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It was actor Tadao Tomomatsu (Mr. Shake Hands Man from the USA Banzai Movie Friday, who I had the extreme good fortune to run into at CONvergence 2001) who told me that ICON was a fun and friendly convention, nestled in the midst of America's heartland in Cedar Rapids, IA. Thus, the wheels in my brain were set in motion, trying to conceive of new and interesting ways to port Cthulhu Coffee's dark brew into the center of Iowa. So, I grabbed fellow minion Ted and the Creature from the Black Lagoon (explanation later) and drove Nyarlathotep's Soul Processor (my car) from the urban jungle of Minneapolis to the vast prairie five hours south, in search of further convention adventures... and found them!

HotelICON is just as fun and friendly as Tadao described. The atmosphere was relaxed, things went smoothly, and everyone seemed to just hang around and have a splendid time. ICON has great parties and great attendees, as well as the best art show I have seen in a long while.

Now, I imagine you are reading this because you are interested in all the groovy things that happened at ICON this year. As always with my convention reports, I feel the need to explain that though I do my best to get a good overview of what went on at the convention, I always seem to miss most of the panels and have very little to say about the guests. I only managed to make it to two panels this time around, but I am happy to say that I think I'm starting to get the hang of this convention thing: I managed to at least hang out with a couple of the guests, which was a real treat! Just keep in mind that these are my personal observations and tales of what went on that the convention, and that my viewpoint is not necessarily a great overview, but hopefully, it's at least fun.

That said, I am continually monitoring for other people's tales and photos of ICON 26, and I will link them here when I stumble across them.

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

10112001 We'll start by backing up a bit. I happened to take the entire week prior to ICON off of work, so fellow minion Rochester Dan took the opportunity to camp out at my house for a couple days. That Thursday morning, we were both in the Perkins Restaurant on Highway 55 and Highway 169 in Golden Valley, MN, because I live in Bachaelorette Hell and my refrigerator only contained condiments and a rather suspicious carry-out container full of fettuccine... hardly decent breakfast food. Anyway, we ate heartily, and as per usual, while we were walking out, I checked out the drop-claw machine that sits by the enterance. You know what I'm talking about... those big glass boxes filled with toys, with a three-pronged claw that drops from the ceiling in an attempt to grab the toy of choice and deliver it into the anxious hands of the lucky player. Usually, they only suck money away from hapless kids with dreams of cheap toys. Anyway, I was checking out the claw machine, and who was sitting on the top of the pile of cheap stuffed animals? That's right! The Creature from the Black Lagoon! This claw machine actually had one of the discontinued Universal Studios plush Creature toys! And it was sitting right on top!

So, insert the line from Wayne's World here: "It will be mine. Oh, yes, it will be mine."

By the time Dan had paid for breakfast, I had already plugged $1 into the machine and was guiding the claw around with a little joystick. The first two tries failed, but succeeded in moving the Creature just a little closer to the escape hatch. Dan donated another $0.50 to the cause, and yes! The green plush toy landed squarely in the bin, and was mine!

I proceeded to tell Dan repeatedly that Ted will be terribly jealous of my Creature, and that I planned to taunt him with my new green plushie all weekend.

10122001 Fast forward to the next day, Friday. After yet another breakfast at Perkins (it's amazing I'm not obese), I guided the Nyarlathotep's Soul Processor (my brand-new black Saturn three-door coupe) over to Ted's place. Ted quickly readied himself, tossed his stuff into the trunk, and opened the passenger door... only to find the Creature from the Black Lagoon in his seat! Oh, the horror!

"WHERE DID YOU FIND THIS?!?" he shouted in amazement.

I told him of my good fortune as he inspected the toy Creature. He proceeded to sit in the car with the Creature in his lap for the rest of the afternoon.

And so we embarked on the five-hour odyssey that would bring us to Cedar Rapids, IA. We had a good supply of CDs and a full stock of strawberry Pocky, which I had picked up in Chicago the week before (why can't I find Pocky here in Minnesota?). Plus, as always, we get along famously, so the trip was swift and merciful. Besides, the fall colors were out in force, so the drive was unusually pretty.

3:30 PM: We arrived in Cedar Rapids, IA, and found the hotel, the Four Points Sheraton, without much trouble. However, finding the entrance to the parking lot was more of a challenge. We turned around a couple times before we wound up in the right lot.

Now, I have mentioned this before in other reports, but it's worth mentioning again. Ted knows everybody. He could be air-dropped into the wilderness of Mongolia and still run into someone he knows. He hadn't even stepped 20 feet from the car before he saw someone he recognized from Minnesota Renaissance Festival. We weren't even in the hotel yet, and this was a convention that neither of us have attended before, and Ted was already recognizing people.

We walked into the lobby and gathered our room accomodations. The hotel itself was rather small -- about 150 rooms on six floors -- but clean and neat, and had all the fixings (pool, exercise room, restaurant and bar). It also sported an immense amount of convention space for the amount of rooms it had; not only was it supporting ICON that weekend, but a high school reunion and a coin collectors convention as well. Impressive!

The CreatureWe found our room on third floor without much ado. We promptly set up the Creature as guardian of the room... then we both promptly fell asleep.

5:30 PM: We both woke up from our little nap, a little bleary-eyed but better equipped to face the convention. I went into the bathroom to wash my hands and promptly burned them in the hot water. Apparently, the Sheraton liked to keep its hot water taps running at a temperature that approximated the surface temperature of the sun. That woke me up.

Ted and I then braced ourselves for exposure and wandered back downstairs to pick up our registrations, where we ran into my one and only true gripe about ICON. The badges were pieces of paper in a plastic holder, which hung around one's neck on a stretchy bit of elastic string. Most other conventions at least have the little ID clips that you can latch to a belt loop or the hem of a dress, but no... we were forced to wander around with these goofy little signs dangling from our necks. Granted, the stretchy string was kind of fun to play with, but I could have been garroted if I had been around heavy machinery.

Anyway, we got our badges and proceeded to check out the Huxters' Room, where all the dealers' tables were placed. It was small, nothing like the acres of tables witnessed at CONvergence, but had a fine array of books, memorabilia, toys, and clothing. One dealer had an excellent selection of tapes from old radio shows. Another dealer, who I have run into at CONvergence for the past two years, was there selling her fine action figures and accessories, including an utterly charming "Mad Scientist Ken" doll. I gratefully noticed the lack of bumper sticker and T-shirt vendors, which needlessly overrun the CONvergence dealers' room every year.

As I was wandering through the Huxters' Room like a kid in a confectionery, I heard a jaunty, "Hello!" I turned, and lo and behold, was someone that I knew and recognized, an artisan from the Minnesota Renaissance Festival who I know as Felix Needleworthy. Felix is brilliant with a needle and thread, and constructs some of the best Renaissance-period garb, which he sells at conventions as well as Fest. He's also a sweet guy. So we said our hellos and I introduced him to Ted -- amazingly enough, they had never met. After some small talk, we of course began to play dress up. Felix brought out a lovely purple back-lacing bodice and easily talked me into trying it on. The garment would need a few adjustments if I were to buy it, but even so, it was quite flattering. (I might yet ask him to construct one for me.) After helping me try on a couple more bodices, Felix tried (unsuccessfully) to talk Ted into a pair of tights.

We looked around the dealers' room for a few more minutes, and paused again at Felix's area to wish him a good evening. Then one of us brought up the concept of food, and Felix mentioned that he was pondering what to do for dinner after the Huxter's Room closed at 7:00 PM. I then struck upon the idea of all of us going out to dinner together and asked Felix if he would join Ted and me. Felix accepted, and we agreed to meet in the lobby at 7:00 or so.

6:40 PM: Ted and I wound up back in our room, killing a little time before we would meet with Felix. We decided this would be a good time to go over the convention program and figure out what we wanted to do. So we whipped out our pens and began circling stuff.

Ted's not a particular fan of panels, so I was surprised when he agreed to attend a few that looked interesting. He also agreed to attend the art auction (I had never attended an art auction at a convention, though the charity auction at Diversicon 2001 was a treat). We then circled the other things that we usually check out, such as the dance and the Masquerade. Once we figured out a pretty good plan (which, it turns out, was mostly ignored), we grabbed our coats and marched to the lobby.

Felix wasn't there yet, so I went to the front desk and asked directions to a couple area restaurants. The clerk handed me one of those photocopied maps with absolutely no sense of scale and marked it up in green highlighter. It sounded like the Texas Steakhouse would be the best venue for good eats that was nearby, so Ted and I conspired to go there.

Felix entered the lobby a few minutes later, approved of our culinary choice, and the three of us hopped in my car and drove off. Or, rather, we tried to drive off... the parking lot was also difficult to exit, for some reason. Anyhow, we eventually got onto the road and drove off in search of giant steaks. Felix was in good spirits, and the three of us merrily talked about Space Ghost Coast to Coast for the half hour it took us to find the Texas Steakhouse.

I pulled into the parking lot (this one wasn't too difficult) and drove past the front door. There was a huge line to get in. None of us wanted to wait, so we turned to the restaurant next door... Carlos O'Kelly's.

We were all a little puzzled by the name. Tex-Mex with Irish beer? We weren't sure. There was a little chili pepper on the sign, so we assumed that Mexican was part of the scheme here. Being adventurous souls, we decided to try Carlos O'Kelly's.

There was a wait there, too, but only about 15 minutes. Felix whiled away the time by singing Brack's baloney sandwich song from Space Ghost.

We finally got seated in what was a rather standard Applebees/Chili's/TGI Friday's sort of venue, and we were soon served rather tasty Tex-Mex food. The three of us had a lovely time gabbing and drinking Mexican beer, munching on a never-ending basket of nachos. So, despite whatever qualms you might have about a place named Carlos O'Kelly's, I recommend it.

9:00 PM: Somehow, we managed to navigate ourselves back to the hotel without getting lost in the depths of Cedar Rapids suburbia. Felix wandered off to find the Jacuzzi, and Ted and I decided to home in on Consuite.

ICON's Consuite was in the hotel's one executive suite on the sixth floor. Space was a little cramped in there, but it did have a nice little bar, beer on tap, candy, chips, veggies, dip, cheese... all the mandatory party trappings. The party was allowed to spill generously into the hallway, and a good throng of people were mingling, laughing, and talking. In the hall, I ran into Bryan, whom I met at Diversicon 2001, and he formally introduced me to a guy named Clay, who I know I had seen before and talked with, but never knew his name. I chatted with them for a couple minutes, and then wound up talking with a splendid woman named Margueritte, who Ted knows (shocker).

We mingled at Consuite for a few more minutes, then wandered next door into the Supercon room party. It was also packed with people, all of whom were having a good time chatting away. Supercon's party seemed to be based around decadence, as usual... they had a staggering array of gourmet hot chocolate, flavored whipped cream, and, amazingly, Pocky (!).

After inspecting the Supercon room, we decided to wander on to the Demicon room party, where they were serving a rather unusual nonalcoholic concoction named "Zombies", which was sort of an opaque neon orange color. My guess is that it consisted at least partly of melted orange sherbet and dry ice (it bubbled entertainingly). It was almost sickeningly sweet to me, so I passed my sampling on to Ted, who merrily chugged it down.

After a few minutes at the Demicon party, one of the hosts got up and announced that there would be a drawing for a Button Men game (made by the venerable Cheap Ass Games). We all counted off, and the host rolled a 20-sided die and declared a winner. They continued to do that once every hour.

Around 10:00 PM, Ted and I took a break from the parties to attend one of the more interesting panels. As we wandered our way to first floor and into the lobby, the sound of bothersome caterwauling emanating from the bar. Dammit, they had Karoke. We gingerly walked past the bar towards the panel room.

We were almost to the panel when I stumbled across the flyer table. Yay, flyers! I rummaged through them, taking anything that looked remotely interesting. Unfortunately, about half of them had something to do with Battlefield Earth... God knows why.

We made it to the panel a little late and quietly sat in back. Guests Denny Lynch, Joe Haldeman, and L. E. Modesitt, Jr. were discussing the role of religion in science-fiction. It wound up being a rather interesting discussion, touching on the differences between faith and theology, and discussing the rapid growth of fundamentalism. Mr. Modesitt was a very interesting panelist, since several of his writings, such as The Parafaith War, involve the workings of religion. He also had several fun anecdotes about living in Utah.

11:00 PM: After the panel, Ted and I decided to check out the Anime Room on fifth floor. We were treated to two back-to-back episodes of the Excel Saga, which neither of us had seen. They are ABSOLUTELY HYSTERICAL. If you have a chance to see them, and are at least a little versed in anime, definitely do so!

The Anime Room itself was well-done, though they definitely need more space. They had a very nice LCD projector set up, projecting a wall-size image, and a few rows of chairs. However, it just wasn't enough room for everyone to sit down, and there were about ten people out in the hallway, standing and watching. Other than that, the room was well-run. The schedule was clear and had a great lineup, and everything ran on time. Nicely done!

Round RobinNear the end of the first episode of Excel, Ted announced that he was turning into a pumpkin and ambled back to the room to go to sleep. I remained at the Anime Room until midnight, when the Space Opera Round Robin was scheduled to start.

Midnight: I walked back down to the lobby and gingerly edged past the bar again (someone was attempting to wail some Aretha Franklin in there). Somewhere along the line, I found Bryan again, and the two of us wound up in the panel room, awaiting the Space Opera Round Robin.

The Round Robin consisted of Denny Lynch, Bill Johnson, Joe Haldeman, Jessica Frasca, and L. E Modesitt, Jr. The moderator began the opus with a few sentences about lizards, and then let the guests at it. Each author would take his/her turn at adding a few sentences to the story, then would pass it on to the next. Of course, the result was some rather punchy silliness and some really sickening puns from Denny Lynch. The lizards, of course, quickly turned into lily-livered lizard wizards with gizzards, and it all kind of went downhill from there. Plot points came and went like light from a strobe. Sheep, pirates, Vikings, North Dakota... they all wound up in there. I guess that when you're in Iowa, you make fun of North Dakota.

MonolithThe Round Robin went on for about a half hour, and everyone had a good laugh. After it was done, I noticed a monolith, a la 2001: A Space Odyssey, had appeared in the room since I was there for the religion panel. I immediately went up to check it's proportions. It should be 1:4:9. After some rough measurements, Bryan and I deemed it unacceptable. It was only about 10" wide, not 12", and only eight feet high, not 9'. Bah!

After that small bit of excitement, Bryan and I inspected each other's digital cameras and talked photography in the hotel lobby until about 1:30 AM. After that, I called it a night.

10132001 Around 9:30 AM, Ted and I both woke up, washed up, and donned our Cthulhu Coffee shirts. We were ready to face the day.

First things first. Food. We decided to test out the hotel's restaurant, dubbed Zuzza's. The entry was marked by some funky faux-classical statuary with some fetching fake plants, and the interior had that Palace of Versailles Hall of Mirrors sort of motif. The food was at about Embers level. Oh, well. At least it was convenient.

11:00 AM: Ted and I get a wild hair and go to the Art Show. I've never been a fan of fandom art, really -- spending eight years in art school turned me into something of an art snob -- but I was very pleasantly surprised by this show. A lot of times, you go into an art show at a con and you get treated to a grab-bag: usually, there's some professional stuff, there's some inspiring stuff, but mostly you get a lot of spiritless graphite sketches of Mulder and Scully, crude drawings of Seven of Nine in what is apparently antigravity, and a lot of 14-year-olds doing their own anime. ICON's art show really changed my mind. It was small, but it really was a splendid showcase of some really phenomenal fandom art.

First of all, Guest of Honor Denise Garner had a small but lovely spread of her pre-Raphaelite portraits. Immediately to the right of her area was the work of John Garner, her husband, who does a lot of dragon images... not my thing, but well done. Also on display nearby were some rather fun cartoons by amateur Mike Cole and several incredible Lubov prints (I'm kicking myself for not bidding on one of the Lubov prints; I've been rather impressed by here ever since seeing some of her originals at WindyCon 2000). Around the corner was a fantastic original painting (not for sale) named Cave Art, by Erin McKee, which depicts the cave paintings of Altimira as including aliens, beanie caps, and flying saucers (I gladly placed my name on a list to be notified when prints are made of the piece).

I wandered around the art show, impressed by a good portion of everything I saw, and then... I saw the Alan M. Clark prints. Now, I had never seen Clark's work before, but it just floored me. I gladly placed a $20 bid on a print named Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea.

Bread crumb Post-ItsAfter our tour of the art show, Ted and I wandered over to the Huxter's Room again. Ted found a Phantom book he had been looking for, and I wandered over to one of the gaming tables to paw over the vat of dice ($5.00 per scoop!) and several new Lovecraft T-shirts (Lovecraft Lager!). I didn't buy anything, but it's always fun to look.

Ted and I then wandered back out into the lobby. Much to our surprise, there was a second convention being hosted in some of the space immediately adjacent to the lobby -- a coin collector's show. The lobby was swarming with people aged 50 and beyond, all talking coins. One gent saw us looking at some of the coin show flyers and said, "Go on in! Admission is free!" So, Ted and I looked at each other, shrugged, and walked into the main room, which was loaded with dealers' tables laden with enough money to buy the hotel itself three times over. We kind of felt like defectors for leaving our convention for another, even for a few minutes, but it was kind of fun to glance over some of the old Civil War era paper money.

After about ten minutes, we wandered back up to the hotel room to figure out what we wanted to do next. Ted flipped on the TV and we watched a couple minutes of Steve Irwin describing how a hippopotamus defecates. After that, the TV went off, and we decided what the heck? We're on vacation. Nap time!

4:45 PM: Finally, we both woke up again, and were ready to hit the convention full force. We wandered through the art show again and spent an hour just wandering the convention.

6:00 PM: Since I actually bid on something, it was now absolutely imperative to go to the art auction. We were pleased to see that the auctioneer was Charles, yet another friend of Ted's that we stumbled across the day before. Charles was looking quite dapper in his three-piece suit, especially in front of the pile of art that was ready to be auctioned off. He was a fun auctioneer, too.

The second auctioneer, Mike Cole (who had the cartoons in the art show), wandered in slightly late. He was quite a contrast to Charles, as he was dressed in a Star Trek uniform.

The auction went smoothly, and print after print was sold, interspersed with a few items that were auctioned off for charity. I bid on another Clark print, but I didn't get it. Finally, Charles offered up an interesting item: the chance to be a canvas for guest artists Erin McKee, John Garner, and Denise Garner. That's right, the three guest artists would paint the person who won the bidding, and the money would go to charity.

Okay, that just sounded fun. I bid on it. I was in a bit of a price war with a couple other people, but finally, at $45, I got it. Charles asked me where I might get the painting done, and I looked at Ted. I mentioned that I might shave his head and have the painting done on his bald skull.

Ted gave me one of those death looks, and we bantered a bit to the delight of the audience. Then Charles double-checked that Ted didn't know where he lived, and then proceeded to give the information about the event out: "10:00, room 109, everyone bring cameras and show up to find out who gets painted!"

Charles then proceeded to auction off the monolith.

7:30 PM: The auction ended a little late, and dashed upstairs in order to get changed before the Masquerade began at 8:00. In order to get painted -- I was still threatening Ted with a razor, but I was fairly sure I was the one who was going to be painted -- I would have to wear something other than jeans and a polo. I switched into a sleeveless velour dress that I brought along just in case I needed to look fancy for something.

8:00 PM: Masquerade! Michelle, who I had met at Diversicon 2001, turned out to be the MC. She began the show by letting us all know that up until 7:00 PM, she only had 3 entries.

Ted and I looked at each other. We've seen this phenomenon at WindyCon.

Michelle then announced that everyone suddenly came together, and there were now 15 entries for the Masquerade.

Well, that's, um, better...

It wasn't as bad as I thought it would be. There were a couple clearly improvised costumes, most notably an incredibly imaginitive pair of "beetle people" constructed entirely of garbage bags (they really should have won something). However, most of the others were at least pretty good. There was a little girl in a bobcat outfit who was perhaps the cutest kid on the planet, and there was an older gentleman who walked in clad in a wonderful English explorer's costume a la Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's The Lost World. However, the woman who won first place in the adult category was pretty lame: she came into the room in something gauzy and black that lit up and did some sort of interpretive dance. Ted looked at me and noted that she was probably the reincarnation of the hand-dance chick immortalized in the film Trekkies.

It wasn't a class A Masquerade, but it was better than WindyCon's, so I was happy. Plus, when the judges went out to deliberate, there was actually a half-time act. An all-woman a capella singing group named the Drabbletails came in and sang a couple of rather fun, bawdy songs. That was a treat!

9:00 PM: After Masquerade, we hit Consuite again, where we found Felix being his playful self. We hung around and chatted a while with him. We even wound up in a brief gross joke battle with a couple other people that were hanging out at the party. Felix gave both Ted and I quick back massages -- he's good -- though I cut mine short when I noticed there were about a half-dozen other guys in the hallway staring bemusedly, one taping the event with a video camera.

Okay, I know I'm in better shape than a lot of sci-fi fans, but come on, guys...

10:00 PM: It was time to be painted. Ted and I grabbed both our digital cameras, filled the flask of scotch, and headed down to room 109, where we were told that the event was moved to 611 -- right across from Consuite. I remembered the bemused staring from an hour before and Charles' request for cameras at the event, and had to grab a swig of scotch. Then back upstairs I went.

I walked in the room, and the place was pretty packed. Erin McKee welcomed me in and began readying the paints. The three artists had turned to five; Karen Hollingsworth and Mike Cole had also volunteered their talents. Within a few minutes, all the artists were assembled, the paints had been gobbed onto plastic plates, the plastic tarp was on the floor, and about a half-dozen cameras were in the room. Erin and I breifly talked about what I wanted to have painted; I wasn't sure, but I noted that I liked dark colors. We eventually hit upon the idea of tentacles, and the painting session was on.

See the photos of the whole ordeal here!

We started with me standing up, and each artist grabbed a limb to work on. Karen, Erin, and Denise were all working on my legs and making quick progress, while Mike and John worked a little more slowly on my arms, since they both decided they wanted the tentacles to twist completely around my limbs several times. Every so often, Ted handed the flask of scotch to me, which was quite nice.

I was standing as still as I could for quite a while. Just as they all had begun to fill in the outlines with purple paint, I noticed I wasn't feeling so well. I managed to get out, "I'm feeling dizzy," before I fainted dead away.

Now, if you've ever fainted before, you know what happened next. I felt like I slept for a couple days, got all of these weird dreams, and then out of the murk, I heard Ted saying something. I got my eyes open and saw about a half dozen people standing over me, and one guy was shining a little flashlight in my eyes. I was laying half on the bed, and Ted was next to my head, asking me to say something. I tried to formulate the word "guh", but it got lost on the way to my vocal cords. I remember a couple of the artists picking my feet up off the ground, and John grabbed some ice and pressed it to my left wrist. That brought me around pretty quickly.

They let me sit for a few minutes, and Ted kept giving sips of some sort of random lime soda. By then, everyone not involved in painting or documentation of the event was banished from the room, and eventually, work continued, with me sitting down this time.

The tentacle outlines soon became thick, purple tentacles, and soon they needed suction cups. Mike struck upon the idea that a soda bottle cap made an excellent stamp, and he dipped it in red paint and put suction cups all over my arm. Karen then found that the paint bottle caps were a little smaller, and perfect for the tapering ends of the tentacles. Someone then found the cap of a toothpaste tube to use for the smallest marks, and soon the tentacles were covered in perfect red circles. Erin then began highlighting them with green and white, and as everyone followed suit, she added some dripping green slime to my legs. Neat!

Melissa, paintedFinally, after about an hour and a quarter, the body art was complete. After a decent little photo shoot of the artists and the finished product, it was time for the unveiling. Mike and John grabbed a towel from the bathroom, concealed me behind it, threw the door of the room open and unveiled me to the throngs of people in the hallway to enthusiastic applause.

Ted and I hit the Consuite briefly, then stopped by our room again to drop some things off and grab a few more photos while the acrylic paint was still in mint condition (it turned out to be pretty sturdy except at the crooks of my elbows). After that, we surfed the parties, hit the dance for about one song (I hate dancing), and then finally settled in the lobby where we drank scotch and smoked cigars for an hour or so. While we sat, other people wandered by and visited us, including Margueritte and one of the photographers in the painting room. It was pretty relaxed.

Once the cigars and scotch were both gone, Ted declared defeat and decided to go to bed. I followed him back to the room, but then decided that I wasn't tired at all and struck back out towards the elevators.

The elevator doors opened, revealing Karen on the inside, also traveling up. She immediately asked me if I could go up to her room so she could show off the body art she worked on to her mom. I gladly agreed, and I went up one floor to her room. She opened the door, made sure her mom was decent, and we went in. I was not only introduced to Jean Hollingsworth, but also their little pet dog, an aged, fluffy black canine of some sort. I was surprised to see a dog in the hotel, but I had seen someone else walking around with a live macaw earlier, so I wasn't too shocked.

I chatted with Karen and Jean for a bit, and had the opportunity to see some photos of Karen's portfolio. She does some very good portraiture, evidenced by a movie poster she did for Soulkeepers, which, by coincidence, was also playing on the Sci-Fi channel while we were talking. After a pleasant conversation, Karen and I bid her mom goodnight, and I followed Karen up to the sixth floor. She went back to the party in 611, and since I didn't see anyone I knew in Consuite, I followed her in.

All of the artists were still in there, though most were considerably more drunk. Denise and Mike and a few other people were sitting on the bed, singing into a Karoke machine. Karen and Erin were both wearing beautiful headdresses made by Denise. A guy named Rich was sitting in the corner, wearing a blue velvet suit and a horned Viking helmet. Clay and John were both sitting back on the bed, seemingly enjoying the spectacle of it all while not getting involved.

I wound up sitting in the corner for a bit; I really didn't know any of these people, and I didn't feel like subjecting myself to Karoke. I chatted with the guy named Rich for a while, but he seemed a little creepy for some reason, so I got a little braver and just started talking to everyone else.

I wound up talking to John and Clay for pretty much the rest of the evening, with Denise hovering in and out of conversation as she saw fit. I got a big kick out of John and Denise; they were both a blast to talk to, and they were the cutest couple at the convention to boot. Most of the evening, the four of us chatted about art, conventions, Las Vegas, film... whatever.

At one point, I finally asked, "Do I even want to know what time it is?"

Clay looked at his watch. "Nope."

Conversation coninued for an hour or two after that.

I finally got back into my own room at 4:30 AM. Since I was determined not to sleep while covered in acrylic paint, I then took the time to scrub all the paint off before I crawled into bed. It wasn't too difficult to peel off with the coaxing of a washcloth, but the drain clogged a couple times from all the little paint flecks. I wondered what the maid would think.

10114001 8:30 AM: Ted wakes me up and reminds me that I wanted to get to the art show right at open that morning in order to have a chance at the few prints that might be left over. I dunk my head under the shower again to remove the bed-head syndrome, and burn my hands again under the Chernobyl faucet of the sink.

By 9:00 AM, I am actually functioning as a human being, and the two of us high-tail it down to the art show. Yes, it turns out that I actually did get the Clark print I had bid on, so I merrily paid for it and the $45 paint revelry of the night before. Then we wandered the show to see what was left. Sadly, Denise did not place after-auction prices on her pieces, so now they were not for sale. I was also disappointed to see the Lubov print I wanted was gone. A couple of the Clark prints were left, but I decided to leave them be. Besides, I'm registered for Demicon 2002, at which Alan M. Clark will be the Artist Guest of Honor, so I figured I would pick up some prime stuff then.

So, I ported my new lithograph to my car, and Ted and I decided then to whisk ourselves over to Perkins for breakfast. We walked over, fed ourselves, and walked back to ICON.

By that time, it was 10:30 AM or so. We looked at the schedule. Unfortunately, the thing we wanted to see most, the closing ceremonies, was at 3:30 PM. We were both pretty tired, and didn't want to do a five hour drive after 4:00 PM, and we didn't want to hang around five hours for the ceremony. So, instead, we decided to just get a head start, checked out, and headed home.

And that, my friends, was the tale of my first visit to ICON. I had a wonderful time, and I am definitely planning on attending next year.

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