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RIPOSTES 2006-03 (Mar)

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Christine Morgan writes...

This is why I write more novels and series than short stories ...

Wednesday, August 4th and Thursday, August 5th
Traveling, and Montreal

Wednesday was long. Extremely long. We got up at two in the morning, were picked up by our town car at 3:20 (_much_ nicer than the Shuttle Express vans, btw), and arrived at the Seattle airport a little after four. Then we waited in a long line to check in. Lots of desert-camo army guys in line, too. The one right in front of us had a fresh hickey the size of my thumb, and no hope of hiding it, not with that hairdo. Go, soldier-boy! ;)

Flew from Seattle to Chicago, but everything going into and out of O'Hare was delayed, so we spent some time sitting on runways. In Chicago, we still had about an hour to grab some food, then get on the plane for the second leg of the trip. Once we disembarked, we walked for what seemed like a half mile or more to the customs station. Which was like Disneyland ... a long rat-maze of a line with a sign saying that the wait from this point would be 40 minutes.

And after that, we got to go to another line to have our books inspected. That's the one drawback to these international cons, and dragging all those books along. But we got through, and were met by our driver (town car again) for a trip to the hotel.

Montreal has the reputation of being a beautiful city, and it's a rep that is well-deserved. Lots of green, lots of clean, and lots of fabulous old stonework. I really do love buildings from back in the day when creative architecture didn't mean weird glass-and-steel geometrics. The hotel is quite posh, and an easy walk from Old Montreal (mucho fabulous old stonework).

We checked in, unpacked, took a peek around the hotel, then walked over to a place called Gibby's for dinner. Gibby's is a steakhouse located in a restored 200-year-old stable, and it was bursting at the seams with the kind of ambiance that most gamers would love. Low, beam ceilings. Stone walls. Dim flickery yellow lighting. It was the Inn, as found in countless campaign beginnings ... "your characters meet at an Inn." All it lacked was the hooded old man sitting by the fireplace, selling treasure maps. Food was good, too, and it was the first time ever that I can recall being served sherbet between courses to cleanse the palate (then again, I have never lived much of a highbrow life).

After, we roamed through oldtown a bit, admiring the buildings -- and the astonishing cleanliness and almost total lack of homeless people. Canada is certainly doing something right in taking care of its folks. We got back to the hotel 10-ish local time (7-ish on our body clocks, but our bodies had been up since 2, so we were ready for bed).

Thursday was a lovely day. Becca and I spent an hour and a half at the pool. Watched a gal whose job I don't envy -- she had to climb out on these ledges that overlook the hotel's four-story atrium to water and trim the plants.

Then we went for a long rambling stroll through Old Montreal, looking in shops. Bought Becca a sweatshirt, and she got herself a keychain for her collection. After lunch, we got on Le Bateau Mouche, a fancy ferry sort of boat that took us on an hour-long river tour. This is, I say again, a beautiful city! I took some pictures, and we had a nice relaxing time.

After that, we stopped for ice cream and then came back to the hotel. As we were kicking back in our room a while later, Tim happened to glance out our ten story window and spotted some familiar folks far below, unloading a car. "Hey ... isn't that Patrick? And the redhead ... that's Cindy."

So we rushed down to the lobby but just missed them at the elevator. Hung around for a while until someone came back -- Patrick -- and he told us where the rest were. We went up for a visit (and to slip some Sabledrake catalogs into the envelopes holding the programs, badges, and other goodies).

And, ta-daaaa! We finally got to see the Phoenix Gate Anthology! It looks very good. I think everyone involved will be pleased and proud.

We left the group for a while to get food, and began spotting more familiar faces. Saw Lanny checking in, and I'm pretty sure I saw Seth in the hotel restaurant. Saw Karine, who is going to have a baby in November! I didn't know! Gosh, I am so out of the loop sometimes! Saw Jen's husband Alan, and then, finally, ran into Jen.

We hung out for a while, and Becca colored with Siryn, and folks came and went, and then Greg arrived. He spotted Becca right away and asked her where her parents were ;) I was there, said hi, got my hug and smooch on the cheek. Tim had gone downstairs to take care of some e-mails (and, really, to indulge his new online poker addiction). Then a whole big crowd was going out for food, but we were all beat and so Becca and I returned to the room and slept.

Friday, August 6
The Gathering, Day 1

The official con was slated to begin when registration opened at 10:00 AM. After Becca swam, we headed down to the terrace and found many friendly faces already on the scene. We mingled, said hi, and waited around. Because, of course, nothing ever quite starts on time, on the first day especially. But soon, con staff appeared with boxes of registration packets. We all got our programs and badges. Plus shirts, pins, and books for those who’d ordered them. And, dare I say, everyone got a Sabledrake Enterprises catalog.

It was so good to see people again … I can’t begin to explain. After missing the past two cons, and having fallen out of touch with many of the online forums â€" I lurk around Station 8 and the TGS room, but wouldn’t call myself horribly active there anymore â€" I was really reminded how much I had missed everyone. And how cool it was to meet new people whose screen names I knew but who I’d never seen in person.

Except, the funny thing was, I didn’t recognize a lot … a LOT … of them. I was feeling quite guilty for being so out of the loop. I would find out later in the day that it wasn’t just me being dense, because nearly half of the crowd at opening ceremonies would raise their hands when the first-Gathering question was posed.

After we got our packets, Tim and I left Becca to hang out while we lugged our stuff down to set up in the dealers room. The con rules stated that all kids had to be accompanied by a grown-up, but there were always plenty of folks around willing to keep an eye on her.

It’s funny, it really is, but this is her extended family. The Gathering crowd even moreso than just the gamer-geek-fantypes at other cons. These are people she may not see as often as she does some of her blood kin, but many of them are people she knows better, and hears more about. We’re raising her in a con environment. Some of them, like RadCon, get a little freaky with the Goths and SCAers and Klingons running around. Scenes where most parents might be reluctant to let even their teenagers go alone, and yet it’s there, more than anyplace else, we feel safe and at home and have no problem giving Becca a fairly loose leash.

Especially at the Gatherings. This was her fourth, and she’s become the honorary fandom kid. Everyone’s hatchling. And it wasn’t a matter of persuading her to sit with someone else, either … she was eager to get away from Tim and I, preferring to follow Siryn around, or Cindy, or Jen.

Or Arno, whose patience at having a stuffed cat thrown at him went far above and beyond the call of duty. That, in Becca’s mind, is as much a Gathering tradition as the masquerade. “Is that guy going to be there, the one I throw Chip at?” Heck, we even had to go online and find a new Chip (calico Beanie Buddy cat) on e-Bay because her original one was lost somehow, and she didn’t want to go to the Gathering without a Chip to throw at Arno.

Anyway, the dealers room turned out to be in the same room as the art show and artists’ alley. It was right near registration, too, and near the auditorium. Very nice to have it centrally located. The con staff had a table to sell shirts, pins, copies of the Phoenix Gate Anthology, and even some leftover calendars from 2003. Jen and Alan had a table, hawking her tee shirts. Later in the weekend, there would be a fanzine company and a sci-fi club.

And we had a table. No, I lie. We had three. When all my books are assembled in one place, they take up a lot of room. Alas that we won’t be able to display and sell the ElfLore trilogy anymore, though! My publisher gave me the axe just a couple of weeks before the Gathering, and wouldn’t let me buy any more copies before the whole trilogy went out of print. But we had all three MageLore books, all four of the Silver Doorway books to date, both Trinity Bay books (including a couple of copies of Black Roses on audio), Naughty and Dice, and the two zombie anthologies in which I had stories. We also brought some garg merchandise, not a lot since we were pushing the luggage limit already and Tim had been going around and around trying to figure out the customs and import laws. It all did make for a nice set-up, though.

Once that was done, we had a few hours before the room officially opened, so we headed out in search of lunch. Tim had scouted the train station food court, but we had the bad luck to end up there at lunch hour on a Friday. Now, I have an intense dislike of crowded, noisy, unfamiliar places. Always have. And it’s gotten worse exponentially since Becca was born â€" my personal phobia about getting lost can’t hold a candle to my fear of losing track of my kid. I think Tim used “intimidated” in his LJ, but I wasn’t so much “intimidated” as just extremely uncomfortable and unable to relax enough to have any sort of appetite.

We got back in time for the dealers room to open, and then Becca and I headed over to Greg’s panel on voice acting. The video crew showed up while we were there â€" poor Seri, thought she was going to get off easy, but Greg made her keep reading lines even once the cameras were rolling! She did a good job, though. It’s interesting to get the inside scoop on how everything works, and to hear all the war stories. Carol Channing’s chiffon blouse, anyone?

Tim and I had signed up to do a panel later that afternoon on RPGs, and a fair number of people turned up. Most of them even stayed, hey! We talked about our experiences in the gaming industry, our plans for releasing Simulacrum next year (and we’ll need art, hint-hint). Told some gaming war stories of our own, too. And Becca’s idea of helping was to draw monsters on the white board behind us the whole time.

Then came the worst part of the whole weekend.

See, there were only a couple of problems with the site this time around. One was that the hotel, while very posh and full of staff who treated us exceedingly well, came with an equivalently posh price tag. The other, more aggravating, was the food situation. While the sprawling underground area does boast about any kind of edibles you could want, you better only want ‘em during normal day shift business people working hours. Everything closed after evening rush hour, leaving the dining options severely limited.

So, Tim, knowing this and feeling all guilty and responsible for lunch not having worked out so great, took it on himself to wander the streets of Montreal. Man hunt food. Woman and Child go to Opening Ceremonies. Man find food. Slay mammoth. Then Man, returning to cave, get mauled by saber tooth tiger.

Well, all right, it was Chinese take-out instead of a mammoth, and it was a car and not a saber tooth. I’m trying to make light of the situation because when I found out about it, I worked up one hell of a case of retroactive panic. He got hit by a car. For all the gory details, see his LJ (http://www.livejournal.com/users/tavelorn/)

But Woman and Child knew nothing of this. Becca and I were at Opening Ceremonies, where the con staff were doing the introductions, the thank-yous, and all that good stuff. The Clan Olympics interrupted with a sudden wild game that involved a stampede of people running around stuffing plastic balls into tee shirts. Only one casualty that I knew of, and it was all captured for posterity by the video crew. Showing us at our mature, sedate, respectable best.

Chris got up to talk about plans for 2005 (Vegas, baby, and high-damn-time we had another Gathering in the west!). Then Greg gave his speech, and how is this for cool? He’d gotten his helpful and diligent Girl Friday, Carol, to collect taped well-wishes from several people associated with the show, including Frank Paur and Ed Asner.

If that was cool, the big news was even cooler â€" that the first season of Gargoyles was slated for a December 7th release! With commentary, and with this documentary being filmed at the con. If it does well, we may get the second season. And once that ball starts rolling, it might not be beyond the realm of possibility to dream that ultimate dream of a new series!

Of course, in the middle of it all, Greg played his usual prank by raising an arm to the back of the room and announcing, "Ladies and Gentlemen, _Keith David_!" And so, of course, we all looked. Because once, when he did that, Keith was actually there (three cheers for variable interval reinforcement). Because, this time, Keith was expected. Delayed, since the film he was shooting was rained out again and again, but expected. This time, though, no Keith.

It would only be the beginning of a saga that probably added a few grey hairs and notches to the blood pressure of the con staff … Keith will be here for opening ceremonies … well, okay, no, but Keith will arrive late tonight … all right, Keith will be here tomorrow afternoon … he'll be here in time for the banquet … eventually, though, Keith _did_ arrive! Just not today.

We saw the pitches for the original show, for New Olympians and Dark Ages. We saw the Bad Guys reel. Then, as a new treat, Greg played another audio tape of a Team Atlantis episode he’d written, one in which Milo and company encounter a certain Fiona Canmore who is hunting a certain stone-by-day, vengeful-blue-demon-by-night creature with the voice of Marina Sirtis.

It was in the middle of this broadcast (which was unintentionally hilarious, what with all the grunts, groans, and gasps of combat being taken terribly out of context by our collective filthy, filthy little minds) that Tim came in. He sat down by us, listened to the rest of the episode, and then turned to tell me that we needed to talk. That is _never_ a good phrase. Then he told me his car adventure, and I got to freak out imagining all the horrible things that could have happened. Visions of myself having to call his parents to tell them their only son had been run over. Visions of the police finally tracking him to the hotel and delivering the news to me. Visions of being stranded in a foreign country with Tim stuck in the hospital. Or worse.

But he is all right (as I type this, it’s Wednesday August 11, and we are in a plane flying home) except for a murky purple bruise on his arm. At the time, though, we were all in a state. The three of us returned to our room and ate the Chinese food that had survived the collision (lukewarm but good anyway), and then decided that Tim could use a drinkie. Hell, I could have used a drinkie, and I don’t normally drinkie. So we thought we’d find someone in the con suite to look after Becca while we went to the hotel bar and got sloshed, but the con suite was closed.

However, we ran into a crowd downstairs, and amended the plan. The hotel restaurant had a neat section of tables surrounded by cushy couches, and eight of us â€" Cindy and Rob, Jen and Alan, Patrick, and we three Morgans â€" commandeered this primo spot. By then, I had gotten around to thinking I needed dessert more than drinkie, so I had cheesecake. We had a grand time there, and when it was done Tim and Becca went back to our room while I followed the others back up to the con suite to attend Greg’s special late-night Blue Mug-A-Guest.

It turned out not to be nearly as blue as expected. For one thing, most everybody was brimming with questions about the DVD and “what would you do if.” For another, apparently most of the real naughtiness has been covered at previous midnight panels of this sort. As for me, I hadn’t attended many of those and by now, heck, anything I’d want to ask, I’d already decided my-own-self how I was going to handle it in my stories and done so.

The room was packed to capacity, and thanks to Jen abandoning her chair to Greg, I found myself in the weird position of sitting up in a chair next to him while others were all around us, mostly on the floor. I only felt on the spot a couple of times. Once was when Greg put me there, by redirecting a tail question to me. For the record, people â€" I did not invent the dirty tail trick! That was Spike! Okay, I did pick it up and run with it, but I didn’t _invent_ it (suppose that I might have, given time, but she did it first, so blame her!). I squirmed a little, too, when Andrea brought up my fanfic in an Angela-and-Gabriel question. Greg, if you’re out there, sorry … sorry … that one was all my fault.

What really caught me, though, was when the topic of September 11th came up, and Greg was asked if/how he would handle it in the show, were he given the chance. Now, see, my entry for the Phoenix Gate Anthology, “Dust and Ashes,” was a September 11th story. And as I sat there, listening to Greg talk about the importance of addressing it in a way that would not be disrespectful to the actual events and persons involved, I found myself starting to worry about that story.

I _believed_ I had done my best to be respectful, but I got started second-guessing. Especially when Ethan, who witnessed the tragedy, started talking. After all, I was a continent away and watching on television at work (after Tim called me, after _he_ heard about it from Jen). As great as my shock and horror was, I knew it couldn’t compare to that felt by those actually present. All I could do in writing was try to reach toward what I imagined it must have been like, and though just writing it gave me the cold chills all over again, I was worried that it would still fall far, far short.

So, after, I sought Ethan out and specifically requested him to read my story and let me know what he thought. He told me the next day that he read it, and that it was just what he would have wanted from such a story. I can’t really say he _liked_ it … who can _like_ that kind of story? But I felt it was powerful. One of the most powerful things I’ve ever written. I am very interested in hearing from others who’ve read it, hearing what you think.

Oh, and FYI â€" the only place to read “Dust and Ashes” is in the Phoenix Gate Anthology. I have no plans to post that story to my site. The con staff have several copies of the book left, and I know that at least a few of the other authors have stated a similar intention to not make their tales available anywhere else. So, buy the book.

Well, eventually I figured I should raise my hand. Gotta ask something, right? So I did. And Greg denies it, but that sure did look like dread in his eyes. If not dread, there was at least a palpable wariness. I have no idea what he expected me to ask. By the sounds of it, all the really raunchy questions had already been lobbed his way in years past. I don’t know what _I_ could have said to overtop those.

My question was, given the tendency (by no means a universal tendency, so don’t send me angry e-mails protesting) of human males to fall asleep shortly after nookie, and given also that gargoyles don’t fall asleep per se, what _do_ their males do. And I don’t mean that human males zonk out instantly, like someone threw a switch … too many people were imagining blissful post-coital gargs plummeting out of the night sky. Greg’s reply was that he figured they would be left with a pleasant mellow buzz.

I followed up with, given that gargs have superior recuperative abilities, how many times can the average healthy male “go” in a night. He said “three … and a half.” I guess the “half” is left up to imagination … perhaps going back to that earlier tail question.

Karine threw us all out shortly thereafter, and a good thing, too. It was past two in the morning. I staggered off to bed, knowing that the dawn was going to come awfully early.

Saturday, August 7th
The Gathering, Day 2

When we checked in, the lady at the desk said our room had a "river view." She was taking a little creative liberty. It's true that, with the proper amount of squinting and peering between buildings and under overpasses, there was a glint of something that might've been water. What we had was an eastern exposure, and on previous mornings we'd found that meant the sun woke us at 6:30.

Given that I had only fallen into bed at about 2:30 the night before, I was not looking forward to waking in four hours. And I must've been tired, because I didn't. I woke at quarter to nine, with the realization that I had a panel at 10:00. Ellen called shortly thereafter to let me know that she and Spacebabie were meeting for breakfast to discuss said panel.

Our initial plan was to just dash down and scarf some fast food, but the weekend isn't a work day, so the underground was closed. Arg! We ended up at the hotel's buffet instead, and still made it in time for my panel and the opening of the dealers room.

The panel was called "Thrill of the Chase," featuring myself, Ellen (who always dresses so smart and sharp, like she's going to a job interview, while the rest of us are slobbing around dressed like … well, like typical fan geeks, which is reasonable enough I guess, given that we _are_). We got a nice turn out, and wound up ranging across various topics of action scenes in general. Given that I still hadn't had any caffeine for the day, I think it went okay, though I think I rambled a bit much.

While I was off doing that, Becca and a couple of other kids joined Siryn to do crafts. Then I got sent off to do an interview with the video crew. I was apprehensive, let me tell you. It's all well and good to have them talk to people whose lives have changed because of _Gargoyles_, who've made something of themselves. The success stories, as it were, be they creative, business, or emotional.

And yes, I owe a tremendous debt to the show and the fandom. My writing has improved so much … I've experimented, my confidence has increased, I've benefited in a roundabout sort of way because people who have read and enjoyed my fanfic are then more likely to buy my books because they know they can trust me to tell a good story.

Some of the connections are very direct â€" I might never have written the novel _Black Roses_, for instance, without the inspiration that came from fanfic. That's why I dedicated it to Greg and Salli Richardson … the basic small town ghost story idea had been bobbing around in my head since I was a teenager, but I couldn't quite get a handle on it until after the fanfic, until mentally casting Salli as the character of Theresa. Then, hey presto, it all came together. Greg was so sweet, too, when I gave him a copy. He seemed to think it was very cool, having a book dedicated to him.

But anyway, here I was, having written over two million words of _Gargoyles_ fanfic … the equivalent of twenty paperback books. It felt like I was painting a target on my forehead, getting up there in front of that camera and asking to be hunted down. Imagining stern-faced Disney men-in-black knocking on my door (not that I haven't imagined that, several times over these many years, but I'd never gone out of my _way_ to get their attention before).

We then thought about trying to have Becca interviewed. She was game for it, but she got hit with a big-whammy case of stage fright as soon as we went into the room. We sat and watched a few other interviews â€" Aaron and Mara, one of the met-through-the-fandom love stories with the added bonus of Aaron's "Most Dedicated Fan EVER" status thanks to his giant full-color Demona chest tattoo. But, though Becca said she really wanted to do it, she was just too nervous. We ended up going back to the room for a while so she could settle down.

When she was recovered, I dropped her off at an SCA fighting demo â€" she's seen plenty of them at other cons, and always enjoys them. I stuck my head into the Auction in time to see a cell going for much higher than I could afford. Then I minded the table while Tim went off to fetch food again. Him being, of course, under orders to cross at the crosswalk and look both ways!

The Radio Play came next, with a huge cast to read from the script of "The Journey," the first TGC episode. Keith still hadn't arrived, so Rob "Talyesin" read for Goliath and did a terrific job. Zehra, as Elisa, was great too … there were moments when she was _so_ Elisa that it was goosebump spooky. Mike, aka Riverdale, was a perfect Vinnie (it was apparently his first Gathering, and I have never seen someone fit in so fast and so well; he is truly one of us), and the guy who played Jon Castaway was almost too intense. It was a great show.

The Banquet began at 6:00, and still no sign of Keith David. The three of us sat with Jen, Alan, Zehra, Darien and Nicholas (the latter two had only just discovered the Gathering and come up from Massachusetts; Nicholas was one of the few kids at the con). Karine had Nicholas and Becca draw slips from a goblet, each slip with a table number to tell where Greg and Keith (if he showed) were to sit.

The room was lit eerie orange, so I have no idea how anyone's pictures are going to turn out. Our waitress was a strict grandmotherly type who scolded me for not eating my appetizer or finishing my salad. Dinner was stuffed quail, eensy little birds with eensy little leg bones. Decadent dessert. After seeing that Lanny's table had ordered wine, we did the same (Sprite for the kids).

The menus were an additional cool touch; the menu was listed opposite a color image of Goliath. I meant to save some, but on unpacking, I never did find them so I must've left them somewhere.

And then, at last, Keith arrived. The funny part was, a few minutes earlier, Greg had left the room. So here was Keith, and no Greg. Keith was taken to his table, and it struck me that what we needed was for him to, when Greg walked in, stand up and announce, "Ladies and Gentlemen, _Greg Weisman_!" You know, like Greg keeps doing. So I told Jen, Jen told Karine, Karine told Keith … and he did it!

Keith managed to talk between bites, and had to compete with the party going on next door. It was, I think, a nursing school reunion or graduation, so lots of women singing lots of bad karaoke. That is not always necessarily a contradiction in terms, by the way … when it was our group's turn later, a few shining stars rose high above the rest.

We left to go back to the room, so that I could get Becca into her costume and so Tim and Denis could work out their PayPal arrangements â€" Denis, one of my most dedicated readers, even shelled out for the _Black Roses_ audio book on CD!

Becca went as Bronx for the second time. Amazingly, most of the outfit still fit her (four years? was Orlando four years ago? egad!), though we did have to do new pants for it, since the old ones stopped just below the knee. Borrowed face paints from Jen, and soon we had our Bronx. We hooked up with members of the con staff â€" Jen and Alan as Gruoch and Macbeth, Cindy and Patrick as Titania and Puck â€" and it was time for the Masquerade.

What an incredible turnout, too! The staff weren't eligible for the contest, but plenty of other people dressed up and were just fabulous! The judges were Greg, Keith, our hotel liaison Daniel (he had such a good time; he's probably going to be talking about this for years!), and a lady who, I think, was either Daniel's wife or girlfriend.

I was sitting on the sidelines with my camera when Jen came up and grabbed me and stuck me at the judge's table, so that I could help keep track of who was who and which characters were canon as opposed to fanfic. It was a little startling to suddenly find myself seated next to Keith. And it turned out I didn't have much to do â€" most of the characters were canon this year. But I got to join the judges in their sequestered chamber and listen to them discuss the entries.

I say again, incredible turnout! Incredible costumes! Andrew, as Korul, not only had an amazing outfit but did a song-and-dance routine, was the undisputed best in show. Keith particularly appreciated the ladies, and I am pretty sure I heard a couple of those deep rumbling Goliath-growls from him … like when Argenta was strutting, or when Jade undid the skirt of her Elisa-Belle dress.

The Masquerade opened with Ethan, Sapphire, and Chameleongirl doing a cosplay with props of the _Gargoyles_ opening theme. Then came Vanessa as Dancer, in a lovely white dress. Then Spacebabie as Lori Canmore, and Nikki as Elisa-as-a-gargoyle. Then a scene from "Eye of the Beholder" as a trenchcoated Fox was carried in by Xanatos (that was Jackie and Alan, I think). Then Becca as Bronx. Tony and Andrea were Dracon and Bad Elisa (that costume often wins the Cleavage Award), presenting the judges with a jar of jalapeno peppers.

Sorry if I'm getting any names wrong; I was a little dazed. Then we saw Allan West as Thailog, Stormy as a Quarryman, Mandi in long purple hair as the Banshee. Annie came as Fox. Revel won the Thom Adcox Award for the attitude of his Tony Dracon.

Sherry's Echidna costume … so cool! So neat to see different characters! Lynati was a late but spectacular arrival as Ophelia. Flanker as the Renaissance Hunter … Kaylee and Siryn as Princess Katherine and young Tom (for which Si won the traditional Gorelisa cross-dressing award). Karine was ideal as Fox-in-maternity-smock.

Becca loved being Bronx. She posed for pictures, she roared for the crowd, she had a wonderful time and was thrilled to win a ribbon for Best Junior. But she was also glad, after a couple hours, to get out of that sweaty costume and wash off all the blue. Not only was there facepaint, but the costume hat has never been what I'd call color-fast.

So we took her back to the room to clean up. Then she and Tim stayed to sleep, while I went back down to the party. There was much singing. Now, I don't sing. Ever. I mouth the words to "Happy Birthday." So I admire the heck out of everyone who got up to sing in front of a crowd.

Keith reappeared and sang a number. He had his family in tow. I didn't catch their names, but there was a boy a little older than Becca, a girl of around three, and a baby who was all big adorable dark eyes. At one point, the little girl was climbing around on the stage and did this precarious step-wobble-teeter, and Greg and I, who were standing nearby, both almost lunged for the kid. Parents. Just can't help it.

We had our own lounge-singer rendition of "The Love Boat" (we definitely need him to come to Vegas, to shoehorn him into tight Tom Jones pants to do "It's Not Unusual"), and Zehra blew us all away with her performance. What a voice! Earlier, in the radio play, she'd been Elisa … now she sang like Julie Andrews, with that same almost unbearable purity of voice. She got a well-deserved standing ovation.

And talk about a hard act to follow! The only thing to do was to plunge into absurdity … and you'd have to look long and hard to find any number more absurd than "YMCA," especially when nobody knew the freakin' words! "Young man, something-something-something! I say, young man, something-something-something!"

I mean it. Literally. That's what they sang. Twenty people doing the arm movements and everything. Only knowing the chorus. I have not laughed so hard since seeing "Van Helsing."

So, for future reference, here is a link to the complete official lyrics:

I didn't stay long, and what time I was there I spent hanging out with Jen and sneaking peeks at her husband's legs (gosh, Alan's got nice legs … and those boots! Oh, baby!) while he was busy rounding up a bevy of beauties to keep him company at the back of the room.

What the rest of the hotel guests must've thought, I do wonder. There was the elderly couple: "See? I told you this place was full of weirdoes." (this because they were sharing an elevator with Puck, Titania, Bronx, Gruoch and Macbeth). There was the couple that wandered in while the karaoke was going on. There were the nursing students, or whatever they were.

And there was the man who approached Jen and I at one point (I forget exactly when) and asked, "Excuse me … what are Gargoyles? I mean, I know what 'gargoyles' are, but … who are you people?" Jen abandoned me to field that one on my own. I think I handled it okay. At least the guy didn't run.

And that was it for Saturday! I got to bed at a more reasonable hour, after saying goodbye to Greg â€" he was planning to stay up all night and leave at six to get home in time for his daughter's birthday.

Sunday, August 8th
The Gathering, Day 3

We went straight to the hotel buffet that morning, and had breakfast with Kathy Pogge. I think most everyone was off to an even slower start that morning, especially the people who'd stayed up all night to see Greg off.

There was some confusion all weekend long about the Phoenix Gate Anthology signing party. It wasn't on the schedule, and so it was going to be at the same time as Keith and Greg were doing autographs. Which, of course, got shoved all around. Finally, it was decided that the signing party would take place during Keith's Sunday morning Mug-A-Guest, in the dealers room.

Which, of course, conflicted with Allaine's adult round robin, and Dylan's talk on gargoyle biology. At least, it would have if the Mug had started on schedule at 10:00. What really happened was that I moved furniture, setting up some tables and chairs and pens, and made some quickie handmade signs for the PGA and for Keith.

Ultimately, it worked out pretty well, I thought! We had a long row of authors and artists. All but two of the PGA authors were there: me, Dylan, Stormy, Ellen, Scott, Allaine, John, and Alex Garg. The other two, Christi and Summer, had sent autographed stickers so that they could sort of sign in absentia. Kyt was there, having done the beautiful cover art, and Kya White Sapphire and Liz joined us to sign their pics, too.

Speaking of which â€" big thanks to Liz for filling in at the last minute when we had a space in the book and needed a piece of art; all the more thanks from me because she did an illustration from "Dust and Ashes," and then honored me by giving me the original! Time to hit the frame shop, and see about squeezing some more space out of our overcrowded walls!

The crowds kept us pretty busy with our pens, and then just as we were more or less finishing up, Keith arrived. It was coming up on 1:00 by then, and some people had been sitting and waiting most patiently. The art show was already coming down. Keith toured the dealers room (he took one of my _Black Roses_ audio tape demos, which was mildly alarming) and then sat down to answer questions.

He also expressed interest in the PGA, so Karine snared him a copy and had us all sign it. This, of course, got me nervous all over again. Wonder what he'll make of the stories? Wonder what he'll make of _my_ story?

The talk topics ranged all over. We found out that a couple of Keith's dream roles would be to do _The Man of La Mancha_, and the Nat King Cole story. When he said this, a low anticipatory sound â€" "ooooh!" â€" went through the crowd. He briefly ascended a soapbox to talk about soldiers and, after someone is trained to dehumanize and kill the enemy, how difficult it is to reintegrate into regular society.

While this was going on, the art show was being taken down and Art Show Goddess Cindy was busy getting the awards ready. As always, the talent of this fandom is just amazing. I liked seeing the unconventional things, too, the wooden sculpture, Jade's darling little Demona doll … it made me resolve that next year, I'll have something to contribute. I may not be able to draw, but I can craft, and I think I'm finally ready to bust out the old hot glue gun again.

Closing Ceremonies began at 3 or so, with the presentation of the art show ribbons, another Vegas reminder from Chris, and the Clan Olympics winners (Becca was swimming at the time, but she was happy later when I told her that Arno's team won the gold). Keith did his autograph session, and a lot of people signed up for next year.

Then Chris convened a business meeting to elect a board of directors. The final seven members were him, me, Jen, Siryn, Hudson, Scott, and Greg B. But in retrospect, I think Tim should have been nominated, not me. He's had loads of experience with this sort of thing, bylaws and motions and seconding and voting and quibbling over wording and all that hoo-rah from being a Mason (so _this_ is what they do at their secret meetings!). But he'll be here to help me out.

After that, we horned in on the con staff for the Dead Dog party up in the con suite for booze and goodies. Karine mixes a mean drink! Some friends of hers showed up with their daughter, a cute little kid who was shy at first â€" for maybe three whole minutes â€" before she was running around playing with Becca and tickling people and feeding candy to us all. There was laughter, cussing, foot massages, silliness, ranting, cuddling, bad jokes (I don't think Karine was all that terribly amused by the "what's the difference between a lightbulb and a pregnant woman" one; she shot me a narrow "har-har" sort of look).

We had pizza â€" Becca had chicken nuggets; whenever we go on vacation, I try to enforce the "chicken nuggets for only ONE meal a day, but sometimes it doesn't quite work out â€" and we partied. The three of us left around 11:00, and I heard that the rest of the party broke up shortly thereafter.

Monday, August 9th and Tuesday, August 10th
La Ronde and Montreal

We got up and got moving fairly early Monday. Breakfast at McD's, and then Tim headed off to explore the city. Again, under orders to stay out of the street. He wanted to prowl the university district, and look for game stores, and go to museums, and take more pictures of buildings … and all the general gamer/history geek stuff that he likes to do.

Becca and I, meanwhile, waited around for the group that was headed to La Ronde. There ended up being some two dozen of us who went, many in garg shirts. Entertained (or frightened) the passengers on the Metro by treating them to a loud, enthusiastic rendition of the "One thousand years ago" speech. Oh, how I love cities with actual efficient rapid transit! Seattle is such a throwback in that regard.

We had our Six Flags season passes, bought this year since not only have we visited our local park but knew we'd have this trip coming up, as well as Magic Mountain in December when we plan to invade Jen's house (and, in light of developments, we're now thinking to arrange it so that we're there on the 7th, for a DVD release party!).

As it turned out, the season passes caused a slight problem. We got separated at the gates because Becca and I had to go to another window to use our passes. By the time we got that sorted out, we'd lost track of the others. Becca, who had wanted to go on the big rides with Siryn, was disappointed but soon got over it.

Nice park! Hot day. We went on a few rides, not many as it turned out because some of the lines were horrendous. Becca won four little stuffed snakes and two fat little stuffed dogs playing carnival games (skee-bowling and darts). It was a lot of fun, just me and her, mommy-daughter time. I bought a "La Vampire" visor, to make up for the hat I lost at Wild Waves.

The last ride was the log ride, which was not the tame tepid Splash Mountain we were expecting but fast and bumpy and full of rapids … fun! Then we sat for a while and watched other logs come down the flume, waiting to see if anybody was going to flash the camera. Closest we got was a quartet of teens who flipped the finger in unison.

We wound up making our way back to the hotel on our own, too. Becca was sure that I was going to get us lost, oh she of little faith. Then she went swimming, and Tim told us about his day.

Then, with aching legs and feet, we wimped out and took a cab down into the old town district, to a fondue restaurant. Seen as how Becca had already eaten her day's quota of chicken nuggets and all! And wow! What a meal! We got the Fondue Trio, which started with a cheese fondue, bread, grapes and apples. Then we got a bubbling pot of broth and a platter of raw chicken and beef and veggies to dip. And then, oh-my-slavering-gods, a fondue of dark chocolate with bits of crepe, marshmallow, banana, and strawberry.

As we returned to the hotel, by cab again because now we were not only footsore and achy but stuffed to capacity with yummy fondue, we ran into Keith and family again. Judging by the array of stuffed animals they were carrying â€" a clownfish, more snakes, etc. â€" they had been at La Ronde too.

We slept in on Tuesday, and then headed to Notre Dame. I only shot a couple of pictures before Tim started grumbling about how flash photography would damage the paint. So I quit, even though hoards of other people were popping flashbulbs right and left. It was a truly impressive building … and I wish I'd realized sooner the gross impropriety of wearing a Gothy black "La Vampire" visor into a cathedral … but my skin didn't blister when I dipped my fingers in the holy water font, so I guess that's a good sign.

Our next stop was the Science Center, where we were just in time to catch the English version of this interactive immersion shark game movie thing they had. Fifty or so people sitting in a dark room at computer terminals, while up front is a huge screen of underwater scenes. Each of us played the role of some sea creature, starting low on the old food chain and working our way up through the species by eating prey, avoiding being eaten, and reaching certain goals. Very cool.

Becca enjoyed the Science Center, which had exhibits devoted to the science of sleep, the human body, and technology. A movie must've been being filmed outside, too, because we could see trucks and trailers and cameras and crew, and they had gone to some effort to make the outside of the Science Center into an airport. Luggage trolleys, suitcases, signs, etc. Never did catch a glimpse of anybody famous, though.

We had an early dinner, then returned to the hotel. By now, if anyone else was still around, we didn't see them. Tim started packing while I took Becca for a final swim, and then I got online briefly … before the thunderstorm rolled in.

And what a thunderstorm! Huge flaring sheets of lightning, stinging rain blown almost horizontal by high wind, crashing roars of thunder. The weather channel even said something about a chance of tornadoes, if I was translating correctly (though how hard can it be to guess what "tornade" means?). So I turned off the computer, and we doused the lights, and sat and watched the storm.

Luckily, it didn't blow out the power or the television, so Tim and I were still able to catch "The Amazing Race" before falling asleep. The alarm was set for 4:00 AM, so that we could get to the airport and finally head for home.

It was a wonderful trip (except for the car thing). So great to see my old friends and meet new ones! I didn't realize until I was there just how much I'd missed everybody. We're all looking forward to Las Vegas, and Tim and I have even found ourselves thinking seriously about a Seattle bid one of these years.

Greg responds...

Seattle sounds great!!

Christine, I love reading your Gathering Journals. I also love hearing about the Montreal stuff that you did. One of the few regrets (and it's pretty minor) that I have about most Gatherings is that I'm so busy that I never get any real tourist time in. Don't ever see all that much of the town. I'm glad you managed to.

Response recorded on March 20, 2006

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