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» Friday, September 02, 2016Dragoncon and the Crisis of Faith
On July 10, Dragoncon was almost two months away and a flutter in the back of our minds, especially about the abysmal elevator service for those with motion disabilities like James.
July 11 changed everything.
For a while Dragoncon was forgotten in the struggle to regain health. If it was remembered we merely thought with a pang of the $100+ registration fee that might go to waste. As the hospital stay lingered it seemed forgone that we could not go. Dragoncon, unless you are 20-30 and in good health, is still pretty strenuous. As James felt better, we started thinking...well, maybe we won't waste all the money. Maybe we'll go on the slower days, Sunday and Monday. The ridiculous parking fees at the garages around town also gave us pause. Until we found the open lot behind the Courtland Street Garage we had paid $40/day last year. (It was $30 behind the garage.) Along the line reading Facebook, we found out Kelley Ceccato's newest radio play would be on Friday, and I always like Kelley's stuff.
After a three-week hospital stay and an emotional convalescence for James, it was very tempting just to stay home and "veg." But we kept fighting with ourselves. I finally admitted to James that I didn't want to give up going to Dragoncon, that it would be an admission that I was too old to manage it. I don't usually get hung up on this "getting old and grey and wrinkly" thing. But once I get to Dragoncon, I have a lot of fun. I either go to panels that I find intellectually stimulating (not much of that going on at work) or that I find entertaining. It's a four-day vacation that just happens to involve a lot of urban hiking. Doing nothing felt like giving in to the creeping depression that had dogged us all this year.
In Italo-American culture, there's a stereotype that everyone in Calabria is hard-headed. Lou Monte, the comic Italo-American singer, always used to joke about being "Calabrese." It meant a special kind of stubborn. Mom used to say if the Calabrese were the most stubborn, then the place where my dad came from must be the second most stubborn. When they had disagreements, and he dug his heels in, she'd grimly point a finger at him and snap "Guarcinese!" Eventually she started doing it to me, too.
So it got to be that going to Dragoncon brought out the Guarcinese in me.
But James' stubborn streak isn't any less than mine. He didn't want to give it up, either. Okay, we would go. If any health problem arose, the rest of the weekend was called off. But we'd go down swinging.
The first hurdle was food. We usually take our own sandwiches as we want to get in as many panels as we can and most of the food at Peachtree Center is pre-prepared heavily salted, and there is the expense. We could still fit in Cafe Momo for breakfast if judicious about the choices. Usually we buy roast beef and other processed meats, which are also heavily salted, for the sandwiches and by Monday I don't ever want to eat roast beef again. Last year we had Boar's Head, and it tasted terrible. Then I had a brainstorm: chicken! James cooked up two batches of boneless skinless chicken thighs, one plain, one as cacciatore, with no salt. We made sandwiches with that. (Next year, though, better buns. Hamburger buns get too gloppy.) We bypassed the crackers we had left over from Timegate and Anachrocon and bought Kind products instead (extremely low salt, low sugar, with grains and nuts) and stocked up on fruit cups and our usual fruit juice boxes.
The parking nightmare was taken care of one day while James was scouting around online. I think he got a Groupon message or something like that. He asked me had I ever heard of "Parking Panda." I believe Leo Laporte mentioned it on "The Tech Guy," but otherwise, no. A day or so later, two different friends of mine on Facebook mentioned they had used/were using Parking Panda. So I checked it out. $26/day? Pre-reserved? No money to change hands, just scan a printout or via a phone app? (I could have gotten $25/day, but it was on Andrew Young Boulevard, which is a steep slope. Steep slopes and a pickup truck with a chair lift on the back do not mix.) Okay, sign me up.
We'd already decided against ever going downtown Thursday night to register again after last year's traffic debacle, so on Friday we were up at 6:15 a.m. to head downtown. Per Parking Panda, we could not enter the garage—our usual, the Courtland Street Garage with the skywalk (the "Luke Skywalk," as we call it) to Peachtree Center—until after eight a.m.; we got there at 8:05. From there it was a block to the Sheraton and registration, which we do through disability services. James got his wheelchair seating sticker and I have an "end of row; seated in line" so I won't have to go outside in the sun. I had also printed up James a QR code to tape to the back of his badge which mentioned he had a heart attack, that he had stents, and to consult the emergency list on his cell phone for medications and other warnings. (He also has an engraved bracelet.)
Next it was off to breakfast. James was careful to get plain eggs, grits, chicken or turkey sausage, and lots of fruit. I had my usual: oatmeal, two slices of French toast, three slices of bacon, a small serving of their oven baked potatoes, and kiwi, oranges, and strawberries (and a bagel for later). And milk. Of course. ☺
Oddly for a Friday, neither of us had a 10 a.m. panel, so for something to do we went trudging over to the Hyatt via the Marriott, because the Hyatt has still not made their hotel accessible from Peachtree Center for wheelchairs. You have to walk through the "habitrails," as congoers call the skybridges, and through the big cavernous Marriott Center, cross through the Marriott Hotel, and then another bridge to the Hyatt. We ended up down in the Sci-Fi Literature track room, which is run by Sue Phillips, because she always has good programming. The 10 a.m. panel there was a welcome panel, and the welcome was very short, so we spent time talking with Sue and Phyllis Boros and other various denizens up at that hour, checking out the "free library" (take a book, leave a book), and watched them work on getting the track banner to stay in place.
I left James at eleven to head upstairs to the first Sleepy Hollow panel of the weekend. Janina Gavankar, the new female lead, was supposed to appear on the panel with Tom Mison. I had other panels I wanted to see up against all the SH panels, and the next panel was the one I picked to be the sacrificial lamb. Unfortunately it turned out both Gavankar and Mison were filming today (they are filming Sleepy Hollow in Conyers, just east of Atlanta), so there was no panel, and I could go back and enjoy "Young Adult, Old Adult," which was being moderated by our favorite pet sitter, Aubrey Spivey. This was a panel about why so many adults are enjoying young adult fiction. (Less complicated themes with universal emotions and more inventive seemed to be the consensus.) Aubrey does a super job of moderating panels and we had a lively discussion.
We subscribe to several of the Dragoncon tracks (there are about forty now) on Facebook and knew there was going to be a 25th anniversary tribute to one of our favorite movies, The Rocketeer, coming up. It was next, in the new American Sci-Fi Classics room in the Marriott. We had no trouble with the elevators in the Hyatt, but went a bit mad in the Marriott because, instead of numbering their levels like normal people would, the levels have names, and you have to figure which is which. We had to get to Marriot Marquis level from Marriott Atrium level and eventually ended up going up to get down, but the people on the elevator with us were incredibly helpful.
The panel was great. We spent time talking about our favorite scenes and lines and actors, and about the differences from the comic strip, and the great 1930s look. There was a gentleman in the room dressed as the Rocketeer complete with jet pack.
We stayed in the room for the "1970s Sci-Fi TV: From the Disco to the Future" panel. It was all here, from Space: 1999 to Logan's Run to Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, our favorite cheese to our favorite things that made us think (some movies crept in, so Silent Running anyone?). There were two women in Space: 1999 Year 1 uniforms that we all loved. My first three conventions were Star Trek conventions, but my fourth was the second Space: 1999 convention in Pittsburgh (Pittsburgh keeps coming up in my life) and I met a bunch of the people that are my close friends now at that convention. (I was less enamoured of Year 2, but you can't have everything.)
At this point, we headed back to the Hyatt, as James had a panel there at 5:30 and he wanted to be there on time. The elevators were getting crowded, a lot more crowded than I would have expected for Friday, but most of the crowd was cooperative. We decided to peruse the art show until I had to run for the Sheraton. This was a great idea because at this point it wasn't crowded, and there was some tremendously wonderful art this year. (We had pretty much given up on the art show for several years because it was all "intestinal art," as we called it, with unpleasant figures with long claws tearing apart bodies—with lots of intestines showing.) My favorite was a beautiful Dan Dos Santos painting of Harry Dresden defeating a demon. Another was what looked like a knight/soldier kneeling with his sword in front of him and ominous black structures behind him. The whole painting was dark except for a beam of light illuminating the knight and his sword. Another that caught my eye was a fantasy painting of Native American centaurs charging toward the viewer, and there was a very intriguing Dr. Jeckyl and Mr. Hyde painting, with an image of Jeckyl inside of Hyde. There were many more good pieces like this, from anime figures to fantasy items. Not a lot of space art anymore, but there was one artist that did have space- and futuristic city-scapes that were breathtaking.
Two other pieces caught our eyes. One was a picture of a wood with what looked like smoke in a central clearing, rising to form an owl's head, with a crescent moon as the owl's left eye. We later came back and purchased it. The other stopped us immediately: it was of a little fox with wide eyes with lacy wings and antenna, a fairy fox. The expression on its face was the same as Tucker's when we catch him shredding paper towels he's snitched from the wastebasket, and we both said "It's Tucker!" almost in unison. Yeah, we bought that one, too.
James got to his room for his panel, and I hiked over to the Sheraton via the skywalk and the elevator in the garage. This was "Doctor Who Classics" and again a very nice discussion back-and-forth about favorite episodes, significant episodes, fan favorites, favorite companions, and, of course the subject of what you would use to introduce a new Who fan to the classic series.
Still, I was becoming distinctly uneasy. I remembered two years ago when we could not get to the ARTC performance because it took us over an hour to get an elevator (and we had to go to the Hilton to get one). I zipped off the minute the panel was over, stalking my quickest to the elevator and back over the skywalk and through that long, long walk to the Hyatt. I was terribly worried about James getting an elevator up from the International Tower and then he had to go back down once in the lobby to the Centennial floor from the main lobby. It took us a while to get an elevator, but he got one and I took the escalator, and we made it just as David Benedict was making his opening remarks.
It was a fun performance. Another audio drama company performed the opening piece, a story called "The Metamorphs" in a continuing paranormal series called Harry Strange. The metamorphs in question take over other people's bodies; it was an interesting bit of comedy/drama/fantasy.
Following was Kelley's play, The Goblins and the Golden Rose. A still-grieving widow makes exquisite clockwork items, including her greatest creation, a golden rose that blossoms. She discovers that the "ugly man" she keeps from being run over by a steam conveyance is actually a goblin who carries in a magic bag with him another goblin, a young woman with a tale of love and loss. The widow discovers that the fae she has so admired over the years are beautiful but cold; it is only the "ugly" goblins who have feelings, and she is determined to help the young woman who has lost her only love. A lovely fantasy.
We also got to talk to Juanita Gibson and daughter Jessie, Alice and Aubrey Spivey, Lin Butler, Stuart, and some other friends we hadn't seen for a while. But finally it was time to mosey toward the elevators to get home. Maybe this is where the trouble started.
The elevators, predictably, were packed. When we rolled into the alcove with the five elevators (only four of which were working, as one goes only to Polaris, the restaurant at the top of the hotel) there were seven other people in wheelchairs/scooters/power chairs already waiting for the elevators. As we waited, what elevators did show up were chock full of people, only one or two occasionally coming off. One lady in a wheelchair did manage to get on. The rest of us cooled our heels for what seemed like quite a long time, and then Hyatt security showed up and herded the seven left (and their companions) to the service elevator. James backed off and let the folks who had been waiting longest go first, and finally we got back to the lobby level of the Hyatt. From there we just went outside and down John Portman Boulevard to the garage. Even though we had not waited as long as some of the others, we were rattled by the elevator incident, because the elevators are usually a mess on Saturday and it spooked us happening tonight. Plus we had to thread our way through people still in line for late-night events and this was challenging for James because the city of Atlanta saw fit to put planters every few feet along the street to beautify it. Yeah, it looks nice, but it doesn't help two-way traffic on the sidewalks any. By the time we got to the garage we were on edge, and as we were leaving James was saying he didn't think he could make it through the weekend, and this would be our last Dragoncon. He was even more upset than he had been in the hospital on the worst days, and I was upset because I'd been worried about him all day and really didn't enjoy the Who panel as much as I thought because I was worried about him negotiating the elevators. Sometimes I think we both have a kind of PTSD. I ended up crying all the way home and most of the rest of the evening because he was so miserable.
Aside from setting the alarm for the next morning, we never did resolve the problem before bed. It wasn't the best night. All that kept running through my head was the song "There'll Be Other Friday Nights."