I know I have a policy of not posting about cons I work at, but I think I will risk this policy and tell God and Heaven that the predictions were right: we were never meant to go.
It started in December. I got gastro-enteritis, and was very, very sick. This screwed up programming for Evecon, so when I was able to think clearly, I had to finish the programming. This delayed Katsucon pre-reg, which was my job. Everything got massively behind, and what with long work hours, recovering from an illness, and other family matters, Colette (Katsucon Vice-chair) graciously helped me catch up with pre-reg. Good thing she did. Just as I was recovering from that, in mid-January, I got that horrible ENT infection, and when I was able to get out of bed, I had to get right back to work. Then, Brenda died. Gopher (who was supposed to be taking the con off for his personal life) and Colette ended up making the badges, and I felt bad because James (head of at-con Registration), was possibly going to get screwed, but to relieve any suspense on the part of my readers, he didn't complain if he did. But poor Colette, who had to run the con from her chair, plus her job, plus working on her college degree, now had to worry about pre-reg.
Looks like I got out of the convention biz on a bad note. I feel horrifically bad about this, and the guilt is eating me raw. My poor health screwed over Cheryl at Evecon, and now was screwing over Colette and Keith. Plus all convention attendees. I was determined to do as much at-con work as I could, which was planning opening ceremonies, and hosting "Whose Katsu" at cosplay halftime.
Then came Thursday, February 13th. Normally, in my backwards life, any day that falls on the 13th, especially near a full moon, is a good day for me. Friday the 13ths has ALWAYS been good for me, and back when I was a teen and doing the "Biorhythms" charts (does anyone do those anymore), my "peak" days were usually on the 13th of the month. But I digress. I did not expect bad news this day. Christine called and said she just found out the convention Staff Suite, Con Suite, and Green Room (guest suite) were all closed down. Why? The hotel decided to shut down any food function. I covered this in my previous entry about the weird dance cons have with hotels about food, but when I spoke with Keith and asked him why this time, as opposed to all the other times, he said that it was NEVER written in the contract, but the hotel, in order to get business, usually looked the other way. This new management did not. There were a LOT of things wrong with this new management. Keith was a very unhappy man all con. But it was to get worse.
Snow. I have been bitching for the last ten years about how it never snows good anymore because of global warming, the paving and overbuilding of Northern Virginia, and how winters just aren't winters. The irony. I always knew that taunting God in this manner would result in, "Oh yeah, Punkie? How about a real good snow? How about I screw your friend's con with it?" Sometimes I wonder if God knows he can't hurt me anymore, but can hurt those around me, so when he gets mad, he hits them instead. Coward. But mentally, I feel can predict some of his moves now. I had already prepared mentally to accept this challenge.
Of course, this didn't help anyone at Katsucon. Already, Colette had told me a lot of staff was jumping ship (not her words, but I keep hearing people use this term). I mean, I was quitting pre-reg, James is quitting at-con reg and moving to Alaska (why, James?), and... well, I am not posting con politics here, but several other staff leads are also leaving. Most of them, like me, are moving on to other things, and still want to be part of Katsucon, but have other cons, family, and personal lives to get on with.
I just want to digress here and state, for the record, that Ed and Ezza Fortner, head of AMA, have the cutest damn baby girl I have ever seen. Oh my God. And so sweet, too!
Okay, back to the con. So we are losing staff. And with the weather, we are losing even more, short term. And attendees are low. Pre-reg was lower than last year, and I attribute that to the rapid growth of the anime convention industry as a whole. I mean, a few years ago, there were only a few big cons around, and people traveled from everywhere to attend one. I mean, when I started pre-reg, we had people from Japan, England, and Canada coming. Now, there are so many, they don't have to go as far. And the cons are more specialized, too. Shoju, Tekko, and even video-gamed themed are "bleeding away the ranks," as some have labelled it. Well, that's what happened to sci-fi cons in the 1980s, and when sci-fi became more mainstream, the small cons began to dry up, and the big cons also began to vanish (the Internet also helped this along and all but killed the "fanzine"). Some will survive, of course, as they adapt to new markets. I hope Katsucon does, because they have some of the best people who love anime. Plus, we moved. Back to smaller hotel in Virginia. Many anime congoers didn't care for this, especially the contingent in Pennsylvania and Maryland. Some say with Otakon, Nekocon, and AMA... who needs Katsucon? Well, I think Katsucon is as good as any of those cons, but then again, I am biased (also, half our staff also works at some of these cons, too).
Back to Thursday. They were predicting snow. It was anyone's guess as to how much, and while I am superb at predicting weather patterns (thanks to an internship with a great Earth Sciences professor in school, Dr. James Sproull), this one was hard. A huge damp low pressure front was sliding northwards on an oozing trail from the Gulf of Mexico. Slamming down from caribou country from Canada was an iceberg in the form of a high pressure front. Meteorologists know that air under low pressure can hold more water than air under high pressure. So when the two meet, the boundary means precipitation. Light precipitation just means fog (depending on dew point) and heavy means rain. If it's too cold for rain, it's snow. If the change is too sharp, it can mean hail, especially for thunder-- okay, I bored you all, didn't I? To summarize this lesson, this was a really high (cold and dry) meeting a really low (warm and moist), and it just dumped a ton of snow.
By Friday, they kept predicting snow in the DC area, but it changed hourly. First 8 inches of snow, then a winter mix, then 12 inches of snow, then no snow, snow mixed with rain, then just rain, then no precipitation, then 12-18 inches of snow, then just some would get snow, and some would get rain, then... I mean it did this from Thursday through Saturday. A lot of us were glued to the hotel cable's weather channel, but since hotel cable sucks, the weather channel is a generic "we don't know where you are" sort of a snapshot of the US in general, and 80% of the US had no weather to speak of. Of course the East Coast... all the local news channels contradicted each other, but most agreed "it's gonna be bad... if it happens, which it might not... then again... we need the ratings... so hang on for the latest change of our minds."
When I was a youth in the ancient 1970s, we got about 2-3 good blizzards a year (snow around 12" in one fall), and assorted smaller snows. We had a really BIG snow about every 4 years. Even back then, people overreacted when it snowed, but it seemed there is less and less snow every year since about 1991. So in the last few years, even with a small 2" accumulation, the local news have been saying, "Storm of the Century: Blizzard 2001 - live updated coverage." They channels had "Johnny-on-the-spot" reporters broadcasting in some slushy area of DC with plastic rulers, exclaiming that snow has "already become 2 inches deep in just 4 hours!" In 1998 was our last "big" snow, which topped my area at a whopping 8 inches, and the news went into a micro-fact frenzy, and had news specials on frostbite and all kinds of crap. I feel old, because I find myself saying, "Blizzard of 77. Three feet deep with an ice crust on top. No school for a week, and my friends made tunnels in drifts that we could stand up in. You couldn't shovel because there was nowhere to shovel TO. Our town was shut down for days." I recall it was cool for us as kids, because we made tunnels, but sucked for me, because my dad, who hated snow, could not leave to go to work, and thus I was stuck with him. If we had that now, I was sure Fox5 News would start speculating on glaciers. "Don't panic," says reporter Janice Weatherbunny near to Potomac, "but this IS how glaciers start. Exclusive Fox5 Glacier-cam shows that, yes, some large chunks of ice, some as big as a car, are forming around the Potomac River." A blurry camera shot would show some ice-covered rock, and then the voice of impending doom the use for the commercials would say, "Could this mean the new Ice Age?" I could see Janice, shivering in her $700 parka, saying things like she was totally serious, "A scientist we spoke to could not stop laughing, perhaps he was hysterical with fear, but it's too early to tell ... back to you in the studio." But you know what? This didn't exactly happen. Why? Because our area is now practically under Marshall Law, what with "terrorize alert" Code "Orange."
This code, by the way, almost got the Katsu truck impounded because it was a Ryder truck, with Florida tags, unattended near the Pentagon Thursday night. Thankfully, we got that all sorted out. But they had police, bomb-sniffing dogs, the works. Keith was pulling his hair out all week. And it got worse.
Keith and Christine managed to get a sort of staff suite going, but the hotel would only allow use to serve snack food or anything not cookable. They wouldn't even let us have a coffee pot! And they put us in a tiny boardroom, where the food (that was supposed to be for the con suite) was stacked around Christine like the bricks of a castle, the five fridges were filled with Veggies, and what sodas we had had to be chilled by ice in coolers. All the meat that had been ordered for the staff suite was not allowed in the hotel, but we did managed to get deli meats and tuna for sandwiches. Keith apologized a lot, but it was evident that he was not to blame. The hotel was FULL of dickwads. Pencil-necked, suit-wearing, over-reactive, permanent wedgie suffering dickwards with crabs, poles, and all kinds of bugs up their ass. They even screwed up our hotel room, and it took Keith to straighten it out. The hotel clerks were stupid trolls with attitudes like they didn't speak English, and that's somehow your fault. The desk clerks were okay, it seemed to be the people who answered the phone and left messages that were surly troglodytes who should be forced into that small shack the Camp Counselors put Wednesday in from the movie "Addams Family Values" until Julie Andrews tunes cause bleeding from the ears. The gals at 3WA have a great name for these types of people: Asshats.
My con "experience" was okay. Opening Ceremonies was 13 minutes late at 6:13, which while better than 90 minutes late from last year, is still 13 minutes late. And because the band "Duel Jewel" was playing later, the tech crew wanted us to be over promptly at 7. The tech crew, Neil, Brain ("Amazing Pose Lad"), and Doc were awesome. Supportive, together, and solid. While they were terse on limits and things, they were not unreasonably so, and did well with my last requests and demands with nothing more than a well-deserved warning frown. I would worship the ground they walk on, but then Brian's sensei would laugh at him.
I presented the "Katsucon Animated Music Video Award" for comedy, and got to hand Glenn Fitzpatrick the Golden Kabuki Ninja and some VCDs for his piece "Gendo: Son of God," which delightfully parodied the Evangeleon Saga with a "They Might be Giants" song. Very funny.
"Whose Katsu" went well, I think, and I had far more games than I needed (or used), which was better than the alternative. John, Kevin, Rob, and Pocky were awesome. Pocky had lost his voice at the con, but saved it for the performance, and everyone was a real sport. Funny and witty sports. The audience ruled, too. Kevin won, and he got to read the Hotel Welcome book in a style of my own choosing, like a 12-year-old AOL geek in a chat room. We all joined in with age/sex checks, until Pocky shouted "NO CARRIER." Hee! My boss, who was in the audience, liked that part. His kids thought that was funny, too (they are all AOL teens).
Also, Tom and Sue graciously gave me a chance to be a cosplay judge for workmanship. This was an experience like nothing else. I think the person they were going to have do it could not make it (I think the weather was part of it), and they needed someone they trusted to do it. I think I did okay, and I got to experience some anime cosplay stuff I never encountered before. First of all, more than half of the costumers had illustrations to go along with their costumes, which helped me immensely! I now knew what they were drawing from. Also, a lot of satin was used in anime costuming. I'd say almost all costumes, with the exception of those wearing raincoat-like items, had at least some satin, if not mostly satin, in them. The cosplay categories were Youth, Novice, Journeyman, and Craftsman. Youth was only one kid, so he got all the awards. The novice people were super-nice, although one costumer did nothing but explain all her mistakes. I subtly told her next time sell herself better, and point out what she did RIGHT as opposed to wrong. Journeyman costumers were also nice, but I met one group in Craftsman who were total snobs, and I hated to give them an award, but they were the only ones that qualified. In their defense, they had a very nice setup of costumes. Just the girl in charge was soooo conceited, I wanted to slap her. I ended up cross-snobbing them by correctly identifying their costume techniques, and she was surprised at how much I knew, and finally shut up. I am not usually like this, but man... there's only so much, "My deah, I buy the GOOD satin by the BOLT...!" I could take. I hope Tom and Sue think I did a good job...
But by Saturday night, I was exhausted. I had been on my feet most of the day, and they hurt. I sat in my room, trying to get better so I could see my friend Andrew "DJ Amiga" Iwancio spin some tunes at the dance, but I only made it to the staff suite when...
Back up a bit. By Saturday night, we were all looking out the window out to Crystal City, and saw nothing remarkable. The snow was blowing across the hotel glass, but nothing was collecting in the streets. But then we started to hear from our friends in outlying areas, and they were calling us to make sure we were okay, and they were getting dumped. When my son called from the babysitters, Christine finally held a secret conference with her senior staff. At 11:45 at night, Christine came back in announced she was closing the staff suite, she was going home. Half her staff who listens to everything she says like she's the Oracle at Delphi, suddenly bailed the con as well. We had to take our friend Sara home with us because the Metro had shut down (DC, your public transportation sucks so bad, it creates a false vacuum), but she often stays with us from time to time, anyway, so it was no big deal. We got home around 2am. The snow was pouring like a sheet of clouds. We picked up our son and dogs from the babysitter, and got home just before they shut the roads down.
We made it just in time. It's Monday now, and the plows haven't gotten to our roads yet. Our car is buried. We're low on food, but could go another few days without really starving. We have a lot of meat, and we have electricity and a fireplace if that goes. I don't know how the con ended yet. I heard bits and pieces that after we left, a whole lot of other people also left. Not just attendees, but merchants, artists, volunteers... and I hope they did. Because it's brutal out here. The hotel also were being total bastards by saying "if you check out early, you pay for the whole weekend!" and then telling people who HAD to stay, "We have NO rooms!"
It's probably not three feet here (as they predicted), but it's at least over two feet. It's taller than my dogs, who are so low to the ground anyway, they compete with snakes, but they are really not pleased that the way yard is. Widget is so light, he can walk ON the snow (but won't, it's totally freaking out his Pomeranian Universe), but Ahfu is heavy enough he has to dog paddle through it with those flipper-turtle feet Pekinese have. I had to dig a path for them to pee and stuff, but the snow is dense and heavy; perfect for making igloos, but a bitch to shovel.
School shut down. Work shut down. Everything is shut down. Well, this *is* the blizzard I asked for...
This entry was originally posted at http://www.punkwalrus.com/blog/archives/00000049.html