I arrived at the station bright and early on Thursday morning, to take the train down to Portland - like I've done so many times before. The train, whose departure time changed often enough for me to have printed out at least two separate tickets that Amtrak sent out as the timetable was amended, was due to depart at 8:32 AM. This of course meant that I had to be at the station by 8 at the latest, which in turn meant that I had to leave FOR the station no later than 7:30, which in turn meant waking up at oh-dark-hundred (for me) in order to get ready - all of which was accomplished, and there I was, at the right time and the right place, waiting.
The barriers went down at the appointed time... but instead of my train one of those long endless freight trains lumbered past for what seemed like five solid minutes. And then it was through and gone and out came the announcement. Ladies and gentlemen, the Amtrak train you are all here for has been delayed out of Vancouver BC "because of wind and rain" and will be 20 minutes late.
It was closer to 9 AM that we finally got onto our train and it lumbered off southwards.
I asked the conductor what effect the late departure might have on the estimated arrival time in Portland. He said he thought they would just cut the time in Seattle layover down, and arrival in Portland would not be (greatly) affected. I figured maybe we might be half an hour late - but the Amtrak app I donwloaded on my tablet kept teling me that the estimated time of arrival in Portland was 3:15 - which was within the ballpark - right until the moment (after we had stopped for the fourth time, to let past a freight train or to allow a northbound passenger train with "A broken air hose" to limp past us in the direction from which we had just come) it read 3:34. And then 3:48. And then... gentle reader... we came to a halt just on the Oregon side of the Columbia River Bridge. And then just sat there. And sat there. And sat there. And nobody was really saying anything to us at all. And time... kept on passing.
We were literally fifteen minutes out of Portland. But we sat there. And sat there. And sat there. TWO HOURS AND THIRTY EIGHT MINUTES LATER another engine attached itself to our train (which had "broken down" as we were informed) and we were finally dragged into Portland station. Where we found out the real cause of the problem.
*The train. Had.Run.Out.Of.Gas.*
My immediate cynical response to that was, oh great, the Republicans take over the country and not even the trains can run properly the next day. SOmeone else, after I arrived at the con hotel and was plied with a glass of wine to restore my equanimity, suggested it was a good thing I hadn't decided to FLY down to Portland.
Oh, it's all very funny. In retrospect.
Turns out that someone else's truck broke down half an hour outside Portland, and Orycon's own truck broke down TWICE this weekend, so it seems that somebody somewhere had forgotten to offer the proper goat to some transportation god this year. But I fully intend to inquire if the train has its full complement of gas when it comes time for the return journey.
So, then, anyway. All that aside, I was at Orycon. Friends were everywhere. I was hailed across the hotel lobby twice by people who spied me on the other side of the hall. It is so ENERGISING, so good for one, to come to a con like this, a con where (like the proverbial bar called Cheers) everybody knows your name.
Friday morning, armed with a good solid double-shot latte, I sailed forth into con proper. This entailed, first of all, sitting in the Green Room catching up with everybody. And then, at 2PM it was time for my first panel, "Dark Fairy Tales".
I ambled across to the proper venue with another panelist, and we discovered several other people involved with the panel sitting on the floor outside the designated room, whose doors were closed, patiently waiting for our own appointed hour. But they didn't appear to have checked as to whether anything else was really going on inside that room at all - and when we finally did so a bunch of jaws dropped collectively when we discovered that the room in question contained three towering stacks of chairs. That was ALL. They hadn't been set oout in panel conformation, nor was there a panel table there, nothing of the sort. So we all just assumed that (this being a Dark Fairy Tales panel) the goblins had been there before us. Some of us set to getting the chairs into a useable conformation. Someone else was sent out in pursuit of hotel staff and a table. The table arrived; so did a snazzy elegant black tablecloth, and a gold table skirt. From a DIY panel this was turning into some style.
The panel began with audience of something like four people and quickly grew to at least a dozen or more - and then it started with an astonishing display of erudition as panelists quoted from memory long sections of various Shakespearean plays (what did it have to do with fairy tales, you might ask? why, probably not much. What of it...?) That panel being over, I had to run over to an etirely different wing of the hotel for my next panel, on dialogue. That went rather nicely (at least this room had the proper set up already in place - panel table, audience seating..) and then I had a bit of a break, and then the following panel, on the "Death of the standalone novel" (or lack thereof, as it were). Some interesting points were made here - but just before we began this nice young man came up to the front of the room and addressed me and said that I had "an enchanting way of expressing myself" on my panels (apparently he had attended another on which I had been, earlier that afternoon) and that it probably meant that I was "a great writer" - all I could do was grin in delight and say thank you very much. I always try to "give good panel". It is nice to know that it gets noticed, sometimes.
Had a nice dinner with a friend. Visited the dealer's room, bought Jay Lake's final story collection in memory of my lost friend, came meandering over again to the main lobby, got hailed once again by a bunch of people having drinks in the bar. So I joined them, had a nice chocolate Martini (you can blame the Gvernor's Club bar at the Wiscon hotel for introducing me to these and for providing the bar which all other chocmartinis had to meet in order to be considered good... this one came pretty close...) the conversation ranged from winter sports and attendant injuries to how to give a compliment to a lady without skeeving her out. A great con unwind evening. But in the end of it I found myself in the mood for solitary pursuits and not partying and so I retired to my room. (And wrote this report...)
It's now close to midnight, I'd better meander off to bed, I have a panel tomorrow morning which I am supposed to be moderating and I have to be bright eyed and bushy tailed for that. Saturday Orycon report will follow anon.
In the meantime, good night all - and it's off to sleep, perchance to dream.
Tomorrow is almost here.