Wednesday, February 20, 2008

No Sleep Since Gallfrey

Gallifrey 2008 began for us last Wednesday, and I can hardly believe only a week has gone by since experiencing the most amazing whirlwind of a lovefest for Doctor Who fans.
As our new friend Nicole has mentioned in her blog, there was a surreal aspect to the first night and how we came across members of the Con. We all just seemed to drift together, sensing somehow that kindred spirits were near. Or maybe it was just that spirits were near, the comsumable kind, and the bubbling congregation around the bar just had to be excited Con-goers clinking glasses in anticipation of the event.
Either way, within moments we had met Nicole in her wonderfully fun penguin shirt with pint of Sam Adams in hand. And were babbling like old pals on break before a long weekend. And it was a long weekend, bracketed by Valentine's and President's Day, though of course it was over way too quick.
We had left Wednesday night, just one week ago, and got in desperately early on Valentine's Day. Keefe was sleeping and I had run downstairs for some water (wow, this is starting off like The Night Before Christmas - how apropos!) , and Steven Moffat walked into the hotel. I froze. It was 1 a.m. for heaven's sake, so I couldn't bother the man, but I was obviously grinning like an idiot since the bell boy did a double-take to check out the identity of the poor sod with whom I was keeping pace. Moffat has that delightful glower that just screams "I'm a writer! I'm brilliant and tortured!" I picked my tongue up off the floor and headed back to the elevators. Keefe was still sleeping, but I had lost my chance at that now.
So I napped. Wasn't the first time and so far, has not been the last. All I seem to get lately are naps.
But we both got moving at a decent time in the morning which was one day before the official start of the convention. We arranged to go to Universal Studios since we had such a beautiful time when last we had gone, which coincidentally was 10 years ago. We utilized VIP tours, which was a trip and a half. It was a bumpy, scary ride as the driver swept around Century Blvd and its gauntlet of hotels to catch more people. We were sent to a process station like a bag of fish (it felt and smelled that way at least), where disconsolate souls appeared to have been tagged and stacked, waiting for transportation. This had apparently been a long wait, judging by the loss of hope in their eyes, so our opinion fell steadily as the minutes ticked by. We were too snappish in our decision, however, since we soon were tossed on a bus and on the way to Universal.
The drive took a while, but we had a lovely couple from Texas who were a nice distraction. They were excited to see the Hollywood sign, and so we'd turn a corner and a flash of white on the distant hills would turn our heads with an "Oh, there it is!" I love those moments when people, strangers in tandem especially, can shed their adult shells and have a moment of glee.
Upon arriving, Keefe and I jumped out of the bus, grabbed hands, and just laughed at the sight around us. The last time we were here was a huge highlight of that trip - he and I have the most fun together.
We really wanted to do Jurassic Park again, so headed down to the Lower Levels. Have you ever been? The escalator system is like a life-size Chutes & Ladders. Quite the trek. The ride was still the best in the park for us. Keefe lost his hat plummeting down past the T-Rex, which is wonderfully captured in the photo. We found it in the last row of seats, which was great. Much like his clover necklace that had gone missing for a moment back at the airport. Keefe was to the point of eulogizing the jewelry, "It had a good life," when it was found and clutched gratefully in his palm. Oh, we were so soaked from that ride, though. I just had to sit up front! But I'm glad of it.
We did some more rides, almost forgot to do the tour, but did go through the Horror House which was goodness! Frankenstein chased us around the laboratory a bit. I love haunted houses. I was giggling and hopping my way through the whole thing.
Then shopping and we were back to wait for the bus. Now I haven't mentioned how cool the temperature was, nor how blightfully windy! But it was not so evident all day as it was while we waited for the bus. We stood there as the sun slipped from memory and the wind sealed the door. Shivering, the crowd of people grew. Soon, there were 30 or so of us waiting less and less patiently. Around the corner came that bus, and the crowd recognized simultaneously that not all of us would fit on that little bus. And the surging began. No longer was there a polite bubble of space nor intent as everyone jockeyed for position near the front of the line.
The driver, the brave soul, stepped out of the bus and stepped on some necks, cooling the furor. He was a man in his fifties, still handsome, who had the trappings of charisma ghosting his features. His voice, a baritone smoothness, was loud, firm, and so kind all at once that people instantaneously calmed and held out their tickets. He kindly smiled as couple after group were given the hard news that he wasn't their driver; their bus was still on its way. Keefe handed him our ticket, though, and he smiled with more gladness as he said we could get on the bus. The warmth in his voice was lovely but couldn't compare to the warmth of that bus at that moment.
He was like the Sorting Hat personified, and we were able to identify our seats and sit in our House, looking forward. But all those outside, shivering, slowly sobered our smiles. He, kind man, offered any who wanted to sit on the bus for warmth to come aboard. There were a few, but not that many. It felt to me like the hordes of the needy who are left out of the system. Unknowing or resistant to the help available to them. It's frustrating and feels like fear. As though those who need the help the most sometimes don't trust the system not to drive away with them in the wrong direction if they accept the hand and step aboard.
Time came that their bus arrived. Everyone was aboard and we were on our way. We learned that our driver was a retired police oficer and volunteer for a youth program in LA county that helps teens get away from gangs. He was driving that night as a favor to his friend who owns the company. When he smiled, you just knew that this was a man who has seen things and has not lost hope. He turns his smile on everyone he meets and sees the dark and the light, and is rooting for the light to shine on. He worked the LA gang beat in the eighties and nineties the longest, but said that narcotics was the hardest. I don't know his name. That hurts a bit. But his life was so amazing that I didn't get his name.
We talked on the freeway and mentioned that we wanted to go out for a nice dinner. But it was Valentine's and the only place we knew of was away in Redondo Beach. He not only suggested that The Warehouse in Marina Del Rey was better, but offered to drop us there since he had one last drop off to make in that neighborhood. Just an amazing guy. He was right, though - the food was fabulous and we so totally lucked out by actually getting in within a decent amount of time.
If you go, the lobster is fantastic and so are the crab legs. But if you have a ride, get the Volcano. Best rum punch. Biggest rum punch. Made for two. Holy hell. We had two. We meandered into the unofficial opening ceremonies at the Marriott, outside Champion's bar as mentioned previously, and kicked off the Con with Nicole and a great guy from the Outpost Gallifrey forum.
We knew it was gonna be good.

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