Torcon 3 August - September 2003, Toronto.

"What I did in my holidays" by Edward McArdle


After the customary root-canal surgery the day before, I was driven to the Melbourne airport for my 10.15 QF93 to LAX. I learned later that there was a baggage-handlers strike just after I flew off. One win for the trip!

I couldn't get into my room in the Holiday Inn Hollywood immediately, so I walked a little in the Grauman's Chinese Theater area. Then I got in and slept an hour or two. I walked down Hollywood Boulevard, took a few pictures and bought a TV Guide.

I got up about 7 and caught the shuttle about 8.15. In the morning we toured Hollywood from the Hollywood Bowl (just up the hill from the hotel) to stars' homes, and were left at Farmers' Market. I browsed the mall, including a Barnes and Noble bookshop, then we were taken to Universal Studios from 1.15 to 7pm. I enjoyed the day. I ate in the hotel cafe again, and retired about 10pm.

Up at 5.15, I got my prepaid Supershuttle at 6, getting to the airport at 7. I was searched, as I was at every airport in the US. My plane was moved from 9.35 to 10 to 11 to 11.45, because of a faulty part. The plane took off about noon, and arrived in Toronto about 8pm Toronto time. A whole day gone for a four-hour trip!

After standing about, I got a bus at 8.55, and was into the Strathcona Hotel about 10. I got a turkey sandwich and French vanilla cappuchino (which I got mildly addicted to - but I don't know where to get them in Melbourne luckily) at Tim Horton's across the road, unpacked, and retired after 11.

I had found the Strathcona on the internet site for the SFX/comics/manga convention, which had been advertised on the back of the latest Progress Report for Torcon 3. They charged $119 a night, but said they were full on the second weekend, so I moved to the Fairmont Royal York later, at $199. I was not too impressed by the Strathcona room, which had a window which seemed inaccessible to light, the toilet needed repair (which they did quickly), there was no place to sit and read, no fridge, and the airconditioning was noisy. But it did have 44 channels of interesting TV, and a nice dining room.

I got up about 6.30am. The sun had not appeared by 6.45. I went for a walk to use up a roll of x-rayed film (which turned out to be all right) and it was cool outside. I walked up to a beautiful mall - the Eaton Centre - but nothing opened until 10! I walked up Yonge St (world's longest street) and found an internet place at $3 an hour. Someone had been using my internet address to send spam! I had been charged by my sisters with buying Wiseguy DVDs, but discovered they were not out in Canada for another month. I went "home" at 12.30 and changed shoes. I had foolishly bought new ones just before the trip, but if I had to take them off all the time at airports I wanted new ones! Throughout the city most escalators were off, because of the recent blackouts, and shortage of electricity.

I walked down to the docks (on the lake) and along to Yonge St, and back up, shooting off film. When I went to the Convention Centre at 4pm there was the usual long queue, so I went and watched golf until 5. It turned out I had paid twice by buying tickets for the comics convention and the scifi convention, as they were all the same, but it was only about $40, a minuscule amount in my total expenditure! I finished the film and put it in at a drugstore at the corner of King and Yonge, ate at Tim's again, and went back for the film. Bed about 9.10pm. I slept badly, then suddenly slept until 9am.

There was a fire alarm during breakfast, during which a costumed young lady arrived and we gossiped since she was stuck out in the street. She wore a different costume each day.

The convention had a good dealers' room if you were a comics reader or anime fan, but not much science fiction stuff. Still, there was next weekend. There were a lot of comics personnel autographing and on panels. One stall which intrigued me was a weapons area, with real, nasty-looking swords, lots of them! Jonathan Hardy, from Farscape, had a table and was selling photographs and autographs.

Let us pause for a few photos of this con. A bit graphics heavy, but you'll cope.

Apart from the few panels there were lots of autographings, and a lot of people turned up in costume, and pretty much spent the day in the foyer posing for anyone who would take their photographs. These people seemed to be about 90% female.

I had noticed on the website that if you wanted to see Leonard Nimoy it cost an extra $200 or so, but I hadn't noticed that if you wanted to see any of the Buffy group - the actors who played Clem, the Mayor and Gunn - you had to pay an extra $80 too. That left Denise Crosby and Connor Trinnear on the "free" list. I went to a couple of comics panels, which I enjoyed, and the one with Connor Trinnear. I lined up for the one with Denise Crosby, but there was a long queue for what somebody said was a tiny room, so I didn't bother to stay.

The first night I went back and slept from 4 to 6pm, then put on my best trousers for the masquerade at 7. I had a terrible seat, where I could see only a scrap of the stage, and left halfway, about 9. The audience was loud and obnoxious, and seemed to have a love-hate relationship with the MC, who was also to do the Worldcon.

I went to bed at 9.30, slept poorly (too much coffee?) and got up at 5.45. After breakfast I went to 8am Mass, an 18 minute walk. I walked down to the dock, and along past the baseball stadium, then back. There was a queue at the CN tower, and at the Convention Centre. My feet were sore, so I went and changed into tennis shoes, which I basically wore for the next week and a half. At 1pm I went for my only event of the day, the hour with Connor Trinnear, which was good. I held a toilet door open for J August Richards (Gunn) which was all I saw of him. The other two actors from Buffy, James Leary and Harry Groener, were in the autographs area much of the time, as were David Prowse, Lou Ferrigno, Denise Crosby and Ray Park, but I don't collect autographs.

I went up the CN tower, took some photographs, then hung around the con until 4.45 before going back to the hotel. I booked for Niagara Falls for the next day, ate at Tim Horton's, watched some TV, and retired about 9.

Up at 5.15, I walked around from 6.15 to 7.30 trying to locate a laundromat recommended by someone at the Strathcona - it was miles away up Yonge St! - a pleasant walk though. After breakfast there was another fire drill, which pleased no one.

I was picked up for my Niagara Falls tour at 9.30. At the falls, we ate at the Sheraton. I misheard where we were to meet, as did a middle-Eastern family, who assured me I was right, so I didn't go searching. After a long wait, and a walk, I was about to find my own way back to Toronto when I came across the bus. I missed the Maid of the Mist, which may have been just as well as I had expensive cameras with me. We had a wine-tasting - ice-wine is delicious! - and got back about 6.30. I'll spare you my Niagara pictures - you've seen it before.

I walked down to the Air Canada Stadium to see if any sports were on soon, and found the end of the underground shops. There are miles of walkways underground in Toronto, with shops all the way. I asked at the Fairmont about laundromats and was directed miles up the Esplanade - a nice walk before I gave up. I had an apple turnover and vanilla coffe at Tim Horton's and changed and watched TV before retiring at 8.30 again.

In the morning I got up at 6am and took my clothes in a backpack to the small laundromat area at the Sheraton. I read a "Charmed" novel exactly in the time it took to wash and dry. A nice children's book.

I walked up to the internet place on Yonge St, emailed home, and found I had nearly 7000 emails! I returned to watch tennis, then did the $20 city tour/cruise. (Where I managed to be momentarily lost again during the changeover!) Then more tennis. I went for a walk and ate Chinese in the underground arcade. Back at the hotel I got a couple of drinks and watched TV.

I slept 8.30 to 7.30, then packed. After the third (!) fire drill I had breakfast, then walked across the road to the Fairmont Royal York at 9.30am, and got straight into my room. A lot better room, but $80 a night more + tax! I passed Robert Silverberg as I went to my room, so it was the right place.

The Fairmont was not all that good for $200 a night. There was one cupboard to hang clothes, and three small drawers. There was a refrigerator, but locked. I didn't bother trying to open and empty it, but I would like to have had its use. As with the Strathcona, the shower was like a firehose for which you could adjust only the temperature - something of a shock for someone from a water-shortage area! But at least light came in the window, and there was a table at which one could sit and read. The only bright light, as usual, was over the toilet. And there were only 42 stations on the TV.

The Fairmont. The building to the right is a bank with gold dust set into its windows. This apparently (apart from making it spectacular) helps with the airconditioning. It is also quite hot to walk past when the sun reflects down on you!

I walked up through the underworld to Yonge St, and spent another hour on the net. I found my way back to within one block of my hotel by sense of direction in the arcades. I walked up to the Convention Centre, but did not have ID. I met an acquaintance from previous years, Andy Dyer, however, and ate with him below the Fairmont before going back to register. The program books had not turned up.

I went for another walk, down past the CN tower to the lake and back, then to the Convention Centre. I met Andy again, walked about the Convention Centre, and returned to my room about 5.30.

I ate with a group in the Epics restaurant, and my two courses cost AUS$55, including tip. It is always disconcerting in North America that nothing costs what it says. A meal which appears to add up to $27 will turn out to cost about $36, because there is an extra 27% for tax and gratuity. I took a few photos at bid parties and the con suite, and went to bed around 11.15.

Up at 8.15, I went to the con suite and had a drink and half a banana. At the Convention Centre I got the day's program, and returned to watch some tennis. Each day the day's program was issued on newly printed sheets, because the guide printed in the pocket program was out of date. I thought this system worked quite well, and I noticed that in all the panels I went to, the panelists were generally who it said in the bulletin. At 2pm, after a browse in the dealers' room, and buying two books, I attended "Genre v mainstream fiction in Canada", which was boring but gave me a chance to read my program. There was a big panel on Farscape next, then at 5 a discussion of the Best Hugo Dramatic Presentation category.

This young lady seemed to be the most photographed person at the con! (Including by me, as you see). She posed tirelessly for five days, and was snapped by everyone who passed with a camera! She also featured in a huge picture with the article on the con in the Toronto Globe.

I went back to the hotel, and ran into Bill Knight whom I knew from Cruisetrek, and we watched a few movie previews, the only time I watched any videos. You can't do everything. At 7, "Getting a TV series on the air" was interesting, then the Opening Ceremony followed. This was a lot of people in a big hall, with a small number of seats, and my legs don't bend as much as they did, but I got to ground. Afterwards I introduced Andy and Bill, and we met a John Wilson. I went around the parties and fed myself. I got back to my room about 10.20, and to bed about 11.

Up at 8, I had breakfast across the road from the Convention Centre, and bought fruit. I ran into some fellow Australians during the morning.

I went to a "Books and Movies" panel at 11, had an hour off, and at 1 sat between Sue Ann Barber and Andy Dyer at the first Buffy panel. After a browse in the dealers' room I returned to the hotel for some catching up, unloading, and tennis. I missed going to anything at 2pm. One panel I fancied was pretty full, and I did nothing at 3. Prices on books seemed better in US dollars, so I went back to the hotel to get some. When I returned both copies of the Charles L Harness book I had had an eye on were gone! There was a signing in a room for a book edited by Janis Ian and Mike Resnick, based on her songs. A mob of top authors were there to sign, but I talked myself out of buying it, and just took a (blurry) photo of the signing.

I went to a panel on Fantasy Economics at 4, then back to the hotel. I had a turkey sandwich at Tim Horton's, then went back to the Convention Centre, undecided between "Turning comics into movies" or "Beanstalk!" I chose the latter, so I could get a book signed by Catherine Asaro. It was a fascinating discussion of really building an elevator to a satellite in geosynchronous orbit.

I returned to the Royal York, where a panel I was interested in, "artificial life forms and their rights" was packed out, so I went to the con suite, where I gossiped with the con chairman among others. I went early to "Why did Firefly fail and Angel succeed" which, as I had guessed, was also packed out, hot, and entirely about Firefly, which I had not seen. I dumped my camera and backpack, went briefly to parties with my little Minolta camera, then to the con suite until about 11.15.

I rose at 8.15 Saturday, had an apple and went to the con suite for a while. My first panel for the day was "globalisation.." with Russell Blackford, Justine Larblastier and others, and was interesting. I bought two shirts, then attended "Oz and Alice", "Feminism in Trek", and "Death of personality" before walking over to the Grand Hotel to deliver a message to a friend from Cruisetrek about meeting me. He never replied. I returned for a panel on comic books at 5, "What schools should teach" at 6, and after changing my clothes, the Hugos at 8. I spent some time at the bid party for 2010, and met many of the Australians at the con, but didn't put in much work.They seemed to have it all in hand.

Once again rising at 8.30, I bought food at the deli and ate in the fan lounge (because they had a spoon). I was invited, in the deli, to a chili party in 2-112 by a man who enjoyed Melbourne in 1999. I didn't go because I can't think of much that attracts me less than spicy food, but I later heard his parties are renowned. At 10am I went to Mass celebrated by Fr John Blaker , a rather light-hearted affair. He was later in the winning masquerade group Trumps of Amber.

Afterwards there was a very entertaining panel on the Wild Cards books, so much so that I went off and bought a book by Howard Waldrop. At noon I couldn't get into a panel on Stargate, packed even though it was an unannounced appearance in the program. At 1 I went to a "parody workshop" at the Royal York, which was not too interesting, but I got a filk ribbon for my badge. I had been going to hand around some of my books of light verse, but instead I took them back to the Convention Centre and put them on the handouts table, where they vanished immediately. I took a picture of the "regency dancing", then went to a panel on spintronics into which, once again, I could not get! I popped back to the RY to unload, then back to another Buffy panel, which was quite good. "What do you read?" was mildly interesting, and I later hunted down a couple of the recommended murder mysteries. I went off and put in my second film, and found I couldn't get it until late Tuesday!

After a beef sandwich, I went to "You can't change human nature", which was interesting, but I left early to go to the masquerade. I had a good seat, but my few photographs were not great. There were some very good costumes, and a couple of good laughs. Angel, of the X-Men not only had a well-made costume, but he fought the Mutant Enemy. Buffy fans will understand. A young girl got the event off to a good start with a clever gorgon skit. I got back about 10.55 and browsed parties till 12.

I slept until 9 on Monday, ate at the con suite, and started with a poetry workshop in the library, with Richard Chwedyk (back to the camera).

I enjoyed it (and took my only photograph of myself at the con - that's me second from the right), but after 45 minutes of instruction and readings, we were expected to start writing. I had an idea, but blanked, and had to leave for the next panel, but later I wrote the ode while waiting at the airport: These things must be completed!

On Worldcons.

Oh eagles, congregated here, we lice

gather in your feathers for the ride.

Beyond the world, we soar in magic skies,

carried to ecstasy, enthralled and unafraid.

We see ourselves the ashes of small phoenixes,

waiting our time to be transformed in fire,

mutated beyond small nano-blemishes

to soar alone ourselves. So we aspire

to fly, create, to float above the world.

Or, if not, to feast until we drop, stuffed with blood wine, sugar and caffeine,

to the earth of humdrum life, where our trip

fades to the unreality of dream.

The panel was "Writing ethical fantasy" and with its group of top authors was entertaining. I went back to my room in case my friend had contacted me. The tennis was washed out, as it was for several days. The convention newsletters were getting humorous, not only the spoof issues.

I went back to the Convention Centre for the feedback session, intending to say I enjoyed the con, but the first couple of speakers were so vitriolic I left, abandoning any thoughts I might have had about volunteering to run something in 2010! Then again, I'll be approaching 73 at the time, so I probably wouldn't have anyway!

I went to an enjoyable and light-hearted panel on fanzines, then back to the RY for the closing ceremonies. I sat with Andy Dyer. There was a good gag parody of the Prisoner. The chairman number 61 was kidnapped:

"Who is number 1?"

"You are number 61. I am number 62."

"I am not a number! I am a free man!" Leaping about for joy.

Back at 8.45 after dinner, I had a look at the DeadDog party, but it was too crowded, so I went to bed about 9.30. I thought about filk, since I had a ribbon, but chickened out!

Before we leave Torcon, a few pictures of


Up at 8.45, I read the paper, went for a walk, and ate at a cafe. I walked through the underground to the Eaton Centre. At Indigo bookshop a salesman came up to see if I needed help, but really he was checking that I really was his old school teacher from Peter Lalor Secondary College. I bought the couple of murder mysteries there, and the Donnie Darko DVD at HMV. I walked back through the streets and began to pack. In the afternoon I started to walk towards the Exhibition area but didn't get there - sore feet. The Exhibition had been running for some time, and had finished the day before. I walked back along the waterline. It was a pleasant walk. I ate about 4, below, then walked up for my photos. Running out of things to do, I went to bed about 5. The last bus was to go at 2.30am, about an hour before I wanted to go for my 6.35am plane.

I slept possibly three hours, watching TV occasionally - and learning the buses in Honolulu were on strike! I lined up outside about 2.15am, and when no bus arrived found that my timetable was out of date! There was no bus till 4.30am! It might have got me there, but I took a taxi, and was really early! I read, and wrote my poem. By the time I got to customs I was fading already!

Connections were not bad, although I had to line up for a ticket at LAX, and had the usual complete search. I ate at Burger King and had my morning tablets. It was an hour and a quarter to Chicago, four and a half to LAX and five and a half to Honolulu. I started to fire again, and wasn't too bad by Honolulu.

I put on my shorts and thongs and walked to Waikiki beach. Later I ate a good meal before finishing unpacking and hit the sack about 8.30.

Up at 5.55am, my (mild) disappointment at not being able to get a bus around the island was tempered by the prediction that the waves at Sunset Beach would be one foot high. About 8 I walked down along the Ala Wai canal to Ala Moana beach. I saw a crowd of tropical fish in the first bit of water. I walked down Ala Moana Boulevard to CompUSA supermarket and browsed. I set off back from there just on 10 through the Ward Warehouse and Center and Border's. I saw Wiseguy and Lexx season 3 DVDs, and went via the beach to check the shops at Ala Moana. No sign of them there, so I went back to Borders and bought them.

I had a Thai lunch at Ala Moana then walked up to the Sheraton, where the Atlantis sub ride begins, and followed the beach to Waikiki and home. Afterwards I returned to the beach in thongs (or flip-flops) padded with tissue paper. They were chopping up my feet! About 7.30pm I went out for 'dinner' and found a Macdonald's almost opposite my hotel. I took some photos of a street "statue" made up as newspaper, and the fishtank window nearby. On the long trip around to home I saw what I assume were prostitutes, who were getting some jocular remarks from passers by - "Nice outfit, honey!" Bed about 9.30, and slept until 9am.

It rained as I got up, but cleared quickly. Rain could be seen further down the coast, but no more in our area. I spent the morning watching tennis and doing my laundry, and in the afternoon walked up to the War Memorial near the aquarium, hovered around the beach till I ate late, and swam about 4 to 5pm. I began to pack about 7 and was in bed by 8.

I woke and dressed about 6.30. I watched tennis as I ate, seeing Ferrero win the first two sets against Agassi. After checking out I spent the entire day in the Waikiki area, there being still no buses. I went to the zoo from 9 to 11am, and spent the rest of the day walking about, taking a few photos. Lunch was at Macdonald's and dinner was mahi mahi at the cafe attached to the hotel.I used their courtesty room for twenty minutes from 7.30, and read in the foyer until my shuttle arrived early at 8.30. I was at the airport at 9.05, four hours before the flight. It was a full plane, and after an uneventful trip I got home about 11am.