It was a chilly November evening, the kind
of mid-Autumn night in Washington that reminds me of Northern New York. You could
tell that winter was not all that far away, but still enjoy the coolness without
worrying about the possibility of snow. Rich and I were beginning the drive home
from the Third Friday WSFA meeting in Maryland, and had just turned onto the
entrance ramp that connects U.S. Route 1 into the Washington Beltway when it
happened. Out of the darkness to the left, something large struck the car with a
deafening *whump* before there was even time to react (or be frightened, for that
matter). We screeched to a stop, the impact hard enough to rattle the fillings in
our teeth and leave our heads ringing from the noise.
It had been a deer, a very large 10-point buck. At the moment of impact, I saw a startled deer's head on the driver's side of the windshield. Then it vanished. The impact of the collision left a huge dent in the front fender and smashed the driver side mirror into a million pieces. Rich got a better view of it than I, and saw it charge down the ramp and become airborne, jumping a fence and disappearing into a dense thicket alongside the highway. The whole thing was over so quickly it's hard to believe anything did happen, until I looked at Rich's car.
Worldcons are also over very quickly, except they are a far better experience than playing bumper cars with a 400 pound ruminant. The most recent worldcon, in Winnipeg, bore that out -- it seemed to be over in almost a blink-of-an-eye. But there's a shiny rocket ship this fanzine was honored with sitting on our mantle to remind us that we actually were there.
By now, you've probably read reviews of ConAdian, of how cozy and pleasant it was. I don't have the space (or the inclination) to add to those, but I do want to write a little about the city of Winnipeg itself. As Rich mentioned in his Opening Comments, that part of Canada is very flat, and the horizon seems to go on forever. Once the sun sets, the city lights seem to extend into infinity. It really was an eerily beautiful sight to watch storms at the night light up the sky in the far distance in silence. We were too far away to hear the thunder.
But there is more to the city than just its flatness. Winnipeg is more than 100 miles north of Grand Forks North Dakota, and yes, it gets *cold* there in the winter. One person who had driven to the convention told me he realized this city was different when he noticed each space in his parking garage had an electrical outlet. These are used in the winter for electrical heaters in each car that keep the fluids in the engines from turning into frozen sludge while the owners are away.
Downtown Winnipeg was the usual assortment of tall buildings among the older, lower ones, but as in most cities that experience long, cold winters, Winnipeg has a series of buildings interconnected by overhead walkways. One of these walkways was right across the street from the convention hotel we were staying in, and it linked several shopping malls. One morning, I wandered through all of them, ending up near the University of Winnipeg. While in the malls, I discovered a true character of the city: every few feet there was a little bake shop that sold... muffins! All sorts of wonderful muffins, heaven for a muffin lover such as myself. A close second to the muffins were cinnamon rolls, another favorite of mine.
Such foods are not unusual in Winnipeg. While so many cities in the U.S. seem to advertise themselves as a "city of churches," Winnipeg should call itself the "city of restaurants and hospitality." We certainly found this the case in every foray out for a meal. On our first dinner outing, we crossed the river to the offbeat part of town and a terrific little Italian restaurant that featured great garlic dishes. It even had a great SF name, too -- Bradbury's. Later on, we had a fun fannish dinner at Mother Tucker's, an old Masonic Temple that had been converted into a restaurant. Being downtown, breakfast was the hardest meal to find once the holiday weekend started. My wonderful finds of muffin heaven were not open during Sunday and Labour Day, and we had to make do at the breakfast kiosk in the hotel.
Lest you think that the only thing I did was eat in Winnipeg, I was invited along to tour the Royal Canadian Mint with two other fans. The Mint, an impressive angular glass building, was a short taxi-ride outside Winnipeg, in the middle of a well-cared campus. The tour of the mint was very interesting, but a bit distant we observed the machines and people at work from about two stories above them. There was even a movie on the special commemorative Canadian 25-cent coins (one for each province) that featured art selected in a nation-wide contest. It all seemed very fannish, and in fact, we fans outnumbered the mundanes on the tour.
Anyway, one of the reasons we had wanted to come to Winnipeg was that we had never been there before, and were not likely to have a reason to go there again. I'm glad we did. For those who had never experienced a non-U.S. WorldCon, Winnipeg was a wonderful introduction. For those who skipped it, we'll see YOU in Scotland!
Title illustration by Sheryl Birkhead