Boston UnCon- Friday

Convention Day 1. I’ll be posting my photos later as a full gallery, but here are a few (click the thumbnails for larger images).

Witchy release- Photo by Sushil

I woke up before my alarm was supposed to go off on Friday. Technically, I borrowed my mother’s alarm clock (mine seemed unreliable after the Florida trip) and couldn’t find it on Thursday night, so I set my phone and worried about it the whole time. Then I woke up at 8:35 and decided just to get up. I had told the girls I had to be downstairs at 10am but then I started second-guessing that and wondering if it wasn’t 9am that I was supposed to be down there. I decided to get dressed, have a few Nutragrain bars, and sit downstairs in the lobby in order to run into BookCrossers. If they were indeed meeting at 10, I’d have time to go over to McDonald’s and use their free WiFi. If they were meeting at 9, I wouldn’t miss them. Turns out, they were meeting at 9:15! I’m glad I got up early!

I had enough time to go check out the book buffet and take a few books from it to release while out on the early bird trip I had signed up for to Salem, Massachusetts. This choice turned out to be one of my favorite parts of the trip; I’m so glad I went early to go to it! Our group was small: me, MissMarkey, the Slumps, GoryDetails, and Sushil, who was our group leader (kept us from getting lost). We took the T over to the train station which, coincidentally, was the Boston Bruins’ arena—I got to go in! And then I realized I’d left a book at home that had a Boston Bruin on the front cover; what was I THINKING? Actually, the whole weekend reminded me of how BADLY I had prepared for this trip. No snarf maps, no snarf lists of any sort, really no thought at all about what books I was taking apart from the skinny ones that would fit in my luggage, etc. To be fair, I was the only one working on the goody bags and presentation for BCinDC and so everything fell on my shoulders. I decided way in advance that my own personal releasing and fun would have to take a back seat to the presentation. The point was to invite people who actually had a likelihood of coming and I felt a bit bad that I wasn’t able to get some of the things I’d hoped for into the bags, but I did the very best I could with what time I had. In the end, people seemed happy with the result AND I got some great releases. So it all worked out nicely.

Anyway, we got to Salem around 10:30 or so and slowly made our way through downtown toward the harbor because everyone wanted seafood. Seafood restaurants are actually my least favorite places to eat. Even at stake houses you usually have the ability to order a garden salad and a baked potato. At most seafood places there are absolutely NO options for vegetarians. But all the others in my group were very passionate and excited about seafood, so I figured if there were nothing I could eat, I’d just find something somewhere afterward.

The buildings of Salem were so quintessentially New England. And the shops were amazing. There was everything from touristy stuff to kitchy witchy stuff to hardcore pagan stuff—all of which was appealing to me! I could have shopped in those stores all day easily. We were all pulled toward the used bookstore where all the books were being sold at 50% and books were stacked up in strange, winding piles around the store, creating a real towering labyrinth of books around us. I even ran into a bunch of Harry Potter stuff at a few stores and had to exercise a WHOLE lot of restraint to not buy a Harry Potter cauldron tea candle holder and a Hufflepuff hat. You’d think after all the Harry Potter stuff I bought in Florida I would have everything I could ever want, but there was plenty of HP goodies in the shops that I had never even seen before online! It was so tempting.

My first release of the day- Photo by Sushil

Quirky book shop

I released a few books (one on the lap of Samantha, the TV witch from Bewitched, another near the statue of Hawthorne), took some photos of snarfs with Eeyore, and most of all I got to know the other BookCrossers in my group.

We ate outside at lunch (again, not the choice I would have made, if I had been choosing) right by the docks so we got to look out at the boats bobbing in the water. I ordered a salad that seemed safe and appealing—fresh greens, pine nuts, raspberries, blue cheese, and a vanilla sauce. It was, without a doubt, one of the top 3 salads I have ever had in my life. The dressing was incredible, the balance of flavors was amazing, and the cheese was so sparse that it didn’t take over any of the flavor of the rest of the salad. My plate was beyond clean at the end of the meal. That seafood restaurant definitely earns five stars from me for its non-seafood options! Bravo!

Hawthorne statue

Giant anchor

Nummy salad

After lunch we walked over to the Central Wharf where two ships were docked. One of them, the peacemaker, charged no admission, so we went aboard that one. I love old ships… or ships made to look like old ships… or really any sailing ships in general. I’ve always been in love with nautical terms and rigging and navigating and the idea of people actually living on one of these traditional kinds of ships. I can’t really describe my love of it, especially as I know it’s NOT the place for me, but something about the concept is so peaceful and romantic and adventurous and appealing in theory. I left a copy of Slave Dancer (which features a ship on the front) on the boat and saw it being picked up and put in a purse by someone on my way out.

The Salem lot

Boat release

I’m on a boat!- Photo by Sushil

We then walked over to the cemetery and the witches memorial, which was really the one thing I desperately wanted to see in all of Salem. The cemetery was fantastic, though so many graves with those skulls on them took me by surprise at first (I saw hundreds with that symbol on them throughout the weekend at various Boston cemeteries as well; I even saw a postcard with that on it, though I didn’t buy it). The memorial was not at all what I was expecting. Instead of a large, elaborate monument, the award-winning memorial was actually an open stone area. In the front were the last words of many of those who had been convicted of being witches. And on stones jutting out from the walls on the other 3 sides of the area were the names of those poor souls, in order of their deaths—and not just the women, either, but the few men who had been implicated as well, whether pressed to death or hanged. It brought tears to my eyes and reminded me, once again, of how cruel people can be when they’re scared or feel threatened.

I’m in trouble… again

Witches Memorial

Harry Potter goodiesl

GoryDetails headed back early because she was helping with the convention goody bags and things (isn’t that sweet of her?) and the remaining five of us ended up taking a sightseeing trolley tour of the town. It was expensive ($15) considering we wouldn’t have time to do more than just ride it around once or so but I really like those tours because you get a great overview of things and are entertained at the same time. I definitely learned a lot and wish I could have gotten off at every stop to explore more of each place.

After the trolley tour we had about 40 minutes to kill. We walked around a bit and then we split up. I decided to go walk around and take some photos of snarfs I’d seen from the trolley or ones I might have missed in the main downtown area earlier. I wasn’t so successful at this because I didn’t want to stray too far and get lost. I was getting hungry and almost bought a veggie sub, but decided there wasn’t enough time to eat it before we had to leave. I ended up searching around and finally locating the shop I’d ducked into for only a second earlier that day that sold Harry Potter stuff. I was really impressed with their displays and I ended up buying a Time Turner necklace that actually has a clock in it; I’d never seen such a thing before and it was a great price (and came in a padded wooden box as well). I released my last book and then met up with the other BookCrossers in front of one of the museums to wait for the trolley to return. They had a special shuttle for us from that part of town to the Salem Ferry; so the trolley tour saved us a bit of walking at the end of the day; more worth it than I had thought it would be.

Salem Ferry

Ships passing

Meaning of life boat

Two if by sea

The ferry ride was wonderful. There wasn’t space available to sit down, so I ended up standing, but that was great because I could walk from one side to the other to take photos of the water and the islands and the boats and lighthouses. I’ve been on a few ferries before, but this was by far my favorite. It was wonderful watching as we approached Boston. There were so many things to see—waterfront houses, other ships, airplanes landing and taking off right overhead. I even saw a cargo carrier that looked just like Nathan’s LEGO one! (Yeah, I was still in a bit of a LEGO mindset as BrickFair hadn’t even been a week before). Even when seats opened up, I ended up standing and walking around, taking photos and enjoying the breeze in just the right amounts, where it couldn’t get to my hat & sunglasses.

On the T on the way back to the hostel, a young man asked me about my BookCrossing t-shirt (he saw we were all wearing them). I explained the concept and he loved the idea enough to explain it to the guy he was with. When he got to the part about leaving free books around, his friend started looking around “where?” Sadly, we’d all released all our books in Salem and had none to give as examples! I hope he looks into it, though.

I dropped my stuff off and then went up to the top floor with the intent of getting online and making journal entries & release notes for the ones I’d released (a handful of books only, but all counted for the Reverse Scavenger Hunt). But they were heading out to the dinner place when I got there, so I ended up picking up my goody bag and turning right back around and following them out. Sorry, book buffet. Maybe next time!

We had hors d’oeuvres over at a sports bar near Fenway (one of the many I passed during my hour-long attempt at finding food the night before; ironically, the place I finally chose to eat was where the early bird UnConvention-goers were. If I’d just gone there in the first place and looked around, I would have seen them! But I didn’t know where they would be eating and I figured I arrived too late to catch them. If only I’d known). I ate some of the veggies and had water and got to know some BookCrossers. I’m Shy McShyerton around people I don’t know and I’m crap at making small talk, but I did manage to have some great conversations and I got to meet a bunch of BookCrossers. It was fantastic to see elle311 again (she’s not only an honorary member of BCinDC but she was the only one who I’d met in person before) and it was so great to finally be able to put a face to a username for BookCrossers like solittletime and Wilderwoman! I tried the stuffed mushrooms. I suspect there might have been meat in them but I couldn’t identify any and so I’m happy being ignorant and hoping there wasn’t any… because I ended up eating, like, 7 of them. Hey, I was hungry after walking around Salem all day.

We moved our chairs into a big circle-like shape for the Yankee swap. I hadn’t realized we were supposed to have wrapped our books, but luckily I’d brought one of the thick, yellow LEGO bags from the previous convention I’d been to and it folded up around my book enough times to hide the contents. The concept of the swap, I soon learned, was that one person would choose a book and open it. The next person would get to choose from an unopened book or take the book the first person had chosen. I also learned that no one was quite sure about how the game was supposed to work. Was the person supposed to trade the book she had brought for the one selected? If so, did both unwrap or did just one? In cases of taking an unopened book, was the one traded for to remain unwrapped or not, so that there was always at least one unwrapped at each turn? What about the person who didn’t bring a book? Or the one who brought two? It was all very confusing but we eventually decided on consistent rules. My book was chosen by the second or third person (who was intrigued by the wrapping; LEGO bag for the win!). When my book was pulled out, there was a collective gasp and exclamation from the whole crowd. Before I left, I’d bought two hardcover copies of Make Way for Ducklings off a seller on eBay. I’d opted for expensive, fast shipping to be sure it arrived before I was due to leave. Apparently it was worth it. The book was quite popular. In fact, it changed hands (I think) 8 times during the game. I was glad I had brought my own copy of it to release, so when it was my turn I didn’t have to steal it back. I ended up taking the Vampire Stories from New England book from Nancy (the Hufflepuff in me didn’t like that part of the game), but I think her husband said she had never read a vamp story in her life so if it wasn’t her thing, it’s just as well I ended up with it because OMG how perfect and fun!

Pre-swap- Photo by Sushil

I talked with BookCrossers after the swap and heard someone on the other side of the room say “The Shadow of the Wind”. Well, you can bet I practically ran right over to jump into that discussion. I’ve never been able to have a good talk in real life with anyone about that book (well, that’s not completely true, the woman in line in front of me at the John Green & David Levithan book signing had read it and we talked about it a little then). I gave them my opinions about the author’s other two books (one of which I earread a few months ago, the other last year) and we all agreed that it was one of the best translations of a book ever… um, because it is. Seriously. What a great way to (almost) end my evening: talking about one of my favorite books with new friends! I think this is why I like BookCrossers so much. Even though I felt shy and didn’t really know anyone, everyone was so welcoming and we all had this wonderful love of literature in common.

Right before we were to leave, Bruce Pederson arrived! That was a surprise to pretty much all of us. I nervously said hello and shook his hand and introduced myself “Hi, I’m KateKintail, one of the convention planners from BCinDC.” His response was a very enthusiastic, “Hi! Is crrcookie here?” Um… “No, she couldn’t make it,” I replied. To which I got a much more subdued, almost depressed, “Oh” from him. Not exactly the reaction I was hoping for. LOL! Then he moved on to say hello to others and I moved on to other conversations as well.

We walked back to the hostel, at which point I tried for the third time to make a proper visit to the Book Buffet and to try to finally get online. There was a nearby free wireless network you could get if you sat up against the windows on one wall of the top floor. I hadn’t been able to find the network earlier, but this time I got on, though it was really slow. I make release notes on the books I’d left in Salem (none of which had been caught yet) and I picked up a bunch of books from the book buffet in order to release them the next day… and to take others home for myself. Who can resists rows and rows of free books? Not me! I even snagged a copy of The Lost Symbol, knowing we’d been on the lookout for one in BCinDC.

The Reverse Scavenger Hunt is as follows. You get a list of things to look for and you have to leave a book at each one. Some of these are easy: on a bench, in a newspaper box, somewhere green, by something historical. Some of them are harder: somewhere cold, to a stranger, somewhere themed. Some of them are ambiguous: somewhere mysterious. There were 24 in total, which is quite a lot for only having a day or two in which to release (they were due by 10pm on Saturday night. Good thing I arrived early and got a handful done at Salem!

I went back to my room, counted my books, and then went back again for another armful so I’d at least have enough to release to TRY to accomplish the scavenger hunt, though I wasn’t going on the big release walk the next day so I figured I had little hope of completing it.

I took a shower and some painkillers before bed. My feet hurt from so much walking though, mostly, I hurt because my stupid left hip popped out of place that morning and I had been walking on it like that and putting pressure on it when walking when it’s popped out just makes it hurt like HELL even when I can finally get it back into place. Stupid body. If it’s not one thing it’s another. I’d been limping for most of the day and looked forward to climbing up into the loft bed and resting for the night. But first I made sure the BCinDC stuff was all ready for the next day’s presentation. I ran through my speech a few more times to myself as my roommates were getting ready for bed.