Kage Baker always enjoyed moderating panels at a Con. She didn’t preach, or especially dominate the lecturn; she was scrupulous about making sure everyone got a turn, the audience questions were answered, and the nutcases – on both sides of the stage – were discouraged from highjacking the conversation.
She did enjoy not being talked over, though. She was gracefully stern with the microphone.
I myself do not enjoy moderating; I’ve spent too much time directing actors, which is one of the classic examples of cat-herding available, to usually enjoy controlling a half dozen writers, for gods’ sake, and a bunch of over-stimulated fans. (Yes, I am a curmudgeon. Curmudgeoness.) Nonetheless, I do my duty when tagged for the moderator’s chair. My last panel on Monday was as moderator, on the topic of Writing In Someone Else’s Space – which is certainly something I do know about. And since the main speaker was the Con Guest of Honour, the formidable David Gerrold – famous for not only his own writing, but his contributions to the Stark Trek Universe – it was really an interesting and easy gig. A splendid time was had by me, certainly, and I hope by everyone else.
Then we hit the road for home. The physics of Space Time being bent most weirdly in the vicinity of the San Mateo Marriott, I needed Neassa to guide me out. She did, and even got me on the right freeway when I took the wrong fork. I did it again twice in the 10 minutes after she left us, but Michel managed to get us back on Highway 101 North, where we headed for the 580 and the I-5 South.
And this is where the trip got weird … for quite some time we went along beautifully; but when we pulled off for gas and cold drinks, the transmission began acting up again. As in, it didn’t want to change gears. This is usually more survivable in a manual transmission than an automatic (one of the reasons I drive a manual) but it’s never a great time. It always come down eventually to getting into the highest gear you can, and driving like hell while hoping your transmission doesn’t fall out until you get home.
And we did fine until Lost Hills. Between Lost Hills and Buttonwillow, the I-5 South – simply – stopped. We proceeded, when we did at all, at about 10 miles per hour. This is first and second gear territory, and my Cruiser was wildly unhappy with the circumstances.
We found out, as sunset advanced and night fell, that our predicament was due to a massive mudslide on the Grapevine. Yeah, pretty unusual at the end of May, but that’s the I-5 for you. Kimberly called us at intervals to keep us posted on the state of the highway and traffic, from her vantage point in LA with wi-fi and television; my phone, of course, had literally blown up on Friday, and Mike couldn’t find internet coverage as we limped along. But Kimberly managed to get us enough news and encouragement – like, when lanes finally opened up at Tejon Pass! – so we didn’t throw ourselves out of the car in suicidal despair.
By Buttonwillow, speeds were nearly normal. We could replenish gas, food and drink, and empty our desperate bladders. Fortified by AM PM hot dogs, we got the Cruiser into 4th and sped on as fast as the road would permit. Fortune was with us – we made it over the Grapevine and down into the LA Basin without ever dropping much below 50 mph – our very last bad moment was trying to coax the poor Cruiser into reverse literally right in front of the house, and we succeeded!
Safe home, I slept for 14 hours and then rented a car to sustain me while the Cruiser in in the shop. Whew!
This was just the sort of adventure that is mostly only fun when you tell the stories later: Kage dreaded them, until it was time to relate our tales of wild roads. Michel held up well, under only his third or fourth such escapade, and I never would have found my way even out of the Bay Area without him. And hot dogs and Cherry Coke restored him something wonderful, so our last hour on the road was jolly and crazy.
More tales of the road tomorrow, Dear Readers, and BayCon. There were entire crews of starships, with no crew under the rank of Captain; there were genies and faeries and physicists. There were tsunamis of perfume and mud and dust storms and weird drivers and what may have been aliens stealing power lines and transformers, and stars so thick they looked like special effects; cows, likewise.
But tomorrow I have to limp once more into AAMCO, and I am still worn out from the Great Trek. So now I going to bed. Still, we made it!