Cthulhu Coffee at CONvergence 2001
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Given that out room party at CONvergence 2000 was a success, we decided to try our slimy little hands at another party. This time, the convention went along so smoothly I wondered if I had walked into a parallel dimension. It certainly is a contrast to the awkward moments of last year, partially attributable to the lousy hotel we were in, and partially attributable to the first-time mistakes we all make on new endeavors. This year, the hotel (our "home" hotel, the Radisson South in Bloomington, MN) was spectacular, the crowd was boisterous, and I think we all had one hell of a good time. The fruits of our labors were particularly juicy this year, so here is the long, sordid, and often surrealistic tale of Cthulhu Coffee 2001.

Now, just so you know, since I am the hostess of the cabana party, I don't get out of the room much. My adventures at the convention have much to do with people I know personally, and very little to do with the panels, main events, and guests of honor. Thus, I am not sure how interesting this is going to be for other people. I am keeping an eye on the Internet for other convention reports that involve other aspects of the convention, and I am posting them here just so you can investigate them and get a broader view of CONvergence 2001:

    I knew I could count on Gadgetmaster Richard Caylor to post the first images of CONvergence on the web. Here is his 2001 convention photo page. I'm the goofy-looking chick in the Japanese dress, and the stuffed cephalopods on top of the cabinet are all members of Cthulhu Coffee's Cephalopod Collection.

    Finally, the Celestial "Who"ligans have once again written up perhaps the best overview of the convention. I want to meet these guys, and they obviously keep wandering into the Cthulhu Coffee room (as evidenced by the photo of the Sink 'NSync tank in the report), but I never run into them! Waah!

Hopefully, I will also get convention reports from a couple of my fellow coffee minions, who probably saw more of the convention than I did. (As of October 2001, Paul is slowly working on his account.)

So, without further ado, here is my (Melissa's) tale of CONvergence 2001.

Meathead07062001 Our tale begins on Friday. I had taken a few days off work just to get stuff ready for the party. I even forgot to watch fireworks on Wednesday night. However, I did manage to get everything ready to go by Friday morning. I had a new batch of signs with 80 new slogans (and they were printed for the first time in color!), a cooler full of food, 12 2-liter bottles of 7-Up and ginger ale, three pounds of ground Sumatran roast coffee, and various other tools of destruction. Ted, Gadgetmaster Richard Caylor, and I had even managed to saw out a masonite logo sign for the cabana. Somehow, I managed to stuff it all into my Saturn coupe (luckily, Rick and Sharon took the tables and chairs in their Bronco). Never mind that I couldn't see out the back window...

I hit the hotel at 10:00 AM, and, amazingly enough, got the perfect parking space. I was right in front of the exterior door closes to my cabana. Thus, I knew then that there was no way that I was giving up that parking space, and therefore could not leave the convention until it was all over.

Not believing my good fortune, I walked in to check out what was going on already. I walked past what should have been the Cthulhu Coffee cabana, and oh no! The Gravediggers Union is in the cabana that we're supposed to be in! I quickly checked in and picked up my badge so I could hunt down the parties coordinator, Linda Peterson. Luckily, I hadn't walked 10 feet before I ran into her husband, Anton. He called her up for me, and then asked,

"Can you be bribed?"

I told him that it certainly wasn't beyond me.

"Would 12-year single malt scotch work?"

Hell yes.

I met Linda about half an hour later. It turns out that The Gravediggers Union needed a room with a door into the ROG cabana, and so they moved from 124 to 126. Thus, Cthulhu Coffee would get 124, a net change of two rooms, which was no problem at all (I just had to change our signs before putting them up). Instead of being the demilitarized zone between ROG and the Rake'Hell, Cthulhu Coffee thus became the demilitarized zone between ROG and the Xenaversity. I graciously accepted my bribe and went to the front desk to see how early I could check in.

Lo and behold, they let me check in. (Last year, I didn't get into the cabana until 3:00 PM, three hours before the party starts.) Even though none of my help was there yet, I decided to get a head start on hauling crap out of my car. Rudy from ROG, who specializes in showing up and saving people, popped in out of nowhere and said, "Need help hauling anything in?"

Hell yes.

So Rudy and another cohort (whose name I unfortunately didn't catch) helped me haul everything out of my car. Everything was inside my cabana in under five minutes. I thanked them profusely, and Rudy scurried off to go save somebody else.

Well, to make a long story short(er), the cabana was mostly set up by 1:00 PM, just before the other Cthulhu Coffee minions showed up. When Rick and Sharon appeared with the tables, everything was pretty much ready. Rick, Sharon, and I slapped up all the (amended) posters around the convention as quickly as we could. Cool! Now we had time to have fun!

I wandered over to the Pangalactic Interplanetary Gourmand Society (PIGS) room to say hi. Now, this is the first year PIGS has ever done a room party, and Linda had referred them to me to get pointers (the pointers turned into the Hastur's Guide to Hosting a Room Party). So, I've been talking to Joe for a couple months about his Real Food party, and I was curious to see how setup was going.

Joe was there, working on one of the largest computer monitors I have ever seen, trying to get a printer to agree with his computer. None of the signs were printed yet, and he looked a little anxious. The rest of his cohorts were out looking for more supplies. Otherwise, the room looked ready to go: sparsely decorated, but it had all of the tables and tarps needed for everything to work. PIGS also had several little refrigerators in the room. When I asked how things were going, Joe remarked that he had spent six hours cooking ramen the day before.

Six hours? How much ramen did they make?

Joe opened one of the refrigerators, and it was a wall of ramen noodles, neatly packed into Ziploc bags. He also had a 9x13 Rubbermaid box full of just the powder for the broth. It's amazing how much ramen $20 will get for you. If I remember right, they had somewhere between 200 and 250 packs of ramen cooked up.

Awed, I congratulated him and left him to work on his room. I wandered the convention a bit. The dealer's room was the standard stuff; t-shirts, bumper stickers, knives and swords, books, and memorabilia. A place called Black Star Studios had a large blue backdrop and photo lights up, and they were making IDs, so you could have a photo ID of yourself as a crew member of the Red Dwarf or Starfleet Command (more on them later). Then I wound up in the Gadgeteer's Petting Zoo for a while with Rick and Paul and Mike Malver. Then I wandered back to my cabana to finish setting up.

Coffee and StarsDuring setup, several people wandered in to say hi, including Derek from ROG (who I haven't seen in a while) and Dan, who had hung around the Cthulhu Coffee cabana for hours last year and then fell off the face of the planet. I made Dan promise to keep in touch this time. [7/30/01 addendum: Dan is now officially a member of Cthulhu Coffee and is a major contributor to the web site.]

Just as we were about to open the party at 6:00 PM, Sharon noticed that there was a panel on H. P. Lovecraft at 7:00 PM. Now, I have been attending CONvergence and Minicon for about eight years now, and I have never attended a panel. I decided this would be a great place to start. Ted, Rick, and Sharon offered to take care of the party while I went to the panel. Cool!

At 7:00 PM, Rob and I went to the Lovecraft panel. As it happens, Dan was sitting in front of me, as well as a couple people who looked familiar...

Now, I will digress for a moment. At last year's Cthulhu Coffee party, on Saturday, an author and his significant other stopped in and stayed for several hours, discussing Lovecraft with us. This guy had done an amazing amount of research on Lovecraft, and he was absolutely fascinating. He was also working on publishing a reference work on Lovecraft. Now, I am absolutely terrible with names, and despite how fascinating this guy was, I could not, for the life of me, remember his name. I've been watching for a new HPL reference to come out, just so I would know who I was talking to. But I haven't seen or heard anything.

Brains!Now, back to the panel. I'm waiting for the panel to start, and there is nobody at the big table in front, and I'm racking my brain trying to figure out who the two people sitting next to Dan are. Then, a moment later, the guy stands up and walks to the table and begins talking about Lovecraft's short story, "Dagon". Then it all snaps into place. The gentleman speaking is the same author who I was talking to for hours last year. I immediately made note of his name: Guy Bock. (When I said "that author guy from last year..." I was actually partially right!)

Guy was doing the panel by himself, and it was great. Now, "Dagon" is the story of a British sailor on a merchant ship who gets captured by the Germans in the Pacific during WWI. Guy talked for an hour and a half about how historically accurate Lovecraft can be with the few hints he uses in his tales. After much research, he had actually figured out almost exactly where and when the event would have actually occurred. It was quite the history lesson.

After we were chased out of the room by the following panel (the Lovecraft discussions caused Guy's panel to run over by half an hour), Rob wandered off and I hung around outside the room with a half dozen people waiting to ask Guy questions. I chatted for a little while with both him and his now-wife Wendy and told him about how I was haunted for a whole year because I couldn't remember their names. I was thrilled! A great mystery, solved!

After listening to his further comments about historical accounts of various cults and forbidden books, I realized that I had neglected the room party for over two hours and rushed back. Of course, Rick, Sharon, Rob, Ted, and Jeff had the party running in tiptop shape, and I really had nothing to worry about.

OctababyPeople floated in and out of the room, including my friends Jennifer and Erik, who have never gone to a convention before (Ooo! Fresh blood!). I had a great time talking to everyone who wandered in and out. This year, I forwent the colored light bulbs for all the fixtures, so the room was a lot brighter and, I think, more welcoming. Thus, more people came in and hung around, chatting. A success! In the midst of the noise and chaos outside, Cthulhu Coffee (ironically) had become a little spot of relative quiet and sanity for people to chat in.

Our party ran past midnight, which was our posted hour of closing. We stayed open until about 1:00 AM, then Ted, Rick, Sharon and I cleaned up real quick and hit the still-roaring convention: Ted in his tight leather pants (yum!) and me in heels and vinyl (if I had any idea of the positive reactions I got to that, I would have invested in vinyl pants years ago). Since we are fully capable of having fun independently, and we wander parties at different rates, we set off in different directions to see what sort of trouble we could narrowly avoid getting into.

First, I ran into George and we hit the ROG cabana. Rudy fixed up an Iron Butterfly for each of us (I was shocked that I had to remind bartender-guru Rudy of the ingredients), and we hung around the cabana for a while. I wound up getting sucked into a story being told by a Japanese-American man in a bizarre flourescent-colored kimono (made all the more eye-catching in the blacklights that ROG had spaced around the room). Evidently, this guy was an extra on Godzilla (the 1999 one with Matthew Broderick), and he was describing how his family laughed at him when he got the job: "You go all the way to America to work on Godzilla? You crazy!" Laugher ensued. Once again, I couldn't help but think that I'd seen this guy before (it turns out that he was the "Bewildered Japanese Tourist" in Inspector Gadget, the one who runs away from the shadow-puppet Godzilla and comments, "This is why I left Tokyo." Oddly enough, I actually recognized him from that.). Anyway, he was an absolute stitch, one of those people who could tell just about any story and make it fun. Plus, as an ex-Warner Brothers stock character actor, he had a ton of movie anecdotes to tell. As a person working on a film minor, I thought this guy was a hoot.

I would have hovered longer, but I had an agenda. I had to check out the PIGS Real Food party, which I had become to feel was sort of a progeny of the Cthulhu Coffee party in a loose sort of way. So, as a sort of bastard parent, I had to see how they were doing.

I wandered on to the PIGS cabana, and they had a total assembly line going. They were serving up hundreds of bowls of hot ramen and, oo!, little California rolls! They really had their gig down pat. People loved them, and the sushi was great (they ran out of nori that night and had to find more the next day). I finally met Erica, Joe's significant other, who owned the cell phone I'd been calling Joe on during the days leading up to the convention. They are both just the sweetest people on earth. A hopeful fanboy was pawing at me while I was visiting with them, and I was literally laughing in his face and he still didn't get the hint. I would have told him off earlier, but it was just too much fun laughing at him. Yeah, I'm mean and a bitch. I'm a minion of Cthulhu.

Anyhow, I ditched him and went back to the ROG cabana and chatted the night away with my old cohorts over a mason jar filled with Everclear and maraschino cherry juice (!). Manga comic artist Alex Arcane snapped a photo of me for a drawing reference, which was flattering. I realized that one of the younger ROG members now has an over-21 badge (I remember this guy's first Minicon... he was 15, I think) and a new baby son (my God, I'm getting old). I could have talked all night just catching up with everyone, but I started to crash at around 4:30 AM. Thank God my cabana was only one door away from ROG. I got in, set the alarm, curled up next to Ted, and was asleep before I hit the pillow.

07072001 I reluctantly crawled out of bed at about 7:30 AM, because our Cthulhu Coffee Life-Action Saturday Morning Cartoons event was supposed to be up and running by 9:00 AM. I showered, started a new batch of coffee, arranged chairs, and set out about 30 Pop Tarts and the toaster. Then it was time to pick the 9:00 AM movie.

I decided that Dead Alive would be a great wake-up film and popped it in the DVD player. I wrote down the movie on our whiteboard and set it out on the porch of the cabana ("Uncut and unrated -- If you are under 18, you'd better not be in here." and "Zombies! Lawnmowers! Sumatran rat monkeys!"). People slowly filtered in and out, and by the end, about ten people were hanging around watching zombie babies and syringes of tranquilizer. (George, who wandered by that morning, commented later, "My God, that was the funniest movie I have ever seen!") Ted commented that the new Lord of the Rings films will be directed just like Dead Alive (after all, Peter Jackson directed both). Bilbo Baggins and a flesh-eater!

After the credits rolled for Dead Alive, I slapped in Mr. Vampire. (Our sign now read, "Vampires that hop like bunnies! Must be seen to be believed!") We had a great audience, and people, happily, seemed very curious about the other movies (I've been championing this bizarre martial arts comedy horror flick for a while).

By that time, it was almost 1:00 PM, an hour past our scheduled closing time of noon. We cleaned up, got a few things ready to go for the evening party. Then we were free for a few hours. I had to kill time until about 4:30 PM, which was when your Humble Web Minion (me) was scheduled to speak on the "How to Host a Room Party" panel. So, for the next three hours, I wandered around the convention. I don't remember much about what order that everything happened in, but I did:

    ...run into Steve McKillen, who I have known for years, and whom Ted has known since the 80's. His business card reads, "Videographer, actor, impersonator, master of ceremonies, dashing rogue," which is about right. He's something like an over-caffeinated Michael Keaton. When I walked up, he was doing an impression of Crocodile Hunter Steve Irwin as the priest in The Exorcist.

    ...run into a friend I haven't seen since high school. Even to this day, I only remember his name as Squeegee. It was really bizarre, since the last time I saw him, he was about shoulder-height. He can now look me in the eye.

    ...buy about a half-dozen Cthulhu bumper stickers from the dealer's room to decorate my new car with. Rick and Sharon bought one as a gift for me, so I had to buy up all the rest I could find.

    ...go to Cafe Stuga with Ted for a bit of relaxation and real food.

    ...checked up on the PIGS cabana and chatted for a while with the chef. He looked a little frazzled, so I gave him an excuse to have a cigarette and take a break.

    ...watched George and the rest of the Rake'Hell crew do a skit called "Kahless in Wonderland" which involved Klingons, Lewis Carroll, and hippies.

Finally, it was time for the panel. There were four of us speaking: Linda Peterson (guru of the parties), Deb (assistant guru), Joe (of PIGS), and myself. It was a good mix. Linda and Deb knew the rules and regulations, Joe had the first year party perspective, and I had the voice of experience (even though I have only run the Cthulhu Coffee party for two years, I had previously helped out a little with the ROG parties for many years before). We had a small audience, but we got a lot of questions, and everything went really well. The costumer woman who usually runs a Babylon 5 themed room asked Joe if PIGS might be interested in joining with them for the next year, because their California rolls looked like some sort of Bab 5 food. Very cool for Joe!

The panel lasted the full hour, and since it was 5:30 PM by then, I had only a half hour before the Cthulhu Coffee room had to open. Yikes! I dashed back to the room, woke Ted up from his nap, started a new batch of coffee, and dashed around like a maniac. Sharon popped in and helped Ted and me, and we opened successfully at 6:00 PM. People wandered in and out as per the usual, and since most of the Cthulhu Coffee crew was hanging out at the room, we all got to take turns watching the room and drifting around the room parties.

Around 8:00 PM, I brought out my deluxe outfit for the night, a vintage 1940's Japanese dress. Unlike a lot of the outfits seen at the convention at night, it wasn't sci-fi themed, and it didn't show a lot of skin, and thus it was fairly unusual. Plus, it is has beautiful embroidery down the front, so I got a lot of comments on the outfit. Clothing designer Sean Doyle was hanging out of the ROG cabana and immediately took a liking to the dress. I can't remember if he wound up getting a photo or not. I know Gadgetmaster Richard Caylor did.

Anyway, the Godzilla-guy I was talking to the night before was wandering around the pool area in front of the Cthulhu Coffee cabana with a headset radio; he was volunteering for the Bridge, being the eyes and ears of the convention, watching for unsafe behavior and Generally Bad Things. I went up to the fence that separated the pool area from the walkway in front of the cabanas and chatted with him for a bit. I finally got his name, Tadao Tomomatsu. It took me a few tries to get it right. I finally decided the way to remember his first name was to think of T'pau from Star Trek. That worked pretty well. (I later mentioned his name to Ted, who told me that he's known Tadao for years. Ted knows everyone.)

About an hour later, a guy from Black Star Studios came in (remember them, the guys with the screen in the dealer's room?) and chatted with Paul and me. They offered to design a Miskatonic University Staff badge ID just for our party, right there at the convention, for $5.00 per ID. Would we like to have some done up?

Hell yes!

He said to stop by the dealers' room on Sunday for photos so they could do up the IDs. Wow!

George then wandered in and said that the Rake'Hell was doing a raffle. They were raffling off a chance to stomp Tokyo, just like Godzilla! George had built a set of two-foot-tall buildings out of styrofoam, and was going to set them up near the pool area at midnight and raffle off the chance to break them at 1:00 AM. Would we like to buy tickets?

Hell yes!

Then he said that tickets were a dollar, unless you could suitably impress the judge. He said that I didn't have to do anything to impress him (I gave him a buck anyway), and then he challenged Ted to impress him. Ted said, "You don't scare me, George," and walked up and kissed him full on the lips. Man, I wish I had my camera out for that one! Ted got his free ticket.

Sink NSyncWe shut down the Cthulhu Coffee party right at midnight so we could all run out and have a look at the styrofoam Tokyo. Rick, Sharon, and I helped George carry the buildings out to the pool area and watched him set up. Tadao was still patrolling the pool, so I walked over to a gate in the fence and talked to him some more. George walked over a few minutes later and asked Tadao to write some kanji on the side of one of the buildings. Tadao knows very little Japanese, and hesitatingly wrote some characters on a miniature building.

"Well, it says either 'Tokyo' or 'police station'... I'm not sure."

Once Tokyo and a couple video cameras and lights were set up, the moment of truth was at hand. George put the raffle tickets in a hat, and Sarah drew the lucky winner... which wasn't any of us. I don't know the woman who won, but if I remember right, she is somebody important in MISFITS. She donned fake Godzilla feet and had a merry time kicking buildings, sitting on buildings, and throwing buildings against the wall. About fifty people cheered her on to the eventual destruction of Mini-Tokyo.

I wandered on. I hung around at the ROG cabana for a while, chatting with one of my oldest friends, Chris, and several other ROG regulars. The hopeful fanboy was hovering around me again, too. In a rather funny moment, Derek stepped into an attempt to ditch the fanboy for me.

"She's mine," Derek said jokingly.

"No, she's mine," fanboy said.

"I'll thumb-wrestle you for her!"

Then Mike steps in, "Nope, she's mine!"

"Then let's thumb-wrestle for her!"

Thumb-wrestling ensued. I must admit, I've never been thumb-wrestled over. I love conventions.

Shortly afterward, Ted showed up in his shiny leather pants again. (Yum!) I said, "Stay here," which Ted knows means that there is somebody he needs to disillusion. So, I introduced Ted to the hopeful fanboy, and I noted we should check out how the PIGS party is doing. Then, Ted said, "Bye!" and the two of us headed off in the other direction.

The PIGS party was running smoothly. A couple of the girls were out front, yelling "Wasabi!" and the California rolls were going out in a steady stream. Yum! Ted and I hung out for a bit and relaxed for a while.

After that, I think Ted wisely wandered off to go to bed. I changed clothes (the 5 inch heels were killing me), went back to the ROG cabana and hung out there for a while. It was 4:30 AM again before I went to bed.

07082001 I groggily woke up at about 10:00 AM, and Ted wasn't about to move that early. I washed the dishes so I could take a shower (the dishes were in the bathtub), finally got the rest of my makeup off, and dressed in the clothes that I had worn the least. By the time I got Ted up and moving, I had cleaned up most of the party refuse.

After Ted got dressed, I kept the door of the cabana open while we cleaned up, and people kept wandering in and out and saying hi, which was really nice. Guy and Wendy Bock wandered in with Dan and they all apologized that they didn't have time to stop by at the cabana party this year. Then Guy asked,

"Would I have permission to do a dramatic reading from Lovecraft at next year's Cthulhu Coffee cabana?"

Hell yes!

That just bowled me over. Wow! I tore down one of the Cthulhu Coffee signs with the web site address on it, wrote down my e-mail address, and gave it to him. I then also told Dan to keep in touch again.

Anyway, cleaning went incredibly fast, and even though we had an extended checkout of 4:00 PM, we were out of the cabana by noon.

Mount RamenAfter that, I checked out how the PIGS guys were doing. Their cabana was mostly cleaned out, but they hadn't quite managed to serve up all that ramen. There was a mountain of ramen, neatly packed into Ziploc bags, in front of their cabana.

Then, Ted, Sharon, Rick and I all went to the dealers' room to check in with whatever Black Star Studios had up their sleeve. Bill was there at the computer, working on the ID format as we walked up. Bill got up and took our photos and began to work his graphic magic while we all figured out what we wanted our IDs to say. Of course, as head minion, everyone agreed that I should be Dean of Miskatonic University. Ted, our token cop, got to be head of security and "incident containment". And so on. As we got our IDs ready, James wandered by and we grabbed him, and George wandered by, and we grabbed him, and we found Rob and grabbed him... eventually, we had photos of every Cthulhu Coffee member at the convention except for Paul, which made Bill's day because we were about the only business he had on Sunday. Once we had all the information down and the graphics done, Bill had to take a break (it took a good hour to get everything together), and I took Rick, Sharon, Rob and Ted out to lunch at the Embers on the other side of the hotel parking lot. On our way out, we found Paul and ordered him to get his ID.

After lunch, Rick and Ted headed home, and the rest of us went to the dealers' room to pick up the IDs. Bill was just laminating them, and they looked great! Within minutes, we were all professors at Miskatonic University.

Then Rob, Sharon and I pre-registered for next year. Only twenty bucks! Yay! I also registered the Cthulhu Coffee cabana (and noted on the form we would like to be next to the PIGS room next year), and we thus became first confirmed CONvergence party for next year.

I stopped by PIGS again to see if they had gotten rid of the ramen yet. They had, and the room was pretty well cleanded up. Joe and Erica then thanked me profusely for the best compliment they had gotten the entire weekend. I wasn't quite sure what I had said, or to whom, until they said that it was when I had asked Linda to put Cthulhu Coffee next to PIGS next year (which Ted and I had both done at some point the day before), and they were humbled by that. In turn, I was bowled over by that... I knew Joe was thankful for my advice in the weeks prior to the convention, but I had no idea that they all held the Cthulhu Coffee room in such high esteem.

After that, Rob, Sharon and I wandered to Closing Ceremonies (or, according to Michael Sheard, Closing Ceremony). The Rake'Hell players were first onstage, doing a Bogart/Star Wars hybrid skit featuring a character called Qui-Gon Marlowe. Then the CONvergence board of gurus did a very funny skit featuring their youngest member as Sean Connery and everyone else as Indiana Jones clones. Then the ending announcements started, and I finally got to see the guests of honor. (Yay!) Harry Knowles was two cabanas down from mine, and I still never got in there to meet him. But I did see him there at the Closing Ceremonies, er, Ceremony. Then Michael Sheard got up and started talking, and I was immediately bummed that I didn't get to see this guy at any point over the weekend. He is hilarious, very kind (he ran around the stage kissing everybody, including Anton, who was his main gopher here in Minneapolis), and he loved the convention. He also grabbed the microphone and scolded us for calling a ceremony by its plural, then said, "And one more thing... five days." Meaning this convention should run five days instead of three. Which of course got the boisterous crowd chanting.

Then Tim Wick got up and said, "Five days my ass," and handed the microphone up to Chewbacca himself, Peter Mayhew, who also showered the convention with praise.

The ceremonies, er, ceremony went on for a while, and Rob won tickets to Final Fantasy, which Sharon promptly re-possessed. Then it was all over, and we all staggered away. Sharon and Rob both went home, and I wandered around the first floor for a little bit, then I ran into Linda, who said I should come to the Dead Dog party, which is the party for the last-of-the-last convention-goers. Then Tadao ran by and said the same thing. I was dead tired, and my car was full of cabana stuff, so I ran up to the Bridge and asked when the Dead Dog started. Nine-ish.

Since it was five-ish, I decided I would go home, unload the car, take a nap, and the go back to the hotel for the party. I had never gone to the Dead Dog party, so I figured that it might be a good thing to do at least once.

So my alarm went off at 8:00 PM, and even though I wanted to sleep for the next three days, I got up. My voice was mostly gone by then, so I was speaking in sort of gutteral barks and and occasional squeaks. I almost talked myself out of going, but I hopped back in my car, and viola! I was back at the Radisson.

Nothing much seemed to be happening when I first walked in. I found George and sat with him a while. We were both listening to a girl describe a Turkish version of Star Trek that she had just seen, which sounds hilarious. Then George mentioned that Cinema Rex, the movie room, was just about to run The Fifth Element, which sounded good. I could handle not moving much for a couple hours.

Just as we got there, George's wife Sarah came out and said there were no seats left. We went in and looked anyway. There were a couple straight-backed chairs in the back, and I was about to sit down when I saw that there was one loveseat with one person sitting in it. I walked over, and that person happened to be Dan. So, of course, I scored the spot on the couch, and George perched on the arm for a while.

The movie was, well, as great at The Fifth Element always is, and Cinema Rex is a fun venue. They grab a big video projector, a screen, and all the couches and comfy chairs that they can get and then show movies. They have volunteers popping free popcorn and handing around cookies. Can't beat that!

After the movie, Dan and I talked for a while. I was working on boring him with my usual tales from the Arctic Circle and Spain when Tadao came in (still geared in radio equipment and looking slightly haggard) and said that there were mudslides available in room 232. Oo! Not ones to pass up such an opportunity, we went to 232.

Now, room 232, as far as I could piece together, is what Minicon's Cuddle Squad turned into. (Ted said later that they're a bunch of med techs from Madison, and that he's known them for years, too. Like I said, he knows everyone.) It's basically the place where people who have been volunteering too much for the convention go for a while to unwind, and the crew of the room have the responsibility to make everyone unwind. Thus, even though Tadao was still volunteering, he had a mudslide in hand. Soon, we all had mudslides, and Dan and I hung around there for a while.

One of Dan's friends from Rochester was there (again, my memory for names fails me) [Editor's note: his name was Paul Conrad, and I ran into him again later in 2002.], and eventually, we wound up going down to Harry Knowles' cabana, where he was still holding court. I was happy that I was finally going to meet a featured guest at a convention, but the three of us never actually walked into the room. Instead, we sat outside on the partition between the cabana's porch and the walkway, and chatted with each other until about 2:00 AM. We had a very interesting conversation about what does and doesn't interest us about the horror, sci-fi, and fantasy genres, what we've read that's interested us and why, and all that sort of whatnot. Finally, the guys ran out of energy (and, really, so did I), and they went off to find someplace to crash.

And I should have gone home then, but I had promised Tadao on Saturday that I would sit down and chat with him for a while, and I still hadn't, and I kept catching glimpses of him still wandering the hotel with his headset. So, I went back up to 232 for another mudslide.

The group in 232 had narrowed down considerably. There were only about six people left. They welcomed me back and handed me an iron butterfly, which really made me quite pleased to be alive. Finally, it was just me and four of the guys who run the room. They were merrily reminiscing about various incidents around the hotel; people sleeping on the floors that had to be awakened, temporarily "appropriating" lamps from the hotel storage rooms, and trying to get their bottles of scotch out of rooms presently occupied by couples who were occupied by other things entirely. These are the guys who really know what's going on at the hotel the whole weekend.

Finally, they were talking about this one very stressed young woman who was working for the Bridge a couple years ago.

"Yeah, and remember we used the Five Point Handshake on her?"

"Yup. She was a puddle by the time we were done with her."

"Hey, we haven't done that yet this year."

And then, they all looked at me.

Not knowing what the Five Point Handshake was, I looked at them askance. Then one explained that the Five Point Handshake was five people giving one person a full-body massage. One person works on the back, and each of the others work on an arm or a leg. They were short one person, but if I was game, so were they.

I had to think about it for a moment. Really, I hadn't known any of these people for more than a few hours, and I didn't know most of their names, but they were working with the Bridge, and their responsibility is keeping everyone else at the convention safe. In my experience, the Bridge is inhabited by good folks, and nothing I got from these guys indicated that anything suspicious was up. Besides, how could I pass up a chance to have four guys massage my hands and feet? Queen for a day, baby!

So, my answer eventually was, "Sure! What the hell?"

And I must say, if you ever get the opportunity to have multiple people working on your hands and feet, DO IT. These guys were nothing other than professional, and in five minutes, I was a happy pile of mush. One of them got me a glass of ice water, and they all went back out on the balcony while I lay on one of the beds while I recovered. It took me a few minutes before I could pick up the glass of water.

A little later, I had picked myself up and was back to being social, and Tadao had dumped the radio at the Bridge and returned to us. He was promptly handed some tequila, and then the storytelling started. He told us stories about Jack Lemmon's poodle on the set of My Fellow Americans, about nearly killing Kurt Russell on the set of Escape from L.A., about auditioning for Inspector Gadget, about hiding his pretend-kanji from Mako, and again, about his family laughing at him for working on Godzilla. It was about 4:00 AM on Sunday, and here I was, sharing shots of scotch and tequila with the "Bewildered Japanese Tourist" from Inspector Gadget. It was, without doubt, the most surreal part of the convention.

Finally, I called it quits at 5:00 AM (I was scheduled to go to work at 8:00 AM). Tadao kindly walked me out to my car (noting that it was already light outside, and yes, that I was actually sober by that time), and finally, the convention was over for me.

So, that's the end of this surreal tale.

I want to humbly thank all of the Cthulhu Coffee minions, without whom none of this would have been possible, especially Ted, Rick, Sharon, Rob and Jeff, who did a huge chunk of hosting and helping at the Cthulhu Coffee room. Special thanks to Paul for his wonderful pans of brownies. Humble thanks also goes to Richard Caylor (for letting me use his jigsaw), Linda Peterson (who rocks), the Jar-Jar Jar and Sink NSync contributors, the extra-wonderful Radisson staff, Black Star Studios, Joe Lyons (who fed us all a lot of food), Rudy (for hauling and ice), and MISFITS, all of whom are super-cool and deserve medals for their help.

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