Monday, July 21, 2014

My (Delayed) Liberty Con AAR, Part I

Last month, I took a trip to Chattanooga to attend my very first Liberty Con, and even though the drive was as insanely long as my annual drive to Atlanta, the stiff joints and numb gluteus maximus were totally worth it. Liberty Con, you see, is My People. The con com is both friendly and open-minded; consequently, the con itself attracts a strong contingent of Barflies, Huns, and other right-leaning science fiction fans and conservative/libertarian viewpoints are very well represented. Hell: I'm tempted to dub Liberty Con "Southern Libertarian Con" and then call it a night because, let's be honest, that's pretty much what it was.

But let's start at the beginning. Thursday morning, I started off my adventure by winding my way through Shenandoah National Park via the renowned Skyline Drive. Everyone should do this at least once; every time the forest opens up, you are treated to stunning panoramas of the Shenandoah Valley that really have to be seen to be fully appreciated. Your chances of running into the local wildlife while on the Drive are also pretty high, as I discovered when, at one point, I had to slow down to allow a black bear to amble its way across the road.

Many, many hours later, I rolled into Chattanooga and immediately got lost. Fortunately, the nice hipster girl at the front desk of the Crash Pad - my temporary place of residence for the weekend - was able to turn me around and steer me back in the right direction. The Crash Pad, by the way, is the hostel situated a few blocks away from the Chattanooga Choo-Choo, and as hostels go, it was definitely on the "high end." The bunk rooms and bathrooms were both extremely well-maintained, and I had my own locked luggage cabinet, power outlets, and a privacy curtain. At the very least, I think I made out better than Cedar Sanderson, who informed me the following day that her Days Inn (on Ringgold Road) was a pretty seedy dive. At the Crash Pad, I didn't have to worry about filthy linens or blood stains on my mattress. The only downside to sharing a room with a bunch of strangers is that I couldn't sleep in! At 8 AM, without fail, people would start getting up and unzipping their suitcases, and as I am a light sleeper and very, very sensitive to ambient noises, that meant I was forced out of bed as well.

Which means that come Friday morning, I was at the Choo-Choo well before most of the con crowd. On the upside, this gave me the perfect opportunity to orient myself and find all the convention rooms, which were scattered throughout the complex. Readings were held in one of the Victorian train cars. Other events were held in a second floor theater in the main building. Still more events were held in the building next to the parking garage. Liberty Con may be 1.5% of the size of Dragon Con, but for me, it demanded almost as much walking -- especially since my parents were staying in Hotel 3, which was even further away from the rest of the action. Granted, I could've occasionally hitched a ride on one of the hotel's complimentary carts, but I figured all the exercise would allow me to stuff my face with Moon Pies (Chattanooga staples, they are!), ice cream, and other con-related junk.

In addition to being sprawling in size, the Choo-Choo is also quite cute in a kitschy way. If you were walking to the ice cream shop or the con suite, you were guaranteed to be greeted by ZOLTAR THE FORTUNE TELLER, who really, really wanted you to pop in a few quarters so he could tell you your future. And past good-old ZOLTAR was a portrait machine that insisted, on a continuous loop, that its rendering of your image would be a true work of art. I will say this, though: The hotel gift shop was selling some genuinely nice items. I bought a t-shirt and a few bracelets. Mom went to the shop on Saturday and spent quite a bit more on jewelry and an antique vanity set.

For lunch on Friday, I walked downtown to the City Cafe to meet Cedar Sanderson, Sanford Begley (who would so get in trouble for his flirting if my hoo-ha were inclined to glitter), and Vanessa and Matt Landry. Apathetic waitress aside, the food was good and the conversation was even better. While discussing the PC nonsense that has infected SFWA and certain con coms that shall remain nameless, I joked at one point that it's hardly "safe" to be a practicing Christian in any fannish space outside cons held in the Southeast, and Cedar encouraged me to expand upon that comment in a blog post; later this week, I shall oblige her, because there really are some nasty anti-Christian memes floating around in the sci-fi/fantasy fandom that need to be called out for what they are -- and plus, I think it might be fun to use the Social Justice Warriors' own rhetoric against them.

After lunch, I went to the first few science panels; at 3 PM was a presentation on the Keystone XL pipeline, and at 4 PM was a presentation on solar weather. Both were quite interesting and informative. When 5 PM rolled around, however, it was finally time for Opening Ceremonies! Baen's Jim Minz was the MC, and he made hay out of the fact that he was a Northerner in a con full of Southerners by pulling out a carpet bag and declaring that a Yank was finally going to tell us how to run things. As you might imagine, the audience assembled thought that was hilarious.

Mom and Dad, meanwhile, were still on the road. They decided to leave the family abode on Friday morning, so they didn't arrive at the con until later in the evening. After Opening Ceremonies, I finally caught up with them and we headed to the hotel's restaurant for dinner. We all agreed that Dad's portion of fried chicken that night was enormous enough to feed all of us; it looked like the kitchen gave him the entire bird! But the food at said restaurant did taste pretty good overall, which is more than I can say for other hotel-associated establishments I've visited in my time. Indeed, between the Gardens and the Con Suite, I never really had to venture far to get a decent meal. Someone complained on Sunday that there wasn't enough junk in the Con Suite, but in all honesty, I really appreciated the salads and vegetable spreads the indefatigable Vonn provided. As I suggested above, I do like eating junk at con, but my stomach can only take so much before I develop a serious case of heartburn; the occasional carrot, therefore, was a godsend.

Late Friday night, Mom, Dad, and I trooped off to Sarah Hoyt's reading -- and I swear to you that Sarah and I must have the same brain wiring gene. At one time, apparently, she tried to write a Regency romance, but, in her words, she "got bored," and after one earnest and exquisitely described chapter, one of the characters turned into a giant alien spider and started eating everyone in the ballroom. Readers who know me: Doesn't that sound like something I would do if I were forced into similar circumstances? Somewhere deep in Europe's distant past, Sarah's ancestors and mine must be related.

And that -- was pretty much the end of our Friday at the con. I did make a quick appearance at the Con Suite to reconnect with Sue Phillips and some other Dragon Con folks, but these days, I find it very difficult to stay up past midnight, so it wasn't long before I was trundling off to bed.

Tomorrow: Saturday & Sunday!   

1 comment:

  1. As Dan assures us that we can only read that novel after Sarah is dead, and we certainly don't ever want to wish such a thing for our very own Evil Space Princess, I think this means you'll have to write it. :)