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Check-InThere are a lot of things that can be said of the sound and the fury that was CONvergence 2002. But the first one that should be said is, "Wow."

I will first admit that I'm biased towards this convention. I have been rather heavily involved in it for all four years of its running, and it looks like I will be sucked in even further next year. I am also friends with a large portion of people who run this juggernaut. But if I put all of that aside, I still believe that this convention is the best fan-run regional con in the U. S. A. There are some feats that come close -- Loscon leaps to mind -- but CONvergence is a phenomenon.

Sound good? Well, it should, dammit. If you haven't popped up here to check it out yet, I want to see your face here next year, wandering past a bank of room parties at 4:00 AM on Sunday morning, with a neon-colored drink in one hand, and some sort of unidentifiable snack in the other.

CONvergence 2002, in theory, ran from July 5th to July 7th. Last year, Michael Sheard got up on the Closing Ceremony stage and began the now-infamous "five days" chant, which lingered on into this year. The funny thing about that is (aside from my pranks, which you will find out about later), I seem to have started the convention on July 4th, and was there until 6:00 AM on July 8th. Yes, this beast is growing, no matter how many times Tim Wick and Jeremy Stomberg say, "Five days MY ASS!"

Before I embark on telling this epic journey, I have a few things to say. First of all, I didn't take any notes for this report, since I was far to busy with the Cthulhu Coffee room party to do so. I am also writing this report about a week after the fact. Thus, it is likely that I've not only dropped details of the convention experience, it is likely that I will get things wrong. Please, please, please let me know if you find something I'm missing or something that needs to be corrected.

Secondly, I spent a huge portion of the convention dealing with the Cthulhu Coffee room party, which means I didn't get out and about a whole lot. I've done better this year than in the past (I actually met Guests of Honor this year!), but there is still a lot of room party content in here. So, in an effort to better convey to you what attending this convention is like, I am providing links to other convention reports around the web:

Lastly, I'd like to state here, as I always do, that these are my personal observations and stories of the convention. Much of this tale will be about my own friends and things that I personally like to do. I'm not a reporter here; just someone with a story.

So now for the tale of CONvergence 2002. I'll start with a scene that really embodies what all convention experiences should be like.

070412002: So there I was, in a suite at the Radisson South, with a shot of Scotch that was old enough to vote. I'd had many of these shots. Twelve, I think. Fellow minion Kyle, clad in a kilt, was serving up even more Scotch as he explained to the crowd in the room about stills, fires, peat, and barrels. Fellow minion Paul, his hair dyed freshly blue and purple, sat stone-cold sober to my right, listening with interest to whoever was in his proximity. Joe and Erica, masterminds behind The House of Toast room party, sat to my left. Ted was walking around the room with a serving tray, handing out yet more amber alcohol while other guests picked at smoked salmon and an impressive spread of olives and cheese.

That's about when Kyle began talking about armadillos.

I'd heard this story before. I don't dare retell it here, for Kyle is by far a better storyteller than I, and since I've been drunk every time I've heard it, I don't dare try to get the details right. But it has something to do with Kyle's experience with wilderness survival training, and the fact that one night, his cohorts decided to try to catch an armadillo for food.

"...Armadillos have amazing powers," Kyle continued, "Amazing. Jesus was an armadillo..."

I could barely muster a double-take. I had spent the entire day designing 200 separate posters for the Cthulhu Coffee room, and now I was imbibing Scotch like I deserved it.

The room was filled with colorful people, who were all eating and drinking colorful things. Somewhere outside, fireworks were going off all around the city.

CONvergence 2002 had begun.

Flying saucer07052002: I woke up at 6:00 AM in the morning or so, and found myself nestled safely in my bed. I was thankful that Paul had offered to be my designated driver the night before.

I still had to print out the 200 posters for the Cthulhu Coffee room party, so I decided to get a move on that, since they had to go up at the hotel that afternoon. I got my printer running, ducked into the shower, and discovered that the printer was almost out of ink. I rousted the groggy Paul from my couch so he could move his car, so I could make an Office Depot trip. I fetched three new ink cartridges, returned, and got the printer going again. Paul and I spent the following hour packing our cars full of food, party supplies, coffee urns, electronics, and clothing while the signs printed.

Around 11:00 AM, after killing yet another ink cartridge, I realized that the posters would not be done anytime soon, and that I didn't want to have to wait for them to finish before setting up the room party. I had to have the room set up by 4:00 PM, which was when I was due on my first panel. Instead of waiting for the printer, I shut it down and packed it in my car along with my laptop.

After making sure Rick was awake and ready to go, we set off for the hotel.

The three of us invaded the hotel like we had a purpose. I went straight to the hotel desk, picked up keys for our first floor poolside cabana, pciked up my badge at the registration desk, and we were in business. While the hotel staff worked on removing the beds from the room, Rick, Paul and I parked the cars next to the bloodmobile in the parking lot and began unloading. Since Paul had thought to pack a large, wheeled cart in his car, the unloading took almost no time at all.

After the stuff was in the room, I let Paul and Rick go to do whatever things they needed to do while I got stuff arranged. The first thing I did was set up the computer and the printer so they could continue slaving away at the posters.

In no time at all, H. P. Lovecraft researcher Guy Bock and his wife, Wendy, stopped by the room to say hi. Guy and I had been talking for the past several months about doing a Lovecraft panel, which was finally going to take place on Saturday.

"So, did you have a chance to do any of the homework?" he asked.

"Not a whole lot, but I'm at least familiar enough with quantum mechanics and non-Euclidean math to talk about them."

"Great. I have a lot of stuff about the Salem witch trials to talk about..."

Meanwhile, Wendy was going through the signs, giggling. It was good to see the two of them.

They eventually wandered off to take care of other business, and I took that opportunity to take Joe and Erica's very belated Christmas present over to the House of Toast party, where they were setting up. That bottle of Balvenie had been sitting unopened in my apartment for far too long.

House of ToastWhen I walked up, I could hardly believe my eyes. They were literally transforming the room into the inside of a toaster. The walls were already covered with mylar emergency blankets, and the party team was working on zip-stripping tubes of lights together so they looked like heating coils. IT WAS COOL.

Joe and Erica were busy, as was I, so we had little time to chat after I had passed on the gift. But it was good to see their progress. They were really going the extra mile for the look, and I knew from last year's P.I.G.S. party that they were going to throw one heck of an event in that room.

After that, there was a lot of bustling around the Cthulhu Coffee room. I returned to the cabana and continued set up while Rick and Sharon worked on hanging the signs around the hotel. When parties head Linda Peterson sprinted past to let me know that my party pack was ready to be picked up, Sharon dashed off to get it. Kevin Cooper, who I met at Loscon, showed up briefly on the cabana's doorstep -- he had flown in from L. A. to have a look at this convention. The Chicago minions -- Jason, Jen, and Jim -- all showed up at once, sweeping into the convention like a force to be reckoned with. It was fantastic to see everyone, and I humbly thank them all for helping out with setup.

4:00 PM rolled around all to quickly, so I announced that I was closing up the room and heading to my first panel, the annual "How to Host a Room Party" panel. Pretty much the whole gaggle of Cthulhu Coffee minions followed me there, which amused me greatly because when we all got seated, there was a whole corner of the audience wearing the trademark black Cthulhu Coffee polo shirt.

The panel this year went pretty damn well. It was well attended this time, even without the chunk of minions in the audience. This year, I got to sit on the panel with Mike Williamson (who I had run into at Demicon, who was running the Baen Books party), Sean Novak (who was running the Starfleet Command room, which was literally adjacent to the Cthulhu Coffee room), and Laurie Richardson (of the Ethel Party, which hosts an amazing array of video gaming fun). I really had fun with the panel -- we all got along quite well, and got some great questions from the audience.

The panel got done at about 5:30 PM or so, which means that we had to bust our asses back to the room so we could get the room party running by 6:00 PM, our scheduled start time. Mark, Rob and Jeff showed up to help, so we had a veritable army working on the room. I don't think I'll ever forget the image of Jim hanging glass eyeballs around the room with fishing line.

Melissa in vinyl dressBy 6:00 PM, the room was ready. The food was out, the coffee was brewing but almost ready, and the newest feature of the room -- the Play-Doh table -- was set to go. I finally had a moment to get dressed up. My outfit for the evening, back by popular demand, was the Iron Chef Geek Magnet outfit from Demicon, a black vinyl dress with tall boots.

The party started a bit slow, which is to be expected on Friday night. CONvergence tends to get a late start on Friday. If I had known earlier that the Opening Ceremony wasn't going on-stage until 7:00 PM that night, I would have moved the party hours back to 8:00 PM instead of 6:00 PM. Noted for next year...

At 7:00 PM, I left the room in the capable hands of Rick, Sharon, and Mark so I could see the Opening Ceremony skit. The CONvergence concom, particularly Tim Wick and Chris Jones, made me promise to be there. I wanted to see it anyway, since the CONvergence skits have to be seen to be believed.

So Rob, Jeff, Jason, Jim, Jen, and I all invaded the main ballroom to see what this year's Opening Ceremony had in store for us.

When we got to the ballroom, I saw that the entire outer face of the door had been turned into a temple entrance facade, reminiscent of the temple seen in the first scenes of Raiders of the Lost Ark. Wow... just, wow... I regret not getting a photo of it.

While we were finding seats inside, I ran into my old friend Nicole, who I once had spent a month with in the Arctic Circle. (Boy, that's a story for another time...)

The Ceremony started a little late, which made me a little anxious (in my mind... "What if the room runs out of cheese and crackers while I'm here? Did I remember to tell Rick where the radio was? Did I...?"), but when the skit started, all was right with the world. So to speak.

Let me explain something to you. The CONvergence concom -- Tim Wick, Pat Wick, Ish Williams, Chris Jones, Windy Merrill, Jeremy Stomberg, and Perrin Klumpp -- are all either theater geeks or hams, and they are good at performances. They are also clever writers. That said, there is much to be enjoyed about a CONvergence skit featuring the concom members.

The Opening Ceremony skit was stinking hysterical.

Tim and Ish were pitching a film to Pat, who was playing a studio exec. The thing they didn't get was that Fellowship of the Ring already had a sequel. Hilarity ensued as they pitched doing Lord of the Rings sequels with different spins -- Survivor ("The Fellowship has spoken!"), Star Wars, Clerks (you haven't lived until you've seen DC comic artist Chris Jones dressed as Silent Bob, hissing, "Preciousssssssss...")... Though the Green Lantern moment was by far the best. "In brightest day, in darkest night, no evil shall escape my sight. Let those who worship evil's might, beware my... PRECIOUSSSSSSS..."

It was grand.

After the skit ended, I hightailed out of the auditorium to tend to the room party. I would have liked to hear all of the announcements, but I had other duties to attend to.

When I got back, I found that the party was going just fine. In fact, a couple of people were sitting at the Play-Doh table, diligently working at brightly colored clay.

Soon after my return, artist Denise Garner swept into the room like the glamorous wonder that she is, and swiftly molded a red devil-face in Play-Doh for me. She flitted away as swiftly as she flitted in.

Play-Doh TreeMeanwhile, one of the folks sitting at the table was working away at an amazingly detailed clay tree. He was there for the following hour, working on it. By the time he was done, I was convinced that this little artwork was one of the most amazing things I had ever seen. It was only about three inches tall, sporting detail that I never knew you could get with Play-Doh.

The party continued on without much ado. Sean, from the party next door, proposed that we open the doors between our cabanas, so we got some good drift from the other room as well as from poolside. The food went fast -- what I thought was two days worth of cheese and crackers vanished by the end of the night. People drifted in and out of the room, and the Play-Doh was clearly a hit. I had placed the giant action figure of Terl in the middle of the table, and people relished in modifying it with clay.

During the course of the party, I had a couple of chances to escape the room and see what was going on outside. At the Ethel Party, the Dance Dance Revolution game pad was in full use behind the cabana windows. Rudy was serving up all sorts of colorful drinks at the ROG cabana. The Klingons next door to the Cthulhu Coffee room (on the other side from the Starfleet Command room) were running a radio station from their front patio.

But best of all was The House of Toast.

I wandered in there, and Joe promptly put sushi in my hands. I realized that I hadn't had anything real to eat that entire day, so I gobbled it down. I then decided to try the toast.

The party's whole concept was built around serving toast with any of a huge array of spreads and toppings. They had everything from fruit preserves to Nutella to Tabasco sauce. I was hungry enough that it all sounded good.

"I can't decide. What should I have?"

"Well, our best discovery yet is the hot sauce and peanut butter combination."

Blink.

"Okay, yeah, I'll try that."

And guess what? It's gooooooood...

After being fed, I was doing quite well, so I ran back to the Cthulhu room to check up on things. That's when I saw the Drooling Fanboy. Who said hi to me.

Jim, Jen, and JasonThe encounter was innocent enough, but he was near my room. He was near the place I would be sleeping that night. It gave me the creepy-crawlies. I ran in and grabbed one of my Chicago friends.

"It's... the... Drooling... Fanboy..." I hissed through my teeth.

Jen's eyes lit up. "Oooo! Where! I have to see what he looks like!"

About five of us crept out of the room to stalk the DFB. We followed him around the corner, where he was heading up to Consuite. We all hid behind the corner and whispered to one another.

"That's him right there, in the t-shirt!"

"Ohmigod! Ew!"

The Cthulhu Coffee crew and I later shut down our party at about 1:00 AM, when the last coffee batch more or less ran out. I then had the opportunity to run around and enjoy the company of my friends. I don't remember a whole lot of specifics about what happened after we shut down, since I was exhausted from the long day, and all I wanted to do was relax. I think I spent a while at the ROG cabana, where I caught up with folks I hadn't seen all year, including minion Chris Hoyal and the always-fun Derek Weber. I was a little worried that I wasn't showing my out-of-town guests a very good time (neither Kevin Cooper nor the Chicago minions had ever attended CONvergence before), but I was just too exhausted to do much socializing.

Even so, it was 4:00 AM before I went to bed in the cabana. I was so glad that I bought that bellows for inflating the portable mattress that I brought along... But note to self: remember to have the hotel crew leave a blanket behind for sleeping under. Hotel towels do not make good blankets.

Rebel pilot and Boba Fett07062002: The alarm went off at 7:30 AM, but I was already awake. The party was still going in the Starfleet Command room, and the occasional guffaws of laughter had woken me up several times during my nap. One of these days, I'll learn to not sleep in a cabana on the main party floor of the biggest party convention in the region.

By 8:30 AM, I had the room set up for our annual Saturday morning breakfast-n-horror-films shindig. Given that Fellowship of the Ring had just come out the previous winter, I felt that a Peter Jacksonathon was in order, so the first film up was the bad/wonderful Bad Taste.

As expected for any event that runs at 8:30 AM on Saturday morning at a convention, the movie was sparsely attended at first, though we collected more fans as the movie bore on. Thankfully, the film isn't particularly plot-heavy, so all I had to do for latecomers was explain that it was about man-eating aliens, and that it was the first film by Lord of the Rings director, Mr. Jackson.

Bad Taste ended at about 10:00 AM, so I then tossed the ever-popular Dead Alive into the DVD player. Rob and Jeff both wandered in during that film, as well as Jim, Jen, and Jason. So did the Drooling Fanboy.

The Drooling Fanboy was in my room. As in, inside it. Eeek! Thankfully, he wandered off a few minutes later.

Near the end of the second film, Tim Wick ran in, grinning ear to ear and waving his hands with glee.

"There's a batleth tournament out in the center court! People fighting with foam-rubber batleths! Oh... my... god...!" He giggled and ran off.

Jim and I dashed off for photos. Like Tim, the sheer geekiness of a batleth tournament humored us to no end. Unfortunately, by the time we got out there, the Klingons were packing up their weapons. No batleth action shots for us.

I closed up the room around 11:30 AM, since I was due on the H. P. Lovecraft panel at noon. All in all, the morning movie thing is kind of fun, and a lot of people stop in just for the Pop Tarts and coffee, but I'm thinking about dropping it from the party schedule next year. I just don't think there's enough interest in it to keep it going. And I'm tired of waking up at 7:00 AM on Saturday to get it set up.

By noon, I was sitting at the front of the Edina room with Guy Bock and Jeff Hildebrand. Minion Dan was a no-show, and was indeed missing (and missed) for the entire weekend.

As the three of us watched people fill the room, I noticed that Jeff H. had a little stuffed Cthulhu sitting next to his name card. After some discussion, and after noting that there were still five minutes left before the panel started, I decided to dash off to my room to fetch more cephalopods for decoration. I returned with several more stuffed Cthulhus, including a giant green one that we put in Dan's spot on the table. We turned his name card over and wrote "Cthulhu" on it.

The panel went well, though it started a little awkwardly. We had picked as our subject "The Dreams in the Witch-House", which is so filled with real-life references that it was hard to know where to start. I wasn't surprised that Guy basically ran the panel for the first half hour, since he is far more versed in Lovecraft than both Jeff and I. Basically, the first half of the panel wound up being about the Salem Witch Trials, so it was a lot of history and little analysis of the story. During the second half, Jeff and I took over a little more and began talking about how the then-recent emergence of quantum theory and non-Euclidean math influenced how the story was written. Near the end, we all got into discussion about Lovecraft's life, which is the part that the audience seemed to get the most involved in. We quickly ran out of time.

Since the discussion was going well by the end of the panel, I invited the audience members to the Cthulhu Coffee room for further discussion if they cared to join us. A few of us walked to the cabana in a group and continued talking, but everyone dispersed within a few minutes, with the exception of Sharon and Guy.

Sharon with Play-DohWe then decided it was lunchtime, so the three of us struck out across the hotel parking lot to visit the hybrid Embers/Pannekoeken restaurant. It was a pleasant lunch, and midway through it, Kevin called and I invited him to join us. So the four of us had a pleasant afternoon reprieve from the convention craziness.

Upon returning to the hotel, I announced that I was going to have a look at the Art Show, since, after doing some calculations, I realized that this would be my only opportunity to have a look at it. We all walked to the art room en masse, checked our bags with the ever-cheerful Derek, and walked in.

The CONvergence Art Show is something that is about on-par with the Iowa conventions, which are about half the size of CONvergence. For a convention this large, it should really have a bigger art show, but I imagine that's a factor of artists not wanting to send artwork to a convention that is only four years old (unless they've actually attended). Don't get me wrong -- the Art Show has no shortage of high-quality work. It just doesn't have as much as you would expect for a convention that has almost 2,000 attendees.

I didn't spend a whole lot of time at the Art Show, but I saw many amusing and wonderful things.

One of the first things I saw was really a great idea. The convention had decided to make copies of the Guest of Honor badges for that year, have each guest sign their own, and then auction off the whole set. For those of you not very familiar with CONvergence, the convention's publications head is artist Chris Jones, and he makes unique artwork for the Guest of Honor badges every year. Mark Altman's badge sported an image of Mark with one of the Orion Slave Girls from Star Trek. Rob Burnett's badge showed Rob, dressed as Kirk from "Mirror, Mirror", with Uhura draped around his shoulders. Mojo was shown with a phaser, Daren Dochterman with Kirk and Spock. Diane Duane's badge showed a cat casting lightning bolts from its paws. I don't recall what was on Peter Morewood's or Nene Thomas's badges, but they were all there, all signed. Way cool.

Further on, I was that the Garners were out in full force in the art show, as was Nene Thomas, Ruth Thompson, and many others that were often seen in the Midwest art shows. I noted with a little disappointment that I hadn't managed to talk Alan M. Clark into sending anything to us. Oh, well. I'll work on that more this year.

Christopher Jones and MelissaFinally, near the back of the room, I ran into a couple panels of Chris Jones work, along with Chris Jones himself. It was terribly amusing to see that one of the Guests of Honor (Rob Burnett, I think) had already bought one of the pieces as a quick sale (it was the original artwork for a page from one of the Justice League comics that Chris had done). I really wanted one of the other pieces (depicting CONvergence's mascot, Connie, in the map room from Raiders of the Lost Ark), but after buying stuff for the room party, I really didn't have the funds to bid on it.

While I ogled his work, Chris was having fun pointing out all of the in-jokes in the map room piece, which included things like the Batman logo and the Tardis in the hieroglyphics.

At the end of this brief tour of the room, I began to feel a bit dazed and wobbly. I realized that I'd only had about six hours of sleep over the course of the last two days, so I bid adieu to the Art Show, went back to the cabana, and crashed on the air mattress.

Or, at least I tried to.

A few minutes after I laid down, there was a knock on the door. Figuring it might be one of the room team, I got up and opened the door. Instead, outside stood a fellow I had only met in passing the night before, whose name I utterly don't remember. (See? That's why I usually take notes at conventions, so I don't forget these things...)

"Did I wake you up? I'm sorry..."

"No, no, that's okay... I have to set up the room for the reading at 4:30. What's up?"

"Well, I heard that you have a DVD player in the room."

"Yes, we do."

"I was wondering... well, one of my friends just got a copy of The Star Wars Holiday Special on DVD, and we wanted to watch it. So I thought you might want to play it during the party tonight, and we could all see it."

I looked at him a little askance. "Have you ever seen that thing?"

"No..."

"If there's anything that will make you claw your eyeballs out to relieve the pain, it's The Star Wars Holiday Special. I'm serious. Bea Arthur is in the Star Wars universe because of that thing. And she sings."

Then I thought for a moment.

"It's perfect. Bring it by tonight and we'll play it. We get started around 9:00 tonight."

After that, it was kind of useless to try and catch more of a nap, since the Starfleet Command folks were being a little noisy next door. So, instead, I just worked on setting up the room for the reading.

Guy Bock reading "Dagon"Reading? What reading? I hear you ask.

Well, Guy Bock proposed last year that he would like to give a Lovecraft reading in the Cthulhu Coffee room, so at 4:30 PM, we did just that. I pulled in all the chairs I could find, set up a table in the corner of the room as a sort of short podium, and invited people in.

For as little advertising that we did for this event, the room was packed. I was really quite thrilled that so many people showed up. Guy came in only a couple minutes late, armed with his copy of Lovecraft's "Dagon"... which he referred to only twice during the whole reading.

I was very impressed. He did a great job for someone who had never done a reading before, and he did the whole thing from memory. That's dedication to Lovecraft's work, I tell you. He was quite creative about it, too. He had recorded the last several lines of the tale on tape, so that when the tale neared to a close, he just turned on the tape and backed out of the room, as if we had stumbled upon the remnants of the protagonist's records. Very cool.

It would have been flawless if the Christmas lights that were strung up behind him had actually stayed up on the wall. Instead, they fell completely halfway through the reading, hanging midway across the doorway. Since I knew he was planning to use that door later in the reading, I had to sneak behind him and tape them back up. It was a little embarrassing.

But all in all, it went very well, and afterwards, the audience was more than happy to hang around and chat about the story. Since "Dagon" was the subject he picked for last year's Lovecraft panel, Guy already knew all the historical details of the story, and was glad to talk about them.

After everyone filtered out of the room, I began to panic a little. I needed to get supplies for the party tonight (including cheese, crackers, and more Play-Doh), and I had to be back and dressed before the Masquerade, which began at 7:00 PM. Okay, I didn't have to be at the Masquerade, but I desperately wanted to go. I've missed the CONvergence Masquerade for the past couple of years, and I had deliberately changed the Cthulhu Coffee room party hours that night specifically so I could go see it.

So, grocery store, Target, getting dressed before 7:00 PM. It was 6:00 PM already. Eeek!

Out I dashed, money in hand. The supply run took roughly an hour because I couldn't, for the life of me, find any honey at Cub Foods. I had everything else in hand, including the Play-Doh, but no honey, a necessary ingredient in Cthulhu Coffee. I did eventually find it, but only after wasting a lot of time.

I zoomed back to the hotel, put away the new supplies, and quickly got dressed in my brand-new American Maid costume, which had I spent the previous month sewing with the generous help and good company of Linda Peterson. I was quite proud of it, since it was my first sewing project ever, and since it turned out pretty well, all things considered. Lacing the bodice up the back by myself was something of a chore, but I eventually figured it out.

Five DaysThus, dressed and ready to go, I walked out the door and headed straight to the Masquerade hall. It was about 7:30 PM, so I was pretty certain there would be only standing room at the back, if there was any space at all left. The doors were closed, so I cracked one open at the back. I was greeted by a bouncer who said that the hall was filled to capacity. Oh, well, so much for that cunning plan.

As I walked past the elevator lobby to get back to the room, a crowd of people began spontaneously applauding my costume and taking photos. Okay, if I thought I would get spontaneous applause while wearing this costume, I would have made it years ago.

Hmm. It was 7:30 PM, and I didn't have to start the party until 9:00 PM.

Time for mischief.

Fact #1: Ever since Michael Sheard had begun the "five days" chant at last year's Closing Ceremony, all of the CONvergence board members began twitching a little whenever anyone mentioned the phrase, "Five days."

Fact #2: I had made only one duplicate Cthulhu Coffee poster that year. In fact, I made ten copies of it, and I had plans to use them.

Fact #3: The poster read, simply, "Five days."

Fact #4: I had gotten Tim and Pat Wick's hotel room number from Ishmael on Friday night, by asking really nice.

I dashed back to my room. I grabbed my camera, a roll of tape, and one of the signs. I ran to the hotel's North Tower, where I dashed up to room number 482. I affixed the sign to the door, took a photo, and vanished back into the convention. It was beautiful. (I later had Linda and Anton send a copy of the photo to the dear Michael Sheard.)

On my way back to the cabana, I ran into the Drooling Fanboy.

"Do you need help coming up with slogans this year?" he asked.

"No." Quite frankly, even if it wasn't him, I would have said no. The Cthulhu Brain Trust generated something like 250 slogans this year, and I could only use 200 of them.

WhiteboardI ducked out of that conversation quickly.

Shortly afterwards, the Cthulhu Coffee minions converged at the cabana to set up for the 9:00 PM opening. Paul and Jason set about fixing some streamers, while Jen cut blocks of cheese into clever square slices. I believe Rick and Sharon were around, too -- I think I sent them questing for ice. I really remember very little about this segment of the evening.

At 9:00 PM, we opened the doors, and the party commenced. Our nameless friend with the special DVD selection showed up right on time, along with many friends. Soon, the room was packed with people, all agog at how utterly awful The Star Wars Holiday Special really was.

"Oh my god, is that Jefferson Airplane?!?"

"Art Carney? What the hell?!?"

"Oh no... she's not going to sing, is she? No! NOOOOOO!"

I'd seen the beast before, so I mostly hovered just outside the room, only occasionally ducking in to restock food. Like I said, it was packed in there, and like most of the worst cinema, the folks inside were reveling in just how truly bad it was.

As the cries of horror arose from the room, I ducked into the back bathroom area to do some clean up or something. While I was doing that, Tim appeared in the doorway, giggling.

"What the hell is that, Tim?"

"It's a foam rubber tentacle!" He waved it around and grinned.

"Uh, yeah, I can kind of see that. But what the hell are you doing with it?"

He grinned like a cat who just ate a goldfish. He then put on his best E.T. voice and said, "I'll be right here," while he tapped me on the noggin with the tentacle.

I burst out laughing. He giggled and ran away with his tentacle.

KPLA DJsA little while afterwards, Jason came in. "The guys next door want to see you over there."

"Starfleet Command?"

"No, KPLA radio... they want us to do a commercial for our party."

"Oh... Um, okay!"

I ran next door with Jason and surveyed the scene. Two fellows dressed as Kingons were spinning CDs.

"Hi!" I said.

"Hey, great!" one of the Klingons said, shouting over the music, "We'll put you on the air in a couple of minutes after the K'elvis interview!"

I looked to my right. Sure enough, a Klingon dressed as Elvis was sitting there, ready at the microphone.

"It will be a few minutes," said the Klingon DJ, "If you don't wander to far, we can just call you over."

"Cool!"

I walked back to my porch. While warning folks away from the horror that was The Star Wars Holiday Special, I noticed that Mark Altman was sitting just below the Cthulhu Coffee sign, chatting. Damn, I wish I'd gotten a photo of that. Instead, though, I got a photo of something better: Paul with his new girlfriend, the uber-cool Heather, who emerged from Madison to visit the convention. She had also brought her fabulous Uncle Lance along for the ride. (Heather and Uncle Lance spent a lot of time hovering around the Cthulhu Coffee party events, I just can't recall which ones anymore. They even helped us keep the room in order. Thank you!)

I thought about what I would say during the commercial. Surprising as this may seem, I'm terrible at improvisation, so I my brain went completely blank. I ran into the cabana to fetch Rick.

"Rick, can you help me for a few minutes? We need to do a commercial for KPLA, and I need you there in case I can't think of anything to say."

He looked at me over the screwdriver he was drinking. "Okay..."

I dragged him next door. Indeed, the DJs pointed me to a mike and started the background music, and I couldn't think of anything at all. I grabbed Rick and set him down in front of the microphone. Instantly, he forged forth with a brilliant little monologue. It was grand. (You can even hear our commercial [908 KB, .mp3 format]. The dead space for the first half of the commercial is due to me running to get Rick to save my sorry non-improvisational butt.)

We went back to the Cthulhu Coffee room, where The Star Wars Holiday Special was nearing its painful end. The image was starting to pixelate and halt.

"Where did you get this DVD from?" I asked the fellow who provided it.

"A friend of ours burned it."

"Hmm. It looks like it's having problems. I'm pretty sure it's not the DVD player -- it's been working fine all day."

Soon, the pixelation got bad enough that the DVD just wasn't playing at all. The mission had to be aborted. Too bad... they still hadn't seen the Life Day ceremony, with a very drugged-out Carrie Fisher singing while clinging to Chewbacca for balance.

The crowd in the room dispersed a little, and I put in a DVD of The Frighteners, just to keep the Peter Jackson theme going.

A few minutes later, the Drooling Fanboy appeared again. In my room.

"Can I have a hug?" he asked, cheerfully.

"No." I then turned to do something else.

Behind me, Ben (one of the House of Toast crew) was working diligently on some sort of Play-Doh creation. I went over to look at what he was doing, and found that he had created a tiny little piece of toast (with butter!) and a tiny little coffee mug. He placed both at the feet of Terl. I was completely bowled over by this sweet gesture of respect between our parties. (I still have the toast and coffee cup, by the way.)

A little later, I had settled in to catch a few minutes of The Frighteners when someone (I don't remember who) dashed into the room and cried, "We need you next door?"

I blinked. "Er, okay..." I followed them back over to KPLA, where a huge crowd had gathered.

I think I had one of those deer-in-headlights looks around me.

The DJs introduced me as I walked up to the porch, so struck some sort of pose and walked over to the DJs.

"Um, what am I supposed to be doing?"

"Present yourself to the judges!" one gestured merrily.

I looked. K'elvis was standing there, as was minion George, who was decked out in his full Ming the Merciless costume.

Ah. Okay, contest of some sort... I stood in front of them. Deer-in-headlights look.

"Bend forward a little bit," George suggested. Okay, either this was a costume contest or a beauty contest. I leaned forward a little and shook my rear for the audience behind me. I can work a crowd.

"I give her a nine!" K'elvis announced.

"I'd say she's a 9.5," Ming said.

I was then dismissed. I learned later that it was a cleavage contest. (No, I didn't win anything.)

Melissa with tieI went back to the Cthulhu Coffee room, where several people were molding Play-Doh into various shapes, and others were watching the movie. About then, Derek came in. Since we see each other about once a year (at CONvergence), we spent a few minutes engaging in our usual witty banter. When he asked for a photo of my American Maid outfit, one of us struck upon the idea of trying on his Star Wars tie for the photo. I'm not sure how this came up, but I put on his tie and posed. I then handed off my camera to him for a shot, and that's when we realized that we both had the exact same cameras.

After the photos were taken, and Derek wandered off, Gadgetmaster Richard Caylor appeared at the door. He had popped up at other various points during the weekend, but this time, he was on a mission.

He leaned over and whispered to me, "What would it take to get one of those frogs?"

I looked at a nearby table. For decorations this year, I had purchased ten House of the Dead zombie action figures on discount from Suncoast, because each of them came with two fairly hideous mutant frogs, which I thought were really quite cool. I had bought the whole lot for about ten bucks, so I had no problems with strewing the zombies and frogs around the room. Mutant frogs were peeping over the edge of the punchbowl and creeping over the sides of the tip jars.

I picked one up. "Well, you can just have one. He can be an ambassador for the party."

"Cool!"

Richard attached the frog to the strap of his camera case, so it looked like it was perched on his shoulder.

The party went on until 1:00 AM or so, when we picked a slow spot to shut down. The coffee had run out, as did the cider, so we decided to not brew any more and just shut the room. We spent the next half hour cleaning up or so. I think everyone else wanted to get everything out to the car that night, but with the DVD player, computer, and printer along, I didn't want to do that. I knew that would mean packing up by myself in the morning (I expected to be out of the room by 10:00 AM, and I knew no one else would be up for that), but so be it. I didn't want to deal with it that night, and I didn't want everyone else to miss out on the continuing fun outside the room. Besides, Paul had to take his cart away, so we would have had to haul everything out in armloads anyhow.

So, after some preliminary cleanup, and after putting the tables in Rick's car, we all dispersed to see the rest of the parties. Jim, Rick, Sharon and I all teamed up to do some surfing. We spent some time cruising consuite, the ROG cabana, and a few other places until we all stumbled across Cinema Rex.

Cinema Rex, the most amazing movie room ever put on by a convention, was playing Romero's Dawn of the Dead. Dawn of the Dead draws horror geeks like pheromones draw honeybees.

The Four Horsemen of the ApocalypseSure enough, just outside the door of the room, Guests of Honor Mark Altman and Robert Burnett were chatting away with Chris Jones. Just as I started peeking into the room, Chris beckoned me over.

"You have to hear this," he said. "Mark, what movie are you working on right now?"

He paused his conversation enough to answer, "House of the Dead." Then he went back to talking to Robert.

"Cool!" Yeah, it's a video game property, but it's zombie video game property. And I'm all about zombies. We need more zombie movies!

I hung out with Chris for a while, just to observe Robert and Mark. I was too tired to really start up any conversations with them, but it was fun to just watch these two have fun. What geeks!

I was just managing to exchange a few words with Robert about how magnificent Dawn of the Dead is, when Daren Dochterman and Mojo showed up.

Now the real fun started.

When Perrin Klumpp first invited these four gentleman to the convention, he was told that they called themselves, "The Four Musketeers." After talking with them for a while, he decided they should more appropriately renamed to "The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse." Now I got to see what he meant by that.

Daren, a production designer for over 35 films, seemed to be the quietest one of the bunch (I think they later decided that he was Pestilence). Mojo, sfx wizard and animator, had just sauntered in from spinning discs at the dance; he had a glass of something alcoholic in one hand (I'm pretty sure that he was Famine). Mark, screenwriter and producer, who was talking fast in his New Yorker accent, handed me a glass of something that involved at least vodka and cranberry juice (if he wasn't War, I don't know who was). And Robert, who was clad like a Beastie Boy, was definitely Death.

These are guys who have obviously been friends for a long, long time, and they were having a stinking riot at the convention. They were all over the place. It was about 2:30 AM at the time, and they were running around like they were on fast forward. No wonder Perrin -- and everyone else -- began calling them The Four Horsemen. Getting them wrangled into a schedule at this convention must have been like herding cats on speed.

We all hung out with the Horsemen for about an hour. I'm not sure what was discussed, though I think a large proportion of it involved Star Trek, which was inevitable considering the company. (Mark and Robert did make Free Enterprise, after all.) I did corner Robert for a minute or so, to ask him about a couple of trading cards I had.

Rick in fine formI had four Free Enterprise trading cards, which I found laying on a table at MadCon last year, which Mark and Robert were also at. Even though there were only four in the set, I didn't have a complete set, because I had two copies of one of them. One card (the one I had a double of) had a photo of "Mark" from the film, one had a photo of "Robert" and "Claire", and one had a photo from the Logan's Run dream sequence. Knowing full well that I would run into Robert at the convention, I had brought the cards along, and I pulled them out of my camera bag.

"Oh my god! Where did you get these?!?" he cried.

I told him.

"Wow, I don't think I've ever even seen these..." He then embarked on an explanation of where they came from, none of which I remember. I think there was an ex-wife involved. "Mark, come over here and look at these..."

A little later, at around 3:00 AM, I managed to corner all four of the Horsemen just long enough for a photo, which is one of those great moments that you feel good about capturing on film (or memory stick, as the case may be). After taking the snapshot, Sharon ordered me to go pose with them, and another picture was taken. I didn't look my best in the photo, but the fact that Robert was giving me bunny ears will always make me giggle.

Just after that, I wound up talking with Mojo very briefly about his work with The Adventures of Bucakroo Banzai Across the Eighth Dimension. He immediately offered up the true story about why the watermelon was there. (You know... "Why is that watermelon there?" "I'll tell you later...")

According to Mojo, the watermelon was something of a litmus test for what the filmmakers could get away with. During the first several weeks of shooting the film, the producers would balk at anything in the dailies that resembled the trademark cracked humor that the movie sports today. At some point during filming, though, communication with the producers suddenly dropped off. Just to see if anyone was still paying attention, the director filmed the brief watermelon scene, then showed it in the dalies. Nobody heard a thing from the producers. From then on, they knew that they had free range to do just about anything.

And that's why the watermelon was there.

The Horsemen eventually wandered off to find more drinks, so I took that opportunity to wander off and go to bed. Around 4:30 AM or so. This time, I called room service and asked them to deliver a blanket to my room before I went to sleep.

Hotel atrium07072002: 6:30 AM. The phone rang.

"Hello?" I sounded like I had eaten gravel for years.

"Hi, I was calling room 106?"

"Yeah, that's me."

"Oh, um... sorry..." Click.

Odd. A few seconds later, I heard a phone ring in one of the adjacent rooms. I noted that the Starfleet Command party next door was still going.

Well, I was awake now. I figured I might as well begin cleaning up.

I had the room cleaned and the car stuffed to capacity by 9:30 AM or so. Yeah, it took a while, but it was nice to have some quiet time just putting things back together and sorting them out. The only things left in the room were the Cthulhu Coffee sign (a three-foot-wide masonite creation), the Play-Doh creations (I didn't have the heart to toss them, especially not the tree), the rest of the Five Days signs (I had yet to figure out what I wanted to do with the other nine), a change of clothes, and my convention materials. I drove off to home, emptied the car rather unceremoniously into my apartment, dumped the photos off my digital camera, and drove right back to the hotel. I was thankful for the change of clothes waiting for me at the hotel; Minnesota in July is a beastly hot and humid thing.

I threw the rest of my stuff into the now-empty car and checked out of the room. Now I was free of convention responsibilities. Sunday was my day to have fun. I grabbed the Five Days posters, a roll of tape, and my camera, and I was set to go.

Ming and MelIt was 11:00 AM, so I decided to drop in on one of the panels that was already in progress. I saw that Chris Jones was sitting on the Comics to Films panel, along with friend Michael Lee, so I dropped in on that one. It was a great panel; the audience was really into the discussion. A lot was said about how the success of Spider-man has given a kick-start to many other projects, and how studios manage to ignore the fact that what made films like Spider-man great was the great script and quality filmmaking. It was good stuff. I wish I had taken notes. (Kick, kick.)

After the panel, I somehow managed to talk Chris into going to lunch before he had to be at the post-mortem panel at 1:30 PM. We also ran into Jason, Jen, and Kevin on the way out, so the five of us trekked across the parking lot to the Embers/Pannekoeken again.

Unfortunately, the place was packed. Not only was the convention crowd there, but also the church crowd. I was humored by the fact that I was wearing skintight vinyl pants while the church folks were brunching at the next table.

Lunch went moderately well. The conversation was grand, of course, and included Jason bringing up one of Jim's latest brainchildren.

"Jim is thinking that he wants to run an Invader Zim room party next year." Jen nodded.

I grinned wickedly. I immediately got visions of having an Invader Zim room set up adjacent to the Cthulhu Coffee party. Oh, yes. It would be goooooood...

The gears are turning in my head. We shall see.

Cthulhu Coffee roomA little later, I began talking about the Five Days signs, and the one I stuck on Tim's door. I happened to wonder aloud how I could track down the other concom members' rooms. Chris looked at me and showed me the back of one of his badges. He had a full list of not only all the room numbers for all of the concom members, but their pager numbers as well. I grinned and wrote down all of the room numbers. My wicked plan was falling into place!

After that, we all tossed around some more slogan ideas for next year and came up with some fine material. Unfortunately, it was nearing 1:20 PM, the food hadn't arrived yet, and Chris was getting anxious. He had to be at the panel in ten minutes.

"It's okay," I said. "Just go. I'll have them box up the food, and I'll bring it to you at the panel."

He thanked me profusely and got up to leave. That's exactly when the waitress swept in with our meals. He left, we had her box up Chris' food, and the rest of us ate and chatted. Invader Zim was discussed at length.

Around 2:00 PM, we paid our bill and walked back to the hotel. Kevin and Jen went their own ways, so Jason and I went to the post-mortem. Since Jim, Jason and Jen all help run MFF in Chicago (Jim actually chairs the convention), I think Jason took a special interest in the post-mortem panel. So, with Chris' lunch in tow, we sat down and watched the remaining half hour of this event.

All in all, it went smoothly. CONvergence is only four years old, but it has been running more and more smoothly with each iteration, and this year's convention was pulled off without any major kinks at all. It was interesting to hear the concom field suggestions from the audience, since there weren't very many criticisms at all. There was one person who wanted child care at the convention (something I know the concom is pretty adamant against), but that was about it, from what we heard.

What was really interesting, though, was the news that next year, there wasn't going to be an "Over 21" badge for attendees. Instead, it will be changing to an "Over 18" badge. The reasons for this are twofold. First of all, it will discourage parties from using the convention badge as an ID when serving alcohol (though they have always been instructed to ask for legal ID, I'm sure corners have been cut in the past). Secondly, "Over 18" separates the minors from the adults, so they can be monitored for curfew and kept out of adult-themed events and places.

Richard Caylor with frog ambassadorAfter the panel was done, I dropped off Chris' lunch. Jason headed off to find Jen and Jim, so I struck off on my merry way.

There was mischief to be had.

I was on my way to put a Five Days poster on Ishmael's hotel door when I ran into The Other Paul, a friend of mine who is quite different from minion Paul. I told him what I was up to and showed him the signs. He laughed and asked if he could tag along. But of course!

We first dashed up to the 6th floor of the North tower, where we affixed a sign on Ish's hotel room door. Easy enough.

Next up was Chris' room, which was on the same floor. When we scampered over there, we found the door slightly ajar and heard voices inside. We very carefully stuck the sign to the door, trying desperately not to make any noise (and that's hard to do when you are giggling).

We then scampered down one flight of stairs to tape a sign on Windy's door. No problems.

That just left Perrin and Jeremy. Perrin's room was on 7th floor, and Jeremy's was on the 18th floor, in the other tower. We got in the stairwell to try to access the 7th floor, and found that we couldn't get out of the stairs on that level without a card key. When we tried the elevator, we found that it also required a key. Perrin was out of reach. Damn.

That just left Jeremy. We walked over to the other tower and rode the elevator up to the 18th floor. When we came to his room, we found the door wide open -- the housekeeper was there. I tried my best to very quietly stick the sign to the door while he wasn't looking. We thought we were doing pretty good until the housekeeper walked out of the room just as we started slinking away. Paul smiled at him. He gave us a broad smile back. We were in business.

Zorak and MoltarSo, now I had five signs left. After a moment of thinking, I knew where they had to go.

Paul and I rode the elevator back down to the second floor, where the main ballroom was. Since this was where the Closing Ceremony was going to be held, I figured I should give the audience something to chant about. So I pasted all five of the signs in the immediate vicinity of the door.

As Paul and I walked away, I saw Linda walking up to the area we had just decorated. A few seconds later, I heard her laughing.

"Yup, she saw it..."

With our mission accomplished, Paul and I decided that we had to finally check out the Dealers' Room. I had only walked in once during the entire weekend, and that was only to drop off the Cthulhu Coffee shirts and mugs with Sharon's sister, Sandy. I didn't have any money to spend in there (buying supplies for a room party is expensive, folks), so I didn't have any strong attraction to the room this year. But I decided I should at least take a look around.

Pretty much, it was all the usual suspects. There were LOTS of corset dealers this year. It looked like it was quality stuff, but I just can't get enthusiastic about that stuff anymore. (I spent the last 11 years working the late summers at the Minnesota Renaissance Festival. I'm tired as hell of cinched waists.) Aside from that, the room was mostly jewelry, trinkets, and memorabilia. Costumes For Your Eyes was also there (they make sfx contacts), and was probably the most interesting booth out of the lot. The room needs more video and book dealers, but I would have no clue how to draw them to the convention.

While puttering around in there, I ran into a gent named Steve, who I had met in passing before. We chatted a little while about movies (I believe the "favorite directors" subject was breached), then moved along.

Closing Ceremony skitSoon, it was nearing 5:00 PM, which was when the Closing Ceremony would start. I found Joe and Erica waiting in line outside the main ballroom, so I bided my time with them.

The line to enter the Closing Ceremony wrapped up through the foyer area, back around in a hairpin turn, and out into the elevator lobby by the time the doors opened. To me, it is both a surprise and not a surprise at the same time. I've never been to a convention where Opening and Closing Ceremonies are held in such high regard. But, being familiar with the theatrical talents of the concom, it is no surprise at all that seeing their creativity in motion is so anticipated by the attendees of this convention.

I knew I was excited to see what they had come up with for their closing skit this year. I had heard little hints here and there what it might entail, but I had no clue what it would be. I just knew that they were all very excited about it, and that it would at least involve Indiana Jones (this year's theme) and time travel (next year's theme).

We all filed into the ballroom and waited. The room didn't quite fill up, but for as many people who are usually left this time on Sunday at a convention, attendance was pretty damn good.

The lights went down, and the spots came on. The first skit was an item by the IKV Rake'hell, which was about Buffy the Vampire Slayer running into Scully from the X-Files and slaughtering any alien that touches ground in Sunnydale. It seemed to me that this skit must have been one of those things that looked great on paper, but didn't survive the execution really well. Try as they might, the performers just couldn't get much of a reaction out of the audience. Part of it may have been timing (5:00 PM on Sunday at a convention is a notoriously low-energy time), part of it may have been that they were seriously short on decent props (though I admit that there is a certain charm to using a disposable camera as the "flashing thing" from Men in Black).

After that, there was a bit of a pause, and the concom skit began with a flashing blue light and Tardis sounds. Tim came out, dressed as Indiana Jones. Chris Jones came out, dressed as the "seventy-fifth" Doctor Who. They began talking about how Indy was the most interesting companion... Things just sort of went from there...

"We seem to have landed in the middle of a large gathering of... *sniff* *sniff* ...science-fiction fans!"

That's about when Jeremy appeared in the white satin dress. "Do you like my Marion dress? I got the ties on the shoulders and everything..."

The skit flew past, to great reaction from the audience. Especially when Perrin came out as a Dalek, then got taken over by Sam Beckett from Quantum Leap. (Ishmael appeared as Al.)

The skit more or less concluded by having the Doctor regenerate (into Pat, who looked smashing in the outfit), and having Indy regenerate (into Windy -- coincidence? I THINK NOT!).

After that, the Closing Ceremony progressed more or less as expected. Ish got to go on-stage and tell the guests that "they suck" (as part of Pat's scheme to explain the difference between good survey comments and bad survey comments). Chris got to fling jellybabies into the audience. Kelvin Hatle (from The Scrimshaw Brothers/Soylent Theater) and Windy got to do interpretive gestures to a speech given by the MISFITS head about upcoming events (the best bit was the tiger pantomime).

Then Perrin took the stage, grinning like the Cheshire cat. "This is the part that I didn't warn you about," he said, looking at the Guests of Honor in the front row. "This is usually where we ask the guests to come up and say a few words to the audience. You don't HAAAAAVE to, of course..."

Well, of course, everyone got up and did their spiel. Though Nene Thomas was missing completely, all of the other guests got up on-stage and said at least a few words. Peter and Diane both got up there with short, sweet statements about what a good time they had. But it was the Horsemen who really got the audience going. One by one, they got up onto the stage, and gave the convention such glowing praise, it made me think that the concom folks had been putting something in their (non-sparkling, bottled) water. Not only did they get up there and tell us that they had taken Perrin's nickname to heart (they actually decided which Horseman was which by then), but they got up there and said things like...

Robert: "This convention has renewed my faith in fandom."

Mark: "I'm going to write about this place in my next Cinescape article..."

Adam "Mojo" LebowitzMojo: "I say 'con', and you say 'vergence'! Ready? CON!" (Audience: "Vergence!")

Robert: "I'm coming back next year!"

Mark: "The women are sexier here!"

Crazy. These guys actually had a blast. They were a great fit for the convention. They loved our crowd, and our crowd loved them. My only regret about seeing them swim like fish in this environment is that the other three Guests of Honor kind of got lost amid the excitement.

The Ceremony eventually ended, and the crowd scattered. Most went home, many went to diner, a few hovered around the hotel to wait for the Dead Dog Party. I was one of the few stragglers still hanging around the hotel. I was still full from lunch, so I really didn't feel the need to spend more money on a meal I didn't need.

So, I floated.

First order of business... I pre-registered for next year.

The intervening hours between the end of the Closing Ceremony and the beginning of the Dead Dog movie were something of a disjointed affair, so much of what I tell here will likely be out of order.

As I wandered the halls, I could tell which of the concom members had seen the signs on their hotel room doors. Ish, for instance, walked past me with a smile on his face. He had not seen the sign. On the other hand, Jeremy walked up to me and mock-yelled, "Stay away from my room!"

In the same vein, Windy walked up to me a little later and said, "At least we already knew you were evil."

For about a half hour, I sat in a comfy chair in The Bridge, chatting with Windy and Pat. Pat, who was battling back problems before the convention, didn't look too comfortable, so I offered to work on her back.

Now, I like to think I'm halfway decent at working on people's backs, even though I've had no actual training in the subject. What I do have is hand strength (which comes from a few years of weight-lifting), which I can usually use to pummel their backs into submission. Pat's back is made of rocks. Or rather, it's a bunch of large rocks with smaller rocks coating them. I worked on her back until I could barely feel my thumbs, and I had a feeling I barely made a dent in the knots she had. But at least I tried.

Guy BockA little later, I found myself hanging around on one of the Consuite balconies, overlooking the pool. Kevin was hanging out with me. We were either both too tired to make much of a conversation, or there just wasn't much of anything to talk about, but we weren't being very exciting conversationalists. Mostly, we just rested our elbows on the balcony and watched Guy play with some balloons by the pool.

Squeege/Monte, the high school friend that I ran into at last year's CONvergence, swept by for a few minutes, and the three of us geeked out over our digital cameras.

Eventually, 8:30 PM rolled around, and it was time to see the Dead Dog movie: Fellowship of the Ring. "What?" I hear you gasp. "How did you get your paws on that?" Well, it seems that Robert Burnett is the producer for the upcoming DVD sets...

Thus, I had a good three hours to indulge in what was the fourth Peter Jackson film I'd seen that weekend. It should have been heaven. Instead, I spent most of the event in the bathroom, crying.

Okay, I can see you out there, shifting uncomfortably. I'd had less than seven hours of sleep in the past 87 hours. I just spent almost an entire convention dealing with a room party. Certain things hadn't gone as planned. Something had to give at that point. Enough said. One of my friends eventually hauled me out of the bathroom and talked me down, and everything went fine after that. Besides, you've already seen Fellowship of the Ring, haven't you?

Soon afterwards, I wound up in the hotel bar with the Horsemen. Each one was talking to their own little group of ardent listeners. I floated around from group to group, catching snippets of conversations, but nothing meaningful (I was pretty fatigued by that point). I eventually wandered past Ryan Alexander, a frighteningly clever and dangerous individual that I happen to know.

"Melissa! Melissa! This is Marcus!" He gestured to a genial-looking British gentleman, whose hand I shook. "You have to try some of this stuff!"

He poured out a shot of something amber, being careful to keep his hand over the label.

I had a sip. It wasn't terrible, but it wasn't particularly engaging, either. I looked at him. He handed me the bottle so I could see the paper-like, frilly substance floating at the bottom. I began to laugh.

Melissa and Derek"Is that... seaweed?"

"It's sherry," he said, "made from lichen."

I laughed more. This really was something I never even knew existed. People will make alcohol out of anything.

"Here, I'll make up for it." He poured something beautifully purple out of a different bottle.

I had a taste. It was thoroughly intriguing. The flavor reminded me of lavender, but not quite.

"Made from violets," he said.

Eventually, everyone drifted from the bar back to Cinema Rex. The movie had just ended, so Cinema Rex was filled with only the true Dead Doggers. I wound up sharing a couch with Tim Wick and Chris Jones, with Linda and Anton Peterson right behind me. Right up front, almost with their noses against the movie screen, were the Horsemen.

This is when the fun began.

I'll just say here that the Cinema Rex boys and the Horsemen got along unbelievably well. They absolutely loved each other. So, by putting mixing them together for the Dead Dog, we got the most astounding show...

Basically, what they wound up doing was "trading" video bits. The Horsemen would show something, then Cinema Rex would dig up something. Here's some of what we got to see, in no particular order:

  • Mark AltmanA brief documentary on the upcoming House of the Dead feature film, courtesy of Mark. It looks like it might be cheesy as all hell, but it seems to be totally conscious of it's video game origins, and might well make good with that. There is a really cool camera rig used on the film that I'm excited to see in action -- the actors were standing on a platform, and the camera gets whipped around them in a 360 degree circle. Basically, it's a real-time Bullet Time, without the digital synching required. The resulting shots looked pretty cool.
  • Excerpts from CONvergence's Masquerade tapes from the previous night and years past. This was the first time I'd seen a lot of this stuff. We got to see this year's Moulin Rouge bit (featuring the concom members), Cinema Rex's Episode II spoof (with their inflatable dinosaur as Yoda), "The Matrex" entry from CONvergence 2, a Star Trek "Arena" reenactment (with Rex as the Gorn), and a dozen other things I can't remember. Perhaps the best bit of all was a bit from this year's Masquerade, featuring Eric Knight and Tim Wick in full-body costumes of the Sesame Street aliens. ("Yeeeeeapyepyepyepyepyepyepyep... u-huh-u-huh-u-huh-u-huh...")
  • Cut scenes from Free Enterprise.
  • A five-minute pilot mock-up for a show named Sci-Fi Cafe (or something like that), which featured an improvised conversation between Mark Altman, Robert Burnett, Daren Dochterman, and Dan Vebber. (Dan Vebber, one of the writers for Futurama, is supposedly the Fifth Horseman. I think we should try to get him to attend next year. From my brief brush with him at MadCon last year, I could tell he would be a fun guest.)
  • Two episodes of "Kirk's Korner", featuring Daren Dochterman doing beatnik poetry interpretations of Kirk monologues. (Again, "Arena" reared it's ugly head.)
  • Last but not least, an odd beast called the "Star Trek Extra Special Edition", or something like that. Basically, it was the "friendship message" scene from Star Trek: The Motion Picture with a porn film track dubbed over the original message. So, basically, what you heard was moans of every description; what you saw was the entire original cast of Star Trek staring at something offscreen with various looks of puzzlement, disgust, and excitement. It was screamingly funny.

Along with this, we were treated to several hours of the Horsemen behaving, well, like themselves. A scene I will never forget: Mark's hand appearing over the back of a chair up front, and his voice calling out in a thick New Yorker accent, "Barb! Barb'ra! Where's my wata?" to his liaison. Barb went running.

Melissa with Chris HoyalAround 4:00 AM or so, I began to have serious problems trying to stay awake. I know more CONvergence tapes were being played, but I know I snoozed through a lot of it. I caught bits here and there. It made for a very surreal early morning.

Around 5:30 AM, I caught my eighth or ninth wind of the weekend, and wound up standing around the back of the movie room with the Horsemen. I was a little too bleary to really follow conversations, so I decided I should just cut out while I could still conceivably drive home. Since I knew I would kick myself if I didn't, I brought out my Free Enterprise trading cards one last time. I managed to pin down both Mark and Robert just long enough for their autographs (they both signed the back of the Logan's Run card), then bid goodnight to whatever friends of mine were still in the room. I left just as Chris bestowed each Horseman with the original artwork he did for each of their badges.

After what I can only imagine was pretty scary driving (I should never drive when that tired), I wound up back at home at about 6:00 AM on Monday morning. I don't remember how I got to my bed.

07082002: I woke up well into Monday afternoon, when Chris called. He invited me along to the post-convention decompression lunch with the department heads, mostly because he knew I had never been to Khan's Mongolian Barbecue before.

So, I pulled myself together, got dressed, drove to the restaurant. It was a nice change to be able to sit down for a meal and not be rushed by anything. But the best part, the part I will end upon, was when Perrin finally arrived, about 15 minutes later than everyone else.

K'elvisPerrin sat down across from me at the table.

"We know you are evil now," he said. "Retribution will be coming."

"Hey! I couldn't even get to your room to put a sign on your door!"

"I know."

Heh. I'm curious to think about what sort of retribution the department heads can think up. Perhaps I should not tempt fate with this crew... Naw!

Lunch was great (it was my first real meal since my last visit to Embers on Sunday), and a lot of decompression was done. It was good.

A few hours later, I wound up out at dinner with Linda, Anton and The Other Paul (not minion Paul). Once again, another decompression session, but this time, I got more Horseman stories, since Anton was Mojo's guest liaison.

"Did you see what Mojo wrote on my Buckaroo Bonzai DVD?"

"No..."

"'Wherever I go, there you are.'" Anton grinned proudly.

I thought, wow. What a ride. I only had brushes with The Horsemen, but, to steal from a great movie, "I think this is the start of a beautiful friendship."

And, really, that's the end. I don't know why I keep teasing about the "five day" convention thing, because as far as I can tell, it already is a five-day convention.

I'd like to thank (in no particular order):

    ...Rick, Sharon, Paul, Mark, Ted, Jason, Jim, Jen, Don, Dan, Kyle, Jeff, and Rob for helping out with the room party in so many ways. (Especially Paul, who brought a cart!)

    ...Heather and Uncle Lance for pitching in to help, as well.

    ...whoever brought the DVD of the Star Wars Holiday Special on Saturday night. It was a great idea!

    ...Tim, Pat, Chris, Windy, Perrin, Ishmael, and Jeremy (and their 100 or so volunteers) for putting on a really kick-ass convention every year (and for inviting me along on the ride at times).

    ...Joe, Erica, and the rest of the House of Toast crew for feeding me substantial food when I really needed it.

    ...Sean and the Starfleet Command folks for being so friendly.

    ...Kevin, for just coming up to visit.

    ...Guy and Wendy, for being better Lovecraft geeks than I am.

    ...Jim, Jason, and Jen (again) for coming up with the Invader Zim party idea, and not running away from it, screaming. Doom! I say, DOOOOOOM!

Finally, a bonus for all of you who have read this far. We had so many interesting photos from the convention, that we just couldn't squeeze them all in with the text. Below are the rest of the goodies. Click on a thumbnail to see the full-sized photo.

ConJose martian Marvin the Martian totes a sign reading "ConJose or Bust!". It was found dangling beneath the inflatable UFO in the atrium.

Photo by Jim Doolittle, 2002.


Oddcon party banner Great banner for the Oddcon party.

Photo by Jim Doolittle, 2002.


Cthulhu Coffee sign The Cthulhu Coffee sign out front of the cabana.

Photo by Sean Novak, 2002.


Play-Doh table Cathy and Terl at the Play-Doh table. Click here to see more photos of Play-Doh.

Photo by Jim Doolittle, 2002.


Jen with Play-Doh Jen adds more prosthetics to Terl.

Photo by Jim Doolittle, 2002.


Captain Morgan? Captain Morgan, I presume? One of many hall costumes seen during the weekend.

Photo by Mark Meyer, 2002.


Mel in vinyl Melissa adjusts her gloves while hosting the Cthulhu Coffee party on Friday night.

Photo by Jim Doolittle, 2002.


Mel in vinyl Again, Melissa hosting on Friday. The ice bucket was filled with tiny toy squids, which she forced upon passerby.

Photo by Mark Meyer, 2002.


Sharon Sharon helping pass out toy squids.

Photo by Mark Meyer, 2002.


Sharon with Robert Burnett Sharon with Robert Burnett.

Photo by Mark Meyer, 2002.


Rick Yet another faboo photo of Rick.

Photo by Mark Meyer, 2002.


Rick That olive jar in his hand doesn't just contain orange juice.

Photo by Mark Meyer, 2002.


Mark Mark, slowly losing sanity during the weekend.

Photo by Mark Meyer, 2002.


Mark in blue Mark taking fashion cues from Rick.

Photo by Mark Meyer, 2002.


American Maid Melissa's full American Maid costume.

Photo by Mark Meyer, 2002.


American Maid on her knees Melissa working on the whiteboard out front of the party. Mark commented, "I HAVE to get a photo of American Maid on her knees!" just before he grabbed the camera.

Photo by Mark Meyer, 2002.


Closing Ceremony Another image from the Closing Ceremony skit. Tim Wick and Chris Jones are on the left, obscured in darkness. On the right, you can have a nice gander at Jeremy Stomberg's fashion sense.

Photo by Mark Meyer, 2002.


Windy and Beth Windy M helps Beth S win a bet involving candy necklaces.

Photo by Rachel MacAulay, 2002.

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2004

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A convention full of marshmallowy goodness!

San Diego Comic Con
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CONvergence
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OdysseyCon
More panels than you can shake a stick at, and the identity of episode GGG.

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Supercon's first year in the land of Spam.

2003

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Omegacon
Sleep, sleep, and more sleep. And Twinkies.

Arcana
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Shriners. Play-Doh. Captain Caveman.

World Horror Convention
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Supercon
"I'm telling you right now, this is all going to end on an ice floe."

2002
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Loscon
More party prowling in California, with cameo appearances by Larry Niven and Nichelle Nichols.

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