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Stack of Books
Posted on Sunday 3 July 2011 at 8:19 pm

The DC / Neil Gaiman Post


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As y'all know, I went up to DC a little over a week ago to see Neil Gaiman. He was doing a talk / reading / Q&A for the tenth anniversary edition of American Gods. As mentioned previously, due to my sprained / broken ankle, I couldn't drive so I took the train there and back. Going up, everyone was fantastic. The stairs up onto the train were huge steps that I couldn't do on crutches so they brought out the wheel chair lift to get me up and down, the conductors checked on me a couple of times, and everyone was very nice and helpful. In DC, they drove me in a little car from the train up and around to the main shops at Union Station and the entrance to the subway. I got lunch there then took the subway to the stop closest to the event, where I was to meet Julia (littlepixiechic).

The subway was not completely full, but most seats were taken and some people were standing. The empty seats were in the middle, against the windows, and I couldn't get to them. There were people in the front easy-access seats labeled "Please give up these seats to people with disabilities" and no one would give me a seat. One lady in one of those seats kept making eye contact with me, then looking away, then looking at me again. Everyone standing was holding on to me trying to keep me upright balanced on crutches and one leg as the train started moving. It was ridiculous and some of the people holding me started muttering about "Isn't anyone going to give her a seat?" Standing towards the back of the car, with a few people between me and them, were three police. They spotted me and started issuing orders and threw someone out of a seat and helped me get to it. Then they asked me what stop I wanted and when we got there, they formed a little barricade and wouldn't let anyone else get to the door to exit nor let anyone on until I'd gotten off. It was awesome!

I had to wait a little bit for Julia so I crashed at a Starbucks right outside the subway stop and when she got there we went the 3.5 blocks from the subway stop to where the event would be. Three and a half blocks on crutches is a special kind of torture. We had to stop every few feet, and I was dripping sweat, slightly shaky, and exhausted by the time we got there. The event was on the 13th floor and when we got up there, they hadn't started letting people in yet so there was a long line meandering through the hallways away from the ballroom. Julia and I approached the staff member directing people toward the end of the line and pointed out that I couldn't make it to the end of the line nor could I stand in it. He was kind of like "Yeah. Guess you can't." and walked off. I was flabbergasted at his unhelpfulness. Julia went up towards the front of the line to see if she could find someone more helpful, but as she got there, they started letting people go in so we decided it was a pointless fight. I crashed on a couch to the side near the front of the line and she made her way back to the end. It took a while, but she finally got back up to me and we went in.

While I was sitting on the couch, some lady who I think wasn't there for Neil Gaiman but for some other reason slumped on another chair and looked at my crutches and wrapped ankle propped up on the couch and said "You and me both." I was confused since she had walked in on two good feet but then she started saying something about "I walked so far." I said I'd come about three or four blocks on the crutches and she pointed at her shoes, which were reasonably high heels but not that high and pretty chunky, and said "Oh, I walked 25 blocks." Seriously, lady? You think choosing to wear heels and walking 25 blocks in them is at all analogous to having a sprained (so I thought, later learned broken) ankle and going a few blocks on crutches!? Right. Also while I was waiting, I received several compliments on my t-shirt by people moving past me in the line. Considering I was wearing this Doctor Who shirt, I guess that's not too surprising.

Once we got in, we got seats clear over to one side but pretty close to the front so I could stick my foot out in the aisle without bothering anyone. We were on the side with the podium so while we pretty much only had NG in profile, I still think we had a pretty nice view. What do y'all think?

           

The talk and reading were pretty cool. Most of the stories he told about writing American Gods were things I'd read in interviews or the like, but it was cool hearing him tell the stories in person. When he did the reading, he started to introduce the second piece he was going to read and before he'd said about ten words to start setting it up, I immediately turned to Julia and whispered "It's going to be the 'I Believe' speech." Of course I was right because if I had been wrong I wouldn't be telling the story, now would I? Possibly he coolest part was that during the Q&A he announced the he'd just written a new kid's picture book about a panda who sneezes and causes interesting things to happen. He introduced it by saying that he didn't have permission to reveal anything about it yet and might get in trouble, but the next day he posted a picture on his twitter of the illustrator working on one of the paintings for it, so I guess he didn't get in too much trouble. The book is going to be called Chu's Day and the picture he tweeted is here.

After the talk / reading / Q&A, he did a signing. Since you could buy pre-signed books, I didn't realize there was going to be a signing and didn't bring anything like oh, say, issue #1 of Sandman or Good Omens or whatever. Julia and I talked about it and decided that it would be awesome to get our books personalized, but there was no way I could stand in the signing line and we both had presigned books so we'd just leave. We also decided that the line waiting to get on an elevator to leave was atrocious and I couldn't stand in that mob either, so we just stayed in our seats on the side of the auditorium and waited while the crowd broke into the two different mobs. As we were sitting waiting, a large group of handlers went to Neil Gaiman on the stage to, you know, make sure he had enough water and guide him to the signing table, and whatever else it is they do for the star. They guided him right by us and were all completely ignoring Julia and I. He stopped them, pointed at me, and said "Wait. Here's someone who can't stand in line. Can we do something about getting her to the front of the line?" Julia and I looked at each other doing that silent "OMG!" squeal kind of thing and one of the handlers broke off from the group, came over to me, and said "Mr. Gaiman says you get to go to the front of the line. Come with me." At first Julia wasn't going to come but the handler lady asked about her and I said she was my ride and I couldn't lose her so she told Julia to come, too. We went to the front of the line, got our books personalized, and got to talk to Neil Gaiman for a minute or so, mostly about "Thank you so much for understanding about the crutches!!" I tried to snap a picture of him with my book as he finished signing it, but balancing on the crutches made it difficult so I was a bit late and started to lose my balance and cut off the top of his head as I stumbled. Somehow I think it's a fitting image for this epically amazing story.




Julia and I made it back to the subway very slowly. I was so tired from the long haul on the crutches that not even the adrenaline of "OMG! Neil Gaiman himself got me bumped to the front of his signing line!" could really keep me moving and we had to stop so many times before getting to the subway. While I'd been on the couch waiting to get in, I had posted to my twitter saying "The accommodations for disabled people at the @neilhimself event tonight thus far leave a great deal to be desired." In the car I posted again saying "Event organizers tonight were not very proactive on the crutches part. @neilhimself however was amazing about not making me stand in line!" By the time we'd made it back to Julia's NG was obviously done with the signing, back in his hotel room, and playing around on his own twitter account. He posted "Sorry" in reply to my first tweet then saw my second one. He replied to it with "@brattyjedi it was just luck I spotted you. If you'd been on the other side of the hall..." I replied to him saying again that I was extremely grateful. Someone else saw all this and replied to both of us that she had been there with a cane and asked for help and was told three times there were no accommodations for handicapped people. That actually made me feel a little better about my first tweet because technically Julia and I had only asked the one guy and not really pushed so maybe he'd just been an ass.

The next day, Julia and I lazed around her apartment (well, she was working from home, I just lazed), then she got me to the subway and I took it to the train station. They totally sucked about helping me, which really surprised me after all the help the day before. I went to where I'd been told to go to ask about assistance getting out to the train. They told me to take a seat and they'd be with me. Like 25 minutes later, I had 15 minutes until my train was supposed to leave, and no one had helped me yet. With the help of some other people sitting there, I started flagging down people and they all said "I'll be right back." Finally like 5 minutes before my train is supposed to leave, I get a guy to pay enough attention for him to start getting huffy at me about the fact that I only had five minutes to get to my train, but everyone else waiting started fighting for me, that I'd been trying to get help and had been there for over half an hour. He finally took my book bag and carried it for me but made me go out to the train (it was quite a haul) on the crutches, no wheel chair or little cart like when I'd arrived or anything. When we got to the train, he then threw a fit about me needing the wheel chair lift, like it was my fault I couldn't climb up stairs on crutches when the first step hit about mid thigh when I was standing up to it. Getting off in Williamsburg was the same problem. They threw a fit about me wanting the wheel chair lift to get off. I don't know what the problem was.

So there you have it. Some helpful people, some unhelpful people, one epic Neil Gaiman intervention, and a lot of exhausting cavorting around on crutches. At the end of it all, I had very sore arm muscles that didn't recover for several days, one personalized autographed copy of the tenth anniversary edition of American Gods, some cool photos, and, I think, one pretty epic story.
Happy
Feeling: Happy
Exploring: Couch, where else?
Listening: Roommate singing God Save the Queen (WHY!?)

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