I got up Thursday morning, barely unpacked from Balticon. I had done a wash, and had packed the night before, so I was pretty much ready to go. takayla drove me to Dulles, where I was met with almosy no line whatsoever, paid $15 for my luggage, and I was on my way.
I am glad to say my TSA experience was pretty uneventful. The TSA staff in US airports seems to have gotten generally friendlier as the years has gone by. Less mall security cop material and more calmer, friendlier, and older people. I always give people a chance and say hi and thank you, and that seems to work pretty well. The only TSA incident I ran into was some guy ahead of me had a thermal duffel bag FILLED with frozen Swanson TV dinners. The woman explained that this was not allowed, and the person who owned the duffel bag was insisting that this was for dietary reasons. I have no idea what happened to him after that, but it seemed rather odd. They weren't "diabetic" or special in any way, just the kind you get in the store.
I got some coffee, browsed my iPhone, and laughed at the CNN Headline News (which they now call "HLN" to be all edgy) when they spoke about Time Warner spinning off AOL. I had flashbacks of sitting in my office the day they sent us all the e-mail in January of 2000. And how my stock went from $94/share to $63/share in one week. Later that year it was $24, then it was $15/share or near that for YEARS. Luckily, I sold at around $64, so I got a house.
Nothing was going wrong on my trip. The weather had been bad all week, but was acceptable for flying on Thursday. As the people started to hang around the gate, I noticed one woman with 4 kids. She looked like she couldn't have been more than 22-24. Her kids ranged from probably about 2-7, and while they weren't brats, she was having issues keeping an eye on all of them. Next to me was a German family with two kids, and it's always funny to hear kids speak "foreign" (to me) languages. When we got on the plane, I had settled down and there was commotion near me.
The woman with the 4 kids had apparently gotten the tickets "from her sister who got them through a travel agency." None of the seats were together, but they had her kids scattered all over the 737. The flight crew, at first very annoyed, did what they could to try and re-arrange people to get the woman to be with her kids. They made a general announcement, and were pretty much ignored by most of the passengers. In the row in from of me, a crew member asked two people if they wouldn't mind splitting up. "Sorry," said the woman dismissively, "we're a couple." I then raised my hand and said, "I am traveling alone, and the seat next to me is empty. Put me anywhere, I don't care." The crew member ignored me at first, but when his options quickly ran out, he asked the woman across from me if SHE wouldn't mind moving so that the mother could have 5 seats in a row. "Only if I get a window seat," said the woman like she was very annoyed to be interrupted from her iPod. So they found her a window seat, and the crew member whispered, "4A or B?"
"4 A or B?" he said in a deep whisper.
"I don't care," I said. "Pick one."
This was not the answer he wanted. He pointed to the front of the plane. "4 A ... or B..." he said with gritted teeth like I was stupid. I went to row 4.
It was the last row in first class. Whoopie!!! No one sat next to me, either, so I had the whole row to myself. Later, a very polite crew member said with a sincere apology, "Thanks for giving up your seat, I can imagine it was REAL inconvenient." I said it was no problem at all, and she seemed really happy I said that. I kept getting the feeling they thought I was gonna yell at them or something. I didn't care; it's an hour flight and I would give up a comfy aisle seat for a mom and her kids.
So what was First Class like on a 737-400 from Dulles to Boston? Glad I didn't pay extra. I mean, I liked the leg room and comfy chair, but there was no other frill except for the drinks were free, and I don't drink alcohol-- [cough] Okay, I will no longer be able to say that honestly after this entry, but more on that later. I didn't drink alcohol UP to that moment in time.
The flight was uneventful after that. We took off, we flew, very little turbulence, we landed. Golf clap to competent pilot.
When I landed, I let apeyanne know, but I knew she was harried and running behind. Due to the financial limitations of the wedding all around, Paul and apeyanne were ferrying people to and from the airport. She was supposed to pick me up, but at the last minute, it changed to her future brother-in-law, Nick. I also got a last minute change to wait for Katheryn (Nick and Paul's cousin) and her husband Diesel (which is not how it's spelled, it's spelled like Thandeizo, but everyone calls him Diesel). This meant I had to meet them at the USAirways baggage claim at the other end of the airport. I didn't mind walking, but wow, it was like navigating a dungeon map designed by three game masters, all with different styles, who didn't like one another. Luckily, unlike the last time I had to get through Logan on my onw, the signs were all correct.
The description apeyanne gave about the couple was correct enough to pick them out of the crowd. I must have scared Katheryn to death when this tall lumbering 6-foot tall Swede said, "Are you Katheryn? My name is Grig, I am riding with you and Nick." Apparently no one told them they were riding with me. I sensed I had to reassure her I knew about the wedding, who Nick and Paul were, and I wasn't some Viking ready to sack her small village. Eventually, we bonded on the fact both of us came from Virginia.
Nick was described to me as a "goth geek driving a blue Honda Element." This was pretty apt as well, and maybe apeyanne should go into how-to documentation or criminal profiling because she is pretty spot-on with her descriptions of people. So this is where I met Nick and his mom, "Mama Bear" Cindy, an older Greek mom who spent the rest of the weekend asking if I had enough to eat (no lie).
The house we pulled up to in Lynn (right outside of Salem) was... a-fucking-mazing. I can't even tell you how full of squee I was at every turn. First, the house dated either from the late 1800s to the early 1920s, which no one could agree on. The first floor was Tony and Cindy's, and was a combination older suburban decor and Greek highlights. The house has radiator heat, and small pipes that stick out of the walls where old gas fixtures used to hook up. Half the lower floor Tony built himself. Tony was married to Cindy, and was a stepfather to Nick and Paul. He spoke little English, but was also trying to make sure I had enough to eat. He used to be in the restaurant business, and the concept of someone not leaving the table 110% satisfied was unthinkable.
I couldn't have asked for more gracious hosts.
The second floor was a goth paradise. Like Edward Gorey, Addams Family, and Tim Burton all had a fight about what to decorate. Black cloth, spooky paintings, creepy statues... OMG... I was having a gothgasm. Like God heard how I wanted to decorate my house one day, and showed me the wonders of the possible. The Goddess of Goth dared me to dream... I couldn't even describe the entire effect of the marvel of what two goth artists can do with a whole floor of a late Victorian-style era house. It was too much to take in, and all I can remember was stuff that doesn't even make sense when typed. The bathroom was done in decor from, "Creature from the Black Lagoon." Some of Nick's paintings decorated the walls, along with some of the best science fiction and fantasy artists. Nick was very much into "remixing models," which means he'll take the head from a model of, say, "The Riddler," from the 1960s Batman TV show, and put it on the body of the Riddler from the 1990s move with Jim Carey. There was a crow body with a Barbie head in a birdcage by the stairs. A huge angry teddy bear greeted me every day.
My room was blood red on the walls, ceiling, and carpeting. Paul grew up in this bedroom, and it also used to be Nick's studio for a while. Both Paul and apeyanne lived in this room until they got their own place. I woke up to a wolf dressed in Victorian clothing, and a Frankenfrog faced a dorm fridge that advertised "Bloodsuckers" at 5 cents with a huge bat as its logo. On the dresser was a model of a "Visible Horse" and a Romulan cruiser from classic Trek.
The house even had a ghost.
"It came with the house," Cindy said, the same way she described some of the oddly-placed doorways and gas fixtures. "We think her name is Margaret, because she says that a lot to some people who can hear her." I was told where Margaret usually walked, and who she might have been. Until the late 1950s, the lower floor was a doctor's office. They think "Margaret" fell from the stairs because one part of the railing was replaced along with a story of why. She's an old woman, and I did feel her presence as cold spots and warm spots I usually feel when I am near a person. I never actually *saw* her during my stay, but I did get some interesting pictures when I took photos of my room. When some of the family looked at the photos, they knew her instantly. "Yeah," said one. "That's her. She's on your bed there, probably wondering who the hell you are. She's never bothered anyone... we're okay with her, you'll be fine." The old mirror in my room sometimes had things move in it, like it was reflecting something against the opposite wall, but I never saw the things it was reflecting. I only saw these in the light; when I turned the lights out, I never saw anything in the mirror, even if I saw some dim lights when the light was on.
I heave to admit, I was a little creeped out at first, and I swore if anything touched me I was going to lose it, but nothing touched me. Slowly I felt better about it, and just sort of accepted that things sometimes moved around the room at the corner of my eyes. Usually they looked like... small shapes that often looked like twisted taco chips with threads. They came and went in thin air like they were the edge of a shape that briefly touched our universe before disappearing. I never saw anything definite. I thought I saw some faces in the mirror, and I even took a picture of something that could be a face in the mirror, but it was pretty distorted and could just be anything like a flaw in the silver backing or dust. What I saw at night were mostly almost just like heads of people by the lower part of the mirror, but sometimes there would be a kind of fog or a fog with small little super-dim lights floating in them. I did get a few orbs in my shots, though.
Very cool! I thanked the ghosts each night for not touching me, though. I mentioned Margaret specifically a few times, but never heard from her back. The funny thing is, I saw them when the lights were on, but once they were off, I didn't see anything other than my room. This reminded of me of when I was a kid and saw auras around people. They thought I was making it up because when the lights were off, people didn't glow in the dark. They didn't. I needed light to see them.
I am not sure how a "mundane" would do in such a house. The goth decor, next to Salem, ghosts, and all. I have to admit, I was never bothered, nor did I sense ANYTHING bad or evil, not even naughty, about the house. The house felt... very nice and cozy. Paul and apeyanne agreed, and they lived in the Red Room for a while.
That night, everyone came over and sat around the table to meet who had already arrived. I got to meet mumdearest, her sister Michelle, and last but not least, I met the groom for the very first time. Paul is a thin, quiet man with a kind voice and an artist's soul. He seemed to be really into apeyanne, and she was to him, and this was right before the wedding. I also got to meet Danielle (the "Best Man" for Paul) and her husband Justin, a really super nice guy who is massively buff and handsome. And everyone got along really well.
Really, this entire wedding was almost drama-llama free. And I have been to some real doozies of weddings with drama and tragedy and divorcees and screaming children. Nope. None of that. If anyone hated one another, they sure hid it well.
Another very odd note was EVERYONE knew me as Punkie. Because that's what apeyanne called me the entire time they knew her. I... am not used to that name outside of fandom aside maybe from the Heare kids who call me "Uncle Punkie." And it was easier for Greeks to pronounce it. I'd hear, "Aei ho theos ho megas geometrei to sympan PUNKIE anerriphtho kybos..." and think, "They are talking about ME!" Only a few non-Greeks even thought to ask about the name.
After a few boxes of Greek pizza and apeyanne explaining to Tony, "No. Punkie doesn't drink ANY alcohol..." (he completely didn't understand) we retired to bed. The next day I was going on a TOUR!
The day started out rainy. I took some daylight photos of my room, which ended up with some potential ghost pictures (something I didn't find out until the wedding). We got an early start and went to apeyanne and Paul's apartment. I got the tour, met two of their three cats, one of whom was named Elric. Elric was a human soul in a cat's body, I swear. He's older and reminded a bit of "Salem" from "Sabrina the Teenage Witch." There was something very odd about that cat, and he knew that *I* knew, so he and I just sort of looked at one another, trying to size up any threat before he resumed his normal antisocial behavior. Apparently, he's a very angry cat with a lot of temper issues. He's got a weird, head, too, like his eyes are too big and his forehead too flat. Anyway, he let me alone and I looked over the place.
Paul is also an artist, and I saw his cramped studio, which was kind of an area near a stairwell. apeyanne's work area has its own room! Both Paul and apeyanne made most of their wedding pieces, from the banners to the altar. Paul is very gifted in woodwork, and he'd make a killing at the RennFest down here. apeyanne's needlework and costuming is also impressive.
Their apartment is the upper floor of an old house that dates back to the 1700s. The timber holding up the roof is original ship timber. It's amazing how old some of this stuff is around Salem, and people just work around it like it's nothing. I'm like THIS FLOOR IS AMAZING IT'S MADE FROM EXTINCT WOOD and they're all "It's also hard to vacuum..."
At their apartment I met George (our minister) and his wife Patti. Fans at heart. Fit right into Katsucon without pausing. I kept looking at big George and wondering how I'd get him to work Katsucon security. They are from an isolated pod of geeks in Cleveland, and apeyanne kept telling them, "Punkie's area is full of people like you!" She's right. Danielle and Justin are also fans, make it down to DragonCon once in a while, but they are so normal looking and somehow still fun. We met lots of other people too, and most of us descended on Salem.
I had been there before. In 10 years, they really cleaned out some of the dead retail areas, and put up a museum and mall. It was barely recognizable from the various landmarks I remembered. The Hawthorne hotel is still in the center, and the Wax museum and cemetery is still there, and the rest were all gift shops. I was looking for a specific gift (long out of print tarot deck), and found a lot of discounted gifts for who I needed.
We were going to eat at some cafeteria/deli Paul and apeyanne raved about, but the moment we got there, a tour bus filled with disenfranchised teens piled out and formed a line of moody bitterness around the building. So we went to Salem Beer Works. The food was good, but my iced tea tasted like swamp water. Really, it had an algae-like smell and tasted a wee bit thick, like drinking a very runny syrup.
I really wanted to chat more with the store staff at various places we went to. Some opened up to me until the rest of the crew piled in, and they became very quiet. Paul was also very tired, and I felt like we were dragging him around. But he was a gracious host, and showed us other places, like where Nick and Christine worked, a goth/rave clothing outlet called Fools Mansion. I wish I could have had a more private tour, and perhaps it gives me an excuse to sneak up there again, maybe with takayla, CR, or some of the Heare kids. I always like getting a tour by a local person, and see what THEY like. And apeyanne, Paul, and Nick are certainly good hosts. One of the shop owners noticed my smoking hot DC Rollergirls jacket, and asked why their logo was the Mayan number 13.
"What?" I asked.
"The Mayan number thirteen is three dots over two bars," he said, and showed me some illustrations.
"Maybe it's related to the 13 original colonies," I said. Turns out, I was dead wrong. But he's right about 13. Weird! :)
Side note: Salem does not have a WFTDA team, but Boston does with one of thier team names as Wicked Pissahs. Hah! I love Roller Derby.
Anyway, we walked everywhere and were pooped by the end of the day. But we still had wedding rehearsal and then a post-rehearsal barbecue. Nothing that unusual happened, except that there was sword fighting in the rehearsal. I kept goofing around, making people laugh, and making the bride and groom regret inviting me. Since I was apeyanne's "Man of Honor," I had to hand her Paul's ring. Since nobody gave me props, I kept making rings out of found objects, further making a nuisance of myself. At first it was a twig twisted in a circle, then it was a braid of grass braids, and then I just stuck a hole in a leave. George always seemed surprised when I had props.
Madness? THIS. IS. IMPROV!!!
Anyway, I had a good time. Sadly, the food from Salem Beer Works started to make me sick. My body is not used to junk food as much anymore. I could barely eat, and I was so tired. Then Nick forgot to give me a lift back to his place. But he came back and got me! :)
I crashed that night. My feet hurt and I put my ankle in the brace as I kept it elevated. I still hadn't worn my new moccasin boots. I was worried what it would do to my ankle the next day. Add to that the bathroom was a flight down some tightly-turning stores. But I did some Reiki exercises, and as I was applying preemptive healing to my ankle, I felt someone was in the room with me. I didn't see anyone, but I told whomever it was DON'T TOUCH ME AT NIGHT! Heh. And they didn't!
Reiki and ghosts might be an interesting cross-education.
As I lay in my bed, I saw things moving in the mirror once in a while, and wondered what they were. It was kind of like looking at an aquarium with really, really shy fish make of some kind of jellyfish material that almost completely transparent. More of those triangles, and I wondered if they were reflections from someone outside the window. Sometimes when a car went by, the headlights would shine across the ceiling, but those appeared in the mirror AND the room. The other stuff just appeared in the mirror. Weird.
As I slept, I dreamt about some very odd things. I dreamt the room I was in had a lot of old furniture in it. When I woke up, I thought maybe I dreamt about what was once in that room, but when I looked at the walls, they were all different. Oh well. Then I dreamt I was a kid on a train in a post-apocalyptic world. And other things. I hadn't dreamt so much in a while. Maybe I hadn't been this genuinely tired in a while.
More on my next entry.