We got started a little late Thursday. No major disasters, but some tribulations on the road. We arrived at the Ponderosa in Lebanon, IN, for dinner, to discover that that it is closed, which left us hunting for a place to eat. There was a Flying J Country Market at the next exit, which should have been good. This is a usually reliable buffet, but at this one, the selection was very poor and the food mediocre even by truck stop standards. birder2 took up driving at this point, because I was getting wobbly from accumulated sleep deprivation (yeah, I know that's not a good way to start the trip, but my brain did not get the memo). A light rain started. We decided it was time to give up in Coldwater, MI, where we couldn't find the Super 8 and ended up at a non-chain motel which quoted a room rate slightly higher than I wanted, but then it turned out that the rate included tax, so it actually ended up being less than the rate from the billboard for the Super 8 we couldn't find. My room featured a nightstand lamp which was not only not plugged in, there was no outlet anywhere near that it could be plugged into. We survived.
Friday was uneventful until we got to Canada. Canada apparently decided it didn't like us and wanted to make us miserable. After some delay getting to the customs booth, we were asked the usual questions without any apparent concern, but instead of being waved through, the guard spent an unusually long time with things inside the booth and told us we'd have to have the car searched. In all the times I've gone to Canada, they've never wanted to look in the car. But this time they did. They weren't very thorough -- if I had actually been smuggling anything, and I'd the presence of mind to actually hide it, they certainly wouldn't have found it. But we had to wait for 20 minutes for them to do this, and then we had to go into the building and present our passports again. This year, at least, I knew not to mention the word "filk", which must be French for "terrorist" or something because when I said it last year they gave us the third degree for about an hour. Then we had lunch at the cafe right by the border crossing, and started merrily driving toward Toronto. From London to Toronto, most of Highway 401 is three lanes in each direction; there's only a small bit a little east of London that's only two lanes. Which, of course, is where the accident was, and with 3 lanes worth of traffic trying to mash into one lane to get past, we were stuck for 40 minutes in a traffic jam. All of these annoyances together meant that by the time we got to the hotel and got checked in, it was too late to find dinner companions or a real dinner. We only had time for Subway.
Fortunately, things started to brighten up after that. Tom and Sue's wedding went quite well. I took a lot of pictures, even though things were crowded enough that I didn't have good views. But there were many cameras, so hopefully once they get all the pictures they'll be able to find good ones. I needed some down time, so I went and hid in my room for a while after the reception, where I had a little one on one time with my guitar which helped me to get into a musical frame of mind where I belonged, and only made it back down for the latter half of Heather Dale's concert. Next was the CD release party, where I got my CD autographed and everything, and ate more chocolate. And then I wandered down to open filk, where I took a seat in a fairly quiet room that quickly became busy. I enjoyed hearing other people sing, but I think I only did one song (Gilkyson's "The Solitary Singer", dangerously from memory because I've never transcribed it, but I managed to not screw up and it was well received). Sometime after midnight, the walls were starting to move in and out like seaweed in a current. After confirming with the person next to me in the circle that it was in fact me, and not the walls, that were having a problem I decided I should head for bed. Where I proceeded to not sleep very well... argh.
Saturday was off to a late start. I bet Tony's Reverse Engineering Songs workshop would have taught me something, had I managed to be there, but it was all I could do to get to the con suite by a little before one, where the wonderful con suite staff provided me with tasty and sustaining nourishment. Then I went down to the dealers because hbruton had mentioned a desire to see my photos, and a couple of people had mentioned that I should look at the wild cats card deck she had for sale. She was away from the table at billroper's concert so I went there and caught some of the concert too. (I would have been happy to have heard more of Bill, but I have a limited tolerance for back to back concerts, plus if I go to all the concerts I can't do anything else.) I caught up with hbruton after Bill's concert, and enjoyed looking at her art while she enjoyed looking at my photos. I got back to the main room in time to hear some of Interfilk guest Marilyn Miller. She'd been in the filk Friday night but I hadn't known who she was. On stage, she definitely showed that she was a good choice for Interfilk; she sings well and has good stage presence, and I hadn't known who she was. Next we had a concert by the Bedlam Bards, who demonstrated good musicianship and very good stage presence, especially in being able to deal with strings breaking and still give a good show. Cedric, too, had been in the filk Friday night but I hadn't known who he was. All of this was buildup to the main event, the GoH concert by vixy and Tony, which was of course made of awesome. We got the songs they're most famous for, but also some things we weren't expecting but which were fun. JoCo's "Re: Your Brains" translated into French, with signs to prompt the audience on the chorus. And even better use of signage to go with vixy's retelling of Gorey's immortal The Gashlycrumb Tinies to the tune of some song some people probably had heard by some band called the Butthole Surfers, which I had nearly busted a gut over at the dead dog at OVFF. Plus, sneaking instructions to the audience to sing Happy Birthday to Tony into the French patter around "Re: Your Brains" while Tony was apparently oblivious tuning. Never let someone on stage with you talk to the audience in a language you don't know.
I'd had zero luck arranging a dinner party ahead of time, but managed to end up getting filkcook, astro_not1, mbumby, and Clark together. We decided we were going to go to the caribbean roti place in the restaurant guide, and birder2 and I walked while they drove. Unfortunately, the place appears to have gone mythical, so from the other choices in that strip mall we selected Chang and Huang's, the Thai restaurant, where we had what I thought was a good meal and everyone else thought was an excellent meal. We got back as the banquet was breaking up, to learn that the Passovoys and the Savitzkys were selected for the Hall of Fame, and had entirely unnecessary but very yummy dessert in the con suite. I hid in my room for a while again, and then came down to the Alderwood, where an excellent filk centered around a lot of Celtic material by sexybass, decadentdave, and their bandmate Allan Thomson. I think I only did about three songs at that filk, but both Allan and Tim Jennings complimented me on my stuff, so I must have done something right. It was a good filk, and and I wasn't feeling unpleasantly tired, so I actually stayed in the filk room until close to 4.
Sunday, I got up very late. The con suite again provided me with lunch. I made it down in time to catch most of hbruton's presentation, Ju's concert (sadly, Katy unable to attend due to ill health), and the Hall of Fame concert. Made a dinner plan with janeg and phillip2637, which didn't go well at first as we drove off to a restaurant that neither of us in our separate cars could find, but luckily we both returned to the hotel and found each other, and we were directed to a different Indian place by the front desk. It's off Edlington, in the strip mall after the Popeye's (which also contains Chang and Huang's but you can't easily see that from the street), and called something like Shiraz Kabobs. It was a buffet, but the food was good, and it was quite cheap; we supplemented the buffet with a couple of dishes from the menu and were quite happily stuffed. We then came back for the Dead Penguin, which was a rollicking good filk which I reluctantly left early in the hopes of getting some sleep for the trip home. Not sure why I bothered -- I still couldn't sleep.
There is a restaurant in London called Tiger Jack's. It's a bit off the highway, and I don't know how janmagic and filkart ever found it, but they've been going for several years and have convinced us to join them for lunch on the way home a couple of times. This year, I was carefully following them when they drove past the turnoff for the 402, and I had an epic failure trying to find the restaurant. After apparently managing to turn down every street except the right one, I eventually stopped at a gas station and asked for directions, which were wrong (they told me to turn on a nonexistent street) but got me close enough that I could see the sign. Apparently it had taken the other car almost as long to get there after their wrong turn as we did after getting lost, and we managed to have a good meal. Note to self: Tiger Jacks is at 842 Wharnclife Rd. Coming off the 402, turn north on Wonderland Rd (do not cross the highway), turn right on Wharncliffe at the ATV shop, and then it's on the left. When we came out of the restaurant, I had no trouble getting back to the highway, it was just where it should have been. I just couldn't find it on the way to the restaurant.
Canada got one last parting shot at me, when we stopped at the duty free shop to get our GST refund and discovered that the program to refund GST had been canceled. We crossed back into the US with barely any delay at all and had no further incidents on the way home.
Somehow I've managed to mostly avoid mentioning the various conversations I had with people, the conversations that made me feel like a valued member of the FKO family. I left home on Thursday thinking that I probably should have stayed home, but by Friday night I was very glad to have gone. I may have found a lot to bitch about on the trip, but it was very good to me, and I'm very grateful to all of the FKO concom for all their efforts. I really needed a good con.