Except for the muscles rippling under his form-fitting dress shirt, Magnus Scheving at first glance bears little resemblance to Sportacus, the hyperactive, health-promoting hero he plays in the international hit childrenâ€™s television program â€œLazyTown.â€
Unlike Sportacus, Mr. Scheving does not have a thin black mustache that juts out as if he had recently been electrocuted. He does not reside in a dirigible in the sky. He does not have a ski hat-cum-nightcap permanently affixed to his head.
But both he and his alter ego are devoted to a single, impassioned cause: getting couch potato-prone children to exercise, eat good food and generally lead healthier lives. And somehow Mr. Scheving, the creator and chief executive of the vast entertainment and licensing company known as LazyTown Entertainment, has become one of Icelandâ€™s best-known figures and biggest exports, a sui generis hybrid of Jack LaLanne and Richard Branson.
Emily gave me a shopping list this morning and sent me off into the world. The list is pretty straight forward, but I’m in NY were everything seems to be moving at a fast pace, but actually takes forever.
I went to four different fabric stores to pick up silk for the monkeys’ skin. Most of my time seemed to involve heading in the wrong direction and back-tracking. I’m sure I’ll get the hang of navigating, because I’ve done it here before, but it always seems to take awhile for me to remember the uptown/downtown orientation.
After that it was off to look for yak fur, for their hair. I had no success. Ironically, the closest I came was a really gorgeous pelt, which turned out to be Icelandic sheep. Go figure. $250 for something that I can buy in Ikea in Iceland for $25.
Next up. Balls for the monkeys. I’m trying to find rattan, wicker or grapevine balls that are 2″ in diameter. So far, I found some really gorgeous ones in Tibet, but the shipping is killer. I’m now trying to track down a store with parrot toys, because evidentially parrots like to play with 2″ wicker balls. I don’t understand, but I won’t complain if I can find them.
Tomorrow, I’ll be picking up airplane cable, wooden balls and dowels.
I think I mentioned that my desktop computer was dead when we returned from Iceland. What I didn’t mention was that my scanner and my camera both require a serial port, which neither of our laptops have. Now, you’d think that we could just buy an adapter cable, but nooooo. The cursed machines only work if plugged into a serial port. I know. It’s stupid. So, for awhile the only way to get images into the computer was to use my Palm Pilot. Functional, but not stellar.
Today, Rob bought a new camera–well, a different camera from Craig’s list. It works with both computers. Hurrah.
By coincidence. I also got my hair cut today. Pretty, huh? We’ll see how it does when I have to do it on my own tomorrow.
I also got new glasses about a month ago and completely forgot to mention them. I tend to wear contacts most of the time, and usually just wear the glasses to and from bed but I’ll also sometimes go a week without putting contacts in. It sort of depends on what I’m doing. I don’t like performing or biking with glasses, because I want that extra peripheral vision. Thanks to the magic of the new digital camera you can see the new glasses.
This morning Rob and I were standing in the kitchen. The classical radio station was playing the background as we waited for the opera to begin. As we were talking, I heard the announcer say, “And that was ‘The dance of the dolls’,” which immediately made my head turn to the radio, because dancing dolls sounds suspiciously like puppetry. He continued speaking, “And it was played by the Icelandic Symphony Orchestra.”
I just laughed. I mean, that’s as fine description of my last year as you can get in music.
It turns out that the piece is called Okon Fuoko. I’m going to have to track down a copy and listen to it with intent, because the plot does look like something which might be adapted to puppet stage. It’s like Petruchka in Japan.
I was hoping that they would email me photos of my experience on Monday, but alas. [Edited to add: they emailed one and I posted the tooth photo here.]
So, Monday I went to my snow-delayed dental appointment. I mentioned to the hygenist that a tooth on the front right of my mouth was giving me some discomfort as I bit down, but I wasn’t sure which one it was. When she took the x-rays and photos it was so obvious that even I could see it. I had a cracked filling. Oh! Of course that’s why it was owie. Thank heavens, I thought, that I came in so soon after it started giving me trouble. She then complimented me on how well I’d been keeping my teeth clean during the time I’d been away. I was feeling pretty good about my oral hygene.
Until the dentist came in. She took one look at the x-ray and said, “You’re a sneeze away from needing a root canal. We need to get you in to have that repaired ASAP.” She went on to explain that the dark shadow above the filling was decay. The size of the decay meant that the filling had probably cracked shortly after I arrived in Iceland–a year ago. Yeah. Further, the decay was so close to the root, that it was questionable if she would be able to fill it without hitting the pulp. You know, the place where the nerve is.
So, I’m preparing myself to come in later that week, when she announces that she can see me that day. In fact, only half an hour after my current appointment ends. She seriously meant ASAP.
The procedure was everything one loves about going to the dentist. The rubber bite block, the green rubber dam stretched across my mouth. The drill.
So they get me all settled in, numbed and with the instructions to raise my left hand if I need them to stop for any reason. My dentist is very good and knows that I’m curious about things, so she stopped periodically to let me have a look with the mirror. I got to see the inside of my tooth as she paused in drilling. This is where we are sad that they couldn’t export the dental photos from their proprietary software. She kept saying, “I think we’re going to get away with this. I think you’re about to be lucky and we’ll save this tooth.”
Then she hit the pulp.
It’s the only time I’ve ever raised my left hand at the dentist. Even numbed, the sensation was so sharp, so direct-to-the-brain vivid that it’s hard to even describe as pain. It was simply something that had to stop.
They got the bleeding to stop–didn’t show me that part, which I’m fine with–and put the new composite filling in. My dentist said that the composite bonds better with the enamel and she’s hoping that if she can get an airtight seal that everything will hold. We’re hoping that I won’t need a root canal.
Much to our surprise, it’s snowing today. It’s the first real snow that I’ve had in Portland in years. I know it’s snowed here more recently, but I always manage to be out of town somehow. You’d think, after spending a year in Iceland, that I wouldn’t be as excited as I am.
On the other hand, that could be because I had a dentist appointment and had to cancel it. I love snow.
I say illustrated, this is almost all digital and the compositing of four different photographs. The largest is one I took of the glacial lagoon in Iceland. The other four are the dogs, the man and the child. I did some painting to blend them together and then textured the whole thing.
Pick up a copy and see how they came together. It’s on page thirty-three
For a while now, our status has been somewhat up in the air. Were we going back to Iceland or staying in the US? If the US, where?
We know the answer now. We are moving to New York. Manhattan, in fact. This is a move that Rob and I have been talking about for years now, because, though we both love Portland, career-wise we need to be in NY or LA. That choice was the easy part; Rob went to NYU and we had no interest in LA. No offense folks, but we like winter and don’t like owning a car.
Anyway, we finally settled enough of the particulars last night to feel comfortable starting to let people know. We’ll be living on the Upper Westside and moving around the end of April. There’s a chance that I may come out sooner, because of some freelance work, but I’ll keep you posted as things progress.
Those of you who live in Portland, we’ll be doing some downsizing, so if anyone is looking for furniture… Books too and Powell’s won’t take all of them.
When we got back from Iceland my desktop computer wouldn’t boot. Uh-oh. We took it into a repair shop and learned that the hard disk was frozen. For a mere $1000 they could ship it off to California where the data could be retrieved.
Was there anything on it that I needed that badly?
Our wedding photos.
Allow me to now demonstrate the power of backups. I had backed everything up onto my old laptop and behold, it was still there. Whew. So, shall we celebrate again?
Mary and Robert Kowal's Wedding
I’ve put them all in this handy Picassa photo album. Look how happy we are.
Normally, I have a formal dinner party for Christmas every year and this year it was scheduled for Sunday the sixteenth. You know. The day after Rob got back from Iceland. Why would I do something like that? Because, our friend Jodi was in town and leaving on the 17th, which meant that the only night possible was the night after Rob got back.
This was fine. We’d talked about it and made our plans and everything was fine. Then I got the call to go to Iceland. At this point the party started to get dicey, but I’d already mailed the invitations and I’ve done it so many times that I felt like I could pull it off. The only thing that made me really nervous was that I had to work on Sunday and would only get home an hour before the party started. I’d done that before too, so I knew I could handle it by prepping all the food the day before and leaving Rob instructions about what to put in the oven and when.
And then Rob’s travel karma kicked in. He got the the airport two hours early and it took three hours to clear security. He called me from Detroit. I knew his itinerary and Detroit was not in the picture. He was supposed to arrive home at 1:10 and was now scheduled for 7:00. I got off the phone with him and started calling people to cancel the party.
My friend, Sue, suggested that I tell people to come anyway and to bring a finger food. Brilliant. So that’s what we did. While it was did not satisfy my craving to host a dinner party, it was wonderful to see everyone. The food was outstanding too; my friends can cook. So, all told, it was a successful party, but I’m still going to have to have a sit-down affair later. I think it’s the tables set with china and silver that makes me all happy.
I’m getting on the 5:00 flight this evening to head back to the States. I’m quite melancholy about this and again find myself reluctant to go.
The good news is that I have an overnight layover in New York City. I’m getting together with friends around 9:30 or 10:00 tonight. We’re still sorting out the details of where. If you’re in the area and want to join us, drop me a line with your phone number and I’ll call or email you with the location. Sorry that this is so sudden; we had a period yesterday of thinking that I might stay a day longer.
I made it safely here with no problems in transit. 2000 words written on the novel. I would have gotten more, but was sitting next to a lovely Welsh woman on the plane and once you start chatting with someone whose voice is that lovely, it’s hard to stop.
A driver picked me up and brought me to the apartment. It was around 8:00 by the time we left the airport. The sky was dark and clear; a light dusting of frost coated the moss and sparkled in the moonlight so beautifully that I was forced to use cliched adjectives like “magical” to describe it.
Rob and I had a happy reunion.
It’s now about three o’clock and I need to get outside if I’m to take advantage of the remaining hour of daylight. Ah. Winter in Iceland.
I wrote about 1500 words for Shades of Milk and Honey on the flight from Phoenix to here. I tried to post in Phoenix, but it kept hanging up and I lost the post.
Basically it was an amusing thing about watching the cab driver pick up my larger bag, which was clearly so tightly packed that the fabric was straining, and almost throw it into the air, expecting it to be heavy. I’m taking reticulated foam with me to Iceland, because I can’t get it there. La.
Besides that, I’ve got some treats for people there, but otherwise and taking no clothes. I left half my clothes there, expecting to return in January. So this trip is working out well for getting things back to Portland. No. We still don’t know where we are going to live after January, but taking stuff back to Portland with me seems prudent.
My good friend -e- came up to help me get ready for departure. It’s not really the “Ahhh! I’m going to Iceland. Tomorrow!” that was giving me trouble so much as the, “Ahhh! I get back from Iceland the day before Rob and the house isn’t clean!” We spent a while cleaning, sipped dirty blue martinis and then when my house was under control, we escaped down to hers to look at paint chips for her remodeling project. Could one ask for a better friend?
Oh, did I mention that she’s offered to do some grocery shopping for me, so we have food when we get home. Yeah. That’s a friend for you.
(Tor Books — August 21, 2018) Continuing the grand sweep of alternate history laid out in The Calculating Stars, The Fated Sky looks forward to 1961, when mankind is well-established on the moon and looking forward to its next step: journeying to, and eventually colonizing, Mars. Of course, the noted Lady Astronaut Elma York would like to go, […]