I arrived in Austin, Texas at midnight on the same day I’d left home, despite having been in transit for about 28 hours. I had quite the welcoming committee – David Youngquist and his wife Fay, John Prescott, and Adrian Chamberlin. Adrian was cheerfully brandishing a hand drawn sign which read “Tracie McBride – Dark Continents Publishing”. How did he know that I’d always wanted to be collected from the airport by someone holding up a sign with my name on it? If only he’d been in a chauffeur’s uniform…
From there it was on to Wendy’s drive through for dinner, our hotel rooms at Holiday Inn Express, and not nearly enough sleep. Thursday morning at 7.30 we met for breakfast, where I had my first encounter with the American phenomenon known as “biscuits and gravy”. Our mission for the day was to set up our table in the dealers’ room at the convention and to procure supplies for our launch party on the following night.
Our first visit was to Whole Foods, where one of my previously held stereotypes of America was shattered. The American diet does NOT consist solely of highly processed fake food, not if Whole Foods is anything to go by (and not if Texan women are anything to go by, either. The Texas motto “Everything is bigger in Texas” does not apply to their women. Texan women are like wingless fairies, tiny, slender little things with very long hair).
The Whole Foods supermarket chain boasts 300 stores across North America and the UK, stocking natural and organic foodstuffs. And it started out in Austin, Texas. The size of the store and the array of fresh produce were jaw-dropping. Any one of its departments – the smoothie bar, the bakery, the deli, the tea and coffee counter, the fruit and vegetable section, the salad and pre-prepared meals section – could have functioned as a standalone store in its own right. Eventually we managed to get our act together and order some food platters for Friday.
Then we split up according to gender, with the menfolk venturing forth to do “manly” things (constructing, lifting heavy boxes, sweating, swearing and cursing at the Austin traffic), while Fay, Adrian’s sister Bev, and I took on the traditional female roles (shopping, sweating, swearing and cursing at the Austin traffic).
It didn’t take long for me to establish my reputation as… well, a bit of an idiot (I was aiming for idiot savant, but only
got halfway there). I pointed my camera at anything that moved, stalking squirrels in the park, insisting that Fay stop the car in the middle of the road so I could take photos of some cows in a paddock (but…but… they were Texas Longhorns!), and only thinking to enquire once I was knee deep in long grass whether or not there might be snakes in said grass (apparently, yes, there might). And the gaffes only got bigger – but more on that later.
More battling with the traffic and Austin’s confusingly designed service roads, and we made it back to the convention venue, the Doubletree Hotel, with minutes to spare before the registration desk closed. I had my goodie bag, I had my name tag, I was ready to take on the World Horror Convention 2011.