I just got off the phone with IngÃ³lfur, the man for who I built the polar bear, and they need to make some changes to the bear. He asked if I would be willing to come out. Heck, yeah. So, I’m getting on a plane tomorrow morning at 5:30 a.m. I’ll spend a week in Iceland and then be back the following Friday.
Now, if you’ll excuse me. I have a lot to get done suddenly.
Rob and I had a good long talk this evening and he finally has the answer to our burning question. Would the company need him after the holidays? Sometimes the answer was yes, sometimes no. We got the official word, “No” today, which leaves us with the new burning question, “Do we go back to Iceland anyway?”
We’re talking it over and considering a couple of options. Since we’ve got a renter coming in January, this means that we have a lot more freedom than we would otherwise. We’re considering everything from Iceland to New York to parts unknown. Fortunately, this wasn’t entirely unexpected, so we’d already begun tossing ideas around. It is a relief to finally know.
I’m sitting at home, wearing one of my husband’s sweaters with all of the lights turned on in the house. I’ve heated some frozen vegetable gyozas for a snack and taken a break from writing to, well, write something else. There are many things to be thankful for, but my husband is far away and being in a group of other people would only remind me more of that, so I’ve elected to ignore the holiday.
So, I’m thankful that he left one of his sweaters at home. I’m thankful that we can talk to each other even though he’s still in Iceland (and thank you Skype for making that free). And I’m thankful that I have time to write a couple of chapters while everyone else is eating turkey.
More than survived, really. I had a great time, although I was a little stressed juggling some transit issues. Rob and I had made the decision before going to Iceland, that we would sell the car and try being carless when we came back. What this weekend has taught me is that carless is fine when I’m solo, but when I have a guest it sucks. Even with Flexcar and buses, everything got very complicated. I think it might have been fine, had we not wanted to throw a Shimmer party, which meant getting groceries down to the convention. It might also have been fine, if we had wanted to leave right after the panels ended. As it was, the first night the buses had stopped running before we were ready to leave.
But even with that, I had a great time. Most of the panels were interesting and I think I only witnessed one that was a dud. My workshop on reading aloud went well, I think. My reading on the other hand, while I think it was appreciated, did not make me happy. I didn’t have time to do my homework on the story this week and my printer ran out of ink on Saturday, which meant that I couldn’t print the story out until I got to the hotel on Sunday. It was mind numbingly stupid of me and meant I couldn’t mark the page up the way I like to. But, my audience of six didn’t seem to mind. I think they even forgave me when I realized that I had randomly inserted the word “not” into a sentence. Why does one do things like that? Anyway, I just reread the line and kept going.
Today I waited around the house for my DSL connection to be hooked up because Qwest said that I had to be home between nine and five, which was a nice, narrow window. It was okay, because I also had to be here for the gutter guys to come give me an estimate, and to sign for my cell phone when it arrived.
The downside to this, was that I also had to go down to the Portland Spirit to do a video shoot as the Cinnamon Bear. I was getting ready to leave and–behold!–UPS arrives with the modem setup for my DSL. He rang the bell and just dropped it off; I didn’t have to be here at all. For that. But the gutter guys were still coming, so I wrote a note, apologizing for having to leave, and explaining my concerns about the roof. I taped it to the front door and biked off.
Slowly. We were having some Icelandic weather here. The wind was so strong that it was like biking up hill all the time, so it took me twice as long to get there as usual.
It took about three minutes to shoot the promotional spot (I have to say, that my bear suit is nicer, but it’s also more expensive so, there you go.) and then I got on the bike to head home again.
There was an estimate taped to the door. I’ll call them tomorrow.
No cell phone. So I call and discover that the order had not gone through. The guy tries to cancel it and redo the order. He’s very nice; we get everything sorted out. Then two minutes later he calls back to say that the first order went through after all. Oy. So two cell phones are coming here. I’m supposed to be able to send it back and get a full refund. He was really apologetic.
So after sorting all of that out, I talked to the window folks again and got that lined up. He’s dropping off the contract tomorrow.
Which just left me time to go down to the NaNoWriMo write-in downtown. It’s nice to sit around other people who are frantically typing. I didn’t get as much done as I would have liked, but the companionship was a nice change.
The really fun thing came on the bus ride home (remember the wind? Add rain to that and darkness. Not good biking conditions). I struck up a conversation with a fellow who makes his living betting on horse races. Fascinating. He said that he used to go with his dad when he was little, and has been betting for thirty years. The way he talks about it, it’s like a full-time job. He was just coming home from a track and was going home to go online to research the races for the next day. We had twenty minutes of conversation about a world that is completely alien to me. I loved it.
I invited a group of friends over last night to let people know I was back in Portland. It was nice to see everyone, but it was a little strange to set up for the party. I went to the grocery store and could read everything without having to think about it. I’m also out of practise throwing parties here, so I really had to think about what we needed and where to get it. Now the thing I loved was that I biked to the stores. Oh, and people showed up on time. What’s up with that? Don’t they know that parties start an hour to an hour and a half after the scheduled start time. Actually, I had everything ready waaaay ahead of time, because I have gotten used to having that buffer in Iceland and, knowing I wouldn’t have it here, I overcompensated. The party definitely made the house feel more comfortable, but I spent most of the party feeling like something was missing.
Rob and I talked yesterday and he said that he keeps wanting to come back to Portland. Without me there, he is wondering what the point of being in Iceland is. I said, funny, I have the same feeling about wanting to go back to Reykjavik. Our friends are very dear to me, but the friends and the house aren’t where home is. The party was fun, but I’m still not home.
So far being back in Portland feels very much like make-believe. My favorite coffee shop still has the card that I left last year, and so I’m continuing to get stamps for my decafs as if I had never left. The weather is the same, and not that different from what I left in Iceland, although Rob tells me that it’s snowing now.
I talk to Rob almost every day. We have only a few hours in which our schedules overlap. It’s hard chatting with him at two in the afternoon, knowing that he’s on his way to bed and that I mustn’t keep him up.
The novel is going along nicely. I’m a little behind in my word count, but should be able to catch up if I’m diligent from here on out. If you missed the post where I explained why there are now password protected posts, I’m putting up a chapter of my novel each day until I finish it. If you want to read along, leave a comment here (the computer will send me your email address) and I’ll send you the password.
And now, I need to write another 2000 words. Charge!
I left my absentee ballot in Iceland, so I biked down to the polling station today. I’ll tell you, I felt quite the Oregonian with the rain pelting me in the face as I whipped down 15th Avenue. The line of people with missing or damaged ballots stretched down the block, but moved pretty quickly. One guy had turned 18 three weeks before and hadn’t gotten his ballot in the mail. He was afraid that they wouldn’t let him vote. I remember my first time voting. It’s pretty cool and feels powerful and very adult.
This is the first time I’ve voted at a polling station in years. Oregon has mail-in ballots and before that, I was on tour or for other reasons voting absentee. In fact, I don’t think I’ve done the polling station thing since I was in college. It was sort of, I don’t know, festive. And there were no exit polls, which was nice.
The other interesting, but not voting related thing, is that the bike ride home, which includes a hill that I’ve always found difficult, was easy. I keep thinking I’m out of shape, but I guess I was biking hills and with a mountain bike. Switching back to a road bike means I’m dealing with a lot less resistance from the tires. I was still winded by the top, but I went up it easier than when I was biking full-time here.
Jodi and I went to the fabric store where the bear’s fur came from and bought enough to do two more bears. It’s now on its way to Iceland via U.S. Post. Initially they said that shipping would cost $238.50 (at the cheap end. The high end was $700) because the fur was too big to fit into one of the US Post approved boxes and would have to go via FedEx. At that price I was just going to buy a suitcase and carry it with me. We managed to cram it in with a bit of effort. The post costs only $50. Crazy, eh? It’ll take 6-8 weeks to get to Iceland, but I’ll be out of the country longer than that, so I think it’ll be fine.
Afterwards we went to have Thai food. Mmmm. Spicy. I’ve missed spicy food. And Thai Iced Tea. Happy camper, me.
I’ve made it to Brooklyn where I’m staying with Jodi and Sam. Bizarrely, Stefan was on the flight with me from Iceland but we didn’t realize it until baggage claim. Jodi arranged dinner with Sam Jonathan, Emily and Chris at Gobo. Some very good food and not over-salted, which was such a relief.
I met with the seamstress today and she’s confident that making the jacket will be easy. We talked about the need for the pockets to be gigantic to allow the bear’s paws inside. I’ll drop the bear’s body off with her on Saturday so she can make the pattern for the jacket.
Here’s a video of the process of finishing the head and a movement test. As you’ll be able to see, there’s still some finish work that needs doing, but the bear is very close to being finished.
I’m very pleased with the movement of the bear. What doesn’t make me happy is the heat inside the head. Although I put in a lot of ventilation, it’s still very stuffy. I’m going to open up the mouth tomorrow and replace the sheer cloth I have with scrim. Hopefully this will get more air into the performer.
My biggest surprise, and my largest concern now, is that the mouth doesn’t work when I speak Icelandic. The prevalence of Ã¾ and Ã° (both make a “th” sound) cause interesting lipsync problems because the sound of both letters is produced without moving the jaw. Indeed, it’s almost impossible to move the jaw and make either sound. When I try to say ÃžÃº (the word for “you,” pronounced “thoo”) the mouth only moves if I really force it, and then the vowel sound changes because it’s not meant to be said with an open mouth. I’ll put a native Icelandic speaker in there tomorrow to see if they have better success. I wish this had occurred to me as a potential problem. I’ve been testing the movement of the jaw with, well, English. Silly me, it’s an Icelandic bear.
I keep saying that I’m going home on Friday, and that’s true but what I should have been saying is that I arrive at home on Friday. I’m supposed to leave Iceland on Thursday. Oops. I need those 24 hours, a lot. So, I’ve changed my plane tickets. I’m leaving Iceland on Monday and will arrive in Portland on Tuesday.
(Tor Books – July 14 2020) Mary Robinette Kowal continues her Hugo and Nebula award-winning Lady Astronaut series, following The Calculating Stars and The Fated Sky, with The Relentless Moon. The Earth is coming to the boiling point as the climate disaster of the Meteor strike becomes more and more clear, but the political situation is already overheated. Riots and […]