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Pat, Chris, and MelissaPrevious Convention | Next Convention

There are certain concepts in life that people generally should understand without any explanation. For instance, don't eat leftovers if they have turned green and fuzzy in your refrigerator. Don't lick flagpoles in the wintertime. Smile when the flowers bloom, but scream and run when they attack.

Pretty simple, right? How about these two:

Don't schedule a sci-fi convention during the opening week of Spider-Man.

If the hotel is not friendly to your convention, get the hell out of there.

I have heard for a long while that Demicon can be a lot of fun, so I was looking forward to Demicon the 13th. The Iowa sci-fi crowd is a very fun group of people, as I learned at ICON last year, and it seemed they really knew how to put on a convention. I had never attended Demicon before, so I thought, "Hey, it’s the same crowd. It should be good!"

Well… I’ll put it to you this way. Demicon itself, as a convention, was incredibly underwhelming. The programming was painfully uninteresting, the hotel was beautiful but deadly to parties, and I felt that I pretty much wasted the money I spent to get a membership, even at the $25 pre-registration rate. For a convention that was striving for a horror/H.P. Lovecraft theme for the year, it was awfully boring.

Fortunately for Demicon, it does still have a couple strong points. The art show is very, very good, and the crowd of attendees are exceptionally friendly and fun. Despite the convention’s lack of originality and the hotel’s best efforts to slaughter all the parties, I had a great time. Will I attend next year? If they change to a different hotel, then yes, I’d like to give Demicon one more chance. If next year’s hotel is announced to be the University Park Holiday Inn, I wouldn’t be caught dead there; I would much rather just spend a weekend in Minneapolis with my friends and skip the four-hour drive to Des Moines.

I attended not only as a representative as Cthulhu Coffee, but I also managed to become an unofficial representative for both CONvergence and Omegacon as well. How? Well, I volunteered to share the cost of the Omegacon party room with Tim Wick, just as long as I had a place to crash there. That, and I seem to have recently befriended most of the concom of both CONvergence and Omegacon (they are pretty much the same group of people), so I now tend to be just sucked into things like that. I was lucky that many of the CONvergence/Omegacon concom was there; if it weren’t for them, the weekend would not have been nearly as much fun.

Demicon the 13th was held from May 3rd through May 5th, 2002, in the University Park Holiday Inn of Des Moines, IA. Note that the dates are the same dates that Spider-Man opened in the United States. While I can’t really fault them for unknowingly scheduling a convention during the same weekend that Spider-Man raked in a record-breaking $114 million, I think it did hurt the attendance. Many, many folks left the hotel to see Spider-Man at least once that weekend, especially since it was a helluva lot more interesting than the programming at the convention.

So, now that I’ve laid down the groundwork for this tale of debauchery in Des Moines, I’ll continue on to my usual disclaimer. I realize that many people are scanning these pages looking for in-depth coverage of the activities of the Guests of Honor, the events at the hotel, or other specifics about the convention. Be aware that these pages contain only my personal views of my convention experience, and as a person who missed every single panel and at Demicon, I will be saying very little about most of the events and Guests of Honor (except for Alan Clark, who will be wandering in and out of the ensuing tale). Instead, you will hear about The Hotel of Infinite Control Issues, the alien paratrooper deployment, lavender mead, and various Spider-Man induced craziness. I had fun living these events, so I hope you enjoy reading them as well.

That said, here’s my (Melissa’s) tale of web-slinging goodness at Demicon the 13th.

05032002 You know, I always have these delusions about leaving work early enough to get to any said convention within a decent amount of time. One of these days, I’ll learn to just take a half day off instead of trying to just weasel myself out of work an hour early.

I actually didn’t do too bad this time – I managed to duck surreptitiously out of the building around 4:00 PM – but I had several errands to run before leaving embarking on the 250-mile drive to Des Moines. In fact, I still had to pack for the trip.

I went home, set the World Horror Convention 2002 report up to upload, and began packing while the computer worked. I was straining my brain for what I needed. Tim Wick and I had been talking the entire previous week about what was necessary for the Omegacon party room, and I had forgotten my list of stuff to bring. I grabbed my refrigerator/cooler, a couple changes of clothes, toiletries, whatever useful snacks I had lying around, a jacket, and a crock pot -- just in case (it never emerged from the trunk of my car during the weekend). I then started to panic a bit. The theme for the Omegacon room was supposed to be Iron Chef, which meant that I not only had to bring a topping for the "secret ingredient" (rice), but I also had to come up with an Iron Chef outfit. I had originally thought of being the Iron Chef Swedish (you know, the Muppets… bork, bork, bork and all that), but my partner-in-crime Ted had only come up with a moustache and a rubber chicken for the outfit on short notice, and I had nothing that would pass for a white chef’s coat. A moustache and a rubber chicken do not make the Iron Chef Swedish. After some light panicking, and a call to Ragstock to see if they had any lab coats or chef’s gear (they didn’t), I decided to just pack what I had and hope for the best in Iowa. At least Lauren was nice enough to offer to pick up chef’s hats for everyone and bring them to the convention; at least the most important ingredient of a chef’s costume would be present once I arrived in Des Moines.

I wondered if I would be able to wander around in my usual fetching glossy outfits on Saturday night if I were stuck in a chef outfit. I then wondered if I could even fit into much of my stuff – I had the ugly awakening at WHC a few weeks before that the ten pounds that I had packed on in the last six months had rendered both my velour dress and my vinyl pants unwearable. I had one more dress I could possibly bring, the same vinyl dress I wore at MadCon when I had my photo taken with Jerry Doyle. I tried it on. I decided I really didn’t look good and put it back in the closet. After fretting a bit, I took it back out and threw it in my luggage, along with a pair of thigh-high neoprene rubber boots. What the hell… it wouldn’t hurt to bring it along, even if I didn’t get to wear it.

I left town around 5:00 PM, which was much less than ideal. The drive into Iowa is dastardly boring, and it’s worse in the dark. Plus, the deer along that stretch of road are frequent and deadly. I decided to speed as much as possible while the sun was still up.

The drive went smoothly, despite a very ugly patch of traffic south of Faribault. Once in Des Moines, I found the hotel easily and pulled into the parking lot at about 9:30 PM. It was a beautiful evening, so I ditched my coat before I grabbed a couple things from the back seat of the car. Then I walked in.

HotelI was immediately struck by how pretty the hotel was. It was ten floors tall, all open air, meaning that ten stories of balconies rose over the horticulturally-blessed lobby, capped at the top by a skylight. A waterfall cascaded off the top floors at one end of the lobby, lending both ambiance and noise-deadening qualities to the area. I immediately thought of my adventures at Supercon, and suddenly found myself wishing that I had brought inflatable aliens to cast off the tenth floor.

I knew that Tim had already checked into the room, and had left a room key at the desk for me. I walked up to the desk and plunked my cooler on the floor.

Before I could even ask, Tim materialized at the front desk at my right. I turned around to say hi, and I saw his wife standing behind me, ready to grab my butt.

"Tim!" Pat cried. "You weren’t supposed to say hi until I grabbed her ass!"

I laughed. Yup, I’m at a convention all right.

"You can grope me later," I assured her. "Catch me by surprise."

I claimed the key from the desk clerk while Tim and Pat demanded an air filter for the room. Apparently, the hotel had placed all of the party rooms on 2nd floor, which was consisted entirely of smoking rooms, and Pat was allergic to smoke. Thus, not only would it be difficult for her to be at her own party at the convention without an air filter in the room, she would not be able to sleep in there at all. Strike number one against the hotel, and I hadn’t even been there five minutes yet.

Pat quickly gave me the lowdown about the layout of the hotel. Two glass elevators flanked the waterfall, but she said they were painfully slow. It would be best to actually carry my stuff up via the stairs, which were hidden in a back corner past the registration desk. The room was only on the second floor, and I hadn’t brought anything heavy.

On my way up the stairs and onto the second floor balcony, I walked past Bryan and Clay (I had met both last year at ICON) and gave them a quick hello in passing. A little further down the balcony, I ran into Ryan Alexander as well. This was going to be a fun crowd.

When I finally got the first load of stuff into the room, I saw that the Omegacon party was in full swing and pretty well attended. Tim had set a TV high up on top of a cabinet, and on it, taped episodes of the Japanese version of Iron Chef played to a room full of people. A table was spread with Japanese snacks of all shapes and defiance of definition. The room was well-populated with people I knew. In addition to Tim and Pat, I saw Chris Jones sitting on the edge of one of the beds, and Lauren was chatting with a couple people. Various other people I recognized were wandering about the room. I waved hello, then quickly ducked out again before I got pulled into anything.

As I walked back out to the car for the rest of my stuff, I surveyed the lobby area. Other than a cluster of people on the balcony around consuite (which was also on second floor, on the opposite side as our party) and the Omegacon room, there was nothing at all really happing. A few people were milling about on the main floor, but that was it. Though I was surprised that Omegacon was apparently the only (or one of very few) parties operating on Friday night, I wasn’t terribly shocked – I imagine that a good portion of the attendees were out at the movies, watching Tobey Maguire run around in red-and-blue tights.

Once on first floor, I walked past the registration desk and paused at the posted programming schedule. Maybe it’s because I just returned from the stellar World Horror Convention just a few weeks previous, but the programming was completely uninteresting. Nothing jumped out at me. Even the artist panels with Alan Clark, John Garner, and Denise Garner looked uninteresting, since they were just listed as panels, without any idea what the panels were going to be about. The art show walk-through with Alan may have been interesting, but it was already over. Bummer.

I continued back out to my car, where I grabbed everything else I thought I might need. I hauled it up to the room, ducked out of the party again, and went back down to registration. I told the guy my name, and he dug my badge out of a box. Then he ignored me. I looked around the table for some sort of program or information, or even a clip for the badge, but there was nothing. I finally grabbed another person behind the desk and managed to extract a registration pack, along with a badge clip.

Finally, I was checked in and registered. It was time to be social.

There is something to be said about being the only party at a convention on any given night. If you park yourself long enough, eventually the whole convention just comes to you. I walked back up to my room, where a few more people had packed in since I had first walked in. I said hello to everyone I knew and parked myself on the bed next to Chris. I didn’t move more than ten feet from that spot for the rest of the night.

As soon as I sat down, a guy named Mike (I think), who was sitting on the other bed, thrust a letter into my hands. Confused, I stared at it without much comprehension. It was an acceptance letter of some sort. He must have just had some writing accepted for publication. I managed a bland congratulation for him; he was obviously thrilled about the acceptance letter, but I was bit put off that he felt the need to bring the letter with him and show it to everyone he encountered. What was wrong with just saying, hey, my book is being published?

I handed the letter back to him, but only after I harbored some mischievous thoughts of kidnapping it and sending him ransom notes for the rest of the weekend. After that, I slowly recognized him from ICON last year: when I had fainted dead away during the body painting session, he was the guy who actually knew enough to shine a flashlight in my eyes and check my pupils. Okay, so he’s not the most tactful person on the planet, but I personally couldn’t complain much.

Around that time, Bryan walked in and sat on the end of the bed. I asked him what he’d been up to since ICON, and he began talking a bit about his photography, then went into the fact that he was teaching himself electromagnetics and building a coil gun (!).

Chris, Bryan and I chatted for a while after that, idly watching an episode of Iron Chef as the conversation wandered to the subject of Spider-Man. On the television, Iron Chef French was rolling boiled peaches in crushed pepper. Out of the corner of my eye, I watched a couple of other guys, including Mike, show off various homemade knives to each other. Uh oh… the air reeked of the obligatory my-big-knife-is-bigger-than-yours conversation, even though I wasn’t listening to it.

Yup, sure enough, Mike handed me one of the knives that he had made. It wasn’t pretty by any means, but it was solid and had a full tang. I nodded a vague approval and turned back to Chris. I wasn’t about to get into the obligatory knife conversation with these guys. I was talking with my friend, Justice League artist Chris Jones, about Spider-Man. Piss off.

I thought maybe I was just being crabby from the long drive to Des Moines, until Tim walked over to our side of the room. He leaned over the bed towards the three of us.

"You know, I feel a little inadequate," he said under his breath while watching the boys show off their knives. "All I have is a really big dick."

We all roared with laughter.

Denise GarnerA few minutes later, Denise Garner wandered into the room, sporting the striking Cthulhu headdress that I had seen at MarsCon a few months before. I was very glad to see her – I love spending time with her and John. Since I had never gotten a photo of her wearing Cthulhu, I asked her if I could snap a picture. She gamely slithered up against the wall and posed.

She only stayed around the party for a couple of minutes. Apparently, she and John were throwing their usual party, but the Karaoke machine broke, and they felt a little lost. She grabbed some snacks and a friend and wandered off.

I parked myself back on the bed. It wasn’t long before Felix Needleworthy walked into the room and started to say hello to everyone. I immediately leapt up to give him a hug.

He grabbed me and said, "Will you marry me?"

I snorted and said, "Yeah, sure."

We then toppled over on the bed, where Felix made a few lewd movements and I laughed. He vanished from the room very soon after that, a bit embarrassed by what he’d just done.

Around this time, one of the folks from the Demicon staff walked in, decked out with a headset and a short-range radio. "Who's the host of this party?" she queried.

Tim got up and began talking to her.

"The hotel is going to want you to close your room in a few minutes, when they turn off the waterfall. You can keep the party going, but you can't have the door open. Here..." she handed Tim a long, red banner with a clear plastic pocket on the front, "...you can hang this over the door so people know there's a party going on."

Wow. I've never heard of a hotel actually coming around and trying to shut down parties before, and it was only about 11:30 PM. I understand that with the open-air structure of the hotel, any noise made on the second floor easily travels to the tenth floor, but still, that's the nature of a sci-fi convention, and that's what we pay the hotel money for -- to have a space to convene, 24 hours per day. Kudos to the Demicon staff for finding a way to work around the curfew.

Soon after that, after I was back into a conversation with Chris and Bryan, I saw Guest of Honor Alan Clark walk in. I had just met him at the WHC earlier that month, so I got up and said hi to him. For those of you who haven’t read the WHC 2002 report, I had purchased a copy of his lavishly illustrated Pain Doctors of Self Suture General at the WHC dealers' room, but the copy had a huge scrape on the dust cover, and Alan promised to replace it. After the convention, I sent him a note with my address, but also let him know that I was going to be at Demicon.

I was flattered that he recognized me. "Hi, Melissa! I have that book cover for you! It’s up in my room."

I told him not to worry about it at the moment; we were sure to run into each other at some point during the weekend. We exchanged a few pleasantries, and then he wandered on; he was following a friend around the convention.

I then ran into a red-haired woman who I recognized, but who I had never been introduced to before. We introduced ourselves to each other – her name is Kerry – and we chatted for a bit. She is often spotted around the CONvergence crowd, despite the fact that she lives in Chicago. It turned out that we had many mutual friends and had run into each other online before. Small world!

Eventually, the party began to die down a little bit, and Pat, Chris, Tim, Byran and I wound up sitting around each other and talking. Tim began talking about Harry Knowles, who is actually rather fond of the CONvergence concom (the concom has attended Harry’s Butt-Numb-A-Thon two years in a row now), which lead to…

"Have you ever played Movie Gods?" Tim asked me.

I shook my head.

Chris said something about evil.

"Harry taught us this game. You are a Movie God," Tim explained. "As a god, you realize that some things must live, and some things must die. Unfortunately, being a god comes with a lot of hard decisions. So, as a Movie God, you are given two movies, and you must choose which one never gets made. For example," he turned to Pat, "Shindler’s List, or Saving Private Ryan."

I gawked as Pat thought about which movie to kill. There are few things more agonizing to watch than a film buff deciding to kill a movie that they love.

"Aliens or Terminator 2?"

And so on. It was a rather masochistic exercise for a bunch of movie geeks such as ourselves. Which dies, Pi or Requiem for a Dream? Blazing Saddles or The Producers?

In the midst of this, Mike piped in from behind me. "Star Trek 5 or Highlander 2?" Apparently, he didn’t catch that Movie Gods was a practice in torturing movie geeks, not in giving them a reason to cheer.

Conversation eventually moved along. Mike pulled out a bottle of homemade mead, which he offered to several people in the room. I had a sample – good stuff, actually. Another woman wandered into the room, sporting lavender mead, which I also sampled. It was actually effervescent, which I thought rather unusual. It had almost a champagne taste to it.

Eventually, the party wound down enough that it turned into a bunch of very tired people just watching episode after episode of Iron Chef. We dazedly watched the Girl’s Festival challenge, then failed to eject the tape before the next episode, so we watched that as well. Tim mentioned that the squid episode was somewhere on the tape, and I think that we were all hoping to catch it before we turned off the VCR.

Finally, Tim shut the door of the room around 2:00 AM, just after Mike left. After that, it was just Tim, Chris, and me in the room, and the three of us sat around the snack table, idly eating wasabi peas.

The subject of Spider-Man came up again. All of the others had already seen Spider-Man, and we all had plans to go see it on Saturday, so Tim reminded Chris not to spoil it for me.

"Oh, so we shouldn’t tell her that Uncle Ben is the guy on the boxes of wild rice?" Chris piped up.

"Yeah, I didn’t see that one coming," Tim returned. "And I had no idea that Aunt Mae was a hooker."

Around 2:30 AM, Tim and I each took a bed, Chris took to the floor, and that was all for Friday night.

Lex, Kerry, and Lauren05042002 I woke up suddenly to beams of sunlight coming into the room. I looked at the clock. 6:00 AM. I swear, having completely random sleep cycle sucks sometimes. I tried to nap a little longer, since I didn’t want to wake up my roommates.

Around 9:00 AM, I declared defeat in the battle of sleeping in, and I hobbled into the shower as quietly as I could. Chris and Tim were both awake by the time I got out of the bathroom.

We hung out in the room and talked idly for the next hour and a half. Tim showered, we cleaned up the room a little bit, and I did some obligatory note-taking about Friday night.

When Chris decided to hit the shower, Tim and I left the room and walked to consuite. Demicon’s consuite was quite good: the tables inside were well-stocked with bagels and Krispy Kreme donuts (I swear I’m being stalked by Krispy Kremes – see the WHC report), and the bar (currently closed) was stocked with about a fifty bottles of various boozes.

"One thing about Iowa conventions," Tim observed, "is that they have the best bars."

We each grabbed a bagel, then walked out of the room to hang out on the balcony, where we debated the virtues and curses of Kubrick’s 2001. One of the Minneapolis art houses was showing the film that particular week, and Tim had gone to see it before departing for Des Moines. According to him, there has never been a film more transformed by being on the big screen. Previously, he had only seen the film on a television, and was able to appreciate it for what it was, but didn’t particularly enjoy it. Now that he had seen it in its full 65 mm glory, he considered the film not only remarkable, but one of the best films ever made. [5/8/02: I went to see the movie the following Tuesday at the same theater, and I completely concur. If you ever, ever have the chance to see 2001 on the big screen, go see it. I don’t care what you think of the ending. Just go see the damn thing, will you?]

Our conversation wandered from there, and we were working our way through an analysis of whether we were excited for the upcoming Episode II or not when Brian-from-Supercon (not Bryan-from-ICON) walked up behind me and said hi. I chatted with him for a bit before Tim and I decided to take a look at the art show and went downstairs.

We got as far as the water fountain by the dealers’ room, where we ran into Chris and began talking. Eventually, our group of three grew to a moderate crowd when we were joined by Matt, Ishmael, Kerry, Lex… people just wandered in and out of the conversation as they walked past and paused to say hello. Tim and Chris got to talking about last year’s Butt-Numb-A-Thon, talking about how Harry pulled string after string in order to show The Film That They Really Didn’t See at the BNAT (they got to see one of the major blockbusters of the winter weeks before it was officially released, but they can’t really talk about it).

A cohesive group was beginning to gather. Many of us had agreed to go out to see Spider-Man together at a 1:45 PM show that day, so we had planned to meet at about 12:30 PM in the lobby. I looked at my watch and realized it was almost noon, and I still wanted to take a peek at the art show before we left. I excused myself and finished my walk to the art room.

Whenever I had heard about Demicon in the past, I had always heard about its fantastic art show, so the quality of the art room came as little surprise to me. For a convention of about 500 people, the collection of art was quite large, and of exceptional quality. Alan Clark had brought along his originals again (which I had seen earlier that month at WHC), and John and Denise Garner each had quite a spread of prints available. Erin McKee had brought along her wonderful original of Cave Art. I saw a couple of Lubov prints I had never seen before, Ruth Thompson had contributed several images to the show, and I just about jumped for joy when I saw that Mike Cole had a slew of items on display – I was glad to see that he might be at the convention.

As I wandered, I ran into Alan again. A gentleman had just handed him a stack of books to sign, which is when I remembered that the other Guest of Honor was F. Paul Wilson.

"Damn!" I said, "I should have brought my copy of The Pain Doctors along to have Wilson sign it!" Of course, he had already signed it in the back before I obtained the book, but I like getting the autographs myself.

"Well, you can have him sign the cover," Alan said. "It’s still in my room, though."

"That’s alright. You can just bring it to the Omegacon party room tonight when you have time. Even if I’m not there, you can just drop it off."

"Are you in school? Oh, that’s right. You work a lot, don’t you?"

"Yeah, but I’m still trying to get out of the need for the night jobs. I really need to start doing something else." Like painting or drawing. I’m dying to get back into my artwork.

We continued to talk for the next 20 minutes. When I mentioned that I was finally going to see Spider-Man that afternoon, Alan started talking about a friend of his, who was one of the background artists for the Spider-Man animated TV show in the 70’s. The particular artist just about went crazy drawing windows for all of the cityscapes.

When I finally glanced at my cell phone to look at the time, it was only a few minutes until I had to meet the movie group in the lobby. I thanked Alan again, dashed off, went to the room for my money and car keys, and found the group in the lobby. We had accumulated eleven people for the showing, including Tim, Pat, Chris, Matt, Kerry, Lex, Markee, Ish, Ish’s two little girls, and myself. We divided into three cars and drove off to the theater. Pat and I went with Lex in her zippy silver Jetta, and Pat on the personalized license plate as we pulled out of the parking lot.

"We need to go through the parking lot when we get back and look for geek-reference license plates," Lex mentioned. I looked around as we drove through. About every third car had personalized plates.

Lex drove like a demon to the theater, which was embedded inside a strip mall in one of the various suburban vales of Des Moines. We all bought our tickets, then decided to kill the remaining 45 minutes before the show eating lunch at the nearby Chinese restaurant.

Lunch was quick, good and shockingly cheap. Pat, Tim, Matt and I all feasted upon spring rolls, egg drop soup, chicken wings, satay beef, and a full main course for about $6 apiece. We desperately need a restaurant like that one in Minneapolis.

Stuffed like ticks and pressed for time, we waddled quickly over to the theater after we paid our restaurant tab. The eleven of us managed to engulf an entire row in the center of the theater, along with one of the rows to the side. I wound up plopping down between Chris and Pat, an event that was quickly followed by Pat’s stealthy theft of Matt’s Milk Duds.

The movie was great. If you haven’t seen it yet, do so. I mean it. Go now. It has been a long time since a summer blockbuster has been this good, and I was pleased to throw my $5 at it. Sam Raimi should be worshipped as a minor deity.

The best part about watching the movie, though, was the fact that I had DC comic artist Chris Jones sitting to my right. He had already seen the movie the night before, but he was absolutely thrilled to see it again. I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone drool that much over a movie.

After the film, Lex, Kerry, Pat and I drove across the street to the grocery store while the rest of the group returned to the hotel. The four of us scoured the store for party supplies for the evening, picking up all sorts of sodas, snacks, peppers, cheeses, and utensils. We had a great time playing with all the Spider-Man candy dispensers in the snack aisle, and discovered that Iowa is one of the few places on the planet where you can still get the half-pint sized cans of various sodas.

Since my Iron Chef secret ingredient topping was rather uninspired (butter, in contrast to Lex’s and Kerry’s far more complex rice dishes that involved chopping up plants and cooking them), I gave Pat some extra money to pay for some of the other supplies. I felt bad for not being domestic enough to really cook anything, so I figured I could at least help out monetarily. I knew that Omegacon had no budget for the room party.

After the shopping trip, we soon found ourselves back at the hotel, holed up in the room, chatting. Lex was sitting at the table, cutting peppers, while Matt, Tim, Pat and I conversed. It was that hour in the afternoon where everyone felt very lazy and didn’t feel much like moving. At some point later on in the conversation, Pat bestowed us with the chef’s hats that Lauren had picked up earlier in the week. Most of the folks had gotten the standard tall, white hat, but Lauren had picked up a floppy houndstooth-patterned chapeau for me. She had figured that the floppy hat would work best for the Iron Chef Swedish, and I agreed. It was actually kind of fetching, I thought. I put the hat aside for later in the evening.

Eventually, Pat and I felt like checking consuite for snacks and drinkables, so we left the room to investigate. Once there, I found that the beer taps were open, so I helped myself to a very foamy Leinie’s, while Pat grabbed a soda. We then walked out on the balcony to observe the lobby below. There wasn’t much going on at all, although someone had taken some time to build a small castle out of sugar cubes on one of the tables near the waterfall. We marveled at this construction for a few minutes before Matt happened upon us. Then the three of us leaned on the balcony, staring lazily into the lobby.

Someone walked up behind Matt and beckoned him with a card game of some sorts (Star Beans? Was it Star Beans?). Matt turned him down, but it got the three of us started talking about various card games. Finally, one of us breeched the subject of Chez Geek, a highly addictive game by Steve Jackson Games that we were all familiar with.

"Hey, I have that in my hotel room!" Pat exclaimed. "Do you want to play a round?"

Matt and I approved highly. Matt dashed off to get a table, Pat went to The Girls’ Room (the other hotel room that our group had rented for the weekend, where Pat and Lauren were avoiding the cigarette smell of the party room), and I skipped back to the party room to grab my badge – I had forgotten it in my jacket.

Once in the room, I found that Tim was getting the room ready for the party, and was asking others for help in moving the beds around. There were four or five people in the room, so I pitched in, and it was a fairly easy task. One of the queen beds was disassembled and leaned against a wall, while the other was rotated sideways to lend more sitting space. It was a move that opened up the room considerably.

That done, I opened the door of the room to walk back to the lobby, and saw Pat on the other side of the door. It turns out that her Chez Geek cards had been moved to the party room after all.

Cards in hand, we returned to the lobby, where Matt had been saving a table for the last five minutes. Pat unpacked the cards, we all helped shuffle the unwieldy deck, I dealt, then we all discovered that we were missing something. Chez Geek requires one six-sided die, which we didn’t have.

Not like we couldn’t find dice at a convention.

Pat walked over to a nearby table, which was populated by a bunch of gamers who were in the midst of setting up some sort of battle scenario. After talking with them for a moment, she returned to the table with a tiny red die. We all thanked them and continued with our game.

The game lasted a good long while – around 45 minutes, I would guess. In the middle of the game, the gamers at the next table got up to leave. Pat asked them where she could return the die when we were done.

"Oh, just keep it," one of the guys said. We thanked them heartily for their generosity.

The game continued. A few minutes later, somebody scratched my back for a few seconds, then walked past. When I looked behind me, the guy was in retreat, and I didn’t recognize who it was from the back. Hmm. I took note of his brightly patterned shirt and continued to my turn.

We played on. We were all neck-and-neck for a while in points, but finally, when I laid down my winning card, Matt trumped it with something from his hand and stole my points for his own, resulting in his victory. Curses!

By the time Matt won, it was about time for dinner, so we packed up the cards and went back up to the party room. Tim was ready for the evening: he was dressed as Iron Chef Indy, sporting a chef’s hat on top of a brown fedora, and further decked out with khaki clothes and a bullwhip. People were buzzing around the room, making rice and chattering with each other.

While I was waffling about what I should do about my mostly non-existent chef’s costume, Pat mentioned that she and Chris were going out to Godfather’s for pizza. I can’t remember if I was invited or if I somehow insinuated myself into the situation, but within a few minutes, the three of us were in Pat’s van, cruising towards Godfather’s. I wasn’t particularly hungry, but dinner with Pat and Chris sounded like a lot of fun, and it delayed having to make a decision about my costume.

Once at the pizza place, we placed our order, grabbed a booth, and proceeded to have a grand time. Even though I wasn’t really hungry, the three of us managed to down a large ultra-meat-laden pizza and an order of cheese bread. The conversation was great, touching on our life stories as well as current convention news and gushing about Spider-Man. Eventually, I mentioned my costume plight.

"My costume is lame without a white coat," I lamented. "I really don’t know what to do. I did bring along one of my black dresses, but I don’t know what to do with it. Maybe I should be Iron Chef Geek Magnet." I wasn’t really being serious.

Pat’s eyes lit up. "Yes! I think you should do that! I like that idea!"

Chris nodded at me emphatically. I started thinking more seriously about actually wearing the vinyl dress, whether it looked ideal or not.

Eventually, we noticed we had been sitting in the pizza parlor for a while, and that we probably should go back to the convention to help with the party. As we were leaving, Pat’s mobile phone rang. She answered, talked for a few minutes, and hung up.

"That was Tim," she said. "He wants us to look for some plastic bowls for the party."

The ensuing 45 minutes or so were taken up by a nigh-fruitless search through Des Moines for a convenience store that was both open and that provided plastic bowls. We finally happened upon a Seasonal Concepts store who didn’t have what we wanted, but were happy to point us in the direction of Target. It was nearing 9:00 PM, so we were running out of time.

It turns out that the Target was just across a couple parking lots, hiding behind a Home Depot store. The three of us charged into the store, walking with purpose. We split up and swept the aisles for cheap plastic salad bowls. Pat first managed to find a few blue bowls for $5.99 apiece. Then, we found a stack of bowls going for $3.99 apiece. After that, a more thorough search of the area yielded even cheaper dishes. We then walked over one more aisle to look for something even better.

Uh, oh. We stumbled across the toy department.

Chris JonesPat managed to keep looking for dishes, but Chris and I were lost. Like moths to a flame, I walked towards the piles of new Episode II figures, while Chris was pulled over to the Spider-Man gear. I began searching for the elusive Yoda action figure, then realized what I was doing and pulled myself away. I walked over to the Spider-Man section, where Chris was fondling one of the web shooter toys.

"I need this!" he exclaimed. "It would at least be worth $16 of fun at the convention tonight."

I looked at the toy. It involved a canister of silly string, which was strapped to the wrist of anyone wishing to wreak havoc upon unsuspecting friends. I thought of Chris shooting Tim squarely in the chest with a gush of silly string, and agreed that yes, it was definitely worth $16.

While we were distracted, Pat finally found about six blue bowls that were selling at $1.25 apiece. We checked out and hopped back in the van. By the time we pulled up at the hotel, Chris had donned the web shooter, and within a few minutes, he was testing it in the parking lot. Honestly, it didn’t work very well; the canister of silly string would spray a wide cone of phlegm for about a second before it would congeal into a steady stream of goo. No good for surprise attacks. But we decided to try it anyway.

The three of us walked up to the party room, where Tim was sitting in the corner, tending to the rice cookers and the rice toppings. Chris walked right up to him and blasted him full force with the web shooter. Once again, the canister didn’t work, and only resulted in some random spray of gooey bits. Tim just looked at Chris, unimpressed and perhaps a little confused.

The web shooter was still cool though, and several other people gathered around Chris to play with it. Eventually, Ishmael got plugged in the chest with a mass of silly string, and all was right with the world.

I then grabbed my suitcase and locked myself into the bathroom. With all that silly string flying around, I couldn’t think of a better time to put on an outfit made out of vinyl. It took a few minutes to pull the dress on – it looked like I had been poured into the thing, and I forgot how hard it was to zip the back of the dress up without help. I managed to get the zipper pull within an inch of my shoulder blades, then emerged from the bathroom.

One of the other women offered to zip my dress up the rest of the way. When I turned so that she could do so, I saw the guys in the hallway gawking at the shiny black dress. My misgivings about how I looked in the outfit faded a little bit, and I reminded myself that I’m my own cruelest critic. I guess I was going to be Iron Chef Geek Magnet after all.

I started rummaging around in the closet, trying to find items to complete my outfit. I found my hat, which I promptly put on, but no boots. I had forgotten to bring them in from my car on Friday. So I grabbed my keys and headed, barefoot, out to my car. I came back into the hotel with a thigh-high pair of neoprene rubber boots slung over my shoulder.

As I walked back through the lobby and towards the stairs, I noticed that Felix was sitting at a solid white grand piano in the corner, playing random melodies. He had done his eyebrows up Ming the Merciless-style, and was wearing a funky black shirt with a high collar and gold pinstripes. A second gentleman was standing next to him, watching him play. I walked over to the piano and said hi.

Felix grinned at me. "You have to get on top of the piano, like in the movies! You know, laying down, with your chin on your hands, like this!" He stopped playing and demonstrated the coquettish look.

I laughed, then thought, really, how often do I get to pretend that I’m in the movies? I hoisted my seat up on top of the piano and crossed my legs.

The guy standing next to Felix stared at me. "This is the happiest day of my life!" he gushed awkwardly.

I sat there for a few moments, watching the crowd bustle around in the lobby and noticing how weird it feels to sit on a piano while it is being played. I told Felix to play more low notes.

When I tired of having the Staring Man staring at me, which was only after a minute or two, I hopped off the piano, waved good-bye, and walked back to the party room. I found a space on the bed and sat down so I could pull my boots on. Then I laid back on the bed and watched the people in the room. The crowd was slow; a large portion of the people were downstairs, waiting for the Masquerade to start. I originally had intended to go, but the crowd had been waiting for a good half hour to an hour, and nothing had happened yet.

Lauren came into the room, fetchingly dressed as Iron Chef Punk Rock. She originally had planned to be Iron Chef Dominatrix, but she had mentioned earlier that she just didn’t feel like copping an attitude that night.

Lauren looked at my dress and had an idea. "You know, I brought vinyl gloves for the dominatrix costume, but they’d look great with that dress. Would you like to borrow them?"

"Oo! Yes, please!" I replied.

The two of us dashed off to The Girls’ Room, where Lauren dug out a pair of tall black gloves. I tried them on, though, and they were too big. Oh, well. It was worth a try. I made a note to pick up some gloves of my own later in the week.

Tim and Pat WickShortly after our return to the party room, Pat came into the room, sporting her fabulous Iron Chef Galaxy Quest uniform. In keeping with Sigourney Weaver’s image in the film, Pat was displaying various amounts of cleavage throughout the evening.

One by one, the other Iron Chefs showed up. Lex showed up as Iron Chef Wisconsin (which really didn’t require much costuming, but it did allow her to make some fabulous cheese-based dishes), Chris donned an eyepatch and became Iron Chef Evil, and Kerry swept into the room in a gorgeous blue velvet dress, and was dubbed the honorary Iron Chef Geek Groupie. The best one, though, was Matt’s Iron Chef Ghostbuster. Not only did he have the khaki coveralls and various kitchen-tools-turned-ghostbusting-gadgets, he also had the overall ghostbuster look and a bevy of business cards, each with a different food quote from the original film. (I hear he will be in his full gear at CONvergence this year, so watch for him.)

After a bit of socializing in the party room, I left to go wander the halls. I had hardly walked out the door when I ran into Kevin Wilson and wound up talking with him for a few minutes. I didn’t manage to say a whole lot to him before another guy walked up behind me and said, "Hey, you had yourself painted at ICON, didn’t you? You fainted, right?"

"Yeah, that was me."

"Why weren’t you at the art auction tonight? They auctioned the body painting again, and nobody really bid on it. The woman who won is being painted in 223 right now!"

Damn, I completely forgot about the auction. I was thrilled that they were painting someone again – it’s really a cool idea, and a great way to raise money for charity – but I was bummed I didn’t at least get to bid on it. But, regardless, I had to check out what was going on, and say hi to the artists again.

So I excused myself and continued down the hall to 223. The door was mostly closed, so I gingerly opened it and peeked inside. I saw a couple of spectators, so I walked in. Then my mild disappointment faded, because there, being covered in paint, was Ish’s favorite woman, Jules. If anyone should be walking around in body paint, it was her, because she would show it off and have loads of fun with it. I said hello to everyone.

"Don’t tell Ish!" Jules implored. "I want to surprise him!"

I noticed that no one was taking photos. "Do you want me to take some pictures of you being painted?"

Her eyes lit up. "Yes! Please!"

I dashed out of the room, fetched my digital camera, and ran back. I began documenting the event while John and Denise painted Jules’ back, and Erin McKee carefully painted sheer gloves onto her wrists. Mike Cole was also there, putting dabs of paint here and there. Basically, it was the same crowd who worked on me at ICON, minus Karen Hollingsworth. Jules beamed with glee the entire time.

Body painting group photoFinally, the four painters had bestowed Jules with sheer stockings and gloves made only of paint; with a green dragon that wound around her chest, belly, and back; and with some exotic decoration around her eyes. She looked fabulous, and she was thrilled. I took down the e-mail addresses of everyone who wanted copies of the photos, then took a few last shots of the finished product.

Now it was time to surprise Ish. Kate, one of the onlookers who I have known since I was in high school, walked out into the hall first, guarding Jules with her body while someone else ran to the Omegacon room to grab Ish. The artists and I all huddled behind Jules, waiting for the unveiling.

Eventually, Ish came out of the Omegacon room and began walking down the hall while Jules called to him from behind Kate. A few more of us beckoned him. He looked a little wary. After all, it hadn’t been very long since he’d been blasted with silly string.

When he was finally most of the way down the balcony, Jules jumped out from behind Kate. I think all we got out of Ish was an astonished, "Wow!" but he was obviously quite pleased with the results. A small crowd gathered around Jules as people asked her about the artwork.

Meanwhile, I kicked up conversation with Mike Cole. I noticed his shirt.

"Hey, did you scratch my back earlier today?" I asked, remembering the colorful shirt on the retreating backscratching stranger I had seen during the Chez Geek game.

"Yes, that was me." Mystery solved.

"What have you been up to, anyway?"

So Mike and I talked for a few minutes. He had recently moved to St. Louis and was working on putting out new editions of a couple of his cartoon books. I wound up trying to convince him to come to CONvergence, with John and Denise’s help. I’m not sure if I was successful or not, but I have his e-mail address now. Heh heh.

Finally, Mike asked if I had eaten dinner yet. I was bummed that I had to say no; I was still full of Godfather’s Pizza. However…

"You know, we’re running an Iron Chef party in the Omegacon room. There’s actually real food in there, if you’re interested."

So I at least managed to drag him over to our party room, where I believe Tim took over in trying to woo him to Minnesota. Hopefully, we'll see him at CONvergence this year.

As soon as I had walked into the room, though, one of the women mentioned that a guy had stopped by and dropped something off for me. I thanked her, and looked in the closet at the delivery. There, rolled up in a tube, was the book cover that Alan had promised. I put it with my luggage and made a dozen mental notes not to forget it.

I then relaxed and sat down on the bed next to Chris, who was alternating between wearing and not wearing the eyepatch. We chatted idly about nothing in particular while watching people walk in and out of the room.

Alan himself walked in for a few minutes. He just wanted to make sure I had gotten the book cover, and said goodnight.

Ryan Alexander kept walking in and out of the room, with the sole purpose of torturing Matt with bad Ghostbusters puns. After a few manifestations of this behavior, I finally was witness to this exchange:

"Matt! Matt!" Pause. "Don't cross the creams!"

Matt's eyes narrowed. "Run, Ryan."

Ryan dashed out the door with Matt in close pursuit.

Denise came in with one of her friends, a fellow who I had seen around the convention a few times. He was hard to miss: he was wearing a black leather barbarian sort of outfit that was complete with a leather loincloth. Not many people in fandom can get away with wearing a loincloth, but fortunately he could. His big blue eyes and junior executive haircut, however, belied that he was probably a little more at home in a t-shirt and jeans.

When he and Denise walked in, Chris took to introducing all of the Iron Chefs in the room. When he introduced me as Iron Chef Geek Magnet, Pat demonstrated by flinging herself at me as if I were, indeed, a magnet. The barbarian played along and did the same, which at least prompted me to get his name, which was Joe. Joe the Barbarian. Heh, there's a comic in there somewhere.

Kerry asked what Joe the Barbarian was wearing under his loincloth. Denise took it upon herself to do a little faux strip tease with the flap on the front of his groin, complete with musical accompaniment. It wasn't a particularly revealing display, but it was funny to watch Joe halfheartedly say, "Umm... don't..." Denise then made him turn around, and she did the strip tease with the back flap of his loincloth. I can't imagine how uncomfortable wearing a leather thong would be, but all I believe most of the women in the room were thankful that he chose to suffer a bit for the sake of fashion.

A few minutes later, a fellow walked in with a camera, and I immediately recognized him as one of the photographers at ICON last year, who was in the room with me when I was being painted. He had taken dozens of digital photos of the event, but I had seen neither hide nor hair of them.

He recognized me, too. "Did you get to see the web site?" he asked.

"Erm, web site?"

Iron Chef partyApparently, he had placed the images on a site so the artists and I could get copies, but the site was taken down a few months ago. Denise said something about how the photos turned out, so I guess everyone had seen them but me -- nobody had contacted me and told me where they were. The guy apologized, handed me his card, and told me to send him my address, and he would send me a CD of the photos. I looked at the card; it said his name was B-bert.

By this time, the party was starting to wind down, so Tim got up and rallied the Omegacon crew to help move the beds back in place. He then closed the door to the room, just after Michelle, who I had met at ICON as well, walked in. Finally, it was just Tim, Chris, Matt, Michelle, and B-bert in the room, chatting. Michelle and I talked a little bit about Tadao, reminding me that I should call him sometime soon.

Eventually, Michelle wandered off into the night, as did Matt, leaving B-bert to execute the Minnesota Good-bye. For those of you not familiar with the Minnesota Good-bye, it goes something like this: you start to leave someone's house, you put your coat on, you start talking with your host just as you are about to go out the door, your host eventually says "Hey, have you seen this," you walk back into the house to look at something, you take your coat off and talk for a little while longer, you put your coat back on, your host hands you a soda for the car ride home, you chat for a while at the door, you pet the dog, you walk out the door and chat with the host on the front steps, and finally you manage to get in your car and drive home. There's no such thing as just saying, "goodnight," and leaving, unless you actually live in the house with the person you are talking to.

B-bert seemed to be the ninja master of the Minnesota Good-bye. He had gotten up to leave some twenty minutes before he actually did. The intervening twenty minutes, though, were at least interesting. He got started talking about how he had photographed me at ICON, then got into how I fainted, then began talking about how I was staring at him while I was unconscious, which led him to talk about how he always caught dead people staring at him, which reminded him of when he was at his mother's funeral and he didn't notice one of her eyes was open until he looked at the photos afterwards...

But eventually, he did bid us a good night, and the party was over. We cleaned up the room a bit, then sat down and looked at each other. Tim crawled into bed. I wasn't tired in the least, so I announced that I was going to go see what else was happening around the hotel. Chris thought this was a good idea, and followed me out of the room.

The hotel was strangely quiet for 2:00 AM on Saturday night/Sunday morning at a convention. The waterfall had been turned off hours ago, so the place was just silent.

I knew that Denise and John favor exceptionally late nights at conventions, so I had a good inkling that events in their room would still be in progress. We walked down the hall to 223, where the door had been propped open with a security bolt. I leaned in to listen for voices. Yup, they were still going, so Chris and I walked in.

About seven people were sitting on the bed in the room, playing some sort of game that involved a bottle and a lot of frustration. I knew pretty much all of them -- Denise, John, Mike Cole, I think Joe was there -- and the people I didn't know I at least recognized. They were pretty involved, so I waved hello, and they welcomed us in.

Chris and I walked over to the corner of the room, where they had set up a rather extraordinary spread of tea bags and teacups. I had to look through almost all of the canisters of tea in order to find one that didn't have caffeine in it, but I did find one, and I fixed myself a cup of that.

I sat down next to Chris on a sofa, which was placed behind a half-wall that divided the "living area" of the hotel suite from the bed. We talked for a few minutes about comics, listening to people get more and more frustrated with the bottle game.

Then, suddenly, we heard a door close, and the room was quiet.

I mean, the room was dead silent.

Chris and I looked at each other in disbelief. I stood up and looked over the half-wall. There was nobody in the room.

"Hello?" I said.

No one there. Had Chris and I just been left in someone else's room? What the hell just happened? I'd seen a lot of things at conventions, but this was a new one.

Finally, I heard someone rummaging around in the bathroom. I breathed a sigh of relief. At least someone was still here.

A few minutes later, John walked out of the bathroom and said hi. We had a good laugh over the rather surreal experience of being left alone in a room party that wasn't ours. A couple minutes later, we were joined by a woman in a green dress whose name, I learned later, was Susan. She was fuming.

"I am going to kill Mike," she swore. She then began talking, frustrated, with John about the Bottle Game.

It was around 20 minutes before Chris and I had pieced together The Bottle Game Story. Apparently, Mike Cole had started the game an hour before, which involved him gesturing with a bottle and saying, "Okay, I can play the bottle game, the bottle game, the bottle game. I can play the bottle game, the bottle game, the bottle game how about you?" Then he would pass the bottle to the person next to him, and the object was to imitate the gesture exactly. Whenever someone else would try, he's shout, "Wrong!" Everyone else was frustrated that they couldn't figure out what they were all missing. (Apparently, none of them said, "Okay," at the beginning.) It took them hours to figure out the game.

During the post-Bottle Game fury, a few others wandered back into the room. Joe the Barbarian turned up (in a t-shirt and jeans this time), as well as Clay and Denise. A girl with shiny metal false nails came in around an hour later, and Mike wandered in briefly ("I hear you're a dead man," I said when he came in). We all chatted for a couple of hours, and since we were chatting in the hours between 2 AM and 4 AM, I really no longer have a strong recollection of what we were actually talking about. I know Spider-Man came up at least once, and the Bottle Game kept rearing its ugly head, but that's about all that sticks. Whatever we talked about, though, didn't matter; I was in a room with people I really enjoyed being with. John and Denise are always a treat to be around, and Chris has quickly become one of my favorite people since I met him in January.

4 AM rolled around, and my eyes were slowly picking up the (painful) ability to work independently of one another. Chris was also beginning to crash, so we both bid goodnight to the group and went back to our room to sleep.

05052002 I woke up and rolled over. The clock wasn't on the bedstand, having been relegated the night before to a drawer in the bureau. I believe it was about 7:00 AM.

And, amazingly enough, Tim woke up about the same time and actually beat me to the shower. I'd been bested at my ability to wake up early at conventions!

Oh, well. I took the opportunity to write some notes about the night before. I was disappointed that I had already forgotten the name of the woman in the green dress -- I clearly remembered her introducing herself to me.

When Tim came out of the shower, he mentioned that he thought he might check out the hotel's buffet breakfast. That sounded like a good idea, so I asked him to wait for me while I hopped into the shower.

When I was finally all clean and dressed, Tim and I departed out into the lobby of the hotel. The buffet breakfast was in full swing, featuring an omlette chef that would make your eggs to order and a broad spread of waffles, bacon, fruit, cereal, coffee, and all other standard breakfast goods. It was really quite good. I don't know if it was $8 per plate good, but it didn't involve going anywhere outside the hotel, and at least it was unlimited refills, so to speak.

Tim and I spent most of our breakfast grousing about The Company That Shall Not Be Named, the huge beastly global corporation that Pat and I used to work at, and where Tim still occupies a job. Tim's dream is to run his own art house movie theater, and he has recently told his manager at The Company that he wants to be fired so he can pursue opening the theater. This discussion led into a dissection of The Company's outdated systems, their red tape, the way they treat employeess, and so on.

Eventually, that discussion gave way to talking about the upcoming CONvergence, which was an altogether more pleasant thing to talk about. Around this time, Matt came by and sat down with us to eat his breakfast, and Ishmael stopped by to say hello. A few minutes later, Ish disappeared, and Chris took his place at the table.

CONvergence talk included this exchange:

Me: "You guys aren't going to suck me into the concom, are you?"

Tim: "You're lucky that you run one of the room parties. We need more anchor parties like yours. The minute you stop doing the coffee room, you are ours."

I also learned about several of CONvergences plans for the future. Next year, the theme will be time travel, which will nicely coincide with one of Dr. Who's anniversaries. They talked about their dream guests for a while, which include, among others, Bruce Campbell and Mark Hamil. (Chris already has ideas for the publications if they ever get Hamil -- he would completely nix any mention of Star Wars in the pubs, and focus on Hamil's work in cartoons.) I also got to hear a lot about how CONvergence is trying very hard to woo more artists to the convention.

Around 11 AM, Chris, Tim and I paid our breakfast tabs and went back to the room to clean up. The next hour or so involved several trips from the room to various cars out in the parking lot. By noon, the room was clean and ready to turn over to the hotel.

After that was done, I figured I'd at least put my convention badge to some use (I'd paid $25 for it, you know) and went to the dealer's room. Demicon's dealers' room is pretty standard fare, fully decked with the usual booksellers, t-shirt vendors, and jewellers. There wasn't anything that I hadn't seen before, but I was pleased to see the woman who sells action figures and miniature toy weaponry, and I was, as always, happy to see Felix vending his fine period clothing.

I spent the next half hour or so talking with Felix while he handed me different bodices to try on. Besides being a fun person to be around, he is also an exquisite taylor.

While he was lacing up the back of a particularly fine purple bodice, he apologized for jumping on me on Friday night. He admitted he left the room because he was so embarassed. I told him that was quite alright; I figured it was all in good fun, anyway.

We talked a while about conventions. When I asked him if he was going to be at CONvergence, he reminded me that it conflicted with the Bristol Renaissance Festival, which was where he was going to be that weekend. I then suggested that he should join us for Omegacon, which takes place in November, well after the Fest season has closed. He said he'd think about it.

I eventually hugged Felix goodbye and wandered on. I figured I would wander onward to the art room, just to see if they had any more copies of Mike Cole's books around for sale.

Instead of books, though, I ran across Alan, who was packing his artwork away.

"Anything I can do to help?" I offered.

He thought a moment. "No, that's fine. I can get it. Thanks, though."

We talked for a few minutes, then I mentioned he should send some of his prints to CONvergence -- I thought he might really sell a lot there.

"I was talking to one of their people about it, but I really don't have any information on it."

"Well, I'll be right back then."

I dashed off to the flyer table/pillar and grabbed one of the bright red CONvergence progress reports. I brought it back to the room, and scribbled the web site address on the back of the book.

"Here you go. Sign up sheets are in the back, and more art show information is on the web site."

He thanked me, and I wished him a good trip back to Oregon.

I wandered out of the art room and found myself pondering how I would kill the extra hour before closing ceremonies. Did I really want to go to closing ceremonies at all? I was starting to have my doubts.

About then, I ran into Kerry in the lobby. We chatted for a few minutes about whether she would be at CONvergence and Omegacon or not (yes and maybe were the replies), and we wished each other good drives home. She had to drive to Chicago that night, which was probably about the same length of drive ahead of me.

Kerry wandered off, and I wandered further into the center court of the hotel, still wondering how I would kill another hour or so. That's when I ran into the guys with the paratroopers.

Alien ParatroopersThere were about ten people milling about in the area, all conniving about something. When I wandered into the vicinity, one of the guys in the group pulled me aside and handed me a small, green plastic alien, complete with a plastic parachute held to his back with a rubber band.

"We need help for our alien paratrooper deployment! Will you help?"

My heart leapt for joy. Aliens were going to fall from the balconies after all!

"Sure!" I cried. Then I thought better. "Hey, you know, you need documentation of this historic event. Do you want me to stay down here and photograph it instead?"

He agreed that was a better idea, and then pulled aside a few more bystanders for the military action.

A few minutes later, all of the daring-dowers were on an elevator destined for the tenth floor, while I readied my camera on the first floor. It took about five minutes for the set up, then I saw a small army of human arms over the side of the tenth floor balcony, each hand holding a paratrooper. A few breathless moments later, the little green guys were airborne and wafting slowly to the ground. One of the other guys in the group scrambled around the tables in the lobby, picking up the toys as they landed, while I rushed to get the best photo angles I could. I couldn't get any close-ups of the falling aliens, as my digital camera has a significant time delay that prevents it from capturing action, but I managed to get a few good photos. Click here to see the photos of the deployment.

I hung around a few more minutes and showed the mischief-makers the photos while we all pitched in untangling the parachute strings. Four aliens had gone missing, out of twenty-five. The ringleader of this little group generously awarded me one alien trooper, which I will likely put to good use at CONvergence.

After that, I decided that the convention was complete, so I walked to the parking lot, saying goodbye to Ish and Jules on the way. I eventually got to my car and drove off, and that was the last I saw of Demicon 2002.

I'd like to thank all of the CONvergence/Omegacon folks for their hospitality over the weekend, especially Chris and Tim who had to room with me, and Lauren and Pat, who put up with me rooming with them.

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