Cthulhu Coffee at Loscon 2001
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You know, to be totally honest, I never thought I’d become a fangirl. I’ve attended CONvergence since its conception, and Minicon for years before that, but one convention per year does not make a fangirl. In all those years, I had no clue that I would attend more conventions, let alone LOTS of them, and the idea of flying out to Los Angeles just to attend one would have boggled my mind a mere two or three years ago.

There should be support groups for this sort of thing. But do you know why there’s not?

Con-hopping is a frickin’ blast.

Loscon 28, which took place in the wilds of Burbank, California, was something of a minor landmark in my con-hopping adventures. It’s the first time I’d visited a convention outside the Midwest. It’s also the first time that my native guide turned out to be the convention chair for the following year.

Tadao Tomomatsu is the person to blame for all this. For those of you that haven’t read the previous Cthulhu Coffee convention reports, Tadao is a friend of mine who has managed to eke his way into dozens of minor claims to fame. Besides being Mr. Shake Hands Man on USA Bonzai Movie Friday, he has appeared in several films, he is the archivist for the Los Angeles Science Fantasy Society (LASFS), he won this year’s Evans-Freehafer Award, and he is chairing Loscon 29. This is the guy who suggested that I attend Icon, which was such a great time that I had to also take up his suggestion to attend Loscon.

Now, I realize that you are probably reading this because you are interested in all of the oddball events of Loscon and the antics of the guests and attendees. As with all of the convention reports that I have written, I feel the need to explain that although I do my best to get a good overview of the convention, I usually know very little about the guests of honor, I have a propensity to miss most of the panels, and I tend to totally ignore some convention offerings completely (such as gaming and filking). My tale is pretty much just my personal observations of everything that went on, and thus contains a lot of my own foibles and antics.

That said, I am continually monitoring for other people's tales and photos of Loscon 28, and I will link them here when I stumble across them:

So, that’s the back story, now here’s the good stuff: my (Melissa’s) Loscon 2001 convention report.

11232001 It was 6 AM, and I groggily hit the snooze on my alarm. I was recovering from a two-fold assault on my senses. First of all, I had gorged myself on my stepmother’s Thanksgiving lunch/dinner the day before. Secondly, I had decided to begin watching Apocalypse Now Redux at 11:30 PM the night before. Great film, but it’s just not something to start watching late-night when you have a morning flight to Los Angeles.

I got moving and finished packing. I decided that this would be a good convention to relax a bit at, so I packed only jeans, pants, and shirts. No dresses. No high heels. No thigh-high boots. And absolutely no vinyl. I was going to pack light and simple and just go have a good time. Besides, I had no idea what a California fan crowd was like, so I figured I’d hedge my bets.

To be honest, I was just a touch nervous about flying only a couple of months after the September 11th debacle. However, most of my nervousness was related to, "Will they confiscate this? Will I be able to get through security on time for my flight?" I hadn’t flown in a while, so I had no clue how the airport had changed. I made sure to remove the Cross pen I had received at high school graduation from my Franklin Planner. It was solid metal, and if I were a security guard, I’d confiscate it.

Around 7:00 AM, my roommate Sharon nobly sacrificed her holiday sleep-in time and drove me to the Humphrey Terminal of the Minneapolis International Airport. She bestowed a Games magazine on me (damn, I had just removed my pen from my carry on…) and dropped me off at the Sun Country check-in. It was now around 7:30 AM, and my flight would be leaving at 9:55 AM.

I noted that it was yet another pleasant day, although it was November in Minnesota. We had been having a very odd streak of nice, warm weather so far, and this was yet another day of it. I had a weird feeling that by the time I returned from Los Angeles, the weather would return to normal. Especially since I wasn’t packing a coat. (You English majors out there should be proud of my blatant foreshadowing.)

Anyway, I am pleased to say that despite all the upped security, the paranoia, and general hubbub about flying these days, my two-hour stay at the airport was actually quite pleasant. The line at the baggage check moved swiftly, I got through security in no time at all, and I was toasting my decaf coffee to the camouflaged guards at the gate within 15 minutes. It is still a little odd to see the military guys with the automatic rifles hanging around, but hey, they’re fine to look at.

I wound up buying a $2.00 pen from the little shop near the gate just so I could scrawl in Sharon’s magazine.

The plane boarded and took off exactly on time. Since the Minneapolis airport is pretty much a Northwest Airlines monopoly, I had never flown via Sun Country before, and I must admit, they are head and shoulders above Northwest in service. Their food service is fairly lame (we got cheesy peanut butter crackers for a snack), but otherwise, it’s good, no-nonsense service. Plus, I have never been on a plane that landed a full half-hour before it’s scheduled arrival.

Thus, by 11:30 AM, I was standing at the baggage claim in LAX. My bag came down the chute almost immediately, and I grabbed it and walked out to the curbside. I could have almost made a world record for fastest exit from an airport.

There was only one flaw in this. Tadao was going to pick me up at the airport, and I wasn’t sure if he was there yet, or if he was there, where he was. So I picked up my cell phone and called his cell phone. The ensuing antics were pure comedy.

"Hey, where are you?"

"I’m under a sign that says, ‘Sun Country 1’. And you?"

"Under a sign that says, ‘Sun Country/Delta 5’."

"I can barely hear you!"

"What?"

Et cetera.

Finally, after a couple minutes of this bizarre echolocation game, I realized that he was standing directly behind me, waiting for me to notice that he was there.

Soon afterwards, we were cruising through the highways of Los Angeles in Tadao’s little Honda, which was well-equipped for LA driving with a small sound-effects box that would make sounds of various weaponry at the push of a button. Thankfully, our trek involved very little use of this box, and we easily drove to the convention in a short time, even though we took the scenic route.

We pulled up to the Burbank Airport Hilton at the same time as Dr. Susan Gleason, to whom Tadao promptly introduced me. She’s what one of my Chicago friends calls a "geek magnet", a woman who attends conventions who smart, fun, and good-looking, around whom the fanboys flock like seagulls around a Coney Island hot dog stand. As a woman who received her doctorate in archaeology only three days prior, she was rather appropriately dressed in a Tomb Raider outfit and was ready to hit the convention full force. She was also to be one of my three roommates in the Loscon party room, along with Tadao and a gent named Mike.

From there, we walked into the convention and split up for a few minutes. This gave me a chance to hit the registration desk and have a glance at the layout of the convention.

The Burbank Airport Hilton is a really great venue for a sci-fi convention. It consists of three separate buildings, one with hotel rooms, one with amenities such as a restaurant and gift shop, and one with ample convention space, large rooms, and wide halls. It easily handled the 1000+ people that descended upon it that Thanksgiving weekend.

Since the Registration Desk was parked near the Dealers’ Room and the Art Show, I decided to take a spin through them first before finding Tadao, Susan, and the hotel room. The Dealers’ Room was surprisingly small for a convention of Loscon’s size. It was around the size of MadCon’s Dealers’ Room, and MadCon was catering to a crowd 1/3 of the size of Loscon. However, Loscon’s Dealer’s Room sported a pretty good array of the usual goodies: jewelry, books, photos, and costumes. I was a little surprised to see no weaponry (swords and knives are big sellers at Midwest conventions), but I saw later that the convention was not allowing anything of the sort – not even toy guns.

The Art Show was situated at the back of the Dealers’ Room, and I was quite impressed. Since it still was fairly early on Friday, not all of the spaces were filled in, but the show still sported a very large array of really first-class stuff. I was pleased to see that Dr. Susan, a manufacturer of hand-made arrowheads and other Native American arts, had a table full of her work up for grabs. I was also pleasantly surprised to see work by Denise Garner, John Garner, and Mike Cole, all of whom I had met at Icon a few months prior. There was also a wall of Lubov prints, including a print that I had missed bidding upon at Icon (I promptly put up my bid here). Just beyond the Lubov prints were several Alan M. Clark prints, which included an image I hadn’t seen before (bid on that, too). And besides all that, there was more art than you could shake a stick at. There were even a couple of Tadao’s sketches leaning up against a wall, which I learned later had been snuck in there without his knowledge by one Dr. Susan Gleason.

After wandering out of the art show, I found Susan, so we found our roommate Mike, finally got our room keys, grabbed a cart from Operations, and stole Tadao’s keys (a jangly lump of metal the size of a grapefruit) so we could get our luggage from the cars. On our way back to the parking lot, we discussed how we should smear mud on Tadao’s car to make it look like we took it four-wheeling. (At that point, I knew we would get along just fine.) In short order, we rescued our luggage and brought it to our room, which was to become the Loscon Party Room within a few hours.

The room was a rather nice suite, with a kitchenette, hide-a-bed, desk, two televisions, and a separate room with two beds. The only flaw is that the first thing we saw when we walked in was a square piece of weather-stripping-like rubber sitting on one of the tables, whose existence baffled us (it turned out to be the seal from the refrigerator, which didn’t really close properly without the seal). I took the opportunity to change out of the clothes I had been wearing on the plane.

I went back downstairs to wander the convention a little more, but soon realized that I needed a plan. I finally had a look at the programming schedule – a staggering array of panels and events arranged in ten tracks – and circled a few things. I then looked at my watch, realized that it still needed to be set to California time, and realized that I had missed Tadao’s first panel. Oh, well. I figured I would see him enough this weekend. A-wandering I went.

Now, most people who have seen me at conventions know I love flyer tables, which generally harbor info about other conventions and various esoteric publications. Well, Loscon didn’t have a flyer table, it had dozens of tables set up with reps from different conventions, a phenomenon I have only seen at CONvergence. So I had a cursory look over the information about various West CoastLego LASFS Clubhouseconventions and eventually wound my way to the Loscon table, where Darcee Golden was displaying a Lego model of the LASFS clubhouse that she had made. This little model clubhouse was filled with Lego people who she had modified to look like the actual members of the LASFS.

(Okay, I can see a few of you scratching your heads. Let me digress for a moment. The LASFS is the Los Angeles Science Fantasy Society, which was established in 1934. It is the oldest continuously-running sci-fi fan club in existence. The LASFS is the group that runs Loscon. The group actually owns its own meeting facility/library in Los Angeles, and the Lego model was a replica of one of the buildings. And since I eventually did get to see the clubhouse later on, I can say that the model was just about dead-on. Very neat!)

After inspecting the Legos for a while, I decided move on and to have a look into the Red Cross Blood Drive, which was housed down the hall and dubbed "Biology 101" by the convention. I hadn’t donated lately, and I figured this was as good a place as any. After about a half hour of filling out forms and answering questions, the Red Cross deferred me from donating because I had low hemoglobin. No free cookies for me. Time to eat more oatmeal, I guess…

After that, I took another tour around the Dealers’ Room. This time, I found a booth that sold great little trinkets hand-carved out of horn. I found a great little fish-shaped perfume bottle that was only $5.00. As I purchased it, I chatted for a while with the proprietor, a friendly gent named Cal. He kept commenting on how surprised he was that I could pull off having hair so short (two weeks prior, I had shaved my head, so my hair was only around a 1/2 inch long).

After this purchase, I left the Dealers’ Room to wander some more. Between the convention building and the hotel room building, I saw that a car had been parked on the concrete concourse and was busy drawing a crowd. I walked in for a closer look.

The H-Wing Honda Del SolThe car was a Honda Del Sol, but it had some serious modifications. It looked like it had been designed for the Star Wars films. It sported the Rebel Alliance logo on the hood, the doors had laser cannons mounted to them, and a miniature Yoda served as a dashboard ornament. The paint job was absolutely impeccable. It was an astonishing piece of work, and it was easy to see why it was drawing a crowd.

I finally figured out who the owner was (a guy named Shawn Crosby) and had a very quick chat with him as I chased him halfway through the hotel. I hoped to catch up with him later when he didn’t have so much to do, but I never managed to do so. However, he did give me permission to photograph the car, so I walked back outside to do just that.

While I was grabbing photos, a guy named Eric Hoffman walked up and introduced himself (I think he overheard me talking about the web site). Apparently, he was heading off to run a panel on film posters, and personally invited me to observe. It sounded interesting – I had actually circled the panel earlier as one I wanted to see – so I said I would see him there.

I wandered into the panel a little late, but it was really a treat. Eric had dozens and dozens and dozens of slides of old sci-fi and horror posters from the earlier days of filmmaking, all taken from his personal collection. As he clicked through each slide, he would spew out so much information on these obscure films that it would put Ted and I to shame. And then, after he was done commenting, his cohort Charles L. Jackson II would add even more information. I never knew that people like this existed, who knew so much about the likes of Robot Monster and The Creature Walks Among Us that it made the films almost seem, well, watchable. It was a tremendously fun panel, and it was a pleasure to really inspect the wonderful artwork that was used to advertise these films.

After the panel ended at 5:30 PM, I took off back to the room, hoping to find someone from my group. Susan was there, so we chatted for a bit before we decided that a dinner plan was in order. We figured that we had to steal Tadao from the convention very soon in order to have him back in time to open up the room party. I grabbed my cell phone and dialed up his cell phone (note that this is a recurring theme) and between the three of us, we hashed out a rough plan for dinner. Apparently, we were going to a place called Home Style Buffet, which translates roughly to Old Country Buffet to us Midwesterners.

As much as I’d like to, I won’t go into all the misfortunes, antics, and goose-chasing that ensued. What followed that phone call, basically, was two trips to the parking lot, a trip to Operations, a vague attempt to coordinate dinner with a few more people, a trip to Home Style Buffet, deciding not to eat there because the line was too long, a trip to a Chinese buffet place, deciding not to eat there because the line was too long, and a final, grudging defeat that led us to the International House of Pancakes.

As a Minnesota resident, I had never eaten at an IHOP before. Well, now I have. The visit was fairly unremarkable except that Tadao was almost in a panic to get back to the hotel (the restaurant-hopping took up a lot of time), Susan and I had a great time trading stories about Spain, and cornbread pancakes are definitely now on my list of comfort foods.

We left the IHOP armed with a few leftovers and cruised back to the hotel. We buzzed around the room a bit, getting it ready for the room party, while Closet Cases of the Nerd Kind played on the television (the convention was broadcasting their own stuff through the hotel’s closed-circuit system). It wasn’t long before the room was ready for partiers.

So we handed the party off to Mike, and Susan, Tadao, and I were off to the Lux Schoolhouse Theater show, which was due to begin at 8:30 PM. Tadao was due to appear onstage for it (a cameo), and Susan was excited to see it, so I figured it would be more than worthwhile to go witness whatever Lux Schoolhouse Theater was.

Just a BillThe Lux Schoolhouse Theater show was so outrageously cool that I can barely describe it. I was cursing myself for not bringing my camera. Basically, it was a combination of live entertainment and video that echoed back to all the things that American kids of my generation look back at with great fondness. It started out with the live players on stage singing the preamble of the Constitution, a la Schoolhouse Rock. Then they sang the "Conjunction Junction" song, all garbed exactly like the cartoon version on Schoolhouse Rock. Then, as the singers left the stage for a costume change, a short video played, consisting entirely of clips from old commercials, Rocky and Bullwinkle cartoons, Sesame Street, The Electric Company… it was a blast hearing an entire audience of fans sing, "Kill the wabbit, kill the wabbit, kill the wabbit!" After the clips the players were back. Basically, the whole show alternated between live and video in this fashion, and it was loads of fun. The players sang the "Just a Bill" song, the Spiderman theme, and songs from the Muppets, as well as acting out a delightfully off-color skit named "Cap’n Marsupial" and the even funnier, "It’s Armageddon, Charlie Brown". It was fabulous.

After the show was finished, Susan and I broke into volunteer mode and helped strike the chairs from the room (the floor had to be open for the dance). That only took a few minutes, so I then struck off on my own to go party surfing.

Loscon 28 was a truly great convention for parties, beating out all other conventions I have attended save for CONvergence and Minicon in its heyday. By the time I got back to my room, I found that the Loscon party was packed, and about half of the other rooms on the floor were the same way. In addition, the floors above and below us also had a plethora of parties to visit.

Melissa Gets TattooedJust next door was what I’ll call the "Space Cadet Academy" (because I don’t remember what they called themselves), who were gleefully attaching their logo to partiers by means of temporary tattoos. Susan and I both got tattoos.

The Conjecture Party, which was one floor down, gets my vote for best presentation. The hosts were all running around in lab coats, and the signs and décor all boasted of a grand sense of humor. Plus, they had made their own "brain-swapping machine", which was set up in a darkened room with a couple lab-coated attendants. The "machine" consisted of a shiny tube, a towel, a colander decorated with kitchen lights, and a table full of myriad toys and items. The idea was that a guest would walk up to the table, select an item (such as a can of Spam, a head of cauliflower, or an action figure of Jar-Jar Binks), and sit down in a chair. The scientists would then cover the subject’s head with a towel, place the lighted colander on their head, and pronounced their brain had been replaced by the brains of whatever object they chose. After this ritual, the partygoer would receive a button that read something to the effect of, "I swapped my brain with a can of Spam."

After surfing almost all of the parties (note to self: fishnet makes a great decorative item), I wandered back to my room, the Loscon Party, which was still packed. Shawn Crosby, the maker of the H-Wing car, was in the room wearing his "Just a Bill" costume (he was a major player in the Lux Schoolhouse Theater thing). Tadao was busily taking registrations for next year’s Loscon when someone (I thoroughly forget who) mentioned that the British party (the Glasgow Worldcon bid) had some really great Scotch. I was off like a shot.

Brain-Swapping Machine at the Conjecture Party RoomThe Worldcon bid party was quite classy compared to the usual convention fare. They were serving up very, very good Scotch (and, dammit, I can’t remember what it was), fine chocolates, and other yummy delicacies, all while wearing impeccable Scottish formal wear. It was quite nice. I struck up conversation with several fine folks as soon as I was in there, most notably an applied physics engineer named Kevin, Jeremy Bloom of Frequency fame, as well as another gent named Mike and a rather interesting fellow named Richard. I wound up staying in that room party until around 2 AM, when a polite but very sleepy Scot booted me and the others out of his room.

From there I returned to home base, the Loscon Party, where I helped clean up a bit before we all crashed. Susan and I each grabbed a bed, Mike took the fold out couch, and Tadao left to go sleep at home (he only lived a few blocks away, and he needed to grab a few things for Saturday morning). I was so exhausted that I fell asleep before Mike began snoring.

11242001 I woke up fairly early by convention standards (around 9 AM) and took a shower as quietly as I could as to not disturb the still-sleeping Susan. She was quite tired and was working on fighting off a rather bad cold, so she really needed the rest.

Unfortunately, after I began getting ready, I realized that my convention badge had gone missing. For about half an hour, I tore apart the hotel room as quietly as I could. I couldn’t believe it; I’ve never lost a badge.

I finally gave up looking, grabbed my leftover IHOP pancakes, and went out by the elevators to eat my breakfast and look out the window. The sunny LA weather had turned into cold and rainy stuff worthy of Minnesota in March, so I was glad I listened to Tadao and brought a sweater with me.

When my pancakes were gone, I grabbed a coffee from the hotel’s little coffee bar and headed off to the registration desk to get a duplicate badge. This proved to not be a problem, so by around 10:00 AM, I was cruising the convention again. I hit the Art Show one more time to see what had been added since the last time I had visited, spun around the Dealers’ Room one more time, then took off to the hotel’s main lobby to see what had been set up there.

There was some gaming and a couple panels going on in there, but the most interesting thing was the fan lounge, which was a room set up with several tables well stocked with books and memorabilia from previous Loscons. It’s a neat concept, although I never saw very many people in there.

A little later, I was walking through the main convention hall when Tadao stopped me and asked if I could help hang photos for a display. I haven’t actually volunteered for a convention since Minicon 33, noting that it tends to suck away my will to live, but they were badly short-handed so I said yes without thinking about it. I spent the next half hour assembling a display of portraits of various important people from different fan bases across the country. It’s amazing what you can do with peg board, zip strips, metal hooks, and alligator clips.

After that brief distraction, I walked across the hall to the volunteer desk to get signed off for my time. I figured, why not? Volunteering is actually a great way to meet people, and since I started off knowing only one person out of 1,500 at this place, volunteering might not be a bad thing. Besides, the volunteer badges were very cool – a grade-school wooden ruler marked "hall pass", embellished with a wooden apple that read "Loscon 28". The woman at the desk, a delightful person named Anastasia, did some paperwork, signed off my hour of work, and handed me my souvenir hall pass. During this, she somehow convinced me to work on the Masquerade that evening.

"Show up at 4:00," she said.

Well, it was still wasn’t noon yet, and I was getting a little groggy, so I wandered back to the room to nap a little. Susan was just waking up, and Mike turned up again, so the three of us chatted for a while. Mike later left, and Susan started to get ready, so I asked her to wake me up before she left the room, which gave me a good half hour to nod off.

Around 1:00 PM, I finally took the Do Not Disturb sign off the door and caught the maid just as she was about to put her cart away. I told her the room was a little messy due to the party and apologized, then handed her a $5 bill that Tadao had left in the room just for that purpose. With the room finally being put on the road to livability, I zoomed off to the next panel that sounded interesting. It was named, "The Best Movies You’ve Never Seen."

This panel was simply great. Once again, Eric Hoffman and Charles Jackson were dispensing their seemingly infinite knowledge of obscure films, but they were also joined by Buzz Dixon and Bill Warren, who were equally entertaining. For an hour and a half, the four of them brought up and discussed such films as Donovan’s Brain, The Day the Earth Caught Fire, Doctor X, The Fabulous World of Jules Verne, West of Zanzibar, Rebirth of Mothra, and Portrait of Jeannie. Great stuff!

Bald MelissaAfter the panel, I went off to the hotel’s gift shop to find a razor or two. No, the convention wasn’t going badly. I had just received so many comments about my ultra-short haircut that I decided it was time to create something that would really become a conversation opener. These are the moments that my parents dread.

So, I purchased two razors, went back to the room, and began shaving my head. I figured it might take a half hour to an hour to do. Unfortunately, it took around an hour and a half, including the half-hour of clean up time, trying to get the stubble out of the bathtub (which would be used for icing soda cans later that evening). I had been shaving in the shower so long that the entire ceiling of the bathroom was dripping from condensation. But after the ordeal, I had a fine-looking, shiny skull that was only slightly razor-burned.

I showed up at the volunteer desk at 4:30 PM, a half hour late. I apologized, but Anastasia forgave me, saying, "I can see you were busy."

I walked into the Masquerade room and asked the head honcho Dale what needed to be done. He said that the ushers were going to meet in a few minutes, so just wait. After a quick run-down of how the program was going to run, he told us to just come back at 7:00 PM, since the set-up of the stage was being handled by the hotel staff.

Thus dismissed, I wandered off to find something to do. I almost immediately ran into Eric Hoffman again, who asked if I’d had dinner yet. I hadn’t, so the two of us adjourned from the convention to eat at the hotel fiercely mediocre and overpriced restaurant.

And boy, did we talk movies. One of Eric’s friends, a guy named Dennis, came by and sat down with us, and also talked movies. We were so engrossed in talking movies that I didn’t even see Kevin (from the Scotch party on Friday night) in the next booth over, waving at me throughout dinner in an attempt to catch my attention.

It was soon 7:00 PM, so I ran back to the room really quick to drop off a couple things before helping with Masquerade. Susan and Tadao were both there, Susan being sick in bed and Tadao discouraging her from doing the Masquerade while sick (she was going to do a Tomb Raider bit). Susan decided to stay bed-bound.

I then headed off to the Masquerade hall and met with all the other ushers again. We selected reserved seats for ourselves (we were stationed along one side of the center aisle so we could help costumed performers walk off the stage), and then began chatting to kill time. The Masquerade was to start at 8:00 PM, and we really didn’t have that much to do.

It was several minutes later that we received several packs of index cards and were told to hand them out to the audience as they came in. They were for voting for the best costume.

"Do we have pencils?" one of the other ushers asked.

"No."

That’s kind of where it all started going downhill. People were lining up to get in, and the delays began. The stage wasn’t ready, the lights weren’t ready, one of the ushers was looking for pencils (she found 12), and, finally, the coup de grace: we only had enough chairs for about half of the people lined up outside the doors. We would have to turn away about 250 people, and because of the lighting, there was no standing allowed.

God II: The SequelOnce the Masquerade began more than an hour late, things began to work a little better. Tadao was a fine MC, the audience seemed to be enjoying themselves, and the costumes were all at least very good. One woman, dressed as a pilgrim, had costumed her pet Labrador to look like a Thanksgiving turkey (and thankfully, the dog was taking it in stride). One fellow came out on stage in flowing white robes with his arms across his chest; when he made it to center stage, he flung out his arms to reveal "God II: The Sequel" emblazoned on his chest. The guy who showed up as Bender from Futurama had evidently constructed most of his costume out of A/C ducting and a garbage can. A pair of costumers showed up as Stanley and Kai from Lexx. And, the crème de la crème, three people showed up in their Star Trek uniforms, only the guy in the red shirt had a sign taped to his back that read, "Shoot me."

After this fine array of costumes, we ushers grabbed all of the index cards to tally votes, which took several minutes. We handed the results off to Dale, then went back to the auditorium. We had missed most of the half-time show, which was a video taken earlier in the day of various antics around the convention.

After that, Tadao got back up to the podium and began announcing various and sundry people, who were all presenting various and sundry awards. It was fairly bland stuff until one guy got up and announced that the Evans-Freehafer award (the Fanboy Award, really) went to… Tadao Tomomatsu.

Tadao was actually surprised enough that he stopped talking. When he recovered, he began his acceptance speech with, "I’d like to thank the Academy…" to which the audience responded, "Wrong speech!"

Well, Tadao eventually got around to announcing the costume awards. Just about everyone won something, and the grand prizes (a $50 bill each for the popular award and the judge’s choice) went to the trio of Trekkers and to God II.

Once that was done, I couldn’t find Dale to have him sign off on my volunteering time, so I just ran back to the Loscon Party.

BenderSomewhere around the Loscon room, I ran into Kevin again and we wound up party surfing for a while. He mentioned that there was a "pirate party" on the third floor that was great, so we checked that one out for a while. That room was literally filled with people dressed as pirates, who were belting out sea shanties and doling out punch with a main ingredient of red wine. Very fun, but also very crowded. We didn’t stay there very long.

From there, we saw a room that had an ice cream freezer. Oo, Ice cream! I ran into the room to check it out and immediately got… bad vibes. Then I noticed the Battlefield Earth posters… and the Scientology materials… I left quickly.

Well, the pirate punch was working on me pretty well by then, so I’ll construct the rest of the evening to the best of my ability. For the parties involved, I apologize if I’m not quite getting the facts right or in the correct order.

I think from there I wound up in the Frequency party room, chatting with Jeremy. He introduced me to a friend of his, whose name I believe was Ivory or something to that effect, who was dressed in a spot-on perfect Harlequin costume (from Batman). The outfit also suited her quite well, and she was drawing quite a bit of attention.

After chatting with them for a while, Jeremy offered drinks. So I followed him into the bathroom, where a dozen oddball alcohols were stocked in and around the bathroom sink. I selected a Dutch beer for consumption (actually, not bad), and poked around the other bottles for a few minutes. Among other things there was a bottle of whiskey, apparently from Thailand, that still had the price tag on it. The price had been 160 Baht. (I later tracked down a currency converter and found that 160 Baht translates to about $3.63 in American dollars. Yup, it was real quality stuff.)

Jeremy finally shut down the Frequency party, and the remaining people decided to go party-surfing en masse. As a group, we only made it to the party across the hall (the Bass Party, which featured loud music) before dispersing. Since I don’t do the dance thing, I hung out in the hall and began chatting with a friendly fellow out there, whose name was Bill. I got a tremendous kick out of this guy. Of all things, he was a former toy designer, and was also a graffiti artist. He also sported a fairly twisted sense of humor, which is something I always appreciate. We talked Cthulhu for a bit, then eventually entered the Bass Party for a couple screwdrivers.

This is where things really begin to get hazy. Let’s see, I’d already had wine, a beer, and a heavily-poured screwdriver… and then Jeremy brings out that Thai whiskey.

Now, if there is one thing that I learned at Loscon, it is to avoid Thai whiskey. You’d think that this would be a no-brainer on my part, but conventions are odd places that call for odd measures. If you see Thai whiskey come out at a party anywhere, run away. I mean it. Don’t even taste the stuff. Can you imagine a sweet whiskey? I shudder just thinking about it. The horror, the horror…

But, as soused as I already was, the Thai whiskey was actually tolerable. Thus, this is where my convention report begins to be heavily edited to protect the guilty parties. We’ll just skip over the rest of hanging out in the hallway, shall we? Alright, let’s move on.

Loscon 29 Party RoomI managed to travel the additional 10 feet to the Loscon room, where I actually managed to get into a delightful conversation with a guy named Brad (who was wearing a great H. P. Lovecraft memorial shirt), and we were joined by someone else (but I have absolutely no earthly memory of who it was). We talked Lovecraft and horror films for what may have been a couple hours. Bill also wandered in and out of the conversation. It was a blast. I just wished I could remember more of it…

At one point, though, the single funniest thing of the entire weekend happened. Bill walked into the room at one point and made a talking cow out of his hands. It’s almost impossible to describe, but it involved drawing eyes on one hand and nostrils on the other… Well, it was a visual joke anyway. Soon after that, Bill walked in again with a paper plate upon which he had drawn a Cthulhu cartoon as well as his name and phone number. He definitely wins my Best Presentation of Phone Number award.

Eventually things wound down, the sun was coming up, and we all ran out of energy. Susan and I managed to talk Tadao out of driving home to sleep, Bill’s cow puppet made one last appearance as the Mummy Cow (he had added masking tape to his scheme), and we finally ushered everyone out of the room. I unceremoniously crashed on the couch and have only a hazy and vague memory of Tadao finding a blanket for me in the closet.

11252001 I’m sure that when I say that I’m an absolute freak of nature, most of my friends would heartily agree. I’m thankful that I am a freak, too. Included in that freakishness is the fact that I have never once had a hangover, and that if I’ve been drinking before I go to bed, I wake up in three or four hours, completely refreshed and so full of energy that the people around my harbor thoughts of murder.

So, when I woke up that morning, I was frickin’ awake. Tadao was already up, quietly rustling around the room finding things that he needed to bring home that morning, so I imagine that’s why I woke up. By the time I was dressed and showered, everyone else was moving around pretty well, too. Everyone pretty much scattered while I made sure most of my stuff was packed, then I went off to find food with Tadao and Susan in the fiercely mediocre and overpriced hotel restaurant.

After breakfast, everyone spent an hour or two packing up. Tadao, Susan, Mike and I all cleaned up the party detritus in the room and packed up the cars. I paid Mike my portion of the room bill, picked up my prints from the Art Show (I had won both of the prints that I had bid on – now I just had to wrestle them home on the plane), and hit the volunteer desk again to make sure I claimed my hours from ushering for the Masquerade the night before.

Once I was at the volunteer desk, Anastasia worked her wily magic on me again and said that Harlan Ellison needed help with his CBLDF auction that afternoon. I didn’t even know Harlan was going to be at the convention. Now I was volunteering to help him out. Anastasia then bestowed more volunteer goodies upon me, namely one of those plastic presto-change-o rulers that kids have in elementary school, and an inflatable globe (the theme of the convention was education, by the way).

Now for a little more back story. I had run into renowned author Harlan Ellison several times at MadCon, which was only about a month prior to Loscon. (Read the MadCon report for details.) Harlan is the very definition of a cantankerous old coot and is generally more than just a touch intimidating. I also find him hysterically funny, a view I apprently share with a good portion of the fan community.

So, there I was, intimidated as hell but anxious to watch Harlan in action again. I walked into the auction room right at 1:00 PM. Anastasia was already there; she had also volunteered herself to help out at this one. Harlan was already at the table in the front of the room, entertaining the audience. There were a couple other people at the table; I recognized his wife Sue as one of them. I walked to the front of the auditorium to stand next to Anastasia, and we both awaited our orders.

As soon as I reached the front of the room, Harlan stopped mid-sentence and looked right at me.

"Wow!" he exclaimed. "Can I rub your head?"

I laughed and walked up to the stage. Since I was on the floor and he was on the stage, he was just about at eye-level (he’s not a tall guy). Then he rubbed my freshly shaved skull.

"It feels just like I thought it would!" he announced into his microphone. "It’s like an emory board!"

For the rest of the day, I got fans walking up to me, commenting that I now have a lucky head since Harlan had touched it.

The auction was easy to do and loads of fun. Anastasia and I actually had very little to do; she eventually just sat down in the audience, while I took on the intermittent Vanna White duties. Harlan’s team took care of the rest. In between auctioning off items for the Comic Book Legal Defence Fund, Harlan would tell his usual brand of stories, which this time included a tale about him throwing a chair at a guy at DragonCon, and a story about flipping the bird at Newt Gingrich.

Harlan Ellison and the Fur-Covered BananaSeveral of the items themselves had great stories. At one point, Mrs. Ellison brought a huge, black, fuzzy, stuffed thing up onto the stage and handed it to Harlan. When she walked back down and saw my look of bewilderment, she said, "Don’t ask."

Harlan then proceeded to auction off the "giant fur-covered banana". Apparently, he had been caught in an Internet chat room, saying something like, "You win the fur-covered banana!" Thus, lo and behold, a fan actually made one and sent it to him. If I remember right, the giant fur-covered banana raised twenty bucks for the CBLDF.

A little later, Harlan brought up that he was supposed to appear on Politically Incorrect a couple weeks ago, but he turned it down because he knew nothing about the subject. He was then re-scheduled for January. Not long after that, one of Harlan’s aides took off his astonishingly ugly tie and put that on the auction block after Harlan made some comments about it. After much laughter, bidding began and escalated rapidly.

Finally, the highest bidder said, "$50 [or however much it was], but only if you wear when you appear on Politically Incorrect." Harlan begrudgingly took the bid, looked at the tie, and murmured something like, "Dear God…"

Many items after that, Harlan wound up holding a Planet of the Apes promo item, a coin that was struck from the original die that minted the coins for the film. The item had come from a box of auction items from the LASFS, and not from Harlan’s collection, and so Harlan was looking at it a bit greedily. He finally announced that he was just going to keep it and not let anyone bid on it. The woman sitting to his left scolded him and told him to auction the thing off. He then began taking bids, but still outbidding anyone who spoke up. Finally, he declared defeat to a gentleman in the audience, who promptly walked up to the table, paid for the coin, and then handed it to Harlan as a gift.

Soon after that, a script for Star Trek: Generations appeared on the auction block, and bidding was opened… to no takers. After some thinly veiled Trek insults from Harlan (I get the feeling he hates Star Trek), a gent in the audience offered $10 to buy it… but only if Harlan would then burn it. You could see Harlan was tempted, but he then declared that he could not bring himself to burn the printed word. The script was then set aside for another day.

We were just about out of items to auction off when the yo-yo was handed off to Harlan. It was a perfectly normal light-up yo-yo, but someone bid a fine amount for the plastic toy if, "Harlan would demonstrate it." Soon, Harlan was doing all sorts of odd yo-yo tricks that I had never even seen before, and almost everyone in the audience was snapping photos.

Finally, the auction ended around 3:00 PM, and I met up with Anastasia one last time so she could mark off the last of my volunteer hours. She then gave me one last volunteer goodie, a Chris Butler print, signed by Mr. Butler himself.

While I was at the desk, Jeremy walked up with a Styrofoam cup full of gummy bears and offered them to us. He then asked if I’d had lunch yet. I hadn’t, so the two of us were off to the hotel’s fiercely mediocre and overpriced restaurant.

We sat down on one of the sofas in the bar area and ordered lunch there. I ate a fiercely mediocre and overpriced BLT off the coffee table while we chatted about various and sundry things. At one point, he serenaded me with The Moose Song.

We sat there for about two and a half hours before my cell phone rang. Tadao was on the other end, asking if I could help tear down the Fan Lounge. I said sure and parted company with Jeremy.

I met up with Susan and Tadao in the Fan Lounge, where we tore down displays, packed up books, and hauled everything to a U-Haul sitting out front of the hotel lobby. Tadao was proudly sporting a new hat, a baseball cap from some unknown fire department, which someone had bestowed upon him earlier in the day. Susan was fairly ill by now, but still insisted on helping out.

The Fan Lounge was packed up very quickly, so after wandering past Operations to get a bottle of water, I went back to the main convention building to see if anything else needed packing up. There really wasn’t anything left, so instead of working, I wound up talking Lovecraft and movies (again) with whomever wandered past for the ensuing hour or two.

Dead TadaoIt wasn’t until around 8:00 PM that I went back to the main hotel and found a very chilled and sick Susan in a chair in the elevator lobby. We chatted for a few minutes, then Tadao staggered in and collapsed on the floor in exhaustion. Other people wandered in and out of the lobby and in and out of conversation, until finally one of Susan’s friends appeared with a heavy blanked she had found in her car.

We eventually convinced Susan to move to the main lobby, which was less drafty and closer to the restaurant… dinner was clearly the goal here. We joined a group of probably thirty people, all of whom were convention volunteers and generally the people who made Loscon happen. Tadao asked if I wanted to join everyone for dinner, explaining that the food for everyone would be au gratis. I’m not sure who was picking up the tab – the convention, LASFS, or what – but I figured a free meal shouldn’t be passed up. Besides, I’d at least put in 10 hours of volunteering, so I didn’t feel like such a freeloader. I also wasn’t very hungry, so I figured I wouldn’t put too much of a strain on the tab.

Susan MummyDinner eventually happened in the fiercely mediocre and overpriced hotel restaurant. All thirty or forty of us were shoehorned into one little area, which made things a little claustrophobic for me, but no one felt like putting up a fight. Everyone was just so tired that none of us really felt like we could take any more fun. So, even though I was sitting in between Tadao and Susan, dinner wound up being a fairly straight-forward affair, with the exception of a brief conversational foray into Tadao’s career as Mr. Shake Hands Man.

So I slowly ate my fiercely mediocre and… well, free… soup and didn’t say a whole lot. Susan was downright quiet as she dug her way through what was perhaps the largest chicken pot pie I have ever seen in my life.

Eventually, the whole group dispersed from the dinner tables, and that was it for the convention. Tadao, Susan, and I all walked to the parking lots together, where I said farewell to Susan and ordered her to heal quickly.

11262001 I can hear you now. "Wait!" you are shouting. "I’ve just read 8,500 words of this stuff, and the convention is over, but THERE’S MORE?!?"

Yes, there is. Let’s call it a bonus section, because the following day, I got to tour the LASFS clubhouse, guided by none other than the chairman of Loscon 2002.

After a decent breakfast at the local IHOP (Yes! I need more IHOP in my empty life!), Tadao and I began the "scenic route" on the way to the airport, which would include a brief stop at the LASFS clubhouse.

As a Midwesterner, where fan groups have problems investing in party snacks, let alone permanent facilities, the concept of a fan society actually owning a clubhouse boggles my mind. The fact that the LASFS has a clubhouse is cool in itself, but that doesn’t prepare you for just how nifty the clubhouse itself is.

The clubhouse is consists of two separate buildings, a large storage locker, an itsy-bitsy parking lot, and one lemon tree, all of which are pressed up against a very busy avenue. Tadao pulled the car up to the front of the building, commandeering a space marked by a large red sign that declared that it was only to be used by author Robert Heinlein on Thursdays. We then went into the first building. LASFS Clubhouse: Reserved Parking Spot for Heinlein
LASFS Clubhouse: Books The first building is contained a small lounge, a computer room, and a library. The library is large enough make the firemen from Fahrenheit 451 explode from sheer shock. There were thousands of books, a nice collection of videos, and a smattering of DVDs, all available for check-out by LASFS members.
We then walked back outside, out the rear of the building where a small asphalt patch separated the main clubhouse from the library. Immediately noticeable was a large steel storage locker painted like a box of Animal Crackers. Apparently no one knows who painted it like that, since the paint job just sort of showed up one day. (However, mention this to me and you will see me grin knowingly, because I know something that 99.9% of LASFS members don’t.) At the other side of the lot was a gorgeous lemon tree, laden with still-green fruit, which had apparently grown from a few lemon seeds that had been discarded on the ground. LASFS Clubhouse: The Lemon Tree
LASFS Clubhouse: The Storage Locker We then entered the actual clubhouse building, which looks just like the Lego representation that Darcee Golden had made. Well, it wasn’t bright red and green, and it didn’t have circular nubs rising from the floor, but you get the idea. Most of the building was one large meeting room with tables, chairs, sofas, curio cases, and a large white board. There was also a small bathroom and a narrow back room with a now-defunct printing machine and a plethora of filing cabinets and other administrative toys.

I didn’t have much time to check things out, since I had to be on the way to the airport. I just saw enough to get really, really jealous of these California fans. Are you listening to me, MISFITS? MNSTF? Anyone?

After our all-too-brief visit to the clubhouse, Tadao and I finally took off for LAX. We were running a bit late because of the impromptu tour, so I got a little stressed when we finally got there and I saw a long line at the Sun Country baggage check. I was thankful that Tadao hung out with my while I waited in line.

Well, I finally checked in just fine, but as the woman behind the counter handed me my boarding pass, she mentioned that the flight was delayed. By an hour and a half. She then offered to make up a special pass for Tadao so he could actually wait at the gate with me, even though he didn’t have a ticket for a flight, which was quite nice of her.

So, for the next couple hours, Tadao and I hung out at the airport and chatted. Eventually, the conversation wound around to Cthulhu Coffee, and Tadao actually began brainstorming with me about culinary ideas for the next CONvergence room party. We might have a new minion on our hands.

Finally, my plane came, I said my farewell to sunny Los Angeles, and I was ported halfway across the country back to Minneapolis to face the reason my flight was delayed:

A blizzard.

So, that’s it for Loscon 28. I’ll just wrap up by saying that Loscon is a great convention with a lot of offerings for everyone, and that if you want an excuse to not spend Thanksgiving with your family, pick up some cheap plane tickets to Los Angeles and brush elbows with the LASFS people. I’d like to thank everyone who was so friendly and hospitable to the bald, out-of-town chick: Kevin, Mike M., the other Mike (my roomie), Jeremy, Brad, Bill, Eric, and everyone else who I had the good fortune to run into. I especially want to thank Dr. Susan Gleason for being fun as well as friendly, and to Tadao Tomomatsu, who allowed me to invade his life and personal space for several days, even though he was already helping run a convention.

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