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Here's my Gathering journal for the first two days; I'll post the Sunday bit when that's done, but it might take a bit of time to complete.
Friday, August 6
The preparations for the trip had kept Stormy and I up for longer than weâd expected; Thursday had dissolved into a parade of framing artwork, editing writing pieces, haircuts and packing. All of this had started late. We had gone to the Annapolis Valley in southwest Nova Scotia on Wednesday, to check out Digbyâs annual scallop festival and visit with a friend. We had only gotten back to Halifax at one p.m. on Thursday, and that left us with not a whole lot of time to do everything that we needed.
But it all came together. Somehow, in the end, it always does.
I didnât get much sleep that night â" we had to get up at 5 a.m. to get ready for the flight, but I was also trying to think about the Gathering and how I felt about the whole thing. I was excited about going, but I was also feeling a bit wary and ambivalent. I had recently sort of drifted away from the fandom by default, still talking to people but not writing much in the way of fanfiction or thinking much about Gargoyles at all. I had thought that it was a bit of natural progression, that I was making the transition to writing only original stuff and settling into my second year of medical school. Either way, I was wondering what the Gathering would do for that â" whether it would reverse the course, bring me back into the fandom, or whether it would just be an excuse to meet with people and have a good time before coming home and doing much as I had before. Last yearâs Gathering had given me a âpost-fandom bounceâ, so to speak, but last year I was still pretty involved. It was a question that was on my mind for most of the four hours I was trying to sleep.
We woke up at five, spent an hour getting showered and dressed and preparing the cats for another weekend without us, and then we were on our way. I made do without coffee, driving through the streets of Halifax and across the span of the Macdonald Bridge over the Narrows. Stormy was excited, looking forward to seeing everyone for the first time; this was my second, so I knew the score, and we spent much of the drive to the airport talking of what she could expect and what we were looking forward to. She was excited about the art show and the Phoenix Gate anthology (which we had both been published in), while I had my list of Gathering goals: buy Keith David a drink, get the Acadian flag on the DVD footage in honour of the 400th anniversary of Acadian settlement in North America, speak French as often as I could, and have a good time with all of the friends I had met for the first time last year.
I donât like flying that much, but I like airports, and the pre-flight experience was stressless. Check-in, breakfast, security screen â" all fine, save for the fact that my belt buckle dinged in the metal detector and I was asked to undo it in order to prove that I was not some sort of sartorial terrorist. We waited about twenty painless minutes to board â" I had my coffee and my Globe and Mail to keep me happy â" and then we were on the plane, settling in. I almost crushed poor Stormyâs hand when the plane took off â" have I mentioned that I donât much care for air travel? â" but aside from that, the flight was flawless, and we landed at Trudeau Airport about an hour later. We got our luggage and called a cab, and twenty minutes and thirty-one dollars later, we were at the Delta Centre-Ville. We checked in â" hearing the ominous phrase âking-sized bedâ â" and then went up to the twenty-seventh floor to find our room. Just the king-sized bed, room enough for three people. Problem was, we had asked Mercedes and her brother Andrew â" two more con virgins and friends of ours from our frequent trips to Maine â" to stay in the room. Only three of us would get bed space; the last would have to find somewhere to make the floor comfortable. By the time Mercedes and Andrew got there, I had already decided that it would have to be me. Iâd reserved the room and though there would be two beds, so the fault, such as it was, was mine. But that was okay; Iâd slept on less comfortable floors before, and I was sure that the magnanimity would make up for the mattress deficiency quite nicely.
We went down to La Terrasse to find when registration would start â" no one really knew, but there was a crowd down there, many old time friends including Allaine, Spacebabie and Revel, Mara Cordova and Aaron Wheeler, Kathy Pogge, and Ellen Stolfa, who I hugged first and longest. We all had a series of chats, and I met a few new people, including Tim, Christine and Becca Morgan, who were there as well. It was time for lunch, though, and people were splitting off and going their separate ways, and so Stormy, Mercedes, Andrew and myself started on our way to find people to hit Montreal with. We ended up going to Chinatown with Greg Bishansky, and we saw a nice part of the downtown before getting to the Chinese Quarter. Nothing seemed to open until eleven, so we had to wait a few minutes, and eventually we found a Vietnamese restaurant and had a fine meal. We got back to the hotel just in time for registration to begin; from that point on I had my Gathering badge, announcing to everyone that I was Whitbourne, and that I was with the fan crowd. And that was when the events started, and so we all started splitting up to check out what the Gathering had to offer.
I first went to the General Round Robin, presented by Spacebabie; the turnout was a little sparse, but that worked fine for the crowd, and I got to spend a little bit more time with Spacebabie, Allaine, Revel and Sarah the Great, catching up on old times since Manhattan last year. I was told, in no uncertain terms, that c-words were off limits (even if it were the adult round robin I have no doubt that same restriction would have held true) and then we started round-robining the scenario of Demona and Macbeth meeting in the Grand Canyon as a prelude to the events of âSanctuaryâ. I picked âwhiskeyâ as my word, but ended up using âsalamanderâ, and it didnât take long for the round robin to be hijacked with a running joke involving Macbeth inviting Demona for a ride in a dinghy. It seemed funny at the time, at least. After the round robin ended I went to look at the art room â" Stormy and Mercedes had set up their work, and the Icestorm Brooklyn that Stormy had painted to look like Whitbourne was standing proudly (drunkenly?) on his table. After that, I crept into the Combat lecture being given by my friend Flanker; he was having a good time, even though Hudson and Aaron, in the back, seemed to know just as much about weapons as Flanker, prompting him to jokingly ask why they were even there. It was a fun lecture on a subject I know very little about; I liked the sniper scope that was passed around, though I thought it sort of funny that whenever anyone got to look through it, they inevitably used it to line up the crosshairs with poor Flankerâs head. Poor guy.
Next came the radio play auditions, something that I didnât take part in last year but was looking forward to this time. I got my form, and filled out my preferences (any part, think I can do a Scottish/British accent, no to cats and dogs) and had a nice chat with Kathy Pogge before I was called in to the audition. I ended up reading the Brooklyn part in the audition package, and even though I was one of the last, Greg Weisman told me that I was the first to read for that part so far. âReally,â I said, though I was thinking âcha-chingâ. So I read the part, and then read the part again from a farther distance, trying to use all my experience as a drill instructor in cadets to get the emoting across. Greg seemed impressed enough, told me I had done a good job, and so that was the end of that audition. I went outside, met with Stormy, Mercedes and Andrew again; it was getting late, and we anted to find some supper before the fast-approaching Opening Ceremonies.
I canât understand the difficulty we had in getting food. Everything we could find in the cafes nearby was closed or too expensive, and it took us nearly fifteen minutes to find a sandwich bar that had enough to sate us. We grabbed our food and raced back to the hotel; I had time to eat half of my salad and half of the sandwich before people got called in to the ball room for the opening gala. I sat with Stormy and told her most of what to expect, though I was surprised at how many were there â" the room was full, it seemed, much better than last years had been, and even Greg seemed surprised. I got to catch up with Wingless, Gabarus and a few other old and dear friends. Karine Charlebois, the con chair, got up and gave a speech, and that was when Maui and Abe Wintersmith got up and hijacked the convention for the Clan Olympics.
I had been signed up for this by Flanker, and I owe him big-time for that. I had been conscripted onto Team Canadian Body Massage, a WTF name if ever I heard one, though I must confess that we had one of the fuller esprit-de-corpsâ to be found. It was a neat excuse to wave my Acadian flag, anyway, and try to get it on the DVD, but any pretense at dignity was soon gone as I stood in front of the Gathering wearing a ripped T-shirt, having plastic balls stuffed down my front. And we didnât even win, even though we cheated fair and square. I had my suspicions that it was rigged, though I at least got to shout âAcadie!â at the DVD crew, and that made things somewhat okay. During the aftermath, Greg Weisman found me and told me that they had forgotten to get me to try the accents during the radio play auditions, and so that would have to be one of my first goals for the next day.
The opening ceremonies continued with a pitch for the 2005 Gathering in faraway Las Vegas, and they sold me completely and utterly, so long as Iâm not doing an overseas placement for med school in Africa or Southeast Asia. After that, Greg took the podium, talked about the DVD release, and then showed off the goods â" the pitch reels, the storyboards, the concepts for some of the thwarted spinoffs, and the voice recordings for the Team Atlantis episode âThe Lastâ, all of which Iâd seen and heard but which Stormy had not. She was delighted, and I was pleased that I knew what to expect. With that, the Opening ceremonies ended, and I went out to do the social thing that was, is, and ever shall be the centrepiece of my Gathering experiences. I totally skipped out on the Clan Olympics for it, leaving Flanker in the lurch and causing Maui no end of grief (she hates me still, as far as I can tell), but it couldnât be denied; it was time to see Montreal. Poor Stormy had to go to bed â" she was exhausted from the trip and wanted to make sure that she could attend the masquerade the following night. So Ellen, Allaine, Princess Alex and myself headed to the outside world, bound for Ellenâs old stamping grounds from her McGill days and some of the Italian restaurants there. There was quite a bit of talk about writing and baseball and inclement weather â" I had lived through my first hurricane last year, while Ellen and Allaine had spent some time together watching the Cubs play. It was a fine meal with good friends, and for the first time in months I was hearing fanfic writers talk about stories that had nothing, absolutely nothing, to do with giant transforming robots. Itâs enough to make me believe in God.
On the way back, Ellen and I talked a little bit about fanfic, and I ended up mentioning that I was thinking of giving it up again. I told her that I felt I wouldnât have enough time, that I wanted to spend the writing time I had on work that I could publish, that there wasnât enough time to get my name out there if I spent it working on fanfiction. In her infinite patience, she told me that was fine, but then told me that if I really wanted to write fanfic then I shouldnât stop myself, because forcing myself to write what I wasnât interested in was a sure recipe for dissatisfaction and frustration. (At least, that was the gist of it; the conversation extended over several city blocks, at least). I had to admit that the original, artsy-fartsy stuff I had been writing had been utterly less than satisfying, and that the most success Iâd had so far had been with poetry and with a story based loosely on my fanfics, and that the rest was shaping up to be elegantly written garbage. So I had been given something to think about as we got back to the hotel, something that carried on into a conversation with Ellen and Alex in Ellenâs hotel room as we waited for the blue mug-a-guest with Greg to start.
We showed up with a few minutes to spare and joined the crowd; Greg was a few minutes later than heâd been scheduled (though he hadnât entered Keith David territory yet), and as soon as he showed up, the questions began. The thing was, for a blue mug a guest, the questions were surprisingly tame. They were mostly about the DVD rather than any positions or fetishes, and most of the revelations (that I was there for) had to do with special features and such, not like the bombshells of gargoyle sexual orientation that had galvanized the conventions last year. But that was okay, and the theory is going that had Thom Adcox been there then things might have gotten raunchy quickly. Or pantsless. Or both.
At about one oâclock, Flanker and I left the mug-a-guest and went out to explore a bit more of Montreal by dark. We ended up at a small tavern just off of Ste. Catherine Street (another goal!) where I had a pint of Stella Artois and he had a cup of coffee, though something got lost in translation, because he said that he didnât want any âfancy coffeeâ and the waitress apparently took this to mean that he did, in fact, want fancy coffee. But things were soon settled, and we sat and talked about military matters, his panel earlier in the day, and a few of his experiences overseas in Bosnia through the Canadian reserves. It was a great conversation, one that will go down as one of the memorable moments of the Gathering for me; we came back to the hotel and parted ways, and then I stumbled upstairs to bed. Stormy, Mercedes and Andrew were sound asleep in the bed; I got a few pillows from the front desk, found a blanket in the closet, and made a nest on the floor to try and while away the few remaining hours of the night, my first in Montreal.
Saturday, August 7
I had spent much of the night shivering â" the fan was up too high and it was bloody cold, and I hadnât gotten much sleep until I had cranked âer up to Saharan comfort. Nevertheless, I woke up at seven that morning raring to go, running on five hours of sleep. I went to the hotel pool for a brief swim, and then got back to go to breakfast with Stormy, Mercedes and Andrew at the Deli Planet cafÃ© in the Gare Centrale. We caught up on a few old-times stories, and then got back to the hotel in order to go our separate ways again. I went back to the Radio Play auditions, both to hold a place for Stormy while she checked out the art room, and to follow instructions and give my impression of Scottish and British accents. It was in a different room than the day before, so I followed a crowd of people to find it, heading for the auditorium. Maui was greeting people as we walked in, and she looked delighted to see me. âWitless!â she said. âYouâre coming back to Clan Olympics!â
âWait a minute, this isnât the radio play auditions?â I asked.
She punched me in the shoulder and chased me away, calling me nasty names.
When I finally got to the St. Charles room for the auditions, Greg called me Brooklyn and the âcha-ching!â sound went off in my head again; nevertheless, I tried reading Hudsonâs lines for the accent tests, and they went a little less successfully. Now if there had been a character speaking in an Acadian accent, I would have nailed it, but alas, there was no Avalon Tour episode about Goliath and the others ending up in Bathurst and having to speak in chiac and play the spoons, so I was out of luck. Stormy did well, too; she told me that she had been asked to meow like a cat, and she just imitated our Smokey doing his morning dance for food and attention. It apparently impressed Greg, much more so than Smokey impresses us. This didnât take all the allotted time, so I snuck into the Thrill of the Chase panel being put on by Spacebabie, Ellen and Christine. It was pretty neat; loads of cool suggestions about chase scenes, a discussion of the movie âMementoâ, and plus I got to talk a little bit about âTrailer Park Boysâ (my new favourite show â" go and find it, it should be on Bravo down in the States and most of it is on DVD now). That panel ended up going a little bit over time, as all of the best writing ones often do.
We stupidly decided not to get lunch, and instead just milled about chatting with friends and acquaintances, waiting for 12:30 when the radio play cast was announced. Both Stormy and I were chosen, as was the third member of Team Canadian Body Massage, and I could just imagine Flanker and Maui breaking down into fits of wailing and gnashing of teeth at our inconstancy. Stormy and I went to the room where people were getting set up for the weapons display by the Society of Creative Anachronism; we sat with Flanker, though I was not in the mood for watching people play with wooden swords and say âverilyâ a lot, and just before the demo started I announced that I was making the quintessential Canadian journey â" the Timâs run. Flanker gave a me a toonie, and I set out up University Avenue to score some Tim Hortonâs coffee. As I was making my order, I ran into some American fans who had never been in a Tim Hortonâs before. âThey take credit cards, right?â asked one of them, staring in confusion at the price lists and the wide array of crullers and donuts.
âWhy wouldnât they take a credit card?â replied his friend, looking confident in her ability to buy bagels with plastic. I thought that I might perhaps watch the show, but I chickened out, and told them that every Tim Hortons in Canada that Iâd ever been to was cash only. They looked vaguely horrified, but I think in the end that things worked out well.
I came back with the coffees to the weapons demo, and Flanker and I watched for a while. To my surprise, it was quite interesting, and the guys doing the swordplay seemed pretty cool. I think that after spending so much time in the insular cliques of medical school, the geekiness threshold is a little lower once you get to a place like the Gathering; fortunately, I got better. In fact, I figured that if my friends at school hadnât already googled my name and found my fanfic, then the fact that I had a chance at being on the DVD in my Dalhousie Medicine T-shirt would probably knock me out of the geek closet forever. I ducked out of the weapons show at the first break and went to watch the auction, long enough to watch a bidding war for an animation cell that went up to $455; it was a nice battle, but then it was time for the radio play auditions. I met Stormy and started heading for St. Charles; on the way we ran into Carole Wagner, who told us that the DVD crew had been wanting to interview us as one of the couples who had been brought together by the show. So we ran downstairs to the ball room to see if they were there; sadly, they werenât, and so we went back up to the auditions.
Greg gave out the parts first thing; I was awarded the role of Brooklyn, while Stormy got to be Cagney. We ran through the lines, floored by the sheer brilliance of the other actors, especially the two playing Elisa and John Castaway. Stormy went all out on her Cagney lines; I did my best to reach into the Brooklyn lines, especially the âparting is such sweet sorrowâ; I concentrated as hard as I could on every ex-girlfriend Iâd ever had for that one, and I thought it went fine. The audition ended on a positive note, and as Stormy and I left the room, Carole found us again and told us that the DVD crew wanted to try again.
We went down, and gave a ten minute long interview of which Iâm sure theyâll use about five seconds. It wasnât that hard for either of us; Stormy is money under pressure, to coin a phrase, and Iâm so used to TV crews an audiences, not to mention that I think I was born with a silver tongue. We talked about how we had come to discover the show, how we had met, how long we had been (I ended up making a crack about my parentsâ frustration with the lack of an official wedding that I hope to every God and saint they cut from the footage) and then we gave each other a soft kiss on camera. It seemed sort of lame, but I have my doubts that theyâd have used the raunchy French-kiss that Iâd wanted to give her, so maybe itâs all for the best. At the end, we were asked why we thought Gargoyles was so unique; I asked if I could be elitist, and then went off on a spiel about how it was a show unafraid to show its intelligence, and how it depended on becoming involved with the characters as though they were real people. Ellen was watching us do this and she tells me that she thought it was eloquent; I have my doubts, but when it comes to TV, Iâm always a bit self-flagellating. After that it was time to run upstairs and get ready for the actual performance of the radio play. We had to wait for the DVD crew to arrive, but when they did, we tore right into the performance of âThe Journeyâ, uncut and uncensored. I got a few wild whoops of applause when I stood up and was introduced as Brooklyn, which is always a wicked boost for the ego; Iâm not sure how well I did with the lines, though, especially since the DVD crew came up and caught me on tape a few times. Itâs something Iâd do again, though; loads of fun and lots of laughs. I got Greg to autograph both my and Stormyâs scripts, and then we went to drop some things off in the hotel room before Stormy, Mercedes and I took off to find some food and explore the city.
We walked to the metro station at Victoria Square, pretty much just to say we took it, and we rode it two stations down to the Old Port, or Vieux-Montreal. We walked past a bunch of weddings in the public square and got a bit of the flavour of the place; after a short search for a nice restaurant, we ended up finding a fantastic place called Le Grill. Uncrowded and tucked away in a sort of alcove, with just enough shade to make it comfortable. We had a criminally good meal; I ate filet mignon and drank draft beer, and my companions ate just as well. After that we ended up walking up and down the streets looking for interesting things to see, and we came upon the medieval store that a few people had been talking about, Excalibor. (Is that French or just charmingly misspelled? Iâm not sure). But the store was magnificent, and almost instantly I found a multi-coloured raven mask that I had to have. Mercedes bought a mask, and she and Andrew both bought pendants; only Stormy escaped, and she bought something at the native art store. Vieux-Montreal is horrific as temptation for impulse buys. We also went to see art galleries and a few of the streetscapes, including the magnificent Notre Dame Cathedral. I had not spent a lot of time in Montreal before this, only a few hours spent waiting for connecting trains to Toronto or Moncton, so I was glad to see a bit more of the city than Gare Centrale. We ended up walking back to Chinatown, where I saw the Fu-Dogs at the gate on Rue Saint-Laurent, and we got to see it at a busier time than the day before. I also managed to see the street-sign for Rue Sainte-Urbain, or St. Urbain Street, the literary turf of one of my greatest heroes, the incomparable Mordecai Richler, famous for bringing that street to life in books like âThe Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitzâ and âSt. Urbainâs Horsemanâ. Had I time enough and world, Iâd have walked on that street for hours trying to retrace the steps, sort of like a Bloomsday pilgrimage in Dublin only with smoked-meat sandwiches; alas, time was getting late and we had to get to the hotel for the masquerade. Stormy had to finish her Quarryman costume, and Mercedes and I at least had masks now, though few clothes to go with it. We got back in time and got the costumes squared away, and then we went down to see what things would transpire.
The costumes were amazing, even though my wicked raven-mask robbed me of any semblance of peripheral vision; we enjoyed the masquerade and the cosplays even to the tune of the nurseâs reunion singing karaoke next door. There were plenty of great costumes â" and I swear to God Iâm dressing up as Bonavista next year â" and lots of hard work and effort. Poor Lynati, though â" her Ophelia costume was great, even if it was also late, but she at least got an honourable mention for it. I still have that stupid âIâm a Gargoyle Whoâs Afraid To Flyâ song stuck in my head, every so often. Aneurhythms are dangerous things.
There was a party afterward, but we didnât stay; a crowd of us went upstairs to the hotel bar and had a few drinks. Stormy stayed till midnight, and Andrew came and had a few rounds, all the more poignant since heâs not legal in his home country. I med Sadistic Cow and a few others, and Ellen and I started a few conversations about misbegotten golf games and classical music. The DVD crew came up again, though without their cameras; theyâd had a long day, too, I gather, an I canât blame them for wanting a drink.
About fifteen minutes before one oâclock, when the bar was scheduled to close, Ellen pointed out that Mr. David had just appeared. She would know; sheâd been to the banquet and had been enchanted by the stories that he had told, I turned around and saw Keith David sitting at the bar, and almost unbidden, I announced that I was buying him a drink, and then I was suddenly up and walking toward him. I think I was a little bit lit; I certainly was more courageous than I usually am, and that explains why I thought nothing of walking up the bar and saying âMr. David, if you donât mind, Iâd like the honour of buying this round.â
He looked at me in surprise, then flashed me a wide and pleasant smile. âThatâs very kind of you,â he said. I fished a twenty from my pocket and gave it to the bartender; he then gave Mr. David a double shot of Muscovskaya (I know because I kept the receipt; howâs that for a souvenir?) that earned me only three dollars in change. I was startled, but I didnât show it; I left the toonie as a tip, then ran back to my table, got my beer, and joined Keith David for a drink. We had a long and pleasant conversation about medicine (he caught just from the way I talked that Iâm interested in psychiatry and thinks that I should go for it). We talked about his interest in the ministry and his belief that acting is vocation as much as his job. We talked about good-and-evil, we talked about memorable roles, we talked about ideal Canadian cottage country and the beauty of Montreal. He bought the next round, and so I can say that Keith David bought me a pint of Sleemanâs with as straight a face as I can manage. After a while, Ellen came over and introduced herself and told him a story about cremation magazines and centrefolds, and Keith laughed so hard that he nearly spilled something. It was just an awesome evening, and when it ended and Keith had retired for the night, the bar lights came on and we went back downstairs. So not only had I met my goal of buying Keith David a drink, but we had actually closed the bar down with him. The only think that would have made it perfect would be if we were in Halifax and heâd bought me a pint of Keithâs Pale Ale, but that would have been asking too much.
We went downstairs for a few minutes and congratulated Greg on the birth of his nephew, and then Ellen, Kathy Pogge, Alex Garg and myself went up to Ellenâs room for a nightcap. It was another brilliant conversation â" Iâm running out of superlatives, here â" that touched on writing, on Freudian slips, on language, and on the fandom as a whole. We shared book recommendations and tales of reading, had a few finals beers; however, I couldnât help but notice that a few times I had been talking about writing fanfic in the present tense, and I wasnât sure how scary that was. I noticed Ellen shooting me a few knowing smiles about it, though. Sheâs wise, that one.
Finally, at quarter past three, I was on the verge of collapse and so I reluctantly took my leave. I went back downstairs to my room, still giddy at the events at the bar and the receipt in my pocket; that night, when I lay down in my blanket on the floor, I had no trouble at all finding sleep.
You know, I haven't, of course, read any of your fanfic, but you are a GREAT writer. I mean, heck, I was at the Gathering. These journals interest me, and I want to have them on the site for ... promotional reasons, but that was such a great read. I'm really dying to read part two.
For what it's worth, I agree with Ellen generally. Write to your passion. Particularly since the study of medicine is your full-time job, what little time (and I would think it would be quite little) that you have free to write, should be dedicated to what you really WANT to write. And if that's fanfiction, so be it.
But maybe instead of fanfiction OR the "artsy-fartsy stuff", you might try your hand at original genre stuff. Get artsy with your characters after you know them well. That's been my route, generally. I like to think both in the series and the comic I'm writing now, that I've gotten artsy here and there. Even artsy-fartsy. But I ususally find I meet with the most success and satisfaction by starting out writing clean, crisp and with as little artiface as possible.
Anyway, take that for what it's worth.
Hope to see you and Stormy in Valencia in June.