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The Gathering 2003 - New York "Home at Last"
Okay, I've printed off all my receipts, figured out bus and subway stops, fitted three bags of peanut M&Ms and my clothes into my daypack and a variety of odd bits into my carry bag. Dang, no room for the book I'm reading: Saturn's Child. We'll, there is, but I'll probably finish the thing before I leave Knoxville and I don't want to carry deadweight.
Two hours in the airport with CNN travel news that won't stop. I wish I'd brought the book.
Knoxville to LaGuardia Airport. On the plane I saw the smoothest pick up ever and it was between two women (as opposed to the worst ever which was a desperate guy hitting on a girl in the Village, which was just pathetic.) Casual conversation led to career talk that segued to a job offer. The pair got off the plane in New York to have lunch and seal the deal. I was in awe. Anyway, the M60 bus to Astoria subway station. (Hint to NY transit folks: people coming from the airport stand a fair chance of being tourists, consequently, announcing bus and train stops would be considered helpful.) Got off at 34th and Herald Square and promptly got turned around. Took a pass around Macy's, figured out where I was and "Hello, Hotel Pennsylvania!"
Started to check in. Got in line anyway and decided to call Greg Bishansky to let him know I was there. They were getting pizza. Pizza suddenly sounded like a really good idea. Hooked up with the majority of the ConStaff and had lunch.
Back to the Registration Desk. Easy. Thank you, Hotels.com. Next stop luggage room to pick up the box of convention tee shirts. Nice guy at the luggage room said he'd have them delivered to my room. Cool. Wish I'd waited a little while longer and had them delivered to the ConSuite instead. Oh well, a little exercise never hurt anybody.
ConSuite: Busy. Very Busy. I folded teeshirts and later helped stuff registration packets. Mandolin, my roomie two year's running, finally arrived after a tedious train trip. We caught up a little bit and then it was back to the ConSuite for a meeting and Pep Rally Sushi Dinner. Good sushi. Monster Sushi. Great company. Too bad they split us up because the tables were smallish.
Back to the hotel and the last normal night's sleep of the weekend.
Meh, woke up to the sound of the alarm on my cell phone. Found out the shower is jet propelled. Out and dressed to see what needed doing. Walked to Kinko's with Winterwolf and made some copies. Walked back alone because he was doing last minute computer stuff. Staff meeting. Pulled the assignment of minding the Skytop Ballroom where most of the big events were. Fabu. Alan came back with the convention programs and we stuffed them into the packets. Greg Weisman, Carol and I went to breakfast since the rest of the ConStaff was happy with soda and Pop Tarts. We ended up at Lindy's, which was a mistake. Greg's tomato juice was fermented. We did see Lou Ferrigno. He was appearing at the convention across the street. I felt bad about breakfast since mine was the swing vote to stay so I picked up the tab.
At some point thereafter it was back to the Consuite. The Dreamer Clan had arrived to set up the hospitality portion of the convention. It was great to see Batya and Alex, Constance, A Fan, Kellie and others whose names regretfully escape. Unfortunately, the weekend is blurry in places (I blame the hotel ventilation system) and events that occurred in the same room have kind of bled into each other. However, I do remember that Hudson and several members of his security crew were there as well and they were instrumental in helping my pull off the "Peanut M & M" prank on Greg Weisman.
The what? Okay, so it was a dumb joke, but I make my own fun. One day on the Staff mailing list Greg remarked in response to an email that he was a "Peanut M&M kind of guy". Now who could leave a comment like that alone? Goaded by Patrick aka "Puck" Toman, who is responsible for creating all kinds of mischief and seldom gets his own hands dirty in the process, I decided to make sure that Greg would get as many packets of M&Ms over the course of the weekend as possible. Hence the 48 or so mini bags of candy in my carry on.
The short of it was: every time I was in the middle of a group of people I recruited more helpers. And over the course of the weekend Greg ended up with more little bags of M&M's.
Like I said, I make my own fun.
Gah, headache. I went to check on the ballroom because our first event of the day "Clan Wars" was supposed to take place there. The room was made up for a banquet! Water pitchers on every table, cups stacked neatly. I caught a quick flash of what the room would look like after the Nerf Battles had gotten done with it and had a fast consult with the head waiter. Fortunately, he was cool about it and the room was soon safe for the warriors to take the field.
Greg's Mug a Guest - Easy. And the first bag of M&Ms dropped.
Noel's panel - Couldn't swing an easel, but things worked out anyway. Good. I needed a lunch break and time to clear my head.
Good deeds seldom go unpunished. I bugged out of the hotel long enough to pick up lunch for Greg and Thom who were locked in back to back Voice Acting seminar and then Radio Play auditions. Thom mentioned how much he was jonesing for Nathan's hot dogs and there was a Nathan's on the corner. Pick up dogs and sodas, swing by London Suite should have been easy. Unfortunately, Thom makes his own fun too. He got me. Good. Too bad I was already sleep deprived and not on form. Why is it the best comebacks occur way too late to do any good?
Oh well. I had to panel to co-present with Lynati, Greg Bishansky, and Batya: History, Myths, and Legends. In hindsight this was probably a stellar example of why Convention Staffers shouldn't try to present content too. We actually had a program of discussion outlined, but with all the last minute rushing around, the prep kind of went out the window. Still, we had a good roundtable discussion and it seemed like people enjoyed themselves.
Panel over. Time to set up for Opening Ceremonies. Tables and chairs reset - check. Uh, where's the AV stuff? Second headache. Fortunately, easily resolved. Chris Rogers to the rescue!
For me, the Gatherings have become more and more like family reunions. Opening Ceremonies has become the part where people drag out the old movies and tell the old stories, but you don't groan because you've heard them for the 72nd time, instead they make you feel all warm and mushy, because you're back with people you care about. Kinda dumb, I know. But it's nice. Anyway, G2003 did their thing, thanking everyone for attending, G2004 plugged Montreal, and Greg played the pitch tapes and leica reel.
Out to dinner to a place called the American. Upscale diner food. Greg, his friend Doug, Vic Cook, Carol, Patrick and Mandi. We did appetizer and dessert roulette. Yummy.
Oh dang, Greg has to be back for a late night Mug a Guest. Time to take a late jog through Manhattan. Who'd a thunk Greg would be so fast when he put his mind to it?
The Mug was a stitch, though sitting all classroomy like with Greg and Thom behind a table was kind of odd. Late night Mugs thrive on familiarity and informality and it took a bit to get things rolling. But roll they did. Right into the gutter and out again. It lasted until after 2AM and would have gone later had the hotel staff not pulled the plug.
kip the shower, go for the bath. Oh look. The bath water is as dark as coffee, maybe a good Kenya roast. Run it for a bit, it gets down to a nice ice tea color. Oh well, you do what you have to do.
Staff Meeting - Hey wait a minute what do you mean you want me to chair the meeting? I haven't had coffee yet! Okay, ran down the action items and went to go check on the Ballroom. Why is it made up with tables all over again? Oh, Clan Wars Round II. Reset the room again. It went pretty quick but I still don't know how to set the AV stuff up. You'd think I'd learn to stare at the back of the speakers and video equipment, but no. Fortunately, Aaron was there to sort it out and I went to do my first solo workshop: Three Scenarios in Search of a Story.
It seemed like a good idea at the time I proposed it: let's make the Writing Track as much about writing as talking about writing. So of course, having put my foot in, I had to go up to my neck. I devised a writing exercise that sounded fun, at least on paper: here are three scenarios - write the opening sentence, an outline of the story that would go with and the final paragraph. My six attendees wrote up a storm. Now the kicker: all three events happened within the same story. Write the point where they intersect. There were groans from a few participants and then frantic scratching as pens and pencils raced along binder paper and note cards. At "Pencils down" we had time to hear several of the results. It was everything I could have hoped for. Everyone had a different take on events and there were some genuinely good stories in the process of being created. Best yet, the audience had fun doing the exercise.
Hey, I finally had time to sit down and watch a panel! At least most of one: Series Development. Animation and the industry that surrounds it has changed so much in such a short time. Actually, entertainment in general has. It boggles the mind that anything new makes it to the screen. I yanked Patrick out of the end of the panel because we still hadn't had time to do a final run through for the seminar we were co presenting: Am I Blue?
It should have been called "How Long Can Kathy Go Before She's Distracted by a Shiny Object?" I've never been a happy public speaker. It took me an extra quarter to graduate from college because while the Dean of the College of Agriculture at Cal Poly could get me out of Cereal Crops, he couldn't wave the university requirement for a speech class. Over the years, I've learned to put my nerves into my presentations. I move around, I clutch at a marker or chalk or other props like a lifeline, I grab audience comments and run with them, anything to keep things lively. Unfortunately, while that approach works to an extent as a solo presenter, it tends to leave co presenters scrambling. Sorry, Patrick. We're a great writing team, but we've got to work on stage presence. On the upside, the writing exercise we did at the end was a success. Yay us! And I got to talk for a bit with Ellen, Dylan and Mooncat among others for a bit.
Another bought of post presentation nerves. Good thing Thom wasn't around to see. I'd have never lived it down if he'd seen me bolting for the Ladies hand over my mouth.
Radio Play - The Reckoning. The performance was dedicated to Gary Sperling. A card for his two children was presented to the assembled fandom for sympathy and well wishes. Greg planned to present it after the Gathering to the Sperling family.
The Banquet - How hard can it be to seat tables with one special guest, a member of Constaff and fill the rest with fans? We'd come up with a scheme that made a certain degree of sense - except it didn't. So the tickets the fans were handed were void and a simple count off applied instead. Those immortal words: Keep it simple, stupid, were suddenly apropos.
Anyway, our very first Star Trek/Gargoyles guest Nichelle Nichols arrived. We "borrowed her" when we found out she was appearing at the convention at Madison Square Gardens. Actually, we found out she was appearing across the street, and Carol talked her management into letting her come over for dinner and a book signing. This was no small feat as Trek actors' management watch over their people and their interests like nervous hens. But a deal was struck and there she was sharing buffet salmon, chicken and roast beef plus that dessert bar with us!
(As a minor aside, if you see Carol at the next Gathering, go up to her say hello and thank you. This woman has done an incredible job year after year making sure our guests have a great time at the Gathering and she is a huge asset to our Convention Staffs and Fandom. This isn't meant to denigrate any other staffers past or future, it's a tremendous undertaking to host a convention and the individuals brave or foolhardy enough to do so deserve all of our thanks.)
After the meal the Q&A was open for business. No one wanted to be first so, I stuck my hand up to get things rolling. Fortunately, I'd read enough of Saturn's Child to get a feel for it and so I commented about the awesome amount of world building involved and that broke the ice. Eventually, the Q & A turned to Gargoyles and what it was like to voice and design art for "Mark of the Panther". It's still one of my favorite "world tour" episodes for the stunning artwork that accompanied the tale of Anansi.
I bought a copy of Saturna's Quest and had Ms. Nichols sign it. She's a lovely woman who's had an amazing life. When she gets her one-woman show mounted I hope she stops in Knoxville. Or Atlanta even. It'd be worth a couple of hundred miles drive to see her sing the blues.
The Masquerade - I watched. I talked to people. Lanny worked on the knots in my shoulder that had been plaguing me all weekend. I owe him and Goliath 116 a huge debt of gratitude for keeping me mostly pain free. When the judges left to make their determinations I dumped the last of a bag of M&Ms on the judges' table which led to Greg to ask the room at large "What is it with the M&Ms?"
(I eventually fessed up. And even if I hadn't I was caught on videotape.)
I bailed on the dance for a tour of the Village with Lanny, Patrick, Thom, Carol and Greg . Stupidly, I left my bag behind because we were going walking and I was tired of lugging it around. Unfortunately, my wallet was in my bag and I didn't know that walking included a subway ride and a late supper at Caliente Cab Company who almost didn't let me in because I had no I.D. I'm over 21, already! While I suppose I should take it as a compliment that people might think otherwise, it's still a pain in the arse. Lucky for me, Greg bailed me out and picked up the tab for the subway and supper. Thanks, Greg. :)
It was a fun night and the conversation both on the street and around the table was lively and it continued once we got back to the hotel into the wee hours.
Oh god. I totally overslept and I wanted to go watch the Munster Hurling Semi Finals. Sleeping until 12:30 meant I missed that and the morning staff meeting. Sorry guys.
Back to Nathan's for breakfast. Or would that be lunch? Either way, it was a hot dog.
Caught the tail end of the Team Atlantis Q & A. It's obvious listening to both Vic and Greg talk that it's a frustrating business trying to make entertainment these days and yet they keep plugging away at the system.
The snippet of Milo's Return they showed looked pretty good, engaging but with an edge. It's now on my list (getting longer all the time) of DVDs to buy.
The auction was in progress when I got to the ballroom. It suddenly occurred to me how to make it less of a tag on event and more of a feature attraction so I duly handed the idea off to the G2004 staff. They're a great bunch and next year already sounds like it's going to be a corker.
Closing Ceremonies. So long. Farewell. Auf Weidersehen. Goodbye. Thanks for coming and see you next year. I ponied up my $20.00 for early pre-reg.
Soon we were off to Coney Island with a detour to the 9-11 site. I have to say, I was extremely uncomfortable there. I have no connections to New York. I didn't know anybody who died that day. That wasn't it. The dead weren't at rest or maybe it was the living still at odds with the tragedy. Very unsettling. It's the only way I can describe it. I live across the street from a cemetery. As my husband likes to quip, "we live in a great location, the neighbors are quiet." And they are. When you walk the grounds it's peaceful. I didn't have that feeling in at the crash site. I was glad to get back on the subway.
Greg counted us off. Twenty-seven people - a group that big is bound to get separated. Everybody gets a map and a buddy.
Coney Island. Hey the beach! I miss the beach. Look Nathan's, the original. Can we have food? Nope. First it's to the gates of Astroland so we can figure out where and when we're going to meet back up. Ten? Cool. To be honest, I'm tired of this place already and it was my idea to come here. I've got to say that Patrick did a great job on organizing the trip. Thanks, Patrick! It's loud. It's bright. And it's totally polar opposite to what I'm in the mood for. Can't we ditch this scene and go find some jazz? Oh well, live in the moment. The group breaks up and Greg, Patrick and I head to Nathan's where we're met by Wingless and Seth. Chili dogs this time. I thrive on variety. We eat dinner and then go ride the Cyclone.
Well that was quick and somewhat painful. It was also the only ride I was up for. Except for the "bathroom ride". .25 and you too can be grossed out in a funhouse disguised as a public facility. The guys decide they need to try it too. They knew Greg must be a celebrity, because they charged him .30.
Yay! The boardwalk. This is better. Good conversation. Good friends. The glare of Astroland fades as we walk and enjoy the sound of the surf. Too soon it's ten and time to head back to the hotel.
People must have thought we were odd on the trip back. Greg kept counting us off like we were remedial first graders. But there was a huge round of applause as we disembarked the subway and all twenty seven were present and accounted for.
Wait. I thought this was New York. You know "the city that never sleeps?" So why can't we find a place to get breakfast at midnight? We end up getting ice cream at Penn Station and even that was settling after the quest for donuts was met with failure. Sure the place was open, but it was also sold out. Not fair. I want protein. There's a KFC one kiosk over and the ice cream line is a mile long. I figure I can get some chicken and be back before the last cone is dipped. Oops, wrong. Sorry, Dad. ;)
Consuite this time. Most of the staff is there. Many people are there. Cowboy Bebop: the Movie is playing. I'm interested, because I liked the series and missed the film when it zipped through the local theater, but I'm burning out fast. I eat some chicken fingers and drink my grapefruit juice and go to bed.
Another tea colored bath. Meh. At least the water is hot and the tub is comfy. I've talked Mandi into going to Chinatown with me but she's still sleeping so I went to go get some coffee and take care of check out. For some reason I'm in a really evil mood. Down doesn't quite cover it. I guess I'm feeling one of the darker shades of the blues, but I can't put my finger on why as I'm suddenly fighting not to sob into my latte.
Hello bootstraps. Pull!
Better. Must have been a stress reaction. Or maybe it's realizing that most of my closest friends I only get to see once a year and now that time has past. What did Batya say when we were talking about something similar yesterday? First come the happy tireds and then the monster ones? Not quite it, but close.
I get myself together just as A Fan, who's come to lead a walking tour enters the lobby and people I know start assembling in the lobby. We brace Fan for subway directions to Chinatown, and we're on our way.
Almost. We ran into Vic Cook and his daughter Hannah on their way out. When we tell him where we're headed he tells us to watch out for the great deals on DVDs.
A couple of wrong turns getting to the right subway station and then we're there. Almost. First we have to figure out where exactly we are in relationship to where we want to go. Okay, so I didn't think this trip all the way through. The morning passes quickly and I even find a useful addition for my reference library in a bookshop. No DVDs, but the bra ladies were out in force.
Lunchtime. We nearly ate Chinese, even waited in a really busy restaurant for a while, but it was getting late and eventually, I had to get back on the subway to head to the airport. We took a short detour into Little Italy and had wonderful tomato, basil and fresh mozzarella salad and pasta instead. Still, I had this goofy feeling that I was missing something important in Chinatown.
I have a screwy sense of precognition that kicks up (or in) every once in a while. Unfortunately, aside from getting a sense of BAD! Or Watch Out! Or Peanut Butter Pie! (That last one happened as I was writing this and it was just strange. Also a completely different story.) It seldom supplies specifics. But over the years I've learned to pay attention to it because more often than not, it's accurate. I asked Mandi if she wouldn't mind poking around a couple of more shops and we headed back in.
Trinkets, pretty clothes, nope, not what I'm looking for. It would help if I had a better idea but the notion is adamant with out providing any clues. Couldn't we just get one of those bubble teas? At least they're interesting looking. One last shop. Mandi finds a carved elephant that would make a perfect gift and she decides to buy it. The feeling starts to fade. Heh, maybe the psychic nudge wasn't meant for me after all.
Dang, look at the time. We break for the subway. Mandi gets off at the stop near the hotel and I keep going. It's back to Knoxville via La Guardia and Ronald Reagan (D.C) airports and for this year anyway, the Gathering is over.
That was great! I love reading these things. And I remember most of it!
But how did Thom "get" you? That I've forgotten.