August 28th, 2006

Jin Shei Cover from sgreer

Worldcon, part the first - there and back again

This is the short bit, and probably a tad ranty with it. Okay, so we actually had a pretty smooth trip (all things considered) but there's such a breadth of attitude out there in the security ether and I'm more and more convinced that all this "Terrorism" scare tactic is doing is actually breeding a generation of petty policemen who actually ENJOY this work. The guy at the Bellingham airport, when we left, was couretous and kind and took rdeck away to quiet side area apart from the major throngs, took a look at this leg brace, swabbed the thing (although I'm not sure what that proves, in the end) and then waved us through. The security procedures took less than two minutes - and all this was done while I was dealing with the stuff coming through the X-ray machine and by the time I had gathered together all the bits and bobs my husband was through and approved and sent on his way with a courteous "thank you, sir". We were already behind the lines, so I don't know how Seattle measured up that day - but man, oh, man, on the way home at the Orange COunty airport.

I went to check in. Everyone else on every trip I've taken since I've been in this country wanted to see ID, which is fine, and then looked at my driver licence in situ in my purse and ticked me off as present and accounted for. Thankyouverymuch. The one at the checkin desk at Orange COunty airport demanded that I take the licence out of its clear pocket - which was *designed to hold a drivers licence so that it could be seen, ferchrissakes* - and then practically refused to let me on the plane because my drivers licence had my married name on it and my Alaska Airlines reservation and therefore my boarding pass has (in addition) my maiden name on it. We got through that, and then the wheelchair guy came to push hubby through the security checkpoint, and HE demanded identification. WTF?... And then they got hold of rdeck at the security checkpoint, and all I can say is, well, I hope the security guy there actually got his jollies patting down what was a wheelchair seated passenger with a leg-brace and carrying a cane, VERY thorougly, even running his hands down said seated passenger's back until he could pat his behind. I'm not sure what he thought rdeck was hiding there. Oh, and they generously let him keep his brace-shoe on - but the OTHER had to come off and be X-rayed. And the wrist weight he wears around his right wrist in order to keep his right arm from riding up and clawing against his side... they left unmolested. Nobody even ASKED. And the officious wheelchair guy had to take his shoes off to be X-rayed, too - I mean - this is an employee of the airport, surely SOME level of clearance is required, can we all say "overkill" together?...

And as I was saying to someone at the Hilton not too long before, I am starting to believe that this so-called war on terror is no more than an attempt to keep uppity wimmin in their place. It's a war on women. I'm serious. I mean, LOOK at the evidence. They banned knitting needles and pretty much killed needlework altogether (one does have to have a Sharp Object to cut thread with). They wage war on underwire bras - and I, who don't particularly LIKE them, can attest to the fact that probably 80-90% of bras you see for sale in the shops these days are some form of underwire. I've seen injunctions to leave "heavy jewellery" behind when travelling (define "heavy" in terms of jewellery, please, anyway). No nail or cuticle scissors - and this weighs particularly heavy on my because I tend to get hangnails, and I honestly do carry a pair of nail scissors to deal with this and not to stab anyone - you can probably do more damage with a bunch of KEYS than with a pair of small nail scissors. This time, in Anaheim, I had a real problem which necessitated an actual countermeasure of wearing a bandaid around the offending finger because said hangnail caught on everything - PAINFULLY! - and I couldn't take it any more - but I"m kind of allergic to bandaids and now I've got the aftermath of four days of bandaid to deal with. And all for a lack of a simple pair of naiscissors. Sigh. And now there's the latest - no lipsticks, no chapsticks, no deodorant, no moisturizer, no mascara, make that no make up at all, no toothpaste, no perfume allowed in hand luggage. The only thing they reluctantly allow is baby food - for "people traveling with children" - and in the same conversation I just referenced above it was pointed out that with this exception a would-be terrorist would merely need to come up with a convenient baby as a travelling companion and everything else that has been banned is a moot point - and if one is planning to blow up oneself together with a planeload of other passengers one baby more or less is not going to make a major difference.

Pah. Traveling. It Sucks Big ROcks these days.

Oh yeah, and we had to leave the hotel at the crack of dawn on Sunday, which means that the Hilton foyer Danish-and-coffee stand wasn't yet out (or I would have at least bought a Danish), and I had no coffee that morning which made me grumpier than normal and then we got to the airport and had to put up with the sniffy staff, and I was expecting at least a snack in First Class (I upgraded) on a lunchtime flight, but we got nuttin' but nuts and pretzels... rdeck had a banana I bought for him at the airport, and I had an espresso brownie from Starbucks, and that was it for food until we landed in Seattle (after an hour's delay because some fuel had loaded the fool wrong... or was that the other way around...) and by the time we extracted ourselves sufficiently from that it was close to 2 pm, and I snagged us a tiny freebie chicken salad sandwich they were giving out in the concourse and a peanut butter cookie and then we sat in the bus for two and half hours to get back home and by this stage we were both so hungry that we had dancing carrots in front of our eyes and chickens were committing kamikaze and obligingly presenting themselves to the barbecue.

The cats were glad to see us home.

The meat of the con report (oof, sorry, given the tenor of that last paragraph) in another post.
Jin Shei Cover from sgreer

Worldcon, part the second - Tuesday, Wednesday,Thursday

Remind me never to drive in Southern California. Twelve lane highways, six in each direction, all packed. EEEEEEWWW. Mummy, I want to go home to my little village. There's tooooo maaaaaany peeeeeple here!

Whew. Got that off my chest. Took us best part of forty minutes (and a fare of $40) to cab it from the Orange County airport to the Anaheim Hilton. And when we walked into that cavernous hall that calls itself a lobby and remembered that we'd arranged to meet someone neither of us had ever met before for dinner on Thursday "in the Hilton lobby", I turned to rdeck and said, "You gotta be kidding me." I had visions of us and our dinner partner chasing each other's tails around the "lobby" most of the night without EVER catching sight of one another at all. Be that as it may, I did manage to catch sight of someone I knew less than ten minutes after walking into the lobby area...

They gave us a room on the party floor. I distinctly said I didn't want to be on the party floor, but that's where they put us. And right next to the emergency stairs, too - you know the kind, made out of metal in echoing concrete stairwells...? Well, right next to THAT. I supposed I could have said something but rdeck is laid back about things like that. "Let go," he said, "we'll survive." But more about that, later...

We went down to get some dinner, and met up with batwrangler and bigblued and had an impromptu party where much laughter ensued. I'd sailed off to the Convention Centre to get both oru registrations not too long before, and it was at this dinner that we discovered that rdeck's badge had simply... wiped itself away. ALready he only had his first name on it (much quoting of Galaxy Quest and "What's my last name?!?" and threats to get him a red shirt at the first opportunity) but even that had managed to blur itself into a fading trace of black smudge so we had to go back to the CC after dinner to rectify that and get him reinstated. A couple of other people had the same problem, I noticed, later - one of their printers must have been a bad inkjet or something because stuff just WOuld Not Stay Printed... That was Tuesday, really. Just the official stuff. We did sit in (part of) the foyer, later, mapping out our convention - which is when other people I knew drifted past and said hi, and I learned things like that Joe Straczynski of B5 fame had begged off from coming which made me pout because I had every intention of going to his panel and going all fan-girl on him. During the mapping out process I learned that I would have time to breathe at this con, but only barely. Practically every hour of every day was accounted for, and the convention hadn't even properly STARTED yet. I also put in some Christmas shopping. My nieces are getting a ton of Disney stuff. Straight from the gates of Disneyland. Yeah!!!

Wednesday, and I started by hitting the ground running. I did my shift at the Broad Universe table early in the afternoon, but at this point people were still only just starting to get into the Dealers' room (which was FULL of excessively neat stuff!) and nobody was in a buying mood yet. But I talked us up to passing strangers, and although I didn't sell any actual books from the table (mine or anyone's) I had a good time. And I went straight from there to the first of my Wednesday panels.

The title was "Fantasy doesn't have to be about kings and wizards" which was moderated by marykaykare in the absence of the scheduled moderator, Darrell Schweitzer, who was at this time apparently still somewhere in the air and not even in ANAHEIM never mind at the con. (There's something to be said for scheduling people before they actually arrrive - I mean, I know it's supposed to be science fiction and all but the last I heard Scotty's transporter technology hadn't been perfected in this century yet...) It was a good panel, with our "token fan" as the moderator and myself, Sean Williams (an Australian author whom I knew via the Net but had never met before) and the added panelist of Madeleine Robins - lively discussion ensued with some neat audience participation. I then had another panel straight after that one, "Fantasy - how can it be good?". This one was a humdinger. norilana and I turned up on time but our mderator, Elizabeth Gilligan, had still not shown up by the time the panel was due to start so we started without her. Sometime in the middle of a REALLY interesting discussion Ms Gilligan turned up, a little late, and joined right in. This panel had the best ending of any panel I've ever been on, EVER - right at the time we were supposed to wrap it up, the sound of the Pink Panther theme was heard from Elizabeth Gilligan's scooter (Tah-dum, tah-dum, tahdumtahdumtahdum, tah dum tah DAAAAAA, tah-tah-tah-dum!) Everyone snapped around to stare, and Elizabeth said in a faintly embarassed voice, "Oh! That's my husband..."

We tried the con suite, after that, in the hope of getting something to eat with a price tag of less than the $30 which seemed to be the minimum required for any sort of decent meal downstairs in the hotel restaurants, but it was... disappointing, Maybe we WERE there at the wrong time, or something, but not only was there no food other than a large bowl of popocorn, some raisins, and an assortment of candies and crisps but I couldn't see any evidence of there ever havign been or potentially being any. We left quickly in search of more sustenance, and were given emergency rations in the ASFA suite consisting of a pair of chicken sandwiches which we gratefully devoured. Then we were invited to the writers' workshop party that night, and it seemed that this was where all the food had gone to hide. It was a room, not a suite, and it was packed to the rafters with people like Larry Niven Jay Lake, Robert Sawyer and the like - and there was FOOOOOOOOD. GOod stuff, too. I had two plates balanced in my hand, and could not really maneuver with them because they were on the flimsy side - so I stood there gratefully and patiently while Larry Niven spooned Waldorf Salad onto my plates for me. Good party, good food, good company, my thanks for the writers workshop people for the invite (as it WAS invitation only...)

I hit one or two parties, after, and got a sticker for "Australia in 2010" from the party supporting the Australian bid. I hope they get it. I'd love to have the excuse to visit Australia...

On, to Thursday.

Busiest day of the con, for me - THREE panels, and I spent an hour at the SFWA table in between. The first panel was another good one - "Crossign genres", with Keith DeCandido (who I know has a LJ but I don't know his handle), Nancy Holder, and John Maddox Roberts. Lively discussion on genre, what it is, who invented it, whom it serves, and how to circumvent its more straitjacketty restrictions followed. Here's a qusetion for all of you reading this - leaving aside all aspects of "where the heck do I SHELVE this thing?!?" - how do YOU feel about books that seem to embrace more than one genre? I got the distinct feeling that there would be more than enough readers out there willing to experiment in this way. Which is pretty cool, really, given that my own work has been described as "mainstream fantasy" (don't throw anything at me, I wasn't the one who said that...)

The second panel was "What is Evil?" and I think that this was by far my best panel of the con (I kind of sat down and yelped, "Eek! I'm MODERATING this one!" - but after that first speedbump things went swimmingly, people asked some GREAT questions, and panelists Fiona Avery, P C Hodgell, Stephen Leigh and Brandon Sanderson stepped up to the mark to field them with elegance, finesse, and erudition. It was fun that two of the panelists (Fiona and Brandon) bore the names of two, well, shall we call them antagonists which were cited as being the audience's "Favourite" such characters in the known literature... One word which kept on coming up was "choice", and I concluded the panel by telling the audience this, and then saying, "Go thou forth, then, and choose wisely". It was a cracker of a panel, full of great insight and wonderful ideas, and I will probably blog on teh subject all by itself at some future point.

Then we went off to a John Scalzi reading, which was ENORMOUS fun, and all I'm going to say is when his new novel comes out, buy the sucker. You'll be laughing out loud before you get past the first SENTENCE.

rdeck felt like a little rest, afterwards, so I schlepped back to the convention centre by myself for my last panel of the day - "Good endings". It reunited three of the Evil panelists, Brandon, Fiona and myself, and added Kay Kenyon and John Kessel - and it was another great panel, ably moderated by Brandon (who generously gave us all time at the end of the panel to tell the audience where to go buy our books - which is what I call a Very Good Ending... [grin])

Then we went and sat around in the lobby and played cellphone tag with our dinner companion, a lady who used to own the "change of hobbit" bookstore and whom hubby knew from online for a long while. We went to the more expensive restaurant in the hotel for that one (to be greeted by the sight of Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle in full fig including black bow ties and very nice they looked too and BOY did I suddenly feel shabby and underdressed...) We had a delicious (if extraodinarily expensive) meal, good company and conversation was had, and then we parted company and rdeck and I went back to the convention hall for the ASFA Chesley Awards reception. I saw the original Targete oil painting for teh cover of "The Hidden Queen" hanging there - it was a Chesley finalist, but didn't win - with an eye-watering price tag of $10,000.00. I permitted myself a small wibble at that one... We also managed to catch up with Voyager MB's "Mopsy" and Australian artist Shane Parker, who did the Aussie cover for one of my Changer books (this, too, was hanging in teh Art Show, and we obtained permission for a photo op with the artist and the author of the book whose cover this was to stand proudly next to the painting with one of the Art SHow staff hovering nearby to ensure no funny coyrightviolating business was being perpetrated. While we were still there a small kid made a fascinated beeline for "my" particular painting, calling out "Dinosaurs!" and then, when corrected, "Camels! Camels" It was precious stuff... and it was great to finally meet the artist, especially since I have a LARGE print of the self-same painting hanging on my study wall. It's one of my favourite covers.

Then, bed.

And we began to have a taste of what being on a party floor really meant. More about that in the next post...
Jin Shei Cover from sgreer

Worldcon, part the third - Friday and Saturday

Sometime during the previous breathless day we had run across Brenda Cooper in the Green Room, and had arranged to have breakfast with her on Friday - so that's how we started out this day, having a wonderful catch-up breakfast with a friend and basically sitting back and relaxing for a precious moment in what was turning out to be a whirlwind convention (but ye gods, these breakfasts were pricey affairs. Three dollars for a CUP OF COFFEE???) Then we went skedaddling off to the Convention Centre to check up on the status of my Kaffeeklatsch (there were four people signed up, including my husband, and while I was certainly not a Naomi Novik who "sold out" early I did better than SOME other Klatschees who had absolutely nobody at all...) and then we went off to watch a screening of "Galaxy Quest" where the screenplay writer was scheduled to make an appearance. Unfortunately just before the movie started an announcement was made that he had called in sick - which prompted nearly half the people in the room to get up and leave. What gives? The appearance of teh guy who wrote the movie would have been wonderful, but it was a bonus. I was looking forward to seeing the whole goofy thing again, myself. You know. In the company of OTHER PEOPLE who "get" it. We enjoyed it enormously - God, even at, what, fourth or fifth viewing this stuff is STILL funny! - and then I had to go to my last panel, "How to kill a character". It fell a little short of expectations, one of the panelists arrived too late to be of any meaningful importance to the discussion, one of them had his entire backlist in front of him on the table and prefaced his every remark with "And in THIS book I..." hauling out one or another of the books in his display (which is fine, nothing wrong with self-promtion, but this was NOT about HIS work - it was about the general ideas which this discussion might generate) and it was (in my own humble opinion of course) not too well moderated by a moderator who fancied that "running a tight ship" (a phrase she used in her opening remarks) was reason enough to squash any potentially interesting discussion before it had a chance to blossom. I didn't get much of a chance to say the things I wanted to say, because the moderator was in charge of the microphone and she ignored my frantic motions for its possession several times in the discussion. It was a good panel, but it wasn't the GREAT panel it could have been. Oh well. Win some, lose some.

Then we went to the "Eos New Books" panel because my Eos editor, Diana GIll, ran it. We learned that Ray Bradbury has a sequel to "Dandelion WIne" coming out in October - the book is called "Farewell Summer" and I can't wait to get my mitts on it.

After that it was a matter of calling into the Green ROom (was there any FOOD anywhere...? Well, not in here... This convention's con suites were particularly ill-equipped with food, it appears, and the Green Room didn't even appear to have a coffee urn in it - don't these people appreciate that coffee is the fuel that runs a pro during a convention like this?...)and then we went down to the Dealers Room (where this day, earlier on, I acquired a funky-faced dragonet who, because of an imperfection on his upholstered back, was promptly named Scar...) and, eventually, at 3 PM, down to my Kaffeeklatsch.

It's been said elsewhere, but I want to add on the record that whoever thought that locating the Kaffeeklatsches - ostensibly venues for conversation between the presiding pros and their guests - RIGHT next to a sound stage where on-going shows with loud amplifiers constantly and consistently drowned out any attempts at coherent two-way verbal exchange - well - whoever that was probably needs to apologise in public. Even people with normal hearing had trouble in that curtained off little nook (which was also right off the main "arena" where LARGE quantities of people seeking food and lunchtime chatter were also gathering in noisy constellations of babble and laughter) and people with any kind of hearing impairment were clearly and comprehensively discriminated against. I know that at least three of the Klatsches removed themselves from said location and went, well, Elsewhere - and there WERE alternatives. If absolutely nothing else was available, there were two meeting rooms just off the Starbucks cafe in the Hilton lobby concourse which would have been perfect for the occasion - I mean, they even had COFFEE on the premises, which the original venue did not, and once again, it's a KAFFEEklatsch - could we at least have hot water and instant coffee...? If actually brewed stuff was too much trouble? Be that as it may, one of the folks at my own Klatsch turned out to be someone whose first encounter with my writing dates from my first US con, Oasis in FLorida in 2001, and she came to chat and catch up which was, like, Really Cool. I also got to catch up with dichroic, who is the sister of alexjay and a really neat person with whom I once performed the Time Warp down a deserted main street in Auckland, New Zealand. Don't ask [grin]. The conversation was attempted against the background of some sort of Lord of the Rings spoof show set against Broadway tunes filked into oblivion, and every now and again we'd get thrown by teh LOTR context of something like "Puttin' on the Ring" (read "Ritz" for that last word, and you'll get the picture). However, we survived, and fun WAS had, and then we bade one another farewell and I hobbled upstairs (I had made yet another blister, surprise surprise) to change for the Harper Collins cocktail party that night.

Which was at a completely different hotel, of course. They told me it was walkable but not with the state my feet were in so I hailed a taxi. The party was interesting. I chatted with booksellers (one of whom buttonholed me to tell me that they had sold out of their stock of "The Secrets of Jin Shei", which was GREAT!), editors (exchanged a few words with Gordon van Gelder about the Slush Bomb...), artists (John Piccacio and I played football for a while with David Hartwell's son), other writers (Garth Nix signed his latest book for me, and Eileen Gunn gave me Japanese etiquette lessons ably assisted, later, by a young Locus editor), and a bunch of other assorted people over quantities of fruit, cheese, and freely flowing wine. I staggered back at about 8-ish, the kind folks from teh Mysterious Galaxy bookshop inviting me to share their taxi home to the Hilton (I meant to drop by and say thank you, gentle people, but time ran away with me so please consider this a public acknowledgment of your kindness).

And this was the night when we learned just what it means to be quartered on teh party floors. Hordes of buffaloes charged up and down the metal stairwell just behind our headboard. Ourside our door people were thunderingly downloading icecubes from the ice machine just across the hallway or practising their yodelling or just screaming with laughter at something like three in the morning. Bleah. Next time, remind me to go straight back down to reception and demand a different room if anything like this happens again...

Saturday, and the first order of business was the rasfc breakfast, hammered out on the newsgroup before we all went Anaheim-ward. The meetup was at 8:30 AM and Aahz (between him and me we turned out to be the main organizers of the event) was mightily entertained at my displays of impatience when people failed to turn up at 8:30 in the dot... but I wanted my COFFEE, dammit. EIther way, what with the group members and their assorted entourages encompassing wives, husbands, significant others and children, we wound up occupying two separate tables in the restaurant and teh conversations ranged from when would be a good time to quit lurking and start posting in the newsgroup to just exactly how much an 800-square-foot cube of gold (which, apparently, would contain all the gold ever mined in the world to date) would weigh, which required the specific density of gold, which one of our number pulled out of thin air via a palmtop and an Internat connection. Ah, the wonders of living in the future.

Fun Was Had, and then rdeck and I went back to the convention centre and the Dealers Room... where I saw soemthing I had not seen before.

Tribbles. Genuine Tribbles, for sale. They even PURRED like the original Tribbles. I was hauling out my checkbook as I approached the table, with the words, "just tell me how much!" coming out of my mouth before I cuold stop them.

I have a genuine Tribble now, and I kept on making it do its "Purrrrr! Purrrr!" thing - much to the entertainment of passers by. I went back to the Broad Universe table for a bit because Grace needed a break, and while she was away I sold four books - two of mine, and two of Louise Marley's novels - and then rdeck managed to convince a lady clad in the uniform of a Star Fleet captain to buy a copy of "Jin shei" A HIGHLY productive half hour or so [grin]. But then I had to decamp, and go and set up my autographing session. The final highlight was when Larry Niven came wandering by and stopped to nod hello at me, and I whined about how EVERYONE had heaps of ribbons on their badges - everyone except poor little me - and he promptly hauled out a pouch from his pocket and handed me a "TrantorCon in 23,309" ribbon. Heh.

I'm always sceptical about these things, especially at a Worldcon - when you can get autographs by writers ranging from Ray Bradbury, Larry Niven and Connie Willis to Elizabeth Bear and John Scalzi, why would anyone pick me...? But pick me people did, and there was a steady trickle, if not yet a deluge or even a stream, of people bearing books whose covers I recognised makign their way towards me on the signing tables. I filled in the rest of the time chatting to Stankey Schmidt, next to me, giving him tips on the best SOuth African wines. I suppose I had a lucky escape because the other person slated for that table and that timeslot was Harlan Ellison - whom I had never met, only knew by reputation, and was bracing myself for teh presence of. Given what the man later did to Connie WIllis in the Hugo ceremonies, I think I got off lucky. So did he, probably. I may not have been famous enough to grope in public, but by GOd if he's tried he would have had a rude awakening, icon or no icon. Frankly, I don't care that he has a reputation to maintain if he had chosen to maintain it at my expense. Connie WIllis should have probably slapped him.

Then I had to race back to the Hilton for my last program item, my reading.

We found my predecessor in the reading slots, Peter Beagle, still reading in full flow and showing no signs of stopping or even of acknowledging the presence of heads popping around the door into the reading room. So I and a handful of folks who had come to hear MY reading decamped across teh hallway to an unused empty room, and had ourselves a ball. I had door prizes - plush toys embodying certain aspects of my reading - which I tossed into the audience of some ten people or so (which is GREAT for a Worldcon reading by a non-household-name writer!) to great effect, and people wandered off with them later looking very content. I will be running a competition with teh same prizes, a little later, on the website - watch that space for more info, VERY soon! The reading done, we chatted for a while about writing, life, the universe, and Alaska. Then the audience waved me farewell, and I was free from obligation of BEING somewhere and DOING something for the first time during the entire con. It was, for all intents and purposes, over for me. Next would come... the fun part.

See the next installment.
Jin Shei Cover from sgreer

Worldcon, conclusion - or, The Power of Hokey

There was one last thing to do before we shook the dust of California off our feet and headed for the cool green cedars of home.


When I was a little girl, and even NOT such a little girl... growing up was a Disney thing to do. I saw Lady and the Tramp countless times, I saw Aristocats, I saw Bambi (and still weep at it), Pinocchio, Sleeping Beauty, CInderella, Snow WHite, Alice in WOnderland, Peter Pan, 101 Dalmations. I saw, later, The Fox and the Hound, Beauty and the Beast, Little Mermaid. I saw both Fantasias (and own them both on DVD).

I saw Mary Poppins when it first came out and I was - what - seven years old or something like that.

I had less sympathy for things like Aladdin and Pocahontas (except for that one wonderful song) and the later animations, and somehow even less so for the Pixar-ish stuff like Toy Story and the like - when things started getting far too commercial. Aladdin's music was pure commercial crap, with $$$ signs instead of creativity as the guiding factor. The Lion King worked for me because I identified with the subject matter and I also happen to like Elton John, but that was fluke. I loved the old original Disney stuff, the kind that dreams were made of when I was a little girl. The true magic. Not the commercial, not the hokey, not the "buy the ears" mentality.

But I had never been to Disneyland, nor had the opportunity to do so, when I was the right age to have completely believed in that early sense of wonder. And now, going in as an adult, I was braced for the hokey - and plenty of hokey there was too, with the little train we took, which rode around the perimeter of teh park, going through a patch of thin forest and the patter going, "ooooh. We're in the wilds now. There's lions and tigers and elephants in there. Who knows what you might see?" (yeah yeah yeah. I've seen the real thing. No self-respecting tiger would be found dead in that scrub, an elephant would have been visible from a mile away, and lions live in savannahs anyway. But anyway.)

One of the main reasons that rdeck wanted to take me there was the "It's a small world" ride and its earworm song - which I had *never heard before then*. So that's the first thing we did, sat in the dinky little boat and dived into a never-ending repetition of "It's a smaaaaaal world, iiiiiiisn't it" iterated a half-dozen different ways and in four or five different languages - and you know, I loved it, I giggled like a schoolgirl, and pointed and gaped, and laughed, and giggled some more, and called out "Japan! New Zealand! Russia!" when we were passing through the sections depicting those regions. It was WONDERFUL. Yes, despite the earworm [grin]. But then it was over, and we started to make our way towards the heart of Disneyland, the Sleeping Beauty castle, to find a good spot for the fireworks.

And got sidetracked by another crowd.

"What's going on?" we asked a young be-badged girl manning a "handicapped only zone" partition.

"The parade," she said. "It's about to start." She noticed rdeck's cane, and lifted the rope. "You want to come in and watch?"

So we did.

And my childhood came rolling down the avenue towards me.

Oh, don't get me wrong - it was STILL hokey - a girl in a long redhead wig and a green tulle-and-sequins tail sat on top of the Little Mermaid float waving at people and calling out to the kids, "Do you have a dream? You DO?!? Because I do too!" while swishing said tail... but damn it. Damn it all. There they all came - Snow White and Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty with their princes, the Fairy Godmother, the White Rabbit and the Queen of Hearts, Doc and Grumpy and the rest of the Dwarves, Donald Duck waving at me from the tail end of a float, Tinkerbell sprinkling fairydust from the front of another.

And I cried, okay? I sat there and cried. The power of hokey carries a big stick, but I was so young when all of these things were part of my world, and so brimful of wonder and anticipation and promises, and I was watching all these *people in costume* waltzing down the avenue and seeint nothing but the real thing. I remember Dopey the Dwarf. He was my friend when I was six. I grew up singing "Some day my prince will come". I remember the brilliant smile of a fading Cheshire Cat as though it was flashed at me yesterday. I remember clapping my hands because I believed in fairies. I remembered.

I *remembered*.

I took a few pictures and then I couldn't take any more, because I was crying like a child, the child I haven't been for a very long time. It's not that I'm OLD, you understand... but for a moment, there, I was YOUNG again. I was back in a world where the world bore only love and security and joy, no responsibilities, no cruelty and no harshness, no knowledge of war or pain or the realities of a broken heart - all of that was still in the future and I was cradled in the blissful arms of a chillike innocence and sank into it like a child into the arms of its mother.

I was still trembling with it all when the parade finished and we made our way to the central quad, with its iconic and currently pink-lit (making it look like spun candy) Sleeping Beauty castle. We found a spot to sit from where we would watch the fireworks, and it seemed like a good place to park in an increasingly congested and crwoded place - so I left my husband there to guard the spot while I went for a prowl down the main street shopping.

You will be happy to know that I was back in Hokeyland, and it was my grown-up self who resisted the lures of Mickey ears, or Tinkerbell sleeping shirts, or Disney Princess glass slipper mementoes. I wandered up and down the street, and returned with a single small purchase which fit in my handbag. Then we settled to wait.

Twice they warned that atmospheric conditions might not be right for fireworks that night, and the rumble that swept the crowd was a little ugly - in fact, the woman next to us on the bench threatened to sue if they cancelled the fireworks, which left a bit of a sour taste in my own mouth - yeah I would have been bitterly disappointed at the non-event but SUE?... Can anyone say litiginous?...

In either event it was a moot point, because the lights dimmed and the fireworks began.

"Back to Neverland!" cried a half-familiar voice on the soundtrack accompaniment.

Stars exploded in the sky. Bright rockest turned night into day. The castle was part of the whole things with the lights changing from the Barbie pink to a haunted dark blue or a poisionous dark greeen accompanied by an evil witchy cackle. Tinkerbell flew across the sky - yes, a real image of Tinkerbell, I don't know how they did that. Brightness. Lights, Joy. And then the soundtrack segued into, "When you wish upon a star..."

And I cried.


I know it's all fake. But for a few moments, that one magic night, they reminded me of what was real. ANd what is real is the stuff that I carry in my own heart.

When you wish upon a star, makes no difference who you are - and dreams come true.

For one night, I was a child again.

Thank you, Tinkerbell.