It's a short tour. Next week I'm presenting a paper at the Alan Moore conference at the University of Northampton (rumor has it the keynote speaker will be some local writer). Then I'm spending a few days in London, trying to catch up on all the "new" attractions built in the last eleven years--the Tate Modern! The London Eye! Which seems like an obligatory stop for any Morrison fan, fraught with ominous and disturbing associations better left unexpressed. (Think Seaguy, not Batman and Robin.)
If you're in the UK, perhaps I'll see you there. As blog meetups go, it seems like I'm traveling an awfully long way to finally meet Geoff Klock.
I took these photos out in Monterey last summer during the conference of the International Society for the Study of Time--one of the coolest names for any scholarly organization and one of the few places where literature professors can talk shop with physicists.
I took the first two photos on a free day in the middle of the conference, when I biked a couple of miles along the coast to Monterey. As you can see from the later photos the conference met at the Asilomar Conference Grounds, originally a YWCA camp from 1913. The original buildings by Julia Morgan (Hearst's architect) are still in use and the grounds still look like the kind of lodge where my parents, or their parents, would have vacationed, right down to the social hall with board games and table tennis.
It hadn't occurred to me that this reprieve from time's passage would also extend to the grounds' bicycle rental options. They were all giant metal death-machines, also suitable for my parents in their youth, one of which I had to haul up the coast while being passed by irritated Californians on bikes so streamlined, frames so light, tires so narrow and frictionless I believe they actually hovered a few millimeters above the road on cushions of pure machismo. And there I was on this Cold War juggernaut with huge fenders and a big metal basket in front. And a lovely little bell.
Still, Asilomar was a perfect setting for a conference about time. My favorite building wasn't any of the Morgan originals but a midcentury addition, a glassed-in "living room" in a rambler that tried to blend with the Arts and Crafts structures but came across as Tiki Modern. Of course its name was "Surf and Sand." A relic of the short American Century when the South Pacific was the last suburb between Palos Verdes and Mars. Even though I know what it was built on and where it led I can't help but feel a curious unearned nostalgia for the culture that fantasized its own endless expansion in California--a culture at a zenith I never got to witness firsthand.
I've been so elated with the return to DC that I haven't had any time, until the last couple of days, to register all the things I'll miss in Tennessee. There's our many friends (who came through in a big way to help with the loading today), and our great neighborhood in East Nashville. And the live music, although that realization came to us weeks ago when we were walking through Bethesda, Maryland and we heard the most horrible singing reverberating down the block. I don't expect the street performers to be Nashville quality, but really--did the city have to let him use an amp?
And then there's the scenery. This is the Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area, about three hours from Nashville, this past April:
I have a feeling we'll be visiting again just for the hiking. We never did get around to the Smokies or Mammoth Cave...
Friday July 22. The first time I feel like I've earned my view of the Pacific. Two days after hiking in Utah at 8500 feet I'm standing on a deck in Malibu at about 10. I've tumbled from the hoodoos at Bryce Canyon to rooms at the Flamingo to this beachside rehearsal dinner. The sun sets behind a beach house and a private helicopter buzzes low over the surf. California once again arranges itself to be extra Californian. Literally arranges itself, since the restaurant has cemented the rocks to create more dramatic breaks as the waves roll in. Later that night it's a show at the Viper Room - we'll leave before the Guns N' Roses simulation takes the stage - and the next evening at a hotel in Santa Monica with just a glimmer of an ocean view I will watch as an actor whose work I know and like dances with my in-laws. He won't look so tough the next time Daredevil drops him under a train. From the first tumbleweed in New Mexico everything in this trip has been itself, only more so.