Up at 4 a.m., with the temperature approximately 4 degrees (F) outside. Cicatrice bids me a farewell that does NOT embrace getting out of a warm bed in this kind of cold, and I drive to the airport. (She'll pick the car up later.) I get on my redeye flight and sleep through most of it, as well as the connecting flight out of Detroit (I was up late the night before, proofing her MilwApa zine and doing preparatory stuff for my trip).
In Chattanooga's tiny airport, I encounter a local fan who is on his way OUT of town, since he's got a paid gig; he expresses his regret at missing Chatta this year (it doesn't help that he no longer lives in East Tennessee). The shuttle driver and I discuss the hardships of civil service (he used to drive tanker trucks for the city's vehicle fleet, which can be a really fun gig during a major snowfall event). I learn that everybody locally is dreading an announced "freezing rain" storm, which can leave quarter-inch thick coats of frozen ice on every road, wall, pine needle, twig and power line in the region, and mere fear of which has already caused cancellation of schools, etc. [Anti-climax warning: it didn't happen, and I expect the usual clueless mockery by people who think weather is not a chaotic a system as it is. The hysteria, however, may cut into walk-in memberships for the con.]
I'm amazingly early, but also amazingly tired; I check in and grab a brief nap, rather than explore the town in my usual token way. When I get up, registration has opened, but the line for pre-registered is non-existent, so I grab my badge and wander over to the meeting rooms after cruising the registration line for old familiar faces (the faces are fannish, but no especially familiar ones swim into view). In the meeting hall, I run into a couple of folks I recall from prior Chattacons: we discuss SF and tastes; I recommend a title for his wife, who likes books about the Fae (after she reads Terry Pratchett's Lords and Ladies, she'll never look at them the same way again). Based on the glowing accounts his friend and I give of Discworld in general, I suspect he's going to be buying some Pratchett for himself as well.
The dealer's room is open, and (as expected) light on books, heavy on garments and tchotkes. I have a limited budget, and buy nothing as yet. I haven't eaten all day, so I go for the hotel restaurant's buffet: it's their usual mediocre offering, with nothing bad enough to whine about (except the pecan pies were made with crusts that had been sitting in a freezer long enough to acquire that odd stale flavor) or good enough to recommend it, and nothing to indicate that you're eating in the South, a region where good cooking is prized. I overeat, trying too hard to get my money's worth, and come away a bit bloated.
Opening ceremony is nice enough: Wendy Webb is toastmistress, and has done the "google for your guests' names and see what has been done by people with the same name" bit. William Stout and Tim Powers speak briefly but amusingly. Cherie Priest does as well, but ribs the con committee for not realizing that this "Seattle writer" they've invited as a guest is a former Chattanooga resident and Chattacon attendee who is in the process of moving back to Chattanooga! She says she wants to get away from the cold wet weather; it's 33 degrees and raining as she speaks. As it is breaking up, I walk over to a tiny girl who's there with family: the mom tells me, "You played with her at WorldCon! She looked over and said, 'I remember him!'" I don't remember this specific small person (under 5) from Chicon last, but I am a total sucker for children, and at cons I always go out of my way to acknowledge them as people who are welcome to the con and whom I hope to see again.
At the meet-the-guests party afterwards, I speak briefly with Priest, and more at length with Stout. I'm an old fart, and remember him from the glory days of underground comix with titles like Bicentennial Grossouts (he tells me he's seen that one in a Bicentennial Museum collection) and the immortal Slow Death; we don't talk about Bizarre Sex. We talk about the people who are fans of his era from one era or another, and don't connect the dots to other stages of his career. (That's one of the things I love about doing a good Wikipedia article: connecting the Montana pioneer to the Wisconsin Greenback legislator; or the labor leader to the old-time YPSL activist; or the fanzine fan to the noted poet.) I see and greet old acquaintances, and run down Chattacon's official historian, to whom I give a printout of the article from Die Welt written about Chattacon. I am still overfull, and unable to give the marvelous hors d'oeuvres at the party the attention they so emphatically deserve. (Local fannish foodies make them in quantity, and they are inevitably a gustatory highlight of the weekend.) I get into my second conversation of the weekend about the 1632 series with somebody who's spotted the book I'm carrying, and I suspect I've made another convert.
I head over to the Con Suite, which is actually in another building, a former ice skating rink. Unfortunately, the heating is on the fritz, although the temps are not down to ice-forming levels. I eat the token Little Debbie Swiss Roll (it is Chattacon), and a few slices of tangerine. I run into younger fans who remember me from prior Chattacons where we've talked fannish history, and a local reporter whom I helped with a Chattacon story a while back (he says his boss prefers "sci fi" in a headline, although he understands my attitude on the term), and the reporter introduces me to his wife, who's there for the first time. I sit and read for a while (1635: Papal Stakes, then head over to the section of the hotel where the few parties are. Neither has started yet, so I sit in the lobby and read the local paper (not a long process) before returning to find the LibertyCon party now under way. I have heard good things about LibertyCon, but can only afford one long trip to a regional con per year; I keep hoping that some year they will invite me as a fan G o H ("Chattanooga's most familiar face you only see once a year, here in June for a change!"). After a while, I move on to the other party, a steampunk event billed as a stag party for one of their own whom I don't know. It's crowded and I don't stay long.
I return to my room, map out this report in my head, and collapse with it unwritten.