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2 March 2001, 00:00

Vacation, part 1

Anybody who knows me knows I love my Mac. I’m a quiet fanatic about it. I love my computer, because it has personality, it has uumph, it has magic. It’s magical because I can create art on it, I can play games on it, and I can explore the world on it.

At first, I didn’t get into computers. Not technically. I just did work on them, and I considered it a bit of a tool. This was WAAAYYY back in the begining. Although, with the Mac, I could tweek it visually to reflect my moods and my personality. Cool. And, unlike the PEECEE boxes, it was easy to use and didn’t do a whole lot of crashing. Double cool. My first computer was a Commodore 64, but that doesn’t count because I didn’t do anything on it after I got it. I had a game on a tape cassette and the program took longer to load than it took to build Emperor Hadrian’s wall. It was a very simple maze game. Surprisingly, once I got the game loaded, I was preoccupied with it for hours.

Although, shiney coins have the same effect.

The first Mac that I bought cost more than the first car I bought, but, praise the lord, it was back then when they were giving out credit cards to any idiot with a social security number. After that, my feet were firmly planted on the Mac Path, a practicing Macaddict, worshipping in the church of Apple, with the right Reverand Steve guiding my way. But of course, I still hadn’t a hint of technical knowledge, and looking at the geeky monkeys that made their living selling and servicing computers, I wasn’t about to dip my toe into the nerd side of the gene pool. Until. Until I needed more RAM for my computer. I schlepped my computer down to the Apple Authorized Monkey House, and had them put in 8 megs of RAM (woo woo). I paid $35 (1980’s prices) to have some monkey take five minutes out of his day to snap in a little chip. WHHAAA? Dammit, I decided that I could do anything a monkey could do. And I have been, ever since. A kind of trial and error sort of journey, but still with more successes than accidental electrocutions.

Trial and error can describe my approach to travelling, also. Last year’s MacWorld was my first MacWorld, and I had decided that the six hour airplane trip was hell in the air and I wasn’t going to do that anymore. Plus, whahizface was in danger of being just another violent domestic “accident” left in the ditch along the highway during the long three hour trip home. Oh, how I miss those gentler times. I took the train this year to MacWorld. I know. If only you were there to stop me. I also learned that booking early is preferrable than trying to find an empty seat for $100 more, a day later than I anticiptated, on the choo choo. Did you know that Amtrak sometimes turns off the heat in the train, making it a deathly cold prison cell that you are trapped in with 30 to 40 other people who span the spectrum in terms of basic personal hygiene practices? And the “bathroom” would scare prisoners.

On the trains, I have discovered parenting took two forms. First, I was witness to a sweet, little cherub, crying and walking briskly up the aisle, yelling “I don’t love you anymore, I don’t love you anymore.” She was followed by her mother, apparently weakened by either the kryptonite in her daughter’s diapers or the stupidity tumor that pressed against her parenting gland rendering it ineffectual. Sounding like a leaking tire, she followed the shrieking child with a series of ignored “Shhhhssss”.

But god help me, I think I would have preferred her to the insanity we picked up in Alberquerque. A single mother with three young boys, and a baby. Sitting right in front of me. The kids did not shut up for nine hours. And I mean wailing, catterwalling and demands for snacks and toys. And she wasn’t shy about handing out the punishments. She beat the hell out of these little boys, who, would respond “I wanna live with my daddy, who’ll let me have gamesboys … yada yada.” She threatened and spanked and scolded. And still they did not shut up. She finally had one asleep, to which the other passengers aborted the plan to lock him in the bathroom for the rest of the trip. And the other two were sitting in front of me, peeking at me, throwing things at me and being what I would consider, the best argument for population control I have ever seen. Instead of maybe, oh, separating the two, so they would go to sleep or get bored and shut up or maybe find some other passenger to lavish their attention on, she woke the sleeping one up and had him move next to one of his brother. I’m sure you know what happened next. The beast awoke, and all three just had a heyday for the next five hours.

Next time, airplane. Or if I can get access to one, starship transporter…

(end part one… coming up: part two… California, here I am)


Vacation, part 2

Pretty good looking, California is. Warm, temperate climate, blue oceans, and actual mountains. Not like we have here, but mountains high enough that lazy birds hit them while flying. Big enough for mysterious monkey men to eat a hiker or two every once in a while and sun themselves in the meadows without being discovered for years. Big enough for a man and his dog to live without cable or internet access.

A big part of my trip was to go to MacWorld and see Cupertino – Macintosh Mecca, but another part was to see a bunch of friends that I met online, and up until now, never had the pleasure of face to face fraternization. I got into Los Angeles, of which, I hate to say wasn’t too impressed. Looked to me like just a big city – there wasn’t much that grabbed me the nipples to make me stand at attention. It was a big, big city. With palm trees. But I probably didn’t see the right things. I used to think I was just too cool to do the touristy thing. But, dammit, when I’m sober, hell, it doesn’t seem like a half bad idea. I just needed a giant sweatshirt with the word BUMPKIN on the front, and I would have been happy to act like an out of town fool.

One of my online acquaintances lived in LA and invited me to stay with her while I was in town. I know what you’re thinking. Stranger that you met online, never met, didn’t know that well or that long, and the self proclaimed tour guide of the LA underground goth/club scene. Might as well make out a will now, and tattoo my name on my ass for use later as identification when my body washes up on the shores of Oregon. Now that I think about it, it probably wasn’t the safest thing I’ve done or the best judgment call I’ve made, but, if you knew me, I’ve made much worse leaps into bigger abysses. As I write about it now, I realize that noone knew her address, and only one or two her last name. OOOboy. Yup. Well. I survived it and still have all my parts intact. What really floored me is that in LA Union Station, there were three or four pigeons just meandering about. You know, if they would have just called ahead to see if the train was on time, they wouldn’t have such a long time to wander around.

And yes. I do believe. Yes. The FIRST time it rained in southern California in eight months was on my first day in LA. Wow. California rain. Looks a lot like Kansas rain, only this rain cost me $378 and 26 hours on a B.O. filled cattle car to see. So, the little sight seeing I did do was to take a hazy photo from the window of an apartment from the middle of downtown towards what was supposed to be the Hollywood sign. With a little imagination, and a magnifying glass, you can see the sign in my photo. BUT. Persevere and smile. A little optimism, and an Actifed does wonders for my attitude. Did you know that Actifed has the same effect on me as 30 CCs of grade A heroin has on a small rabbit? Makes me just happy to hear my own heartbeat in my ears… which slows to about 14 beats per second. I spent most of the LA time eating pizza and drinking lite beer, trying to be friendly toward a cat without breaking out in hives and having to be rushed to the hospital. That would have been a big downer on the evening. Also, it was cold. My hands were ICE COLD. Have no idea why. I seemed to only be comfortable naked, and romping in the rain forest in South America. Every place else is just too cool for me. BUT. I smiled and persevered.

I popped another actifed, smiled to myself, because tomorrow’s another day. I retired to a futon that didn’t fold out and had a good three hours worth of sleep until I awoke, breathing constricted and eyes, red and swollen. Did I mention that I am deathly allergic to cats? I always seem to underestimate how much I can interact with cats before I am force to be helicoptered to an emergency room and have anti-inflammatories funneled into me. But this wasn’t that bad. It was only about an hour of lying really still, forcing air out my mouth, and fighting the urge to scratch the itch that was on the inside of my eyeballs. BUT. Persevere and smile. You know, this is probably how they temper KGB agents in the old Soviet Union.

Well, the next day I was on my way to drop by another online friend I’ve known for years, Sherrie. Have you ever met a person that, instantly, in your heart of hearts, you knew that you were SUPPOSED to be related, if some bureaucrat at the Federal Department of Justice and Fate hadn’t screwed up royally because he was downloading porn instead of paying attention to the paperwork? She’s one of four online friends that, if I wanted to say “hi” to them, I’d have to yell up my butt for them to hear me, because they have a permanent spot in my heart. Sherrie should have been my sister. Maybe next lifetime, if I am that lucky. Sherrie turned out to be a WONDERFUL person with a generous spirit and fire in her belly. She opened her home and exposed her poor child to me. Whatta woman. Spent a day with her. Next year, we’ll linger a little longer…

After seeing the ocean, and the beautiful PCH highway, and playing at Sherrie’s – it was time. Ahead of me, another train ride to NIRVANA. MacWorld. San Francisco. WHEEE. Another train. BOOO.

From Ventura to San Francisco, it took about a million years.

(end part two… coming up: part three… MacWorld and SF, at last)


Vacation, part 3

You know, I didn’t know there was some LA-SF rivalry. I didn’t notice it, but, an acquaintance from LA told me about it… repeatedly. Actually, when we went to Macworld, she made a point to tell everyone she was from LA and that she couldn’t wait to get back there.

Dude. I LOVED San Francisco. I admit it. Much, much more than Los Angeles. I think the people in both cities were kind and friendly, much more than I was led to believe by the evil media and suspicious Midwesterners. I saw no rampant cocaine use or giant sex orgies in the streets, and large, nasty roving gangs were loose in the streets trying to steal my shoes – although, we had a little run in with some gang bangers that had the misfortune of walking in front Ms. Acquaintances car. Out went her head and middle finger. Damn, and me without my Kevlar underwear.

The main difference I saw between the cities was the glitter and sheen. Maybe if I had saw more of Los Angeles, I would have been more bedazzled. But, jumping Jesus, was San Francisco ever a lovely site. It could have been the past week’s adventure, it could be getting near a real bed and the warmth of a heated hotel room, or the sheer childlike giddiness of consuming some real food, but, when I saw the skyline, my eyes welled up with tears of joy. It was the most joy I had felt, since, I finally got to use a real bathroom instead of the vaccu-suck pee-pots on the train. I had remembered a bit of sightseeing I did last year and was anticipating great things. Bumpkin girl was really yokel-ish last year – I took pictures of a latte in the Cafe at the Virgin Records Store. I geeked and gawked and pointed and squawked, “GOOOOOLLLLLYYYY”, last year. I was pretty embarassing, but good god, I had a good time. And the city didn’t disappoint. The same tall, shiny buildings with glitz in every window. The vibrations of the bustle – at midnight, there are still norms thronging about on the street. I found San Francisco lavish in the way it filled my senses.

Well, we were bussing it to the Hotel. I recognized a lot of the city from last year. But, as we approached, every other street had NUDE, NUDE, NUDE, GIRLS, GIRLS, GIRLS. The streets alternated between chic and sheesh. Hotels were nestled all in this area. Fear crept into my heart. Did I book us into a LIVE NUDE GIRL hotel, where scary hairies of the city would greet us as we entered? I found the site on the MacWorld Site, so, I kept telling myself that MacWorld wouldn’t recommend a hotel if there wasn’t a 40% survival rate of its guests. So as the Amtrak bus driver transversed the streets, and missed parked cars and startled pedestrians by millimeters, we are scanning, ever watchful, trying to find our hotel in the midst of shops and shine, pimpboys and prostitutes…. at least they looked like prostitutes.

I am so HAPPY to say, the PICKWICK HOTEL was a glorious relief. It was, I was told, a remodeled hotel from the 20s, which kept its 20s feel through the remodel. It was only a few blocks from the Moscone Center, where they were holding MacWorld. The rooms were gorgeous with verbose crown moldings and Baroque stylings. I was too pleased. The tub was about 40 feet deep, and just beautiful, so I took a long, scalding shower and breathed in the heat and played on the porcelain. And, of course, took all the little soaps and shampoos. The best part – we were in time for David Letterman…

We did get to go to dinner with two online friends at a little Indonesian restaurant. Edrie, and Doug. They were two of the most wonderful people I have met. People are definitely much better in 3D than in any chat room or BBS. It might be that online you can control the amount of what you give to other people in terms of yourself, but I’ll betcha a Bloomingdales’ Big Brown Bag of day old baguettes that you aren’t giving them the best of yourself. Full fleshed out people are more work to have in ones life, but the rewards are far greater than any security you may have in keeping people at cyber arms length. Doug had picked the restaurant, and it was just yummy. We all sampled dishes and drank wine, and talked. Maybe a little too much wine. But its a vacation, doncha know….

MacWorld spanned the two lower levels of the Moscone center, and one side is always the business side. Not too flashy and very oriented to the business professional. Yes. BORING. With help booths and tech booths and small business booths, but you always get a lot of free crap. Squeezy balls and pens, cups, keychains, CDs, books… just lots of stuff. I trundled through the booths snapping pictures of everything, occasionally going where I wasn’t suppose to go, and pissing off one smallish media geek who’s butt was apparently carrying a stick so big, he couldn’t be bothered to step around me to get to the hallway where the pressroom was setup. Instead, he sucked up every ounce of snot he had to tell me that I should move because the media need to have a clear path to whatever room in back they are currently holding frenzied masturbation tournaments. You know, it may just be a regional difference, but when I was media, and I was media for a good long time, I had never said anything quite so rude. Mainly because, if you’re a snotty media geek here, most people will give you a good ass kicking.

I think the only complaint I had, and it wasn’t really a complaint is that food, drink and other treats were costly – a can of soda was $2.49 and water was $2.29 – cheaper than last year, though. SHEEESH. I was sort of dejected because I passed through the boring side of the exhibits and thought to myself, “Geeze, was that it?” We slowly walked to the other side. HOLY SHIT on a SHINGLE. We had walked in to presentation booth heaven. Giant images, billowing posters, dancers, a giant blow-up castle, geek-monkeys throwing free shit at people, and if that weren’t enough, a woman in a black, rubber, cat suit. I was in a sheer state of ecstasy. I stop at every booth, sign up for any piece of junk mail, take pens, pencils, t-shirts, candy, magazines, samples, literature. Every damn thing that wasn’t nailed down, I put in my bag. I talked to everybody I could, I touched and tasted and smelled every Mac, every accessory I could. I found the MacAddict Magazine folks and told them I LOVED their magazine, I found the Nikon people and drooled over the D1 digital camera they had brought, I found the Epson people and examined their demo models like I was some sort of expert, I found the Maya people and coveted silently, and catatonically their amazing software, I found the Adobe Photoshop guy and told him I loved photoshop so much, I wanted to have his baby, I found the Adobe Illustrator product rep and asked why Illustrator had turned into the biggest piece of shit program since Microsoft Publisher.

As I was photographing freaks, pocketing chotchies, and talking to nerds…. I saw it…. And … I … was … struck dumb… You see, I didn’t get in town to see the Keynote, so I didn’t hear about the new products being announced. But as I turned to focus on a pink haired leather freak, I saw the Titanium Powerbook G4. Damn, if Apple don’t pull it out of their ass when their stock falls. It was small and shiny and cool. I stared at it, and mopped my drool from the keyboard. It rotated on a platform bathed in a heavenly light and I was made small by it magnificence. Then the Apple monkey who was hanging around it spoke. He told me of the new G4s with the faster chip and the CD burners, and dual processors, and DVD capabilities, and the big fat 30-60 gig drives, and the ICBM launch capabilities and the grenade launchers mounted on each side… nononono…. well, it DOES have new, faster chips, and burners. I was struck stupid.

And you can probably guess the rest. I traded my year old G4 tower in for a new G4 dual 533 with the white walls and the sunroof.

I can’t help it. I’m weak.