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Settle in, kiddies, for a tale of wonder, natural disaster, danger, tragedy, friendship, and redemption. It sounds much better than it will actually be.
Well, another Winter Vantasy/Fantasy is in the books, and this year was bittersweet. As I’m sure you can appreciate, when I take long-distance vacation for a week or so, I’m ready to come home no matter how much fun I had. After this trip. I wasn’t ready to come home.
I don’t go to Winter Fantasy to play games; I come to hang out with friends. However, the pandemic is still having its effect. This year, many of my friends couldn’t make it, so I have yet to hang out with them. Hence, my reluctance to leave Ft. Wayne.
Some Touristy Things
There was a slight bit of tourism to do of which I wasn’t previously aware. I had the perfect room in my hotel. When I opened the door to my room, I was staring at the entrance to the indoor walkway to the convention center. Very convenient. The walkway took me through the Embassy Theater, which has more history than I realized. The first thing I saw when I entered the theater was a neat model of it.
Next up, I saw some the history.
I thought about seeing a show there. An orchestra was playing the music of the Beatles on Saturday night, and I like when songs are reimagined in other styles or with differing instrumentation. However, I chose not to and wisely so, as you will see. If it were the music of Iron Maiden, then maybe I would have. In any case, a seed was planted for the future.
As I continued through the walkway, I took a picture.
This may seem like an ordinary picture — it is — but it represents no small point. The week didn’t start well. The first two days each received 3-5 inches of snow, shutting down almost every restaurant in the area. I would have thought that Indiana was better at dealing with the snow, but everything was closed. I was fine because I brought food with me so I could maintain some semblance of my diet, and those with cars could drive out of the area to grocery stores, but many were forced to rely on a single pizza-by-the-slice restaurant for the first two days. I don’t know how they survived.
And then here’s a stupid photo of an icicle I pulled off an awning on my walk back to my hotel. I was ready for action.
The Hotel and O’Reilly’s
It’s about to get better, but there are two more things that annoyed me. I was in the hotel for 6 days and 5 nights, and they never once cleaned my room. I didn’t have this issue in Vegas, but James travels quite a bit and told me that this was normal during the pandemic. I guess I can’t hold that against the hotel. The other thing that bugged me was O’Reilly’s. This has been our preferred watering hole for years, but it was a major disappointment this year. Every year, the staff changed a little bit, but we appreciated the large degree of consistency from year to year. The pandemic caused a complete change of staff; Cassie and Stephanie are gone. Their replacements were few in number, and as a result their hours went from closing at 3 am to closing at midnight. This doesn’t work well for gamers leaving the convention as late as 11:45 pm. None of that is the fault of the bar — the pandemic is to blame — but some of the staff were, let’s just say, less than enthusiastic. I couldn’t get my drink refilled, and the reason was stated plainly: “No way are we staying late. I’m leaving as soon as I can.” It wasn’t the same.
The Trip Is Saved!!!
Everything that annoyed me was redeemed by a new discovery, the Brass Rail, and some new friends. On Friday night, four of us braved the arctic air and walked three blocks to the Brass Rail. Almost immediately upon entering the bar, we connected with a group of people less than half our ages, but we all clicked with each other. Arianna, Jameson (named after a whiskey?), Jack (named after masturbation?), and a few others whose names escape me. We drank and bullshitted (bullshat?) all night and knew we had found our new watering hole. Oh, and did I mention the live music?!?!
As great as Friday night was, Saturday night was even better. I was walking over there with three guys that weren’t there the night before. They were complaining about the weather and the walk. Like Richard Attenborough in Jurassic Park, I told them, “In five minutes, I’ll be accepting your apology.” Five minutes later, they were apologizing to me for complaining. The Brass Rail is worth every step of those extra three blocks. It was karaoke night, and some of us went nuts. Unfortunately, I didn’t think to capture video of the two best performances of the night, but I’ve got quick videos of two others.
It’s amazing to me how familiar Arianna was with music from my generation. It wasn’t just this song. We had a brief discussion in which she was belting out references I didn’t expect. Sadly, she refused to sing any Rush. Nobody’s perfect. 🙂
The Brass Rail salvaged this trip for me. Everything I wrote above shouldn’t be taken as “Winter Fantasy sucks now.” It’s simply evolved into something just as good, if not better, and some of what we lost will probably be coming back next year or the year after. Overall, the trip was a success.
The pandemic also affected our customary lunch stop for both our trip out and back, but fortunately, Black Bear Burritos still has one of their locations open, so we got to eat there. One the way back, I took two photos.
Safe and Sound
So, one last note. When I got home, I received a package. Actually, it arrived the afternoon I was on the road to Indiana. I was happy to see that it didn’t get stolen or damaged by the elements during my trip. Here’s a quick unpacking. Sorry in advance that I was out of breath.
Winter Fantasy is going to be even better next year. I look forward to seeing all my friends.
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