Letter from America
Abi Frost

Dated 3 October 1993. Sent to Ansible and excerpted in issues 75 and 97½.

Thought if Ansible short of hotter news you might like to continue The Frost Report. Then I can pass go and claim my $500 and go to sleep until the next TAFF race.

OK, You will have gathered that I got back home in one piece. You left your heroine at Seattle Zoo, in search of creatures on which to hang Australo-Latin plural jokes, but finding instead a bright orange slug with beautifully crisp dotted lines on its back (I bet they don't come out in the slide, though). Seattle turns out to be paradise on Earth. As an estuarine port with an aviation factory, it is of course the colonial equivalent of Bristol, but that doesn't quite cover it adequately. Mostly I lotos-ate (Lebanese meal with le tout Seattle, party at Vonda Mclntyre's where I was billeted in her absence) and shopped (Pike Place Market, Left Bank Books and the unutterably wonderful Archie McPhee's), but had a healthy day walking in the foothills of Mt Rainier, with Andy Hopper, Carrie Root and Bill 'I tell you it's a gigantic mutant qerbil!" Bodden. Pine martens chased ground squirrels up trees, marmots (words cannot express how ridiculous they are, honest) bared their teeth at Andy as he declaimed fanzine articles to the echoing glade, glaciers crept inexorably downwards and a chipmunk climbed up my jumper. Returned via an Indian reservation, where the main industries are fireworks and gambling.

Which, of course, you also get in Las Vegas. Catapulted into yet another party, hot from the Woody Bernardi motorised/motormouth tour of the Strip and Glitter Gulch, discovered that Vegas fandom has rather more hinterland than you'd realise from the fanzines of my host Arnie Katz. Mild-mannered gels turn out to be eagle-eyed casino surveillance hot-shots, ready to run anyone who even thinks of a scam on the tables out of town on a rail. Meanwhile, the half-built and abandoned Tallest Tower In The World (as civic-proudly pointed out by Woody earlier in the evening) caught spectacular fire within sight of chez Katz and nobody told me about it.

More landscape next day, at Red Rock Canyon in the desert, with John Hardin and Ken Foreman. Wild burros, vast rocky vistas, flocks of quails, purple (only not at this season) sage and faithful hounds defending their masters. Since the FHs were rotties, and the masters fifty feet up a rockface on the end of a rope, Frost screamed and refused to go farther down that particular gully, but there was enough desert left to go round. Started to think I could maybe get into this sort of thing, but Wimbledon Common doesn't quite hack it. Tour of casinos and Caesar's Palace Mall, the ultimate in theatrical architecture. Too credible to be called kitsch, and anyway the Vegas fans will probably take out a contract on me if I do.

On to Glen Ellen, where the wildlife (raccoons) lives under the house and comes in at night to eat the catfood. Lazed around and explored the vast Bowman acres while Jeannie wrestled with idiot school bureaucrats. Went round Muir Woods (coast redwoods) with Alan Bostick and my New New New Best Friend Ellie Lang. Went to a winery and discovered a taste for California sherry, alas at $17.00 a bottle to remain uncultivated while Manzanilla remains four quid a go at Tesco's. Smoked things with Robert Lichtman, watched deer running over fields and heard Don Herron's Fritz Leiber stories as he packed up things for a memorial exhibition at Confranciso.

The con lacked centre, and the sort of spontaneous Great Moment we expect of big cons didn't really have a chance. No bloody bar in the Moscone Centre, for a start. (Not even a Harvey Milk Bar, ho ho.) 8000 people there yet one rarely saw more than 20 of them in the same place doing the same thing. Grew heartily sick of seeing friends going up the escalator as I was coming down. If only Banks had been there to climb the Parc 55. (But if he had, as a filthy pro he'd have climbed the ANA, which I only really penetrated for the Tor party.) Ansible helped, since one could always stop someone in their tracks by thrusting it at them. Smoking, oddly, helped too, because I rapidly got the habit of snatching a quick ciggie whenever and wherever I could, and talked to whoever (be they Valkyrie, mediaeval peasant or Fred Pohl) was doing the same thing. Tell Martin [Hoare] I'm sorry I said 'Yuk' after kissing him on stage at the Hugos. (Had meant to fall on ground gagging horribly, of course. Also, didn't have the heart to preface announcing you with 'What's the Welsh for boring?" as planned. Felt I let the side down, rather.)

At the Hugo rehearsal, we were very firmly told not to say 'And the winner is ...' Winner implies losers, you see. So the PC thing to do afterwards from now on is the People To Whom The Hugos Did Not Go Party. Charlie Brown did not go to it (or at least not while I was there).

San Francisco was triff. Didn't get to see nearly enough of it. Favourite bit, the ruins of Sutro Baths, and the rocky beachlet (mussels and bloody great fleshy starfish -- takes yer back to the Cornwall of childhood) just below. Did Fisherman's Wharf (tourists, sealions and heavenly Teamsters pickets). North Beach and City Lights books (New York fans luring innocent Frosts off for Afghan meals -- best food I had in America, too) on foot, bus, and cable car; the entire conurbation in Don Herron's car.

I'm proud to say that I held the last live party in the Parc. Last out was Lucy Huntzinger.

TAFF trip commentary (1993)