Saturday, August 14, 2010

GenCon 2010 - Day Zero

Another GenCon has come and gone, and I'm hoping to capture as much of what happened here as possible.

Day Zero, as mentioned in previous sets of GenCon posts, is the travel day, and like last year, Chip and I were traveling to GenCon by air. Unlike last year, we were making a stop-over in Milwaukee rather than flying non-stop, and we were also planning to arrive in the mid-afternoon rather than late at night (as I'd managed to get the travel day off from work, which I didn't do last year).

Of course, I couldn't easily fall asleep the night before GenCon; I did finally drift off somewhere between 4:30am and 7:15am, when I got back up again, and started to prepare for the journey to Chip's. I was about a half-hour behind our agreed-upon schedule by the time I picked him up in front of his condo, but we serendipitously caught the shuttle from the off-site airport parking location we stopped at just as we arrived and made up a good chunk of time that way.

Going through the TSA checkpoint in Minneapolis-St. Paul International is always a trial for me somehow. Either I get bogged down with all the crap I have with me and hold up the line for dozens of others (as happened two years ago) or end up losing my pants while sending my suspenders through the scanner (as happened last year). This year I actually lost my boarding pass somewhere between the point where I had to show the pass and my ID to the initial guard, and the point where I collect my stuff at the far end of the conveyor after the X-ray machine. Fortunately, I was able to request and get replacement boarding passes at the gate, but it was still embarassing and frustrating. Count me in with Patrick Smith and others in the crowd that believes that the giant checkpoints and the mind-set they inspire is really little more than 'security kabuki', meant to provide a reassuring show rather than actually make air travel significantly safer.

The flight to Milwaukee was on a small Embraer 135 or 145 with one seat on the left of the aisle and two on the right, with carry-on bins only on the right aisle. Chip ended up having to leave his bag in the jetway to be loaded into the plane, then picked it up on the tarmac in Milwaukee after we arrived. I'd checked a bag, and paid $20 for the privilege, so I didn't have to do this bag juggling.

Milwaukee was notable for two things -- there was a Johnny Rocket's located just across from where we were waiting for our connecting flight, with just enough time to enjoy a hearty lunch, and I kept noticing a woman in a tan jacket and blue shirt who'd sat across from us on the flight from Minneapolis. She'd gone into the Johnny Rocket's before us, then stopped in the bathroom next to the Johhny Rockets, and my fevered and lonely brain quickly concocted a tale by which she was curious about us (specifically me) but was too shy to actually approach, and so she hoped that by hanging about, I'd eventually get up the courage to approach her.

As I explained this to Chip, he uttered the first in a long series of exasperated "Oh, Dave"s for the weekend.

The flight into Indy was uneventful, and once we arrived, got our baggage assembled, and caught a cab into town, we pondered stopping by a grocery store to pick up perishables that our friends Aaron and Justin weren't able to bring in their car from the Twin Cities. The cabbie informed us that there wasn't any grocery store easily en route from the airport to downtown Indy, so we abandoned that scheme, and just as well as it turned out.

Last year, we'd been bumped up to the Presidential Suite, complete with player piano, kitchenette with toaster and refrigerator, and other perks. I'd requested 'a' suite from GenCon VIG housing, and didn't realize until I arrived and checked in that there's more than one kind of suite in the Indianapolis Downtown Marriott -- instead of the Presidential Suite, we were staying in an Executive Suite. It was still a suite, and had a writing desk and pull-out table, but didn't have nearly the space or amenities of the room we'd stayed in last year: there was a space with a coffee maker but no kitchenette with ice maker and refrigerator (so we ended up filling one of the two sinks with ice and keeping the few 'refrigerate after opening' things we'd brought in that), there was a bathroom but it was a normal-sized hotel bathroom, not the luxurious space with the separate granite shower and the 'water closet' to hold the commode. The room we got wasn't at all disappointing except in comparison to the room we'd expected to get, and this was one of the handful of minor disappointments that haunted us all weekend.

We still ended up inviting everyone over to visit after they all arrived in town, but rather than spend the evening in the room (which was decently roomy for four, but cramped for the eight we'd expected to entertain), we went to Shula's steakhouse for dinner. The temperature in Indy that day was about 100 degrees, and the air conditioning in the restaurant seemed only sporadically able to handle both the heat from the outside and the warmth of the bodies in the dining area, but the dinner was outstanding -- I had a Kansas City cut with sides of grilled asparagus and hash browns (I embarrassed myself a bit by forgetting that in a place as fancy as Shula's, the side dishes were all a la carte) -- and I settled in for a game of Betrayal at the House on the Hill with Chip, Aaron, and Justin feeling a slow descent into food coma. The combination of the hearty meal and the busy day allowed me to collapse easily into bed at about 11pm local time and drift off almost immediately to sleep.

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