Like most days on this trip, I woke well before the alarm clock. I had intended to breakfast at Camellia grill at 7, return to the hotel to pack the last things, and then check out and walk to the Union Passenger Terminal in New Orleans to get on the 9:30 Megabus to Atlanta and GAFilk.
But Camellia didn't open until 8, so I had to use the hotel restaurant with their exorbitant prices. Then when I walked out from the hotel a little after eight o'clock, the rain was pouring down. Luckily, a cab was ready right outside the hotel, and didn't charge more than twelve dollars, so I arrived well in time to the bus station.
The travel to Atlanta was thoroughly uneventful, and I could spend quite some time of it writing and editing the previous report.
The bus pulled into the bus station at Atlanta right on schedule, and I spent a little time getting my bearings setting out for my hotel for the night, the quite nearby Savannah Suites. However, it turned out I had to pass a seriously rough neighbourhood to get there, since there were a shelter for homeless and drug addict people in the block next to it. I got escort from a local pastor working with them to get to the hotel. Finally there, the hotel turned out to be one of the most sucky of sucky hotels. I hadn't been expecting much, given the Yelp reviews and the low price, but dirty floor, whirring lamps, and lack of amenities such as a wastebasket put it at a new low. At least the wi-fi worked decently, and the pastor had mentioned that there were decent restaurants and stores on the other side of the hotel.
So I made some detailed planning using Apple Maps, and set out first for Poor Calvin's, which was described as a Thai fusion place. The restaurant turned out to be nicer than I had expected, and provided a very nice Thai crispy beef. The party next to me had a birthday party and too much cake, so I sang "Röda små smultron" for the celebrant and received their leftover cake in return, in effect singing for my dessert. The caramellised ginger pieces on top of the cake were nice but unexpected. One clear—and nice—difference in culture between USA and Sweden is that it's much more acceptable and expected to open up conversations with strangers in public spaces.
Upon leaving the hotel early the next day there was still quite a crowd outside the shelter, so I walked another route to get to the MARTA train. I didn't technically get lost, but I ended up walking through the twisty little malls and hotels of the Peachtree Center, which were exceedingly poorly labeled, so had to ask for directions several times. At least I managed to find a breakfast place during the trek, before I got onto the MARTA to the airport. There I had to wait a bit for the airport shuttle to the hotel, but I arrived there at around noon. I was supposed to roomshare with Randy Hoffman and Naomi, but we couldn't check in before Randy arrived at 17, but it was no trouble putting my suitcase into the luggage room.
A couple in the lobby looked of a fannish persuasion, so I joined them, showing my fannish credentials using my Eurocon 2011 t-shirt. It turned out they were the Guest of Honor, Michael Longcor, and his wife Anne Nordmeyer, and we could chat away pleasantly. Then I gophered a little for Larry Smith, Bookseller to get their books into the Dealer's Room from their new van. It was nice to see Larry there too, in reasonable state given the accident last autumn (not that I ever had met him earlier). I bought Phoenix in Shadow by Ryk Spoor from him a little later, since my daughter Hulda is Tuckerised there.
The con hotel had a large lobby with a small bar, a raised table, and several chairs and sofas. They were suitable for such things as a conversation with Wesley Crowell about dashes and and layout issues when dealing with source texts from many dissimilar sources. Next to it were the con suite and the dealer's room. A short corridor led to the con reception, which was ably staffed by Harry Coburn throughout the con (there was also a door from the dealer's room to the reception). I and a few other early-coming fans sat chatting in a nice sofa, next to a theremin that someone had brought and gave occasional amusement, especially when someone not used to it walked too close to it.
The elevator buttons in the lobby had a nice little sign too: "Elevator Communication Failure". I'm not sure the creators of the sign had really thought about the implications of the phrase.
Walking left from the con reception there were one staff room, a large function room, and one smaller function room. The large function room was the main space for the con's events and programming.
Randy finally arrived just before 17, and we could get into our room and do a quick unpacking. Both Randy and I were hungry, so went to the nearby barbeque place, a traditional dinner spot during the con. There were indeed a bunch of other con goers there already, and we were soon joined at our table by Rand and Erin Bellavia, who turned out to be very nice and friendly. True to its purpose, we received huge piles of beef and pork, but there were enough vegetables to make a decent meal, and their strawberry cobbler that Randy ordered was great. We left the place rather full, and I went back to the room to change into my suit and bowtie, with added Mardi Gras beads (purple is after all the holy colour of fandom!), for the opening ceremony.
The New (Fannish) Year was toasted, but GAFilk wasn't declared opened yet, because the opening ceremony was extended by the Baird/O'Shea Handfasting, led by Bill (bedlamhouse) and Brenda Sutton. I had happened to sit down next to Chris, so became their Official Photographer. Chris had a much nicer camera than me, and since I'm only a mediocre photographer, I compensated by taking lots and lots of pictures. After the ceremony, I also sang (and translated) Nils Ferlin's song "I folkviseton" to them, as that has become a tradition for me at weddings.
I saw the beginning of the "My Filk" game show, but it wasn't really to my taste, and poked my head into the smaller function room, where Cat Faber and Lauren Cox was sitting out practicing and jamming. I joined them, and was very happy I did. We set out sharing songs and talking about filk and fandom. Cat is one of my favourite songwriters within filk, and this was Lauren's first con. She was shy and quiet at first, but became visibly more confident and secure throughout the weekend.
I listened to pieces of Rand's and Erin's concert, but felt a little restless and moved around, though I did get to hear Erin's hilarious "Dear Seanan" with Judi signing and seanan_mcguire in the audience. The dealer's room held four vendors, showing how even a minor con like this could draw on the much larger and diverse fannish presence in the US. Besides Larry Smith with his books, there were two dealers of jewelry and clothes (though with different niches) as well as Michael Liebmann's (sffilk) music store, where I later bought a copy of Seanan's CD "Wicked Girls".
The con suite was a new experience to me, Swedish and British cons not having them. There were plenty of snacks and cookies, as well as fruits, some vegetables, bread, some spreads, eggs, soft drinks, tea, and coffee, so one could make a reasonable light lunch there. With several tables it made for a nice social hub, especially as the hotel bar didn't have much space to sit and was closed a lot of the time. I also turned over my bottle of home-spiced aquavit ("En redig kronobergare") to the Interfilk auction, being told to place it on their table after filling out a slip.
During open filk I sang Dreams about Space (with the last line changed to "today is the new year of fandom!"), Fan Mother's Lullaby, Sad Puppies (as we got onto a Puppy theme), and Wolf von Witting's Spaceballs (as a followup to a song about Donald Trump, motivated by that Trump has more than a little similarity with Jabba the Hutt).
ETA: I also think I sang The True Fan Girl sometime during the Friday evening, but it might have been on the Saturday.
Since I had had a very early day, I retired to bed relatively early, and thus woke up unfashionably early for a filker, but Myra was already in the hotel restaurant having her breakfast at 7, so we chatted a long while over their breakfast buffet (which was sadly overpriced and not that well supplied to my European eyes). That also left me with a whole lot of hours to kill, since the programming didn't start until noon! Enough people started to turn up that one could talk a lot, but I didn't notice any singing.
When Harry put up the sheets for the 2x10s I was there quickly, placing my name in the #1 slot, cunningly planned so that if I flubbed, there would soon be someone better to make them forget me, and I wouldn't have to follow some great act. filkerdave wanted to put some distance between us, and placed himself in the #3 slot, and then my cunning plan succeeded when Leslie Hudson put herself in the #2 slot, leaving Dave to follow her! Then Play It With Moxie started to meddle due to their setup requirements, pushing me to the #4 slot and Dave to the #5 slot. Leslie stayed in the #2 slot, foiling both our plans.
At noon proper programming started, with Judi Miller's toastmistress concert. She did a few pieces herself, and then called up different musicians to do different pieces while she signed. I didn't see all of her concert—afterwards I've come to the conclusion that the circle is my preferred habitat, not concerts—but I did get to see the end when she was joined by the Suttons, Seanan McGuire, Amy McNally, and Mary Crowell (quadrivium) to perform "My Story Is Not Done" followed by "Wicked Girls". The entire room sang along with the latter, a true highlight of the con.
Glen Raphael was the Interfilk guest, but I spent a lot of the time during his concert preparing two CD copies of Wilf James's old recording of Swedish filk from KringCon 1988 for the Interfilk auction, before turning them over to Interfilk where they went directly to the voice auction.
During Michael Longcor's concert he had to move to avoid seeing Judi sign during "Flying Monkey". I had had my private doubts about an SCA-ite as the GoH, but Michael put all my prejudices to shame during the con. Despite his persistent cold (on Sunday he said he was hitting low tones perfectly that he never before had been able to reach) he was gracious and generous with his time throughout the con, and a great musician.
Then the 2x10s started, where Leslie proved that she is one of the best active singers in filk. My mouth started to dry up just as my slot was coming up, but the trick of a few pieces of potato chips and then plenty of water worked again. I had decided on two songs well beforehand: first "Mary O'Meara" in "the original Norwegian", using Erik Bye's melody (since Poul Anderson's filk and Anne Passovoy's melody to it is a filk classic), and then Knob on the End (since it was one of two songs by me in the GAFilk songbook, and I didn't want to do two ose songs).
I introduced "Mary O'Meara" by giving the backstory to "Anna Lovinda", and then flubbed the song when I forgot to sing verse 3, and had to include it right before the last verse instead. Not that anyone but Signe Wegener was likely to notice (and she sadly had had to cancel her presence at the con). But it appeared to be very well-received, and several people expressed interest in the backstory and the melody. "Knob on the End" I found harder to judge, partly because I couldn't really gauge if the audience joined in over the sound from the monitors, but at least I didn't flub there.
I listened to several other 2x10s, where I especially enjoyed the ones by Dave, "A Ship With No Name" by Gray Rinehart, and the closing set by Cat and Lauren (signed by Judi), where they did Cat's The Golden Door—the video simply doesn't do justice to their performance. Then it was up to the room to change into nicer clothes for the Banquet and Dinner Dance.
Some confusion and negotiations for where to sit meant I ended up at a table with eight ladies and two men (including myself), finding myself between Judi and Mary Bertke. We would also be the last table to be served, getting a complimentary bottle of champagne. So when Play It With Moxie started up, I asked Judi for a dance, then continued to ask every lady at the table for a dance. Judi proved almost frightful in her complete attention to me during the dance. Mary B was a fabolous dancer, almost managing to make me into a swing dancer during our dances. Lauren and Erin were a delight to dance with. During "Demon Kitty Rag", Mary B noticed Lauren dancing around for herself making hissing and meowing songs, and we promptly invited her, making a swing triangle. I even managed a semblance of the Cossack dance at one point. Our table was so energetic in dancing that when Rob Wynne (autographedcat) was to invite us to the buffet line for food most of us were on the dance floor and not our table, and I believe most of us missed out on the bottle of champagne entirely. I certainly did, and I didn't regret it one bit.
Need I mention that my shirt was soaking wet by the end?
The need for a change and fresh-up after the dinner, as well as that we forced the band to play the dregs (ie play the same tune twice) meant that I was late to Elizabeth Moon's (the author guest, or in GAFilk parlance the Super Secret Guest) programme item. She had just concluded reading from some of her stories and had a Q&A session. Someone asked about her novel Speed of Dark, and this led to a long discussion on how her experiences with her son led her to write the novel. Elizabeth came across as genuinely thoughtful and caring through the con.
The Interfilk auction was a new experience to me. Most things were sold by silent auction, but items with lots of bidding went to the voice auction, together with some items with known high interest. The auctioneers were nothing special, but they used wenches to promote the items, who would shy at very little in cajoling out higher prices. (There is an established signal for no touching that the bidder can make.)
When the CD with the KringCon concert came up, I was asked to give a short presentation of its contents, and when the bidding in earnest started I joined the other wenches. First I just imitated the other wenches, but then I got a touch of inspiration, and started to sing a very tragic and mournful rendition of "Pappersframmatningen är trasig" (that was on the CD) to the bidders. It was apparently a first at Interfilk auctions, or at least a notable happening. The CD went for a whopping 130 dollars, and Interfilk has another CD for a later auction too.
(In comparison, my aquavit languished undiscovered in the silent auction, and Dave picked it up for the bargain of 30 dollars. Bill was upset during the Dead Dog Filk that he missed bidding on it, until Dave plied him with aquavit.)
For myself, I managed to pick up a handmade kilt and a Prince Charlie jacket with vest and bowtie for 120 dollars. Teri, my competition to the jacket, folded when it was demonstrated to fit me absolutely perfectly. In all, I believe the auction raised quite a bit over 2,000 dollars, with some items being sold for the benefit of GAFilk.
During open filk, I sang I Helsingfors (in honour of Worldcon 75), A Filk Melody (since it was my other filk in the songbook), and GAFilk Is Coming (but sadly without Mary C in the audience). Lots of other great songs were heard. When it was time to leave, I did it by singing It's A Long Way Down to the Con Suite, timing the last chorus with reaching the door, after which I picked up a little snack in the con suite before getting to bed at 2.
I still woke up at 7. My roommate Naomi was also up early, so we had breakfast at the nearby Waffle House, apparently another GAFilk tradition. Upon returning to the con, I picked up and paid for my Interfilk purchases, and promptly changed to the new kilt with jacket. I also started to get a suspicion that I had picked up a ladies' kilt, something which the other kilt-bearing gentleman at the con could confirm. But at least I still managed to look good in it. I will have to look into shortening it later on.
During the Ecumenifilk, I sang Sf och Roscoe, since Roscoe is the third and greatest of the Fhannish Ghods. After Glen Raphael sang some verses from "That Real Old Time Religion" (where 47 pages constitutes a short version), the rest of us added on a bunch of other verses, where I contributed my own verse about Lucia. Then people started to improvise new verses too.
This segued into Open Filking, which was interrupted by the closing ceremonies, after which we were all somewhat left for ourselves. The closing ceremonies took a long time, since they included announcements and spiels about upcoming cons, so I spoke briefly about Fantastika (Swecon) 2016, Finncon, and Eurocon.
Teresa Powell (weirdsister) and I spoke a lot about Swedish music, especially folk music, in the con suite. Then the Dead Dog filking started in earnest. I got my notes somewhat jumbled here, but I think I managed to sing the following songs during Open Filk and Dead Dog Filk: Ingvar Svensson's "Fandom Song" (to the tune of "Greensleeves", since the original melody is lost to me), March of the Dendarii Cavalry in the First Cetagendan War, To Doctor O'Brien, regarding the Violin (as we were singing Cthulhu-themed songs), (Let It Be) Banned from Argo (doing only three verses of my mashup), one chorus and verse from Planetsången (as a follower to "Hope Eyrie"), There Is Power in a Fandom, Space Craft (my translation of Martin Q Larsson's "Jag vill bo i rymden"), and "Pappersframmatningen är trasig" (first giving a spoken word translation). Mary B sang Wolf von Witting's "Space Ranger", since I wasn't sure I could manage it, and did a great performance (though she said the scansion was a bit surprising in places, throwing her off).
ETA: I also think I sang Our Con on the Way to the Con during the Sunday.
Perhaps the nicest moment during the entire con was that when after Lauren had sung "When I'm 64", Michael the GoH promptly asked her to play it one more time on her mandolin, so that he could sing a great song about the first Worldcon (including the Pyramids and mammoths, I'd love to get a copy) to the tune. Fandom as its best.
Sometime during this time (fen were flowing in and out of the room continuously), Mary B asked me about dinner, and so Mary B, Lauren, and Cat, and me went to have dinner at the nearby Mexican place. The food was nice, but they had a grand and very loud party going in their bar, so conversation was somewhat hampered. Mary B did though try to make sense of my erratic pronounciation of the English "j" sound, which half the time came out as "y". Walking outdoors was a interesting experience, since part of me was swathed in huge amounts of fabric, and some completely exposed to the rather chilly and brisk wind.
When we were down to the last few participants, Bill sang a song about being a Cubs fan, at which Dave had to fetch his aquavit so everyone could understand Swedish when I sang Ronny Eriksson's "Pessimistkonsulten" as a follower.
Monday I checked out of the hotel, had breakfast alone at the waffle house, and could talk con running and fandom with Harry and some other people. Then filkferengi came by the hotel to pick me up for some sightseeing in Atlanta. After some hassle with the hotel parking system we got out and went to the Martin Luther King Center. They had some nice exhibitions and art, but we spent a lot of time simply talking based on what we saw and then going from there, since we got to see what she called "canonized King". Some parts of his history, like his anti-war in Vietnam stance and the way he was ostracised for it, were simply excluded. Then we took the tram to the Centennial Olympic Park and had a picnic there, catching the afternoon show with dancing fountains to music. The Center for Civil and Human Rights was closed, so we took the tram back and headed back to the airport in plenty of time for me to catch the flight back home to Gothenburg via Heathrow. It was very nice to have some good conversation and to see some of Atlanta in daylight.
Travel home was long and tedious, with a red-eye from Atlanta to Heathrow, and a long layover there, but my father met me at Landvetter, so I got home at 21, not after midnight after having to go on five (!) different buses as was the only public transit option available.
Overall, I had a great time, and I hope I didn't come across as too much of a filk hog!
Note: I'm terrible with names, and didn't really take any notes on them either, something which I regret now.
Other reports from the con: sffilk part 1, 2a, 2b, and 3; Gray Rinehart
ETA: Two corrected names. Thanks filkferengi och jophan!
ETA2: Fix links, and added con reports!