Dragon*Con, 2013

I'm on Abney Park's mailing list and when they sent out an update saying that they were going to be playing at this year's Dragon*Con, I thought about it for a couple of days, and then bought a ticket to the event. They very rarely get to the east coast and I have a built in excuse to visit Atlanta (seeing Jay), so both at once was a no-brainer. I reserved a hotel room further out as the downtown ones were all booked up even then, and while that did provide a break from the crowds, it made logistics a bit of a pain.

Friday August 30, 2013

I had packed the night before, happy to see that I could get everything (including 3-4 costumes) into my carry on sized suitcase and so avoid the $25 checked bag fee. I woke up before my alarm in the morning but that gave me a relaxed morning to do last minute things like putting out the garbage. I rolled my suitcase down the hill to catch the CT2 at Stone Ave, and realised once I got there and checked NextBus instead of the schedule that the 9:14 one was running 10 minutes late (on a 25 minute cycle). *sigh* A lady cyclist beat us to Kendall, I stood up the whole way, and that's why I ride my bike to work instead. It was a bit of a sweaty haul from the stop at the Landmark Center to my office, including a detour by the not yet open Chipotle, so there was no getting lunch ahead of time. I walked a block over from my building instead once lunch time rolled around and got a tukey patty salad for lunch from the hamburger joint. I failed to fix the major software bug that I was hoping would miraculously get resolved, and had to postpone the fix to the patch release. I left my office at 4 (not technically early due to all the late hours I'd pulled throughout the week), making my way to the subway stop through the start of the Red Sox game crowds. It was hot, and the trains were crowded, but there wasn't much waiting between legs. I'd been to the podiatrist earlier that week and my foot was taped up to help with some soreness, and the extra bulk was pressing against a formerly not sore spot in my short Fluevog boots. I'd printed out my boarding pass and all I had to do was get through security in terminal A. It was a decent sized line, I was pointed to the pre-cleared area where you can leave your shoes on and keep liquids inside your bag, but something set off the metal detector. Luckily just taking off my boots fixed the problem and I was through ungroped. Something about taking my boots off and putting them on again made my foot hurt a lot more, so I was limping as I left the security screening area. I walked (er, rode the moving sidewalk) through the tunnel and was at my gate before 5:30 for my 6:45 flight. I backtracked a litte for my now traditional terminal A meal of a burritto bowl from Fresh Express, eating it in the gate lounge area.

The flight was uneventful (thankfully), and I gate checked my bag when they offered to do it for free. I had an empty seat in the middle of my row, so that was nice, and the sunset was awesome, looked like the sky was on fire at one point, and at another there were dark shadows cast by cloud formations as the sun went down behind them. Jay was waiting for me, and my suitcase came out quickly and we were soon on the road out of the airport. I had enough decompression time while driving to agree to a stop by a speakeasy for a cocktail. We had to walk through a restaurant and open what looked like a fridge door to get into the bar. We got one of the last tables and eventually got our drinks. I talked Jay into one with Chartreuse called You Can't Handle the 'Treuse while I had something a bit lighter (totally blanking). It really filled in while we were there, and got louder and louder, so we left after one drink. Checking in to the Extended Stay America hotel was a bit sketchy, they'd misplaced my print out and then couldn't give good directions on where the best place to park would be. We found the room eventually, and I was put out to see that we had exactly four hangers. Hrmph. I tried calling down to the desk to request more, as well as another mug, cup and set of cutlerly. The air conditioning was definitely working well though, and there was a much needed extra blanket in the closet. They gave me one non feather pillow so I wrapped a feather pillow to provide body support. At least it was cheap. :-)

Saturday August 31, 2013

The alarm time was debated, with the goal to get to the registration line before it got too long, but sleep mostly won out. We got dolled up in steam punk inspired outfits (WW1 marine and airship hostess), made a quick stop for caffeine and then got caught in football game traffic. :-/ Luckily we were able to find a spot in a parking garage just a block or two away from the con hotels, but we were up on the top level and there was a line to pay for parking. I stood in the line while Jay sorted out the last of his outfit bits (bags and straps and guns oh my) and realised that it was Atlanta in August and yup, blazing hot. Should have packed my parasol after all. He ran the ticket back up to the car dashboard while I lurked in some shade, and then we made our way through the parade crowds (caught the older lady leading the way with bagpipes) to get into the registration line at just past 10am at the Sheraton. Unfortunately by that point it was already wrapped around the block almost the whole way. :-( It moved fairly quickly though, or at least constantly, and it wasn't an hour before we were inside the building. Where they were waving pre registered people into a non existent line to go right up to the counter and get our pre paid badges. :-/ I didn't notice at the time, but the scattered guy who gave me mine handed me a Saturday only one rather than one for the whole weekend, and I had to go back to get it sorted out later that day (no line then, luckily). There weren't any more copies of the pocket program (114 pages so I hadn't printed it out at home), so I was very glad that I'd printed out the schedule grid, though I'd done 2 pages per page and the print was kind of tiny. I'd spent some time on the airplane highlighting the panels I wanted to see and relied exclusively on it throughout the weekend. The program that they gave us was pretty much useless as it only had guest bios and no info as to where/when to find them. There was a mobile app that I could have downloaded, but with almost zero cell service in the hotel meeting rooms, there didn't ever seem to be a good time to do that and play with it.

We had enough time to find the right hotel and room for a Beauty and the Beast panel (Beauty and the Beast: Not the Same Old Fairy Tale) and the room was cool and almost empty, so I was happy to just sit quietly for a while. Even after realising that it was about the new TV show, not the old one, nor about the fairy tale in general. I hadn't seen any of the episodes after being turned off by the minimal make up worn by the actor playing the beast, but the panelists were good about giving context to the questions and answers. Jay ducked out to run to the car and re-joined me near the end of the hour long panel discussion. We were both a bit annoyed by That Guy asking questions to seem smart (and yet being totally off topic at the same time), but otherwise it was a nice way to ease into the con. Oh, and one of the panelists asked me about the lace jacket I was wearing, aparantly Mod(e/a?) International is a fairly high end clothing brand (I found it in a consignment store). She asked before the panel began, didn't realise she was on it until she went up to sit at the high table. The panels in general were an interesting mix of fans talking about things they love and actors/novelists/artists talking about the things they've done.

I think at that point we decided to grab lunch since I wanted to get into the line for the Torchwood: From Beginning to End panel at least an hour before it started, so at 1:30. We had an hour to eat, and needed to find a place that wasn't slammed by the crowds, and not take too long about it (I was also getting a bit light headed). We ended up at a pub where you order at a counter and pay right there, though Jay got a drink via table service. I ordered the chicken pot pie and was a bit surprised when they plopped a huge pastry thing down on top of the creamy veggie mix in the dish. Not much chicken in it, but very filling. Lots of other costumed con attendees there, and the noise levels were pretty high, so it wasn't really a break from the madness. :-) From there, we went up to the ballroom where the Torchwood panel was to be held, and then followed the line out the door, down some stairs, around the corner, around another corner, around *another* corner, and ended up in the shadow of the statues guarding the front entrance of the hotel, almost all the way around the block from where we started. And the line kept filling in behind us. I wasn't even a little bit tempted to give up, this was the one panel I was determined to see. :-) We were in line right behind a woman cosplaying as a younger version of River Song, and positioned just right to listen to a young woman on rollerskates playing the violin for the convention crowds. Finally, at close to 2:15, the line started to move. Back around the block, up the stairs, and into the ballroom we went, directed to the back of the second last section of chairs, passing a "Capacity 1600" sign and sitting as the actors were being introduced. I pretty much spent the next hour smiling and laughing until I cried. Burn Gorman was playing the clown in a geeky outfit, Gareth D-L was very quiet on the other end, and John Barrowman and Eve Myles were hilarious, though Captain Jack is a walking sexual harrasment suit waiting to happen if the behind the scenes stories are to be believed (let's say that he can't keep it in his pants if whipping it out will make him laugh). When they opened it up to questions, found that quite a few people mistook actors for someone who had any say about the story. They're willing to do more Torchwood, and would love if they went back in time so the old cast could come back. :-) There was lots of kissing, Eve hiding her face (as well as hitting on a 16 year old guy who asked a question), and John fell off his chair laughing, twice. I will also pause before I start skiing this winter and remember GDL making skiing motions on stage with both arms going up and down.

I'm prety sure that we made the LGBTQ in YA panel, since I recall everyone saying the acronym in a different letter order. :-)

When I went back to sort out my badge issue, the guy at the Solutions table just peeled off the sticker and put it on a new badge and handed it over, sorted. :-) I also asked about how long ahead of time we should get in line to ensure that we got into the Abney Park concert that night, and the guy said 2 hours. O.o Considering that Professor Elemental was going on at midnight before Abney Park went on at 1:30, that put lineup time at 10pm. Some of Jay's friends were going to meet up for cocktails at 9pm at White Oak across the street, and I wanted to do that, so I rolled the dice and said that as long as we were in line by 11pm, I could live with it.

I wanted to go to a Steampunk literature panel but went into the wrong half of a room (the 1-2 parts of a meeting room where we were supposed to be in 3) where a neat exhibit was set up along the walls, so we stayed. It ended up being "Behind the Gears: Master Maker Q&A". It was fun. :-) About halfway through a guy sitting right behind us started a device ticking, it was kind of distracting. One woman in the audience had some good tips to contribute but the panellists were all men. The guy from Brute Force Leather was very insistent on being hard to work with. Once it ended we were trying to decide what to do. We had the choice of going to the first half of an 8:30 panel and leaving to meet up at 9, or to go over early and grab a drink while waiting for people. We chose the latter and another of Jay's old friends, Dave(?), joined us as we waited for the late running crew to get there at 9:30. I had one of the drinks I'd had last time we'd visited the White Oak, the Bramble and had the pimento cheese plate for something to hold me over until dinner. The latter ended up being more about the fried green tomatoes than the cheese, but it was very tasty. The restaurant got a table for the group ready and we moved over when Heather et all arrived. I ended up mostly chatting at my end of the table, cocktail geeking with Heather and moaning about Boston traffic with the guy to her left. I had asked for a cocktail made with a honey flavoured rum that I'd liked, but made the mistake of agreeing to a tiki concoction and found it too sweet for my tastes. The fish dish I ordered came out a bit over cooked, I think I'll just go back there for apps and cocktails, much like my approach to Eastern Standard in Boston.

At around 11, we settled up our separate bill and headed over to find the line for the concert. And ended up within sight of the doors, very few people were there yet. Ah well, we ended up chatting a bit with the Star Trek uniformed woman in front and Doctor Horrible (I think) and co behind us. Great costume watching, I'm kicking myself for not taking pictures from there. Jay braved the huge line at the coffee shop to grab me a cup of tea and we waited and waited and waited to be let in. Okay, only an hour or so, but we kept getting disturbed from the line by staff needing to move wheeled things (garbage and tables) through from the behind the scenes area, but at least we had a divider (ribbon connected posts) between us and the main crowd. I kept worrying that we'd jumped the line, but nope, people filled in behind us. So what did I do with my super early entry? Claimed a seat at the mid point of the hall and sat down for a while. :-) I think I watched all of Professor Elemental's set from there, the sound mix seemed a bit off, I could barely understand his lyircs, and for a chap hop rapper that seemed important. His song about tea came through loud and clear though, for his grande finale. There wasn't much of a wait for Abney Park, they pretty much ran onto stage as soon as the Prof was off. And I ran up to the front. :-) Well, the side of the front, and promptly put my ear plugs in since I was in front of the speaker stack. It turned out that the sound mix was off, the female vocals were dominating the male, and she's usually the harmony rather than the lead on the CDs. The band seemed to be having fun, and played a lot of my favourites. Unwoman joined them on her cello for a few songs as well. I'd checked out the merch table, but they didn't bring any pre-release copies of the new CD (two days too soon :-( ). Their set seemed to focus on slower songs, I didn't dance my butt off the whole time, just sometimes. I ended up moving a bit through the crowd (Jay sitting down with my bag since hsi costume boots were killing his feet (and I was very happy I'd worn my comfy 'vogs rather than the 3 inch heels)) when a group of three guys started grinding with two girls right next to me. One other woman kept touching me as she moved past me or spun me around to dance with her, it was a bit odd. Short gap for the encore, big finish, and time to head back to the hotel for some sleep. 3am was on the clock by the time I fell into bed after a quick shower, and we agreed that we weren't going to try and get up early the next day. Nor were we going to dress up, making the practical decision to abandon the Princess Bride outfits we'd planned on in favour of not getting heat stroke (no way was I wearing that wig) as well as being much more comfortable all around.

Sunday September 2, 2013

I got up at around 11am, it was blissful. :-) Aparently I just needed to wear myself out by standing around in the hot sun all day, dancing and staying up extremely late in order to get a good night's sleep. Comfy clothes, another stop at Starbucks for tea and back downtown for more DragonCon-y goodness. This time we parked in a garage associated with one of the hotels, and I think it was a couple of bucks cheaper, if only good until 1am or so.

When we weren't able to get into the room doing the Godzilla retrospective, we went down the hall and caught the docent tour in the Armory, on blades. Learned a lot about the making of samurai swords from a fairly cranky older man. :-) The room had a few self determined experts asking questions and injecting comments, but one guy who seemed to be a beginning blacksmith asked some interesting technique questions. Very few women in the room.

We hit up artists alley in the last couple of hours it was open, and I noted down a few names of people to check out from home: look up Mark Poole to see if any of his work is used as book covers because they look fascinating. ? Patricia McCraken had some lovely Japanese wood block and ink painting inspired prints with tiny dragons, and I ended up buying a thin book with lots of the drawings in them rather than a print. I was tempted by a print for a friend but decided to sleep on it and come back the next day if I still wanted to get it. We did a quick run through of the comic section, and then realised that there were no dealers per se. They were in a whole other building and by the time we got there, I was getting light headed from hunger again. We went over to Ray's I think and sat at the bar to order sushi, only to be told they didn't have any rice and it would be available at 6. Then someone came running through saying "we have sushi!" so we changed our order. Longer wait but glad to get what I wanted to eat. Today was quite rainy (though we missed being outside in the worst of the cloud bursts) and I was tempted by the hot sake, but went with tea instead. We had time after food for a quick run through the dealer's room I think, but made plans to go back the next day (noted the pin striped and halter necked corsets for further investigation).

We hit up the Women in Alternate History panel that was by turns interesting and 101 level feminism. It was a neat mix of people, from one tall woman cosplaying Captain Mal to an older lady in a cheongsam (fashion was discussed), to a middle aged lady in a Bloomer outfit (no bloomers found in the dealer's room dammit), to a younger lady in a corset, pants, ruffles and an awesome ship adorned hat. Jay detected some interpersonal friction between the panelists but I just thought they had a lively discussion since they knew each other. Noted some books to look up (Gears and Grimm anthology) and wished I could have seen the one woman cosplaying as Mr Darcy and Oscar Wilde. :-)

We made it into the Violence in Urban Fantasy panel, coming in after it had started so I was a bit lost as to who the panelists were other than Laurell K. Hamilton. Kept an eye out for Rafe, but didn't spot him. This panel was unexpectedly tear jerking as the authors shared how violence had touched their lives and how that translated into their writing. LKH gave out a fairly major spoiler about characer death or lack there of in her Anita Blake series, but I have hopes that more therapy will change her stance. ;-) I need to double check the program and get the other author's names as I want to read their writing after hearing them speak.

I think then we lined up for the steampunk masquerade, which was a party rather than a costume contest, with djs (I asked). Jay wasn't able to find tea, leaving me to hold the line behind a guy who was pacing in circles getting anxious. Amazing costumes, I loved the steampunk Dalek guy in a bronze kilt and pith helmet. :-) We decided to duck out of the line and find food then come back as the party was going to go on for hours. [insert restaurant here] We came back and Jay got a call, so I found a corner and observed for a while, trying to ease into the party. But bad news led to me getting to see his new house when we went by to check on the cat to determine if it needed to go to the emergency vet that night or not. The cat was on our heels as I got a quick tour and despite some laboured breathing seemed fine otherwise. We were both beat by this point and decided to call it a night rather than going back to the Con, so no Voltaire/Cruxshadows or steampunk ball - if I'd been less tired, I'd have been tempted to pop back to the hotel for a steampunk outfit and gone to the ball, but: Sunday night.

Monday September 3, 2013

I had to check out of the hotel by 11, packing quickly that morning and eating the last of the granola in the room, and getting ready for the trip to the airport as well. On check out I learned that they only did house keeping for people staying 7 nights or more, though I wish I'd tried calling down for fresh towels at least (muggy Atlanta weather == many showers and towels that don't dry very quickly). More tea, same parking garage and we snuck into the back of the Cassini science talk, "Everything you ever wanted to know about Cassini and then some". We were both bouncing and quietly squeeing as we got our nerd on - topographic map of Titan!

From there I messed up with where I wanted to go to get the art print I'd seen yesterday, and we doubled back from the building with the dealers to get that sorted first as it was a known quantity. Then back to the marketplace to the corset booth and they laced me into a pin striped waist cincher. Fortunately for my wallet the stitching was off and it wrinkled badly and they didn't have another in my size. We did a fairly quick meander around the other booths, hitting maybe a quarter in the time I had before I wanted to head to the airport (I was checked in, going carry on only, but still had to print out my boarding pass - we could also see the line up of taxis ready to take con goers to the airport). I was looking for patches and t-shirts for me, and baby stuff for my nephew, but had no luck. It could have taken up a whole morning or afternoon, seemed like a lot of people had left shopping to the last day.

The drive to the airport went quickly and there was no line at check in, so I had time to spend in the longish security line. I decided to go through the mm wave machine rather than get a pat down, I was done with people and crowding by that point. So of course on my flight I had to deal with an arm rest hogging woman in the seat next to me. *sigh* After security, a short train ride to the A terminal, found my gate, then went to an open concept sports bar to grab some food before my flight at 4:30. My ears were bombarded by music from the bar as well as the news from the speakers elsewhere in the airport, wish I'd thought to break out my noise cancelling headphones. No offer to gate check bags this time, but I was able to find a spot over my seat for my suitcase since I wasn't in the last group to board this time. Tried to nap a bit, but ended up reading, glad I'd put my second book in my tote bag when I finished the first book quickly. Bit of a bumpy flight, I didn't end up timing getting up right and stayed in my seat the whole 2 hours, so I was limping by the time I got up in Boston (stupid knee). It worked out by the time I made it to the taxi line and for once I had a nice, quiet, sane, non agressive taxi driver who didn't dump my suitcase in the middle of the road. He got a tip. :-) I was home by 8pm, and had received two separate texts asking if I was going out that night, so decided that I was missing riding my bike and was going to go. Nice to move under gear power again. :-) But then I wore shoes that were too grippy and tweaked my knee (hrm, might have been still stressed from sitting so long) and had to leave a bit early to stop myself from being tempted to dance. Home and collapsed into bed by midnight.

Back to my diary page.