Hey, everyone! Back in the comfy environs of Illinois. Now, without further ado ... the ubiquitous Con Report.
Ken and I left town around 11:00. We were in no hurry since we weren't driving to Saratoga but to Niagara Falls, Ontario the first night. We rented a car and a GPS system to make the trip easier. Our GPS's voice was male with an Australian accent, so we named him Rusty after Russell Crowe. (Aside for Bridget: Rusty completely kicks Betty's ass even though he insisted on driving through Indy instead of around.) The drive was uneventful except for one place about 20 miles from our house. It's a strange Bermuda-triangle type area that inexplicably has fatal accidents once every two weeks or so. Some dumb-fuck 80 year-old decided it'd be a good time to drive a camper and nearly drove us off the interstate. So of course I'm jumpy the entire rest of the day (Oh!! Watch that merger! He might come within 20 yards of us!) which made Ken happy, let me tell ya. We arrived in Canada around 10:30 p.m. The border guard was bored and gave me and Ken grief about not having passports or birth certificates (you don't need those to cross the border by car until February 1, 2008, by the way). I know it's their job to ask questions and be suspicious (You're from Illinois and you're going to New York. Why are you coming into Canada? Just sightseeing? Really?) but it still made me feel like a criminal. He let us go after harassing us for a bit and we made it to the hotel by the falls without incident. Awesome, awesome hotel. If you go to the falls, stay at the Embassy Suites. We had two nice-sized rooms, a bad-ass jacuzzi, two sinks, and a separate room for the toilet and shower. We made it in time to secure our complimentary bar drinks; Ken had a Molson and I had a mediocre Riesling. Then, sleep.
After we woke up, got cleaned up, and secured some breakfast, Ken and I explored Niagara Falls. It was chilly but sunny, and we got some great pictures. The upshot was that there were no crowds, so we were able to stand right by the fence and linger without guilt. The area seems like it's a good tourist destination smack in the middle of the boonies; we discussed vacationing there with another couple for a few days. I wouldn't want to spend a whole week or anything, but a long weekend would provide ample opportunity to shop and explore the whole area and gamble at the casino without feeling bored. We left Canada at around noon, and after a mild interrogation at the border were I had a moment's panic because I almost forgot where I was born, we were on our way.
The drive to Saratoga was enlightening for two reasons: New York State's completely rational approach to tolls and rest stops. On the Google directions I noted we had toll roads and so I did what any Illinoisan would do: I grabbed a metric ton of change and put it in the center console. You see, in Chicago, if you don't have an E-Z pass, you'll pay 75 cents, drive a few miles, pay 40 cents, drive a few more, pay 65 cents, etc. Not so in New York. You go through the toll at the beginning of the interstate. They give you a card with the pay rate for every exit. When you get off the interstate, you pay the rate based on when you got on the interstate. It's a very logical and sane system that Chicago could employ. Which brings us to the rest stops: they're huge and beautiful! Each one is a big building with two to four fast-food restaurants, huge bathrooms, and a gift shop. There's also a gas station at each one. Quite lovely.
Once we arrived in Saratoga, we checked into the second hotel of the trip and then drove to the convention center. We immediately ran into fellow writer-peeps and swept them away for dinner at an Italian Bistro across the street. After dinner we hit the Zombies Love Brains party where we ran into to more people we knew. We secured a prime location (next to the cooler of free beer and the air conditioner) and sat and laughed and met new people. One such person was Patricia Bray. She was one of the hostesses and had secured a gross of the coolest metal lizard-shaped bottle openers. Oh, yeah, don't worry; one of those babies came home with me. Ken and I left the parties well before they shut them down and headed to bed.
First thing we checked out of the second hotel and into the third hotel of the trip. This was the conference hotel, so it was much more convenient and all that. We inadvertently stood up a group of people for breakfast; the clock in the second hotel had apparently already been set for Standard Time, and so while we though we'd arrived ridiculously early, we were 20 minutes late. It turned out okay, though, because we ate a local diner, hung out with the Fangs Fur Fey people in the bar, attended a reading, and perused the art room. We saw this awesome print from Todd Lockhart called War of Angels. I would not be surprised if a copy showed up on one of our walls within the next few months. Just gorgeous. Friday night we ate dinner at a pizza place that advertised Chicago-style pizza. I've had lots of Chicago-style pizza in my time, my friends, and let me tell you that Marino's in Saratoga Springs isn't it. Good pizza, don't get me wrong, but Chicago-style it ain't. The crust was too thin by half. After dinner we hit autograph room. I got a few books signed, laughed with some friends, and stalked Scott Lynch, so it was all good. Afterwards we hit the parties. We had a wickedly strong blue drink and more free beer. Let me just tell you that's it's way too easy to drink too much at WFC. I didn't get drunk and do anything stupid, but I saw a few people get awfully close to that line.
The atmosphere was way subdued Saturday morning. You could tell that two days of partying had taken its toll on the attendees. Ken and I went to breakfast with the people we had stood up on Friday. We met a few new cool people, ate gravy, and occupied a table for a few hours. We hung out in the lobby, met more people, hit the DAW party, ate dinner at a cool fried-chicken place, and then hit yet more parties. We got invited to a jazz club, and I really wanted to go, but by this point Ken and I were just ... done. Past done, even. Burnt. We headed for bed and took advantage of the extra hour of sleep.
Took all morning to say the long train of goodbyes. Bought yet another book ('cause the duffel bag full of freebies wasn't enough, you know) and procured a few more signatures. I bonded with someone over Paula Danziger's work. We left Saratoga around 11:30 and got home around 2:30 in the morning. Remember we slipped an hour back when we crossed over into Illinois and so the trip was around 14 hours or so. Long trip, but we took several breaks and consumed approximately 5 bajillion milligrams of caffeine. Oh, a warning: if you order iced coffee through the drive-through at midnight, they don't screw around. We made it home in one piece and slept it off.
And ... that's it. I leave you with a few choice quotes from the weekend:
"I'm ... intoxicated."
"Do you need to use my lizard?"
"You two should kiss."
"My breath could bleach your hair."