Sadly there are no photos of the train coming down to New Orleans. Not sure why. It could be my wife weeded them out as not good enough and didn’t put them into my folder. It could be we were just happy to be on the train and heading to our destination. What I do have is the content of a tweet that set the tone for the weekend.
We were sitting in the sleeper lounge at Union Station in Chicago waiting for our train to board and there was a pair of older couples in the corner laughing and having a good old time. To put some perspective, older in this context means “in their 70’s to 80’s.” At one point I looked over, drawn by the uproarious laughter and one of the guys in the corner had stood and dropped his khaki shorts to his knees. I have no idea what the joke was, but I proceeded to tweet out, “Someone in the first class lounge just dropped their drawers. Now its a party. #AADNOLA”
Mostly uneventful, we arrived at the convention hotel to find out that not only did our room’s window point out onto Bourbon Street, but this was right across the way. Pan in on the photo, the balcony isn’t the real view here, it’s what’s on top of the balcony. Beads, and lots of them. Stranded there from parties past, or tossed up there from the street (though that would take a hell of an arm to throw them up to the third floor). We were right across the way from a rather awesome bead graveyard, where old beads go to die. Well, it amused me anyhow.
As this was a trip to New Orleans, coffee and beignets would be involved. This led to a trip walking from Bourbon Street to the Cafe du Monde. The touristy one. Seriously, if you’ve been to the French Quarter, odds are you know of the one I speak. This was a hell of a day as I have a limit to my distance of unaided travel. I can push that limit, but the further I push it the more I start to look like my namesake. Seriously by the time we were on our way back from getting the beignets and coffee I damn near felt the need to moan “Brains” to passersby.
What was telling about this outing is that I was waking up between 4:00 and 5:00 each morning. And there was a Cafe Beignets right across the street. Seriously, from the PJs Coffee in the lobby of the hotel I could see two strip joints and the garden of the Cafe Beignet. Of course the first time I stood out front waiting for the place to open (just before 7am due to a tweet someone posted about going there for coffee to the hashtag) I felt like I was a street walker working the late/early shift. Just leaning against a pillar in front of the hotel. Long story short(ish), I went to PJs for coffee that morning. I did get there for beignets, but on a different day. Not to go without a photo though, here is the requisite one from Cafe du Monde.
I’ll try to offer a couple more highlights from the convention here, but I will save the ZART event for its own post. Honestly it is the majority of the photos I have. Something about TJ Micheals thinking it was a great idea to get a new phone and not have any idea how to use it before coming to New Orleans. (Just sayin’…) But there were other highlights.
One of my highlights was the aforementioned coffee at PJs. I had coffee there a lot (at least once a day), and there was a novelty to it more than your usual spot. Maybe it was the sandwich board outside the strip joint across the street I saw the first morning that displayed in streaked and worn out marker, “AARP Discount: Free Blood Pressure Test.” While it didn’t make me decide I needed to go in there, I did think it was a piece of marketing genius. Seriously, there are so many strip clubs on Bourbon, they have to do something to stand out. Right? But I digress.
I wound up having breakfast with Barbara Vey. She’s local(ish) to me, and we met at a Wisconsin book festival. She was there as a moderator for a panel that I was attending so I could meet Lori Handeland. I had read her urban fantasy series and decided they needed to be signed. It was a surprise meeting up with her in New Orleans as we live so close, but kismet rarely makes sense. While sitting there someone excuses themselves and asks to have something signed. I’m used to people looking for signatures with people I’m talking to, so it didn’t seem strange. Until a Nook was handed to me. It felt odd as not even my charity story was published yet. Technically that was the second thing I signed, but the first was the ZART shirt. This was the first time someone specifically asked for my signature.
Apparently I was in enough shock from it, I may have even forgotten to thank them. Not to mention I had a stack of those thank you cards with the rules of the zombie apocalypse on them I should have given her one of. (She was a big zombie fan. She even dressed at the event for Angel from My Life As A White Trash Zombie.) So, if by some other instance of kismet, the person who asked for a signature is reading this blog… let me know. I have a rules card with your name on it.
Another highlight was Hand Grenade night. The Hand Grenade was a bit we did when we visited 11 years ago. Rumored as the strongest drink on Bourbon Street. A highly protected secret (at least back then) part of the story behind it was the owner came in and made it every morning so that the recipe didn’t get out. A nice piece of fiction, but as there are multiple spots to get them now (all the same bar, but different locations) and they can now come frozen out of a slushie machine, I think the mystery has lifted a bit. We’ve seen behind the curtain, wizard. Still not a bad place or a bad drink. My wife wasn’t as impressed this time so I wound up drinking most of hers as well. And still was up at 4am. Go figure.
For the record, that is my Zombie Response Team Unit 6 shirt and hat. And yes, I have since cut my hair. I was going for mad scientist at the party Friday night.
My final note of a highlight (honestly there are more, but I am going mostly off of photos) was the Steampunk Tea. Now, while I have read some steampunk, my wife and I have never really dressed up in steampunk gear. That said, we jumped in with both feet this time around. Boots, a long duster, the whole nine yards. Well, not as hardcore as the people running the tea. Still major enough for someone not into costumes.
There were games, readings, tea and biscuits. My wife won a contest for best goggles (which shocked her considering that she hadn’t gone full tilt on that element), and I won a cuff as the dapper gentleman to offer up his wrist. Which is to say when the author asked for a dapper gentleman to offer up his wrist, everyone in the room… I mean EVERYONE, turned to look at me. I was one of two or three guys there and the only one dressed up. Take a socially awkward geek and make everyone stare at him. Oh, lovely! 😉
In addition to the cuff (created by con organizer Stella Price), I also won the best dressed gentleman at the party. Which was awarded with a copy of Lia Habel’s first book and an English Soda Basket. Four different English sodas and a sturdy looking bottle opener. Seriously, this thing could help you survive a zombie apocalypse! Granted I already had a copy of the book, but I had an extra to give away. I even had her sign it for an unborn child at the book fair. It even beat the kid to Wisconsin, so he was able to get it as a “birthday present” ala Frosty the Snowman. (“Happy birthday!”)
We rounded out the afternoon sticking around a bit later to hear Pip Ballentine read from her book with Tee Morris. (As they only had book 2 at the book fair, we picked up book 1 on audio. I highly suggest it. An excellent listen.) This was relaxing right before the crazy. The crazy being getting switched up into our costumes as Delphine and Doctor LaLaurie for the ball. My conversion was easy, but Robin’s involved a wig, a corset, makeup… a whip. You get the idea.
We did call it an early night as we have over-exerted ourselves that day. Also we had the pub crawl the next night. And we wanted to hit a bit more of the French Quarter in the morning. But that is another story.