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Gathering Journal 2008
[ Tuesday, June 24 ]
Before heading west to Chicago, Ed and I first ventured a few miles east to the outskirts of Columbus. We had to make a few last-minute purchases, grab some cash, and take care of some preventative auto maintainance. It was about late lunch time as we finally hit the road for the long run.
* West of Springfield, I-70 is only 2 lanes in each direction, all the way to Indianapolis. Rural I-65 between Indianapolis and the outskirts of Merrilville (Gary / southeast Chicago metro area) is completely rural in character, even moreso than western Ohio. Near the Kankakee River, the smell of manure permeates the air. It's hard to believe the center of this country's third-largest city is only sixty miles away.
* All Chicagoland freeways seem to have a 55-MPH speed limit, which everyone seems to ignore. The prevailing traffic speed (on an uncongested freeway) is 70 MPH, or 60 to 65 in construction zones with 45-MPH limits.
* Chicago's suburbs seem quite sparsely-developed, at least as seen from the Tri-State Tollway.
* The Chicago area has some interesting road signage habits. Sometimes it's hard to know ahead of time exactly what lane to be in. When it comes to lane closures, I definitely prefer the way ODOT does things.
Got to the La Quinta Inn on the northwest side. Best rate I could find besides a Super 8 with a ton of bad reviews. Nice pool, comfortable room, few TV channels.
[ Wednesday, June 25 ]
The continental breakfast reminded me of the Morrill Tower dining hall at OSU. There was no prepared food; the toast and waffles were do-it-yourself, plus fruit, cereal, coffee, juice, etcetera.
We drove to a Park & Ride on the Blue Line to get downtown for sightseeing. I-90 eastbound was really backed up starting around O'Hare, and it probably took us twenty minutes to go the last few miles to the Cumberland station. (Why does the CTA use the term "Kiss & Ride"? I found out later that this refers to commuters who are dropped off, such as by a spouse, to take the train, rather than parking their car there.) So the CTA trains ("The El", though much of the Blue Line is underground) are pretty cool.
We went to the Museum of Contemporary Art first (mid afternoon). There's a lot of interesting stuff there, and I didn't understand it all, but I quite enjoyed the visit. The sculpture exhibits were my favorite. I was expecting to pay admission, but there was nobody at the door selling tickets, so I donated $5 on the way out.
Next we made our way back to the Loop and the Sears Tower Skydeck. Ed couldn't put together the courage to go up, but hey, that saved us a $13 admission ticket. I'll show him the pictures I took later. I was surprised to see Meigs Field Airport was gone. (A Fan told me all about that Sunday night.)
A woman on the Skydeck told me I had to go see that big silver bean thing. It's not visible from there, but she told me where it is. Sort of. Ed and I left the Sears Tower, planning to walk to Millennium Park, home of that silver bean thing. We grabbed some Slurpees on the way. As we finished the Slurpees, we began to reconsider the walking plan. A short trip on the elevated Brown Line saved us several blocks.
So we got to Millenium Park, and walked towards where the woman told me the bean is. Then I spotted a map showing the bean (apparently titled "Cloud Gate") about a block and a half back the way we came. It's pretty cool though, despite the needless excess walking. Observation: Just about everything in Millennium Park has a corporate sponsor.
We entered the CTA system again at about sunset, and it was dark by the time we got back to the Cumberland Kiss 'n' Ride. Ed and I had bought 7-day unlimited visitor passes for $20 each. If we keep riding like we did today, we'll get our money's worth. But I don't think we'll have reason to ride. Still, we really got around today, and it'll be nice to have the option of free rides until we leave town.
A snack run to Meijer and a couple hours of the Discovery Channel rounds out the day.
[ Thursday, June 26 ]
We missed La Quinta's breakfast -- in the sense of being late. Speaking for myself, I didn't particularly miss it in the sense of feeling loss. So we had snack stuff (in my case, Graham crackers) for breakfast, packed up, and checked out.
Since we were planning to pick up A Fan at O'Hare, and he wasn't coming in for a while, Ed and I had some time to kill in the northwest suburbs. We hit Woodfield Mall in Schaumburg. It very much reminded us of a couple of malls in Columbus -- very possibly the same architect -- but it's considerably larger, and with more of a quality I like to call "vertical intrigue". We spent a couple hours just walking around to see what all the stores were, though we did do some actual shopping.
Some may remember that piece of Shinsonic DVD player in the Con Suite last year. Ed and I had brought it from home. This year we packed light, so no DVD player. The new Futurama movie had come out Tuesday, and we'd bought it at Meijer the night before. So then we saw this cheap portable DVD player at Radio Shack, and it wasn't a hard decision for me to buy it. We then picked up a few bargain DVD titles at another store in the mall. Well, we still had time to kill, so we watched Futurama in the mall parking garage. Then we hung around the Oasis on the I-90 tollway before finally parking at the airport to pick up A Fan. Once he joined us, we could finally head for Evanston. Traffic was slow, and we stopped for food along the way, so it took a while. And then I couldn't remember exactly where the hotel was. Anyway, referring to some printed material we had with us quickly resolved that.
A Fan checked us in, and after unloading the car, I did some exploring of the Orrington and its vicinity. I got some ice cream at Ben & Jerry's and went back to the hotel. The three of us then watched Not Another Teen Movie, though since we didn't have the right cable to connect to the TV, we had to watch it on the tiny screen of the portable DVD player.
[ Friday, June 27 ]
I woke up early for registration, shopped for a couple of miscellaneous items, and had Burger King breakfast with A Fan. Then I pretty much took it easy around the hotel (taking a few pictures) until the Greg Mug, then Opening Ceremonies.
Having properly connected the portable DVD player to the hotel TV, we watched various movies until late. I should have gotten caught up with my con journal, but I was too tired. (Friday's events were recorded late Saturday night.)
[ Saturday, June 28 ]
Saturday we got up early again, though we didn't have to. We took our time getting ready for the day. The Comic Page Layout panel was interesting and quite informative. Plus, we got a minor, sketchy preview about an upcoming fight sequence, though I wouldn't call it a spoiler. It's like a movie trailer that shows you parts of an action sequence without explaining anything. It doesn't give away any plot points, but makes you want to see the movie -- or in this case, read the comic book -- when it comes out.
So then I attended the Keith David Mug-A-Guest. He's always great to listen to, though sometimes I didn't quite understand some of the acting nuances he talks about. Also, part of the time my mind was on a software tool I might create to help out with the Team Atlantis episode.
After that I took a break, as well as quite a few photos. The street vendor fair going on this weekend, and the high visibility and changing weather made for some interesting shots. Then I snacked in my room until time for the Radio Play.
At five, I headed up to the ninth floor for the Radio Play. Someone was directing the audience towards one entrance, and performers towards the other. Well, the doors to the auditorium were closed, so I thought I was earlier than most everyone else. Thinking I had time to kill (or maybe I was just distracted) I headed out onto the terrace, where there was already another con-goer. Within thirty seconds, it started pouring rain. Before we could get back in the door, there was a clap of thunder. As we were running back inside, neither of us slowed to close the door, so as we came back to take care of that, we found pea-size hail bouncing in the door! After a moment of thinking "wow, hail!", I said, "hey, let's throw it at people!" So then I picked up a few pieces and ran down the hallway, only finding one unsuspecting target -- and I missed. When I came back to reload, a few people were coming out of the auditorium. I said something like "hail fight!" and playfully tossed a few. Then I realized pretty much everyone was already seated for the Radio Play, and Greg was speaking, so I quieted down and found a seat.
The Radio Play was cool, as usual, though it briefly had to compete with the sound of heavy rain. Like last year, the Radio Play was an adaptation of a story from the Gargoyles comic, including an issue not yet released. And the idea of Keith David and Thom Adcox switching roles was quite amusing -- twice.
After the Radio Play, many people headed out to the terrace, as it had stopped raining. We could see a jumbled pile of metal framing heaped together in an intersection on the streets below, in the middle of the street fair. I grabbed my camera from the room, and then headed down to investigate. From the bits I overheard of fair participants giving interviews to the local news, the storm had created some kind of wind vortex -- like a mini tornado -- between the large buildings, which had picked up several street tents, removed their coverings, and mashed the frames together into that mangled pile. Something like six people were injured. I took a few photos of the scene and headed back to the hotel.
In the lobby, A Fan was putting together a group for dinner. After a bit of discussion regarding the type of restaurant we wanted, the group that left the hotel consisted of myself, Ed, A Fan, and four others. Through a few democratic votes, and a couple of blocks of walking, the seven of us found Dave's Italian Kitchen. Oddly, our waiter was Chinese. (OK, maybe not odd given the demographics of the area, but mildly amusing.)
I enjoyed my spaghetti. Another person in the group (I didn't catch her name) had broken glass in her food; that dish was not included on the bill. Ed took home some leftover garlic bread.
After a bit of relaxing in the hotel room, it was time for the Blue Mug. There were quite a few good questions and funny moments. After a couple hours, though, I had to leave, as I was getting tired and I had 3 days worth of con journal to write. At least I managed to catch up through Friday before turning in. Observation: I really hope I can read all this when it's time to type it up...
[ Sunday, June 29 ]
Sunday morning started with the Gargoyles & Bad Guys Comic panel. What sticks out most in my mind was discussion of possible other comics spinoffs. Between the early hour, and the multiple days I've procrastinated between then and the time I'm writing this, my memory's a bit foggy. But I do remember that Greg is quite anxious to tell a Dark Ages story, pending renewal of SLG's license for the franchise.
Next was the Biology & Culture panel. Of course a few of the usual topics were discussed: glowing eyes, stone sleep, the Wind Ceremony. I asked about navigation, and it would seem the canon-in-training report is that gargoyles can sense the Earth's magnetic field. I feel there's probably a bit more to it than that, though a magnetic sense would be a distinct (if incomplete) navigational advantage.
I had planned to attend the Spider-man panel too, but at that time I really didn't feel like sitting through a third consecutive panel. Besides, the new Spider-man series is of more interest to Ed than myself. It was at this time I realized I'd taken several photos of the view *from* the hotel, but none *of* the hotel. So I headed out to snap some shots, got one pic before coming back in to change my camera batteries, waited for housekeeping to finish cleaning the room, swapped the batteries, went back out, got caught in the rain, and finally got the last couple of "establishing shots" I wanted.
So then I took it easy for a while. Since I had nothing else to do, I journaled Saturday's events. Snacks and The Weather Channel filled up the gap before it was time to grab some autographs. When that was done, I sat in on a nice casual conversation group for a while, which also served to recruit for A Fan's annual Anti-Banquet.
So a group of about six of us, including a 2-person documentary crew, headed to a place called Giordano's, or something like that. They're apparently famous for "stuffed" pizza, where there's cheese between two layers of dough -- across the whole pizza, not just the dough. Ed and I ordered a medium (or was it a small?) pepperoni stuffed pizza with a lighter amount of sauce, because I prefer a more cheese-focused pizza and I know Chicago likes to really pour the sauce in.
A couple of folks in the Masquerade used our room to change into their costumes. The masquerade itself was interesting, but I didn't stay long. That room was cold, and I'm not much for dancing or mingling in large groups. On the way back to the room, I ran into Josh Silver, (I think that was him) who told me who the winners of the masquerade contest were. Back in the room, I called a friend of mine back home. While I was talking to him, A Fan and the costumed pair returned. A Fan pretended to be MovieFone's automated voice system for my friend, who found it quite humorous. I knew he'd fit in well with my Columbus friends. Anyway, he and I worked out the next day's travel arrangements while waiting for Ed to return from the Masquerade Dance. When he did, we pretty much all went to bed. (At least, I don't remember doing anything else.)
[ Monday, June 30 ]
In the wee hours of Monday morning, I had a dream that turned bad very quickly. Swarming bees combined with not being able to escape makes just about the worst dream I can possibly have. I woke up screaming. Of course, I woke up Ed and A Fan, too. I calmed down quickly, and we all got a couple more hours of sleep before getting up to pack.
Ed and I hadn't exactly been keeping our stuff neat for the last several days, so it took us a couple of hours to get our stuff packed and out of the room. Still, we got things taken care of in time for me to catch the last half hour of the Fanfiction panel. And then there was the Blue Mug Productions panel. Now that's an interesting project. And I kind of like the name, the in-reference which, if you don't know, you'll just assume it's something random or abstract.
Closing ceremonies were dominated by the art awards. (Karine and Mara practically stole the show in that department.) Personally, I think they should also do a few awards along the lines of "most distance traveled to attend the Gathering". I don't think I'd ever win that particular award, but I still think it would be fun. Anyway, the ceremonies ended without dragging on too long. It was time for Ed, A Fan, and me, to depart the Orrington in my noble '93 Beretta.
We made satisfactory time to O'Hare. A Fan, having packed for convenient air travel, took almost no time at all unloading his stuff from the car and then disappearing into the terminal. A quick wave "goodbye" and Ed and I were off again, though we didn't go too terribly far. At the first Oasis we encountered on the Tri-State Tollway, we stopped for some ice cream sandwiches and chicken nuggets. Also, I picked up a corny Captain Tollway coloring book. I'll show it to the family for some laughs before giving it to my niece and nephew to color.
We stopped again to eat and refuel in Lafayette, Indiana. Quite a distance later, Ed realized he'd left his hat behind at the restaurant. Without a second thought, I decided not to worry. The cost of the gas needed to go back for it would have been ten times the amount we paid for the hat in the first place. As it turns out, we didn't make a single stop between Lafayette and our home on the far far far west side of Columbus. I wasn't done driving, though; Mom and I rushed to Kroger to pick up some groceries before midnight, so I could get my gas discount for July.
I never did get any further use out of, nor find a buyer for, my CTA visitor pass.
[ Notes ]
The events of Sunday and Monday were recorded electronically, at home, a few days after the Gathering. Then the events of the previous Tuesday through Saturday were transcribed from the actual hand-written journal into that same electronic record, with some minor editing and revision. This is the contents of that electronic record, with some spelling corrections.
[ End ]
Annotated ConJournals. Sweet!