Two weeks ago, pretty much on a whim, I decided I was going to go to To Be CONtinued.
The worst thing that happened on the drive up was that, after I got gas for $2.249 at Monee (the last place to get gas outside of Cook County), I passed stations on the stretch of 159th St. that connects I-57 to I-294 more directly than I-80 selling gas for $2.179. No traffic problems, no significant construction, and I got to the hotel a little before 3 (my target time) even though I'd left the house 15 minutes later than planned.
Checked into the hotel without a problem; the clerk at the front desk was able to fix my reservation so I was in the con room block at the con rate both nights. (For some reason when I made the reservation, the reservations clerk was able to give me the con rate for Friday but said the con block was full on Saturday, so I booked my room for Saturday at a $10 higher rate.) Was able to corral a luggage cart and got my mountain of crap up to the room. Got my art and headed downstairs. Registration wasn't ready yet, but it wasn't actually scheduled to be open for 15 minutes, so I didn't think anything of it. I found the art show, and was slightly dismayed to discover that it was tiny, with only two fairly short rows of panels, which were already pretty much full of mail-in art. The person in charge of the room assured me that my art was welcome if I didn't mind setting up on a table, which I figured was OK. I filled out my paperwork (I'd printed out the forms before I left, but hadn't had time to fill them in before Friday morning, and I thought it was better to get to the con soon and fill them out there, since I'd have more flexibility that way), and had a little bit of a problem completing my checkin; the person had no idea how to assign me an artist number, and seemed a little fuzzy on the difference between hanging fee and commission and understanding what I owed. But my stuff was in the show.
After letting the art show people know that if they needed more hands for setting up, I'd be happy to help, I wandered back to reg and it still wasn't set up. I chatted with filkertom for a few minutes and then put myself behind an unused autograph table and stuffed Ecuador pictures into photo albums. janmagic and her husband Nick came by while I was doing this and admired the pictures, as did some other people who wandered by. Sometime in the general vicinity of 5, I realized that reg had opened and there was a big line, so I continued stuffing until the line had died down. I collected my badge. They didn't have pocket programs or program books. I finished stuffing my photo albums, checked out the hucksters briefly, realized I would have to buy books from Larry Smith and started a stack, and started wondering what to do about dinner. Jan and some people she knew were talking about going to the hotel restaurant. Given that they were talking about $9 hamburgers, I wasn't too thrilled, but I decided when I saw the menu that I could live with the prices. Many conventions manage to convince the hotel restaurant to put out a buffet of simple but decent food for something closer to a reasonable price, but the only special we had was a buy one get one free deal on pizza hut pizzas. Bleah. So I ordered off the menu; the food was fine, the price a bit excessive, but the service was lousy; I didn't time it but I think it was 40 minutes between being seated and getting food. On account of the long wait, we missed opening ceremonies.
Wandered by the 8:00 songwriting panel, where filkertom was holding forth alone. Art Warneke came in midway through the panel grumbling about being put on a panel at 8 on Friday when he said he'd told the concom that was before he could get there. The panel was sparsely attended but entertaining, and turned into open filk at 9ish. Filk guest Steve Macdonald eventually arrived; since he's just started a new job in Atlanta, he doesn't have vacation time yet; he got there as soon as he could. He told us that he'd tried to express his regrets to the con, but they said they still wanted him (and, I assume, were willing to pay for his plane ticket) even if he couldn't make it until late. I presented him with a framed 8x10 (well, the image is more like 6x10) picture of him and his fiancée Katy on stage at FKO. He said some nice words, but what really proved that he liked it was the way he kept looking at it beside his chair. Friday filking was very lightly attended; we had a good time but broke up fairly early.
By the time I got up and moving Saturday, it was late enough that I missed the beginning of the "What Is Filk?" panel. I'd had an email conversation with the programming person where I said I'd be happy to be on that panel, but hadn't officially been put there. I opted to have lunch, look at the art show, and such rather than get to either Luke Ski's concert or the George R. R. Martin interview. Tom's concert at 3 was good; Tom was previewing some of this year's 24 hour project, which does seem to excite me more than last year's. At 4, I went to the Martin reading. In his introductory remarks, George told us that the so-terribly-long awaited A Feast For Crows is nearly finished and actually expected to be in print in the fall. He then read a chapter, from the point of view of Tirian, which reawakened and strengthened a certain feeling of frustration that that little shit has survived so far into the Song of Ice and Fire while so many more pleasant and worthy characters have met ugly ends. I anticipate that this book will be of a piece with the previous 3, to wit, so well written that you can't put it down despite the events being so grim that you'd feel happier visiting a different alternate reality.
In the 5 o'clock hour, I finished my purchasing in the dealer's room and took some pictures of the Lego exhibit put on by the Chicago Lego enthusiasts' group House of Bricks. It was a good sized room (bigger than the art auction), filled with Lego constructions that ranged from merely impressive to unfuckingbelievable. I will, hopefully, have some pictures up soon.
At 6 we had Smac's filk guest of honor concert. He did mostly covers. It was technically a good show, but the material didn't click with me that much. It seems like he's mostly performing the songs he performed at the ren faires last summer, and while I think he did an excellent job of selecting material that would appeal to the ren faire audience, I come to his filk concerts to hear his songs with a little more meat on them, like "Cold Butcher" and "Dutchman". For me, "The Anti-Singalong Song" (the one with the chorus that goes "I will not sing along! Keep your stupid song!"), is a song that was only moderately funny the first time I heard it, and steadily less so with each repetition -- and I've played the Molly and the Tinker tape it comes from a lot, because almost every other song on it is top-notch.
After the concert, Jan, Nick, Art, a friend of Jan's named Louise, and I went up to Woodfield Mall to a place called Todai. As in, this restaurant is todai for, and I ate so much sushi I think I'm going todai. It's an all you can eat buffet Japanese restaurant, with an impressive variety of sushi. I'm not very knowledgable about sushi, but their selection was comparable to all of the half dozen or so places I've had sushi before combined, and did include some varieties that command premium prices when it's sold by the piece. And despite the fact that it was sitting out on a very long buffet, it was all quite fresh, because there were hundreds of customers chowing it down as fast as the army of chefs could put out more. In addition to sushi, there were some impressive salads, a hot section with teriyaki and a little bit of tempura, soups, Japanese noodles (which I didn't try, since I only brought one stomach, even though I would like to know what real ramen is like), desserts, and even fresh pineapple. A non-sushi-eating person would certainly not have to leave hungry, but at $32 a head with drinks, tax, and tip, I don't think they'd get their money's worth. I don't know what a true sushi snob would have to say about it, but we did see a lot of Japanese looking people in the crowd.
We waddled back to the hotel around 9:30. I looked in at the art show, and discovered to my dismay that I hadn't sold anything, despite the fact that I thought I'd heard someone in Jan's cloud of friends saying she'd bid on two of them.
The filk got going shortly thereafter, and despite the fact that I was sure I was too full to sing, I had a good time. I did have the frustrating experience of being so far into food-coma that I just completely could *not* play the B part of the Chicago Reel interspersed between the verses of Fun and Games; this despite the fact that I'd gotten through it reasonably well when I was just noodling an hour earlier. In addition to the participants from Friday, Deirdre Murphy was there with her traveling instrument store, a girl named Jennifer from New York who had some songs she'd written but wasn't willing to sing was there, and Luke Ski was with us some of the time. The high point of the evening, and a memorable event for the decade, came when Luke had just started Grease Wars (a string of short Star Wars parodies set to tunes from the musical Grease) when in walked Darth Vader, a stormtrooper, and a figure I'm sure I should be able to place but couldn't, with armor that looked much like Boba Fett except that it was bright red, and the three of them proceeded to provide dance backup to Luke. They actually danced pretty well, and the incongruity of Vader dos-a-dosing and conga-lining with a stormtrooper made for some truly memorable hilarity. Everyone but Art and Deirdre gave up by around 2 when I gave up on trying to be able to stay awake in the aftermath of that dinner.
Sunday I got my stuff out to the car, made myself a sandwich, checked out of my room, and took my sandwich to the Filk and Dementia panel. Luke, Tom, and Art concluded that yes, we could coexist. Dementia artists like Luke are much more seriously focused on economic success than even Tom, who's making his living from filk, while filk is a community much more than a style of music; but if Luke or other dementia artists are willing to join and participate in the filk community, they're definitely welcome. After the panel broke up, close to its scheduled end, Smac came in; his schedule had gotten snafued and he thought the panel was at 1:00 instead of noon. He, Tom, Art, Jan, and I sat around for an hour and had the most meaningful conversation of the weekend. I mentioned that Smac had been very self-deprecating that weekend, referring to himself as a second-stringer in filk; that made me feel low, because if Steve Macdonald is a second stringer in filk, I must be a washout from the park district league. Steve and Tom both said nice things to me. Now, I know I don't have the raw talent that Steve or Tom have, and I don't have the dedication to push myself as hard as they have pushed themselves, so I'm not as good as they are, and I can live with that, but somehow having one of the people I look up to and try to emulate publicly saying that he doesn't think he meets the standard of being a "first string" filker just doesn't sit well. Later, I tried to express my admiration for Tom's guitar style; I'm not sure I got it across very well, but somehow, Tom manages to strum simple chords on a nylon strung guitar, doing things that seem like they should be barely passable at best as an accompaniment, but when Tom does them, they work. They're right. There are plenty of filkers who are technically more impressive guitarists -- hell, even I am -- but I don't think anybody can approach Tom in the art of using the guitar ability he has to good effect in the overall performance. If Tom could impart even a glimmer of how he does that in a workshop, it would be the most valuable workshop ever presented in filk.
After Tom and Steve had to leave, I picked up my art from the art show -- not surprisingly, but still disappointingly, none of them had sold at Sunday sale price -- and headed out. I talked to Jan and got her to select one of the pictures from the snapshot albums for me to blow up for the birthday present I owe her, and she even picked out another one and paid me for it.
Overall, the convention was pretty disorganized and the filk contingent was small, but it was a good time anyway. I just wish I'd done better in the art show; my justification to myself for the expense of this con was that I wanted to get my pictures in front of more people and get some more sales. For some reason, I was convinced that I was going to do well, and coming up empty is a blow to my ego and my ambitions of turning art sales into something that actually brings in money.