I sit here with the sound of my Angels album pounding through the room for atmosphere and wondering whether this convention might have been as accurately called "Chocolatecon" as anything to do with Babylon 5.
When I first heard about Parliament of Dreams, I wasn't sure what to think. It had been organised far too close to the Natcon for comfort, too far out of Brisbane to be near any place that I knew, and information in most common sources, such as aus.sf on the internet and Thyme, was usually out of date if it existed at all. The combination of this and the reports of accommodation at the hotel having filled 3 months before the con put me off even considering it. However, when I heard that both Jerry Doyle (Michael Garibaldi) and Andrea Thompson (Talia Winters) were definitely coming and that there was a little space at the hotel if booked directly, it looked like an opportunity that might be better grabbed than passed up. On the morning I was leaving for the Natcon in Perth, I booked myself to go to this con as well.
QF622, already half an hour late, descended through a large amount of cloud, then through some clear air, then into cloud again. Down, down, slower, slower, but we still can't see diddly. Suddenly, the engines are on full thrust as we climb again. My first time in a plane that aborts a landing, as we go around to try it from another direction. Welcome to Brisbane, for the time being, city of infinite cloud cover and rain.
Arriving at the convention site, the Carindale Hotel, I soon grabbed a con bag. There were the usual important items, such as a convention book, albeit a rather cheap and nasty one, and a map of the hotel, though it was missing any clue of where the "hospitality suite" which appeared on the programme was located. It was amazing the sheer variety of the advertising crap contained within the con bag as well. There was even something from the "William Shatner Connection". How low can one go? Will there be a Time Trax fan club next?
Ignoring the freeform roleplaying, I splashed over to the shopping centre across the road to buy necessity items (alcohol, milk, potato crisps, etc) to keep me going through the weekend. Soon after, the chocolate party started, and I must say I haven't seen that much chocolate collected together in one place before, except in a chocolate shop. Our chocolate waitresses, Mary Clare and Rosie, came around frequently to make sure that everyone was fully supplied with chocolate of many varieties. Come to think of it, I can think of another interpretation of the phrase "chocolate waitress" and, yes, that would have been even better.
Eventually, our guests of honour arrived. Jerry's first utterance upon entering the room was "Where's the bar?" The guests drank, chatted and were photographed. One of the Sydney visitors made sure to inform them about how beer is called XXXX because Queenslanders can't spell beer, which apparently amused everyone except one or two locals.
Even after her head collided with Mary Clare's tray, Rosie continued to provide chocolate and some good lines, such as "I didn't know Andrea was so big", to those around. I was a little surprised to hear a similar comment to Andrea's character on the next JAG episode after the convention. A computer boffin said "Are those, um, real, or ... or ... or did you buy them?", complete with similar hand gestures to the ones Rosie used.
After running out of capacity to consume chocolate, as must inevitably happen, quite a few people went to watch several hours of Forever Knight in the video room, while there was a party in Neil and Lucy's room, 209, which then migrated to the FSF (Friends of Science Fiction) room, 311. I think this was the evening that Peter sketched me after the parties were over.
Saturday morning brought no change to the weather. The opening ceremony was a low-key affair, basically just Aaron saying a few things which were so informative that I don't remember a word of it now. I was seriously wondering why I had got up so early at this point.
The opening, such as it was, was followed by the election speeches of the various parties contesting the convention elections, which were an excuse for silliness and, more importantly, an excuse for the parties involved to bribe us. Almost all bribes involved throwing chocolate to the crowd. Any bribe that didn't involve chocolate involved some other form of confectionary, such as the bananas being given out by some stray Bananas in Pyjamas! The Banana asked whether it was B1 or B2 of course indicated that it was B5!
The next thing I intended to get to on the programme was the one about B5 (the programme, not the banana) on the internet, which was in the Hospitality Suite on the same floor as my room. I was two minutes early, usually a silly thing to do when con programmes can be expected to run late. In this case, however, I went in to find Jerry and Andrea there. I spoke to them and waited for the programme item to start, but it didn't. Someone turned up, put a notice on the door that the item that was supposed to be on in the room was cancelled, and wandered off. So, I was left sitting in a room with the guests of honour and no interesting programme items to go to. Damned shame! Aaron wandered in at some point, and Jerry went to try to get Andrea onto a slightly later plane so that she could stay at the convention longer. She had to get back on Sunday afternoon to shoot the final episode of the JAG season. So, I just stayed and chatted for the next hour.
Next item was the guest of honour speeches, not that they really had much to say in the way of speeches. They just opened up to questions from the audience, drank beer, and talked about all manner of things, except where Garibaldi's character is heading in the next season, which Jerry was very guarded about. For what it's worth, Jerry told us that he has his belt buckle on upside down in one scene in B5, so the people who like playing with VCRs can go and try to find which scene. He also told us "I don't have a problem drinking, I have a problem stopping".
The two of them worked well together, with plenty of good glances and some good innuendo. They spoke of how they met through a mutual hair dresser. Andrea said she "wasn't after Mr Right; I was after Mr Rightnow". Jerry told us that the way to succeed in these matters was to turn down the woman on the first night. Andrea told us that she liked to keep fit and run, while Jerry indicated, with appropriate hand motions, that the only working out he went for was horizontal.
There was plenty of time to chat to people and visit the dealers' room. The next programme item I was interested in was the Londo Happy Hour, which was cancelled. Actually, a lot of other items were cancelled or shifted after the Hospitality Room became flooded and Andrea's new departure time became known.
The Saturday night banquet wasn't bad, so long as you don't mind a stand-up buffet, with spring rolls and such, satay pork, Chinese-style beef, rice, biscuits, cheese, fruit and desserts. Personally, I liked almost everything there, so it was one of the better con banquets I've been to. They did actually start it early, though, so you had to get in fast to get some things. On the other hand, there were enough desserts that one could easily go back for seconds ... and thirds.
There was a very silly, entertaining cabaret on next, and there was also a costume parade, won by a Robert's G'Kar over Andrew's Londo. (I guess when you've lost your home world, you work harder on the personal victories.)
Saturday night's last feature for many of us was the FSF room party. Cheese, bread, wine, beer and rum were all provided, as well as a sound system pumping out the sort of music I really like. This is the sort of room party we should have more of! The room 311 party choir really got into top gear when singing, for the want of a better word, at the top of its lungs along to multiple repeats of The Angels' "No Secrets". We were conducted beautifully by Blake with a very long bread stick. This was followed by the bread stick limbo, in which the main aim seemed to be to take as big a bite of the bread stick as possible while doing the limbo under it.
The airconditioning ducts in the hotel were brilliantly designed such that the party was audible on all floors of the hotel and in keeping with the true subtle style of this party, the music was left on high and the choir, such as it was, was still singing while someone in the room was receiving a phone call from reception complaining about the noise.
The party continued at a lower sound level, though we still got occasional shouts and honks of greeting from the street below as people drove by. Much later, I was subjected to the unusual treat, with the emphasis on unusual, of Kirstin and Alison's Bohemian Rhapsody duet. I'd never realised it before, but sometimes people who are starting to slur when speaking can sing without the same impairment.
Sunday brought a surprise: It wasn't raining when I woke up! The weather was improving, as there were actually several short periods during the day in which it wasn't raining. The programme had been blown asunder and totally re-written to accommodate Andrea's departure time, with a new guest question and answer session in the morning.
On that occasion, the guests managed to have even more sexual banter, as well as Jerry discussing his cartoon work in the upcoming "Captain Simian and the Space Monkeys" with Michael Dorn and various others. He told us that he loves the work, as you can come in in shorts having drunk a slab and smoked too much the night before and they say your voice sounds great.
There really wasn't much programming of importance going on, but the video programme was always running and there were plenty of locals ready to discuss which pieces of their homes were under how much water at the time. There was another panel in which more lollies were thrown into the audience, just in case we hadn't had enough sugar this weekend yet somehow.
The last guest appearance was another session of Jerry Doyle in a big room with a big audience. Then came the auction, which Jerry ran relatively swiftly with humour. He told everyone the reserve prices so that bidders didn't waste time getting up to the reserve. Most things went, including one little one which he gave away to the winning bidder for the previous item. When Adrienne's dolphin didn't attract a bid, he valiantly re-introduced it a few times later on, but to no avail.
The Farewell Banquet was a misnomer of sorts, since there were no guests present at it to be farewelled, but it was another fun event. We were given pencils, paper and a series of trivial pursuit questions and things to do. And, since we hadn't been supplied with any confectionary within the previous 60 minutes and might be suffering withdrawal by now, we were supplied with Fantales too. There was an additional purpose in this, as one of the sections said: "Rip a Fantales wrapper into the longest continual strip you can."
One of the trivial pursuit sections to bring out the best in the various tables was category 8, "Using only items to hand (drinking straws, napkins, salt shakers, etc) build a model of the Babylon 5 station". One table made an excellent one out of a stack of coffee cups. It was not hard to make star furies out of knives and forks and some of the plants in the centre of each table could be attached together so that they were much the same shape as shadow ships ... if only they had been black, not a dull grey-green colour, they would have worked much better.
Room 209 had a party which looked dead before it started, so I watched 3 or 4 Babylon 5 episodes in the video room before checking what was still happening. The final party was by then in 208, and it continued quietly until just a tad after 4:45am. This seemed to me an excellent way to end it all, with one of the latest dead dog parties at any con I've been to, and all the more excellent as one of the inhabitants of 209 was on a 6am flight home to Perth.
As it was, I was feeling that I had booked my own flight home for much too early in the day, given how little sleep time I had allowed myself. The flight was, of course, late taking off. I watched as the soggy ground staff threw the wet suitcases into the plane, we eventually boarded, and I was looking forward to getting some more sleep at home.
QF617, already half an hour late, descended firstly through clear sky, then into cloud. Down, down, slower, slower, but we still can't see diddly. I feel as though something like this has happened before! I keep wondering how long the pilot will keep descending blind. In a stoke of bad timing, at the instant that the ground comes into view below the cloud, suddenly, the engines are on full thrust as we climb again. My second time in a plane that aborts a landing, three days after the first, as we go around to try it again. Isn't it great to be almost home?!