Normally, when I travel for work, I get my flight details a week or so in advanced. This time I got them a full 14 hours in advance. The waiting was a bit stressful, but thankfully I got what I needed.
On Friday I flew from Berlin to JFK, then got on a much smaller plane down to Fort Lauderdale. As I approached my seat, I found it was already taken. This pissed me off because it was a emergency exit/plenty of legroom seat. But the man sitting in the seat said “It’s your lucky day,” and handed my a slip of paper showing my new seat number. Seat 1C. First class! This doesn’t happen to me very often.
The seat was nice and wide, plus I had the luxury of legroom. I was fed dinner for free, while in coach class I’d have had to pay for the food. And I wouldn’t have paid, of course, because it’s airline food. Apart from that, the flight was the same as normal; I read it bit, then fell asleep. Jetlag was telling me the time was 12 midnight.
Anyway, this left me with a night and half a day in Fort Lauderdale. I’d checked online for “things to do in Fort Lauderdale” and while there’s plenty of activities, there’s not much I could do in four hours. Apart from the busiest cruise terminal in the world, the only thing I knew about Fort Lauderdale was that the James Randi Educational Foundation office and library was somewhere in the vicinity. It turned out to be almost exactly on my taxi route from the hotel to the ship.
I called to make sure James Randi himself would be there, and he was, so I popped in for a visit.
For those who don’t know, James Randi (also known as The Amazing Randi) is a quite well known magician and escapologist, but a legendary scientific skeptic and debunker of those who claim to have psychic powers. Whenever I’ve heard him speak on radio shows or podcasts he’s always been fascinating, and always has another story to tell. And I knew he enjoys visitors.
So we had a really good chat for about two hours. First we talked about juggling and magic, then entertaining in general, then writing ideas… actually we moved and moved on through countless other topics.
However, we were sitting in the “Isaac Asimov Reference Library”, so I asked why it was so called. It turns out Randi was good friends with Asimov. Not only that, but with many other science fiction writers like Lester del Rey, Frederik Pohl and L. Sprague de Camp. This collection of names immediately set off alarm bells in my head, and sure enough, Randi admitted to being a member of the Trap Door Spiders for a while when he lived in New Jersey. This fact is really only interesting to science fiction literature geeks such as and, if you knew about the Trap Door Spiders before clicking on that link, YOU.
We ended up sitting at Randi’s computer, getting pissed off at it crashing, trying to find a science fiction short story Radni had written twenty five years ago. It was never found, and I stupidly left my USB thumb drive stuck in the computer.
But I don’t mind losing a thumb drive, because meeting Randi, swapping stories, finding out about secret “easter eggs” in his books, browsing the library and generally chatting about mutually interesting topics was worth it.
If you’re ever in Fort Lauderdale, call in on Randi. He obviously loves visitors, as each one is a new opportunity for him to do what he likes doing best; telling stories.