Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Strange Tales on the Road to Virginia: NekoCon 2012 (Part 1: How We Got Here)

I decided to drop the "A Tourist in an Unknown Land" title for this...two colons is one too many. Also, sorry, this is turning out kinda dry.            

        We struck out just as it got dark, and headed south. My friend, occasional editor, and partner-in-crime Mr. Ellis* was at the wheel, and there were six hours of driving between us and the Hampton Roads Coliseum. The two of us were headed there for NekoCon 2012 and its live-action roleplay event, a new scene for us since we started hitting cons together, but one that most of the friends we have in this group seem to dig. Fresh off my pillage of NYCC** and hungry for another con, I had made an effort to go to this one, and even worked out that I'd be able to bum a ride off of Mr. Ellis**** and crash with a few friends of ours on the circuit. We had a backseat full of Coke, some peanut butter and bread, some onigiri, and several weird bread variants***** from the Asian market/restaurant by Mr. Ellis's house, and between the two of us we were pretty much ready for anything that might pop up.

          "So who would get thrown out of the library first," I asked, grabbing another Coke from the back seat and staring off at the ominous-looking dark mounds that constitute scenery when everything around you is pitch black, "Brian Blessed, or Tom Baker?"******

*His full name is "The most esteemed and nefarious Mr. Ellis, destroyer of worlds". You'll forgive me for not using all of it.
**Funny story, Mr. Ellis was supposed to pillage with me, but due to them denying me credentials and a tangle with the paperwork***, I wound up solo
** (I know, this running gag doesn't belong here, but...) Dicks.
****Who, by the way, is a god damn saint for putting up with me and my complete inability to stop talking when there's nothing to draw my attention away. For a total of ten hours in an enclosed space.
*****I do not particularly know the names of said weird breads. I just know they are breads and I do not completely understand them.
******The question should be credited to a dear friend of mine, whose privacy I will protect unless they're cool with me using their name here. Where I own a blog, and Mr. Ellis (and indeed most of the people who're also part of the con scene) knows that since I spent a fair amount of time with him that he's gonna wind up on here with his name displayed in some form, I try not to give people too much unwanted attention. And if you're reading this (and you know who you are), hi. Hope the month's going well.

         Mr. Ellis doesn't even have to think about it. "Brian Blessed."

         "Yeah, that's what I said when someone asked me that one." I reply, cracking the soda open and settling it in a cupholder full of change. We've been in the car about an hour or so and already it looks pretty lived-in between it being his car and me having the worst organizational and cleaning habits of any person not living in the New Jersey backwoods. "I dunno, I like it more than 'who would win in a fight'...little more erudite, for one thing, even if it's easier." 

          Mr. Ellis nods, and we go on to talk about who would win in a fight in a few anime shows we both watch. Part of the chatter for me is something the late, great Hunter S. described as "Rhythm Psychology"...a practice where you get into certain rhythms or moods to build a better understanding. All week long, I'd been doing "tense and brooding" due to a storm known as Sandy kicking the power grid for the tri-state area in the ass, and I needed to work myself out of the tough noir viewpoint before I got to the hotel.  Sullen, cynical, and snarky (well, okay, overdosing on sullen, cynical, and snarky) is no way to go around a con. If anything, it just makes you stand out more in all the brightly-colored chaos, and in the wrong way.

      So in my own way, chattering on and on about pop culture and listening to the right music puts me into the right mood. Also, it's fun, and if nothing else, the one thing everyone can relate to is the massive glut of culture in society*******. While I'd like to say the drive was fraught with peril, what it was more fraught with was two guys talking anime and trying to figure out which wire was causing the weird audio issue in the ipod jack. To further add to the drama, we occasionally had the voice of Mr. Ellis's incredibly snippy navigation system, who sounded rather neglected and put out. It is a known fact that every GPS has a very snippy, passive-aggressive voice (except for one)********, but given that Mr. Ellis's had to narrate long sixty-mile stretches that were nothing but a straight shot down I-95, the GPS got a little snippier and more passive-aggressive than most, and the directions went sort of like this:

"Sam, how much longer?"
"Another fifty-three miles straight on. Don't worry, I'll let you know."

      After six hours of snippy driving directions and one stop for gas and nonpareils, the lights of the Embassy Suites and the flags in front of the convention center finally came into view. We'd arrived. Due to the sort of confusing driveway, we had to take a couple of tries to get into the parking lot, but then, after that, we had definitely arrived. The two of us strode semi-triumphantly********* into the Embassy Suites, found two chairs in the opulent entry hall, and promptly slumped over like two humanoid lumps who really didn't want to go anywhere. Which was partially true. It felt nice to be in a chair that wasn't going to move anywhere, and I figured I looked a little strung-out and grizzled (and as I am a vain bastard) and this was not a bad thing. 

    After a few moments of the two of us looking like well-dressed vagrants slumped in a hotel lobby (done in gold and marble), we were met by Agnes, a good friend on the circuit and the one who set up the room arrangement for us. This was a godsend, as we made room arrangements in late October when it became clear we were both actually doing this thing, and that makes her, much like Mr. Ellis, a goddamn saint in my eyes. After the usual "hello"s and "it's good to see you"s, we all headed up to the suite on the sixth floor. Agnes explained the room arrangement to us-- it was a suite sort of space, there were two beds and a fold-out couch-- and we rode the elevator up. The hotel was a series of terraces built around a central sort of "courtyard" area with a bar and dining services. It is arguably one of the fanciest places I have stayed to date. 

   Once we got into the room, Agnes introduced myself and Mr. Ellis to a wonderful kind of mead I haven't tried yet, and we swapped roleplaying stories and methods of divination while we waited for the rest of the people in our room to arrive. Well, it started out like that. I get a little weird around people I don't know as well (it's something I try to keep from most people), and for some reason the mead hit me a little quicker than normal, so eventually it was Mr. Ellis and Agnes doing a rune reading while some strange hairy guy (me) acted weird in the background and occasionally offered his increasingly odd opinions^. 

   And finally the remaining roommates for the weekend filed back in from the late showing of Wreck-it Ralph the LARP crew had gone to: Zach, who Mr. Ellis had played with in a few LARPs; and Rob, a guy we knew from the 2012 ANEXT roleplay event (an epic event which sadly was not recounted here because I couldn't find the right angle to write it). Both are from the NC area, as is Agnes. We continued to swap stories (including the Deus Con Machina story, which I have to write up sometime) as I somehow got more coherent, and this continued until finally we all realized "Oh, crap, it's 2 AM, and we have to be up in six or seven hours", and promptly started to retire to bed. After some initial shuffling, I volunteered to take the floor, and let everyone else have the beds. Having brought a sleeping bag, I was pretty much okay with this, though there was some odd feeling I had I couldn't quite put my finger on. Still, I did my usual routine and drifted off.

    And then the noise started. It sounded like a broken coffee maker (Mr. Ellis said later it sounded like someone grinding bones), and we were sure it couldn't be made by any conceivable human. But since there was something organic about it, I'd decided that was what it had to be. Eventually, I got used to the bizarre and mysterious throat noise and promptly went back to sleep, ready to face whatever the morning had in store for me. There was still the odd feeling I couldn't quite shake, but I was sure it was just jitters from being up late and having driven all day, and that the hyperness would die down...

- When someone offers to cover your train ride to Philadelphia and accidentally buys you a one-way ticket, consider it an ill omen of minor portent
- Runes take longer to get snappish than tarot cards do
-  A few deep breaths to calm down is a very good idea sometimes.
- Coordinate further in advance than "A week or two" when heading for a con.

A mound of bacon!
Me being hyper!
Shifting dynamics!
Incoherent movies!
Coherent articles!

All this and more in Part 2!        

*******And if you're reading this blog, chances are you can, too.
********And that one is, coincidentally, the one that uses Brian Blessed's voice...I do believe in synchronicity...
*********Okay, you try striding triumphantly anywhere when you're carrying a gear bag and a sleeping bag, you're so clever.
^Sorry about that, guys.^^
^^Finally ran out of asterisks. Well hell.


No comments:

Post a Comment