on staying put


It was sort of an exciting offer “Hey if you want to get one of those Jet Blue All You Can Jet passes and go around the country going to meetups, I’ll spring for the ticket.” And I almost said yes before I even thought about it, because traveling is fun and meeting up with people is fun and it’s lovely out and there have been a few people on my “to visit” list for an embarassingly long time.

And then I slept on it, the awesome sleep I have when it’s just the right temperature outside and I am sleeping with my favorite pillow and my room is all nice and dark the way I like it. And woke up thinking that being gone for a good chunk of a month meant less of that. And I asked a few people, all of whom gave me answers that I’d characterize as cautiously supportive, and I slept on it again. And I decided to stay put. Which is a little strange since I usually opt for squeezing more stuff into my days not less. But I think I was maybe not giving enough weight to the things already on my plate including

  • Working on the second draft of my book, due in October
  • School starting, and with it, my drop-in time
  • A few little projects I’ve been thinking about
  • How much I love Vermont and my apartment in it
  • Reconnecting with friends who I’ve seen less of than I’d like
  • My exercise plan, casually abandoned while I was writing, now back on the priority list
  • A freezerful of blueberries that won’t be getting any fresher
  • Keeping my houseplants alive
  • Another essay I’m writing for a book friends are publishing
  • My full-time MetaFilter job
  • Family & boyfriend time which I’ve been enjoying a lot of this summer
  • Reading hardcover books which I never do when I’m travelling

That’s just the top of the head list, I’m sure there are more things. I’ll go back and look at this list when I’m stuck in the September doldrums and wishing I were elsewhere. If that happens. Which I bet it won’t.

small but useful victories

So hey I’m back from New York. I managed to take an entire trip away from home to two other states without getting in my car. That is, I walked to and from the public transportation that took me to and from various places. I had never done this before, mainly because it’s completely impractical, but also because I’d never had a good reason. The whole deal worked like this [enumerated for nerdliness, as well as a how-was-my-weekend report]

– Walked into town and took the Amtrak train to New York City. There are two trains I can take into NYC and this one is the closer-to-my-house one but also the longer-travel one [eight vs. five hours]. It was not bad. Side bonus: the other two people at the train stop with me were also at the conference I was at and will, I am certain, be my new friends. I had to buy my ticket from the conductor; if you live in Vermont, there is no way to buy a ticket in advance if you do not want it mailed to you. ($58)
– Took the subway from the train station out to dinner with my friends, then to ice cream, then back to where I was staying with my other friends. Subwayed around NYC. Took a bus once. The bus is a pain, requiring exact change and an awful lot of it. [no bills] ($20)
– Got the BoltBus from NYC to Boston. Cheap. Simple. Wifi. Outlets. ($20)
– Got a few rides: from the bus station, to Jim’s place, to my sister’s place, to the subway. (free, as in favors)
– Took the subway to the bus station in Boston. ($1.70)
– Took the bus from Boston to Hanover. ($25)
– Screwed around for a few hours. Was interviewed by some guy at the New Yorker. Got rained on. Took the cute three-times-a-day “short bus” from Hanover to Randolph. Walked home. ($3.50)

All in all not bad. The short bus only leaves three times a day at not that convenient (to me) times, but it worked and was siple. I’d never tried it before because the one that is outgoing leaves at some ungodly hour of the morning, but taking it back home didn’t involve getting up too terribly early. Yay for long bumbada bumbada trips. The entire time I was traveling, I was reading Paul Theroux’s book Dark Star which is about traveling from Cairo to Cape Town in Africa which made every dirty subway car seem like the Taj Mahal by comparison.



For the first time in seven years I had to cancel a trip and a talk. I figure I’ll explain what happened because I think a lot of people may not even understand this “I give talks” aspect of my life. I was supposed to go to the PLA Conference in Portland Oregon. I was originally invited in August of last year and said yes. As you may know from the rest of my typings, a lot of other travel then filled in around it. I was scheduled to give a talk at 10:15 today [I had asked to speak in the afternoon, denied. I had asked to speak after 11 am, denied]. The deal I had worked out was that I’d get my airfare covered, two nights in a hotel [they had offered one night, I had said for a minimum eight hours of travelling, that wasn’t enough] and a modest honorarium. I don’t know why these places say honorarium instead of fee, but there it is.

On Friday I noticed I didn’t have a hotel reservation yet and sent some frantic emails asking about this. The woman in charge of reservations hadn’t gotten my two [2] housing forms I’d emailed in. Not sure what happened. They quickly handled it. Then they let me know they hadn’t gotten the contract that I’d faxed and mailed. I occasionally have these waking nightmares that somehow I’ve ceased to exist to everyone but myself, only it happens slowly, not quickly [i.e. I send emails but they just vanish once they leave my mail client] and this was seeming like that.

I had a flight out yesterday at 2:20 pm. I have three airports I choose among: Burlington, Manchester, and Logan in Boston. Burlington is closest, but has fewer flights, Manchester is next closest, but I have to drive there [about two hours] and Logan is furthest but I can take public transportation most of the way and it has the most flights. This flight was out of Manchester, connecting in DC. I got up and left the house at 11, got to the airport at 1, ate lunch, waited on my flight. At 2 it was clear that we weren’t boarding. At about this time they made an announcement that the incoming flight that was supposed to be my outgoing flight had been hit by lightning and was going to be delayed. I saw the flight crew outside taking photos of the plane with their phones. I was pretty sure “delayed” was inaccurate. So I got in line to be rebooked and called United at the same time. The nice man I spoke to said “Oh your plane is just delayed, just wait for it” which was basically the best information he had at the time. It took United almost an hour and a half to declare the flight cancelled.

I used my librarian skills to determine that there wasn’t another flight out of Manchester that day. I found that there was a flight out of Logan, in a few hours, getting me in in the middle of the night. As I’ve mentioned before, I don’t have much of a sense of what normal people would do in a situation like this. I was pretty sure I could get to Boston, brave rush hour traffic, park my car in a $22/day lot [not reimbursed] and be in Portland by midnight. Maybe. I called my Dad and my sister who I call my Reality Check Network. They both assured me that only crazy people would consider this, though I should ask the PLA people if they’d reschedule me. I asked, they said no. They were pretty nice about it. Occasionally librarians are very very crabby dealing with plan changes; I am a pleaser so I try to avoid pissing people off, but this was unavaoidable bad news. I waited in line some more. I got an email from United saying that my flight was officially cancelled. I called again to see if I could maybe be put on another airline’s flight. No.

At this point I have made my peace with not going. Once this happens a switch flips in my head and I absolutely do not want to go anymore. I emailed everyone in Portland telling them I am not coming [I have a ton of friends there, I was looking forward to seeing them] because with no talk there is no free plane trip so instead of making a little money on this, I would be spending my own money which I didn’t want to do. After two hours in line [seriously!] I talk to the guy at the head of the line who confirms that yes, I am going noplace. He “refunds” my money which means he gives me what looks like an airline ticket except it implies that I will get my ticket money back. He gives me a voucher for airport food because I asked for one [and told other people to ask for one, they say “they’ll give you food money?”] and I ask if I can spend it all on beer. I call the parking lot people who come fetch me and give me not some but all of my parking lot money back. I drive two hours home, eating my free sandwich. I get home at 7. I send the nice people from PLA the links to my talk and my slides. I lose at Scrabble against Jim and sleep for eleven hours.

When I went to bed last night the United website still showed me as booked on a flight to Portland today, a fact which multiple phone calls did not clear up. “Oh just wait five minutes” said the phone support person. “Oh just ignore it” said the next one. Eventually the trip vanished – poof! I emailed my friends in town to say I wasn’t gone, and they invited me over for dinner.

I have, as always, mixed feelings. I really wanted to give this talk. I really wanted to go to Portland. I really want, in general, to do what I say I am going to do. However, I have a difficult time balancing exactly how much I should pull out all the stops to ensure that I can do what I say I will. I probably could have made it to Portland yesterday if I’d done something crazy. Or I maybe could have planned a Sunday flight and paid for my own hotel room or stayed with a friend. Or I could have gone for the weekend and been 100% sure I’d be there today [which meant leaving the day after I got back from Texas]. I say all this stuff because I want to reassure myself that what I did was okay. It’s difficult for me to say “I can’t” but I’ve been getting better at it this year. Seems like a strange goal to work towards, and it’s bad if it’ a habit, but I’m thinking it should be part of my vocabulary.

time has come today

I consider it a good trip if I can come home without being sick and thinking “I made some good decisions.”

I am home from SXSW which was more fun than I was expecting. Staying with friends instead of solo meant that I was more social and did more stuff than I might have if I had been left to my own devices [which, if history is any indicator, means that I walk around looking at things alone all day, nothing wrong with that but it’s good to change it up a little]. I also got less sleep and did a lot less narrating and more doing. A short list before I go back to the daybed and soak up the remaining sunlight hours.

  • I went to Austin and stayed with the Guys of MetaFilter in a nice house north of town. Here are my photos.
  • I was interviewed with Team MeFi for community radio. MC Frontalot was also there. Not sure where the audio wound up.
  • I was interviewed by Latoya Peterson from Racialicious about the digital divide. Not sure where the video wound up.
  • I went with librarians, MetaFilter people, old skool bloggers and others to see MC Frontalot perform with other nerdcore rappers. Here is his website. I stayed out late, really late, eating pancakes the night before my panel.
  • I presented a panel with NYPL libraran Jenny Engstrom which was, by all accounts, a smashing success. Here are my slides.
  • I went to dinner with 50 someodd people and was amazed at the confluence of old and new friends.
  • I got held up by technical plane problems at the airport and wound up flying into Boston instead of Burlington which meant a side trip to Denver and some special surprise time with Jim.
  • I ate an awful lot of tacos.

I got home three minutes before the post office closed [thanks Forrest!], which is auspicious. I still need to get the ASKMEMobile out of the Burlington airport parking lot, but I have a plan. Between the detour into Mountain Time and the time change and the 28 hour trip home [with some snoozing in-between] and my general bleariness, I’m not sure I’ve ever been more happy to come back to my little treehouse where time seems to mostly stand still. More reports as events warrant.

three fifths done

the view from the library

Bla bla bla the journey really is the destination. This was a photo I took at the Loussac Library in Anchorage Alaska. Often when I go places, I’m fidgety and sort of keeping an eye on the clock and my agenda and where else I have to be when. I’m good at getting places when I need to be, but sometimes less good at the Be Here Now aspect of the whole thing.

I finished up my Alaska trip and checked out of the hotel I was staying at around 1 pm and then had almost twelve hours to kill before my red-eye flight. I was pleasantly surprised that the library was open on a Sunday and got a ride over there and just hung out before taking the bus back to the hotel to use the free wifi for a few hours before eating and going to the airport for the long bumbada bumbada trip home. The library wasn’t too full, the heaters made a pleasant sound, the view was amazing, the wifi worked. It was one of the most peaceful parts of a long and interesting but rarely restful set of weeks.

I head to SXSW tomorrow. If you see me, please say hello.

winter beach fallow


I think I mentioned that I’m traveling. For the last week I’ve been staying at my Dad’s place in Westport MA while he’s in Mexico. I have the run of a house with five bathrooms, six TVs, four pets, a delightful kitchen, an SUV and a beach within almost-walking distance. And I’m on deadline to write a few talks, so I’ve mostly been hanging out inside doing some typa typa work, listening to bhangra music and making the cats purr.

At first this was all novel, now it’s just hunkering in a new hunkerplace. I’m a fan of hunkering. Vermont got several feet of snow. There has just been rain here. I’ll take the dog out to the beach in almost any weather, but he’s not raring to go in this sort of downpour. At first I was taking a lot of photos and making a lot of plans and busybodying myself around here [I washed the couch cushion covers, oh yes I did] and now I’ve adapted to a slower pace, a different rhythm, a little more Johanna Newsome and a little less bhangra.

Jim was up last weekend and we did a lot of food eating and Olympic watching and Valentine’s Day catchup. Kate and Ned are coming down this weekend along with a friend who is having a birthday and we’ll have some sort of cupcakes. It surprises me sometimes how staying in one place for a while seems to settle me down to an almost non-vibratory state, but that I also don’t have as much to talk about. And I say I’m surprised by things more as I get older and shouldn’t I be getting surprised less?

A friend from library school [hi Anne!] had the words STAY and ROAM tattooed on her knuckles. When I travel to tiny libraries to tell them about how we do things in rural Vermont, it’s unusual because the people in these small towns rarely leave them. When I go home I’m unusual in that I’m rarely in one place too long. I tell people that I travel because they can’t, that I talk about the people in my town because others don’t. But at some level I just have the fidgets and there’s something to the appeal of elsewhere.

stuck in the past

image of a machine shop from Google Books

I was discussing with friends lately how the 1890s is my favorite decade. Back when this blog was just a teeny “what I did today” ramble, I’d take machine shop photos and colorize them so that I could have images to use next to some of my posts. This usually involved, in the late 1990s, taking a photograph of a book. Well now I can go go Google and read an entire book from 1895 full of fun machine pictures and even add it to my so-called bookshelf.

Nothing has been going on this week other than the normal stuff. I have had a cold and have been doing the lay low thing in addition to my usual work. I got very “rah rah” about blogging stuff when I was doing it for BoingBoing, but coming back to my little “hey here’s what’s been up” box that I type into does not make me want to go off and research 19th century dictionary advertisements [though I have a great old advertisement for one]. Here are the photos of my trip to Florida. I had a nice time.