Kage Baker loved building for Dickens. This, the second weekend of rehearsals, is when we usually get the walls of our Parlour up – and she loved that task. The bustle and energy, the giant-jigsaw puzzle of the set, the innovations and repairs and desperate improvisations necessary to get the wall up and standing: it was all the most intense delight for her, an engrossing fever of making.
Not that we let her up on ladders if we could help it, or allowed her to run loose with power tools: that tended to be dangerous. But she was a true maker, and the completed form of the Green Man Inn dwelt perfect and glowing in her head. She was also inspired with small details and tricksy hand-eye deco – the little, glittery, cunning stuff, the improbable details that made the place. The palm trees in brass planters; the deliciously fussy layers of moulding, wallpaper and painted walls; the antimacassers and fruit bowls and china shepherdesses and hand-tinted prints on the walls … everyone has contributed to our incredibly crowded Victorian deco, but it was Kage’s demand for “More stuff!” that started it.
She knew how it should look. It pleased her beyond words to see it go up, the image in her mind taking over-decorated flesh there between the cold concrete walls of the Cow Palace. And that image in her mind leapt like a contagion, like a forest fire, from mind to mind until all of us were infected with it. She’s two years gone, and the Parlour is still going up just the way she wanted it.
Heck, I wasn’t even there this weekend, but I know precisely how it must look: because I know my stalwarts have built it just the way Kage designed it.
I wish desperately I was there. I miss the long, eldritch drive up I-5, I miss the light on San Francisco Bay, the way the lights of downtown make the buildings there look transparent in the winter twilights. I miss the relief of a clean bathroom and a decent latte at Starbuck’s in Buttonwillow. I miss the sundogs by day and the streetlights of Elfland by night. There is no side of the road like the side of I-5, and I miss the traverse of the weird it always grants me.
And I miss my folks. Neassa, Mongo, Mike, little Mat; Adam, Jenn, Toby, Tom. And Tom. And wee Tom, with his daddy David and brother Jesse. All my swan-like ladies – Shannon, Liz, Jenn, Sally, Denise, Michelle, Kelly. The kids, growing taller and more numerous every year. Our mated dulcimer players, DJ and Buffalo. All the some-timers and part-timers and when-they-can-timers, who come to us for shelter and provender and drinks, and to help move the tables and do the dishes when we need them.
Most of my family lives up there, all together for a few weeks every winter. In the Cow Palace. In Dickens’ London. In one huge faceted gem from Kage’s mind (itself like a box of Oriental jewels) brought out and set up for each Christmas.
Oh, I miss them all. Kimberly and Neassa are both telling me that Kage wouldn’t want me to drive up in poor condition, and so I’ve been reasonable for two weeks now. But reason has an end! Art calls!
Next week, I’m headed up no matter what!