Friday, February 22, 2013

Friday at Pantheacon 2013: Non-Verbal Communication

You might want to begin back at part one: THURSDAY

I am up at 6am, as always. Boing-oing! Morning! Luckily I had made an ‘escape pile’ the night before. So all I had to do was unplug my phone from the charger, tiptoe across the hotel room floor in the dark, put on pants and shirt, grab the bag, and slip out the door. At the elevator I put on my Birks and run a comb through my hair and am ready for day #1 to commence.

After a visit to the necessary facilities I head for the fireplace, savoring that special time on Friday when the Business Travelers still outnumber the Witches and Weirdoes. By mid-day this place will look like a rollicking Renaissance Faire, and the people in grown-up haircuts will be fleeing for their lives. Or maybe, their souls.

The Meteor of Pantheacon is about to land…..

Admiral Karen texts me about 8am, and we head for Cafe Ho-hum for our inaugural run-in with the strangest diner in the land. This year we are seated, and then re-seated somewhere else, which seemed to be a running motif throughout the weekend. Our waiter eventually arrives, bearing two menus. He then proceeds to wave these around as he tells us about the Breakfast Buffet. Karen and I though are watching the menus that are just out of reach, like two cats transfixed by a laser pointer.

Don't know what that was, and I don't
want to know, either.
Sir! We will be making our decision presently, but we cannot adequately do so without at least a glance at the other options available to us. So quit the flippin' semaphore and hand us the goddamn menus! NOW. Thank you!

We finish our breakfast (the buffet, of course) about 9am and have an hour to kill before Registration opens at 10am. What are we gonna do for 45 minutes? We reach our room, (which is easy to find because of the gigantic color-bleaching STAIN in front it), put our cards into the slot - nothing. Card in slot. Nothing. Her card. My card. Nothing. Nothing. Nothing.

Lovely. I head down to the lobby and inform the registration desk that we are locked out. They ask which lights blinked and what color they were. I don't know - they weren't GREEN, I know that much. Other than that I wasn't paying much attention to the doors Morse Code. They promised to send Maintenance out. So I headed back up.

Admiral Karen and I set up our home in the hallway and settle down on our full bladders. 10 minutes in, some male-maids start stacking mattresses at the end of our hall. We ask them if they can somehow let us in. They can't, but they promise to send Maintenance our way.

20 minutes after that a maid comes by, and we ask her if she can help us. It takes a lot of charades, but eventually we get the idea across to her. She tries her master key and this time I watch the sequence of lights carefully as it agains denies us access. The maid said she would contact this mysterious "Maintenance" oracle.

Try not to think about Niagara Falls right now.
After the maid we waited 10 more minutes before I headed back down to the lobby. The Registration people were not happy to see me again, which I couldn't blame 'em for: I've had that job before, and this part of it is no fun at all. I tell them the color and time of the door lights and she brightens and nods. Dead door battery! This time the nice lady radios Security and explains the situation.

I head back up. By the time I get there the Security guy is there replacing the batteries in the door lock. Voila! Who ya gonna call?

Let's review: So far this morning we have had encounters with Texting, Semaphore, Morse code, sign language and a two-way radio. It's the History of Communication morning here at the DoubleTree!

We had 45 minutes to kill, and we used every bit of it just getting into our room so Admiral Karen could pee. What a relief.

Refreshed, we head back down to Registration, which is now open. And I swear every year the folks working this part of the Convention get more efficient - and more androgynous.

It was while waiting in line that I had my first Rock Star moment of the weekend: Two lovely women who wanted their picture taken with me. I am so new at this stuff that I mistakenly thought they wanted ME to take a picture of THEM. Haha, hopefully that burst their bubble about me, a bit.

See? I need to work on my Rockstar face.
(Photo used with permission.)
Registration for me is a 4 part process. #1 is the Hotel, #2 is the convention, #3 is the Green room so I can be a Presenter, and #4 is at Thalassa Prime inside the vendor room so I can have a tarot table reserved for me at some point. All of these stops open at different times in different parts of the hotel, so Friday morning can feel very much like a scavenger hunt.

And as I was running around the hotel, checking off the stations of the Cross, I kept passing by the hotel pool, which looked oh so inviting. And hey, I WAS wearing short pants. Close enough. BbooooosSH! I dove in.

And here is where all that triathlon training kicks in: I immediately start my Australian Crawl, breathing alternate sides every third stroke, kicking twice for every hand stroke, and bumping my head every 10 seconds because the pool is only 20 yards wide. It'd been about 3 months since I was in a pool, so I only spent about half-an-hour doing lap-ow-lap-ow-lap-ow-lap-ow-lap (I kept hitting the side of the pool), and it felt GREAT. Then. Later on, I would come to regret that last 10 minutes.

Once I was done with the swim and the registration scavenger hunt it was time to get down to the business of shmoozing. I showered, put on dry pants (long, this was business), and met Jason Mankey and Christine Hoff Kraemer for lunch at NYPD dogs, across the street from the Doubletree.

Christine is the Managing Editor of the Pagan Channel on the Patheos Pagan website, and as far as she knew, she was having lunch with Jason, who is one of her bloggers. But I had been tipped off by him beforehand, so I crashed their luncheon. 3 rum and cokes and a simultaneous neck and foot massage later, she assented to giving me my own blog on Patheos.*

And the hot dog was good too. Look for it in a couple of months on (the blog, not the dog).

Once my new gig had been secured I left Christine and Jason to talk about the stuff they had meant to discuss before I popped out of the bushes in front of them.

I could feel the effects of the latenight Will Ferrell fight the night before catching up with me. The sleep elves had arrived and were banging on my eyelids. I slept right through the Opening Ritual (1:00-1:30) and Dynamic Stick Stretching (1:30-3:00) - but I wasn't sure I wanted my stick stretched anyway.

I roused myself for the Panel on Intrafaith with the Patheos Pagan bloggers (3:30-5:00), which was held in the Boardroom, a room that had apparently once been a suana. This wasn't a boring talk, but it sure was long-winded.  Question #1 from Christine took a full half-an-hour to answer. Question #2 took so long that one of the speakers asked to be reminded what the question was before he replied.

I had forgotten what it was like to be around other writers, especially when there is a tape recorder going. Holy Cow can they pontificate at inifinite length! I'm not saying writers are full of hot air, but they are gaseous in that they fill up any void (time, space) they come across.
Can you imagine me with these folks?

Thankfully there were two Wild Cards in the room. One was Jason Mankey, who knows how to play to the audience as well as the tape recorder. 

His reply to question #1 brought the room back to life. Jason began with a couple of good jokes, threw some digs at his fellow bloggers (and blogging in general), tossed out some controversial and egregious statements like they were hand grenades and generally took the panel on his back and carried it out of the burning building of boredom. All in about 4 minutes. (check out the audio track of the panel HERE. Jason's explosion occurs at the 12 minute mark. You'll know it when it happens.)

The other Joker in the deck was Teo Bishop, who generally stuck with sniping from the bushes, but also likewise kept the panelists (and hence the audience) on the edge of our chairs.

Thank you, Gentlemen! The entire presentation consisted of just 4 questions, and took every single one of its 90 minutes and several more from the dinner break as well. If I ever become a panelist I think I will keep a thumbtack on the seat of my chair, lest I become too enamored of the sound of my own voice.

Nice folks and super-smart, but Gods do they go ON.
By the time I made it to Cafe Ho-Hum for dinner Admiral Karen was finished. Thankfully she had not seen a server in half-an-hour or more, so I was able to finish off her leftovers without, you know, having to order my own dinner or anything. After half an hour more we just shrugged, put some money on the table and left. Ah, Ho-Hum, you never fail to disappoint, and so I am always entertained.

At 7pm we decided to go to the Druid ritual, entitled "By Earth, Sea and Sky". I like to start off the 'Con with a ritual - kinda gets everything aligned - and I had slept through the Opening one. Plus, I like the Druids: They're into trees and they throw great parties. The theme of this rite was welcoming one another to the Convention, which I thought was a very kind gesture.

The ritual was simple, poetic and heartfelt. Very refreshing. The Working was all of us going around the circle and saying our name, our path, and what we hope to get out of the weekend. Several interesting responses resulted from this little survey. Two that stuck with me was a woman from India who was pagan and simply amazed that this many people had a similar faith to hers. And the other was a young woman with a mid-western accent who proclaimed loudly and shyly ".........and I am a WITCH. Gosh it feels so good to actually be able to say that!"

So yeah, given a choice of a scholarly discussion of esoterica with a panel of Learned Minds, and a simple ritual with a bunch of newbies, my heart will always go with those who are just now exploring Paganism. If my path must have a name, it would be Service.

We had some free time after the shortish Druid thing, so he headed back to our room to lay down for awhile. I really enjoy this part of our marriage - the endless ability to just kill time together. Conversation, Scrabble turns, Tweeting, just being with one another. It's nice. And thank the Goddess we got a room at the Doubletree! It's real handy for old farts like ourselves.

Druid. Art by David Reuss on
9pm found us at a trance dance up in one of the ballrooms. And, well, how I can put this: It wasn't that good. There is a magic formula for these things, and making music to trance out to is not as simple as it may seem. (I know, I've done it for rituals and for recordings) The problem here seemed to be the multi-instrumentalist member of the band. She was wonderful on instrument #1, adequate on #2, so-so on #3, and ouch-that-hurts on #4. I'm not gonna rag on 'em too much, they were really trying hard, but if there is any sin that a trance band can commit, its trying too hard. The trick to trance is not being TOO interesting.

Anyway, we lasted about half-an-hour and then ducked out. I was fine with that as my arms and shoulders were getting sore. My morning swim was coming back to haunt me!
Back to the room for a nap, at 9:30pm. If I have any superpower, its the ability to sleep, anywhere, for any amount of time. A trick I picked up during the 7 years that I was a Courier. So, one hour. Go! Zzzzzzzz.....

11:00pm: Admiral Karen was off to Jenya's "Shadow House" presentation. Me, I wasn't up for dark and heavy work on the first night of the Con. So I get my red and black on.

The Pomba this year was about twice as popular as last year. In 2012 there was plenty of room to get funky with yo badself. This year we were packed in like sweaty sardines. Not that that was a bad thing. New beats and chants this year, and a talented drum pit. Love the changes, kids!

I had gone to this solo but quickly found friends I knew. One was Selene, 23, at her first Pcon. Selene and I waited through the 20 minutes of rules and rites that the Pomba people seem compelled to detail to us again and again until every little drop of enthusiasm has been drained from us. She was dressed like she had an appointment with a pole later on, and danced like her clothes might flee in terror at any moment.

I got into my own groove and left her to her own......devices. Next time I looked up she had ricocheted off to some other part of the floor. I smiled and lost myself again.

Next time I surfaced she was right next to me again, looking a little shell-shocked. "What's up?" I asked. She looked at me with wide eyes. "There's some really creepy guys here!" And she stuck with me for awhile until she relaxed again.

The "Overland Route" is the squiggly bit in the center.
Ah, I am the 'Oasis of Safe' - again. There was a time recently when this would have depressed me. But now I felt honored to be able to help out a young woman in this way. The next time Selene wandered away I saw that she ended up next to Mykey and Margie, for similar reasons. Non-verbal communication again. Seemed to be a theme that day.

The Pombagira ended early this year, and I was WIRED, even though it was midnight. I took the overland route back to the lobby, just to get some air, and it was a still, warm night. I saw my friend Jasmine at one of the outdoor tables, and stopped to just enjoy the evening and cool my jets a bit.

Some of my favorite times at Pantheacon are these 10 minute conversations; in line, after a ritual, in the hallways, waiting for a table, or whenever. Its a time to meet new people and re-connect with folks who you only see here. And the topics are so random! I talked Army life with Carol, felting techniques with Teo, and spring break in Maine with Coral - all people I didn't know 10 minutes earlier.

Ah, but then there are those other conversations, the ones you have with people who have been tailgating in their rooms (or a Hospitality suite) for 3 hours before stepping out into the crowd with all 3 sheets fully into the wind. I find talking to drunk (and/or stoned) people to be hilarious, but in truth I am laughing more at them than with them.

Two friends of mine now approached, each leaning a different way and attempting to find solid footing on the shifting gravity of this perfectly flat walkway. I watched them approach, negotiating the small sets of stairs like they were minefields. They noticed me, and made their way, slowly and carefully, across the 20 feet that separated us. Ah, Pot and Rum. How nice to see you again!

Kee and Gee. Photo by the author.
Photo used, amazingly, with permission.
Pot and Rum were looking forward to the "PomGabeera". I pointed out, slowly and carefully, that it had just ended. They looked at each other (each leaning a different way) and blinked for awhile. I got 'em turned around, slowly and carefully, and sent them back towards the elevators. Good try, Ladies! Dial it back a bit for tomorrow, okay?

But the parade of oddities was not over. Jasmine and I had just resumed our conversation when a fanboy of mine appeared, and he was doing a pee-pee dance he was so excited. As I stated above, I am still finding my footing as a 'celebrity', adjusting my psychic shields in the same way that young Selene was adjusting hers. I was nice to Fanboy, but sent him on down the path.

Next down the pike Wife! Hey! Admiral Karen! She was tired and full of thoughts after the intense experience of The Shadow House, while I was still full of static electricity. We compared notes for a minute and then she headed for the elevators.

I was calming down now, sprawled out in a chair (thank yous to the Capricorn for grounding and the Libra for perspective) but the evenings entertainment was not quite over.

Our final contestants on this outdoor runway were Gee and Kee, the former in a corset, the latter in a tutu. Oh, lordylordylordy. They squee'd (literally - that does happen) and ran over to me. Kee bent over and gave me a big hug. Gee attempted the same manuever, but her corset was already fighting a losing battle with a pair of Willendorfian bazooms. I attempted to assist this impending wardrobe malfunction by slumping even further in my chair.

No luck. We chatted a bit about unfamiliar underwear (while Jasmine diplomatically stared at her phone) and then Kee decides to illustrate the engineering challenge of wearing stockings and garters with a G-string. She does this by turning around, bending over, and hiking her tutu towards the suddenly interested stars.

Kee and Gee also sent me this photo,
concerning which I have not a single comment.
I call Jasmine's attention to the fan of Feminity currently pointed our way, and Jaz nearly drops her phone over the railing.

Thank you Ladies, oh my is that the time, really must be heading in now, yes yes lovely to see your, er, er, smiling face, but, BUTT! But I have an appointment to, um,  reupholster the couch. Good night!!


Angus McMahan

*I'm kidding, of course. It only took two rum-and-cokes.


  1. Ouch Angus. That was kind of..... harsh to assume that panelists just like the sound of their own voices.

    What I would like to say is that part of the problem is that moderators need to give us marks and cues. It is hard to know timing when you are speaking.

    I hope you do become a panelist, as I think you are great. And I am sure you will know what I mean if that happens to you.

  2. Crystal - I thought your remarks were very interesting, succinct, and lead to actual dialogue and conversation. I am sorry that we never crossed paths later in the Con so I could relay how much I enjoyed your part of that panel.

  3. It is crazy how I see someone and then don't see them again the whole Con. I regret not having more time to chat with people as I want. You are one of those I would have loved to talk to. and thanks.