Thursday, October 9, 2008

Road Trippin' in the MidWest: AustenCon '08

This weekend milady Carroll and I headed out at 4 in the morning to go to the Windy City. The reason for our excursion was that Rachel had won the undergraduate essay contest put up by the Jane Austen Society of North America, or JASNA for short. She was then offered a chance to come to the JASNA annual convention, or, as I like to call it, AustenCon '08.

To help us stay awake on the trip down and up I had purchased a collection of 16 Sherlock Holmes radio dramas from the '40s. All of these dramas were brought to us "by Clipper Craft Clothes... with a finely sewn Clipper Craft suit, you'll be the smartest, nicest, and best dressed man in the room... for only 45 dollars!" I could probably go on, but then I'd want to kill myself. The dramas themselves were appropriately hokey and entertaining, and Inspector Holmes proved himself to be quite a dick (in more ways than one). I'll probably do a rant about that one later, after I've gotten my hands on some more Sherlock Holmes books. So far I've read Hound of the Baskervilles and listened to the dramas, and I want to read/hear more.

My first view of Chicago brought about two thoughts: 1) that the city looked pretty ugly from I-90 and 2) WOW that tower looks evil. Apparently the latter was in reference to the John Hancock building, which totally looks like a great big black monolith jutting up from the city and casting a huge, black, withering shadow on all it surveys. Oh, and our hotel was right next to it! As part of our package deal, we got to stay two nights at the Ritz-Carlton, which was fan-freaking-tastic. The room itself didn't really stand out (though the window sill was large enough to stand in), but the price tag more than made up for itself in the bed and bathrobes. I have never, ever slept in a more comfortable on more comfortable pillows than that one. And the bathrobes were soooo freakin sweet I wanted to steal some.

After we had dropped off our things in the room Rachel headed out to take part in the Con and I tried to fall asleep. Unfortunately I was still running on adrenaline and hunger, so that was a lost cause. I decided to head down into the bottom of our hotel that connects to Water Tower Plaza, a shopping mall on Michigan Ave. I went up to the 7th floor, checked out an Auntie Anne's and went over to check out a California Pizza when I recognize a familiar face staring at me from inside the restaurant shaking his head and laughing. It turns out that Des was going out to lunch with his OUTLaw people directly below my hotel. He directed me to a place called Wow Bao, which serves Bao (I know, what a surprise!). Bao are Chinese dumplings filled with awesome, and are relatively cheap too.

Des later caught up with me eating Bao and we headed over to his apartment, which was conveniently located 5 blocks from the Ritz. On the way I got a tour of his law school which is located almost directly next to the Ritz. The library was the most amusing part, thanks to the communal chess game (make a move and then flip the card saying which color's move it is), the supreme court collectible cards, and the incredibly distracting view of the lake.

We hung out together for a bit, came back to the Ritz to see Rachel and guide her to her next event, and then went out in search of dinner. Unfortunately all of the deep dish pizza places were filled to the brim, so we wandered into the city until we came to a place called the Hop House. When I have more money, I want to come back there, because the selection of beer is nothing short of amazing. I, poor person that I am, opted to instead to only have the Wild Burger Trio, which is a collection of three mini-burgers made out of various tasty animals. I chose kangaroo, ostrich and wild boar, and all were delicious. We then headed back to the Ritz, and Rach and I eventual passed out at some point.

The next day I got to see Des sing in front of the NorthWest alumni in his accappella group and tagged along as he went about his chores. Later I got word that I was invited to the AustenCon banquet and ball, and therefore needed to find a suit ASAP. For those not in the know, the ball at AustenCon is performed in traditional dress by many of the members, and I had been told that I couldn't come when we left Minneapolis. So, my top hat, leather gloves, tuxedo, dancing shoes... all of that about 7 hours too far away to help me. However, this did give me the opportunity to go shopping. I purchased a sweet new vest, a red silky shirt (the first red article of clothing that I own!) and some charcoal pants to match the vest. Shoes and socks were borrowed from Des.

The ball was pretty sweet- the traditional dances were lots of fun and Rachel's main AustenCon pal was a really interesting person to talk to. We also had a parade down Michigan Ave, which was very hilariously awesome in concept and in execution. We later retired to the hotel and called it a night.

The next day, several interesting things happened. First, I accidentally got the room charged to Rachel's credit card instead of to JASNA. Second, it started raining. Third, we had to be out of the hotel by noon and pick up the car by 3. The first was fixed after a period of frantic worrying and a great Thai lunch (though it is still on Rachel's card... stupid banks...), the second did not short out my laptop, and the third unfortunately made Rachel miss seeing Des' apartment and also stopped us from getting Dunkin Donuts coffee. Grr.

But, all in all, the trip was pretty fun for me. I got to have a lot of conversations with Des about my various mythologies that I daydream about, about what kinds of books we like, various tv shows, and other sundry topics. I got to buy a sweet new vest. And, I got to stay in a Ritz for (practically) free. Stay tuned for a special guest host who will explain even more!

Until next time...

"When you feel like tellin a feller to go to the devil--tell him to go to Chicago--it'll anser every purpose, and is perhaps, a leetle more expensive."
- Snodgrass' Ride on the Railroad, 11/29/1856 by Mark Twain

1 comment:

Draskireis said...

::pokes to see if it's dead::