2016 has already been a spectacular year for me on so many fronts, the most obvious of which has been travel. Our recent Thanksgiving jaunt to Alberta was the latest in a run of delightful and exciting trips. In truth, Kelly and I have never gone as far or left home as often as we did this year.
Counting up chronologically and by city, here’s the list:
February: Vancouver, Portland, San Francisco. (I was on the A Daughter of No Nation book tour. Kelly, meanwhile, went to Boston for Boskone.)
March: Our London adventure!
(whee, it’s my Big Ben shaped friend!)
May: Chicago (Nebula Awards Banquet.)
August: Kansas City (World Science Fiction Convention.)
September: Ottawa (CanCon) and Los Angeles.
(Snuggle selfie at the Getty Museum)
And now, finally, October: Calgary, Hinton, Jasper (Family Thanksgiving.)
There were also countless short jaunts to conventions like Ad Astra, and readings in Guelph and Kitchener-Waterloo. There’ll be one or two more of those, but as the year winds down we’re going to settle into grooving on Toronto and saving up energy and resources for another big delightful thing, scheduled about six months hence. I’ll tell you all about that some other day.
Kelly and I spent most of yesterday in transit, either getting ready to go or actually going to Kansas City, Missouri, for the World Science Fiction convention. Despite Air Canada’s having trouble closing the door of our aircraft (!!) we arrived in plenty of time for my six o’clock panel and then hooked up with friends to attend the Sturgeon Awards Ceremony. Kelly Link won in the short fiction category; I found I was most excited for two second-place winners, though: Eugene Fischer for “The New Mother,” a story I absolutely adore, and Linda Nagata, whose work is luminous and beautiful in every way.
The rest of the evening amounted to chasing around to various points in the hotel to see friends and babble at people. I met, in person, a number of delightful souls whom I’ve known for a long time online. And, naturally, I got to see several lovely people I’d met at previous events.
I haven’t gone far from the hotel and convention center yet, but KC clearly has many photogenic buildings and art installations, and I plan to make a ludicrously ambitious effort to shoot them all.
I am newly back at work after a thoroughly fun-filled week in London, where Kelly and I devoured one incandescent play, seven museums, multiple castles, some exquisite cream tea and scone combos and Tube Stations beyond count. We posted highlights and selfies as we went, along with dance videos.
One of the social media things I’m incredibly enchanted by, with regard to my own photography, is watching my Instagram map fill up with little tags of the places I’ve been and seen. This is a snippet of my posting activity for the period when we were gone.
If I had nothing but time to spend on zooming in and out on this map, attempting to create the maximum density of Polaroid-shaped images that prove I Was So Totes There!, I would do little else. Dinner would burn and the children would starve. One Of the main reasons we walked through Covent Gardens was so I could fill a blank spot on the map.
One of the other geeky things I did was accept a Fitbit challenge from a friend who perhaps should have guessed I’d walk as much or more if I was on vacation. He did very well, though–I didn’t quite walk him into the ground. Still won, though. (This concludes the unattractive gloating portion of our post.)
I didn’t mention this online while we were travelling, but I killed my camera on the first night.
This wasn’t an entirely terrible thing. I have been engaged in low-grade waffling about my birdhunting camera for a fair number of months now. It was somewhat elderly, but not so frail it couldn’t have been donated to a good home. Like all of my cameras, it was a point and shoot, but for a P&S it has an enviable zoom for nature photography, and it let me get good candids and some appealing faraway details on architecture and other inaccessible pretty things. But I haven’t done much birding and wildlife shooting since moving to Toronto, and Birdhunter was heavy. I have wee, wimpy overused wrists, after all. The thing was also always a bit of a lemon: glitchy in minor but irritating ways. I was trying to figure out what I wanted in my next camera. I did a lot of thinking and feeling and maundering and I won’t spell it all out here, lest someone mistake this as an invite to advise me. I hadn’t reached any conclusions.
So I took it to London and, on the first night in a bathroom stall at the globe, hung it on a hook that did not support its weight. Smash! So all but the first hundred or so of the 1572 London pics in my Flickr Album were shot with the iPhone. I have a set of lenses for the phone, a gift from a friend, and I experimented with them for a couple of days–I’d been meaning to do that, so hurrah! Then I decided to just keep it simple.
Upshot: most of the pictures I got are ones I’m quite happy with. I grieve for the close-up I would have gotten of that fox in Kew Gardens. I got so close! (The reason: an old lady was chumming the lawns with bread.) I wish I’d had a shot at one of the parrots. But the phone worked decently well for tourist pics, and the next phone, with a better set of lenses… that may be the route I take until I’m ready to start seriously birding again.
Why, yes, I did say dance videos. Here’s Kelly performing at the Tower of London.
Kelly and I are off to Stratford, Ontario to see Carousel, She Stoops to Conquer and The Alchemist with my parents. They’ve been in town all week, and if you’re waiting on an e-mail from me, that’s the short answer as to why. (The long answer is “…an’ also I have a cold, and also also I had a three-hour seminar Friday night in the burbs–oh, the humanity!–but I sincerely like you and so appreciate the thing you sent me, and I will absolutely get to you as soon as is mammally possible because you are a wonderful human being and a treasure to behold. Seriously. Cough, cough.”)
In other words: regular service, including an increasing number of posts about A Daughter of No Nation, will resume on Tuesday. And in the meantime there will no doubt be geotagged Instagram and other pictures of yet another Ontario town I never saw before, in my whole life.
The first person I met when I went to university orientation, back in 1985, was Christina: a voracious reader, Henry VIII aficionado and fellow theater geek who joined the student newspaper the same day I did. We laughed, we learned, we did a bunch of shows… and, in the fullness of time, we eventually graduated. Due in part to the mixed miracle that is Facebook, we have remained connected.
Xtina came to Toronto with her husband Scott last weekend, and by way of celebrating Kelly’s birthday took us on Sunday to the African Lion Safari in Cambridge. Ontario friends, I am surprised that it was a couple of Alberta kids who told us there were lions, omg lions, within easy driving distance. To say nothing of the rhinos.
We rounded out the day with a quick run to the Devil’s Punchbowl and then went on to the Vegas-for-families tourist explosion that is Niagara Falls. The splendid natural impressiveness of all that falling water did, once again, transcend the horror of the crowds and the tourist tack.
(I will note for the record that Niagara Falls has the most sewerific Starbucks bathroom I have ever seen. Scott will back me up on this, so you don’t need a photo.)
The full photo set is here.