Trip Report 2007: The Triplets of Belleville

Thursday:  I got up at 5:30 AM and got ready for my trip. I arrived at work about 7 AM and dropped my car off then went with some of my fellow employees over to the airport in a van. I checked in pretty quick then waited around for about an hour until the flight boarded. I noted that the Airport had wi-fi available and I had my laptop with me but was too tired to care to try it out.
    The flight down was typical. I tried out Westjet's new live seatback satellite TV service. It's a great idea but a bit glitchy as the channels get mixed up a bit when the plane's changing altitude. Also, the screen I had seemed like it had seen better days and was on the verge of dying (it was very dark and no amount of adjusting could fix it).
    The real highlight of the flight was this cute redhead we had as a flight attendant. She was cute and seemed quite friendly... She asked me if I'd like to join the mile-high club and I explained that I only collected Air Miles (yes, I'm recycling an old joke of mine here. Hey, I last used it in the BC98 report! I think I'm due! Whadda ya gonna do about it? Sue me?)
    I got to Toronto's Pearson Airport about 2:30 pm and quickly found my way down to the car rentals. I told the guy at the counter that I was from AVIS Edmonton but I don't think he heard me--either that, or he didn't really care. He took me through the whole spiel--asked if I wanted an upgrade (no!), extra insurance, prepaid gas, GPS, etc. He tried overcharging me on the insurance but I think my rate changed it in the system to the discount employees get.
    Anyway, I got a red Pontiac G6... I was impressed with how clean it was but quickly realized that was due, not to the cleaner's competence but due to the fact it was such a new unit (either 153 or 161k--the two slips I have don't match up) it hadn't yet been dirtied that much.
    I found my way out of the airport and onto the madness that is called the 401 highway. It was raining and the pre-rush hour traffic was ridiculously slow. I drove and drove and drove... eventually, the traffic lightened up and I was able to make some decent time.
    According to Matt, the place where he lived, Belleville, was a couple of hours down the 401. It seemed more like three after all my driving but I was quite tired so my perception was probably off. I stopped somewhere along the highway at a Petro Canada/McDonald's so I could rest and eat something. I also called Matt and let him know where I was (I also almost asked for the wrong name--yep, I was awake!) The woman working at McDonald's could've been Rosemary Ward's twin (not quite identical but very similar looking).
    Back in the car, I drove for a while longer until I finally saw the sign welcoming me to Belleville. I took the second turn-off like Matt had instructed me--except that he'd meant the third one, not the second but I didn't know that at the time. I drove around the town lost for a little while until I called him again and somehow figured out his instructions that lead me to where he lived.
    I finally arrived at their house and met Matt and his partner Frank, for the first time. Frank seemed like a nice fellow. Matt showed me around the house and also pointed out lots of Frank's woodworking that he's done (he owns an online furniture store). We sat and chatted a lot before finally retiring for the night.
    I also met their cat, Tiger, who seems a bit aloof at first but is quite a sweet friendly cat once you get to know him.

Friday:  I didn't sleep well and got up early. I played with the cat for a little while before settling on the couch and nearly falling asleep again several times. Finally, Matt and Frank got up and came downstairs for breakfast.
    Later on, Matt and I took his new car (a 2002 Kia Rio RX-V station wagon/hatchback) and went to look around the town. I checked out the local Toys "R" Us as well as EB Games. We also went grocery shopping and got some supplies for dinner.
    We came back to the house for awhile then went out again. This time, I checked out Futureshop and Zellers. I was half looking for a Nintendo Wii (impossible to find where I live) and our earlier excursions had produced nothing (EB Games might have had some--or not. They were too busy to get to talk to anyone). Futureshop had a sign saying "Yes, we have Wii" so we went inside there only to find they had none (false advertising!) I also wanted to ask a sales associate there but the only one near the area was busy having a chat with some friends or something. Finally, we gave up and went next door to Zellers. I was pleasantly surprised to find they had three sitting there (first time I've ever seen one anywhere retail!) I immediately snapped one up and bought it.
    We also went to see glorious downtown Belleville. Amidst the skyscrapers and concrete jungle, we found the local comic/gaming shop. Matt had to pick up some comics and also drop off some stuff for one of his friends. All there clamored for his undivided attention, begging his knowledge on items such as gaming rules for Battletech. Matt imparted his wisdom for a time before finally departing from his Disciples, allowing them to carry on in his stead.
    Matt has a thing for dragons (he has statues, plush ones, pics, plaques, goblets, etc.) So I gave him a Transformers dragon--Cryo-Scourge as a gift. He seemed to like it (incidentally, Saturday was his birthday).
    Later that evening, we went to a local restaurant called the Boathouse (so named because it's right by the river and pier). We dined on sumptuous seafood, drank Smirnov Ice and, enjoyed the view of the female servers as they moved to and fro from the kitchen (some of them babes got back and that would've been wasted on Matt and Frank if they'd been seated that direction.
    Anyhoo, we went back to their place, talked some more and prepared for the coming morning--the trip to Toronto and our destiny... (ooh! Melodramatic! ;)

Saturday:  Matt and I got up at six in the morning and got ready. After a quick breakfast, we hopped in my rental G6 and zoomed off to Toronto, the Canadian center of the Universe. We stopped somewhere along the way and had a drink/donut at Country Style Donuts (they're all out of business where I live) because I was getting tired from the drive (like I said, I didn't sleep that well for a lot of the trip. I had these sexy nymph ghosts in Matt's spare room that kept trying to have me--it was all I could do to stay awake and alive!)
    We got to Toronto around 10 (I think). We quickly found the Doubletree International Plaza Hotel--the site of TransformersCon (the second largest annual gathering of Transformers fans). This was my first time at a TF convention that wasn't Botcon (of which I've been to five). Anyway, the show had already started but hadn't been on long... they'd had some sort of get together the night before for pre-registrants but I hadn't bothered registering because I knew we wouldn't be able to be there anyway. That morning also had a pancake breakfast (really, what goes better with Transformers then some flapjacks? :) But, again, we didn't get there in time for that so I didn't sign up for it either.
    We paid $20 to get in the door and I bought a souvenir t-shirt. We also got free TF movie posters--Matt got the Autobot one ("To protect") and I got the Decepticon one ("To destroy") We also got little Decepticon logo pins... they had a limited edition repaint of WST Slag (green, like G2) but I skipped it as well as skipping the comic (it was an old Dreamwave one left over from a couple years ago). They also had an Alternators lithograph by Alex Milne but I didn't buy that either.
    We got through the door security (they were a bit too into their jobs) and checked out the Dealer room. It had lots of interesting junk in it... I noted had MP Megatrons there. I went out to get some money from the cash machine for one and returned shortly thereafter to find they'd already sold out! (There was a literal swarm of fans around their table because they were the only dealer with it).
    At the cash machine, I ran into Colin. He's a fan from Ottawa that I met at last year's Botcon. We chatted a bit--I recall yakking about this year's Botcon set and saying I likely wasn't buying it and some other TF nonsense. He said he'd see us later but actually we never did see him afterward.
    I noticed a CityTV van outside in the parking lot and believe they were the ones going around with cameras and covering our little show. I guess it's cool a geek gathering gets TV coverage on the news (now they know what we look like! Quick, hide!)
    We sporadically went to the dealer room throughout our day there and I bought four TPBs of the Marvel US comic series (now, I have about half of it). I also got a $10 KO of the Macross Veritech fighter/G1 Jetfire toy (the Happywell one). Matt got two DVDs--one bootleg of B5 bloopers and one of SW fan films (hope those people are getting something for someone putting their stuff on a DVD). I looked at other stuff too but held off buying anything.
    We also checked out a TV playing TF episodes in the lobby. They had some G1 the first time I looked and later on were playing Victory eps (the TV had chairs near it which is why I mention it at all).
    There was a panel room too. We went to the first panel--"Customizing Panel" starring that guy from (not sure what his name is... ;) and some other guy too. He had a large, unfinished Metroplex he was building and an MP Ultra Magnus with blue light-up optics. The panel was a bit technical and I almost nodded off several times throughout it (damn sex nymph!) Mark and the other guy were out in the lobby later with his famed transforming TF costume.
    The second panel was, by far, the best. It had G1 voice actor Michael Bell present. He answered many questions and told many fascinating stories (somehow, I snapped awake for his panel and listened intently). I missed the Botcon he was at (whichever one it was) so this was a new experience. Michael Bell is as interesting a guest as the best voice actors I've yet seen at the Botcons that I have been to.
    After his panel, Michael went to sign autographs outside in the lounge (where the TV was). The line-up was long and frankly, I don't feel like having someone sign something just so I can hauck it on ebay so I passed.
    The next panel was "Transformers Movie 2007 Panel". The MC guy (an east Indian/mid-eastern fellow--I didn't catch his name) hosted it with another guy and went over several slides basically clarifying what is definitely known of this project. This panel also had me awake and interested... it also had some entertaining moments. One, was an Asian fan at the front of the room that kept interrupting to "clarify" facts for the people hosting the panel (apparently they're idiots that aren't "in the know" like him). When discussing the police car Decepticon and his "to maim and protect" logo he commented that "nobody could possibly fall for that". Because, naturally, all the peoples of Earth know what a Decepticon logo means and that it's not some kind of logo for a special unit/something. Another amusing moment was when a different fan in the audience asked "If Scorponok's on our side then why is he fighting our troops?" The guy hosting the panel gave him a funny look then explained the obvious--the Decepticons are bad guys! (You can't make this stuff up).
    Next up, was the "Transformers Comic Book Panel" with Alex Milne, Matt Moylan and Matt Hansen. Of the three, only Alex is really doing anything with IDW while the other two were more Dreamwave related. One guy is editor in chief of some sub-branch of Marvel that adapts sci-fi novels into comics while the other guy does a "'Lil-formers" web comic. The panel was okay but not overly informative and we learned little new (except that Alex hates movie Megatron's design--but who doesn't?)
    After that, we'd had our fill of nerds and robots for the day and decided to return to Belleville. We missed "Live Script Auditions and Reading" (yawn!) and "One-Shall-Stand Transformers Trivia" (also, yawn!) They'd also had a showing of Transformers: The Movie later in the day--but since I'd rather gouge out my optics then see that movie again, we passed.
    We stopped at one of the myriad gas station/restaurants along the 401 and had supper at a Mr. Sub's (the place also had a Wendy's and Tim Horton's. They have some very unusual/cool set-ups along the highway). The woman waiting on me was nicknamed "Sunshine", I think (maybe she'd given up on life with an attitude like she had?) The restaurant had a large domed area which was muyo cool (it really captured my imagination so I mention it even though it's ultimately irrelevant).
    We got back to Matt's place around 6 pm, reported to Frank and unwound... I can't remember what else, if anything, we did that night. I think we went to Home Depot that night so Frank could get some stuff.

Sunday:  The first day I got up and didn't feel tired... I guess those sex nymph ghosts abandoned me.
    Frank had to work on some of his woodworking projects so Matt and I went grocery shopping again so he could pick up some stuff for supper. Then we went over to his friends, Nolan and Jen's place to pick them up so we could help them go pick up a A/C unit at Walmart. Walmart was sold out so we dropped Jen off (who had company coming) and drove to Napanee with Nolan to pick up the unit there. I'd been to Napanee once before (seven years ago on my original trip to see Matt in Kingston).
    We got it and returned to their place where Jen showed us countless cat photos of their cat, pics of their deceased dog and also some pics of Nolan when he was younger. Finally, we left then said “hi” to their friends in the hallway and left.
    We also stopped off at Frank's parents house and met his parents as well as saw the house. It had suffered a fire some time ago and been extensively rebuilt. Matt doesn't care much for Frank's parents but showed me where the place had been rebuilt and then we carried on back to their place.
    We had supper that night, I packed up my junk and then Matt and I watched the two DVDs he'd boughten at the convention on my laptop (his DVD player didn't like them). The B5 bloopers were mostly entertaining while most of the SW fan films were terrible (save for a couple). I also used the opportunity to take some pics/video of their place and them. Later on, Matt showed me several pics of their cat, Tiger and a few of misc. things too.
    I went to bed at 11:35 pm finally, needing to be up early the next day for my flight out.

Monday:  I got up at 5:30 in the morning, took a quick shower and had a couple of donuts for breakfast (mmm! Healthy!) By 5:55 am,  I decided I had to be out of there. I said my goodbyes to Matt and took off (Frank had already left earlier for work).
    It took a mere three hours to navigate the 401 and get to Pearson Airport for my flight. Most of the trip back was okay until I hit the Greater Toronto Area--then traffic hit a crawl several times and I was hoping I'd make my flight in time.
    I was in such a rush, I didn't bother finding a gas station and refueling my rental car, instead allowing AVIS to charge me for that quarter tank (it was a bit expensive but ultimately doesn't matter--they pay me, I pay them then I get another pay cheque... :) I rushed into Terminal 3, went through security and got to my gate--ten minutes before boarding began!
    The flight home was uneventful. The flight attendants were less attractive, I had the middle seat (yuck!), and the TV kept cutting out on us for the first hour and a half or so (although the brightness was better, at least).
    I got back to Edmonton airport and went to the wrong baggage carousel for some reason (stupidity? Tiredness?) I realized my error, turned around and went back for my baggage. I went to the car rental counter, encountered a couple of co-workers and waited until we finally had the AVIS van show up so I could hitch a ride back to the service center and my car.

Comments: Wish I hadn't been so damn tired for most of it. Also wish I'd had more time--I would've loved to have seen some of Toronto's attractions (rather then just whip in and out). I also wouldn't have minded seeing Kingston again (but Matt probably needed convincing to go there since he's from there originally). I also immensely enjoyed going to TransformersCon with Matt--he is what's been missing so much from the past couple of Botcons. A fun yet slightly sarcastic point of view on the TF fandom to help ground you in reality when things get too nuts to be believed. I think the fans get too into it sometimes and that helps keep you centered. Otherwise, I'll have to go see Matt again one of these days and not wait another seven years for the occasion.