I'm back from my adventures in Arizona!
Thursday, October 18: I began my trek, an easy flight from Newark to Chicago's Midway airport aboard a spanking-new 737-700... so new, it had that 'new plane smell' and everything. The flight attendant even admonished folks about leaving crumbs on the floor (with the current FAA security climate, no meals were being served, just drinks and snacks). Midway's name is a good analogy, kinda like airport limbo. I'm used to airports that have significant support facilities inside them (shops, restaurants, lounges, etc) for long layovers, but Midway's only notable feature was the sheer number of bars scattered on the concourse. Since I don't drink, this was less than helpful. So I spent the time of my 6-hour layover between Larry Niven's "The Ringworld Throne" (light reading), listening to MP3s of Yoko Kanno , wandering the concourse, and finally taking a nap. But I did survive and was on my way to Phoenix in another spanking new plane (this one a 757-800). Glen Wooten picked me up at the airport and we spent most of the 2-hour drive to Tuscon chatting away, catching up on news.
The first indication there was a problem was when Glen and I arrived at the hotel... which looked closed and under construction. A small knot of folks were outside and contact was made. Seems the hotel manager, upon seeing that the room blocks for the con weren't filled by a certain date, figured the con was concelled and deleted it from the system. Oops. After some wrangling, a room was found for me (not a non-smoking room, but better than nothing), and I got myself settled in for the night.
Friday, October 19: Ahh, I do enjoy warm. Tuscon in October is 'milder' than its normal weather, in the high 70's to low 80's. A quiet meal alone in the tiny hotel restaurant was interrupted by Scott Malcomson and Michael Hirtes and others as the con staff arrived and tried looking for con members. Since the hotel was so badly in 'reconstruction mode' there wasn't enough rooms to house even the small membership that ZonieCon brings, so most folks were staying at the Ramada next door.
The con had a total of 3 rooms: a con suite on the first floor, a con suite on the second floor, and the ballroom that was divided into the Dealers Den and Art Show. I spent most of my day in the dealers room working on a second Art Show piece (and finishing it! Whee!) while yapping to Glen and the other dealers, which totaled maybe 8 tables. Brain, a con-staffer, asked my help in a joke, which soon became my most popular item to sell... buttons that said "Shut Up, Mitch!" (in reference to a long-standing running gag against fellow artist Mitch Beiro).
There was some confusion about going to the Pima Air Museum, which ended up happening on Friday, but I didn't attend. Tony Newell came by my table several times and we chatted, and I made several buttons for his mother, who was working the registration table.
They had me pop up to one of the consuite/function rooms for a "Meet the GOH" session, which ended up becoming an "Old Farts Special-Interest-Group" session. Heck, half the time I spent just leaning against the table while the 'audience' chatted among themselves, including a lively discussion between Steve Corbett and Marc Schirmeister which didn't devolve into a flamefest (amazing). Not what you call a standard panel session.
Friday night the con invaded a hapless joint called The Bum Steer , a saloon with food. We took over most of the upstairs, the raucus bunch giving the waiter a hard time (although we tip well, knowing the trouble we cause). A plastic patio chair broke under one con-goer, which resulted in the waiter bringing a new chair, then opening a side door and tossing the offending chair out . This was met with applause, and someone suggested the chair be retrieved and used as a target for Saturday... it had been thrown into the trash, after all. Two TV sets vyed for attention among the loud chatter, but suddenly all was in harmony when "Samurai Jack" came on (we synced the sets so the whole group could watch). I almost didn't notice the smoking until it was time to head out... *cough*
Back at the hotel, we discovered we had been invaded... their little bar holds "Karaoke Night" on Fridays. While I was drawing on the walls in the lobby (by permission) and wincing to the phenomenally bad singing (do they do this to encourage you to drink, so it won't sound as bad?), folks ran out to drag all of us into the bar to witness Scott Malcomson's singing attempt (he was better than the mundanes, but still ripe for heckling). Of course, being a real bar in a state that hasn't banned cigarettes everywhere, I got a snootful of smoke, which was too much for my stupidly sensitive lungs after the smoke at dinner and all the yapping making my throat sore. Great, just what I needed. I spent the rest of the 'karaoke night' outside watching from the glass windows and making faces as Scott sang "YMCA" with the wierdest chorus behind him... which included Kevin Duane, Karno (the crazy islandic artist), and Karno's squeeze (a playful punk of a gal named Les).
I went to bed fighting for breath, no fun.
Saturday, October 20: Had breakfast alone, then with Marc Schirmeister, then with Schrim, Wolf Smith, Michael Hirtes, and another fan I don't know (typical fannish restaurant behavior... folks arrive and join a table). Dropped off stuff in the Dealers Den, then headed off with a large number of folks to the "main ZonieCon event' -- an outdoor shooting range in the desert. My friend Darrel Exline brought some model rockets as well. Several folks allowed me to fire off a round of ammo with their guns and rifles -- I got to make a red bucket dance, and hit a metal plate that rang like a bell. Zrath brought out a Mac 17" monitor and an old IBM 15" monitor and everyone with a weapon lined up to focus all firepower on the hapless hardware. Another highlight was a 'trick' -- a plastic Halloween decoration (a tower of jack-o-lanterns) seemed immune to all the lead aimed at it, mostly because Mitch found a nail in a backdrop board and pinned the top 'head' to said wooden board, so no matter how many bullets struck it, the tower didn't seem to fall over. Later, when 'cold range' was called, three folks armed with bayonet-tipped rifles disected the tower of pumpkins. Several rockets were fired after that, half of them recoverable. A squad of grinning sunburnt furfolk arrived back at the hotel, many of us bringing back trophies. A picture was taken with me holding the remaining leg of the offending chair and a recognizable piece of the Mac monitor.
Saturday evening was the "Meat Meet" and "Ice Cream AntiSocial"... the former was cooked offsite and brought into a con suite, the later was held in the Dealers Den afterwards. Darrel Exline produced two furry things from IKEA called "Bolla"... essentially ball-shaped pillows wrapped in fake-fur with tails attached. Those two $3 toys because the life of the party, as folks did everything from dodgeball to wrestling to Karno 'blessing' folks using the tail as a handle to bap folks with. Karno noted that the word "bolle" in Islandic means "to screw", which just added to the round of ribald jokes and tossing of bolla. The room was rather crazy, not necessarily a bad thing.
I stayed up late into the night chatting in the lobby with Darrel and his ladyfriend Kris, which ended up becomeing a crowd with others like Scott and even Steve Martin (I'm just a strange attractor, I guess) talking of old times, filling in holes about what's happened in my life since most folks didn't have a lot of contact with me (Darrel being the closest, which was still not very close), and in general doing my usual babbling ... until my throat (still suffereing from Friday's exposure) forcefully told me it was time to stop (my voice gets really gravelly when sick or very tired). In spite of playfully teasing Mitch, I went to my room alone.
Sunday, October 21: LIttle did I know I could've had *free* continental breakfasts, and did so at the little restaurant.. There was the usual lack of activity in the Dealers Den, mostly the 8 dealers (two dealers on each side of the room, oddly enough) chatting at each other. 3 pieces of art were dubbed 'for voice auction', which was held in the Dealers Den by Glen Wooten (long known as a decent auctioneer in fandom). Both my pieces went to auction, both for more than my minimum bid. Pretty surprising, actually.
I did a few scetchbooks (whee!) including a picture of Betsy the Jaguar in Glen's book that I'm really pleased with (I've dubbed my newest illustration technique my 'Katmandu' style) and started trying to get my table packed down. I didn't completely succeed when someone came in and mentioned there was a gathering to hit a local pizza joint known for great pizza and a large beer selection. As Glen said he was going, I hopped a ride with him... and found that Steve Martin was left without wheels and asked if we could let him ride with us. Oh, okay. The pizza joint was very small, we took over all the tables of the back patio area. 30 rowdy furfolk overwhelmed the two long tables and filled the remaining booths on one side. The soda delivered was off... my immediate thought was "Not flat, just no carbonation'... sure enough, their CO2 tank was dead, and the old system they had was being less than helpful on getting the new tank working. I suspect a valve problem. This caused much loud complaining from Steve Martin (rolling of eyes) until a considerate furfolk apparently walked down the road to a store and came back with a 12-pack of Coke. Folks ordering alcohol had a better time of it (with a wide selection of good stuff) and when the pizza finally arrived it was very good. Another plastic patio chair broke (both back legs, this time), two glasses of water tumbled, and Schirm managed to miss transferring a pizza slice to his plate. When everyone finally had drinks, Scott Malmcomson toasted our late friend McMoo who had been the original creator of ZonieCon. We had to manhandle a rather sodden Wolf Smith (who drank two half-yards of beer) but everyone managed to arrive back at the con in one piece.
Since I had started drawing in Karno's sketchbook, I wanted to finish it before bed... so I wandered over to the lower Con Suite to sit and draw. Next thing I know, the place is crowded and "Monkeybone" is on the DVD player. This distracted me more than I would've liked, but I did manage to finish the drawing. Karno whipped together a drawing in return, proving once again why I'll never be a cartoonist and just be happy as an illustrator.
My sinuses are really messing me up, so I manage to say my goodbyes. There were still people in the Dealers Den, so I could pack up my things and drag them up to my room, with a little help from Darrel. We chatted a little more in my room, then he headed out to begin his long trek back to San Diego, and I dosed myself up with my inhalers and sinus medications and hit the sack.
Monday, October 22: My travel day for home. I woke up an hour before I needed to, mostly because of my sinuses, and brought everything down from my room. Glen had just finished breakfast and so while he packed his stuff, I took my turn to grab a quick bite. Then it was last goodbyes to anyone left in the hotel and we were on the road back to Phoenix.
If I had to spend more than an hour in an airport,
Overall, I had a fun time, even under trying circumstances. I think I spotted Rob twice through the whole thing, nothing that caused a commotion, which is the way I'd prefer it I even got my cloak back, which was nice. His new ladyfriend strikes me as interesting and certainly a looker in the bodice she chose that day.. Didn't see his other ladyfriend much to get an impression. I chatted with folks I rarely see for more than 30 seconds at any regularly sized con, and got a chance to sit next to Glen Wooten, whose table is usually next to other big-name-artists so I rarely get to chat with him and his wife Terrie Smith (who wasn't at the con, but that's okay). A fun little get together, even if it was really too small to do the real con-thing.