Four Blocks to Japan
Punkie's Account of WorldCon 56
Baltimore, Maryland 1998

When I was a wee teen, I discovered science fiction conventions. I first heard about them when my friend Kurt took me to BaltiCon 18, and told me about this "WorldCon" called Constellation. BaltiCon didn't hold much for me, since I didn't have a badge, and when I heard the price of admission for WorldCon, I said, "Count me out!" A few years later, several cons under my belt, I could have kicked myself for not going. I participated in several WorldCon bid parties, including DisCon 92, the WorldCon bid for DC. Well, DisCon ran out of money (we lost to Magicon in Orlando), and when Boskone people won the WorldCon bid for Boston, I didn't go because they were jerks (at least I thought so at the time). Then a few years ago, when I heard BaltiCon won the bid for Bucconeer, I went "Yay!" But could I afford it on retail salary?

Then I got a real job, and the dates became closer and closer. I really wanted to go, but when the year came around, our finances were still rather badly planned, so it looked like we could not afford to go. Then I got an offer from the Guest Liaison of Katsucon, Richard. He approached me at Katsucon 4 and asked me to help him with the anime room at WorldCon, with a reduced staff rate. I had to go. I saved up some web work money, and sent in my check. Then, in a totally bizarre coincidence, I was updating the web info at BaltiCon site for the FanTek web site, when John Pommeranz sent me e-mail asking if I would like to represent FanTek at WorldCon. I said I would love to, but Bruce should be asked first. A month later, he said Bruce was not answering his e-mail. So I asked Bruce, and he said he looses a lot of e-mail, but doubted he could go because he could not afford the admission. I couldn't blame him. $125 is a lot for just pre-reg. He gave me his blessing, and now I was programming at WorldCon as well!

WorldCon came fast. I was just recovering from CastleCon 11, and two weeks later it would be WorldCon! I was going to enter in art, but the hanging fee was rather large, and I doubted I could cover it with what I sold. I was also going to volunteer (besides the anime room), but I sort of put it off too late to send in my form. I tried to get a ride, but either people flaked on me, flaked on the con (two other friends pulled out at the last minute because at-the-door cost was like $185), so I reserved an Amtrak ticket. But then Richard offered me a ride, even offered to drive down to Reston from Greenbelt, but I thought that would be silly, I'd meet him at the Greenbelt metro.

Tuesday, August 4th

I had packed ahead of time, but I washed some clothes at the last minute. I promptly forgot to pack what was in the dryer, so I had a lot less clothing changes available that I planned. Bummer. But I realized this only by that night. I worked at my job until my usual time, and then went to wait for the bus. While waiting, a guy who works in the mailroom, Kadir, offered me a lift. I found Kadir was a very philosophical man, who discussed the policies of war and peace in his old country of Turkey and Greece. He dropped me off at the Ballston metro on his way to his SECOND job (so his wife can take care of their child), and I headed down to the metro.

I had never taken the Green line before. I had to go from Orange to Red to Green. Simple, right? Well, despite the map saying "Fort Totten" was the exchange station, it wasn't. Oh, no. Apparently from some weird hours like 7:12 am - 9:37am and 3:09pm – 7:36pm, the Green line does not transfer there, but one station back. Oh, great. It's not like there is a sign or anything to tell you that. So then I had to wait for a train back, and then wait for the Green line to show up on the Red line tracks. I am not sure how commonly known this is, because there were all kinds of people confused. Finally, a Green line train showed up, and I got off at the end of the line in Greenbelt and waited for Richard (due to Kadir's lift, I was still very early). While I was there, some girl kept bumming me for money, saying that she needed ten dollars so her kids could eat. She would not leave me alone, despite the fact I didn't have ten dollars to give her. Finally, she started bugging someone else. She was a really good guilt artist. She tried to preach Jesus to me and everything. She left me a small cross (despite my attempts at refusal) that, yes, glowed in the dark.

Richard showed up pretty much at the time that he said he would, and we went to his house. Richard "Pocky" Kim is a very interesting person that I got to know very well over the next few days (one of the things I love about such excursions). I won't go into the personal secrets of this man, but safe to say he is a man of honor and earned my respect. I also found out that the woman who answered his phone was not his wife/girlfriend, but his mother. He still lived at home with his parents, and that's when I realized he was a bit younger than I thought (he's still in school, but does have a job and life, so he doesn't fit that stereotype of those of his age still living under his parent's roof). I hoped his parents wouldn't hate me, as I have often found the case in many situations where my friends live with their parents. Thankfully, Richard had the whole basement to himself, which is where Jason and I slept. Jason? Yes, we picked up his friend Jason, who also became my friend. Jason is a man with a good sense of humor and wit and a better goatee than I have. Although I was out of my element with people I barely knew, I felt comfortable.

Richard's basement has to be seen to be believed. It is an anime warehouse of varying colors, shapes, and themes. I became very used to the surroundings, because like my den, it has clutter, but a complex organization of themes and accessibility to the user. I spent like the first hour there pouring over the various figures, books, magazines, tapes, CDs, toys, food, beverages, games, and other artifacts of anime collections. Some I had seen before, many I had not. Evangelion Coffee in a Can?

One object I was to grow fond of was a large, stuffed Pikachu. Pikachu (from a anime show called "Pocket Monsters" that is famous for one episode that cause some children in darkened rooms to go into a seizure) is an "electric rat." Actually, it looks like small fat yellow kangaroo with those adorable anime eyes, and sharpened bunny ears. Pikachu became the WorldCon Anime Room Mascot, and with the exception of one day, was with us all the time. People haven't heard of it yet, but I am told it is coming to the US in mid September, so I'll probably get sick of it faster that you can say, "Power Rangers!" It's cool now, because hardly anyone in America has heard of it. You know how it is. My old "Goth Rebellion" reflex-kicking. Gotta hate what's popular.

Richard had to go somewhere, leaving Jason and Dan alone with me while we watched Macross Plus, a story about childhood friends who get together again after a bitter breakup when a singing holographic machine named Sharon Apple unwinds to subverted military uses. And something about windmills. By the time Richard came back, I was convinced robots should not sing or gain their own intelligence. It makes them go insane. We discussed volunteer times, and I recorded when I should be and where. By the time that was over, it was into the morning, and we all left to go to sleep. I slept on a comfy couch with quite possibly the thickest blanket I have ever seen. It was like two layers of plush with a lead lining. It's felt nice, though, and never got too hot.

Wednesday, August 5th

The first day of WorldCon I woke up rather disoriented. For a few seconds, I thought I was back in my old room in high school, but for some reason, the books in my bookshelf were in an unintelligible language. It took me a second to figure out that was Japanese and where I was.

The Grand Entrance... We left early, around 9, and stopped by McD's for breakfast. I got quite possibly the largest orange juice known to man. I drank it all, and felt better. Parking was a REAL bitch. We circled Baltimore for a long time looking for parking. We finally found a garage that was not full, and discovered that there was a baseball game in progress at Camden Yards. Bugger! We later found out Dan had to park almost 2 miles away in a parking lot on the other side of the stadium, and walked to the con. We rushed over to the Convention Center with armfuls of tapes, laser disks, and Pikachu. I was already pre-reg'd, and so was Jason. Richard was not. He had to endure the long lines with everyone else who procrastinated (in Fandom? Surely you jest…). It took me all of 2 minutes to get my stuff and head over to the programmer's table. Richard took more than half an hour, I have seen shorter lines at Disney Theme Parks. We watched the clock, fearing being late for the anime room. By the time Richard was done, we were late. We found the hotel on the map, and ran over as fast as we could. It was like four blocks up, and two to the right. Oh, MAN, that was far away. I was told we were put there because BSFS doesn't like gamers or anime, which were both in that hotel. I am not sure if this meant they always hated them, or just for this con, but it may all by rumor anyway.

Ha ha. How ironic, the anime room was not ready to start. The VCR (or laser disk, I forgot which) we rented wouldn't work. But the primary concern was that the theater seats were being fixed. Apparently, they were so loose, that if you sat in one and leaned back, the whole row would tip over. There were maintenance men bolting them to the floor. Also, we found out that the screen in this theater was about 5 inches too short on each side, so we had to project directly on the wall. Then they guys said the seats were fixed. We checked, and most of them were, but some rows were still falling apart. Mostly because they were bolted to the carpet rather than the floor. So we had to have some guys come in again. More delays. We got the equipment fixed by this point, and some of the men said some of the seats could not be fixed because the floor under them was too weak to hold the bolts. So we taped off those areas, and put up signs that said, "Do Not Sit Here." It was at this time I noticed that not only did the movie room have two large pillars in the middle of them (and seats RIGHT behind them, if you sat there, all you could see was a pillar), but the stairs had no lights. For the rest of the con, I was scared someone would trip and fall.

I ran my first shift seeing M.A.P.S., a story about a boy and his ship. Some poor kid with the keys to the map of the universe is kidnapped by a ship with its own living, walking brain. The brain is really a very pretty woman. There is a lot of angel-like imagery in this one, and was fairly good.

When that was over, I was relieved of duty and went to see the con and opening ceremonies. As I wandered about, I saw a lot of people I knew, and was surprised how many people just came right up to me and asked how I was doing. I am not sure if I was being schmoozed or what, but I liked the attention. Many people asked me about my next book. The dealer's room was HUGE, and I would have gone to the art show, but Opening Ceremonies was going to come on at 3pm. I wanted to see this, because I do OC at FanTek events, and I wanted to see "how it was really done."

I found a seat, and found myself sitting next to Matt, a very nice person of whom I had met at FanTek events. We talked for a bit, and then the OC started. First, there was 10-15 minutes of slides and music. No narration, no explanation of what I was watching, but my deductive powers of reasoning guessed that they were pictures from bid parties past. Some were funny, but there were a lot of pictures that I felt if you didn't know the person (and I never did), you wouldn't get it. It was a rather boring beginning. Then some pirates came on, and it was the Pirates Royale (they perform at Renn Fest). They did a funny skit, then two funny songs, and I perked up a bit. I was looking for their album all con long, but never found it. I'll get it at Renn Fest this year. Then came the boooooring parts. Some woman dressed as a queen carrying a HUGE stuffed Armadillo on a skateboard came on. "This looks promising," I thought. Alas, the comedy of her costume was misplaced, and quickly this arrogant woman with a soft voice gave a long speech about being accepted and welcome by the mayor, and some other political "This is Bucconeer Day," stuff. That lasted too long, and then she left and someone else came on and read some more drivel about the WorldCon Committee and then an e-mail about why JMS couldn't show. Well, the popular rumor was that JMS (creator of Babylon 5) was mad at the head of WorldCon, and faked illness to get out of contract. I have NO idea if this is even close to true, but most people around me did. Charles Sheffield, Toastmaster, came on after her, and woke us up with his wit and charm. He introduced the guests one by one. Then began the coin tossing. They had golden doubloons, but they were heavy and some of the authors and artists with carpal tunnel and weak arms tried their best to toss the coins past the first five rows. Only one succeeded, and that was Michael Whelan. He was whipping them like ninja stars, sending them flying well past my row in the middle. Despite my common senses, I attempted to catch one. Bad idea. A guy in front of me screamed, "Ahg! My shoulder!" I had one whip across my wrist, leaving a red streak like a friction burn that lasted two days. I never did get one. I heard other people scream, "My eye!" or "Honey, honey, are you ok?? Did you at least catch one? Here let me pull it out…" but I think they were joking. The first five rows began to get sick of the pile of coins at their feet, so they distributed the wealth by tossing them back to us. The Pirates Royale came on again, and I decided to leave before everyone left at once. A lot of people were leaving, and the crowd wasn't too big.

I want to add here that a two weeks after the con, someone saw this review who was working on the sound system at OC, and said that first, they were informed not to play music during the slide show. Then they were informed music should have been playing ten minutes before the performance. Second, the main speaker, Peggy Rae was normally like that. Both me and this sound tech agreed that if Peggy kept her nose out of the air, and her mouth within three feet of the microphone, we could have heard her. She blamed the sound crew, openly I might add, which made her look very bad. If you need to know a lesson in show business, one big one is never piss off your tech crew or makeup artist. This woman struck me as the type of person who thinks very highly of herself, but probably lives a sad life of loneliness and denial where the only people that hang around her are people who think they can get something from her.

After OC, I bummed around the main hall for a while. I then saw some people I didn't want to see. One of them I was surprised made it to WorldCon. He spent half an hour talking to me about his problems, all self-made, and how little money he had. I heard this a lot. I am getting sick of my friends with no money complaining about how little money they have, and I KNOW they must have shelled out at least $200 to get there (I also have many "poor" friends who always seem to have enough for the latest $300 computer peripheral). In this case, he was griping about how much the hotel rooms were, how rotten his kids were, and how he'd been poor for as long as he could remember. I wanted to ask him, loudly, "If you are so damn poor, why are you here?" An acceptable answer would have been "someone is paying my way," or "I had to just get out for a while before I killed my parents and co-workers," or even "I saved up for this for a year." But I was too chicken to ask. I also met some filkers like Electro and Steve, and they were as happy to see me as I was to see them. I have to do more filking sometime. I met two ex-prunes, Rick and Rhonda. Rick filled me in on his life, which involved breaking eyeglasses, a busted fridge, and the exploits of married life while he waited for the guy with his free badge to show up. It was good to see him after a long while. He still has his sense of humor, which I missed. Quickly, both of us started doing routines that we used to do years ago when he founded Prune Bran, and I started as a co-writer. Too bad our lives are too far apart to get together anymore.

Okay... *I* thought it was funny... After my bumming about was over, I realized my shift started soon, so I went to go find Harborplace. I had not been to Baltimore since 1993, and I hadn't been to Harborplace since the mid 1980's (BaltiCon 20, I think?). It has changed in many ways, and in many ways has stayed the same. There are more buildings on the skyline now. The front of Harborplace is larger, with more water taxis. The mall is the same, still two parts. I went through the malls to find cheap eateries, and finally found some places that I liked, two that served Chinese/Thai food, and one Subway. I ate at the Thai place first, and the man behind the counter was so ragged from the huge flux of convention people, he forgot to ask me for my money. I gave it to him anyway. Karma, you know. Then I went back to the anime room.

I watched the entire Vampire Princess Miyu saga, a very gripping story that wasn't what I thought it to be. I knew it was popular in the Goth crowd, but it wasn't really a Goth movie per se. It was very good, and we closed with it. After it was over, we collected our tapes, and offered Dan a ride to his car. When we got there, the car had been towed. Dan was very (understandably) upset. We drove him home, the whole time he was fuming that this con was not worth $400 (admission plus the cost of getting his car back). I couldn't agree more. We didn't see him again that weekend, and we wished him well.

Thursday, August 6th

Belldandy!We had gotten home late, and had to wake up early. I barely remember the ride to the con, but I did see the movie series "Ah My Goddess!" This was one of the best I have seen since Totoro. Very sweet and touching. Then I sat through a series called, "Crusher Joe," the story of merchants who transport the wrong kind of cargo, and have to clear their names before the evil people get the massive weapon of gravitational warp destruction. During this time, I was in the projectionist booth, and someone came in, and said, "Richard needs the Princess Miyu tapes back." I had no idea who this person was, and even though I have poor night vision, I could tell it was someone not on our staff. "We don't have them," I said, and the guy said Richard would be mad if I didn't give them to him. I repeated my assumption (since I thought we brought them back home anyway), and the guy left. I later found out Richard didn't ask for the tapes (duh, in the middle of a panel, why would he?), so my paranoid assumption was right, it was an attempted theft. Jen later told me that one of her friends got his backpack stolen. Then I started "Arcadia My Youth," a long film about saving mankind from alien takeovers, pirate spaceships, and honor.

She also told me about the Fan Lounge, just right around the corner. I also discovered the Gay Fandom Lounge across the hall from them. The Gay Lounge had better food, but they weren't open as much. I also wondered that since I wasn't gay, was that mooching? Gay fans are sure nice, though. But the Fan Lounge became my frequent watering hole for the rest of the con. It had better hours, and more interesting speakers. They had a display of fanzines and program books past, as well as new fanzines for sale. There was also a HUGE freebie table with old fanzines, program books, and writer's journal collections that looked like a small press had just found some overstock in their garage, and dumped them here.

Arcadia just went on and on, and I must admit was getting a little tedious. You could leave for a bathroom break (we always had two people guarding the room at any given time, so the stuff was never left alone), and come back not having missed anything. While I was watching a scene where they were flying through some fiery area of space, Richard tapped me on the shoulder and informed me we had a situation.

Any any moment, this was all going to blow up... He was walking out of the booth and noticed a little girl sitting on the steps. Since the steps weren't lit, and people were tripping in the dark as it was, he asked her to move. She ignored him. He asked her where her parents were, and she said nothing but that her grandmama told her to stay there and not move. Richard then came to me. After some questioning we found out that her name was Ryan, she was three, her mother was not at the con, her father was at a party, and her grandmother just left her their to watch "the movie" which I assumed she thought were just cartoons. Ryan was real tense, and I think she was terrified that strangers were bothering her. I told her I would sit behind her and make sure no one trips over her until we figure out what to do. Richard was pissed, I was pissed, and we decided not to tell Keith until later because we thought this would piss him off to no end. As I sat behind this cute little girl dressed in a party dress and white curls, I tried to plan my next move. While the nature of what we were watching wasn't adult per se, it was not the place to leave a little three-year old alone. A few people tripped over me, and asked me to watch it. "Why are you sitting there?" "I am protecting her," I'd say. "Why is she sitting there?" "I don't know," I'd say, but that seemed to satisfy everyone. Just before I thought, "Yeah, we should call the authorities," her grandmother did show up. I told the old hag that what she did was inappropriate, we were not a babysitting room, this girl was only three years old, and we do show adult titles and the woman just blew me off like, "And just who the hell are you?" She didn't say a word, so I followed her out the door and told her that what she did was morally wrong, just in case, you know, that made a difference. It didn't, even when I loudly pointed her out to Richard. Richard and I made promises not to spread this story until after the con.

After my shift, still fuming from this woman who dared call herself a grandmother, I went back to the convention to inspect the dealers room and art show. It was at this time, the creeping feeling of being out of place started to bubble up through my subconscious. The first thing that popped into my head was that there was an extremely low amount of Goths. In fact, I only saw one, who I started thinking of as "The Goth," because I didn't really see more than him. He was with his girlfriend, and was not very approachable. I am sure he was thinking the same thing I was. And also the other thing:

What a lot of nerds.

Man, I hate to say it. People who have never been to a sci-fi convention may go, "Well DUH!" and those who do go to cons will say, "Hell, YOU'RE a nerd, Punkie!" While this is true, I must preface what I am about to say with extreme caution. Nerdliness is not necessarily a bad thing, it's like being Goth or Punk. But there are certain people who should know that tee shirts that don't fit, pants over the belly line, and K-mart shoes with black socks do not a fashion combination make. I thought I might be alone in this theory, but in a copy of the "Armada," the on-the-fly WorldCon newspaper, an anonymous someone also made the comment in issue 5, "I would like to suggest that you engage you esthetic sense and look at your legs before you wear shorts." I know I am a nerd. I never have fit in. But at least I realize my surroundings to a point where I blow my nose when clogged, clean my glasses when dirty, and wear clothes that match in style with each other as well as the current decade I am in. Not that the majority of people were nerds, hardly, I think the real "looker" nerd rations were only around 10%. But that's still one in ten. The "lookers" did have some characteristics that I defined myself away from:

Almost every one was overweight. Now, I am overweight, in many cases fatter than these people, but I carry it well. I don't thrust it away from my body like a battering ram. Short hair looks great, as long as all the hair is cut layered or at least the same length. . I get my hair cut professionally, not by Flowbee, or by aging parents. I clean my glasses, and try for a look other than "cheapest brown frames, please." Facial hair should be neat, manicured, and if too thin, not at all. Some of these guys looked like they never got past their first shave with nanny-goat scruffiness and flaking skin. Also, when you speak, try to sound eloquent, keep your volume down to the level of those around you, and try to kill the nasal accent. I wear tee shirts that are not form fitting, and at least longer than my belly. Pants should be worn low across the belly, not so high they ride right up under my nipples. Spend the extra $5 and get some better shoes at K-mart. And white socks go with athletic shoes, black socks go with formal wear.

But as much as I am on my high horse, I must admit I also share some nerdly traits like walking real fast in public, talking too loud, and pushing up my glasses by the bridge of my nose. Don't even get me started about my hair, it's a curse handed down the male side of my family. My father and son both have it, too.

Well, now that I got that out of my system, I was wandering around the con, and got a good look at the dealer's room and art show. The dealer's room was enormous, which I could have guessed. Dealers are one of the main revenues for cons. I wanted to get something for my son and wife that could not be bought elsewhere. I also wanted to get something for myself, and found a wonderful booth that sold cat art. One piece was Bastet with an Egyptian motif that looked a LOT like Karen Kuykendall's work from "Tarot of the Cat People," which is my tarot deck. And it was a steal at $15. The FRAME alone was worth more than that. I had to get it. I found for my son a small leather pouch from Sandcrafters (from which I bought another smaller belt to fit my shrinking waist better), and filled the pouch with some marbles and colored stones from another vendor. I looked and looked for Christine, but she doesn't wear jewelry, is not a rabid tee shirt fan, and didn't know what she wanted for art. She doesn't read that many books, so I was stumped. I went to the art show, but everything was real pricey, which was no shock. Considering the wealth of good art in that show, I was gladdened by my decision not to display my cartoons. Some of the artwork was stunningly breathtaking. Some of it was really disturbing. But no matter what I saw, I had to admit BSFS knows how to put on an art show. Pieces ranged from $1 to $30,000 and I know one person but a bid on a $5100 piece. One of the most stunning works was an NFS piece that was put on display by the collector. It was bonze wire nickelodeon with a haunted roller coaster as a theme. It was so Danny Elfman/Gothic/Tim Burtonish… I could almost see Winnona Ryder or Christina Ricci's face framed in the artwork, looking wistfully at the sky, and wondering if their raven-black hair would merge with the very night itself… … sorry, I am back now…

For those who must stay connected... I didn't find any art that said, "Christine MUST have me!" so I went back upstairs to the Internet Lounge, and wrote to Christine. I sent her mail from my Yahoo account and told her I missed her, and I'll spare you the sickeningly sweet love letters I send to my own Belldandy. But I will gripe about two nerdish things that kept happening to me at the Internet Lounge. One was that some people have this need to announce what kind of mail they get to just everyone. "Oh, work keeps sending me requests," they say, almost as if the back of one hand were upon their sweaty forehead in a martyr-like swoon. Then they relate to me how important they are, as if I cared. One guy kept saying, "Oh, it's the NSA again…" I finally told him that several people from the NSA were stationed at this con (one was working the anime room!), and he should watch his tongue, but this only encouraged his espionage fantasy. Whatever, dude. Another annoyance was one guy who no only kept talking to me, but read my own mail over my shoulder. Now, my e-mail account on Yahoo is about as revealing as my Metro farecard, but still! While he was looking at what I was doing (mind you, he wasn't waiting in line to use the computer, he was on the computer next to me), I began to type, "This guy next to me keeps looking at what I am typing, and he doesn't even care. He has no idea that when I am done, I am going to mark my territory in a more bold fashion by peeing on him." That didn't work, he still kept reading until I said, "Do you mind?" and he smiled and went "Not at all!"


I then left to resume my post at the anime room. I got to see Plastic Little, a rather… bouncy film about two semi-clothed teen girls and vengeance for lost fathers amid the world of exotic pet handling and mad scientists. Truthfully, I liked it, it was short, sweet, and had lots of action. Then came Ninja Scroll. Richard prefaced this movie as bloody and disturbing, and the crowd cheered. Now, I didn't think it was THAT gory, but it did have its moments. It's just a little less disturbing than Akira, and a little more than Final Fury.

Then we went home. I was tired, and Richard was having trouble staying awake on the ride home.

Friday August 7th

We got up, and drove to the con. Neon Genesis: The Evangelion Marathon had started. I ran my shift through the first half dozen or so episodes, and then my beeper went off. It was WORK! What the hell? Not only was I not on call, but I had no way of contacting them back, and it was the middle of the day, and someone should be at the hotline! I tried to call them back, but I had to wait until my shift was over, and by then, I had forgotten.

After my shift, I went to the volunteers table, and the second I signed up with them, a guy said he desperately needed bag checkers in the art show. I couldn't really say no. So off I went, and spent an hour checking people's bags in. One jerk refused to turn his camera in. "Why?" he asked with a stubborn stalwartness similar to my son when he was three. I told him that they were not allowed. "Why?" he asked again, with a hint of a smirk. I told him we signed an agreement with the artists. "Why?" he asked, putting an arrogant edge of intimidation in his stance. I told him if he didn't like it, he could leave and complain to the convention. He said he would do that and got my name. I never saw him again. Then, after about an hour of gruelling work, my job paged me AGAIN! WHAT?? I wanted to scream into my pager. Why did I bring my pager, you ask? It was an emergency procedure in case anime staff had to contact one another. I never got paged, but both Richard and Keith used they cell phones to get work done. So I went to get my "volunteer timecard" signed, and had flashbacks of temp work. I must say, the woman that had to sign my card at the time was an arrogant snot. While waiting for her, she told one volunteer to patronize (in a bad way) an artist who had a legitimate complaint about wanting to have separate pieces on separate bid sheets. I am not sure why anyone would want to do otherwise, but I got the impression the artist may have added some extra pieces late. When she got to me, she was one of those people who looked up at you with the frown of a fourth-grade teacher two years from retirement. She peered at me from above reading glasses on the tip of her nose. "You didn't fill this out properly," she announced to me, like I should have known better, and my presence was already tiresome. "Yes, ma'am," I said in my most sweet, un-affectedly neutral retail voice (as I get older, I realize just how valuable lessons I learned in retail can be applied to everyday living). That jab did not go unnoticed by anyone at that table. I have no room in my life for people who volunteer for cons and treat it like a pole position. I didn't volunteer for anything officially after that. At least the people who worked WITH me were nice.

I was still rather upset at this event, and then I came across bozo central. I saw this guy at CastleCon, and seen him post on the FanTek list. He's some super-alien guy with a head shaped like a catering industrial-sized coffee dispenser. Moozla. Great, who invited him? Moozla started going on some tirade about not being taken seriously, and how his WorldCon bid was being ignored. He then went on and ON about his arch rival Neezus the Unfruitful and the evils of popcorn. When I challenged his rulership, he showed me his "proof" he owned the world. In all honesty, it was some Day Care release form with the word, "Consent of Parent" crossed out and "Ownership of the Earth" typed above it. The previous leader apparently signed, "Previous Earth Owner" in purple crayon. I tried to reason with him, and then he snapped! He jabbed one of those acrylic ray guns that Ishtar was selling downstairs, and blasted a few beams of visible blue light into my right nipple. "I have disintegrated you, you stupid Earthling!" he shouted. "Huh?" was all I could think to say at this time (how witty, huh?), and he sputtered in anger, looked at the gun, then at my nipple, then at his gun, and then muttered something that sounded like, "Earthling so dumb, he doesn't even realize he is dead…" What-EVER! Some people are so totally in their own fantasy world.

While waiting around the main area, an event unfolded in front of me, and I would like to pass on this advice: If you are trying to impress a potential date, DO NOT relate to her your entire fictional works! I saw this guy attempting to impress someone with his works, the history of his characters (which was so Tolkien-ish), and how impressive a writer he was based a lot on the fact he wrote in such huge volumes. I thought he needed Pepto for his writing because he had diarrhea of the words and constipation of the ideas. Not one part of his works was original, it was all cut-and-paste from somewhere else. I wouldn't have cared so much, but he just kept BORING this poor lady, who was trying politely to listen, but it was beginning to wear on her like financial lecture, and she couldn't escape until someone suddenly came up to her and addressed her by name (which I forgot!), and she was needed elsewhere. It was then I realized she was a guest author, and I wanted to say to her, "Sister, I have SO been there…" but I decided one nerd talking to her was enough.

I then went to the "When I was a Young Fan: pros on Being Fans" panel. Four older fen (Jack Dann, Jack Chalker, F, Brett Cox, and Alexis Gilliand) spoke on their experiences in fandom since the 1950s. This was an excellent panel, and it showed me although some things have changed, most of the themes have not. Some of the stories I heard could have been right out of my exploits. One story involved some bored people looking for a party. Soon, they gathered enough people to start their own party. They found an unattended function room, took some chairs, and arranged them in a semicircle around the elevator doors. Then they had someone press the "up" button and wait. When someone would stop at their floor, people would rise from their chairs and applaud, and stop when the doors closed. They said no one ever came back down to find out why they did that. Another story was about a party where people were tossing paper airplanes out a window. On the floor below, apparently, was Al-Saud, the Price of Saudi Arabia. He saw these airplanes come through his window, and sent up a bodyguard to investigate. Some up comes a man in a very expensive suit and a headpiece, and comes into the party. Well, he has such a good time that he doesn't come down. So the Prince sent up another guard. Then another. Soon the Prince had to come up himself, and take back his guards. One of the best stories involved the beginning of the Great Cookie Conspiracy.

Years ago (late 50's, early 60's), one con (I think it was WorldCon, I can't recall) rented a hotel for their convention, and one of the requirements was that the hotel restaurant was to be open until midnight. The hotel agreed, and they went ahead with their plans. Two weeks before the convention, a confirmation was made and the hotel manager said, "Open until midnight? Oh my, the salesmen will tell you anything... no, no, the restaurant closes promptly at 8pm, no exceptions." The hotel management would not budge on this issue. "How are we going to feed several hundred fans?" thought the con committee. Some solutions were made that they could provide their own meals, but fandom was 99% men at the time, and most did not know how to cook (pre women's lib).

Luckily, some had wives, mothers, and sisters. They all pitched in and made some sandwiches the days before the con. Even one lady's cotillon who weren't even associated with science fiction or their fen heard that there were a bunch of men who needed food and said, "C'mon girls! Let's make tuna salad!" Sandwiches were made. Many women did not have ways to make sandwiches in large quantities, so they did a very women's club thing: they made cookies.

This quickly became tradition, because until Star Trek, there were VERY few women in fandom, and anything that attracted attention of girls in the SF community was a good thing. As time went by, hotels became more lax, and kept their restaurants open later hours. But the cookies still remained popular.

Some of the men who had no female mates made their own cookies, and just showed up at the con with them. Thus, the Great Cookie Conspiracy was born, as anonymous people donated large batches of cookies that would just show up at the con.

At its height, one fan in the mid 70's said, "I am so touched by this, next year, I am going to bring a steamer trunk filled with cookies." He did. Sort of. The steamer trunk only ended up half-full, but that's still an impressive number of handmade cookies! The person relating this story said, "It was too much to eat, but we didn't want them to go to waste, so we approached the members of the committee and said, 'Gentlemen, we must honorably eat these cookies that someone spent great amount of time and effort to make!' And you know what, we 'sacrificed' ourselves, and managed to eat every one of those cookies before they went stale..." That got a grin from the crowd.

One point that was made was about aging, and how one can't find good parties anymore. I disagreed with this openly, because although I don't party-hop like I used to, most parties aren't just open-door ones, but you have to know who to know to find the good parties. And WorldCon certainly had its share! One of the panels shouted "good for you!" and meant it in a good way. But the point of not being able to stay up as late anymore, and eating greasy food without lots of Maalox and Pepto certainly hit home, particularly since my own tummy was beginning to complain about my sudden diet change for the con.

After the panel, I went to get a bite to eat at Harborplace, and this time I went to Subway, and waited way too long for a sub. Yes, they made it right in front of me, but dang… this is supposed to be fast food! And the quality was not worth the wait. I ate it on the edge of the breakwater, watching boats go by. That was relaxing, but I had to rush back to the anime room to use the restroom facilities.

I got to know a nice girl by the name of Kim who volunteered for the anime room out of nowhere. What a cool girl she was. She even bought one of my books, the ONLY book I sold at the con (I plan these things so badly). How did I pay this sweet person back? I stepped on her foot in the dark. She had no shoes, just velvet tights. And whenever I asked her if she was okay, the music would swell in the booth, and I couldn't hear her response. It was too dark to see what damage I did, but I found out later that she was okay. Thank you and sorry, Kim!

Anyway, I watched the end of Evangelion, which consisted of two episodes written by either Philip Glass, J.P. Sartre, or maybe the script writer just lost his girlfriend. It went from a story about robots fighting aliens to some bizarre scenery involving characters in spotlights chanting their sorrows while slowly twisting their minds into insane bindings. Richard had a Q&A session afterwards where he hosted a lively discussion about the series. I learned a lot of interesting things about Japanese cults. Richard earlier had stopped the movies in mid-series to have a trivia contest and give our movie cells, but this was his most popular attendance in the movie room. Jason finally arrived, and we drove home. The 5-hour sleep sessions and bad food was beginning to wear us all down. I had to keep Richard from falling asleep at the wheel.

Saturday, August 8th

Early on, we realized that parking was scarce in this city. What made it worse was that on Saturday, the city was hosting an Orioles game at Camden Yards, a Ravens gave in the new football stadium, would start a two day "Hispanic Celebration" with a parade in the morning, and Reba McEntire was performing at the other convention center. Gaaa! We got there reeeeeealy early to find parking, and were delighted to find it paid off. We found great parking at Richard's favorite garage.

Just before we started the movies, we found that the ceiling was leaking! Gawd dahm! This was getting annoying. The hotel explained this was normal, it was just the air conditioner leaking. But the ceiling was beginning to bulge like a water balloon, and we were terrified it would just suddenly explode on the audience and equipment. We managed to persuade the maintenance guy to let it drip into a large trashcan and poke a hole to let the water drain out. We only hoped it would be emptied before it overflowed. Then the projector blew a fuse, and it took us almost two hours to get a new one from the company we rented it from. I got to meet some Japanese guests with a Pocket Pikachu. They didn't speak English, but Richard spoke Japanese, so he translated. Then it was time for ME to be on a panel.

I showed up to the Green Room 20 minutes ahead of time, like I had been told. I was also told that I would be met and escorted to my panel, and there would be food in the green Room. When I casually mentioned this to another program participant, she laughed. I forgot who she was, she was very nice, but angry at the programming committee and said her needs were not met, that the programming structure was a joke (they planned her in opposite time slots for two panels), and that help was virtually non-existent. Others at the table muttered grunting agreements. I then left for my panel thinking, "Well, at least I have anime."

The panel was pretty average. It was about local Fandom clubs. We had people from BSFS, WSFA, PrissyFish, Lambda Psi Fi (gay fandom), a Filk group, and myself, from FanTek. I was impressed with BSFS's attempts to encourage young people to read, and Lambda's organized informalness. Or was it their unorganized formalness? Whatever, they look like a really cool bunch. The panel was over and I went to the merchant's room and hooked up with Matt again. After wandering about, looking for a specific book and not finding it, I left Matt to make a phone call. While I was talking to Christine, Matt came up to me and gave me the book I was looking for. He had found it! It was $2, but he wouldn't let me pay him back. What a nice guy! Thank you, Matt, I owe you one!

On the way out, I noticed that there were NO FanTek flyers or Castles anywhere, even the freebie table. How could this happen? I thought people were coming up to drop off flyers. I hope it wasn't supposed to be me. This was not a good thing. Then I went to Rick's panel on the history of anime, and he played to a packed room. People were even standing when the chairs ran out. When things began to get dull, I raised the point about Tentacle Anime, and that was the perfect catalyst to carry the discussion way past the end of the time slot.

I followed Rick back to the anime room, passing the huge amount of smokers that were collecting outside to convention center. Rick, Keith, and Doug were going to the Otakon party in Crystal City, and I was thanked for staying behind. My shift started with "The Bubble Gum Crisis," which I found to be tediously dull with repetitive plots. During this time, someone was supposed to replace another girl's shift, but she never showed. The girl who stayed was named Donna. Donna put up with more shit than anyone had a right to take. First, there was an extraordinary period where rude people came out from under rocks or something. There were noisy people, people who sat on stairs, and one pre-teen girl who carried a tree of balloons, blocking a lot of people's views. Donna kicked her out. Then, people started leaving a lot of trash under their seats because the trash can outside was spilling over. Also, our drip-catcher from the ceiling leak was about overflow. Donna went to get hotel people to take care of it. Then someone came into the booth with a handful of trash bags. He wasn't a hotel employee, but a fan who was handed the bags and told to bring them to me. Ah! The nerve of the hotel. And just what were we supposed to do with the old trash? Donna went to yell at the hotel again. Finally they changed the trash, and also changed the trash of the Fan Suite which had four bags of trash spilling over. I had to make an announcement that people should throw out their trash in the cans outside, not in the room. Donna helped clean out a lot of trash left. Then, after telling the hotel we needed more water, the hotel finally set up water outside the room.

While I was in the booth, suddenly the wall behind me went, "BAM!!!!" The force was so great, that the entire booth shook, and I checked to make sure that the equipment was not harmed (it wasn't). I went outside to look, and somehow, that little girl with the balloons had managed to hit the water table so hard, it knocked over everything. She was playing with a friend by running around full speed on the Mezzanine Level, and somehow upset the table, nearly on top of Donna. Donna was furious, and demanded to see the girl's parents. The girl did nothing but back-talk until I showed up. Then she just left. Poor Donna! She was there way past the end of her shift, and everything was going wrong around her.

Paul and Venora showed up, and volunteered to relieve Donna, who had yet to party-hop. God Bless them. I left them have the booth while I watched the end of BGC. Then came Ghost in the Shell. Now, after BGC was over, I thought, "Maybe I hated it because I am burned out on anime." This film proved that dead wrong. This was a visually stunning film that kept me glued to the screen. It was about the Internet gaining its own intelligence in the future, Project 2501. It has one of the most stunning cyborgs I have ever seen in a lead role. Finally, around 1am, when I was about to just drop dead (the "Wings of Honneamise" was playing, but I was too tired to pay attention, looked good, though)., Richard showed up from the party and wanted to go straight home. He was as beat as was I. I barely remember the trip back.

Sunday, August 9th

We slept in late, and I arrived just in time to see that the anime room had not been opened yet. Richard went ahead an opened it, and I went down to Harborplace to see my family. We had decided that they should get a one-day pass so Christine and CR could see the con. So we did. Christine got a small bronze winged cat, and I broke down and got a Michael Whelan print I have been wanting since I was just 14. It's a picture of a little girl in a spacesuit making sandcastles on the moon. This print to me has always signified the destiny I feel man was meant to have to eventually establish colonies there.

By the early afternoon, I was beat. Five days of bad food and little sleep was beginning to catch up with me. I was going to work the next day, and I didn't want to have to call in sick, so we left and said our good-byes to everyone. I got my stuff, thanked the staff, and went home. I took a long nap, but in my house, naps are rarely left unbroken. The phone always rings, a cat wants to play with you, or the neighborhood kids pick this day to have a water balloon fight. I did go to work the next day (and I was glad, I needed to be there), but as I type this the Friday after, I am still catching up. Thankfully, my vacation Starts on Sunday, with a six to seven hour drive to Avon, NC along the Cape Hatteras islands. We have rented a beach house there with Brad Redding, Jeni from the art show, and Christine best friend and her son, Dee and Josh. I plan to just lie on the beach a lot, weather permitting.

All in all, I give WorldCon a B-. It could have been better and more worth my time, but the anime room made it for me. I want to give my worlds of thanks to those who supported me while working in the anime room, as well as all the friends and new friends I met at WorldCon. Am I going to Philadelphia in '01? Probably. I am also voting a STRONG bid for Cancun in 2003. I think a WorldCon every 2-3 years should do it for me. I still have all those FanTek, BSFS, WSFA, Katsu, and other cons to tide me over.

One of these days... one of those is going to have 'Grig Larson' on them... mark my words.

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