Fun Friday: Vandalia Con

And it’s Friday again.  Busy week here in the darkest jungles of Appalachia.  I’ve had a busy week, as if you couldn’t guess.  Another doctor visit, but this one didn’t involve my guts or being sick.  No, I ordered new glasses!  Yay!  I don’t do this nearly often enough, mostly because glasses are obscenely expensive.  But it’s been five-ish years since my last exam.  Plus, I broke my glasses back in January (they’re currently being held together with black duct tape.  Thank you to my hubby for his jerry-rigging, but oh, dear heavens, I look ridiculous!).  So it seemed I was gonna have to bite the bullet.  Luckily, we have vision care on our health insurance this time, so the cost did not break the bank.  I’ll probably post a picture of me and my new specs on my Facebook page (no, I’m not posting a picture of Duct Tape Glasses!  No way I’m giving y’all blackmail material! 😀 )

I also finally got back behind the wheel of a car again.  It’s a testament to just how ill I was last year when I say my family has not let me drive since October or so.  They were too scared something bad would happen.  Yeah, it was frustrating, but they were right; I had no business behind the wheel, sick as I was.  But now I’m not sick, and I can’t depend on being chauffeured everywhere.  So I whinged and complained and argued until I got the keys to the car again.  YAY!

Finally, it’s Holy Week, for those of us practicing the Christian faith.  Maundy Thursday was yesterday, Good Friday today.  Two church services this coming Sunday.  Lots of running back and forth to church (a half hour drive one-way for me).  Busy busy busy.  But I derive a lot of comfort from church, so it’s worth it.

Okay, so I’ve mentioned VandaliaCon before.  It’s a Steampunk con in Parkersburg, WV founded by some old friends of mine.  It’s a small con — last year had an attendance of 300 — but that’s a selling point, in my humble opinion; smaller, more intimate gatherings generally are more fun, less hectic, and less intimidating to the introvert and chronically shy (like me!).

Now don’t get me wrong, I enjoy a good party.  But Vandalia is extra special:  the tagline for the con is “Saving the Mothers of Invention.”  A big point of the con is to raise money so women of Appalachia can have mammograms and cervical cancer screenings.  See, the thing is, Appalachia has a dreadful record about women’s health.  Part of it is the culture:  we mountain women just don’t talk about that, not with our families, not with our doctors, not amongst ourselves.  But most of it is about being poor.  Lyndon Johnson’s War on Poverty, well, it ain’t playing out so well here in the trenches, not in 2015.  Lots of women don’t have the money for these exams (which are expensive, don’t kid yourself); I have fairly good insurance, and even I’m daunted by the out-of-pocket for a mammogram.   Last year, Vandalia raised  over $5,000 cash for their war chest (no pun intended).  It doesn’t sound like a lot, but you’d be surprised how far that can be stretched, and how many women it helps.  This year, they’re hoping to raise more.

So as I recall, when I last mentioned Vandalia, I said I was gonna attend this one.  I’ve never actually attended a con before, and I wanted this one to be my first.  It was gonna be epic.  Of course, then surgery happened, and doctors and prescriptions and oh, my God, do you know how much all that costs?  A crap-ton of bills pretty much told me that, in fact no, I was not gonna get to do the con thing this spring.  The disappointment, it was huge.

But this week, I got a message from a friend of mine, who goes by the name of Jan.  I met Jan around the same time I met Bret and Shelly (the founders of the con), and we were all friends together.  It helped a lot that Bret, Shelly and Jan are all genius fencers and, while I am NOT a genius fencer, I do know the basics and, before I landed in my chair, I really enjoyed the sport, regardless of how sucky I was (yeah, not kidding, fencing as in “Hello, my name is Inigo Montoya” fencing.  Quick tip:  don’t piss these folks off; they have sharps and know how to use them).

Jan is a wonderful person, a teacher, a photographer, a wife and mother, and just generally a kind and gentle soul (who, nevertheless, knows how to use a long pointy object to carve a big “Z” into your backside with a simple flick of the wrist.  Humans are a mass of contradictions, no?).  She and I bonded over a passion for fencing (her teaching me), sewing (me teaching her) and American Sign Language (just sharing with one another).

Gosh, I’ve wandered far afield, huh?  Anyway, Jan and I had planned to do the con together.  But then life got in my way, and I had to back out.  Until I got the message this week from Jan.  In short, she’s paying my way to Vandalia.  She’s paying my entrance fee.  I’m riding up with her.  She even changed her reservation to a wheelchair-accessible hotel room so I could bunk in with her!  All I have to do is pay for my meals and any extras I may desire.

BTW:  did I mention, she’s also paying for my daughter as well, because said daughter helps me in my day-to-day mobility and functioning?

Apparently it’s a birthday present (I turn 49 in just shy of three weeks).  How do you thank somebody for a gift like that?  No, I can’t answer that one, either, but I’m open to suggestions.  I’m getting together with this saintly woman this weekend, to do a marathon of sewing (I’m sewing a small project for her, and we’re going to see about doing some fittings and mending on her Steampunk outfit for the con).  But knocking together a blouse / smock, and taking in a few seams on some existing outfits (both things I can do in my sleep) doesn’t begin to cover it.  Gonna have to put my thinking cap on for this one.

So yeah, looks like I’ll be at Vandalia Con.  If you live in driving distance of Morgantown or Parkersburg (I’m looking at you, Pittsburgh, PA people; I’ve done that run before, it’s not that far), I STRONGLY urge you to come up to Parkersburg on May 22-24, at the Blennerhassett Hotel.  Entrance fee is only $30 (dead cheap, guys, you can’t do better than that!) and there are a ton of activities:  a concert by Eli August and the Abandoned Buildings, a tea drinking tournament, children’s activities (how cool is that?!?), competitions, classes and panels, you name it.  There’s even going to be an RC aircraft regatta!  Costumes are encouraged but by no means required.  AND!  Bonnie’s Bus will be providing on-site mammograms.  Most insurances are accepted by Bonnie’s Bus, but no woman over forty will be turned away for a lack of ability to pay.

If you like this blog, please come find me at the event.  You can’t miss me:  I’ll be the woman “of a certain age” wearing a headscarf with whatever Steampunky garb I can cobble together (cosplay is a relatively new thing for me), in a wheelchair.  I’ll have a mini-entourage (my daughter and at least one friend), probably doing sign language interpretation at the occasional class or concert (not officially or professionally; I’ll just have people with me who need the service, and I don’t know if they’ll have a licensed ‘terp on-site).  Just come up and say, “Hey, AJ!” (I’ve also been known to answer to “Junely;” how I became an adverb is anybody’s guess).

I will be taking pictures and hopefully some video, and I will definitely share those here.  I’m particularly looking forward to the airship races and the costumes.  I’ve seen pictures from last year, and OH MY GOD I”M JEALOUS OF HOW COOL EVERYBODY LOOKED!!!!!!  In the meantime, I’m trying to score a guest post or  interview with either Bret or Shelly Dusic, the founders of the feast.  Even though we’re old friends, it’s difficult, as they’re both busy busy people, and twice as busy now with the run-up to the convention.  If I can make this happen, I’ll be posting it here.

Okay, so that’s it for me today.  You know the drill:  share, tweet, comment.  You can email me at ajwriter-at-ajclarkson-dot-net, if you have a suggestion for a future Fun Friday spotlight, or just want to talk about steampunk, dieselpunk or New Pulp.  Enjoy your weekend, y’all, and seriously, check out Vandalia Con; it’s gonna be epic!  Be good, y’all, and if you can’t be good, don’t get caught!

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