Friday, March 1, 2013

Sunday at Pantheacon, 2013: Wiggling and Giggling

I woke up feeling like I had been breathing re-circulated air-conditioning air for 3 days. Which I had.

This is the bad side of having your presentation situated at the end of an indoor convention: Between the start of the Con and your seminar is 3 or 4 days of breathing air that last saw service on a cross-country airplane flight. I hoped I wouldn’t sound like Brenda Vaccaro at my seminar, and that I would have ANY voice by the end.

Blech. No wonder so many of the hotel employees take smoke breaks. Yeah, you're smoking, but at least you're outside!

6am Sunday morning I am at the fireplace, and who walks by but the beautiful male belly dancer from the night before. I called out that his performance was lovely and he smiled shyly and thanked me. In a beautiful, baritone, radio-ready voice. Well of COURSE he would have a voice like that.

Probably smells like strawberries too.

(Note: Who am I talking about? Catch up! He is hiding somewhere in THURSDAY or FRIDAY or SATURDAY.)

And because I have no shame or collective memory, I took ANOTHER of Holly Allendar Kraig’s yoga classes at 9am. This one was the beginner version (Don’t you love how Pcon schedules the Intermediate class on Saturday and then the Beginner class on Sunday?), and compared to yesterdays pizzicato pretzeling, this was pure largo largesse.

Tarot in the Vendor Room.....or not.

Aaaah……such a lovely way to start the day. Unfortunately I had to leave early, as I was scheduled to read tarot in the vendor room at 10am. I got to the Thalassa Prime station just inside the door, and had one of those “both-of-us-were-out-gyrating-till-after-midnight-and-neither-of-us-is-really-awake”- type conversations.

“I’m looking for Table #3”
“Are you Sally Pipps?”
Relaxed at the office.
“I highly doubt it.”
“Then why are you looking for Table 3?”
“I am reading there at 10am.”
“Do you have an appointment?”
“No, I have a reservation.”
“With Sally?”
“With Table #3.”
“Is she expecting you?”
“No. And I’m not expecting her, either.”
“Is there another reader that you would like to see?”
“At my table? No.”
“Say, is this conversation going nowhere?”
“No. It's going around in circles.”
“Which one of us is speaking?”
“I can’t tell anymore.”

We finally got the bright idea to look in the binder that I had signed into on Friday. My name WAS there, under table #3, but it had been redacted to within an inch of its life. Now I had been moved to table #5, because the Official Grown-Ups have sway over no-neck scum such as myself.

Fine; I'm a pile of filth: Where am I headed?

Table #5 is just outside the entrance to the vendor room, and is visible by every single person going into the vendor room AND every person who is leaving via the side hallway. I couldn't think of a better place to put a vendor table. Thanks, Sally!

Mutton. She's nice enough, but kind of lazy.
I set up shop, using Mutton as a draw on the edge of the table. (Hey, my animal pals have to earn their keep too.) Sure enough, I get a half-hour reading right away. This turned out to be a wonderful card spread with both me and the petitioner nodding maniacally like toy Chihuahuas in the back of a lowrider.

Mary Greer Fanboy

Once our transaction was complete I packed up and headed off to my 11am class, "The History of Tarot" with Mary Greer. She is one of the few people that I come to every year, for everything she presents. When I see her name as an option in the program - it gets circled. Simple as that.
Attempting a gesture.

And much like Jason Mankey, the draw is as much about the presentation as it is the information. Mary is just so INTO this stuff, you can't help but be swept along with her gushing enthusiasm.

And her seminars are always geared as much for the tarot newbies as they are for the semi-pro vets like myself. I always pick up useful information from Mary Greer, and I always leave her rooms feeling lighter than when I came in.

Very light, in this case. The late night drumming and belly dancing of the night before was finally catching up with me.

I slept right through lunch and the 1:30pm offerings, but I have a 'no alarms' policy at Pantheacon, so there you go.

I woke up with enough time to actually explore the Vendor Room, after several false starts throughout the weekend (and my expulsion that morning from Table #3). Inside I saw several shop keeper friends of mine, who spend the entire weekend in their little stalls.

Ari. So, like I said over there --->
The consensus was that business was good, but it really sucked to not have a room here at the Doubletree. If anyone deserves a room, it's the artisans who make these wondrous creations, and then spend long, long hours in the tedious chaos that is the Vendor room.

Wiggling with Wife #2

At 3:30pm I had my choice of Mankeys. I could watch Jason argue with Kenny Klein, or I could watch Ari belly dance. 

Hmmmmm.......pontification or undulation? Pretty much a no-brainer, right?

Her class was full of people (including lots of men) and we all got right into learning a sacred dance to Aphrodite. Great fun, and I look forward to more spiritual wiggling with my Second Wife.

Unveiling the Queen of the Dead.
Samhain, 2012
Usually I have a theme to my Pantheacons, but only in hindsight. I'll look back at the program (or my ribbons), and think "Huh. I did almost all rituals this year." or, "mostly scholarly seminars". Or "mostly blew everything off to hang out at Cafe Ho-Hum". But this year a new tab needed to be added: "Spent the weekend working up a series of  sweats". And Ari's class was no different (although this was Devotional Perspiration).

Immediately afterwards I received one of the weirdest moments of the entire weekend.

Is "Cowboy" a Sport?

Ari's class took all of its allotted 90 minutes. I met up with some friends of mine right after, and it was instantly decided to run off to the sports bar at the M8trix Casino again. We dashed, me leading the way, since I had missed lunch.

Now picture this mindset. 5 minutes before I was finishing up an hour and a half of intense, wordless, body play with the Ancient Greek embodiment of Love and Beauty. I move from that immediately to 21st Century Sensory Overload SPORTS BAR!!!

Jenya and I spent several minutes with our menus spread open on our heads until we could adjust.

And even then I couldn't make a decision as to what to order. I remembered that Stephanie had had their rip-off of the Western Bacon Cheeseburger the night before, so, still a little floofy-headed, I called down to the other end of our busy table: "Hey Steph! How was your 'Cowboy' from last night?"

She looked startled and a little dismayed. "I had a Cowboy? I don't remember him! I didn't think I was THAT drunk!" and it shows where we were in the weekend that we all thought this was the funniest thing ever said.

Hmmmm.....maybe doing a humor show at the end of a convention is a good thing......!

Pre-game Show

After a long, leisurely dinner (and y'all should have at least one Cowboy at some point in your life), it was time to prep for my seminar. My show began at 9pm, which means that I had to be ready to hit the stage at 8:30pm. My video crew was due at 8pm.

Up in the room I emptied my 'gig crate' all over the bed and checked all of my items. Once satisfied, I loaded them back into the crate, added the other three crates and went to take a shower.

Finding the gig outfit, a week before.
(At the show the four crates were stacked, with a drape over them, to become my drink stand. My ghetto solution for being denied the use of one of the Hotel’s lecterns.)

At 7pm Karen went down to see the show before mine, Lon Milo Duquette. I gave her my music stand to carry with her.

I had picked out my outfit the week before and had sequestered it in a far corner of the hotel closet. Now was its time to shine! I had managed to lose 10 pounds since New Years, so the kilt fit just fine.

I flipped through my script one last time, reacquainting myself with my baby that I hadn't seen in about 10 days.

The 3 Floors of Paganism

As always, relaxed on stage.
At 7:30 I left the room with all four crates in my hands. Around the corner I realized that hitting the elevator button was going to be difficult. Luckily there was a nice guy there to help me out. He was wearing cargo shorts, socks with sandals, an enormous 49ers jersey and a backwards baseball cap. In short, NOT A PAGAN.

We entered the elevator and he looked across at the long-haired guy next to him wearing a skirt, RenFaire vest and mardigras beads. I could see his curiosity boil over his nice-guy reserve. "So......" he waved in the general direction of the entire hotel, "Who ARE you people?"

I so did not have the mindset for this right now. But interfaith and all, I tried. "You mean all these Witches?"

He shrugged apologetically. "Yeah......what do you people DO?"

Great. Minutes before I hit the stage with a 90 minute seminar I'm going to have to explain Paganism in, let's see, 3 floors. Holy Mother of God.

All the lights, shining, 20 feet behind me. Errrr....
"Weeellll, let's see......if you are a feminist..." (he nodded at this) ".....and are into Nature and Ecology......." (another considered nod) The elevator doors opened. "......Then you are halfway there!"

He laughed and held the door for me, but he was so lost in thought that he forgot to leave the car.

Pagan Humor 5: Actual Pagan Stuff

I entered the photon-free zone that is Club Max and once my eyes adjusted I found Karen and some of our friends. The first thing I noticed was that Lon was not on the stage, but was instead strumming away on the dance floor itself. He was lit by a single, overhead spotlight. Hmmmmm........I think we have this years Oddity to Overcome.

Its always something. Either I am in a room with a stage that I didn't ask for, or my lectern doesn't show up, or the doors get sealed tight as soon as I begin, or they send me to a room that isn't anywhere on the map. Every year there is some unexpected whoop-de-do that I have to deal with.

Ready to rock.
View from my tankard.
Luckily I am not alone. I do one-man shows, but I have a loyal support team around me before, during and after. Mark the Video guy showed up, right on time, and we discussed lighting and camera placement. Mykey the second camera arrived, and I left him and Mark to figure out the technical details.

I had time to enjoy some of Lon's songs and stories. The man really IS a treasure.

At 8:30 I drug my crates and music stand on to the dance floor. Katie the grip arrived, and I pointed her at Techno the ConOps liaison to discuss (the lack of) lighting (She adjusted all the lamps behind me). Chris, Willow and Karen were all employed to do various tasks.

In this way I was able to set up my stuff in relative calm. I am aware that many people simply stay over from Lon to see me, and that this half-hour could get really dull, really fast. So I like to have the time and energy to play a bit with the audience and my toys while I am being fitted for the lapel mike and other chores.

It's a little thing, but if I can keep an audience interested before I officially begin, then I should have no problem with my stories. So we got laughs from me mugging for the test-shots with the camera, and from Mark digging in my pockets with the microphone battery pack.

There it is! The gesture!
I began just a few minutes after 9pm, and as always it went by in a flash. I lost myself in my stories about Vegas, Blackjack, Harbin Hot Springs, my testicles, and the Hotel Room Lottery. The only time I 'surfaced' was at the segue between Harbin and my balls and I was amazed that I was already this far along. I checked the time and I was right on schedule.

So, to the question of "What are you thinking about when you are on stage?" I answer, "Not a single, solitary thing." I am totally focused on the content of the story at all times. I am in the Zone, WITH the audience.

The Yoga Centering and Cast & Calls that I wrote were very well received. It was fun to have super-serious RITUAL things happen before and after my goofy stories. 

Oh, and to finish off the point I brought up in the introduction: My voice held up just fine, although I went through all the juice in my 24 oz. tankard PLUS some from my emergency sports bottle. Preparation for the win!

I recorded the show on my phone, which unfortunately I had placed behind my drink tankard. So only about half of the recording has me in the frame. The rest of the time you're just staring at the side of my sippycup. (This is better than last year, when I somehow managed to film the ceiling above me for the entire show.)

The Best Western in San Luis Obispo.
We did NOT stay here.
This recording will last until Mark finishes the Official Video, which I will then send along to Mom.

One thing I should point out, to avoid some confusion. Karen and I really DID have a room at the Doubletree. We got it after the second round of the room lottery, because someone canceled and we lucked out on the subsequent drawing. In the show I have this whole elaborate bit about us staying at a Best Western in San Luis Obispo, and then confessing that we were staying at the nearby Fairfield Inn & Suites. But that wasn't true either.

At the time I wrote that bit (December), that was the projected scenario, and staying at that hotel provided me with the perfect segue to the Vegas stories - that I had to walk through the M8trix casino to get to the convention.

My offering: "Ribbons are kinda lame"
When we got the call that we were actually staying at the Double Tree after all, I couldn't think of a smooth way to get around this sudden shift in Truthiness, so I just left the script as-is and baldly lied my way through the seminar. Sorry about that.

Anyhoo, the show went very well - standing ovation! - and afterwards I was surrounded by well-wishers and ribbon whores. This was a tactical mistake on my part. Next year I have in my notes to get OFF the stage right after the end and see the people off to one side.

I hope Cybele and the Angry Inch weren't TOO inconvenienced by me cutting into their set-up time. Sorry, guys! (Err.....girls? Ummmm.......folks? Yeah, that's better.)

The Bitter Suites

Making the rounds with the hotties.
Afterwards I checked in with my crew and then led my peeps up to 571 where we dropped off a sleepy Karen and all my crates and gear and then hit the Hospitality Suites.

This roadshow was Jason and I (the Pretty Hair Twins) and a revolving cast of lovely people. We picked up friends, dropped off friends and made our way from room to room. The idea was to find the friendliest room, because in my experience most Hospitality Suites are anything but hospitable.

(I made this remark out loud at the Pagan Intrafaith panel and got GRILLED by Glenn Turner afterwards about it.)

Anyhoo, the friendliest room award.

Honorable mention to the Temple of Witchcraft room. Chris Penczak and crew were most welcoming and inviting to folks who had just blindly stumbled into their room. Great vibe.

The Fire Family had the best music, which you did not have be anywhere near their room to enjoy.

Influencing the Judges of the
Friendliest Room Award.
The FoDLA room was the rowdiest, and had the most (and best) booze. I believe these two factors are related.

My award for friendliest room though goes to the ADF Druid room (255). They had the "Come on in!" vibe of the Temple of Witchcraft, great music, a zany party atmosphere, and REALLY pretty women all over the joint.

Well done, people!

By 1am the Pretty Hair twins were dropping off a lot more folks than they were picking up. It was time to call it a night, and pretty much a Convention. I staggered back to my room and slept in all the way to 8am the next morning.

11,000 words about Pcon 2013

I count this as one of my favorite Pantheacons. They're all different, they're all fun, but this one was a great mix of all sorts of things. 2013 scores well in the All-Around.

What stands out for me was all of the cancellations this year. There were empty rooms for almost every time slot, even with a lot of people being 'green-lighted' off the wait list. I think its obvious that many presenters (and vendors!) pulled out because they could not be sure that they would get a room at the Double Tree.

Having the second lottery draw 9 whole months after the first, and less than two months before the convention itself, was a self-inflicted wound that resulted in many amputations. Word has it that the volunteers are working on improvements to the lottery system for next year. I wish them all the best. As I said in my talk, I see the need for the lottery system, but I am not a fan of the implementation. Let us hope that in attempting to level the playing field they do not inadvertently lower the level of the entire convention.

Highlights for me:
Thursday: One of the best meals that I've ever had. A memory to savor.
Friday: Scored a blog on the Patheos Pagan Channel. An opportunity to shine!
Saturday: Masquerading as a Choir Director. Still chuckling that I got away with that.
Sunday: Receiving a standing ovation. So few people get to experience that.
Monday: Epic nap in my own bed. Deserved!

And so that was Pantheacon 2013 for me. 

Thank you very much for reading. Leave a comment about this (or your own adventures!) if you like.

Angus McMahan


  1. In all fairness get rid of the baseball cap and replace the Niners jersey with a Steelers one and that could be me on any given Autumn Sunday.

    1. Lol. But you could wear that ensemble to Pcon and still exude Witchiness. This guy had "Muggle" Sharpied on his aura.

  2. Thanks for the mention and kind words regarding the ADF Suite. We had so many of our members step up to provide the best hospitality we could. I've been going to P-con for years, but this was the best one yet. And the beautiful women we had were the best ambassadors we could possibly have.

    1. I calls 'em likes I sees 'em, StD.

  3. I look forward to these post-mortems nearly as much as the convention itself. It's a great way to relive and revive the great memories in my own mind.

    Thanks for these. :)

    1. You had exceptional outfits this year, Prizm. I don't think I glanced at your forehead once.

    2. Then I was successful! My goal when dressing for Con is to answer myself this question: "How trashy can I look and still be charmingly attractive?"

    3. And our survey says: "Pretty damned trashy!!"

  4. I can only agree with prizm.

    Every year I tell my wife: I have to be there when Angus hangs out in the lobby at P'Con.

    Thank you very much to tell the rest of the world how that Con was like.

    In addition I very much appreciate the dialogue:

    [“I’m looking for Table #3”
    “Are you Sally Pipps?”
    Relaxed at the office.
    “I highly doubt it.”
    “Then why are you looking for Table 3?”
    “I am reading there at 10am.”
    “Do you have an appointment?”
    “No, I have a reservation.”
    “With Sally?”
    “With Table #3.”
    “Is she expecting you?”
    “No. And I’m not expecting her, either.”
    “Is there another reader that you would like to see?”
    “At my table? No.”
    “Say, is this conversation going nowhere?”
    “No. It's going around in circles.”
    “Which one of us is speaking?”
    “I can’t tell anymore.”]

    Life can't get any better than this ...


    1. Well thank you for the kinds words, Phil. Before I switched to non-fiction I spent a good decade writing short stories (and a REALLY bad novel), so its fun now and then to pull the 'dialogue' iron out of the fire and see if I can still do that.

  5. Took me awhile to finally read your experiences at Pcon this year. Made me feel like I was right along beside you...wait...I was. Next year I have to make it to the "card-room" across the street. Having a Cowboy interests me somehow.

  6. It's amazing to think of a high-tech Sports Bar as being a relaxing getaway, but when you're dealing with the buzz of Pcon, that is the case. Food's good too.