Wednesday, September 21, 2011

My Weekend at the Dream King's Palace - Part Three

Okay, so you want me to get right to juicy stuff, right? Where's Neil's house? Did you see what he's working on now? Did he have any dirty underwear lying about or anything like that?

Well, I'm not going to go into any of those details, save to assure that there were no Hugo-winning drawers anywhere in sight. What I will say is that Neil's house is gorgeous. For as long as I can remember, I've loved old Victorian and Edwardian houses, and I've always wanted to live in a house with a turret. Until this weekend, I had never had a chance to go inside a house like this.

The way there was long and winding, and I'm glad that we followed Lorraine and Kyle from the after-party, because I probably never would have found it with only directions.

My first thought at seeing the house was that it was pretty much THE house that I had always wanted to live in. It was large and dark, but still inviting, with a large open porch and, yes, a turret.

We got to meet Lola and Cabal right away. They are truly beautiful animals, even more so than they are in pictures. And friendly, to boot. Lola put up a big show of ferocious barking at first. She bounded up to us, but switched to nuzzling and sniffing mode when she got there. Cabal was, of course, more reserved. He waited by the back door for us to come to him, and accepted our petting and scratching with a quiet dignity. In short, they are the kind of dogs that anyone would love to have around.

Kyle went off for a midnight walk with Lola and Cabal while Lorraine took Kristen and I inside. When it comes down to it, Neil's house is a house much like any other. Sure, it was filled with lots of books and Beautiful Things, but it was like any other home and it exuded it's owner's presence even in their absence.

Lorraine gave us directions to our bed for the night - all the way up the stairs to the top of the turret. Cool. On our way up, we met the first of the cats, Coconut. He was a mixed white and gray, and didn't seem to mind the fact that there were strange people climbing his stairs too much. We stopped a bit to pet him and introduce ourselves, then continued the ascent. Up we went into the attic.

Now, I honestly don't know if Neil writes in the attic. If I had the house, I would most certainly write in the attic, and it seemed like a place the Writing Happened. There were shelves and shelves of papers and other stuff. I made a point not to be too nosy about it, but my inner geek couldn't help but notice (and drool) over some old Sandman and Death merchandise that I would have loved to play with. If Neil does write in his attic, I think I spied the room where it actually happens. I'm good with getting that close to things.

"Um, I don't know if this is where we're supposed to be," one of us said to the other.

"Yeah, I don't think so. This is like back stage," the other replied, looking around in wonder.

We had lost the flow of the turret and were unsure where to find the next set of stairs.

"Maybe we should go back down and wait for Lorraine to find us," said one of us.

"That's probably a good idea," said the other, casting last second glances around the attic as we made our back down.

And so we hung out with Coconut some more. Or possibly he hung out with us, it's kind of hard to tell with cats.

We waited at the end of a long hall. Between bouts of petting Coconut and marveling at how loud his purr was, I explored the length of the hall, checking out the beautiful works of art hung on the wall - Dave McKean and Charles Vess and others. Stuff that you wouldn't find anywhere else, personalized and personal sort of things. Beautiful Things.

Eventually, Lorraine found us again, sitting somewhat sheepishly, I imagine, and the top of the stairs. It was eventually decided that, because of our allergies, it would be best if we stayed in the library instead. In Neil Gaiman's library. In case that wasn't perfectly clear already.

The library used to be Lorraine's room, she told us, before she got her own house. She was an excellent hostess. We met another of the cats, Princess Snowflake, the distinguished matron of the house who followed us to the bathroom. Princess likes to drink out of the faucet, and in fact, it might be that the main reason that she allows humans to reside in her house is that we have the ability to turn the faucet on.

Joey, the third cat, also seemed to enjoy the bathroom. Every time I saw him that night, he was in the bathtub, looking expectantly at the tap.

So, once Lorraine made sure we were all settled in, she took her leave to go back home for some well-deserved rest. She had, after all, just skated in her first two derby bouts, as well as being in charge of setting the whole thing up. We gave her hugs and congratulations and some carrot bread that Kristen had baked as a thank-you.

Then we were alone in Neil's house.

Kristen observed, and I concurred, that it was akin to being a kid and deciding that you were going to run away to live in a museum, like in "The Mixed-Up Files of Basil E. Frankweiler." It really kind of was.

Neil's library is a lot like you would probably imagine it would be, except you probably wouldn't think to put a futon in your version. There were lots and lots of books, of course. Old books, new books, red books, blue books; Books you would expect like fancy versions of his own works, antique books of Poe and other classic literature. I was thrilled to see a couple of old Fritz Leiber Lankhmar novels sitting out on the desk. They had been purchased from a library sale. There were other things you would expect like classic literature and the huge bookcase filled with all manner of texts on mythology and folklore.

There were also a few surprises that you wouldn't expect to see, like a Chelsea Handler book and Stephanie Meyer's "The Host." If you take a minute to think about it, though, even these make sense. It's obvious that Neil loves books in the same way that I do. If I had a library, I could only hope that it looked a lot like his.

And of course, there were the awards. Hugos (three of them), the Newbury Medal, the Nebula (the coolest looking award I've ever seen), and more. While they really are huge deals, their presence in the library was natural, like it would have seemed strange for them not to be there.

So, weary from a long hard day, we prepared for bed. Kyle returned from his trek with Lola and Cabal. He would be staying in the room next to ours, and we chatted for a bit, he enlightening me on the power dynamics between Coconut, Princess Snowflake, and Joey.

You might expect that sleeping Neil Gaiman's library would lead to wondrous and mystical, meaningful dreams filled with characters from mythology, but the honest truth is, I was so tired that I can't even remember if I dreamt at all. I do know that I woke very happy and well-rested, even though we only got 6 hours of sleep and had to hit the road right away.

There was still a bit of wonder left over in the morning. Sadly, though, we wouldn't be able to stick around and enjoy the venue. We got ourselves together, wishing we could stay longer, and headed out.

Kyle was outside already, playing with the dogs. We chatted a bit more, and said our goodbyes. As we pulled out of the driveway, our last sight was Kyle, Lola, and Cabal heading off into the woods for a morning walk.

And, just like that, it was over, which is, generally, how these sort of things end.

So, if you're ever wondering what it's like to visit Neil's house, I would have to sum it up by telling you that it is very obviously the house of a Very Nice Man.

Thank you, Neil, for your hospitality, and Lorraine, for so very many things that I can't even begin to list them, and to Kyle, for being a Very Nice Man in his own right, and for making us feel like we weren't ghosts haunting an empty house.

No comments: