I'm home, the grind has restarted, I'm sort of coping with the jet lag, and it's all over but the retrospective.
... What, you expected me to type up my notes for the entire Greece trip in less than 24 hours? Silly people. No, I don't mean the Greece trip. I mean ... BayCon 2005. A throwback to those halcyon spring days of May.
Yes! Retrospective! Glorious convention summary! And I know how reading these things can get if you weren't there to enjoy them in the first place, but trust me, this is worth it. It was one of my more memorable conventions in the decade I've been attending. If you don't believe me, I've got a bridge that I ... uh ... don't want to sell you. Besides, I've been keeping this on my back burner for six months, so to have it get finished rather than fall off the stove, you know it's got to have been memorable.
So without further ado, I'd like to present ... (A Baxil Productions post; © 2005 Tomorrowlands.org; costumes by Louis Vuitton)
THE TOP 5 MOMENTS OF BAYCON 2005
5. The Friend of Baycon reaction. The "Friends of BayCon" are an elite list of longtime volunteers that are selected by the convention to receive a lifetime free membership. Each year's new names are announced at the convention itself, although the way most conventions go and as busy as most longtime volunteers are, virtually everyone involved hears about it through word of mouth.
I was working on the newsletter during the announcement of 2005's newly minted We Really Like You Squad. firestrike wandered back into the newsletter room afterward and informed me of my honor. As my previous experience with Friend of Baycon awards had been seeing people with vastly greater involvement in the day-to-day running of the con receive them (division and department heads, and Bay Area locals who attend many of the off-season meetings), my initial reaction was along the lines of, "April was last month, Matt."
Shortly after he managed to convince me that he was serious, elynne and kadyg walked into the room. He worked into the ensuing conversation the tidbit that I had some news. We danced around that for a bit, and I casually dropped the "Friend of Baycon" thing in during a segue. They missed it. Erin asked me shortly thereafter, "Didn't he say something about you having news?" I shot back, "Oh, yeah. Matt's pregnant with my kid."
After the initial laughter, Matt avowed that of the FoB award and the pregnancy, one of them was true. Kady chastised me for not using birth control.
4. Lighting up the dance floor. I made it to several of the convention dances this year. I came prepared.
I've discovered I'm one of those people who enjoys dancing with a focus. Or dancing to show off. Perhaps both. I really don't do well swaying back and forth along with a thick crowd, but give me some room -- and some accessories, but room is the important thing -- and I really get into my groove. I'm the sort of dancer that thinks nothing of a few well-timed spins, jumps, perhaps even a handstand or cartwheel. Put a set of glowsticks into my hand and I become that set of lights, swinging them around like a human fire wheel, zipping in long, graceful lines, hell, even whirling in wide arcs toward the ceiling. (I have some small skill at juggling.)
At this year's Further Confusion, I saw a woman at one of the dances with a device that I hesitate only slightly to describe as Darth Maul's two-bladed lightsaber -- a metal staff, perhaps five feet long, with about half of that length (at the two outer ends) being a transparent material giving off a bright red glow. What little martial technique I've built up has largely been with the staff, so the ♥♥ started to form almost instantly. I caught up to her in between some bouts of expert whirling and begged to know where she'd gotten such a thing -- only to be told I could assemble my own for less than $40 by buying two battery-powered LED road flares (n.b.: Link is to Google cache and will expire shortly; product linked is a Coast v24 Performance Light, model # LL7930) from Fry's Electronics and screwing them together in the middle.
Et voila. I grabbed a set on my way home, waited patiently until Baycon, and unleashed my own lightstaff on the dance floor. I wasn't nearly as good with it, but it was sure an attention-getter. Pretty much the entire glowstick/fire chain/accessory-dancing crowd wandered by to comment on it at one point or another and I gave many people pointers on how to purchase one. And then there was the photographer wandering by -- one of many at the dance, but this one asked me to pose and told me he'd be putting the pictures online after the con. Which he did, as well as posting up an interesting BayCon reminiscence of his own. Thanks, Kent!
3. "Fifty-two!" Every year, BayCon runs a large and quite well-stocked art show. Most years, as a busy staff member, I don't get to see much if any of it. Remarkably, this year, not only I but everyone on Newsletter -- the entire Jackal Pack -- got to wander through and place bids on pieces we liked. There was one picture of a dragon at a writing desk that kadyg and I had our eye on -- we added a bid in the silent auction, came back later to find out that we had been outbid by two separate individuals, jumped back in, and watched the piece quickly exceed the bid limit and get sent to voice auction. It was only afterward that we found we were bidding against walks_far and fellow jackals childe_dirk (Steve and Meredith). We had a good laugh and admitted we should have made a deal among ourselves to save everyone the hassle.
But the "Great Jackal Civil War of 2005" wasn't about that picture. It was about a piece of Lord of the Rings fan-art.
Granted, it was a pretty good piece of LotR fan-art; it was the reflection of the Shire in a polished doorknob. But it hadn't really caught my eye, except on its pure technical merits. What did catch my eye was that there was a bidding war going on between two strangers over it, from $45 to $50 to $51; and head jackal firestrike had sniped the top bid, sending it to voice auction, with his own offer of $51.25 (or some such spare-change number). There's no rule against petty-change bid increments, but it does tend to have the feel of a social gaffe. It's not quite so bad when you're merely sending it to voice auction, since the expectation is that the bidding will continue, but it still seems like a cheap way to gloat.
So this picture came up at the voice auction -- the auction that almost the entire jackal squad was attending, since Kady and I had laid claim to the dragon writer, and Steve and Meredith and Matt were angling for several other pieces each. Auctioneer rmjwell talked up the piece, the art ladies showed it around the audience ... but nobody was biting. Not a single bid. Matt had no incentive, since he'd win it by default on his $51.25 offer if nobody spoke up; and the people that he was bidding against had abandoned the voice auction, as many silent-auction bidders do.
I got a mischievous glint in my eye. It was a combination of impulsiveness, pity for the poor unloved piece, the convention chairman (one of the other auctioneers) having encouraged me by name to bid on other pieces a few times, and the desire to right the cosmic wrong of artwork about to sell for a fractional amount of dollars. "You said you liked that, right?" I whispered to Kady. "Would you hang that up at home if we bought it?" She shrugged and nodded. RJ stopped asking for 60 -- he'd given up on 75 long ago -- and begged for 55. (The auctioneers asked only in five-dollar increments, so that was the lowest he'd dig for.) With still no bites, he shrugged, started in on the "Going once ... going twice ..."
"Fifty-two dollars," I announced. SNIPE!
Matt gave me the Look of Death. The room burst out into laughter. The auctioneer deadpanned a nature-show-documentary line about the fierce dominance battle as a jackal rose up to challenge the pack leader. Matt responded, equally deadpan, by announcing to the audience that there would be an opening on newsletter staff next year. In short, a good time was had by all.
Except for poor firestrike, who ended up having to pay $60 for the piece after someone else in the room got into the act and chipped in a $55 bid before Matt could be persuaded to speak up again. So basically he got the piece for about $9 more than he would have paid. I bought him a burger later as a peace offering.
As a coda to the story, Matt gave us the picture as a wedding present. I had visions of us passing it back and forth at birthdays, Christmases, bar mitzvahs, etc., for the rest of our lives ... but kadyg's already framed it, so it's possible she has designs of hanging it up somewhere in the house after all.
2. Getting propositioned. Eric of the at-con interview show "Eric in the Elevator" -- who's on LJ somewhere but I don't know the username -- invited us out to the (public) room party he was holding for screening his newly assembled Season 4 material. I had been off dancing for most of the evening (see #4, above), but found a few minutes near the end of the night to go downstairs, still dressed up, with kadyg.
Now, when I say "dressed up," I mean eye-catching, in the way you can only find at a convention of self-styled misfits and fringe types. I was tricked out in red and black, with the flame-design T-shirt you can see in the photo linked above. Possibly not quite as visible is the spiked collar I bought on a lark many conventions past in order to help a broke vendor get gas money for home. Probably not terribly visible is the eyeshadow ankh that kadyg and elynne drew around one of my eyes in an effort to add a dash of gothboi to complete the look.
Eric's hotel room was packed. I wriggled into the crowd and found a seat at the far side of the room; Kady sat down on the floor a row or two in front of me. We all sat and watched Season 1 of the show for a while. It was an amusing piece of improv, but apparently for at least one of the guests it wasn't the main attraction.
The middle-aged, neatly dressed man sitting behind me and to my left caught my attention between segments -- complimenting me on my look and saying that I reminded him of someone, had we met? He didn't look familiar -- although faces can often be a blur at cons -- so I brushed him off with small talk and focused back on the video. He signaled me a bit later and told me he'd figured it out: I looked like some TV actor he named, whose identity and vitae were unfamiliar to me and unmemorable in the grand scheme of things. Oh, that explains it, I said to myself, and (because my density in the flirt arena approaches black hole-like proportions) thought nothing more of it and turned back again to the show.
But the man wasn't about to let a little cluelessness stop him. I felt another tap on my shoulder after the next segment, and he motioned me in conspiratorially. I leaned back, and he whispered in my ear that, you know, things being how they are at cons -- they are times when you can cut loose a little and take a chance you might not in the outside world -- and normally he might not be approaching such a young stranger, but might I be interested in going back to his hotel room to (I'm paraphrasing here, but the actual wording was discreet yet totally clear) take advantage of the privacy?
It was -- in its own tender, weird way -- pretty flattering, but for any number of reasons I was uninterested. I leaned a little further in and quietly pointed toward the most obvious of them. "Thanks," I whispered back, "but I'm not really certain how my girlfriend would feel about that." Motioning at Kady, who was engrossed in the video, not five feet away.
The man wilted like a cut rose left in the sun. Poor guy. I wonder if he's still, even now, trying to recalibrate his gaydar.
1. The Fellini-porn pool. Federico Fellini's filmmaking style can be characterized by one of his famous quotes: "I make a film in the same manner in which I live a dream." The notion of "Fellini porn" -- though I don't think he himself ever made any -- refers to a sex sequence that is slow, deliberate, totally incongruous -- a meshing of two different realities which hit you both at once and short-circuit your brain.
After getting back from the Eric in the Elevator party -- and a later private room party with booze -- the jackal squad was hanging out in the newsletter room, chatting, enjoying ourselves, occasionally slipping out to the balcony and people-watching as the late-night crowd wandered through the Overland Route (the rooftop shortcut to the convention center side of the hotel) and the pool area.
The pool itself is supposed to be closed at night. But it's a convention, things are going on 24-7, and sometimes people swim anyway. So it wasn't much of a sight when a man and woman both slipped into the pool and started paddling around. It was, however, a bit unique when I pointed out to the other jackals on the balcony, "Hey ... aren't those their swimsuits over on the side of the pool?"
Yes, indeedy, there was some late-night skinny dipping going on, we soon confirmed. That caught our attention. At that point, those of us on the balcony were glued to the scene, watching and discussing in morbid fascination just how long it would take FLARE (convention security) to wander by and stop them.
Then the man and the woman swum over to one side of the pool together, hanging onto one of the walls. Then we started seeing little movement ripples in the water around their bodies.
We relayed this news inside in disbelief. The entire jackal pack rushed out to the balcony.
Newsletter jackals being newsletter jackals, it wasn't long before we started snarking.
Alerted by our shouted catcalls, a crowd started gathering down on the Overland Route to observe the mating display. Matt went inside and phoned up a couple of other staff members. (Not, it should be clarified, to contact security -- but to clue them in should they want to watch. It was something like 3 AM on Monday morning, after all, and pretty much everyone was either asleep, in some state of drunkenness, or bored.) Unbelievably, none of this deterred the pool couple. Even more unbelievably, convention security never showed up to stop them, and nobody -- despite my suggestions -- wandered down to poolside to steal their swimsuits. So the hijinks continued.
We thought it couldn't get any more surreal. But then, a second woman -- apparently having nothing to do with the couple -- waded into the pool, properly suited up, and started swimming laps. I think that's what finally broke our brains.
So anyway -- yes, it was an awesome convention.
Hopefully, Greece won't take quite so long to get around to documenting. ];=8) But with well over 400 pictures to sift through, 32+ pages of written notes, and nearly half the trip left to transfer from brainmeat to the written record, it promises to be quite a task.