Sunday, October 16, 2016

Dantastic Voyage: My Trip to Goodreads Headquarters

Dateline: October 13, 2016
The day started like most of them.  I awoke at the usual time, 4:30 AM.  I could have slept later but I wanted to see my girlfriend off to work since I wouldn't see her for a couple days.

Once she was gone, I packed, which took all of five minutes.  I looked at the clock and saw I still had eight hours to kill before leaving for the airport.  Too wired up to read, I spent some time watching shows from the DVR, since we're planning on getting rid of DirecTV and switching to Netflix only once we switch internet providers this week.  Yeah, I could have left that out.

Anyway, once two o'clock arrived, I headed for the airport.  It takes about an hour to get there from my house but I padded the schedule with an additional hour, just in case.  A traffic jam and airport construction cut into my "just in case" time.

Since a travel agent booked my flight, I allotted some additional time for the flaming hoops I might have to jump through while checking in.  My check-in was as smooth as prunes through a baby so I soon found myself waiting for the flight to board.  I made significant progress in Children of the Dark and was soon in the air.

The flight went smoothly but about halfway, I began feeling the effects of getting up at 4:30 AM and traveling back in time two hours.  By the time I landed, I was pretty exhausted... and then sat on the runway for almost an hour!

My eyelids were made of concrete by the time I staggered through SFO to the BART terminal.  Fortunately, Jason Koivu had been texting me travel tips all day and my zombie brain was able to get me on the train.

The BART was a much rougher, louder ride than I thought.  It was approaching ten local time, midnight my time, when the BART vomited me out on the streets of San Francisco.  After getting my bearings, I trudged up Powell toward the Hotel Rex.

About halfway, Jason met me in the street and escorted me back to the hotel.  My tired brain would have followed him into a sex dungeon at that point.  Thankfully, it didn't come down to that.  After I stowed my gear, we walked around looking for a place to eat.

Since it was after 10, restaurants were closed and bars had closed their kitchens.  My dinner was a large bowl of peanuts and two bottles of Fat Tire.  All the tables at the pub were closed but it was attached to a hotel.  Jason and I wound up drinking beers in the hotel lobby.

After the makeshift meal, I went back to my room and crashed.  However, my brain was abuzz with speculation about the next day's events so it took me forever to go to sleep.

Dateline: October 14, 2016
After five or six hours of sleep, I felt somewhat alive, although the threat of becoming a zombie was still there.  We had some time to kill so Jason and I staked out the lobby for a while, seeing no one we recognized.  We ate breakfast at a nearby deli and made the pilgrimage to Goodreads headquarters.

We arrived at 188 Spear Street with half an hour to spare.  We stood at the entrance, eyeing up people who went into the building, seeing if we saw anyone we knew.  Still nobody, although the older gentleman later turned out to be the hilarious Bill Kerwin.  Jason and I are about 5'7 and Bill came up to our chins.

Anyway, we gave up our vigil and went upstairs.  At this point, we signed non-disclosure agreements so I can't talk about the cockfights, Russian roulette games, or the orgies we partook in later that day.

One by one, the other guests trickled in.  I wasn't exactly paying attention when I heard a woman say "My room was so hot I wedged the window open with a coat hanger.  I figured if I got raped, it would be worth it if the room was cool."  That was Gail Carriger.  I'd read Souless but I had no idea that Gail was the offspring of Mary Poppins and Indiana Jones.  She was dressed like someone from a steampunk version of the 1930s and pretty damn entertaining.

Anyway, once the group was assembled, they split us into four groups: authors, librarians, reviewers, and group moderators.  I was in a group with Bill Kerwin, MadelineJessica, and Elyse.

It was a pretty busy day.  We arrived at nine and they kept us pretty busy until the happy hour around 4:30.  Since I signed the NDA, I can't really talk that much about all the stuff we covered.  However, we gave them a lot of feedback and some cool new features are on the horizon.  I think the NDA I signed will allow me to mention the awesome taco bar they served us for lunch, all the books scattered around, and the many book-themed conference rooms.

Before the happy hour, they gave us each a Goodreads totebag full of goodies and showed us a pile of ARCs to choose from.  The happy hour was a feeding frenzy of appetizers and booze.  We met a lot of Goodreads staffers and generally chatted about books for a while.  There was a dinner scheduled afterwards but I decided to head back to the hotel for a power nap.  Jason had a headache, so he made the trek back with me.

I took a shower and flopped across the bed.  Unfortunately, sleep wasn't in the cards.  When I go to sleep, I like it to be colder than a dead pimp's heart in the room.  My room was the opposite of that.  Agreeing with Gail that a cool room was worth a raping, I wedged a trashcan in my window and tried to catch a breeze.  I slept for a few minutes and got up even more tired.  Jason and I headed downstairs, hoping to hobnob with the rest of the crew.  

No one was downstairs.  I texted Mark Monday.  He was under the weather and unable to meet up with us.  While I was a little disappointed, I was also slightly relieved since it meant I could go to bed at a reasonable hour.

After some deep-fried cauliflower, we went out for sushi.  By the time we got back, Madeline was waiting for a ride back to the airport and most of the people had gone to bed.  We spent some time chatting with the survivors and having another drink.

By the time I got back to my room, it was passably cool and I enjoyed some much needed sleep.  

Dateline: October 15, 2016
The last day was another travel day.  I was up way too early thanks to my traitorous body clock.  None of the restaurants near the hotel were open yet so Jason and I headed to the airport on the BART.  After getting through security, we ate bland breakfast sandwiches and reflected on the trip.

After a while, it was time to board.  I was a little sad to say goodbye to Jason.  We've been friends online for years and he did the lion's share of the work while we were in San Francisco with all the travel tips and leading the way.  I would have survived if he wasn't there but the whole thing wouldn't have gone as smoothly.

The flight back went mercifully quick.  I talked about dogs with the two women sitting next to me, finished reading Kin and knocked out Lords of Twilight.  I also talked to the owner of the M.C. Escher estate after complimenting his M.C. Escher hat.  He said he was looking to bring the estate to the St. Louis Art Museum.  Fingers crossed!

I picked up some Thai food on the way home and received a warm welcome from my girlfriend and my dog.  The cat acted like she didn't know I was gone, as per usual.

Closing Thoughts
The Goodreads Power User Summit was a good time and I'm glad I went.  It was fun chatting about books with the nerdiest of the nerds and getting to talk to the Goodreads staff about things.  I wouldn't have minded spreading the activities over two days instead of cramming it into one.  I also wouldn't have minded staying in San Francisco another couple days to see the city.

The Goodreads Power User Summit - four out of five stars.


  1. Dang it! I can't believe I missed out on my shot at the sex dungeon!

  2. Glad you had fun. I got to go in 2015 so we missed each other. The Bart train was great for me since it was a completely new experience (I live in Florida). The GR staff is lucky to have the office they do - would make coming to work much more pleasant.

  3. I was invited last year but it was on my girlfriend's birthday and we already had hotels and things booked when I got the invite.

    I was annoyed/very jealous at the fun factor at their office.