First let me thank the following people without whom I would have never been able to make this trip and presentation. The UIUC East Asian Language Center for sponsoring me, Karen Kelsky for her invitation, Bob Tierney for being a fantastic guide and all-around wonderful guy, Rick Partin for setting up all the arrangements and James Welker for being an unexpected gem.
Okay, so I left my house at about 1PM on Wednesday. My first flight was to Detroit where, in order to change to the terminal for my next flight I had to walk down the hall o’weird.
This hallway lay between Concourse C and A, and was filled with music. The walls changed color along with the music. Which all would have been lovely if the music hadn’t been super bizarro-evil violin riffs which made the walls green and red and pulse-y and awful. My first thought upon entering the hallways was “OMG! I’ve entered a Kenneth Greenaway movie!” Which is only funny if you know what I mean – and if you do, you will totally understand what I mean. My next thought was that I was trapped in a piece of fiber optics fiber.
I arrived at Concourse A with no harm to body or mind, although my spirit was a bit bludgeoned by the horror-house violin riff. I wandered about a bit and saw this:
He is, of course, the “Spririt of Detroit” and I am sure he only coincidentally looks awfully Statue of Liberty-esque. He was also parked in fron of a food court, which I quite liked. I felt free to choose any of the fast food chains inside. I chose to eat at none of them.
I completely lack people in my pictures. That is simply because everytime I was with the people I will mention, they were so delightful and fun and engaging, I totally forgot to take their pictures. I’m totally serious. So I’ll try and link a few pics from other places.
Bob Tierney picked me up at the airport and we laughed back to the hotel, where I laughed some more, because the place was eccentric in exactly the right kind of way.
Yes, I didn’t bother flipping the picture for you. The Historic Lincoln Hotel is almost completely unlike the website makes it out to be. For one thing, it wasn’t skanky at all. It had coffee service in the rooms and wireless in the common areas (and on the last night the wireless worked in my bedroom, so I got some good downloading done for the trip home. Heheh.) Bob provided me dinner company, good conversation, car rides and a host of above-and-beyond behaviors that I thank him for greatly from the bottom of my heart.
My bedroom had no less than three completely dissimilar, complex and colorful patterns on walls, floor and bedding. I loved it. The elevators had tapestry wallpaper. I didn’t upload all the pictures I took, because if you weren’t there, it wouldn’t resolve itself into anything meaningful, I think.
The next morning I rose at an ungodly hour with one of the worst migraines of my entire life. I stumbled down to the “Library Room” for breakfast.
I shared my breakfast with these fine creatures, and promptly got very ill (only partially because of breakfast – the food was not to blame however. I had the best bacon I’d ever had at that meal.) I spent most of the morning asking the gods to kill me. Eventually I rousted myself up, grabbed my bag and caught a bus for the campus where I was to meet Dan Kim, and lecture to the Introduction to Japanese Culture class. I forgot to get a picture of the class, but there were probably 200 students or so out of 375. About 60 paid attention – of them, 15 were actually interested. There was one actual otaku in the group and a bunch of cute fanboys/girls, who did come down and ask questions. They almost all introduced themselves, which was a pleasant surprise. The one real otaku didn’t come over or introduce himself. :-)
I went back to the hotel after the lecture, because I had about 90 minutes until the next thing, which was a meeting of the CQS Reading club – a g/l/b/t book club.
On the way back to campus I saw OMG! Banana! and Ape! They were stumping for a showing of King Kong that night. Earlier, there had been a protest or something of some kind. The chant was complex and the chanters kept screwing up, so I hope it wasn’t anything important.
I met Bob at his office and we walked over to where the CQS reading club met. It was more than a little weird to think that at least some of these folks had read Shoujoai ni Bouken: The Adventures of Yuriko, with no real context for the idea of a con, a mascot for that con, or the usual gamut of a priori information most anime/manga fans have. However, one of the group members was an English professor who, while having none of the usual Japanese info, understood fan fiction, which was SO cool. And everyone had clearly at least attempted to read the story. The questions were fun, I felt very odd talking about *my* book. I had brought copies for everyone as gifts. (Honestly, I was torn between that seeming nice, or pompous. ^_^; Everyone seemed happy enough with them, so I guess “nice” won.)
Bob and I and James went out. I was going on and on about this great dissertation on Japanese lesbian history that I got from Rica Takshima that I used for historical info for Friday’s lecture and James says, “I wrote that.”
The funny thing, when he introduced himself, the name rang a bell, but I was too addled to put it together. So, James and I were like, “yappity yappity” the entire two days. Because how many people follow this kind of thing? He was absolutely lovely, btw. He sent me some links to his writings online, which I will be adding to the Yuricon Essays page.
More than anything, James’ kind words and generous gifts of information really made me feel as if I ought to really write some of this stuff down – something I’ve really never wanted to do before.
I crashed at about 10PM and don’t you know it, was up at 5 *again*! I hate that, when I have all morning to sleep. I decided to take a long walk aroun downtown Urbana. I stopped at Schnucks, a supermarket not too far from the hotel where I encountered a sign that said that it was “Kosher Awareness Week”. I did take a picture, but with my phone, so it’s not here and I’m too lazy to send it to myself. It was just a sign – picture it. Anyway, I found that sign unexpected. But then, Schnucks sold soy protein drinks, so maybe not so much.
This time James offered me a ride, and we got to the Foreign Languages Building with time for me to find that of course, my computer did not work with their equipment, and to meet my host, Karen Keslky, department chair of the EALC. Karen is exceptionally delightful and I’m still pleased to have made her acquaintance. She laughed at all the right jokes in my lecture, and had great questions. Some of the anime club kids came to the lecture as well, and they also had good, if awfully difficult questions. (I’m always asked questions I can’t answer like, “What do the Japanese think of…?” As I am not Japanese I can only offer my analysis, which is based on experience, common sense, research and a host of questions I asked Rica Takashima before I left so I could answer! )
There was a gentleman in the front row with Karen who I later learned was a well-known historian, Ron Toby. I am so very glad I did not know who he was before the lecture, let me tell you. He was lovely and very complimentary, so between James and Karen saying “you should publish” and Ron saying that my lecture did not suck, my ego is quite replete for a little while. :-) There were about 15-20 people present for the formal lecture, in case you wondered.
Karen graciously took me to dinner with Bob, James and James’ boyfriend and we had a great time. Wonderful conversation – and I have a host of copying and scanning to do for everyone. And reading to do for me.
The next morning Bob gave me a ride back to the airport. Here is a view from the waiting room window.
To be fair, this was also pretty much the view from the Detroit terminal (more planes) and Albany (mountains in the distance.) But as I’m used to an urban background, it freaked me out a bit. Usually, when I fly, the terrain seems like mystical letters or symbols that are trying to tell me something. In the air between Illinois and Detroit, everything just seemed flat.
Lastly, in the Albany terminal, I was buying an unhealthy coffee slushy-type drink when this fundraising cannister caught my eye. Note the art the local high school is using. I felt that, somehow, it capped off my trip. :-)And I think someone stole my character design for Yuriko there on the left. ^_^
So, once again, my sincere gratitude to the folks at UIUC. I hope to visit one day again – sooner rather than later!
If you have a university with a gender studies/Japanese department that is looking for lecturers – I feel pretty confident about my stuff now, so I’m available for hire. ^_^