The con for FoxCat, Notadream, and myself started Wednesday morning, around 4am. I had told Notadream that we would be starting around 5am. What I didn't mention is that I was working on panic-time for conventions... meaning I was giving myself a good hour or two ahead of the intended times to make sure that if anything went wrong... it could be handled. FoxCat and I successfully made it out of my driveway just before 6am... only to find that Notadream had been awake since 4am and was a little mad at the two hour time before we picked her up.
Off on the road we went. We were making a significant detour for the trip. Kenji lives over in South Carolina... as in Charlestown South Carolina. The good news is that only a couple of major highways (I-20, I-26, I-77, US-19, and I-79) link our towns to each other and Pittsburgh. Even so... it's still a 12+ hour trip all-around. That being said... we did have a 40mile extra detour. As I'm reading the map details I see the next turn-off I need to look for is exit 72. So I'm blazing along and around exit-91 or there-abouts on I-26 I looked back at the instructions just to confirm the upcoming exit... and realized I mis-read them. The exit I was looking for on I-26 was... Exit 116. The other exit... exit 72 was the exit on I-77 in another state. So... the next exit... turned around and went back to Exit 116.
Normally this wouldn't matter much... but I should point out that I'm driving a '99 Tahoe. Not exactly what you would call fuel efficient. Well... it does get good gas mileage around 2k-2.5k rpm, which is important... as I'll get into on Monday's return trip.
From there the trip was relatively un-eventful until we actually got within 35 miles of Pittsburgh... to find that the road engineers had turned a 3 lane highway... into a one-lane highway. So instead of making it to the hotel around 8:30pm, we were well after 9:30pm pulling in.
Then we ran into the next challenge. Parking. Due to a golf event or something... or I don't know what... the Westin's parking garage was locked out... and the parking in the convention center itself was also locked out. The valet told us there was parking a block down Penn Avenue and to the right. Well, the only opening there was the History Center Parking.... and after another trip back to the Valet we verified that yes, we could park in there.
Okay... luggage up to the room. I went back to the car to get Alondro's catnip. Now, at this point I should qualify that I normally do a jester-cat role-play at Anthrocon. Last year one of our favorite DMFA-ites, Rainejoy Bringer couldn't attend the con... she's in Australia. So I wore Kenji's jester-cap so that RJ could be there... if in spirit. Somebody was going to be a jester, and it might as well have been me.
So, I'm walking back from my car... the same Jester-cap from last year on my head... when I hear somebody yell SAIST!!! I look around and see Jouster in his car. Jouster is one of the DMFA-ites from Kentucky... and he can't find parking. He asks where to park... and I start pointing... then he yells, "Get in the car, show us." Okay... I open the door and stuff just starts dropping out of the car... sketchpads, Jiffylube recipients, and backpacks. I shove it all back in, then hop atop the pile... only to find that there was a cooler... full of ice water... somewhere in there... and now said cooler is emptying it's ice cold water all over the feet of Jouster's back seat car mate, Dissy. Front seat car-mate, Ouka, is now laughing butt off at the howls coming from the trapped back seat car-mate, and at the whole "get in the car" event.
We finally park... and being the nice guy that I am... decide to help Jouster and his car mates carry their stuff up to the Marriot. Well, the only Marriot we can see is 5 or 6 blocks... up a hill. Cue multiple telephone calls as Jouster tries to make sure that he's not losing his mind, and that the person who registered the rooms seriously didn't take a hotel 5 blocks away from the convention center. Seems to be that way... so up we go. Jouster and I get to the hotel... when the truth comes out. The hotel that he's supposed to be in isn't Marriot... it's COURTYARD by Marriot. After getting proper-directions from the staff at Marriot, we waited for Oaku and Dissy to arrive. They made it clear they were not going to walk back down the hill. Jouster was going to go drive them down the hill.
So... off Jouster and I go again. Down the hill, to the Courtyard by Marriot. Then we find out why we couldn't find it. Unlike the branded Marriot hotel, Courtyard by Marriot only has one lighted sign, and the whole by Marriot is unreadable at any distance because it's quite literally the smallest font I've ever seen on a hotel sign. Seriously, even junk hotels in downtown LA have better markings.
Anyways, after a convoluted series of telephone calls... of which I only caught Jouster's end, it seemed that somebody else was getting Dissy and Oaku from the real Marriot, Jouster was finding the actual room, and I was off to go get Kenji who was going to be rooming with Jouster in the Courtyard by Marriot.
Okay, all done. everything's good to go? Not quite. By this point, Jouster and I are starved... only to find that just about everything is closed. Even the Mcdonald's, which is open 24/7 where we live... is closed.
A relatively not-so good pizza place nearby was open, that some of our group remembered from 2 years ago. Well, from my point of view, the pizza sauce was good. The cheese was good. The crust.. .wasn't so good. And due to some idiot blue kitten not being able to grasp that food in Pittsburgh generally comes in much larger sizes that food where he lives... we wound up with way too much leftover pizza.
Okay, back to the hotel room. Collapse.
At some point I ran into Grey Wolf. I'm... not sure if I'm considered part of his Wolf pack, but it was made pretty clear that I had better show up at Steel City Diner the next morning at 9am.
Went to Steel City Diner with Grey Wolf, 10 other wolfs from the pack, and some others. After breakfast, being quite tired from the un-intended tour of downtown Pittsburgh, I went back to the hotel room to collapse.
Around 3pm or so, the registration lines opened up. Well, being the idiot blue kitten I am, I hadn't pre-registered for the con. So I'm sitting there in the long lines waiting for registration... when I start adding up monies. I had budgeted $20 for a high-speed wireless access connection for the time of the con. I had also wanted a t-shirt this year, so I had $15 or so set aside for a T-Shirt from the con. A Sponsorship for Anthrcon is $90, so about $40 over the price of the regular con access.
Well, if you remember, I've fussed about Hotel Wireless before, and the Westin was no different. At best my laptops could only get 2 or 3 bars of service from the wireless router, and the connection dropped more times than I'd rather think about. Realizing that the high-speed access plans could only be using the exact same wireless access point, paying out for the Westin's wireless plan seemed something of a really dumb maneuver.
At the same time, Convention sponsors get a free t-shirt, and can get it 2 days before regular attendees... so I could be sure I could get one in my size.
Okay, one Sponsorship attendance... which as I came to find out, meant I didn't have to stand in some lines, and was able to get first and second seat positions for some of the larger events. Trust me on this... I won't ever do anything less than Sponsorship again.
For some reason or another, I eventually wound up back in the hotel room, when it was announced that Keaton had arrived. I go down to say hi.
Now... last year I commented something to the effect that Wildy in a bodice was quite possible that cutest thing I'd ever seen with my own eyes. Actually, LJ is loading for me now. So this is what I said
From there back into the Westin to put the books back into a safe location... and I think this may have been when I saw Wildy in her Ren Faire Garb... at the risk of getting myself kneecapped next year... oh mew... is she ever such a gorgeous sight... Part of you wants to just pick her up and CUDDLE her... and the other part goes "no... I like living."Well. NEVER ask me to say which is cuter... Keaton or Wildy. I quite literally lost the ability to speak, and according to one person later, possibly turned even whiter. After stammering a bit, I fled back to the hotel room. Cue one blue kitty being an absolute klutz and looking like an idiot... again.
The con starts. Breakfast from Arby's, then to opening ceremonies. From opening ceremonies to the dealers den and Queen Mab. Which is where I ran into Keaton again. I was carrying a cherry coke. Emphasis on was. After making a complete fool of myself yet again, and feeding the floor some of the cherry coke, I pretty much fled off to the Puppetry Panel.
I used to do Puppets several years ago, and figured it might be interesting to see what was up with the puppetry panel. While waiting for the panel to start I found that one high-speed access point had been left on and available, so a quick duck into City of Heroes to check Global Messages and in-game emails, and a quick catch up on my webcomics... and then off to the puppets.
The opening panel was really fun, as eventually the puppeteers made an open-call for anybody to try the puppets. Which I did. After a couple of improv skits talking with each other and people in the audience, it was suggested that we puppet along to a song. Well, as most people know, my music collection has very few secular artists. We were, however, assured that we would indeed know the song that was going to be played. Song starts up... and yes. I... do know it.
We. Got. Rick. Rolled.
Eventually the panel broke up for people to go get lunch. Some more time in the dealers room, and dinner plans were confirmed. Then I found a slight problem with the puppetry location. The section of rooms that the puppets were in had been blocked off the previous year, and many con attendees did not know where to look for the puppets.
This little factor became a problem as almost nobody showed up to the second puppet panel. The plus side was, a music video was shot of a the cutest fox puppet I've ever seen (wig from Build'a'Bear) singing along to a country song.
Started a re-occuring event of mouse chases cat. Somebody was walking around in a fur-suit as a mouse. Remember... I'm playing a Jester-cat. You can see where that went.
Traditionally, the DMFA group goes to dinner with a couple of the artists. While walking to the dinner, the mouse re-appeared with a friend. After some exaggerated poking of each other, then pointing at me, the classic scene of giant mice chasing blue kitty got underway.
Anyways, from the con straight into dinner at an awesome Chinese place with Holly-Ann, Forestcat, her boyfriend, Jouster, Kenji, Tapewolf, Bunny-Boy, Hazzy, Reese, Zedd, and somebody whose name I didn't actually catch. In the middle of our table was a large round spinner. As the food was brought out, it was placed on the spinner, so you could spin the food around and sample what you wanted.
At the same time, FoxCat was going out to an Italian place and had his own event. I still say hanging with Holly for a while was a better deal.
Okay, back to the hotel, I tried to teach Reese how to play Smash Brothers Brawl.
Then off to Kage's story hour, which is one point where the Sponsorship package (only $90), became very worth it.
I think after Kage's story hour I went back to the zoo, then to the hotel room to crash. At some point, pizza was involved.
Lots more time in the dealers room. Got some artwork from Blade.
Foxcat went out to try to sell off the laptop that I had bought and we had a couple of nibbles. I had finally managed to get over the panic around Keaton, so watched her draw for a bit. Had two leads on selling the laptop. Surprisingly one of them was Fernando from a nearby restaurant. The same Fernando that last year took a brick from a bum that was harassing the RadioFurs. Yes, his head is fine. The other was Aleksandra of Aliks Cosplay.
Watched the Fursuit parade, and attended the Masquerade event. Blade said she'd do another button badge design. Got some delicious food from Baker-Bunny. More smash brothers and some Mario kart figured into this day.
At some point Alondro came back to the room and mentioned that Kenji was sloshed down in the Zoo. He had downed two rumrunners, and had been falling out of his chair. It was also reported that Josuter was tipsy, and Mab had been into the long island iced teas. I had to see this, so I went downstairs to the Zoo.
Kenji was indeed completely out of it. On the other paw, he looked so happy sitting there in his chair holding a Zina chibi-on-a-stick. Well, Mab wasn't there, so I asked where she was. She had gone off, probably to the bathroom or something, so I joked to the effect why didn't she have an escort? Well, it was supposed to be a joke. Mab showed back up a few minutes later having been all over the third, second, and first floor of the hotel looking for the bath-room. Mags and I escorted her to the ladies room. Talked with Mags a bit about the failed paintball idea we had planned. Hung around with Mab till I got too tired. She's a treat to watch drawing... maybe next year I can get some artwork from her.
More time in the dealers room. Sold the laptop to Aleksandra. Please... visit her site: http://www.alikscosplay.com. On a side note, due to blue kitty being idiot one more time, you would think that I would remember to bring the OS discs for a laptop that I'm selling. Nope. I still need to send Aleksandra the Vista disc I have for the laptop, and see if I can turn the Xp recovery disc the laptop originally shipped with.
Spent some time hanging with Jouster, who had to leave early.
Went to Floyd Norman's Memories of a Mouse event. It's hard to think that right now Mr. Norman is probably one of the top 10 people within Disney, being one of the few left that was around when Walt Disney himself personally oversaw the companies operations. Mr. Norman also went over some of the projects he's worked on that never made it to the silver screen, which was really interesting.
After the panel went back to the dealers room, and hung around a bit, then to the Zoo before Closing ceremonies. Filmed most of the closing ceremonies on my cell phone. Stopped filming intentionally when it came time for 2 the ranting gryphon. As mentioned last year, I have serious issues with the guy. That being said, Kage accepted an idea to call 2 in the middle of the closing ceremonies on his cell phone... OVER the ballroom's speaker system. Which resulted in possibly the funniest thing 2's ever been involved in, ever, as he's ordering dinner, and getting ordered by Kage to get back to the ballroom, or Kage's mom will spank 2. Figures it would take a 3rd party to make 2 the ranting gryphon funny.
Closing ceremonies. Back to the zoo. Hotel room. Started packing up some stuff. Crash.
Time for the long trip back home. Woke up and had most of my stuff packed and into the car before notadream and foxcat even moved from their sleeping places. Went and woke up Kenji over in Courtyard by Marriot, and we all got our stuff together. Final goodbyes and everything.
Then we left the parking lot, and got on the road. After stopping for the first tank of gas, Foxcat took over driving duties. I gave him the instructions to get back and made sure he knew to turn off at US-19, and even made sure the trip-odometer would tell him when to start looking, by setting the trip as we left the tunnel out of Pittsburgh, and telling Foxcat to start looking for US-19 at the trip odometer reading of 150 miles. (136+20+3 on the directions).
I went to sleep. Critical Mistake. Foxcat missed the turn-off for US-19. A near repeat of the last time we allowed him to drive after an event. E.g., returning from White Water Rafting and waking up in Commerce Georgia. Anyways, no big loss. I-79 runs into Charlestown W.V., and I was fairly confident that I could follow road signs to I-77 which also runs into Charlestown W.V. I was right. As I-79 ended it gave instructions to I-77. Reading the trip odometer and comparing it to the exit we normally get off on I-77, Foxcat's detour was another 40-50 mile detour. No big loss in the end. (well, aside on the fuel bill).
Foxcat also found out why I do not drive with Cruise Control. The engine in a Tahoe loves to rev, and above 3k on the rpms, you can just hear your wallet scream as fuel is gulped. Cue amazement from Notadream that I could possibly drive for 10hours plus without cruise-control.
The detours did give us a problem on our gas budget. I wasn't sure we had enough money and gas to take Kenji to his home, and get back. We decided that Kenji would crash at one of our places for the night, and Foxcat would cart Kenji home the next day.
sometime this morning Kenji and Foxcat dropped by to make the run back to Charlestown. I still had Kenji's gamecube controllers. Also left behind was the Jester cap. It will continue to be safe.
Alright, that's it. That was my con. Fun? Yes. Will I do it again? Yes. Will I remember to bring more computers to sell and try to host my own panel next year? Yes.