Boskone Brrrr....

Unlike con reports for previous Boskones, this one doesn't start out with how miserable the trip was from the airport to the con hotel. The 45-minute bus ride from Logan to Framingham was the quickest ever, and the hotel shuttle, instead of taking forever to arrive, came almost immediately after we got off the bus.

I arrived still fighting off a cold and after a quick meal of whatever vegetarian stuff I could scrounge out of the volunteer pot-luck, I ducked out and went upstairs to my room. I found the perfect mindless entertainment to occupy my fevered brain: Independence Day was on the tube. Unfortunately, the cold tablet Priscilla Olson gave me was meant for day-time and not night, and the "non-drowsiness formula" combined with the incessant coughing of the man in the room next door, who sounded even worse than I did, meant a sleepless night.

Friday, February 18

I had been watching the Weather Channel the day before I left, which resulted in my substituting my down jacket (which I don't think I've worn since I lived in New Jersey when I first got married!) for my London Fog raincoat. The local weather reports had said that snow was likely to begin falling at noon on Friday. Sure enough, while sitting in the lobby talking to Kurt Siegel, we happened to glance outside at around noon when the snow started falling!

There was a little concern about whether the snow would affect folks planning to arrive on Friday, and we found out later that several local fans chose not to come in on Friday after work. One group from New York got into a non-injury car accident on the way and finally arrived the next afternoon.

My Program Ops supervisor Jim Mann hadn't arrived yet so I went upstairs to check my email and watch the snow falling outside my sixth-floor room window. I checked back down in Program Ops and helped do some of the set-up work for the Green Room. I also went into the Art Show to set up the display table for the items to go into the DUFF auction on Sunday. (I'd asked Jim if I could have some time for an auction and he was able to squeeze out 20 minutes.)

The snow meant that meal choices were limited to the hotel, so I had a late lunch in one of the two venues: the tacky Molly Malones bar, where I had the first of several onion-rings-and-a-small-salad meals. (The only other choice in the bar for me was a reheated cheese pizza, which I remembered un-fondly from my last Boskone.) I spent the meal reading the program book, which was in unusual tabloid newspaper format. It included a very nice interview with GoH Michael Swanwick among other interesting articles.

In the hallway, I bumped into Deb Geisler, who had just received the cool Boston in 2004 chocolate wrapped in holographic paper. After another stint in Program Ops, I met my dinner party in the other hotel restaurant, Witherspoons. From the time we ordered our food to the time we actually got it was one solid hour, which was lucky for Ben Yalow, who kept having to leave the table to deal with hotel *ahem* situations. While waiting for our food, we started discussing the Academy Award nominations, which resulted in this exchange while talking about American Beauty: Allen Baum: "I don't like movies about dysfunctional families" Wife Donya Hazard White: "You liked Cinderella!"

I ducked out as soon as I finished eating so I could rush upstairs to change and bring down my booty for the Fantiques Roadshow event. Organizer Mark Olson had asked for unusual items, and I'd found: a "7 for 77" bid shopping bag for Suncon, a two-issue story arc in Daredevil from 1971 featuring George Alec Effinger as a main character with a cameo by Gardner Dozois at the end, and a copy of the General Technics newsletter with the filk musical parody of "West Side Story" ("I'm a Trekkie," "When You're a Tech," etc.). The latter item wasn't too popular and the shopping bag was evidently too common, but the comics, while not worth much, were popular as a fannish curio.

The coolest things I saw while wandering from table to table were a mint condition first edition of Interview with a Vampire, complete with non-scuffed metallic dust jacket, which was appraised at between $800 - $1000, and a set of color Slant fanzines, which Joe Siclari appraised at about $1000.

While dealer Mike Walsh and I were trading prize stories, Judy Bemis tapped me on the shoulder to let me know that Australian fan Stephen Boucher, whom I'd been worried about due to the weather, had finally arrived. Turned out his plane had circled Logan for about 90 minutes and just when the pilot thought they'd have to land in their alternate, Montreal (which would have meant that either Stephen had to stay on the plane for however long or go through customs and immigration again), the airport opened long enough for them to land.

I went upstairs to drop off my goodies, popped into the few small parties and then took a (not-too-risky) chance that Stephen and Mike were in the bar. British fan Martin Hoare came and joined us for a while. At last call around 12:45 a.m., Mike remembered that the Art Show reception was going until 1 a.m., so we ran down there and saw about half the art show, including some really nice colored glass pieces.

Saturday, February 19

I woke up to find that snow was still falling steadily, and was now up to half a foot on the ground. While grabbing a quick doughnut and tea in the staff lounge, I casually mentioned to the folks there, who included Helmuth newsletter editor Laurie Mann, that this was the first significant snow I'd ever seen, and that it was Stephen's first snow ever. It was nice to have him around because when I'd stare out at the surreal wonder of it all, the natives would just laugh!

On the way down to Program Ops, I saw a bunch of people gathered around Mike's huckster table. Turns out he buys boxes of books sent to Tom Easton for review at $3 apiece, and then sorts through them to see what he might be able to resell. Other hucksters were then going through his discard piles to see what they wanted to buy to resell. While looking for potential DUFF auction items, I spotted in the discard pile an unusual book cover, which turned out to be The Klingon Hamlet (from the line in Star Trek VI: "You have not experienced Shakespeare until you have read it in the original Klingon"). I also grabbed an uncorrected proof of a Brian Stableford book, and fled to the Green Room while thanking Mike for his donation to DUFF :->

As predicted, the 1 pm fanzine panel, which had been switched with a Sunday panel, drew fewer audience members than panelists (4 panelists and Stephen and George Flynn in the audience prepared to heckle) so, in accordance with fannish tradition, we adjourned the panel to the bar, which this time also meant lunch. Due to the difficulty of the weather, the bar was even more crowded than usual, and our drinks arrived with our meals, meaning they probably missed out on some beer sales.

After lunch, I returned for my Program Ops shift. Montreal fan Geoff Hart stopped by to say hello just when a fire alarm went off. I hovered in the open freight doorway, deciding that I'd rather burn than go out in freezing weather without my coat, while Geoff in a short-sleeved shirt was heading outside, saying cheerfully "It was 20 below when I left Montreal."

As usual, the alarm proved to be nothing. I went off to heckle the "Conventions on Three Continents" panel and when moderator Joe Siclari didn't show up in the first ten minutes, Stephen convinced me to come onto the panel and then, to moderate. This was a pretty lively panel on conrunning styles, with Peter Weston (and Andrew Adams from the audience) providing the British point of view, Stephen talking about Aussiecon 3, and me throwing in tidbits every once in a while from having worked on both Intersection and A3. (Joe did eventually show up...)

After the panel and my afternoon stint in Program Ops, Stephen and I went up to his room to put together a replacement Hugo for Michael Swanwick. (The one he'd gotten at A3 had spelled his name wrong, which neither the committee nor his acceptor had noticed, and which he whined about in Locus. So, the A3 committee had sent a replacement to be presented at Boskone.)

Unfortunately, the Hugo, in pieces, had been dropped off in Melbourne right before Stephen was leaving for the airport. We discovered when he tried to put it together that the screw holding the Hugo and the Ayers Rock decor to the base was too long (or the threads of the Hugo were too short, you pick). After futilely trying to put it together (while vowing to murder A3 chair Perry Middlemiss), Stephen decided we needed tools so we decided to try to borrow a hacksaw from hotel engineering.

In a weird example of synchronicity, we bumped into Deb Geisler on the way to the elevator. When we explained the lumpy bundle we were carrying, she said "Maybe the spare Hugo I've got in the room would help." And added, "How many times in your life do you get to say that?" (The Hugo was borrowed from the NESFA clubhouse and they had brought it to the con to do a mock presentation of it to NESFen and Hugo nominee Michael Burstein, who had been trying to track down his nominee pin from Aussiecon 3, explaining that they do things bigger in Australia :->

Unfortunately, that Hugo was constructed differently so after a detour to see if the Art Show toolbox would help, we enlisted Ben's help as hotel liaison to get engineering to lend us a hacksaw. Much effort on Stephen's part with the dull blade made the Hugo finally fit together. After safely delivering it to the banquet, which by this time was already in progress, we gave up to inertia and ate in the hotel restaurant again.

I changed for the parties and headed for the Boston in 2004 extravaganza. At first, I didn't make anything out of the fact that a couple of people asked me where Stephen was. However, when someone asked if he was converting to Judaism, I looked puzzled enough that Mike Walsh, standing nearby, enlightened me by asking if I'd seen the latest Helmuth.

There, on page one, under the heading "Gratuitous Salacious Headline," was the following: "This Weekend Marks Stephen Boucher's First Time and the Biggest Time for Janice Gelb! Check the next Helmuth for the all-true story."

That's when I discovered that evidently the only people at the con who didn't think Stephen and I were sleeping together were me and Stephen! Evidently hanging around together for meals and such were enough evidence for most people, despite no smoochy behavior of any kind! The rest of the weekend consisted of lots of joking and innuendo (and, as Stephen says, we managed to make newszine editor Laurie Mann feel guilty enough for plenty of future favors :-> )

The next newsletter did clarify that of course, she'd been talking about the snowfall.

Sunday, February 20

As previously arranged, I met my Montreal friend Geoff Hart and his girlfriend Shoshanna Green for breakfast (and we picked up Bay Area fan Mary Kay Kare in line). Service was abysmal and the toaster wasn't working but the conversation was fun.

After breakfast, it was off to my stint in Program Ops and then the DUFF auction. I'd asked program chair Jim Mann before the con whether I could have some time for an auction and the only slot he had available was a scant 20 minutes right before the Art Show auction. Despite the brief period of time, we raised $148!!! The Klingon Hamlet didn't go for quite what I expected, despite a great dramatic reading by Morris Keesan in the audience, but it still made cover price, and some Australian goodies did well too.

After our auction and the Art Show auction, I discovered that I got a cool glass paperweight I'd bid on in the Art Show. Helpful money-taker Judy Bemis cooperatively looked for a Delaware quarter to give me in change when I mentioned that it was the only state one I'm missing. However, we couldn't find one in the pile.

I then helped close down the Green Room/Program Ops. Soon it was time to head off for dinner at Mark and Priscilla Olson's. Stephen and I got a ride with Scott and Jane Dennis, and they were vastly amused at our exclamations about the snowmen and frozen lake we saw on the way. We stopped at Trader Joes for some wine and, because it was Sunday, ended up having to explain what "blue laws" were to Stephen, who was astounded at the whole concept.

Dinner was great: an Italian buffet with lots of good company -- besides our carful and the Olsons, Deb Geisler and Mike Beneveniste and Joe Siclari. Although if gossip really is a sin, we all have a lot of repentance to do!

Back at the hotel, the dead dog was rolling along in a desultory way when Minneapolis fan Geri Sullivan decided that she had to show how to make a snow angel to the British fans she'd been talking to. A bunch of us went along (some of us less foolhardy types watched from the lobby doorway) as Geri discovered that the snow had a light coating of ice on top, which meant she had to wham her arms down to crack the ice before being able to swoosh the snow. (Heaven knows what other hotel guests thought when seeing this outside their windows at 1 a.m.)

Monday, February 21

I ended up sitting next to the same British fan contingent the next morning for breakfast. After packing and checking out, I met Joe Siclari for a pre-arranged trip into downtown Boston. There had been some discussion that a Bon Marche Movenpick restaurant had opened up at the Prudential Center, and I'd been wanting to go to one since my visit to Toronto a couple of years ago.

We also wanted check out the con site for the Boston in 2004 bid. Mark Olson met us at the restaurant, which was as good as I remembered -- it's basically an upscale, sophisticated food court. You are handed a checkslip when you arrive, and you choose between food stations, with the staff stamping the slip as you go. The food is fresh and very well made. It will probably be especially popular if Boston wins the worldcon, since it stays open until 2 a.m.!

The site has changed a lot since Noreascon 3. Shops that were on the street are now in the Pru Center mall, plus a lot more. Doors from the Hynes Convention Center and the Sheraton Hotel lead directly into the mall! We checked out the function space in the Sheraton while we were there. It was interesting to see Mark comparing the current layout with the N3 setup, which he still had in his head (he was the con chair). The whole lobby and mezzanine area of the Sheraton, which was the main con hotel at N3, has been opened up and modernized, and there is also a new ballroom. Unfortunately, we couldn't get into the Hynes.

After the tour, Joe and I split up: he to go to a museum, and me to head out to Brookline, the Jewish suburb, to walk around and to collect a kosher deli sandwich for the plane. It was a little slushy but still worth the trip. When I asked the deli guy to put my sandwich and Joe's sandwich into separate bags because we were going on separate planes, he was so impressed that I'd come out of my way to get there that he gave us a free bag of chips and a cookie. (He also wrote "Florida" on one bag and "California" on the other :-> )

I met Joe back at the Pru and got to the airport in plenty of time for the flight home. It was enlivened but what at first glance I thought to be a stuffed animal on the floor of the empty seat between mine and the aisle -- until it yawned! Turned out the woman in the aisle seat had her Pomeranian in a carry bag under the seat in front of her and was letting him get some air!

Conclusion: Every year I dread going to the depressing Boskone hotel, which was made worse this year by the fact that the snow limited our going out. (This is the first trip I think I've ever made to the Boston area where I didn't get to a Legal Seafood restaurant!) And every year, the trip is worth it for the great people and conversations.

This page brought to you by Janice Gelb