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John 'Flanker' Clemens writes...

The short of it: The cons keep getting better. This was my 3rd.

Pre con:
I have to say, I'm a god at planning trips. I got three one way flights from Buffalo to Vegas, Vegas to Vancouver, Vancouver to Toronto. All I have to do is get to Sarah 'The Great's place in Buffalo and we fly in together. I also volunteered to host another panel on combat, this time discussing hand to hand. I got cheap flights, but paying for hotel and registration could be an issue. Looking the Gathering forums, I found a crazy offer. Some lady would pay my hotel and registration if I helped her run a booth promoting her website. Too good to be true, but I asked anyway. She wanted me to phone her. Hey, for a few bucks, why the hell not? Apparently she's serious. OK, whatever gets me to the gathering. She also mentioned she studied Tae Kwon Do and could bring some stuff to my panel, sweet!

I have never never ever had a problem crossing the US border. Apparently there must be a biker gang or terrorist cell called 'Gargoyles' because I was interrogated by US Customs for over an hour. I was really nervous. Eventually they let me go and Sarah's mom was mad that I was late for dinner. Sarah and I made it to the airport to find that our flights were delayed which could mess up our connecting flight. But, there were no major problems, other than the fact that we were supposed to rooming with Denis but had no way of getting ahold of him in Vegas. I ended up calling his cell from the hotel room phone. Ouch.

I was going to hit a rental range to fire some machine guns, but no one showed up. There was tepid interest in doing that or some airsoft later. No biggie. Registration was scary since Shara was supposed to take care of it, but they couldnt find my con badge and I couldnt find Shara. They found me one, but Shara didnt show up for awhile, I was a little tense. I finally met her and we set up her table. She had me running a dice game that basically amounted to me giving away free gargoyles t shirts and posters. It was fun, and an easy way to earn a hotel room and registration. I dont recall anything exciting happening friday night. I was just exhausted and went to bed.

My panel was to happen at 3pm, but I still got up early and helped out with Shara's table of free giveaway madness. It was cool and I kept meeting really people like Paul and Julie. Shara let me go check out the voice acting seminar, since I constantly miss it at prior cons. It was really interesting and Greg and Thom are really good and getting alot of information across in limited time. I had to grab my martial arts stuff and start strapping it on while they wrapped up their panel. Paul came in and had mentioned earlier that he had studied alot of Tae Kwon Do and Hwrang Do and was also a veteran of Iraq. I brought two sets of sparring gear so I loaned him one and figured I'd start my panel with a bang. Martial Arts is a pretty big topic to cover in an hour so I didnt bother preparing notes to read or anything dry like that (like my panel was last year). I asked to guys to open the doors and Paul and I fought while the seats filled. It was a really good match. He got a good kick on my face, and I knocked his glasses off his face. We put on a good show and I bowed and began talking about martial arts between heavy breaths and glasses of water. After I explained a little and talked about how to pick a school and things like that, Shara displayed her Tae Kwon Do uniform and performed a Kata. Next I invited Julie, a 12 year veteran of law enforcement to speak about street combat. She's a real life Elisa Maza and she totally made the panel something special, even to the more experienced guys like Paul and I. We wrapped up and I think the panel went really good, and much better than I thought it would. And I ended it just in time because the fire alarm went off. I tried to get some info about the comic coming out but I missed the main part of that presentation. I slept friday night so I decided to go out saturday. I turned down Maui's invitation to the Rainforest Cafe, a decision I would regret the rest of the con. A bunch of us broke off to see the strip and go see 'Charlie and Chocolate' Factory. Poor Noel was driving around in someone else's HUGE van at night in an unfamiliar city full of hostile drivers. Things were rough and I ended up breaking down and eating totally overpriced tiny pizza. We DID eventually get to the theater missing the first couple minutes of the movie, but it was still a good time.

Sunday I got up and had to kill some time. I had plans with some guys on the Somethingawful.com forums to meet up and go shooting in Boulder City. But I always wanted to audition. I knew I wouldnt be back in time for the Radio Play, but maybe that just made the audition less stressful. I read for Broadway, I think I did ok, since Greg seemed surprised when I said I couldnt be in the play. I apologized and left. My buddy picked up and we went to Boulder City. I wont bore everyone with details but it was much cheaper than renting and I had good time, and hurt my hand firing guns that are too damn big. I got back to the hotel around 5pm, and found out that I couldnt get a haircut for the banquet because the shop was closed. Darn it. I shaved off my goatee and started putting together my dress uniform. I decided to wear it because I didnt bring a costume this year and there's nothing wrong with a little attention whoring at the Gathering. Plus I look like solid gold in that thing. I was late and Sarah came to my room, she went out and got osme make up and wore a nice gown and looked totally fabulous. We got there late but it was cool since nothing had really started yet. The banquet was really awesome this year. There was a weird period between the banquet and the masquerade where I couldnt find anyone. Dark Lord talked to me for a few minutes before I had to remind him that I was Flanker and that I had shaved. Dark Lord is a special individual and I wont forget him anytime soon. Desert was served during the Masquerade which was cool since I wasnt in the masquerade and got some chocolate cake. Shara totally smoked everyone in her brooklyn costume as I knew she would when I first saw it. I cant believe it was her first con. The rest of sunday I just hung out with everyone and bought Thom a beer and generally had an aweosme time. Eventually the party broke up when Greg fell asleep in his chair.

This part of the Con was crap. You start saying goodbye to everyone and it sucks. Sarah and I formed a band of die hard cling-ons(After we got free show and dinner for listening to a time share pitch). We started stalking Chris Rogers and ended up following him into some pretty awesome buffets. Chris is the Man. Almost a dozen of us hit the Adventure Dome on tuesday and roped in a family so we could get the group discount. We all a good time even though I was feeling a little sick. We met up with Chris again who got us through a massive line up for the Buffet at the Bellagio, because Chris is the Man. I had a killer time with Sarah the Great, Liz, CKayote, Hudson, Dancer, Chris, Aaron and if I got your name wrong or forgot you just smack me in LA.

Greg responds...

Farewell, my enemies!

Response recorded on December 01, 2006