Sunday night I had dinner with K at a little place called Cafe Bar. It was noisy and filled with smoke; I had forgotten that everywhere except California, smoking is standard at restaurants and (especially) bars. We got a small table outside, and had a decent meal, though I did have to ask the waitress three times (over the course of about an hour) before she brought me a glass of water (long after she'd brought wine and food). I don't think this was my service demon, though; apparently the waiters there are always surly and annoyed with the customers for daring to have requests.
Monday morning I accompanied K to her office via subway, then walked another twelve blocks or so to Alex G.'s apartment in the city (30-some floors up from the heart of the theatre district), where I met up with Mary Anne.
I had taken the precaution of wearing shorts and a T-shirt and white socks, because I knew it was gonna be hot; I'd brought along long pants and a long-sleeve shirt to change into later, for dinner with K's friends. Unfortunately, I hadn't realized just how hot the day would be, nor how much of a problem it would be to walk that far carrying a much-too-heavy backpack with the wrong socks on. I did stop a couple of times along the way—first to buy the driest scone I've ever encountered (because I'd gone three-fourths of the way without seeing a single place that sold bagels), then to buy a bagel a block later.
It turned out to be too hot to go sightseeing, and Mary Anne didn't seem very interested in touristy stuff anyway, so except for wandering across the street for Thai food for lunch, we spent the rest of the day in the air-conditioned apt. Mary Anne had to leave eventually; not long after, Yuko showed up, and I chatted with her for a bit before it was time for me to head out.
I had changed into long pants and heavy long-sleeve shirt sometime that afternoon, basically because I'm an idiot and ill-equipped to handle the rigors of city life. I proceeded to walk for half an hour, in even higher temperatures than before, favoring the foot that had developed a blister earlier, wearing an almost-as-heavy-as-before backpack. K's office was air-conditioned, but I was drenched in sweat by the time I arrived. She showed me around briefly, and then it was back outside to go to the offices of a major publishing house I'll call Publisher X, which turned out to be very close to Alex's place. Sigh. But K took pity on me and we took the subway, which made it much more manageable.
I had a lovely long chat with an editor at Publisher X, who gave me a huge stack of paperbacks. Then K and her housemate A and I headed off to dinner with more of K and A's publishing-industry friends. I wasn't much interested in the Korean barbeque that the chosen East Village restaurant had, so I ate udon and sushi instead, and was quite satisfied, and had more great conversation for the next several hours.
I eventually concluded that much of the publishing industry is made up of young attractive unattached smart funny charming heterosexual Caucasian women who, due to the exigencies of social life in NYC, find it impossible to meet interested and interesting men. (There was much debate over whether our waiter was gay or not. I finally concluded that he was straight—despite the dyed hair—when he launched into a spirited defense of Apple over Microsoft, while focusing all his attention on two of the vivacious young women at our table and never once glancing at either of us men.) I have a feeling that someone could make a lot of people very happy by setting up a dating service, connecting NYC's single straight male geeks with NYC's single straight female editors.
Anyway, the whole evening made me feel immensely connected, hooked in to that coolest of cultures, the publishing industry. I know that it's long hours for pay so low that people can barely afford apartments; I know that the glamor is an illusion. And I wouldn't want to work there, because it would require living in NYC, and one of the things I remembered this visit was how incompatible I am with cities in general and NYC in particular. (Besides the too-hot clothing debacle, and the blisters problem (due to inappropriate footwear), and the fact that I got worn out by just the relatively little walking I did, and the smoke, I just found the sheer number of choices overwhelming to the point of inducing near-paralysis. Too many things to do, too many places to eat. I think I manage a lot of life by limiting my options to a manageable number at any given time.) But publishing still seems glamorous to me, and I felt like one of the geeks being accepted by the cool kids. It helped that all of these publishing folks were entertaining conversationalists, so not all of the discussion was about publishing (I was asked to tell them what K was like during high school), and I didn't even necessarily have to hold up my part of a conversation.
And it didn't hurt one iota that the editor I was introduced to at Publisher X read and liked SH. In fact, when my name was mentioned in the email invitation to this dinner, this editor apparently replied, "The Jed Hartman? From Strange Horizons?" I was totally delighted. It turned out she's been reading Susan's journal for a couple years, and followed a link to SH.