“A man is the sum of his memories, you know.”

In 2004, I left my hometown of Roanoke, VA behind to take a great IT job and build a new life for myself. The old life was pleasant but not really going much of anywhere. I don’t like stagnation, I don’t like living in a rut; if my near-fatal car accident over a decade before had tought me something, it’s that one ought to be doing *something* with one’s limited time on the Earth.

Well, in 2015 I left Hampton Roads, VA to take a great IT job and try to build a new life for myself. In the nine jobs and six living spaces in between, I sure hadn’t managed much stability, but I had certainly been doing something. Life had thrown at me more life-threatening physical illnesses, new loves, new friends and stronger bonds with older ones, a life-threatening mental illness; but most importantly, over a decade more of self-knowledge.

I’ve missed a lot of opportunities in the last eleven years, but I’ve also made some amazing things happen, and I understand myself better than I ever have. This self-knowledge (and let’s face it, some prescribed medication) makes the challenges of life a touch easier to take and gives me the chance to be a better person. It’s hard-won knowledge, though. I have the scars.

Yesterday I finished cleaning out the spare bedroom I’d slept in for four years before finding work here in North Carolina. With Maya’s help and a lot of elbow grease, I removed the last traces of my presence. It was like I’d never been there. In fact, now every place I’ve ever lived can make the same claim; besides the apartment I rent now, no living space says “Michael was here” in any meaningful fashion. I don’t like that; it’s unsettling.

But, if nothing else, it brings to sharp relief that it’s futile to look back. Keep moving forward, keep trying to do something with your days, keep working to improve and keep showing people you love them. That’s the biggest lesson taught to me by the last forty-six years.

February: A Con Odyssey

Just did Farpoint in Baltimore, and MystiCon in Roanoke back to back. Both cons are five hours away from my home. Pro tip: don’t do this.

Farpoint was the second stop for Luna-C, so as usual I spent most of the weekend preparing for the performance in one way or another. Of course, I simultaneously love live performing from the depths of my soul and it triggers my anxieties as only a job interview can, so it’s both relief and regret when the show is done. Regret must win, though, since I’m always eager for the next show. We premiered my “Lonely Villain” skit which I think is quite funny; and I got to play Scotty again, which has been one of my lifelong dreams.

I also premiered the My Little Pony “Twilight Sparkle” costume at Farpoint, and I must say it was a pretty big hit. I’ve known since the fandom took off that I would need an MLP costume before long, so of course I had to do it in my own special fashion.

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Back from Shore Leave!

The new car behaved itself well! Much less general wear on a car = much better gas mileage, as I made Baltimore and back on only a tank and a half. Dwight and Dawn were excellent company: among other things, I got to hear a Duran Duran album I hadn't picked up yet. Huyndais handle differently with three people and a trunk of con luggage in them than they do with one, something I'm not yet completely used to.

The Hunt Valley no-longer-Marriott is an interesting hotel. Every year I manage to get lost in their hall layout at least two or three times, and combining that with the eye-searing carpet makes me suspect that it will be a rough place when the stars are right. Also, the room was too darn humid the whole time. Clothing in my still-packed bag felt a bit damp this morning.

The con itself was a lovely time. I picked up a nice Ron Weasley wand replica for the "Warehouse 9 3/4" skit and a replacement UFP patch for my Trek flight jacket. Didn't get to hit the vendor area much, which no doubt was good for my wallet; but I attended an interesting costuming panel and was a panelist on another, got many good costume photos of Kara that I must send her, and of course performed with Luna-C.

I glitched twice during my first skit, though I was assured it was unnoticeable from the audience. Phew! The other three went nice and smooth, and in fact I think the Holmes and Watson podcast skit got more laughs than ever. From a backstage perspective, the skits I wasn't in seemed to work very well, with good comic timing and plenty of laughs. I believe this was one of our strongest performances! (And we got to meet Kate Mulgrew very very briefly backstage beforehand, which I enjoyed!)

Afterwards, I got hit in the head with being 43 years old: I needed a nap. I wanted to watch the Masquerade but my body wasn't into it. We did head down to the Ten-Forward party at 11… the music mostly stank, but I finally got to put a name to Paulette Guillory-Gardner, a lovely lady with whom I've been crossing convention paths often. My Alice costume went over well, and I even got a picture or two with a White Rabbit before it was time to head back up to bed.

In the morning, we headed down for the Luna-C breakfast and wrap-up. Dana Stewart gave me exactly the Doctor Who costume idea I'd been looking for, complete with a bad pun to go with it – win-win. I grabbed a couple more click-base random starships, but I think from now on I might spend the extra couple of bucks and buy the specific ones I want from eBay. I don't like getting duplicates, when I don't have lots of folks interested in trading.

The drive home was too long, frankly. The company was still good, but I just wanted to be home. Still, made it in safe by 7:30, said my goodbyes to Dwight and Dawn, stuffed a sandwich in my mouth and was unconscious by 9:30. All in all: quite the good weekend.

Costuming at RavenCon

To those who’ve attended RavenCon before:

I’m in the mood to wear the Alice costume again to RavenCon, since the movie’s still out, and hey, it’s comfortable. I’ve never been to RC before, though, and I don’t know the atmosphere there. Am I likely to have staff and attendees dropping apoplectically to the floor at the sight of a boy in a dress, or will it provoke the smiles and chuckles I usually get?

Input would be useful!

A Visit to Technicon

Technicon 27 started with our water heater cracking open.

Okay, so the two weren’t causally linked. The situation remained damn frustrating, though: Starr had been scheduled to work her 7am-7pm shift, but we both really wanted her to come to the con, which meant we would probably get there around 2 or 3 Saturday morning. So be it: such is life. Then her work called in the wee hours of Friday to say she’d actually been scheduled 3am-3pm, which wouldn’t be any easier on her, but meant we’d show up in Blacksburg at a decent hour!

Then we both came home to work to find our driveway awash. For once, there was nothing both vital and water-soluble in the garage, and the heater is all we lost. But one of us had to stay to get it fixed, and I was the one with the Guest badge and panel commitment, so off I went.

I have learned to despise that drive. I love the con, and I love seeing friends and family; I’m so glad I didn’t have to miss out on my twenty-fourth straight Technicon. But that drive is beginning to get on my nerves. At least I caught the tail end of the Meet Our Guests social, and enjoyed meeting artist T Campbell (with whom I shared a hotel room).

Technicon was small this year; that’s not a criticism, just an observation. They chose not to run a dealer’s room this year, though they had most of the other trappings: a video room, anime, card and tabletop gaming, and various panels and presentations. I participated in the Amateur Film panel with rubinpdf and other members of Galtham Films, who made up about 90% of the attendance; I had a good time, and hope that impink will post images of his revised TSE Mirage design.

Late in the evening, southernsinger performed what was almost a White Plectrum sing-along rather than a concert: the fraction of new attendees in the audience may well have felt slightly left-out. I helped judge the six-entry Costume Call – though the event was small, the costumes were wonderful, and we had a heck of a time picking the ones we liked best. trenn won “Best in Show” with a great Seventh Doctor, but ypawtows did score a mention for “Best Use of an Undead Smurf in a Short Subject”.

I ran my late-night panels as usual. This year, I just wasn’t in the mood for complex presentations, and aimed more for a “friendly discussion circle” atmosphere. At least a few folks told me they enjoyed them, so it must not have been a terrible idea. After closing out the room, I had just enough battery power left to swing by jlfranklin‘s room party, which was nearly shut down itself. Back up to the room and sweet unconsciousness.

Sunday, it felt surreal to have no closing programming, no chances to say goodbye to folks. I just got on the road as soon as possible, spent a nice lunch in Roanoke with my Mom, and then did that cursed drive again. I was so tired and strung-out when I got to Chesapeake that Starr and her dad managed to get a glass of wine in me at Olive Garden, and now I’m not sure whether my vagueness around the edges today is exhaustion, the effects of drink, early con-crud setting in, or Monday.

Anyway. For me, Technicon 27 was a great success. It’s the only time I get to see lots of people who mean a great deal to me, and I had much fun. My hall costume got remarks such as, “Okay, you are now officially my favorite person ever.” I have another Guest badge for my collection. Furthermore, I got to continue a TCon attendance streak beaten only by an elite few.

Was it a success from the con’s point of view? I don’t know. I heard a rumor of around 150 badges, staff and guests included. The venue wasn’t the best, though I know the staff’s choices were limited this year. I suppose we’ll see – I wouldn’t mind attending a full three-day Technicon 28 if they can pull it off.

Thanks to the con for the invite! While I don’t know at the moment where or when it may happen, I can’t wait to see everyone again…

In which I succumb to Lunacy

Saturday night, I got to fuel an old addiction. Like many other addictions, the experience was thrilling and draining. It also cost a few bucks, but at least this addiction doesn’t do any physical damage. Really, I don’t remember when I was first bitten by the acting bug, but I know I was quite young. I understood even back then that some people got to share their games of make-believe with the entire world, and that sounded to me like incredible fun.

Some years later, 1986 or ’87 I think, I attended Stellarcon with a crowd of new friends from a club named VTSFFC. We learned that their Saturday afternoon masquerade was desperately short of entries, and I remembered seeing at RoVaCon a group called “Doctors In the House” that performed costumed science-fiction comedy skits. Inspired, I grabbed what little I’d brought for hall costuming, and created the “Starfleet Vice” troupe. We had a great deal of fun over the next few years, but after many performances at RoVaCon, Technicon, and SciCon, we moved on to other things, and Starfleet Vice faded away.

'Starfleet Vice' - RoVaCon 1987 Starfleet Vice t-shirt graphic
“Starfleet Vice” – RoVaCon 1987
From left: Heather McLaughlin as “Kei” from the Dirty Pair, Paul Danielsen as officer “Crock”, Sonoko Konishi as “Yuri” from the Dirty Pair, and me as officer “Stubble”. I don’t even remember what the skit was that year.
Starfleet Vice t-shirt graphic
From the left, the characters are “Ruth” (Beth Lipes), “Dr. Whizbang” (Mark Haymaker), “Cmdr. Paisley” (Tom Monaghan), “Stubble” (me), “Crock” (Paul Danielsen), and “Herald Harold” (Mike Layne). Eventually, Tom acquired a paisley “Next Generation” Starfleet uniform. Audience members were driven blind.



Further years later, I learned that my VTSFFC friend Helen Madden had become involved with “Luna-C”, a group that I later learned had evolved from the old “Doctors”. I enjoyed Luna-C’s performances at many cons over the next several years, and often felt twinges of nostalgia for the stage – by then, I’d done “You Can’t Take it With You”, “Arsenic and Old Lace”, “Gentleman’s Agreement“, and “Space Rogues“. But I had plenty else on my plate and never seriously concerned myself with those old memories.

Well, at this year’s MarsCon, I was socializing with Luna-C members after the performance, and I jokingly suggested that with the hall costume I was wearing I could have substituted for one of the players. A little further into the conversation, and it wasn’t a joke. So, this weekend I attended a convention I hadn’t planned to hit in 2010. I had an amazing time, and had my first hit of serious memorized-lines-and-costumes acting in ages. It felt goooood.

They gave me six skits to do: an AFLAC parody (I wasn’t the duck), a “Fringe” skit where I played Peter, an SG:Universe scene where I played Dr. Rush, a James Bond / Austin Powers back-and-forth (guess who I played, baby), and two final skits in which I fulfilled a longtime ambition to play the Fourth Doctor. (I tried for days to get a Tom Baker voice going, and I failed; but Deb told me during the show that she thought I had the cadences of his voice nailed. Ego-boost +30!) I didn’t have as much rehearsal time as I’d hoped, and I know I mised some lines, but they covered for me wonderfully. I don’t think I did a bad job at all!

Now RavenCon is coming up, and both Starr and I will be joining Luna-C there if all goes as planned. Yep. Won’t be kicking this addiction any time soon.

My first fan convention

RoVaCon (the Roanoke Valley Convention) Seven was held at Northside High School on the other side of town from where I lived. Since I was only thirteen, and had neither a bike or many friends back then, I had to count on my dad for a ride there. (At thirteen, I was convinced that I couldn’t possibly stay upright on a bike for longer than a few minutes. Eventually, I figured out otherwise.)

I had read about SF conventions in books about Star Trek fandom, and this sounded exciting as heck – I wanted to go so badly. The advertising I’d seen said that the event ran for the whole weekend, but for reasons I can’t remember, my dad wouldn’t take me on Friday. He then wouldn’t take me on Saturday, either – I don’t remember whether there was a scheduling conflict, he didn’t feel well, or he was being obstinant; these things don’t matter when one’s an overeager thirteen-year-old fan. Finally, though, he took me to the con… on Sunday… at around 2pm. Yep, I paid a day rate to get into a con that was already shutting down. What a way to start my fannish life, eh?

The only guest I remember was Laura Banks, an actress with a small background part in that year’s Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. I didn’t get to see her speak, she was already done for the weekend, but I remember her on the con posters – I was thirteen after all. I do remember seeing a fan who’d already obtained or constructed a “monster maroons” uniform.

The total con experience for me was seeing a few costumes in the halls, and wandering through the dealers’ room, in which I only remember Hitchhiker’s Guide LPs, Starfleet Battles miniatures, and exotic gaming dice, none of which my dad was in the mood to purchase for me. Crushingly aware that there was nothing else to see, I told my dad to go ahead and take me home.

Thankfully for the path I’d take in life, RoVaCon Eight would be much better.

30 Con Questions

Bob Snare put this test up on Facebook, and since it didn’t ask me for all my FB profile data first, I decided to go ahead and take the test:

—–

1. Fan, fen, geek, gamer, otaku, or other (if “other,” what)?
Gamer geek fan.

2. First con attended?
RoVaCon 7 (1982), late Sunday only. Took a while for me to forgive my dad for that one.

3. At what age did you attend your first con?
I’d have been in my late thirteens.

4. Suffer from “post-con depression?”
Not so much. I’m often kinda relieved to turn life back down a few notches.

26 more questions

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