Siobhan organised a trip for a lot of us to go down to Charlotte to surprise Will at one of his wrestling matches. I think I'm the only one who flew in, everyone else road tripped, from Chicago, Columbus, Toronto, Pittsburgh and Atlanta. Scooter's been our man on the inside.

Sat Oct 9

Details got nailed down a bit late, so I ended up taking an early morning flight from Boston on Saturday in order to avoid paying an arm and a leg for a more convenient flight. Of course I didn't manage to get to bed early on Friday night, going to the gym, the library, the bank, and the grocery store on my way home from work, then packing, doing dishes, and digging up info to put in my palm pilot once I was there. Finally made it to sleep around midnight, and set two alarms just in case.

I bolted upright when the first one went off at 5, and turned off the second one. Ate a hurried breakfast, gulped some tea, and I was out of the house in 20 mins. I scurried over to the stop on Belmont, but the bus was actually late - I'd worried that as an early morning bus it would be running ahead of schedule. More people than I expected were around. The ticket guy at Harvard waved me through the turnstile when I tried to buy a token, and the train pulled up soon after I got to the platform. Going over the Charles was odd, I'm used to doing it at night but the darkness was of a different quality as morning wore on. Quick transfer at Park to the green line, then a bit of a wait for a blue train, but the airport shuttle waited for us. Made it at 6:20, and was sitting at my gate by 6:30. Luckily, they boarded early for the 7:20 flight, so I didn't doze off. The sun had just come up, the sky was an intense pink.

The flight to Detroit was a bit bumpy, then we had a long taxi ride to the terminal. I had to go from gate 78 to gate 7, almost as far as possible between two gates at DTW. I got to ride the express train end to end though and made my connection with plenty of time to spare. It was a pretty empty flight to Charlotte, no idea why they moved me from my reserved exit row seat to two behind it - I suspect chauvinism. :) The OJ was actually drinkable (if shudder inducing, at least it wasn't tang like the last time I flew NWA), but I'm relying on my bottle of water and apples to keep me going - the bag of pretzles had a hole torn in it and I wasn't going to chance eating that. I woke up by the time we landed in Charlotte, though I'd dozed on and off from Boston to Detroit.

Matt had started a bit late from Atlanta, I got a message and talked to him when he was 20 mins out. I went looking for a coffee shop, but there wasn't anything outside of security. He showed up, we got to the hotel quickly (we were all staying at the Days Inn Woodlawn) after we went around a bit of a tail back for getting onto 77. The room wasn't ready yet, so we got in touch with Scott St. James and he directed us to Sir Edmund Halley's Freehouse, not too far away. It was tucked behind a shopping mall, almost in the alley, but it had a lovely patio, shaded by trees and edged by a garden. We got there just before the rush, I had a pot of tea (the pot nested into the cup) and the jerk chicken melt, with fries dashed with malt vinegar. We were a bit twitchy, thinking that Will might show up, but we were unobserved and the surprise was intact. Back to the hotel, checked in finally, and napped for a bit. Everyone else got stuck in traffic, so Krista's car (with Eileen and Nate) didn't arrive until close to 5pm, and Siobhan & Axel, and Monica and Trevor and Bradley, met us up at the venue. Matt and I went on a booze run at 4:30. We went to Food Lion, where there was a band set up with a woman singing in Spanish, speakers filling the back of a van and a crowd gathered around. Got some Mike's Cranberry Lemonade and Guiness to get us through the night.

Once Krista and Eileen and Nate were ready (they'd arrived while we were at Food Lion), we all piled into Krista's car and headed up to Lincolnton. It was about an hour to get there, but the directions were good. Siobhan called to check on us just as we missed the final turn in the dark, then she backtracked to the Space gas station to rescue Monica and co. once we got to the venue. The last road was very winding narrow and dark, we weren't sure we were in the right place, but the hall and the sign for the match eventually came clear. We'd spent some time before heading out making posters to mock Will, Matt and I had picked up a neon pink bristol board and two white ones and we made 4 signs altogether. I waited outside for a bit as people smoked, ate, found seats, and then went in, paid my admission and joined people to the left of the ring. We had a bit of a wait, and I saw people peeking out between the curtains. Scott came out to say hi, and reassured his co-conspirators that we were there for Will, rather than to disrupt the match. The first couple of rounds were interesting, though the filler match was a bit disappointing. Then, 16 volt started playing, and we went nuts booing and hissing and mocking and waving signs, and Will spotted us and could barely hold onto his scowl - he's a bad guy. His match was amazing, he's really good, his opponent AG Smooth was wily and slippery though. We had a ton of fun chanting and cat calling and cheered mightily.

After the match, one of the security guards took us behind the building to talk to Will, and he hugged us all hello and didn't kill us for surprising him like that. We went back in to cheer for Scott in his tag team match, and intermission came, then the rest of the matches. Echelon was fun to watch, she's got attitude to spare, but she apparently got hit a bit off and was shaky at the end when the free for all happened and everyone piled into the ring and I couldn't keep track of what was going on. [ed: she had a mild concussion] The crowd around us was egging us on and egged on by us, by the end of the night we were we were all hoarse from screaming and my hands were sore from clapping.

Will and Scott got out of tearing down the ring, we gave Will a ride to the hotel at around 10. He took a shower, and we got a bit dolled up, had a drink each. Then Scott and his friend showed up and we made our way to Purgatory - I was designated driver. It was billed as a fetish night, there were some neat outfits, but a lot too many wings were being sported and poked into our faces. Siobhan and I took turns stepping outside for air, our poor lungs weren't used to smoking in clubs any more. The music was very eclectic, a TMBGs song came near the end. I ran into Mary-Anne and her friend, of Montreal and Boston. Spotted the other Charlotte native I knew previously, but didn't talk. Axel got bumped and spilled beer on my butt, but only a little bit. Eileen danced for a bit, but mostly we stood around the upstairs bar and chatted. Some more of the wrestling federation showed up - that was kind of disjointing, despite knowing that Will crossed the boundary of both worlds.

We closed out the bar, and had enough sober drivers at 2:30 to get us all back to the hotel. Krista and Bradley had each broken a bottle in 212, so we moved the party to 214, despite it making more sense to put it in 216 on the end as Matt, Sio, Axel and I had unpacked into there. Since they were non smoking rooms (I'd changed one from smoking - apparently the web interface doesn't take the non smoking room requests seriously, and Krista called to change them all so we'd be beside each other), everyone who wanted to smoke crowded onto the 3 person balcony. Christian, JD, Scott and his tag team partner (?) were there, and all happy to have found out that we had a great time.

At around 5am, when I'd been up for 24 hours, I crashed. I'd been lurking in quiet corners and talking a bit with Nate for the past hour anyway. Managed to drift off despite Axel's snoring and faint conversation noise from next door.

Sun Oct 10/04

I woke at 11, check out time, as the hotel staff were banging on doors to get the rest of the rooms cleared. Ours was the only room reserved for a second night, as Sio and Axel were going on to Atlanta on Monday. I was wide awake and let the others in to store stuff, and then we drove over to Waffle House for breakfast. It was busy, and despite my waiting and snagging a table, IHOP carried the day for everyone but me, Trev, Boo, Will, and Monica. We had a nice server, though they didn't have the juice I wanted, nor the raisin toast, and gave me grits despite it not being included in the description on the menu. He also told Will he looked like a guy from ZZ Top - shades, hair back in a pony tail, and goatee. We snorted quietly. :) The cheesy eggs and plain toast sat fine with me. We went over to join the gang at IHOP, and then led the way back to the hotel where Krista was napping (insomnia hit her and she didn't sleep at all). We got sucked into the tv and watched the end of Cool Runnings and Gattaca before I chivvied everyone out at 3pm, as I only had an hour before I needed to be at the airport. There wasn't a cafe close by, so we tried to go to the Penguin on Thomas St for fried pickles and other goodies, but Will's directions sucked (as usual ;) ) and we ended up at 85, closer to the airport. So, we called yet again to get directions (with street names), gave them to Axel, Monica, Bradley and Trev and sent them off to join the rest while Matt and Sio took me to the airport. Bit of a wait at check in and security (my docs apparently match the new profile and I had to take them off even though they didn't set off the metal detector), but the flight left on time.

A stupid bitch decided that her girl should get my window seat and I ended up in the aisle seat so they wouldn't be separated. I whine because stupid girl talked non-stop and annoyingly through the whole flight, to the point where I put ear plugs in so I wouldn't kill her. I managed to doze through most of the flight, though finding that there was a time difference briefly panicked me as I thought I'd missed my connection in Memphis.

I'd finally found my missing bottle of water - it never made it out of Matt's trunk - and it sustained me until I got to Memphis and could get some food (very oily but good pasta with a garlic basil sauce and artichoke hearts). There were problems with the plane, we lost power twice and it was really hot and claustrophobic sitting at the gate - we'd had to walk outside and up the stairs to get into the plane, but they couldn't keep the door open. Finally pushed back and taxied for a while and got into the air just before I had a panic attack.

The flight got in a bit late, but Cris was circling and picked me up outside of terminal E.
I had a great time, it was wonderful to see the gang again and to surprise Will. There's talk of doing it again next year, but not as a surprise, and hopefully we'll get even more people.

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