Saturday, May 27, 2006

Pomp and Circumstance

Last night was graduation night at most of the local high schools, so I was out there taking notes and photos for the paper. Our local high school had 91 graduates - not a real big class, but there are schools in rural Texas that graduate only one or two kids a year.
When you work as a small town newspaper editor, you go to a lot of graduations as the years roll by. However, until last night, I hadn't been to a graduation in two years. Last year I missed them because I was between jobs. My last day on my old job was May 20, and I started my new job June 1, so I missed the commencement season.
Last night's graduation reminded me of the commencement I attended in 2004. Gardner Dozois had accepted my story "A Rocket for the Republic" for Asimov's Science Fiction in March 2004. Up to that time, I had attended a total of two science fiction conventions in my life. Right after the acceptance, I realized I probably needed to get out more. The convention in Columbus, Ohio (Marcon) was coming up over the Memorial Day weekend, and I emailed and told them what had happened and said I wanted to attend. Ellen Datlow would be there; I had never met her.
In April they accepted me and put me on a panel on Submitting Short Stories with Ellen and Julie Czernada. I was very happy and I accepted. Then a few days later I realized the panel was at 2 p.m. Saturday the day after the local high school graduation. My wife and I went to the graduation at 8 p.m. Friday and then drove overnight 14 hours to Columbus. I made it with an hour to spare (I would have been exactly on time but we picked up an hour driving into the Eastern Time Zone).
I was glad to make the panel; it was a great experience, and I was very happy to meet with Ellen and Julie. I also attended a panel on Venus exploration by Geoffrey Landis Sunday morning that was worth the price of admission.
I'll never forget Saturday night when my wife and I were eating in the hotel's food court and people began sauntering by heading to that evening's costume ball. We're both SBC church embers, but wife's a native Texan and fifth generation SBC. I'm used to seeing leather corsets and fur loin cloths at cons, but the look on her face was priceless.
We drove back and made it to Texas by Monday morning; I got a short three hours of sleep and was back at work 8 a.m. Monday.
The rush and driving nearly killed my butt, though, and when I lucked out and didn't have to cover a graduation in 2005, and in fact had the whole Memorial Day weekend off, I felt it was cosmic payback.
I've told the folks in Marcon to keep me on their list; it's a great convention and I hope to make it again.
There seems to be a lot of cons over Memorial Day weekend. Howard Waldrop is off as Toastmaster at ConQuest in Kansas City. When I talked to him last weekend, and mentioned that I had to stay put because of graduation, he mentioned that he graduated from Arlington High School back in the 1960s, and it was a pretty big school by Texas standards even back then (Arlington, in case you're reading this from somewhere else in the big bad world, is smack dab between Dallas and Fort Worth and only seems suburban by comparison. It currently has a population of a quarter million people).
Howard said his graduating class had over 500 kids, and he recalls (and this seems to me a very Waldropian observation) at one point in the ceremony a pattering sound broke out that sounded very much like it had started to rain.
But it hadn't; what HAD happened it that as the list of graduates was read, everyone - students, teachers and relatives - had turned the page of the program at the same time. That's what made the sound.
Interesting, huh? He still remembers it after over 40 years.
Hope you have a very pleasant Memorial Day weekend.

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