Cthulhu Coffee at CONvergence 2003
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Photo by Melissa Kaercher, 2003.
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CONvergence 2003 vanished in a blink of an eye, which is perhaps appropriate since the theme of the year was time travel. However appropriate it might be, however, it is sad. The weekend flew by, and before I knew it, I was helping the board of directors count pre-registrations for 2004 on Monday afternoon. All I could do was sit in the chair, photocopy $25 checks on the back of registration forms, and wonder, "What happened to the con? I can only assume it started at some point, because it seems to have ended already..."

This is odd, because the convention, for me, started on Wednesday of the week before. Technically, I was in Full Convention Mode for a full five days (which should please Guest of Honor Michael Sheard greatly). Yet time (and my health) slipped through my fingers, and the convention was all too brief.

I had no time at all to take notes, which is why I'm laying here in bed, banging out a convention report as soon as possible. The other convention experiences of the last six months can wait; this one needs to exit my head before I my brain gets turned to mush by the San Diego Comic Con next week.

Was CONvergence 2003 fun? Looking back on the five-day weekend, I have to say yes. I met actor Michael Sheard, a gentleman whose fine-tuned British wit is matched only by his nearly infinite affability. I ran into Pam Keesey, Emily Pullins, and Mike Waltz again, for the first time since World Horror last year. The Chicago branch of Cthulhu Coffee emerged from their urban jungle to run their own Invader Zim party room, next door to Cthulhu Coffee's Cafe of the Living Dead. I stood under the Guardian of Forever. I was Sam Beckett for five minutes. John Kovalic brought me a half-dozen Krispy Kreme donuts.

It was wild.

However, it was also the most challenging CONvergence ever. I wound up in the emergency room before the convention even started. One of the coffee urns broke a weld. The DVD player died. I broke down crying at least once per day.

And then there were the Shriners.

Yes. You heard me. Shriners.

So, I shall borrow a line from a certain piece of literature and say that it was the best of times, and it was the worst of times. Whichever it was, it was an adventure, even if there was too little alcohol involved.

Thus, I shall grab a compensatory beer out of the fridge and tell you of my adventures with CONvergence 2003.

Pat Wick is the Director of Finance for CONvergence. She's good with figures.

Photo by Melissa Kaercher, 2003.
07022003: Technically, the convention didn't start until Friday, but my story really begins on Wednesday. That evening, Christopher and I drove to the Radisson South (our Kind and Benevolent Hotel) to meet with many of the convention board of directors and newly-arrived Guest of Honor, Michael Sheard. Michael had garnered the honor of being our first official Returning Guest of Honor, since he had already been a GoH at CONvergence 2001. It was quite possible that I was the only person who attended CONvergence 2001 who did not meet Michael personally, since everyone else in Minnesota fandom seems to have met this man. After learning this, Christopher was hellbent on introducing me to Michael as soon as possible.

Since Michael arrived in Minnesota rather early, the convention board decided to take him out to dinner, so it was decided that we should all meet at the hotel before heading off to the restaurant. When we got there, almost everyone else was already gathered in the hotel bar, chatting away with Michael. Christopher immediately introduced me to our guest. It was instantly apparent why Michael was so beloved by everyone; he's charming beyond belief.

After a brief discussion about Scotch, we all departed for the restaurant, a favorite Japanese place called Kabuki. We filled a teppanyaki table with our group: Tim and Pat Wick, Jenni and Perrin Klumpp, Windy Merrill, Michael Sheard, and Christopher and I. As we chatted, ordered appetizers, and drank a bit, we learned that Michael, at this point, had been awake for something like 48 hours straight. He was being shockingly genial and lively for a gent who was fighting the urge to collapse, though his energy definitely faded throughout dinner. I didn't blame him.

We did, however, share a nice toast. After Michael found out that I was the only other person at the table who drank alcohol, we toasted our beers at each other. (This was before fellow Scotch fan Perrin arrived at the table.) "It's you and me this weekend!" Michael told me as he tipped his glass.

Our teppanyaki chef was less than exciting, but the food was excellent. I can't believe how much food I ate that night.

After dinner was over, we quickly ushered Michael back to the hotel so he could get some rest.

Melissa as zombie transport service.

Photo by Christopher Jones, 2003.
07032003: Thursday was my preparation day for the convention. I was going to try something new this year, which involved having two hotel rooms instead of just one. Christopher was kind enough to offer up his hotel room as a Thursday staging area for the Cthulhu Coffee party room. This would not only enable me to move into the hotel on Thursday instead of Friday, it would also give me a place to sleep other than the floor of the party room.

This sounded like an excellent idea at the time. In practice, however... the formula was only about half successful. Not sleeping on the floor of the party room was a fantastic thing. Moving in on Thursday into a staging area, on the other hand, wasn't as good of an idea as I thought.

After finishing making food for the party, I hauled one fully-stuffed Saturn coupe over to the hotel. Too stubborn and broke to pay for a bellhop, I hauled everything up to sixth floor by myself. I might note that it was around 95 degrees outside, and decidedly jungle-humid on top of that. It was a gruelling process.

After the first load of stuff, I started to sweat.

After the second load, I began to bleed. I noticed I had cut my left arm on something only after I dropped it in the room.

The third load involved hoisting a heavy, solid plastic skeleton onto my shoulders and hauling it through the hotel. I got strange looks from the hotel staff.

During the fourth load, I noticed that I might be getting ill. Not nausea ill. Urinary tract infection kind of ill. This is the same sort of ill that landed me in the emergency room in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, during ICON in 2002. I'd had two more of these infections since. That very day, I had received the hospital bill for the treatment of the last bout of this damn thing. And now it looked like it was coming back for the fourth time in eight months.

I was not happy.

I began drinking a glass of water every single time I reached the room. And I kept hauling.

Around the sixth load, I was dripping sweat and was getting rather cranky. This was sad, since something happened that would have made my day otherwise. When I entered the elevator, I joined a group of people who included a rather tall, young gent in a sleeveless shirt.

"You're Melissa, aren't you?" he asked.

"Yes," I huffed as sweat rolled down my nose.

"I recognize you from Cthulhu-Coffee.com! Great web site! I read it all the time!"

"Thank you!" was all I could really muster. It was a genuine thank you, but I couldn't get out anything that would have started up a conversation. I was flattered, and I wanted to know who this guy was and what he read on my site, but my brain just wasn't forming words. Instead, it was focusing on the pain in my belly and on the fact that I was embarrassed that I hadn't updated the site much this year.

I felt really bad after that. I hoped I'd see him later in the weekend to chat, but I never did.

Eventually, I finished unloading the car. I then went to the second floor, to see if I could locate Christopher. I needed to let him know that I was going to the emergency room again, so he wouldn't plan on me for dinner or anything.

The full-scale, internally-lit, talking Guardian of Forever.

Photo by Melissa Kaercher, 2003.
While I walked into the main ballroom area, I found a large gathering of people assembling a giant facade for the ballroom doors. When I walked past, the facade's internal electronics were laid bare, exposing a network of light bulbs on an irregular frame. The formed plexi shell was laying on the floor, waiting to be erected.

It was the Guardian of Forever, from Star Trek.

Rob, Barb, Roadkill, Mrs Roadkill, Rick Whitnabe, and others on the team busied themselves like ants as they checked the chasing light bulbs for flickers.

I walked past to the Normandale room, where I found Christopher and let him know where I was going. After I convinced him that I didn't need anyone to drive me to the ER, I left the hotel for home. After some 20 minutes of calling various doctors (I was determined to rule out all other possibilities before hitting a hospital again), I then broke down crying. For those of you unfamiliar with UTIs, they are fairly uncomfortable ailments. On top of that, the antibiotics make me tired, and pyridium (a dye that eases some of the symptoms) makes me tremendously nauseous. The treatment generally ends in three days, and things are fine. However, three days of treatment neatly covered the convention days.

Add on that the fact that a) you shouldn't drink while on antibiotics, and b) you shouldn't have sex while on antibiotics (assuming the UTI didn't put you out of the mood in the first place)... well, there went all my planned debauchery for the weekend. I desperately wanted a good weekend of debauchery. Apparently, this wasn't going to be it.

I eventually got myself together and headed over to North Memorial Hospital. Since they had treated me for the same thing only a month or so ago, they ushered me through the process in about half an hour.

Thankfully, the doctor prescribed a new antibiotic (Cipro) and skipped the pyridium this time. The treatment was longer (five days instead of three), but the lack of pyridium overjoyed me. I still couldn't be my debaucherous self for the weekend, but at least I could, in theory, be functional. As I picked up the prescription at a local Walgreens, I couldn't help wonder what people did with UTIs when antibiotics and sulfa drugs didn't exist.

So, I popped the first pill, went home, and loaded up the car with the rest of the room party stuff. I took it to the hotel. I hauled the supplies to the room, with help from Christopher.

By that time, it was 9 PM. The guest reception was over, which saddened me because I was really looking forward to it. I had never had the opportunity to attend before, and now I'll have to wait another year. Mostly I was hoping to say hi to John Kovalic, since I'd met him at OdysseyCon and had chatted with him a few times since. Oh, well. It would have to wait.

I had also missed most of Kyle's Scotch tasting, which I attend every year. I was heartbroken, because I always look forward to it. Luckily, as I wandered towards the Scotch tasting room, I heard voices and decided to check in. Yes, most of the tasting was done, but people were still there and having fun.

I handed my bottle of Old Pultney over to Kyle, who thanked me and wished me well on my health. As he served up some Old Pultney to the others in the room, I thought long and hard and decided to join in. The "no alcohol" warning on antibiotics was intended to prevent nasty stomach turns. I figured that if I juggled the alcohol with enough water, I should be alright. Thus, damn the torpedoes, I had a shot.

I wound up hanging out for a long while, chatting with Kyle, Ishmael, Uncle Loren, a woman named Kat, a kilt-clad (Irish? Scottish?) gent named Q, and several others. I heard Kyle's Russian Bear story for the umpteenth time (and it's still grand). Uncle Loren bought a Cthulhu Coffee shirt. I ate lots of Jarlsburg cheese. I had about three more shots, alternating with glasses of water, and I felt just spiffy.

Joyous that my convention might not suck after all, I went out into the hotel to locate Michael Sheard, since it was about time that his Mark Time Radio Show rehearsal might be done. We had talked the night before about the Scotch party, and I deduced that it would be just the sort of thing he'd like to attend. So I wandered around looking for the rehearsal location.

Eventually, I stumbled across Christopher and Pat, who were chatting in the Normandale Room over a half-built full-scale mockup of K9, the robot dog from Dr. Who. Christopher was busy wrapping K9's foam-core head in masking tape.

After much chatting (and a slow realization that I was slightly drunk -- a good sign), we eventually located Tim and the Mark Time Radio Show rehearsals. I had another half hour to kill or so before Michael would be released into the wild. I lingered there for a bit, then walked back up to the Scotch tasting for some more cask-strength goodness.

When I left again to pick up Michael and lead him to the Scotch tasting, I discovered that Ishmael had beat me to it. I had just set my foot out the door of the hotel room when I saw Ish and Michael coming down the hall.

Michael didn't stay long, but he instantly latched onto Kyle and Q, who both originate from the British Isles. He's something of a social whirlwind. He had a shot or two, then thanked everyone, and departed for bed.

After that, I left the Scotch party and decided to put up the Cthulhu Coffee signs. One by one, each of the hundred signs were affixed to the first two floors of the hotel.

The House of Toast

Photos by Melissa Kaercher, 2003.
During this process, I took the time to say hi to the parties that were setting up early. I spent plenty of time checking in on House of Toast -- they were hanging out, excited, ready to go. We were all excited that House of Toast and Cthulhu Coffee were finally neighbors after three years of requesting neighboring suites.

After I bestowed them with their yearly Cthulhu Coffee sign ("All your java are belong to us."), I asked them what I should do with one of the other signs that I thought was a little too crass for the main floors. When I held it up and they read it (it read, simply, "What the fuck is this shit?"), they cried, "Let us have it!" I posted it on their mylar-covered TV cabinet.

After I completed my sign-hanging run, I was quite tired. It was well after midnight. I checked in on Christopher, who was getting loopy from paint fumes as he spray-painted his K9. I checked out the Guardian of Forever facade, which was complete in its internally-lit glory. As I walked by, it lit up and talked.

The freaking thing talked.


I then went back to the hotel room to resign myself to sleep. It was then I discovered that my hotel room door had accumulated an Omegacon sign: "The Muskrat Love room is already taken."


07042003: I woke up obscenely early and couldn't go back to sleep. I think I only slept three hours, and it was 7:30 AM, and I was wide stinking awake.

Of course, this was okay. I had work to do.

For all my preparations, I still didn't have coffee for the Cthulhu Coffee room. I also didn't have a couple other things, but... coffee. I still didn't have coffee. I also had a breakfast date that morning, but if I could get my errands taken care of before breakfast, that would be super cool.

So, I zoomed off to Home Depot to pick up one last roll of faux wood self-adhesive paper. I zoomed by a tobacco shop to see if they had any cigars I wanted (I had recently acquired a Zombie World Zippo lighter from Jeremy Stomberg, and I was determined to use it. Unfortunately, I couldn't find any cigars I wanted.). I zoomed by Caribou Coffee and to pick up coffee.

While I was waiting for my coffee to be ground, I saw some little stuffed animals in a basket on the counter. One of them was a tiny corduroy octopus. I took this impromptu cephalopod appearance to be a good omen, and bought the little toy along with the coffee.

I then zipped off to Perkins, where I found fellow Cthulhu Coffee founder Jason waiting for me. I hadn't seen him in about six months, so we took our time hanging out, eating pancakes, and catching up with each other. It was a great thing, even though much of what we discussed involved either my health or stressful politics with other people. We went through many pancakes and glasses of water.

After our fine meal, Jason handed off a box of Invader Zim goodies for Jim and Jen's Invader Zim room party. We then hugged, said farewell, and went our separate ways. It is tremendously sad that Jason chose not to join us at CONvergence this year, but such is the way things go sometimes. At least he was getting in some good family time instead.

I then zipped back to the hotel and got my determination fuelled up. I stopped at the front desk and checked into the party cabana. I began hauling stuff from the sixth floor of the North Tower to the first floor of the South Tower.

This was where my best intentions were discovered to be less than ideal. It turns out that by using a staging area for Thursday, I was merely doubling the time to move into the room. It would have been much easier and faster to just move it all in Friday morning. It would also have involved a much shorter moving route.

Thankfully, new buddy Adam V appeared out of nowhere and volunteered to help schlep stuff. I mean, we schlepped for a couple of hours. Furthermore, after all the stuff was moved in, he helped me set up the room.

The Octoblast, the Cthulhu Coffee room's newest toy.

Photo by Melissa Kaercher, 2003.
Eventually, I handed off a particularly tricky task: setting up Cthulhu Coffee's new toy, the Octoblast. The Octoblast is a toy car track that I got for Christmas from Don, and I had never set it up before. I simply handed the giant box over to Adam V and said, "Could you set this up, please?"

Soon, there were a half-dozen computer geek guys in my room, pondering on how to set up this big green racetrack, and Jim was on a mission to find some D-cell batteries for me on his Invader Zim grocery run. It was quite the production, really. Adam V and Adam K were obviously the ringleaders of this operation, and I didn't really know who the other guys were, but whoever they were, they got the racetrack assembled and running.

Soon, Sharon and Kevin T also showed up and started helping decorate. Eventually, false boards were cut, the windows were boarded up, glass eyeballs bedecked the walls, and streamers were strewn around the ceiling. Compared to Jim and Jen's Doom Room in the adjoining hotel space, our set up was a bit over-elaborate and scatterbrained, but damn... the Cthulhu Coffee room was alive.

After all that, it was around 5:30 PM, and it was about time to get things rolling. I scrambled upstairs to change clothes, into a nurse's uniform that I found at Ragstock many years ago. It was a standard nurse uniform -- I wasn't going for a fetishy look at all. Just the white frock, tennis shoes, and a paramedic coat. For effect, I smeared the coat with some black smears, to make it look like I was out of some sort of Day of the Dead sort of medical/military setup. It wasn't an elaborate costume by far, but it seemed to do the job.

After that, I scrambled back downstairs to get the drinks brewing. I filled the first tureen with cider, as I have every year, and set it brewing. I then filled the second tureen with water for the coffee.

And it began leaking.

Scenes from the Mark Time Radio Show.

Top: Windy Merrill, Tim Wick, Michael Sheard, David Ossman, Preston Ossman, and Irene Ruderman.

Bottom: Michael Sheard and David Ossman.

Photos by Melissa Kaercher, 2003.
I tried everything, and the damn thing wouldn't stop leaking from around the spout. One of the welds had broken. There was nothing I could do to rescue this tureen.

Rather than trying to run Cthulhu Coffee without coffee, I dumped out the cider and put coffee in that tureen instead. No spiced cider for us this year.

After that, I was supremely frustrated, yet there was nothing I could do about it except move on and go to the Opening Ceremony.

I found Sharon and Jim in the audience and sat down with them. The Mark Time Radio Show was already in progress. I'd never been able to see the Mark Time show before, and I was duly impressed. It was professional to the nines, the vignettes were wonderfully funny, and it was just all-around cool. It was fun to watch Michael Sheard perform, but I think my favorite parts were covered by Tim and Windy. They had been placed in juicy little character parts, including two television-obsessed aliens. It was loads of fun to watch.

After the radio show, the Mark Time Awards were handed out, which took a while. Luckily, this year the show was able to play snippets of the winning pieces as they handed out awards, which made the process much more entertaining.

Then the Opening Ceremony started with a crazy time travel skit that involved all of the board members reprising roles from previous years' sketches. Michael Sheard even took the stage in a guest appearance in the skit. It was a fun skit, but it ended in something of a jumble (which happened because of some fumbled lines, I learned later.).

From there, Opening Ceremony commenced. A few minutes in, Tim held up a green water noodle (one of those foam pool toys) and announced that the noodle was the Sam Beckett Designator, and that anyone carrying the Sam Beckett Designator was the host for Sam Beckett. You would have to take the noodle to The Bridge, say "Oh, boy!", claim a special button, and then hand off the noodle to somebody else. When they receive the noodle, they have to say "Oh, boy!" and repeat the game. The game would continue until 5:00 PM on Sunday. Full rules were taped to the Designator.

Top: Tim Wick introducing the Sam Beckett Designator

Bottom: A closer look at the Designator.

Photos by Melissa Kaercher, 2003.
It was a cool idea. I wondered how well it would go over.

After that, Opening Ceremony was the usual stuff. Awards, announcements, and plugs for concessions. Introductions of Guests of Honor Katherine Kurtz, Eric Flint, Andrew Probert, John Kovalic, and Michael Sheard. While it's fun to watch my friends run around on stage, I probably should have gotten out of there right after the skit. I didn't need to know the rest of the stuff, and I could have used the extra time to open the party, because...

...after I beat hell out of there when the Opening Ceremony ended, I discovered that about half of the room decorations had fallen down. I called Sharon's cell phone in desperation. "HELP!" I cried into her voice mail.

Sharon, Rick, Phil, Mark, and Kevin T came to my rescue. They buzzed around the room fixing stuff while I scrambled to get food out. My stress level that night was turned up to 11, especially when I discovered that the DVD player was also broken. It refused to play any of my eight zombie movies, with the exception of Day of the Dead. Not bad, but certainly not ideal. It's not exactly a party movie.

Eventually, we were able to open the doors to the public, even though Rick was still working on getting the faux boards to stay on the windows with masking tape. By that time, I was absolutely frazzled. I wondered why I kept doing this to myself every year.

The party started off slowly, especially since I was a bit short on fuse and a bit hungry. Things improved as cool things began to happen and as Rick fed me sushi from the House of Toast party next door.

Things that happened:

* A rather nice gent in a Dr. Who costume (first doctor) offered me some Jellybabies. I've never had Jellybabies before. Tasty, but the texture takes some getting used to.

* Steve Noble stopped by and gave me a handmade get well card that featured zombies and brains. Aw!

* The guy who made the elaborate Play-Doh tree last year (I finally found out that his name is Joe.) came in and began building a dragon head, also in Play-Doh. Like the tree last year, it was obscenely cool. People marveled over it all weekend.

* John Kovalic and his Lovely and Talented Wife Judith stopped by to say hello and check out the party. Christopher spent much of his time chatting with John, while Sharon and I had a great chance to chat with Judith. Judith isn't much of a geek (she's a Buffy fan, but that's about as deep as it goes), but she certainly is a pleasure to talk to, and she was being remarkably tolerant of all the goofiness around her. I think she was enjoying being at a convention that wasn't all about gaming. She eventually was anxious to get out of the room, but I discovered later that it was because she wasn't feeling well.

Above: Cthulhu Coffee's Cafe of the Living Dead.
Above: The Dystopia party during Dystopian Bingo.
Above: The Dreaming party, which featured a short film they made about people and their dreams.
Above: The Doom Room/Invader Zim Viewing Room.
Above: Talon's Portal party
Above: Supercon party
Above: SimLife party
Above: D-Notice party
Above: Save Farscape party

Photos by Melissa Kaercher, 2003.
Eventually, Christopher stopped back in and asked if I'd like to go tour the parties with him. I did, so I left the Cthulhu Coffee room in the capable hands of Rick and Sharon, and dove into the fray.

I had intended to just zip around the first two floors, saying hi to the people running the parties and check out the wild decorations and foods. This proved to be impossible. It took me nearly an hour to circle the first floor, and I hardly got to chat with anyone. The parties, however, were phenomenal in scope. House of Toast, of course, was in their full glory, serving up toast and sushi at a furious pace. The Xena room next door was done up in enough pink to make your teeth ache. The Dreaming room had a full faux bookshelf covering an entire wall. Talon's Portal was, as usual, done up to the nines.

Then there was the Prancing Pony.

The Prancing Pony room had to be seen to be believed. They literally transformed the room into the bar from Lord of the Rings. There was a fireplace in the room. Giant wood tables. Wooden beams. A full bar, which was waxed so they could slide the drinks across it. It was quite amazing.

Aside from that, I had brief chats with Eric Larson and Jerome Van Epps, both of whom I met at OdysseyCon; I ran into old ROG friend Derek; and I got to check out OdysseyCon's new espresso machine. Other than that, it was a whirlwind tour. I never did get to the second floor.

When I got back to the Cthulhu Coffee room, I discovered that Rick had resorted to playing music in the DVD player. It seemed to like playing CDs rather than DVDs, so I didn't complain.

I managed to shut down the room party around 1 AM, after the coffee ran out. I cleaned up everything I could, while Rick and Sharon pumped up the air mattress for Kevin C (who was sleeping on the floor of the room for the night). That was the end of that.

I then went back to my sleeping room with Christopher. We were both dog tired, but we fully intended to go back out to the parties after a short breather. Instead, we laid in bed and talked about our frustrations of the day. I was tremendously frayed from having both the coffee tureen and the DVD player die, and from the fact that the evening seemed to fly by without my chance to go out and really enjoy myself. Christopher was suffering from very bad blisters on his feet, a symptom of new shoes. His ankles looked like hamburger, and his feet were quite swollen. I was crying on and off, and he was in pain. Eventually, it was decided that neither of us were in any shape to go back out. Instead, we set the alarm and went to sleep.

07052003: I woke up sometime around 7:30 AM, around a half-hour before the alarm. Damn. I was still tired, but I had a 9:30 panel to deal with.

I was also frustrated, hungry, and not feeling well. After Christopher watched me dissolve into tears on the floor, he made me get dressed so he could feed me some breakfast.

About a half an hour later, we were sitting in the Dairy Queen Grill & Chill next door to the hotel. The restaurant was a new concept for the restaurant chain, which involved locations that open at 6 AM and offer a full menu, including breakfast. It was a fast-food breakfast, but it was breakfast. At least I got to sit at a table with a sunbeam.

We then went back to the hotel and went about our separate projects. I called Kevin C to warn him that I was going to barge into the party cabana, stopped by the room, picked up my Minority Report and A.I. DVDs, and scrambled off to my first panel.

The first panel of the day was the "Defending A.I." panel, which Tim Wick, Lauren Lenzen and I have wanted to run for about a year. For a panel in a 9:30 AM slot on a Saturday, it was rather well attended by about 15 people. They weren't even all friends of ours, either.

The panel went quite well, judging from the way that we were able to debate rather well with the audience about the finer points and deeper meanings of A.I. The discussion ran right up to the end of the hour without any dead spots, we three panelists seemed to work well together, and I think we did a good job.

After we ended the talk, I wound up talking to Kelvin, who was sitting in the audience. I'd heard over the last couple weeks about how he was getting run down by preparing for the Soylent Theater show (which was to take place Saturday night) and his Brainco finals at the same time. Since I had my laptop and an Ethernet link in my hotel room, I asked him if he needed to do any homework and offered my room as a quiet place. He accepted, so I led him upstairs and set him up with my computer, where he worked for much of the morning and afternoon.

Unfortunately, this meant that I could not get my homework done for the Lovecraft panel, which was zooming up at 12:30 PM. I'd been putting off doing my part of the "Shadow Out of Time" research, and because of my hospital visit and various other setbacks, it just never got done. By that time on Saturday, however, I couldn't realistically get much reading done anyway. I decided instead to live on the more general knowledge already in my head, and just go out and enjoy myself for an hour or so.

On my way to find something to do, I ran into Mrs. Roadkill, who was carrying the Sam Beckett Designator. She bestowed it on me, so I said, "Oh, boy!" and started carrying it to the Bridge. On my way, I ran into Jen Manna, who begged for me to give the Designator to her next.

So, I got into the Bridge, they made me say, "Oh, boy!" and I got a nifty special button. The button bore Christopher's artwork of Sam and Al peering into a mirror and seeing Connie, the convention mascot, reflected back.

I handed the Designator off to Jen Manna, then went to the Dealers' Room.

The first thing I saw was Tim Wick being accosted by two guys in bright yellow Star Trek uniforms. I was rather amused by this, since Tim usually has low tolerance for being accosted. I snapped a couple of photos so I could show him the look on his face later.

Then I looked a bit closer. There was guy with a professional video camera filming this whole thing, and a director running around. About the same time, I ran into Lex and James, and the three of us watched this in amusement.

I'm not sure how it happened, but Lex and I wound up chatting with the camera guy. As it turns out, he was working on filming Trekkies 2, right here in our Dealers' Room. I knew beforehand that we might see a film crew that weekend, but I was still a little surprised that we ran into these guys.

Lex and I chatted with the cameraman for about five minutes. He'd been filming in Germany, Australia... all sorts of places. We got into a crazy little discussion about glasses (he liked mine, I liked his). Lex and I told him a little bit about ourselves, about our views of fandom, etc. Suddenly, the director appeared and asked if we wanted to be part of this whole thing. I wasn't quite sure what was going to happen, but we were told to back off a bit and walk in.

The filming of Trekkies 2 in the Dealer's Room.

Photos by Melissa Kaercher, 2003.
As we waited for our cue, I switched to Lex's other side, so she'd be closer to the camera. I'm about a head taller than she is; I didn't want to block her from the camera.

The camera started rolling. We were told to start walking, and we met these two guys in yellow Star Trek uniforms in the middle of the aisle. They handed us flyers and started talking about their amateur time travel Star Trek film, which they were filming in Minneapolis. I'm not a Trek fan, per se, so I was dying to ask about film geek stuff: where they were filming, if they were able to get filming permits, if they were working with any of the other amateur filmmakers I knew in Minneapolis, etc. But before I knew it, the conversation went in a different direction.

"What is you favorite Star Trek alien?"

Lex took the lead and began talking about the Gorn. There was a nice little conversation about the Gorn, and then they turned to me. I had to admit, I love the Borg. I studied social insects and hives for about a year in college, so the concept of a higher race with a hive mind was always particularly intriguing to me. When I brought up my scientific work in that field, I think it threw the Trek guys for a little loop. Nobody was quite sure where to go from there, so the camera guy stopped filming. Lex and I signed our little release forms and continued looking through the Dealers' Room. I was hoping to chat with the camera guy some more, but I quickly lost the whole crew in the crowd.

The whole incident left me pondering what sort of geek I was, and if Lex and I would wind up in the film. I was fairly certain that neither Lex nor I were the sort of sensationalistic geek they were looking for. Or were we? Huh.

Anyway, I had little time to spend in the Dealers' Room, and the run-in with the film crew took up most of my time. Once again, another year has passed without me trying on a corset from the corset booth. One of these days, I'll get there.

Instead, I wound up running into Sharon, Jim and Jen near a table selling various comic books and trade paperbacks. While Jen was talking about Kovalic signing her Apples to Apples set, I spied something on the table.

The Portable Dawn.

The comic book Dawn, a rather frighteningly bad series featuring a redhead sex goddess with basketball boobs, has garnered status as an inside joke between the CONvergence board of directors and the Guests of Honor for 2002, the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse (Robert Meyer Burnett, Mark Altman, Darren Dochterman, and Mojo). I knew I was going to run into Burnett at the San Diego Comic Con two weeks later, so a plan swiftly formed in my mind.

I made a mad dash to find the nearest board member. It happened to be Windy, who was just outside the door at the Volunteers desk.

"WINDY! Comewithme! Lookatthis! Quick!" I grabbed her and dragged her into the Dealers' Room. I wielded The Portable Dawn.

The CONvergence Dealer's Room.

Photos by Melissa Kaercher, 2003.
"We should all sign it and give it to Robert Burnett!" We've been teasing him for months because he wasn't able to attend CONvergence this year.

Windy cackled with glee. "YES!"

I then scrambled out and found Perrin and Christopher, who also agreed that it was an ingenious little joke. Christopher and I each contributed a five dollar bill, and the book was obtained.

After that, I was feeling good. I went to my next panel.

The 12:30 PM panel was the annual "Lovecraft Was Right!" panel, which usually featured Guy Bock, Jeff Hildebrand, and myself. This year, Rhonda and Jim Danielson were joining us, and for some reason, Jeff Hildebrand was left off the list. When I got to the panel room, I found Jim and Rhonda in place, and Jeff was sitting in the audience. I told Jeff he should be up there with us, so he came up and sat at the table. Then we all waited for Guy.

Guy showed up only a couple minutes late, and he walked down the aisle with peculiar purpose. He walked right up to me and said, "I'm sick from something I ate last night. I can't do the panel."

This was really a bit frightening, since this is a panel that Guy usually spends a whole year doing research for. There's no way any of the rest of us have his background in this particular story. He must have really been sick to say he couldn't do the panel.

Sculptures found outside some of the party cabanas.

Photos by Melissa Kaercher, 2003.
I told him that we'd take care of things and told him to go rest. I then turned to the sizable audience and started the panel.

For missing the main member, the panel went very well. Much was discussed, nobody hogged the spotlight, the audience got involved, and everything was interesting. Minion Dan even came in halfway through the panel to fill in for Guy, and Jim and Rhonda turned out to be stellar panelists. It was quite the good time.

After the panel ended, I found myself out in the hallway in front of the room continuing discussions. One girl was particularly interested in my research in the Arctic (which I mentioned in passing when I brought up "At the Mountains of Madness" during discussion). Another woman (Sharon was her name, I believe) was asking if I could possibly do some panels for Minicon (an interesting proposal, since I haven't attended Minicon since it dropped attendance five years ago -- I've been thinking of going back). A rather interesting fellow named Eric chatted with me for almost an hour about various Lovecraftian stories and some of his own writing (I was sad when I didn't run into him again that weekend -- I was hoping to chat more).

By that time, I had a few minutes of spare time. I went up to my sleeping room to grab a few things for the Iron Artist panel at 3:30 PM, then decided that I had about 20 minutes for a nap. If I slept until 3:00 PM, I'd still have about half an hour to nab other supplies for the panel. Thus, I lay face down on the bed, set the alarm, and off I was into nap-land.

I woke up at 3:27 PM, quite on my own. The alarm didn't go off.

Adrenaline coursing through my veins, I dashed to the elevator. I had time to get to the panel room, but I had no time at all to grab anything other than my box of Crayola markers. I was "competing" against three other artists, all pros. I knew it was all in fun, but I was already nervous being the one non-pro there. Now I was standing in front of the elevator with a box of Crayola markers, with sleepy eyes and red lines across my face and chest from sleeping on crumpled sheets for an hour.

Then the elevator door opens. There's Jody and a woman who looks familiar.

"Hi, Melissa! Have you met Katherine Kurtz yet?"

CONvergence as seen from the point of view of a panelist.

Photos by Melissa Kaercher, 2003.
Oh, yeah, that's why she looks familiar. I introduced myself and shook her hand. On the ride down to second floor, I made light of my plight. At least it got me laughing.

Katherine, Jody and I walked into the panel room, which was fairly packed. Perrin was in back, dressed outrageously as Chairman Kage, complete with a basket of yellow bell peppers. I took my place at the table, between Christopher and an empty chair. Beyond Christopher was another talented comic artist named Lou Frank, and beyond the empty chair was Andrew Probert, Hollywood production designer. In the middle, there was me with my Crayolas, red lines and sleepy eyes. I took a couple of photos from my spot at the table.

Soon, the event was underway. Perrin started out with a wild introduction for each of us: Lou was Iron Artist Comic, Christopher was Iron Artist Connie, I was Iron Artist Cthulhu, and Andrew was Iron Artist Hollywood. Perrin then unveiled Secret Ingredient Katherine Kurtz, who joined us at the table.

Then, true to the show, Perrin took a big bite out of the bell pepper, and we were off.

First, Katherine read a passage from her newest book, which involved a king, a woman, her husband, and her newborn baby. Near the end of the scene, the two men begin fighting. Then we were told to illustrate the scene.

The other artists hunched over their posterboard and began drawing. I called Perrin over.

The Iron Artist Panel. From top to bottom:

Perrin as Chairman Kage
Lou Frank's illustration
Christopher Jones
Andrew Probert
The Play-Doh sculpture (with Kurtz and Probert in the background)

Photos by Melissa Kaercher, 2003.
"Is it permissable for me to run to get more materials?" I asked.

"Sure!" he said.

Now, it is a tradition that every year at CONvergence that I have at least one panel that sends me running through the hotel at a full-out run. Iron Artist was that panel this year. I went careening through he halls to the other tower, ran into the Cthulhu Coffee room, grabbed an empty laundry basket, and swiped all of the cans of Play-Doh into the basket. I then ran back to the panel room, hauling ass with a basket of Play-Doh hoisted over my head.

I then sprinted back to my chair and started popping open Play-Doh containers. The audience really dug this. For one thing, it gave them something different to watch. It also gave Perrin additional fuel for being Chairman Kage.

While Matt and Perrin made the usual Iron Chef-like comments behind our backs (Christopher and I were primary targets, since nobody wanted to pick on the Guest of Honor or someone we didn't know well, like Lou Frank), I played with the clay. I didn't have much to work with -- I didn't realize that I was so low on Play-Doh. I made plans to buy more before the party that night.

As I dabbled with the clay, I began to loosen up and play to the audience. I started dumping everything I could grab into my art space: the candies on the table, pens... even the pepper that Perrin took a bite out of. I had initially wanted to build the scene inside the pepper, so I started taking more bites out of it.

This is when I decided I didn't really like bell peppers.

So I started taking bites out of the Play-Doh and comparing the taste. The audience loved it. I was on a roll. (Perrin nudged me later and noted, "You know, non-toxic doesn't mean edible.")

In between my antics, Christopher and Perrin began to pick on each other, also to the delight of the audience. Eventually, even Probert, who has a rather dry and reserved sense of humor, was joining in the fun. When Perrin made some sort of disparaging comment about "real artists", it was Probert who jumped up and threatened to pour a pitcher of ice water on Perrin.

Eventually, I had created a tiny scene in Play-Doh, including the two guys fighting and the woman in bed with her baby. I was rather pleased that I did so well with only about a half hour to work, and I had fun. I was thrilled about how the whole event went.

Of course, all four pieces were declared winners, and they were all sent to be in the art auction, to raise money for MISFITS. Audience members swamped us as they came up to the table to inspect what we made.

As I cleaned up my Play-Doh, an audience member came up and asked if I wanted a huge block of plasticine clay that had been in his trunk for months. He was dying to get rid of it, but he didn't want to just throw it away.

YES! I gladly accepted. Suddenly, I didn't have to go out and buy more Play-Doh for the party that night. Serendipity strikes again! He brought in the clay, and I happily towed it to the Cthulhu Coffee room. There must have been 20 pounds of the stuff in that bag. (I never did wind up needing it for the party, but I'm sure I'll put it to use at home.)

I then decided that I had some more time to enjoy the convention, so I took the Play-Doh sculpture to Art Show for the auction. While I was there, I decided to finally take a spin around the show.

It was the best art show CONvergence has ever had, by far. Lots and lots of work, high-quality stuff. I even saw several artists that Christopher and I made contact with at World Horror, including the woman who painted scarves. There was even a triptych of bas relief fossilized fairies that Christopher was dying to get to me, but the minimum bid was $100 for each panel. I told him that it's all right; I don't have any wall space left.

After touring the show, I started feeling queasy. I then realized that Play-Doh probably does not make the best lunch. I found Christopher, and we decided to get some dinner.

CONvergence Masquerade.

Photos by Melissa Kaercher, 2003.
We walked across the parking lot to TGI Friday's, where we were promptly seated among a population dense with people from the hotel. In fact, we spotted Rob and Barb only a few tables away, so we just joined them. We were then joined by Josh Scrimshaw, Tim Uren, and Adrienne, otherwise known as the Soylent Theater crew. It was quite the ensemble.

Since we were all on a tight timeframe, dinner was quick, yet pleasant and quite filling. The Play-Doh in my stomach settled down and decided to play nice.

I then dashed back to the hotel, started the coffee brewing in the party room, then took off to get seated for Masquerade. This was the first year ever that I would be able to attend a CONvergence Masquerade in full, so I was quite excited.

I met up with Christopher again, so we both went into the ballroom together. Since Christopher is on the board, we were seated in the reserved section, in second row. Hooray for good seats!

As a pre-show, The Great Luke Ski came out and performed one of his songs, a little ditty named "Stealing Like a Hobbit", based on an Eminem song. It was very good -- his performances have improved greatly since I first saw him at Madcon in 2001.

Then Masquerade commenced. There were 16 entries, all of them quite brief, so it was a quick show. There were some fun entries (the Goblin King costume from Labyrinth was quite good), but the only "oh my god" entry was named The Black Widow. She came out in this spider dress, and as she raised her arms, the four additional spider legs on the costume moved with her. It drew an audible "oooh!" from the audience. Overall, it wasn't a very exciting Masquerade, and there were some technical problems that seemed to hinder some of the entries.

However, when it was over, that's when the real fun began. That's when Soylent Theater came on.

It wasn't the strongest Soylent Show ever, but it was still loads of fun. The Gamers in the Mist sketch was particularly brilliant (I kept looking over at John Kovalic during this segment; he was just dying from laughter), and I loved Kelvin's little segueways. The lack of strength was probably from the absence of Joe Scrimshaw (who had a paid gig that night) and the limited role of Kelvin (who had to reduce his part in the show because of his Brainco finals), but like I said, it was still loads of fun.

After that, I bolted out of there. I didn't bother waiting for the awards. I just wanted to get the room running.

The Soylent Theater Show.

Photos by Melissa Kaercher, 2003.
For all the problems I had on the previous night for setting up the party, Saturday night setup went smooth. The only glitchy thing was that I didn't have anyone around who could go fetch ice for the punch; I had to wait until Rick stopped by about a half-hour after I opened.

I also never had time to leave the room to change into my planned costume for the evening: my zombie prom queen outfit. Instead, I just ran the room in my jeans and halter top. I was comfortable, and eventually, I just didn't care.

The party went smoothly, even though the DVD player really decided that it had a mind of its own. It didn't want to play Day of the Dead anymore. The only DVD it would play now was Dead Alive. Fine by me; it's an excellent party film (people don't need to listen to the dialogue to enjoy it, and people can watch isolated scenes without losing much of the fun). I played it twice that night.

Things went quite well from there. Cool stuff that happened:

* Denise Garner came in and made a little Play-Doh Cthulhu for me.

*John Kovalic came in and made a little Play-Doh Cthulhu for me.

* I had the sublime pleasure of introducing John Kovalic, 2003 Guest of Honor, to Denise Garner, 2004 Guest of Honor.

* I struck up a several-hour conversation with Wade, a fun fellow from the CONvergence videography crew who had never attended a fan-run convention before.

* Later in the evening, John and Christopher stopped by the room on their way to seek out alcohol for John. I asked Christopher to dig up some alcohol for me, too. I got a Grain Belt Premium beer about a half hour later, which tasted better than it should have.

Sometime between midnight and 1:00 AM, a whole bunch of the Krushenko's crew came in and started hanging out, including publisher Mike Waltz, biohorror.com writer and scientist Emily Pullins, and author Pam Keesey. I hadn't seen any of them since World Horror last year, so it was a welcome reunion. Furthermore, the conversation in the room just soared after they came in. In particular, Emily, Pam and I had the most wonderful discussion about Cronenberg movies. When 1:00 AM rolled around, I didn't have the heart to shut down the party.

Above: George Lucas' Temple of Flannel party
Above: Adam V at the Temple of Flannel party
Above: Dr. Who Viewing Society cabana
Above: Connie's Space Lounge.
Above: Odyssey Con party
Above: Activity around the poolside cabanas.
Above: "Pray for Daylight" viewing shindig.

Photos by Melissa Kaercher, 2003.
It was around 2:00 AM when things finally did die down. Christopher, Sharon, Rick, and several others buzzed around the room, helping me pack and tear down. Everything was packed up and cleaned within about 20 minutes. It was impressive.

After that, Christopher and I prowled what was left of the parties. Everyone was shutting down early this year, because the hotel notified us that there would be no late checkout on Monday. They had a Shriners convention coming in on Sunday, so we all had to be out of the rooms on time. Thus, at 2:30 AM, everyone was tearing stuff down -- even the Prancing Pony.

After seeing the decimation on the first floor of parties, we checked out the second floor. This is when I first saw Guy Bock's timeline -- a 35-foot banner with a timeline of science fiction landmarks. The thing was taped up to the wall of one of the hallways, and people had been adding to it and correcting it all weekend. John Kovalic had even personally corrected Guy's date for the first issue of Dork Tower.

We then moved on to check out the only two other parties that were open upstairs. The first was the George Lucas Temple of Flannel, which was impressive as all hell because they completely coated the room in plaid flannel. Their Jedi robes were flannel. There was even a flannel Jawa.

The other party was the Dystopia party, which borders on legendary. I didn't spend much time there, but they had completely covered the entire room -- floor, ceiling, walls, everything -- with black panels. They were running Dystopian Bingo. They had barcode temporary tattoos that they made up. They were showing movies on a rear projection screen that hung over the middle of the garden court. Impressive as all hell. The place was packed, so we couldn't inspect further, which is sad. I really hope to see the party next year.

After that, Christopher asked me if I'd seen Connie's Space Lounge yet. I hadn't, so we went in.

Holy gods, the Space Lounge was cool. The walls, floor and ceiling were covered in black. Blacklights abounded. There was a blacklight air hockey table. DJs. Lounging space. And a geodesic dome.

I mean it. A geodesic dome!

The dome was lit with blacklight, and there were videos playing on the exterior. Christopher and I went in the dome and chilled out for a few minutes on the bean bag chairs within. I could have stayed in there much longer -- it was a very tranquil space.

However, Christopher was fading fast, and so was I. We eventually decided to call it a night.

It was 4:30 AM when we got to the room.

07062003: The alarm went off way too early at 8:00 AM. Off I went to pack up the room.

Believe it or not, the packing up went very quickly, even with just me packing the room up. Christopher joined me for the last couple of loads of cleanup, which was helpful, but damn... it was done quickly.

Whatever didn't fit in the car, we took up to the room. When we came back for the last items (the two skeletons), we ran into the cleaning lady. I apologized for the mess, thanked her, tipped her heavily, and tossed a skeleton over my shoulder.

As Christopher and I hauled the skeletons up to the sleeping room, we had the usual bemused onlookers, including Shriners (who were already moving into the hotel) and hotel staff.

After that, I took care of checking out of the cabana, then drove home to unload the car. I was back at the hotel around 11:00 AM.

I was sweaty and nasty by the time I returned, so I was looking forward to a shower. However, as I walked into the hotel, I spotted Kovalic in the first floor hall, chatting with Gordon and Jennifer Smuder (professional sfx and costume artists) and a gent I met briefly at an MCBA convention named Tom (a professional artist who makes the prototypes for action figures and statuettes). I wound up getting sucked into the conversation as we inspected Gordon and Jennifer's portfolio of photos, which John took great interest in. Tom then showed me his latest work -- a statuette of Gilly, the Perky Goth, which he was running past John. Cool stuff all around.

Then Kelvin wandered by, so I nabbed him and introduced him to John. I knew they hadn't met yet, and that John absolutely loved Soylent Theater, and that it would just be a good idea for me to introduce the two of them. They seemed to hit it off quite well.

We all chatted until I finally couldn't stand that I still hadn't had a shower after moving all that stuff out of the room. I bid my goodbyes and trekked up to my room.

A half hour later, I felt much more human.

By then, it was almost 12:30 PM, time for my last panel of the convention: "The John Carpenter Intervention". I was quite excited about this panel, since Perrin, Windy and I had been working on it for a couple of months, and we even had (drum roll please) visual aids! Taaa daaa!

I grabbed the two posters and my easel and trekked to the panel room. I was pleased to see that we had garnered quite a room full of people.

As it turns out, Perrin, Windy and I all work together rather well on a panel. Windy was certainly taking the lead in the panel, which is great since she has tremendous stage presence. Perrin was great for ad lib remarks, and I was something of the fact monger. It was a good division of labor.

After going though our charts (the line graph got a great reaction), we started asking all the audience members about their favorite and least favorite Carpenter films. While this sounds like it might have been tedious, it actually gave us a lot of fuel for discussion. The panel even started running overtime.

We capped with the punchline, which was an adapted version of the 12-step AA recovery plan. The audience loved it. (We learned later that on the CONvergence survey cards, someone had written that the John Carpenter Intervention was "the best panel at the convention.")

The Humor in SF panel. From left to right: Kelvin Hatle, John Kovalic, Tim Uren, The Great Luke Ski, and Scott Keever.

Photos by Melissa Kaercher, 2003.
After that fine success, I brought the posters back upstairs and proceeded to the only panel I had time to actually attend. (Not speak on. Attend. As in, have other people entertain me.) It was the "Humor in SF" panel, and it had a great lineup of panelists: Scott Keever, The Great Luke Ski, Tim Uren, Kelvin Hatle, and John Kovalic. I got into the room and sat near the front with several of the House of Toast people, including Joe and Erica (who, I should note, were the ones who taught me how to play Chez Geek and who introduced me to Kovalic's art in the first place).

The panel started with John noting that the panel was inspired by a panel he did at OdysseyCon, which was the Humor in SF panel that Luke Ski and I were also on. As John was talking about that panel, he spotted me in the audience.

"Hey!" he said, "You were on that panel! Get up here!"

I was tremendously flattered, but I was posed with a quandary. Did I really want to sit on another panel? Could I just sit back and relax right now? I chose the lazy path. I scampered up on stage, did a funny little dance, and sat down in the audience again. So yes, I did get up there. I didn't stay.

I wish now that I had stayed up there. As the panel commenced, I kept finding myself wishing that I was part of the discussion. It was a great panel without me -- in fact, it was hysterically funny -- but I kept wishing that I was part of the fun. Lesson learned: when offered opportunity, take it.

The Prancing Pony room party

Photos by Melissa Kaercher, 2003.
Kelvin and Tim were particularly on the ball. The segment on Dalek humor just slayed me. John, despite his protestations that he gets stage fright and that he's not a good public speaker, was actually quite snappy himself and a wonderful moderator. And Luke Ski was quite insightful into the ways of Dr. Demento and "Weird Al" Yankovic. Very interesting, very fun panel.

After the panel concluded, I waited for the autograph lines to pass, and I caught up with Kovalic again. I had originally intended to ask him to sign a blank Chez Geek card for me, but I decided to let him leave the room first so the next panel could get in. What ensued was the two of us wandering around the hotel for quite some time, just chatting.

We ran into the guys from The Source in the Garden Court and spent some time chatting with them. Since this was the first year that CONvergence doesn't conflict with Origins, it was the first year that we could get The Source to attend our convention's Dealers' Room. (The lack of that conflict is also why we could finally get Kovalic this year.)

I had a delightful chat with The Source guys, particularly about San Diego Comic Con, which we were all going to be at in a couple weeks. During the course of conversation, I learned that Kovalic was also going to be at San Diego. That should have occurred to me earlier, but I was overjoyed to hear that. At his last Source signing, I promised to take him out for sushi at CONvergence, but time was slipping by too fast. At least we could do sushi at San Diego.

John then mentioned that he needed to take some photos of Camp Snoopy sometime before the Closing Ceremony, so he had better take care of that. As we both walked over to the North Tower (I needed to go back to my room), we somehow got on the subject of Krispy Kreme donuts, which we discussed until we reached my elevator and his exit.

I then went up to the room, grabbed my latest dose of antibiotics, and re-joined the convention. I milled around for a bit. I grabbed my leftover stock from the Dealers' Room. Windy's nephew asked me to autograph his convention T-shirt (which I signed Iron Artist Cthulhu -- he was thrilled). I had a cookie.

The Rake'Hell Closing Ceremony Pre-Show

Photos by Melissa Kaercher, 2003.
I then sat down in the ballroom and watched the Rake'Hell's Closing Ceremony pre-show. I managed to find a chair near the House of Toast team, and I was later joined my Jim, Jen, Sharon, and Mark.

After the Rake'Hell skit ended, John returned victoriously from his forray to the Mall of America. As he headed towards his seat at the front of the ballroom, he found me in the audience and handed me a box.

"Eat them quick!" he said, "They're still warm!"

I looked at the box. Sure enough, I was holding a half dozen Krispy Kreme donuts. Aw! Joe and Erica looked at me like they couldn't believe what just happened.

I nabbed one for myself and handed the box over to my buddies to share. The donuts vanished in seconds.

Soon, the Closing Ceremony began, with the traditional skit. The skit was funny as hell, poking fun at next year's theme: film noir. I really can't describe the skit, except that it involved a petulant Terminator, a voice that "was there when I moved in", and Captain Caveman.

Michael Sheard smashing K-9 at the Closing Ceremony.

Photos by Melissa Kaercher, 2003.
After that, Closing Ceremony continued in its usual festive way, which included closing comments from the Guests of Honor (John went up to the podium and showed off a smiley face that he drew in his notebook). The real high point of the whole thing was when they got Michael up to do his closing comments.

As Michael concluded his comments, Christopher walked out on stage and pointed out Michael's K9 lapel pin to the audience.

"Michael, you wear this pin because you want people to ask you about K9, correct? What do you say to them?"

"I hated that bloody dog."

At this point, it must be noted that Michael's hatred of K9 was well-known by the board of officers. It also must be noted that Christopher had arranged a special gift for Michael. And it must be noted that Michael had no idea what was going to happen next.

"So," Christopher said, "if that dog were here, what would you do?"

"I would jump up and down on it! Smash it!"

Christopher got a look on his face that said, "There is not a better lead-in line on this planet." He ducked offstage and fetched his full-scale foam-core model of K9, which he had made on Thursday evening.

Tim then brought out a cricket bat for Michael.

Michael was thrilled. He refused the cricket bat and said, "I said I'd jump on it, I'm going to jump on it!" With that, he took Christopher's hand for balance and took great glee in smashing K9 into little broken bits. (Later, he autographed K9's smashed head and placed it in the CONvergence time capsule.)

After that, Michael led the audience in singing a song, which consisted of the words "five days", sung to the tune of "Amazing Grace". Michael then gave the whole board kisses, and gave Windy an especially saucy smooch (because "she won't be available for kissing much longer!", which refers to her impending marriage).

Then the Closing Ceremony ended, which meant that, sadly, CONvergence was over. It was over all too quickly.

The Cthulhu Coffee Chez Geek card.

Photos by Melissa Kaercher, 2003.
There were lingerings, however. After the Ceremony, Sharon, Jim, Jen, Christopher, John and I all hung around in the autographing area for a few minutes, chatting away and making dinner arrangements. Sadly, John couldn't join us for dinner, but he did have time for Sharon to take his photo with her Moose. He also took time to do something on my blank Chez Geek card. I simply handed it to him and let him do what he wanted with it. When he handed it back to me, I had a Cthulhu Coffee card for Chez Geek. Cost 2, Slack 1!

After John left to join his wife's family for dinner, our dinner arrangements were made. About 25 of us, including Andrew Probert and Michael Sheard, converged upon the Edina Olive Garden for pasta goodness. During dinner, many digital cameras were passed around as we all looked for the best motion shots of Michael smashing K9.

Dinner with Michael Sheard, Andrew Probert, and many CONvergence volunteers.

Photos by Melissa Kaercher, 2003.
Christopher and I returned to the hotel fairly late. I took a two hour nap in the room, then went back downstairs for the Dead Dog party in Cinema Rex.

The Dead Dog was decidedly much lower-key than last year. There were about 20 of us hanging around watching locally-made films and chatting about the weekend. Mojo (one of last year's Guests of Honor) actually called Amanda and wished us all well. I got to see a short film named 12:01, which I've been desperately trying to seek down ever since I saw it on cable over a decade ago.

Around 3:00 or 4:00 AM, the traditional Reading of the Comment Cards commenced. The ten or fifteen of us diehards all sat around in front of the screen, taking turns reading the Cinema Rex comment cards to the group. There was nothing truly remarkable, with the possible exception of Christopher's joke suggestion that they should show Andy Worhol's Empire next year.

Around 4:30 AM, we had had enough. We trudged zombie-like to the room, and poured ourselves into bed.

07072003: The alarm was set for 10:30 AM. I'd like you to note this. I could have, and would have, slept until 10:30 AM. I was exhausted.

8:00 AM is when the marching band woke me up.

At first, it didn't make sense. There was just this cacophony of noise. Then it coalesced into a marching band.

I'm not kidding. The Shriners were parading around the hotel with drums, piccolos, and xylophones at 8:00 AM in the morning.

As it turned out, this was only the first rude brush with the Shriners that day. As the last of the CONvergence volunteers scrambled to get out of the hotel that Monday, there were all sorts of bad happenings. Viz.:

Anecdote 1: Overheard in an elevator -- "This elevator is SHRINERS ONLY!"

Anecdote 2: Said to Windy -- "You don't look like you should be with that science-fiction convention. I thought there was a 180 pound minimum! I thought it was a Jenny Craig convention! Heh heh heh!"

Anecdote 3: Overheard at the front desk -- "I don't know why a reputable hotel would soil your reputation by hosting a convention for those people!"

The best part about Anecdote 3 is that the desk clerk replied, "CONvergence is one of the best, if not the best, convention we work with. They are give us fewer problems and are more respectful than most conventions, including yours."

But I digress. There was a marching band playing outside my window at 8:00 AM. Assholes.

I eventually did get to sleep again, thankfully.

The rest of the morning was spent moving stuff out of hotel room and the Normandale room. The cleaning lady was particularly amused by my zombie skeletons.

Christopher and I then met the board and other volunteers for lunch at Snuffy's in St. Paul, during which time we ate onion rings and traded Shriner stories. After that, we all camped out at Pat and Tim's place and helped do the books and count pre-registrations (667 at-con pre-registrations for 2004! Woo!). We then ordered food and decompressed by watching video footage of convention events we missed (I don't think a single person in the room was able to catch the Savage Aural Hotbed concert on Friday night). Christopher and I then went home and got to bed far too late for our own good.

And that, my friends, is the tale of CONvergence 2003.

Thank You: I'd like to thank everyone who helped me in the Cthulhu Coffee room, everyone who brought me food or alcohol, and everyone who helped make CONvergence the force of nature that it is. Cheers, mates!

Extra Cool Bonus Photos: I couldn't quite fit everything in up above, so here are more photos for your viewing pleasure. Remember, you can click on them to get a larger image.

All photos below were taken by Melissa Kaercher. Enjoy!

Opening Ceremony Skit
Pat Wick, Christopher Jones, Michael Sheard, Perrin Klumpp, Tim Wick.

Pat Wick, Christopher Jones, Perrin Klumpp, Tim Wick.

Pat Wick and Christopher Jones.

Hall Costumes
Ring Wraith outside the Prancing Pony party.

Swank Klingon.

Duct Tape Fashion Girl on Friday Night.

Duct Tape Fashion Girl on Saturday Night.

Brack and Moltar.

Crimson Guard and Ming the Merciless.

The Timeline
Michael Lee and Christopher Jones inspect Guy Bock's 35-foot long sci-fi timeline.

Closeup look at the timeline. People were invited to make additions and corrections by hand.

John Kovalic's correction of the release date of Dork Tower #1.

Christopher's addition of CONvergence to the timeline.

Do you remember "Manimal"? Somebody does!

Cthulhu Coffee's Play-Doh Extravaganza
John Kovalic making Cthulhu!

Close-up of Kovalic's mini-Elder God.

Denise Garner shows off her own Cthulhu head.

Plate bearing the works of several Play-Doh artists. Clockwise from penguin: Sharon Snyder, John Kovalic, Denise Garner, and Rob Withoff.

Mysterious Play-Doh wizard Joe with his dragon head.

Joe's dragon head.

Side-view of the dragon head.

Trogdor the Burninator.

The work table.

Phil Shill exploring the possibilities neon orange clay.

Of special note: The toaster from House of Toast, and the R.O.G. logo.

The gallery.

Bob the Skeleton, a gift from the Doom Room.

Temporary tattoos from the Dystopia Party.

Michael Lee demonstrates the unexpected side-effect of hanging his badge on a lanyard: the convention's "Time Flies" slogan turns into "Tim Lies".

Parties and Garden Court
Salacious Crumb's Comedy Club

Sam Beckett making the rounds around the Garden Court.

Eric Larson in the Prancing Pony.

The Dystopia party's wise use of the rear projection screen in front of their second-floor cabana.

The Dregs performing in the Harmonic CONvergence room.

Garden Court during the day.

Closing Ceremony Skit
Tim Wick, Windy Merrill, Pat Wick.

Tim and Windy.

Perrin in a show-stopping outfit

"No. This is going to far. Suddenly, Captain Caveman walks in!"

Windy and Ish.

"Your clothes. Give them to me."


"Maybe just the heels."

Closing Ceremony Fun
Michael Sheard smooching Windy.

John Kovalic expresses his feelings about CONvergence.

Andrew Probert sneaking up behind Perrin.

Eric Flynt making his closing remarks.

Christopher asking Michael Sheard about his K-9 lapel pin.

"If that dog were here, I would jump up and down on it."

Michael preparing to crush K-9.

Dead Dog
The famed Cinema Rex Room.

Rex Boy Eric Knight, reading out of Rex's comment box at 4:00 AM Monday morning.

Soylent Theater comedians Tim Uren and Joe Scrimshaw.

Kelvin Hatle and others.

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