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Sunday, February 13, 2011

In Which Two Things Are Done For the First Time, and We Encounter Bats

Today I did two things I've never done before.

1) I worked out to Dickens.

I'd realised that one reason I tend not to work out is that I get bored. It's why things like the Wii work for me -- having someone on the TV saying things is more interesting than just doing stuff. I don't like reading while I do stuff though -- I slow down and turn pages. And I don't like watching TV. So this morning I went and signed up for an Audible account (which was pretty easy, as it's just your Amazon email and password) and downloaded Bleak House, a Dickens novel I've started several times, always enjoyed, and always mislaid long before finishing it.

The chapters are 16 minutes long in the version I'm listening to.

I did 32 hard-pounding minutes on the elliptical machine without even noticing that time was passing. This is a glorious thing.

I told my currently antipodean wife, who sounded like she badly wanted to mock me for working out to Dickens (as opposed to music), but she didn't, probably because I've pointed to her that me exercising is a fragile sort of thing and should only be encouraged.

2) I went to a Roller Derby bout.

This is because a conversation on Twitter about Author Coffees in Indonesia led to someone making a coffee named after me. Because of this, when I went to Indianapolis to receive the Kurt Vonnegut Jr Award for Literature, I took some of the Naptown Roller Girls and their loved ones out to dinner. (It was mostly my then-fiancee Amanda Palmer's fault. She had said something like, "You go to these things and you don't actually meet people." And I'd said something along the lines of, "Hah. Actually a whole Roller Derby team is coming to see me talk in Indianapolis." And she had said, "Yes, but you won't really get to meet them." Which was so true that when I got off the phone I told my assistant Lorraine to tell the Roller Derby team that I wanted to know if they would like to have dinner.)

And Lorraine beginning to talk to Joan of Dark (who had made the coffee, knitted the Coraline Octokitties the team had used for lucky charms, asked if I could get them seats at the Library Lecture that preceded the talk, and hosted the dinner) which led to Lorraine becoming friends with Joan and the Naptown Roller Girls, which led to Lorraine losing an amazing amount of weight, getting terrifyingly fit, and wanting to try out for a local team.

Joan of Dark came up this weekend to see Lorraine and to watch the bout -- the Naptown Roller Girls Third Alarm team vs. The Chippewa Valley Roller Girls.

And, at the last moment, I surprised myself by asking if I could come. Lorraine had been reading a book on derby when we were on a plane together and I'd run out of reading material, and I wanted to see how the thing I'd read about matched up to reality.

Joan of Dark gave me a sort of continual commentary of her own on what was happening and what the things that were going on in front of us actually meant, which helped transform it from lots of good-looking women skating and pushing each over into something that actually meant something.

We had a great time. I was impressed with the skill, smarts, tactics, and occasional brutality of the teams, with the always entertaining announcer Matt, and with the wonderful Miss Dee Lovely (who sang "The Star Spangled Banner").




Here's Lorraine (left) with Joan of Dark (right).



And here's the Naptown team and me. Photo by Kelly McCullough. A study in red-eye. (I wished I'd had a photo with the Chippewa Valley team as well, but by that point they were mostly surrounded by friends and well-wishers.)

I hope Lorraine passes her try-out.

...Actually, now I come to think of it, there were several other things I did today I've never done before, like assemble an inversion table, and make a passable polenta out of cold millet porridge. But the two things I've mentioned were the most fun.

...

As part of the tenth anniversary greatest hits set, what about some bats?

Squeaky says,

my favourite blog post is the one involving the lemon-scented sticky bat.
it still makes me laugh.
i have a random, dog-eared mini-post-it-note stuck to a file holder on my desk at work. it bears the legend "lemon-scented sticky bats" which will occasionally catch my eye and make me smile.


and

One of my favorite blog posts is about the lemony scent bat that got stuck on the fly paper... I wonder if you ever found/scanned Maddy's drawing.

Hi, by the way... Tori Bat!


I never did.

Here's the journal entry in question, from February 2007: FROM THE DISTANT PAST http://journal.neilgaiman.com/2007/02/from-distant-past.html



Before this blog ever existed, I inhabited other places you could only get to by modem. First Compuserve, then Genie, and then the Well, and answered questions and so on in each place, and hung around. I've no idea if there are any archives anywhere of the Compuserve stuff or the Genie topics, but The Well is still there, I'm glad to say, and every few years I go back and am interviewed and hang around the inkwell.vue area for a few weeks. It's a wonderful place, and accessible to anyone from the web: http://www.well.com/conf/inkwell.vue/

So, in context of the current Fragile Things interview, which has only just begun, I found myself reading a post from the 20th of June 2000, written while I was writing American Gods. Which I am reposting a bit of here because a) there's lots more cool stuff like this on the various Well topics I did (here's the first, the second, the third, -- and b) if ever a story was meant to be on this blog, it's this one.


...last week Maddy woke me up early in the morning.

"Daddy," she said, "There's a bat on the kitchen window."

"Grumphle," I said and went back to sleep.

Soon, she woke me up again. "I did a drawing of the bat on the kitchen
window," she said, and showed me her drawing. For a five year old
she's a very good artist. It was a schematic of the kitchen windows,
showing a bat on one of the windows.

"Very nice dear," I said. Then I went back to sleep.

When I went downstairs...

We have, instead of dangling fly papers, transparent strips of gluey
clear plastic, about six inches long and an inch high, stuck to the
windows on the ground floor. When they accumulate enough flies, you
peel them off the window and throw them away.

There was a bat stuck to one. He was facing out into the room. "I
think he's dead," said my assistant Lorraine.

I peeled the plastic off the window. The bat hissed at me.

"Nope," I said. "He's fine. Just stuck."

The question then became, how does one get a bat (skin and fur) off a
fly-strip. Luckily, I bethought me of the Bram Stoker award. After the
door had fallen off (see earler in this topic) I had bought some citrus
solvent to take the old glue to reglue the door on.

So I dripped citrus solvent onto the grumpy bat, edging him off the
plastic with a twig, until a lemon-scented sticky bat crawled onto a
newspaper. Which I put on the top of a high woodpile, and watched the
bat crawl into the logs. With any luck he was as right as rain the
following night...


Of course, if it was now, I'd scan in Maddy's bat drawing to go with it. (I wonder if it's anywhere findable.)
(There are rumours, by the way, of a possible upcoming Lemon Scented Sticky Bat scent from Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab. Keep an eye on their website...)

of course, that wasn't the only post about bats on the blog. There was one with this video in it, from May 2007 (called Sorry and a Short Fillum)...




And there was this one -- someone asked me for it on Twitter when I first mentioned reposting some favourites: THURSDAY, AUGUST 13, 2009 Underneath the Bats and the Stars



I know.

I've got so many tabs open I need to put up here and close, and so much going on, and I haven't even caught up telling you what I did at Worldcon on Monday, or how I then flew to Toronto and caught up with Tori Amos and saw her in concert for the first time since Budapest, or about her daughter Tash's epic Mustachio competition for the crew...

But instead of doing any of that I took Cabal and his best friend Freck (a dog who appears to be staying over) out to the bottom of the garden, and lay on my back and stared up at the cloudless sky. Just about the moment I thought, "You know, I don't have to see any meteors -- just peacefully getting a chance to stare at the stars is good enough," zoom and zoom, two beautiful, low meteors shot through the sky, trailing glittering tails behind them, and I went "oooh" as if it was a special, perfect, fireworks display put on just for me.

And the bats were out too: ragged patches of silent blackness against the deep night-purple star-bespattered sky.

Amanda's pointed out that I have a tendency always to be doing the next thing, or, while I'm doing something to be thinking about the next dozen things I need to be doing, and that I should enjoy and be in the moment more, and she's right. So I lay there and looked at the stars and the bats and I counted the falling stars.

I counted 28 altogether. About ten of them had tails. Some were just streaks of light, others zooming pinpoints. A couple of them were full-on magical golden-yellow special effects.

I thought I lay there for 20 minutes. It was, I realised when I came in, well over an hour.

And there are things I have to read tonight, and things I still have to watch: but I watched 28 stars fall, and I didn't mind that I couldn't think of anything to wish for, and the air was cool and the bats were silent and I could have stared up at the sky forever.

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