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I apologize in advance for the positively epic length of the account that you are supposedly about to read. Microsoft Word tells me that the text alone is 19 pages long. And now I'm adding dialup-bending amounts of photos to it.

But, really, CONvergence deserves such epic treatment. While it isn't the largest or most expansive convention on the planet by any means, it certainly does deliver one hell of a weekend. Or, in this case, week.

CONvergence 2004 took place over the 4th of July weekend in Minneapolis, MN. It was host to a whopping enormous crowd of fans, as well as Guests of Honor Larry Niven, Denise Garner, Vin Truitner, Christ Ballas, David Gerrold, and Christian Colquhoun (pronounced Kol-HOON... Now you know). It was a weekend (er, week) steeped in panels, costumes, and friends.

Now, before we begin, I must deliver my usual set of disclaimers. While I do work with CONvergence, my opinions here do not represent the opinions of the convention. This is merely my account of my weekend, and the opinions here are nobody's but my own. Plus, I realize some people have wandered in here, looking for hot inside scoops about the work of the Guests of Honor. Sorry, folks, I actually didn't have much interaction with them this weekend... even with the ever-busy Denise, who is a friend of mine. No, this is just the story of a wild weekend (um, week) in a hotel.

(By the way, if you want a different perspective of the convention, check out this report.)

So, sit back, relax, and stake out an evening (or boring day at work) to read this puppy. You will be treated to zombies, Scotch, geek dating, drowning marmosets, and, if you're good, more Scotch.

06302004: For most CONvergence attendees, CONvergence begins on Friday and ends on Sunday. Some of the more dedicated folks party until Monday morning, but that’s still a run from Friday to Monday. For the core CONvergence crew, however, the whole ordeal begins Wednesday, and ultimately ends sometime the following Tuesday.

As someone who is pretty well intertwined with the core crew, my story begins on Wednesday.

I left work quite late that day, since I was still angling to get Friday off. This resulted in some really creative experiments with light speed travel as I cruised out of work at 6 PM, picked up Christopher at our house, and zoomed to the other side of Minneapolis so we could get to the Board Dinner by 6:30 PM. I do believe I saw the red shift effect outside the windows of my car, because, lo and behold, we made it to the Kabuki Restaurant with one minute to spare.

Everyone else was already there, with the exception of Ishmael, the Facilities head: Tim Wick, head of Events; Pat Wick, head of Finance (and 27 weeks pregnant with her second child); Perrin Klumpp, head of Guests; Jenni Klumpp, his lovely wife; Amanda Gordon, head of Parties; and Peter Verrant, unofficial convention photographer. Also in attendance was Kurt, Jenni’s friend from Detroit. It was an excellent and boisterous crowd, as we were anxious both for the convention and for Spider-Man 2, which was opening that night.

Ishmael never did make it to the restaurant, so we all had a fine teppanyaki dinner without him. We filled ourselves silly with sushi, liver, shrimp, chicken, beef, rice, bean sprouts, and Japanese beer (okay, the beer was just me – Perrin and I are really the only drinkers in that whole crew), Much fun was had with a stranger in our midst, as Jenni was merrily translating our shared jokes to her Detroit buddy. It was like having live footnotes. I don’t remember much specific about the conversation, with the exception of the phrase “fetal spin-art,” which came out of Christopher’s mouth at one point.

After dinner, we attempted to get ice cream. The plan was to cruise over to the Cold Stone Creamery at Eden Prairie Center (yes, the place where Mallrats was filmed) and gets some dessert. Unfortunately, Christopher and I initially started going to the Southdale Mall by mistake, so we took a detour right by the convention hotel. Right as we neared the hotel, Christopher got a phone call. Jeremy Stomberg, one of the other Board members, was at the hotel, desperate to store something. He didn’t have keys to any of the storage rooms, and there was nobody else convention-related at the hotel. We made a skidding detour over to the hotel to help out, since Christopher had access to the Normandale Room.

By the time we got out of there and over to the ice cream place, everyone else was ready to leave, and there was a huge, long line inside the shop. Oh, well. No ice cream for us.

The whole group then cruised over to the Southdale movie theater, where we saw Spider-Man 2 with a whole heaping helping of other friends. Our massive group took up roughly two entire rows of the theater, and included the likes of Mike Lee, Alicia (who we met at Oddcon 2004), Romeo and Amada. Strangely enough, I wound up sitting between Christopher and Pat, which is exactly the same seating arrangement I remember from seeing the first Spider-Man film for the first time.

The movie was bloody amazing. I decided that I want my own private Alfred Molina.

After the film, Christopher and I chatted with Tim and Pat in the parking lot for a good 20 minutes about Spider-Man villains. Christopher was angling for a Craven the Hunter movie. This conversation might have wandered on for hours if the mosquitoes hadn’t driven us into our cars. (The 2004 brood of these Minnesota bloodsuckers was the meanest in recent memory.)

Christopher and I then headed over to the hotel, where we moved all the Publications stuff from our car into the Normandale Room. We then went home, and made it to bed by, oh, 2 AM.

07012004: Again, I worked very late that evening, still praying I could get Friday off. Finally, I was far ahead enough that yes, I could be gone the next day, as long as I was on-call for emergencies. I could live with that.

So, I finally left work around 6:30 PM. I dashed home and packed a goodly portion of my belongings into my car. The house was hotter than hell – I don’t have central air conditioning, and I closed up the windows that morning. Thus, packing was hard, sweating labor. I hate Minnesota in July.

I then cruised over to the hotel, where Christopher met me at the door. “You are going to like our room,” he said.

To my surprise, we were actually in the tall tower of the hotel, on 20th floor. This is the first time I’ve ever stayed in the tall tower. I was a bit baffled by this development, but all right. Dealing with the elevators was going to be hell that weekend, but I could deal.

We then got to our room. Christopher opened the door. Oh, hell yes I could deal.

Ishmael had given us one of the Jacuzzi suites. The room was huge. The four-poster bed was tall enough that my legs dangled uselessly off the sides if I sat on it. The Jacuzzi was big enough for both of us (which is saying something). Complimentary cheese, crackers, and fruits graced the tables.

I flopped onto the bed. The hotel had switched affiliations from Radisson to Sheraton only a few months before, and the first thing to change was the beds. Sheraton was proud of the new beds, so I had to try out these fabled things. Oh, it was blissful indeed. Nice bed.

After moving in, we went a-wandering. Most of the Guest Reception had already fizzled out (it was about 8:30 PM by that time), so I didn’t get to meet any of the Guests of Honor. About half of the party rooms were moving into the hotel, though, so we wound up wandering from room to room on the first floor, chatting with folks we knew. Ethel was setting up Vice City, merrily showing off the Amazing Transformer Bar and her new video game storage benches. House of Toast was just getting started covering their entire room in mylar. The Rake’Hell folks were just plain partying. And the Harmonic CONvergence room was getting cleaned up for festivities (though Scott Keever dropped what he was doing and gave me a quick 30-second lesson in ballroom dancing).

Christopher was soon called away on business by Pat, so I hung out with the Rake’Hell folks for a while. It was especially good to catch up with George Richard (HAIL MING!) for a bit.

I then wandered up to the Main Stage area, where Roadkill had erected yet another amazing façade. This time, the Main Stage entrance had been transformed into a graffiti-ed alleyway, complete with neon signs. Sticks of chalk hung on the walls, so you could add your own graffiti. COOL!

While I was admiring this work, Rachel MacCaulay (Scott Keever’s lovely and talented wife) walked out of Main Stage with someone I didn’t recognize. While we said hello to each other, she said, “Oh, and this is Vin Truitner!”

First Guest of Honor contact made! We shook hands, and I introduced myself as the significant other of the guy who made his guest badge. This immediately launched us into a discussion of how much he wanted the original badge art, which featured Doctor Octopus fighting a squiddy from The Matrix. (He was a CGI artist on both films.) This, of course, led to some serious Spider-Man 2 geeking. I got to tell him about how impressed I was with the Doctor Octopus effects, and about how nice and crowded the theater was last night, and about how everyone left with big smiles on their faces. I didn’t get to hear a whole lot of insider information about the film, though, because he was under a sort of gag order to not talk about behind-the-scenes stuff until the film was in release at least two weeks. Bummer, although Rachel and I did give him a rundown of who the trustworthier folks were, should he feel like divulging stories.

Rachel then continued giving him a tour of the hotel, and I went searching for Christopher. He had mentioned earlier that he hadn’t eaten an actual meal all day, so I figured it would probably be a good idea to feed him.

I eventually found him, so we headed off to Billabong for a late-night meal. To avoid the smoky bar, we wound up sitting outside under the orange full moon. It was a pleasant evening outside, but unfortunately, it meant that we were also baring our flesh to those voracious hordes of insectile bitches that we quaintly call mosquitoes. Thankfully, Billabong’s coconut shrimp and nachos are good enough to brave that arthropedal menace.

Well-fed, we went back to the hotel. The Jacuzzi was perfect for soothing the angry bug bites that we gathered during dinner. Once we were reduced to human noodles, we crashed into bed.

I was mistaken before. The new beds weren’t just good. I lay down and thought that I would never need to get up again. I was afraid to move, lest I lose a slice of heaven that I had stumbled upon.

No, I’m serious. Quit laughing at me.

07022004: I woke up sometime around 8:30 AM, to the sound of strange popping/rumbling somewhere in the room. Since it seemed to come from the cooler, I dismissed it as things shifting around in there and didn’t give it much thought.

I then set about doing some writing while Christopher came to consciousness. We then feasted upon the complimentary cheese and crackers. It was an odd breakfast, but the walnut cheese (!) was really quite tasty.

When we were mostly done, I got up to get something to drink out of the cooler.

Now, let me describe this cooler I own. It’s more like a portable fridge – you plug it in, and it refrigerates the inside of the cooler. No ice involved.

Well, when I opened up the top, hot steam came out.


I had accidentally switched the polarity of the plug when I plugged it in the night before. The rumbling I had heard was my soda cans bursting in the heat. Two packs of cheese lay in amorphous globs at the bottom of the cooler. My bottle of tomato juice was boiling hot, but thankfully unburst.

I stared at the steaming, wet mess rather unhappily. It was such a good idea to bring food to the convention, too…

I threw the still-wrapped glops of melted cheese into the trash and resigned myself to a shower.

Things did go better after that. Once clean and distanced from the cooler mishap, I headed downstairs to Registration. I got my badge in record time. Basically, I walked in with my confirmation postcard, handed it to the guys at the table, and they handed me my badge in under a minute. There wasn’t even a line. Sweet!

On the way out of Registration, I ran into Dr. Jim Kakalios, physics professor and Ultimate Comic Geek, who is currently destined to become a Guest of Honor at CONvergence 2005. Our conversation didn’t run for more than two sentences before Spiderman 2 was brought up. I asked him what he thought about the physics of the film. He said that Doc Ock had some center of gravity problems: in no time flat, he should have been on his back like a turtle. But, of course, the movie was good enough that he didn’t care.

Dr. Jim soon headed off in a different direction than me, so I walked outside to my car. I was on a mission to replace the melted food. I figured I also should swing by the house to pick up a few things I’d forgotten the night before (i.e., cigars, my PDA…).

An hour later, I returned to the hotel with more food supplies, cigars, various forgotten electronics, a desk fan, and painting clothes. I felt much better prepared.

Once in the hotel, I called up Christopher on his cell phone. He needed some costume and clothing alterations done, and I had promised him that I’d take care of it. However, I hadn’t managed to tackle the project before the convention hit. Given my schedule for the remainder of the weekend, I’d have to take care of the alterations now, or not at all.

So, I met him in our room. I flung pins, needles, and thread around. In under an hour, I managed to hem one pair of pants, and sew suspender buttons on another pair. Oddly enough, I had no idea what the yellow pair of paints were for, except that they were going to be worn during the Closing Ceremony. The CONvergence board of directors are quite hush-hush about their skits, which means not even Significant Others really know what’s going on until the skit appears onstage.

Anyway, I had the pants rigged up in no time. By 1 PM, I was heading back downstairs, free to do whatever I wanted.

Now, I am unused to this concept of “free time” during CONvergence. I had run the Cthulhu Coffee for the last four years at the convention, and it pretty much ate all my spare time. This year, I was merely keeping up with a schedule of panels. I marveled at the possibilities of “free time”: long chats with people I haven’t seen in ages, relaxing afternoons by the pool, long bouts of drinking expensive alcohol…

So, I decided to wander poolside to see how the parties were coming along. Most of the rooms were in process of being set up. I found myself not missing that part of the Cthulhu Coffee party.

I first swung by Vice City, otherwise known as The Ethel Party. Ethel and her team of minions were scurrying around the two adjoined rooms that would later become a vast haven of video games and DDR pads. One fellow was setting up the Amazing Transformer Bar, a strange wooden thing in a crate that expanded to a full-sized, L-shaped, polished bar in under two minutes. Ethel and the rest of the gang were busy taping panels of black paper to the walls of both rooms. The paper was decorated with neon green, hand-painted space ships and asteroids, a sort of homemade wallpaper for video gaming geeks.

The decorating armada needed some more help with pasting up the panels, so I happily jumped in for about half an hour. Ethel and I started out putting up more black paper on the walls with masking tape. After that was done, I was put on Black Tape Duty with Jenni Klumpp – our job was to cover up the manila-covered masking tape with black electrical tape. The goal of this was to keep the wall-safe masking tape for the walls, but to hide it from the soon-to-be-installed blacklights. It actually looked pretty decent after we were done.

After that, I left the rest of the setup to her experts. I quickly swung by the Volunteer Desk to say hi to Wendy Bock and Linda Peterson. I then ducked into the Dealers’ Room.

Now, it is unfortunate that this was the only time I wound up in the Dealers’ Room during the whole weekend, because it was by far the best Dealers’ Room ever put together by CONvergence. The variety was tremendous. Not only were there the usual arrays of sci-fi books, videos, and memorabilia, but also costume wigs and makeup, swords, jewelry, and corsets. One dealer specialized in cigarette cases and Zippo-style lighters. Another simply sold Russian costume jewelry and tschotchkes. It was quite impressive.

Near the wig dealer, I ran into Romeo Azar, the local movie geek and graphic designer who had arranged our big Spider-Man 2 outing on Wednesday night. We spent several minutes gushing about Spider-Man, and then began chatting about how many panels we were each on. Romeo had maxed out with six panels, and I had somehow wound up being listed on nine. We flipped over our badges and compared our schedules. (If you’re a panelist at CONvergence, they list your panel schedule on the back of your convention badge, which is a blindingly cool and useful thing to do.) Romeo and I were both on the Hitchcock panel, which was coming up in under an hour.

Romeo then bounced away to another section of the Dealers’ Room, and I continued to wander. A few feet away, I ran into Margo, the R2D2 fan who I know from Oddcon. As I was saying hi to her, programming co-head Mike Lee and Christopher also wandered past.

The four of us chatted for a few minutes before Christopher started tapping me on the shoulder, trying to get me to turn around. When I did turn around, I found that he had been holding a box behind my back. In the box was… a foot-tall Doc Ock action figure! He handed it to me and said it was a gift.

My own private Alfred Molina!

I hugged it and grinned for several minutes. How cool! I have the best boyfriend ever.

I then realized that the Hitchcock panel was creeping up pretty fast, so I excused myself and headed out of the Dealers’ Room. I ran into author Kathy Sullivan on the way. We said hi in passing, and didn’t run into each other again. Sad, that.

I headed back up to the 20th floor so I could drop Doc Ock in the hotel room. I also confirmed that the cooler was working properly. I nabbed a can of fizzy water and my books on Alfred Hitchcock, and headed back downstairs for the panel.

Romeo and I both showed up about 5 minutes early, and managed to mildly entertain our sparse audience with random banter. When 3:30 PM rolled around, we discovered that we were apparently the only people on the panel – Damien Sheridan was, so far, a no-show. We started without him.

The panel was on the influence of Alfred Hitchcock on modern filmmakers, which is pretty rich territory. However, we got off to kind of a weak start. I don’t think I was warmed up to talk yet, and Romeo and I didn’t quite know how to play off one another’s points yet. Thus, when I saw classic film expert Eric Heideman walk in with David Christensen, I immediately pulled Eric out of the audience to sit the panel with us. Thankfully, he was game to sit the panel on the spur of the moment and brought with him his vast knowledge of older films.

About halfway through the panel, we got on a roll. Eric knew film history, Romeo knew modern filmmaking, I knew details about Hitchcock’s life. It was about this time that Damien showed up. Unfortunately, I don’t think he quite got into the grove we were in – he didn’t say a whole lot, though he did bring up some good talking points.

So, even though our audience was thin (about 15 people, tops) and not very inquisitive, we still wound up getting some good discussion out of it. Not too bad for an early Friday panel.

After escaping the panel room, I ran into both Minion Dan and Christopher in the hall. I hadn’t heard hide nor hair from Dan in six months, so we immediately had a high-energy hello-and-catch-up conversation. Part of this conversation included the fact that Christopher had been named the penciler for the new Batman book from DC – Batman Strikes. This book was a tie-in to the new Batman animated series, which was currently in production at Warner Brothers under the art direction of Jeff Matsuda. As Dan seemed quite fascinated by this news, Christopher and I yanked him up to our hotel room so he could take a look at some of Matsuda’s production art.

Once we got up to the room, I discovered that my laptop, my trusty TiBook of the Dead, had shut down by itself and refused to boot. I cursed at it and poked buttons for a good five minutes while Christopher and Dan continued to geek out over Batman gossip. Finally, the computer came to life, and I pulled up a couple dozen animation reference drawings from the first two episodes of the TV series. I had a good three hundred such images on my hard drive, but I figured we didn’t have time for that.

So, we ogled Matsuda’s production art, drank fizzy water, and ate string cheese for a while. We’re still not too sure about the new interpretation for the Joker, but all of the art was really damn pretty.

After an ample amount of geeking, Christopher and Dan each went off to do their own things. I headed downstairs to see the “But I Posted It On LiveJournal!” panel. Just before I got to the door of the panel room, I ran into Matt Gress, whom I have known for years. Once again, he was wearing one of his trademark suit coats. The man is one of the snappiest dressers I know. I said hi and commented on his suit.

After a few pleasantries, I excused myself and got into the panel. The room was packed, and the panel was about 20 minutes underway. Jen Manna, Scott Keever, Kelvin Hatle, and a few others were at the front of the room, heading discussion. It wound up being a very interesting little session, as the audience was very interested and had a lot to chat about.

The most interesting part, though, was what happened near the end of the hour. This guy stood up in the audience and started ranting about how people insulted and abused him online. My brain snapped to attention as I vaguely recognized him. As he further ranted, I hit upon where I’d seen him. It was The Tron Guy.

Now, those of you who watch Slashdot and Jimmy Kimmel may well know who I’m talking about. Here’s a quick intro for the rest of you. This guy had made a Tron costume and posted photos of himself and his costume online. It wound up on Slashdot. Well, the costume was actually pretty decent, but let’s just say that The Tron Guy doesn’t quite have the ideal body for a bodysuit (he himself freely admits to this). His initial photos of the costume were taken when he hadn’t figured out that he should wear more supportive undergarments under the suit. Let’s just say that in the initial photos, the suit left little to the imagination about his anatomy.

Thus, despite the fact that the costume was actually a decent construct in itself, the Slashdotters smelled blood in the water. He was flooded with negative remarks and taunting for weeks.

Okay. I don’t condone people being rude online, but I feel that if you post photos of yourself in a body suit online, you should be prepared for just about anything to come your way. Well, The Tron Guy was determined to vent all of his hurt feelings at everyone in the room. He pretty much hijacked the panel so he could play victim to a large audience of people. He stood up and ranted at everyone for a good five or ten minutes.

Admirably, Jen Manna stepped in to try and handle the situation. She valiantly tried to calm him down and turn it into more of a discussion point so they could move on with the panel. She made an analogy that if she got into a car and drove, there is always a risk that a drunk driver will hit her. She might be doing everything right, but there is still that risk because people do dumb and irresponsible things. You can pass laws and have police out there, but there will always be people out there who will potentially hurt you. Likewise, if you post photos on the Internet, all of the social grace training in the world won’t necessarily protect you from the dorks who feel the need to insult those photos.

Well, Tron Guy took this to mean that Jen condoned meanness on the Internet. They argued onward until the panel was pretty much over. I was totally amazed – I’d never seen a panel get that heated. I was also amazed that Jen didn’t outright snap at the guy. She remained completely level-headed.

Ha! LiveJournal drama… in the flesh!

After the panel was over, I immediately ducked out so I could prepare for my own panels late in the evening. The Opening Ceremony was looming near, and I needed to be ready for two back-to-back panels that would start immediately after the Ceremony.

So, first stop was going to by my hotel room. I headed over to the elevators and waited. I was promptly reminded why I never like staying in the taller of the Sheraton’s two towers: after five minutes, three elevators had come by, all packed to capacity already. Dammit.

So, I headed for the stairs. This seemed like a good idea at the time.

Let me remind you that my hotel room was on the 20th floor.

I actually kept thinking it was a good idea until the fifth floor. It was then that I remembered that I haven’t been working out on a regular basis. At floor 11, I also remembered that my teenage years left me over a decade ago.

I did eventually make it to the door marked with the number 20. I pushed through the door to see a kid dressed like Neo from The Matrix, standing by the elevator bank. I wheezed at him and stumbled down the hall to my room. I collapsed on the bed for a couple minutes.

After my breathing returned to normal, I set about preparing myself for the panels. The first one really didn’t need much on my part: Bill Hedrick had decided that he wanted to do a make-up demonstration, and I had volunteered to be his guinea pig. It was the second panel that needed gear. This was to be the Geek Mating Rituals panel, a thing dreamed up by Ethel a couple months before. Shortly after I volunteered to help, we got all ambitious. Our panelists would have uniforms. We would have props. And graphs. And pointers. We Would Rock.

So, I put on my uniform, which was a plaid skirt, white shirt, tie, and big stompy boots. I then put props, a whiteboard, an easel, and any other gear I could dream up into a grocery box and set it by the door. The final touch was filling my flask with 12-year-old Macallen scotch.

After pulling a swig of scotch, I grabbed the box and started my exodus downstairs. This time, I waited for the elevator.

After ditching the gear in the panel room, I found Dan and Ethel waiting outside Main Stage. Ethel, geek goddess that she is, was dressed as the Sorceress from He-Man and the Masters of the Universe. Complete with feathers. I oohed and aahed over her costume for a bit. Sadly, she told me that several people had already mistaken her for the Chicken Lady from Kids in the Hall. Tragic, I tell ya.

She, Dan, and I then headed into Main Stage, where the Mark Time show was in progress. We found some seats next to Jenni and Kurt, right behind Bill Hedrick. Bill was already in his full Klingon garb.

The Mark Time show is basically a radio show done live at CONvergence every year, as a prelude to the Mark Time Awards. (The awards are basically the Oscars of the radio show industry.) Unfortunately, the show was winding to an end, and the three of us didn’t have much of a chance to catch up with the story. Instead, Ethel took out her Sidekick and started surfing around the Internet.

After a moment, she leaned over to me. “Hey, Marlon Brando just died!”

Kind of a surreal moment, that. Especially since the Mark Time show was just ending, with a strange bout of beatnick poetry that included trombone accompaniment.

After the show concluded, we waited through about ten to twenty minutes of stage shuffling. The place was packed. I checked my watch. Yup, they were running a little late. Bill and I would have to leave Opening Ceremony early in order to get to the make-up panel on time.

Eventually, the Opening Ceremony got started. Now, I have to backtrack and give you a touch of history here. The CONvergence Board of Directors, every year, does an Opening Ceremony skit and a Closing Ceremony skit, the details of which are top secret up to the performance. The skits are usually the highlight of the Ceremonies, because the folks on the Board are all a bunch of hams, and about half of them actually have backgrounds in performance. Well, this year, they decided to do a video. As Christopher is on the Board, and I’m not, I had to puzzle at literally months worth of preparation, none of which Christopher could tell me about. He did ask me questions, like, “Hey, can I borrow this cheese grater for filming?” and, “Do you have any Christmas lights?” And I knew the idea for the whole thing branched out of a conversation I had with him and Jason on New Year’s Day. But that’s about all I knew.

I was now about to see what they had been working on so diligently for months. It was actually kind of exciting, because I did know how much time and work went into the video.

Tim walked out onstage and said, “Hello, and welcome to the Paramount Shareholders Conference.” And we were off.

Basically, it was a combination between live performance and video. The concept was that Tim was presenting, to the Paramount stockholders, ideas to re-vamp the lagging Star Trek franchise. The video bits were supposedly clips sent by edgy Hollywood directors, as bids to do their take on Star Trek. Quentin Tarantino does Star Trek. M. Night Shayamalan does Star Trek. Michael Bay does Star Trek. It was a brilliant ten minute spoof of about a dozen Hollywood filmmakers, and the audience adored it.

The best bit, though, the one that had people crying with laughter, was a Muppets segment. The Board had farmed out one of the segments to local propmaker and puppeteer Gordon Smuder, who actually got patterns from Henson Studios to make Kirk and Spock Muppets. Gordon then wrote up a short script, which involved Spock trying to prank call Kirk via communicator. It was hysterically funny, and looked astonishingly like something Henson Studios would actually do. Bloody amazing!

Eventually, the skit/video ended to much applause. Tim then announced that the video was available on DVD at the concessions table for the bargain price of $5.00. I saw some people immediately skitter out the door to pick one up. (Over the course of the weekend, the concessions table would run out of the DVDs at least four times. John McGuinness, the cameraman for the project, was constantly burning DVDs throughout the weekend in an attempt to keep up with demand. They sold over 170 DVDs.)

I saw Bill get up right away after the video was done, no doubt to get ready for the panel. I checked my watch and figured that it would be a good idea to get out of there myself.

It was only a minute or two before 8:00 PM when I got into the panel room. Bill wasn’t there yet, but I think every chair in the audience was filled. I sat down at the front, drank some water, and tried to think of ways to get the panel started without Bill. Time clicked by, and I still had no ideas. Other than being underneath make-up for costumes, I really didn’t know much about the subject. 8:00 PM came and went on my watch, and I started to really freeze up. Thankfully, Bill walked in at 8:01 and rescued me.

The panel went smashingly. Bill is a big advocate of doing make-up on the cheap, so he was having a good ol’ time teaching the audience about his tricks as he stuck plastic mask parts, latex, and toilet paper on my face. He had a good banter going with Rob Withoff, a friend and local filmmaker, who was sitting in the audience. I had a good time adding whatever I could to the panel, which was usually comic relief. I did, however, get to talk a bit about a commercial shoot I once did where I wound up wearing gelatin make-up appliances.

At the end of the hour, I was a zombie, with a moldering face and exposed cheekbones. I instantly became the subject of many photos. It actually took a bit of time to get out of the room, because Bill continued to be swamped with questions, and a lot of the audience wanted to his handiwork up close.

After everything dispersed, I had a little time to kill before the Geek Mating Rituals panel, so I wandered over to the Silent Auction room. I’ve never bid on anything in there, but it’s always fun to look. The most interesting stuff in the auction were things that Vin Truitner donated, which included a limited edition Spider-Man 2 t-shirt that was only given to the crew of the film, and two insignia pins that were used during the filming of Minority Report (only 30 were made, so the minimum bid was $90 per pin).

I then headed downstairs to the Art Show. En route, I ran into the Garner clan (Denise’s family and friends). Surprisingly, they instantly recognized me, even though my face was entirely encased in make-up. I said hi and chatted for a couple minutes before heading on to the Art Show room.

I was pleased to see that the CONvergence Art Show had grown to be quite the collection of work. Not only were the usual suspects represented (i.e., Nene Thomas, Ruth Thompson, John and Denise Garner, Mike Cole, etc.), but also a lot of artists that I had only previously seen represented at the World Horror Convention (including Alan Clark). Jen Hayden had sent some etched glass works, and I was pleased to see there were already bids on most of them. Sharon had submitted an impressive cloth wall hanging/sculpture of Kirk inspecting a Tribble. Vin Truitner had put up a series of very impressive paintings, done with an unusual Japanese method, which involves painting both the front and the back of the paper. Crist Ballas had sent an impressive array of his make-up casts, including a sculpt of Schwartzenegger’s Mr. Freeze make-up from Batman and Robin, and “Grandma”, a life-size, full-body dessicated corpse.

(Later in the weekend, Crist used Grandma to scare the hell out of the hotel cleaning crew. Apparently, he returned Grandma to his room after Art Show closed on Saturday. He put her in the chair, and mischievously did not leave a note. Sometime on Sunday, he returned to his room to find a maid, almost in tears, screaming “YOU BAD MAN!” at him.)

I didn’t make it all the way through the Art Show, since my time was limited and I kept running into people I knew. Mid-conversation, I noticed that I had only about two minutes to get to the Geek Mating Rituals panel. I dashed out of the Art Show, nabbed my bag, and headed upstairs.

Now, there had been much speculation before the convention on how this panel would go. I didn’t expect it to be a big draw, but Michael Lee and Matt Waterhouse, the co-heads of Programming, had scheduled us in one of the largest panel rooms. I walked in.

Oh. My. God.

The room was packed. As in, standing room only. My panel cohorts were right next to the door, waiting for me, so we could all walk up dramatically, at the same time.

Hot damn, we all looked sharp in our matching white shirts, ties, and skirts. (Yes, Jeremy donned a kilt just for this panel.) A few moments after I walked in, Ethel, Beth Scudder, Jeremy Stomberg, and I all marched up to the panel table. Applause welled up from the audience.

I was totally unprepared for an audience like this.

As the others got seated, I nabbed my prop stash from underneath one of the banquet tables. Ethel got things started as I set up the whiteboard and easel (which never got used) and got our props (a half-dozen puppets and stuffed animals) to a place where we could reach them.

The panel was a surprise smash hit. I spent most of it in a pleasant stunned silence, while drinking generously from my flask. I honestly didn’t have a whole lot to add to the panel, aside from my famed Drooling Fanboy stories (which I did tell with zeal). Thankfully, Ethel and Jeremy had a tremendous banter going, and the audience loved them. We got lots of geek dating stories (both positive and negative) from the audience. Jeremy used puppets to illustrate one of his tales. I got to talk, tongue-in-cheek, about the importance of hygiene (the irony of which didn’t strike me until later – a zombie lecturing about hygiene…). Ethel got to tell her famed, “But… you’re a girl” story. It was glorious.

(Sadly, nobody ever gave me a good straight line that I could use with my zombie make-up. I was praying for someone to ask us what we looked for in people we dated. My response, of course, would have simply been, “Braaaaaaaains…”)

The panel wrapped up right on time. After a round of applause, everyone dispersed. A smattering of audience members ran up front to chat with us, and a couple even wanted photos of us in our get-ups.

Joe and Erika, my beloved House of Toast buddies, were among the people who hung out after the panel. I got to catch up with them for a few minutes, which was very nice indeed.

I then noticed my flask was quite empty. I had drained the whole thing during the panel. I was, without doubt, heading towards a very relaxed evening.

So, I nabbed the props and hauled them back up to my hotel room. (Yes, I waited for the elevator this time.) I dropped everything off, refilled my flask, and headed back downstairs for some party-hopping.

Almost immediately after I got off the elevator, I ran into Nadim, who was hanging out by a stairway on the 2nd floor, chatting over his radio headset. Now, almost every time I have ever run into Nadim, he has been clad in his radio, since he’s one of those rabid 24/7 convention volunteers. Usually, he’s what CONvergence calls a “wandering host”, making him the eyes and ears of the convention. Wandering hosts are not quite security guards, but they are authorized to thwart illegal/potentially dangerous/problematic situations on the convention floor. They solve problems, answer questions, and keep communication up.

So, there was Nadim on the radio. I figured he was busy, but instead he pulled me aside to say hi and note that he wasn’t on duty until fifteen minutes from then. So, the two of us camped out there, leaning on the railing while talking and sharing my flask of scotch. As we hung out and chatted, various other folks wandered by to chat and say hi, including Tim. We spent about a half hour there, just watching the convention wander by in various stages of dress and inebriation. The parties on the floor below were just getting in full swing. People mobbed the main floor.

Eventually, Nadim did have to go answer a call, so I wandered downstairs to say hi to the House of Toast. I just barely got in there before they closed down for the night. While the kindly Toast minions fixed me a peanut butter and Tobasco sandwich, I was somehow recognized by Rachel, who once upon a time e-mailed me from Korea about the Cthulhu Coffee site.

Just as my peanut butter and Tobasco sandwich got finished, Christopher sneaked into the room and laid claim to a peanut butter and banana sandwich. Hurrah, we were both fed!

Food in hand, the tired Toast minions ushered us out of the room, so Christopher and I wound up hanging out on the veranda with the House of Toast sushi-man. The three of us spent a good fifteen minutes debating the merits of the Dawn of the Dead and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre remakes.

As the debate wound down, Paul, Heather James, and Emily Pullins wandered by. Emily looked smashing in her silver jacket and Beaker t-shirt. Paul mentioned that he’d had two naps already that day, and was just now happily wandering off to bed. (I swear, if that boy could be anything but human, he’d be a ferret. He happily spends a very large portion of his day napping.)

I found Christopher again, just a bit further down the hall. It was now fairly late, and the makeup was driving me nuts, so the two of us decided to head upstairs for a bit. Perhaps we would sleep, perhaps not, but the zombie makeup had to come off.

We walked over to the elevator banks and found a huge line of people waiting for a vertical ride. We were still waiting when Nadim wandered by and told us that one of the three elevators was broken. Apparently, someone on 8th floor had shoved the door off the track. Great.

Thankfully, though, the elevators eventually did come. Dozens of people crowded into the car, and we all were toted upstairs.

Once in the room, I spent a good 20 minutes scrubbing latex and toilet paper off my face. The plastic appliance came off easily enough, but I eventually had to hop in the shower to get the rest of the crud off.

Once I was washed up and clean, I realized I was far too tired to do anything else. No more partying for me that night.

As I crawled into bed next to the already-dozing Christopher, I remember that the only things I had eaten that day were cheese, crackers, toast, peanut butter, and scotch. Hallelujah for the convention diet…

07032004: The alarm rang at 8:30 AM. Yes, I seem to have actually had a normal night of sleep.

Christopher pulled himself to life first. Once showered and dressed, he headed downstairs for his 9:30 AM panel, “Drawing with Chris.” This annual panel is also known as the “Get Chris the Hell Out of Bed” panel. I’d never actually attended, since, usually, I’m dead on Saturday morning.

I didn’t follow him downstairs. Instead, I caught up on my notes, dumped the photos off my camera, and prepared my gear for the Iron Artist panel. After about twenty minutes, I had amassed a laundry basket full of paint, canvas, and other goodies. I was dressed in my best sloppy painting gear. I didn’t look very dapper, but I looked prepared.

I then popped a couple of hard boiled eggs onto the top of the heaped basket and lugged the whole lot to the elevator. I quickly noticed that a laundry basket full of acrylic paint is beastly heavy.

Eventually, the elevator dumped me on the second floor, where I ran into Peter. He nabbed some of the heavier bits of my load and helped me lug it all to Atrium 4. We stowed it all under a table, and then headed over to Christopher’s panel.

Thankfully, there was still a half hour left of the panel, so I got to sit down and eat eggs while Christopher talked to his audience of kids and parents. Some folks were doodling on their own, but most were just listening with rapt attention as Christopher talked about the comics industry and drew a picture of the convention’s mascot. I noticed comics artist Lou Frank doodling away in the far corner.

After the panel, I went up to Christopher to say hi and drag him off to Iron Artist. Before we headed out, though, Lou came up to the front to show Christopher the drawing he had been working on. His inking is wonderful; he should definitely be getting more work.

Christopher and I arrived a touch early for the Iron Artist Panel, which was good, as it gave me time to take over a separate table for my own paint-flinging self. The idea of this panel, now in its second year, was to put several artists in a room with a “secret ingredient”, and then have each artist produce a finished piece of work in the time allowed. Last year’s incarnation of the panel involved Play-Doh, insults, colorful commentary, and Secret Ingredient Katherine Kurtz. This year’s panel promised to be more of the same, and even included more artists for the audience’s entertainment. In the line up: myself (armed with acrylics instead of Play-Doh), Christopher (armed with poster paper and a Sharpie), Lou Frank (again, armed with paper and a pen), Amada Maquez (who was planning to do found art sculpture), and Monte Bowlsby (armed with his Macintosh PowerBook).

The one flaw in this iteration of the panel, for me, was that I wasn’t sitting with the other artists. Given that I was working with paint in a gonzo style, I wound up at a table of my own, off the stage. I was often not part of the wild banter happening between the other artists and Chairman Kage.

Chairman Kage, of course, being Perrin in a gaudy cape, frills, and sequins.

A few minutes before the panel got underway, John and Denise Garner came bounding into the room and sat right in front of my table. It made me a touch nervous at first – flinging paint in front of two professional painters – but we wound up talking shop through most of the panel, to the interest of lots of folks in the vicinity.

As the panel started, we all noticed that Amada wasn’t there yet. But the show must go on, so Perrin brought up the Secret Ingredient: Larry Niven.

Larry read a very short story about a conversation in an intergalactic bar. I think it baffled most of us artists – none of us were big Niven readers. It wasn’t a very visual story either, so no matter how many notes we took, we were all straining a bit for ideas. But the audience loved the reading, and applauded heartily. Niven headed off to do other things.

Roughly a minute later, Amada walked in, wearing dark sunglasses. Perrin quickly dubbed her Iron Artist Susie Sunshine. Monte and Cajones wound up with the unlucky job of trying to explain Niven’s story to Amada.

By this time, I was working away at my painting. I had brought three small canvases, just in case I wanted to do a tryptich, but I decided I could only figure out something to do with one of them. I threw some black Gesso on it, and then promptly began to smear paint into a somewhat Bacon-esque face. I hadn’t painted in a long while at this point, so it wasn’t the most natural piece I’d ever done.

Surprisingly, though, I finished early. While Perrin was doing some pretty entertaining bickering with Christopher, I suddenly found myself with nothing to do. So, I picked up the next canvas and started to do a finger-paint still life of Niven’s intergalactic bar. It literally took all of five minutes to complete, and was a lot more fun.

Well, there was still time left after that one, so I grabbed the third canvas. Before I could put anything on it, Perrin asked the audience what I should paint:

“What color?”


“What sort of shape!”


And so on. Somehow, I wound up with an obnoxiously garish painting that incorporated odd angles, the Cthulhu Coffee logo, and a drowning marmoset. (This piece was later titled “Cthulhu Saves a Drowning Marmoset” and sold at auction for more money than either of the two other paintings. Sometimes titles sell the work, apparently…)

At the end of the panel, I was treated to a viewing of a couple of the other works. Amada had created a fascinating found-art diorama of the story she never heard, and Christopher was, like me, on a roll: he had not only turned out an image of the bar, he had also drawn a large color-by-numbers poster of the convention’s mascot, Connie. Sadly, I never did get to see Monte’s work.

As I started to put away my paints, I realized that the next panel I was due to sit on was starting right then. I wound up shoving my art materials at Christopher, who took them up to the room, while I dashed for the bathroom for some clean-up. I had gotten an admirable amount of paint on my arms, on my face, and in my hair, and I figured I didn’t want to track that paint all around the hotel.

As I was scrubbing up in the hotel bathroom, Jennifer Mencken walked in. After we said our hellos, she immediately asked me what the Cinema Rex super-secret movie was. (The convention’s movie room had slated an honest-to-god premier showing of a film, but weren’t allowed to tell people what it was.)

“Is it Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow?” she asked in a hushed voice. “Gordon and I can’t be here during the movie, but I’d be so mad if we missed that…”

“Don’t worry, it’s Trekkies 2.” It’s nice to be in the know.

Once I was clean, I dashed out of the bathroom and over to Krushenko’s, where the Film Noir panel was already underway. On the way there, I ran into Christopher, who was still waiting at the elevator with my art materials.

This year, Krushenko’s (Eric Heideman’s micro-programming room, which has lived at various conventions since 1983) was inhabiting a rather large suite on first floor, and Eric had decorated it all in a Noir speakeasy theme. Candy cigarettes, a healthy bar, decks of cards… it was great. It was a perfect venue for the Noir panel.

By the time I got there, the panel was well underway. Eric, David Christensen, and Pam Keesey were all sitting at the front of the room with a dozen books and DVDs, talking to a small, rapt audience. As I sat down, Eric, ever the good host, promptly fetched a can of carbonated water for me.

I was pretty quiet for the first 20 minutes or so. I was still buzzing from the high-energy Iron Artist event, and I felt a bit extraneous among this panel of Noir experts. A lot of discussion happened on films I hadn’t seen, or hadn’t seen in years. Eventually, though, I got into it, and I got to plug a couple of my favorite obscure Noir films: Berlin Express and Kurosawa’s High and Low. The four of us eventually wound up on an interesting discussion of how Mildred Pierce and Sunset Boulevard are deconstructions of the genre.

After the panel, a photographer asked us for a photo op, so we gamely obliged. We mimed a heated discussion for him.

By now, it was 2 PM, and I was starving. As I didn’t want to eat alone, I went in search of a partner. I called Christopher on his cell phone. Busy. I ran into a couple other folks. Busy. Pretty much everyone else at the convention seemed to have already left for dinner.

Defeated, I went up to the hotel room, thinking of maybe grabbing a snack. Once I got there, though, I was promptly distracted by my Starship Smackdown project. I spent an hour sticking Velcro on the back of paper starships and pieces of foam core.

Now it was 3 PM, and I was still starving. I headed out of the room and to the elevator, where I ran into Dan. I asked if he’d go to dinner with me. Sadly, he was too broke.

I then wandered the party floors, hoping to run into another hungry soul. Thankfully, as I passed the R.O.G. Tea Room cabana, Eric McInroy nabbed me. It had been years, many many years, since I had gamed with R.O.G., but even before I asked, Eric invited me to the annual R.O.G. dinner. It was already underway at the TGI Friday’s restaurant in the parking lot.

I felt a little weird intruding on the group dinner. Like I said, I hadn’t gamed with them for years, and I hadn’t paid membership dues in a long time. I didn’t know most of the members anymore. However, once I walked into the restaurant (without Eric, who had stayed behind to take care of something) and saw the group of roughly 20 people (all decked out in their uniforms), I was immediately invited to join them.

I had a grand time catching up with Chris Hoyal and Amy McInroy over dinner, and eventually got to talk with Eric a bit when he finally showed up at the restaurant. There was a lot of talk about soccer and taxi driving.

As I was preparing to pay for my meal, Eric beat me to it. The R.O.G. funds picked up the dinner for all of us. Now I felt really bad, and insisted on paying for mine. Eric just said that I could make a donation to the R.O.G. coffers, which I happily did.

Stomach and conscience sated, I headed back to the hotel and killed some time at the Art Show. The Iron Artist works were all hanging up, minus Monte’s piece, so I finally got to examine them up close. I also realized that I hadn’t signed or titled my pieces, so I borrowed a Sharpie from the show crew and scribbled on the back of the canvases. It felt kind of strange to deface original artwork in the middle of the Art Show.

I then headed up to the hotel room. I put on a sparkly blue dress. I filled my flask full of scotch. I filled my arms with paper starships and headed downstairs.

The next panel I was sitting was the infamous Starship Smackdown, which was modeled after an annual Cinefantastique event at the San Diego Comic-Con. The original panel, run by three of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse (see the CONvergence 2002 report), involved a tournament-style debate, wherein sixteen starships were chosen to compete. When a starship was paired with another (say, the Borg Cube versus the Millennium Falcon), the panel would debate which one would win in a fight. The winner would move to the next round, and so on.

It is perhaps the world’s geekiest panel. We loved it, so we had to do our own version.

I was, basically, the keeper of the game board. Tim Wick was MC. Matt S., Lex Larson, Gordon Smuder and Christopher were our panelists. We had an armada of paper starships. We were ready.

Our audience was fairly sparse when we started the panel, but filled out nicely by the end. Once they got into the structure of the panel, they also became quite boisterous. People laughed quite loudly at some of the ship choices and the pairings. Two by two, I put starships on the board: the Lexx, the Millennium Falcon, the Borg Cube, C-57D from Forbidden Planet, the Discovery from 2001, Apollo 11 (which was chosen by vote for the Audience Participation slot), an Imperial Star Destroyer…

The debates were great, particularly after the panel got warmed up. The Discovery beat the Borg Cube after one of the panelists mentioned that HAL would take over the Borg systems. Apollo 11 actually got through a couple rounds.

And then the C-57D went up against the Discovery. The panel argued back and forth until Gordon Smuder illustrated what the battle would be like. It would be impossible to relate the image here with full power, but it involved a hotel pen, a candy dish, humming, and very little motion. I was just about in tears, I was laughing so hard.

Jennifer Mencken then stood up in the audience and noted that the C-57D was suspended by only one string, while the Discovery needed two.

“Ah! String theory!” Christopher declared, slaying the audience. Dr. Jim, who was sitting in the center of the room, was dying of laughter.

The four finalists were the Millennium Falcon, the Star Destroyer, the C-57D, and the Enterprise. Shockingly, the top two out of these four wound up being from the same film: the Falcon and the Star Destroyer. When the Star Destroyer beat the Falcon, the whole audience burst into singing the notes of the Imperial March.

After I pulled the paper ships down off the board, I offered them to members of the audience. About half of the ships went home as souvenirs, and the rest went in the trash.

I had yet another panel under my belt (number six out of eight). I dropped the rest of the panel supplies off in the Normandale Room, and then joined the Masquerade line with Christopher. After waiting a few minutes, we remembered that we were on the convention committee, and could get in early for our seats. Which is what we did.

The Masquerade this year was larger than in previous years, with roughly thirty entries. Most of them were excellent, too. There was a Borg who lit up. Amanda, Ethel, and Tanya became punked-out versions of Wizard of Oz characters (Dorothy, the Good Witch, and the Wicked Witch, respectively). Windy, Brandon, Monte, and _____ did a whole dance routine as (proportionally accurate!) Invader Zim characters. The Tron Guy was there, in his now-infamous Tron costume. Then there was the gent who was dressed up as a Wizard of Oz castle guard, and came out to lead the audience in a rousing chant: “OOOOH WEE OH, YOOOO OH!” And Amada showed up as convention mascot Connie. But perhaps the best was the crew from the Prancing Pony room party, who, dressed in impeccable Lord of the Rings outfits, acted out an altered version of Dr. Seuss’ Green Eggs and Ham. (“I will not eat them, Sam I am!”)

After everyone crossed the stage, there was a bit of a pause between the last costume and the half-time show. To fill the time, the stage crew put on some music, and suddenly everyone in the audience was ballroom dancing.

After this delightful, if surreal, intermission, the Soylent Theater show started.

Now, most of us who have seen the Soylent boys in action know how good they are at comedy. But by god… I think they were specifically trying to kill me that night.

The first skit posed the question: what if The Lord of the Rings films had been made in the 1940’s? We were treated to snippets of scenes starring Peter Lorre as Gollum, Humphrey Bogart as Bilbo, Errol Flynn as Legolas, Jimmy Stewart as Frodo, Laurel and Hardy as Merry and Pippin, Orson Welles as Gandalf, James Masan as Saruman, Edward G Robinson as Boromir, Gabby Hayes as Gimli, and Burt Lahr as Samwise Gamgee.

Ho-ly gods. I never thought I’d see Kelvin playing Gabby Hayes playing Gimli. My brain hurt.

And then they moved in for a killing blow, as the next sketch started: Antiques Road Show visits Arkham.

I couldn’t breathe. Peter, who was photographing the show one row ahead of me, actually turned around in his seat and snapped a photo of me dying from laughter.

Most of the sketch involved people walking up to Joe with boxes whose contents we never saw, and then Joe would go on an insane, rambling description of whatever was in the box. I don’t think I’ve ever heard the words “cyclopean”, “eldritch”, or “non-Euclidean” used in live theater before.

They then moved into a sketch named Glengary Davross, which reprised Kelvin’s talents for miming the Dalek lord with only a chair and a wiggling hand. Then there was a sketch about Bruce Banner’s Anger Management Clinic, which starred The Bride (Tim Uren in a blonde wig and yellow track suit), Darth Sidious (Joe in a hooded sweatshirt, which somehow worked), a rage-infected zombie, and a tribble. Then they ended on a supremely disturbing Harry Potter sketch, which ended with Tim kissing Perrin.

After the Soylent show, Kat Pepmiller came out with the Masquerade results. Not surprisingly, the Prancing Pony won top honors.

After handing out the awards, Kat announced to the audience that she was resigning as head of Masquerade. Hugs, flowers, and tears went around on stage.

Once the whole pageant was complete, the audience moved into the main hallway and became a massive and noisy crowd. Christopher was trying desperately to find Amada in her mascot suit, as he knew she’d want a photo op with the creator of the character, but we just couldn’t locate her in the throng of people. We decided to head up to the room for a few minutes, to give the crowd some time to disperse.

Once we were in the quiet sanity of our hotel room, we spent some time nuzzling each other and watching 4th of July fireworks out our panoramic windows. (Remember how I said that the room was awesome?) I also took a few minutes to dump the photos from my camera to my computer. The camera’s memory had become crammed to capacity, thanks to the Masquerade.

We then went back downstairs. During our travels, Christopher’s cell phone rang – it was Pat, telling us that Amada was desperately trying to find us. We tried calling Amada’s cell phone, her room, even Romeo’s cell phone. No dice. We searched the party floors and the halls for a purple-and-silver Amada. Every ten feet, we were stopped by someone who said, “Hey, Amada’s looking for you!”

We eventually did locate her outside one of the parties. Once united, she and Christopher spent the next ten to fifteen minutes in front of the main ballroom façade, posing for photos.

After the cameras were sated, Christopher and I hung around and chatted with whoever wandered by. Jody Wurl happened upon us, which was very lucky for us, as she looked Hot with a capital H. She had decked herself out in a very suiting red corset, a shiny black skirt, and a funky metal eye mask. Both Christopher and I spent time complimenting her.

Eventually, I headed off to explore the parties. I started with the southern side of the upper floor, and promptly got waylaid by Denise, Phil Shill, Alex Arcane, and several others. Denise was in full party-girl mode: slightly inebriated and primed for creative mischief. Under her direction, we, and several others, built a human “moving hallway”. Basically, we all lined up on either side of the hall and started swaying side to side in unison. This was an excellent way to get the drunks to stumble as they attempted to wander past us. Prime convention sport!

Once we got bored with that, we attempted the “moving stairway”. It didn’t work as well. We decided to disperse and drink more.

I was now on the first floor, south side. Within moments, I found Rick, Sharon, and Tom outside Oddcon’s Cow Asylum. I found no real explanation to why they were all wearing eyepatches. You’d think myopic vision would hinder healthy drinking, but they’d apparently found some way past that.

Outside the Rake’Hell party, I found Sean Novak and Patrick. I had a fine time chatting with them for a few minutes, until Christopher wandered past. I snagged his coattails and wandered off with him.

We soon found ourselves on the east side of the floor, where Krushenko’s dominated half the side of the tower. I swear that Eric Heideman is one of the best hosts ever, since every time I’ve ever walked into the room party – even when I’ve helped him run it at other conventions – he always fetches me something to eat or drink. This time, I was treated to a Lablatt’s Blue.

Christopher and I spent the next hour or so in Krushenko’s, chatting with Eric, Mike Waltz, and Charles Pehl, who are all folks I don’t see often enough. Charles had just finished the art auction, so we got to hear a couple good battle stories from him.

As we stood there, several people walked up to me and said, “Hey! You’re in Trekkies 2!”

That’s right, folks. Cinema Rex had just finished showing the premier of Trekkies 2. Apparently, the film crew had used the interview footage that they took of me during CONvergence 2003. I hear that I’m in the film for all of a second or so, but that didn’t prevent everyone and their mother telling me all weekend that I was in the movie. (Sadly, even as of the time I write this – November, 2004 – I haven’t yet seen the film.)

After Krushenko’s, Christopher and I wandered roughly 20 feet to Vice City, where we sat out front for another hour. I chatted with Alice Marks, Andy, and Q for a while about the virtues of Scotch. After that, I managed to move about five feet down the hall before running into an old high school buddy (Brad), House of Toast’s Duct Tape Girl (Amy), Wendy Bock, and Joe Lyon. Vice City was absolutely alive with people. Ethel runs a fantastic party.

Eventually, we moved another five feet down the hall, and found ourselves in front of House of Toast. Which was, sadly, closed. We went from there to the Omegacon room, where they were playing the Opening Ceremony video.

I stepped back out, leaving Christopher in the room, as he was wondering how the video DVDs turned out. I soon found Joe and Erika again. They were seeking a place to smoke. As this was an excellent time to nip of and smoke a cigar (I allow myself one a year), I ran up to the hotel room and nabbed the one tobacco vector that I had brought along for just this sort of occasion.

I found Joe and Erika in the hotel bar, sitting with the House of Toast Sushi God and a woman I had seen in the Masquerade, dressed in a phenomenal peacock gown. We all smoked like chimneys and chatted up a storm. I got some excellent costuming tips from the peacock woman.

Sometime around 3:30 AM, Christopher found me and my haze of cigar smoke. I suddenly realized that my energy was fading fast, so I happily accepted his offer to follow him back to the room. I said goodnight to everyone.

I showered to get the stench of smoke off me, and then slept like the dead.

07042004: I actually slept for six hours, which must be a record for me at a convention.

I spent the first hour of lucidity writing. Christopher finally woke up at 10:30 AM or so. We showered and joined the land of the living.

The first order of business was to feed ourselves. We decided to get the hell away from the hotel for a while and hit the Perkins over on France Avenue. However, when we got there, we discovered the place had been invaded by a horde of seniors. There was a 45 minute wait for seating. No thanks.

We then went back to the hotel and walked across the parking lot to the Dairy Queen Grill & Chill. Thus, we did receive sustenance, albeit fast food sustenance.

We returned to the convention just after noon, just in tame to make it to our 12:30 panel: Geek Bingo Comics! Christopher and Mike Lee had hatched the idea for this panel many moons ago, and this was to be its first actual run. See, they realized that if they got together with, say, Kelvin Hatle, Tim Uren, and Tom Hogan on a panel and just talked, certain things would naturally come up in conversation. We made a list of these topics and put them on bingo cards. The audience would then be able to play bingo while the panelists just rambled on about comics. Of course, the audience could attempt to steer the panel towards their needed topic, and the panel could deliberately tease the audience… the possibilities for entertainment were endless!

So, the five comic geeks took their places at the panel table, and I manned the side table, where I handed out bingo cards, pencils, and eventually prizes. The room was sparsely populated at the beginning of the panel, but slowly filled in as time went on.

It went very well, in fact. Our first winner was a roughly 10-year-old kid in the first row, who I had seen wearing gold Pants of Power in the Masquerade the night before. He managed to steer the panel with the innocent sounding question, “What are your favorite superhero movies?”

Kelvin stepped into the trap. “Well, I haven’t seen Spider-Man 2
yet, but…”

“BINGO!” the kid cried. “Thank you, Kelvin!”

In fact, the kid won twice, because I gave him a new bingo card after his first win. A few other people around the room also gained prizes, which wound up being Hellboy stickers and signed copies of Dr. Blink: Superhero Shrink. It wound up being a fun panel, too.

After the event was over, Linda walked up out of the audience and gifted me with a bottle of Chambord. Aw!

I then walked over to Krushenko’s with Meg (who I knew from the World Horror Convention in Chicago) and Paul Conrad (who I hadn’t seen in a year). The three of us were all very interested in the next Krushenko’s panel, which happened to be about Killer Bees.

The panel was just starting when we walked into the room. The panelists were Emily Pullins, Pam Keesey, and David Christensen. I also managed to turn into an impromptu panelist from the audience when it was discovered that part of my biology degree involved the study social insects. There was some great discussion of both killer bees as reality, and killer bees in bad horror films. David had even brought along video clips from some of the more horrendous killer bee movies, which were loads of fun.

After the panel, I told Eric H. that I would be happy to sit on the Giant Ants panel, which he was planning for CONvergence 2005.

I then zipped up to my hotel room for my notes, and then literally ran to my next panel: the yearly Lovecraft Was Right! feature, which I do with Guy Bock. Our tale of the year was the appropriately noir “Horror at Red Hook”.

We had a good audience, and actually frothed up a good banter with them. Even though we had a full hour to talk about this story, we ran a half-hour over, talking about kidnappings, the Leopold/Loeb murders, the Chaldee and Yedzi religions, the history of New York city, and Lovecraft’s life. It even turned out that Guy had a copy of the 9th Edition Encyclopedia Britainnica, which is the same edition that Lovecraft had laying around at home… the same edition he cribbed from rather liberally.

It wound up going great. However, every minute that we went over time, I got a bit more anxious, because I REALLY needed to pee. I must have drank an entire pitcher of water during the first half of the panel, and it came back with a vengeance. So, right when we wrapped up at 4:30 PM, I bolted the hell out of there. I ran down the stairs and into the public restrooms. I peed with great resolve.

I then headed over to the main ballroom, where the Closing Ceremony was due at five. Thankfully, I got there early, as the place wound up being packed, as always.

Closing Ceremony opened, as it always does, with the board of directors doing their second sketch of the weekend. This time, five of the seven board members were dressed up as characters from Clue (including Christopher as Colonel Mustard, which explains the yellow pants I modified on Friday), plus Tim Wick was dressed as Commissioner Gordon. And then skinny little Jeremy walked in wearing a full-on Batman costume, and subsequently slew the audience. In fact, the cast slew each other, too, but in a different way. The whole sketch was quite well done.

Closing Ceremony then progressed with announcements, awards, goodbyes, and other Closing Ceremony things. The MISFITS folks took the stage for their own sketch, a rather clever (though oddly paced) piece about a superhero placement office. Kate Carey was great as the beleaguered placement officer, who kept adding more liquor to her soda.

The guest of honor speeches were great, and completely rife with mischief. Christ Ballas actually disguised his guest liaison as himself and sent him up to deliver part of his closing speech. And then there was David Gerrold, who managed to spread lascivious rumors by announcing (in jest) that his guest liaisons (the enviably cute Barb and Jody) tied him down and whipped him for most of the weekend.

Even that, though, did not surprise and titillate the audience as much as the announcement of the attendance numbers. Since CONvergence’s birth in 1999, the attendance numbers have crept up by roughly 100 people a year. Last year, the hotel hosted about 1,900 people. This year, they were just hoping to break 2,000. And that they did… they had more than 2,100 attendees in 2004. Wow!

But despite the merriment, the Closing Ceremony eventually ended, meaning that the convention was officially over.

Very sad.

After everyone cleared out of the ballroom, Christopher and I hung out in the lobby. We chatted with Meg for a bit. We called people on their cell phones and hatched dinner plans (Olive Garden wound up being the plan of choice). I chatted with Linda a bit. As she was trapped at the Volunteers desk for the dinner hour, I offered to bring her a meal from the restaurant.

Christopher, Meg and I eventually wandered down to the lobby area between the two towers of the hotel, where we wound up chatting with the likes of Perrin, David Gerrold and Christian Colquhoun. We waited there and gathered dinner partners for about half an hour, and then managed a mass exodus from the hotel. I wound up driving Christopher and Meg to the restaurant, which gave us more time to chat.

Our group commandeered a huge, long table that commandeered an entire room of the restaurant. I wound up sitting smack dab in the middle of the table, between two conversation factions. I had Vin Truitner, Peter Verrant, and Jeremy sitting on one side of me, and Meg, Jody, and Christian Colquohoun on the other. As we had a very noisy and talkative group, I could hear neither conversation very well. Since I knew that Vin was talking about his work on Spiderman 2, and Christian was similarly embroiled in behind-the-scenes talk, I was very sad about this.

I did manage to hear about Christian’s work on designing the weapons for Van Helsing, particularly the gun and the crossbow, which were butchered once the items got sent in to the production team. Gaaah. Another reason that the film sucks.

I managed to eat some pasta, but not much, as my stomach turned on me during dinner. It wasn’t ready for real food yet. I did at least score a meal for Linda, and managed to exit the restaurant quickly after the check came.

We returned to the hotel post haste. I quickly delivered the meal to Linda (who hugged me lots), and then headed off to the hotel room for a nap. I slept for two hours, got up at 11 PM, and then headed off to the Dead Dog Party in Cinema Rex.

I spent most of the Dead Dog Party camping out with Christopher, Tim Uren and Jen Scott, watching trailers and short films ad nauseum. That night, the Rex team showed us a wide range of goodies, including:

  • A Short Film About John Bolton (written and directed by Neil Gaiman)
  • The Opening Ceremony video
  • The Bar Crawl video (which documented the 9th Annual Bar Crawl and Moveable Feast, a formidable yet vastly entertaining event run by Tim Uren and Pat Harrigan in the sweet Minnesota springtime)
  • More movie trailers than you can shake a stick at
  • Old cigarette ads that featured the Flintstones (!)

During our many hours in the room, I managed to chat with (and receive a CD from) Scott Keever. I also wound up talking with Vin for a while at the back of the room.

The Rex boys finally cleared out the movie room sometime around 2 AM. Christopher, Christian, Vin, Jody and I all wound up chattering for a bit in the very quiet lobby. During our social time, we discovered that one of the taped body outlines on the tiles of the lobby (part of the film noir décor) had left permanent marks after the tape had been pulled up. Christopher and I worried about this for a bit. I was pretty sure that the hotel wouldn’t want a permanent body outline on the floor. Thankfully, after some deliberation, we figured out that it would disappear the next time the hotel waxed their floors. The tape had merely removed the thick layer of wax on top of the tile.

Christian and Vin eventually went to bed, so Christoper and I joined other CONvergence staff behind the closed doors of Cinema Rex. This was the great decompression time in which we all banded together to read the comment box suggestions out loud. As always, this was highly entertaining, since there are always as many good comments as there are utterly left-field ones.

After that, there was much decompression about the glitch-ridden Rex masquerade entry. Sadly, it sounds like the Rex boys had wanted to do their Amok Time entry for many years before they finally found a way to do it. Now, after everything went wrong with their ambitious project, they can’t go back and do it again. Heartbreaking.

We all chatted and relaxed until around 5 AM, which is when Christopher and I threw in the towel and went to bed.

070504: I’ll be brief about Monday, as it mostly involved packing, unpacking, decompression, and food. I slept until 1 PM on Monday. My stomach was in horrible shape, but improved after we moved crap out of the hotel and lunched at Khan’s Mongolian BBQ with the board members and Amanda. Christopher and I spent the afternoon either shuttling stuff between the hotel and our home, or unpacking the pre-registration box for Kate and Pat.

Later in the evening, we wound up in Tim and Pat’s hotel room, along with the board, Tony Karna, Kurt, Jenni Klumpp, Windy’s nephew Brandon, and Eve. We ordered pizza, told stories about the weekend, and watched the Opening Ceremony video. Pat spent most of this time adding up registration numbers and money intake for the weekend.

Sometime around midnight, Pat came to the conclusion that we had about 800 pre-registrations for next year’s convention. Holy cats! By the rule of three, that means the convention will total about 2,400 attendees next year. I say again, holy cats!

Christopher and I headed home about a half hour after that stupendous revelation, as we were shot for the night, and so were our friends. So, really, our convention lasted until Tuesday.

And it’s going to be bigger next year?!?

Bring it on.

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