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» Monday, September 05, 2016Dragoncon and the Final Hours of Magic
Well, that was annoying. Knowing we needed to be early to our ten o'clock panel this morning, I set the alarm a little earlier, and we headed out the door before eight o'clock, so that we would have plenty of time for breakfast. Thank you so much [sarcasm alert!] to the city of Smyrna for letting us know there was going to be some sort of road race/walk down Atlanta Road right in the middle of our route. Had we known, we would have gone down Windy Hill Road. So we lost our fifteen minute advantage, but luckily did not have to bolt our breakfast too much. But soon we had to zip through the Marriott to get to the Hyatt Centennial ballroom, and navigate one stupid elevator (which turned out to be fine).
We just made it; there were only two handicapped spaces left. The room was packed with chattering people waiting to see...
William Shatner. James shrugged at first when I said I wanted to go to this panel. We actually went to the Dragoncon panel several years ago where William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy appeared together (with Shatner apparently saying whatever came into his head and Nimoy blinking like a sage and adding comments when necessary) (we never made it into the panel room, in fact; we were in the ballroom where they were broadcasting a feed, and that was packed full as well). As I pointed out to him, Leonard is gone, and Bill is eighty-five. Who knew when we'd get to see him again?
And so there we were, with several hundred of our "closest friends," and finally he sauntered out on stage looking so familiarly casual—he had a pair of jeans and a T-shirt on that looked close to an outfit James has, and a brown leather jacket over it all, and he just took the microphone and spoke for a while—you haven't heard anything until you've heard William Shatner geeking about meeting Stephen Hawking! He interviewed Hawking for a special called To the Stars (or something like that), and of course Hawking has to spell out his messages letter by letter, so the questions were sent to him in advance, so that he could respond when Shatner read the questions. After the Q&A, Hawking said he wanted to ask Shatner a question, and the latter sat rapt waiting as Hawking laboriously spelled out word after word: "What's your favorite episode?" :-) He also talked briefly about how stressful all the costume changes were on Barbary Coast and that he was glad it was canceled, and about taking the part of Denny Crane on Boston Legal, and of course he chatted about the new series, Better Late Than Never where he tours Asia with George Foreman, Terry Bradshaw, Henry Winkler, and a guy named Jeff Nye (we're watching this; it's a riot). He mentioned something that made me feel kinship at once: he talked about here he is, at eighty-five, approaching the age where life is winding down, and he is still crazy to learn things. He doesn't know why, but it's what makes him happy, and I thought that is what I want, to still be learning things until the day I die.
I was heading for another panel in the America Mart, "Trek: New vs. Old," and James said that he would go with me. So we walked down John Portman together, went up one level in one elevator, and then had to complete the trip on the other elevator because the first did not go higher than the second floor. (Why? Who knows? When we left the America Mart we went down the second set of elevators and then couldn't find the first, and James had to take the chair lift down, a little claustrophobic box of a machine.) I went up to the front and sat with Alice while James took photos of the Enterprise model in the back and then settled back there to listen to the panel. I guess this was fun, but the guy on the panel who didn't like the Star Trek reboots sure got under Alice's collar! He refused to listen to anyone else's opinion and basically called everyone else stupid.
I met James back outside and we both decided to go to the Dealer's Room, but he was heading down to 2, and we separated because first I wanted to go to 3 to see the full-size Toothless from How to Train Your Dragon. He was right in the back, and really beautiful, complete with a saddle and the repaired tail. You can take a picture with him or ride him, and the proceeds go to Make-a-Wish. And here is James one floor down!
I turned around and providentially there was Roger Nichols, who'd I'd bumped into in the Sheraton back on Friday. I donated $5 and he took my picture with Toothless. Thanks, Roger!
I trotted downstairs and caught up with James, and we kind of popped in and out of aisles. It was still very crowded, and the noise made me crazy. In the end I bought only a little resin figure of a snowy owl sitting on books.
I had been thinking of going to one last science-fiction literature panel, but it was up against the Brittrack feedback panel, and I've always gone to that because it's always fun. It sort of felt disloyal not to go, too, and it's a last chance to see everyone. James came with me, and before we went upstairs to the panel room we stopped at registration and bought memberships for next year.
The Brittrack feedback panel (a.k.a. "So Long and Thanks for All the Fish") is part feedback, part complaint, and part madness; everyone is tired and suffering a surfeit of fun and a lack of sleep. Food and drink left over from the dance is distributed, and everyone talks and says thank you and crunches and sips, and a pleasant hour goes by. This year Rob Bowen bought T-shirts for the staff with the Caro "tired" picture on it (it's a running gag).
We had to leave before the panel was over, and passed our final panel as we passed our first, in the Sci-Fi Literature room for their own feedback panel: What Worked and What Did Not. Unfortunately, several people showed up thinking it was a total Dragoncon feedback panel. Sue and Cyd dutifully took down everyone's complaints—which, naturally, were about the crowds and especially about the elevators and about them not announcing major panel changes except for one about (of all things) NSync—to pass on to the Dragoncon hierarchy and it just basically turned into a nice discussion.
But finally it was time for that last long walk down the hill and back to the truck. There were no lines outside the hotels, only a few people left in costume wandering about, no trundling of carts or suitcases, just bleak deserted sidewalks. Everything already looks lonesome. Tumbleweeds might as well be rolling down the streets.
We had our usual end-of-Dragoncon supper at Longhorn, and then came home to the welcome "arms" of Tucker and Snowy. But no rest for the weary, as we had to get ready for work tomorrow.