ROB HANSEN HERE:
In response to my dubiousness about making my TAFF report available online, the in-print version being intended to raise funds for TAFF, Rich McAllister writes:
Well, OK. With 33,000 words to choose from I wasn't sure whether I should run a bit of my actual report on L.A.CON II itself or a bit of travelogue. In the end I decided on the following page from my time in New York, mainly because it features people who are now on rasff. So come with me now as we ride in the wayback machine to New York, 7th September 1984...
"I'm very comfortable in women's underwear," explained Stu Shiffman, over lunch. The four of us were eating at a Japanese restaurant called Larmen Dasanko, which was part of a fast-food chain, apparently. I resisted all attempts to get me to try sushi - raw fish is a disgusting concept - and settled instead for a salad, noodles, and what my notes refer to as "strange dumplings". Stu had joined us on his lunch break, his striking comment being a statement on which part of New York's extensive garment industry he worked in, of course.
After the meal Stu took us to see a rundown hotel that had been the first LIFE building, and then pointed out the "temple to Roscoe" opposite. This was a fur trade building with a lobby containing ornate Assyrian decoration and, honest to Roscoe, a gold lift door inlaid with the figures of beavers. Amazing. (And having encountered Grand Central Station and a fur trade building on a single day in New York, it was all I could do to stop myself naming this chapter MANHATTAN, TRAINS, FUR.)
With Stu's lunch hour over, Patrick Nielsen Hayden, Tom Weber and I re-entered the subway system at Penn Street and travelled to South Ferry, on the southernmost part of Manhattan Island, to catch the Staten Island Ferry. At twenty five cents a time a trip on the ferry was, according to Patrick, "the best tourist bargain in New York". And so it proved to be. It was a gloriously sunny day, but windy, so while we stood on the deck for a fair part of both the journey out to Staten Island and the journey back, we also spent much of the time inside, sitting on the long rows of wooden benches that seat thousands of commuters every day. At one point I glanced up and saw a pigeon casually perched on the back of a bench. Patrick, as deeply erudite as ever, knew why.
"It's following its ancient migratory route between Manhattan and Staten Island" he explained.
I was disappointed with the Statue of Liberty, which was obscured by scaffolding (in revenge, no doubt, for the unconscionably long time Big Ben had been similarly sheathed), but the view of Manhattan was priceless. This was the view of the island's skyscrapers that we're all familiar with, the one of Manhattan sitting low on the water that's been seen in a thousand films and TV shows. Magnificent.
"New York is big on landfill" explained Patrick, gesturing expansively at Manhattan Island, "and the FDR Expressway is built on bombing rubble from London and Bristol that was shipped over as ballast in returning merchant ships during World War Two."
There was something deeply symbolic in this, but for the life of me I couldn't figure out what it was.
Late in the afternoon, we arrived at the New York branch of Forbidden Planet, which had more floor space than its London counterpart (then still located on Denmark Street) but not, so far as I could tell, a larger variety of stock. I felt a moment of nostalgia for L.A.CON II when I looked up and saw the now- familiar figure of an inflatable Terl the Psychlo hanging from the ceiling.
Moshe Feder, Lise Eisenberg, and Teresa Nielsen Hayden were joining us at Forbidden Planet, which they duly did, for a foray into the East Village, a part of Manhattan in many ways reminiscent of London's Camden Town. The plan was for more touristing, so with Moshe getting into the role of tour guide with great enthusiasm and demonstrating his encyclopedic knowledge of New York, we set off.
I was happily snapping away with my instamatic, capturing such delights as a moving van whose lettering revealed it as being operated by 'Van Gogh Movers' and the 'Think Big' shop whose stock consisted entirely of gigantic versions of everyday objects ("Holy elephantiasis, Batman!") when I somehow lost my grip and it fell to the sidewalk, popping open and ejecting the film. This was not my day it seemed, particularly as Teresa fell to the ground soon afterwards and I had nothing to do with it. We'd just turned onto Canal Street ("Formerly a canal!" - M.Feder) when it happened. Teresa took one look at a shop called 'Three Roses' - a shop with a neon sign outside that featured _two_roses - and down she went. Poot.
Canal Street soon merged with Chinatown and it was near there, in the depressingly scuzzy Columbus Park, that we sat down to decide on what we were going to do for dinner. While Moshe and Lise got into a their traditional heated argument with the Nielsen Haydens over where exactly we were going to eat, an inevitable ritual when eating out with New York fandom, I glanced around at the various crazies wandering around the park and either muttering to themselves or talking loudly to no-one in particular in a remarkable reenactment of a Worldcon Business Meeting. Parked just outside the park were a pair of blue and white buses which, according to the writing on their sides, belonged to the 'Department of Correction'. I was deeply impressed by this evidence of American open-mindedness. In Britain, the taste for 'correction' among Conservative politicians usually leads to them quitting in shame amid ribald comments from press and public. How much more enlightened they must be about such matters in the US, I thought; instead of persecuting such hard working public servants they'd set up a whole department to minister to their needs.
Having finished fighting naked in the mud, arm-wrestling, or finding some other way of solving their dispute while I was contemplating correction in America, the New York fans had finally decided that we should eat at a pizzeria near Andy Porter's apartment. Then, not only would I get to sample real New York pizza for the first time but, since Andy lived in Brooklyn, I'd also get to cross the Brooklyn Bridge. On foot. Which suited me just fine. Of course I had sore feet by the time we got to the other side (it's a _big_ bridge), but I wouldn't have missed that view of Manhattan after dark for anything.
"For a flat stomach eat flatfish" advised the sign in a shop near Andy's apartment, a dubious piece of advice I had no intention of following. Andy was tall, stout, bespectacled and bearded and had no sooner ushered us into his apartment than he was showing us a detailed breakdown of the voting in the fan Hugos. Since Patrick & Teresa's IZZARD had been among those fanzines nominated they examined this with no little interest. IZZARD had placed behind the filking fanzine FILK FEE-NOM-ENON, and the figures revealed some surprising information.
"There were twenty people who voted for us in first place and FILK FEE-NOM- ENON in second," said Patrick, appalled by this evidence of widespread perversion. "Who would do that?"
Who indeed? Patrick was still marvelling at this when we got back to their place a few hours later, and fretted about it as we all sat around talking and winding down. I had a feeling Patrick would lie awake trying to square this particular circle but me, I intended sleeping as soundly as I could.
My account of my 1984 safari through fannish America, ON THE TAFF TRAIL, is available from me at 144 Plashet Grove, East Ham, London E6 1AB for 3 pounds (plus 50p p+p) or US$5 (plus $2 postage), all proceeds to TAFF. Checks should be made made out to 'R.Hansen' and be UK sterling or US dollars only, please. If you're someone I'm likely to see in person anytime soon you can save on the postage, of course.