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JournalCon DC – Part 1

August 23, 2004

I thought I’d probably let my JournalCon thoughts simmer in my brain a little before I tried to do a recap, but the universe is sending me signs (it does that, you know) that it’s time to write. First, I arrived at the airport the recommended two hours before flight time (not actually recommended to me, but what Southwest told someone else flying out of this airport at around the same time as I am, and I was not, not, not going to miss this flight because I have way too freaking much to do at home this week) but luckily encountered no lines at the airport at all. Marched right up to a self-service check-in machine, smiled when I saw I’d again been bumped to first class, then marched on through security. Did the people at Washington National give me crap about having more than two bags? No, they did not. Screeners in Tulsa, you obviously need to chill. The people in DC know I’ll consolidate my stuff while I’m waiting at the gate, which is a much nicer environment for that sort of thing than on the floor outside security like you Tulsa folks prefer to make people do. And then when I got down to the gate area, I scored a primo spot for setting up the laptop–a bench out of the flow of traffic behind one of the gate desks, complete with a view of the tarmac, a deep windowsill on which to set the machine, and a power outlet in easy reach. How could I not type?

So, JournalCon I arrived on Friday afternoon about an hour later than planned because we sat in the plane in Detroit for a pleasant interlude during which we got regular updates from the pilot, who seemed as frustrated as anyone about the delay. First it was going to be five minutes while maintenance completed an inspection step, then it was going to be twenty minutes more while they replaced the part in question. I’m strongly in favor of not flying with parts that fail inspection, so that was fine. But then when it turned out to be another half hour after that while they got the right replacement part instead of the wrong one, I got just a touch cranky. The final five or ten minutes while they convinced the computer that the plane was indeed okay to fly was an added bonus.

We finally took off about the time we were supposed to have arrived in DC. Ah, well, these things happen. I was just glad that I hadn’t arranged to meet up with other attendees at the airport like I’d been tempted to do. The most momentous fact about the flight is this: unlike the last two years, I was not finishing my swag on the tray table. (Good thing, too, because I was upgraded to first class and I think they probably frown on craft projects in that section. I think smearing Tacky Glue all over the place is a good way to get a “Not First Class Material” note in my permanent record with Northwest Airlines.) In fact, I got my swag done on Monday night, which beats the old record of one hour before landing by a margin so wide the Grand Canyon looks like a narrow slot in comparison. It helped that I went with a simpler pattern and made even fewer of them than last year. The color scheme of red and grey came from the backing fabric, which has portraits of George Washington and shields that say “Peace”, which I thought was appropriate for the location and this time of war (wait, not war, post-primary combat operations). I would have had the magnets complete even earlier if I hadn’t miscalculated and cut all the backing squares a half inch too small, necessitating piecing about half of them because I didn’t have enough fabric to just cut them all new. If I don’t screw up like that next year, who knows how far ahead I could have them done.

I haven’t flown in to DC since 8th grade and had forgotten how close Washington National is to everything. I could see the Pentagon right outside my window as we landed and spotted the dome of the Capitol as well as the Washington Monument and the Jefferson Memorial as we were taxiing to the gate. I might have taken pictures from the plane but I wasn’t sure how that would go over. If my going to the bathroom within a half hour of landing is a threat to national security, perhaps my gathering photographic data about landmarks would be a no-no as well.

I’d considered being all resourceful and urban and taking public transportation to the hotel, but decided to just get a cab since that’d be quicker and less stressful and I was running late already. Soon enough, I was at the Hotel Helix, which is way cooler than I could ever hope to be. I half expected the hotel to expel me as a foreign body–too unhip to be integrated. It’s also very colorful–those people who look at my purple bathroom and say “you picked this color?” would just about have a stroke here, what with the lime green walls and the hot pink lampshade and the orange counter. I liked all the color but was iffy about the faux fur throw on the bed. When I got to the audio-visual tower, I was reassured to see that even the hip people need idiot warnings; the big clingy sign which was right in the center of the tv screen said “Please remove before use”. Okay, I may not be cool but at least I know how to do stuff like that.

Before the Con got going, I took a walk around the neighborhood to get my bearings and also reassure myself that the restaurant I’d picked for our Saturday lunch group was indeed close to the hotel and otherwise appropriate. On that outing, I saw what I hoped would be the scariest site of the weekend–these giant stuffed animals staring out of a shop window. I imagined them coming to life after dark and roaming the neighborhood preying on pigeons and small dogs. On my way back, I was approached by a guy who asked me if I was from the area and when I said “no”, launched into a story about how he worked for the Metro and had broken his ATM card and needed money for a cab to pick up his mother, who was flying into Dulles and was not in good health, and he’d called the 800 number on his card and his bank said they’d get him a new card tomorrow, but that was too late and could I help him out. Hmm, let me think about this–he lives and works here but has no friends he can call to get a short-term loan (he had a cell phone in his hand), plus he opened his wallet while searching for his bent ATM card prop and revealed that he has plenty what looked like bills in there. No, I don’t really think I can help, at least not by giving him money and my address so he could reimburse me. He got offended when I suggested that he go to a bank (it was still during business hours, after all) and get a cash advance from a teller. “They don’t do that around here,” he said. “Sorry, they do it where I come from,” I shrugged and walked off. Dude, when I told you I was from Detroit, you probably should have saved your breath–haven’t you heard we’re mean? I felt just a tiny pang of “what if his story was legit?” but felt 100% vindicated when I saw the same guy hanging around near the hotel Saturday night, no doubt looking for other tourists to scam.

But wait, I was going to talk about JournalCon, wasn’t I? Yes, I’m just getting to that. Step one: Con check-in and the meet and greet. I felt much more comfortable in the hotel once I had a nametag and was surrounded by other people with nametags, since that meant I was much less likely to annoy random strangers. I’d batted only .500 in the lobby earlier during the pre-Con part of the weekend, introducing myself to Jim and his wife Nancy who seemed happy to talk to me but also foisting myself on another guy who while in the right demographic for online writing turned out to be in town for a training class and not to hang with the geeky Internet people. Sorry, dude.


And sorry to anyone who hoped I’d get all my JournalCon rambling into one entry this year, because the above is as far as I got before it was time to pack up and board the plane. That means at least one more linktastic installment to come.


One year ago, there was no entry.

Two years ago, I was rambling about sleep and dreams and crankiness.

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