If there is ONE thing I hate about living in New York City, it’s dealing with travel in the winter months. Last year I BARELY beat Winter Storm Nemo out of New York to attend the inaugural CommuniCon in Los Angeles. So needless to say, as our trip to Gallifrey One approached this year, I watched the weather forecast like a HAWK.
First…a little background. Gallifrey One is the biggest and longest running Doctor Who convention in existence and it’s held every year over President’s Day weekend in Los Angeles. Tickets always go on sale for the following convention right after the current one ends (tickets for Gally 2015 go on sale March 21!) with the hotel block opening up a few weeks later. So we (we being Sage, our friends Michelle and Gillian, and myself) had our trip to Gally booked for almost a year. The last things bought were the actual plane tickets and we booked 7 AM flights out of JFK on the day before the convention actually started (even though the Thursday night “LobbyCon” is the unofficial kick-off and this year Gally scheduled actual events for Thursday evening). As we were booking the flights, buoyed by my CommuniCon close call the previous year, I stressed to Sage that we needed to be on the first flight out that day. Just in cases. #foreshadowing
As Gally drew nearer and nearer, we got more and more excited. Sexy Beast Paul McGann (copyright pending) would be there. Arthur Darvill would be there. QUEEN BILLIE PIPER HERSELF WOULD BE THERE (they announced that on my birthday, which I chose to believe it was a present from the fandom gods). Our excitement could not be contained as we planned which t-shirts we would take, what our cosplays would be, and what our badge ribbons would look like.
A few weeks before we were to leave for Los Angeles, we hit an unexpected bump in our plans. Michelle fell ill and was unable to travel, which left us with an open spot in our hotel room and a Gally Badge up for grabs. Moments after I posted on social networks that we were looking for a friend to take Michelle’s place, our dear friend Kelly of The TV Mouse wrote me a capslocked facebook message saying “TELL ME ABOUT THIS GALLY BADGE”. I told her and she did what any good fangirl would do: she immediately booked a ticket to Los Angeles. Luckily online ticket transfers were still open, so we transferred all of Michelle’s info to her and we were set to take Gally by storm, Head Over TV Mouse style.
Given the fact that I am Monica Geller, once we were a week out from flying, I began studying the weather forecast daily. And there it was: Winter Storm Pax and it was due to hit New York City on Thursday.
As it became more and more clear that it definitely WOULD start snowing the day we were scheduled to leave, we did our best not to panic. “We have a 7 AM flight,” I kept saying. “We’ll make it out before it gets really bad!”. By Tuesday the forecast looked DIRE. I called Virgin America and tried to rebook us on a flight Wednesday (despite the fact we didn’t have anywhere to stay that night) and was told there were no seats available. So the die was cast. All our hopes laid on that 7 AM flight Thursday morning.
Wednesday morning at 6 AM I was awoken by my phone buzzing over and over again. I blearily looked at my phone to discover frantic text messages from Sage: VIRGIN CANCELLED OUR FLIGHT OVERNIGHT (at 3 AM to be specific) VIA EMAIL. Sage was met with the same response that I had faced the day before…the earliest Virgin could rebook us was Saturday…which was no help considering the con ended Sunday. And they couldn’t put us on standby as their standby policy was only for “day of” your flight. “BUT YOU CANCELED ALL THE FLIGHTS THURSDAY” was her response. She then conferenced in me and Kelly and we worked out a game plan. We decided to show up at JFK as soon as we possibly could and demand to be put on standby. There was no way they could say no to our faces, right?
I should point out that none of us were packed. I had planned on taking Wednesday to clean my apartment for my friend that was dog-sitting, so my apartment was in shambles. None of that mattered anymore. I called my boss saying I wouldn’t be in that day. I made sure Renee could come a day early to dog sit. I threw everything in my suitcase, managing to forget my toothbrush but remember my sonic screwdriver, and was in a cab to JFK by 8:15. I beat the girls there and begged and begged the ticket agent to put me on standby. She put me on standby for a flight to Vegas that would connect to L.A., which I tearfully (with blessings from the girls) accepted, despite my desperate wish not to get on a plane without Sage and Kelly (NO WHOVIAN LEFT BEHIND). The ticket agent escorted me to the front of the security line, told me the fastest way to get to the gate, and wished me luck.
As fate would have it, I did not get on that flight. I was automatically put at the top of the list for the 1 PM flight to L.A. and by that time, Sage and Kelly had sweet talked their way into being put on standby as well, much to the gate agent’s chagrin. “Who keeps putting people on standby? You’re NOT going to get on a plane. They are all full,” she declared. “When is the last flight to the West Coast?” I asked. “Eight PM.”
And then I looked at her with a steely determination. “We’ll be here waiting all day then.”
And with that we settled into the terminal’s Irish pub for a delightful breakfast and overpriced cocktails. I nearly burst into tears when the bartender told me that they were out of champagne since the Vegas flight drank it all. Ah well…I can settle for vodka.
Sufficiently numbed from the pain and fear of us not getting on a plane by expensive bloody Marys and screwdrivers, we went back to the gate, gave pleading looks to the gate agent, and settled in to wait for the 1 PM flight. As passengers trickled in, I recognized several people I had met at Long Island Who. They began a prayer circle for us to get on the plane. Finally…all groups had boarded. The three of us huddled by the desk as they said there were no seats were available. We still didn’t leave. We weren’t leaving until the doors were shut…and even then, we would just be waiting for the 4 o’clock flight to San Francisco.
Tears rolling down my face, I asked the gate agent if they were SURE there were no seats. I looked down and SAW that he was holding some boarding passes. “Weeeeeeeeelllllllll….there are a couple of seats, we’re just checking on the weight of the plane.”
“I WILL GO VOMIT UP MY BREAKFAST RIGHT NOW IF THAT MAKES A DIFFERENCE,” I exclaimed.
The gate agent smiled. “What’s your name?” he asked. I told him, and he looked at the cluster of boarding passes in his hand. “One of these…is for you.” He then looked at Sage, whose hand I had in a death grip, and asked HER name. “One of these is for you too.”
Sage and I keeled over, hands still clasped. We stared at the phone, willing it to ring and say we were cleared to board. It was probably only 2 minutes that we waited…but it felt like years.
It rang. The gate agent smiled and handed us our boarding passes. We turned to Kelly. “Gillian is in San Francisco. GET ON THAT 4 O’CLOCK PLANE AND SHE WILL COME GET YOU.” We hugged her and then turned for the gateway. We had just crossed the threshold when we heard them say “Kelly Connolly”. AS IN OUR KELLY. OUR KELLY GOT ON THE FLIGHT TOO. Screaming and crying with joy, we ran down the jetway to our precious plane to Los Angeles.
NO WHOVIAN LEFT BEHIND.
When we safely landed in Los Angeles (after a wine and Sex and The City repeat filled flight…thanks satellite TV!) we got some horrible news. Billie Piper had the flu and had canceled her appearance at the Con. Though we were devastated, we tried to keep positive. And besides…we had much more pressing problems…like where we were going to sleep that night. Luckily, Whovians are a generous bunch and the first person I saw upon arrival at the Marriott was my friend Sarah, who exclaimed “I’ve been following your adventures on Twitter all day, I can’t believe you’re here!”. Sarah had a similar experience for HER first Gally so she gladly offered us space to sleep on her floor that night. That’s right. After a trip to Denny’s (it’s for winners), a wretched migraine on my part (maybe the screwdrivers and wine on the plane were a bad idea?), and a mini LobbyCon, the three of us LITERALLY laid down spare blankets (and in my case my overcoat) and slept on the floor like freaking rock stars. Honestly, we were so tired, we could have slept anywhere.
Thursday morning dawned bright and sunny. We got checked into our own room and while the East Coast was being pummeled by the storm, we spent the day lounging by the pool, despite our lack of swimsuits (meaning we sat by the pool in sweatpants, not that we were naked). We ordered in Thai food from GrubHub (a service which proved to be our savior for food all throughout the weekend) and ate by the pool and marveled at the fact that we had ACTUALLY made it there. We made a trip to the (shady) liquor store across the street to stock our room (“Three bottles are enough for the weekend, right?” “Don’t make me laugh. That’s enough for an evening.”). It all became real when we picked up our badges that afternoon.
That evening before LobbyCon officially kicked off we had dinner with one of our West Coast Wives, Shannon Leigh, and her boyfriend, who treated all of us (in addition to a just arrived from San Francisco Gillian) to a Galentine’s Day drinks and dessert night. Thanks, Kurt!
All of our reading up on Gally could not have prepared us for the madness that is LobbyCon. Cosplayers EVERYWHERE with Fourth, Tenth, and Eleventh doctors being the predominant costumes (though we saw quite a few War Doctors and many LADY Eighth Doctors). Everyone from the senior citizens to the little children trading ribbons. We had ribbons made for trading that plugged both the website and our Rose/Ten dedication, obviously (one particular Rose/Ten fangirl promptly burst into tears upon reading our ribbon, so mission accomplished) . I had known an inkling of the ribbon culture from my trip to Long Island Who, but at Gally it is truly bananas. Every trip I made a trip through the Lobby that evening, I came back with at least 5 or 6 new ribbons in my hand. By the end of Galentine’s day dinner, I was already working on a second strand of ribbons. It’s a very serious business, ribbons. We ended the weekend with a list of ribbon ideas a page long.
The best thing about LobbyCon is obviously the social aspect. I saw many friends I had made at LI Who and we all made new friends who we hung out with over the rest of the weekend. It’s so well-known that many people arrive for Gally by Thursday night that this year the con organizers actually added official activities for the unofficial kick-off, including an ice cream social (ICE CREAM FOR ERRYONE), casino games, and karaoke. We ordered a pizza to be delivered to the lobby, which we promptly devoured, and later the empty box served as a repository for ribbon stickers, so we did our part to keep Gally clean and efficient. All of this was about to kick off when con organizer Shaun Lyon stood up on the ottoman in the middle of the room to make some announcements…and everything changed.
“You don’t know how hard it was for me yesterday to have to announce that Billie had to cancel her appearance,” he said. “We’ve been scrambling to replace her with a marquee guest ever since we found out.” (Cue the four of us clasping hands, which proved to be a theme for the weekend). He continued, “I didn’t want to say anything…not until the plane landed, and we knew for SURE…but it just landed, so we CAN tell you…Billie got on a plane this morning. She’ll be here with us all weekend.” And that’s how THIS FACE happened…
Yes, there was screaming and crying (Kelly tweeted “I’M GOING TO GET THE FLU FROM BILLIE PIPER AND I’VE NEVER BEEN MORE HONORED”). No, I’m not sorry about it. And with that joyous announcement, Gallifrey One: 25 Glorious Years unofficially officially kicked off. We all filed downstairs for our free ice cream. I played a few rounds of Texas Hold-Em with friends. We made our way to the karaoke room where we submitted “The Wizard and I” as our song, but ACTUALLY sang John Barrowman’s “The Doctor and I” when our name was called. We shamelessly posed for pictures with cute Tenth Doctor Cosplayers and a SPECTACULAR Captain Jack Harkness, who for the rest of the weekend said “Heeeeeeeeeeeey ladies” and winked whenever we saw him (“Heeeeeeeeeey Jack” we would giggle back). We were officially in Whovian Heaven…and the convention had barely begun.
We hung out in the karaoke room until around 12:30, when we retired to our room (a VERY early bedtime by Gally standards). We needed our beauty sleep after the madness of the past 36 hours and besides…we needed to look beautiful cause we were meeting Billie Piper the next afternoon. And NO ONE wants to look hungover for Billie Piper. Because even when she is recovering from the flu, Billie Piper is still prettier than you. Fact.
In our Head Over TV Mouse joint venture, Kelly will be recapping Friday through Sunday, while Sage is doing a post entirely dedicated to Sexy Beast Paul McGann. Stay tuned for the rest of our coverage!