Tag Archives: Las Vegas

P is for Plenty


by Lillian Csernica on April 19, 2016

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Japan —  Plenty of koi.

 

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The Netherlands — Plenty of tulips

 

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Las Vegas, NV — Plenty of neon

 

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Paris, France — Plenty of cafes

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Ensenada, Mexico — Plenty of beer

 

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Seattle, WA — Plenty of coffee

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Filed under Blog challenges, Conventions, Family, Food, Goals, history, Japan, Kyoto, Lillian Csernica, memoirs, nature, research, romance, travel, Writing

N is for Nowhere (the Middle Of)


by Lillian Csernica on April 16, 2016

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In Everybody’s Autobiography, Gertrude Stein said of Oakland, CA, “There’s no there there.”  This is not true of Oakland, but I have seen many places where there’s just nothing there.

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On one of our trips to Ohio, Daddy decided to take the southern route on I-15, which meant driving through a whole lot of very hot Nowhere in Arizona, Nevada, and Utah.  We had to put beach towels on the car seats.  If I didn’t, and I was wearing shorts, my skin would stick to the slick upholstery.  Peeling myself off of that was no fun at all.  Have any of you ever had to do that?

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Off California Interstate 5, just before you get to the Grapevine, there’s a little town called Lost Hills.  The last time I was there (late ’80s/early ’90s), the town consisted of one stoplight, one gas station, a Motel 6, and one lonely tumbleweed blowing around in the hotel parking lot.  I’ve always wondered where the people lived who worked in Lost Hills.  Maybe they all stayed at the Motel 6.

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My mother likes to travel.  This includes booking bus tours out of the local community center or some other local organization.  I’ve always been fond of castles, so when Mom decided to go to Hearst Castle she took me with her.  Hearst Castle is located in San Simeon, CA, two hundred fifty miles from both Los Angeles and San Francisco.  It’s in the middle of nowhere quite literally because the ranch it sits on includes two hundred fifty thousand acres!  Hearst Castle also sits atop some really steep mountains, so getting there was a challenge.  I was profoundly grateful to know Mom had the sense to leave the driving to a professional tour bus driver.  If coming home from Pasadena had been difficult, getting to and from Hearst Castle could have been a nightmare!

On the drive back from Las Vegas, where Pat and I had attended KillerCon, it was cold and dark and very empty outside our car windows.  Then a sign appeared, a sign with the three words you see in the photo above.  Out in the middle of nowhere, near the Interstate 15 and Hwy 286/288 interchange, in perfect territory for an alien abduction, stands the Alien Fresh Jerky store.  I tell you, “Hotel California” by the Eagles might as well have been playing in the background.  We had to investigate.  How often does an opportunity like this come along?

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Pat got lost in the hot sauce aisle.  Neither of us had ever seen so many different varieties of hot sauce in one place.  I like Thai food so I’m OK with spicy, but some of the labels on those hot sauce bottles should have included HazMat symbols.  Ye gods!

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G is for Gifts


by Lillian Csernica on April 8, 2016

Today I have some stories to tell that come from the United States of America.  My homeland is a big country.  You can do a lot of traveling without needing your passport!  Along the way I’ve had the pleasure of giving and receiving some wonderful gifts.

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San Francisco, California — I was at the San Francisco International Airport when I met a Buddhist monk with a heavy French accent.  We got to talking.  Like most holy men in public places, the monk was probably accustomed to people gravitating to him.  He seemed to understand a whole lot more about me than what little personal information came up in the conversation.  His gift to me took the form of sincere compassion and some encouraging words.  As a token of my gratitude I gave him a pewter sunflower with “Believe” engraved on it.  This is why I love to travel.  You never know who you might meet, or what might happen when you do.

Maui, Hawaii — The Hawaiian Lei Greeting has been a part of Polynesian culture for several centuries.  Many tour packages allow you to choose just how luxuriant you’d like your lei greeting to be.  Before the boys came along, I took a trip to Maui with my mother.  It was quite an adventure, including a luau and a submarine ride.  Magpie that I am, I got all excited about the leis made not from flowers but seashells.  Ever since I was little I’ve had a great fondness for seashells.  Mom has been to Hawaii more than once, so she had quite a few shell leis.  She has given them all to me, along with the kukui nut bracelet and earrings belonging to my great-grandmother.

Las Vegas, Nevada — Many years ago my husband and I stayed at the Excalibur.  My father and stepmother lived in Ohio at that time.  My stepsister lived in Vegas, so we decided to meet in the middle for Christmas at her house.  (I have several stories from that trip!)   In the Excalibur there was the usual casino floor with card tables and slot machines.  Downstairs, I found a whole floor for kids full of carnival games such as Skee Ball, the Ring Toss, the Dime Toss.  There were also a few games where you used what amounted to a small catapult to shoot a frog onto a lily pad or a witch doll into a cauldron.  I know how to play poker, blackjack, and even whist, but I’m not much for gambling.  On the other hand, I love to win prizes.  I must have won close to a dozen, most of them some type of stuffed toy.  I did not have room in my luggage for all of them.  Besides, it was really more about winning them than actually keeping all those toys.  So what did I do with them?  Remember, this was Christmastime.  I wandered around the hotel, giving the toys away to little kids (with their parents’ permission).

 

Seattle, Washington –I had gone up to Vashon Island with a friend to visit the All Merciful Saviour Russian Orthodox Monastery.  I’ve been blessed to know Abbot Tryphon and Hierodeacon Paul for more than 20 years.  That visit deserves its own post.  Right now I want to mention yet another meeting in yet another airport.  In the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, I was waiting for my flight to be called.  My friend and I got into conversation with two ladies who admired my friend’s earrings, which I had made.  As it turns out, one of the ladies also made her own jewelry, including the pair of earrings she was wearing.  I don’t know what prompted her to do it, but my fellow jeweler took off her earrings and gave them to me right then and there!  People are so kind.  We forget that, with all the conflict and grief in the world.  I will always treasure those earrings as a reminder of that trip and a reminder of the difference an generous impulse can make.

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Context is Everything


by Lillian Csernica on August 29, 2014

If you take something out of context, it is subject to misinterpretation.  A statement, a gesture, a name, a piece of clothing, an animal, a human being.

The other day a friend of mine told me that a guy she knows had surprised her.  He gave her a tube of toothpaste.  Me, I’d have taken that as a rather rude hint about my oral hygiene.  Turns out that my friend had made a comment about not being able to find the toothpaste she preferred.  The gentleman showed up with the cinnamon-flavored brand my friend much prefers to the seemingly universal minty fresh selection.  Now see?  At first I didn’t understand the context of the gentleman’s gesture.  I took offense, when it turns out that he had only the best and most considerate intentions.

In her blog, TalktoYoUniverse, my good friend Juliette Wade has addressed the delicate subject of how we decide who is worth our time and who is not.  The very idea of doing so may sound offensive to some people.  In a perfect world, everyone should be considered worth our time and attention.  Sadly, this is not yet a perfect world.  Life is short, our days are jam-packed with information and activities, and there are some people we really do want to avoid for reasons of personal safety.  Different social contexts demand different standards of inclusivity and exclusivity.  Juliette puts it very well:

“I won’t claim this is supposed to be easy. Everybody has a different balance of introversion and extroversion, a different threshold of safety – and maintaining that safety is vitally important. But I also think it’s important for people to realize that we are all gatekeepers. We are all constantly re-creating the inclusive or exclusive environment of our social milieu, whenever we say yes or no.”

Juliette and I are both familiar with the social context of the science fiction and fantasy convention.  It’s customary on Friday nights to have a Meet the Guests reception where the Guests of Honor are introduced and welcomed.  In a less formal manner, the rest of the pro guests who are part of Programming attend the event and we mix with the convention attendees.  The environment of inclusivity is wonderful.  When you’re a pro guest and you’re not a naturally outgoing person, the sudden atmosphere of familiarity can be a form of culture shock.  Let me offer some examples of different convention contexts in which I had to make snap decisions about how to respond to the person who wanted to interact with me.

1) I was in Las Vegas for a convention where my best friend and co-conspirator Pat MacEwen was on Programming.  (Pat and I take turns being each other’s roadie depending on whether or not we’re both on Programming.)  Pat and I were hanging out in the hallway outside the Dealers’ Room when a tall, beefy, bearded man came up to me and said, “I didn’t know you were going to be here!”  He said it in a voice of loud delight, which drew some attention from the folks around us.  At first I thought he was talking to Pat.  Nope, he meant me.  He had a copy of The Year’s Best Horror XXI where my first published story “Fallen Idol” appeared.  Like a lot of fans, he was working on collecting the autographs of all the authors included.  He very politely asked me if I could wait just a minute while he dashed up to his room to get the book.  I wasn’t busy right then, and Pat didn’t mind, so there I stood until the gentleman came back.  He was so happy and excited to get my autograph.  This kind of thing doesn’t happen to me all that often, so I was probably enjoying it as much as he was.  He thanked me, I thanked him, and we both went on with our day.

This is an example of a best case scenario in the social context of being someone “famous” meeting the fans.

2) I appear at many of the Bay Area SF cons.  The downside of being a regular face at these events became evident to me the year a particular fan decided I was his favorite person on Earth.  This fellow is well known to convention committees.  He is by and large harmless, although his manners could use some work.  As long as he’s taking his medication, he’s usually not a problem.  All this was explained to me after I contacted convention security to let them know this guy was following me around, sitting in the front rows of panels, and carrying on like he was my date.  My heart goes out to him, given the condition that he has to cope with, but to put it bluntly, he scares the hell out of me.

When it comes to dealing with someone who is known to have a mental illness, the issue of personal safety takes precedence.  Hand it over to the authorities and walk away.  Would I say this is an example of a stalker?  No.  It was only that one year.  I do take care to avoid him, but our occasional encounters since then have been within the proper boundaries.

3) At yet another con I was on my way from Point A to Point B when I heard a voice behind me call out, “Mrs. Csernica.”  Now that’s weird.  Nobody ever calls me that except for the boys’ medical personnel.  So what happened?  My fight or flight response kicked in and I had an adrenaline surge.  I spun around to see a perfectly nice-looking young man in a blazer walking toward me.  He didn’t look like security.  He didn’t look like hotel staff.  He had a con badge, but I couldn’t tell if it had any of the special markings that show if the person is Con Ops, Programming, Con Suite, DIY track, etc.  I was trying to place him in context by looking for any physical indicator of his rank, station, function, etc.  As I stood there, trying not to panic while I figured out who he was, the young man introduced himself and explained that he wanted to tell me how much he’d gotten out of the panel I’d just finished.

Now this particular example deserves two paragraphs.  You see, in the atmosphere of casual familiarity that prevails at cons, we don’t do last names.  Only the serving staff says things like “Sir” and “Ma’am.”  Given that I’m in Northern California, there’s an additional layer of informality underlying all of that.  I am an old-fashioned girl.  I will not address someone who is older than me by his or her first name until I am specifically given permission to do so.  I do not call my doctors or the boys’ doctors by first name even if they identify themselves that way during appointments or phone calls.  On the other hand, I do not stand on ceremony if it would look like I’m trying to make somebody else look bad by doing so.  Context context context.  My point here is once I got over the shock of the young man addressing me as Mrs. Csernica, I mentally awarded him fifty brownie points for showing that level of courtesy.  I also gave him five extra minutes of my time I might not have spared otherwise because I was indeed on my way to another commitment.  We talked about the lyrics he was writing, his music, and where he wanted to go in terms of career.  Since our first meeting I’ve crossed paths with the young man three times, and on each occasion he has won my regard again by doing something gallant that made my day easier and more fun.

There is no substitute for genuine class.  He has it, and it’s not an affectation or a manipulation or a pose.  He’s just a sweet guy with good manners.

Today’s world is complicated.  We don’t know who or what we’re looking at, and even if we think we do, there are so many nuances and subtexts and private preferences that we’re probably going to guess wrong.  Some people are obtuse.  Some people are aggressively oversensitive.  Most of us are just doing the best we can as the ground rules keep on changing.  The best strategy I’ve come up with for navigating through daily life is this:

Give people a chance, but trust your instincts.

  When in doubt, ask very politely for clarification.

It’s a lot like speaking the language in a foreign country.  When the natives see that you’re trying really hard to do it right, they’ll usually cut you some slack.

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