I hadn’t been to a World Science Fiction Convention in years…I think the last one I did was the last two days of the Philadelphia Millennium Worldcon in 2001. So it had been a decade since I’d attended one! (They’re usually held over Labor Day weekend, and for years I’ve been teaching writing workshops at Dragon*Con.)
But this year, Worldcon and Dragon*Con were a little less than 2 weeks apart. Disney was willing to send me to Renovation to promote Pirates of the Caribbean: The Price of Freedom, so that seemed like a great opportunity to attend!
Michael and I flew out on Tuesday, August 16. We had a long flight to Reno, changing planes several times. (Michael always looks for the best fare, and he’s a whiz at finding them!) It was a long day, and we didn’t always get to sit together, since Disney had booked my ticket. I got the “economy plus” tickets on United and America, and boy, did I appreciate that extra leg room! I knew I was going to be on a Pirate panel with Tim Powers and other piratical experts, so I was brushing up on my pirate lore in flight, reviewing facts and figures in a nutshell in “The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Pirates.” While I was writing I knew all my pirate lore cold, but stuff fades when you’re not using it every day.
When we landed in Reno, of course there were games and slots waiting the moment we walked off the plane. I’d never been to Reno, but I’ve been to Las Vegas a couple of times, so it seemed quite similar. I confess that seeing advertisements for escort services right there in baggage claim made my eyes open wide. I’m just a lil country gal from the sticks at heart, and here I was, among the fleshpots, in a smaller rendition of Sin City.
Disney had booked my reservation for the Peppermill, the hotel 1.7 miles from the Reno Convention Center. I think our room received some kind of upgrade. It was good-sized, and contained an enormous jacuzzi about five feet from the king-sized bed. The jacuzzi would easily accommodate two adults, and there was a mirror in the ceiling above it. The bathroom was all stone tiles, and there was a gizmo in the shower stall that would turn it into a sauna. We took pictures of it before we left.
The décor in the Peppermill deserves a mention. I guess I’d characterize it as “pseudo-Roman-Tuscan-opulent-while- trying- to-be- elegant-but- nevertheless- tacky-but-in-a-fun-way.” Paintings in the style of Alma Tadema, or copies of his works (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lawrence_Alma-Tadema) lined the corridors with their baroque gold and wood-carved crown mouldings. White “marble” copies of Roman statues (many of them of dubious verisimilitude compared to the originals) decorated the outside, and bronze Roman style statues splashed in the fountains and the pool. The pool area was sybaritic. . . there is no other word. The bottoms of the swimming pools boasted glittering mosaics of the sun, mythological animals, etc. Something to look at while one swam laps…
The Peppermill had a spa in addition to the casino, and there the hotel had four or five Alma Tadema originals, borrowed from collections all over the world. They were much better than most of the copies. In addition to the enormous casino, the hotel boasted at least seven different restaurants, a workout room, the pools, and two wedding chapels. More about the restaurants later, when I talk about dinner dates.
Michael and I went to bed Tuesday night in a bed high enough that I had to climb up to get into it.
The next morning, Wednesday, I woke up early due to jet-lag (6 AM felt like 9 AM to me!). I pulled on some clothes and went exploring in the hotel, which I was very glad about later on. Scoped out where everything was…restaurants, casino (which filled most of the main floor) pools, etc. When I walked through the casino, I realized people are free to smoke in the casinos, which made me, with my asthma, scurry through them, holding my breath. I am NOT a gambler. Never seen the point, and my New England forebears taught me not to waste money, so it’s no hardship on me not to play. But I did, on the advice of a Brit fella I met while standing in line, pick up a “Player’s card” for people over 55. This proved to be a really good idea. It had great discounts, and we used it the whole time we were in Reno.
When I got back to the room, Michael was still asleep, but groggily agreed to get up and go to breakfast with me. We went downstairs to the “Island Buffet.” My Player’s card got us two breakfasts for the price of one, yay. The buffet was a temptation to eat too much, but since I’d already walked around the hotel for an hour or so, I didn’t feel too guilty about that. I stuck to (mostly) healthy stuff, and they had LOTS of beautiful fresh fruit.
When we went back up to the room, I put on my new lavender jacket, purple tank and white crop pants for the day’s activities. For the ease of Peppermill con-goers, there was a shuttle bus. But the darned thing was quite a hike away from the room, and one had to wait in the broiling sun for up to half 25 minutes to get on it. And I never did figure out where to catch it to go BACK to the Peppermill from the Atlantis or the convention center…especially after dark. So I wound up grabbing a cab most of the time, and often got to share cab rides, which worked out well.
My 1:00 PM panel was titled “Tourists: Creating Characters and Stories in an Existing World.” Brandon Sanderson didn’t make it to the panel, but Paul Cornell, Dean Wesley Smith, and Melinda Snodgrass and I had a good time sharing experiences while writing tie-in fiction. After the panel, I headed over to find the SFWA Suite, which was in the Atlantis hotel, which adjoined the convention center.
The SFWA suite in the Atlantis was nice. I’ve worked in a dozen or more SFWA suites during Worldcons, but this time I sternly resisted the urge to start mixing drinks or hauling out trash. I’d done a LOT of walking by that time, so I was glad to just sit down and rest, while watching Jim Fiscus and other SFWA volunteers scurry around, unpacking. After the suite supplies were mostly unpacked and stowed, Western Regional Director Jim Fiscus, Michael and I went to dinner in “The Purple Parrot” in the Atlantis. The food was. . . okay. Plentiful. I took a box back to the room with me, glad we had a fridge in the room.
Michael and I took a jacuzzi. The hot water was nice, though that mirror overhead left us giggling.
(More to come…)