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Monday, July 29, 2002

The Monday Briefing -- We arrived back from Boston late Sunday afternoon. Turns out I only made it to one comics shop, but it was a good one. Million Year Picnic in Cambridge, Massachusetts is a tiny store with an extraordinary selection of small-press, indy and alternative books, foreign comics, trade paperback and hardcovers, you name it. I dropped about seventy dollars there, part of which was for Neil Gaiman's new novel Coraline. That and two Jessica Abel collections are the only things still unread. I managed to read two Top Shelf anthologies and Dave Cooper's Pressed Tongue #3, as well as a Tony Consiglio mini-comic, in the hotel room Saturday night.

The most enjoyable part of our mini-vacation was seeing the New England Aquarium in Boston. Now, everything I heard about the "Big Dig" is true: Boston is in the middle of an enormous construction project, and it looks for all the world like the city is picking up after having a few dozen bombs dropped on it. For all I'd heard, you can't imagine the impact of the project until, well, you've gotten lost looking for a certain street because, well, it doesn't exist right now.

Once we did find the aquarium, well, the kids were in awe, and so were my wife and I. The central display is an actual coral reef that has been constructed in a multi-level central tower. You travel up a spiral walkway to see the different environments and creatures swimming in the reef, including giant sea turtles, all manner of strange fish, a manta ray eel, and an actual shark. How it is that the shark can live in the same environment with hundreds of other fish without, y'know, just eating them all, is beyond me. I suppose I could have asked someone, but I was too in awe of being just a foot or two away from the shark's alien presence. If you've ever looked into the eyes of a shark, you know what I mean. You're not looking at a fellow creature on the earth, you're staring into an elegant, unknowable machine designed for killing.

My son is 6, my daughter is 8, and the awe they felt looking into this little world-within-the-world in Boston was no different from the awe it inspired in my wife and me. Just an amazing place.

Two other brief notes. I mentioned to my wife that people we encountered on foot (asking for directions, shopping, what have you) were nicer than the people we encounter every day in our own town. Which I think is true. On the other hand, people in their cars, especially on the Massachusetts Turnpike, were much angrier and aggressive than those I see on upstate New York's highways. In fact, what seemed to be everyday behaviour for Turnpike regulars would be classified as "Road Rage" in New York and get your ass thrown in jail for a night or two. Fascinating how different things can be just a few hundred miles in another direction, and how much of a difference in average temperament there is in whether you're speaking face to face or bound up in a ton of steel and plastic.

I imagine I'll write something about comics this week, and get back into the Galaxy groove. Right now, though, I'm fairly exhausted and my head hurts from caffeine withdrawal. So I'm gonna go tank up on Diet Mountain Dew and rustle up some vittles. You have a good day, and I'm going to try to enjoy my last two days off.

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