Of Juice and Thrips and Ceiling Wax
Dragons of Smoke, February 3
Mattresses Today, February 10
Dragons of Smoke
The other day in the early evening, I was in the parking lot by the U, waiting for the car to warm up in the frigid temperatures. It takes 5 or 6 minutes. The State Fair parking lot is vast and there isn't much to look at. The heat plant for the St, Paul campus has a couple of huge smokestacks. The wind was blowing steadily so that the dark smoke streamed from west to east in big, billowing clouds.
I was sad, contemplating the death of a dear "Uncle" of mine (and everyone else's) from science fiction, the prolific writer, Gordon R. Dickson. One of my favorite books of his is "The Dragon and the George". He'd passed away that morning. It wasn't totally unexpected; he was 77, and had been ill a long time, but there had always been a Gordy and it was taking a while to grasp the loss.
Mostly I knew him through phone calls. In his later years asthma kept him pretty close to home, although he continued to write his books. Usually he called trying to track down Denny for a reference question, and frequently got me. It didn't seem to matter. Sometimes I think he just wanted to talk. So I kissed an hour goodbye. We had lovely talks. I got all sorts of professional advice, bits of history, yarns, whatever was going through Gordy's mind at the time.
I don't think he always knew who I was, these past few years, but that was OK. He was a kind man, generous, and always thoughtful.
At my first midwestern convention, (long ago when my partner and I had come out for Windycon, I think), I knew no one, and Quinn Yarbro, who I was working for back in the Bay Area, asked me to be sure to find Gordy at the convention and give him her greetings.
We walked in the door of the hotel, and my partner was off, having spotted friends (and only to be seen a few times the rest of the con). I spotted Gordy, surrounded by adoring fans, and shyly went up to the group. When I got a chance I shyly introduced myself and gave him Quinn's greetings.
Immediately he gave me a hug and introduced me to everyone there. He made sure I had a good time the rest of the convention. The highlight of the con for me was one evening when he invited us up to his room to sip whiskey and listen to him sing ballads with A. J. Budrys and a couple of other people. It was glorious.
Back in the car, remembering, I could feel myself start to cry again as I stared out into the distance.
Suddenly, I could see a dragon unfold itself out of the distant smokestacks, rearing its head and giving out a silent roar. Then one after the other as the lead dragon dissolved into the air, other dragons would roll out, some with wings, some with serpentine bodies, some with many heads. They bellowed, they laughed, they growled, they snapped at the cold, cold air. It was crazy and fun; I started laughing.
Well, you know, Gordy is still around, inside my head, telling me to use my imagination and appreciate the world. It's a lesson we all learn over and over again. What a lovely gift, from a lovely man.Terry
For a while we'd been aware that we were going to have to replace our mattress. It rippled, for one thing. It made my back hurt. This was not good. The guest room mattress had been thrown out last fall, when I noticed a certain amount of disintegration and realized it was over 30 years old.
So we needed two mattresses. For our own, we waffled over size. The one we had was a queen size, set on a platform of 24 boxes of literary magazine we were storing for our science fiction club.
With two hefty people and two cats, it wasn't quite big enough. Of course, all of our sheets were queen-sized, including our dearly beloved flannel sheets and down comforter (here in Minnesota one becomes very attached to good bed clothes). Well, more waffles. Finally concluded bigger was better, since we'd be spending the next 15 years on the result. We could at least utilize the non-fitted sheets, and the comforter would probably still do.
Looked at ads. Became confused. Looked at more ads. Became more confused, crossed with a growing feeling of doom.
Then a couple of weeks ago, the Chancellor of the Exchequer announced that due to the cats not needing their geriatric little teeth cleaned this year, we had a monetary surplus.
We carp-ed the diem and went to Mattress Giant. Did you know a person (not anyone I know, but a theoretical person) can spend $4000 on a mattress? I asked how it could be so expensive and was informed that the pillow top was stuffed with cashmere. Ah, that explains it, I thought, wondering just how many sweaters it would take to quilt into a cashmere pillow top. Surely not a couple of thousand dollars worth?
Then there was the four-season mattress. What's the deal with that one? I asked. The sales person explained that it had wool on one side for the winter and silk on the other for the summer. I had visions of someone sleeping on the sides during the fall and spring, but left it at that.
We managed to herd the guy down to the area that held our price range. The expensive mattresses had lovely bedsteads, bright lighting, fake potted plants, and little demo mattresses to show you their guts. Our price range lacked the fancy lighting and potted plants. The really cheap mattresses were back in a dim alcove with only the light that leaked in from the more expensive section.
I told the guy about my bad back and arthritis, and emphasized that we are both heavy and we have two cats. He has us try out a variety. They put plastic over the tops of all the mattresses and have little pillows scattered around so you can test the goods. It feels darned silly getting into sleeping position in a place like that, with your winter boots on.
Fortunately, the place wasn't very busy, and the other customers were lying self-consciously on other mattresses. The sales people are used to the whole thing, so I did my best to ignore them and test. We tested. We snickered over the names. Each mattress has a name, like Excalibur, Empire Soft, Ultra Luxury Deluxe, Dream Deluxe Ultra, Super Posture Delight and my favorite, the Granite Plush. It's worse than the paint store.
We eventually narrowed it down to one, signed away vast amounts of the budget surplus on a king-sized mattress and box springs, declined the special Giant Protection (which meant they'd spray Scotch Guard on it for you for extra money, not that they'd send Jack the Giant Killer out to guard us in our slumber) and got a full-sized mattress for the guest room. Free delivery is a great incentive. We were out of there in an hour, with the mattresses due on Monday.
Gosh, that was easy, I remarked. Denny agreed, although still in sticker shock mode. We went home, dazed.
The mattresses were delivered as promised. The nice young men wiped their feet, took away the old mattress, took the plastic off the new ones (it's in the garage waiting for spring so I can solarize the garden soil this year), set up the new mattri, and hooray. Easy. Very easy.
One thing was immediately apparent, though. In our bedroom, the top of the mattress now came up to nearly my waist. Mattresses are deeper than they used to be and so are box springs. Pile those on top of cardboard boxes full of magazines, and you have a challenge. On the one hand, it's really easy to make the bed. On the other hand, it's quite a jump for elderly cats and arthritic people, and on yet another hand, it's a long drop to the floor in the middle of the night when you have to go to the bathroom. I had a brief nightmare about the Grand Canyon one night.
Believe it or not, there is no other good place to store 24 boxes in our huge old house, so we have informed the editor that the boxes have to go. After all, we've kept them for over 8 years; it's someone else's turn. He's found a place, but not the transportation as yet.
I also discovered that stores don't like to sell king-sized fitted sheets by themselves. They want you to buy a whole set for a ridiculous sum or just the single sheet for a similarly ridiculous sum. I managed to find some on sale, but it was a struggle.
Currently, we are still much closer to the ceiling than we'd like (although I must admit it's warmer up there), and I have a long scratch on one leg from the night Nelly misjudged her leap up from the floor (wow, that was exciting). But it's a darned good mattress, and that makes up for it. In addition, we don't have to do this again for at least fifteen years, at which point mattress technology will have become even more weird and confusing, and so will have we. Fifteen years is fifteen years. A comforting thought.
Copyright © 2001 by Terry A. Garey.