So, I’ve had a pretty good career so far. I’ve lived in India (and recently returned for Ayudha Puja, as previously described in this blog). I’ve been a visitor at Carnegie Mellon University’s Robotics Institute. And I’m a faculty member at a wonderful college (and with great colleagues as well).
But there’s one day I wish I hadn’t missed: the day I was going to hang out with Neil Gaiman.
Gaiman is one of my absolute favorite authors, and I teach his book American Gods in one of my classes. So hanging out would have been something special.
Okay, so we weren’t exactly going to “hang out.” But, I would have met him, and been hanging around in the same room. Way back in 2010, the House on the Rock–one of America’s coolest tourist attractions–invited Gaiman to spend Halloween there, precisely because of the prominent place Gaiman gives the HoTR in American Gods. Well, Gaiman and Gaiman’s people then requested that folks who wanted to contribute to the event (not just attend it) send a little letter saying what they’d like to do. As it happened, I was presenting on travel and tourism in Gaiman’s work that very year at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Religion. Alas, the same weekend! Well, I figured I could manage both thanks to the magic of modern air transit. So, I told them that I’d give a similar talk as part of one of their academicky sessions at HoTR that day.
And I waited for them to reply.
And I waited some more.
And then I bought tickets to for the American Academy of Religion. I bought tickets for my wife and kids, because I have family down in Georgia and that way we could all spend Halloween together.
And the next damn day I got an email from Gaiman’s people. They’d managed to lose my proposal. They wondered if I could still come. Well, by that time I’d made arrangements for how I was going to spend my weekend, and those arrangements didn’t include racing all over kingdom come. So, I regretfully declined.
Alas, no chance to hang out with Mr. Gaiman or impress him with my sparkling wit and academic banter. No opportunity to ride on the amazing carousel at HoTR. Alas.
And to make matters worse, I never published my thoughts. I didn’t publish them because they are missing something: real people (I don’t count, I’m an academic). Essentially, to make my thoughts worthwhile, I’ll need to stretch them across the foundation of other people’s thoughts and experiences.
So, have you ever traveled or touristed in the footsteps of Gaiman’s characters? Did you go to HoTR or to Rock City because Shadow does in American Gods or visited the Knightsbridge in London because Richard Mayhew does in Neverwhere? Have you been all the way to Ipswitch?
One of these days, I’ll be hoping to find out what kinds of pilgrimages people have taken. Not quite yet. In the meantime, I’ll just regret that I never got to hang out with Mr. Gaiman.