Geek out at BlogHer Boston and DC

This weekend I’m flying out to Boston and DC for two BlogHer conferences. I can’t wait to meet new people and the women I already know! Every feminist conference I go to is super inspiring and this is one where it is totally normal to have your laptop going at all times, so at dinner there you are with 10 other chicks typing like maniacs in between the laughing our asses off, insane gossip, politics politics politics, book recommendations, and WordPress plugin tips.

erin feeling the computer love

Here’s my talk, which i will just keep on thinking of as “Quick Blog Overhaul” though it is really called “Blogging Basics: 6 Steps to Personalize, Polish & Promote Your Blog“. It will be a brief talk and then we’ll split into small groups to do the hands-on workshop stuff.

Join BlogHer’s {{Badger Hemulen}} and a team of subject-matter experts for a quick and effective blog makeover. Let’s look at your blog, whether you’ve got one post up or 100, and give it some love. Liz will explain 6 simple steps you can take to give your blog a tune-up, and then we’ll break into small groups to try out some of what you’ve learned. These 6 steps can help clarify to your readers who you are and what you write. Whether you use WordPress, Blogger, TypePad, or any other platform – you and your platform are welcome.

  • Personalize: Danielle Henderson will work with you make sure your readers know how to identify and reach you…and that you feature your community, so they can also see themselves. In addition she’ll work with you to learn how to add images, or even audio and video, to show who you are.
  • Polish: Megan Garnhum will cover the basic geeky ingredients that add up to a truly functional, findable, fabulous blog. Learn about appropriate, search-friendly hyperlinking, tagging…why and how, and even about headlines and why they matter.
  • Promote: Alissa Kriteman will help you learn how (and why) to put your post on BlogHer, Twitter, Kirtsy, Digg,, Reddit, Stumbleupon, other social sites.

  • Then there are the parties!

    I can’t help it. Women get in my lap. What can I say?

    In DC I’ll be doing the same workshop with a different set of local bloggers:

  • Personalize: Veronica “Roni” Noone will make sure your readers know how to identify and reach you…and that you feature your community, so they can also see themselves. In addition she’ll work with you to learn how to add images, or even audio and video, to show who you are.
  • Polish: Andrea Meyers (well known for Andrea’s recipes) will cover the basic geeky ingredients that add up to a truly functional, findable, fabulous blog. Learn about appropriate, search-friendly hyperlinking, tagging…why and how, and even about headlines and why they matter.
  • Promote: Kristen King will help you learn how (and why) to put your post on BlogHer, Twitter, Kirtsy, Digg,, Reddit, Stumbleupon, other social sites.

  • There will be too many awesome people there for me to name them all but I’m going to be super happy to get to hang out with Beth Kanter, Candelaria Silva, Erin Kotecki Vest, Laurie White, superfantabulous feminist geek Shireen Mitchell, and of course my friend Sarah Dopp, the BlogHer founders, and my co-workers like Kristy who are fantastic bloggers and who I see practically every day but don’t get to hang out or really talk blogging because we are WORKING WORKING WORKING.

    So, along with all that, I get to see my main partner in crime, editorial and geeky soul sister forever, Laura Quilter and my awesome brilliant ex and good friend M.M. and their new baby! You have no idea how excited I am. Actually it’s worse than that. Last time I got to be with Quilter and then had to leave I sobbed for an hour in the car. I will have to drown my sorrows after I leave their house, on Friday night in bloggity sisterhood in the Boston Burlington Marriott hotel bar.

    On Sunday I’m flying to Baltimore, renting a car, and sloping off to see my grandma on the Eastern Shore. I haven’t seen her in years or my uncle either. I got to hang out with her for about a day when Moomin was 2 or 3. Other than that it is all little cards twice a year and I usually lose her $25 check and am a very awful person and never write back. I regret not being very close with my extended family but that’s the truth of it. I think of them very fondly, but in actual practice, there is not much of a relationship.

    Then glorious Blogheristas on Monday again in DC! Or, really, Bethesda!

    On Tuesday before my plane leaves I want to go find my friend lavendertook and hang out at her funky local internet cafe and co-op – then it’s back home where I’ll collapse into a little travel-weary puddle.

    I know it is sort of boasty but I would like to say not for the first time that I am proud of myself for going on giant trips in my wheelchair and just kind of facing it down. I get unnerved sometimes. That feeling to me is a red flag that means I MUST DO WHATEVER THE THING IS. In general I’m walking pretty well, but after hours on an airplane, I won’t be and my ability to walk isn’t predictable especially with travel. Walking, who needs it? It’s more the exhaustion and being demoralized by pain that gets me. Still, consider the allure of jetting into town, renting a car, and the open road! Could go anywhere! (But probably won’t.) Now is the time!

    If you live in those areas and haven’t registered for the conferences, think about it, there’s still time, it’s only $100 for an all day conference with food and a cocktail party. & well worth it for learning stuff, meeting great people, the massive, massive hit of inspiration from hanging with other women writers and bloggers and geeks and people putting their ideals into practice, “networking”, and last but not least huge fun.

    Foolish overuse of those leg-like objects

    And maybe of the hand-parts too. Oh well. I know! I’ll lie around typing some more!! SMRT.

    Today was fabulous, I enjoyed the programming stuff for work and all my co-workers, crept out for lunch with Minnie & persuaded notcalm to come with us to hang in my back yard with my baby nephew. Mr. Pants does indeed love to fix a bicycle with whatever tools come to hand. He picks up a spoon or whatever, and studies the bicycle. Then he carefully touches the bicycle all over with the tool. He’s so awesome! Minnie and I devoured our fried chicken from Betty’s.

    face washing while playing with tripod

    We gossiped mightily. I think my favorite part of the conversation was an unprintable statement from one of the three of us about people we know who might expect to have sex with other people we know, two weeks after a c-section. I mimed the hand gesture of leg-parting and a quizzical glance to see if all was well in there before diving in. Ahahaahh! We discussed some of the details of the first 6 weeks of life after giving birth. That’s all I’m at liberty to say. I also realized at lunch that Minnie would understand all the bits of things I’m doing at work and would likely have good advice.

    I thought I would use my newly affirmed powers of dashing and sprinting to hobble into Savers and get Moomin a jacket. Uhhh maybe that was too much. Got jackets though. Then was passing grocery outlet and thought “Oh, I can walk so well, I’ll get a soda!” and bought some soda and juice but was totally falling over and regretting that I ever got out of bed. Uhhhhh! Whoops! And so to work. I had that moment of trying not to whimper out loud, wanting to lie down and cry, and then was able to just push it aside. Sometimes concentration is really useful. I got to the point in the last few days where I “know” where I am geographically while poking around in directories on three different servers, four if you count my laptop as one of them since i have stuff on it too, and weird bits of code everywhere. So, our thing works! It was wildly exciting to push the button and see all the directories and the bits of code magically appear! I wish I had time to go understand what J. did in the back end of drupal with the hook, or action, or whatever, which looks like a sort of skeleton of it doing something & then some extra php. I did not read it but stuck to my little bits and then to messing with the javascript parts. J. fixed the IE problem by breaking it all up into bits and nesting the html and the js. It was extremely clever.

    I then hauled ass to go pick up moomin at camp. i sent him back in to pay for the after care realizing i needed to cut the walking attempts. ohhhhh. warning sign number MILLION that I completely ignored. Then, back to my work (10 min away in traffic) and i thought, Oh, well, maybe i could send him in for my phone (which i forgot and realized must ahve fallen into the couch cushions.) I can get the wireless from the parking lot… and notcalm sent my phone down with hedonia. I thought moomin woudl balk at being sent in, but he liked the idea. (Warning sign number 2 million, i knew i could not walk up to the office again) Then home!

    Where I then tottered about the yard a little because it was nice out! And then made snacks and dinner for 3 children and then a giant salad (mostly sitting down b/c i was losing it then) for me and rook and zond-7! and then washed the dishes and realized I was going to FUCKING DIE

    Took celebrex, cursed self a bit, laid down, successfully disappeared into Zond-7’s python (django) and twill and sql stuff which was totally fascinating (and i was helpful i think) Now I can’t wait to make some nifty tests with twill! omg! handy! I pushed past the whole “lie there and cry and whimper” moment again and had a nice time. But, I admitted it was bad and started asking for help to get stuff, open the windows, etc. My hands are in a lot of pain too. i wonder if it is from the attempts at digging and gardening? Or from the excessive leaning on crutches, so much harder than wheeling?

    I really love my life. I was reading the bit in the Ben Franklin biography where it describes how all his life he loved to live in a household that was lively with swarms of children and bustling domesticity. I don’t know about all my life…. heh… I’d hate that. I’d hate to have to do it all the time. But I really enjoy the moments when the house is full of people and I have just fed them, or given them all scissors and tape or a rake and a mission, and the kids are swirling about underfoot, emitting strange kid-rays. colliding with reality in all different ways, glowing with excitement.

    Somewhere in the air over Greenland in the middle of the night

    As we took off and flew over San Francisco Bay, Oakland, the sharp line of yellow hills and maze of rivers, I felt a sort of agony that we can’t just leap up in the air and fly around. From above the world seems quick & beautiful and it’s simple to be first in one place, then in another. We’d remember all the possibilities around us. Why don’t we have anti-gravity! It’s so sad.

    Somewhere over Colorado I was in agony again that we don’t have cities in the clouds and in space. Cathedral anvils! We should be zipping around them! Floating cities in layers, all over the place, with hanging gardens and impossible crystal palaces!

    I had secret chocolate stashed away as a surprise and Zond-7 had downloaded the latest Dr. Who episode and brought a y-connector for our headphones so we could both hear it!

    I messed around with eeebuntu some more on my eeepc. It’s been a while that I’ve been itching to play around with Hardy Heron. I like it and am looking forward to customizing it and really merging with my little machine so that I work smoothly on it.

    I’m listening to “Disco” by The Butchies, a little delirious!

    Now going back in time to this morning, I was too scattered still to be that ideal mom and partner I had thought I would have time to be but have not been for a while. I miss Rook and Moomin already. Moomin was so awesome with his friend Dragonboy . They both had really big stuffed animal snakes and were running around with them, and were playing Godzillas.

    A new song… “Rocketship” by Shiny Toy Guns fits my mood, with its countdowns, gay dance club energy, and cheesy sentimental lyrics.

    I came back from the bathroom at the airport gate to find Zond-7 lying on his back with his head on a heap of bags, laptop propped up on his chest, industrious and casual looking, surrounded by stuff like a funny little pack rat, in torn jeans and a tshirt and a suit jacket. It was so exactly what I do in an airport that I burst out laughing. As I joined him he remarked that we would look as if we both fell out of the wheelchair. It was very cosy there in the middle of all the airport people in our little world on the floor with computers and conversation. I told him about the totally insane blogs that I had seen all about packing one’s suitcase and travel, and the woman who declared exactly what one should and should not wear on an airplane with amazing snootiness as if there were some reason to all dress like bank tellers while riding in a damned airborne cattle car. As far as I could tell it boiled down to a whole lot of outrage over flip-flops. Who knew? I have never in my life thought of flip-flops as actively OFFENSIVE. We looked around at a crowd getting off a plane from Dallas. About 2/3 of those people were wearing flip flops. Horrors? Ahahahah! We tried to spot someone, anyone, dressed with the philosophy of this one blogger (who I’ll link to when I have net again, but she’s linked off Rose’s comment in an entry on Badgermama), and saw maybe one woman but then realized she worked at the airport, and then a bit later one guy who was so overdressed in casually draped scarf and white sunglasses that he was clearly a gay supermodel. Everyone else was in sweatpants, and jeans and regular-person clothes.

    Our flight was delayed, we missed the connection, but lucked out and got onto the next flight to Heathrow which was boarding immediately. I had been rebooked magically I guess from special cripple-fu. They put Zond-7 first on standby when it got to our turn in line I think also from travelling-with-a-cripple-fu. The flight attendants got us seats together with a bit of embarrassing fuss… It wasn’t even really that stressful. I was in pain by that time but popped a vicodin as soon as I was sure we were staying on the plane.

    The book I have to read, “Out” by Natsuo Kirino, is so annoying I’m not going to finish it! It seemed gruesome yet promising but I really don’t like where it’s going with the positioning of the rapist-murderer guy as the detective hero. I realize none of the characters are supposed to be likeable or ethical, and was able to read about the group of women chopping up the one dude’s body which was quite perturbing but, I could deal. But the internal monologue of the rapist & torturer was too much for me to handle. I also was very annoyed at the normalization of rape — the rapist at the factory is described by the women as a “pervert” and the narrator shows us that they are sort of turned on by the whole idea and were flattered or felt lucky to be harassed or in fear. So, that was beyond annoying to me. I could see it was heading towards a climactic rape-torture scene of the main female character. It is just the sort of incredibly annoying book they would make a big action movie out of.

    I enjoyed the Dr. Who episode, “Turn Left”…


    I have not seen all that many episodes of Dr. Who so I don’t have a lot of context or background. I enjoy nearly every episode I’ve seen, old or new!

    In this one my criticism is that Donna is set up to be all Special but her agency is undermined. (Denial of Agency!) She does something, but doesn’t know what she’s doing or why, and then doesn’t remember it. She remembers little pieces, but doesn’t know what they mean!

    I liked Donna though and her bravery and attitude.

    Did you notice how the monster is mostly unseen, but that makes it all the more creepy?

    So, nearly passes Bechdel test, but didn’t, because if you think about it Donna talks to the fortune teller (but about the Doctor, or because of him) and then with her mother (about Donna’s hypothetical desire to meet a man) and then with Rose (about the Doctor, again).

    While I noticed those things I still liked the story and it made me want to go back to see all the episodes I’d missed that it was referencing.

    Cats think laptops are robot cats

    This is my new theory. Cats think that laptops are robot cats. Or sort of minimal machine-cats.

    They are warm
    They sit on our laps or bellies
    They make a low, gentle noise
    We nicely pet them all day long
    We give them long strings to play with
    There is often room on a human’s belly for a real cat while the robot cat gets petted

    If you are a cat, and stare at them long enough, the real cat might come out.

    DIY: Access Hacks project

    For the second year in a row, I thought of the wheelchair modification and disability access projects that could and should be at Maker Faire. I’d like to make that happen next year.

    At Maker Faire this year, I talked with Miguel Valenzuela, who was showing Lift Assist, a toilet lift device that can be built for $150 out of bits of PVC and junk from a hardware store, powered hydraulically from your own water system. That kind of thing costs thousands of dollars if you buy it as a medical device. If it were a DIY kit, and if it had open source plans and instructions up on the web, it could be useful to thousands of people all over the world.

    So I got to thinking. Who would I even hook Miguel up with, to get his plans used? What other projects are spreading disability access devices, open source? Could things like this just be given over to an organization like Engineers Without Borders? How can they be open sourced or copylefted?

    There are specific projects like Whirlwind Wheelchair International and its design for the Rough Rider chair, developed by Ralf Hotchkiss and students over many years and meant to be distributed to shops or factories or organizations in developing nations. In other words, partnership with actual manufacturers. There’s the Free Wheelchair Mission which has a kit to build wheelchairs for under $50. They seem to take donations and then ship a giant crate of wheelchair kits to somewhere in the world. Those both look great. But neither of them were for a disabled person who might want to build their own stuff.

    Then I found some nifty sites like Marty’s Gearability blog, which has a DIY category for “Life with limitations and the gear that makes things work”. She has made dozens of posts on modifications she’s made for her dad, who uses a wheelchair. I especially enjoyed the how-to for a wheelchair cup holder.

    I’m also somewhat familiar with Adafruit Industries and its projects like SpokePOV. What if assistive devices used something closer to this model? Rather than people patenting, and trying to sell their designs to a medical supply company, which marks it up a million times until disabled people in the U.S. can’t afford them unless they have insurance or can wait 5 years and fight a legal battle with Medicare.

    I found organizations like Remap in the UK, that takes applications from individual disabled people, and hooks them up with an engineer who will build them a custom device. This I think exemplifies the well meaning but ill advised attempts to help disabled people through a “charity” model rather than through widespread empowerment. If an engineer is donating time and an invention, why not have them write up and donate the plans for whatever they are building, and post the DIY instructions for free? Then, thousands of people all over the world could build that invention for themselves.

    OneSwitch, on the other hand, has the right idea. It’s a compendium of DIY electronics projects to build assistive devices. Perfect!

    Meanwhile, I went looking for the latest news in open source hardware. What’s up with the Open Source Hardware License?

    My own inventions for assistive devices have tended towards the creative yet slapdash use of duct tape. For example, my Duct Tape Crutch Pockets, an idea easily adaptable to small pouches for forearm crutches and canes, or to get more storage space onto your wheelchair.

    My own canes and crutches that fold (with internal bungee cords) could use simple velcro closure straps to keep them folded up while they’re in my backpack or in the car. There are some ingenious ways, also, to attach canes or crutches to a wheelchair.

    I have thought of, but not made, ways to extend storage space further. For example, I think that the lack of pockets in women’s clothing is a political issue. Women’s clothes are mostly designed without pockets, because of cultural pressure to look skinny, so women end up encumbered by bags and purses. If you think about how wheelchairs are made, it is interesting that they are assumed not to need storage space, cup holders, things like that. People hang little backpacks off their chairs. And there are a few custom made pouches for walkers, crutches, and wheelchairs, like this thin armrest pouch. You won’t find them in an actual wheelchair store – and rarely in a drugstore or medical supply house. Why not?

    As wheelchair designs continue to evolve, I hope that manufacturers will create customizable backs and sides and seats. Nylon webbing with d-rings, sewn into the backs and under the seats of wheelchairs, would mean that custom pouches and packs could clip onto a chair. Then it would be easy to set up your chair with interchangeable bits. My laptop could go in a pouch under the seat, for example, so that it wouldn’t affect my center of gravity so drastically as it hangs off the seat back in a backpack.

    I’d like to see more and more mods for chairs and canes and crutches that are just for fun. The little holes in adjustable-height, hollow metal walking canes — don’t they seem like the perfect size to stick an LED light in there?

    Also, meanwhile, I had posted briefly the other day for Blogging Against Disablism Day 2008 with a list of ideas for Practical actions that will help, like smoothing out steps into a small business (ie just freaking pour some asphalt in there or build a wooden wedge even if it is not exactly to code; people do nothing, for fear of being sued, rather than spend thousands to do a to-code ramp, and I’d rather they just stuff in a slope and bolt a rail to the wall than do nothing!). After I made the list, I went looking for online instructions on how to do the things I was suggesting. What did I come up with ? Jack shit! Nothing! Nada!

    So, here’s what I propose we do:

    – Compile free and open source how-tos, plans, designs, etc. on Disapedia. I have made a page for DIY equipment.

    – I will go and interview Hotchkiss and his class, and write up more detail on how their open source project works.

    – A meeting to share access hacks and start to add to that wiki page on Disapedia.

    – I’ll head up an effort to organize a really good disability/accessibility hacking booth for Maker Faire next year.

    For the Access Hacks booth, I’d like to pull in:
    – craft/sewing people for stuff like mobility device storage and mods with velcro and fabric
    – metal working people
    – electronics people (like the OneSwitch folks)
    – Maybe invite Tech Shop and the Bay Area wheelchair stores to participate
    – obviously, disabled crafty/makery people. I thought I could try to pull in GimpGirl and put the word out in other communities
    – Flyers on how to open source your hack and make it free – license info, where to post, hook up with places like WikiHow.

    This could make a super fantastic real life application for hardware/craft hacks. I would love to just hang out all weekend with a bunch of other people with disabilities and share whatever hacks we’ve already come up with. That in itself would be productive without even doing it at Maker Faire. I’d like an Access Hacks meeting around here and I wonder if people would host them elsewhere and then post tips on Disapedia. (I would like to use them rather than host a new wiki, but I’m willing to make an access hacks wiki if that’s what people would like.)

    Please, leave feedback in the comments.

    Loldrama, cake, politics

    It’s all lolcats, politics, birthday cake, and private drama over here at the badgerhouse! I barely even know where to start.

    First of all the lolcats. Moomin spent a good bit of time today with Squid’s oldest kid Iz, lol-ing around. Their interaction today was quite interesting, as Iz for the first time found she had to ask Moomin questions and even ask for help with some things. For example, he had a ready explanation for “what’s the deal with lolruses and buckets” and understood how to do the magnets and steam pipes in Crazy Machines. Usually, she talks rings around him at lightning speed. In LOL, as in superheroes, he can hold his own.

    funny pictures

    Next, the politics. I give you this bit o’ horror:

    OldPunk gives “The Old Guy Perspective – because the Internets need more venues for racist bullshit? Argh argh argh.

    Here is my reasoned response to this little fucker who gives the word Punk a bad taste:

    funny pictures

    Sigh. “Thanks for the link”, skeskali! It made my ulcers twist up and do a little dance. At least you gave me The Sweet Seduction of Itchy Butt as an antidote.

    Then, this weekend I tried to understand the explanation and blog-opinion roundup on What the Bear Stearns Collapse Means for Taxpayers and What Lawmakers Must Do. There are very few situations where I email my dad and ask for his opinions. But this is one of them. His answer was level headed, insightful, and amusing, giving some details about the history of the start of the Federal Reserve. His conclusion was to agree with the end of the NY Times article “What Created This Monster?”: ““If it is too complicated for most of us to understand in 10 to 15 minutes, then we probably shouldn’t be doing it.” Again, not a statement I would agree with in general, but when applied to the underpinnings of the entire country’s economy, a wistfully comforting one that speaks to the bourgeois in me who just wants to trust my little savings account and the roll of bills under my mattress.

    I suppose this is politics too, of a sort. I ranted a little over here, Highly trained girl-monkey sys-admin bait. You know, I have totally heard that whole story before, and it was 10 years ago from some greybeard Unix dude with a pocket watch. How hideous to hear the same story out of the mouth of some babyfaced 19 year old at a party. Puhleaze.

    The drama:

    It is all somewhat unbloggable but I am thinking of the Pilot and also spanglemonkey, and my own past, and everyone’s relationships, relationships in general, life, and just about everyone I know and wishing I could process everything out here on my blog but I have become overcautious, or am not ready and can’t cope with the thought of pissing everyone off. I would really love to just write the whole history of what I think about whatever; all the things going on now in my life, and yet, I see all the places where those thoughts and that information impinges on other people, their lives, the privacy of their feelings, and while a huge part of me is staunchly Fuck Privacy Let It All Hang Out, I also am maybe more sensitive to other people’s damage and pain than I might have been in the past. So, there are things I can’t figure out how to talk about. I am sorry if that is mysterious. It isn’t really; it’s what I’d be talking about over coffee once we knew each other for half an hour and exchanged some confidences, anyway, just the everyday gossip of life and petty annoyances, opinions on other people that are usually kept to that realm of hand to hand gossip sessions, things that are smallish, but stressful, very much so, and which are no big deal in some ways, but always have the potential to be the hugest big deal. I understand better the drive to write fiction, to work these things out. I tried to explain a single Incident to my friend Squid tonight and found that it needed an entire novel’s worth of longwinded backstory so much that she was staring at me with quizzical brow-knit and wondering when my spaceship had landed on this planet.

    I cried all over Zond-7 as I attempted to explain some of the even more unbloggable things and I have to say that over the last year he has done his share of curling up on me and just going “Aaaaaaaaagh!” and we are very helpful for each other in straightening out all ideas and Damage and making it so that the air feels all clean and breathable again. It is funny, but I have almost never seriously dated anyone who had a clue about their own emotions much less other people’s, until now. Excepting D. and Masha. It’s nice. I also tried to explain to Rook some of the territory I went to that he did not follow me to, in moments of extreme disability and stress and thought, and how that has all changed me, and I need him to go there a bit, to catch up. Like, there is time, but I would like him to get it. His response to all the stresses of that was to be extraordinarily decent in actions, and supportive, but that does not help in talking or listening; it was much more like i had to keep up a front for him and not go anywhere dark like in talking about PEG tubes or what things would be like for Moomin if I were going to be progressively disabled. I am a different person from having lived with that and for the past year and what it’s been like. My feelings about other people have changed in general and I am much more clinging on my solid existing good reciprocal friends who know their asses from a hole in the ground. I am harder or capable of more steeliness than I was before, less forgiving in many ways, or, still forgiving and full of empathy, still gentle towards people & their flaws & beauties, but more able to draw borders in order to say “And here, you stop; you do not fuck with me, my feelings, my life.” I had Less Room. There is the cheery “Moving Violations” territory where I was before with well-armored coping, patience, and humor as a tool, and then there is, I think, a bit beyond that.

    Onward to the good part! The cake!

    We had a very lovely party which I described over at Reptile birthday! so I won’t go into it again! It was a lot of fun. I was a little stressed (unmentioned in other blog post) that not a single person from Moomin’s school came and we invited at least 20 of them expecting to deal with a small mob and hoping it would help Moomin a little in making friends. But, they were nearly all on ski vacations or in Hawaii or in other rich-people places, ARRRGH, and anyway we had a good and happy amount of kids who all got along and enjoyed themselves, and Moomin had fun, so I got over my faint feeling of petulance. Zond-7 listened to my petulance and absolved me, claiming that it was good to see me have human moments of unspeakable, ignoble pettiness and that it just made me more lovable. I recall saying, “For fuck’s sake, don’t encourage me!” but laughing and then thinking of how awesome Moomin was as he struggled with that same despairing petulance when he did not find the most lizards in the lizard hunt and wanted to cry though he knew it was his party where he had all sorts of niceness and it wasn’t important and didn’t matter AND YET FUCKING DID. I understood this, trying to show that I respected his struggle, though I didn’t now what to do other than wash his face and give him a hug and say ineffectual things about that he found quite a lot of the lizards, a respectable amount, and that his friends who found the most were happy about it, to which he said “I ***KNOW***” and sobbed a little more, and then I felt like parental super-dork.

    The other party was nice in an extended friend-familyish way. I enjoyed very much spending Easter NOT doing any awkward eastery things, as past holidays spent with Rook’s family or attempting to go along with Rook wanting to dress up and take Moomin to a church to give him Exposure to Religion, which makes me very uncomfortable though I do like some of the hymns if they are about despair, thorns, death, and gothiness, because that makes me laugh.

    Instead, Rook went to brunch and a movie with zdashamber, while the rest of us went to Eastover brunch and stayed all day. I hung out on a couch with the XO laptop, fooling around, nibbling on poppy seed pastries, matzoh ball soup, duck pate and Humboldt Fog, kugel, apples and cookies, talking with people and watching kids swarm around.

    I had about half a shot glass of this:

    bloody marionette, with bacon vodka

    Which is BACON VODKA made into a bloody mary with lettuce in it to make an alcoholic BLT. It tasted half good, half sick-making.

    The small swarm of kids worked on the wonderful pit in the back yard. Apparently it’s been going for over 6 months, is completely kid-excavated and built, including the wooden platform. It’s about waist deep to a medium tall 10 year old. At least 2 kids can stand in it and dig at once. Amazing, huh? I was impressed and a little jealous.

    Rook showed up and hung out, so I got to show him off, which was nice.

    ***Update*** I have it on good authority that another kid at the party nearly cried over not finding enough lizards, and stole some other kid’s lizards that they’d taken out of their bag to count up. I don’t think Moomin’s youthful innocence could survive knowing such a thing at the moment. Definitely this crowd needs lots of practice in competition and being a good sport.

    A day of doing everything superwoman style

    Today I blogged a bit over at to post the Carl Brandon Society booklist of speculative fiction for Black History Month, adding links for all the books and authors and a few notes. I had coffee with Mark and gossiped somewhat harshly and honestly about literary things. I was really glad he called and pried me out of my comfortable electric blanket cave, because it was a beautiful day and that was some good pie. I was on crutches, and I might add, only halfway so and very nimbly.

    Then I came home and rested a bit and tore apart the bathroom “closet” which is actually the bathtub and shower with a clothes-hanging rail thing and some boards on top and milk crates in the bathtub. Oh, my god, what a lot of crap got thrown in there over the last year. At some point, something dripped or condensed. Mold grew. There is still mold. I threw away 4 enormous bags of stuff, and put the rest in bins, in rough order, and washed some things to put elsewhere. Everything in there needs to be removed & washed and the tub blasted with anti-mildew cannons. For now, it’s at least decrufted and orderly.

    I did much the same thing to the hall closet, in which some months ago my parents labored to install shelves. Those shelves were buried in stuff that has not been put away in the intervening months. I threw out a lot of sheets to make everything fit in the little bins for sheets and blankets and pillowcases. Whew! Most of it I did sitting down, but it was still a lot of physical work.

    Then, feeling like a huge weight was off me, I rested a tiny bit more. And then drove off to deposit checks and to vote. (Checks, on crutches! Scarily! Voting, in the chair, because it was too far, and I didn’t think I could stand there and if there was no chair to sit in I’d be screwed.)

    I snapped at the same “nice” volunteer lady I snapped at last time. She was weirdly holding the door for me even though the door was propped open (and she was in the way doing it.) I stopped dead and just stared at her in a fake polite way… waiting. Her smile got tenser. “Go right ahead!” I said. “Go on in! After you!”

    Nice Voting Lady: Oh! *MASSIVE FLUSTERMENT*
    Me: …. (waits)
    Nice Voting Lady: Let me help you, here!
    Me: Excuse me! *waits attentively*
    Nice Voting Lady: I’ll just hold the door for you!
    Me: Hmmm. Why? It’s propped open. (beginning to crack up laughing)
    Nice Voting Lady: (with goose-hissing hostility, now) Well, why don’t I just hold it.
    Me: Why? Does it make you feel good about yourself, like you’re helping crippled people? *completely loses it laughing*
    Nice Voting Lady: *Ladylike sputtering* (Finally gets out of my way)

    I am afraid I do not respect my elders sometimes as I should. I do not always spare them when they act weird because they are uncomfortable with me. Their pity is only a thin veneer over the anger they seem to have at me for being unexpected, and for causing them confusion and discomfort.

    Oh well, usually, I’m super nice.

    Then I drove off realizing there was no way I had it in me to go to the beach. I thought of the ocean and how nice it is to gaze at. I want warm sand against my cheek as I close my eyes against the sun and hear shrieky seagull noises and distant kids playing. I want to smell the clean but seaweedy smell and bake myself for hours like a dead thing washed up by the tide or a loaftastic elephant seal. No… could not make it. So I drove up to where 92 meets 280, where the bike riders park, and sat on the gravel next to my car, overlooking the reservoir & its sparkles & flocks of birds. Nearly as good… It’s a good thing I keep that picnic blanket in my car. I wished I had the perfect turkey sandwich at that moment and also that I was sweaty from physical exertion, hiking or swimming. Alas no. Just stiff and hurty from walking. I wrote poetry and thought about poetry and translations and looked at things I’d written. I felt so glad that there are always new things to think and that I can write them all down, and that I’m not bored with my own mind. In some ways it’s like tracks deepening, but there are still wild forays outwards.

    I wrote poetry and also some musings on poetry and I thought about putting my essays-on-poetics and a whole jesusfuckload of translations up on Composite. I have an enormous backlog of translations and could post one every day for months without breaking a sweat. So… I might just start slammming them up there. Translation & publishing and international copyright are so fucking broken. I am done with that as a worry. Seriously, fuck it.

    Anyway, writing was glorious. I stayed up there about an hour in the beautiful beautiful warm sunlight. My bones rejoiced. Even with my butt on a picnic blanket by the side of the road in the gravel & broken glass.

    I crutched in to get Moomin! For the first time since mid October! Then I wished I hadn’t. I got out my chair and watched him run around the playground with some other kids. The other kids’ mom talked with me, when we both started laughing at Moomin who cannily pretended he wasn’t it, sidling up to his classmate’s little brother to tag him and run. Moomin was consistently the slowest runner, but excellent with strategy. He would stop and consider and plan.

    At home he read a little bit and then I ripped him away from his book to play Crazy Machines, which came in the mail today! It was just his speed. He played without stopping to Level 16. I helped explain the way gears and rotational direction work. A perfect game for him, with no time pressure or THINGS COMING AT YOU OMG OMG ADRENALINE.

    He did some homework and I rested and then I started cleaning obsessively again. I am freaking a bit that I will be working again, and not really better, and all the housecleaning and child care will fall on me and I’ll be completely fucked.

    IN between that, while I was trying not to grab the mouse from Moomin and take over his Crazy Machines game, I modded up my wheelchair Barbie (aka “Becky”) with a black macbook with stickers:

    with laptop

    I’ve had this barbie doll since about 1993 when I was disabled the first time. She had my exact outfit with jeans, backpack, converse, and plaid flannel shirt. Also, my wheelchair at the time was red. And… it sounds corny… but I really did like having some kind of pop culture object that reflected something of my reality. She needs a haircut and a dye job don’t you think? Is it insane that I want to print out a tiny bit of text… I was thinking maybe a very-tiny screen shot of some blog that I read plus ecto in the background, and a term window, to paste into her computer screen…

    Yes you heard me. I play with Barbies.

    Then I made dinner for Moomin and then dinner for me and Rook (who has been at horrible late meetings) and tried to clean a little more and collapsed into a little heap. I should not have done anything else after dinner. And, I should not have done an errand AND gone to coffee AND voted AND picked Moomin up AND sat at the playground for so long AND made dinner. That was like the old me, trying to bust out, but I’m very much not there yet. Really, I can do *one thing* and pick up Moomin. There is no room for all that hauling ass. I was doing all that y’all and also working like 3 jobs … how?

    I got cranky after about 8pm as I realized that there is so much to do. And i could just keep doing it. And I began to fret that I will not know how to manage things and that Moomin will not learn how to pick up after himself and neither will Rook and I will be their servant for the next 10 years. I unloaded the dishwasher and washed the dishes rather bangily and with a heart full of bitchiness. Oh where is my beautiful commune in which all the shit work is done together with hearty socialist gusto? And we don’t unload it all off onto someone of lower status? Where? Then I knew I was over tired and it was time to stop.

    Also I was hurting like fuck and just disassociating as best I could in the name of “pushing myself to walk more” but also I think because I feel weirdly driven.

    I still keep thinking… a million times a day… what if I had been dying, or degenerating as rapidly as I had feared… and never got time in this world to get my shit together. So much of the time I felt so helpless and frustrated. I have just got to do this and get my life in order while I can.

    As even more of an excuse I offer to you that my parents are coming and I especially cannot take any crappy pity or condescension and so my plan is that everything is astonishingly clean. Or at least more of it.

    So I will take a painkiller now and maybe cry recreationally while holding onto a pillow, and have hot chocolate in the bath.

    It was nice to feel like my old self for most of the day.

    Collaboration and upgrade day

    Yop! I have spent all day lying in bed messing with computers. I backed up my drive with Carbon Copy Cloner and installed Leopard and then made a new clean account and fiddled infinitely moving preferences and things and am still not done with that.

    Then I started moving files, and cleaned up probably 70% of my miscelleneous layers which aren’t even honorable enough to be stratigraphic but are more like the Franciscan melange, otherwise known as the cruftiness of years and years of accumulated poems, essays, translations, stories, blog post drafts, half baked ideas, liveblogging sessions, notes on notes on notes, deleted bits of angry or sad emails or things unsent and unposted, private journals, and so on. I found many hilarious and embarrassing things including List of annoying people, which was people who were notable on various mailing lists over the years and I wanted to be sure not to accidentally befriend them or sleep with them later. Anyway, all of that was re-organized file by file into a vaguely logical structure which will make it easier to know where to file future things. In theory. Zond-7 basically held my hand and spoke stern words to sustain me during the process, words like “NO… you must not just move that entire folder over into a new “stuff and junk” folder!” You can imagine the emotional strain of dredging through all those old text files. For every project I have finished there are 10 more at least which were not finished. I mourn for them.

    Then on a mad rampage of computeriness we messed about some more with mercurial. We understand like 2% of how to use it and we want to use it all wrong. Or, that’s what I thought until about 10 minutes ago and now I think that one of the ways I want to use it is like the “forest” idea. So what I would like is to be able to be able to suck in all the stuff that I use, wherever I am. That can mean several different things. It could mean just the minimal amount of stuff I need in a computer in order to work smoothly. Sort of my working environment. It could mean all my actual files or my working projects as well. All that could be under hg. Ideally I could push it out to my servers but it’s also on my laptop accounts and if I make a new account I can bring all that across with hg. And also I want to easily collaborate with Zond-7 in twiddling all this stuff so there are bits of our environment we can easily share. There could be a sort of local directory which can tell who you are logged in as and where you are, I mean what computer you’re on, and in those directories you keep information that’s specific to that environment and won’t work elsewhere. I don’t want to have a canonical place for my stuff and then a backup of it that I sync up. I would like to be more portable and fuzzy than that, with my information more accessible, and my informational boundaries more permeable to other people.

    Oh meanwhile we got ipv6 working on my laptop with teredo/miredo & Zond-7 wrote a script to keep it dynamically updated so I can ssh into my laptop from anywhere else that has ipv6 using a stable domain name, no matter where I’m connecting to the net. Damn that’s so hot.

    It was all fun but I’m super exhausted and can’t think anymore… I was ambitious to write things up coherently but it’ll wait and instead, here’s my usual brain dump.

    We paired really well but definitely reached the point where he was over bossing a little bit and I was oversensitively snapping “I *know*” or “You don’t know either and I can just look it up”. I think he will go crazy if I don’t replace my keyboard as soon as possible – my up arrow doesn’t work and so I have to retype things instead of up-arrowing thru the history which is like torture especially if you are forced to watch it mistakes and all.

    At bedtime, I tried to read to Moomin but he just went “No, let ME… *I* read with EXPRESSION.” Aieeeee! What an insult. It’s true I am so tired I sound like a whiny zombie robot.

    Rook took Moomin to lunch and a movie and then shopping and then collapsed and fell asleep, I think still on East Coast time. I want to lure him into messing around with mercurial with us.

    I love Moomin’s stories about the trip and that he got to do a gazillion exciting things (natural history museum, cirque du soleil, beach, playing Talisman and D&D with his cousins, a birthday party, thanksgiving, putting on a thankgiving play, umm and I think there was more.)

    Physically I’m improving a bit, slowly, with a lot of resting. I did some stretching, and walked without a cane for about the distance to the bathroom and back to bed, but then was back on crutches and in the chair and am in massive pain again. I find I can sit up a couple of hours but then it gets to me and I’m toast for the rest of the day. Thanksgiving was awesome but I sat up *way* too long and absolutely melted down. I am tending to end up every night spacey, tired, liable to cry, banging on my own leg with my fists, complaining that I can’t take it, and anxious. I think this means i need more actual sleep, or should go to bed earlier, or change gears somehow.

    I read Empress of Mijak yesterday and it totally rocked my world. The first.. oh about half… I was so jazzed and rooting for what’s her name. When she’s a teenage girl wreaking vengeance on the world it’s all good, she can slay great warriors and bathe in blood. But oh man then I became very uncomfortable with my liking of her as a character. Hello… they’re all nuts and hear voices in their heads and are horrible religious fanatics. I wish she’d stayed a little more complicated. On the other hand I got very thinky about the nature of good and evil and human character & ambition. While in purely dorky and goofy mind candy fantasyland conan-ish tarzan-ish barbarian warrior chick mode. That transition was interesting to go through (from my liking of the character to my discomfort, and thinking about why.) I can’t wait to read the sequel. Perhaps it’ll be like chapter 2 of a Mirror for Empresses. We also watched the last 2 episodes of the first season of Rome. Caesar and Hekat went well together…

    Oh! And our house! The contractors have chopped a hole in our house. They’re making the french doors fit. It’s a bit complicated but they’re also super competent. Half the house doesn’t have electricity, though, till Monday, and I have a crazy-bad pragmatic topology of extension cords and power strips plugged into each other. I figure as long as we don’t fall asleep with the space heater on it’ll be okay. Yes, it would have been nicer of them to figure out we needed electricity tonight and Sunday. Well, they’re still going to do a kick ass job faster than I think anyone else would have, so I’m happy.

    I hate the TSA, I love comic books, and home is a beautiful place

    Rook persuaded me to go home and so I spent the morning mildly drugged and with Rachel Edidin who was so awesome at Wiscon and got me to be one of the Birds of Prey, and who writes for Girl Wonder. Rachel took us all around Dark Horse, where she works as an editor. Moomin liked the giant statue of Concrete a lot and I am sure now he’ll want to read about Concrete. The first dude we talked with gave us a cool hardback book of Tarzan comics, the ones by Joe Kubert. Moomin opened, started reading, and then just folded up and sat down in the hallway where he had been standing. It was very awesome looking because he was so small and so engrossed. My son, let me show you him:

    stopped cold in tracks by comic book

    See? Really awesome. It just makes my heart flop around like crazy in an AWWWWWW sort of way. How lucky we are…

    I feel like a good, or at least competent, parent again.

    So, we toured all around and I met a zillion amazingly cool-seeming people whose offices are all decorated with comix posters and action figures and books and fun stuff. And did I mention all the people were super nice, and loaded us with free books and comic books and stickers and keychains and buttons? And there were lots of cool women working there. I mean, I’m sure it’s like working in any small publishing job where the pay might be a bit sketchy and yet, there are amazing benefits to working there

    Rachel drove us back to Hell Hotel, where we ordered some food and ended up eating it in the car on the way to the airport. I was so relieved to be going home. And so grateful for the ride. Thanks Rachel! I wish I were more “on” and sparkly and talky and all that. But I just wasn’t… I was in that barely hanging onto reality place, where you go when you’re in a lot of pain. I know Rachel understands this from her own experience and was cutting me a lot of slack.

    I will miss Rook and Moomin and I feel guilty for not being able to pull it together to stay and be cheery and family-ish. And I had looked forward to being in a bunch of games with zdashamber, because she rocks… Yet it’s so much better to be home.

    The nicest thing about friends, and this morning, is that friends fix everything wrong. Rachel does not know it but she cured me of feeling full of bitter hate. Not with the 50 lbs of free comic books but with just basic human decency.

    Rook too of course. He was a glorious force-field of reality-warping goodness.

    The Portland airport was easy to get around, very small really; I got my ticket and to security in like 5 minutes. Then, the TSA gave me shit because my drivers license had expired. I forgot about this and if I’d remembered could have brought my passport. And I have a current license, but lost my wallet and then used my old expired license figuring I will go back to the DMV soon, and then haven’t had time, and then forgot I had to do it. Soooo… it was super dumb, because an expired drivers license is still perfectly valid ID. The only reason it expires is to make you go back to the DMV to check your vision and if you are still competent to drive, or something. It’s not like the ID-ness of it expires! There is your photo! Still very you-like! But the TSA is too dumb to realize that. And so put me down as having NO ID. Which also is no big deal and just means you go in a different line, which as a crippled person I do anyway, and they frisk you extra (which they do anyway since I’m crippled, naturally) and search my bag by hand.

    SO. Here is my little irate-customer fight with the TSA. Because what more fun thing could I do high on Vicodin and nearly crying with the jabs of pain and fire pulsing down my shattered tibial nerve, and my zombie leg spasming like a dying eel?

    As I was being frisked by the well intentioned but clueless TSA frisking lady, who was named something like Paula 56234 or Denise 52342, bag-searching guy yelled from maybe 10 feet away, “HEY! Does she have her boarding pass?” I looked up from where Paula 56234 was shoving the backs of her hands uncomfortably between my ass cheeks and the wheelchair cushion, waved, and said snappily with a bitchy-polite smile, “Hey man! You can ask me directly, I’m a human being right in front of you, and I can hear!” The bag-searching guy walked over with a menacing cop swagger. His name was something like Robert 56965. (I have to find the little piece of paper where I wrote down his badge number, but he was definitely a Robert; an older man with a grey mustache.) Robert 56965 got right up in my face, considerately bending down to my level. Robert 56965 then yelled at me like he was my dad and I was a bad teenager. He let me know that there was no cal for me to be rude. And that I would learn, and he would teach me, that I should “keep my mouth shut” and “not butt into conversations that were not addressed to me”.

    I am a crippled girl with purple hair, travelling alone in a wheelchair carrying a backpack and balancing my sticker covered crutches between my legs. I yell at hotel managers. I have a job. I am the media. I go to Beijing. And I just got a lot of free comic books because of powerful geek girl solidarity. I’ve already been a giant entitled bitch about a hundred times on this trip. Do you think I am afraid of being arrested and thrown in fucking jail by the likes of Robert 56965?

    No. I am not.

    Well maybe a little. But, fuck it.

    I might have flipped off Robert 56965 when he turned his back and the frisking lady definitely saw that and smothered a giggle.

    So then when frisking was over, I explained to Robert 56965 that he should address me directly and that it was rude not to and that it is well known to be offensive to disabled people to talk to the person next to them using the 3rd person to talk about them as if they could not hear or understand. He refused to answer me and instead directed many sarcastic comments to Paula 56234. I whipped out my own Sarcastro superpowers and began to critique Robert 56965 to Paula 56234 while he searched my bag and swabbed my digital camera and my extra laptop battery and my toothpaste as if they might be super secret dangerous hi-tech crippled bitch weaponry. “Maybe you can let ROBERT 56965 KNOW in your SPECIAL LANGUAGE THAT ONLY YOU SHARE that I do not mind how much he searches my bag and that I would like to SPEAK TO HIS SUPERVISOR who maybe just maybe will know MY special human-being language.” Oh, poor Paula 56234!!!

    Robert 56965’s supervisor came over and in front of Robert 56965 I told the supervisor that it was not right and that some people have issues because of people looking a little bit different. And that that was not acceptable. And that I would be complaining to the TSA with everyone’s badge numbers. I explained very politely and coherently that when a person points OUT that someone is being rude, that rude person might then get defensive and hostile. And that as a disabled person I am very familiar with people who thoughtlessly speak not to me but to the person next to me, and I try to point it out on the spot when it happens. Etcetera. The flak-catcher nodded and put on a Very Serious Listening Face and said nothing-ish things and I took the comment card and left.

    Oh, glorious mocha, and nice lady in the waiting area who had been in China and talked with me about the Great Firewall, and perfectly nice seat-mate on the plane who was a real estate developer who worked on the California Academy of Sciences and is now proposing to build the Disney Family Museum complex in the Presidio and who listened to me talk about wikis, thank you for making me feel human again and helping me not burst into tears and cry all the way home.

    I didn’t, and I am now home, and the nice taxi driver helped me load up all my crap back onto the chair and then my housemate the Pilot brought in my chair and the mail and my backpack and the exciting packages from Amazon that had come in my absence, and talked with me to make sure I was okay alone, and brought me a soda.

    I am very happy to be home in my own bed.

    I’m so happy to be in a place where I can go to the bathroom without being on public display and without going through many heavy doors. I still can’t put any weight at all on my right leg. But I can crutch myself like 8 feet away to the small bathroom. I have internet from bed and I have my cell phone, so I am very comfortable and happy considering my leg doesn’t work and hurts a lot. Later… a hot bath. Zond-7 has a cold and an uncertain kid-pickup-schedule so he might not be able to rescue me from alone-ness without herculean effort. But he will come tomorrow. If I need help tonight there are tons of people I can call.

    The pure lotus in the urban wilderness

    We got in a taxi, opened the laptop and pointed at an address in Chinese, with a photo of the restaurant, knowing only that it was somewhere out near the 3rd ring road to the north. The taxi driver was confused for a bit, then took off. It seemed very far away, and then further, and it was almost 10pm on Sunday night and the restaurant closed at 11, and we hadn’t called to make sure. Down a very industrial rubble-ish street right on the frontage road to the 3rd ring road the taxi driver went down a narrow alley, which dead ended. He asked another taxi driver for directions. We couldn’t understand! He pointed into the giant block of construction in progress, and let us off. At a little hotel nearby a guy came out and helped us, after much discussion in Chinese and pointing at the web page on the laptop, leading us back down the alley, through another alley full of ridges made of rebar and metal plates and enormous speed bumps to which I learned the word for “watch out!” as there were no streetlights or anything. (Zond-7 pushed my wheelchair, because my neck was hurting from idiotically playing too much nethack on the plane.) A complete maze, through concrete blocks and deserted-seeming apartments and the big walls blocking off construction and demolition. Finally we came to a corrugated iron wall cracked open slightly, held shut by a chain. Through the crack and down across a demolished building in the shadows we could see a cool pink glowing sign in a very fancy font “Pure Lotus”. For a minute I considered folding up my chair and squeezing through the crack in the wall. Our friend from the nearby hotel gestured and sighed and repeated something that must have been “Well, hell, there it is, but…!” He led us out again past the apartment block, past the defunct expensive furniture store, past the other demolitions and some parked cars behind more tiny apartment balconies with laundry hanging out, past a hole in the wall butcher shop and corner store and down the rebar-corrugated steep-sloped entrance to the alley, out to the side street, then out to the main street. He motioned for us to give it a good try from the other side of the block, around the corner, and we waved goodbye.

    Zond-7 and I match very well in our love of randomness and getting lost, of being slightly unnerved but liking it that way and keeping good spirits up, and not minding if the goal does not happen or things don’t work out – we are good travel companions that way.

    The sidewalk was multi-levelled and cracked, so we went in the street in the bike lane. At a break in the big construction-hiding walls (plastered with ads and Olympics posters) we dove into a dirt alley bordering on a partly demolished office tower. I wheeled over glinting mirror glass and gravel. Guys in hard hats and jumpsuits gawked at us – wondering what the hell was going on – it was after 10pm – where could we possibly be going and why – Finally, the other street. We had just cut a corner but had not really penetrated into the interior of the block. About halfway down the block there was an opening with cement trucks and what looked like an auto body shop and — once we ducked through it – A SIGN for the restaurant. A couple of twists and turns and more signs – we joked we would keep following them as they receded into the distance – we saw the empty field and the corrugated padlocked wall that we had seen from the other side of the block – and the street kept twisting and getting darker, dead-end-like. The dead end opened into a paradise of little water garden and wooden deck, carvings, an enormous door 15 feet high made of logs pivoting in the middle to swing open without a sound, and lotus holograms projected on the floor, blossoming, next to an enormous yet delicate wooden model of a buddhist temple. Interior decorator monks had waved their magic wands to create perfect spot lighting and draped fabric and rock niches with candles and brocaded seats like little thrones, more water gardens and flowers, all an impression of peaceful cool light and openness. Incredibly sexy waiters with matching monk uniforms – sort of thin slightly tattered open shirts and loose pants for the guys and elegant pale pink fluttery things for the women – Well, monks can have aesthetics too – And can be obviously young hipsters with awesome haircuts – as they gracefully hand over giant menus that are pieces of art themselves with strange-ass names like The Peace Settles and Purifies or Love Without Reason which turn out to be carrot-pineapple juice or soup with gingko nuts and lotus seed and wild yam and several kinds of odd and delicious fungus, with soup dumplings. A monk, or nun, or hipster in pink ruffled nun suit, laid out enormous leaves as placemats, with carved sticks and spoons made of giant cowrie, flower petal shaped plates, basically everything was leafy and made of wood or shell or sometimes tinfoil made to be artistically leafy. The straw to my carrot-pineapple juice was bent into a rather lovely pattern winding around yet another leaf slotted and stuck on the edge of the tall thin porcelain cup. I kept sort of jaw-dropping and becoming more and more hyperaware as I’d realize things like, the person laying out our plates was doing it carefully with one hand while doing a buddhist mudra with the other.

    The soup with different kinds of gourd and squash and fungus was one of the most delicious thing I’ve ever eaten, and had a smokey flavor that sent me into a Proustian tailspin of trying to remember what smell or childhood taste it evoked. Nothing I could name, but it was a little like the smell of the ocean combined with wood smoke.

    After we came in the enormous 15 foot high wooden door made of logs slowly pivoted shut. We were the last people into the restaurant.

    Everything was so beautiful – I’m really not exaggerating – you are totally dead-souled if you eat here and don’t have a blinding epiphany. Mine was that, earlier in the day, I was having a strong feeling of impatience, railing against my problems with mobility and walking and pain, going so far as to say bitterly that I wished I could walk better and I was sick of it all, and it isn’t fair, and it used to be so easy; it was a place of strong self loathing and wanting to curl up and hide and cry. This doesn’t happen to me all that often, but it did happen yesterday; it was partly exhaustion and jet lag as well as hunger to be able to do and see more and have it all be less inconvenient, less conspicuous, less fussy and above all not painful. BUT in Pure Lotus I considered all that as I nibbled chewy vegetarian fish in spicy sauce and Zond-7 and I sappily gazed at each other as he gave me half of the last of his most perfect transparent dumplings stuffed with mushroom from his chopsticks, and of course, the obvious epiphany to have (and the one I usually try to live inside) is that everyone carries around problems and obstacles, and pain, and I’m lucky to know what mine is and to have so much awareness and enjoyment of life (and to have such an amazing nice life.) On top of that, if I can fly halfway around the world and go to a city where I don’t speak the language and can’t read anything or talk to anyone, and despite not walking very well and having a wheely exoskeleton, can still make it through broken glass and concrete rubble and smog and darkness to this odd delicious aesthetic loving nirvana which we will think of as nirvana although it is only for rich people who can afford a 50 dollar dinner, then, there is nothing to complain about in life and things are just fine.

    Two of Pure Lotus’s staff got us a taxi and then came with us out the winding alley to help us in and to help us communicate with the taxi driver who was not quite sure where our hotel was. They helped stuff the wheelchair into the trunk and were so amazingly patient with our ignorance of language and everything. We so didn’t deserve such consideration. Also, I was grateful for the moments when taxi drivers, hotel staff, and our hipster monks and nuns giggled with us at the ludicrousness of the situations and language barrier and perhaps at our nerve for being in those situations.

    I have a soft spot for very beautiful places carefully constructed and hidden in industrial settings (like my favorite cafe in my hometown).

    Aside from that I am astonished that looking online for reviews of this place, it’s all just “best vegetarian food in Beijing” and nothing about the total amazingness of the experience.

    We almost had heart attacks when after we thought we were finished (but we weren’t sure because we had no idea what the heck we ordered) they brought out what looked like an enormous hand-polished tree stump with smoke pouring out. MY GOD is it another course of food? No- it was dry ice bubbling from a tiny pool of water in the wooden bowl with a tiny stand made of the same wood inside, with tinfoil leaf (nature + artifice perfect combination) and real leaves (pandanus?) with small mandarin oranges, ripe and sweet. I was in awe.