On Thursday, kproche and I headed out bright and early for Calgary, and WesterCon 58. The travel-karma fairy was in a grumpy mood, though, and our transfer in Seattle got delayed by 2 hours; not a great thing the day before Canada Day.
Fortunately, the problem was fog and a blown runway lighting system at SeaTac, so everything was hosed up. Yes, fortunately. While our flight was diverted to Spokane to sit out the repairs, our connecting flight was diverted to Portland for same. When we got into Seattle over 3 hours late we were just in time to catch the plane to Calgary. Instead of landing in Calgary 1-ish, we landed 4-ish. Irritating, but not too bad. Far better than what some others went through.
Customs and immigration went smooth as glass. We got a cute immigration agent who was surprised to find out WesterCon was in Calgary this year (note this), stamped our paperwork and sent us through. Luggage and a quick drop-off of the form at customs and we were on our way to the hotel.
In spite of warnings from the shuttle driver that it was rush hour and it would take a while to get to the hotel (Calgary may be the size of San Jose, but their idea of "traffic" is a joke), we got in to the Westin Calgary pretty quickly. It was (not surprisingly) already dolled-up for the Calgary Stampede; most of the lobby was re-clad in wild-west style decor. It was actually a remarkably clean effect for nothing more than a bunch of painted panels set over everything.
This is when we started hearing about other peoples' problems. Several dealers had run into customs and immigration problems; a few got through after some extensive work, several got turned back. We got our badges, and tried to get our program participant schedules, but there weren't any. Not an auspicious beginning.
The restaurant guide (by Fan GoH Cliff Samuels) was excellent. It only listed restaurants that were open at least two days of the convention. "Open Daily" really meant it, including on Canada Day (Friday, July 1). There were plenty of options, easy to sort through and read.
The souvenir program book wasn't, nor was the program guide. Both were loaded with typos (like Sproenhuthingtime Creations) and some program items in the grid were in such small type they were barely readable.
We also found out that Mark Ferrari's art (he was artist GoH) hadn't made it across the border; I think it finally showed up on Saturday.
Caught up with Cliff and Eileen and got to chat a bit. They had a nice little room (the con didn't even spring for a corner suite for them, tacky, tacky). Like us, they didn't have a participant itinerary, and we found out there was also no program ops department. I can live with no participant green room, but no program ops is death for program participants. We got the official word "Find your name in the program listings" a little later.
Ran off to Joey Tomato's for dinner. Nice food, but a reminder that we were in heathen lands where sweet iced tea is the norm.
I thought our program schedules for BayCon were rough when we were Fan GoHs, but Cliff's and Eileen's took the cake. Some days they each had 5 program items. They also ended up working heavily in several departments (like Cliff's writing of the restaurant guide). So much for being able to sit back and relax while being a GoH.
Thursday night we sat down in the bar with galtine1 and dinogrl and proceeded to concoct the advertising for ConSeal, a hoax bid for WesterCon 60 (2007) to take place under Pier 39 in San Francisco Bay (yes, underwater, not in the city). Then we headed up to the 17th floor (or 12 in pentadecimal, which was what the program guide listed their location in) for the first night of the Con-Version Mini-Con. Con-Version, the local Calgary SF convention was running a hospitality suite all weekend with its own strange convention events.
Friday the con was in full swing. We caught the beginning of Cliff & Eileen's "Welcome to Calgary" panel; enough to make sense of the geography before running for food. The rest of the day was a minor blur. Dealers' room was small and featured mostly booksellers, and was short a few dealers because of customs & immigration difficulties.
ConSuite, on the other hand, was excellent! They had a pair of function rooms, one with tables where folks could sit and chat, and another with food and bev. Along with canadian sodas (yes, sweetened with beet sugar, not corn syrup), they had Big Rock Beers on tap. Both the Traditional Ale and the Grasshöpper wheat beer were delightful, and the Rock Creek hard cider was divine.
We had dinner at the Silver Dragon, a really classy Hong Kong style restaurant in Calgary's chinatown. It's a very popular place; there was a wedding banquet in the back room that was barely starting to fill when we got there. Their Ma Po Tofu wasn't nearly as spicy as I expected, but their crispy chicken was superb and they did a great hot-and-sour soup.
After dinner, a bunch of folks came up to the room for a vintacon preview party; we had a few Livermore wines and then checked out the parties. WesterCon 60 in San Jose was hosting a party, and it was pretty decent, but the party scene was (again) best at the Con-Version Mini-Con.
Saturday K did his spintronics presentation, and we found ourselves drafted as masquerade judges (fortunately free of duties until Sunday). Ran around and did a bit of shopping and stumbled in to Ceili's Irish Pub at the Penny Lane mall where we had the best Lamb Boxty. Well recommended. gerisullivan showed up mid-afternoon, after a harrowing two days of flying standby with no luggage, but she had some good stories.
San Jose handily won the vote for WesterCon 60, so start preparing for Gnomeward Bound. Our hoax bid got 5 votes in the first count, for I think a better percentage than IdidaCon back in '03. Other write-ins were "Cicely, AK" and "Gnome of the Above."
We checked out parties for a while, including the Conzilla pajama party and the Con-Version Slave Auction, and eventually repaired to the room for Sweets. About a dozen folks showed up with just short of a dozen bottles of dessert wines. John Hertz did his best to "stack the brix" and for the most part did well. We did find several wines that were way too early in the sequence, but with no information to go on, it was better than could have been expected. We were unable to go to the Con-Version party; by the time we closed they had been shut down by the hotel.
Sunday we were free until masquerade. We went to the Calgary Tower and looked out over the city. Calgary is just under a million people (like I said, about the size of San Jose), but with much more flat land surrounding them not as packed in as we are. Outside the down-town core businesses were surrounded by huge parking lots. It was worth the half-price admission, but it's no CN Tower. The glass floor just isn't as scary when you're only 525' up.
On the way back we stopped at The Cellar, an excellent wine shop in the basement of the old Alberta Hotel. Details will be posted in vintacon.
Dinner was Chicken Vindaloo at Brewsters. Again, superb. Better Indian than I've had in quite a while. Beer was good too.
Geri finally got her luggage.
The masquerade almost didn't happen, but Sandy and the wombat held it together. Hotel problems were ugly. I judged workmanship. K, Eileen and John Hertz judged presentation. All the entries were good, and it was a very costume-craft heavy masquerade. Still, we finished judging before the entertainment was over and were done before 9:30. Afterwards we repaired up to the room for a celebratory drink (and muscle-relaxant for some) and then went to the ConSuite and Con-Version for a bit. A bunch of folks decided to go up to the hot-tub (the only space open 24 hours a day and where noise wouldn't be an issue) so we joined them and hung out until somewhere around 4:00 am.
Things started winding down on Monday. Had lunch at Japanese Village, a decent little teppanyaki house near the hotel. We missed closing ceremonies, but so did the chairmen for both ConZilla and Gnomeward Bound. Somebody didn't understand that there was some ceremonial stuff that should have gone on there that would involve the next WesterCon, so the next chairs weren't notified of where it was in the schedule.
For dinner, we headed off to visit Empress Mz Rhonda of the Imperial Sovereign Court of the Chinook Arch and her husband Wayne for dinner. We ended up chatting 'til 11:30, and made it back to the hotel just in time for the end of the dead dog party.
Return trip on Tuesday wasn't quite as eventful as the trip out. We got our wine through customs. Our flight from Calgary to Seattle was delayed by a half-hour, but the Seattle-San Jose leg was also delayed by a half-hour so no problems there.
So, all in all, not a grand disaster., but another minor black-eye for traveling cons in Canada. I know this is over-generalization, but it still doesn't bode well for Anticipation (the Montreal 2009 WorldCon bid) unless they change their slogan to "We learned from the mistakes of TorCon and Due North" and show that they did. They're up against a strong bid in Kansas City and fannish memories run long.