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I tried to keep a running journal. As you'll see, that didn't pan out.
"I should have had cream cheese. It's 6:48 a.m. and I've just finished a very disappointing egg, ham and cheese bagel. My flight doesn't board for another 90-odd minutes, so for now I'm hanging out at the gate with a bunch of St. Louis-bound folks.
"Usually I'm up at 7 a.m. to be bound for work at 8, but this morning's 5 a.m. wake-up call didn't bother me.
"No, losing my camera bothered me (post scriptum: the camera was found in one of my shoes under my bed. *shrug*) - and my G'03 shirts, which went M.I.A. from the laundry thanks to unwanted (and, as I recall, expressly forbidden) laundry "assistance." Oh well.
"It's well past 70 outside with the humidity somewhere between "swimming pool" and "ocean." Fish could walk on land in this. I can't say I'm too eager to fly into a Las Vegas heat wave.
"8:05 - Jitters. I love flying, but for whatever reason I've been overcome with near-panic. Maybe it's the realization of how narrow my window is for connecting in Chicago, or that I can't get any movement in today's sudoku puzzle (which is a bad omen, let me tell you), but I'm nervous as all hell.
"Should be boarding in a few minutes. Will write when I land.
"10:12 Central - Yeah, it was a very narrow transfer window that damned-near closed on me. I arrived at the gate just 30 seconds before they called my ticket group. Close.
"I don't know what was up with the pre-flight jitters at D.C., but there's no sign of them now.
"This plane is, predictably, very energetic. There's music coming over the intercom, lively conversations about gambling, all anticipating fun times ahead.
"Will write when I land.
"12:04 Pacific - Touchdown.
"Ex post facto: Okay, I was bad about keeping a running journal, but I've got plenty in my memory to write a solid journal.
"Getting out of the airport was an ordeal - much glitz and glamour in the form of slot machines, casino advertisements, and a limo driver holding an 'Iglesias' sign causing people to stop in mid-walk - but I managed a shuttle to the hotel and arrived about an hour after touching down. I had missed the first panel I had wanted to attend, but Fate compensated for that as I ran into Thom in the lobby, where he recalled his travel nightmare.
"As I stood confused at the opening to the hotel's casino, Ellen ambushed me and led me through the chaos to her panel, co-hosted by Emambu. Though the subject material was familiar, it was a good panel - and it was nice to sit in something more roomier than a sardine can.
"After the panel and hanging out with Ellen, I encountered my roommates - Denis, Jenn/Rain, Paul/Akhetnu, and Kaylle - and was introduced to Julie/Shadow Runner, a fellow D.C. area resident (one of the few I've met directly through the fandom). Summer Jackel also made her appearance, and good conversation was had (though, I think, at the sacrifice of a panel she was headed for when I called her away).
"There were many other familiar faces that walked by during that time, but it would be diverting from the journal to name them all.
"My roommates and I poked around until opening ceremonies, and the new material (DVD-related) was good stuff. The well-wishes from the cast were probably the night's highlight.
"Upon that event's conclusion, the 'Four-Eyes Clan' - so-called despite my lack of glasses - headed down to Paris Las Vegas for that hotel's buffet. It was pricey, no question, but it was worth it. To have eaten the same in D.C. would have been prohibitive for the wallet.
"I hadn't been prepared for the expanse of the hotel, however, and so as we poked around the blistering of my feet began; not that I minded at the time, but now I'm thankful I have a desk job.
"We made a fashionably late (okay, really late) appearance at the "Blue Mug" event, but like last year's a lot of it was focused on the DVD and comic news (not that there weren't many attempts to turn it towards "blueness"). However, whatever was discussed there I cannot remember - my mind was three hours ahead into Saturday morning and I can't say I was making much of an effort to pay attention compared to my effort to stay awake.
"The event concluded, we picked up Roger as another roommate, brining the room total up to six, and we called it a night once the event concluded. I took the floor.
"I slept poorly that night - not so much due to the uncomforable nature of the floor as much as the cold of the air conditioner, the lack of a pillow, blanket and long-sleeved shirt. It didn't occur to me until about 5 a.m. that maybe if I moved out of the AC's path I wouldn't be so cold, but by then it was too late to salvage a good sleep."
Tired! I "woke up" around 7 a.m. and made my way downstairs to the Palace Cafe for breakfast. I missed that they were supposed to be closed, which would have kept me from heading there at all, but this morning they were open for a limited time in order to try out a new system. The best part of their trial run was that all meals were free. Free!
Wonder of wonders, a free meal at a con!
I ran into Flanker on my way out of the Cafe as he was on his way to breakfast with Sarah the Great. I informed him of the free meal available in the hotel, but it was too late - Cafe stopped service and closed up until Tuesday. So, since they were up and in search for a meal and I was in search of something to do, I joined them on a trip to the Strip for breakfast (well, their breakfast anyway).
We got back to the hotel and I headed over to Ellen, Kathy and Revel's panel on writing action sequences. It was good stuff - well done.
From there I went to the dealers' room to place bids on some art (of which I would lose two out of three) and the full set of Gargoyles comics at the silent auction.
While hanging around one of the dealer's tables, Ellen invited me out to lunch at the Stratosphere. How could I refuse?
We headed out, the cab driver gave Ellen free tickets to a show of some kind, and got in to the hotel. The restaurant required reservations, but we figured that with the main lunch hour behind us there would be room - certainly for just the two of us - and we were right.
Of all the times to not have a camera, that was the most painful. The view was *stunning* from up there.
Ellen and I had a good lunch, good conversation; it was a nice break from the con.
We had such a good time, though, that we missed Flanker's panel, which was unfortunate as people have given it rave reviews.
So I stalked around the dealers' room a bit more and checked on my bids. I found that I had been bested on one piece of artwork; and so, even though the fire alarm went off and con staff encouraged my evacuation, I one-upped my challenger. Dedication, folks - auctions are not for the light-hearted.
I had been thoroughly bested, however, on another piece of art and someone placed a fifth bid on the comics, sending them to the live auction on Monday.
Once the alarm was silenced, I hung out and waited for the evening's poker game. Fun times, people - though a disappointing turnout. The players were solid - Greg was wearing his "poker shirt" and boasted that he had just brushed up on Poker for Dummies, and Thom... Thom had a clever strategy of playing like he had no idea what he was doing.
Okay, Seth and I coached him once or twice (or thrice), and with our help he put up a good showing, at least up until he was coached to keep a hand with nothing going but a 50% chance for a flush before the flop - not by me, BTW - and from there it was downhill.
His death was when we thought he had landed three aces and encouraged him to stay in, only to have him bested by a full house.
The best part of the game wasn't so much coaching Thom as heckling Greg. So rarely does one have the excuse to send a jeer or two his way - mostly because he usually has a smart-ass response in the wings at all times - but tonight was a good excuse.
Mandi kept a log of quotes from the crowd and players that night, which I hope she'll get around to posting soon, my favorite being (of course) mine:
"Greg'll stay in - unless he's too scared."
*crowd jeers, Greg shoots me a "WTF, man?!" look... then folds. Crowd goes wild*
Chris won by engaging in a proxy war of attrition, pitting the other players against each other while slowly building his pot. After his victory, Greg called for an ice cream run - so 20-odd of us headed through the casino to storm the ice cream stand.
Before I had a chance to enjoy my rocky road, some old guy (and maybe slightly drunk) took me aside and told me how our con had drawn the wrath of local talk radio (though I'm not so sure he was talking about our gargoyles as much as... ... I don't know). I managed to break away before my ice cream melted away into nothingness, just in time for the crowd to discover the local arcade.
Thom and Archangel engaged in a motorcycle race (and, of course, seeing and hearing Thom on a motorcycle immediately invoked images of "Awakening" and Lex's ill-fated ride). I called winner. Thom won.
In our race, I was winning comfortably. Thom saw this and in a sheer act of underhandedness leaned over and pushed my motorcycle in an attempt to throw me off! He didn't succeed, but he did tap the brake in the process, causing me to slow down and miss the next checkpoint, thus running out of time.
He lapped me and won the race.
By this time Greg, et al., had appeared and poked around the various games. I had a few tokens to kill, so I stopped by a shooter to get rid of them before we all headed to the pool. Unfortunately, they made a quick exit.
One moment everyone was there, the next... nothing. You'd think I would have heard 20 people file out of a small room, but no.
So, de facto ditched, I hurried out of the room to intercept the group (which was being shown where the pool was, which was important to me because I had yet to go there) and found them as they entered the elevator bay.
Having missed the pool tour-
Me: "So, where's the pool?"
Greg: "It's... where that wet place was. Didn't you see it?"
Me: "No. Y'all ditched me in the arcade so I had to run find you, you jerks [read that light-hearted, mind you]."
Thom: [in a not-so-aside to Greg] "He's just mad because I pushed his motorcycle."
Of course, lost in the exchange was the fact that I still had *zero* idea where the pool was, and so I almost aborted going on the outing.
Also not having swim trunks was a very motivating factor.
However, I determined that, in the absence of swimsuits, there are shorts. Problem: I didn't have a room key.
So I headed back down to the lobby in the hopes that the gift shop carried trunks. It did. I grabbed the first pair off the rack, dropped $15 and waited for somebody to show up to guide me poolward.
Thom appeared. We headed out, others appeared with Greg, and so from the 40-odd from the poker match there were 10 of us at the pool/hot tub. We stayed through the pool's closing at midnight, and from there parted ways.
It wasn't long afterwards that I was asleep on my hotel room floor - well out of the AC's way this time.
Woke up not as early as the day before, having managed to get sleep out of the AC's path, and headed down to the hotel's buffet with Denis.
After breakfast I headed over to the Dealers' Room to get my Eye of Odin Anthology signed by the folks available - and there was happiness. In talking with Allaine and the other writers present, I had to admit that I had not brought anything for the "Reading Aloud" event later that afternoon, which Allaine was hosting, and so I was going to audition for Radio Play in the event I couldn't write anything that afternoon.
I got in the short line for the Radio Play final call and read as Demona; having succeeded in getting a slot in past years with Xanatos ('03 - Thailog) and Lexington ('04 - Art), I wanted yet another change of pace - and the lines were good.
Immediately following the auditions I grabbed a chair, sat in the hallway and began reconstructing my read aloud piece in the event I wasn't cast.
At 1:30 p.m., as promised, Greg and Jenn (CrzyDemona, not my roommate) posted the cast list, and I was on it.
Relieved (and disappointed), I put away my notebook and headed for the silent auction to check on bids. I had been crushed on two pieces of art I had bid for and let them go, leaving one, and put down bids on the previous night's poker chip set and playing cards. Then I chatted with Revel - also cast - as we waited for rehearsal to roll around.
This year's script was an original, non-"Gargoyles" production, so we were excited to take part. I died in the teaser, but it was fun all the same.
After rehearsal, Chris informed us that the silent auction was about to end and we had just a matter of minutes to place final bids. I entered the room and joined the hoard of people guarding their bids. I had been one-upped on both the cards and the chip set, so I placed the fifth bid on the cards, sending them to Monday's live auction, and the fourth bid on the chip set. Archangel placed the fifth bid on the chips (despite my empty threats to not), and so everything I wanted had to be had on Monday.
The play went well. I died, got some laughs, then enjoyed a back, front-row seat to the rest of the play like a good ghost. Good times, people.
I wasn't signed up for the banquet, so I joined Paul and Jenn (roommate) for another outing to the Paris hotel for crapes, which were to die for.
We rushed back to the hotel for the costumes/cos-play event, and there were some pretty decent ones this year, though fewer participants than last. Chatted with Ellen, Julie, Allaine, Mooncat, Summer, and Alexandria, finding out that the latter three had it in mind to go to the pool, as did I.
I ended up going to the wrong pool, however, and getting trapped in conversation. The woman with whom I was speaking, when I asked where the other pool was so I could go look for my friends, replied, "Oh, there are just three girls at that one. I don't think you want to talk to them."
I managed to escape after some time and, sure enough, the three girls mentioned were quite the three I wanted to find, and we stuck around the pool until midnight.
From there we went back to our rooms, and after a few hours of conversation with my roommates (sans Paul, who was chatting with folks at the banquet) went to bed.
I have to agree with the many folks who have said this before, but I'm grateful the con staff extended this year's Gathering into a fourth day. That made things far less hectic (at least from a con-goer's prospective) and, well, it's good to get a Monday off.
I headed on down to Allaine, Aaron and Lynati's (though absent) "Win Xanatos' Money - Fanfic Edition" event, though that was quite a mistake given my tired state. I had thought participation was going to be voluntary, but oh no! I walked in, Allaine handed me a sheet and said, "You have 15 minutes."
The "reading list" was around 500-700 fics (depending on whether authors' double handles were taken into account), with word lengths ranging from tiny to novella. From there, Allaine and Lynati pulled 21 true/false questions. Because I didn't know I would be participating, I read up on none of the fics before the convention.
So, staring at the 21 questions before me, I did plenty of guessing. Oh, how I guessed - and oh how I screwed up on a number of them.
G-Side, Ellen and Alexandria made it to the next round having gotten 14, 13 and 13 out of those 21 correct (it turned out I got 12 right), and so the pressure was off me. G-Side won, though Ellen and Alexandria were able to hold their own.
From there it was lunch with Allaine, Ellen, Alexandria, Mooncat, Summer and Leo (it feels like I'm forgetting somebody, and I mean no offense if I am) at a place in the casino. The food was quality, as was the conversation, which is a key element in eating out.
After lunch we headed over to the live auction, which was my big event for the day.
I designated many of the above-mentioned as my bidding proxies should something happen to me (and I was quick to set limits on what they could spend in such an event), as my stomach was acting up and I didn't know if I would have to make an exit. After that, I just waited for my items to come up.
The first item was the deck of cards from Saturday's poker game, the king of clubs signed by Thom. My bid going into the auction was the high bid - $21 - but, seeing my competition a few rows down, I jumped that to $24, prompting Allaine to lean over and ask, "Why did you outbid yourself?"
That must have been enough to ward off my competition, because he didn't offer anything higher. I was confident in my victory as Chris counted down. Until...
"$26!" someone shouted from behind me! Ellen, my proxy, betrayed me!
At some point in our back and forth she admitted she didn't want them, she just didn't want me to have them for cheap. I, on the other hand, did want them so I would have a complete charity poker set.
I ended up winning the war at $38. That's the most I have ever spent on cards. Ever. Greg and Archangel later signed the ace of spades and king of clubs respectively.
Later in the auction came the comic books. I didn't have the high bid at the silent auction, but whomever it was that had outbid me was no longer at the con, so I became next in line. There were some initial bidders, but I knocked them down - someone bid $80, I jumped to $100, and the room quieted down.
Once more I became confident in victory, until Dancer called out "$110!"
We went back and forth until she hit my ceiling of $150, and I thought all was lost. But Allaine came to the rescue and said he'd pitch in $10 if I moved to outbid her. I put down $160, and Dancer did not come back. I was two for two (and Allaine very much has my thanks).
The poker chip set came at the end of the auction, which Chris announced was valued at $300. My ceiling was $200. It was go time.
Archangel had the high bid of $90, and I quickly put down $100. Several others rose to challenge me, but each time I batted them away. However, as the bidding went on I came closer and closer to my ceiling. I put down $180 and nervously anticipated that somebody would put down $190, forcing me to my ceiling (which, after crossing it twice for the cards and comics, I was not going to cross again, even for a $100 bargain).
I waited... and waited... nothing happened. I won!
So, having put down a total of $378 for my various items, my bank account cried just a little bit; however, I was happy. And yeah, E&H crew, we's having some poker matches this year.
And that, essentially, was the end of the Gathering. Closing ceremonies followed the auction, and the sad goodbyes were had. Relative to last year's they were better because more people were around, but it was still disheartening.
Gave my well wishes to those leaving and headed on my own way.
My roommates and I headed over to the Strip for a bit of a walking tour. We started at the MGM Grand to see the lions, then made our way down the Strip to Caesar's Palace and the forum shops for dinner.
Holy hell is that place expansive. It never ended. Ever.
Dinner was at a Hollywood Planet with desert being gelato farther into the mall. My stomach began acting up again and I had to insist that the trip be cut short (well, shorter given the time we had already spent there), lest my body revolted.
We hurried down the Strip towards the Tropicana to catch the shuttle back to Palace Station, but we got there just in time to watch it drive away. So we hitched a cab back and pretty much did our own thing from there - namely packing.
Denis and I went to bed earlier than the others because of our early departure times (Denis needed to leave the hotel at 4:30 a.m., I at 9), and so ended Monday.
Got out of the hotel on time, seeing various folks heading out as well. Security didn't hassle me about the poker chips as I thought they would, and lugging that case through the airport and on/off planes was not fun at all, and surely got some people's eyebrows up.
The flight from Vegas to Chicago was very, very dull. Where on the plane in everybody was excited to get some action, everybody now was licking their wounds. While I'm sure many contemplated gambling losses, I very much realized just how much money I had spent at the auction; and with those expenses on top of the money I spend for other necessities, I might as well have gambled.
Chicago to Washington was a nicer leg - although the two-hour layover was not fun - as I and the person next to me engaged in small talk, but pulling into the gate was a most welcome experience.
Dad picked me up around 11 p.m., after some confusion about which level of the terminal I was on, and I was home by 11:20, in bed by midnight.
I woke up for work at 7 a.m., and I was sad.
Farewell, my enemies!