"My Ghod...It's Full of Ass!"

Yakdog Reviews Dragoncon 1999

        Well, friends and neighbors, looks like it's time for yet another long-winded Yakdog convention
    review.  Before you begin reading this review, let me give you fair warning: I plan to wander off the
    subject, philosophize, go off on tangents, give unsolicited advice, and break several rules of
    grammar (I'm also fond of parenthetical statements...).  However, I promise to use my
    apostrophes correctly (it's=contraction for "it is"; its=possessive--if you're a postliterate web
    monkey, please make a note about this for future reference) and will make a strong attempt to
    spell my words properly.  If you believe this review is starting to suck, just mosey on over to the
    "back" button and wander off into another chunk of the internet.

Wednesday, June 30: Arrival

       Thanks to a bizarre series of natural disasters, I arrived at the Atlanta airport in a rental car on
    the Wednesday before the convention.  Actually, this was not all bad: MARTA (Metro Atlanta Rapid
    Transit Authority--or Moving Africans Rapidly Through Atlanta, to the locals) has a clean, safe train
    line that begins at the airport terminal and has a stop (N1) convenient to the Dragoncon hotels.  If
    you fly into town, I highly recommend it: $1.50 for a traffic-free train ride beats the cat butt out of
    a $25 cab fare through weekday afternoon Hotlanta traffic.  btw, Atlanta's airports, train stations,
    and public areas got some heavy-duty plastic surgery before the 1996 Olympics.  If you "stay on
    the path", you won't have to confront any of the city's urban blight.   In any case, my train ride
    into downtown was uneventful ("May your journey be without incident.").

        Dragoncon secured the entire Hyatt for the convention.   It's a beautiful open-atrium hotel;
    there's a photo of it on the convention website at www.dragoncon.org.  You and all your friends
    should stay at the Hyatt--reserve your rooms now!  Meanwhile, I'll be checking into the Westin
    Peachtree.  The Westin is just one block away from the Hyatt; a series of "gerbil tunnels" links the
    Westin with the Merchandise Mart (art show) and the Apparel Mart--home of the almighty Dealers'
    (That's an example of the plural possessive, web monkeys!) Room.  The room rates at the Westin
    are comparable to those at the Hyatt; however, I did not have to wait in line for check-in or the
    elevator at the Westin.  My quiet, comfortable room had a fine view of the sunset, the Centennial
    Olympic Park, and the Tabernacle.  I'd planned to share the spill with three other people, but one
    was detained by the aforementioned natural disasters ("Ugh.  Phones down. 'Puters broken.  You
    fix!") and the fourth succumbed to general fan flakiness.  After my surviving roomie and I
    unpacked and washed off the road grime from our trip, we ambled over to the Hyatt.  Since we'd
    arrived a night early, we expected registration to be quick and easy...

        ...which just goes to show that even hardened convention veterans can still retain a touching
    reserve of innocence.  Apparently, the two page letter of constructive feedback I sent in last year
    fell on deaf ears.   Imagine that!  When we arrived at Registration, we found ourselves at the end
    of a line that snaked between the posts and ropes of a small ballroom and extended into the hall
    outside.  Although I am an Eternal Member and my roomie (we'll call him "Grunden Ripspleen" to
    protect his secret identity) had a pass from WOTC, we still waited in line for over two hours to pick
    up our badges.  Actually, Grunden picked up his badge; mine was missing (for the second year in a
    row) and the only person at the VIP desk who had the authority to clear up the problem was too
    busy to help me.   Incidentally, there were two kinds of people picking up badges at the VIP
    desk--the "VIP" folks (Eternals, bargain basement panelists, unpublished authors, etc.) and the
    "TIP" (Truly Important People: i.e., media guests).  Finding the TIPs was easy; they bypassed the
    VIP line and enjoyed the full attention of the high-ranking booth staff (including the one person who
    could have authorized a badge for me...argh!).   I understand how important a guest's happiness
    is to a convention, but a separate area for the TIPs would have been more diplomatic.

        My time at registration wasn't a complete waste; I met up with Kyrie (a friend from
    Fantasm--more on her later), Dawn Marie (of www.dawnmarie.org), and several people from 
                        MOONSET ENTERTAINMENT GROUP (www.moonset.com) while I was waiting in line.
                    When the staffers at the VIP booth told me I'd have to come back to pick up my badge at 10:00am
          the next morning, I consoled myself with the thought that the only scheduled event for the evening was a concert I
    hadn't planned to attend.  Still, even when nothing organized is happening, I can usually find
    something to do that's more interesting than standing in line.  Here's some unsolicited advice:
    before you go to Dragoncon registration, eat a nutritious meal and visit a restroom.  Try to bring
    amusing people to the line with you.  Don't forget your canteen--two hours of shuffling towards
    those understaffed computer tables is thirsty work!  That reminds me: the VIP room did have a
    few pitchers of water...ah, the privileges of rank.

        After my fun-filled visit to Registrationland, I returned to the Westin to make some calls.  Here's
    an important note for your wallet: long distance from the hotel is at the AT&T Operator-Assisted
    Rate, with an additional surcharge.  Local calls are .75 a pop.  Bring a calling card--or, better yet, a
    cell phone--to the con with you.  Crafty Kyrie actually rented a cell phone for the duration of the
    con; when there's 20,000 people at an event, "meeting up" is not an easy thing!  OK, back to the
    subject at hand: walking from one hotel to another at night.  The route between the two hotels is
    a well-lit major street with active businesses (a Hard Rock Cafe and a Planet Hollywood) that stay
    open late.  Almost every time I went from one hotel to the other, beggars asked me for money.  I
    found them fairly polite (i.e., one "no" or "not today" was enough for them) and mostly
    harmless--but I am 6'2", broad-shouldered, and familiar with the rougher customs of New
    Orleans.  Walt (a man who needs no pseudonym), a shorter, lighter friend of mine, told me about
    his encounter with a more aggressive panhandler.  My advice: travel with friends, stay reasonably
    alert, and don't start conversations with the street people.  Also, don't be a smartass--I heard a
    story about one fool who taunted a beggar with a series of badly-done kung fu moves...  Most of
    the beggars in a well-lit tourist spot are there to ask for money; the people who want to *take*
    your money prefer areas with fewer witnesses.  Many of these beggars are con artists who don't
    want trouble any more than you do--but a few of them really are crazier than shithouse rats, and
    all of them have less to lose by going to jail than you do.  The satisfaction of insulting someone
    stupider and poorer than you are is fleeting; the penalty for getting into a fight with one of these
    folks could last a just a bit longer.

        After puttering around for a bit, I went back to the Hyatt and visited Kyrie.  She had a
    refrigerator-sized trunk of costumes with her; we spent a while going through the outfits, then
    descended to the hotel bar for peoplewatching.  While the two of us were having a drink with a
    couple of off-duty registration people (one of whom let me know that registration would actually
    be open at 9:00am), Kyrie noticed the Moonset people and wondered who they were.   Since
    Moonset is making a series of "Scream Queen" B-Movies, their tanned, brightly-dressed cast
    members contrasted sharply with the sea of black-clad goths and t-shirt wearing fen that washed
    around us on all size.  Dawn Marie, who has a leading part in "HELL NIGHT", the latest Moonset
    production, was kind enough to introduce us to her new friends.  We all chatted for a bit, then fell
    in with a pack of LARPers.  That's Live Action Role Playing, btw, and Kyrie is completely addicted to
    it.  The disease may be catching--it's been years since I've done any LARP, but our conversation
    (which started in the bar around 1:00am, moved to Kyrie's room around 2:00am, and lingered
    there until 5:00am or so) made me want to suit up and get into character.

        Of course, one of our topics was the power women could wield in a LARP.  The demographics of
    her hotel room during the conversation--one attractive twentysomething woman conversing with
    four men--are similar to those of a typical LARP.  That sort of conversation can turn into an
    endurance contest: the men strive to be witty and charming ("Mate with as many females as
    possible!") while the woman drops gentle hints to her companion of choice ("Mate with the best
    male!").  But, as the saying goes, "sometimes a cigar is just a cigar" and I believe we were all
    really talking about LARP.  Here's a bit of advice for any ladies who happen to be reading this
    review: if you're halfway healthy and have at least a couple of brain cells to rub together, you can
    attend a con and receive more attention than you ever dreamed of.  Someone such as Kyrie is
    often worshipped like a goddess...  In any case, I said my "good nights" at 5:00am and strolled
    back to the Westin, past the first-shift kitchen help whose shifts were about to start.

   Thursday, July 1: It begins!

        I woke up at 8:30am--since I'm one of those damned "morning people", that's "sleeping
    in"--took a shower, and fired up the four-cup in room coffeemaker.  Since I was in a rush, I got
    some ice for the coffee and chugged all four cups.  Iced coffee is a beautiful thing for waking up in
    a hurry!  I went to the Hyatt, bought a couple of notepads ($5.00 for two pads--ouch!  I should
    have bought them at home, or, better yet, taken  couple from work...), and went down to pick up
    my badge.  Actually, I *tried* to go down and pick up my badge, but the only "down" escalator in
    the registration area was blocked off by "Out of Service" signs.  Of course, there weren't any
    stairs.  Sigh.  Because I'd arrived early, I managed to catch an elevator down.  Of course, the
    "inside tip" about 9:00am registration was wrong--the staffers were supposed to show up at
    9:00am and open VIP registration at 10:00.  Grrr.  This gave me time to have breakfast at the
    slightly overpriced hotel restaurant; while I ate, I also jotted down a few notes for this review.  At
    10:00am, I went back to registration (the escalator was up and running, btw), where one of
    Dragoncon's Directors (of Registration, perhaps?) gave me my badge.  Whoo hoo!

        The Dealers' Room was scheduled to open at 1:00pm; I walked up and down the Earth,
    amusing myself with one thing or another, until then.   Only one incident from that time of waiting
    was worth writing down...  The Con Suite, land of free food and soda, was on the second floor of
    the Hyatt.  The Hyatt has 5 elevators; since roughly 20,000 people attended the con, that's about
    4,000 people per elevator.  Not good.  In years past, fans simply walked up the fire stairs in the
    back left corner of the lobby to reach the Con Suite, but this year, the lobby door to the fire stairs
    had keycard access.  When I strolled over to the door, one of the Dragoncon security staff
    stepped out of the stairs, shut the door behind him, and rattled it to make sure it was securely
    closed.  I looked at the door, glanced up towards the second floor, and said,

    "That won't do much good, will it?"

    His reply: "That's why I'm checking it."

    Hmmm...yet another fine quality reduction engineer at work.  The door stayed locked during the
    early part of the con; people who wanted to go up simply formed a line and waited for someone
    coming down to open the door.  Finally, someone had the presence of mind to leave the door
    unlocked and take some strain off the elevators.

        The Dealers' Room was in the Apparel Mart; I checked the Apparel Mart Lobby at 12:15 and
    found about a hundred people waiting for the doors to open.  When I checked back at 12:55, I
    found a huge mob of people filling the atrium, standing outside in the "Smoking Court", and
    stretching down the hall towards the Inforum.  Some of the waiting fans were blocking the
    escalators from the Merchandise Mart; one of Dragoncon's Security people (striving for his 15
    minutes, no doubt) shouted, "OK, people--make like the Red Sea!  Part!"  The offending clusters of
    fans shuffled out of the way; at 1:02, the staffers opened *one* of the *eleven* doors to the
    room and a line of people started to move in.

        I realized this might take a while and strolled along the line, making notes.  Three minutes later,
    I had passed four window displays, a snack bar, a support pillar, a set of securely locked glass
    doors to the Dealers' Room, and a few hundred waiting people.  Several of the folks waiting didn't
    realize the line had started to move; some were seated and reading.  After chatting with the poor
    unfortunates at the back of the line, I strolled back up to the doors.  Some enterprising soul had
    decided it might be a good idea to open more (three) doors, so the line was moving a bit faster.
    The "back of the line" folks went through at 1:10: not too bad, considering the number of people
    who had been waiting.

        I made a beeline for the Fantasm/Con-Tour booth (I'm one of the Directors in my spare time;
    visit the website at www.fantasm.org!), met up with the rest of the Fantasm staff, and hung out
    to sell stuff.  Our T-shirts (including my own "WARNING! Kicks Ass When Provoked!" design) and
    buttons practically flew out of the booth.   Life was good.  Here's a couple of incidents from the

        A pudgy young gamer stopped by the booth, flipped through the photo albums of Fantasm
    1999, and, in a disdainful, Puritanical tone, asked, "Is this a con about *sex*?"  I suppressed my
    urge to say, "Yes--you look like you could use a bit yourself!" and explained that people were
    more likely to photograph racy material than writers' panels, gaming, etc.  He wandered off,
    leaving both of us somewhat dissatisfied.

        During the early afternoon, I made a change run for the booth.  I checked the snack stands in
    the Apparel Mart/Inforum first, on the off-chance they would have a few spare small bills.  Two
    claimed to be short; at "The Island", the last one I checked, I actually bought two bottles of juice
    before I asked for change.  When I politely requested change for 3 $20 bills, the fellow behind the
    counter replied:

    "There's no way in the world!  I'm in business for myself--I don't do change.  There's things called
    'banks', y'know."

    I said, "I'll keep that in mind the next time I need to buy a drink."

    Counter-boy suddenly realized he was speaking to a customer and gave me the reply he should
    have used in the first place: "Oh, well, with the convention, we've been really low."

    I said, "Well, that's understandable."

        Do you think I went back to "The Island" that weekend?  If the nitwit behind the counter had
    given me the change I was looking for, I would have gone back to him when I needed snacks and
    recommended his shop to others.  Since he couldn't overcome his urge to be a twit, I dropped the
    juice off at the booth, warned everyone there not to patronize "The Island", and got my change
    from the Westin.   Everybody likes a little ass, but nobody likes a smartass!

        I spent the day working the booth, running errands, chatting with fans, and catching up with
    friends.  During the day, I believe everybody and their dog orbited through the dealers' room at
    least once.  The room was filled with all the goodies I'd expect to find at a con, along with beta
    test versions of new games, a "Hall of Fame" with guests signing autographs, and "high end"
    merchandise such as custom contact lenses.  I've heard some people refer to Dragon Con as a
    "trade show"; they speak as if trade shows were a bad thing.   Every industry needs a forum for
    people to gather, look at new ideas, and do a bit of business--why should gaming/SF be different?
    Also, I go to "mundane" trade shows, such as the Restaurant Association show, as part of my RL
    job...Dragoncon has a much smaller exhibit area and many more activities than any "mundane"
    show I've ever attended.  Anyway, most of the people I saw going through the Dragoncon
    Dealers' Room looked like kids in a candy store.  If you come to the con, bring some shopping $
    and a wish list!

        At a normal convention, we would have gone hunting for parties after dinner.  Unfortunately,
    Dragoncon's public parties are very weak indeed.  It was not ever thus: I remember attending
    Dragoncons with many parties.   However, in those days, Dragoncon was at another hotel and did
    not have the entire hotel booked for the con.  This other hotel had an extremely enthusiastic
    security staff.  Parties at Dragoncon didn't close down--they were shut down.  I suspect some
    people got tired of trying to host parties under these conditions.  Also, most parties at conventions
    are hosted by groups, and many of these groups are hosting the party to invite people to attend a
    convention, join an organization, etc.  Let's do the math: about 20,000 people attend Dragoncon,
    while most local and regional SF cons have memberships of only a few hundred.  Dragoncon is
    huge enough to draw people from across the country and around the world; it is also huge enough
    to draw in people who are only interested in the fringes of SF (the goth concerts, one of the media
    guest tracks, etc.).  In many cases, neither of these groups of people will attend a local con...but
    they will happily attend a local con's Dragoncon party.

        So, you can see what began to happen.  Some parties dropped out because of the "Party Nazi"
    security; others dropped out because their parties weren't showing any results:

    "How many people signed up for Yakdogcon at our Dragoncon party?"


    "Hum.  And how much did we spend on booze?"

    "Well...about $2,000.00."

    "Ah.  Well, I'll be fucked by a syphilitic goat if we throw another party there!"

        The die-hard partiers who remained suddenly found themselves overloaded with people: their
    parties ran out of liquor or were shut down by security in short order.  This brings us up to the
    present: any party that "goes public" at Dragoncon is going to be totally mobbed and drained
    because it will be the only public party.  The only solution I can see to this problem is to create a
    *real* "party floor" and to encourage the creation of enough parties to serve Dragoncon's fans.
    Of course, this plan requires the cooperation of the Hyatt, and the Hyatt is probably quite pleased
    with the cash it earned selling $4.50 cups of beer and keeping a full bar until closing time.  If you
    want to drink at Dragon, you'll need to bring your own.

        Private parties aren't all bad; they're quiet enough to have a conversation in, there's no line for
    the bar, and you can take the time to mix a good top-shelf drink.  There aren't as many new
    people to meet, but, since I only see many of these folks at cons anyway, there's still plenty of
    catching up to do.  Our Thursday night host had some amazing stories to tell about his RL
    adventures in Africa...   I find convention conversation a refreshing contrast to the constant
    barrage of sports, cars, kids, and shopping I hear about at work--especially since many of the
    people who attend cons still *read books*.  I decided to call it an early night and hit the sack at

 Friday, July 2: The First Full Day

       Sleeping in is one of the pillars of a great vacation; I dozed peacefully until 8:45am.  Ah, the
    luxuries of time off!   Once again, I kickstarted my morning with four cups of iced coffee.  Then, it
    was off to the Hyatt for a 10:00am panel on the fine art of making "B" movies.   The entire cast
    of HELL NIGHT, along with the producer, Todd Fischer, was supposed to be up bright and early for
    the first panel slot of the morning.   Of course, Dawn Marie (a "night person" if ever there was
    one) is in the HELL NIGHT cast. When Bonnie (another Fantasm Director) and I were going over the
    schedule, we immediately began discussing odds for Dawn making the panel.  I talked Bonnie down
    to 3:1 against, but when I said Dawn had to make the panel *on time*, even 4:1 wasn't good
    enough.  I'm glad I didn't place a bet--Dawn was at the panel, bright and early.  When Dawn
    sleeps, she's a real comagirl, and waking her up is not an easy task...but I'd underestimated
    Dawn's guile and determination.  She simply stayed up all night and crashed after the panel.  btw,
    the panel was excellent; many of the people who attended had interesting questions.  If the panel
    had been in a more reasonable time slot and hadn't been up against Dave Prowse (that's Darth
    Vader, folks), I expect the attendance would have been higher.  Tom Savini showed up in
    mid-panel--he gave me a brief explanation of why a $200 million movie can have a script that
    sucks ass (in a word: politics) and recommended a book on the subject: William Goldman's
    Adventures in the Screen Tray.  Discussion panels don't have the same flash appeal as media or
    performance events, but if you have some questions you want answered or enjoy hearing other
    points of view on a subject you enjoy, I highly recommend them.  Panels can also be a great way
    to meet people who share your interests; I spotted a talented makeup artist, and invited him to
    our con.  He stopped by our booth to talk; we exchanged ideas and contact information.  Wouldn't
    have happened if I hadn't attended this panel...

        After the panel, I returned to our booth in the Dealers' Room.  Then, I visited the Artists' Alley to
    give out Fantasm info, collect business cards, and (gasp!) look at the art.  Convention art shows
    are always worth a visit--even if you don't like *anything* there, you can breeze through quickly.
    Also, artists are a hungry lot: while some originals are priced far beyond what the average fan can
    afford, many artists have prints available and the new talent often sells at bargain prices.  This is a
    great place to pick up "things you can't find at the mall."  Some of the winners I ran into included a
    voodoo doll that looked suspiciously like Bill Gates (designed by someone from New Orleans--go
    figure) and some nifty computer-enhanced goth photos by "Splat" Johnson. The Dragoncon art
    show was in proportion to the Dealers' Room: large.  The only annoyance I had to deal with during
    my spin through the room was a sudden burst of conversation-shattering drumming that broke
    out in the back of the room for no apparent reason.  Loud noises and paintings just don't mix well
    for me, folks.

        Shortly after I returned to the Dealers' Room, cards in hand, Yvonne Craig (Batgirl!) bought one
    of my "...Kicks Ass..." T-shirts.   I was so pleased!  And now for some pseudo-legal
    mumbo-jumbo: no, Yvonne Craig is not endorsing the shirt; the photo I took of her holding one
    up proves nothing.   I'm relying on the general photo release printed on every Dragoncon badge to
    drop her photo into this review.  Hopefully, I'm not doing anything wrong here--I just think it rocks
    the planet that I could design anything someone that cool could enjoy.

        I spent the rest of the afternoon at and around the booth and running errands--Beth, Teresa
    and I went to Kinkos to make some copies.   btw, the gentrified development in downtown Atlanta
    doesn't go far--if you go 1-2 blocks past the hotels, you'll be in a very poor neighborhood.  Fair
    warning!   Anyway, as we began to discuss plans for the evening and what we needed to bring up
    from the cars, Teresa (yet another Fantasm Director!) said, "There's a couple of coolers and a
    spanking bench in my car..."  Just a typical Friday night, honest!

        I hit the Camgirls panel, since I knew Dawn Marie (www.dawnmarie.org) and Cloei
    (www.animecam.com); I'd also met two of the other camgirls, Tiffany (www.tiffanycam.com) and
    Samantha (www.samanthacam.com) at the Moonset panel.   The panel was fairly interesting, but
    there weren't any "Jerry Springer" incidents (which is good I suppose--stalkers seem silly in
    theory, but they can actually be dangerous)...and the panel was kept on a theoretical level.  The
    camgirls at Fantasm did a more, ah, practical demonstration...  Well, that's not the con I'm
    reviewing, so...

        After the camgirl panel, I felt a bit restless and did some wandering.  Unfortunately, I fell out of
    touch with the other Fantasm folks; since they didn't have a cell phone with them, I couldn't track
    them down.  I may have said this before, but I'll say it again: it's very easy to get separated at
    Dragoncon.  Try to have something mobile you can use to get in touch with people--you'll be glad
    you did.  After wandering about, peoplewatching, I headed back to the hotel room.  btw,
    Dragoncon had a *huge* area set aside for gaming; even at this late hour, several people were
    still using it.  I spotted one weakness in the scenario designs: people were putting together gigantic
    games that no sane mortal could possibly finish, even given a full weekend.  One example was an
    armored miniatures battle called "Patton's Dream": a clash between the full strength of the
    Western Allies, Nazi Germany, and the Soviet Union in W.W.II era Europe.  Ack!  Something on a
    smaller scale would have been less like work, I think...

        I returned to the Westin and met up with Grunden; he was going back to the Hyatt to check on
    the news for his LARP ("Dark Confrontation"?  Or is that "Dark Conspiracy"?).  After weighing my
    options, I said, "Well, I'm going back for one more look at this party-less toilet of a con."  Much to
    my amazement, I actually stumbled across a semi-public party and stayed for a while.  Christine
    (who is not one of Dawn's favorite people but gets along with me reasonably well) and one of her
    friends were livening things up by dancing on the tables.  Whoo hoo!  The new, younger generation
    of fans seems much healthier and includes more women than the fans I remember from my first
    cons.  I have no problem with that.  There may be something to this whole "good nutrition has
    given you length of bone" business--I met a goth girl who was at least my height.   Neat!
    Eventually, Chris (guess that con!) showed up at the party; the rest of the Fantasm folks were
    upstairs romping and frolicking, but I was too tired for reindeer games.  And so, back to the Westin
    at the reasonable hour of 3:45am, feeling entirely too sober...

Saturday, July 3: Yet another full day!

       I say "yet another" because a typical con begins on Friday afternoon and ends on Sunday
    afternoon.  Even party cons that begin a day early have trouble beating this cycle: they begin
    Thursday night, but there isn't any day programming on Friday and they end when the last
    Saturday night party shuts down.  Dragoncon lasts a while--hence the nickname Drag On Con.
    Anyway, Saturday at a con is usually bittersweet for me: I know I have a full day of fun to look
    forward to, but I also know the con will be over tomorrow.  Sigh.  This con was no exception.

         Four cups of iced coffee in the morning had become my morning ritual--though I hardly felt the
    need for caffeine after sleeping in until 9:00am.  By 10:00, I'd hauled my bright and cheerful self to
    the Dealers' Room.   For some reason, I was bouncy, restless, and a bit edgy.  Hmmm...perhaps I
    should drink more coffee to settle my nerves.  Anyway, I hung out at the booth until 11:00am,
    then took Teresa to a meeting with Todd.  We took some juice & muffins (juice and muffins that
    weren't from "The Island", btw) onto the balcony and met for about an hour and a half.  When we
    were finished, we'd arranged for Todd and the "local" HELL NIGHT cast to come to Fantasm.  We
    also had a great time going over ideas, chatting about cons & movies, etc.  One of the high points
    of any con is planning something to do at the next con, whether it's a game, a panel, a lunch
    meeting, a party...  For me, knowing I'll see familiar faces x, y, and z at the next con gives me that
    much more to look forward to.

        By this time, I'd shot all the film in my disposable camera.  During my trip to Kinko's, I'd spotted
    a Wolf Photo shop within easy walking distance, so I ambled over to get some one-hour
    developing.  Unfortunately, the Wolf shop was closed.  In fact, *all* the shops were closed.  Does
    something seem wrong with this picture?  There I was, in the downtown of the largest city in the
    Southeast, and all the stores were closed.  Of course, the suburban malls were open and doing a
    booming business--if I'd been shopping at Lenox Square or the Perimeter, I would have been hard
    pressed to find parking.  If I'd been in downtown Chicago, I would have found all the stores open
    and doing a brisk business.  Downtown Atlanta, though...the towering luxury hotels are like islands
    in a sea of poverty.  During the weekend, the people who work downtown are gone, and the
    people who live downtown don't have any money to spend, so the stores are closed.  Atlanta is a
    formidable convention town and its suburbs are sprawling across Georgia at a truly frightening
    rate, but it still can't seem to create a viable downtown.  Perhaps another decade of rising
    property values will bring on a wave of gentrification...a safer neighborhood, but still not a
    welcoming one.  "Care for a $20 martini, sir?"  Anyway, that was me, rambling.  Here's my point:
    all the businesses around the downtown hotels were closed on the weekend.  If you need film,
    copies, etc., you can take the MARTA from stop N1 (next to the Hyatt, diagonally across the
    street from the Westin) to the Lenox Square station (N6? N7?  Anyway, it's on the "N" for
    "Northbound" line and it's clearly marked "Lenox" on the route map)--you'll come out across the
    street from a megamall/hotel complex.  The fare's just $1.50 each way & you should be able to
    find all the retail services you need (and several you don't need) inside.

        During the day, I romped around the con, taking pictures, talking to people, and studying the
    scenery.  Like all the Fantasm folks, I was looking forward to the evening's party.  We'd printed up
    600 invitations (the trip to Kinko's, remember?  Foreshadowing!), handed them out to people who
    looked interesting, amusing, bizarre, depraved, or all of the above, and were hoping for a good
    turnout.  Speaking of bizarre and depraved...Tracy, one of the Fantasm people, was wearing an
    old-school Star Trek Commander's uniform as an afternoon hall costume, and I liked it.  OK, you
    can all take a moment to color me "perverted" now...   Moving right along, I believe SF uniforms
    are to some fans as Catholic schoolgirl outfits are to some mundanes.  "On your knees, Fanboy!"
    Whoo hoo!   Damn the Prime Directive and full speed ahead, Commander!  I took a "shore leave"
    photo of Tracy during our group dinner at Rio Bravo; Ric, one of our party, was dead on when he
    pointed out the way the restaurant's decor resembled an old Star Trek set.

        When I was getting ready for the con, I decided to bring along something formal, so I packed
    my tuxedo.  Yes, I do own a black tie outfit--I picked it up at a family-owned outlet store in
    Chicago for a very reasonable price.  Since my employer sometimes has formal functions, I've
    already recouped the investment.  Wearing the outfit to Dragoncon was a pleasant bonus.  I don't
    completely agree with the old saying, "the clothes make the man", since I know people who can
    somehow manage to look good while wearing a potato sack.  Still, having a sharp outfit doesn't
    hurt, especially when it contrasts sharply with the clothes around it.  Most people at the con were
    wearing goth, poser-goth, or jeans & t-shirt outfits; many of those who weren't were in full
    costume.  I heard several calls of "Bond--James Bond!"  while I was walking through the halls; I
    guess I "clean up real nice."  btw, I'm a strong advocate of contrasting costumes: when
    everybody and their dog is wearing black leather and vinyl, something all white (such as a
    Clockwork Orange costume) is much more noticeable.  I feel safe saying most people at cons
    enjoy public attention--if we didn't, we'd work a bit harder at blending, don't you think?

        Our party was scheduled to start at midnight, so we decided to make the rounds before the
    festivities cranked up to speed.  First, Chris, Teresa and I walked down to the Flatiron building, six
    blocks away on Peachtree, for the White Wolf party.  On the trip down, we passed a few small
    herds of golf-shirted yuppies, the usual crew of beggars, a few random locals, and a street
    preacher.  One panhandler was really hamming up the "po', po', pitiful Negro" routine--even one of
    the local blacks was making fun of the fellow.  Still, I followed my own advice and "just said no"
    (instead of telling the lazy bastard how I'd worked my way up from nothing with a warehouse
    job..."it just gets you dirty and annoys the pig.").  He had a few mumbled curses for me; I
    shrugged them off and and crossed the street for the party.  If I want to give out money to the
    poor, I'll start with the ones I know--the open mike poets of Chicago aren't exactly rolling in
    cash...   Oops, another tangent.  The Flatiron was a beautiful building with fascinating architecture.
    The ground floor and the basement were cleared for the party; there was an open bar on each
    level.  btw, the coolest spot in the Flatiron (literally and figuratively) is the old bank vault in the
    basement.  My advice: load up on drinks and stand under the air vent.  If you're feeling really
    crafty, you could bring your own goblet, hip flask, etc.  The party was off to a slow start, and
    many of the people who attended didn't bother dressing for the occasion (fashion tip: wearing
    jeans and a t-shirt to any theme party is gauche, but wearing a "Vampire" T-shirt to a White Wolf
    party?!?  Oh, the humanity...), but I heard it heated up later in the evening.

        After we paid our respects at the WW party, we dropped in on the Bendovaho tribe.  For those
    of you who don't know them, they're a group of friends who go to cons in theme costumes--like
    Stormtroopers or Trekkies, but with much more ass showing.  They kept a low profile at
    Dragoncon, but their party still didn't last long.  Even though it wasn't midnight, someone
    *apparently* called in a complaint to the hotel about noise from their room.  Here's another
    etiquette tip for cons, folks: calling security to shut down a party is not a nice thing to do.  If you
    plan to attend a con and go to sleep early, you'll be in the minority...noisy carousing late at night is
    fairly normal convention behavior.  So, if you're determined to sleep from 9:00pm until 5:00am,
    please ask the hotel for a room in the con's "quiet area" when you register, m'kay?

        After the three of us left the Bendovaho room, we saw that someone had kicked our party off
    early.  We had two rooms on the corner of the second floor: one for booze and music, and the
    other for The Machine.  There's plenty of "Machine" photos on the Fantasm website
    (www.fantasm.org!) and its links, so I'll keep the description brief.  "The Machine" is a rectangular
    framework of metal bars with several mounts for chains.  The typical chain configuration leaves
    the Machine's occupant chained facedown, blindfolded, with all four limbs restrained, dangling in
    midair.  I haven't used it myself, but it sure does look nifty!  Of course, we arranged for a couple of
    burly doormen to keep the rooms from getting totally packed--my thanks to Wolf and [his friend
    whose name I can't remember...can anybody fill this in for me?!?].  I didn't spend much time at
    the party--a local friend of mine (who we'll call Poverty Grrrl) staggered over to the con after a 12
    hour shift at work.   Since she hadn't eaten, I took her downstairs to the Hyatt's late-night buffet.
    Yummy!  We did a bit of catching up and snapped a couple of photos, then I walked her over to
    another hotel (an attempt to meet up with someone she knew from a previous
    con...unfortunately, it didn't pan out) and escorted her to her car.  Here's a word o' warning: the
    local idiots get some kind of thrill from cruising Peachtree street on Saturday night.  Traffic on
    Peachtree will be totally snarled on Saturday, barring the passage of an anti-cruising law, so don't
    drive unless you have to. If you do drive, use the parallel streets--and bring a map, for fuck's

        By the time Poverty Grrrl dropped me off at the Hyatt, we were out of submissives and
    dangerously low on alcohol.  I spent some time chatting in the hall--where I ran into a real treat.
    One of Dragon Con's Directors--I don't know which one, but any of them should have known
    better--had taken a room on the second floor and wanted to sleep.  btw, the lobby was still full of
    people; the lower floors had been packed all night.  Also, the second floor had plenty of traffic
    going to the consuite and operations rooms.  Finally, I *believe* the second floor had actually
    been set aside for parties...perhaps I'm mistaken.   Here's another piece of con etiquette: if you're
    running a con, fans don't appreciate it when you "pull rank" at "your" con to stop them from doing
    something they see as reasonable (in this case, gathering on the second floor to converse).  Of
    course, as I said earlier, we were fresh out of submissives and booze (problems we didn't
    experience at Fantasm!), so we simply shut down and went to our separate lairs to crash.  Plenty
    of night people were out: several of the LARPs were going strong, some insane, fanatical gamers
    were still up and at it, and, of course, there were still plenty of frustrated solos hanging around and
    hoping to find some miraculous way to score.  Buy a clue folks: if you aren't hooked up by
    2:00am Saturday night/Sunday morning, it isn't going to happen.  Of course, I used to say, "If you
    aren't hooked up on Friday..."--then I *did* hook up on a Saturday.  Maybe there is something to
    the whole "never say never" attitude.  Well, I'm already involved with someone who wasn't at the
    con, so I didn't have to worry about any of that this year.  Whoo hoo!

 Sunday, July 4: The End

       Well, I'll keep this short.  Dragoncon has active functions going until 5:00pm Sunday afternoon
    and various "dead dog" gatherings after that, but I had an early flight to catch, so I wasn't there to
    see how any of that went.  Sunday's a good day to get closure on a con--pay your bills, say your
    good-byes, and make one last orbit around to make sure you aren't missing anything.  I've got a
    couple of sneaky tips here.  First, check your hotel bill.  The hotel will usually try to screw you on
    something you shouldn't pay: a phone charge, parking, room service, whatever.  If you see a
    charge that you honestly believe sucks as, dispute it in a calm, reasonable manner.  Most hotels
    would rather see you leave a happy customer with a lower bill than gouge you once for $50, lose
    your business forever, and have you spread bad publicity about their business practices.  Second, if
    you travel in the middle of a three day weekend (most businesses were closed on Monday the 5th
    this year), flying on standby is a snap.  I totally missed my morning flight, left in the late afternoon,
    and had no trouble catching half-full planes back to Chicago.  This handy travel lesson works well
    on almost any major holiday...just don't ever try to fly standby on Turkey Day or Christmas!

        OK, time to wrap this up.  Hopefully, this review has been like the breasts of a beautiful woman:
    useful and entertaining!  If not, please give me email me with a more appropriate metaphor (or is
    that a simile?), such as:

    "Like the anus of a dead camel in the Sahara: dry and crusty!"

        Remember, I told you about that back button before you started...if it started to suck, you
    should have gone back to your hot date with www.realdoll.com and left me to stew in my own
    juices.   I leave you with one final, shameless plug:

    Go to Fantasm! www.fantasm.org

Yakdog yakdog@msn.com