I was talking with a friend of mine and he said that my blog read like “Mary’s Greatest Hits,” because I never talk about the things that go wrong. This surprised me since most of my best puppetry stories are of shows that go horribly, horribly wrong. But he’s right. When I talk about television I’ll say “Oh, this shot was really hard, but we got it in the end.” And in fiction, the stuff that goes wrong usually gets fixed in private. I realized that it’s because I never think about things in television or fiction as going as horribly wrong in the same way they do on stage. I mean, things in stage will go bad in rehearsal, but you rarely tell stories about it. That’s part of the process and the only things that matter are the things the audience sees. In television, I screw up and we do it again. In fiction, that’s what the delete key is for. It never really seems to me like things go wrong.
Broken turn signal, broken clutch lever (I just went to BMW and paid $157 for a replacement to make the cycle rideable while I wait for the insurance adjuster to call), damaged front fender, damaged hand guard, damaged exhaust pipe, and shredded cover. That’s what I can see at the moment. I’m going over to replace the lever and start it up.
Rob and I left the apartment at the same time today, which is a rare occurrence. I kissed him goodbye, got on the train and he headed off to ride his motorcycle.
When I got off the train, my phone rang. Rob.
He rarely calls me, so I had a sinking sensation. “Hi. What’s wrong?”
“Someone hit my motorcycle.”
I had a moment of no breath.
“It was tipped over when I got to it. [Some technical term] is broken and the [other term] is bent.”
And just like that, I could breathe again. He hadn’t been on the bike. I don’t worry when he’s outside town, but in the city is another matter. I made some sound that meant, “Holy crap, that’s awful but I’m glad you were nowhere near it when it happened.”
Rob continued, “So, I’ll have to deal with insurance today and probably won’t be able to stand in line for tickets to Hamlet. I just wanted to let you know. I’m sorry. If I finish up, I’ll try but–”
“Don’t worry about it. No Shakespeare tonight.”
Do you see the kind of man I married? His very expensive toy is broken and his first thought is to apologize to me that we can’t go see a play.
Meanwhile, I’m sure he’s furious about someone hitting and leaving his bike. Our insurance company is pretty good, but this is a hassle that the poor boy does not need.
For the last week I’ve been writing 2000 words a day, with the goal of finishing a novel by the 24th. I spent an equal amount of time writing today and wound up with an overall wordcount 90 words shorter than yesterdays. Mind you,today wasn’t a day designated for editing, I just couldn’t get the tail end of the chapter to go where I needed it to and finally realized that it was because the beginning of the chapter had an unnecessary complication.
Interesting twists are all well and good, but this one would have created a plot hole the size of Yankee Stadium. I was wasting time in the tail end of the chapter trying to patch something that I shouldn’t have introduced in the first place. There are times when I’m going along and I realize that I’m writing for wordcount, rather than plot. So, cut! Rewrite.
As a result I have a tighter, tenser scene and no gaping holes. Best of all, a finished chapter.
For the past several days, I’ve been getting up at 3 a.m. to record because it’s the only reliably quiet time in my apartment. Now why, I ask you, has my upstairs neighbor gotten out of bed to take a shower at this time of morning?
For the past week and a half I have looked at every sofa on Craig’s List plus visiting live stores looking for “the” sofa for the production I’m doing props for. Some things I have learned.
There are more ugly couches than attractive ones.
Brown couches tend to be leather.
There are a lot of ugly couches.
Moving a couch can triple the price.
Last week Rob and I picked up a $50 couch that we hoped would be “the” couch for the show. It was battered, already had an iron mark burned into the arm. It seemed perfect for an extremely poor bachelor’s apartment.
It was too long.
So, I started looking again. Today, I found one that the designer “loved, loved, loved.” The catch? I had to buy it today. Gah! So I took the train out to Queens to look at it.
This was, by far, the longest amount of time I’ve spent underground since coming to New York and perhaps ever. I think it took me two and a half hours to get there on three trains. No, four trains. One train had interupted service so I had to take an express past the point I wanted to be and then double back to transfer.
I arrive. The man I was supposed to meet is gone but his mother is there. Unfortunately, she speaks Russian and has about as much English as I have Mandarin.
I point. “Sofa?”
Her face brightens. “Sofa!” And then she calls her son. He talks to me, asks me to hand the phone back to his mother and he translates. She says something and then hands the phone back. He translates again. This goes for a couple of cycles.
Meanwhile, I’m thinking that the sofa looks too big. He’d said it was about 6′ but it looks bigger. I foolishly forgot to bring the tape measure, so I use a sheet of paper to estimate the size. Looks like it’s over 7′. The director wants 6’4″.
I call the designer and explain.
He says, “Are you sure?”
I say, “Pretty sure but I was estimating. Hey– there’s a hardware store in front of me, want me to get a tape measure and go back?”
So I go back and attempt to explain to the mother. She sees the tape measure and seems to understand. I check and the sofa is 7’2″. I sigh and pantomime that it is too big. She looks heartbroken.
The son had said that they were moving tomorrow.
I leave, call the designer and report.
“7 foot 2?” he says. “How deep is it?”
I’m caught off guard. I was expecting us to be sad that it was the wrong size and then have to keep looking. “I’m not sure. Do you want me to go back?”
He says yes, so I do, trying to figure out how to explain to the mother why I’m back. I ring the bell and a man answers the door. Hallelujah, he speaks English! I measure, talk to the designer who looks at the ground plan and declares that the sofa will fit. Yay!
Because, I’ll tell you, if I had taken that subway ride out for no reason…
We are at a gas station in Peever, S.D getting ready to cross into Minnesota. It is 5:06 pm local time.
I promised to tell you about our misadventures from yesterday, so this is what I wrote up while we were driving.
It was dark when we crossed into South Dakota. One of the interesting things about crossing a state line is that the quality of the road one is traveling on changes dramatically. So, as we crossed into South Dakota all the reflectors disappeared, the white line showing the edge of the road disappeared and the color of the road became almost exactly the same as the shoulder. Without my brights on, it was very hard to see the road. I did not feel comfortable traveling more that forty-five mph.
Everytime another car approached, the road beyond them completely vanished. I learned to watch the angle at which they approached to get a guess about what the road would do when I got to it. Occasionally, there would be reflectors by the road, but not where you would expect them. There might be a curve and then three reflectors on the straightaway.
At one point, as a semi approached and the road vanished again, I saw a quick reflection in his lane. I had time to think, “My god, is there a cyclist on this road?”
And then I hit a deer.
A herd of them was standing on the road. What I had seen was the reflection of one of the other deer’s eyes. The one I hit materialized in my headlights as if it had beamed into place. I can only assume that the semi also hit one.
We stopped, confirmed that there was no serious damage to the truck. There wasn’t–one of the advantages of driving something so large, I guess. After this, I slowed down still more as the road got twistier.
We kept trying to call the campground to cancel the reservation, but could get no cell signal. Though it meant that we didn’t get to the campground until after 11:00, we still went for it knowing that if we got behind, that today would be even longer.
Unfortunately, they stop registration at 11:00. So, though we had reservations, we had no idea where we were supposed to be. I finally found a bag with our name on it that contained a map to our site. It was hard to see the site numbers, so we decided that I would sit in the truck while Rob looked for the campsite.
While I was sitting there, someone came out to complain about the noise of the diesel, so I shut it down. Someone else then came up to demand to know what was going on. Though I was now quiet, he wanted me to move the truck away. I figured the smart thing to do would be to take it back to the main parking area and just pack the tent and cats to the campsite. He assured me that the road went straight through.
He was quite wrong. So, while Rob was looking for the campsite, I got stuck at the end of a deadend road. I tried turning the truck around, and hit a rock–no damage, since I was going extremely slowly, but enough to convince me to stop the truck where I was.
We were next to a cabin which had no cars in front of it. There was a large grassy area. At this point I decided to screw finding “our” site and to just camp in the grassy area. I walked back to get Rob and we set up the tent. Of course, since we were at the end of a dead-end road, it was completely dark. The truck was facing away from the grassy area, so there was no way to use the headlights to set up. We worked with the glow cast by the overhead light in the back of the truck. Our nightlight, once we set up the tent, was supplied by the screen of my laptop. Ah, technology.
We got up at five this morning and hit the road. Mt. Rushmore wasn’t open yet, but is clearly visible from the road. I’ve got to say that it’s more impressive from the side than from the front, but there’s no safe way to pull off and take a photo there.
The road since then has been unbelievably straight.
So. Today I decided to make one more effort to figure out what was going on with my registry because, you know, I’d really like to use my scanner, printer and webcam. I read several different websites and they all recommended deleting the upperfilters and lowerfilters for the afflicted devices. I carefully made a backup of the registry and followed the instructions.
Evidentally, in the deletion process, I also deleted some vital thing for my keyboard and mouse. They no longer work. This means that I can’t log into Windows and so can’t restore the registry.
I’d try booting from a system disc, but, alas, that would be in one of the boxes that is already in NYC waiting for us. I’m certain that there’s another way to get in but at this point I’m frankly afraid of screwing things up more. I’m seeking professional help and hopefully, it will happen in a more timely manner than the last place I went.
(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, […]