Last week marked the first time in the 21st century that I flew from a
US airport to a destination in the Americas. A few weeks before NASFiC,
my originally booked flight was canceled and I had to get a different
one, earlier the same day.
When I got to the Air Canada ticket counter, I found that this change
had unhooked the two legs of my flight. The agent only had me going to
Toronto. I accepted this, having no other good alternative, and got it
straightened out at the gate. It took two people and a lot of checking
to fix it.
An announcement begged passengers to gate-check their carry-ons, because
otherwise there wouldn't be room enough in the compartments. I took
advantage of this, and the same thing happened on the return flight.
This means my bag got checked for both trips without having to pay a fee.
In Toronto, I encountered Phil Mills, Jane Garthson, and Tom and Sue
Jeffers at the gate for the flight to Winnipeg. A lot of other people
waiting for the flight were obviously also fans. In Winnipeg, I shared a
cab with Phil and Jane to the hotel.
On Wednesday evening many early arrivals, including me, had dinner at
the Old Spaghetti Factory. A good place, provided you like pasta, with
The filkers at this con were hit by a tragedy. Bill Laubenheimer, after
arriving in Winnipeg but (I think) before he got to the con, died
unexpectedly. His widow, Carole Parker, participated in the con anyway,
getting lots of support, and songs were sung in his memory. A song which
Kathleen Sloan sang about not knowing when it's the last time you'll see
someone brought her and the audience to tears.
The con was surprisingly small for a NASFiC. Only about 500 people were
there, which is on the small side even for a regional con. It was the
same weekend as Confluence, which drew many US fans and filkers, and San
Diego Comic-Con, which probably drew off a number of dealers. There were
only four dealers, and they were a long walk from the hotel, at the far
end of the adjacent RBC Convention Center.
There were strict rules about vaccination and masking. Everyone's
vaccination card was checked, but many were ignoring the masking rules
or creating exceptions. The time has gone by when you can get most
people to mask without an unusual need.
The con suite was on the fourth floor, and there was a filkers' suite on
the fifth. Unfortunately, the Delta Hotel requires tapping your key in
the elevator, which will take you only to floors three and below plus
the floor of your room. At some point the hotel changed this to allow
everyone access to the fourth floor, but getting to the filk suite
remained a problem that had only ad hoc solutions.
There was a rumor that security tried to shut down the filk suite, and
people started talking about "March of Cambreadth." As far as I was able
to tell, this was false. They were telling people not to hang around in
the halls, but nothing more than that.
I didn't attend much besides filk programming, which there was lots of.
I went to the opening ceremonies but didn't stay long. It began with
three indigenous chants or songs. Except for a brief mention of invoking
ancestors, there was no explanation of their meaning or purpose. Some
people applauded. Should we have done that or listened reverently? I've
occasionally said that I don't object to virtue signaling as such, just
to an excessively high S/V ratio. This felt like one of those cases that
was all signal. Or maybe I should say all noise, since it carried no
information. I felt uncomfortable being there and didn't stay.
The concom didn't believe in printed materials. A limited number of
one-day schedules, with a new one issued for each day, were available at
the help desk. It was hard to figure out where rooms were.
The highlight of the con for me was getting to sing "Jalapeño," which
plays with elements of Debbie Ohi's "My Jalapeño Lover" and Leonard
Cohen's "Hallelujah," for Debbie. I wrote it in 2014 and never had a
chance to sing it for her in person. From her reaction, she hadn't heard
it before and she liked it.
My program items were all on Saturday. The first was a History of Filk
panel. Roberta Rogow kept it from drifting into personal anecdotes, and
there was a lot of useful information to check the draft update of
Tomorrow's Songs Today against. When Margaret Middleton, Judith Hayman,
Catherine McDonald, and Roberta are on the panel, that's a lot of history!
My concert was Saturday afternoon. The originally planned set was
"Mister Sandman" (Don't make me scream), "I Don't Want to Go to
Chengdu," "Monster," "Felicette," "The Last Saskatchewan Idiot," "Axe of
Destruction," and "The Happy Valkyrie." I replaced "Felicette" with
"Bury Me Under a Star" in Bill's memory.
The masquerade, on Saturday evening, had only about ten entries. The
winner, and certainly the most original concept, was "Baba Yaga's Hut."
The costume was a model house plus chicken legs. The performer was
mostly inside the hut and must have had trouble seeing; she nearly fell
off the stage. A group led by Dave Clement sang while the judges were
After the masquerade there were theme filks, and I was put in charge of
"filk around the world." The turnout was very low, and we gave up early.
Sadly, I had to leave early Sunday morning to catch my flight, so I
missed all the Sunday programming, including the song contest.
All told, it wasn't a great con, but it was a good one. It was the first
general con I'd been to since February 2020, and I got to see lots of
friends and join in in-person singing, which is the most important thing.
Gary McGath http://www.mcgath.com