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  August 2nd 2003

Did I say August 2nd up there? Well, technically, it is already ten minutes into August 3rd. Still, this update needs to be finished some time, and it might as well be now. It has been over two months, after all. I will tell tales about these two months in the coming paragraphs. If this bores the reader, the reader is encouraged to scroll down, where misscelaneous other things are discussed, probably equally boring.

So what have I been up to those two months, you may ask. Well, I would answer, I have been to the United States of America. Now, of course, to many of you this is no big deal. It would require no more effort than to just stand wherever you are. Others among you may have to travel south a bit, but however much of a trip this may seem, it pales in comparison to the kind of things I have to go through to get there.

Arno vs. Singapore Airlines

This year I was taken there through the services of Singapore Airlines. It seemed like a solid choice all round: they were cheap, they had a very good service record and, to put my parents at ease, there were and are currently no hostile intentions towards Singapore by groups we know of. So, I booked and paid for the flight, and then SARS broke out in Asia. Gone was the peace of mind, and gone were Singapore Airlines' assets. They cancelled the direct flight, and instead I was offered a combined flight with stop-over in Newark. Never do stop-overs I was told when I booked my first flight. But hey, that was why I booked the direct flight with Singapore Airlines, right? ;)

So, I had to go to Schiphol airport, go through customs, setting off metal detectors with my belt earning me a nice pat-down and wait for an hour or so for the flight to leave. The flight itself was not bad, the plane was quite luxurious, but I was seated next to an ageing Chinese woman who was rather talkative. Some times she had interesting things to tell, other times she... Did not. The flight only lasted some 9 hours though, so that wasn't too bad. Also, I had a window seat, earning me a spectacular view of water, clouds, water, clouds, clouds, water and finally the Canadian coastline. Also, I learned that the Chinese apparently have special names for twins. For those who did not know, I am the male half of a set of twins. Female twins are called phoenixes, apparently, while male twins are called dragons. Go figure!

Arno vs. the U.S.A.

Then, at Newark, it rained. How thoroughly unprofessional. Grey skies, drizzling rain and no visibility on anything interesting. Still, the ground crew was friendly and so, much to my surprise, were the customs people. These were the first American customs people that I met that did not seem to go out of their way to seem intimidating (invariably coming off as bored jerks instead). Friendly and polite, they checked my passport and let me on my way. Maybe it was that they were nearly all female. Maybe people around Newark are nicer. Either way, non-Americans, enter the U.S.A. through Newark and be treated like a person. ;)

A United flight took me to Chicago. The arival there was actually the most confusing I had ever been through. See, normally when I arive, I first get to go through the whole customs routine (Is this your first visit? What is the purpose of your visit? Are you carrying any lethal gladiolus bulbs?), which takes a long time, guides one through a set path where luggage is collected to take through customs and eventually dumps the weary traveler there where his ride may be waiting. How different from a local flight! A local flight just dumps the passenger. Matters were not helped by particularly fierce traffic congestions around Chicago keeping Kessalia, my ride, from being there on time. Still, she eventually appeared and I could stop feeling lost. ;)

Arno vs. Michigan

So then there was Michigan, where Kessalia lives. She and her mother once again provided me with a bed, very conveniently located in the computer room. Now, the good thing about Michigan, the really good thing, is that there is so little to say about it. It's Michigan. It lies nicely wedged between two lakes, Canada and a strip of United States mostly at the south, so there is little to get any bad influence from. It's green and watery and sufficiently like the Netherlands to have enticed a large contingent of Dutch ancestors to settle the place properly. I went to birthday parties (that is getting to be a habbit, actually), did some fun stuff with Kessalia and her nephew, and Kessalia and Delphine, entered a Narbonic contest. Then, it was off to Manhattan for us. We were Gathering bound!

Arno vs. Manhattan

The first solid thing to strike me about Manhattan, really the first decently thought out observation, was that it is really all true! Everything! The place is full of yellow cabs, the place is crowded, the place is rediculously expensive, it has been trashed by Godzilla... Well, alright, the last thing was not true, I suppose. Neither did the cliche of the unfriendly New Yorker hold up. As a group we looked more lost and confused than anything else (anything including things such as 'determined', 'focussed', 'organised', etc...) but whenever we got really bad some New Yorker took the time to jump out of the endless flowing masses to ask us if we needed any help. Only one 'typical' New York verbal fight did we see, between a businessman on foot and a guy in a Pick-up truck. I'm not sure who uttered the most fucks or assholes, but it might have been a tie.

Manhattan is an interesting place. I have very often now compared it to a theme park: it is loud, bright, crowded, expensive and interesting to be in for a few days, but you'd have to be nuts to actually live there. It's not place for human habbitation.

Arno vs. The Arcadia Clan

Ah yes, the Arcadia Clan. Growing evey year, both in members as in warm bodies present at a Gathering. The first year I went there were 5 of us. The next year there were nine. This year there were eleven: Kessalia, SpotWeld, Dubble, Beedoo!, her friend Tanya, Trimm, Delphine, Jessie, Jason, Robert and myself. Keep in mind that these eleven were simple 'roomies', spread over three rooms. This number does not account for the clanners who had made their own arrangements and other assorted people who hung out with us, such as Guandalug, Duncan, Jess, Airalna(sp?) and Shinga. This has led to an important revelation:
The clan needs a sub-con-chair.
Being as large as we were with no real natural leaders among us we drifted around helplessly on the random wims of whatever clanner walked up front. We got so big we need to get organised. ;)

Still, we had fun, though. The most notable thing we did, I think, was trying to get to a museum. This may sound simple; after all, the Manhattan city map is the ultimate in simplicity. That comment, however, does not take into account dealing with the subway system. Not that it was overly complex; it was simply not simple enough for some ten people, a good chunk of the clan, trying to make themselves heard over the constant background noise of the city to figure out in any reasonable way. So, we went the wrong way, walked back, went the right way, walked all the way to where the museum was supposed to be (near the Rockefeller Center) and found that it had been moved while its building was being remodled.

I still can't believe what we did next.

First, there were voices that felt we could walk there. Keep in mind though that the museum was forty blocks away. So, as a compromise, we decided to walk in the right direction until we saw a subway entrance, at which point we would take the subway to get there. Since then we have learned that there are entire streets and avenues without any subway entrances. This was one of them. While the gathered fandom sat around the hotel doing fandomy stuff, we walked through Manhattan, block after block. We saw a fancy church; some of us took pictures and later discovered that this was St. Patrick's Cathedral. We passed a Disney Store. "Enter!" the democratic majority of the clan decided. We passed F.A.O. Schwartz. "Enter!" nearly everyone insisted. And thenI remember thinking, and possibly even commenting: "What are all those trees doing there?"

The avenue or street we were on, as it turned out, ran right past central park. Big noisy city on one side, big patch of trees and grass on the other. So, someone decided, we ought to go see the Balto statue. And thusly, rather unexpectedly, we were suddenly wandering central park. SpotWeld managed to grab a park map and located a subway station on the other side of it. We saw the statues, saw some other statues and generally wandered around until we found said station (naturally located in the middle of a building zone) and finally made our way back.

And then, then it was dinner time. Not all clanners had the means to pay for the dinner that was provided by the Gathering organisation that day, so we had decided long before we left for the Gathering that we would be eating out. And so we did, with all the trouble that comes from having a group too large for its own good. Eventually we broke apart and ended up eating at different places; in hindsight it was probably for the best. We might have numbered some 15 people!

Distracted by the shiny parts of Manhattan in the evening light we eventually only returned when the costume party was over. Once again, for the third year in a row, I missed the big gathering of the Gathering, so to speak. I was in time to see Gorebash present the annual memorial Gorelisa award for the most desturbing costume, but never had a chance to say hi to the guy who made the chatroom where I wasted the last 6 years of my life. Ah well, maybe some other time. We fell apart further, met some people, and simply hung out.

I remember other things we did in smaller or larger groups in a fragmented manner: going to the Empire State Building observation deck at 11PM, for instance. The hotel was so near to the Empire State Building that initially I had not even spotted it. We saw The Two Towers on pay-per-view, about $11 for one viewing by about 11 people. We did stuff, we hung out and drip by drop, we left until all that was left was the Europeans - Duncan, Guandalug, Dubble and myself - and Kessalia. Those days were fun too. I enjoyed all the days.

Arno vs. The Gathering

So how was the Gathering? Er, well, as you might have gleaned from the previous tale, we kind of missed much of it, though not entirely by design. I would have liked to have seen a bit more, met more people, gone to a few talks... But it was not to be. I do regret that people who did not room with me, or come with us that saturday we got 'lost' in Manhattan, did not see much of me. I would have said hi a bit more, I would have sought out more people. Maybe some other time, who knows?
Arno vs. The PostalAnnex

And then it was back to Michigan. Kessalia, injustice as it may have been, still had to go to work. She currently works at a PostalAnnex, selling stamps and packing up packages. It may not be a job she likes but it is a job she has. I came with her on most days, sitting in the back of the store, reading or writing, talking when there were no customers and no urgent work to be done. And to be honest, that was fine by me. Many people around me seem to forget that vacation is mostly about relaxing and unwinding. Stuff every day full of exciting stuff because, after all, you're on vacation, and you will be guaranteed to return more stressed and less rested than when you left. They were nice, peaceful days in which I could rest.

Plus, we did stuff. Yes, stuff! Some of it we did with Delphine, some we did alone. What did we do? Well, we won the Narbonic Boggle contest for one thing! 105 words, each with matching explanation regarding relevance to the Narbonic comic, were too much for the artist to deny us a price, even though someone got 365 words wimply by scanning a medical dictionary. I think we really won. I think the artist thinks this too. ;)
Other stuff? Well, watching Mystic Science Theater 3000, a rare treat for me that is unavailable in The Netherlands. Downloading sometimes hillarious songs and skits by Three Dead Trolls In A Baggie. Going to the cinema. And... Just... Stuff. I like stuff.

Arno vs. His Luggage

All things come to an end, and so too my stay with Kessalia. I would find myself on a plane that would take me back to Newark, from where Singapore Airlines would take me back home. I say 'would', because I did not, at least, not right away. Due to bad weather the plane was delayed. Now, I am not one to complain easily, so this might not seem like such a big deal, but then you have to remember that my direct flight had been changed to include a stop-over, right? The information I gathered at the airport all told me the same thing: as soon as you get to Newark, get the hell to terminal B, race through the gate, take a running leap onto the wing of the departing plane and hope someone opens the door for you.

Well, alright, it wasn't quite that bad. What was bad was that nowhere on the monitors at Newark did they show the flight I should be taking. With no time to spare (so I was told over and over again), nothing told me where to go, aside from 'Terminal B'. Following directions from some people running a bar I found the Singapore Airlines booths. Minutes later the lady from the First Class booth ran me through the corridors, my passport in hand to run ahead at strategic intervals and prepare my arival at security and the gate. At security I quickly removed my wallet, removed loose Euro change, took off my belt, stepped through the metal detector and...

Beep Beep Beep...


My camera.
While I was frisked patiently by one of the security staff the lady ran ahead for me, cleared everything at the gate and as it was, I got there with only moments to spare. Thanking her, I got on the plane and prepared for the trip home.

For those new to intercontinental flights: when it comes to jetlags flying west is nothing compared to flying east. Flying west adds a few hours to your day which makes you feel like you did not sleep enough last night, or perhaps overexerted yourself. Flying east steals hours from your day. While the plane flies through midnight, your body tells you it is time to go to bed in a few hours. When it lands it is bedtime; and morning! This time I decided not to try and sleep on the plane. Sleeping on a plane is impossible as it is. This strategy, I now know, is worse than any other that I have tried to minimize jetlag damage. The upside was that I wrote a lot during the flight (which is mysteriously and consistantly shorter than a flight to the United States) and that I got to see Phone Booth, a movie which I much enjoyed. The downside was that I was knackered by the time we landed. And then they called out my name.

Of course I instantly knew what this was about. I had to contact ground personel? What about? I suspected, correctly, the following chain of events: at Newark I ran through security, ran through the gate, was helped at every stop to make it onto that damn plane. Now, consider my luggage... Think anyone ran that to the plane? Of course not; with me home, my luggage was enjoying an extended vacation in Newark. Really, though, that was hardly cause for any serious concern. With amazing foresight I did not pack every last thing I own into the suitcase. I could survive in the harsh realm of The Netherlands. ;)

Arno vs. The Netherlands

This really marks the end of the story, except, I was trying to explain the time it took for me to update the site. Well, call it jetlag, call it being torn from one environment, dropped in another only to have it happen again in the opposite direction, but I have been really out of it. Out of it at work, out of it at home and, yes, out of it online. Three weeks after I returned I finally am back on track. There are updates at the Gallery, and I urge people to check them out because there is some great work in there, and, saving life and limb from impatient mobs, yes, the chat quotes are updated with two months worth of quotes. Please, enjoy.

Arno vs. The Competition

Speaking of...!
If you will go to the site of my arch quoting nemisis Jess, not that you would, of course, but if you would go there, you would notice three things:
First, there is a flash animation at the splash page.
Second, the site has been restructured, and the direct link to my quotes has vanished.
Third, the Station 8 quotes are now in colour.
I would just like to note that Arno's Amazing Website does not need flash animations to impress its quote readers. If it is restructuring the public wants, the public got it last update, only without the confusion. And finally, Arno's Amazing Website's chat quotes have always been in colour and always will be.
Also, Gorebash himself has now declared these quotes to be Poofy.

Still, if you would like to see the results of Jess' no doubt hard labour, for educational purposes only, I believe, I suppose it cannot hurt to take a peek
Arno's Amazing Website takes no responsibility for the content of external websites linked on its pages. For one thing, its content is much better than that of some websites.

Finally

Lastly, I am glad that so many people enjoyed the I Eat People animation as much as I did. Unfortunately, it would appear that some people have taken it as some sort of signal, either that I eat people, or that it is actually quite alright to eat people. This is, of course, a desturbing development. I can only say that I am glad those people did not see this as well.

Thank You

This only leaves me with some things to be grateful for. Thank you to:

Kessalia for putting up with me and putting me up.
Her Mother for similar reasons.
Her Father for supplying the bike I could ride to the PostalAnnex.
Her Nephew for giving me an excuse to ride the bumper boats.
Delphine for entertaining me alongside Kessalia.
Dubble for not making me be the only one with an accent.
SpotWeld for stealing all the blankets. And my pillow.
Beedoo! for bringing gifts, bringing games and bringing herself.
Tanya for hanging out with us even though she did not know us.
Trimm for picking on Robert.
Jessie for drawing neat stuff and showing it to us.
Jason for stuff.
Robert for being something resembling a guide in the New York wilderness.
Duncan and Guandalug for being conveniently joined at the hip and hanging out with us.

All of the above and more for making these weeks something to look forward to every time. Names I have yet to mention include, but do not exclusively consist of, Syrin, who I hope enjoyed herself; her boyfriend Adam, for taking her there; Shinga, Airalna, Jess, for hanging out and bringing Jessie; Zauis, Hudson et all, for being ever recognisable presences; security guy Nick, for being friendly all the time; Kythera, for spinning me around; Wingless, I hope you talked to lots of people; Seri, been to The Netherlands but we meet in New York. Thanks for the neckles; Cat, for giving us a free drink. Thanks! The Gathering staff, for throwing a Gathering; Kanthara, for throwing the next Gathering. Is she nuts? Whitbourne, we saw you when you were looking for people but kicked ourselves for not actually saying hi!

And many more, who's names I don't know, or who have slipped my mind at this 2:30 AM moment in time. Rest assured, I may have forgotten you, but I have not, er... Forgotten... You. Yeah.

And now... I am going to BED.