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Monday, July 28, 2008

Conestoga or Bung: A Treasury of Photos, Part One

This one's going to be hard to sort out, it was a bit of a blur and I'm probably not alone in the feeling that I've been riffing for 4 straight days, each on less sleep than the last. I'll start at the beginning and we'll see how far we get today. Leftovers will be in my Wednesday League blog (I expect there'll be plenty).

Let's see...

In case you're not aware, I'm completely screwed in the travel planning department. It's not that I don't have the internet-fu, 'cuz I can put some shit together on the cheap, but my luck is a tad sketchy and this trip was no exception.


For starters, if midnight is the "Witching Hour," then 3 to 4 AM must be the time all the evil clowns rush out of their multicolored mini-coopers, butter up the Slip-N-Slides and ride 'em right into unsuspecting coulrophobe's rooms. That's right, my travel day started at 3:30 am. The alarm went off and my heart jumped out of my chest like Bozo had just cupped my genitals.

Lucky for me I'm a planner and have a wife that's willing to blow off sleep to drive me to the airport; I rolled out of bed and into my travel clothes. We were out the door in ten minutes. Whether our drive was a safe one, I'm not sure. It was too early to care, especially without the benefit of caffeine. What I can tell you, it's one of the few times Interstate 5 hasn't had a back-up somewhere on it.

So, I kissed Caroline Goodbye and off I went into the sterile cavern of Seatac airport. Standing in not one, not two, but three different ticketing lines. 4 hours sleep = moron, just so we're clear. I hit the bathroom before the plane boarded and was met by that bright white-tiled glare and silence. It was eerily quiet, if there is such a thing outside of horror movies. I'd put my phone in my carry-on and taken a seat (so to speak), when a gentleman shuffled in to...um relieve himself. That's when it started. The blaring techno theme from Halloween, my ringtone. That shit just echoed, getting louder and louder. I imagined the guy at the urinal looking over his shoulder, worried that some horror movie freak had snapped and was about to attack.

The flight to Denver was fine with the exception of finding that my baggage claim ticket showed that the airline responsible for getting my luggage to Tulsa was still noted as Frontier (they've canceled their route from Denver). So I ended up having to deal with the Frontier Customer Service Center, who were very nice and handled it. But I had to check in with United to change my boarding pass.

Not so nice.

Apparently, United had been very busy canceling flights and pissing people off by the time I arrived, including this one guy with a serious case of dragon breath, who couldn't help pretending he was the only one effected by the long line. I was so irritated with him, in fact. That when I was finally called to talk to an agent, I was sooo nice to her (in a really loud way), taking my time recounting the bag situation, chatting. He groaned and grumbled behind me. I talked to her about the weather and how she needed new flowers for her vase. He whispered some obscenities. I laughed...on the inside. Stinky fucker.

After that, it was time for a drink or "drank" whichever you prefer. I looked at my watch, 11:00 am. Close enough.

When I got to Tulsa, I stood at the carousel, happy to see that my hotel shuttle was sitting outside. The bags started coming and people pulled them from the beltway, one by one. The crowd thinned to two. An older gentleman and myself. That's when the belt stopped.

NO BAG.

NO PROMO.

NO CLOTHES.

NO DEODORANT.

As you can imagine, I was totally glad I spent all that time hunting down the Frontier counter in Denver and coordinating the baggage issue with Dragon Breath and the United agent. The baggage people swore it would be delivered to the hotel by morning, so I decided to let it go (that's not to say I didn't tell everyone they lost it), I just let the anger go. Kind of a big step for me, because really, I had just traveled halfway across the country on my own dime without any promo items to put in the FFF bags and not even a moist towelette to blot my sweaty gooch (100 degrees, Tulsa? Really?).

When I got to the hotel, all that stuff fell away. Why?

These two...


Jaye Wells, ladies and gentleman, with her trusty sidekick of three days, Leah Hodge. Holy crap, I'd chatted with Jaye a few times online, but after a half hour we were finishing each other's potty-mouthed sentences. Even weirder? Leah was doing it, too. You knew people were in for it when after only an hour and a half we'd already started talking about DP and trademarked a gang sign for Oklahoma's favorite marital rut sex act (see previous blog entry for a clue). Did I mention this post wasn't for kids? Oops.

After a few drinks and running into Dean Lorey, who so totally wanted to hang out with the cool kids (hunh Dean?), we met up with Michele Bardsley, Jaci Burton and Dakota (no last name required) for some TGIFriday's mojitos and fantastic conversation. On the drive either there or back, we spotted this bit of word magic...


Um...

We don't have those in Washington (I said this a lot about a number of things, but it was never more true than when describing a business with the word "Kum" in the title). Seriously. I can only imagine the add campaigns.

Back at the hotel and settled into our spot at the bar (where we were taken care of by the astoundingly peppy Bonnie), I can assure you Tiffany Trent DID NOT regale us with tales of naughty animal husbandry. That didn't happen. No cloacal kisses or squid sperm packets were mentioned. None of that, just ask Dean.

On my way up to the room, I checked the front desk and surprise of surprises my bag arrived from the airport. Maybe my travel karma was evening out.

Day two arrives...

And the hotel don't want to have any decent coffee, so we loaded up a couple of cars and headed to one of Tulsa's fine ass booksellers, the Barnes and Noble on 41st and Yale. Drank some coffee with the likes of Ms. Jeanne Stein, purveyor of all things Anna Strong, leafed through magazines, did a dramatic reading from some very naughty erotica involving green olives, signed some books (I only had one, though the manager insisted there was a big box full of 'em in the back) and then absorbed Jeanne's brilliance...


My first panel was at 2:00. So after a quick trip to Sonic, I settled in behind the panel table (have I mentioned I hate separations like tables? Can't stand 'em. Think they impair fluent conversations. What can you do?). The panel was called Urban Fantasy: It's Not Just for Chicks. Seriously? I thought it was referring to readers. When Mark Del Franco, who moderated, said that it was about male protagonists, I swear my gulp was audible.

Uhhhh...

Now, I know some people think that's a drag queen on my cover, but last time I checked, totally pre-op. But anyway. It turned out fine. There was a really big group for the first panel, and that was exciting. Melissa and Jeaniene were running around like producers. Good times.

After, I met up with this group of heathens...


We went to dinner with a big group to the Cheesecake Factory--apparently no one eats anything but gentrified chain food while at conventions--who am I to complain, as long as I get my pomegranate mojito, which was awesome! I was really happy to see dinner conversation getting a lot more "real" and totally got to know my peeps on a much deeper level. I did worry a bit that we came across like a clique, but seriously the filth level was up to Coochcon 9 and I'm not sure how many of the other authors would have been able to put up with it.

When we got back to the hotel, Kit Kittredge, American Girl rolled in from a horrific day of traveling (please disregard the Xanax daze)...


...with all kinds of injuries and tired as hell, but not so much that she couldn't attend the totally impromptu (even though we bought alcohol earlier in the day)...


Here are some scenes of the madness...


...


Then, travelers full to the brim with noxious blue liquid, we headed to the famed 4th floor for all the after hours haps. But there weren't any. Seriously. And we looked. Now, I'm not discounting the little fencon get-together, but clearly that was wrapping up when we knocked. The only action we saw came steppin' into the hallway clad in just a t-shirt and a nasty case of pillow-face. I said. Just a t-shirt. I've been told the tip of his wein was danglin' but I've blocked it from my mind. Doesn't stop me from making up fun little Okla slogans though, does it?

That's all for now. Saturday was a big day though, so expect tons more when I blog on Wednesday.

Cheers.

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