Travelling alone to Con this year, I thoroughly enjoyed the last leg of my flight to Portland, even in a crowded, cramped Super 80. We flew past the northern end of the Great Salt Lake, which looked like polluted water in NJ, but with no sign of human life. Flying over the Rockies and the desert was a big thrill, as was the sight of Mount Hood just outside my window. I wrote 3 flats during these 2 flights, on bases by R/eds and Meki, and wrote out the labels for the Hidden Contest (more on that later). I opted for the cheapest route from airport to hotel, a 45 minute ride on the city bus through residential and shopping sections of Portland. What we passed was not unlike Jersey City except that it was a bit cleaner and didn't have many very old buildings.
After dropping off my bags, I walked around downtown, passing some old buildings and a great many new ones. I especially enjoyed the Oregon Maritime Center & Museum, full of models of ships that sailed the Oregon waterways, photos, ship instruments, documents and artifacts. Admission includes a tour of the museum's working steamboat, which was used in the movie Maverick, filmed about 30 miles upriver. Also loved the Tom McCall Waterfront Park, which I walked from its northern end, the Japanese-American Historical Plaza dedicated to WWII internees, down to the Salmon Street Springs, a public fountain of about 100 jets where loads of kids ran around having a blast. I bought some excellent chocolates near Pioneer Courthouse Square, and looked at all the bronze animal sculptures (otters, bears, ducks) in concrete water troughs on the sidewalk outside the courthouse.
Back at the hotel, I joined up with En, Atlantic, and Loophole, who were going to a Greek restaurant. The food was mediocre, but the company was excellent.
Jet lag caught up with me, as it did in San Diego at the 1992 Con, and my recollections of the evening games at this Con are fuzzy. I was awake enough to appreciate the first game, Scrabblegories by Tilegod, where a set of Scrabble tiles was used to satisfy categories, all of which I now forget. Merlin commented, “This is the most confused game since last year!” but we all had fun, and our team was close to the top scorers.
Friday morning, Quip, Poi, and I had bacon and eggs (yes, we all ordered the same thing) at the Metro Deli, cheap standard diner fare, very enjoyable. We then took a bus to Mount Tabor Park, since we wanted to see the extinct volcano crater. The park itself covered the entire hill – it was very lovely, and nearly deserted – worth the trip for the experience of being surrounded by the immense pine trees. The crater was something of a disappointment: a basketball court against what looked like a black cliff. We took 2 buses to the Japanese Garden Society, which was also a real treat – very quiet, peaceful, beautifully kept gardens. Across the road was the International Rose Test Garden, which besides the 400 kinds of roses, afforded a great view of downtown and across the river. We had lunch at a truck by the gardens, smoked salmon and saltines (yes, we all ordered the same thing again), maybe the most unusual fast food I've ever had. Back on the bus, we went to the stop serving the zoo and the World Forestry Center, but we were a little tired to deal with either. So we walked to the Oregon Vietnam Vet Living Memorial – fountains, landscape, and plaques inscribed with the names of Oregonians who died serving – and then took the bus back to the hotel. I enjoyed a frozen yogurt (craved desperately in the heat), and another little walk around downtown by myself.
Back at the hotel, Krewe shared a buffet dinner, and then listened to Dr. Frederick Mish, the editor-in-chief of Merriam Webster, tease us with the possbility of NI4 sometime in the next 10 years. Willz's Beat the Champ, the same as in a prior Con (NYC? Montreal?), was a lot of fun, and great for jet laggers – lots of questions requiring only a little brainwork each, and very easy for the audience to play quietly in addition to the folks in the spotlight. There were creative games after this; I zonked out by the 2nd one.
Saturday morning, after breakfast at the hotel, C'atty and I ventured off to the 24-Hour Church of Elvis, but found that it was closed. Says C'atty, “It's not open 24 hours, but it is the Church of Elvis 24 hours a day.” We had a nice walk, though; we saw a few outdoor murals, and at the Center for the Performing Arts, huge banners for the Tygres Heart Shakespeare Theatre.
Sadly, we arrived back in time for the business meeting. Among the items discussed was the Centennial; actually, thanks to some investigation by Panache and others as to who might be holding the material, it looks like the thing might be done before next Con.
After the meeting, I headed over to the Oregon Historical Center's gift shop for souvenirs, and took a walk by the Old Church, a beutifully restored old building that is now used for community functions.
After lunch was Manx's wonderful puzzle, Trading Up, which by itself is worth whatever Treesong charges for the packet, and the double dactyl flats. Once again, 100 Down and I partnered; for the first time in 3 years, we did not finish first among the teams. Oh yes, the hidden contest…the Con schedule contained occasional italic letters which, taken together, spelled THIS IS THE HIDDEN CONTEST NOT. Well, Chainsaw had decided on a trigram puzzle, and wanted to use the flat-solving answer sheets. So he read the chunks to me over the phone, I wrote out the labels, numbered 1 to 20 in alpha-order on the plane, and Merlin affixed them so I wouldn't see the answers before the competition: ENC END EST GTH HEH IDD INT LLZ LWI NGA NTT ONT OSI OSO SON TEL THA TOW TYO UWA. There was much milling about as several people immediately caught on that THIS WAS IT, and C'atty saw enough answer sheets and figured out first what was needed.
After the photo, and dinner, there were readings of the best story/puns from the My Word! weekend contest – I hope someone else remembers enough to do this justice – then mirror charades, described in last year's account (I think) of late-night activities, and another fabulous Con extravaganza, this one by Trazom & Hot – a series of very fun puzzles; my other team members were Wombat, Fraz, and The Wiz. We needed hints to solve some of the harder puzzles. Afterward, some groups were playing games in one of the hospitality rooms – I joined the group playing Inklings. The game seems to work better in a large room, where guessers stray in and out of the play. Then, back downstairs for Fraz's Beat the Champ questions; I conked out about midnight this time.
After a wonderful brunch the next morning, I went to Murray's Deli for a bagel with lox and onion, and a Dr. Brown's cream soda, for dinner on the 2nd plane. Then it was time to pack and check out. I found out that Eric would be on the Newark plane with me as far as Chicago, where he would change planes. His seat was 14A, exactly 3 behind me, and I resolved to try to switch with 14B. After the award ceremony, and the many goodbyes, we got in the van and headed for the airport. Well, right after passing through the metal detector, we met up with Fraz, who was also on the plane as far as Chicago – in 14B! It took a little musical chairs, but within 5 minutes of boarding, I was ensconced across the aisle in 14C. The man behind me (not involved in the musical chairs) in this packed plane had spread his jacket out across the whole luggage compartment, and when I went to put my bag up, sat there like a lump and said, “Don't put your bag on my jacket.” I assured him that I moved the jacket to one side first (which I did).
Anyway, that 4 hours was probably the best part of Con for me, and certainly the best plane ride ever. The three of us talked non-stop, and it seemed no subject was taboo – religion, morality, child rearing, sex, even crossword construction. We didn't speak loudly, but the man behind me grunted a few times in annoyance. Fraz taught me that the key to being comfortable on a long flight is removing one's shoes (providing one remembers to wear them to the restroom, since flyers often have bad aim). Eric shared the most delicious anisette cookies made by Otherwise. And the discussion continued, through lunch, over desert and prairie. When we got up at O'Hare, the man in back said to us “What are you people, intellectuals or something?” We explained very briefly to him about the NPL Con. Out of earshot of my 2 compadres, he commented to his wife, “I already knew everything else about them.”