Friday evening was relatively low-key in comparison to the rest of the weekend, as Sharif and I took ourselves to Erica's place (with Rohini in attendance for a little while) for delivery greasyfood and a showing of Overdrawn at the Memory Bank (MST3K-ed, of course). It was a satisfying night of unhealthy food and undemanding entertainment.
Saturday I woke at a reasonable hour and went back to Erica's house, so that we could set out together for the National Book Festival in DC. After a brief sidetrip to find an ATM and some coffee, we were off. The Metro station was quite literally packed with protesters, signs and buttons and tinfoil dove hats and everything. We had to wait in a long line to get our farecards, then another to get through the gate, and then to get up the escalator up to the platform . . .
Eventually we got on a train, along with several million other people. And, as Greenbelt is the end of the line, we had many stops before we reached our destination, and more people tried to get on the train at each one. It was early in the day, though, and people were excited and full of energy, and it was interesting to observe the different characters around us, provided they didn't intrude to much into my personal space. We eventually made it to the Smithsonian station, and emerged happy and relieved onto the Mall. It was a perfect temperature for a day outside amongst the literary, with the distant (and sometimes not-so-distant) sounds of drums, chants, and helicopters, courtesy of the protesters who were also in force on DC that day. A couple of phonecalls and some pushing through crowds united us with Dave, although with a bit of a break in the search to listen to the second half or so of Jonathan Saffron Foer's talk. I quite liked him, and wish that I had heard the whole thing.
Upon finding Dave, we sat aside for a bit to talk strategy, then positioned ourselves to be able to see and hear Neil Gaiman when his turn came. Dave and I actually managed to get seats, and Erica found a spot to stand just behind the chairs and in the middle, so we all were situated well. Neil was funny and charming and smart, just as you'd expect from reading his work and his journal. He only had a half hour to speak, and it was far too short, but he managed to fit a lot in, including a story from Anansi Boys and several audience questions. Oh, and a wonderful (if inaccurate) image of the writing of Good Omens- Neil sitting and writing a serious novel, with Terry Pratchett dancing behind him like a pixie, throwing in jokes and humorous footnotes whenever whimsy led him that way.
As soon as the talk was finished, we regrouped and marched briskly across the festival to the book signing area, where we joined the already-substantial line to have Neil sign our books. Dave was lucky enough to have a coworker save him a space near the front of the line, but Erica and I stuck to the end. Which quickly became the middle, and then (I think) more like the first third. We got through the line in less than two hours, which would seem like a long time if we didn't know that the line was at least as long when we finished as it was when we joined it. Of course, once I made it to the signing table, I was totally unable to think of anything to say, so essentially limited myself to "Hello!" and "Thank you!" and grinning like a maniac. I think I may also have mentioned that my copy of Good Omens was now complete. I also had with me Coraline and The Wolves in the Walls, the first of which now includes and hand-drawn rat, and the second a giant silver wolf. (Photographic evidence of these and of the rest of the day may be found RIGHT HERE. View and be amazed.)
While waiting in the line, I realized that in all of the times I had opened my bag that afternoon, I hadn't seen my keys at all. An intense search through my belongings revealed no keys hidden under books, in obscure pockets, or within the folds of my sweatshirt. Cue Panic. I stayed in line, of course, but once through, we had to forgo the exploration of any of the other wonders of the book festival, instead traipsing from place to place in search of the missing bundle of keys. We found them nowhere, and headed back toward the metro station, hoping that they would be found locked inside my car. Erica and I bid goodbye to Dave and I called Sharif, recruiting him into an operation that involved the boy going to my parents' house, picking up my spare car key, and meeting us at the Greenbelt station. He's my hero.
After a hellish Metro ride that involved absolutely no personal space, but a fair amount of vomit, unexplained stops, other people's hair in my mouth, and a period of time standing on one foot, we arrived with great relief at our destination. A bit of detective work revealed the keys, securely inaccessible within my vehicle, so we (greatly relieved to know where they were) sat down to wait for the arrival of a knight in shining armor. Sharif arrived as promised, bearing three Toyota keys, one of which was the right one. I thanked him enthusiastically and we parted again, so that I could take Erica home before heading back to Catonsville.
Of course, all of the confusion and stress had to happen on that day, because I absolutely had to be home at a certain time. There was a surprise birthday party for Lacey in the works, and it was my responsibility to be there and open the door for the organizer and the other guests once Madhu had spirited the birthday girl away to dinner. I did manage to get home and showered and dressed before the others arrived, and setup went without a hitch. People arrived and parked discreetly, decorations were placed and food arranged, alcohol was amply provided. As the time approached for the actual surprise most everyone packed into the kitchen and dining room, and all of the lights were extinguished, but Sharif and I sat out on the front porch, ostensibly enjoying the fine evening, but really there to knock on the window to let the guests know when to shut up. Madhu and Lacey arrived, Sharif knocked on the window, we engaged the unsuspecting victim in a bit of casual conversation, and then she went inside to be surprised. I think it went well.
The party itself was good fun. There was a "white trash" theme to it, which basically affected the snackfood provided and the outfits of those involved. I did a dramatic reading from an awful romance novel at one point, while we were in the kitchen boiling eggs with which to test the "Eggstractor" (as seen on TV!), one of Lacey's gifts. I can't say that this is a normal party activity, but it seemed like a good idea at the time. And it was quite entertaining to witness Sharif's excitement when he got the device to work properly. Other highlights of the evening included spastic dancing, toasts to things that don't really deserve it, Rohini being scared by her own shirt, a hot pink feather boa, and Twinkies.
I woke up far too early the next morning, on account of that damn cricket. The thing would not shut up, and it was seriously one of the loudest, most piercing, most persistant noises ever to be heard on this earth. So I got up and showered and dressed and spent the rest of the morning drowsing on the couch in the living room. I would have preferred my bed, of course, but any longer in the room with that cricket would have sent me to a mental place that no one wants to experience. Around lunchtime, I treated Sharif to IHOP, in part as a reward for rescuing me the day before, in part because I really like breakfast food. Soon after we finished there, we got back into his car and headed down to his parents' place, where we watched The House of Flying Daggers, played with the always-enthusiastic and cute doggy, and ate a great deal of very good food.
And, looking back at what I've typed here, this is looking extremely long. I shall have to go back and add cut tags to this thing. So I'll stop now.