Saturday, October 30, 2010

Posting from Portland: Day 3

The greatest costume AGM ever!

Juliet McMaster and me (yes that's me!)

Had a horrible night, no sleep, tossing and turning with repining at not being as successful a writer as Stephanie, Syrie, and Laurie. But lo! a new day brings new feelings, and a cappuccino works miracles, as does a little top-up of a nap.  Got to the conference late, just in time to hear Juliet's beautiful talk, rich with her learning and love of Austen. From there it was straight to another excellent talk, Gillian Dow of Chawton House Library spoke on the French Gothic novels and what Jane Austen was satirizing in Northanger Abbey.  I'll summarize it elsewhere later, but she has a real gift for being able to present and synthesize complicated information in the most lucid, delightful, stimulating way.  Sailing on the wings of these talks I met up with Ellen, Isabel and Jane, and we found our way to the South Park seafood restaurant, for the lunch I organized of "online friends."  It's always enormous fun to be face to face with your favorite e-mail correspondents!  We sat in a lovely room at adjacent tables, ate good seafood, and I can't tell you what a jolly time "we 17" had! 

Me and Erika from the Dove Grey Books list, with her lovely son Kai

 Titans of the Janeites list, together at last!  Ellen, Arnie and me

Back at the conference, I split two talks, and heard half a presentation about Gothic architecture, and half a presentation about the cultivation of pineapples in Northanger Abbey.

A talk about pineapples in Northanger Abbey

After these talks, I had a meeting with the three others on the panel for tomorrow, Joan Ray, Kimberly Brangwin, William Phillips - all so funny, it will hardly matter if I can't rise to the occasion!  Then Ellen and Isobel and I took a cab to Powells, for a happy booky hour (I bought a biography of Lydia Lopakova, Keynes's Bloomsbury ballerina wife, and a Powells t-shirt), and some cappucino.  Then we had a brisk walk back to the hotel to change for the Banquet and Bal Masque.

To be continued tomorrow, with a costume extravaganza!

Posting from Portland: Day 2

Anthology Authors Late at Night

Late night meeting of authors who all have stories in Random House's forthcoming anthology of Jane-related fiction.  Left to right:  me, Laurie Viera Rigler, editor Laurel Ann Nattress, Maggie Sullivan, Stephanie Barron, Syrie James.  But that's starting the story of this event-packed day at the end.  The day properly began with a visit to Voodoo Doughnuts.

Jane at Voodoo Doughnuts

 Having been told on all sides that Voodoo Doughnuts were an important Portland experience, Jane and I walked to this iconic little shop (the neighborhood was somewhat seedy area, but the doughnuts were glazed) and gamely waited on a long line. 

A line for doughnuts

Worth the wait

"Keep Portland Weird"?  I can do that...

Then on to the conference.  It began with a delightful panel organized by Maggie Sullivan, "Team Tilney Explains it All."  Below, a very well-spoken, polished, confident Mr. Tilney taking his bow. 

Mr. Tilney's impassioned speech

A large crowd of Janeites

After Team Tilney, Stephanie Barron, the popular mystery writer, was plenary speaker, addressing an enthusiastic crowd of over 600.  Breakout sessions followed.

With Ellen Moody

I introduced my long-time friend Ellen Moody at her talk, "People that Marry can never Part:  Real and Romantic Gothicism in Northanger Abbey."  (That's her daughter Isobel in the background.)  After that I attended Miriam Rheingold Fuller's talk on the Domestic Gothic.  During the lunch hour we did a lot:  went to the Portland Library to see an exhibit of early 18th century books and Gilray prints, with a stop at a very up-market Goodwill! (Took some cute pictures there, but they don't seem to try again later.)  Lunch was outstanding, at a Lebanese restaurant, Habiba.

Found the thrift shop picture...

Exhibit at Portland Library

Highly recommended Habiba

Dancers at the Portland Art Museum

Next was an exhibition of country dancing at the Portland Art Museum, and we nipped into the museum itself for a glimpse at the European and American paintings.  Here are a few things that caught my eye.

Interesting looking American man, @1900

Poor French family, @1850

Roman and middle eastern glass

An early Frangonard

A late, ideal Boucher

Last but not least was the late evening get together of my fellow Austen anthology authors, at which the literary gossip was so delicious and high powered, my lips must be sealed.  (Well, they are anyway, because I'm now sleeping, exhausted after such a busy day!)

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Posting from Portland

On top of Astoria Tower, Oregon coast

Easy flight, didn't have to wear the tricorn hat on the plane (made other arrangements).  Got here too late to register for a banquet table for Saturday night.  Had a hamburger and turned in, but didn't sleep much (missed my cat Pindar's four pointy little feet running over me all night).  In the morning I bore down on the conference registration table which was to open at 8, but my friend/roommate Jane and I were leaving on our Columbia River tour at 8.  So I pushily demanded they open, in fine operatic New York street style, which bad behavior was worsened by my cutting dead conference organizer Susan Schwartz by not recognizing her, until she had to protest, "Diana, we have met many times before!"  This kept happening all morning as I failed to recognize one old friend after another and tried to pass it off with witty repartee, most unsuccessfully.

Me and Lindley in the rain forest

Breakfast was an uninspiring $14 steam table hotel scrambled egg, so Jane and I nipped to a McDonalds and I had my first Mickey D breakfast ever:  a biscuit, egg, and miscroscopic piece of bacon, $3.  That and a utilitarian Starbucks cappuccino "set me up for ever," as Lydia said.  Then we were joined by my non-Janeite visiting friend Lindley from Kamloops, and briskly boarded the bus (two busses, 90 Janeites).  A two hour bus ride through farmland and rain forest on a lowering, gloomy day.  We stopped in the middle and were allowed a short hike to a stream, where the air smelled like champagne poured over moss:  exhilaratingly refreshing. (Um, there were proper loos as well, I don't mean to make it sound like we dampened the stream.)

 At Cannon Beach

Back on buses were drove to the little town of Cannon Beach (a cannon washed up there once, also a whale).  Lovely evocative beach, windswept under dark clouds, with a striking monolith called the Haystack that is on all the T-shirts and tote bags sold in the rather twee town.  Pretty wooden houses, obviously subject to lots of weather, many duly marked Historical.  The main street mostly consisted of art galleries, cafes, teashops, more art galleries, bakeries, a bookshop, a market, and more galleries, and we were there for an hour and a half; we'd rather have been dropped off at the tidepools of the Monolith.  But we walked on the beach, and bought local specialties at the bakery (a maple bar doughnut and marionberry turnover).  We got the idea that October is a slow month, when a lady ran breathlessly out of one of the tea shops and asked with great excitement, "Are you off those two buses that just arrived in town?  I saw them!  My friend said, my lord, look, there are two buses full of people pulling into town!"  We calmed her, and went on.

Jane and me and the Haystack

Back on the bus we drove to lunch at a former cannery on the river, just outside Astoria.  Attractive place with a river view, but the food was a universally crashing disappointment. Of course we all wanted Fish, and the restaurant actually had a lovely seafood menu.  But being a group, we got a buffet.  The clam chowder was pretty good, but the turkey rollup and macaroni and teaspoon of Caesar salad, the less said about the better.  It was an infringement on the rights of men and women. Then we drove to the Astoria Tower, kind of like Cleopatra's Needle in Central Park, with historical drawings on it, and Nancy and her friend and I walked up the whole thing - around 200 winding iron stairs, like the one the murder victim died on in Murder Must Advertise.  Not the best thing for my knee, but the view was worth it, and you only live once.

The lunch place

The lunch

Nancy and Kristin Szilagyi  at the tower

View from the tower             

Next stop, the something house in Astoria.  Can't remember its name (obviously) but it was a rather dark and damp looking Victorian house.  I'd spied a local heritage museum and asked the tour guide about it, and she said it was mostly exhibits about the races and kinds of people who had lived here on the Oregon coast.  And she told me that when Oregon became a state (1859), it voted to go "free," and African Americans were allowed to live there for a period of three years.  At the end of that time, they were free, but they had to leave town immediately, or be beaten and hanged by the Ku Klux Klan!  Apparently Oregon had the biggest Klan west of the Mississippi!  Who knew?  I didn't.  So the heritage museum had a lot of Klan stuff, and no wonder they took us to the moldy Victorian place instead.

Victorian House

Inside Victorian House

Then the two hour drive back to the Hilton, an intense hour spent madly book shopping and schmoozing at the Emporium (Portland AGM T-shirts), dinner with Lindley, Jane and Carol at a nice Thai place down the street, and now you see me doing business as usual on the computer. 

Today was the restful day.  The conference proper commences tomorrow!

Jail and Film Society?  I didn't ask

Thursday, October 14, 2010

A Visit to Bennetville (sans Jane, Elizabeth, Mary, Kitty or Lydia)

Paradise here!  Paul and I drove up to Tioga Pass for the last hike of the season.  Perfect autumn weather: sunny and crisp, about 60 degrees in the afternoon, the aspen trees turning gold, and the first powdering of snow at the 9,500 foot level.  We took the easy trail up to Bennettville, the remains of a small mining town from the 1880s, which now consists of only two old cabins of mellow, weathered red wood, standing alone in the wilderness. 

As we walked, I was trying to construct a story about some descendant of Pride and Prejudice's Bennet family who might have come to America and been a California miner in the 1880s, but in the face of the facts that Mr. Bennet had no sons, spelt his name with only one T, and oh yes, he was fictional, it refused to fly. 
The cabins are a photographer's dream with their lovely color and the view of frosty Mt. Dana behind them.  And, to continue the Jane Austen theme, see the image on my very old hiking T-shirt...

We walked another half mile past the cabins along this beautiful cold Scottish-looking stream to the nameless but beautiful little lake above Bennettville.

Then we drove back to the little town of Lee Vining, where we indulged our two most serious addictions... cappuccino and the internet.  This was pleasantly accomplished at the cheerful "Latte Da" coffeehouse.  Funny how all the little mountain towns now have nice hippie-style internet coffeehouses.  At this one they bake delicious warm savory cheese scones.

Paul at the Latte Da
The next day before driving the 300 miles home, we went for a lovely hike at Rock Creek, which is off the 395 at Tom's Place.  The elevation's over 10,000 feet so you can get a bit breathless, but the weather could not have been more perfect; sunny, low 60s, and we walked along the beautiful lakes, enjoying the colors.  Rainbow trout were clustered together in the streams, but when I approached to take a picture, they sped away like lightning.

Golden quaking aspens on the Rock Creek road
Then we drove home to Peter and the cats.  The drive passed pleasantly because we listened to Gaudy Night on tape - I was very amused by how Ian  Carmichael portrayed Miss Schuster-Slatt, in a flat American accent - because she has long been my nom on the Piffle list and I can't help having grown fond of her.