At the behest of several folks, I decided to do a trip recap of my recent sojourn to ArmadilloCon, by way of the Greyhound Bus system. This was, of course, a major mistake, and one that I won’t repeat again, may God strike me dead if I’m lying.
I took the bus because it was the cheapest way to get to Austin (Cathy needed to stay in Vernon because of Summer’s Last Blast, and thus needed the car). If we were doing a straight shot from V-town to A-town, it’s six and a half hours, give or take thirty minutes if you’re a small bladder person or a road camel. By bus, it would take eight and a half hours. Sure, it’s for the stops in the route, but see, there’s not a direct route from V-town to A-town by bus. And so, I had to make a stopover in Dallas.
According to Hank Hill, Dallas is full of “crack-heads and debutantes,” and I will certainly bow to his superior wisdom on the subject. But the Dallas bus stop is full of very poor people trying very hard to get somewhere else. For some people, they are going to a new job. Others are bringing their children to a new city to start over. Everyone has a story on the bus. There’s also some freaked-out meth-headed sub-mutants, too, but they usually find each other quick enough. Crazy attracts crazy, don’t you know.
Only this time, I ended up sitting next to a sweet old man, one of those guys who was a regular Joe and who lived a regular life. He had been traveling; visiting his grown children and grandchildren, and now he was on his way back to his hometown and his wife. They had been married for sixty two years. He’d served in World War II, in the infantry, and their platoon was proficient in beach landings. Yeah. One of those guys. He came home, settled down, and got married three months after getting out of the service. He landed a job as a trucker, bought a house, and drove that truck for thirty six years until he retired. He got two and three week vacations every year, so he and the family loaded up the car and hit the road, like we knew we were all supposed to do. They saw all of the major sites, and after he retired and they bought a RV, a lot of the minor sites, all over the country.
His wife didn’t make this trip. She was in hospice care. She had major Alzheimer’s. Dementia. She didn’t know who anyone was anymore. They were waiting for her to die. He got tears in his eyes when he told me this. He didn’t know what he was going to do. So, to keep him from thinking about his dying wife, we talked about everything under the sun. I told him about me and Cathy, what we were doing, and where we were going. He told me all about his grown children and even the granddaughter that had just high-tailed it to Alaska, because it sounded like fun.
We parted company in Austin, but I thought about this man a lot. Counting his three grown children, their four grown children, and two or three of THEIR children, he was directly responsible for the lives of ten people, all of whom, by his account, are model citizens, good, family-oriented people, with strong roots in the community and good jobs. Incredible. And I wondered, as I said good-bye to him, how long his wife would have to live, and how long he would go on without her before he, too, joined her. Sixty two years.
I never even got his name.
ArmadilloCon has blossomed in the last six years into my favorite convention; it’s the perfect mix of socializing and networking, and it’s kept its reputation as a literary SF con without going the way of the snooty elitist. How else do you explain a series of Gorilla panels, each one better attended than the last, for the last four years? Exactly.
This year was a kind of homecoming for me. A chance to visit Austin and friends, sure, but also a chance to relax a little bit. Last year’s appearance at ArmadilloCon included doing emergency toastmaster duties, as well as a VCRP performance of King Kong on Saturday night, in addition to any panels I might be on. It was during our move to Vernon, as well, and I had, literally, no idea what the future would hold for us.
Coming back a year later, I was in “promote the movie theater” mode, since everyone had seen the article Rick Klaw had written about the Vernon Plaza a few weeks ago. And talk about it, I did. A great many friends and well-wishers wanted to know all about what we were doing, how it was going, etc. I told them the truth: great, but we’re still learning.
All of the panels this year were great; exceptionally entertaining and well-programmed. The whole con, in fact, ran like a top. This was, of course, the same group that put together and ran the World Fantasy Convention in Austin, last year. So, this show, according to most of con-staff, was a breeze.
1. Hanging with Chris Roberson’s Bunch-o-Drunks (you know who you are)
2. Hitting it off with the dark-haired, buxom, big-eyed waitress on Friday morning and getting, in return, a hotel restaurant breakfast that for once in my life was the equal to the price I paid for it. She gave me eleven strips of bacon, I swear to god.
3. Getting to meet my good friend Peggy’s cousin, who acted just like Peggy in really amusing ways.
4. The RevSF panel, which was not only well-attended, but really interesting to see how many of us could fit into a room.
5. Our subsequent trip to Dog Almighty (a hot dog restaurant in Austin). I got Corn Dogs. They were awesome.
6. Listening to con-chair pimp her dead dad to sell stuff at the charity auction. I felt like a ghoul (in a late night horror show TV host sort of way). It was her father’s No-Kill animal shelter that we were trying to raise money for.
7. On the Lost panel, listening to one of the other panelists insist that there has to be a logical explanation of what’s up with the island. Me, Aaron DeOrive, and Jess Nevins got it right: it’s either Purgatory, or it’s quantum physics at play—and the two don’t necessarily cancel each other out. Our fellow panelist thought we were all wrong, and that logic and hard science would rule the day. I almost told him to stop watching the show now, because he was going to explode when he finds out it doesn’t make sense, but I kept mum.
8. When the Barbarella-Burlesque-Dancers showed up at the RevolutionSF party, and (of course) sucked all of the manly attention out of the room, it was the height of gratifying to have one of the dancers point a finger at me and sashay over, saying, “Don’t I know you?” The three geeks I was talking to were mightily impressed, don’tcha know.
9. The Liar’s Panel, which ended up being “just my thing,” despite never having done it before. I had a great wingman in Jess Nevins, and a fabulous leader in Jay Lake, but in the end, it was all about delivery. And I can deadpan it, I tell you what. This is like the convention-goers version of “the Aristocrats” joke; how Out-There-Where-The-Buses-Don’t-Run can you get? Pretty far, it would seem. The audience loved it.10. Panel Crashing with Jess Nevins. There were several panels which we rightly thought we should have been on, so we took it upon ourselves to sit in the front row of these panels and either heckle our friends or stimulate the conversation. No one really seemed to mind, either.
One of the things that everyone was talking about was the fact that the World Fantasy Awards hadn’t been announced yet. Usually, they hit right around ArmadilloCon every year, but for some reason, were running a wee-bit late. There were a number of folks onhand, myself included, who were waiting on those nominations with baited breath. Many of us, in fact, decided we weren’t going to talk about it. That’ll show ‘em. Yeah!
But after I left the con, I found out early (whoops!) that I had been nominated for Special Award: Professional for Blood & Thunder. This is huge. And an honor. And very, very cool. And huge. This year, the categories are all strong, filled with folks who deserve to win, along with friends and acquaintances I’ve known for a while (who also deserve to win), and I don’t begrudge anyone in my category. We’ll see how it all shakes out. The Awards are given out during the WFC, in the first week of November, in Sarasota Springs, New York. Wish me luck, folks. I’m going to need it.