I know that I have been doing this trip for six years now but I have finally boiled down the way to sanely traverse Chicago. First, leave early so as to avoid rush hour(s). Leaving Pittsburgh at 7am will get you through Chicago before the evening rush. Sort of. The traffic is building by that time but it's not too bad. Second, once you cross the skyway, keep left. Just stay to the left and you will get through without having to panic about watching signs and highway numbers.
Immediately after checking and while waiting for a luggage cart, I ran into Jim Trent. He is the designer/publisher of the steampunk card game “Twisted Skies
” which includes a card of me. (Which is awesome.) He told me that the year's of waiting for something to be done with the steampunk Civil War history I had written for Lord Bobbins was coming to an end. He had gotten permission to publish mine and other stories in the TeslaCon universe. (Which is awesome.) And he also told me he is working on a steampunk convention that would take place aboard the dreadnought USS Texas
near Houston. (Which is awesome.)
My first thought is about the cost of traveling to Texas. But when I compare the cost traveling to TeslaCon (over $100 in gas plus over $50 in highway tolls) to the cost of flying to Houston and back (estimated around $275), it's not undoable. Well, there's another $140 renting a car to get me from the airport to the hotel and then the con, still not exorbitant when added to the $400 I'd already be paying for four hotel nights, plus food, swag and con membership.
Man, when you spell it all out, convention going is expensive. Probably why I only traveled to three cons last year when several years back I peaked at going to eight cons in a year.
Jim was also somewhat freaked out in that I wasn't wearing my goggles yet. I pretty much wear them all weekend at any con so it is a part of my persona. Seeing my eyes is a rarity. As soon as I got upstairs into my room I put my goggles on and felt more myself.
There was a pool party Thursday night. I'm not much of a swimmer but I got the chance to break out my Union-style bathing suit. (“Johnny Reb don't surf.”) The hotel has a salt water pool, rather than using chlorine. I probably should have stayed longer as all the poolside photography happened after I had returned to my room. Pictures or it didn't happen.
First thing Friday morning was the dealer's room. Last year, RavenWorks
had a rifleman's coat that I really liked but instead of getting it then I put it off to think about whether I really wanted it that much and by the time I had decided, yes, I did want it, someone else had claimed it. I wasn't going to make the same mistake this year. I could have purchased it online in the meantime and saved a little bit of money but I wanted to put the coat on and make sure it fit.
It did and I dropped the $200 for it right there. Very “Tombstone.” The next thing I want to get is the right hat. Specifically, the kind of hat worn by Lee Van Cleef in “The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly” and just about any other spaghetti western he was in. I had ordered such a hat from Hollywood Prop
but was terribly disappointed in the quality. It seemed like cardboard covered in felt, unlike the slouch
hat I had gotten from Gentleman's Emporium for about the same price.
I have been looking into custom hat makers, surprised that the style is not more common amongst the mid-tier dealers (such as I consider Gentleman's Emporium) and also deterred by the cost, double and more than what I paid for my slouch hat.
I went to opening ceremonies but paid absolutely no attention to the goings on. I was in the back talking with someone which, in honesty, is the bulk of the reason I go to conventions; to meet with people I done get to talk to except through something like Facebook. And I've been going to these things for six years now, opening ceremonies, even with the immersion script, have settled into a predictable pattern.
As the opening ceremony was rolling around, it was beginning to snow. The first weather warnings were for a lot of snow; 9-14 inches. The snow that I saw on Friday evening didn't seem to be coming down at such a rate, which was borne out the next morning when there was only about 4 inches on the ground. Other places got more and it was noted that the weather or the threat of weather had deterred some people from attending the con. I've driven in some really awful weather for less incentive so I wasn't myself concerned.
On Saturday I attended a presentation by the proprietor of Bare Knuckle Barbery
wherein he presented a tutorial on wet shaving. I had been to other presentations on shaving and had learned quite a bit, improving my own shave. This was expanded on.
For example, I recognize that when I go to conventions, razor burn increases. I always attributed this to the fact that I was trying for a clean shave 3 or 4 days in a row whereas, under normal circumstances, I perform a “get the itchy beard off my face” kind of shave every 3 or 4 days. What I learned was that the lousy shave at cons was more likely attributable to hard water. I had noticed when showering, the shampoo wouldn't lather well, which I had attributed to cheap hotel shampoo, but never connected this to my problems shaving as well.
The offered solution was a pinch of salt in the shaving cup water.
And that was the second thing. I typically use a shaving foam in a can. “Goo in a can” as the proprietor called it. I had always assumed that it was pretty much soap and moisturizers in a pressurized can, not realizing all the chemistry that was going on. You see, canned shaving foams use isobutane to get your beard hairs to stand up, and this is accomplished by irritating the skin, causing it to swell and essentially squeeze the hair follicles into standing at attention. You then need the multiple blades, one to lift the hair and additional blades to cut them off because, otherwise, when the swelling subsides, the stubble appears instantly. Moisturizers are added to try to mitigate the damage produced by the chemicals and awful shave.
In wet shaving (with a cup and a brush) the soap changes the surface tension of water, allowing the hair to stand naturally. The hot water, soap and action of the brush clean away the crud that collects at the base of the hair. The skin is relaxed so, when the blade cuts, it does so closer to the root of the hair. In all, these allow for a cleaner, smoother, and less painful shave.
I had been wanting to try out a more traditional shave but the presentation pushed me over the edge of my procrastination. From him I purchased a badger hair brush with a hand-turned wood handle, a cup, shaving cream and a safety razor. I didn't use those new things while at the con but have in the meantime and, yes, it's a much better shave.
It trying it in upstairs and downstairs bathrooms, though, I think I need something of a third option. Shaving is best done after the shower when the warmth has softened the beard hair (and the brush has soaked in very hot water during that time) which means the upstairs bathroom. But with the sink where it is and my being near sighted, this sort of shaving places me either too far away from the mirror or uncomfortably leaning toward it over the sink. I may need to get one of those mirrors on an expandable arm to get it where it closer to where I can see my face better.
Throughout the weekend I kept running into people asking if I was doing any presentations this year. I explained that life issues had prevented me from making any commitments. All were disappointed and complimentary of my past presentations. I spoke with Aloysius Fox, director of the Steampunk Symposium
and he asked if I had made any submissions to present at his con. I explained that life issues had prevented me from making any commitments. He asked again, more slowly this time, if I had made any submissions to present at his con.
I got the hint.
I have submitted to present at the Symposium and, over TeslaCon weekend, spent a lot of time thinking about what new presentations I should develop. “Victorian hoaxes, frauds, and pseudoscience” is one that I have been considering for quite some time but what I think I will devote my immediate time to is “Victorian Submarines.”
Apparently, local artist Jacob Wilson (and I guess that was his dad) saw me as I was stepping out for dinner. On my return they ambushed me with an offer of art. Jacob had previously done an action portrait
of Captain LaGrange
and, impressed by my own persona, wanted to do my portrait. As this was going to be commissioned art, I asked the obvious question of how much such a thing would cost me.
Now, I had commissioned some art in the past (and continue to do so). One, it supports artists. Two, it strokes my ego a little to see myself done up as if I were a celebrity super hero. Third, it humbles me to see others interpretation of my character.
Jacob's answer to the cost was “free.” They were going to just go ahead and do the artwork without my input and just gift it to me next year but having seen me at an opportune moment, they had a chance to talk to me first. I was flattered.
By chance, I turned my head and saw that someone had dropped a $20 bill in the hotel hallway. I gave it to Jacob in payment for art he hadn't even started yet and was going to just give away. Still free for me, though.
In the dealer hallway I commissioned a portrait from another artist named Terry Pavlet
One of the weekend presentations was on the US Camel Corps. Fascinating stuff. I recall seeing “The Last Camel Charge” in the Carnegie Library but neglected to pick it up to read. I will have to correct that failing.
Saturday night's entertainment was a circus. Literally. Acrobats. Magicians. Jugglers. I particularly liked the Mongol juggling bowling balls and performing other feats of strength. After that, I swung by the dance but a lot of the people I was used to seeing and talking to weren't around. I went back upstairs and there was a party just down the hall from my room. I hung out there for a little bit but abandoned that because, well, typical party. I left my room door open so that people on their way to or from the party might stop in to talk to me. That met with some marginal success.
The closing ceremony on Sunday afternoon was, again, much as I had come to expect. There was the typical drama of Dr. Proctocus showing up to spoil things. The video presentation. Proctocus getting brought down. Et cetera. At the very end, Lord Bobbins had a chair brought out for him to sit and give his closing monologue. As he spoke, the music in the background began to swell and, yes, he went there. “When you wish upon a star.”
As that happened, a person sitting behind me snored loudly.
I fear it has really gotten that predictable.
At the Dead Dog Dinner, I got the chance to hear Thomas Willeford
talk about his experience judging the “Steampunk'd
” reality television show. I wandered a few tables and Jim Trent embarrassed me by introducing me to the assembled as one of the best writers he knows. Hopefully, his anthology project will get me published so that people can decide whether that praise is justified.
After that, I was loading the car so that we could just leave in the morning and I slipped on the ice, jamming the P-38 can opener I always carry on my key chain into my hand. Balling my fist I, at least, didn't drip blood all over the hotel lobby before I got back to the room to bandage it up.
I've been sort of off my game for some time (as evidenced by the late posting and subsequent backdating of this blog posting). Hopefully this next year will mark an improvement in the situation when TeslaCon travels (virtually) to Paris.