C18, Buffalo, 2012

Convergence 18 was in Buffalo, and I arranged to room with a couple of friends. It was my 16th Convergence, about 120 people attended. Work had shifted our summer project week earlier and I ended up going straight from the airport into that, which was a bit tough, but at least held off the post-Convergence let down.

Friday June 15, 2012

After super procrastination on packing, I had finished at around 1am on Thursday night. I wanted to do carry on only (I lost my Silver status with the one free checked bag), but with the option to gate check my suitcase, and I had to bring my work laptop to finish up some stuff before project week, so that added a few pounds to my tote bag. I ended up wimping out (see: 6:30am alarm) and calling a cab for the trip to the airport, the base charge is reasonable but the tunnel/port fees are stupidly high. I was dropped off in Terminal B, and since I'd printed out my boarding pass already, I just went straight to security. Where a TSA agent snapped at me for not already consolidating my purse into my tote bag (2 pieces max). Which I promptly had to unpack to get at my laptop to put it on the xray belt anyway. *sigh* I think I was able to go through the metal detector by judicious choosing of a line, and got to my gate in good time for my 9:10am flight. It was direct, on United, and I was able to gate check my suitcase (had to, the overhead bins were small) for free, and get it back on the jetway in Buffalo.

My former work colleague Anthony was waiting for me as I came out of the secure area. He was in Buffalo visiting family for 2 weeks and we'd arranged to hang out when I came in for Convergence. His Mini Cooper looked familiar and my sleepy brain took a while to remember that he'd driven it up from Maryland. Quick drive to the Hyatt Regency Buffalo and he grabbed a metered spot across from the hotel. He came in with me to see if I could check in and/or drop my bags, and was gracious about waiting for me to find my room mates to give them their keys when I was able to get into the room. The lobby had a few random people in black that I hadn't seen for a while as well, so after dropping my stuff in the room and giving the keys to Kest to give to Sola, Anthony and I hung out for a while to see if anyone wanted to go to the chocolate shop for a light lunch with us. Sola ended up being the only one to tear free of the group heading for a local lunch, and the three of us ended up having a fun afternoon.

First stop was Chow Chocolate, which ended up not having the pastries that their website listed. I was starving by this point, so we went a couple of doors down to an organic cafe and had a delicious sit down lunch. The day was pretty warm, but the AC was high enough that the soup sounded delicious (and was) and the smoothies were good as well. We browsed a bit in a gift store called Thin Ice then made our way back to Chow for cold chocolate drinks. I had the vixen one with spices in it, as well as a big thing of good tea. Service was a bit slow, only one woman behind the counter and she was hand making everything. Also not a lot of solid chocolate on offer, just a few small trays of squares. From there Anthony drove us over to Delaware Park and we meandered around the rose garden, hearing tales of his childhood. :) We saw the theatre and some old houses as well, joined him in his daydream of buying one (so cheap compared to Boston!) for retirement. It was getting close to our early supper reservation time of 4pm, so we headed back to the hotel to drop of Carla and then went over Sample. We were a tiny bit early, so a book store browse filled up the time. My lavender honey gin cocktail was delicious, the cheese plate was amazing, the scallops were perfect, the duck breast was lovely, and the sorbet was all I could fit in by the time dessert rolled around. It was a lovely relaxed meal with lots of catch up.

Anthony dropped me back at my hotel and I ran into Axel I think in the lobby who said that badge pick up was pushed a bit later. I think I cleaned up a bit in my room then headed down to the Roosevelt room to get my badge and hang out a bit. I got to meet Marianne's Ed after reading about him in her articles, that was neat. :) Ashbet and Kira and Josh were there as well, and Steph and Martin and Mark too. We ended up moving to the Atrium bar for a drink which turned into supper which turned into missing the official evening events totally (by the time I checked my watch the fashion show was already over). We went up to Marianne and Ed's room and played Cards Against Humanity for a while (hard for me to be heard over the general drunken shouting). Gala and Jay and Nicole from Boston popped their heads into the room for a while. I ended up giving up when a request to turn the room thermostat down led to me shivering, but I was happy that I lasted until past 1am (I think). Long fun day, and it was only Friday. :) I put in ear plugs and just stirred a bit when Kest and Sola and Oohn dropped by the room to get something, but I did end up getting the most sleep of our trio.

Saturday June 16, 2012

I was up first in the morning, around 9am I think. I quietly got dressed, and then I went on a successful quest to find the Tim Horton's to procure breakfast. The walk along the pedestrian zone of Main St was a bit sketchy even in the bright morning, and the Timmy's had a pair of women who were probably doing a drug deal over breakfast. But I got my breakfast sandwich and kept my head down. I was at a window seat and saw Sloot with Rhonda outside on the corner. After a bit of uncertainty and stuffing my face to finish my breakfast, losing and then spotting them again, I joined them and Gala on a trip to Spot for second breakfast. I had a good cup of tea and made a note to come back to try the waffles that the others were having. I think Keith and Kendra and Mark might have been there already (or else that was Sunday when K&K joined us). Food at this Convergence was always very social, it was great. :)

I found out about the group trip to Niagra Falls to ride the Maid of the Mist, meeting at 1pm in the lobby. I managed to squeeze in a workout in the hotel gym (yay baby kettlebells! and a full sized one for swings and presses) and shower and get down to the lobby just after 1, to find that the bus was leaving at 2:20. Sylvia, aka Jersey from the Long Beach Convergence ghost tour, was organising the trip there and got us all moving to the main bus terminal in time to get tickets and get on the bus. I picked up a day pass for $5 instead of 2 $2 one way passes since I wasn't sure if I'd end up taking the bus to dinner that night. We had 19 people altogether, and pretty much took over the bus. :) It was a local within Buffalo and then it hit the highway and a few other towns before dropping us off in Niagra Falls, 45 mins later. I grabbed a pretzle from a street vendor while others used the port a potties. We milled around a bit before finding a map and walking over to the ticket booth in the park. We picked up a couple to get us over the 20 person group rate ($12.20 instead of $15 each), and I threw the charge on my credit card and collected money as people went past. We were funneled down the elevator from the observation platform to the dock, issued our blue rain ponchos and hustled onto a waiting ship. Winter and Cora and Keith and Kendra had driven from Buffalo but weren't going on the boat, so they took a quick group photo as we were in line. I went straight for the bow, but was still one row behind the best view. The view from the water of the American falls was nice, though the Canadian ones kicked up a lot of mist so were hard to really see. It was a tiny bit of a let down after Iguazu, but it was neat to ride the boat into the horseshoe, and also edge over the border on the water by the Peace bridge (I didn't have my passport with me and was watching the pair of flags marking the border). ;) I'd made note of the return bus times as it was running about once per 1.5 hours (probably only one bus on the route), and hustled people to the stop. Sola and I spotted the outbound bus and I verified where we needed to wait across the street for the return trip. I had time to grab a big water and a mango ice cream cone while we waited for the (late) bus. I'd been worried since we only had 25 mins or so to get from the dock to the bus station, but it was only a 10 minute walk (without dawdling and cat herding :) ).

Most of the Maid of the Misters were going to the CorpGoth dinner that Cora and I had co-planned. I took a quick shower once getting back to the hotel and changed into my dinner clothes, and then met up with Cora in the lobby. She went ahead to grab tables (no reservations), leaving me with the list of people to get on the way there. The list almost doubled as people were invited along and there was a bit of doubt that we would all be able to eat together, but Pano's on Elmwood was able to make up three tables in one section for us. We had time to grab sochu based drinks (no liquor license needed as it's classified as wine) at the bar before heading upstairs to our tables. It was cozy, but luckily the food was delicious. Sloot and I shared a smoked salmon bruschetta appetiser, around Gala sitting between us, and I got to catch up a bit with Axel, Siobhan, Daryl and Shannon too. I had the lobster pasta for my main dish, it was delicious. I think I looked at the dessert menu but wasn't able to fit anything in. I grabbed a ride with Jay, Nicole and Gala there and back, with a stop for liquor on the way back. Jay and I split a bottle of St. Germain and I picked up some gin and grapefruit juice to go with my now standard Convergence Bohemian cocktail. :)

The theme for the evening was pirates, so I broke out the corset of doom, my tricorn hat, bloomers, striped stockings and DM mary jane's. I packed my bottles into my tote bag and headed down to the lobby to meet up with people walking to the venue. I think we ended up giving up on waiting as people kept coming and going. It wasn't that far, but Main St felt even sketchier at night, so I was glad of the crowd. The venue was really warm, no AC upstairs, and lots of people were hanging out downstairs smoking on the street. I'd missed the first band, but got to get a non lifting up hug from RazorJak as he was working the door while recovering from strep throat. Armageddon Party and Third Realm were playing that night, I think I caught the latter (whichever it was was uneven, though the cover songs were good). Sloot saved my drink by letting me have some of the ice he'd brought along in an insulated cooler. The cool juice based drink was delicious and I may have had a bit too much, though I remember trying to give some away at points. :) I definitely grabbed an escort for the walk back to the hotel (the Terror Technologies zombies were running the booze check for donations and would walk any Converger back and forth between the hotel and venue).

Sunday June 17, 2012

Didn't wake up quite so early this morning. :) I think I made it to breakfast at Spot at around noon. Oh, I made a note in my calendar, this was the day I ate with Keith and Kendra, as well as Winter and Cora (driving back home soon), Sloot, Rhonda and Gala. I had the waffle with fruit and real maple syrup and it was delicious.

I ended up agreeing to go to the Goths on Ice event, meeting in the lobby at 2pm. I didn't quite realise how far away it was going to be ($30+ cab ride) or that we had the rink for a private skate for 2 hours, but it was fun. Someone had donated the rink time, skate rental and cab fees so we didn't end up paying for anything other than snacks, it was very generous. Jeanne was organising, she skates competitively, and Dot and Tom were dancing and playing tag on the ice. Oohn and his room mate were beginners and took it slow. Kest and Justin and Corwin and I were pretty solid, skating around and around and around, with stops to stretch and rest. Oohn ended up playing DJ so we had good music to skate to. People would occasionally wander into our rink (I think there were 3-4 in the center, lots going on) and watch us. I was a bit wobbly to start, but was able to skate backward for a little bit by the end, but definitely kept my speed under control - I didn't want a repeat of banging my knee on the ice like I did in SLC in January. We had our own changing room that locked, so we left our boots in there. I brought my camera out to grab some action shots and the group photos near the end. Same split of cabs and cars back to the hotel.

I think we got back at around 6pm and Corwyn, Sloot and I poked our heads into the meet the bands panel. It was slow getting started, and we tried to sneak out to go grab food. DJ Storm went out at the same time, and since the Century Grill was closed, we all ended up together at the fusion restaurant (Papaya) that Kest, Sola, Mark, Andi, Josh and Kira were at - mostly because it was one of the few places open on a Sunday night downtown! The food was good, and I think I might have had a cocktail there. I was playing bank this weekend after gathering all the cash at Niagra Falls, so I ended up covering Sloot as he hadn't had a chance to hit the bank machine yet. Back to the hotel and we caught the end of the bands panel as it sequed into the gripe panel. I'm losing patience with these, but some good points were brought up with repsect to the lessons learned needing to be collected and shared more openly - I'm pretty sure that Heather Spear who did C1 has one of these docs. :/ Best of luck to Ashbet as the face of the not a cabal. :)

I still had to pack so I went up to my room and threw stuff in my suitcase, and also got cleaned up for the evening. It was the dress to impress night and I regretted that I'd packed lightly enough to only have one outfit unsuited to the sauna of the venue: PVC top and skirt. As least the skirt was short enough that my legs got air (and I got a compliment on it soon after appearing at the venue), and the top was sleeveless. I keep forgetting that the lace collar looks a bit like feathers in club lighting, I keep meaning to acquire/make an irridescent black feather hair piece to go with it. I managed to hook up with Sloot and Mark for the walk to the venue, unmixed drink in my tote bag. First stop bathroom to mix up my drink. :) Actually, I think tonight was the night I gave away as much as possible of it, I know I was feeding Shannon and Sola bits of it at one point anyway. I was early enough to catch both Garda and Voltaire, arriving around 10:30 I think. I danced a bit, but it was really quite hot in there. Stayed for a while after Voltaire finished, but my 11am flight had me leaving before the morning got too old. I stopped at the hotel front desk and found that I could pay my part of my hotel room then and Kest and Sola could check out and pay their part later the next morning without having to be out when I had to leave for my flight, so I did that before going to sleep. I was really impressed with the the hotel staff, the only time I didn't get great service was when waiting for a tea at the lobby bar/Starbucks.

Monday June 18, 2012

Sloot and I had determined that our flights were leaving within 10 minutes of each other's, so we met up for some tea in the hotel lobby and shared a cab to the airport (about the same as the shared bus/person). Voltaire and DJ Storm came into the airport and I chatted with them a little bit while Sloot was checking in. The security line was fairly long, I know I opted out, but he got pulled aside for a hand search of his carry on, so we were done at about the same time. We had time to grab actual breakfast food before we had to be at our gates, so we extended Convergence a little bit at the airport. :) I was able to gate check my suitcase again, and pretty much passed out as soon as I got to my seat on the plane. After a nice hour long nap, Boston! Except I had to go straight to MIT for project week. I'd tried to pack one CorpGoth outfit, but apparently the all blackness of it (and the visible big stompy boots under the capris) caught my boss's eye. :) I was in time to present my project to the group and to get an afternoon's work in. I was going to go climbing with one of the guys in for the week, but after finding dinner in a group (with me still hauling my suitcase), we decided to postpone. I think I managed to pretty much upend my suitcase over my laundry hamper, take a shower, and fall into bed once I found a taxi to take me home. The rest of the week was full of project week coding from 9-5:30 or later, and evening stuff with out of town colleagues (took two of them to circus fitness class, but we never did get to go climbing).

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