Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Pantheacon 2012 Post-Mortem (part 1)

(Or, what I actually did, versus what I said I was gonna do.)

Part 1: Packing, rescuing a Stray, and ruining things for everyone.

(Note: This series of posts is a rebuttal of sorts to my earlier POST about what I was planning on doing at Pcon. As even a cursory glance will attest, the earlier post is, in no way, a prerequisite for this one. C'est La Vie......)

Angus (Lughansadh), Amanda (Beltane) and Jason
(Samhain), in the Pagan Alliance room.
Pantheacon began on February 5th this year. In my mind Pcon always takes center stage the day after Imbolc. Community Seed had a lovely ritual this year, very elaborate stage decoration, lighting, and some really strange music (Violin, Didgeridoo, Wooden frogs, rain sticks, Tibetan bells). We covered the entire huge room in butcher paper and then took it up in the middle of the rite to expose an elaborate, colorful design underneath. My music crew of mostly newbies came through with flying colors – literally. We changed costumes in the middle of the ritual.

Anyhoo, once I put away the bells and drums for a while its time to do the final run at Pcon Prep.

The paper goes up. (Yes, we had gnomes.)
Packing was tricky as Admiral Karen and I would be arriving on different days. I was hitching a ride with Jenya and Matthew and Nico and checking in on Thursday night, while Karen worked Friday and then schlepped the rest of our stuff up on Friday evening. Even in our reduced income state the idea of not checking in on Thursday never occurred to us. Friday check-in is a total zoo of frustration and tension and that’s not what we want from our weekend.

Being the kind of Organizationally Retentive person I am, I had everything bagged up and ready to roll by Tuesday afternoon. Even gassed up the car. This left me with Wednesday afternoon free (That's foreshadowing, folks.)


Another thing I do in the week before Pcon is finally call a code-freeze on my presentation. My seminars are culled from articles I’ve written, combined with what I call “connective tissue” to make them seem cohesive and thematic. I dump several stories into one Word document and then spend months honing and crafting the best and funniest 90 minutes I can get out of them. I take my presentations at Pantheacon very seriously, even though there is nothing serious about them. Yes it’s an ego boost to hear the applause and laughter, but I also consider my presentations to be my way of giving back to the convention. The Pagan Humor series is my way of saying “Thank You” to Pantheacon.

There's no good pictures of me writing,
so here is a pic of a Redwood family.
Or, as I like to think of them: Paper!
Anyway, I also like to publish my presentations on my blog, while the seminar is happening. That way no one gets to see it beforehand, but then everyone can see the whole thing for themselves afterwards. But the whole thing is about 11,000 words, so I break it back into the individual stories and publish them all as separate posts. The problem is that all of the articles have undergone radical changes in the months since I started working on the ‘gig script’.

Getting each article back into ‘stand alone’ shape isn’t easy. I don’t just edit parts out – the whole thing gets a makeover, new material is added (Yeah, I can easily spend half-a-day “editing” and emerge with an increased word count), and the connective tissue parts all want homes too.

All this takes time and focus to accomplish, but the stories are always better off for the experience, so I don’t mind. Plus I get to add photos to them for the blog, and that is always an endless giggle fest for me.

Once that is accomplished I super-size the font (a little larger every year *sigh*) add in reminders to drink after what-I-hope-will-be-the-big-punchlines, and print out all 90 pages for the first time.


All through February the Pantheacon group on Facebook was very active. It was a great way to get information and ask questions of people who actually are ‘in the know’. It made for a nice, flirty, informative way to gear up for Pcon. And I got to bond with Lon Milo DuQuette on how strange it felt to be performing in the cheese-o-matic Disco this year.
REALLY big trees.

Oh, but there is a danger to the Pcon FB page. Oh yes.

On the Tuesday night before Con a strange message appeared at 9pm from a woman who had flown out super early, after realizing that San Jose was not an easy commute from L.A. Well, East Coasties often underestimate just how enormous California is. So I messaged her, welcoming her to the Left Coast. She instantly replied that she was stuck in the San Jose Airport, didn’t know a soul and (of course) her phone was dying.

And I have a soft spot for strays. I can’t help it. I’ve been there. I couldn’t help her, as I was 35 miles away in Santa Cruz, but I did know some lovely people in Sunnyvale who are often generous with their time and space. So I texted Ari and Jason and asked about this concept. They said no problem, even though it was 9:30pm by this time and none of us knew this woman AT ALL.

So I messaged the woman and gave her the Mankey’s address. She replied that she had a ride and gave her thanks.

So, we all know what is supposed to happen here, right? We’ve all been young, done stupid things and had to crash at somebody’s house. And rule #1 is: When you have a place to crash, you GO DIRECTLY THERE and check in.

Nope. Belfry, as we shall call her here, messaged me about 10:30pm (guess the phone was okay after all) asking if I thought it was okay if she showed up at about Midnight. Ay-yi-yi. Oh, what HAVE I done…..

I replied, I thought, in a civilized, diplomatic way: “HOLY SHIT BIRDS, NOOOOO!!!!!” and tried to alert Jason and Ari about what kind of oddball was (supposedly) currently headed straight towards them like a Cruise Missile of Crazy.

Ari, sensible as always, sees the big picture: “If she murders us in our sleep I will SO haunt you.”

Next morning I get a text from Jason that simply says: “You so owe us. Bigtime.” Oh no. She was STILL THERE. (Rule #2: If you crash at someone’s house you at least offer to leave early the next morning.) I answer back with the only thing I can really do at this point. “Let me take her for the afternoon at least.” Jason was stoic as the Norse God that he resembles, but I finally won him over.

Redwood Therapy

And yeah, they really are red.
So Wednesday at noon I fly out of the house just as Admiral Karen is coming home for lunch. “Gotta go do penance in Sunnyvale! Back tonight!” I race up the freeways and meet Belfry for the first time. Oh boy. We’ve got an emotional / mental funhouse here. It takes about 90 minutes to get her to stop farting around and get in the car (so Jason can rehearse his presentations, pack some more, and do some errands).

Now. Where does one take a crazy person to waste a few hours? I headed straight for the big trees of Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park. And an amazing thing happened. As soon as Belfry exited the car, she calmed right down. Manic and Depression shook hands and decided to call a truce while they just looked at the trees. We walked a very slow mile through the 2,200 year old grove, hugging and communing with some of the oldest living things on Earth.

But back in the car and on the freeway, Manic and Depression took off the gloves and the battle was on again. This chick was seriously nutso, and I was taking her right back to my friend’s house for another evening and night. I felt HORRIBLE. But I had an appointment in the recording studio that night: Laying down the first tracks for the Mutables first album, and there was no way in hell that I was gonna show up with a mental case in tow. Uh-uh!

View through the control room window: Putting the smackdown down.
No one was home at the Mankey house, as Jason was out picking up Ari from work. But I had had enough of Belfry and I had to get across town. So I kicked her out of the car and just left her there. I heard from Jason later that she was angry and confrontational that night. (Rule #3: If you are crashing somewhere, you are quiet and respectful of your kind hosts.) She amused herself by rearranging items on her host’s altars. But eventually she left the house and wandered down to the bar section of Sunnyvale where she picked up some dude with drugs and spent the night with him (I know this from her blow-by-bl, um no, her play-by-play description on Facebook.)

Next morning she returns home at 11:30am and Jason has her in the car by Noon. He drops her off at the DoubleTree, even though she has no money, no con registration and no hotel room. Jason and I discuss if we can get through an entire Pantheacon in disguise.

Ugh. This could be an awful weekend, and it’s all my fault.

On to PART 2!

Angus McMahan


  1. I am laughing and crying - this is so awful, but so well written, one would have to have lost their pulse not to be laughing along! The TREES, oh those poor helpless trees... LOL LOVE the captions with the tree pics, Angus, nicely done!

    Bless all three of you for doing good work. Major Karma points!!

  2. Oh, I don't know if Heaven will reward me for what I did to Jason and Ari.

  3. Hey Angus,
    Was Belfry tall and reddish haired? Just wondering if she was our Special Snowflake.


  4. Tall, red hair, fucking nuts? Yeah, that's her. :-)

  5. Whoo boy, I have never met that type of crazy in person. Everybody I talked to had a story about her. Her badge got pulled Friday night and she got escorted off the property on saturday. I so want to fb friends so I can read what she says, but I have a rule "Dont stick your hand in the crazy". You and your friends are very brave!

  6. Her FB was entirely uninteresting - you have to EXPERIENCE Belfry Snowflake LIVE - in 3D. And I have no idea what the problem is: Genetic, cultural, nature, nurture, chemical, dropped on her head as a baby.....all of the above.....
    And I polled Jason and Ari and my wife about whether or not I should post her story, as I am talking smack about someone with mental difficulties - kinda not nice. But the consensus was that I had defriended and blocked her and we have no friends in common (Thank the Goddess) so odds are she would never see my blog post. And her story was so epic, and (I am hearing) so widespread, that I should go ahead and tell it like it is.
    And there is more (a LOT more) I could say about our time together. But tales such as those require strong pipes and stronger drink.....

    1. She came to our hospitality suite and managed to say just about everything that one could possibly say wrong in less minutes than it took the words to come out of her mouth. I am so sorry she happened to you. *shakes head*

  7. leh, this con Crud is affecting my writing.
    I did meet her, several times. She was working for me in Gryphons. I had to keep track of her transgressions to share them with Ops. She was yellow-flagged by the end of Thurs night before con even started for tapping on the glass window by the hot tub and flashing folks. She seems to have sexually assaulted most everybody she came in contact with regardless of gender and age (as in she put her hands on some of our underage kids).

    Did she try to crawl into bed with you and Karen or Jason and Ari? On her staff app she said she was staying with someone at the hotel, but now I wonder.

    Bella aka Paula Ashton on FB aka the PITA you go round and round with over Pomba ;-P

    1. Oh, so she was inappropriate with more kids than just my 13 year old daughter? And that was as we were entering the hotel!

    2. Oh, Kelli - I am so sorry to hear that. I hope it didn't upset you and your daughter too much.

  8. Hey Bella,
    Wow. That's just......gross. 2012 may be known as the Z Budapest protest year, but for those of us behind the scenes, it will forever be known as the year of Belfry / Snowflake.
    and no, all four of us were very careful not to give her our room numbers. She certainly wasn't staying with any of us!
    And I hope you do not take my remarks on the Pomba personally. I had a really good time this year!

  9. Oh man....she was our first intro to the convention. We almost got back in the car and went home!

  10. Yikes! Well I'm sure your weekend was on a positive trajectory after that. You were 'pre-disastered'!

  11. Yeah, She was in the CoG suite with no badge and I call Ops. I followed her out to the hotel security people with Big Gene as escort. The hotel security guard said "oh, her again." and sent her out the door. When she sat at the curb, I recommended that they take her off the premises. They were to call the police if she returned. That was finally on Friday, I think it was. Then the Z stuff started. I've 5150'd a schizophrenic daughter and knew the procedure. She had pegged herself on her volunteer app. as un-medicated bi-polar. I just hope the police were able to "help" her.

  12. Thanks, Glenn. Our little Snowflake was certainly busy during her short time with us! I just hope that Ancient Ways' good reputation with the Doubletree has not been affected by this loose cannon.