servers are routinely friendly and try to keep smiling when they interact with diner-wannabes. They look overwhelmed and harried. They are all good about trying not to take any stress out on the customer, unless excessive apologizing upsets you. They seem like a group of people trying to do their best in a chaotic situation.

As far as food goes, the hotel has a shuttle and there are about fifty-seven restaurants within two miles (okay, maybe not fifty-seven). An excellent deli and an excellent dim sum place are a ten-minute walk away. Both offer food to go. There is a Jack in the Box across the street. The hotel restaurant offers convenience, at least theoretically. And the bar is the traditional meeting place at conventions, so a bar is handy. Still, compared to the Marriott operation, the food service (which I’m sure is a different company) is noticeably poorer.

Again, this is not a complaint. It’s more that my atrophied manager-skill set is twitching. What’s the problem here? Is it systemic? Let’s analyze. Let’s brainstorm. Let’s resolve. And I’ll go up to the bar to get us a beer while we’re doing it.

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The Longer FOGCon Post (With Photos!)

I think I went to as many readings this year as panels at this year’s FOGCon. That suited me fine. Readings at FOGCon are uniformly wonderful and 2020 was no exception.

The first one I went to featured Daniel Marcus, who read an outrageous and hilarious SF story called “Jesus Christ Superstore.” You’ve read the title, so if I tell you it is set in Texas and includes a satirical use of quantum physics, that may be all you need to know.

Laura Blackwell

Laura Blackwell read, “The Wise and Patient Mother” which will appear in Weirdbook in 2021. The story takes a look at those who history has depicted as monsters. It’s about rage, grief and hope.

The first panel I attended was about Societal Defaults That Carry Into Genre. The participants discussed class, gender, race and skin color, but then they drilled down a little deeper, looking at narrative structure and underlying values. Garret Croker, guest of honor Mary Ann Mohanraj, Alyc Helms and Karen Brenchley participated and Lisa Eckstein moderated. It was a thoughtful discussion. As Eckstein noted during the panel, they could have talked about this topic for another couple of hours.

Dave Smeds
Dave Smeds

Later, Dave Smeds read the poignant beginning of a story about a grieving man and a “wind sister,” an elemental creature. The story had the tone and tropes of a fairy tale.

Garrett Croker
Garrett Croker reads.
Marie Brennan
Marie Brennan

Garrett Croker read from a science fiction story that was written in response to Star Trek, and more specifically, Picard, while Marie Brennan shared a section from a new epic fantasy trilogy she is co-writing with Alyc Helms, called the Rook and Rose series.

Later, when I read with Alyc, she read another section from the same work. It’s good fun, dripping with opulent clothing, class warfare, economic injustice, elegant intrigue, weaponized gossip, and silken flirtation. Book One comes out in November.

On Saturday, I was on the Archives and Genre panel, which ranged widely; actual archives and libraries, the differences of each, the value and necessity of the “lone” archivist who champions a writer or other creative. We toyed with questions of the How and the What, as well as who controls the archive and who has access. Norm Sperling shared some nice bits about the number of telescope archives he uncovered in his drive to collect them. Bradford Lyau studies in archives and has a science fictional archive of his own. Mary Ann Mohanraj talked about the funding for current libraries, and also about food and cooking archives. The seventy-five minutes flew by!

Michael R. Johnson and Daryl Gregory
Michael R Johnson and Daryl Gregory
Effie Seiberg

Daryl Gregory, Michael R. Johnson and Effie Seiberg read. Gregory shared a deeply emotional story about traumatic brain injury, guilt, neuroscience and free will. Johnson read a tense sequence from the second book of his military SF trilogy. MILSF is not my go-to but I liked the main character and the set-up of this piece very much.

Seiberg, who did not attend the convention for health reasons, participated via pre-recorded video with her sweet, funny and nearly too on the-nose retelling of Rumpelstiltskin with a millennial project manager who will give up nearly anything to keep her job and her health insurance. I’d read this story on the page and chuckled; with Effie reading it and doing the character voice for the magical goblin character, I, like everyone else in the room, was laughing out loud.

(l to r) Heather Rose Johnson, Vylar Kaftan (m), Marie Brenan, Beth Barany, Beth Plutchak
(l to r) Heather Rose Johnson, Vylar Kaftan (m), Marie Brenan, Beth Barany, Beth Plutchak

How Deep Do We Dig? Aka “The Research Panel,” featured Vylar Kaftan as moderator,  Heather Rose Jones, Beth Plutchak, Beth Barany and Marie Brennan. The topic was originally, “When do you stop researching?” and that got discussed, because several panelists acknowledged that research can be a tempting procrastination for them – but when you get a bunch of writers who love history and research on a panel, you’re going to learn about researching too. They also spent a few minutes on the vexing issue of how much to include in the work itself.

Heather Rose Jones provided a metaphor that I liked, from the tales of Ali Baba. Ali Baba, that consummate con artist, once set up a caper by borrowing a bunch of his mark’s baskets “to haul something.” He cleverly slipped one or two gold pieces into the weaving of the baskets and gave them back, leaving his mark to think he had hauled gold in them – so much gold, in fact, that he didn’t even notice when a couple of piece stuck to the bottom of the baskets. Research details can be like this – choose one or two vivid, accurate details and place them in your work; it evokes the world without you stopping the story to provide paragraphs of data.

Marie Brennan, whose first work was technically a “secret history,” also brought up the difference between that (where it theoretically happened in our world) versus alternate history, where you can make any changes you want or need.

Nisi Shawl was also unable to attend in person because of health concerns. She did participate in two of her scheduled events via video conference, and later stayed on the call to “hang out” virtually with a group of happy friends and fans.

Shades of Fear; Color in Horror, was not about skin color (although that came up); it was about the use of color to create a mood. Ramona Lyons moderated, Chelsea Davis, L.S. Johnson, and E.M. Markoff were the panelists. This was a very well-prepared panel that talked mostly about use of color in film, not written works. As a result of it I have two new writers to seek out; Johnson and Markoff.

I read at 9:30 on Saturday night, with Nancy Jane Moore and Alyc (pronounced Ah-liss). Nancy’s work in progress is inspired by Dumas and the musketeers. She shared an actiony, funny section that featured sword fights and knife throwing. Alyc read another selection from Book One of Rook and Rose, and I shared a little bit from the sequel to Aluminum Leaves. For so late on a Saturday night, we had a nice turnout, about twelve people.

FOGCon is always held the weekend of the time change, which makes me feel bad for early Sunday morning panelists. The Value of Hopepunk panel started at 10:30, which wasn’t awful. Alyc Helm moderated, and the panelists were Ian Hageman, Keyan Bowes and Elwin Cotman. Cotman and Hageman are both men of color and anarchists, and different flavors of anarchist, which was great for the panel. Bowes is from India and in her sixties, so she brought a different vibe to the panel. Elwin coined the phrase “struggle-punk” as a possible substitute for hope-punk, but Bowes said she felt “hope was the engine of the struggle.” This was another panel who had planned well for the topic, and another discussion that could have continued for another hour as far as I was concerned.

FOGCon offers writing workshops, usually on Sunday. An established writer is the workshop leader and each group has three writers. Work has to be submitted in advance so workshoppers have time to comment. This is a very valuable feature for writers at any stage! I skipped it this year because of time, but my writing friend who attended one found hers useful and validating.

All in all, it was a great weekend. I’m looking forward to seeing how next year goes.

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A Taste of FOGCon

Later this week I will put up a longer post on last weekend’s FOGCon 10. This intimate convention, held in Walnut Creek, is still my favorite. They bring in great guests, have interesting programming, and keep attendance small enough that you have have a conversation with nearly anybody, and find a seat in any event or panel without standing in line for an hour.

Borderlands Books had a table, and sold some copies of Aluminum Leaves (yaaay!) including one to the vendor who makes jewelry out of aluminum. (Possibly my favorite sale to date!)

This year, I realized I mostly attended the public readings. I also participated in one.

More photos will follow.

If the writing thing doesn’t work out, I can pursue a career as a smirk model.
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My Personal Sanditon Fanfic

I called this “Sanditon Fanfic” but, of course, any telling of Sanditon that goes beyond Jane Austen’s original 60-page fragment is fanfiction. The BBC/PBS disappointing eight-episode adaptation is no exception.

I guess I want to imagine fanfic of the adaptation though, which ends on a cliffhanger and no hint of a second season at this time.

Austen died after completing eleven chapters of Sanditon, which looked like a new direction for her in a number of ways. Instead of an established setting, the town (fishing village) of Sanditon is being gentrified, converted into a spa town by the entrepreneurial Tom Parker, and Parker and his two brothers, Arthur and Sidney, figure prominently. Additionally, Austen apparently added an heiress to a hundred-thousand pounds, the rebellious Miss Lambe, who comes from the Caribbean plantations and is of mixed race (“half-mulatto” is how she is described). While Charlotte Heywood, a gentleman farmer’s daughter, is the main character, Austen was exploring different kinds of stories, or so it seems.

The showrunner for Sanditon was Andrew Davis, who has a good track record with historical romances, and with Austen adaptations. I found the show frustrating because in some places Davis was clearly aware that he was a 21st century story-teller, and took liberties, and in other places, when he had the opportunity to do something daring and original, he suddenly ducked back behind Austen’s skirts, like, “Well, I can’t do that! It wouldn’t be Austen!” He deliberately casts heiress Miss Lambe as dark-skinned with natural hair, and her secret lover is also Black. Thus when Miss Lambe speaks lines like, “I am no man’s property,” they have a whole bunch of resonance. Davis might pat himself on the back for “foregrounding” race, but he can’t let the beautiful, dark-skinned Miss Lambe find happiness with the lover who was born in Africa, enslaved, and is now a freeman. In fact, Otis Molyneaux has to be chastened and humbled by the story. I can almost hear Davis saying, “Well, it’s the designated-scandal part of the story! They can’t be together! I’m not racist! It’s just the system!”

Step one in Marion’s fanfic for Sanditon: Instead of Otis disappearing, disgraced and all bruised from smashing his face into that glass ceiling, Miss Lambe tells him, “You’ve got three years. Three years to show me you can stop gambling and be a stable, successful merchant. Then come back, and I’ll give you my answer.” (Of course her guardian Sidney, eager to hand her off to one of the white elite, would have to agree to this, and in my version he does.) And at the end of three years, Otis returns triumphant. Sidney’s helping hand, and Miss Lambe’s faith, were just what he needed. Unfortunately, his continued political actions as he tries to end slavery in the Caribbean means he has powerful enemies. Still, he and Miss Lambe marry. With her smarts, her fortune, and his strength and passion, they become a powerful force for equality. And they have adventures.

Not Austen? Not canon? Hey, it’s fan-fic.

Sidney rides off to marry Mrs. Campion, the wealthy widow he used to be in love with, in order to get the needed financial backing for Sanditon. Back home on the family farm, Charlotte pines but gets on with her life. Mr. Stringer, the workers’ foreman who wants to be an architect, initiates a correspondence with her. She persuades him to consider, again, pursuing his dream of being an architect, and finally, he does. On the eve of the opening of his first building, he invites Charlotte down to London, and they admit their love for each other. I’ll be the first to admit that this is a troublesome plot for me. Both Mr. Stringer and Charlotte are upwardly mobile to the extent that concept exists. Charlotte only has the choice of marrying up, and marriage to Stringer does not give her entrée into the aristocratic circles. Still, Mr. Stringer is a better man than Sidney is, and they are a great couple together, so I’m going for it. They marry. Maybe Charlotte’s friend Lady Susan (no, not that Lady Susan) introduces her friend into society in some way. Or, you know what? Maybe Charlotte doesn’t care.

A few years after that, Sidney’s rich wife dies in an unfortunate flower-arranging accident. Flush with her money, Sidney seeks out Charlotte, to find her passionately, happily married. Sidney, rootless and disillusioned, decides to return to the Caribbean. On the way, his ship is wrecked in a storm. After days of floating adrift, he washes up onto a small island where an enigmatic woman nurses him back to health. Oh, wait, that’s the plot of Circe. I don’t care. I’m going for it.

Now, for those Parker boys. Sidney is stuck on his island, happily-ever-aftering it, or perhaps not so much, or whatever. You may have gathered that I don’t care much for Sidney. For Tom Parker, after the several setbacks we’ve already seen, he makes Sanditon a success, a bigger draw than Brighton. He and Mary plan a gala celebrating their fifth year, and invite Mr. Springer and Charlotte, because part of the festivities is the unveiling the model of a new edifice Mr. Springer has designed for them. The cream of London society come to the event, including a troubled but probably handsome young lord of something, who falls for the middle Parker brother, Arthur. Carefully, elliptically, the two admit their feelings for one another. (By the way? Not my idea. Arthur being gay is all Davis’s idea.)

Hypochondriac sister Diana Parker, who has sworn to live with Arthur forever, becomes, in spite of herself, fascinated with the healing arts as she works more closely with Dr. Fuchs. Soon she becomes his assistant. Reluctantly, she leaves Arthur, who promptly fills the absence in his house with his new lordly boyfriend.

Then we have the three relentless heirs of Lady Dunham’s fortune, Esther, Edward and Clara. Esther and Babbington continue on, and Ester is actually happy. Lady Dunham leaves most of her money to Tom Parker and the donkey farm (as hinted at) but she bequeaths a comfortable amount to Ester. I’m thinking that Babbington invested in Sanditon, because that’s the kind of guy he is.

Clara returns to London, penniless. She falls in with a crowd of thieves and uses her smarts and her complete amorality to shape them into the premiere gang of jewel thieves in Britain and later on the Continent. She learns how to fence and shoot a pistol, and few people ever know that the dread gang leader is female. She is never caught, and lives out her life in opulent luxury. 

Lord Edward continues his downward spiral from grace, couch-surfing with various friends and relatives, until finally he goes to America, heads for the western frontier, and disappears into history.

Why? Because it doesn’t seem fair to give Edward a bad ending, like dying in a duel after he’d caught cheating as cards (which is what I wanted). Edward is yucky, but he isn’t much worse than Clara. The difference between him and Clara is that he didn’t love Esther back – or, he didn’t love her enough. Clara never loved anyone, so her sins (which are bad) aren’t, in story terms, that bad.

There it is. There’s my happily-ever-after for the folks of Sanditon – or at least, that’s how I’d do it today.

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The Mission District Murals

24th and Mission

We climbed the path out of the underworld and emerged into a place of light, color, the smell of food, and music.

(Okay, it wasn’t really the underworld, it was BART, but allow me some literary license.)

This was the first mural I saw.

It turned out the music nearest the BART station was canned, not live, but within half a block we could hear a live band playing.

Donna was taking me to Balley Alley, which has a lot of murals, but there was wall art everywhere we looked. Some of this is graffiti and thus probably illegal but many of these artworks are sanctioned. And some of them fulfill an archival purpose.

This mural is an archival object. In the lower right corner are the names of the women depicted, who championed economic and social justice, equity and housing reform.

The air smelled like chiles, pizza and some kinds of pollen. It was a beautiful clear day and a Saturday, and lots of people were walking around. The Mission District is supposed to be a neighborhood with a lot of homeless people, but with a few obvious exceptions, like the guy with the shopping cart piled with belongings and a small, collapsed tent, I couldn’t single them out. Lots of young moms with toddlers were out enjoying the weather.

Donna found an alley before Balley, and we explored it.

An ethereal style.
The Virgen of Guadalupe painted on a door.

The alleys are a beautiful place for artwork (and other things, like a naked man standing looking out his window) but you don’t have to find the alleyways to admire the work here.

Both sides of this house were murals.

Bally Alley provided some political commentary with a two-part mural commenting on ICE and its treatment of city residents.

This is only “page 2” of one political mural. At the top left you can see I.C.E.
An artist at work

We had a slice of pizza at a small place whose name I’ve forgotten. It was very fresh, the thin crust was crispy, and very good! We sat by the window.

Nope, not a mural, just a happy succulent thriving in a pot in one of the alleys.
The faces in this one are compelling.

The work is painted on fences, walls, and gates of places where people live. I loved this experience but I do wonder how the people who live there feel about folks with camera traipsing through. (Apparently the naked man was unconcerned.) On the other hand, you can give an artist permission to paint on your wall or your fence, right? And then it’s not graffiti.

This is painted on an old wooden door. I love this one. I wished for a minute that I were rich so that I had a place to display it, and I could buy it… and then I remembered that it’s right where it needs to be.

I caught a Lyft from Borderlands Books to the ferry terminal. My driver went on at great length about the scourge of the homeless people in the Mission District; how they were unsanitary, they brought crime, and nothing was done about them. I don’t live in the city and I don’t have the authority to speak to its issues. This was my first visit to the Mission. I guess I’d say that like any small town or neighborhood, it has its problems and its beauty.

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Ridership Up

Here comes the train, up to the Rohnert Park platform

My youthful,cheerful Lyft driver lives in Sebastopol, and is a Bernie supporter, although he’s nice about it. I swore an oath before I left the house that I was going to request the day be an oasis from politics; my second question to him was, “So, did you watch the debate last night?”

He hadn’t, and I’d only watched some highlights, and that worked out perfectly.

Lyft’s GPS gives bad directions to the Rohnert Park SMART stop. It believes that there is an entrance on the Expressway side, and there isn’t. It worked fine because he was able to pull over to the shoulder and let me out, but it’s something someone ought to fix. I have no idea how that gets done.

South of Petaluma, the wetlands and a flock of birds.

My car is filled to standing room only, humming with cheerful conversation. In front of me a couple a few years older than me stand. I offer them my seat; they both decline. The man says, “It’s like surfing!” I say, “That’s a stretch, but your Hawaii T-shirt helps sell it.” He grins like a kid as he watches the scenery go past. It is, he says, their first time on the train.

There are lots of eager, happy children traveling with parents.

It looked like I’d have fog in the city.

SMART is offering a promotion through the end of February. If you’re taking the train into San Francisco, your SMART ticket will get you a ferry ticket at no extra cost, and returning, your ferry fee will get you a train ride at no extra cost. This runs on weekends and holidays only for the month. I think a lot of people on the train knew about that.

I’ve never understood the politics of the train, just as I will never understand how stations end up where they do. The Cotati Station is… what, two miles?… from the RP station. That makes sense; the California State University at Sonoma students use the train, and that station is close to the campus. The town of Novato has three stations, though, while Petaluma currently has one. This might be politics, or it might be that Novato is a spread-out kind of town. There are plans for a north Petaluma station.

I’m curious to get to Larkspur and make the walk to the ferry terminal.


The website said that it’s a fifteen minute walk to the ferry terminal. To my surprise that’s about right. If you are with someone using a wheelchair or with other mobility issues,or you have a lot of luggage, it may take longer, so plan accordingly when making your travel plans. The walkway is well engineered, wide and smooth, and goes over the surface streets so you lose no time at stoplights.

The walkway.
This second image gives you an idea of both the length and the engineering. The left ramp takes you down to a parking lot and a cinema. The right curves around and drops you onto the street where you have a two-block walk to the ferries.

This is less that ideal, but it’s here and it works. As you can see, it’s not covered. While I enjoyed the fairly brisk walk over, I might not have quite so happy in a pelting rainstorm. Such is life.

But there it was. Fifteen minutes later I’m on the hydrofoil, on my way to the city.

A bit of a wake.
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Borderlands Books Now Carries Aluminum Leaves

San Francisco’s premiere speculative fiction bookstore and awesome champion of local writers is now carrying Aluminum Leaves! I am chuffed.

866 Valencia Street, SF, for now.

The store is a great venue for writing events, with friendly, highly knowledgeable staff. They will be moving in May/June to a new location o Haight Street — a building they own! Long may they thrive.

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