Nevertheless, She Persisted

Kage Baker was a staunch proponent of universal suffrage.

As I have previously reported, she admired Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony, Annie Besant, Katherine Russel (Viscountess Amberly) – all those determined and ferocious ladies, and their crews of equally determined and ferocious ladies. They lived in every country on Earth – Lichtenstein, Puerto Rico, Iceland. Did you know that? Most of them, especially in America and the UK, were also fighters for many other vital civil rights causes – presaging the recent modern cry that Women’s Rights Are Human Rights!

As Kage was wont to point out, in the grand old days of the suffrage movement, it was damned dangerous business. It’s all very well to chain yourself to the railings at Parliament or the the local State House – popular activities in both Britain and the East Coast of the US – but it didn’t take the local constabulary long to figure out where to get chain cutters. And then the ladies were dragged off to prison; where they were beaten, branded, force-fed when they went on hunger strikes, denied food and water when they didn’t, and all too often killed.

Civil rights promotion has never been an easy career. And with all this, fewer than 60% of Americans of any gender voted at all in the 2016 election. It’s freaking discouraging, Dear Readers.

But they did win, those ladies with their Rational Dress Reform and white petticoats and red, white and blue sashes. So now, in the ever-so-enlightened 21st Century, we laud them cheerily and happily, and regard them with the affection we give to especially feisty grandmamas.

But I can’t help but wonder … what was it like in the evenings, coming home tired and bruised and maybe soaked through from fire hoses (yep, that goes way back, too), to darkened houses – because your maid came with you to the protest, and your husband went to his club or his bar or his mother’s in a snit … did they wonder if it was ever going to work? Did they wonder if it was worth it? Did they eye the laudanum, the butcher knife, the husband’s fowling piece, and ponder who might be the best person on which to use those instruments?

Since I presume our assembled ancestresses were human (mostly, anyway), I’m pretty sure they did indeed get the blues. It must have been so hard, so painfully hard, to lose So. Many. Times. Over and over, and who’s to say when or if it will work? Faith is one of those weird things that you absolutely have to have to fight this kind of fight: but which will do you no good at all in finding armies, wielding weapons, surviving attacks. It’s hard, in the cold darkness, to cling exclusively to faith and stubbornness.

I, like many of us, Dear Readers, have spent the day besieging Heaven (or at least the aether around Washington DC) with calls and emails begging for the defeat of Jeff Sessions. Who was nevertheless confirmed as the most wretched Attorney General since John Mitchell. In the previous days since January 20th, I have importuned my Congress-critters daily, begging them to refuse Tillman as Secretary of State; to refuse Bannon his place on the National Security Council; to refuse Devos control of our educational system.

Nevertheless, they have all been confirmed.

Just to make my own several days more horrid, I have also been fighting off a deep and pestilential respiratory infection. It is finally retreating, and I am almost feeling good. But I’ve had little energy the last week. While I have spent it all in writing, it’s been writing to the Feds and begging them to grow some spines and brains. A few times I’ve varied the routine by sending off similar letters to Sacramento, whose turn in the barrel I anticipate coming up in the near future … not that I am all that sanguine about them, either, since the member of Brown’s staff in whom I had the most faith (his late Corgi, Sutter Brown) has been called back to God for re-assignment …

So, I’m depressed. I admit it. I have been sick, tired, drippy, achy, fevered; and every day has ended in coughing up amazing new colonies of malign bacteria; and seeing the even-more malign bacteria in Washington work their evil will on my poor country. But, you know what, Dear Readers?

There was a little hummingbird, who made her nest just outside my kitchen window last month. She, and it, were exquisite little miniatures of silver moss and snowy fluff. But in the last big storm here in Los Angeles, the wind and torrential rains took her nest and whirled it away. She hadn’t laid her eggs yet. I hoped desperately that maybe she would try again, as the weather warmed up. And this morning – there she was, back again, working on the edges of her new nest.

The storm struck her, hard. Nevertheless, she persisted.

So can I.

 

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Drowning

Kage Baker could cope with most impediments to writing – except a bad cold.

Me, too.

The cold that descended on me over the weekend has only grown worse. My nose is no longer running incessantly, but that’s only because my lungs have filled up. I have two half-inflated, poorly maintained aquaria in my chest cavity and seem to be hacking up wet hamsters.

Under the influence of Nyquil, I have managed to survive the nights – but woke up this morning dreaming about two little ghoul girls living in a big house and garden in the Hollywood Hills. They were names Take and Treat, and they liked to play with ribbon wands. There may be a small, weird story in this.

I’m gonna chug some more Nyquil (the poor woman’s absinthe) and see if I can dream of other interesting things … maybe things in trousers …

Unless full fathom five my bones lie in the morning, Dear Readers, see you all tomorrow.

 

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January 30, 2017

Kage Baker spent her last January 30th as the belle of a small but lively ball.

Most of her family and some friends came to see her, in her big wooden bed in Pismo Beach, in her pirate-themed bedroom. She was happy and eager to see them all – she’d come home to die, and she knew it; but she thought she had a few weeks, and was looking forward to a long party leading up to that time.

This weekend was the first Visiting Hours weekend. Kage was eagerly anticipating having people in and out, saying good bye, remembering good times, making a leisurely farewell. Her sister Anne was committed to coming up every single weekend, with her daughters as much as possible; various boon companions were making reservations to come and see Kage. Wayne Fisher, an old and much-beloved friend, showed up unexpectedly midday, having driven like a madman down from San Francisco, as was his habit. He took a room in the horrible hotel across the street from us – but he spent all the day with Kage, which delighted her.She was at peace, and even excited to see folks.

The tide was going out by about 4 PM that afternoon. Just as the sun set on that January 30th in 2010, Kage complained of  new pain. She said she was tired, and asked for a little morphine, which I gave her; and then she settled into her pile of pillows and blankets. She told us she was much more comfortable, as Wayne and I tucked her in.

And that was pretty much that. People wandered in and out for hours afterward, all evening, all night and into the wee hours of the morning. Her sister Anne sat and talked to her, her nieces cuddled up to her on the big bed and told her all kinds of things. But by midnight, it was obvious that Kage was not going to wait. Most of what everyone was saying was, It’s all right, it’s okay, you can go now.

At this point – I can barely recall where I was most of that evening. In the kitchen, preparing plates and snacks; in the living room, moving bits of Kage’s juju around her desk. I watched the air pressure rise in her barometer, I remember; it would be fair the next day. I heard the tide come in through the night, and then begin to recede again after midnight. It was receding fast, aiming for its low at 3:30 that morning, when Kage finally stopped breathing. Naturally, she went with the ebb.

It’s the time to leave, after all.

By then, Anne and the girls were asleep, exhausted. Just Wayne and I were with Kage. I don’t even remember how I got there  – when I came in, when the others left … just the three of us sitting together, as we had sat together in so many dark Inn Yards at so many, many midnight Faires.

Today, I drove home from Pacific Grove. I spent a wonderful weekend with the patient and generous Neassa Skold, writing and giggling and knitting and reading one another political jokes and horror stories off our computers. Those things are all a lot easier when shared. This morning we had breakfast in one of Kage’s favourite restaurants, and parted ways: Neassa drove North to her home and I drove South to mine.

Along the way … well, in Lost Hills, my phone bricked. I had it duly and lawfully in its hands-free holder when apparently the power cord blew its zap and began sucking the battery dead. The phone blinked several weird colours, then curled up into a metaphoric fetal position and died. My Kindle was unable to find a signal. And of course, my Buke is as dead as the fabled dodo, and just as much use … I had to drive the last 2 hours home with no maps, no instructions, no music – like a savage!

I also managed to catch a cold over the weekend, and was hacking up my lungs most of the way, Plus, my nose was running like a faucet, and all I had with me were 7 – count ’em, 7 – Starbucks napkins. I made them last all the way to Burbank, though I did give a little thought to stripping off my T-short and re-purposing it as a handkerchief … but I was desperate to get home and collapse in my own bed, so I kept going and dripping.

But I made it before dark! And Kimberly got me hot soup and peach sorbet and decongestants and green Ny-Quil and a box of Kleenex all for my very own. I still feel like a squashed egg, but at least I am being squashed at home.

Kage Baker died at 1:15 AM on January 31, 2010.  I wrote that on her web page 7 years years ago or so. This weekend, I wrote several thousand words on new stories; tomorrow, I am going to talk to my agent (and Kage’s) about what is happening with “The Teddy Bear Squad” and Knight and Dei and the Hungarian offer for The Women of Nell Gwynne’s.

The tide turns, and turns again. You must keep your eye on it, or it will knock you flat on your face into cold salt water. And the midnight ocean tastes like tears.

I’ve had more than enough of tears.

Sleep well, kiddo.

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It Died With Its Word Processor On

Kage Baker once had a habit of not turning her programs off before she exited them. This resulted in a lot of lost updates, new work, and sometimes entire documents – her preferred method being to yank the portable medium right out of the drive before it got a chance to remind her to save.

She was eventually cured of this when she accidentally ditched half of Iden when she was getting ready to submit. Two days cursing in  Kinko’s will teach you a lot … you can tell this was a long time ago by the fact we had to go t0 Kinko’s with our floppy disks.

Eventually, she got calmer and safeguards got better and media got sturdier, and there no more accidental deaths. However, the computer can always go south on you.

My Buke is dying piecemeal. It actually came on this morning, and I was thrilled! I was also lulled. I answered some mail. I sent some stern advice to my Congress-critters. I pulled up KUSC Classical online, for background while I worked on stories. All was flowing and serene. There were some oddities – like the random black bubbles floating over the screen; which made me suspect the touch pad was losing its mind. And it did demand an entirely new security sign in from me, probably because it heard me threatening to replace it.

Still, for an hour or so, we were managing. And then, in the midst of a Saint- Saens piece, the Buke made a faint, sad popping noise and went black.

It may come back to life. The story I was working on does exist on my home computer of course, and I can remember what I wrote just before the crash. And thumb drives are sturdier than the old 5-inch floppies Kage used to yank out and throw across the room like square Frisbees, so the other documents on it are probably already right.

In the meantime, I can compose on my Kindle. That is because my Kindle is actually a Kindle Fire and it does all sorts of things … it also has an infintisimal virtual keyboard, so I write very slowly. But it’s all right. I can write.

And my Buke died in action, fulfilling its destiny. Which  is some consolation.

In the meantime, I went online and found a brand new HP laptop. It’s reasonably small – 11 by 8 inches, about the size of a sheet of paper or a hard-cover book. It has a real keyboard, tons of SSD, and is much more electronically muscular than my previous Buke. It costs more than $15.00, but that is probably a good thing, don’t you think?

Also, the one I chose is violet. VIOLET, Dear Readers. I could not resist. It will arrive on Friday. I will get a larger steampunk suitcase for it, and all will be well.

I shall recycle my Buke with honours. And not buy any more Fry’s bargains.

In the meantime, Pacific Grove continues lovely, and Neassa has been out taking photos – she is a grand photographer. When not struggling with my writing tools, I am happily adding new words to several stalled stories. I’ve had to work a little harder to manage to work at all, but, hey – I’m a grown up. I can do that.

And we are both working on a new knitting project – Phrygian caps. Those used to be called “freedom caps”, during the American revolution. Also in the French ones. They are the front-floppy hats you see on Greek heroes and Mithras, too. I shall post a picture when I get the first one finished.

They are appropriate for these days, I think. Freedom is always good – freedom from fear, freedom from insanity, freedom from misbehaving electronics. We just have to work a little for it.

But we’re grownups. Right, Dear Readers? We can do that.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Another PSA

Kage Baker didn’t believe in beating dead horses. (It’s mean.) Also, she could tell when a continuing activity was futile.

My little Buke is giving out. It’s dropping pages and tabs, losing files (horrors!) and refusing to hold a charge.

Mind you, I paid all of $15.00 for it on a Fry’s Electronics loss leader ad, and it’s served me for several years. I’ve gotten my m0ney’s worth. And now it’s driving me nuts.

Besides, it’s running Windows 8.1 and cannot be upgraded. I can’t work like this.

If I can configure a work-around on my Kindle, I will be back tomorrow, Dear Readers. In the meantime, although the poor little Buke’s ability to cope with the ather is fading, I can still write in Open Office.

So I will be a good girl, and go work on (appropriately) my zombie story.

Even Kage would be giving up on this by now …

 

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Destination: Pacific Grove

Kage Baker regarded Pacific Grove as a destination resort.

It’s not that peculiar; lots of people do, since Pacific Grove is one of the prettiest, most packed full of good restaurants, covered with butterflies cities in the world. (It’s a surprisingly large category.) Also, it’s on the edge of Monterey, which is also a prime destination for tourists in search of everything from yachting souvenirs to personal encounters with otters.

Kage’s choice of it as a destination vacation spot was only strange because she came here to sit in a hotel room – I mean, it was literally what she came to do. Believe me, Dear Readers, if you could see  it,where  I am sitting at the moment – while Neassa checks her email – is a room straight out of Paradise. A slightly frilly, somewhat twee Victorian Paradise, but also right on the edge of the vast and roaring Pacific and in a house old enough to creak nicely in every gust of wind.

In fact, Dear Readers, if you go online and Google the Green Gable Inn, you can see photographs of the place. My room – Kage’s favourite and mine, too – is the Chapel Room. Note the groined ceiling, the casement windows full of the ocean view, the deliciously weird piano-hinge doors! Ignore the teddy bears; the staff is loopy for teddy bears … see the window seats? All the wood and brass? It’s perfectly obvious why Kage came here just to be in this room!

It’s a marvel for just existing in while you write. Pacific Grove is full of rooms good for that – the Borg Motel is also right on the ocean, at beautiful Lover’s Point, and once one gets over the giggles at the name, it too is comfortable and fine. There are half a dozen hotels in the actual Butterfly Groves, one of which is an ancient and restored farmhouse, and another which is an almost-as-ancient and equally restored 1950’s auto court … but the Green Gables is the best.

The ride up was uneventful, probably because I wasn’t on the I-5 much. I took one of the crossing roads between the 5 and the 101, and actually made it through the deadly town of Chulame without getting killed: unlike James Dean. The map AI on my phone did try to send me down an unpaved road into a beet field, but by time I was in Salinas and could find my own way. Map AIs are capricious creatures – Kage’s theory was that they all live so fast that they are senile or insane. She figured that would be one of the biggest problems in developing real AIs, and not just algorithms on steroids. But I escaped once again!

I got in about 3 PM, and spent a few hours lounging and discovering what I had left at home. There is always something. This time it was a sufficient number of chargers for all my electronics. Luckily, they all use the same kind, so the one I did remember works on everything. Poor Neassa was delayed by traffic and jobs and the twists of the freeway around Hayward, but she made it in just a little while ago. So we are all set.

The other thing one does at a destination resort, of course, is eat. And Pacific Grove is a wonderful place for that, too. Kage occasionally got so deeply caught up in writing that she’d send me out for a pizza – eaten amid the Victorian frills and teddy bears here – but I want someplace with cloth napkins and at least 2 forks. And now I am getting a little blogging in while Neassa unpacks, and then we are going out for seafood. I don’t even care what really; here, it’s all wonderful.

***DISCONTINUITY***

Oh, my. We found a Chowder House, only blocks away from the Green Gables. Well, Neassa found it, on her map program – a little, hole in the wall, local seafood place with an Italian slant: not a tourist place, the sort the people who live here go to. At least, to judge from the other diners there. The cook is clearly a god; one related to Poseidon, probably. Neassa had fettucini Alfredo with scallops (or as she said, LOTS of scallops with some nice noodles); I had some extraordinary dish of pan-braised fish, molluscs and crustaceans in a tomato bisque … clearly, the original dish of which Manhattan clam chowder is but a zombie reflection.

Yes, we are at our destination. Now for a quiet evening with sherry and tea and ch0colate chip cookies. And writing. And knitting. And some very quiet giggling …

 

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I’m Off To Meet The Muse

Kage Baker relied heavily on writing holidays. They were one of the primary energy sources for her creativity. One was always necessary when she started a new book, or got a custom assignment, or hit the 7th-inning doldrums on a story – she’d pick a place with a good hotel and restaurants, and off we’d go.

The idea was not a holiday from writing, as I have explained before. It was isolation for the purposes of writing. Whenever possible, we went places without phones; if the room came with one ( a lot of nice, atmospheric B & B’s don’t), I unplugged it. Same with the television; although, neither of us being very avid telly watchers, it was easy to ignore the idiot box. I just made sure Kage couldn’t find any showings of, oh, Samurai Jack or Treasure Island

It got harder once Kage had her Buke and could find media from anywhere, any time. But usually, she was content to play whatever CD was supplying the soundtrack for that particular project, or tune in to KUSC online: it’s the only classical station that can be found anywhere in the world, I think, and is always glorious. And since she tended to take writing holidays in odd, distant places, it was sometimes hard to find an actual local station.

We found a lot of weird AM stations, though. Really scary talk shows, full of UFO reports and conspiracy theories; Coast to Coast with George Noory is broadcast everywhere. There is lots of assorted ethnic music: American country, zydeco,  narcocorrido with bass viols and accordions, J-pop, Persian ballads, Icelandic rock … in California’s hinterlands, you find a lot of these little pockets of peculiar and specific genres. Other places, you just get dim static and flying saucer noises, or maybe it’s ghostly EM pollution … hard to tell. But it’s got no beat, and you can’t dance or write to it.

However, I know all the tricks to make a writing weekend pleasant and productive. And I really need one right now. The last year was bad, the winter was horrific, and nothing has settled down yet. So tomorrow, I am heading for Pacific Grove and the loveliest B & B I know, the Green Gables Inn, Kage’s favourite in all the world. I will hole up there, with yarn and knitting patterns and the Buke, and in the excellent company of my good friend Neassa. And we will actually write! We always do, although there is also plenty of talking, knitting, and giggling.

And eating. Breakfast at the Green Gables is stunningly good. There is coffee, tea and soda available all day; wine and cheese in the afternoons, sherry and cookies at night. And you cannot find a bad restaurant around Monterey Bay, even if you try.  I want to go to the Forge in the Forest, in Carmel. It’s a wonderful restaurant, and the source and origin of the Shrine of the Father in Bird of the River. Kage loved it so much, she built an entire temple town out of it, and I need to go there and eat in the light of the (yes, actual) forge.

Though the Children of the Sun were exclusively Kage’s people, built of all her hot-hearted loves and eccentricities …  Me, I’m the model for the yendri – broody, moody people with cold feet.

But I need to go to one of Kage’s sacred places, and re-dedicate myself to writing. So I will drink red wine, and eat honeyed apples in cream for breakfast, and watch the winter sea from behind the leaded-glass sanctuary of windows.

And I will write. See you from the road, Dear Readers.

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