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.
After my epic review of last week’s episode, I’ll try to make this one more concise – which I realize isn’t saying much with the bar that low. Exodus, the penultimate episode of Season 13, began with a lengthy recap, which caused me to start encouraging my television to “come on, get to it, we know what happened last week!”
I suppose it’s possible that someone forgot that Sam Winchester died in the last episode and that Lucifer brought him back and that he has just now walked into the rebel camp – where Sam sees Mary alive and Dean sees Sam alive. But I don’t know that person.
I do love that they pick up right where they left off, which doesn’t happen often enough and which gives the episode an extra sense of urgency and immediacy. Sam hugs Mary, who he’s been trying desperately to get to all season, and Dean stares at Sam over Mary’s shoulder like he almost can’t believe it, with a soft “Sam?”
As soon as Sam and Dean have a moment alone, they both need to reconnect after the intense emotions each has experienced – Dean’s devastation at losing Sam and Sam’s shame and guilt at being brought back by Lucifer and bringing him to the camp.
Sam: I’m sorry about all this.
I held my breath, waiting to see what Dean would say and my heart breaking for Sam – who has absolutely nothing to be sorry about but is always ALWAYS worried about disappointing his big brother.
Dean: Are you good?
Sam: I’m alive, yeah.
Dean: Well then you’ve got nothin’ to apologize for.
Me: OMG YES!
Dean pulls Sam into a hug, wraps him up so very tight, and you can see the moment when Sam lets go of that guilt and self-blame and just leans into it, letting his brother hold him. Realizing that it’s okay, that all Dean cares about is that Sam is alive and well and that’s all that matters.
This week’s Supernatural episode was one of those episodes that everyone had a strong opinion about – but, as often happens in this fandom, not necessarily the same strong opinion. The one thing that everyone did agree on was that the acting was off the charts incredible – and nobody was left unemotional, that’s for sure.
For me, I think the emotions were especially complex because I was fortunate to be able to watch some of the episode be filmed, including some of the most intense moments. I thought that maybe, since I had already watched those horrific moments when Sam dies and Dean has to watch it, maybe it wouldn’t hit me so hard when I saw it onscreen. But no. It just meant that I got all emotional watching them film it, and then got emotional all over again watching the final product. I knew that Jensen and Jared had killed it in those scenes, but I don’t even have words for how much they broke my heart now that I’ve seen the episode.
So I agree with everyone else – the acting was off the charts. There was plenty to love about this episode, but there were also some things that bothered me, so here’s a bit of both along with a few behind the scenes tidbits.
The opening scene starts right in with the heartstring tugs – a scene of domestic family bliss, Cas and Jack and Mary and Sam around the table and teasing Dean about eating too much pizza, Mary saying she and John called him “our little piglet”. (This is Sam’s perspective, so it makes sense, but I’m pretty sure Dean’s love of food is a result of the deprivation that came after Mary died). Then Sam and Mary having the heart to heart that Sam has longed for, finally hearing Mary express her faith in her sons, how she knew they’d save her and they did. It’s Sam’s most wished for fantasy come to life – and of course it’s a dream.
Break my heart right at the outset, why don’t you? I sort of wanted to employ my dream interpretation skills, because that’s what psychologists do sometimes, but I’ll try to stop myself (would I just be psychoanalyzing writer Robert Berens? Hmmm. Tempting, Bobo…). I did love that in Sam’s fantasy, everyone is teasing Dean – it’s such a little brother fantasy. And everyone is together, family by blood, family by choice. Everyone is safe and happy. Oh Sam.
First quibble though – does Sam really sleep fully clothed in a long sleeve shirt even?? Really??