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The Gathering 2006 -- 

Christine's Report 

Or, How We Morgans Spent Our Summer Vacation
 
 
For us, the adventure began on Tuesday, when Tim and I picked Becca up at school. It was a half-day, last day of the school year, and her last day at the elementary school. A big moment. Which we celebrated by cramming her into a Sabledrakemobile packed with luggage, books, merchandise, munchies and all manner of other stuff, then driving clear across two states. 

I had worked the night before. Ugh. Came home, got three hours' sleep, and dozed off-and-on in the car the rest of the day. I don't remember much of Tuesday. Listening to audio books, mostly. One by Dave Barry (always a hoot) and a reading of Sir Thomas Malory's "Le Morte D'Arthur." We got from Everett, WA to Yreka, CA and staggered into a motel room to collapse. I think there was food. Not really sure. 

On Wednesday, we drove down through half of California and up into the hilly country north of Yosemite, where we stayed at a Trendwest near Angel's Camp. Place was booked solid, and the room they tried to give us had water dripping merrily through the bathroom lighting fixture, so it was a bit of a wrangle getting switched over. 

Having planned ahead, though, we'd gotten in early enough to have time to make a side trip. There's lots of caves in that area. See www.caverntours.com for more details! We visited Moaning Cavern, which turned out to be a scary descent down a narrow, low-ceilinged rocky crack on a steep wooden staircase and into a single enormous cave followed by an even scarier descent down a 100' spiral staircase welded from battleship steel and designed by the guy who did the Golden Gate Bridge. It was very neat. Unnerving as hell, but neat. The climb back up had all three of us shaky-legged. And I am glad I didn't try that trip two years ago I would have stuck like a cork in a bottle! And for those for whom such a thing isn't extreme enough, they also offered a package that includes a rappel down and then a wiggle through claustrophobic little passages with names like "Godzilla's Nostril." 

I like cave tours. Minus the rappelling and wiggling, thanks. I love the sense of time they have, those formations growing miniscule drip after miniscule drip. Always makes me want to run a game / write a book about dwarves. Or disasters. Or subterranean monsters. Or, hey, all of the above! Plus, caves have that nifty year-round temperature thing going for them. As the three of us quickly discovered, our Pacific Northwest systems can't handle the heat. Not that we didn't know this already, as previous vacations to hot climates in summer have already proved! But we were reminded. Going down into the cave? Nice and cool. Climbing back up into the hot? Oof.

Thursday morning, we got a nice early start on a straight, flat, boring drive through straight, flat, boring agricultural California. Fresno and Bakersfield. Whee. Then up and over the Grapevine, and into muggy So. Cal. 

Now, all this way we had come without mishap. Most of the way across three states. Almost across the entire country, from a couple hours south of Canada to a couple hours north of Mexico. When do we take a wrong exit / wrong turn and get lost? Right at our friggin' destination. Doesn't it just figure?

But we looped around and finally reached the hotel at about 2:30 Thursday afternoon. Ran into Cindy and some other familiar folks in the lobby, and found out that the 3:00 check-in time was overly optimistic to say the least. There followed some general milling around, followed by finally getting our room, followed by a massive unloading effort that took two bellboys and three luggage carts. 

Oh, and the books. Let us not forget the books. We had, with our usual flair of cutting it too-damn-close, barely squeaked by in terms of having the ElfLore trilogy ready in time for the con. That, and the Grimorum Anthology, we'd had shipped by the boxload straight to the hotel. So not only did we have the entire back end of the Sabledrakemobile crammed, we had eleven boxes of books. 

Well, we were supposed to have eleven boxes of books. At first, we only had nine because the hotel couldn't find two. But Tim gave them hell until they did track down the others. Yay! We had books! Anthologies? Check. ElfLore? 

ElfLore? Um excuse me? What the HELL? Upon opening the lovely shiny hardback covers, we found that there'd been a goof at the printer and that several copies contained not the gripping and sexy trilogy of my elf books but were instead all about elevators! Vertical Transportation and You, or something to that effect. Elevators instead of elves? What, did they print them alphabetically by category or something? 

Thankfully, not all of the books were about elevators. And we do still have plenty left for your summer reading pleasure or for those of you getting an early start on your holiday shopping! Hint-hint! Visit my site here: http://www.christine-morgan.org/elflore.htm. But, as if we needed some extra  icing on the cake, one of the ElfLore-that-was-actually-ElfLore books was printed upside-down! Someone was drinking on the job, I think. Needless to say, I was a little peeved and distressed. 

We got all our stuff upstairs and unpacked, and then the wild rumpus really got underway as the rest of the con staff began arriving. There was much hugging, but we had a lot do to before the con could officially begin. 

Not that this stopped Greg W. from leading us all on a mass exodus for food. Unlike the year Thom made us march four miles in search of a Red Lobster, Greg settled for a place across the street. BJ's, I think it was called. Just with 21 people. 21 When we left the hotel. And he picked up a few more on the way. Even waving and hollering to a carful of just-arriving con-goers (Revel and Spacebabie and Aaron and Mara, that was your bunch, yes?) as we were in the crosswalk outside the hotel. Laurean showed up to much hugs and rejoicing. I think Greg also collected some people who weren't even with the fandom but just kind of got sucked in by gravitational pull. I presented Steph L. with corn bling (don't ask).

The final tally, when all was said and done, was 35 people. Amazingly, they didn't have a table for that many! We wound up taking over half the terrace at three different rows of shoved-together tables. At ours, mostly because of the kids (who got packs of crayons with their kid menus), there began a frenzy of note-passing. When we ran out of little paper napkin rings to scribble on, I raided the next table. 

And at one point, someone (who could it have been?) circulated a note that confessed to Greg W. having told what Titania said to Fox, but the paper was torn and the key part was missing! Greg denies any knowledge of it. But I think that bit of paper survived long enough to be passed around at least part of the audience at Opening Ceremonies. I wonder what ever became of it

It took a long time to seat us and a longer time to serve us, but what seemed to take longest of all was settling up the bill. They'd put two groups on one check, and given that people were exhausted from travel, jet-lagged, tipsy or just plain stressed, it took some haggling to work things out. Now Greg thinks none of us can do math! 

After dinner, we the con staff went to work. Runs to Kinkos and Staples and I don't know whereall. T-shirts to be folded. Badges to be assembled. Registration packets to be stuffed. Organization of registration packets to be bickered over. Becca fled with Jennifer's kids to their room and spent the evening watching Animal Planet while the rest of us scrambled around in hopes of being prepared for the morrow. 

I want to say again, are we great or what? Everything looked FABULOUS! The program books, the badges, the anthologies, the shirts, everything! We do damn good work, people! Three cheers!

Through it all, Greg W. was right in the thick of things, lugging boxes and folding t-shirts and generally down on the floor slaving away at grunt labor like the rest of us. The Gargmaster he may be, but he doesn't sit back and rest on his cute little laurels and bask in the glory. Either that, or, having witnessed the dinner-check fiasco, he figured we needed all the help we could get!

I kid. I've been involved with a few previous Gathering staffs, and know full well that this year really was the Dream Team. Mainly because most of us have done this before. If that doesn't keep us from making the same mistakes, it at least means they don't come as a total surprise! Especially given what real-life upheavals some of us have gone through this past year, I have nothing but the highest regard and affection for each and every one of my fellow con staff. And I am not just saying that in hopes of buttering them up enough to get them on my staff if ever I do a bid of my own (Seattle 2009, maybe?).

Frankly, I don't know how any con manages to get by without a Patrick holding everything together. The rest of us each manage to bring our own crazy energy and talent to whatever projects we've been assigned, but overseeing all of that requires a special kind of madness. Though sometimes it took both him and Rob, and a whip, pistol and chair, to keep any sort of semblance of order in our pre-con online meetings!

We all had phones, and someone (no doubt one of the organized ones like Patrick or Carol) had the foresight to make sure we all had each other's numbers. The best laid plans because of course most of us got zilch for reception anywhere in the entire stupid building anyway!

To ensure that we all got at least one square meal a day, as well as a chance to be together in one room to address the day's plans and events and any problems, we began each of the con days with the staff breakfast. Mostly, these were pretty good (though one day's offering was some inedible weirdo California food, veggie something wrapped in orange tortilla something, I don't know, I didn't dare touch it). 

By the time breakfast was done, the lobby and the area where Registration would be had begun filling up with fans. This is always the hard part seeing people, knowing you recognize them, but you know them mostly by their screen name and not on sight. Or this is the first time you've met them in person hi, DPH! Often, until we all get our badges on, it's a lot of half-assed fumbling around. I did recognize Denis right away (he must hold some sort of record for most total miles traveled to get to the Gatherings lo these many years!). And a big blushing you-flatter-me-too-much to King Cobra I don't know if I'll ever get used to the idea of folks wanting to have their picture taken with THE Christine Morgan, but it is always a nice ego-boost!

Not that I had much time for socializing, then or anytime else over the weekend. Sorry about that. I think I overscheduled myself a bit much. I didn't attend a single panel or event until Monday afternoon. Everything else I was at, I was on or in charge of or participating in one way or another. I have a pretty good idea of what went on at those things, and no idea whatsoever how the rest of the con went. This will lead to a rather lopsided con journal, I fear. 

Anyway, Friday morning after breakfast was dedicated mostly to getting things set up in the Art Show and the Dealer's Room. Which, conveniently, were right next to each other and the Reg desk was in the hall just outside. This made the whole area very social, a center of activity. With the Mugs held in the Dealer's Room and the kid events in the Art Show, there was a lot going on at any given time. 

The Dealer's Room was Tim's domain. In addition to our Sabledrake Enterprises table (assorted Gargoyles merchandise and the complete works of Christine Morgan), he handled the con stuff like t-shirts and anthologies. There was a table for Van Eaton Galleries (a wealth of gorgeous animation cels, including one of Goliath against a sunrise-or-sunset cloudy sky that made me all weak in the knees), one for Slave Labor Graphics (where we all bought and then gloated over our copies of the new comic!), one for Shara's webcomic group (with games and prizes to load up the kiddies on sugar), the Art Chicks table (t-shirts and other goodies), the sword guys (all manner of metal and leather and sharpness), and the Hornsmythe people (cloaks, trinkets, furs, jewelry, etc.). 

Everything else was waaaaaaaay the heck at the other end of the hotel, so I did a lot of scurrying back and forth. I suppose I could have cut across the courtyard by the pool, but it was fatally hot out there. I can't believe people would have outdoor weddings, in full bridal regalia and Marine Corps dress uniforms no less, outdoors in that heat. Though I must say, of the wedding parties I glimpsed in my scurries, the bridesmaid dresses were actually quite flattering.

For the various kid crafts, I'd brought a bunch of coloring sheets, construction paper, crayons, markers, scissors, etc. Just sort of to be left out for whatever. Jennifer's daughter Steph did face-painting (Becca was an orc, and she was green around the hairline for the rest of the day). And what is up with these kids of ours? They're getting so big! Erin, and Benny that couldn't really have been Erin and Benny! Yow. I feel so old. Though, don't we all? Thom Adcox asked me where "that little girl of yours" was, and didn't want to believe me when I told him my "little" girl was damn near as tall as he was, and starting middle school in the fall. It was neat to be recognized and remembered by Beth (Mrs. Greg), too!

My first Friday panel was from 12:00 to 1:00. "Creating Compelling Characters," with Ellen and Spacebabie. We had a good time discussing what makes characters, well, compelling, as well as believable and interesting. It wandered over into villains a bit, but then, villains do tend to be the most compelling characters! 

Overall, I must say I was amazed and delighted by how well the fan panels did this year. Even with everything else going on, with all the pro events of Saturday and Sunday in particular, the fan panels seemed to be very well-attended, with lively audiences and good questions and participation. That is so awesome! I want to say a big thank-you to all the fans who volunteered, too. Couldn't have happened without you! I'm extra-thankful for Ellen, who is always well-organized I can talk up a storm, but tend to go off in any ol' direction without someone to keep me in line.

At 3:00, Spacebabie and I did a panel on "Tools, Tricks and Traps of the Trade," and then we rushed back to the Dealer's Room for the Anthology Signing Party. We had a dozen-some contributors, artists and authors, all happily signing books. Plus stickers sent in by many of the contributors-in-absentia. The books sold very well sold out, even! With people wanting to order more! 

If you're one of those people who missed out on your chance to buy an anthology at the con, or a t-shirt, don't despair! It it not too late! Visit the G2006 Merchandise Page at http://www.gatheringofthegargoyles.com/g2006/merchandise.html and place your orders now! 

Opening Ceremonies were slated to begin at 5:00, but as we all should know by now, there are always delays and hitches. Scott, our A/V guy, managed the Herculean task of getting everything set up and moved around from one room to another as the hotel's wonky scheduling demanded. Fearful of mutinies and lynch mobs, most of the con staff huddled in the ballroom as the rest of the attendees massed outside. We were cringing in anticipation of the moment when the doors burst in under a ravening horde. 

At some point in there, Crispin Freeman showed up. He looks, as I told Jennifer, like Orlando Bloom and Elijah Wood had a baby. And when he does his Will Turner voice, he sounds more like Orlando Bloom than Orlando Bloom does. I happened to wander by and overhear part of a (saucy smut-and-slash-related) conversation between him and Greg and a nice blonde lady I didn't know. So, naturally, I stopped to listen. And then it dawned on me that the nice blonde lady was Wendy Pini, of Elfquest fame (http://www.elfquest.com/). Whoa! 

Now, Wendy had gotten in touch with the con staff a few days before the con itself, basically saying that she loved the show and asking if we'd be interested in having her as a guest. I'll try to spare the dignity of my fellow staff as much as possible and suffice to say that there is only one answer to a question like that. Minus the whole shrieking-hysterical-squeeing "ZOMG Wendy Pini?!?! Are you kidding me?!?" jumping up and down aspects, that answer of course is a polite: "Yes, please!"

I hope she got to attend some stuff, too, because it seemed like she spent much of the weekend camped out in the Art Show, doing Elfquest sketches. On the plus side, though, since I was camped out in there part of the time doing kid events, I got to meet her. And, like Greg W., is a genuine and fun and friendly person. Regular folks, really. Not a lofty celeb-type. A little sassy. I like that. Plus, she drew me a smoldering-sexy Strongbow and she laughed when Becca, trying to think of a favorite character, asked me "who's that freaky pterodactyl-guy again?" Though Becca would later settle on Dart for her sketch.

Opening Ceremonies, though! At last, all the electronics were working, and people came in. Lots and lots of people. Every year, Greg can't quite believe we all want to sit through his spiel again, and see the same videos of the pitches, and hear the pitches. Sure, okay, some of us can practically recite along with him by now, but this year there were a lot of first-time Gathering-goers. And even the ten-year veterans aren't tired of it yet, I daresay. 

Our Con Chair Jennifer presented the Fan GoH award to Mae Lee, who single-handedly got this whole ball rolling by organizing and hosting the first Gathering way back when. And then being so traumatized by the experience that she vanished off the face of the fandom for ten entire years I still don't know what they promised her to get her back! But it was great to see her. Even if she, like Greg sometimes, had a "what have I done?" look similar to the one worn by Mickey in "The Sorcerer's Apprentice," when the brooms start up and just won't stop marching. 

I had some awards to present, too. This was my third time editing an anthology for the Gathering (it was originally Karine's idea, which I should have mentioned at the time). Three years in a row, three themed anthologies, three magic items. First the Phoenix Gate. Then the Eye of Odin. And finally, the Grimorum Arcanorum. And there were five people who contributed to all three anthologies, despite having to put up with me as editor. In honor of their accomplishment, Tim and I created the "Archmage Award." Four of the five were present to receive them in person Ellen, Allaine, Nikki and Kythera. One couldn't be there Christi and was sent her certificate in the mail. 

It was later brought to my attention that despite my painstaking checks and re-checks of my notes and the tables of contents in the books, I had STILL managed to miss one! Stormy has also contributed to all three anthologies. Many, many apologies for the oversight!

Next year, for Gathering 2007 in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, I'm thinking we try something a little different. Instead of stories and art all involving one theme, I'd like to assemble a list of all the other magical/mystical/mysterious items mentioned in the show, and let each contributor pick one. More about that will be found on the G2007 site as the details get worked out. 

Midway during Opening Ceremonies, Jennifer tapped me and asked if that wasn't Tim's sister at the back of the room. Kathy, living in So. Cal now, came to the con but wound up mostly keeping Tim company in the Dealer's Room or supervising kids in the pool. I hope she got to attend some stuff, too! Sadly, she wasn't able to stay for the Masquerade this year and vie again for the Outstanding Cleavage Award. And Myhr, my future brother-in-law, wasn't here this time either. 

Opening Ceremonies also included a showing of several of this year's music video entries. Those are so cool! I really want to try doing that, but haven't the foggiest idea where or how to begin. It's one of those things that I'm told is easy enough with this-and-that software and other techy-computer stuff that leaves me all lost and baffled. Maybe some day I will drum up the nerve to give it a whirl.

Hey, and whose idea was it to do the toothbrush thing? The Gargles toothbrushes that were being handed out? Those were super cute! 

Given the day we'd just put in, the last thing any of the con staff wanted to do or were in any state to do, more likely was tackle going out again for food. So I seized control (I do that sometimes) and decided that pizza in the con suite was the solution. Tim called in an order for five pizzas, sodas, breadsticks. Various folks wandered through and had pizza and dropped cash in the hat, and we were spared having to go out. Yay! Because we were all beat, and knew that this had only been a warm-up for Saturday, when the ball would really start rolling. Like that one that chases Indiana Jones? We sure hoped not!

Saturday's schedule showed all kinds of cool pro panels about Gargoyles, Hellboy, Kim Possible and Darkwing Duck. Plus the Radio Play. And I saw nary a one of them. What was I doing? I was booked solid from 10:00 in the morning (from 9:00 if you count the staff breakfast) until 5:00 in the afternoon. At breakfast, the staff helped me blow up balloons because I proved sadly inept at handling Karine's pump not as dirty as it sounds, I swear!

And then I went and burned the heck out of my tongue. Kathy had gone out in search of lattes. I had her bring me a mocha. I met her crossing the lobby as she was on her way back in. Dopey me, I figured she had walked a ways to find a coffee place, walked back, and then I carried it around for a while as I got my stuff together. So I thought it'd be cool enough to drink after all that time. Even in an insulated cup. Hey, I'm from Seattle! The cool air leaches heat out of insulated cups here. It's never eighty-plus degrees even at 9:45 in the morning in Seattle. So, I took a big slurp. Ow! Ah! Ouchie! 

My poor blistery tongue and I then ran Illuminati Quest. This was my last-minute effort to try and make up for some of the gap left by Scott not being able to do Clan Olympics. I had a two-hour block and three teams, and a series of clues and challenges all with a sort of secret-agent theme. I even wore a fedora and trenchcoat and sunglasses to play my part of Agent 23. At least, until it got too darn hot to be standing around in a trenchcoat.

Side note thank you, everyone, for telling me all weekend how great I look! Most of you hadn't seen me since 2004, when they filmed the documentary for the Season 1 DVDs, and on those I appear a full hundred pounds ago. In fact, it was 2004's Gathering and the photos thereof that convinced me to go ahead and have the weight-loss surgery. The results, and especially your reactions, were most gratifying!

And now, back to Illuminati Quest! The three teams raced to complete their challenges, which included popping balloons to find a code they then had to decipher, going undercover in disguise by dressing one teammate in goofy clothes, putting together a puzzle, finding gargoyles in a surveillance photo, interrogating Gathering attendees, bribing officials for information, obtaining sketches from sketch artists, and collecting evidence in the form of a scavenger hunt. It wasn't Clan Olympics, but it was still a lot of fun. At least, I had fun and I'm pretty sure they all did, too.

Now, with the sketch artist thing, I thought I was being so clever "aha," I thought, "I'll give each team a general description of their suspects, send them off to get sketches from the artists in the Art Show warning Cindy beforehand that Illuminati agents might show up with weird requests and when all's said and done, I will have three original sketches by talented fandom artists for my very own self to keep!" 

Yeah. Right. Off I sent them. One team needed a sketch of a fairy trickster, one of a human child, one of a scary gargoyle. They brought back the sketches, all right. And then, when the game was over, they ASKED FOR THEM BACK!!! As souvenirs for them to keep! Not me! The only one I was able to hang onto was Kyt's scary gargoyle, and only then because Becca was the player that kept it, and she grudgingly forked it over when I grumbled. Sheesh! You little stinkers! I will have to think that through a little more carefully next time, I guess. 

My next panel was on "Gargoyle Physiology, Psychology and Society." Despite this being a topic of much discussion and heated debate in the Station 8 comment room just before the con, I couldn't find anyone willing to be on it with me! Until I was able to press-gang a couple volunteers from the audience, anyway. Thank you, Asatira and Jade for stepping up to the place (as I mix metaphors here). And then Greg ducked in for half the panel, taking a break from his Radio Play auditions. Thus, that panel existed in a weird twilight zone between fan and pro. 

Plus, he punched me. Mo-oo-om! Greg's hitting meeeee! It was during a talk about gargoyle strength, and how a being strong enough to leave claw marks yadda-yadda doesn't automatically crush/break anything it touches. Greg gave the example of how even we humans can differentiate between giving someone a playful "hey buddy!" sock on the arm and really hauling off and clobbering them. He used me as his example for the "hey buddy" and faked the really-hauling-off one. But I still gave the crowd a grin and told them that he'd wanted to do that for ten years now. He protested (I'm sure he'd rather smack me upside the head than punch me, actually).

At 3:00, I scrambled back to the Art Show for Clay Clan Mayhem, in which the kids made monsters out of Play-Doh and then battled them by rolling combat dice and result dice to see what gruesome fates befell their creatures (oh, they were maimed and stabbed and dropped and squished and flattened and beheaded it's much fun!). Through it all, Wendy Pini sat at the next table over, drawing Skywise and Dewshine and others, and probably thought I was entirely nuts. 

Speaking of the Art Show, it was pure awesome this year. It's pretty dang awesome every year, but this year was truly phenomenal. You people are too good! Due to budgetary constraints, I was unable to buy as much as I wanted which would have been round about everything in the show but I couldn't resist picking up a quartet of Liz' glossy postcard-sized prints. There was an "over-18" section, too, hey-hey! What was up with all the cinnamon roll stuff? I saw the results, but I missed the how-it-started.

And the way you all can just just sketch in the midst of everything else, all communal and having conversations writing is so solitary and reclusive compared to that. I envy you! I sat and watched Karine produce an entire complete and spectacularly beautiful full-color piece of a sexy foxwoman fencer in corset and skirt, while never once losing track of anything going on around her. Could I have written a story like that? Not a chance in a million!

Well, I may not be able to draw, but I can craft! At some point I don't remember exactly when I was in the Art Show during a moderate lull. Jade's blue Care Bear stuffed animal was sitting on the table. I said that someone should "garg it up" as a joke. Immediately, I was dared by Cindy and double-dared by Kyt though I had already decided to do it anyway! So, I made little construction paper wings and a brow ridge and stuck them on the poor thing. I believe it eventually wound up being presented to Greg W., and Jade seemed amused rather than irked by my meddling. 

Besides, it's not as though we writers lacked for stuff to do. As soon as the last of the Clay Clan had been gooshed and the sad remains stuffed back into their little Play-Doh cans, it was back to the other end of the hotel for two more panels. "Villains, Villainy and Plot" with myself, Ellen and Spacebabie again (we're like the Weird Sisters of the writing panels) and this time joined by Greg B. Lots of lively evil energy. It was followed by "Romance and Drama," in which Greg B. switched seats with Allaine. 

I said this to a bunch of folks at the time, and I'll say it here for posterity next time we do this, we really should send Ellen and Allaine to raid the buffet tables of any corporate inservices taking place in the same hotel. The rest of us tend to show up in fannish t-shirts and jeans, or all black and Gothy, or have horns/tails/cloaks, or any combination thereof. Ellen is always all neat and professional, and when I saw Allaine arrive at the hotel, he looked like he was on his way to a board meeting. They are clean-cut, wholesome-looking, non-scary anyone seeing them must be inclined to wonder how those two nice folks got mixed up with the rest of us! 

I also must've explained who we all were and what we were all doing to hotel staff and other guests on no less than six separate occasions. Once was to a very sweet elderly couple. Another time was to a pair of our morning wait staff, who scurried over to me just before one of the staff breakfasts and asked all in low voices like they really wanted to know but didn't want to dare interrupt the meeting. I even heard one business-suited lady explaining to a whole cluster of other business-suited types what she had heard about our con. I heard, " this Disney animated show ten years ago " as their group passed me in the hall.

Probably the most memorable if bizarre, which may be why it was so memorable of these encounters was with a swimsuit-and-flipflop clad woman on her way to the pool. She paused, looked at my badge from above big sunglasses, and said, in an approving tone, "Gargoyles in the house!" and then made a half-lewd clicking noise with her tongue. 

Having talked and kid-wrangled all day long, I was ready for something cold and throat-soothing. A bunch of us was it 16 this time? mostly con staff and our significant others and relatives, and a couple spare hunks like Lanny and Gorebash wound up at the Red Robin over at the mall. Bailey's shakes! Margaritas! (well, Oreo shake for me and Becca). Tim was in a huff because he didn't get carded. Not even when I stood up and tapped the waiter and asked him to please card my husband on account of how he felt all old and left out because all these other people were getting carded. 

They seated us out in the mall itself rather than in the restaurant proper, which was probably a good thing given the way things went. Which was, in a word, raunchy. There was more note-passing. There were dirty sketches. Karine, who'd not brought her I.D., circulated a comic strip of her trying to sweet-talk the waiter. I hope these get scanned and posted someplace! Someplace safe from young and innocent eyes, that is. I know that the, ahem, close-up anatomical study Kyt did of part of a certain fanfic fellow of mine must go in the adults-only section of my site's gallery!

And then, because I wanted to play too but can't draw worth a darn, I sent around a couple of naughty ficbits. One of those ficbits wound up going home with Lanny. In his wallet. To be laminated, I'm told. He even came over and sat on my lap. Woo! Oh, and for the record, Gorebash is a fuzzy cuddlebuns who should definitely keep the flowing mane and full beard because it's so soft and warm and pettable!

This all helped to set the mood for the evening's later event, the Blue Mug-A-Guest. Which was probably doomed to disaster before it even began the con suite was wall-to-wall people. Fusion Demon was there with a permission slip signed by her mother (whoa! Jennifer, we might have to fight to keep our titles of Coolest Con-Moms Evar!). The room resounded with chatter, laughter, hooting and hollering, cheering. No amount of shushing could keep the volume down. Greg W. was up on the table at one point. So it really was no wonder when we got interrupted by hotel security and told that we had to break it up due to complaints from neighboring rooms. 

I did try a couple of times to ask questions. My first was to Greg, inquiring as to gargoyle terms for sex acts and positions. He deflected it and the subject was hastily changed (it's a conspiracy, I tells ya! A conspiracy!)

My other one was to Thom, asking who of all the characters he'd choose to have Lex get naked and sweaty with. Thom ducked a direct answer, too, claiming that Lex well, I won't quote it exactly here, but let's just say that Lex would be of the most eager and opportunistic sort. Later, though, he did semi-privately admit to me who his first pick would be! Now, there's a fanfic waiting to happen! 

When we got rousted from the con suite, we did try to reconvene in another area of the hotel where we wouldn't bother anyone. This led to an ugly confrontation with Edward, one of the hotel employees. I think we all agree that his cause was in the right, but his handling of it was most severely in the wrong. And I hope that everyone there remembered to use their room comment cards to leave remarks. I know I did. I also said good things about the bartenders, who stayed open late for us. 

Sunday, once again, I was scheduled non-stop. I think this was the day of the dubious wrap-thingie breakfast, but I'm not 100% sure of that. All I know is that when I got coffee this time, I was careful with it. 

My first event was "Make a Grimorum," in which we had these little cardboard boxes shaped like books, that could be painted and decorated in any manner imaginable. They turned out really neat. This was followed by "Save the Eggs," a game of tossing and catching and throwing these little purple egg-shaped bean-bags I'd bought back at Easter-time just for this occasion. I tried taking it outside, but it was too hot out there to breathe, let alone run around, so we moved to a roomy corner of hallway. It went pretty well, except that the kids got overly rambunctious and hyper and started punching each other. 

By the end of that, I was looking forward to 1:00 because I had a panel then and could get some rest. That, believe it or not, was exactly how I thought of it. A panel? A chance to sit down and relax for an hour? Even better, when I got there, Jade and Mara and Allaine did most of the talking. I was able to gulp a Snapple and eat some dry cereal and talk a little bit about the topic "Crossovers: From Silly to Serious."

The crossover panel was followed by another of my game events, the "Team Trivia Quiz." I thought I was all prepared, with my scoreboard and questions and all except somehow I had left an entire category of questions off the board! And only realized it when I glanced over my list and began to wonder how come no teams had gone for that category yet! Oops. We had four teams, and for an informal event it was a lot of fun. At least, I thought so and hope that the players did, too. Becca helped out with that one as my lovely assistant and scorekeeper. 

Then we had to throw the kids out and shut the door for the "Writing Erotic Scenes" panel. Didn't want too many unsuspecting hotel guests to wander by and hear something shocking. Even within the room, there were some wide eyes and snickering. My fault. I said a lot of dirty words during that panel. Of course, as Thom pointed out when he overheard this mentioned afterward, "Christine always says dirty words!" Has Thom been reading my fanfic or something?

We Morgans had elected to opt out of the banquet this time around. Between me not eating much these days, and Becca being a kid and hence picky about food, we couldn't justify the money for stuff we most likely wouldn't eat. Our plan had been to take the kids out while everyone else was at the banquet. Good plan. Doomed to failure, though. 

See, one of the dealers was planning to leave Sunday evening, which meant that Tim needed to hang around the Dealer's Room while they loaded out. But then Keith David needed a ride home, so Tim got drafted to do that instead while I watched over the Dealer's Room. And then the dealers took two hours to pack up. And Tim took a wrong turn. And Keith forgot a bag. And then the banquet was over and people were getting into costume for the Masquerade and Becca was having a panic attack and none of us had eaten and Jennifer got room service for her kids and FINALLY the dealers were done and Becca was in her Hyena suit and I was in my Margot suit but I didn't want Becca to go down without me because I wanted to be with her when people saw her costume but I didn't want to go on my own because the full impact of Margot-and-Brendan would be so much better if we were both there but Tim wasn't back yet and

Well, it was all a bit of a pain. So were my Margot shoes. Eventually, though, we got it together and were in time for Becca to be in the Masquerade. Tim and I didn't compete, but we did dress up. What was most fun was seeing people glance at us, glance away, then do the double-take as they realized who we were supposed to be. That moment of dawning realization and appreciation. I always get a kick out of that.

The eerie thing about my costume is that I'd planned to try and go as Margot, since I'd lost so much weight and grown my hair out and gotten the perm. If I could find the outfit. Wouldn't you know, the weekend before we left, there it was on a thrift store rack. A green pantsuit. Orange tag for half price. And it even fit. It was like an omen. Now I'd done it I had no choice. I had to be Margot. Tim and I, as henpecked Brendan and bitchy Margot. Somehow, we managed to pull it off.

The Masquerade drew a lot of curious lookie-loos from the wedding in the next ballroom. We should have returned the favor. Might have been able to stroll off with some cake or champagne! Cindy was gorgeous as Fox, and the costumes like the Art Show just keep getting better and better! Tony prancing in his skimpy outfit stole the show, I think. Plus, he got a dollar. Tucked into his waistband by Thom.

Wendy Pini had come back to sit with the judges. When Greg W. finished handing out the awards, he presented her with the "Box Award," which was the cardboard box lid he'd been using to hold all the trophies. She'd promised Becca a sketch of Dart, but hadn't gotten around to it the previous day. So after the costume contest, she pointed at Becca and said to stay right there, don't move grabbed a Sharpie, and then zip-zip-zip, in the middle of noisy Masquerade chaos did a fantastic sketch of Dart on the box lid! Took her all of two minutes. Unbelievable! 

After that, though, we Morgans were worn out and hungry hadn't eaten dinner, remember, and not much in the way of lunch either and just couldn't stay for the rest of the party. We went back to our room (me limping and barefoot; I only wore those Margot shoes for an hour and will never understand how women can walk around in pumps all the livelong day!) and then Tim dashed out for fast food while Becca shampooed gel and spray out of her hair. This meant that Becca had even more frightfully scary hair than usual on Monday morning, as she'd slept on it wet and probably still hadn't gotten all the goop out. Oh, well. 

I was late to my first panel on Monday because with the Art Show doing tear-down, I had to move all my kid craft stuff to one of the abandoned Dealer's Room tables. Becca had a Munchkin demo (which, like her Dino Hunt demo the previous day, most likely consisted of arguing with Fox about the rules they are a pair of bickering little rules lawyers, those two, yet somehow they seem to both enjoy it). 

The panel was "From Fan to Pro," with myself, Karine, Kythera and Steph Lostimolo. We shared our tales of how we each got into the fandom I am old; they were in school when they started watching the show and I was already married with a degree and a job and a baby! and shared war stories about our struggles, successes and failures on the road to being paid real money for what we create. Had a decent turnout for 10:00 in the morning after a late and rowdy night, especially what with Greg W.'s time travel panel right next door. 

At 11:00, Tim got to leave the Dealer's Room for the first time all con, and did a panel on designing and running RPGs. Jennifer minded the tables for him, and I think it went well. I hope it did. I peeked in once, and it looked like a small but pretty good group.

Meanwhile, Karine and I tried something new that turned out to be hugely fun the Iron Writer and Artist Competition! Writers were given a secret theme ingredient and one hour to write a story involving it. Artists were given art supplies and an hour to create something involving that same secret theme ingredient. Which was "Macbeth." (I used one of Liz's pics, covered with a scarf that I then whisked away all dramatic-like. I set the timer, and away they went. When the hour was up, the artists showed off their creations, and several of the writers read their stories aloud to the delight of all. It was a blast to see what people came up with, going in all unprepared and under pressure of a one-hour deadline! I'd like to try that again at future cons. 

Then, it being 1:00 Monday afternoon, I actually attended something! In the audience! One of the last panels of the entire con, but I attended it! I sat right there and listened. It was the one on hosting your own Gathering. Do I really want to try this? Am I really that much of a glutton for punishment?

Closing Ceremonies was short and sweet, with the Art Show ribbons given out by Cindy and rounds of applause to the staff and a reminder from Nikki to register for G2007. A lot of people had already departed. It only then dawned on me that I'd been here all weekend and had hardly really gotten the chance to hang out and chat with anybody. I'd had fun, but where did the time go? Was it already over? 

It was or at least, that part of it was. We still had the rest of Monday, the rest of packing up the Dealer's Room and whatnot. The sword-merchants held a raffle, and Tim won a sword, but I was able to persuade him to give it to Jennifer. She'd wanted it, and we wanted her to have it despite Greg W.'s concerns about giving a woman under her level of stress a big sharp pointy metal weapon. "But now she's armed!" he said to me. 

There had been a bunch else going on, but I have no idea what it was. I know some guests were there but I never saw them Brigitte Bako, for instance. I know some had to cancel at the last minute. I know Michael Reaves was around for extra days, and the really ironic part is that the next week, while at a used bookstore in Arcata, I'd find one of his novels but will have to wait until some other con to get it signed! Keith remembered me, I think. Tim got to listen in on many a Mug-a-Guest, since they were held in the Dealer's Room and he was sort of in charge of making sure things went smoothly. 

One thing we did not do was manage to take many pictures. We've got some, but I'll be counting on those of you who were on the ball with cameras to post yours, as well as your journals, so I can see what all I missed!

Another thing was that somehow, although she made a special point of packing her stuffed cat Chip and bringing it along just for the purpose, Becca never did manage to be in the right place at the right time to throw Chip at Arno and Beedoo. Have to make up for that next time!

Three or four times over the weekend, I heard people saying that there was too much going on, too much to do, no way that one single person could see and do everything. Good! This was largely my fault. I'd much rather have people saying that than saying there wasn't enough to do. If someone goes away feeling like he or she missed out on some really cool stuff, well, it's all the more reason to attend more Gatherings in the future! All part of the evil plan, baby. All part of the evil plan. 

The staggered schedule of fan and pro panels that Greg grumped about? I'll take the blame for that one, too. My fault. From what I saw, though, it all seemed to work out pretty well. I hope it did. 

With everything wrapped up by 4:00 on Monday afternoon, those few battered and weary survivors of the con staff decided to get an early start on dinner so that we could get an early start on the dead dog party (called that because "drunken orgy" looks incriminating on the schedule). The place we wanted to go didn't open until 5:00, so we invaded T.G.I.Friday's. How many of us that time? We sort of shanghaied Allaine, who was supposed to be leaving for the airport. 18 of us? 20? All I know is we took up five or six tables, and again there was note-passing. 

This time, under the influence of an alcoholic Oreo shake, even I drew some stuff. It got bad. It got really bad. "Oh, I can't believe you went there!" I was told. And that I borrowed a green crayon from a little boy to do it! But at least that particular sketch somehow wound up in my own possession. 

At the dead dog party, Greg W. showed a bunch of the unedited footage he got from the DVD documentary guys. It was even more of a shocker than I anticipated to see myself on there. Wow. I mean, wow. A hundred pounds sure makes a difference! We cheered, we jeered, we boggled at how different some people looked and how others hadn't changed much at all. We toasted those who'd already left and those who couldn't be here this year Rob, for instance, and Zehra, and Julie!

As for the drunken aspect? Tim's chocolate martinis were a huge hit! I was partial a little too partial! to the cookie-dough liqueur mixed with milk, and I also had a wine cooler. That's the most booze I've had in one day since college. Between Karine and her maple-flavored whiskey, I'm lucky my husband made it back to our own room that night. If he'd've had his passport with him, he may well have tried to follow her home to Montreal! Never mind that last time he was there, he got hit by a car. 

And the orgy aspect? You think I'm gonna kiss and tell? Oh, wait, I don't think I kissed anybody. So that means I can tell, right? A little, anyway. I did pinch one bottom, for which I may get in trouble since I'd asked permission earlier and been refused so when I had the chance I just grabbed. I snuggled on the couch with a bunch of sexy babes. I observed a fair amount of groping and wrestling, all in the name of researching my fanfics of course!

All in all, having hotel check-out be at noon on Tuesday was cruel and unusual punishment. Becca and I were awake and mobile enough to head out for breakfast with Jennifer, Steph L., Tony, Andrea and Patrick at the world's coldest IHOP, while Tim stayed behind and loaded up the car. Then came the saddest part, of having to say goodbye. I really wanted to smuggle Jennifer into the Sabledrakemobile and take her with us, but we didn't have room and she felt all obliged to be responsible and stuff. Another time. I'll bring my dart gun. Phoot! Thud. Smuggle. Then she won't be able to talk me out of it. 

Thankfully, we didn't have far to drive that day. Only up to my brother's place, and the high desert was having a dramatic blustery weather thing going on. Clouds, wind, threat of thunderstorms. Some local yokel in Palmdale, maybe seeing our plates and thinking to have some fun with the out-of-staters, not knowing that I grew up there, tried to spin us this big scare story about how lightning sought out gas stations. 

We stayed with Matt and Amanda and the kids until Saturday. Swam. Tried to avoid sunburn. Went to the Pirate Dinner Adventure show in Buena Park (http://www.piratesdinneradventure.com/cali_media.htm) with Mom, who has lost all kinds of weight and looks gorgeous! Took the kids to Toys R Us. Tim and Matt spent the day at a card room playing Texas Hold 'Em. Went to one of Amanda's band gigs. Relaxed. Recovered. It got hot-dry-sunny. Reminded me why I moved north to cooler, damper climes. 

Sunday, we left early and drove clear up to Arcata. Speaking of those cooler, damper climes. It was a heck of a system shock, but boy did we welcome it! Our visit there with Tim's folks was mellow, mostly because his mother is undergoing chemo and radiation therapy and isn't feeling up for a lot of activity. We hit our old college haunts the bookstores, Bubbles (best bath salts anywhere! http://www.bubbles-arcata.com/) and Northcoast Roleplaying, a game store run by one of Tim's old friends. There, I picked up one Elfquest book and three comics I didn't have, and as soon as we got home Becca and I would start reading the whole series all over again! Met my sister Amy for dinner at the Samoa Cookhouse. Shot off fireworks in the parking lot for the 4th of July.

And on Wednesday, two weeks and a day after we left, we got home to our own house and our cats. What a trip!

*** 
Christine Morgan
christine@sabledrake.com
July 13, 2006

Previous Essays:
Gathering 97 / Gathering 98 / Gathering 99 / Gathering 2000 / Gathering 2001 / Gathering 2004
Christine's Novels / Sabledrake Magazine / Christine's Gargoyles Page
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