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The last of my Gathering journal. Now it's off to shame my friends into writing them!
Sunday, August 8
I hadn’t mentioned the Gargoyles Biology panel that I had been scheduled to give with Yggdrasil and Lynati up to this point; the reason is that I hadn’t worked on it, and so waking up that morning was just like school – making a mad rush to the Tim Hortons with a notepad and jotting down discussion notes. It looked very much like my early mornings in undergrad when I’d stumble, bleary-eyed, to the Pit (the campus coffee store) and do the work that I should have done the night before. I got back in time to greet Andrew and Mercedes parents – they were leaving early, and I gave some warm goodbyes – and then I went down to the Auditorium to get the talk ready. Check the lights, write a few things on the white-board – everything that those of us who’ve given thesis seminars know about first hand. This, though, was at least promising to be fun, though there was no degree lurking at the end of it.
It went spectacularly. We had a great crowd, and I was vastly impressed with the turn-out we had, considering that we were up against the adult round robin and the first of the mug-a-guests with Keith David (though we later found out that Keith hadn’t made it to his first one, so maybe that’s kind of unfair). Yggdrasil had got a powerpoint slide on genetic engineering ready, and Lynati had her notes on musculature and bone structure ready. I was acting more as facilitator, I suppose, but we had a lot of good questions and neat ideas on the metabolism of stone sleep, the mechanics of gargoyle gliding, the healing factor, the glowing eyes, etc. The DVD crew came in and filmed us, and so there’s the geek closet just blown wide open, but it was still a great talk filled with neat ideas and fun people. Some people told me later that they wished Greg had been there, but I have the suspicion that Greg is just happier not thinking too much about the biology of the show. I’m sure many a B.Sc undergrad would feel the same way, given the opportunity. But I have to say it again; there are a lot of thoughtful and smart people in the fandom, many of whom have tried to look at the broader scientific questions that get asked with a series like this. There were even a few questions that flirted with the blue end of the spectrum, though everything ended up nice and PG friendly.
After this it was a mad-dash scramble to get checked out of the room and to stow our stuff in Ellen’s room, and then we were immediately wrangled by Christine to go and start signing copies of the Phoenix Gate Anthology in the art-show room. I signed quite a few for the other authors and artists, and I also signed quite a few for a lot of fans who seemed amused at the whole idea of us sitting at the table and brandishing pens. I felt a little like a poser, and since Keith still hadn’t come downstairs yet, I also felt a little like the opening-act who won’t get off the stage to let the headliners come on. But we did get great seats for the mug-a-guest, and Keith finally did come downstairs; he got to talk to everyone except the PGA crew and Carole semi-firmly told him to sit down and start answering questions (Nicely, though; I’m mostly teasing. Mostly).
The night before I had been speaking with Keith one-on-one; this time I got to see him work the crowd. He’s singularly charming and he answered every question with wit and a genuine sense of enjoyment. He’s also a master of the artful segue, and quite often a seemingly closed question would branch off into a rich and expressive answer that had nothing to do with what had been asked, but gave a great glimpse into the mind of someone who clearly feels at home in his own skin and who viewed his craft as art and calling as much as job and paycheque. Just like in my conversation last night, his topics ranged from acting to philosophy, and I think he would have gone on for hours had not Carole insisted that he go and get some lunch before the closing ceremonies. With that, he took his leave, and the rest of us lingered and settled in to wait for the last Gathering event. I was starved and there was no time to run up to the Tim’s; I went looking through the underground mall for something to eat but everything was locked up tight. Annoying, but hardly the end of the world; I figured I could live of my glycogen stores for a couple of hours and wait until the airport for food.
Closing ceremonies was kind of a blur; I was kind of distracted, wondering if we’d have time to be able to say proper good-byes to friends before having to run out and catch a taxi to the airport. We watched the art show awards, and Stormy was amazed at winning five ribbons (I was happy that the Whitbourne kitbash and Revel’s picture with good ol’ Witless in it won some accolades, but then again, I’m vicariously selfish). We got to hear the pitch for Las Vegas, and I decided that I would go as long as my projected voyage to Africa for school next summer allows it. I also had to explain my T-shirt (it says “MEAT” and has a picture of a T-bone steak with a caduceus on it). a few people asked about it, and I had to tell them that it was a shirt printed for our joke-gentlemen’s club at school. MEAT stands for Medicine, Ethanol, And Testosterone. It’ll be on the DVD, I assume, since the crew was there for the biology panel, so of anyone’s curious, that’s it.
The ceremonies ended earlier than I expected, and so Stormy and I had time to join the line to have Keith sign our Phoenix Gate anthologies after all. Stormy showed him the Goliath she had dressed up in drag for the art show, and he thought that was flipping hilarious. He also sang to her; a riff on her fan-name, which he justified by saying that he’d had a friend nick-named Stormy when he was younger. He signed her book, and that book’s now at her parent’s house in Clifford, Ontario, stored safely away for posterity.
I got him to sign my book, too, right on the front page of my story. He remembered me from the night before and we followed up for a moment on the conversation we’d had. Once he got a close look at my name, he looked up at me and asked if I was familiar with the works of Dylan Thomas.
I nodded. “I was named after him, actually,” I said, and this is true, though my parents hadn’t read any of his poems and they just thought his name was interesting.
“He had some good advice,” Keith said, and then he took my book and his pen again. At that point he’d simply signed “To Dylan – all the best”, but he then added “& remember – do not go gentle into that good night”. I’ve never planned on doing so, but now I have even more incentive. Thanks, Keith.
Time was growing criminally short, now, and the last of the Gathering was spent saying farewells to all of our friends again. Lynati, Wingless, Allaine, Kathy, Maui, Princess, Mara, Aaron, Spacebabie, Revel, Dan, Flanker – the list is endless, with so many dear friends to speak of that it’s impossible to name them all. We didn’t pre-register for the Gathering next year – there just wasn’t time – but we both know that unless we’re in faraway lands at the same time as the Gathering, we’ll be there in Las Vegas. Heck, I’m actually buying a guitar and learning to play it just for next year’s Gathering, so I can go as Bonavista. (And now that’s on the Internet, so people can hold me to it as though it were a legal contract.) We got to prolong the farewell with Ellen, mostly because we were stashing our swag in her room for the afternoon, but in the end we had to say bye to her too, and that one was just like last year’s for me – bittersweet, with the promise of a Gathering reunion the next year.
We left, pretty low-key, got our stuff, took a taxi to the airport; we talked of the Gathering the whole way there, confusing the driver, I’m sure, and we looked back at the Montreal skyline, wishing we were staying but knowing that the real world was beckoning. We got to the airport – twenty minutes, thirty-one bucks, just like last time, and did the dance of the Infernal Check-In, with its ritual questions of “did you pack your bags yourself” and “did you leave them unattended” to round out the routine. We ate junk food for supper and then boarded the plane; on the way there I ran into one of my friends from med school, who had been in Montreal visiting friends. We talked for a few minutes, but we didn’t say much; she ran into a friend of hers from undergrad, and Stormy and I were tired, but still, that time we spent waiting in the gate seemed to sum it all up. At one end of the chairs was my friend Erin, where we talked about med school and Halifax, but then I went back to my own seat and read the stories in the Phoenix Gate Anthology until it was time to board the plane. Real-life and fan-life have always been sort of an interesting dichotomy for me, and somehow that image, so close to the end of the Gathering, lingers as much as anything else that happened that weekend.
On the plane ride home, I fussed and fidgeted for a while, and then turned on my laptop and started editing a fanfic story that I hadn’t touched in three months. It felt right and proper. It won’t ever get me published, and sometimes I fear that the crowd who reads that is ever diminishing, but still, it felt good. Stormy looked at me with patient understanding; Ellen, I’m sure, would have beamed. It wasn’t all that productive; by the time I started getting into the editing groove we were landing in Halifax and catching our bags and finding the car, but it was there. The Gathering had brought me back into the fold.
I’m writing this a couple of weeks after – as a crappy postscript, I just found out that the alternator on our car went and it needs to be replaced, something that seems to be a shortly-after-the-Gathering tradition – but I’m still feeling the buzz. I’m going to show my family and friends the Phoenix Gate story, and I’m going to natter them into buying the DVD. I’m going to look into going to Africa next summer but I’m also going to make sure I have time to go to Vegas. I’m going to learn to play the guitar and make enough money that I can buy all the guests a round for next year. And most importantly of all, I’m going to get out my laptop more and write, as much and as often as I can about the things that command me to write about them. It won’t always be fanfic; other muses lurk in the ether that have visions of the Giller, the Booker and the Nobel prizes in their heads, but it will be what I enjoy. That’s the legacy from the Gathering that I want to keep.
See you all in Vegas.
Wow. That's bloody inspirational. And although it probably sounds like it, I am NOT being sarcastic. Honestly.
And for the record, I've always wanted to attend one of those "Gargoyle Biology" Panels, but I'm always scheduled to do something else at the same time. But I'd love to talk about that with fans at some point. Casually.