Since I am now living on the other side of the world to my family and most of my friends this blog is about things I enjoy, things I notice, people I meet, people I miss, history, planning for the future, love and life in general! I guess it's about whatever pops into my head which I want to share with my friends and family... and who knows? I might make some more friends along the way!

29 October, 2007

Dragon*Con - the final chapter!

The day I hadn't wanted to come was here, and to make it more distressing, I had effectively stood up 'Naughtyman' (Frank) at the Atlanta Bakery across the road... I slept much later than I'd expected, despite sharing my bed with several others! Frank phoned me to say he had arrived late too and would I still meet him? I caught up briefly with him, collecting some weapons for Jimi and Tom, but I also convinced him that Jimi would be happy to drive him to Alabama for the shindig at Tom's that night...

The final day of Dragon Con was here, and so was the final day to do any of the many things I had expected to achieve during the 4 days of the convention. For one thing I was determined to visit the dealers rooms and find some shiny swag, I had saved some money for just this purpose. Rose and I went over to the Hilton Hotel and we had a ball wandering around feeling totally overwhelmed by the range and quantity of goods on offer, there were comics and T-shirts, books, games, costumes, novelty items, jewellery and DVDs... there were cloth patches and magnets, CDs and badges, flags and posters, swords, knives and guns (replica I assume - though there may have been some real ones, it was a whole new world to me).

There were genres from anime to Armageddon, from Firefly to Star Wars and Star Trek and Battlstar Galactica. There were goth faeries, modern faeries, whimsical faeries and impish faeries. There were Heavy Metal, Gothic and Alternative/Underground bands represented in the CDs and T-shirts as well as the DVDs and posters, and there were copies of episodes of just about any show you could name available for a reasonable price - I managed to purchase a copy of the pilot of the yet-to-be -aired "Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles" starring our own Summer Glau. (It's supposed to be coming to TV in the USA in January!)

I managed to find the Browncoat booth (and caught up with Alicia/Boomergoodheart & her husband Ben) and convinced myself to buy a T-shirt (which says 'BROWNCOAT - might not have been with winning side, still not convinced it was the wrong one') a couple of lanyards for gifts, pins, stickers and a deckle for my car! Then at another booth I found a Kaylee ID tag (which I added to the costume I was wearing) and some cloth patches including a few Harry Potter's and a Blue Sun one for my back pack!
I was really inspired by the jewellery - much of it was of a renaisance/Gothic/medieval style and since I have learned that the whole Renaisance Fair scene is huge in the USA I would imagine some of the vendors go from Fair to Fair and Convention to Convention. I took a lot of photos of the stuff that most inspired me, and generally Rose and I had a lot of fun! We were really tired, though, and there was some misunderstanding about the arrangements for that night, which I contributed to, and which ended up with us deciding to travel to the shindig planned for that evening at Tom's house in Alabama (about an hour and a half's drive) and then return to Atlanta to sleep in our hotel room and get Lila to the airport early the next morning, with Jimi, it meant another night with little sleep - but for my Rose it was worth it.

So we finished packing, I discovered that every auto-teller in a three block radius was out of money, and then we headed to Alabama, and the 76th shindig, but not after saying some sad farewells to folk who were unable to attend the additional festivities.

I have a feeling I slept a little on the way - but we were there before I knew it and we were in the thick of the fun as soon as we stepped off the minivan which Jimi brought 9 of us in! There, in the driveway was my precious friend, Amy! She and I had 'met' through Tom in happier times and we'd kept a close bond ever since. She is one of the most amazing and strong, yet sweet and true-to-herself young women I have ever known! My regret in the next hour is that I hadn't realised Amy's time was limited and I spent more time running around and playing with the airsoft guns and catching up with random folk than I would have if I had realised she would need to leave so soon after we'd arrived. She had to work very early the next morning. I do have one gorgeous photo of the two of us together though, and yet another memory of a friend I have now hugged!
The food was wonderful! I got to meet Tom's parents too, and his mother had made the most amazing 'jumbalayah' (sic?) and I enjoyed the fresh bao so very much as well! The best fun was getting to play with the airsoft rifles and hand guns - shooting just about anyone and everyone who was armed! Shot of the night was taken through the gap between the door frame and the door and I got Tom good and proper! I was as amazed as he was! I think my photographic skills have a lot to do with my steady hand with the weapons! I learned to hold a camera very still and gently pull on the trigger... as it were... I also enjoyed playing with his sharp kantana, there was a set of 3 hanging in the Maidenhead Bar downstairs! Rose took this picture - she is very into sharp, pointy things! I think the look on my face says it all! The Bedlam Bards were wonderful! Having them there was just pure joy! They sang and played and chatted and Michael (Navy) surprised us all by playing the guitar and being simply amazing at it! He has such a gift and was completely transformed when he picked up the instrument... I so enjoyed the time we were there, and it seemed too soon that we were heading back to Atlanta - though I have no idea what time it was really... Rose, Lila, Jimi, the Michaels, Zeph and I headed back to the Hyatt Hotel, though I might have suddenly kissed 'someone' as I was out the front of the house... I was really wanting to do that all night but when 'someone' was surprised (and honestly, who can blame him, I did pretty much 'ambush' him so I guess that was to be expected) I thought I'd made a mistake and kind of... fled... sorry... So I was fairly quiet on the way home and I was fairly quiet for the rest of the night, but I slept well...

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06 October, 2007

Dragon*Con, part 5, Sunday

Sunday morning came all too soon... or should I say Sunday afternoon, coz we all fell asleep so late and then suddenly someone was knocking on the door of our room and Rose panicked coz she'd planned to meet the Michael's at around 11.30 somewhere, and in the end they came looking for her... no big though, it was after 1pm, but they'd just woken up and raced over to find us!! I have a feeling that this was the day I went over to the Atlanta Bakery and discovered that everything in America comes with a side dish! There was a pickle and a packet of chips/crisps with my enormous sandwitch, and just for good measure I ordered cheese grits since they had them... of course once I'd eaten the grits I could barely fit the roast beef sandwitch in so I shared that with Navy... or was it Michael?

What did I wear? Oh yes!! Kaylee again! This time I wore a little top that I hadn't really intended to wear with it, but it worked really well! I remember catching up with Lila, Rose and the Michaels who'd all been shopping, and heading somewhere to meet CallMeSerenity, and since we were early and the 'Q & A with Ron Glass' hadn't finished we popped in for the last few minutes, which was hilarious since Lila was wearing a jingling scarf/belly dancing waist ornament. I remember that Canter asked a terrific question of Ron Glass, who remembered her and told the people there the story of her having ordered copies of Firefly from the UK in order to introduce her friends to it in South Africa. I remember that Dark Jester was there, filming, as always, the Firefly/Serenity related events at D*C, and I started a trend when I asked him if I may take a photo of his camera with it's minature Jayne hat on top! I also bought my, now treasured, CallMeSerenity-knitted Jayne hat! (try saying that three times quickly!!) and I loved wearing it! It was amazing how many calls and shouts of recognition I received for the rest of the day/night as I wandered around the con...

Rose and I had decided to invite folk to our room to hold a 'room party' that evening, so we headed back there in time to tidy up a little )which pretty much involved us sticking all our stuff under tables and into corners and wishing we had more chairs. We'd met up with Jimi and his 'adopted sister' Laurel and her husband (Brian?) (who were truly wonderful and lovely folk) in the food court, and by phoning, texting and telling everyone we bumped into that we were heading to our room for a get together we pretty much spread the word... We had a few there to start with, though the moment he got in poor Jimi was ordered to lie down by MsG, and nobody dares to disobey MsG, so he did, and he slept soundly for the rest of the night! Folks came and went, we watched the 'Costume Competition' on the closed circuit, dedicated TV channel that showed Dragon Con things - I loved the 'bumpers' that had questions and answers, and amusing little film clips! The contest was hosted by two of the gang from 'Mythbusters' and some of it was wonderful and some was cringeworthy and there was a terrific little homage to Firefly in the middle!
At some stage the rum disappeared... I was really cross as it was in my and Jimi's care, and was apparently taken to another room party without even the courtesy of mentioning it to either of us... more annoying was the none of us knew where this other room party was - initially we were told it was in the Boothes room, but this was not the case, so it remains a mystery. (The rum did turn up at Tom's house the following night, but we never received an explaination or an appology...)

Rose and I and some of the others were planning to go to a midnight screening of the Rocky Horror Picture Show but with a few guests still in our room and feeling pretty exhausted from the last few days I decided to give it a miss, but she, Clara and Engie (who were wonderful sports about us having a room party without really having asked them) went as planned and from all accounts had a wonderful time! Canter and I decided to go looking for the rum at some point, and while Michael (AB Michael, not Navy) and Laurel went party hopping with Tommy, Canter and I headed over to the Marriott to interrogate Spartans to see if any of them had our rum hidden on their person! Along the way we met up with Boothe and his adorable wife who was now decked out as a grey angel! I found Jesus at D*C, and we noticed any number of weird and wonderful figures! We searched several Spartans - but hadn't questioned anywhere near all 300 when we came across Naughtyman, Big Rosie and Doc Jubal, who was an amazing Hellboy!! Ah well, we'll have to find an excuse to continue interrogating the Spartan's next year! Some time later... much, much later, we headed back to our rooms, and I assume Canter went to her own bed, but I discovered folk still chatting, watching D*C TV and generally on the go in ours! The Rock Horror gang returned at some point and had had a ball!! In the end we had 7 sleeping the night away in our room... Jimi, Lila and I in one bed with NavySeils, Rose, Michael and Clara in the other! Somehow - sleep was had! Oh - at one stage Rose half sat up and was talking in her sleep (she'd done it before, so I knew the look!), she was lying across the bed with a Glaswegian Michael on either side of her and said "I have everything I need!" and lay down and continued breathing deeply! It was rather funny (even if I was half asleep)!

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Dragon*Con, part 4, Saturday continued.

So after the parade... after the parade... ummmmm...

I know I must have gone and changed! I think I had jeans and a black top with my gorgeous, Tristan built, Kaylee jacket! I put my rather flat hair up in little knots, but they looked more like "Pucca ears" (as Lauren calls them) than Kaylee hair! I spent some time with Engie and Clara becuase we wanted to attend the 'Spike and Drusila' Panel which also had Elizabeth Rhom (from Angel) and was really fun and insightful! James Masters is a wonderful person who really keeps the audience entertained and there were some lovely moments with him and Juliet Landau! I think one of the lovliest things that was revealed was when one of the audience members there aske them "What was your favourite scene as your respective characters?" To my delight Juliet Landau referred to the very moment that I had been discussing outside with Lissa, ManwithPez and others from the boards while waiting in the queue... the moment where they touch foreheads and then turn towards the 'chosen one' in the earliest episode they appeared in. Juliet told the story of how they were playing with their lines at the audition and that moment just occoured and how Joss loved it so much he kept it in the episode - the quintessential Drew and Spike moment! The other response from James was just as delightful! He said that any scene with Juliet was the real Spike for him - all the rest of the time he was just "trying to be Spike, because without Drusila, Spike was not himself!"

It was also the day of the BBQ which Jimi had organised with Zeph's help, so we duly arrived at the appointed place and time to find some rediculous drama had gone on! It seems that some Nazi security personell, perhaps feeling out of sorts due to the overwhelming numbers of people in the hotel, or perhaps just pissed off that everyone was having fun and not them, decided to lay a huge penalty on 3 of the lovliest and most unthreatening people in our group for ... get this... dropping 4 half sized business cards from the 10th floor balcony! Given that we'd seen a lot more things thrown from the balcony, and given that there were actual 'parachute races' involving plastic bags at a later stage from the 40th floor of the same hotel (which not only did not have any repercussions, but I have heard on the boards that there are plans for a bigger and better unofficial parachute race next year!) this was rediculous to say the least! Enter Lila and Canter!! Lila (my precious li'l sis, also known to and the 76th as MsG) and canter took it in turns to tag team the security manager and call in the event organiser and got them to let it all go instead of cancelling their membership and banning then from staying next year! (as if they'd want to) So it all blew over, but it was a blot on an otherwise wonderful day! Stupid Nazi-esque security folk!
The food was amazing and there was so much of it left over!!! We met more friends and shared more stories! I can't keep up with all the people I am meeting!! The afternoon was spent in good company with wonderful friends! There was a raffle which was to raise some additional money to offset some of the command costs for the parade and the shindig to follow Dragon*Con! I am just so happy to be meeting up with these wonderful people who have been a huge part of my life for so long, albeit online! Following the BBQ Rosie, Lila, Cindy and I headed over to the Haytt to get changed for the official SEBC (South Eastern Brown Coats) Shindig which was taking place that night! Rosie had brought along several wonderful silk sari's and I decided that it was a good opportunity to wear my hairpiece, so I went and put that one, wore a black singlet top over a black bra and simple black pants and we added the stunning hot pink sari, bindi and make up in Laz, Erica, Rosie and Canter's room! Rosie even loaned me a silk fan which I delighted in using as a prop! I decided to go barefoot, and we headed to the ballroom in the basement of the Hyatt where the shindig was being held! There was a huge queue and there was some concern that we wouldn't get to go in, but when it came to the crunch we were among the last let through the doors... The music was wonderful - although it was really too loud! I am not a fuddy duddy... seriously!! But I was starting to get a headache purely from the sound levels and I had to leave before Ron Khulman was finished!! I discovered several days after D*C that he had invited me to a BBQ at his place on the night before it all started!! What a lovely guy he is to do that!! I hadn't checked my MySpace for several days (staying with other people means limiting yourself online) so I wasn't aware until post-D*C! Never mind - there's always next year!!

One of the things I most enjoyed about the Shindig was that here were people I had never even heard of who loved the same fandom that I love. The very same passion for a show (that should never have been cancelled) which had brought me to the USA in the first place had brought these people together too! There were Kaylee's in pink layer hoop dresses, Kaylee's in overalls, Mal's in coats and Mal's in shirts and braces, Jaynes in hats and Zoe's in vests, Wash's, Simon's, River's, I am certain that I even saw a Sheppard Book! I loved the couple who were dressed as Mal and Safron, complete with floral wreaths in their hair, who tok the centre of the dance floor for Saffron's wedding dance when the Bedlam Bards were on! I also loved that when Rosie, Canter and I started dancing together in a small circle that people kept joining us, it grew and grew until there were over 30 of us and I had this amazing tingling feeling that this was exactly like the whole fandom - a few come together and more and more people are drawn to the warmth and connection that exists. Before long it's impossible not to notice a group so large that it dominates the dance floor, or perhaps the whole internet fandom or perhaps Dragon*Con or perhaps the whole film industry!!! Who knows where this wonderful warm fandom can go - I just know it's a great feeling being a part of it all!
Given the noise factor and the fact that others were unable to gain entry and were congregating back at the Marriott, Cindy, Canter, Rosie and I headed over there to join them! Rose and the Michaels were there already as was Jimi! So we enjoyed another wonderful night of sitting, talking, drinking (rum this time - really nice, spiced rum) and meeting more new friends!! I think it was around 3am that Canter and I started to work our way 'home' and we were met by some rather drunk folk who really wanted to get into our pants but who walked with us from the guys dressed up as Devo whom they were hanging out with, via the Drum Circle...( interesting place and I am glad I popped in for 5 minutes just to say I'd been!), and we eventually 'lost them' at the lifts for our rooms! It was at least 4am when I went to bed - I have no idea how much or how little sleep I got during the whole of D*C, but I suspect the whole convention I went on as much sleep as I would normally love to get in one night!

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05 October, 2007

Dragon*Con, part 3. The parade!

Saturday the 1st September, 2007 - a day that will be remembered by a lot of people for a lot of good reasons.

The day of the inaugural marching of the 76th Battalion, a tribute group intended to both show our loyalty to and appreciation of Joss Whedon's criminally short lived series, 'Firefly', and the film it inspired, 'Serenity'.

Just 9 months and 2 weeks ago a conversation led to a post on the fan site,, and from there the idea took on a life of it's own. It was like the 9 months had been some kind of gestation period, and today was the official birth of the 76th Battalion.

I got up, showered and put on all the components of my uniform for the first time... well, almost all of them. Col Tristan still had my coat and when I turned up it seemed he'd left it in his room... never mind, someone duly retrieved it!! As I looked down on the foyer of the Hyatt I had a shiver down my spine... there were already gathered there several of us in full uniform! By the time I got a lift down to the meeting place there were more, and soon there were other browncoats, including many I knew by their screen names, but hadn't met before! The atmosphere was amazing - we were just about bursting with excitement and pride, but we were also very professional. Our weapons were as uniform as our... well our uniforms! We took such pride in assembling and walking to the starting point of the parade route. As we turned to our left, to assemble just off Peachtree Avenue, there was a large sign stating that Star Wars and the 501st Battalion were on the left, all other genres were on the right. I had a moment of delicious contemplation that some day it would read 'Firefly and the 76th Battalion' to the left and all others would be to the right! I honestly think there is no limit with the passion and loyalty this wonderful show has engendered, and we will make our mark to the point that we cannot be ignored and will get out sequel(s).

While we were waiting there were some photos taken of us all - 35 people from all over the USA, plus Canada, South Africa and Australia! We also chatted with other browncoats, including a wonderful family who were dressed in such detail - the parents were a gorgeous (and very pregnant) Inara/Companion, and the father was an immaculate Mal, the kids - there were 3 boys - were Simon, Jayne and a perfect minature of the father's costume of Mal... and when I spoke with the mother, later, she indicated that the baby on the way would appear as their little Kaylee next year! How amazing is this fandom!!

The parade started and our excitement had to be tempered with our knowlege that we were supposed to be marching to war. It was difficult to march and think about the kind of characters we'd created when there were people calling out and cheering us all the way along the parade route! I alternated between trying to look serious about going into battle against the 'gorramn purple bellies' and grinning like a moonbrain that we were there and receiving such a wonderful response from the thousands of people lining the parade route!! It was hot, the humidity was high, the uniforms were heavy, we had bags, weapons, headcoverings and helmets, we had boots and vests and shirts underneath, but all I remember now is the looks on Tristan and Lazarus's faces as they turned and looked down the lines at the 32 people following behind. I remember the shouts and cheers as we came across thicker and thicker crowds lining the parade route! I remember the feeling of awe as we reached the final turn and saw thousands of people waving and cheering, some in Jayne hats, some just shouting "Go Firefly!" "Yay for the Independants" "Go Browncoats!" and then it was over! We were all piling in to the Marriott lounge and peeling off layers of coats and vests and laughing and comparing stories of people and things we'd all noticed! Then came the biggest surprise for me! I had an inkling that for coming from Australia I would receive a promotion, I was hoping for Liutenant, but when it came to 'India Company' (Australasia) I was promoted to Captain, and what meant most to me was the Tristan openly and honestly told them all that the 76th wouldn't exist without me! That meant more than any promotion or accolade on the planet! I have often felt left out, left behind, forgotten, expecially with various other things happening in recent months, none of them to do with the 76th, but none-the-less casting a shadow over something I love and am deeply proud of. That moment when he aknowleged my early involvent and attributed the initial 'push' to me made me feel that everything was OK again! Every little bit of saving (and a lot of crap I had to put up with at home) was worth it, just to be aknowleged in this way, and by someone I admire deeply. So - I am now officially the CO (Commanding Officer) of India Company (Australasia) for the 76th battalion, and best of all things are good. It all felt really good and I don't think I can really capture the pride and satisfaction I felt. Perhaps knowing I have Tristan's respect is more important than it should be, but the real thing is that I know I have my own self-respect! I hope I get to have more involvement from now on. I don't know what comes next, but it seems to me that the COs of the various countires and US regions will have to have greater input and communication. There is a lot of good that can come from the 76th and it's growing profile... not just in the realm of gaining greater focus on Firefly and Serenity gaining their rightful places in public awareness, but in building greater networks and friendships and giving people who love the characters and settings of Joss Whedon's 'verse a more effective voice to tell the networks and film studios 'We Want More!"

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Dragon*Con, part 2.

We were woken at 9.30 am by the house-keeping staff who wanted to clean our room – I think we freaked out at the thought as we had so much stuff in the room that they couldn’t’ even move. I asked for more towels and left it at that. We’ll put up the ‘do not disturb’ sign tomorrow!

So we giggled and talked and took in the fact that we’re all here in Atlanta together at last! Rose and I took some cute pics of us in bed together then Engie climbed in and there were more pics… then we had to shower and decide what to wear for the day! I wore my Kaylee costume for the first time, and Engie loaned me a ‘tattoo shirt’ that looks to be along the lines of one of the one’s Jewell Stait wore in the film. I just wore my sneakers coz there’s going to be a lot of walking today!!

We went looking for Whimsy first – she and Tommy had arrived early that morning and we found each other in the foyer of the Hyatt in no time! It was so wonderful to hug her at last!! Then we went to lunch with the two of them, and Clara, Engie, Washie (Engie and Jimi’s friend from previous years). Rose, Engie and I had several ‘sisters’ photos taken and there were some lovely ones of the whole group! We had the loveliest waitress, and the cutest waiter who looked a lot like Captain Jack Sparrow! Rose and others had an impromptu sing-along to Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody and there was a guy who was the best ‘Silent Bob’ you would ever wish to see!
When we headed back to the convention we managed to attend our first official event, the “Q & A session” with Ron Glass and Mark Shepperd… only Ron didn’t make it so I got up and asked a reasonably good question and got to flirt with Mark a bit, in front of over 1,000 browncoats!! I also got lynched coz we were saying “Oh have you heard of this little TV series called Firefly?” “Yeah – but how good can it be? It got axed half way through the first season?” Whoah!!! I was just trying to make the point that we’ve all been there and had that excuse when trying to ‘convert our friends’ into browncoats, but the audience turned on me… I was lucky to get out alive!!
We spent much of the rest of the day absorbing the atmosphere. Dragon Con is amazing – there were over 30,000 people there on the Friday, and many of them were in costume of some kind! There were kids dressed up too, and I really hadn’t anticipated that, the cutest kid of the day was one dressed as one of the Power Puff Girls. There was a whole family dressed as members of Davy Jones crew… there were all manner of goth and zombiesque and quirky and fun and creative and crazy and scary and downright awesome! I couldn’t believe the diversity and imagination and dedication folk had put into their costumes and even their robots! Yes, there was an R2-D2 unit that moved and made the appropriate noises…

In the evening there were a couple of ‘room parties’ which I have since learned are the norm for conventions of this type! You get your friends together in someone’s room and share a few drinks, talk, chat, nibble whatever is available, enjoy the friends and atmosphere and if you are really, really sleepy you might even manage a tiny little nap on one of the beds in the room… on the way to the Marriott to enjoy ourselves with many of the 76th I discovered a shy Ninja Kitty... my gorgeous friend, Sara or Hell's Kitten from and the 76th Battalion!
After our first party in Jimi, Washie & Fireflygal’s room we headed across to the International Tower of the Hyatt and joined the Boothes for some more enjoyment! Their room was much, much larger and I got to meet their gorgeous daughter, Audrey! Autumn wasn’t terribly well, but they were wonderful and gracious hosts! It was wonderful to see what people had dressed up as, especially Jack who does a wonderful Badger!
When all was said and done we headed home though I know it took several hours before we went to bed… it was around 4am when I finally fell asleep, I was excited about the parade in the morning and had to make sure all was organised before I went to bed… I had to be up very early and knew I mustn’t forget anything!

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Dragon*Con, part 1.

The day I had been counting down to for almost a year was upon me. Seriously - it might not have been the ultimate reason I initially intended to travel to the USA, but with their countdown on their home page, the Dragon*Con people had kept me on track with my general knowledge of just how far away my trip was at all times! No matter who I met in the last week, it was this opportunity to meet friends, who felt more like family at times, in person for the first time that had me aiming for this particular weekend at the end of August for my big holiday to the USA!

We had pretty much stayed up all night, Jimi working on fixing Leo's laptop computer for him and finishing off a few things on his own computer, me sewing the brown stripes (ribbon) on my 76th uniform pants. I finally crashed at around 7.30am but Jimi woke me at 9.30, I showered and was ready by 10am... we had a few more errands to run, but we were on our way shortly after 10 and well on our way to Atlanta by lunchtime!

Along the way we found a petrol station that sold Bawls, unfortunately we assumed that we'd find more when we were closer to Atlanta as we wanted to get some for Rose! My Mei Mei adores the drink as it's an energy drink that relies on natural ingredients and not ‘taurine’ (which I personally find revolting myownself)! It was delicious stuff!
We arrived at Kennesaw, and collected Ken (Zephyr), Ilse (Canter) and a lot of Airsoft weapons (which Lost_thought had posted to Zephyr as it was simpler than attempting to travel with them in his luggage and they were needed for those who didn't have weapons of their own for the parade!) and Jimi set out for 'down town' Atlanta where the three host hotels (The Hilton, the Marriott and the Hyatt) were as well as the nearby 'overflow' hotels (also more reasonably priced) where Zeph was staying at the Holiday Inn . Canter and I were duly dropped off at the Hyatt where we were both staying, and Jimi left to deposit Zeph at his temporary place of rest, and headed to the airport for a few more incoming browncoats! Jimi was to barely rest during the entire con! He is one amazing guy!

Canter and I found ourselves among the very first arrivals, in the near-empty foyer of the incredible looking Hyatt hotel at 2pm on the Thursday of D*C! Registration didn't start until 4pm, and the people whose rooms we were booked into hadn't left our names at the desk, so we were unable to check in. We discovered that we could leave our luggage at the main concierge desk and head off and the timing was perfect coz in no time Zeph was there telling us that some folk from the 76th whom he knew from previous shindigs at Tristan's (Tom's) were heading to the Atlanta Aquarium to kill some time before they were able to register for the convention. Canter and I were a little uncertain as we'd not really made any arrangement to find our room mates, but Zeph assured me that Jimi knew the plan, and Rose would know where I was, and that they could all be in touch via their mobile phones.

So off we went. It was really hot and humid, but what a gorgeous day! We walked downhill (remember this means we were required to walk uphill on the way home!) to the area where both Coco~Cola World (the headquarters of Coc~Cola Worldwide and from all accounts a very interesting experience to visit) and the Atlanta Aquarium were located right beside a pretty park. There Zeph was glomped by a gorgeous lady whom I instantly recognised as my lovely friend Aleta, or Captain 'Jett' West of the 76th Battalion. and Fireflygal to anyone else who is on a firefly fan site! We were soon hugging and chatting like we'd spent a large part of our lives together!! We had a lot of fun with the statue outised Coco~Cola World, Canter pretending to take the proffered glass and Sigg pretending to spike the other glass of Coke on the nearby table!
We were soon inside the cool interior of the wonderful aquarium. One of the first things we did was visit the touching pool where there were tiny little sharks and rays who deliberately swam near the side, they genuinely seemed to enjoy being touched!! They felt amazing! We all had a lot of fun feeling the different textures of the two varieties of marine life, but then the creatures had their ten minute break... yes, even fish-life get a ten minute break every hour!!

Following this we headed to the anemones which were also in a touching pool - this time the water was bitterly cold and my hand started to feel quite numb, but the sensation was completely different to anything I anticipated or had experienced before! We saw so many different freshwater and marine animals that I lost track – but I took many, many pictures. The most amazing realization for me was that sea otters are huge! I had always imagined them to be the size of platypus, but they are about 10 times larger and very fluffy when they dry out! They are also very cute!! My favourite places in the aquarium included the huge tank where there were 4 Beluga Whales Nico was the name of the only male (it tickled us that Nico was represented though he’d been unable to attend D*C at the last minute) and the other three were female! They were huge and very, very graceful and I felt like I could have watched them for hours on end! While we were standing there and watching these enormous creatures moving so gracefully through the water, we were greeted by Scott, Akin from the 76th (Also known as Akin the finder as he’s the one who found the discarded Ariel Ambulance from the episode of Firefly with the same name!) and his gorgeous lady Dale, or Mockingbird, whom I instantly adored and have never had a moment of feeling anything else for!!

My next favourite place was the enormous sea tank where there were sharks, large rays and sword fish among other creatures… there was one of those tunnels under the tank that I have seen on TV (this is really the first time I have visited a dedicated aquarium when I think about it) and I watched these huge sea-creatures glide over me. When we exited the tunnel there were other viewing points of that same tank and at the other side an enormous ‘window’ on to it! The man who was talking about the different species was dwarfed by the size of the tank – but I couldn’t get far enough back to do the size of it all justice with my camera!

My final “I-could-stay-here-all-day” spot was in the jellyfish area. They were playing wonderful gentle watery music and the lighting was just perfect. I both photographed and videoed this with my new camera as well! I am really, thrilled with it and very impressed with the results too! My wonderful sisters, Trudi and Leigh, and their families, bought me the Kodak digital camera for my 40th birthday less than a month ago!!!

It seemed like no time and Canter and I were standing in front of the final tank, one dedicated to the Great Barrier Reef, and as the only two Antipodeans (or inhabitants Southern Hemisphere) we started singing at the same moment, “just keep swimming, just keep swimming… what do we do we swim.. swim..” in the way of Dory from the film ‘Finding Nemo’ I loved every minute I spent with Canter and it was pure joy to discover we had the same quirky sense of humour!!

Then we hit the hot footpath and walked up the hill to the hotels again… just as I was standing there pondering what to do, I heard a distant shout (which turned out to be “Jie Jie!!!”) and a moment later I was literally glomped!!! My precious Mei Mei, Phoenix Rose had spotted me across the, now more busy, foyer of the Hyatt Hotel and thrown herself across the intervening distance to hug me once and for all!!! I was so excited!!! She is as gorgeous and adorable and wonderful and warm and positive in real life as she is online and on phone and in all our conversations ever!!! One of the greatest joys in my life has been the friendships I have made though Firefly and its fans, and one of the most precious friends among them is my Mei Mei (Little Sister), Rose!
Rose had found (or had they found Rose?) the two Michaels from Glasgow – NavySeils and his friend Michael who was to be fondly known as ‘Auxiliary backup Michael’ though he was too much of a treasure to be anyone’s 2nd choice!! The quote of the con came within moments when Navy said “I’ve seen more kilts in the last 2 hours in this foyer than I’ve seen in the whole of Scotland in the last 2 years!!” It was a keen observation on the ability of geeks to embrace the Scottish dress and wear it (very poorly, in most case, but with such pride)!
I checked in, with Rose’s assistance and soon had folk in giggles as I made the (rather reasonable, I thought) observation, that there was a queue for the lifts now, where there hadn’t been any earlier… trust me – there was a permanent queue for the rest of the con – but Americans prefer to call it a line for the elevator!!

Soon unpacked and headed down to the hall where we could register we found ourselves in an apparently never-ending queue (sorry, ‘line’) for our name tags and passes to the convention. While we were there we constantly met others in the snake-like queue who were browncoats, apparent by their lanyards proclaiming their loyalty to Firefly, their T-shirts with pictures and quirky quotes from the series and film and most apparent of all, their Jayne-hats which many folk were wearing!!! Unfortunately it took ages to get our necessary ID to have free access to the events and we were late to meet the people who were walking to the Vortex, and restaurant which was supposedly nearby and where we were to meet more of the 76th! Fortunately we did find our other Mei Mei, Elizabeth who’s also kown as Engine Angel/Engie, As she was staying in our room we were able to tell her we’d put her name down at reception and she could check in without us present! She was with other friends from previous years so she didn’t have to hand around and wait for us, and we soon caught up with Carl Boothe from the 76th and his gorgeous wife, Autumn, who were heading back to the Marriott Hotel to meet Tom, Laura and Cindy and would walk us to the Vortex as it was some distance from the Con…
It was just wonderful to be reunited with my Kaylee-clone, Cindy - also known as VerseExplorer on and PFC Vex on the 76th! She and I are really just like twins separated by time and distance!! While we were waiting to meet up with Boothe and his wife, Cindy, Rose and I noticed my very favourite guest for D*C standing nearby. Mark Shepperd!!!! I am a huge fan of his, he is one of those versatile, all-round actors who does humour without sending himself up, and dramatic without taking himself too seriously, he can be as sweet as a kitten and also played one of the most disturbing characters in Medium I have ever seen… a psychotic doctor who died and 100 years later kept repossessing new people to carry out more murders to give him his thrills! *shudders* But he is one of my idols and I got to meet him!! He was just the nicest man you could imagine! Open and warm, friendly and (breathe, Magda... breathe!!!) he knew who I was from my messages on his MySpace page!!! I couldn’t believe it! He is also in the 3rd season of ‘Battle Star, Galactica’ (which I keep intending to watch some time, though we're not even up to the third season in Australia yet...) and will appear in the new series of ‘The Bionic Woman’! I went a little ‘fan girl’, but it was a moment that would have made the whole con worthwhile (and there were several of those for me!)
By the way – Boothe wasn’t kidding about the distance to the Vortex! !! It was a good 2 miles or so and in the heat and humidity of the Atlanta summer, and through some of the less savory neighbourhoods, we were very glad of his escort.

More amazing friends were met, from Alicia/Boomergoodheart and her family to Sue/HappyShinyKlingon (SHK) and many others!!! I was just blown away with the warmth and family atmosphere we had between us!! Melisa/Radegund & /Mary/Kaele, her sister, Daisy and their Mother, also Mary! I thought it was the most awesome thing out that their mother supported them in this and came to be a part of it all! Rumour had it that Hell's Kitten was there earlier but had left by the time we got there!

I have no idea how long we were there or how long it took us to walk back to the Hotels, what time we went to bed or anything, but we eventually made it back to our room where Engie and her best friend, Clara were already asleep! Our Dragon Con adventure had begun!

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Further Adventures in the USA!

On the Sunday (my 2nd full day in the US) we ate at another amazing restaurant - it was a place that specialised in cheese cakes, but we didn't even have room to finish our brunch, let alone attempt dessert!!! I have to tell you that I have discovered something incredible that we don't have in Australia - cheese grits!! Grits are hard to describe... they are a little like porridge but they are finer... today we had some with cheese cooked through them too - oh can you imagine me discovering something that you can eat for breakfast or brunch that tastes of cheese? I couldn't finish my entire plate full (a regular occurrence in the USA I find!) and the rest was Eggs Florentine with American 'biscuit" (refer to my previous blog to explain this American ‘weirdness’ LOL!)
Jimi was working for the next few days, so after saying farewell, for the time being we drove to Jimi’s parent’s place (about 2 hours from Atlanta) to collect Zachary and Aiden, his sons who are 4 and 2 years old. His parents were so welcoming and hospitable! Jane and Pat have built their own home and it is just gorgeous - I wish I had the presence of mind to ask if I could take a couple of photos - but we are going back there on Wednesday as they are having the boys again for the weekend of Dragon*Con which Jimi and I are attending in Atlanta!!

Speaking of which - the last few things I ordered for my 76th uniform arrived at Jimi's place in the last couple of days... my pants fit perfectly, the vest which Tom made is a little large - but that's better than small - my boots look fantastic after I dyed them on Thursday night (yeah - the night before I flew to the USA!!!) and my belt arrived just the day before I did (they have Saturday post here!) and it fits perfectly too!! I am very excited about marching in the parade in Atlanta now!!

Jimi shares a house with his ex-wife, Ami and their gorgeous boys, and Ami's baby daughter, Emma, who is just 9 days old!!! While I was there Ami's boyfriend, Leo, was also living there, though he is a recent addition to the household.

The boys are so gorgeous and I couldn't wait to read them some of the books I brought with me for them - the Steve Parish books about Australian animals which have his pictures in them! I met and got along with the cats and the dogs, though poor PJ was a bit sad that he wasn’t allowed inside, Jack is too big and rough to have around baby Emma and it isn’t fair to have one dog and not the other. The wild cat, Darcy (whom I shall always refer to as ‘Miss Darcy’ out of respect) took to me like an old friend, she is supposed to be really tough and mean, but we had some special moments and I wasn’t scratched once. The others are Alexander (a very shy boy cat) and another cat (who’s name I am ashamed to say I can’t really recall right now… perhaps he was Jack?) The rest of the week went quietly, since Jimi was working and I stayed home with Ami and the boys and baby Emma. Of course I was in my element and felt good about being there to lend a hand somewhat! The first few days while I was there I would walk into a room and Aiden would glare at me and shout “No! Back Up!” but in a few days he was attempting to say my name and snuggling up with me for cuddles and naps! Zachary is an independent spirit and a wonderful, intelligent and articulate boy! They adore their Dad and seemed quite happy to have me there! Baby Emma is a good baby, though she was unsettled the first couple of days I was there, she soon became really idyllic when she was put on lactose free formula as Ami. It’s amazing what a change in diet can do!

On the Wednesday night Jimi and I drove the boys over to his parents again. Jane and Pat live about an hour and a half from Warner Robins where the family live. I saw something there that I hadn’t seen in my life before! A tiny little humming bird!! They have a bird feeder just outside the window and I was mesmerized, probably to the amusement of the people who are used to such tiny, fast-like-a-freak birds, but I tried in vain to get a good photo… they all were too small and too lacking in contrast to make the birds out properly! What a thrill though! Before we returned to his home, Jimi and I took a detour to meet up with Bryon, another memeber of the 76th who lives in Georgia! Due to some serious injuries and the financial implications of no longer being able to work (and a heap of legal issues with his former employer, which I will not vent my frustration at here) Bryon is not able to march with us at D*C on Saturday and isn't even able to come and watch, so he had a couple of weapons to loan to members of the group, and some pebbles for Canter (did I mention that Canter collects pebbles from friends as a way of connecting with them and keeping personal memento's?) It was pure joy to meet up with him and spend about an hour chatting at a 'road house' in the town near to where he lives! Bryon was really terrific, and nice, decent, down to earth guy with a terrific sense of humour and a warmth that I am rapidly associating with members of the 76th! It's a pity the others won't get to meet him and vice versa! My only regret was that he didn't bring any of his extensive collection of snakes with him - I actually love non-poisonous snakes! His call sign on the 76th is "Bryon Boas" and there is good reason for that!! Oh hang on - my other regret is that I forgot to take something I had brought over with me for him... I seem to have a talent for taking things half way around the world and then either forgetting them, or just not finding them when I have the opportunity to give them to the person they were intended for! Next Stop, Atlanta again! And the convention I am here for… Dragon*Con!! It almost seems impossible that I will meet so many more of my Firefly and 76th Battalion family in the next 48 hours - but it is finally about to happen!!

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