Ok, full disclosure… I am Friday People, because Friday at cons are fun and relaxing and I actually have time for food. And I’m there for Saturdays, for panels and ops and occasionally meet&greets. And yes, oh most definitely yes, I am a Sunday girl, because Jensen… and Jared… and ops and autographs, and did I mention Jensen?
But make no mistake, do not misunderstand – I am 1000% percent an SNS!Girl. Stephen hidden in the corner on the stage presents a challenge for me in terms of photography, and tbh, I love the challenge. I mostly fail, but by chuck I’m determined. And Borja off to the side, without a lot of facial expression but oozing emotion all the same, and that’s just fun to watch.
Sigh. And then there’s Billy. On the other side of the stage. Focused. Intense. Having fun. Loving every single second of the music and the stage and the crowd. High intensity jamming, or softer, slower, emotional fingering of the strings during the super-charged ballads. Listen, I don’t read fanfic, but for the love of chuck is there fic about Billy the Guitar-Playing-Rock-God? Hashtag allthegasms right here.
I started to write ‘another sigh’ or ‘big sigh’ but no, no, no sighs. All smiles. Because then there’s Rob, center stage, right where he belongs. Overflowing with excitement. Jammin. Singin. Bringing us to our feet one minute, and bringing us to our knees the next. Telling us that he loves us, and then soaking up our love for him. He is so fun to watch, so fun to photograph, and full disclosure…
I am SNS People. I am here to be blown away time after time after time by the show and the lights and the guests and the music – their music. I am 110% a LoudenSwain!Girl and yes, I am 2000% a Rob!Girl.
That said, I’ll just get right into the show highlights, m’kay?
Returning to Pittsburgh con this year was bittersweet, since we knew this was to be the last Supernatural Creation con in the city. I opted to take the train again, which is a beautiful way to see rural Pennsylvania at its best while sipping a cup of coffee and eating a hot dog from the café car. What can I say, I like simple pleasures. Also the seats in the Pennsylvanian go wayyyy back and there’s a footrest, so… I’m easily amused. I was not, on the other hand, amused at all by the fact that the dispatcher saw fit to keep a slow-moving freight train ahead of our passenger train for hours instead of allowing us to pass, so I was late getting in and missed most of the Thursday night fun in the vendor room. Boo Amtrak.
In spite of that beginning, Pittcon lived up to my expectations and made me sad not to have another to look forward to. It was also Pride Week in Pittsburgh, and from our high up window, the city was lit up in a rainbow of colors. There was a free concert every night right below us, so we were treated to a view of the crowd dancing to the music and a contagious positive vibe all around us.
Friday kicked off with Louden Swain and Rob’s rendition of Genie In A Bottle which I assume is an homage to local Christina Aguilera. Rob and the band can rock anything, just saying.
The con was in a different ballroom this year, which was smaller and more intimate and had actual carpet instead of a cement floor so yay, but I did miss watching the cast come and go through the glass skyway as we all waved and they either waved back or did lewd things for our amusement.
Richard: We’re in a different room this year, so no skyway. So no one can be looking at our bottoms…
Not sure why Richard was on a bottoms kick, but we also had a repeat performance of the bit about Rob getting drugs out of his b-hole complete with a Speight original dance performance. I can’t even describe it in words but trust me, it was hysterical.
Last month was both Stroke Awareness Month and the one year anniversary of the publication of Family Don’t End With Blood, the book written by the cast and fans of Supernatural. So this is a perfect time to chat with Supernatural actor and Louden Swain frontman Rob Benedict (Chuck/God) about the powerful chapter he wrote in the book. In his chapter, Rob takes us through every tension-filled moment of the stroke he had while at a Supernatural convention in Toronto several years ago and how the SPNFamily got him through it. I knew when Rob sent me the story to include that it was going to make readers cry (in a good way) and that it was going to inspire people – but I didn’t know that it was going to literally save lives.
That’s exactly what happened though.
At a Supernatural convention this spring, a fan approached the vendor table for Family Don’t End With Blood and said she had something to tell me. I’ve heard so many wonderful stories about how the stories shared in the book have inspired someone to keep going, or given them the courage to make changes in their lives, or helped them feel okay being who they are for the first time. When the fan standing at my table got emotional, I expected to hear a similar story.
“The Supernatural fandom and this book,” she said, “saved my life.”
Not in the way I expected, however. Patty Barbera had read Family Don’t End With Blood, and Rob’s chapter, in which he shares his experience having a serious stroke at the Toronto convention, had really stood out for her. Shortly before the convention, she was getting ready for bed when her hand started to go numb. The numbness slowly moved up her arm, and then there was a pain in the back of her head and her whole right side went numb. The right side of her face began to droop. She began having trouble speaking. Because she had just read Rob’s chapter, which details what happened during his stroke, Patty immediately realized she was having a stroke. She screamed for her husband, and they drove to the hospital – where a CT Scan showed that she was indeed having a stroke – the type referred to as a “TIA” or mini stroke. Even more alarmingly, her scans showed that it was not the first one.
As she told me her story, she began to cry – but they were good tears. She was healthy enough now to attend the convention and thank Rob herself (and has since made remarkable progress and is almost fully recovered)
“If I hadn’t read this book, I probably would have ignored everything and went to bed, most likely damaging my brain. But because of this book and Rob’s story, I’m back to my old self with minimal damage,” Patty said.
I felt my own eyes well up, and we shared a few tissues together.
Patty’s powerful story was a reminder of why we all wrote Family Don’t End With Blood – we wanted to make a difference. The actors who wrote chapters and the fans who wrote chapters all wanted to share their very personal stories in the hopes that others would be inspired and impacted by what they wrote.
That was certainly the case for Patty with Rob’s chapter. Shortly after I met Patty, I sat down with Rob to ask about why he wanted to contribute to the book and what the response has been to his story. In keeping with the important messages of Rob and Patty, we’ve included a summary of the warning signs of stroke at the end of this article – you can read the entire account of Rob’s very emotional experience in his chapter of Family Don’t End With Blood.
Lynn: You wrote a really personal chapter in Family Don’t End With Blood, taking readers through every moment of your experience when you had a stroke at a convention several years ago. What made you want to share your story?
Rob: It’s almost easier for me to express myself through writing. And I felt the need to re-visit the experience and take all of it back into my consciousness, and to try to account for what happened. In my recovery I read an amazing memoir called Brain On Fire, in which the author Susannah Calahan tracks her own journey through a debilitating virus that attacked her brain. I was inspired by that. I am inspired to put all of this in a book someday, but this chapter was a place to start. It was incredibly therapeutic.
Lynn: Was it challenging to be that personal and share your own vulnerability?
Rob: Not really – I mean the fear of getting too personal is always a road block, but it’s one I like to push out of the way. I do it a lot with my song lyrics. At times, singing my songs is like reading my diary out loud. It’s terrifying! BUT I am motivated by that fear. I dare myself to speak the truth. I think there’s something incredibly confident, or robust, about expressing one’s own insecurities and fear. I’ve said it before on stage when I sing songs like She Waits, but there is something about this fandom that makes me feel safe to express myself. I feel like there’s an unspoken connection, especially by the end of a convention weekend. So I did also feel that when I wrote this – that it wouldn’t fall on judgmental ears.
I have written several articles for Fangasm about the Saturday Night Special, so when I sat down to write this one, I went back to read those articles in an effort to avoid repeating myself. I mean, how many different ways can I explain my complete and total love for Louden Swain and this concert? I have already said that this concert is Extraordinary. I’ve already said that this concert is Special because of Louden Swain. I’ve already said this is a raw, unfiltered show of energy and passion and love pouring into us through guitars and drums and lyrics. I have already said that Louden Swain gives us their very souls, from Billy Moran and Michael Borja on guitar, to Stephen Norton on drums, to Rob playing guitar and singing with a rawness of heart that is frankly unlike any other performer out there. How can I possibly explain this to you in new words? What else can I say? Should I just word-vomit all the synonyms for love? Is there even one single word that could ever explain how absolutely incredible these concerts are?
Fangasm. That’s the word. These concerts and this band bring me to the height of complete and total fangasm. If you haven’t experienced a fangasm, then for the love of Chuck, go to one of these concerts, and allow the music and the lyrics and the energy and the passion to wash over you and into you until you are completely and totally immersed in everything that is good in this world. Amen.
Seattle con has always been one of my favorites. It’s just a short drive from Vancouver, so the cast is usually well rested and in a great mood – and it’s where some of my close friends live, so it means I get to visit them and hang out too. Add in the fact that some of my favorite fangirl buds were also here this year and that just makes it better. I had a vendor table with plenty of copies of Family Don’t End With Blood and our other books on Supernatural and fandom, right next to the lovely Kayla and Louden Swain, which was extra fun.
My friend Alana King of Youtube fame was also at the con, which meant time to hang out and some bonding time for the two of us whenever I accompanied Alana to anything that had to do with one Mr. Jared Padalecki. Alana had just completed a fundraiser for To Write Love On Her Arms and had a bound book of messages for Jared from all the contributors, which she had carefully handwritten. Needless to say, she was beyond nervous to give that to him, so I promised to come with her to tell him about the project and the awesome people who contributed. Alana had also agreed to get a photo op done for a fellow fan who couldn’t make it to the con, which involved Jared writing a message to her on a whiteboard – that was a lovely moment during which Jared said nice things to Alana and gave her a kiss on the forehead, which of course made Alana burst into tears. In the video blog on Alana’s channel, I’m the one doing all the reassuring smiling, but really I get all emotional too – I just hide it better!
I got to catch up with Megan Padalecki at this con too, who I haven’t chatted with in a little while and missed a lot. And of course the rest of the awesome people of the vendor squad, who are like a traveling group of artists bonded together around Supernatural – Jodi, Shelley, Scout, etc etc etc. I’m always in awe of your talents and proud to call you my friends.
Friday kicked off with Rob Benedict and Louden Swain holding down the fort while Richard Speight Jr. filmed, Rob wearing his “Frobday” shirt designed by Scout like 24 hours before and miraculously ready in shirt form for the con kickoff. Rob was rockin’ it.
And then there was the latest rendition of the Borja Borja series of shirts, this one featuring a swimming …naked…Borja. Though he insists that’s the body of a naked baby…
Rachel Miner was first up, and came onstage by means of the newly installed ramp, which thrilled her and all of us. It’s easy to forget how much of a difference it makes to be able to come and go on your own, and Rachel reminded us all, thanking Creation for making sure she could do just that.