Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Neil Gaiman In Berkeley

I decided to get there early. I did. When I showed-up, at the church, I saw six people sitting around the entryway. “Sweet,” I told myself, then, I decided that another coffee was important. So, I started to wander Berkeley. After some window shopping, I found myself in the home of the latte.

Mediterraneum Caffe, in Berkeley, claims that Honor. They have signs explaining that some guy (perhaps a founder, or owner), back in the early 50's, had too many complaints about espresso strength in a cappuccino. His customers were lame, and, wanted more milk, which he added, to ease their lameness. Anyway, this guy added a, “cappuccino with more milk,” to his menu, and, named it a Latte (Greek for, milk, I think). So, I ordered a caramel latte, and it was great! It was served in a huge mug, and, the foam-dollop, on top, was drawn into a leaf. After I finished the great latte, I got a coffee to-go, and went back to the church.

Back there, I noticed that the crowd had (as expected) grown. So, I picked a bench, away from the crowd, and lit a cigarette.

Ultimately, I was waiting for someone, and, I'm a considerate smoker. So, deciding that I would smoke a ton of cigarettes, and do this away from the crowd. This venue covered a whole block, and as the main entrance was closer to one intersection, I picked an empty bench near the further intersection. While I'm sitting on this bench, I figure a Facebook-check is in order. I tell myself, “ as long as I'm on my phone, I won't miss a call from Aaron.”

When I bought the tickets, I was in a maelstrom. This event sold-out within 36 hours. Whew, I had my tickets!! Surprisingly, the hard part began. I asked myself, “Who am I bringing?”

I pondered this for days. Of course, I had some easy answers... Amanda, Corinna, Greg, John, Michael, Jason, and others... These were solid contenders, but then, I recalled that I knew a published author. Not a novelist, published through Penguin, but still... a daily-writer, who spent his waking hours working on another short story. I decided that, for as much as I wanted to see Neil Gaiman, that I knew someone who needed to see him.

I chose Aaron Beyer, (his blog is at http://erroneousmaximus.blogspot.com/) to see the Neilnish. I figured an under-published, though still trying, writer (or, author) should have the chance. I asked Aaron to join me, and, found out that he is a huge Neil Gaiman fan. He said Yes, immediately. I swelled with pride, having chose the right person.

So, back to sitting on that bench....

I was looking down at my phone when, all of a sudden, I heard a British accent approaching me. I looked up. There, in front of me, in full beard, full accent, and, in full conversation with someone, was Neil himself... I started to raise my hand. My brain filled with things I wanted to say. My brain also realized that he was in mid conversation... my brain stopped. I lowered my hand, and let him pass. I didn't want to be That Guy, the one who explains to the star, "Who He Is." Nor, did I want to hold him up long enough, when suddenly, the crowd at the entrance realized he was there, and, started coming over, en masse. I mean, ugh, he was in the middle of a discussion.

A mistake. When Aaron showed up, and I was smoking another cigarette, the line wrapped around the block. I asked Aaron to get a spot, as I wrapped-up the current, then started another, cigarette.

Anywho, the line didn't last long. We already had tickets, and were able to move to another, shorter, line. We got in. We found decent seats, among the pews. We listened to @zoeboekbinder (for you Twitter peeps), then Adam Savage came out. His intro wasn't much more than Neil's Twitter bio, but, it set the stage. After Neil approached his chair, and the roar of the crowd was over.... Adam Savage (@donttrythis) was exceptionally subtle. His questions merely leaned the conversation. Neil had the freedom to ramble for 15 minutes, on any question.

Wow, um.... when I say “Ramble,” I mean that Neil was allowed to go off, on any story, about anything. Most of this appearance was about American Gods. Neil's descriptions of ideas entering a “Box,” that was, “Forgotten,” and, “Laid aside,” until looking at sign (having been awake for several days), and asking one silly question... “Did they take their gods with them?”

Bam. Who can explain a catalyst?

It's why I love to see an author discuss his/her work. Listening to a writer explain their process is pure magic. If you have never been to a book event, I highly recommend it. Listening to the author can change your perspective! A few years ago, I saw Jasper Fforde (www.jasperfforde.com) at a Barnes And Noble, and, his insights (coupled with his hilarity) were astounding.


But, at the end of it all... Neil didn't do a meet-and-greet. When he was passing me, to enter the church, I really should have stopped him; shook his hand, and, asked for a photo.

I'll be kicking myself, for years..........


Thursday, June 23, 2011

On Coffee


Once upon a time, in a hilly land south of the United States, a genius, a hero… nay! the √úbermensch, beget his greatest idea:

"I shall pour hot water over these ground-up beans!" exclaimed Juan Valdez.

Not since Sliced Bread has so simple an idea had such global impact. In the thousands of eons that have followed, mankind has worked tirelessly to refine Sir Valdez's technique. The fact that mankind has triumphed is wholly evident. Equally important to preparation, of course, was finding a proper name. Simply put, Hot Dirt Water isn't marketable. Alas, Coffee! A good, strong name; something you'd pay money to hear James Earl Jones say, over and over. From espresso to instant, and everything in between (excluding decaf- whose creation, like a Justin Bieber movie, was daft and unwarranted), humanity has shown that creative spark, which, long ago, forced God to dole out those opposable thumbs.

That's enough history. I'm no, "Professor," and, you know all of this, anyway.

I'm not gonna say that I drink too much coffee. It'd be like complaining that I take-in too much oxygen. Among my main vices, it's the least-outwardly destructive. The alcohol comes with hangovers, and, saying (and doing) stupid things. Also, of course, the poor memory to remember those stupid things. The nicotine comes with a persistent cough, and, everything I own smelling like an ashtray.

Coffee actually has positives. It starts my day. It keeps me active! Coffee gives me the momentum to run errands, which I'll run when I'm not busy shouting at a rock. A jolt o' joe helps me through grocery shopping, though my vision might be too blurred, to know what I just bought. It makes shopping a game, and who doesn't like a game? Currently, I'm stuck with four bags of Snausages, three packs of tampons, and, five issues of the same Self Magazine.

Ha, now what?!? Okay, I didn't say that it was a Fun game...

Another bonus occurs on my walk to work. I'm rarely burdened with walking all the way down to the next intersection. Usually, I'll just climb up, and over, any silly building that tries to get in my way. It helps me avoid that Snails-Pace, that is MUNI.

My love of coffee runs deep. Coffee looks at me and says, "Are you ready to climb Everest?" and, I look it straight in the bean, and say, "Hell yeah!" There simply aren't enough words. I could probably go o..... zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz..............