Tim Pratt
SF and Fantasy Writer

Archive for the ‘Vacating’ Category

La La La

Thursday, March 1st, 2012

I am in Los Angeles! (And have been here since around 8:30 on Sunday evening, when my train, the Coast Starlight, rolled into town.) I am safely and cozily ensconced in the home of my friends, writer supercouple Jenn Reese and Chris East. (Jenn’s new book Above World is available for sale now, so go buy it!.)

They kindly agreed to let me hide out in their house for a week so I could obsessively focus on getting some words down on a work-for-hire novel I’m doing under a short deadline. I’m hoping to get the novel halfway drafted, which seems doable. Sunday through Wednesday I managed a total of just over 25,000 words, and I’ve got today, tomorrow, and Saturday on the train to produce more. It’s going well, I’m having fun, and etc.

I can’t write all the time, of course, so there’s been a bit of socializing and reading and introducing Jenn to the wonders of Adventure Time. So far there’s only been a single day where I stayed in the apartment without venturing outside. I’ve had a couple of nice meals with Jenn, and we might go see a movie, and I’ll do dinner with both Jenn and Chris on Friday. (I catch the train back to Berkeley on Saturday morning.)

I’m more than halfway done with my writerly retreat. Sad! But also okay, since I miss my wife and kid terribly. This is Thursday, which is usually my day off to spend with my kid, and instead, he’s in preschool. It’ll be good to see my family again. Especially if I can have 30+ thousand words of a novel behind me.

Vacation: Day Seven

Sunday, December 4th, 2011

(Just realized I never posted this. It was written on the Sunday after we got home.)

Really just a half-day. The kid and I went for breakfast — Heather was still so ill she could barely get out of bed. After that, we returned to the room and worked on packing everything up.

I was afraid we wouldn’t have time to get in a last swim before check-out time, but we hurried, and managed to get an hour or so in the pools. River bravely went over to one of the waterfalls, which had terrified him, and found the splashing to be delightful. I got a last tropical drink — lava flow, yum — and we played and had a great time.

We dragged our myriad bags to the lobby, and got the car loaded up, and drove toward the airport. We had some free time before the rental car was due back, so we hit a beachside park. Heather pretty much stayed in the car, still feeling lousy, but River and I roamed around and looked at tidepools and waded in the surf for an hour or so. A nice, peaceful final few moments.

Then began the misery of modern air travel. River gets his own seat on the plane, so he gets his own carry-on and personal item, which makes packing easier — but he’s too little to actually carry his bags, and though Heather did as much as she could, she was sick, so I found myself extremely over-laden. (Plus we have the stroller, and the car seat the kid uses on the plane since he’s only 36 pounds, and etc.) The only way to carry everything is to elaborately arrange things on the stroller in a very specific way, but it all has to be disassembled for the security scan, and then reassembled, which is annoying. And, because it’s Hawai’i, we had to assemble and disassemble again for the agricultural scan, to make sure we weren’t smuggling fruit.

We finally got on the plane. River was good for an hour, cranky for an hour, and slept the last couple of hours. Thank goodness for that last. I listened to podcasts after he went to sleep, and read some of Cassandra Clare’s Clockwork Angel — I really like it. I’ll have to read her Mortal Instruments series.

We landed in Oakland just after 11 p.m. local time. The kid was remarkably cheerful when we woke him up — with all our bags, we couldn’t carry him, so he had to regain consciousness and walk. We took the shuttle to long-term parking, got our car — which seems terribly mundane after having a convertible for a week — and drove home. It was a fair bit after midnight before we were actually in our own house, but the kid went to sleep in his own bed easily, fortunately.

I scarfed some food — it didn’t feel that late, since we’d been on Hawaii time — and did some Tivo gardening until I got sleepy around 2 a.m. Luckily, the boy remained on Hawaii time, and didn’t wake today until around 8 a.m. We hung out and played for a while, and then his aunt came over around 9 to take him away for the morning. I have to write a story today, and Heather needs another day in bed to recover, so she couldn’t do any childcare. Thank heavens for sisters-in-law…

Here we are. Back in real life. The vacation certainly had its share of unpleasant moments, but we had a couple of very good days, and all the days had good parts. I hope that as time goes on I’ll only remember the good things, and the bad bits will fade. I just wish I felt more rested.

Vacation: Day Six

Saturday, December 3rd, 2011

Friday, our last full day of vacation, was largely spent driving around the island, and not for particularly fun reasons. I rose with the kid, and we took a morning constitutional once the sun actually came up. We rode the hotel’s trains around, and did some “exploring,” riding random elevators, etc. Then we reconnected with my wife for an exciting morning of doctor visits. We drove an hour to a clinic for her appointment. The kid fell asleep in the car on the way, so I stayed in the parking lot while my wife saw the doctor. The boy woke up soon after she went inside, and so I entertained him by showing him how cars work. He was fascinated, though he did want to know how the musicians fit behind the radio. The car was especially entertaining because it’s a convertible, so he was able to push the button to put the top up and down.

My wife came out in slightly less than an hour, armed with a prescription… that she had to pick up in another clinic across town. Sigh. Another long stretch of driving, then another wait at a doctor’s office. After that… we had to return the snorkel gear (which of course we hardly got to use). River was well and truly annoyed by then, so we grabbed some drive-thru food and hit the nearest beach for a picnic. My wife was fairly wiped out from the long day out, and the beach was too rocky for playing, so we headed back home.

After laying on the bed and moaning for a while — the kid got me up around 5 a.m., and I hate driving at the best of times, let alone on the last day of my vacation, so I was grumpy and exhausted — I forced myself to embrace life and all that. I took the boy and his inflatable dragon float over to the kiddie pool for more playing while my wife napped.

There was a little girl at the pool he’d played with the day before (not the 4-year-old, but a sweet 2.5-year-old), and they remembered each other. So they played together a ton, and I chatted with their parents, who were disappointed that we were leaving so soon, since the kids got together along so well. (We’d kept running into them in various places around the resort all day too.) They told me about a Christmas program in the lobby at 5:30, with a tree lighting, Christmas carols, and Santa, so River became suitably frantically excited about that.

We got him dried off and changed, and Heather decided to venture forth into the world. The little Christmas show was cute. Hawai’ian Xmas carols, little girl hula dancers, a ballerina doing the dance of the sugarplum fairies, and a quite Hawai’ian Santa. Very Mele Kalikimaka. We got pictures (including some of River and his little friend), and had a pretty good time, though it wiped Heather out again.

Dinner was a picnic on the floor of the room, since we had to use up our groceries. Hummus and sandwiches and chips and macaroni salad, oh boy! (My wife, of course, did not eat, really, beyond a few crackers. Vicious strep throat is a great recipe for weight loss.) We put the boy to bed, for his last overnight in Hawai’i. I considered going out for the evening… but I was wiped from such a long day. No final evening at the bar for me. I played a little Skyrim and went to bed.

But, you know, I sort of embraced the suck. The vacation wasn’t going to be perfect, or even necessarily good, but I tried to make the best of it, and enjoy the weather, and the conversation, and my son’s happiness, which is, in fact, pretty extreme — he’s had a fantastic time, and says he never wants to leave Hawai’i. I could learn something from him about finding joy in the moment.

Vacation: Day Five

Friday, December 2nd, 2011

Thursday was a day of solo parenting.

Heather started feeling sick late Wednesday night, and by Thursday morning, she was in a bad way — sore throat, nausea, headache, body aches, basically flu-like symptoms (though she did get a flu shot this year, leading us to speculate about exotic tropical strains). I took the boy out for a few hours in the morning, getting breakfast at the cereal bar (when else will he get cereal topped with gummi sharks?), hanging out by the fake lagoon, playing in the sand and swimming.

We returned to the room to change out of our wet clothes for lunch. Heather wanted to join us, and got out of bed, and got dressed, and got out of the room, and made it, oh, maybe a hundred yards down the path before it became apparent that she would not be able to continue. We walked her back to the room. River and I got a quick lunch and went to the little grocery store to get Heather some dayquil and such.

We got back, and she was sleeping. I didn’t want to go too far in case she needed us, so River and I went to the kiddie pool for the afternoon. He had a wonderful time — the water at its deepest there goes to his chin, so he can run all around the pool without assistance. He met another little four-year-old, a girl who is a member of the same fandom (they’re both devotees of Mickey Mouse Club House), and they played for a while. Rather relaxing.

Honestly, if not for the fact that I was worried about my sick wife, and run ragged from being in sole charge of an overstimulated preschooler, it would have been a nice day.

We came back to the room, where Heather was awake, but not out of bed. She’d called the doctor — at least with River’s ear infection, she had the opportunity to master out-of-state doctor’s appointments — and the advice nurse told her she probably has strep throat. Apparently it’s going around, and the symptoms fit. We got an appointment for Friday morning so she can get tested and, presumably, get some antibiotics, for what little good they do with strep.

If it is strep, she’s apt to be miserable for the rest of the trip, which means more solo parenting and escalating exhaustion, so basically: vacation is over. No more relaxing here. We go back Saturday afternoon.

I never want to leave my house again.

Vacation: Day Four

Thursday, December 1st, 2011

The day began with dolphins. There’s a dolphin lagoon here, and for exorbitant sums one can swim with the dolphins. Heather booked River for a short meet-the-cetaceans session, and he got to go with her and a trainer into shallow water, meet four dolphins, feed them fish, pet them, and so on. He found it delightful, of course — who wouldn’t? One of the dolphins steadfastly refused to do any of the tricks the trainer prompted her too. I was very proud of that dolphin. (I have mixed feelings about the whole captive-dolphins-dancing-for-our-amusement thing, obviously, but River thought it was magical, and the trainers seem to love the animals, so I can’t come down squarely against it.)

Checked my e-mail. It had bad news. The day before, my e-mail had stressful news. I resolved to stop checking my e-mail on this vacation, and I haven’t looked at it since. I’ll deal with whatever additional crap the world wants to shovel onto me when I’m back in Berkeley. I was stressed out most of the morning, though.

The wind has finally died down here, so we rented a paddleboat and pedaled around the lagoon. River was the captain, directing us to and fro, under bridges, near the fake waterfall, over to the pool where the mullet hang out, the huge fish often leaping a few feet into the air. Most pleasant.

We spent most of the rest of Wednesday at Hapuna Beach, one of the most beautiful stretches of coastline around. Perfect for playing in the sand, building sand castles and sand cities, and great for swimming. Not terribly exciting for boogie boarding (very gentle surf) or snorkeling (the water’s very clear, but there are only a few places with coral and lots of fish, as it’s mostly sandy), but immensely pleasant all the same, and perfect for River, who was disappointed in Tuesday’s rocky beaches.

We left to get dinner near sunset, choosing a place on a whim and some Yelp reviews, and it turned out to be awesome (if rather fancier than we’d realized): Roy’s Place. River was very well behaved (never a given that late in the day, when he’s tired), and the food was amazing. Heather got a “mixed plate” sampler of three different fish dishes, and each portion was big enough for a meal. I got the meatloaf, and it was easily enough for two dinners. (I did eat it all, but skipped dessert. That kind of restraint is rare for me, but I was stuffed.) The booze was first-rate, too, yummy cocktails and generous pours. After eating too often at the painfully mediocre and even more painfully overpriced resort restaurants, a great meal at a restaurant no more expensive than a similar place would be back home? A revelation.

Then it was back home, for reading and lolling around and digesting. I re-read Carroll’s Land of Laughs. I always remember it as being creepy, but I always forget just how creepy.

As the evening progressed, my wife felt sicker and sicker. That would prove to be a theme for Thursday. But I’ll tell you about that next time.

Vacation: Day Three

Wednesday, November 30th, 2011

We had such luck leaving the resort on Monday that we tried it again on Tuesday. We loaded up the car and drove over to The Coffee Shack, one of our favorite places to eat here, not so much because of the food (which is just okay) but because it’s perched up on a hillside with astonishing views, and because the deck is home to lots of adorable, tiny, tame geckos. As we expected, River loved the geckos, though he got a little fussy as we lingered over our bottomless cups of kona coffee.

On the way out, we stopped to wait while Heather bought some coffee. On the bulletin board I saw a real estate flyer for a weird house for a mere half a million bucks, on 2.5 acres, which also includes a guest house (bigger than my current apartment) and a straw-bale structure. Fantasized about buying it and running a little artist’s colony. But I guess I’ll have to pay off all that credit card debt before I start buying real estate.

We did some Grim Tides research (well, I did — my wife and kid thought they were just doing tourist stuff, ha). Went to the Place of Refuge, where I’ve been before, but this time I took notes, since I have a major scene set there. It was hot and muggy, so we decided swimming was in order. Drove around, rented some snorkel gear, and went to a beach. Good for snorkeling, not so good for playing in the sand and surf (too rocky), so River was bored. We drove back toward the hotel, and went to Anaeho’omalu Bay (where another major scene is set). That was a bit more fun for the boy, though less good for snorkeling, since it’s very sandy. Beautiful beach, though.

My wife and kid played while I walked the trail from the beach to the hotel (since my characters walk it, and I hadn’t seen it). A very fun and interesting path, past sea turtles and beautiful sea vistas and other neat things. A nice walk.

Back at the room, I put the kid to bed, and played some Skyrim (and fought Dwarven robots, as one does) while my wife wandered the hotel and hit hot tubs and things. A good day, though the beaches weren’t ideal. Today will be better.

Vacation: Day Two

Monday, November 28th, 2011

Much better today. Despite the fact that our insurance provider initially attempted to send us to a clinic on another island — good thing Heather looked up directions before it was time for us to go — we did finally get River’s ear checked by a doctor. The poor kid does have an infection (and he had a mild fever during the checkup), but the eardrum doesn’t appear to be perforated, so we don’t have to be excessively vigilant about his ears getting wet. Whoo! We’re not going to let him submerge his head, since the doc wasn’t 100% sure the eardrum was intact (his view was slightly blocked by some ear glop), but we’ll let him splash about. All it cost us was the $10 for the antibiotics. (We didn’t even get charged for the office visit, though I suspect a bill will be along eventually. Still: a lot cheaper than an emergency room!)

With his ear on the road to recovery, and painkiller in him to make him cheerful again, the day was a lot of fun, and yesterday’s crankiness is a distant memory. (All credit goes to my wife, who worked the phones with vigor and skill to get him seen by a doctor that our insurance would cover, which is harder than it should be, when traveling.)

So today is mostly a litany of good things: we hit the breakfast buffet early, where much astonishingly fresh pineapple was consumed. (Along with many other yummy things, including that mythical breakfast treat, available only at buffets, known as Enough Bacon. It is rare for me to get Enough Bacon.) We had to drive about 45 minutes south to see his doctor, where it was far less windy than it is at the hotel. (Which is still pretty crazy windy, though today was less so, and tomorrow should be even less.) So we stayed there after his appointment. Last time Heather and I came to the Big Island, back in 2005, we stayed in that general area, so we were able to find our way around with ease. We got an awesome lunch to go from Da Poke Shack, and found a little beachside park to eat it in. Then we walked around the park, where a couple of green sea turtles were crawling on the beach. I was chastised a bit briskly by a local woman for getting too close to the turtles. She clearly thought I was a haole tourist asshole who was going to go thump its shell or something; I actually hadn’t noticed the turtle, as my eyes were on the flat expanse of lava rock and its attendant tidepools, and when I realized I was getting close to the endangered wildlife, I stopped. (I am, of course, a haole, and very much a tourist, though I endeavor not to be an asshole, with varying degrees of success.)

I showed River some coral, and explained about the difference between rocks and coral and shells. We looked at the animals in some tidepools, and made a little tower of stones. Then we drove a bit further to a nice little beach, and played until nearly sunset. The weather was overcast but pleasant, and the weather was so wonderfully warm — it was pure delight to be in the ocean, bobbing on the waves, and great fun playing in the surf and making sand castles and moats and lakes with River. Really fabulous. The kid was in rapturous delight for much of the day, just grinning, clapping his hands, and saying “Yay!” (There was also a fair bit of “This is boring” and “I hate [inset noun here -- sharks, turtles, dolphins, Hawai'i, the ocean],” mostly when he was between painkiller doses.)

We drove briefly with the top down on the convertible, but River didn’t like it — we think the wind wasn’t so great for his ear — and the sun was at a rather blinding angle, so we didn’t do it for long. More tomorrow, probably, when we go to Volcanoes Park.

Heather wanted to do a bit of shopping, so we drove over to a mall, and grabbed some dinner, and strolled around until 7:00 or so. The kid was fading by then, so we headed back up to the hotel. River slept on the ride back, and slept in my arms back to the room, and pretty much slept through getting put in his jammies and dosed with antibiotics. It’s exhausting, being sick and having so much fun. Now I’m in the room, where the wind is howling on one side of the room, and birds singing wildly on the other side. That’s more pleasant than it sounds.

It’s Heather’s night to stay in with the kid. I may head over to the bar and have a drink and read for a bit. The world is my bivalve.

Vacation: Day One

Sunday, November 27th, 2011

A rather inauspicious beginning, I’m sad to say. (We’re on the Big Island in Hawai’i. Looking back I’m not sure I ever mentioned where we were going. Anyway: it’s both a vacation, and some research for Grim Tides, the manuscript of which has several sections that say “Fill in details after you go back to Hawai’i.)

The travel itself wasn’t bad at all — we got to the airport late, but arrived at the gate just in time to stroll on board our flight, which was only about half full, so that was fine. The kid was very good on the trip, really quite patient, and all was well… except for his ear.

He’d told us late the night before that his ear hurt, and it still hurt in the morning. We got on the plane — unwilling to cancel our trip over an ear infection — and his ear began oozing a little gunk on the flight. No good. After we landed Heather spent literally hours on the phone to our insurance provider (who, after we expressed dismay at the prospect of being forced to go to a hospital a couple of hours away, said in bewildered tones, “But Hawaii’s not that big, is it?”) and calling various hospitals and clinics to see if we could get a doctor to see River on a Sunday — for less than five hundred bucks at a random emergency room, which turned out to be pretty much the only option. (And as for whether or not we’d ever actually get reimbursed by our own insurance for that? Who knows.)

Eventually we talked to a nurse who said, assuming the kid wasn’t in distress (he wasn’t — he didn’t even complain about it hurting after the flight, and has had no fever, etc.), that we could wait until Monday morning and go to the clinic, which is vastly cheaper. So that’s the current plan. Not the most fun way to spend day two, and the kid won’t be able to put his head in the water, which rather sucks for a tropical swim-based vacation. But at least it’s not any kind of serious illness.

After all that was settled, we tried to enjoy the day a bit… but it was windy. Really windy. Like, palm fronds torn from the trees and flung through the air at thirty miles per hour, outdoor chairs flipped over, paddle boats trying to tear loose from their moorings in the lagoon, pools filled with random crap blown from all over the island, type windy. Really rather windy. And the forecast, as I write this, is for the winds to continue until, oh, around Thursday. There are red flag warnings so we can’t swim at the beach, and our attempt to use the hotel’s little fake beach failed when a few gusts picked up sufficient sand to create what felt like a wind of knives, making my kid literally scream in pain. (Doesn’t Nalo Hopkinson have a story about windstorms of broken glass? Like that.)

The name of the place we’re staying means “Windy City,” which should’ve been a tip-off, though everyone here says this is unusually bad. It is warm and actually gorgeous weather-wise when the wind dies down.

The hotel is very pretty, too. There’s no in-room wifi, but to my surprise, there’s free wifi in some of the common areas, and we can even slurp the wifi from a nearby hotel restaurant if we sit on the balcony. Of course, with the wind blowing so hard, the balcony isn’t very pleasant, and I risk having my laptop torn from my hands every time I go outside… but still! It’s a nice surprise. I doubt I’ll be online much, but I won’t be as entirely disconnected as I’d expected.

This litany of sadness isn’t even touching on the annoyance of all the expenses that aren’t covered in the package deal we bought. (It was a pretty good deal, but once you buy insurance for the rental car, and upgrade to a car that’s actually large enough to fit a kid’s carseat and our luggage, and pay for hotel parking, it kinda eats into one’s mai tai budget. Fortunately, we’d already decided this trip was pretty much a big family Christmas present, so we’ll just be getting small gifts this year. I just hope the rest of the vacation goes better than today has.)

Wish us luck, a sympathetic doctor, cheap antibiotics, and calm winds…

But! Lest I sound too sad: I mean, we’re in Hawai’i. A bad day in Hawai’i is still pretty fantastic. (Mostly I’m just tired from traveling and generally grumpy. I think it’ll pass.) So good things: The artwork at the hotel is amazing, and there’s a lot of it. We spent lunch sitting outside eating and looking at dolphins, including a very boisterous baby dolphin. The vast resort where we’re staying has boats that run in canals, and a train line, to get to various areas of said vast resort — the kid loves, loves, loves riding on the boats, and doesn’t think the trains are too shabby, either. (And honestly, the boats are quite fun.) The pools here are lovely, and the staff has been amazingly friendly and helpful.

I’m feeling more hopeful now than I was when I started writing this account a couple of hours ago. We have a week ahead of us. I’ll let you all know how it goes.