Wednesday, October 10, 2007

nostalgie de la bbq deux

Setting One: an odd little motel (Rocky River). The rooms were generic hotel rooms, in a confusing number of categories (possibly due to renovations underway), the relation of category to cost being unclear. The layout was single-storey, scattered about the grounds in L or E formations, as if a regular 2 or 3-storey hotel had been experimentally disassembled. All rooms were pleasant and clean, and mine had a view of the well-mowed lawn behind the buildings. Prusik's room had a jacuzzi, which he was told not to use for fear of an extra $30 (like a fine, maybe?) Bart's had a kitchenette, and tv mounted on the wall in disguise as a flat-screen. Scott and Heather had the separate little cottage designated for smokers.
Setting Two: Terri-Lynn's house. Handcrafted in wood, with a spacious open kitchen, an open-to-the-roof living room (with a flatscreen tv so big that TNH and PNH didn't perceive it as a tv), and detailed with touches of sculpture or mysterious tools and decoration. Like walking around inside a Brian Froud painting. Outside, beautifully landscaped with pool and gazebo and the Barbecue of the Ancient Mysteries, the tended grounds giving way to forest and river behind the house.

Characters: Terri-Lynn, her husband and family, the gracious and impressively relaxed hosts.
VP instructors, staff and associates: Debra Doyle and Jim Macdonald in place, Patrick and Teresa Nielsen Hayden later, Jen Pelland and Pippin in place.
VP students and associates: oh gosh. Travelling with Scott and Heather, me, Bart Patton, Chris Azure and John Chu. Erin Underwood travelling with Jen. Laura Strickman staying at Terri's. Terri herself, of course. Have I missed anyone? Of course we did miss Linda, Evelyn, Diana, Cal, John Hawkes-Reed and Lucia, Mac, Lucy, Retterson, and all those who just weren't able to be there.

Montage: driving narrow country roads through dark looming woods, a discussion of whether we'd be in a straight horror flick or a slasher movie. Casting Heather as Final Girl, Bart as Guy Who Gets Killed First, Chris as the Killer No-one Suspects--probably the one who vanishes early on and is presumed to be a victim until he returns in the last reel. Laura decides not to have a shower after all.
-laughing way too much for someone recovering from a cold, with every laugh bringing on a coughing fit, and not minding.
-getting up (kind of) early to write, at the window looking out towards the trees.
-sprawled around Scott and Heather's room, discussing what to do about breakfast and when to head over to Terri's, Scott telling us proudly about Heather's house-repair skills.
-sitting on the edge of John's jacuzzi (if I put one foot into it, is it only $15?) talking about writing and critting.
-touring Terri's house, hearing stories of how the BBQ of the Vanities came to be, and the marble in the bathroom (truly, good fences make good neighbours, or at least good contractors).
-in the gazebo, the scrapy sound of metal chairs being moved around, Jim's narrative of saving a woman's life the morning before leaving for the reunion, complete with ekg printout (annotated commentary provided).
-pockets of intense and diverse conversation everywhere.
-Scott and Terri's husband talking house repair and construction.
-Doyle's stories of Jim phoning out of the blue, perhaps from a bus station to say he'd be home soon, perhaps from overseas just to check in, once from a brothel (in S America?) because it was the only available telephone in town.
-me tempted by potato chips, three months into my resolution to give them up, chewing dried apples for methadone (really not the same).
-Teresa exclaiming in delight over one of Terri's cool devices, the name of which I do not know, a cunningly-made rack, perhaps for clothes, with wooden arms that pulled out horizontally or slid back to hang beside the turned post.
-Jim and Teresa discussing and identifying one of the tools on the wall (a potato-fork, I think).
-Pippin commanding her father to not sing.
-the sun's reflection from the pool climbing the bank and into the gazebo, lighting it from below.
-the brave ones by the pool in swimsuits, swinging their feet in the water.
-Scott discussing why it may be that the book forum is so hard to search and isn't googleable, so clearly that I felt closer to understanding search engines that I've ever been before. Still didn't quite make it, but my mental fingertips were brushing the ideas.
-Teresa annotating the spelling list on Making Light, as various of us around the kitchen workstation admitted to those items that were our personal stumbling-blocks (vermilion is mine, but now I know a trick for it, yay! because TNH pointed out it comes from vermeil).
-Doyle and Teresa sitting on the floor, telling Norse ghost stories and English ballads.

Highlights: Patrick talking about unreliable narrators, Freedom & Necessity, and why do so few people like Instance of the Fingerpost? and why was Dream of Scipio so unreadable? and convincing me I should attend the Farthing Party (alas, transportation costs forbade it).
-learning a new non-slip way to tie my shoes, which works even with the stupid round laces on my other runners, as part of Uncle Jim's Impromptu Knot, Hitch and Bend Tutorial, including examples of the easily-removable hitch for climbing down cliffs, tying in the bight, tying behind the back, why one hitch is better used around round posts than square ones, two lines of different size fastened securely, and much more.
-the Room 50 chocolate cake.
-pancakes! with bonus explanation of why TNH and Jim can't cook together: she is a performance cook and he is a recipe cook (this has elsewhere been described as the difference between cooks and bakers) and they inevitably clash, solved here by having Jim do pancakes and TNH do bacon and eggs.
-forgetting one of the Four Humours and Temperaments, and having three or four people list them in uneven chorus; even more impressive when you consider I could have asked a techie website question and gotten at least as many answers, possibly from the same people.
-Pan's Labyrinth viewing - but I will write more of this later.

If more memories float up from the bottom of my mind, I will add them. Suggestions also welcome. What were your highlights?


Anonymous said...

The blueberries were a definite win.

The problem isn't that Jim cooks to rule and to recipe; it's those looks of astonished dismay he gives me when I don't.

Methodically going through all the papers in my backpack. The triumph of finding the train ticket I thought I'd lost.

That impromptu music session, with Patrick improvising on -- what was that thing he was playing? A mandolin? Something else?

That was a fine weekend.


batgirl said...

Ah, I wish I could have stayed for the music session. Terri-Lynn lists 'strumstick, mandolin and guitar', so maybe it was the strumstick?
And finding train tickets is always a highlight - isn't there a parable about that?