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Floating in a space pod

Yesterday was my first float-tank experience. Remember those?

Back in the day they were sometimes called “sensory-deprivation tanks” or “isolation tanks,” which makes them sound torturey. They were popularized by John C. Lilly; I knew people who tried them in the 70s.  The 1980 film Altered States showed William Hurt regressing to a primal beastlike state under the influence of psychedelic drugs and a tank.

I underwent no such regression. Nor did I levitate, hallucinate, meditate, or have anything that could be called a cosmic or profound experience. (Promoters say, though, that after 40 minutes or so in the tank, many people enter a theta-wave state analogous to the brain-wave activity of long-time meditators during meditation.) What I did have was an utterly relaxing, very pleasant sense of timelessness and floating. Well, I was floating–in eleven inches of water saturated with about 380 pounds of epsom salts, heated to skin temperature. You lose the sense of your body and its boundaries. My only strange (but not at all unpleasant) sensations were proprioceptive: At times I felt that I was very, very slowly whirling (which would have been completely impossible inside the box) or tilting to one side, or that one hand and arm were floating a foot higher than the other, or that I was resting on a firm surface. Occasionally one foot would twitch, and I’d be surprised to feel tiny ripples moving through the tank.

My friend Bonnie and I used this place, which was great. They have a total of six rooms, two with fairly open float pools (all floats are one person only), two with enclosed float rooms, and two with completely enclosed, 100-percent dark tanks, which look like hyperspace pods–you cannot step into them upright. I chose one of the pods. Someone with even a touch of claustrophobia might not care for it, but I liked it. Bonnie chose one of the float pools.

When the soft chime sounded to tell me that my session was over, I was surprised that 90 minutes had passed. Will I do it again? Probably. I left feeling as refreshed and relaxed as after a massage, although floating leaves you salty rather than oily.



What I’m reading: The Supernatural Enhancements

I hadn’t heard of Edgar Cantero’s The Supernatural Enhancements, which was released last August. I picked it up from the “New Releases” shelf at the library because the title and the Goreyesque cover art drew my eye. I was hooked when I read this back-jacket copy: “Cantero pays homage to Bram Stoker and H.P. Lovecraft and The Shining, but he’s no less enamored of The X-Files, fax machines [the novel is set in 1995], and punk girls with dreads.”

At 50 pages in (out of 353), I’m enjoying it but wondering if it will sustain my interest. On one level it looks like a modern variant of the haunted-house story; the title is from Edith Wharton’s phrase “a house with supernatural enhancements.” On another it’s a formal exercise: a clever–perhaps too clever?–mishmash of letters, diary entries, transcripts of security-camera footage, and so on. That mixed-media, semi-epistolary structure and the eerie-house setting recall Mark Z. Danielewski’s 2000 novel House of Leaves, which I loved, so I am going to keep on with this one, despite already being a bit tired of one of the two main characters. (The other one is growing on me, so they balance out.) And I’ve gotta say that, post-Shining, if you put a hedge maze next to a huge spooky building, something damned original better happen in that hedge maze. I’ll let you know.





I’m still angry about my car getting trashed by some jackass last night.

But I did get one smile out of the affair. When the police came to fill out a report, one of them took a look at my rear bumper and wondered whether my “got cthulhu?” bumper sticker might have offended someone sufficiently to provoke the attack. After I told them who Lovecraft and Cthulhu were, they discarded that theory.

Probably just some idiot walking down the street, was their verdict. Sounds plausible to me.

Monday morning I will commence the tedious business of putting in the insurance claim and lining up the body work.

The poor old Taurus. No panel left unbashed.

The poor old Taurus. No panel left unbashed.

Too bad CSI: Portland can't match this print to the miscreant's footwear!

Too bad CSI: Portland can't match this print to the miscreant's footwear!

At last

I have finally renovated one of my two blighted websites, which have long been the Internet equivalent of tarpaper shacks. This is my first blog post on the reconstructed main site, rebuilt with the aid of WordPress (and my savvy friend Magda). If I can figure out how to make this site do even a little of what I want it to do, I’ll tackle the other site tomorrow.

And might I add: Arrgh. Even with the help of wonderful WordPress, I am so not good at this stuff. But anything will be an improvement on the awful pages I cobbled together years ago with some free HTML for Dummies program.

The turn of the year

Or thereabouts.

My 2009 started off very badly but got steadily better. I have no complaints, aside from whingeing about the depressed state of my little corner of the publishing industry. I’m still making a living as a freelance writer, though, and 2010 is shaping up.

Nonfiction: By dint of desperate effort I finished all my pending books before the end of 2009 and am officially Caught Up. For 2010 I now have 6 books under contract, including cool new science titles for kids and a YA critical bio of Philip Pullman. I’m also nursing a couple of ideas that I’ll soon develop into proposals for new work.

Fiction: In 2009 I started a novel that I hope to finish soon. At the end of the year, to my surprise, I wrote a short story.

Many good things happened in 2009:

Zachary and I went to Carlsbad Caverns and Joshua Tree and Iceland. Ah, Iceland. I love you. I could live in you, if your food were more to my liking (and less expensive).

We had fine times with our friends Mark and Peter in Tucson, Skip and Judy in Arlington, and Jorg and Gabi in Newport. I also got to see my publisher and good friend Michelle, and her partner Mark, when they were in Seattle.

Here in Portland I enjoyed visits with Bonnie and Kelly and met Alyx . And I saw Cat and met Wayne. All very good.

I made a couple of new friends and reconnected, courtesy of the Interweb, with a couple of long-ago ones.

Zachary built a beautiful stone terrace behind our house. Xerxes and I will spend a lot of time there next summer, Xx prowling about on his long leash or dozing on the sun-warmed stone, me lolling in the lovely patio lounge given to us by our friends Fred and Ron.

This past year I enjoyed my little 9’6″ kayak so much that I’m going to buy another like it for friends and potential paddling partners. I can’t quite bring myself to sell the 15′ fiberglass touring kayaks, even though I didn’t use them this year. I still have fantasies of teaming with Zachary or a friend for a multiday paddling trip in them one of these years.

During 2009 I read a lot of books, many of them good, a happy few of them great. Movies, ditto.

Looking ahead to 2010, I’m planning to go to in April, and I’m thinking about where else I might like to travel in the coming year. My work load, at least at this point, is lighter than in most years, so I may have more time than usual to do what I want. I hope to use some of it for adventuring and fiction writing, not just for rerererereading Wodehouse and rerererewatching all my old MST3Ks.

But time will tell. It always does.