YAKDOG'S BELATED EXOTICON REVIEW
Exoticon has been over for more than a week now, and everyone has probably moved on to the next big thing. On top of that, I'm male, so the net traffic I generate will be somewhere between "slim" and "none". That's OK, though--as long as I can take myself out, show myself a good time, seduce myself, and lure myself home to the mirror, I don't need the adulation of millions! btw, my sense of humor is sometimes too dry for my own good... One more note before I begin: life is too short for hate mail. If you don't like the look of this self-indulgent little article, just punch your "Back" button and surf over to www.realdoll.com...or www.realhamster.com, for that matter. For those of you who made it past those twin temptations, read on:
I worked Exoticon into my schedule as part of my Thanksgiving vacation. Cons that fall near major holidays always help me feel better about burning my precious corporate vacation time. I was in a fine mood when I went down: I'd had the proverbial "hard day at the office" tying up loose ends before I left Chicago, and I was enjoying the contrast of a quiet direct flight. I arrived around 9:30, a few hours after Dawn. New Orleans isn't a hub airport; while my flight was rolling towards its destination, it passed an entire concourse of empty gates. Since I am not fabulous enough to rate even the pretense of a meeting at the airport, I hauled my two carryon bags (one of my many rules of stress relief: use carryon bags whenever possible) over to the cheerful courtesy phone counter.
I called up the Quality Hotel's free courtesy shuttle and settled down to wait for its arrival. While I waited, I amused myself by envisioning my first drink of the evening, watching traffic, and listening in on other people's conversations. I quickly determined that five other people on the platform were headed for the con. One of them was quite a character: 41 years old, living in Detroit, working as a van driver...this was his first airplane flight ever. He was a nice enough fellow, but he made me very glad I'd taken the trouble to finish my degree and sell out to the man.
The convention hotel was midway between the airport and the French Quarter. When I arrived, Dawn Marie intercepted me at the desk before I could even get my room key. She gave me a friendly hug, which pleasant in itself and had the added bonus of making the lurking cadre of lobby-dwelling fanboys jealous. Dawn explained that she and her companions had eaten in the hotel restaurant--a shocking culinary crime in a city filled with so much worthwhile food, but an unexpected bonus for me: I was certain Dawn & co. would be well into their first round of Hurricanes by 8:00 or 9:00.
We went through a bit of "hurry up and wait" in the lobby, since we weren't sure who was going to the Quarter and who was staying at the hotel. We were almost, but not quite, impatient enough to take a cab instead of waiting for the hotel's free shuttle. Instead, we had a round of drinks in the hotel bar, then took the 11:00 shuttle to the Quarter. By the way, my first drink was a vodka martini, dry ("Just show it the vermouth, darlin'."), with the house vodka (the Quality Inn seldom stocks Grey Goose or Chopin...).
Dawn has the correct French Quarter cast of characters: Jamie, Brandon, Dawn, Todd, Jester Fred, and me. Since I had lived in the Quarter several years ago, Dawn appointed me as the group's guide and sent me forth in search of cheap Hurricanes. We meandered down Bourbon street, gaping at the sights, sounds, and smells of the usual Thursday night debauchery. For those of you who have never been to New Orleans, just picture Bourbon street as one gigantic bar in a perpetual state of "last call". Many of the people we walked past were already polluted beyond all hope of recovery. Before we were anywhere near the bar I was searching for, a C-cup blonde with big hair, a tanning-booth body, the stance of a professional entertainer (?) made quite a show out of accepting some beads: she climbed onto her man's shoulders, took off her sweater, threw it to a friend, then took off her bra and waved her arms over her head. Back in the day when I lived in the Quarter, most folks waited for the weekend to get half-naked. These crazy kids...heh.
For a while, I was afraid we wouldn't make it to the bar: a chorus of "are we there yet?" was beginning to sound from the ranks. I'm fond of everyone I was with that evening, but anyone who heard these people would think they'd never had to walk before! Fortunately, we made it to Remoulade and ordered a round of Gigantor-sized Hurricanes before their endurance gave out. Dawn was pleased with the drinks, but thought the band was a bit noisy, so we wandered back towards the Dungeon. On the way, we passed the "Wash the Girl of Your Choice" bar...I was amused at the idea, but thought a proper costume would be in order: hip waders, a lab coat, a rubber apron, dish gloves, goggles, a snorkel, a strap-on fin, and a long-handled scrub brush would have been appropriate props. Since I lacked this gear, I gave the bar a miss. My jaded younger brother, who lived in New Orleans for years while pretending to take courses at UNO, remarked that the washing scheme was probably how the bar's management cleaned up the girls between their tricks...
Let's see...we went to the Clover Grill before we threw ourselves into the dungeon, and Dawn has already covered the main points of that story. I have a few remarks to add. First, if anyone working at the Clover was a chef, I would be mightily surprised. Second, for an aging homosexual on the late shift at a French Quarter diner, a question about the condition of the restrooms is a logical opening for a conversation about sex. Dawn didn't mention this in her review, but "Diva Las Vegas" spent several minutes chatting about sexual escapades in nearby restrooms before whipping out the latest gay newsletter. Finally, the food was actually quite tasty, and it was all prepared right before our eyes--no one added any "special sauce."
The Dungeon itself was much as I remembered it--someone had added murals, the upstairs bar was larger, the bouncer was smaller, and the crowd included more fashion lesbians, but the overall atmosphere was the same as the name implied. I quickly led our group upstairs, claimed the booth overlooking the courtyard, and announced that we had won. Quick tangent: "I win!" is a phrase I often use with tongue in cheek to describe relative victories, such as getting the best seat, finding parking on a busy night, drinking heavily without paying a horrible price afterwards, etc. You'll probably see it again later...this was a fairly triumphant weekend. Anyway, we amused ourselves by peoplewatching, drinking unusual drinks, and shouting fragments of conversation at each other. Some particularly amusing characters: the "get a room!" exhibitionist couple, the fashion lesbians (fashion lesbian: a woman who has only a marginal attraction to other women, but rubs all over them in public to attract the attention of her preferred prey: men.) on the dance floor, and the laughably underweight bouncer. Another aside: I acknowledge that small and/or lightweight people can fight...but a bouncer's purpose isn't winning fights, it's preventing them. The ideal bouncer should be so huge and menacing that even a blind-drunk redneck will think twice before starting trouble with him.
Todd and Dawn left early, and I led the rest of our group down to Decatur street. More walking led to more bitching and moaning, but they all enjoyed window shopping at the Decatur street fetish stores and swore mighty oaths to return during daylight hours. We went to the Dragon's Den on Esplanade, one of my favorite haunts, but it was later than we thought (I ditch my watch on weekends whenever possible) and we were gently but firmly turned away. Luck was with us, however: Jester Fred had spotted The Abbey, a 24-hour Decatur Street bar, and taken an instant liking to it. One of the many stickers on the wall: "Electric Tattoos: Tattoos get you sex!" We arrived at a shift change, so we had three female bartenders to chat with. One had insane amounts of tattoos, another had three visible tattoos, and the third had no visible tattoos at all. The heavily tattooed bartended was tall, slender, graceful, and completely relaxed: she was beautiful, and she knew it. The three-tattoo bartender had a cool tattoo theme: one "Hello Kitty" tattoo, one tattoo of some insanely obscure anime character, and one "Sailor Moon" tattoo. She was sturdy and quick to feign anger--when Jester Fred explained the fear and loathing he had experienced during a past encounter with a "Hello Kitty" display booth, she fixed him with a stern gaze and proceeded to berate him. The third bartender looked had a suspiciously innocent face: she looked like Dorothy, lost in an entirely different Oz. The innocent bartender had quite a smoking knack--the act of lighting up and taking a drag transformed her from Dorothy to Lolita. Jester Fred was quite taken with her, but his girlfriend was flying in the next day and he was too plowed to get her name (Kat or Kathleen, never Kathy) right, so nothing came of that. We drank our drinks for an unknown amount of time, lurched down to Jackson Square, and hailed a cab for the hotel.
Unlike Dawn, I did have a hangover on Friday morning. I'm not sure if I should blame the rum or my own misplaced desires: before the con, I had started to mourn my decreasing number of hangovers. After all, drinking without getting hung over was a sure sign that the Betty Ford clinic was holding a suite for me. Besides, I thought, hangovers could give a real appreciation for the pleasures of a life without pain. Ugh. Somebody smack me the next time I wish for anything resembling suffering.
Friday and Saturday blur together--fortunately, I've made a handy printout of Dawn's review and have a pile of photos to help me paste my memory together. Thanks to these crafty memory crutches, I believe I can piece something resembling a decent account of the weekend together. I'll go into "Dawn Mode" at this point and do a bit of skimming:
Friday, early afternoon: after recovering from my hangover, I accompanied Brandon and Jamie into the quarter. Since they were acting as "the camel" for Dawn and Todd (i.e., carting all the bulky, fragile, "don't fly this!" gear), they had a car. Traffic on I-10 was fairly heavy--after all, we were on vacation, but everyone else was still moving through their normal Friday routine. We took the scenic route into the Quarter (my mistake--I had us exit the interstate too early), parked in a public lot near Decatur Street, and walked over to the House of Blues for lunch. It's a chain, but it's a good chain, and their theme fits perfectly with the French Quarter's atmosphere. If you're in New Orleans, I highly recommend it. The gumbo was damned near perfect, and the jambalaya was outstanding! We took chicken fingers back for Dawn and Todd, picked up our badges, and went our separate ways for the afternoon.
My Fantasm co-conspirators, Chris (the Fantasm guy, not the camgirl) and Bonnie, had reached the hotel in one piece and set up a muted version of our convention's booth. We had a bucket o' buttons, several nifty key chains, and a few of our best T-shirts for sale. I spent part of the afternoon puttering around the table and part of the afternoon attending panels. Bonnie loaned me a nifty little point and shoot 35mm, and I burned some film in the dealer's room. Dawn's two-cam table was mighty keen--she made the table skirt and fishbowl trim herself! The table became even better when the fx team from Hell Night arrived and displayed their props...I spent some time at the shoot, but this was the first time I'd seen fx photos from the later part of the movie--they ruled! Unfortunately, I was marooned at the Fantasm table during the Hell Night panel. Sigh. That's OK, though--I had a chance to watch the blooper reel later that week.
Finally, we assembled a horde of people for dinner. By the time we got everyone together, we had a choice between eating in the Quarter and attending the Coronation. Appetite won out over curiosity, and twelve of us crammed ourselves into the shuttle to assault the Quarter. Let's see, now...we had Fantasm Chris, Bonnie, Gigglecam Chris, all the camfolk from the breezeway, Wolf...I think that covers our full cast of characters, and I apologize to anyone I missed. Chris and Bonnie are into ethnic dining, so I used my inscrutable powers to lure them into Siam, the Thai restaurant below the Dragon's Den. Once again, we had to walk more than a block, and the multitudes couldn't help bitching and moaning, but the magnificent food at Siam settled them down. Siam is a rare combination, btw: off the beaten path (Esplanade and Decatur), unknown to tourists (who comes to New Orleans for Thai food?), superb food (a chef on staff, not just some boat people who came to the states & took up cat skinning), great prices (see the first two points), and a remarkable atmosphere (dark red walls, low lights, statuettes, candles, mirrors, artsy clutter, obligatory mural of the Thai Royal Palace, King, & Queen, etc.). Even the dish names on the menu ruled the planet: I devoured Bird of the Golden Mountain (Game Hen with stuffing and curry, served on bed of rice and seasonal vegetables, served flambé), Chris had Evil Jungle Prince ("For real dragonslayers and cowboys only! Hot!"), and so on. Crowd loves restaurant, nothing sucks: I win!
We had plenty of time for conversation, and I won't recap everything here, but one topic did interest me: if you had a choice about returning to the next life as a man or a woman, which would you be? Apparently, the grass is always greener...virtually everyone at our table thought they would have a better life as a member of the opposite sex. Take me, for example: tall, slender, easy on the eyes, reasonably clever, college-educated, and clawing up the corporate ladder. With the right plumbing, I'd be an HR department's wet dream. Major corporations spend years building up women with my profile to avoid discrimination suits...IMHO, a woman who plays her cards right can vault over obstacles in corporate world that would stop a man cold. There were plenty of counter-arguments to that line of reasoning, but I quickly found a way to quash most of the opposition:
"Two words, folks: multiple orgasms." (Was that the sound of me winning? I believe it was!) Must be nice--though "the curse" can't be pleasant. Say...that brings another hypothetical question to mind...
Well, back to reality. After dinner, we hiked back to the Cafe du Monde to meet up with Bonnie's friends: Holly and Mike. The rest of the evening was typical New Orleans fare: we drank several drinks, went to a club, turned aside at the prospect of paying a $10 cover, drank some more, watched some of the women in our group earn beads, visited a fetish store, mocked the construction and prices of their gadgets, had a few drinks, staggered back to the shuttle pickup point, and ordered some drinks while we waited for our ride. It's a small world: Todd, Dawn, and friends (Brandon, Jamie, and?) passed by on the street while I was in the last bar. They were on their way to meet someone, but I'm not sure how this chunk of story fits into Dawn's Tom Savini/Dungeon paragraphs. I believe the time was somewhere near 11:00pm.
Our group split up after we got back to the hotel. Some of us checked out the parties and found them a bit wanting. I gave Bonnie a foot massage (cool shoes and cobblestones aren't a good mix!) and turned in relatively early. Wolf stirred things up a bit by bringing a guest by, but he courteously made arrangements to meet her in a nearby function room. That's a good thing, I think--apparently, they were a bit on the noisy side. Speaking of noise, Wolf snores like a rhino with a head cold...
The next morning, Chris slept in, Wolf went to the dealer's room, and I went to breakfast with Bonnie. Dawn came in to buy her dry white toast while we were paying the check. I spent most of my day at the booth, ate some tasty takeout shrimp etoufee in the late afternoon, and dressed up early for the evening's parties. Thanks to a tip from my employer, I found a warehouse outlet for formalwear in Chicago, and got a real bargain on my very own tuxedo. I try to use it whenever I can find a reasonable excuse to do so.
Everyone else followed my example, geared up, and went down the hall to watch the "Charity Indentured Servant Auction." Several men and women were auctioning themselves to the crowd for three hours' service. Of course, some took the terms of the auction more seriously than others. One Marine, disgusted with the low bids common for men in these events, actually bid $30 for himself. Heh. The highest bid was $250, for a busty blonde in an off-the-shoulder pleather evening gown. More on those two pieces of foreshadowing in a minute...
Chris, Mike, and I went on a liquor store run to buy the makings of body shots: whipped cream, sweet liquor, cherries, and small plastic cups. We made an odd trio: I was in my tuxedo ("I need a cloak and a mask..."), Chris was sporting a goth look, and Mike had a golf-shirt, crew-cut, wire-rim glasses thing going on. The acne-faced cashier couldn't quite figure us out, but I'm sure he suspected something dubious.
When we returned, we went to the "Electric Psychedelic Pussycat Swingers' Club" (latest incarnation of Jonestown--and yes, they did have The Machine with them) party to see a new machine their evil researchers had created. The working name for it was "the juicer", but we agreed that "the hobby horse" would be far less crass. This gadget involved a wooden sawhorse, a variable-speed electric motor, a string of polished wooden beads, and a velvet cloth. It was rude. I took photos. Moving right along--
After we (we meaning Bonnie and Holly...I'm not sure what the Hobby Horse would do for a man, but I think "nothing good" is answer enough) finished testing the machinery, we went downstairs for the costume contest. The Emcee was nowhere to be found, I was wearing a tuxedo, and I have a passable speaking voice, so I was pressed into service... I believe I did a fair job of kicking the contestants into some semblance of order, doing improv lines during their appearances, and coping with an unexpected power outage (This is me, PROJECTING).
After the contest, I trotted upstairs to a private party. I expect some kind of write-up about this to appear on Gigglecam, so I won't steal anyone's thunder by going into details. As the party began, three male slaves from the auction were in a contest to unlace Bonnie and Holly's knee-high boots with their teeth. The serious slave won by a nose...he and his "owners" were quite the life of the party! Bonnie gave me credit for the idea--she got it from a story I'd told concerning a community theatre party. After the unlacing, Bonnie demonstrated some unorthodox uses for candle wax. With these preliminaries out of the way, the main event began...it involved streaming video, one camgirl, several sets of hands, and a small bottle of lotion. Bonnie, Chris and I left during this bit of frolic to see what was up at the other parties. One fragment: the pleather-gown girl on the dance floor, using a buggy whip on a hapless pack of drunken fanboys.
rest of the evening was all good, but I doubt reading about it would thrill
you. I've left out some of the weekend, for one reason or another: bottom
line, I need to rest up for work tomorrow, and Dawn doesn't have infinite
bandwidth! I was fortunate enough to catch a ride back to Huntsvegas
with Brandon and Jamie (thanks--you rule!) on Sunday morning.
Now, I'll follow Dawn's lead and discuss:
WHAT I LEARNED
It is possible to do body shots in
a tuxedo, but some ingenuity is required. I can take properly framed
photos when intoxicated (OK, Dawn's was way off, but the ones I took with
Bonnie's camera were fine...Dawn saw them herself!), but not with Dawn's
camera. A good conversation is at least as much fun as a cool pair
of shoes...one Saturday-night rant I participated in was especially entertaining.
Rum is vile. (That's more of a confirmation than a fresh learning experience,
but it needed to be said.) And, finally a review of a three day convention
should be written in three days, not one night!