Well, I got very little…

Well, I got very little work done yesterday (though I did write my next editorial, on CDA-II, and started moving through a vast heap of backlogged e-mail), but I had the most fun I'd had in a long time. I think I mentioned that Chiara was in town, one of Susan's Clarion classmates. Of course, you don't know who Susan is -- let me give you the cast of characters for yesterday. I imagine I'll mention at least some of them again.

  • Avi - he works in virtual worlds, I think -- a tall, thin programmer who does funny impressions and writes science fiction. He's working on a novel I'm really enjoying, about -- well, it's actually really hard to pinpoint what it's about. His call to rec.arts.sf.written, for a Bay Area writing group, is what got us all together a few months ago.
  • Chiara - I know her least well actually, of the group. Clarion West 98. Her husband is Indian, I met her first at WorldCon, and she's visiting Susan for a bit before going down to World Fantasy. She's from the East coast, and yesterday a bunch of us from SFY, one of my writing groups, took her around San Francisco.
  • Karen - our most recently-joined member of the group. Don't know her too well yet, but when I recently did a small call for erotica submissions, she wrote me a story within a few days, even though she'd never written erotica before. I suspect we'll get along just fine. :-)
  • Par - Karen's husband, who is big, blond and Swedish (imagine umlauts over the 'a' in his name) and was quite quiet. They actually met over the internet, on a mud, and are one of the happiest couples I know. Nice to watch.
  • Susan - another Clarion West '98'er, who I met at WorldCon, and whose work I really love. She'll be published very soon, and her chilling little stories will be very much enjoyed. Another tall blond one, generally somewhat restrained but capable of great goofiness.
  • Zed - I actually knew him before SFY formed, which makes it harder to give a capsule description of him. Zed is a guy you want on your side when the revolution comes. Nuts, but in a good way.
There are others in the SFYU writing group (Dorothy, Julie, Wendy, Cliff), but these are the ones (plus Par and Chiara) who went out for the day yesterday. I'm not sure why I had such a good time that day -- our plans got changed again and again. Maybe it was because they were the kind of people who just roll with that. Nobody stressed out when the Exploratorium turned out to be closed, or when Par got lost for a while, or when the Asian Art Museum was closed. The conversation over lunch was sparkling -- it reminded me of Clarion, I suppose, but almost more so. Perhaps because the pressure element wasn't involved. Several writers, like-minded, joined together for the purpose of amusing each other and enjoying the day. It was heady.

We ate at Sweet Heat, in the Marina, an exceedingly delicious Mexican place, reasonably-priced. There's one in the Haight as well, as it turns out. I'll probably be going there again. Then off to the closed Exploratorium, a bit of wandering around the Palace of Fine Arts, and then Plan B, Golden Gate Park.

I'd been meaning to go to the park properly for a while. It's huge -- we walked for four or five hours and covered perhaps a tenth of it. In that time, we visited several gardens -- the sun was shining, it wasn't too hot -- a perfect day for garden-strolling. There are definitely times when I think it might not have been so bad to be a lady of leisure, able to spend my days strolling it gardens. It would probably drive me nuts over time.

The first place we went (and my favorite) was the Japanese tea garden. It was much larger than I'd expected, with pagodas and many stone paths and bridges (one very sharply arched, so that it took some debate before we agreed that it really was meant to be a bridge, and crossed it) and pools and carp (immense goldfish. Longer than my entire arm) and twisty trees and stone statues. It was just stunningly beautiful -- if I'd had a camera, I'd have been taking pictures every few minutes. I'm glad I didn't have one, in a way. Sometimes you are just overwhelmed by beauty. I wished I wrote by hand -- it would be glorious to take pen and paper and come for a day to sit on the stone benches and write in a quiet contemplation. They serve tea and fortune cookies near the entrance, so you could pause for a snack, and then go back to writing poetry. Somehow, a laptop would have felt terribly incongruous there.

Next was the Botanical Gardens, where we chose to explore the prehistoric section, the Biblical garden, and the fragrance garden. All very cool in their own ways, with everything neatly labelled. The fragrances were sharp and unusual -- my favorite was perhaps the society garlic -- tall stalks with tiny purple flowers and an intense garlicky scent. All of the different thymes were also wonderful (if you've read Edward Eager's _The Time Garden_, you'll know why).

Finally we stopped at the Shakespeare garden, which was back in the park proper, and thus had nothing labelled, which was a shame. Still, a lovely layout, very formal and British, and the teenagers at the far end smoking pot really only added to the ambience. Change the clothes and the drug of choice, and it really might have been a scene out of _Romeo and Juliet_, two bands of Montagues and Capulets, tense and nervous around each other.

Then a wander up and down Haight, quick grabbing of coffee to sustain us, a stop at _Forever Books_, where I found a lovely stash of Lloyd Alexander that I'd been missing, and then our fair party split slightly, with Susan and Chiara heading home. The rest of us ended up at Plearn Thai cuisine in Berkeley, where the food was delicious and non-staining (I managed to spill quite a bit on my white shirt, but it washed out almost entirely in their bathroom. I shivered a bit afterwards).

Altogether wonderful. If only one didn't need to work. :-)

Nose to the grindstone time, my darlings. Have a good day -- and take some time to walk in a garden sometime, if you can.

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