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Gathering 2007 Journal
As it so happened, I woke up a good hour and a half later than I had hoped to - or, more precisely, I woke up to the alarm and proceeded to turn it off so that I could sleep for an additional hour and a half - and so was not in the best of moods as I made my way out the door.
While I still left early enough to avoid significant traffic leaving D.C., the trucks were out in force on I-81, as were the state and local police. Honestly, in the years that I traveled 81 in order to get to and from school, I have never seen the kind of police presence as I did going to Pigeon Forge. Neither, it seemed, had many of the travelers, and this led to a problem: The left lane was going painfully slow so as to avoid receiving a ticket, while the right lane had taken up a "Damn the torpedoes!" mentality. I, wanting to neither take 10 hours to get to Pigeon Forge nor 30 seconds to get a court date 350 miles from home (been there, done that) navigated between the two lanes as best I could.
Tennessee, however, was an entirely different story. Traffic became nonexistent and moved along speedily, that is until I made the turn to get to Pigeon Forge. Having varied between 65 and 75 miles per hour for most of the trip, I was not happy to find myself in a miles-long traffic crawl that moved along at under 20 miles per hour, despite the much higher posted speed limit.
In all, it was an eight hour trek down, not including the very quick stop for gas at a station adjacent to a fireworks stand.
I walked into the lobby and saw none other than Greg W. himself, and were it not for this encounter I would have probably wandered aimlessly around the hotel looking for the registration desk - one of those significant things that I failed to do on Thursday was get Leo's cell phone number.
Once I got upstairs and registered, I made my way over to familiar faces and chatted with many people, among them Revel, Spacie, Mandi, Greg B., Gside, and Jade Griffin. The conversation was brief, however, as I then went on a quest to find my roommates, Leo, Kelly, and D. Taina.
The quest was unsuccessful, so instead I got in line to audition for the Radio Play and met up with even more people. It was while waiting in this line, however, that Leo, Kelly, and Taina found me, and who brought in tow Rob and Doppleganger.
I was next to last to audition, but not before I met Kathy, and after which time I finally got to the room and briefly put my feet up to watch "Army of Darkness" before heading over to Opening Ceremonies.
Opening Ceremonies was the usual stuff, with the exception that we had to sit on the floor in order to be able to see the television in the conference room, and further excepting that, as Greg talked about the need to bring more people to the Gathering, a very bright light went on in my head to signal that, as "advertisement guy" for Gathering 2008, that task would be in very large part up to me.
Come to the Gathering in 2008! It's Chicago, it's Gargoyles, it's friends, and it's my self-esteem at stake!
I'm still working on taglines.
After Opening Ceremonies were finished, I introduced myself to Susan, co-chair for next year's Gathering (in Chicago!) and we briefly discussed plans before she was overwhelmed by other people. Afterwards my roommates, Doppleganger, Kathy and I discussed our dinner options, and we settled on Huck Finn's Catfish - as would several other congoers, we would learn. No, I did not violate my rule of not eating seafood when more than 200 miles from a shoreline or major tributary, I had the chicken fried chicken, as opposed to the chicken fried steak, which three of the other five had.
But one thing that never changes from one Gathering to the next is that I always end up sleeping on the floor, and after a long day of driving, I must say that the floor of our room was quite comfortable</lie>.
Well rested, my roommates and I woke up and headed off to breakfast. We settled for the Red Rooster Pancake House, where we encountered Kathy, John, Sarah, and Mike. Actually, we didn't encounter them, John had to throw a wad of paper at me to get my attention; and when that failed, he got up from his chair, came over to our table and proceeded to "fire" us as friends.
On firing, he mentioned that his group was headed over to a firing range and asked if we wanted to come. I don't know what possessed him to invite a bunch of people who were too tired to notice good friends sitting at a nearby table to go off and fire guns, but we agreed to go all the same.
We had fun to say the least, and our lack of sleep had no ill effects on our health.
From there we all branched off to do our own things, and I headed up to the art show/dealer's room to look at the pretty things and talk with more people. I also learned in this time that I had been cast in the Radio Play, as had apparently half of the Gathering-goers.
I am sworn to secrecy on the specifics of the Radio Play, but let me say in no uncertain terms that it is a must - a MUST - that you go buy Gargoyles #5; and if you haven't already, get Gargoyles #3 and #4 as well. The story is fantastic and a half.
And a half, people.
After that entertainment, Garrett, who I had met earlier in the dealer's room, informed me that a group was getting together for pizza and mini golf. In the last few weeks I have had my mini golf efforts thwarted time and time again, so this was not an opportunity I planned to miss!
My roommates, however, weren't too enthusiastic about the affair, as they had already had it in mind to order pizza, so I went across the street to Papa Johns with Revel, Spacie, Greg B., Aaron, Gside, Mike, and… I'm trying so desperately to remember his name, but I'm failing horribly. My apologies.
I had leftover pizza, so I went back to the hotel room and tried once more to rally my roommates around mini golf, and this time Kelly and Leo decided to attend, while D. Taina and Doppleganger (roommate de facto at this point) decided to stay behind. And so our teams were formed, and off we went, although Doppleganger and D. Taina would eventually join us.
I think there was a reason fate had conspired so many times to keep me from playing mini golf: I suck. After 27 holes, which had a combined par of 69, I took third place of our group of four - me, Kelly, Leo, and Garrett - with a score of 97. My reasoning for this is that I "beat" my local mini golf course back in high school, and not having returned since, I am woefully out of practice.
Yes, woefully out of practice.
The reason we cut our second game short by nine holes was so that we could be back to the hotel for the Blue Mug, the "anything goes" Q&A. I was pretty well zoned out for most of it, so when the panel adjourned at 1:30 a.m., despite Greg's insistence that we could stick around for another half hour, I was more than ready to get back to my cozy floor space.
I slept well past the alarm in order to be as rested as possible for my long drive home, the price for doing so being the foregoing of breakfast. I packed up my things and then headed over to Jade Griffin's writing/reading panel, for which I had completely forgotten to write anything.
Following this panel was the science & culture panel, hosted by Greg, Jade, and Lynati, and which was by far one of the better panels I have attended in all my Gatherings. The discussion was intelligent, informative, civil, and very enjoyable.
Immediately following the panel, however, I had to hurry through my goodbyes in order to get onto the road and home. Given the nature of the drive down, I did not want to risk getting home too late so as to be too tired to go to work on Monday.
That didn't work out too well.
While I managed to get through Tennessee without much incident, after I crossed over into Virginia, the skies began to open up. I pulled over for dinner at Outback Steakhouse and to let the storm pass, adding much time to my journey (but giving me some delicious, heart attack-inducing leftovers).
Storms aside, I managed to get home at about 10:30 p.m., at which point I had little left to do but crawl into bed (yay, no more floors!), forget to set my alarm, and go to sleep.
Having forgotten to set my alarm, I woke up 15 minutes before I had to leave to get to work. The easy going pace of the Smokey Mountains was as removed from me mentally as physically, and with added urgency I began my daily routine.
I still managed to get out of the house on time, but it was all for naught, as the train I got on ended up breaking down, resulting in me arriving at work 30 minutes late. And as I sorted through the 121 e-mails which had piled up since Thursday afternoon, I knew I was back home.
This year's Gathering was fantastic, and my hat's off to the staff for getting it together. I apologize to all the people who I didn't get the chance to say goodbye to in my rush to get home. Hopefully I will get to see you in Chicago in 2008 so that you can tell me in person just how much I hurt your feelings.
Carter - Always great to see you. Glad you had fun. And folks help him SPREAD THE WORD!!
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