(This page last modified 9 October 1996.)

Wanderjahr: Week 6

Locations: Albuquerque
Dates: 9/22/96 - 9/28/96

This was the first week so far this trip that I've spent entirely in one town. In fact, I spent most of it not stirring from Rob's house. When I ventured out one night to return some videotapes, I was surprised to discover it had rained during the day...

After a month of near-constant socializing, it was an immense relief to have some significant time to myself. I like people in general, and I like my friends a lot; but I'm learning that it's important to spend time alone to recharge my social batteries. I missed having people around to talk to at times, especially when I encountered something in a movie or book that I particularly wanted to talk with someone about; but email is almost good enough for that purpose, and I knew the isolation was only temporary anyway, so if I encountered something worth repeating I just had to write it down for later. It occurred to me it might be good for me at some point this trip to stop in some small town and rent a cheap apt for a month, for alone-time and writing opportunities without distractions.

I had started revising a story on Saturday; I hoped to finish it Sunday, but it turned out it needed far more work than was feasible for one day. Made significant progress on it Sunday, though. Then hung it up to see the season premiere of Third Rock from the Sun, still the most entertaining sophomoric humor on TV.

I should note here that I almost never watch TV; this week in ABQ I watched more TV than probably in the previous six months combined. An unfortunate side effect of not having other people around. On the other hand, there are a lot of current shows that I've been meaning to check out, having heard good things about them, but never got around to it 'til now; having seen an episode or two, I can now refrain from watching, without worrying I'm missing something great.

I was amazed to learn that the city of ABQ doesn't pick up glass for curbside recycling. They do pick up cans of all sorts, #2 plastic, and paper of all kinds (though the woman who answers the recycling-hotline telephone is very difficult to extract this information from; she spouts contradictory statements like a faucet. I asked, "Can I mix newspaper with magazines in the same bag?" She said, sounding shocked, "No! You have to put newspaper in a single bag!" I said, "What about magazines?" She said, again as though it were obvious, "You can put those in the same bag!"). I'd expect glass would be one of the easiest things to recycle... At any rate, there is a place in town that takes it, but residents have to take glass there rather than just having it picked up.

Stumbled across a very cool new Outer Limits episode, "A Stitch in Time," written by Steven Barnes and starring Michelle "Ro Laren" Forbes. One of the best time-travel stories I've ever encountered. Also discovered that Nowhere Man had been cancelled.

Began using FrameMaker more. I've been searching for months for a good replacement for Word 4 as my primary word processor; I think I've come to the conclusion that the page-layout stuff I want to do requires me to buy and use FrameMaker, despite its ridiculously high price. Updated my movies-to-see list for the first time in months; there are now about 100 movies on it, even though I've seen about 30 movies in the past two months. The problem is I add to it about as fast as I see items on it...

Mid-week, finally finished reading Plagues and Peoples, a book about the influence of contagious disease on human history. Fascinating reading, but it took me literally months to get through; I read nonfiction extremely slowly. In fact, this may be the first nonfiction book I've ever read cover to cover. I ought to return it to Ananda, who loaned it to me about four years ago as reference material for a game I was running.

On Thursday I ventured out during daylight hours; picked up a package for Rob, visited the local Farmer's Market, walked past the local Aikido dojo (was tempted to sit in on a class sometime but haven't done so yet), and got a haircut. I've been debating since July or so whether to cut my hair; strongly considered just letting it grow for the duration of my trip. But finally got sick of the in-between length, where it's too short to tie back but too long to stay out of my face or to take care of easily. And I have to admit I wanted it to look good for my tenth-anniversary high school reunion; figured I should give it a week after the haircut, to grow in a little and correct any problems introduced. (I've had few haircuts that I thought looked particularly good immediately afterward.) I completely forgot about the lunar eclipse, despite an email reminder from Sarah. Sigh. But it was heavily overcast all day, so I suspect the moon wasn't visible (or do I mean invisible?) anyway.

Watched the premiere of ER, the second episode I've seen. I'm still unimpressed; I think I'll give it one more episode (since it's the kind of show that usually needs some continuity and familiarity with the characters to be worth watching) and then give up on it.

Got a cool postcard from Ananda, including a quotation from Georgia O'Keeffe via the USPS: "Nobody sees a flower, really -- it is so small -- we haven't time, and to see takes time, like to have a friend takes time." Could serve as something of a keynote for this trip, I think; I want to take the time to see, and to take the time to have friends.

Our sample copies of The VRML 2.0 Handbook have apparently arrived from Addison-Wesley! And there was much rejoicing. I'm looking forward to seeing the book; also to seeing it on bookstore shelves soon.

Saw the X-Files season finale from last season, far more interesting than any of the three or four episodes I'd previously seen. Looking forward to next week's premiere.

All through the week, I kept working on my story. Printed it on Saturday and made a semi-final editing pass for consistency and style. Also on Saturday, the latest issue of SWAPA arrived; spent some time reading it. My packet of forwarded mail from home didn't arrive, even though it was sent on Tuesday; hope it'll show up next week.


Movies, Books, etc.

Man of La Mancha
Fascinating stuff about reality, fantasy, and madness (and roleplaying!), and good songs. Not superb, but pretty good.
Every Man for Himself and God Against All
By turns didactic and boring, even though based on the true and interesting story of Kaspar Hauser. Some wonderful lines and bits of story, though.
Rocky
Did nothing for me, possibly because I've seen enough later Stallone that this didn't look fresh or new.
Passion Fish
Didn't like it as much as I wanted to, but some superb performances and fine moments. I love Sayles' writing.
The Big Chill
Entertaining and nostalgic; I hope that when I get together with college friends in ten years we get along this well.
Reservoir Dogs
Hated it. I guess the only Tarantino I've really liked is Pulp Fiction.
"The Halfway Diner," John Sayles
I like Sayles' fiction better than his movies, in general. His stories always make me laugh, sometimes make me cry.
Plagues and Peoples, William H. McNeill
Repetitive, but fascinating.
Mary Poppins
Delightful, though a couple of the production numbers are overdone and slow. Mary herself (played by Julie Andrews) is Practically Perfect.
The Year of Living Dangerously
Superb (and unsettling) performance from Linda Hunt can't quite save this movie. Gibson and Weaver are charming together, but the movie as a whole just didn't quite work for me.
Some Like it Hot
The only particularly funny parts are the (unintentional?) gay references. Monroe and Lemmon are annoying; Curtis is at least versatile.
Map of the Human Heart
Some very cool images and moments, but not enough of 'em. (Though Rob and Ananda, whose opinions of movies I usually agree with, both liked it.)
The World Shuffler, Keith Laumer
Fun romp in the usual Laumer tradition. Way better than the usual run of supposedly humorous fantasy novels; never a dull moment.
The Lover
Kinda interesting in several ways, but not terribly compelling.
Far Away, So Close
Disjointed but at times lyrical. Not as good as Wings of Desire, but more or less worth seeing if you've seen the original.
The Humanoids, Jack Williamson
A classic work of sf with an extremely ambiguous message. Unsatisfying.
Glengarry Glen Ross
Seven of today's finest male actors playing really unpleasant people. I blame David Mamet's script.
Grand Canyon
It's no Big Chill, alas. Good performances, but overly didactic script and doesn't really hold together.

Jed Hartman <logos@kith.org>