Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Taos Report 1

This is a very, very rare occurance on this blog -- a post with no art. Right now I"m far away from my home, my work computer, and a scanner... I could talk about my temporary retreat from the web, I could talk about my current plans for the near future -- which are interesting -- but there's something going on.

I"m in the mountains of New Mexico, at the Taos Toolbox workshop.

Sunday was a true day of adventure. I had a direct flight from the Bay Area to Albequerque (being able to spell the word 'Albesquerque' without using spellcheck has been the first unexpected side-effect of this trip), writing pal and fellow VP vet E.F. Kelley was going to pick me up at the airport, I'd be at the workshop by early noon.

Up at four-thirty in the morning out of the house by five-thirty, dropped off in San Francisco. As she drops me off, the missus flips into full Control Freak mode and starts telling me how to roll my suitcase and where to sit on the plane. (I know it means she loves me.) I go to check in my baggage, and am informed that my flight does not leave from San Francisco.

Karen dropped me off at the wrong airport.

Thankfully, the gentleman behind the desk was able to fix things for me. I should have noted his name. Roy, Duane, whoever the hell you are, thanks, dude. SF to Phoenix, Phoenix to Albequerque.

As we left San Francisco, rising through the clouds, I saw something I'd never seen before. It was a perfectly circular rainbow. And inside that circle? The shadow of the plane. It was an absolutely perfect logo.

Landing in Phoenix, the waiting area for my flight was crowded, so I had to do something I hate to do. I sat down next to a human being. All things being equal, I decided to sit next to a human being who was cute and female. Sometimes petty motives are the only variables in a situation, and fuck you. Another young woman sat down across from us. A few pages of Francis Bacon interviews later (fascinating stuff, an understandable mind whose aesthetics are highly intellectualized and very different from my own), the woman next to me pulls out her cell phone and made a call. The woman across from us answered her phone. They put down their phones, amused at the coincidence, and started talking.

They were talking about Taos Toolbox. And that's how I met Amy and Hallie.

Eric met me in Albequerque, and we rode out in his blue Mustang, Roxxie. I've got to confess, I"m a non-driver, but there is something about a muscle car... As always I found myself fascinated by the differences in the sky, in the landscape. I'm always fascinated by the quality of light in different locations, and the light here is crisper, sharper, more highly-focused than the light back home. The plants are duller, the ground more brightly colored, the shape of the land is different. The clouds are incredible and the sky is a stronger, darker blue than I"m used to. Just lovely.

So we climb up into the mountains, we get to the lodge, we get checked in. We'd been warned about the altitude, and sure enough, I found myself periodically becoming short of breath. And at dinner, I found myself with a badly impaired appetite. In fact, the food disgusted me. About halfway through my hamburger, I found that I simply could not swallow. So I got up from the table, silently went to my room, and began puking.

Altitude sickness? It is a real thing.

Sunday night was the most physically miserable I have ever been in my life, and I have had a few unpleasant experiences. Nausea is worse than pain for me -- I suspect I'm not alone in this -- and after a while I realized that this was not just stress puking, this was something wrong with me. Wrong, wrong, wrong. Puke, lay down, get up and puke again. There was a point where I said to my gut, "You are so empty, dude. Now you're just making shit up," and my digestive tract responded by just reaching a little deeper. By the end, I swear I was vomiting crap.

When I wasn't puking, I was sweating. I am a great big sweaty fellow. It's kinda gross. But this? I was sweating so much it felt as if I was under a low shower, a constant liquid flow across my whole body. My bedclothes were saturated. We are talking pints and quarts of fluid. My bedclothes were so sodden that it was like sleeping in wet towels, and they clung to my body so the sheets kept coming loose and when is this over?

So between the puking and the sweating my electrolytes went funky and I began to curse myself for not having access to Emergen-C or Gatorade or some goddamned sea salt. My muscles started to go into spasm, so now in addition to everything else I had pain. But thankfully, some time in the early morning, my symptoms started to fade and I was able to get a couple of hours of sleep in. I was afraid I might have to leave, but things have settled down. But let's put it this way. We've been told not to drink until we're acclimated -- the alcohol interacts with the altitude -- so I ain't drinking. That's right, I'm surrounded by writers and I"m fucking sober. What the fuck, people?

Anyway. It's nearly seven, I've got work to do, and while yesterday was good solid worktime, it wasn't generating a blog post. But I did get a very nice compliment from Nancy Kress on my critiques. I'm putting it up on the wall next to the other compliments that I turn to from time to time during states of emergency. Both she and Walter seem easy to work with so far, the group is hard-working and disciplined...

Lemme put it this way. Viable Paradise had a sort of summer camp/sleepover vibe that was a hell of a lot of fun and really helped bring us together as a group. This? This ain't vacation. This is school.

Which is what I want.

Now all I have to do is survive until I get my crit. I know I shouldn't worry, but I am intimidated. Christ. Is the novel salvageable, or is it a dizzy piece of shit and it's time for me to move on? I will confess, I am on tenterhooks.

And on that note, I sign off. First to look up 'tenterhooks,' and then to think about breakfast. There's some green chili cheese bagels about, and while I'm not a fan of freak bagels, I think I"d eat a tire if it had green chili and cheese on it.