The Gathering '99 -- 

Christine's Report 

  Author’s Note: this was written a full week after getting home, a full week of packing, moving, scrubbing, painting, tiling, wallpapering, unpacking, and we’re still not even close to done. Apologies to any names I’ve gotten wrong, anyone I’ve forgotten, and anything I’ve generally screwed up. As always, comments welcome! 

       They say a con’s not a con if everything goes perfectly ... which means this year’s was one hell of a con!!! 
       But, luckily, most of the foul-ups were kept from the view of the attendees, and only served to provide major headaches to the con staff and the guests of honor. And in the end, a good time was had by all. Provided, of course, that those who sunk much of their own money into making it happen were reimbursed once all the receipts were tallied and everything was settled. Or their time might not have been so good. 
       We arrived in Dallas on Wednesday, after some delays at the airport -- our layover in Houston wound up longer than planned because once they’d loaded us all onto the plane, they then found out that Dallas/Fort Worth Airport was not accepting any flights due to weather. So they let us back off the plane and we milled around for a while. Funny thing ... later that night, watching the local news, the meteorologist never mentioned anything about this alleged bad weather ... 
       I admit it, Tim and I both bought into the notion that Texas was all sagebrush and dusty cow trails. To see greenery, lots of greenery, was a surprise. But once we got a faceful of the air, it was no wonder. A dry heat? No way. Go to Arizona, New Mexico, or Nevada for that. This was a true-as-could-be case of “it’s not the heat, it’s the humidity.” Like getting slapped with steamed wool. 
       And hot. Especially coming from an Octoberish Seattle summer. When the forecast lows are ten degrees above the highs we’d been used to ... ouchie. 
       But we were here, and the shuttle to the hotel was moderately less hair-raising than my Manhattan adventures the past two years. Moderately. Still pretty scary, what with construction going on and the driver slaloming from one lane to the other. 
       At last, we arrived at the hotel and the place seemed deserted. Got checked in, had a swim in the nifty pool that was part indoor, part outdoor, and you had to swim under a black rubber partition to get from one side to the other. The whirlpool was tepid, alas; the water in the regular pool far warmer. 
       Although they’d changed the names, the sign on the wall still pointed the way to the Jericho Restaurant and the Jericho Lounge. Must admit, I got quite a kick out of that. 
       Thursday, we got up bright and early for our planned side trip to Austin. Before leaving, I tried to leave a message for Jennifer, Patrick, or somebody to let them know which room we were in. But to no avail. The man at the desk couldn’t find anyone I knew or any reference to the con in his computer, and kept asking me if I was sure I had the right hotel. Now, I was sure, and was also sure he was going to be one surprised little man when throngs of obsessives started turning up. 
       We almost didn’t make it to Austin. Renting a car turned out to be more of a problem than we’d initially thought, and the hotel shuttle dropped us off at the first place and if Tim hadn’t been able to run outside and flag the driver back down once we heard they had no cars to rent, we might be stuck there still. Eventually, after a couple of tries and a hearty tip for the shuttle driver, we got ourselves a car and were on the road. 
       Talk about the wide-open spaces! Antiques and fireworks appear to be very big in Texas; all the roadside signs seemed to be about one or the other. Tim is a closet pyromaniac at heart and would have filled up on fireworks if there had been any feasible way of getting them back home. 
       Once in Austin, we found “a leaving place,” as Becca calls drop-in day care centers. Then Tim and I drove to Illuminati central, the actual headquarters of Steve Jackson Games. We were there to drop off a couple dozen copies of Curse of the Shadow Beasts for them to carry in their online catalog, and also to get the tour. Reese, whose exact title escapes me, showed us around the place and we talked for quite a while, swapping horror stories about working in the psych field, catching up on game-industry gossip, that sort of thing. Just before we left, having promised to pick Becca up from the leaving place by one o’clock, SJ himself rolled in and we said we’d see him and Monica on the morrow. 
       Outside of town are the Inner Space Caves, which were discovered by the Highway Department thirty-some years ago. Advertised as 72-degrees year-round. Which was true, but there’s no air moving down there, so it’s 72-degrees but kind of dank. Still, I’ve always enjoyed caves, and the formations were beautiful. I also got inspiration for my next GURPS campaign, which is going to be set entirely in the dwarven nations of Underearth (in the world where my book is set). And possibly an idea for a fanfic. 
       On the way back, we drove into a rainstorm. And what a rainstorm! Like a line across the highway, dry on one side and then pelting-down bathwater-warm raindrops. Which was right about when we realized we were in need of gas. Luckily, the first gas station we came to had a covered place or else Tim would have been soaked. 
       At any rate, we got back from Austin and found that a few folks had turned up in time for an informal pre-con dinner. Thomas, Patrick, Jennifer, Sarah, Greg, and the three of us all piled into our rent-a-car and Thomas’ truck, and off we went to the Spaghetti Warehouse. 
       Becca hadn’t seen Jennifer since last fall when we paid a visit to her neck of the woods while down in So Cal for my brother’s wedding. But moments after meeting, Becca was all over Jen (which kept a few other people from being all over Jen, to her disappointment no doubt). 
       By the time dinner was done, it was sluicing down rain. Warm rain. Drenched, with those of us wearing glasses seeing the world through smears and sparkles, we crowded back into our vehicles and made our way back to the hotel. I had two messages waiting for me -- it’s so grand being THE Christine Morgan! -- one from Stephen (but when I tried to ring his room, nobody was home), and one from Demona May, who’d been in the lounge but was there no longer. 
       Tim and Becca stayed in our room to rest, while I accompanied the others to the makeshift con room (until the front desk got everything straightened out). There, Patrick and Thomas used video savvy to help Greg put a revised version of his pitches for New Olympians and Dark Ages on tape, while Jen and I provided smart remarks (it wasn’t “flat-out” last year, though it did start with an “f” ...). 
       Then, as we were watching a couple of garg-themed music videos, Demona May made an appearance with a couple of guys whose names I never did catch. This led to a rather awkward moment on my part because she’d brought me the original drawing of Jericho and Demona nude by a tree, but how was I supposed to admire it with Greg sitting there?!?! I mean, sure, the world’s not going to end in a ball of flame if he glimpses a piece of fanfic or a drawing of a garg that isn’t his, but this was a garg nudie pic ... so I blushed, I stammered, I was flustered, and everyone made fun of me. 
       Once Greg had retreated to his own room (he apparently assures us it wasn’t because of the nudie pic, and as it turns out, he knows a fair amount about Jericho, but I guess that’s partly my fault because after all, I did announce that one story in the comment room, the one about the amazons ...), there was a small staff meeting in which I, being not precisely staff in that I didn’t do the hard work, was dismayed to hear how much deep guacamole we were in. Financially, that is. All depending on the number of walk-ins and how the auction did. There had also been a rather high number of snafus involving transportation and the guests. And I soon came to realize that it would be a small miracle if we got through the entire weekend without anyone winding up bludgeoned and stuffed in the out-of-order elevator shaft. 
       But there wasn’t much to be done at that late state, at least from my spot. Except to volunteer to foot the bill for our own room -- I’d been surprised as heck anyway when the committee offered to cover the actual nights of the con, while we were to pay for the arriving-early-staying-late. So it didn’t really matter except to our credit card. But hey, it’s a business expense, right? 
       Tim had to get up way too early on Friday morning to return the rental car -- would have worked out much better in the long run if we’d just kept the damn thing the entire weekend; getting people to and from the airport would have been much less of a hassle and saved a lot on cab fare. Then, at some ungodly hour (it was really only 8-ish but felt like five), Jen rang us to ask if I’d be meeting gaming guest Steve Jackson and his con coordinator Monica Stephens at the airport. 
       Since having them attend was my idea and my doing anyway, sure, no problem, I just had to wake up. They were flying into Love Field, to which there was a free shuttle. But of course, the shuttle wasn’t available to take me out there, so I had to cab it. Then, after meeting them at their gate, we tried to get the shuttle back and the pinheads at the hotel desk didn’t get it together for a whole hour. Which we spent sitting in the covered but outdoor shuttle bay, nearly getting on the wrong Radisson vans twice. The wait was livened up by some poor man who had either been bumped by a car or fell down in the street with a heart attack or something, so we got to watch the emergency response teams show up and do their thing. 
       Finally, we returned to the hotel and deposited their luggage in our room until check-in time. Now, as it turns out, SJ has never even seen the show, only had the barest idea what it was about, but because there were Illuminati involved, he was willing to give it a try. It’s really amazing that he chose to attend. There was hardly any gaming at our con (my GURPS game was the only scheduled one we had), but he hoped to do a little business in the dealer’s room and find out what all the fuss was about. 
       Admittedly, I had ulterior motives for trying to get him to the con. Sure, his name would be a good draw for gamer-type attendees. But if we could get him hooked on Gargoyles, if we could show him what a rich and vibrant setting filled with intriguing characters and complex plots it was, then maybe, just maybe, at some point down the line he might be interested in seeing it turned into a game. I think a few steps in the right direction were made; once Tim and I have finished moving, SJ and Monica want us to send them copies of all the episodes. 
       In the down time that afternoon (at least, down time for us; I imagine the actual working members of the staff were racing about trying to get registration ready), Tim and Becca and I accompanied SJ and Monica to the Dallas Museum of Natural History. Very neat place. Becca would not be parted from the Beanie-dragon Stephen had given her, which almost made for an interesting situation in the museum gift shop – is there anyplace that doesn’t carry those critters these days? 
       We got back in time to begin setting up in the dealer’s room. Tim and Monica struck a bargain and we wound up sharing the center block of tables, part SJ Games stuff and part Sabledrake Enterprises (hawking Gargoyles collectibles as well as copies of my book; a list of what merchandise we still have available will be posted soon for your shopping convenience). 
       Other temptations in the dealer’s room included Pat Spillars’ table full of Star Trek and other memorabilia, Jamie Murray’s fabulous artwork (Worf in a studded thong, mee-yow!), and Pat Elrod’s books. More dealers would later arrive: Wintersmith Dreams, a place doing jewelry, another that I can’t remember. There were also several round tables set aside for ‘open gaming,’ and one reserved for moi. I love being famous! 
       Registration got underway with the usual delays -- one of these years, maybe the badges will be ready beforehand; at Dragonflight here in Seattle, when you show up, you give them your name and they give you a manila envelope containing your badge, a schedule of events, various coupons, a T-shirt if you ordered one, and ka-boom, you’re ready to roll. 
       Speaking of T-shirts, evidently Christi got a great deal because the ‘rejected’ and therefore discounted ones that supposedly came out too purple looked, to my eyes anyway, the same as the good ones. So there were shirts aplenty, and presumably still are for those who couldn’t attend but would like one all the same. 
       And the posters ... wow! Double, even triple wow. Ten of them, and they were stunning. An excellent job by our artistic siblings! 
       People were showing up then, and I began collecting a few hugs; Stephen is such a big guy that I was afraid he might actually try to pick me up, which would have probably resulted in sincere regrets on his part; and I must salaciously say that one of the best things about these Gatherings is being able to get my hands on Mitch, however briefly (and don’t start wondering what Tim thought of all this; I do believe he got a fanny-pat from one of my best buds). 
       I’d seen a few friends from last year and others whose faces I was seeing for the first time, but the one thing I regret about the con was that I was so busy, I didn’t have much of a chance to visit with many of my pals -- Noel, Doug, Thomas the Green Baron, Coyote (love those window decals!!), others. I also got the “THE Christine Morgan” treatment on several occasions; still not used to it; still makes me feel both thrilled and embarrassed and I love it. Got so that I’d introduce myself just as Christine, and people would take it from there. 
       I would later hear that Robby from the TGS CR had been there but hadn’t said hi ... am I really that intimidating? Someone – was it Starsinger? -- suggested calling up the Pizza Hut in Oregon where Pistoff works and insisting on a personal delivery and then holding him hostage for the rest of the weekend, but the drive might have been a bit much for him. 
       Where the heck were all the New York people? Kellie and Peter Fay were there, but that was about it. Makes one inclined to grouse a little -- the rest of us spent yea money flying to Manhattan two years in a row while they could get there for cheap; when the time comes for turnabout, where did everybody go? Ha-ha, just watch, we’ll have it in L.A. or Seattle one of these years! Though I also think Vegas would be a good choice. We’ll see. 
       Once people were registered and we’d done some last-minute fiddling with the schedule (actually, fiddling with the schedule went on right up until the last few hours of the con, but people were amazingly tolerant of it), it was time for Greg’s presentation. 
       Greg had grown a beard, which added a rather devilish maturity to his playful fresh-faced image; I understand he shaved it off once he got home, the heartbreaker. Ah, well; at least not all of my pictures of him this year came out with terrible red-eye (Becca, on the other hand, had an extreme case of it in nearly every shot). 
       I came in late, having been helping Tim in the dealer’s room and trying to scarf a quick meal of take-out Chinese (and we wound up leaving the leftovers in the dealer’s room for something like two days; don’t tell the hotel staff!), but was still in time to be pointed out with the other guests. Told everyone to buy my book -- as if that’s a news flash! 
       It was the third time I’d seen most of those videos, but no matter how Greg said we must be getting bored of it by now, I know I was still enchanted. I always forget how floppy-funny-Dr.Seussy Bronx looked in those early sketches. We also got a sneak peek at Starship Troopers, and it was gorgeous. Now, I don’t know much about CGI, but judging by the indrawn breaths and murmured amazement from the rest of the audience, I figure it was hellaciously impressive as well as gorgeous. While I’m not normally much of a one for sci-fi, I know I’ll at least check this one out. 
       I’ve been to a lot of cons, but you know what? These Gatherings are the best. The most special. The most intimate. A game con, a fantasy con, even a Trek con, you get a lot of people coming from different loves. A game con might see the GURPS people, the AD&D people, the M:TG people. Fantasy cons will have subtle showdowns between the fans of Anne Rice and Anne McCaffrey. Trek cons, there are so many different types of Treks now that dissension is prevalent; arguments over who’s the best captain can jet really vicious. 
       Not so for us. Not yet. Maybe, in thirty years when the show’s come back strong and spawned a half-dozen movies and a few spinoff series, then we can be divided. But for now, there’s just the most wonderful sense of camaraderie, of family. Of, it really is the best word, clan. We’re all brought together by our love and adoration for this one particular show, so it’s no wonder that Greg, the man from whose brow it sprang like Athena, full-blown and ready to kick ass, is so admired and even revered (and he does love the attention; if it’s an ego stroke for me to be here, it’s got to be a hundredfold for him!). 
       In addition to Greg’s videos, we were treated to two music videos put together by fans. One was sent by Denis, who couldn’t make it this year. The other was by (I know I’m gonna spell this wrong or maybe get it wrong altogether, apologies in advance!) Kythera. 
       After the video thing, Greg left to meet some relatives and the Clan Feud got underway. I zipped off to do some other stuff, and get ready for my game which had been re-scheduled to nine o’clock that night in the con suite. 
       The con suite was crammed with people, as was my game. I had seven people when I’d originally planned for five (two who’d signed up early showed up late but by then I just went on and let them jump right in). Talk about noisy! But it was fun, and people were getting into character, and it seemed to me that it was fun for them too. 
       I wish the third session hadn’t gotten canceled; I would have loved to have seen some of the players who signed up for both gargoyle and Third Race characters play it like multiple personality disorder (not schizophrenia, actually; that’s a very common misconception) when the two groups came together. It would especially have been fun to see how Wanderer would have handled playing both Rudy, the pachycephalosaur-headed gargoyle from L.A., and Oubliette, the seductive French wraith, at the same time. 
       The game was interrupted a few times, once for Stephen’s beer-tasting party (which I missed), once for an all-purpose food break (which was timely because I wandered over to fetch a soda and walked in on a conversation about the difficulties in writing erotica, which is, pardon the expression, right up my alley), and once because Greg came in with Thom Adcox Hernandez and it became a photo-op free-for-all ... and me without my camera! 
       Thom, it’s true, looks an awful lot like the human version of Lexington seen in “Mirror.” And the eerie part is that, while Keith David’s regular voice doesn’t completely sound like Goliath, Thom’s does sound like Lex. It’s more than a little startling. Especially when, as I would later find out, Thom can be a bit of a raunchy fellow! 
       The first year, I made some reference to how I got the impression Greg was kinda scared of us -- “what have I wrought?” kind of thing. The second year, he seemed a bit more at ease. This year, he seemed quite at home, and I surmise by his fiendish grin that he got a big kick out of seeing Thom’s reaction to all of this. 
       We ran late in the con suite. Poor Patrick, who was supposed to be sleeping there, had to chase us out at quarter to one. For some reason, Jen had wound up bunking on a couch somewhere with the Green Baron’s (with so many Thoms and Thomases, it’s easier that way) dishy young she-can’t-be-fifteen sister whose name I forget. Of course, both Tim and Becca wouldn’t have minded if Jen wanted to room with us -- I just bet Tim wouldn’t have minded! 
       My game wrapped up on the cliffhanger it was supposed to, with the gargoyle characters frozen in ice by a magic spell, “‘til moon and wolf-tailed star collide.” Then, wearily, I found my way to bed and slept for what felt like two hours (it was more, I’m sure, but that’s what it felt like). 
       I got moving Saturday morning in time to catch the last half of the fanfic panel, featuring Stephen, Patrick, and Pat Elrod. Stephen flatters me too much -- don’t stop! -- by giving me so much credit for his hard work. But hey, if he really feels I’m such a life saver and all that, I just expect a signed first edition of all his books. Deal? 
       Then it was off to the dealer’s room for the second session of my game. Gunjack does not look seventeen! Twenty-five and holding down a prosperous career, yeah. Seventeen? No way. But then, a fair number of folks are that age. I feel so old ... to think, if I’d gotten an early start, I could’ve been their mother
       Anyway, the game went well and ran a little over too (I game like I write, too long). The most memorable moment was probably when the centaur smashed the literal toady Oscar into goo with his iron-shod hooves, and then the party opted for some rather ingenious methods of body-disposal ... that, or the not-very-smooth efforts to get the mirror-dreading Oubliette down the mirrored stairway to the Portals of Space and Time. Alas, we ran out of time before they could go to the Antarctic and see if their plan to break the spell and free the gargoyles was a success. 
       While I was running my game, Tim was off with SJ doing the panel on the Illuminati. Tim seems to feel it didn’t go all that well, but then, he’s a planning and organization kind of guy and going into it cold without any idea what would be discussed might have colored his viewpoint. 
       At some point in there, I managed to swing through the art room for a longer look. Geez! Some really talented people! I think that was about the only time I saw Christi except for during the masquerade; she must’ve lived there for the duration of the con, except for the time she spent waiting fruitlessly at the airport; another miracle nobody got killed that day. 
       I met her little son Ryan (what a cutie!) and her husband; he took Ryan and Becca swimming and must’ve been hating life because Becca insisted on bringing her water guns and both kids were ganging up on him. While they were thus involved, Tim and I even had the chance to sit down to a nice quiet pizza. 
       So, anyway, the art room. There I was, drooling my way through the art show: Karine’s cels, Christi’s masks, the full-sized freestanding Titania’s Mirror, beautiful art everywhere. Then I came around a corner and saw Lexy’s work, and got a pleasant surprise. There, in the middle of a bunch of images of Lexington, was one of him with a very familiar grey dactyl-crested she-garg. As it would later turn out, Thom himself wheedled Lexy into selling him the painting. 
       Then it was time for the radio show auditions, which drew people like moths to the fire. I think just about everybody but me must’ve tried out. Lucky Jen spent most of the day closeted with Greg and Thom, and the fact that she then wound up with “the moaning and grunting” role really makes me wonder ... 
       With that going on, only a few folks came to the panel on Writing Professionally, featuring Pat Elrod and yours truly. Which, since I’ve had exactly one article and one book published, I didn’t really feel all that qualified to speak on, but I did get some good tips listening to Pat’s tales of woe with agents. 
       By then, Becca was getting a little grumpy. I don’t know if the rookery room thing ever happened; the only kids I ever saw were her, Ryan, and Jack (who has the best dad in the history of the universe, at least judging by the amount of goodies Dad bought for him!). Becca spent most of her time in the dealer’s room, helping Tim make change, and playing with her Darth Maul Legos. But she was ready for a break, so we went up and relaxed in the room for a while. When I headed downstairs to check out the radio play, the door was locked! I didn’t want to hammer on it and make a scene, so I meandered around to the door of the dealer’s room and hung out with a few people. 
       At this point, I must mention the woman an anonymous fellow (okay, I know who it was but don’t want to get him in trouble <g>) dubbed the “cleavage monster.” She had eyes painted there. Presumably so that, since all the guys would be looking there anyway, something would be looking back. Or, well, don’t most men polled insist that the first thing they notice about a woman is her eyes? At any rate, she was a wowser; I don’t know who she was except that she was with the roadies -- I mean, the security people, Ogre and those guys. 
       Because the radio play ran late, it was decided to move the celebrity panel to dinnertime. By now, it was fairly certain that Frank Paur wouldn’t be making it after all -- snafus at the airport and such. It was time for the auction, which was held in the dealer’s room while Greg and Thom signed autographs. 
       This year, when Seth wasn’t there to outbid me (never gonna let him forget that, mostly because I know it makes him cringe and I’m a sadistic old harpy), it turned out there were only a couple of things I wanted. One, a production kit, climbed quickly into the bidding stratosphere, so I let it go. The other, a plastic pencil-box with some toys inside, I got for the amazing price of 20 bucks. The rest of the time, I had my hands full trying to keep Becca quiet. She very quickly got into the idea of shouting numbers, and I was afraid she’d bid us clean broke just by being enthusiastic. 
       The auction was conducted by Myhr, Jamie Murray’s alter-ego (dubbed “the cat-man” by Becca, she was afraid at first but then came around and was fascinated), Pat Elrod, and assisted by the woman with the eyes, who had somehow found a dress cut even lower than before. She was of great use in raising the ... bids, what did you think I was going to say? Bids! ... by blowing into or nibbling on the ears of bidders, bending over, and if they’d’a auctioned her off, mercy me how the money would have rolled in! 
       We broke to get ready for dinner and I changed into a moderately-less-frumpy red and black ensemble, but my hair looked like homemade hell because I have been putting off getting it cut for about six weeks. Ugh. Bleah. 
       The award for most painfully dedicated fan goes to Aaron, who had a fresh Demona tattoo taking up most of his chest. 
       Ah, the perks of fame! We guests were first in the food line, had the primo table, and my family and I got to sit with Greg, Thom, SJ, Monica, Myhr, and Pat Elrod. 
       Before the con, I’d gone to great lengths trying to explain to Becca what a “voice actor” was. This was helped some by the way Paul Winchell was both Tigger and the guy on the Green Eggs and Ham video. Because Lex is her favorite garg, Thom soon became one of her favorite people. He seemed to genuinely like kids, and it tickled her no end to hear him talk. 
       Dinner was quite good. Not too spicy, even for a wuss like me. Then Becca, protesting all the while that she wasn’t tired, slumped over and wound up spending the next hour napping leaned against Tim. Which meant she missed Thom’s repeating a joke Keith David used to pull on him, which, given the joke, may have been just as well. Let me tell you, illusions were being shattered right and left! 
       Once everyone else had gotten their food and settled down to eat, Greg got up and started fielding questions. Some of them were familiar from years past, others were new. And the so-called silly ones were among the best -- was Brooklyn chosen as second-in-command because of his hair? Baldness discrimination? 
       Though Tim saved his silly question until later -- ever since the 101 Dalmatians cartoon came out, it’s bugged the crap out of him that he can’t figure out where they got the name Cadpig. So he tracked Thom down later, as Thom did a voice on the show, to ask him. Thom didn’t know either, so he asked Greg. Greg said he’d always wondered that himself. So if any of you know the origin of the name “Cadpig,” please e-mail me and let me put Tim’s mind at ease. 
       But, really, you guys ... I wasn’t trying to put Greg on the spot! It just seemed like a natural follow-up to someone else’s question about why Hudson was the only garg with a Scottish accent (the reply -- because Hudson spent the most time around the humans, who were accented, while Goliath and the rest of the clan kept more to themselves and therefore didn’t pick up the accent). But, gosh, ask a simple little question about how come, then, the Avalon Clan, who were raised by humans, didn’t have accents, and the whole room erupts in an ominous “Oooooh” sound. 
       To which Greg very deftly responded that the Magus, who did not have a thick accent like Tom and Katherine, did most of the teaching of the hatchlings (presumably, Tom and Katherine were busy with other things), and why he felt compelled to jab his finger in my direction and triumphantly crow, “Gotcha!” is yet beyond me ... 
       ... though, in an odd way, the whole thing reminded me a little bit of a certain Blackadder episode entitled “Beer.” 
       Someone asked when my next book was coming out. Would that I’d had a more hopeful answer! So, instead, I rambled on for a couple of minutes about the recently-finished Black Roses. And Greg almost read my book; he started it on the plane but I can’t compete with the in-flight movie when it’s Shakespeare in Love. Same one was playing on our flight home, but I was too darn tired to watch it; all I wanted to do was sleep. 
       The one time I wanted Becca to speak up, she had to go and be all quiet. But I guess standing up in front of a couple hundred people to recite the Gargoyles opener was a little daunting for a kid just going on five. Still, she was loud enough that at least the people at our table could hear her, and I think she got caught on the video. And she remembered it quite well, too. My good girl! 
       After dinner came the break to get into costume. Finally, the moment Becca had been waiting for! She was after me to wear her costume from the moment we arrived on Wednesday! So we get her suited up, a quick job as she refused to wear face paint, and then went up to pester Jen, who was going as Saloon Girl Demona (now that’s an action figure I’d like to see!), and Patrick, reprising his role as Puck. And the Green Baron’s sister ... was it Anne? ... who makes the most damn convincing elfmaid I have ever seen. I think she weighs less than one of my legs. Amazing. 
       That was when Becca firmly made herself the darling of the con. Such a show-off. She must get it from Tim’s side of the family. Honestly. But everyone’s reactions were just the attention, the cooing, the picture-taking, and the admiration that she (and Mutti) had hoped for. The kid just ate it up. Every time someone pointed a camera at her, she’d raise her little arms so her wings would show. Every time someone pointed a camera at someone else, she’d want to hurry over and get in that picture, too. 
       Christi, who was dressed as Danu and looked really cool alongside Greg “Xanatos” Bishansky’s Lord Madoc costume, went into the ballroom and fetched Thom so he could see Becca in her Lex suit. He seemed to really enjoy that. Becca had chosen that costume long before we knew he was going to attend, so it was a happy coincidence all around. 
       After much fannying about, Pat Spillars finally got all the costume contestants lined up none-too-quietly against the wall outside the ballroom, and the festivities got underway. Becca and Jack (in the Disney-crafted Goliath suit with the inflatable wings that I sure wish came in adult sizes) were the only ones in the kid division. Becca was called in first, and she loved it. All the applause, the cheering, Greg’s jolly cry of “We have a winner!”, all of it. Then she stood, so good and obedient, at the head of the line as all the other contestants were brought in. 
       “We have a winner!” is the thought that went through my head and, I figure, everyone else’s, when the guy in the Graeme suit arrived. Who was that guy? Never caught his name, sorry! But that was the most impressive costume I’ve seen. Jen, who had bowed out of this year’s competition partly because she’d won last year and partly because she was on the staff, would have had some trouble outdoing Graeme. 
       Incredible. A full-head mask with beak that opened and closed, wings that extended and retracted ... wow. The best of an excellent lot. 
       SJ commented on the percentage of dresser-uppers; ours is much higher than most cons. Sure, you’ll see a smattering of barbarians and vampires and Klingons (though, in truth, I’d sure never expected to see a Klingon like Skippy, winner of the Miss Congeniality award), but they don’t make up a very large percentage of the total con-goers. We must’ve had 30 or more people in costume. A good showing! 
       I was glad that this year the judges (Greg, Thom, and Jen) came up with some fun categories to give acknowledgment to the cleverness or funniness of costumes. Best couple: Tony Dracon and Elisa as a gargoyle; for instance. 
       And who could forget Mitch? Not I! Not ever! Dressed -- barely -- in denim cutoffs, a vest, pointy ears, and brown body paint, he strutted onstage accompanied by hoots and cheers, then stripped off the vest, whirled it around a few times, pitched it at Christi ... and then Jen, with a dollar given her by Greg, raced up and stuffed it down his pants. 
       The real fun part was explaining to SJ, who was watching, just what the deal was with that. He knew some of the characters were from the show (by then having caught a couple episodes, I believe), so I explained that others were from stories, and that Mitch, well, Mitch was the fandom hunk and loved to show it off. Hmm ... if we’d’ve auctioned him off as well as the woman with the eyes ... 
       Both the kids won prizes, and to my delight, Becca got an audio-tape game that I didn’t have in my collection! What, taking the kid’s prize away? Hey, who made that costume? With a hot glue gun, might I add? 
       Vanessa’s “Lady of the Lake” claimed second, and damn it, I can’t remember who got third. Was it Heather as Hudson? Might’ve been. I was sitting on the floor by the judges during the initial presenting of contestants, and they were shocked to realize that was a female under the beard. Or it might’ve been Sarah’s very convincing Hyena get-up. 
       Greg did bemoan and bewail the fact that he was a dirty old man when Fox (whose name I also forget) was introduced. And of course there was “Sexy” Lexy, Myhr’s nickname that will probably follow and haunt her for the rest of her life, winner of the Thom Adcox Personal Choice award. 
       Myhr was fabulous. I’d heard he underwent a real change of personality when he donned his makeup, but even so, I was amazed. An older gentleman of dapper grey beard in real life, it’s easy to miss how lithe he is. But once he puts on that poet’s shirt and cat makeup ... whew! And such a flirt! The costume contest must have been like a smorgasboard to him! 
       All in all, it was a great contest. Coyote and Mandi as Rain and Rosanna, Noel as Sekmet, Siryn as Bluebonnet the G99 Mascot (far too eerie a resemblance to be mere coincidence), Children of Oberon, gargoyles everywhere ... a fabulous job! 
       When the judges retired to their chamber (Jen closeted with Greg and Thom again, the lucky thing!), the rest of us were entertained by a magician who was also with the security team. Okay, I want to know how he did that balloon thing. Though I could’ve done without the razor blades; I shiver just thinking of it. 
       When the prizes had been handed out, the music and dancing started. If you’ve never seen a dance floor full of shaking tails and wings, you haven’t lived! And then, when people were doing the Limbo ... I think I saw the poor “younger and not yet evil Archmage” got bashed in the mouth by his own staff, impressed into use as a Limbo stick, when one enthusiastic dancer didn’t quite make it under. 
       By then, Becca was ready to get out of her Lex suit and I was dying for a shower. So we took a few minutes to do that, and then since Tim had expressed an interest in seeing the Starship Troopers video, which he hadn’t seen as he’d been holed up in the dealer’s room during the presentation, I recruited Jen to help sweet-talk Greg into showing it again. 
       That simple request was why my game never happened Sunday morning, and why some of us got no sleep at all that night. First off, a bunch of us went up to our room with a VCR (I asked Thomas if there were any still hooked up and he just handed me one), but then we couldn’t get it to work with the hotel room TV, so that meant another move up to the mostly-deserted con suite. Then, in addition to the Starship Troopers video and the music one again, we also got to see one that Thom had brought. A ... video resume, I guess, with clips of his work in various movies and commercials. 
       Then Tim and I did a bad-parent thing. Poor Becca was so tired, it was past midnight, she’d had such a long day ... that Tim took her down to our room, waited there until she fell asleep, and then came back up to join the fun. He’d been kind of down about missing out on so much of the social end of things, always stuck in the dealer’s room or with Becca. We figured she would sleep like a rock, or, if she did wake up, the overly-independent little cuss would just come up and find us since she knew which floor the con suite was on. Each time we checked, she was still sound asleep. 
       Okay, it’s all rationalization ... we did a bad thing and probably shouldn’t have. But it was such a wonderful night! Since she didn’t wake up, since the hotel didn’t catch fire, since there was only potential guilt instead of actual guilt, it was worth it. 
       The die-hard nutcases who stayed up all night: me, Tim, Jen, Greg, Heather, Patrick, Flint (or is it Flynt?), and Stephen (though he did nap on the couch for about an hour toward six a.m.). Most others bowed out on us round about two in the morning. 
      Although there was much talk of having Jen do a live reading of my most recent naughty tale, “Demon Whispers,” it turned out neither of us had brought a copy. And, given the undercurrents of sexual tension already running rampant at the con, such a reading might have resulted in what the firefighters call ‘flashover’ and then someone would have had to fetch a bucket of ice water to cool people off. 
       Why did we greet the sunrise? Aw, it was all Greg’s fault. None of us were going to leave until he was done talking, and he was just never done talking. Though he dodged my question about gargoyle erogenous zones ... true, I agree, any part of the body can be an erogenous zone if handled properly; I was just interested in finding out which parts were more sensitive than others. You know, the wing joint thing. Or to get his perspective on Christi’s ‘dirty tail trick.’ 
       Greg is one of the most intense, impassioned speakers I have ever known. He rivets you with eye contact, burns with charisma, and you can tell when he’s feeling strongly about something (even before he starts pounding on the table). 
       In previous years, as I believe I've mentioned, I kind of had the impression that he was still a little leery of all of us. This year, it was completely different. He was more open, relaxed, at ease, at home, Greg-the-person instead of Greg-the-idol. I can see why we’re all still barely more than kids in his eyes; even I, being only three years younger, haven’t had nearly the struggle he has. Of course, that could be why he’s been working in the cutthroat animation industry for so many years and I’m toodling along doing my thing. 
       Over the past few months, I’d been becoming aware of some changes in myself, in regards to my plans for the future. I realized that what I want is what I’ve got -- to write, to write well, to have some people whose opinions matter to me read what I’ve written and like it. I have a job that is remarkably easy and stress-free, pays well, and gives me hours and hours to do what I love. I have a terrific husband, a marvelous daughter, and I am in most ways content with my life. That’s a grand feeling. 
       When Greg was talking that Saturday night about wanting X and Y, about what you’re willing to give up or do to reach a dream, about realistic dreams and bullshit dreams, it really came home to me how lucky I am. 
       I’m doing what I love, and maybe I’m not getting paid the big bucks for it, but I’m earning enough other ways to be able to keep doing what I love. All I want is to write well; if someday that results in a best-seller or a movie deal, that’s great, I won’t turn it down, I’m not stupid, but I’m happy with what I’m doing and as long as the people who matter to me (and if you’re reading this, you’re probably one of them) continue giving me the feedback and attention I crave, that’s all I need. 
       But the night wasn’t all like that ... there were plenty of saucy comments, more than a few rude remarks, and a lot of all-purpose fun wickedness. Not sure whether the bit about the glass-topped table counts as saucy, rude, or wicked … or maybe all three. There were other topics too -- if not for Greg, the Tarzan movie now in theaters might never have come to be! 
       Finally, it was almost seven in the morning. I was supposed to run the third session of my game at nine, in which both groups would join forces to try and free the imprisoned Titania and Alexander and do battle with the ferocious Dire Wyrm, but I knew it just wasn’t going to happen. 
       Greg left to get a little sleep; it’s a wonder he had a voice left! And the rest of us blearily staggered to our respective rooms -- Jen, a la the Three Bears, found someone sleeping on her couch and wound up sitting with us in our room, all of us trying to stay awake, knowing that the minute we fell asleep, Becca would wake up (poor tired girl had barely moved all night!). 
       The dealer’s room opened at nine, and there were a few other panels going on. The Webmasters’ one, a TGS one -- Stephen, running on just his nap, got to handle that one. And at some point in there, Becca found a gigantic cricket on our Sabledrake table. Okay, it was probably just a regular-sized cricket, but when it’s where you don’t expect to see it, any bug looks about twice its usual size. 
 I caught most of the closing ceremonies, and heard all about Sarah and Draconis’ plans for G2K, next year’s Gathering in Orlando. The date is still subject to change, but they landed a sweet deal with the Disney people on park admission passes. Though I wonder why we’re not doing this in January or something, when it’s not so hot! 
       Just as there had been trouble getting people from the airport, so too were there last-minute gaffs and goofs getting them back to the airport. Jen wound up escorting Greg on a spendy taxi trip (such a hardship for her, I’m sure). Slowly, as check-out time drew near, more and more people said their farewells and were gone. 
       The hotel staff were probably glad to see our con break up. They’d made a few blunders of their own, with room mix-ups, construction they’d promised would be done by then, one elevator out of order, and for some reason the heat in the hallway was just roasting. And there were the usual lookie-loos peeking in on the masquerade (though one hotel staffer did wind up buying a few things in the dealer’s room). 
       A few of us then got together in the hotel restaurant for dinner: the Morgans, Jen, Patrick, Thomas and his fiancee (now wife, if I recall correctly; the big day was over the 4th of July, the day the fireworks happen <g>), SJ and Monica, and Thom. Then Jen and Thom talked each other into going to a nearby tattoo parlor. 
       I say nearby, and it would have been if it hadn’t still been ninety-something degrees and ninety-something percent humidity. And dopey old us, we tagged along. Only to find that it was closed. So, no tattoos this time. I understand the two of them plan to get together in L.A. and still go through with it. Jen is, I believe, looking for a Demona-against-the-moon, and I’m not sure what Thom was going to have done.And I never did see his other tattoo, which, despite being someplace that shouldn't be showed in public, he showed in public ... 
       When we got back from our walk, there was no debate, we went straight for the pool. If anyone had told me I would’ve been letting my fat flabby legs show for all the world (not to mention one of the guests of honor) to see, I might have scoffed. But it was too damn hot. I had ceased to care about the condition of my fat and flabby legs ... besides, when I swim, I don’t wear my glasses and therefore it’s easy to delude myself into thinking that everyone sees as poorly. 
       The whirlpool was out of order, and the outdoor section of the pool was infested with mosquitoes, but it still felt fabulous. Becca decided to collect all the leaves floating on the surface and give them to Thom -- with both Thom and Jen there, she couldn’t decide who her favorite was! 
       At some point in there, Tim and I had gotten a short nap. But it was still unbelievable we were up and functioning. After our swim and showers, we joined Jen, Patrick, and Thom in Jen’s room and just kicked back and chatted. 
 I wound up telling Thom a little about how Lexington has fared in my fanfic world -- he looked awfully alarmed when he heard about Jericho and some of my more extreme stories; I hastened to assure him that Lex in my world remained a fairly sweet and innocent young garg (the business where Xanatos was spying on him and Aiden out the window notwithstanding). But then, of course, we got talking about Christi’s fics, with the shower scene, or the two girls on the pool table ... 
       Then it was a matter of go to bed or sleep on Jen’s couch. So we went to bed, and by the time we got up that Monday morning, Thom had already left, Jen and Patrick were leaving in an hour, and except for the Fays and Demona May and a few others, we were the only ones left. 
       We’d erred a little -- check-out time was noon, our plane didn’t leave until six that evening. So we put our luggage in storage and cabbed it to the Galleria. Three words -- Marble Slab Creamery. Oh, wow, the best ice cream I’ve ever had. You pick the flavor of your choice, and then they will plop it down on a marble slab (hence the name) and mix it with your choice of treats. Cheesecake ice cream with Heath bar and Nestle’s Crunch bits in it ... purely divine. 
       And as a final, fitting end to our travels, when we were at baggage claim at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, a couple next to us were arguing peevishly ... and he called her Margot ... 


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