Worlds & Time

Friday, February 15, 2008

A Happy Valentine's Day

So, yesterday was a very long, very complicated day which demands a very long , very complicated post followed by a movie review. I think I'm going to divide it into blocks of time, just so that it's easier for me to manage my thoughts about it.

First, I woke up in Albuquerque at my brother's house at 6:30 a.m. and went to a mediation with my lawyers over the whole broken neck thing.

7:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m. Mediation: So, I learned something today that I didn't know. The woman that ran the red light and hit me (and broke my neck) is a former Buddhist nun. She's been having horrible problems since the accident because she was absolutely devastated by what she's done. She told me that she had nightmares and wasn't able to drive for about a year after the accident.

She asked to be able to speak with me alone, to apologize, and I agreed. She was crying, and told me how upset that she'd been about disrupting my life, and basically broke down. I couldn't think of anything to say at first, but I finally told her that she had to promise me that that she would work at forgiving herself. I said "everything is going to work out," but I'd slipped into lawyer mode and I just couldn't come up with something comforting that didn't sound like admitting fault.

I can't hate her anymore though. I just can't. She suffered too.

And then there was that conversation that we had, alone in that room. Heaven help me if I ever forget that conversation. It made everything that happened at IIDB feel like a win.

I brought four books. Over the seven hours that I was there I probably could have finished two of them, but I only finished off Ursula K. Le Guin's The Lathe of Heaven. It's odd because that's a book that I really hadn't heard anyone talk about, but I think that it's definitely one of her best works. I did manage to start Charles Stross's The Atrocity Archives though, so I got some good horrors of the deep laughs from that.

And then, around 2:15, we finally settled. Yes, I covered my medical bills, and I'm glad it's over. Finally, finally, finally. I'm still worried that I made the wrong decision, even though my lawyers and my mother agree that it was the right one.

I didn't think it would be over, but it is.

Let me just point out how wrenching negotiating for this money was. I'm not a good negotiator, but the guy on the other side was just jerking us around. He was good, but the mediator wasn't really conveying what my lawyers wanted to convey from him. My lawyer was giving her cues about how to say x-y-z, but she was just ignoring him. The opposing (i.e. insurance) lawyer was jerking us around, and it probably would have been better for us if we'd allowed our numbers to do the talking instead of the mediator.

I think that the reason that I'm mostly worried/convinced that I made the wrong decision is because I feel that my side didn't negotiate well. When you're on the side that has the edge, you need to push the other side out of their comfort zone. They had one up card and one reserve card, and they played really conservatively, inch by inch, in a style that allowed them to walk away without a clear victory, but without the huge losses that the opposing lawyer was there to prevent.

Perhaps if I'd sent the mediator along with one of my shoes and instructions to hit it on the desk we would have done better.

Hindsight, you know? It'll kill you every time, and it was potentially enough money to change my life. I still hope that it will, even though it's a lot less that I think we could have played for.

2:30-5:00 Hanging out with Jeff and his roommate recovering and trying not to cry: His roommate is really cute, and he's good at Halo & Call of Duty 4 as well. He was totally beating down on both of those games. Yeah, I'm not much of a first person shooter person, but those games on the XBox 360 look amazing. During this time I recovered from some of the shock that I felt about finally having settled my case.

5:30-7:30 Dinner with Pam and Jeff at Flying Star: Pam drove down all the way from Colorado to come to Jumper, which is based on a book that Steven Gould, one of our instructors at Viable Paradise, wrote. I've been promoting the movie to almost everyone I meet, and I've been looking forward to it for a weeks.

The even more cool thing is that Steven lives in Albuquerque, so he was going to the opening night showing of the movie as well with a huge group of friends and acquaintances. To be able to say that you went to the movie with the guy that wrote the book is a fairly respectable bragging point, and both Pam and I jumped at the chance to represent at the premiere.

I knew that he and a slew of others were going to go to Tuscanos, a Brazilian restaurant, after the movie, but because of the Mediation I hadn't eaten anything of substance all day so I already knew that I wanted to eat prior to the movie. Thus, I ended up with a very good Cobb salad. Hooray.

Pam has kept in much closer contact with the other VPXI alumni, so it was nice to hear what's been going on. I thought that I missed a bit because I was sick, but there seemed to be a lot more that I had either forgotten or missed out on, and I have to wonder about the way my head works some times. Pam is basically the preeminent Anne McCaffrey fan in existence, which is something that I did not have the faintest clue about from Viable Paradise. I mean, I suspect that it was mentioned, but I had no idea of the awesome depths to which her fandom goes. By comparison, my deep commitment to some of my favorite authors is purely dabbling.

If I ever have a fan like her, I will know that I've made it.

7:30-9:00 Jumper: I liked it. I really honestly did, and that's not because I'm going to send Steve a link to the review blog when I post it.

9:00-11ish Dinner at Tuscanos: So, just before the movie started, I saw a gentleman with salt and pepper hair sitting down with his wife. I'm not very good with names and faces, and I'd already been confused once, so I decided that I very much needed to make sure that it was in fact S.M. Stirling that was sitting there in the theater. I went down to talk with Laura, sidled up to her, and in a near whisper I asked her if that was S.M. Stirling, and laughingly said "I've confused him with George R. R. Martin before."

She looked at me and said, "You don't know George?" Then she looked up about four rows from where we were standing and says "Hey George! This is Ben, he'll meet you later!"

I'm not religious, but the best description that my generation uses to describe how I felt at that moment was: O.M.G. In all of the mindless valley girl splendor that phrase implies.

Absolutely extreme fandom alert. My copy of A Game of Thrones was left in Iraq with the marines by my little brother and I haven't yet replaced it, preventing me from rereading the series recently, but it's still the fantasy series at the moment.

After the show, I was trying to figure out the logistics of the situation. Jeff, Nick, and er . . . Nick's girlfriend (darn it, I'm doing really badly with names today) had driven up with me, but I had decided that I was now massively interested in staying for dinner. They volunteered to go back to school by bus, thus allowing me to indulge in a little bit of serial fan worship of a few of my favorite authors. Thank you all so much. I freaking owe you.

Pam and I wandered into Tuscanos. Since both of us had anticipated eating early, neither of us had really anticipated eating after the movie as well, and we weren't part of the 60 person reservation that Steven made at the restaurant. We mutually decided that we should hang around and see if there were any seats left before diving in.

At around this time I was standing near a table where it looked like Laura and Steve might sit, and a woman is looking up at us. She stands up from her seat and starts making conversation with us. I don't remember what the conversation started out as, but my first thought was that she was probably Laura's mother.

Then she introduced herself as Joan . . . Saberhagen.

No offense to Mr. Martin or Mr. Stirling, but of the local New Mexico authors, Fred Saberhagen is probably my favorite. I've got an entire little section of my shelf that contains all eightvolumes of The Lost Swords, The Complete Book of Swords, An Armory of Swords (merely edited by him), Merlin's Bones, and the "Saberhagen: My Best" collection of short stories. And that doesn't even scratch the surface of what he's written. He is awesome.

My eyes just absolutely lit up for a moment, and I pumped Joan Saberhagen's hand, and I gushed for just long enough that it suddenly hit me that he'd recently died.

Darn it.

Darn it, darn it, darn it.

I offered my condolences, but it must be hard to be put in a position where your connection to someone is your recently deceased husband. I can't even imagine. She looked sad for a moment, but she must have the will of a saint because it was only in her face for the briefest second.

I think it was Joan and Steve himself that suggested to us that it was eventually time to get seats, and that we should go for the seats that we wanted, and I did. The table next to George R. R. Martin was partially empty, and so I drew on my reserve of "You already regret one thing that you've done today, just suck it up and remember that if you don't do this you'll regret it tomorrow" motivation and asked George if we could pull the tables together.

Thus, it came to be that I sat across the table from George R. R. Martin for dinner at Tuscanos. I should have offered to pay, and if I wasn't worried that my debit card would be declined if I tried, I would have.

Next to George sat Pam, and between us was a hilarious friend of Steve's named Gary. On my other side was Parris, a gentleman whose name I immediately lost, and a gentleman whose name I think was Hank.

I, of course, made a complete fool of myself, which I do not for a moment regret. It was blissfully, painfully, embarrassingly funny, and I got to tell my "Are you George R. R. Martin?" "No, he's S. M. Stirling" story to George himself. Yes, I may not have made another meaningful comment for the rest of the night, but that little itsy-bitsy anecdote was worth it.

You have to take pleasure in the small things.

It's odd, I tried to listen to the conversation shooting around across the table for the rest of the evening, but the one thing that really caught my attention was when George said that he had always loved the insanely complicated rescue plans, and that one day he'd have to set up a huge one where one person dresses as the king, another as a knight, and then they swing into the feast on a rope.

This being George R. R. Martin though, he pointed out that everything would have to go wrong. I pseudo-countered, pointing out that if he was the writer, the author would expect everything to go pear shaped. It seems so obvious now, and I wish I'd come up with the obvious conclusion to that line of reasoning: If it was in one of his books, in order to subvert the reader expectations the intricate, complex, and convoluted rescue plan would have to succeed from top to bottom, and then go completely wrong once they thought they were safe.

The guy sitting between Pam and me, Gary, is unbelievably funny though. He was the most interesting dinner companion. He works with GPS systems, although I swear that we made it through dinner without touching on that subject once. It wasn't until later that I found that out.

A note about Tuscano's itself: They have cute waiters. Really cute waiters. With those pale blue eyes and short hair, and everything. Oh, and I find their premise interesting. They've got a salad bar (and it was a good one), but then the waiters traipse around the restaurant carrying kebabs of meat. Bacon wrapped veal, tri-tip steak with various glazes, roasted chicken, spicy sausages, and everything else. If you want some, you get a bit. It wasn't phenomenal, but it was still on the good side. Pam's chocolate hockey puck thing was excellent, for example, and I couldn't get enough of their spicy sausage.

At some point around 11 p.m. I realized that I'd missed a call from my mother. She told me that due to weather I was to "Stay with my brother" and two sentences later "drive right home so that you don't get caught in the storm." As of the time of this writing, a day later, there still ain't no storm, and I don't think she ever managed to fully clarify which of those two orders she actually wanted me to follow.

11ish to 12:30 Champagne at Steve and Laura's: Now, you have to understand that I'm not much of a champagne person. It think it tastes bad, but I think that about nearly everything with alcohol in it, and it apparently was a really expensive bottle of champagne, so I had half a glass, and it was the best that I've ever had, which means that I got it down and I managed to make it stay down.

Upon arrival at Steve and Laura's (and I used to live in the same part of town, actually), I realized that they have more books than I do. Way more books. Way, way more books. I mean, wowsers. I wish I had shelves like that.

We sat around, talked for a while. I told my story about the neck, and for the first time it was a story that is in the past tense. It is something that happened to me and is not still happening to me. It was a really happy evening for me.

I got to see the office, which I now know is famous. I don't get it, I thought I knew the author's online domains, but I was quite wrong about this one. Steve has a blog, and it will be going up on the side bar when I get a chance to move things around. (Note: Ta-dah!)

I did get some pictures though, by the machinations and manipulations of those around me. Two of me, one with George and one with Pam and Steve, are visible at Pam's blog here. There's also one involving the chocolate hockey puck taken of Pam by me.

12:30-2:00 a.m. Driving home: Yes, I finally did drive home, stopping to get gas and use the restroom. It wasn't the drowsiest that I've ever been on the way home, but it isn't an experiment that I'd likely repeat soon.

I just remembered something that I'd forgotten, so I'll mention it here: I was carrying around my (second) copy of Jumper, and got Steve to autograph it. He wrote something really awesome in it: "To [ST], who will write others as good." Awwwwww . . .

And that was my Valentine's day.

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