...nothing here is promised, not one day... Lin-Manuel Miranda

Six Degrees my ass
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I have a Master's degree from the School of Criminal Justice, State University of New York at Albany. There's no way of knowing where a degree ike that that might lead; for me, professionally it led nowhere. But it was challenging, and I learned a lot. And had an awful lot of fun last year when I walked up to a woman named Frankie Bailey at Left Coast in Monterey, held out my hand and said "Hi, Andi Shechter, Criminal Justice, Class of '77." Because Frankie's a professor at that school now as well as an author of mystery fiction. And there just aren't that many of us walking around with MA's in Criminal Justice (even though there sure are more than there were in the '70s. That '77 is sort of off, though; I was actually the class of '75, but it took me a while to convince my advisor to okay my thesis and then I missed filing some paperwork. But fuck, by then I was living in California anyway.

And it was while I was at that school that I joined the Albany State Science Fiction Society; I wasn't a real fan yet, had only done some weird shit like attend a few Trek conventions and work on a couple and read some s.f. but it seemed like a good place to hang; it was one of the only social things I did while I was at SUNYA, until I got involved in local theater. And that's yet another story. But it was at Albany State that I met a couple of people, one of whom, when I started getting seriously involved with con-running, I ran into again. And it's been 30 years and then-Louise now-Ruth Sachter, who lives down the road in Portland and I are still friends. And one of Stu's oldest friends is Frank Balasz, whom it seems was also in ASSFS that year.

The even more funnest part is when one of your worlds overlaps another; when someone you know from X turns up at Y, or is a friend of your old buddy from Z, where you had no idea those two had ever met. Stu and I just read THE MAYOR OF MACDOUGAL STREET which is Dave van Ronk's memoirs, mostly of his life and the folk music scene and the people he knew along the way. And the preface is by Larry Block, whom Ive known from the mystery world for over 10 years. And mentioned throughout van Ronk's book, not surprisingly, in amongst the mentions of Paxton and Baez and Ramblin' Sandy Pit…er Jack Elliot, and Dylan and Ochs are the names Lee Hoffman and Dick Ellington. LeeH, whom if you don't know, you know OF if you're a science fiction fan is a long time fan and artist (and in fact sent me artwork for Stu's 40th birthday zine, bless her) and Dick Ellington, whom I knew when I lived in the bay area, who, along with his wife Pat had these great "everybody comes" Christmas Eve parties for years over there in Oakland. And while we don't exactly break into "it's a small world" (do it and I'll whack you with my cane), I like the linkages.

And last week I got a box from the Himes conference, which was my "thank you" for letting them include my essay about disability in mystery fiction (aka "Supercrip Writes a Mystery") (free for the asking). And I'm flipping through the program and looking at the part where they announce the winners of the high school writing contest. And what the hell am I doing? I don't KNOW any high school students in the bay area. I don't know anyone under the age of about 40 in the bay area. I haven't lived there in oh holy shit 20 years.

Back when I was living in Berkeley, I was a volunteer "escort" at the Oakland Planned Parenthood once month or so on a Saturday. Some of you have heard my stories about that. And the day I went to the orientation/training, I sat next to this woman named Ruth. And Ruth and I hit it off right away. And we did our shifts together when we were escorting. And got to be friends. But you know, I moved away. And then in '89, the big quake hit and Stu and I are living in Somerville, Massachusetts and I'm a neurotic wreck. And within a day or two, we get through to Other Change of Hobbit bookstore (ticket agency, message center, party organizing bureau, gossip headquarters, club meeting room and center of the universe). And so Tom ran the list for me and phew, we go, phew! But not all my friends were fans. So I wait a day or two more and I reach Anne who's fine and she can call out, is there anyone I want to hear from? Yes, please, I say, not even knowing if Ruth still lives and works in Oakland but here's her name, it's Ruth Virata and here's where she used to work. And a day or two later, we get home to the message on the answering machine that says "This is Ruth. Yes, Andi, I'm fine and the baby is fine."

The baby. The…….baby. The BABY? There's a baby? Shows you how close Ruth and I were, right? I mean as I say, it had been years but a baby? So I call Ruth and say "you can't leave messages like THAT, WOMAN!" and she tells me about the kid and I say "what kind of present do you want?" and she says "books would be good. She's eaten all the ones she has." Which tells me a LOT about the whole kid thing (about which I know ZIP) a year or two later, I'm in the bay area for a visit and Ruth and I meet at the Brick Hut for breakfast. And I meet Janesa. Who's what like 2? 3? Maybe?

And yes, indeed, as I glanced over that Himes conference program and the list of students who received acclaim for their stories, there she is: Janesa Virata, 10th grade, Honorable Mention.

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