What I Did On My Summer Vacation, by Gary Henderson
If I were ten years old and in the fifth grade, I would no doubt stand in front of the class, stiff and nervous, as I recited my paper. “What I did on my summer vacation, by Gary Henderson, age 10.” And then I would launch into an over-vivid description (lot of juicy adverbs and adjectives) of my family’s epic road trip from rural Alabama to the bustling metropolis of Cucamonga, California, where my uncle and aunt lived. How our dog vomited every time we went under an overpass or she saw a headlight. How we stopped at every possible roadside attraction along the entire 4300-mile-long round trip.
But I’m not ten, I’m 38-teen. And although that would no doubt make a very good story (minus all the adverbs and adjectives and dog vomit), this post is about what I did on my recent summer vacation. I drove myself. I did not stop at every cheesy roadside attraction on the way. And there was no dog vomit.
For which, I can assure you, I am eternally grateful. I mean, have you ever ridden in the back of a car with a dog who threw up every time she saw an overhead pass or a headlight for 4300 miles? Have you? Have you? It. Is. Not. Pretty. I’m pretty sure I still have PTSD. If I had a therapist, his or her bill would be —
But I digress.
Some time back in the spring, some writer friends and I decided we would go to LibertyCon in beautiful, downtown Chattanooga, Tennessee. At, in fact, the Chattanooga Choo-Choo. Last year was the con’s 25th anniversary, and they had quite a line-up of big names in the science fiction community there to commemorate the occasion. This year, it was much more modest. A couple of known names and a bunch of people I didn’t know from Adam’s housecat (as the saying goes)1.
Check-in was uneventful, but I was somewhat surprised by the . . . lack of . . . size. I guess what I mean to say is this: I’m used to Dragon*Con in Atlanta, where there are 50,000 or so people crammed into five hotels for four days of fannish geekdom on 31+ programming tracks. Or TAM in Las Vegas, where there are typically 1200 to 1500 skeptics crammed into a large convention center for four days of fannish geekdom (just of very different things, and with gambling, James Randi, and Penn & Teller).
LibertyCon is about 500 people. Five programming tracks (five rooms). And my own, personal observation is that most of the con-goers were . . . of a certain age. Now, don’t get me wrong: we older geeks like our all-night, wild parties, too. We just need Maalox, more sleep, and a little help getting out of bed the next afternoon.
To digress for a moment more, check-in may have been uneventful, but I had to go into the hotel and ask because I had no clue where I was supposed to be. So I asked the nice lady at the desk, “I’m here for LibertyCon, and I have no idea where I’m supposed to go. Can you point me in the right direction?”
She says, “Which specific panel are you here for, sir?”
Nonplussed, I said, “Huh?” (I’m a master of repartee.)
“There are a lot of events at the same time. If you’ll tell me which specific one you’re looking for . . .”
She handed me a schedule for the con, where each of the scheduled panels was listed by day, time, and location. I pointed randomly at one of them that started at 3:00pm, which was about four minutes hence. She then pointed me toward a low building nestled between the parking deck where I had parked, and something else.
I walked over . . . and discovered that the entire con was that tiny annex. All the rooms on the schedule? Yeah, they were adjacent. All five of them. Registration was in the hallway that all the rooms opened off of.
I’m going to pause, here, for a moment, just to let that fully sink in. And contemplate the question asked by the lady at the desk.
[Jeopardy theme plays]
[The Syncopated Clock by Percy Faith plays]
So, long story short, I met up with my friends who were already there, we went to a couple of panels, and then we were hungry, so we went for food. And then we went back for a few more panels, and then we were tired, so we drove to the place we were staying. Which was an apartment in a town about 30 miles west of Chattanooga called South Pittsburg, which is in the Central Time Zone. Chattanooga is in the Eastern Time Zone. It’s a very scenic drive, and one I recommend to anyone who wants to enjoy the beauty of the Appalachian Mountains. We had dinner and then talked until way too late, then slept.
Next day, we did it all over again, attending panels and at one point taking some time out to critique one of my friends’ novel, which we had all read a draft of.
We all decided that after this one panel that evening, we would leave for dinner. The panel was on YA writing, and one of the authors on that panel, Stuart Jaffe. was having a lively conversation with one of my friends, and we found out it was Stuart’s birthday. We asked him to join us for dinner and continue the conversation. We walked down to the same restaurant we’d had lunch at the day before, and discovered that the woman who had just entered before us — and for whom we held the door! — had a party of 20, and that killed that plan. We tried one other place . . . and then realized it was Saturday night in downtown Chattanooga. So . . . we decided to have dinner and play Cards Against Humanity back in South Pittsburg.
As I said, about a half-hour away.
Stuart was game and got in the car with seven strangers. (Well, technically two strangers; we had three cars. But the point stands.)
We had a nice Italian dinner at Stevarino’s Italian Eatery, then played Cards Against Humanity until 2 AM, at which point we were out of cards, so Stuart was taken back to Chattanooga Choo-Choo, and we got a good night’s sleep. And if, by some weird chance, one of Stuart’s upcoming novels features an author being kidnapped by seven strangers at a con . . . well, we won’t be overly surprised. :)
The next day, we only went to the con to get some of Stuart’s books, signed — with bawdy Cards Against Humanity references! — and then all separately made our way back south to Atlanta.
It was an enjoyable trip, even if the con was a lot smaller than I expected. We made a new friend, got some books to read, and had a lot of fun. All pluses.
I’m also now listening to Stuart’s podcast The Eclectic Review, which is fun, and will be reading his books as soon as I’m done reading some of the ones I’m currently reading.
. . . and that’s how I spent my summer vacation. [Bows theatrically, accompanied by light, sporadic applause; sits back at desk to listen to the next classmate.]
Today’s post is inspired by GBE2 (Group Blogging Experience)’s Week 112 prompt: Vacation.
- On the Internet, no one knows you’re Adam’s housecat. Unless you don’t have a navel. Or something.