Preflight/Final Preparation, August 6-19, 1996

Brunch with the calligraphers
The Goodbye Party
The joys of powerbook

Monday morning I woke up with the blues. I've always wanted to write that. In this case, though, I was a week and a half to liftoff and I had a defective computer. ComputerWare was pretty nice about it, though. They got their carrier to pick the computer up on Monday, and Wednesday that had a new one delivered to the wrong address. Thursday, it was in my hands.

In the meantime, the order of the week was packing. Saturday morning a passel of friends were due to help me load up a combination of two pickup trucks and a van and move my belongings to a secret garage in Petaluma. I had already done the hardest part: I had sifted through twenty years of accumulated papers and managed to throw out most of them. I got rid of high school underground newspapers and manuals to dedicated typesetting equipment that had been considered antique all this past decade. I found a good home for the Corvus Concept and the old CompuPro boards. I made several trips to Goodwill, mostly to drop off clothes that I hadn't been thin enough to wear in years (and when I am finally thin enough, I'm going to celebrate and purchase a new wardrobe). I dropped off a carload of used and somewhat obsolete computer parts, including a lovely 19" B/W monitor that wasn't happy in my new PowerMac, and wasn't attractive to anyone on

Now I settled down for the solid tedium of putting the books in the boxes. I had already pulled enough books from some shelves that they were no longer overflowing. Fortunately, my friends Craig and Simi had just bought a house, so I had their boxes. My type buddy Briem had advised me to put labels with numbers, five per box (four sides and the top) in teeny address labels, which I did, recording the contents on the computer. As usual, Briem was right--this is a great way to track what you've done, and given how many times some of these boxes had already been used, it would have been crazy trying to relabel them otherwise. [For the typographically curious, the numbers were in Emigre Dogma Black--so so numbers, but a bit different and still readable.)

empty shelvesRight. So I'm talking boxes and packing boxes and packing boxes. I get about forty done by the weekend, leaving just about all the clothes packed, the records stripped off their shelves, the books boxed up and gone, and the shelves, themselves, empty. Thursday I've got the new computer, and now I am loading software onto it a bit at a time as I usually use my regular computer to record boxes, check e-mail, search the web for ideas on modem adapters, and the like.

It never fails, of course. I've had a friend loan me a truck for the weekend. Another expected truck falls though. And then I realize that I hadn't actually told many people that I needed to move, and hadn't really called anyone back. Sure enough, Saturday morning, an hour late, my friends Tabinda and Nate are the sole volunteers. By then, of course, fearing the worse I have rented a huge panel truck and begun loading it myself.

It takes a couple of hours to load everything, then it's off to Petaluma where we put down palettes and unload the truck. I head back to the rental agency with the fuel tank on empty. The street lights are off, but the significance of this doesn't sink in until I pull into my favorite gas station, I am informed that there is a blackout affecting several states, and as a personal affront, that also means that there is no power to pump fuel. I wait around for a while hoping that power comes back on before the baseball game on the radio ends. The tank, after all, is on empty and I don't want to run entirely out of gas looking for a neighborhood where power has been restored. Then I remember that I am driving a truck, and have a second fuel tank. So the heck with the game. I flip a switch to access the auxiliary tank and head north seeking electricity and a working gas station.

Brunch with the Calligraphers

jovicaAt some point I had to confront the fact that I had a vague schedule for being in Europe, and no clear sense what Jovica wanted to do. This was especially complicated by the fact that I needed to still book a ticket from the UK to Hamburg, and still needed to figure out what I was doing with Eurail passes. As it turned out, Jovica was finally in town the week before my departure. I originally thought that this meant that we would have some time to spend together, but between the exigencies of him needing to consult at Adobe, and the greediness of the local calligraphy circuit, we barely managed to get together. I felt somewhat testy, but then remembered that we will be together quite enough in a couple of weeks, whereas he had little time to see as many friends in the Bay Area as possible.

The most notable event was the weekly calligraphers' brunch in San Francisco. I had been meaning to go for months, but had decided that it was urgent to attend at least once before I disappeared, if only to say goodbye to my friends Ward Dunham and Linnea Lundquist. A quick call to Linnea also revealed that Jovica would be there, too. Still, what with conversation with other calligraphers, the writing of postcards and cleaning our respective pens (the better to write a sentence on each postcard as it passed around the table), Jovica and I spoke little. Ward, in particular, was a major fomentor of postcard activity. He would not only start many off, but would then melt some sealing wax and add his sign to each card as it was ready. Among the folks attending, however, was my favorite radio traffic reporter, whose traffic reports had made many commutes a bit more bearable. She, as it turned out, is also a beginning calligrapher. Ah, well, perhaps she will survive calligraphy and move on in radio to bigger and better things.

Jovica and I agreed to have breakfast on Tuesday, but they then Adobe had called an extra meeting, so Jovica and I deferred our breakfast to a Friday brunch with some calligrapher friends with whom he was staying. That gave just enough time that morning for us to make our final ticket-critical decisions so that I could call my travel agent and book the Hamburg ticket. As it turned out, by the time I got through to Eurailpass, a ticket had to be sent to arrive by 10:30 Tuesday before I left. And, as it happened, the ticket arrived several hours late. I did arrange for it to be returned via call from the airport, but who knows what will be. My travel agent, however, the redoubtable Aunt Pearl, got the Hamburg ticket to me in plenty of time. For some things, family is just more efficient.

The goodbye party and breakdown

On Saturday, I took leave of my packing efforts to shove the little remaining materials behind the scenes and appear casually prepared when guests arrived for the goodbye party. It was wonderful to see everyone, wonderful to hang around on the front porch shmoozing, wonderful to meet a couple of new friends. There were also some unexpected, and nice reunions. At one point, the former Benjamin/Cummings Information Technology Group in its entirety: our bold leader, Guy Mills, Craig Johnson, Jean-Olivier Holingue, and myself found itself virtually reconstructed. I must confess, that despite the fact that Craig, Jean-Olivier and myself frequently hung out together, this was one of the rare occasions when the four of us socialized at the same place at the same time.

Taking me back even further, my old friend John McBride, who had last come to a party here at the housewarming ten years ago closed the party down as he, and Dave Blake, my boss from the turnaround type shop where I lived (more literally than I like to consider most days) for several years, along with my friends Craig and Simy sat around a table talking books and adventures. John had also closed the first party down, and tonight, as I did ten years ago, I finally had to send everyone on their way. It was John, of course, who had me typeset, years ago, the saying that was afixed to the credenza over my desk for many years; it's been years since I really looked at it, but the gist of the text was: "That's why there are so many poets in Califonia. It is better to die a wreck in California than be a discrepancy in Cleveland."

The joys of the powerbook

After spending several days loading software, testing the modem, and getting everything just so, I arranged to have lunch with my former colleague, jean-olivier taking my computer for a test driveJean-Olivier Holingue. The day before I had taken my car to Aamco to get the clutch rebuilt. Normally, this is the sort of expense I would have deferred until my return, but it had reached the point where any journey was painful, due to the difficulty of wrestling the car into gear. I was leaving the car with others who might conceivably want to use it while I was away. It seemed cruel to inflict the car on them in such shape. I carefully asked Aamco if they had worked on Saturn transmissions before. "Sure," they responded. So I took the car in. That afternoon, when I picked the car up, they allowed as how they hadn't actually worked on Saturns before, and something was funky with the hydraulic system. Still, for the moment it felt okay.

So, there I was, on my way to Palo Alto the next morning to have lunch with Jean-Olivier. The car refused to go into gear. I wrestled with it furiously, and managed to arrive, only half an hour late. Given that I was leaving in just a few days, I was feeling a bit funny about how I was going to get the car fixed in time, and how much more it would cost me. Fortunately, J-O had saved me some sushi, and after emptying another containing of Saki together, we retired for coffee. While there, I took a picture of Jean-Olivier, transferred it to the computer, we color-corrected (as best can be done when you are staring at 16 shades of grey, and had a grand old time. It was quite plausible to believe that everything was going to work out the that the trip would be accompanied by computer-recorded commentary throughout.

As far as the car went, I got the Saturn dealer to look at it the next day, and they did another $200 in repairs to the hydraulic system. Then I set the powerbook aside as I prepared for the party, and didn't think seriously about it until I walked in to my office on Sunday morning ready to transition to using just the Powerbook--no more color monitor and large keyboard. And, of course, just as quickly I discovered that I had wandering trackpad disease again. An attempt to cure that by "zapping the PRAM," a popular Macintosh ritual, led the machine into a zone of black death from which no amount of button pushing could release it.

This was not good. It was pretty damn depressing. I no longer had time to copy the material, reinstall it, or anything. I was just screwed.

By nightfall, and by careful consultation with the minimal Apple documentation, I had discovered the "reset" button at the back of the computer, and managed to thus retrieve the computer from the "black death." In fact, it appeared to be working once again. Still, sure enough, in the morning when I came downstairs after my shower and attempted to use it once again, the trackpad was useless.

A conversation with the techie at Computer Warehouse seemed to resolve the problem. As I had begun to suspect, this was not a defective computer, but a weird, defective trackpad design. Far from being a singular problem, I had encountered a feature! Apple now realized that under some circumstances, static electricity would cause the trackpad to cease to function. They had special appliqués that could be put over the trackpad, but as there were no longer any local dealers who carried powerboooks, finding an appliqué locally was unlikely. The preferred solution was 3M PostIt notes. Later that day, of course, I purchase a block of same, along with a spare mouse, just in case.

Tuesday morning I discovered that the modem had lost its ability to dial. Again, there was serious "how can I go on the road with this crazy piece of junk" panic, resolved only by the discovery that the weird tone made by voice mail (which I had installed the previous day preparatory to leaving) was the culprit.

Confident that I had now eliminated all problems that could be dealt with before the journey, and in a desperate hurry to get everything packed so that I could visit with a friend before going on the road, I declared the system functional and finished packing.

Next stop, London.

Europe '96 | Ivritype | My WELL pages

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