Saturday, February 21, 2015

Pantheacon, 2015: Friday

You may ask yourself: How did I get here

I woke Up at 7am on Friday, after a full 8 hours of sleep. This is what we we writerly-types call “Foreshadowing”.
My Emergency Escape Pod was all ready, so I crept out of the room and dressed in the hallway, while Admiral Karen continued to slumber.
I stopped in at Club Max to see how my venue for tomorrow night had fared since last year. 
There was good news and bad news. The good news is that they (the hotel staff, I’m assuming) had really cleaned the place up. Last year - the first year it had been closed - it looked like a band of hooligans had looted the place. This year everything was neat and tidy.
TOO neat and tidy. The sound and light desk was gone completely. Meaning, the Con-Ops staff would need to find me a full P.A. rig, deliver it, and set it up properly during prime time of the biggest day of the Convention. Yikes. 
Also, there were exactly two spotlights left up in the ceiling rig of the 'ol dance club, and they weren't hooked into anything. Or even really attached. One rehearsal of Macbeth and these cans would be falling and braining some Thane in no time. 

Club Max, all shiny and clean.
 I hoped I wouldn’t have to do my show by holding up my phone’s flashlight for 90 minutes.


Outside in the lobby the Muggles were fleeing in droves. The Doubletree is a business hotel - they even have LOWER rates on the weekends. So Friday morning is clear-the-decks time. 
Except we witches were already arriving. And the polyester-and-sensible-shoe crowd were oh so serious, oh so sensible, and oh so frowny as they reluctantly gazed upon the flowery, velvety, free-flowing, loudly laughing, amply bosomed, over-accessorized pagan floats that were now gliding happily past them. DOES NOT COMPUTE. ESCAPE. ABORT - ABORT!!
Karen texted me to bring her some half-and-half, but I had an errand first. Of all the things I packed (and I DID really pack all of the things), I had forgotten a belt. And because I had lost 10 pounds last year, a belt was vitally necessary. In fact I was at the very last hole in my old belt at home.
And it was at home. Now granted there are some people who would enjoy
Thank you, Mr. Beene!
seeing my kilt or my leather pants slowly slide to the floor during a party or in the elevator or on stage at my seminar - but, no. Best not tempt Fate. Or Jason.
And, as you learned by dutifully reading Thursdays recap, I was here without a car for the first time. I couldn’t just jet back over the hill to Santa Cruz and relieve my stupidity.
But hey, they have belts in the gift shop! Reversible ones - in sizes. And THIS is why I like indoor festivals. I got a nice, new leather belt, at a fair price in the smaller size that I now needed. Blessings abound!
I retrieved the Admiral and we had our first foray into the Strange Land of Cafe Ho-Hum. Luckily nothing had changed here: Same $20.00 breakfast buffet where every item was either over-cooked or under-cooked. Including the sliced fruit and the orange juice.
Another Friday errand: Putting out the fliers.
After we choked down chewy salty things that should have been neither it was time for one of my favorite activities: Killing Time. Pantheacon wouldn’t begin until noon, and my job didn’t begin until 1:30pm, so I had a few hours to futz and putter.
And it was already a beautiful, warm day out, so we adjourned to the pool area. Karen lost herself in her Kindle while I lost myself in the water. Ker-sploosh! I am always up for the opportunity to perfect my double back flip in the deep end. Someday I’ll work in a twist. I mean, on purpose.
After many laps of actual swimming (The old Triathlete is still in there, somewhere) I was ready for the hot tub. And it was, in that it was warmer than the pool. But just barely. My companions were a studious young woman reading a huge fantasy novel (as they ALL are now-a-days), and a quiet couple who were even whiter than me.
Luckily an old Viking like me can
enjoy a cold hot tub.
I caught up on my online life and tried to enjoy the 80 degree water. No chance of harmful bacteria living in these conditions!
And then the WhiteyMcWhitewhite couple started talking about the weather back home in Minneapolis. And the fantasy woman sprang to life and said she was from St. Paul!
Ya?
Ya! You bet’cha!
And they proceeded to have a bitchfest about the weather back home, 2,000 miles away. While they are sitting in a hot tub at a pagan convention on a picture-postcard day. But that’s not why I left their company.
I left because I could not keep a straight face while listening to their “Fargo” accents, don’tcha-know.
I stifled my inappropriate giggles and adjourned with the Admiral to 472, our home for 3 more nights.
And so it begins....

Yeah, 6 speakers at this table. Right.
At noon I was in the Carmel/Monterey room, getting the lay of the land. Yes, that was a full 90 minutes before the presentation was due to start, but I like to be prepared and calm before these things.
I take being a presenter very seriously and always strive to do my very best to present a good show to the kind peoples who show up.
Anyhoo, the gig was the Patheos Pagan Panel: The Good, the Bad, and the Blogging.
My role was to be the Moderator. Jason, who cooked up this particular cauldron of campiness with Niki Whiting, asked me to be Emcee months ago. I agreed, and then disagreed with everything the panel members wanted.
Much better.
Mostly what they wanted was to know my questions beforehand. But I kept refusing. I did not want long, canned answers. It's way too easy to give a bunch of writers an open book test.
For the audience, I thought it would be more fun to keep everything fresh - I didn't think it would be the audience itself who would be keeping things interesting. But hey, that's the adventure of live performing.
Before that though, there was a problem. Con-Ops had provided a stage, and 5 microphones, and one table for the 6 speakers. Not nearly enough room for their butts, let alone their egos.
Jason, Niki, Rhyd, John, Crystal and Jenya. Good job!!
Jason soon arrived and we stole a round table from somewhere, found a cover for it and just kind of stuck it next to the big one, like the kids table at Thanksgiving.
I had made colorful name cards for everyone, so it looked kinda like Junior United Nations.
I began the panel my way, by welcoming everyone to a six-hour seminar on Industrial Solvents. "We'll be listening to recordings of floor buffers of the 1930's, so I hope you brought your tape recorders!"
Reaching for the hidden whip......
I then introduced myself as the Moderator, but advised that I was anything but "Moderate". I then brought out my 6 foot bullwhip and snapped it on the first go. CRACK!!
The panel got the message and kept their answers short, pithy and on topic. Good writers! Have a biscuit.
I got through about half of my questions, with occasional follow-ups from the crowd before the audience really woke up and several different people asked good questions.
I had my hands full with lining up the crowd input, but I kept one eye on my stopwatch too.
Caught him in mid hair flip!
I win the drinking game.
Wonder of wonders - the audience asked all of my remaining questions, and no one on the panel fell in love with the sound of their own voice.
I never even had to reach for the whip again.
90 minutes flew by, I gave everyone time to promote their upcoming shows, and then I closed up shop. I was surprised at how sweaty I was afterwards. Riding herd on a passel of bloggers is hard work!


3:30pm

I followed Jason up to his new talk on the old Horned God, and ended up getting some good pictures of him 'in action'.
But the combination of adrenaline wearing off, a bad color timer on the projector (all the slides looked like they were badly decopauged), and the somewhat familiar topic had me nodding off, big time.
The sleep elves were attacking my eyelids and forcing me to take a nap. Sorry, my twin flame, I must go to the Other World for a time now.
I awoke two hours later to a text from Karen saying she was in the bar with
My pretty hair twin, working the crowd.
Katie and Danielle. It turned out that my friends had taken over most of the tables in the sushi bar. I proposed an early dinner, as I had missed lunch somewhere back there.
7 of us took a brave pill and ventured across the street and around the corner to the NYPD pizza and dogs place. Its nothing fancy, but its cheap and good and you have to walk, outdoors, in real air, to get there.
The evenings activities beckoned and oh my where did the time go? Back in 472 it was crunch time to dress in our Outfits. I spazzed out on getting my jewelry straight, while she realized that it takes 20 minutes to get those special trick shoes laced up properly.
This is the kind of sight that had
the Muggles fleeing.
7pm

We flew across the 'overland route' to the 'rockstar' rooms, and sure enough along the way I seemed to run into every single person I had ever met in my life. A combination of diplomacy and broken field running got us through this gracious gauntlet without stepping on anyone's toes. Or feelings.
As we showed our badges to the guards we could see the big doors slowly closing. But the helpers saw us running and quickly beckoned us inside. Kimberly, a friend of ours inside, had even saved the last two seats for us. Blessings abound!
And so we were able to attend Orion Foxwood's Friday show: The Four ways of Witchery.
Admiral Karen
(Show the shoes!)
And here's the thing about Orion: It really doesn't matter what the title of the seminar is. You don't go to Orion for the practical breakdown of a concept. His 'Four Ways' was a great thesis, but it could have been covered in 5 minutes.
No, you go see Orion to hear him be himself, like no one else can. He is a mesmerizing speaker, and he fills his shows with stories, asides, segues, prologues, and epic digressions that don't exactly advance the plot, but nevertheless add immensely to the experience.
Simpler shoes tonight.
Orion isn't a precise engineer - he is a spontaneous lyrical poet. And the world could use many more teachers like Mr. Foxwood.
Afterwards we were shepherded out into the big hallway. Kimberly was wide-eyed with Wonder and Delight. The 'Orion effect'. We then watched the crew of the next ritual enter the room, and 20 minutes later we were lead back in.


9pm
Kimberly, who had been a part of several Community Seed rituals now was aghast that a ritual crew had so little time to set up. CommySeed rites often involve 6 - 8 hours of set up (as well as 2 months of rehearsals), and so I have nothing but respect for groups who can pull off a big ritual with almost no set up time.
I've been a part of two at Pantheacon: The Feri Tent Revival of 2013 where I conducted the choir, and the 1899 ritual of 2014, where I stalked around and spouted a lot of 19th century poetry.
I wanna be Mykey when I
grow up.
This one though promised to be EPIC: The Rite of the Grand Convergence had 'super-sized' written all over it. I was very excited to see what 13 combined traditions would do to cast "one of the largest protection spells in modern history'.
What me and my friends got was something short of that. There were great bits. The Casting musical number with the 8 witches dancing with their brooms was entertaining and inspiring. And the introductions of all 13 trads was dramatic and filled with gravitas. And Devin, our host, was a kind and energetic narrator. But against these three home runs there were also 3 strikes against this production:
  1. Some really embarrassing drumming that appeared to have had no rehearsal and was often totally off rhythm to the songs - and even to itself. Percussion should never be played tentatively. 
  2. The Working was an interesting idea, but was confusedly laid out and absurdly short. I never got any zap from something so truncated. Which leads to 
  3. We were back out in the hallway in 45 minutes. The whole Grand Rite only took half of the time allotted to it.

Other folks appeared to thoroughly enjoy themselves, but my friends and I were left scratching our heads at how comically short the whole thing was. I guess we expected more - a lot more - from something that had rolled out the Hype machine so grandiously.
Anne (left) and Kimberly (right)
(Shrug), ooookay. Now we have, let's see, oh 75 minutes to kill until the Pombagira, and none of us are hungry. Hmmm.......
Admiral Karen and our friends ran off to grab some absinthe while Kimberly and I went up to 472 to give her a tarot reading. And it always seems that the cards are also having a bit of a thrilling holiday here. Tarot readings at Pantheacon are trippy, hilarious and lovingly rude.
Afterwards I introduced my Pcon virgin to the real Grand Convergence: The Green Fairy Party. But having lived in New Orleans for many years she was no stranger to such conscious debauchery, and so she dove right in.

11pm

Photography is not allowed at the Pombagira,
so here is a shot of Annika in the pool.
In fact, we were all having so much fun that we missed the start of the Pomba entirely. But I wanted to attend, and I had received a personal invitation from Gwen, the lovely High Priestess, so I eventually dragged Kimberly away from the Party and took her to the Celebration.
In the 2014 recaps I wrote that I was disappointed that the Working part of the Pomba was so short, and that the whole rite only took an hour. (Gee, this seems to be an ongoing bitchfest with me.......)
Well, Gwen and the American Magic Umbanda House heard my plaintive call and responded in high style.
Um, yeah. This. Those. Them.
The drumming was refreshingly assured and swinging. The singers were sassy and Aware. The crowd was delirious in its devotion to the sacred harlot of Rio (No experience necessary). And the Working went on well past half-past midnight. I think I danced for as long as the Rite of Grand Convergence lasted.
After the cool down I approached Gwen to give her my thanks. She saw me from the stage, gave me a mock glare and with a voice dripping with sarcasm said: "Happy now?"
My laughter was all the response she needed.


Kinda 1am-ish
I met friends old and new at the Pomba, and I slowly dropped them off on my way back to the Green Fairy Party, which was still warming up at 1am. In fact it was so packed in there that I waited half-an-hour to get in.
My friends inside kept me company though by sending my phone obscene photos. Thanks a lot, people. You are making this wait thing SO MUCH MORE FUN this way.
Tymn's boob. I can't show you
anybody else's.
Inside it was great fun to see my sensible, Capricorn Admiral all loopy from a couple of cocktails. She was finally running out of steam though, so we left the Green Fairy Party and headed back to 472, where we fell into bed sometime after 2am.
That 9am seminar tomorrow seemed like it was a long way off, but I knew better. (*Groan)
Still though, Pantheacon was now officially in stride, and day 1 was a smashing success.
Groan.

The adventure continues on SATURDAY....

Angus McMahan
angusmcmahan@gmail.com
@AngusMcMahan



2 comments:

  1. I thought you did a smashing job as Emcee of our Patheos Panel! I liked not knowing the questions before hand! I am surprised our paths did not cross more often, given how much time I spent with ol' Mankey. Next year!

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    Replies
    1. It was a lot of fun! Yays to trying new things!

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