It's 5:40 pm on Sunday at Balticon, and I'm coming to you through the miracle of wi-fi in the hotel common areas. Laura and I have been having a fine time so far, despite not having seen much of the con programming.
We took Amtrak down from New York late Friday morning, checked in, and immediately set out to find lunch. Our first choice, the Womens Industrial Exchange Restaurant (where Laura joked I intended to exchange her for an industrial model), was closed for renovation, so we ended up at a deli called David & Dad's. Good burgers, and fries with brown gravy. Yeah! When Laura added our two Stewart's sodas to the bill herself, I predicted she had probably messed up the deli's billing system. The joke was on methe fellow at the counter told us the only system they used at David & Dad's was the honor system.
Programming started at 4:00, and also started a four-hour-straight block of programming for me. I hosted a kaffeklatch from 4 to 6 on the topic of writing your memoirs (fortunately not on selling your memoirs). Only one person showed upthe programming person who had scheduled me for it! Laura and I had a fine time listening to her life story, and I think we may have managed to get a few pointers across too.
At 6 was a panel on what happened to the future we were promised in our youth. Where are our rocket packs and flying cars??? Dave Kirtley and I were the obligatory silent voices next to Michael Swanwick and Kathryn Cramer, though actually we both managed to get a few good comments in. I made the point early that the generation growing up today have different myths of the future of the sort that include jacking in and virtual reality, and that they will no doubt be disappointed when they're aging and the world again surprises us with a whole different set of miracles. I also shared our experiences with our Roomba, the robot vacuum cleaner, and got a big laugh when I pointed out that the manufacturer is called iRobot.
Seven o'clock I "moderated" a panel on using technobabble as a tool for writing plausible hard SF. It was a traumatic experience, with all sorts of crosstalk and irelevance and appreciative discussion of Enterprise. I don't wish to relive it.
Laura and I then attended a panel on small-press publishing which Scott Edelman and Steve Miller were on. Then we hijacked an unsuspecting Dave Kirtley and took him to dinner at an Afghani restaurant called The Helmand that we had discovered through Vindigo. The food was excellent, excellent, excellent, even if I can't really describe any of it. We got back to the hotel around midnight, then bopped up to the Tor suite where an early bacchanal was in its final stages. Toby Buckell showed up there, and Laura ended up in a spirited discussion with Darrell Schweitzer. We crashed at one.
Saturday morning, Laura and I wandered down to the Inner Harbor to scare up some breakfast. We ended up coming back hotelwards and eating at Burke's Restaurant, est. 1934. We attended a Scott Edelman panel on literary scams at one, then grabbed a cab with Scott to visit the American Dime Museum, a museum devoted to the remembrance and celebration of carnival dimeshows and their contents. Some of my favorite displays there were the fish covered with feathers and the turd which was supposedly deposited by a person hoping to pass it off as the last turd Lincoln passed before his assassination. I'll post some pictures after we get home.
After the museum, Laura and Scott and I grabbed some salad in the hotel restaurant. We caught Toby Buckell's reading at 7:30, then met up with a huge group of people Toby had accreted for a dinner expedition. We totaled 17, including George Scithers, Bud Sparhawk, Paul Melko, Dave Kirtley, and a cast of thousands. After hiking down to the Inner Harbor and discovering that every chain restaurant had a wait of approximately three millennia to get a table, the group splintered into at least three separate gangs, which enable Laura and Scott and I to sneak onto a water taxi for a splendid 45-minute ride across the harbor (including one transfer at Fells Point) to check off one point of Laura's Baltimore agendaeating crabs at Bo Brooks Crabhouse.
None of the three of us had ever eaten whole crabs before, and were startled when the waitress covered our table with butcher paper and dumped a dozen steaming red spice-crusted crabs onto our table. She demonstrated to us how to disassemble them properly, and Laura let out a howl when the waitress pointed out the lungs and told us to pull them out and set them aside. The crabs were deliciousespecially with cold beerperhaps more so because we had to work for every morsel. And hardly five minutes went by without a crack about crab lungs.
I have to say, God bless the animal that comes with a pull-tab.
We finished up around 11:05 and ordered desserts to go so we could make the last water taxi connection back to the Inner Harbor at 11:30. After a fast walk to the dock, we caught the taxi barely in time and ate our desserts on the water.
Sunday morning, this morning, Laura and I had a late breakfast at the hotel. She went off to donate blood while I sat in the lobby checking email and beginning this post. When she returned, we went to the art show to check on the bidding for a painting that Laura was bidding on. We placed the fifth bid, which means the painting went to voice auction this afternoon. We don't know yet what happened, but we hope no one had the stones to bid past us.
Then, having checked the con schedule and finding nothing of interest for the next several hours, Laura and I walked to the Inner Harbor again to try to visit the Aquarium. They were already selling tickets for 5:00 pm entry, so we decided to skip that. Instead we walked to the gorgeous Barnes & Noble in the old power plant, where I bought John Clute's Appleseed and two copies of Nebula Showcase 2003, edited by Nancy Kress. I had to, because I discovered that she had used my name in her introduction. (!!!)
Then we walked to Fells Point and visited the world's greatest used music store, Sound Garden. We never get out of there without doing serious damage to our bank accounts, but today was the worst session ever. We spent nearly a hundred bucks apiece. I walked away with two Fatboy Slims, one Pink Floyd, one Fugees, one King Crimson, and DVD copies of the unrated Y Tu Mama Tambien and the Wilco documentary I Am Trying to Break Your Heart.
Then we walked around the corner and up the street to check off another point on the Laura Baltimore agendacrab cakes. We had them at Crabby Dicks, plus crab balls, crab legs, hush puppies, and beer, while at the same time playing a video trivia game via remote keyboards at our tables versus everyone else in the bar. I won two of the three rounds, and Laura came in second.
Then we hustled back to the hotel, spurred by the voice-mail promise of a genuine Cuban cigar that Scott Edelman brought back with him on his recent legal jaunt to Cuba. I have a panel at 6:00 pm on identity theft, and then we'll be finding a quiet corner to stink up with the cigar, plus photos of Cuba on Scott's laptop. Then I'm on a panel on alien theology at ten freaking o'clock, and we return home on a 10:00 train tomorrow morning.
And that's the news so far from Baltimore.