After travelling from San Francisco to San Jose on public transport it is a relief to get to the Doubletree Hilton Hotel. As guests, we are to be hosted in an Honors room, the fancy ones on the 8th floor overlooking the mountains. What a treat! Especially since it’s Valentine’s day. We are hoping for a romantic evening, so the last thing we expect is having no bed!
First of all, we arrive to a wonderful welcome since Tiffany Lazik is arriving at the same time. Tiffany is a long time friend who we know from the Sisterhood of Avalon and her regular visits to The White Spring in Glastonbury. We had no idea at this point that we would have no bed. We exchange hugs before heading through the bustling lobby to reception.
Arriving, signing in, getting our key, excitement, colour, friends, smiles, elevators, fancy room. No bed! Just a lonely looking white sheet draped on the chest of drawers and an empty space where the bed once was. It’s been a long day and I just need to flop down on a bed, but there is no bed. No duvet, no pillows, but most important, no bed.
Did I Mention, there is No Bed!
Leaving our cases in the room, we go back to reception and wait to speak to someone who might sort it out. We sit down in a back reception office and the man at the desk offers us some water, I sit worrying about a potential bill for $5. It is a magnificent $2.50 for a bottle of water. As a long time custodian of a water temple that offers free water for all, I am always shocked to be so overcharged for water! I am pretty sure this one is free, a small compensation for having no bed.
Out the back we can see the doers, the movers and shakers of Pantheacon, on the way to a meeting before ‘doing all the things’ really starts. Then a woman who looks like she is already doing all the things comes in and explains that we requested no bed in our room.
“I am a bed kinda guy.”
Max explains. “I need a duvet and pillows, you see. We would never request to have no bed. I am a bed kinda guy … where will I sleep?”
The woman looks less harrassed and more amused. I stiffle my laughter and manage to avoid shooting stupidly expensive water out of my nose. She happily goes and gets us a key for another room and offers someone to bring a bell cart to move our luggage.
“No, it’s fine. We can take care of it.” Max says and so we go off with both keys.
Up to the 8th floor in the elevator, collect cases, down to the 4th floor, and let ourselves in. This room has two beds. Great, you might think. No. Twin beds, both quite large for single beds, but smaller than our British double bed. This is not an Honors suite. It is much smaller and overlooks the parking lot and a busy highway. I am a bit upset and try to reason.
I’m grateful, as guests of Pantheacon, the room is provided at no charge. I don’t want to cause a fuss so I try to make it okay, but Max is having none of it. He goes down alone this time. Later, he comes back to tell me they can’t get our bed moved back until the next morning, but it will be done first thing. So now are in a bit of a limbo and can’t unpack.
Sprouts Farmers Market
Considering our room isn’t what we expected and the food options are freaking expensive in the Doubletree, we decide to find a store. The guys who are parking the cars out front tell me there is no food store within walking distance, so we look it up on the map. A place called Sprouts is only 1.8 miles away, 39 minutes. I reckon that’s walking distance.
So we get some bags and set off. Max isn’t committed. I can tell by the way he is saying things like, “Well if you are sure you want to.” or “We could just go and eat, then go to bed.” and “What about the hot tub?” Self doubt setting in, I convince him and myself that it is a good idea to have a stash of snacks. If we can just cover breakfast and lunch, we will save a fortune.
No-one walks anywhere.
The strange looks from people in their cars and those closing up industrial buildings along the way alert us to the fact that people just don’t go walking out here along the highway. That’s why the guys out front told me there was nothing in walking distance. Everyone drives to the store out here. There are a few discarded pay as you go motorised scooters on the pavement, but I have no idea how they work. Some Q code scanner from what I could make out. They look like they have been discarded because they are out of power.
Our journey starts to get sketchy. First there’s a helicopter overhead … and then another. As we walk on we hear police car sirens blaring. The helicopters start circling round and we get the feeling we should get off the street. Then more sirens. Shit. This is all kinds of freaky. It feels like something really bad is going down somewhere close by. We have no choice but to keep walking. The helicopters are not too far off and seem to be circling behind and to the left of us.
Eventually we get to the store. I say a prayer of gratitude for safe haven and get lost in a world of good produce. Cheaper than Trader Joes, Sprouts offers organic and wholefoods in bulk and has a huge variety. We get the essentials, fruit and oats for breakfast, salad wraps for lunch, some milk and (kind of) cheese, some veggies to dip in humous, tortilla chips, cookies and a massive cinnamon loaf. Okay not all of it essential, but a good rescue pack for those enevitable ‘hungry like the wolf’ moments between workshops.
It’s Dark Now
Not willing to walk back in the dark, we call a cab and wait outside the store. The cab, painted with stars and stripes, eventually comes to take us back to the Doubletree Hotel. The driver tells us all about the incident. It was a hostage situation, a UPS van was held up by a man with a gun about 8 miles from here. All the roads were closed, parts of the roads leading to the airport too. The gunman surrendered, but was shot dead in the street.
Now, it is tough for me as a Brit to come to this awareness of guns and gun crime. Fortunately, we have little experience of this in our country.
During our last trip, I was blissfully naive, until I met Jimmy on a bus in San Francisco. Jimmy was on his way to visit his mom after a long day dealing drugs in the city. I talked to him for a bit, fascinated by his openess and his willingness to talk about his nefarious activity with me, a random person from England.
He showed me his gunshot wounds. Later in the journey he pointed to a bus stop and told me to never wait at that bus stop. He explained it was a grimyass bus stop and people get shot there all the time. The previous evening we had been waiting at that very stop. My awareness comes into focus.
Back in the Hotel
On this trip, we are reminded once again to be aware. We meet up with our friends John and Bree from Seattle when we get back to the Doubletree. Sitting in the bar, John tells us that if you see more than one helicopter overhead it is wise to get off the street. We stay in the bar and talk until late into the night, simutaneously wanting to get on with our stuff and spend more time with good company.
Eventually, we head up to our temporary room on the 4th floor. Half the night is spent snuggled up in a slightly too small bed. Then, an hour or so before dawn, I switch to the other twin and stretch out until morning.
Max goes down to reception first thing and makes sure the bed is moved. We get up to our room, complete with bed and spend Friday morning unpacking before getting into Pantheacon proper.
You can read about our first day (Friday) at Pantheacon 25th Anniversary here.