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Montreal

I’m back from Montreal, and spent the past three days digging out. Bills to be paid. Bills that had gotten lost because of the change of address so I was frantically paying past due bills by credit card. Which was actually okay because I get airline miles for every dollar I spend. But I digress. Worldcon. Well it was younger than last year’s probably due to the presence of Neil Gaiman. That was a good thing. A wise fan and I were discussing the fact that we couldn’t find anybody because we were all rattling around in this giant convention center with these off shoot hallways like inlets in a dead sea where people tended to disappear. This gentleman pointed out that at 3800 people we were too big for most hotel convention centers, and no where near big enough for a traditional convention center. The programming tended to be focused on science and philosophy. There was some eclectic programming. I was on a panel about fantasy and opera which was really great. There were also some big bloopers in terms of placing people on programming. I had to get off an origami panel as I have never in my life done origami, and had nothing to say on the subject. All in all I think George is right — there is too damn much programming so the convention ends up feeling scattered and small.

Another problem was that attendees were scattered across at least six hotels. People tended to congregate in the bar at the Intercontinental because it was close to the convention center and because they served absinthe with the full, proper ritual, but the bar was small so it became hard to talk, and there just wasn’t enough room. The party hotel, The Delta, turned out to be a nightmare because there had been some kind of miscommunication between the con and the hotel, and they ended up shutting down the SFWA suite on the night Sheila was trying to host a party. All the other parties were on the 28th floor, with a few rooms on the fifth floor for the con suite, and later for the SFWA suite. Despite having six elevators the hotel said the con goers could only use one elevator to reach the parties, and on Saturday they limited the number of people going up stairs to the number that came down.

The wait was around 45 minutes which meant I missed the Brotherhood party because I was too tired to stand in line for that long. So, I would have to call the convention a mixed bag. Montreal, however, was wonderful. It’s like being in Europe, but cheaper and you don’t have to travel for as long. The food was amazing. The problem was that it is French cuisine with American portions as we discovered to our dismay on Wednesday night when we couldn’t finish our dinners. After that I took to ordering appetizers rather than full meals and I did fine. George had booked us at a foie gras restaurant where I sampled the foie gras poppers. They were orgasmically good. My friend, Sam, tried one of the signature dinners — Duck in a Can, and George had the pig foot (leg) stuffed with foie gras. It was so large it defeated George. To give you an example of how seriously they take their food. There was a little restaurant in the Convention Center. It was like an upscale Red Lobster or Macaroni Grill. But the food was great, and I ended up eating chicken liver paté as a lunch a couple of times.

Between panels we ran all over Montreal, and still missed a lot. We got to the Botanical garden and the Olympic stadium which looks like a large flying saucer has landed, and you should be really worried about that giant extrusion curving up above the roof. It’s either going to rain down aliens or death rays.

We strolled through the Old Town and admired the preservation of the old buildings.

I bought maple syrup. The cathedral is magnificent, and the inside is painted in jewel-like shades of red and blue. The old churches in Europe have lost their paint so you just see the grey of the stone. Here you got a sense of how those medieval churches would have looked.

Another day we took the metro and a bus up onto the mountain which offered us an amazing view across the city and the St. Lawrence river.

The public transport is easy to use and very reasonable. I love my little city, but sometimes I wish I lived in a place where I could use public transportation.

On the last day we went out to the biosphere. I thought we were going to the biodome because I wanted to see lemurs, but instead we ended up at a temple to Buckminster Fuller. It was okay because it’s an amazing edifice, and the walk through the park was wonderful.

We finished off the day touring the Hotel Ramezay, the 18th century home of the governor which has been beautifully restored.

I saw the most amazing thing — a small cage set next to the hearth in the kitchen to turn to spit. What turned the spit, you might ask. Not a small child. No, a dog. I don’t know how they kept the dog running in the barrel cage, but it was deeply cool.

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