My weekend in Baltimore got off to a portentous start Friday afternoon when, after having dragged my luggage seven or eight blocks from the train station, the woman at the Thrifty rental counter told me I would not be able to return my pre-reserved car to that location on Monday owing to their closure for the Memorial Day holiday. I would have to return it Tuesday or else take it to their BWI Airport location instead.
I grumbled, but I didn't have much recourse.
When I reached my hotel in Cockeysville, a mile or two from the con, and hauled my bags to my room, I found the door to my room standing open. I called the front desk and insisted that I be moved to another room. "Yes," I said, "I'm sure you're right, it was just a mistake made by housekeeping, but I still want a new room. I've lived in New York City for twelve years. I'm a little paranoid about things like that."
I hung out in my new room until late in the evening, working on a review that was due to Sci Fi Weekly. I made my 10:00 pm panel ("Liar's Panel on How to Get Published") fine, and had a good time, but had to get back to the hotel to finish my review before bed. On the way I stopped at a Giant supermarket to pick up some beer. Since I would be driving back and forth to the con I didn't figure on doing any drinking there, but I definitely wanted a few cold ones in the fridge in my suite for the end of each day. What I learned at the supermarket is that beer is only sold in liquor stores in Marylandand the liquor stores were all closed. I did manage to purchase a few apples, though.
On Saturday morning I recorded and edited a quick podcast in my hotel room. Then I was on a panel that afternoon about "High-Tech Ways to Promote Yourself," at which the other panelists spent a lot of time and energy trashing the idea of podcasting. I'm sorry, what part of "high-tech" did we not read in the panel description? I had a lovely dinner with Scott Edelman that evening, though, before crashing in my room. I was beginning to succumb to some kind of throat and chest congestion.
Sunday's breakfast was at a nearby IHOP (Stuffed Garden Crepes = good!), though I sat hungry in the car in the parking lot beforehand to hear the end of an NPR interview with Pat Metheny, Herbie Hancock, and Darryl Pitt about Michael Brecker's final recording, Pilgrimage. At noon I was on a panel about "Podcasting and Music" at which I had almost nothing to contribute. (Everyone else on the panel did actual music-based podcasts.) A happier time was had at the "Solo Podcasting" panel, which was well-moderated and at which everyone was able to contibute equally. That evening I drove into Baltimore to have dinner with a couple of former New Yorker friends who moved last year to Maryland. We had a terrific meal and a wonderful chat, but I crawled into bed that night with a worsening cough.
Monday morning my throat was sore enough that I was worried about my ability to read at 10:00 am. I packed most all my stuff, then set about revising one of the stories I wanted to read that morning. After checking out of the con and scoring a scanty breakfast (water, coffee, and a muffin), I hit the con. Three folks showed up for my reading, including the estimable jamietr, Elaine Brennan of Nippon 2007 English Language Programming (with a timely reminder for me to fill out my Worldcon Participant Questionnaire!), and Eric Sorenson, the fellow who used to provide hilarious parody lyrics of LDS hymns to my web site under the name Stephen Sondheim Smith.
What the audience lacked in size it made up in enthusiasm; I think my two stories went over pretty well. I read "Timesink" first, a story which will appear in a future issue of Electric Velocipede, and second I read the humorous unsold piece, "Care and Feeding of Your Piano," that I had revised that morning. (Laptops are wonderful things.)
After the reading, I immediately had to rush to an 11:00 am panel on "Voice Acting and Public Speaking." This panel featured no less than nine podcasters, and at the first opportunity I laid the groundwork for an early escape: "Before I address the question, I want to apologize for the fact that I'm going to have to jump out of this panel at 11:30. I have a car rental problem that can only be dealt with then, and I tell you this because, one, I don't want to seem rude, and two, I've always wanted to be applauded for leaving a panel."
This was a good panel too, at least as much as I was able to stay for, and when I did exit it was to a huge round of applause. I looked back over my shoulder and saw that cinemafreak was holding up a hand-lettered APPLAUSE sign. It was a good note on which to exit the con.
Because that's what I was doing. I had examined maps and timetables and charts and schedules of all sort online the evening before, and I had come to the conclusion that the only way I could guarantee being able to a) drive my rental car the thirty miles to the Thrifty facility near BWI, b) catch the free shuttle to the airport terminal, c) catch the light rail from the airport into Baltimore, d) transfer to the light rail spur that connects with Baltimore Penn Station, and e) make my reserved coach seat on the correct train home to New York, would be to leave the con at 11:30 am.
All of which I did. Whew!
I was about an hour north of Baltimore on the train when Paul Fischer, head of the Balticon new media programming track, called me, concerned that he hadn't seen me at all at the con. Ha ha ha ha ha! If only he knew.