Condor Lass and I headed out Thursday night for Vegas. Aside from getting caught in an absurd traffic jam in Santa Monica coming from work to home - the traffic was light and we clipped along. In no time, we found ourselves in the high desert, with a full silvery moon beating down on the landscape. As we climbed higher and higher up into the desert, city gave way to sporadic clusters of homes, until finally it was the long and empty dark - punctuated only by Joshua trees leaning into themselves like lonely drifters muttering into their chests. The moon turned everything to shades of black, blue and silver. It was beautiful, in a desolate way.
We stopped at "The Mad Greek" in Baker on the way, so she could get a cup of what turned out to be the most wretched coffee in existence. Something lumpy was floating in it, but she didn't have the heart to pour it out. As we neared Vegas, the sky on the horizon was lightening, as if it were the approaching dawn. The sky behind the last hill between the wide desert and Vegas was a bright blue, and we half-expected to see the sun when we crested that final rise. Instead, there was Vegas - the city of lights, the city of sin - the city that the losers built. It's pretty and disgusting all at once - a great festering whore in the middle of the desert; only the whore is alluring because she knows her trade, oh yes she does. She will gratify your every desire, so long as you pay her.
Anyway, we found Stephen Brust's house without too much trouble, though it was quite late at night. The household was wide awake, and we were first greeted by an Hungarian sheep dog approximately the size of a very doughty pony. Then we met the other residents - Mr. Brust and his personal assistant, "Chica". Both were wide-awake, and indeed, this was the middle of the workday for skzb, who keeps odd hours on an apparently rotating 26 hour clock. We were immediately informed that they were happy to host "our dog" so long as we were sure to take him with us when we left. Oops, now that I think about it, I think I left my dog behind.
Anyway, Stephen Brust is a lovely kook - he has his own industrial cigarette rolling machine from which he rolls cigarettes of loose tobacco in pre-shaped tubes with filters - which he then pokes to push a hole through anyway. Why bother with the filter? Who knows. His house was an anarchic pile of books and bookstands - stacks of books everywhere, and at every turn an old-fashioned bookstand with a book open on it - books ranging from unabridged dictionaries, to 19th Century fiction, to treatises on Hungarian farming techniques. We pulled up some single malt and some rum, respectively, and I found out that Mr. Brust is also a passionate O'Brian fan. We geeked out about Aubrey and Maturin for quite a while. Eventually, Condor Lass was practically asleep in her chair - the poor dear had been up for nearly 24 hours. We retired to the guest room, where I saw that the original manuscripts of "Issola", "Dragon" and "Brokedown Palace" were in the closet. I was thrilled.
The next morning I got up and wrestled with his computer (the reason for my visit). It was infuriatingly random in its errors, but I thought I had it fixed by the time I left. It turns out there was more than one problem though because I got a call later that it had reoccurred. By that point Condor Lass and I were out for a night on the town in Vegas - we had a suite at the Stratosphere with a splendid view of the strip and a gigantic jacuzzi. We did some of the Vegas-y things that are expected of visitors to Vegas...
Anyway, I went back to the Brusthaus to visit my dog and finish fixing the computer. Sadly the motherboard was fried, which was beyond my capacity to fix. Never the less, with good cheer, Mr. Brust fixed a homemade Hungarian dinner for us, including a big finish that involved everyone watching as he prepared something called "paprika essence" and dashed it into the pot with quite a bit of flair. The dinne was delicious, particularly since it was so reminiscent of many of the dishes in the Draghaeran novels. it was well complemented with banter, and a nice Hungarian dessert wine I brought with me, which we opened up to accompany an Hungarian chocolate torte that Condor Lass had picked up. Mr. Brust was even so kind as to read a passage from Dumas that was strongly reminiscent of the Viscount of Adrilankha novels - and that might have been the highlight of the visit for me.
We said our farewells and returned home, later than expected but happy and relaxed. Tired, and poor Condor Lass had to get up early work all day Sunday after a few short hours of sleep. But that was my weekend with Brust.