I had been asleep for less than five hours when the alarm went off yesterday morning. I was still flying so high on the residual exhilaration of the weekend that I barely noticed how much my body was protesting the treacherous mistreatment it had received from me. Physically, I crashed hard at about quarter to four in the afternoon. Emotionally, I’m still circling, trying to hit level ground without a crash.
It was almost surreal to be back to the routine yesterday. So much life was packed into three days that it doesn't seem right for nothing to have changed at home. It's not a new feeling, of course. I had the re-entry or reverse culture shock in high school after the JCL conventions, in college after the month in Egypt, and even a little the other year when John and I took our mini-vacation in Rome. It's still requiring a bit of adjustment.
Ordinarily, this is where I would describe the entire trip chronologically in detail, keeping as objective as I could in the report. I feel that it would be a mistake to do that in this case. So much of it would either require a great deal of explanation, or really was something you just had to be there for. I might still write the detailed version for myself later on. For now, though, I'm just going to summarize the action briefly and then make some general observations in no particular order.
Friday night, Bryan and I drove up after work. We had no traffic, even though we went through Connecticut, and I have now seen the carousel in the Danbury mall.
Saturday, we walked from our hotel to the con hotel, and got through registration in time to be only slightly late to the first set of panels. We went to the same two panels, then had lunch together. In the afternoon, I went to some of the same things Bryan did, some different. I went shopping in the dealer rooms, too. After the last afternoon panel, I was a Very Brave Steph, and introduced myself to hughcasey, who I had found interesting and entertaining when I heard him on a panel at Philcon in November, and subsequently friended here on LJ. He invited me to have dinner with him and his friends, and I ended up following him around all evening.
Sunday went basically the same way - attending panels, lunch with Bryan, and then following Hugh around the con from late afternoon until the wee hours of the morning.
On Monday, we checked out of our hotel and I drove to the con. I met up with Hugh & company - by pre-arrangement this time - and hung out with them until they left. Bryan and I left not long thereafter, and killed time at a bookstore for a while. Then we visited with Bridget, Nathan and Noah for a few hours, and finally got on the road after 9:00. As previously noted, we made it back to Madison safe, sound, and after 2 AM.
Bryan is the best friend in the whole wide world. He let me drag him to Massachusetts for the express purpose of abandoning him and leaving him to his own devices. If he hadn't come with me, I don't know if I would have managed to find the courage just to say hello. I do feel a little guilty about it, but only a little, because I had such a wonderful time, and Bryan says he enjoyed himself too. The only thing I really regret about the weekend is that I forgot my phone in the hotel room on Saturday.
Hugh is every bit as friendly and funny and fascinating as my initial impressions led me to believe, and then some. It was very good of him to allow me to tag along behind him all weekend. By following him, I had the opportunity to observe a great many interesting people, and see a lot more of what was going on at the con than I would have if left to my own devices. I really enjoyed spending the time with him. I hope that I'll have the opportunity to get to know him and be friends in real life, not just at cons and on LJ.
Hugh's roommates are also great people. There were five of them sharing that hotel room, and it can't have been terribly convenient to have yet another person in their limited space for large portions of the time, especially as one of them was having personal drama on Saturday night. And yet, their reactions, at least that I saw, ranged from tolerant to welcoming. It could have been really awkward, especially for me as I have pre-existing issues about being where I'm not wanted. I didn't feel that at all.
Since 2001, I've been reading con reports on the Bujold mailing list and on Livejournal, especially about Arisia but about other cons as well. I'd seen pictures. I thought I had a decent idea of what went on. And, frankly, I was somewhat disappointed in Philcon. At the time, I wrote that off as a combination of overly high expectations and my failure to talk to strangers. After experiencing Arisia, I don't think it was me. I think Philcon was just kind of... flat. There just wasn't the same sort of energy in the environment.
I must have a sign on my forehead that says, "Please talk to me about your creative project. I can help you make it better." I'm not complaining, mind you. I know that my independent creative works are crap, but that I make a decent sounding board and collaborator for others' ideas. I enjoy doing it. Nonetheless, I was highly amused to find myself Saturday evening sitting on the floor for an hour and a half while a very excited, hyper-focused guy in his mid-20s (not one of the roommates) told me all about the Brilliant Idea he'd had for a game, and soliciting my input as he tried to rush through an accelerated development process to get it into playtesting the next day. I did think it was a good idea, actually, but it was overly complex. So, naturally, I provided constructive criticism, encouraging the ideas while gently suggesting simplifications. Like you do. Come to think of it, that was probably the most relaxed and animated I was all weekend. Certainly it was the only social situation in which I knew exactly what to expect and how to handle it.
I overheard a number of pieces of the internal politics of several of the cons in the northeast. It seems that running a committee of volunteers to produce an event is exactly the same set of headache and struggle everywhere, with the only significant differences being based on the scale. Seriously, I was listening to some of it and thinking, "God, I dealt with this kind of thing in Medfest when I was 20." I always thought that a lot of it was just because we were all young and still trying to figure out who we were. I guess age has nothing to do with it. (On a side note, does anyone know the date of Medfest this year? I'm trying to get long-range planning going.)
Apparently what we call a Cotter Experience is a universal geek thing. Sadly for me, apparently it is also now universal to do it on iphones and the equivalent. My friends, I love you all, but from now on PLEASE, if you want to share music with me, can we use something that involves real speakers? I absolutely hit my iphone tolerance this weekend, and then some. However, I learned of a new-to-me a cappella group that I liked, which more than makes up for it.
One neat use of language that I noted (and I noticed this in November as well): No one asks "Are you enjoying the con?" It's always "How is your con going?" Your con, not the con. I love that recognition that even though we're all in the same place, ostensibly doing the same thing, no two of us have the same experience. My con was not the same as Bryan's con, although both of us had a good time and learned a lot.
Con food sucks. On Monday night, we picked up sandwiches from a Mass Pike rest area convenience store for dinner. I was two bites into mine when I realized it was the second-best thing I'd eaten in three days, with the best being mac-and-cheese made in the hotel room coffeemaker.
And finally, I'm going to mention a few of the things you probably would have had to be there for, also in no particular order: Stilt-walkers. "Oh my God, that's Hugh Casey!" (Has he mentioned he's the Guest of Awesome for Pi-Con? In the last five minutes?) Round-robin random reading in the Slutty Mermaid. "Mal and a half." The puppet-monster movie. The Jen-summoning spell. The mooing doors.
Yeah, I'm totally hooked on cons now.