Monday, September 30, 2002


That Dog Won't Hunt

My youngest sister, Abigail, came into possession of a small dog recently. She got the pet from a local no-kill shelter, and regards this dog not only as her baby, but her most treasured fashion accessory. The dog immediately acquired a purple collar with rhinestones, which Abby attached to a purple leash that matched her outfit for the day. The family christened the dog Juanita Holmes, in honor of her formerly homeless status.

Juanita is a Fiest. That's a small squirrel hunting dog; she was dropped at the shelter because she wouldn't hunt. My other sister, Sara, and I are also convinced that Juanita is the most mentally handicapped dog we've ever met.

I should state here that I've never been a big fan of small dogs. I like dogs; I've had several rather awesome dogs in my past, including an Australian Shepard named Belle who lived for over twelve years and was one of the neighborhood's most beloved pets. Belle was so smart that she actually taught herself how to open doorknobs, by leaning her weight on them and rubbing her head against the knob until it turned. Of course, if the door opened inward, she couldn't make it happen, but it was still a pretty big accomplishment for a dog.

Juanita though, is a whole different type of dog. She's an indoor lap thing of very little brain. Because she tried to eat the toilet paper in the bathroom when we weren't home, Dad and I built her a dog run in the back yard. It's the best dog run possible, with a lead that puts her all over the back yard, is inside a fence that protects her from bigger animals, and has a spacious doghouse at one end filled with toys and blankets. But despite being outside in the doggie lap of luxury, if Juanita isn't inside the house, right up under you, she cries. Her crying is a high pitched whine that can be heard for blocks.

Juanita has also failed to grasp simple rules of physics; despite being 6 months old, she still runs and slides out of control on the wood floor inside the house, causing her to smack into walls and doors with some force - three weeks after being with us. She chews on everything, and has put a hole in the couch, destroyed a plastic lawn chair, and will chew on your hands while you pet her. She will strain the limits of her leash so violently that she'll walk on her hind legs to get to something, making horrible choking noises (and no, we don't use a choke chain on her). But the worst thing is that she pees in the house without remorse.

We've a bell on the inside side door of the house that the cat uses to signal us that it wants outside. The cat hits the bell, and someone opens the door for her. The dog learned about the bell after a couple of weeks, but only rings it when she wants to chase squirrels or small children. Often, after being outside on a leash or the dog run for over an hour, she'll pee in the hallway minutes after entering the house.

I don't call her Juanita. I call her "little Miss Pees in the Hall". Sometimes I think the dog is mocking me while I clean up after it. She peed again in the dining room just two hours after I mopped it with disinfectant.

Sunday, after some particularly bad behavior, Sara and I went to put her on the dog run, and while doing so attempted to lay hands on the dog and faith heal it.

"Lord", we both intoned "Drive the deamons out of this dog! Be Gone, Legion!"

Juanita just drooled and chewed on Sara's hands. Despite being an atheist, I am convinced this dog is Of The Devil. So far it's managed to pee on every bed except the top bunk bed. And what really makes me sad is that every time I visit Nashville, I'll have to put up with this dog for the next fifteen years.

Saturday, September 28, 2002

Randomly Still in Nashville.

Sometimes I just can't believe the unstable, constantly shifting thing my life has become in the past 9 months. Despite all plans to the contrary, I now find myself in Nashville for the fourth week in a row - tending a small dog I despise, shipping a historic guitar to Hong Kong, and dating a member of Nashville's landed gentry quite by accident.

It's like the hand of fate enjoys slapping me around or something.

Up until last December, I led a quite orderly, planned life. I was a student who often had up to three part time jobs all at once. I kept a planner with events scheduled a year or more in advance. My rise from a disgruntled mall worker in semi-rural Tennessee to a grad student in Boston working for Harvard was the result of living a rather carefully controlled life according to long term goals and lots of hard work.

Then I finished school, and found I had no goals left to reach (other than at some point in the future becoming a mother). I also had no full time job, no money, and had graduated in the worst economic decline in 25 years. I decided that given my options, I would deliberately go on about being aimless for a while. I dyed my hair blue, and spent the summer with my roommate Aral eating pie, collecting unemployment, and getting inebriated on the roof of our neuvo-brownstone.

Things have just spun all out of control since last winter. And while I'm now making a good deal of money and still trying to set myself up for good in Atlanta, I have no good idea from one day to the next how things are going to go. And it's dawned on me: I hate being aimless. Screw this. I have an interview with the CDC in a week and a half, and I'm actually starting to get excited about working for the Federal Government. I need order. I need structure. I need my books in order on my shelves. I want a long term plan.

Which is exactly why Nashville is so bad for me. Nashville is all these shifting layers of things - on one street, you're in the city, but two blocks over you're in the country. Nashville is rich, Nashville is poor, and I'm pretty sure that short blonde woman jogging down the street the other day with two armed guards was Tipper Gore. Last Sunday's paper had a whole editorial page dedicated to why people in Tennessee don't care about education - and no one protested, they all just shrugged their shoulders in agreement. The treasures of the city's formerly healthy music business slide through my hands into boxes marked for other countries, and our house sits next to one where Waylon Jennings used to live - the street that dead ends in front of us is Amanda. No one here listens to that stuff, not even me. I am poor enough to drift here for just one more week - being an undertaker for Music City pays and pays and pays.

There isn't enough money or liquor in the world though, that could keep me here past this Friday though. No Sir. No way, no how. It's my birthday weekend, and Friday I'm riding up to the Jonesboro storytelling festival, to laugh and eat and drink with Kati, Christi, and Dust. I will see all the stars from a mountain is Mosheim. I will hug an old teacher. I will refrain from mocking the Pagans, and with any luck, I'll make it through this birthday - nine months after my graduation, with my life nothing like I thought it would be. Nine months - it's like I've given birth to an entire year of wandering. I always thought I'd graduate and start to get all domestic, or maybe get my novel published, or at least fall in love. But nothing ever happens the way you want it too.

I started a casual dating relationship with a friend of Tony and Andrew's. Neither of us expects it to develop into anything - once you get past your early twenties, you can almost tell right from the beginning if something's serious or not, and this is nothing, just two people who can have intelligent discussion, flirt, and hang out with each other. He's got perfect grammar, his paperbacks are in alphabetical order by author, he's 27 and went to Montgomery Bell Academy here in town - where the rich kids go. I've never known an MBA boy before - that crowd tends to stick to its own. The guy I'm dating is part of Nashville I've always been aware of, but never actually experienced.

This guy rates about a 7.5 to an 8.2 on the scale of Joshyness, my own personal scale of men. I developed this scale using the standard of Josh, a guy I relentlessly crushed on without ever dating. See, Josh was a 10 on this scale because I never saw his apartment, never got him naked, never heard about his deep neuroses. He remained a perfect and unattainable goal - distant and beautiful and brilliant always. I never had to fight with him about whose turn it was to call. We never had a huge argument. Actually, men in my life lose a point on the Joshyness scale just for failing to know more than one language or not having traveled outside the US enough. And I'm OK with that. The scale is irrational, arbitrary, and constantly changing. It reminds me of how uncertain romantic relationships are. I look at those around me in long term relationships and notice what a constant struggle even the most permanent of bonds can be, and count myself lucky to date anyone at all. As adults, it's just lucky to run into someone who's on the same wavelength as you every once in a while. So the two of us like to hang out. It's too bad he's a Nashvillian through and through, and I'm destined for Atlanta, beautiful, steamy, and much more structured.

Dating is random. Nashville is random. I'm random. This post was random. I'm sorry.

Saturday, September 21, 2002

"the past is the past, the dead are the dead"

-partial inscription on the monument to The Battle of Nashville, located on the corner of Battlefield and Granny White Pike, Nashville, TN

Three Short Stories about Nashville, with an Addendum.


Once, in a rare Nashville snowstorm back in the 80's, a group of my father's friends went sledding drunk. This is a great Middle Tennessee tradition, sledding drunk and walking about at night - it snows enough to sled so infrequently that when the city is covered by the white stuff more than five inches thick, everything shuts down and everyone parties. The guys were road musicians, restless in winter, all around their late 20's. One of them, S., got it in his mind to climb the monument to the Battle of Nashville. It was on top of the hill everyone was sledding down on, and very, very cool. The monolith has the spirit of youth, a young man clothed only by a strategically placed sash, holding back two heavily muscled charging horses - the steeds of war. On top of the monolith is a male angel all robed - a concession in this city to God, who has to be over everything, even the spirit of youth and the steeds of war.

Anyway, S. was going to climb the statue, but he was drunk, and when he got halfway up, he found out the brass horses were covered in ice, unlike the rest of the white marble monument. S slipped and fell - but instead of falling all ten or twelve feet to the ground and bouncing harmlessly like drunken musicians normally do, he got caught - right between the legs! His friends tried to get him down, but he was seriously injured and seriously stuck - hanging by his crotch, the horses of war finally getting their revenge on the spirit of youth. This was a few years before 911 emergency services, so the fact that a fire truck and an ambulance came was a big deal, and drew a crowd, even in the middle of the night. S was seriously hurt, in pride and in body - but a few years later he did have a little girl, so I suppose he was all right after all.

Last week I followed the directions of two friends out to a gutted house near Hillsboro, so that I could be introduced the the Vampire court of NashVegas. It wasn't scary at all - after all, Live Action Role Playing, in the hands of adults, is usually more like a party than a game. But I was impressed by the formality of the court, and in order to stay and have fun, I took on an alternate personality of my own. Having watched far too much Sopranos in the past week, I became a burned out drug dealer with an itchy trigger finger who was new in town - it was best to play a newbie on the scene just so my character could make it through the night alive. I became a Caitiff, a clanless, so I wouldn't be a threat to anybody, and acted rather slow, keeping an unlit cigarette in my mouth to keep myself from slipping out of character. I found it was fun to pretend I had a gun in my waistband, and that helped me hold myself differently. After hanging out in the main parlor of the Victorian style Vampire club for an hour or so, the doorman, Kai, a Caitiff unusual for his high status, tapped me on the shoulder and took me into the back room, where I was formally introduced to the Prince.

The Vampire Prince of Nashville is a Russian, and in a darkened room he sat with his two high sheriffs, a favored childe, the court gossip, and the Seneschal - the second to the throne. The Prince himself was in an expensive suit, and could have passed for any CEO around town. His sheriffs looked uncomfortable in their suits, huge men that in real life could pass for any redneck bar bouncers. His childe was your typical young businessman in waiting, the kind of guy your mom would want you to bring home. The court gossip was a young woman in a reserved ball gown, and the Seneschal was actually my friend Tony in drag, playing a french fop named Guillome.

Kai presented myself and another newcomer (actually a known player with a new character) to the Prince, and I was told I'd be tolerated at the court. I kept my head down, my answers short, and my character survived the evening - providing me with some of the best people watching I've had in the past two weeks. Nashvillians that are normally DJ's, state workers, bank tellers, mall workers - the house was full of these, vamped out for Saturday night. Women in ball gowns, in black plastic, in goth kid rave gear. Men in business suits, men who could pass for your Sunday School teacher, men in glittery club gear. Smiles filled with fangs, laughs with pointy teeth. Kai, the Caitiff who spoke with me, was the only one in stereotypical "kid vampire" gear - and his character took the time to hang with mine, to explain the subtleties of the court's interactions. I witnessed one big LARP fight outside, and at the end of the night, in front of an assembled court, someone had their right hand cut off - and stored in a jar, so he couldn't regenerate it until he had fallen back into favor.


Sunday I was working with my father, and I found the LARP expierence very valuable. We had gotten a call from a former road manager who had some stuff to sell - that day, for cash. Dad never goes on such buys alone, and though I didn't tell him, I found it valuable to pretend, once again, that I had a gun. We met the seller in the parking lot of my dad's business, and he was there not only with an amp, but with meorabilia from one of my favorite early 90's grunge bands to sell. I immeadiately felt crappy - there's only one reason a guy like that needs cash, right away, on a weekend night and is willing to sell his favorite stuff for. I noticed him eyeing me skittishly, and I realised that by the way I held myself and smiled that he thought I really did have a gun! I wasn't holding my hands in any particular way, but it was all about my stance and my bearing, shadowing dad - usually I just stand far back and wait to be told what to lift or check.

The guy handed us a gold album, signed by a big artist - not one of his guys, but a limited run piece from a heavy metal band he must have worshipped growing up. He also had some band posters from back in the day, and I was further saddened. In 1993 he had been with one of my favorite bands, and now he was handing over stuff for quick cash on a Sunday night in Nashville. Dad was fair with him, and I know he'll be back - he's on the long slow slide away from everything, and I don't know what'll stop it. This was the first time I'd seent his sort of behavior from the musicains that I loved in High School, the Seattle crew - mostly because they stick to the West Coast and all. In the past few years I've grown used to selling off pieces of Music City that represent parts of my youth, but this was something different, something a little closer to my heart, something from my own personal love of art. And I'm selling it on e-bay.


I'm in Nashville this week when I thought I'd be in Atlanta. I'm going back home soon enough though. Christi and Kati and I went to Fido's the other night, the coffee shop that was Jones Pet Store when I was growing up, and after that Kati and I roamed around Dragon Park till a cop kicked us out. The park was very comforting to the both of us, and together we crawled into the huge cement pipe I used to hang out in as a kid. We talked and I shared my 6-year-old self's safe place with her, my concrete pipe that I loved, protected by my dragon, the big ceramic sculptue nearby. I needed the comfort of both my friends and my safe place this week, hell, this month, as I still find myself jobless, rootless, and far too dependant on others. Things are odd, and I need to leave this town soon, despite the money I'm making.

Thursday, September 19, 2002

Last Week in Nashville.

After photographing about 100 toy trains for sale on e-bay, I took up PA'ing for my father's business again while in town. It's actually somewhat interesting work - he repairs and restores vintage amplifiers and studio equipment here in town. Today we visited the home of a songwriter client who's rather successful, and I got to see one of those cool Blue Dog paintings up close for the first time. My duties as a personal assistant to my father mainly consist of keeping an updated list of clients and jobs handy, answering the phone, lifting heavy equipment, and photographing equipment, and organising my father's extreamly unorganised office. We drive around Nashville visiting studios and go to dad's shop where musicians come to hang out and peek at the flow of equipment leaving town. My father's shop sells pieces of the former Music City to Europe, guitars to collectors who will never play them, and recording equipment once worth tens of thousands of dollars for a tenth of the price for home studios.

Everyone talks about how slow things have been here in Nashville, and Gaylord entertainment is regularly villified by the clients we encounter. There is a general feeling by the men of my father's generation that they were the last guys to make their living in Nashville from the biz - and I think I probably agree with them. This place quit being Music City at least five years ago, and the usual boom and bust of Country Music, so dependably popular every 10 years or so, was marked this cycle by a hit country album that had nothing to do with the city, and wasn't even played on the radio. The Cohen brothers were really on to something with their soundtrack that showed everyone how far Nashville had drifted beyond musical credibility. Like all the old Opryland themepark rides, the music of music city got boxed up and shipped out for good some time ago - it's still around, but it doesn't belong to Nashville anymore.

Things I had forgotten about Nashville came flooding back to me this week - my two years in Boston had robbed me of some things I can't believe I would forget about the city I spent so much time in as a kid.

Things That Are Nashville:

All the shops in the Village close at 5 or 6

The sewers overflow every time it rains (and you can smell them)

If the turn signal's on, it was on when they bought the car

Never give the drummer speed

Don't look older men in the eye, you're a lady

Electrons always want to go to ground - even if they have to go through you

Public nudity is fun

Fat Mo's


People who walk on the road even if there just happens to be a sidewalk

Chess played by bikers on the porch of Bongo Java

Snotty Vandy boys drinking coffee in front of Fido's (snearing about stupidsoutherners)

Veggie Subs from Pizza Perfect

Gross-out "he died for you" tee shirts

Open, fairly public drug use

Hookers being rounded up (again)/famous brothels being cleaned up (again)

The bargain bin where Christian Rock goes to die

Fried Green Tomatoes at The Cooker

"fixin' to"

Fried Chicken and Barbeque Sandwiches sold in gas stations

Muscian's Hours - 11ish to 7ish

Also, President Bush came to Nashville last week, and most of my friends went. I had to work, and was quite bummed about not getting to protest here in the middle of the GOP bible belt. Ah, well, such is life. Dinan, Dinan's mom, Kati, and Callie were there for me. Of course the local news only interviewed one of the 10 Arab-Americans there to protest the whole Israel/Palestine situation, and completely ignored the 200 or so average Tennesseans milling around, angry about our leadership in general. Poo on television news. Well, me protesting in Tennessee would have completely mortified my mother anyway.

Monday, September 16, 2002

Suddenly Nashville

I drove into Nashville at 3am on Tuesday morning last week. My father had called me and let me know that a client of his owned a lot of vintage Lionel trains he wanted to sell, and so, knowing I was out of work, my father had accepted the job for me. I've often sold toys on e-bay and have a reputation as a decent photographer and a responsible person. Dad drove down Monday night and I drove back, noticing that all the fireworks supermarkets just past Chattanooga were no longer 24 hours, but closed now at midnight, unable to employ a night shift. It's been over a month since my move from Boston, and I still haven't got a regular job, just this contract work on the trains and babysitting for family.

Nashville is Nashville, and I wish I had more time to write about it. There's a house in my parent's neighborhood with a Civil War cannon on the front porch that's fired every fourth of July. Mom saw a fox on the front lawn a week ago. My teen age sister is absorbing the 10th grade much more easily than she did the ninth, and wants me to take her shopping on West End, which is now called the Village. I went with my other sister, Abby, to the goodwill store the other day where she found a pair of leopard print bell bottoms that are fuzzy, and a matching see through top that mom made her wear over a black turtleneck. As I saw Abby off to the bus this morning, she was in those fuzzy bell bottoms, her turtle neck and shear leopard print top, and she had accessorized herself with a pair of black leather gloves, dark sunglasses, and a small scarf on her head.

I have had some fun this trip in between working my ass off. Wednesday night we had the first full editor's meeting for Scribbling Mob, with all the people who have been head editor there. I was bummed that Devon and Dust, who edit the web version, were absent, but it was still a fun time. We met at Waffle House, ate and horsed around with a few poor young boys who were near, and our friend Jeff showed up for the company. I was pleased to hang out with Callie at last, who is beautiful, and Courtney, the editor in waiting, who kept my hopes up. Fun was had, pie was had. We were all absolutely ourselves - Christi was dressed in soft tones of green and brown, her long hair loose, with pendants around her neck. I was in a white dress shirt, plaid tie and jeans, MTSU ring as always. Kati was in a pair of raggy pants and a comfortably worn tee shirt, her shaved head and mod glasses making it all work. Callie was in black, her dark curly hair done better than the rest of us, clean and neat. Courtney, while confessing to having skipped baths for several days, drew the glances of most men in the restaurant - long, lean, smoking a cigarette despite sitting in the non smoking section. I have to admit, every editor of that magazine has been an ass-kicking woman. Yea us.

I had a quiet dinner with Ron and Dinan Friday night, and while the plan for Saturday night had been drinking out in Nashville, I ended up at an impromptu party at Tony and Andrew's house. It was wild, and we were well fed, and it was a nice mix my friends for the last two years at MTSU and Tony and Andrew's gaming group. It was the sort of night where I didn't get home until nearly 5 in the morning, and I love that. Everyone needs a wild night every once in a while. Tony kicked us out around 3 a. m. and I ended up in Nashville working mischief with Christi and Winn as my willing accomplices.

I love this town, but I could never live here again. There are nights here in the fall when I get too rowdy, when I work against myself, when I go without sleep for three or four days - sometimes because of the fun, sometimes because of the stress. There are fewer jobs here than in Atlanta, and the price I'd pay for staying is far too high.Still, that I end up here at 3 in the morning sometimes is all right, as long as I stay true to myself, which on this trip is surprisingly easier than in the past.

Monday, September 09, 2002

The True Face of Cobb County.

When I made the move down from Boston to just north of Atlanta a month ago, I confess that I harbored some pretty bad views of Cobb County. After all, this is the place that made some pretty nasty official statements about gays, costing them any participation in the 1996 Olympics. Cobb is also the county that harbors the town of Kennesaw, infamous for a law stating that all residents must have guns, following the NRA logic that if all residents were armed there'd be no crime. I could go on about how Newt Gingrich was from here, about the creationists trying to kick Darwin's theories out of the public schools, or about how they disallowed the MARTA rail system from expanding northward out of some petty racist concerns. But I think I've given everyone a pretty good idea of why I didn't think I'd be staying in Cobb County very long.

I moved here because my relatives are here. Of course, the relatives I have living in Cobb County are atheist, or libertarian, or environmentalist, or Catholic, or all of those things at once, but I figured them for the loveable oddballs they are. I mean, as an atheist and a person who loves urban environments, how could I set up my life in Cobb County? I reasoned I'd have to move into town, especially since the first week of my move was marked by an ACLU suit against the county school board.

So last week, while I was out at my version of Mardi Gras downtown, I struck up conversation with some intelligent women around me at a discussion of J. K. Rowling's work.

"So, I just moved here and I was wondering - where should I get an apartment?"

The girls answered without any hesitation. "Marietta."

These girls were mostly punks and wiccans in their mid to late twenties. They were counter-culture, decked out for DragonCon with bright unnatural hair colors, piercings, tattoos proudly displayed on a few.

"But I thought Cobb County was super-conservative."

One of the women laughed. She had come to the discussion with a great deal of knowledge about both children's literature and censorship. Without the black fishnets and pentagram, she could have easily been an elementary school teacher.

"Marietta's cheaper than Atlanta, and downtown, quite frankly, has a huge drug problem. Marietta's safer and has a lot more freedom than you'd think."

"So are all the crazy religious people just out in the countryside? It's just that I'm an atheist, and…you know…"

"I live in Kennesaw." said one girl with bright pink bangs and a jet-black ponytail. "There are some crazy people, but they're just really vocal. Once you move there, you find that most people are much more accepting than you'd think."

I was amazed. Okay, I thought. So if these women can live in Cobb County and not be frightened or threatened, maybe I can too. After all, I've found that I really enjoy hanging out with my family here. If I moved into town, maybe I wouldn't see them as much - so maybe I can find what I'm looking for in Marietta.

So this weekend I went to the Marietta Square to scope things out a bit. It's a small version of everything I've been looking for - a place where I could walk to the post office, a bakery, some little shops and a movie theater. Also, there's a small art museum and the main library I worshipped as a teenager. The Marietta library was the first big modern library I ever visited as a kid, and I have happy memories of discovering Anne MacCaffery's Pern series and Dean Koontz's The Watchers there.

I was feeling pretty good about the whole vibe of the place until I realized that there really weren't any apartments on the square. And despite its seemingly beautiful upkeep, a rat ran right across my path in broad daylight. Still - the Gone With the Wind museum just moved to the Marietta Square, and it's got most of what other things I need around. I dreamed about winning the lottery and buying one of the old storefronts as a bookstore for my friends Christi and Skeet to run. And then, remembering that if I lived there I would have to keep an eye out for those things that scamper at night, I decided I might as well stay.

The true face of Cobb County has yet to show itself to me. Is Cobb County really the conservative Southern Baptists intent on making all of Atlanta uncomfortable, or the Wiccan young women who assure me Kennesaw is all right? Does Cobb County belong to the people who grew up here, or the people who moved here in the last decade who now outnumber them? Is Cobb County part of Atlanta like the phone book and newspaper say that is, or is it the last rural holdout inside Atlanta's urban kingdom? Maybe the true face of Cobb County looks a lot like the people in my family - we're from here, but we're not from here. We consider ourselves Southern, but not a one of us fits into any of the stereotypes associated with that title. We argue and hug and take care of each other. Last week the toddlers turned up with pinworms but by the age of three they can all use a computer. We live in Atlanta but we don't live in Atlanta. Welcome to Cobb County.

Tuesday, September 03, 2002

Just Like Mardi Gras, only Geekier

Tony, Susan and I sat in the restaurant/bar of the Hyatt Regency downtown last Friday, talking and laughing and people watching. It was the first night of DragonCon, and all around us Storm Troopers, hobbits, elves and general fantasy characters walked on by. My favorites were the nearly naked people who had painted themselves green or copper or silver and then stripped with only long cloths between their legs and maybe a halter-top. People had horns and pointed ears and dreadlocks and great big wigs of every kind you could possibly think of. There were Queens and princesses and the devil and even a few gods. Multiple versions of Supergirl and Spider-Man hung out with Cobra Commandoes and Generals of the Imperial Army.

This weekend I had quite a few friends in town from Nashville, which was awesome because of course I've not seen everybody since the move from Boston. Tony and Andrew, two of my favorite people in the whole world, had a room in the Hyatt on the 17th floor, where the celebrity green room was. Along with Susan and Scott, two other workers from the old bookstore in Nashville, they were there to work the Con in exchange for passes and a reduced hotel rate.

My old friend from High School, Mike, was there too, and I actually ran into some people I hadn't seen in years on the street. It was crazy. Imagine 30,000 gentle freaks swarming two of the largest hotels you've ever been in. Whatever you imagined, DragonCon was at least 3 times better than whatever you thought of. It's my new Mardi Gras.

Tony and Andrew brought with them buckets of liquor, and we drank and people watched quite a bit, which was my favorite thing to do. Everyone else was there to go to the events - there were about 15 different events going on all at the same time for four days. Every meeting room in the Hyatt and Marriott hotels downtown was used for DragonCon. Every room was full.

Friday night I people-watched, Saturday I went to the parade, which creeped me out beyond belief. When the squadrons of storm troopers passed me by, the hair on the back of my neck stood up. It was the flag that really got me - just like our American flag, but with the seal of the evil empire where the stars should be. It made for some great pictures though. I hung out in the Buffy room some, and won a CD which I sold to Mike. I went to a discussion on Alan Moore, and sat with Tony through a Wheel of Time trivia contest that cracked me up because the fans couldn't agree on the pronunciation of things. Mostly though I just hung out with friends and admired the whole spectacle. Artwork was being sold in one room for thousands of dollars, and in the dealer's room one man had actually made batarangs. You can have a custom made pair of Superman boots for $500.

Everyone at DragonCon just seemed so...comfortable with themselves. This made me so happy, to be in this space where everyone could be whoever they wanted to be, do and dress however they'd always wanted too for four days, without worry or much critique, unless it was invited. Even the forty year old guys who were klingons, who would normally creep me out, I even felt happy for them. This was their space, the place where they were most happy. Rock on with your bad proud freaky klingon selves for four days in Atlanta, middle aged geeks. As I watched the klingons eating in the restaurant next to a table full of club-kid Cyberpunks, I started smiling uncontrollably. Damn, I love Atlanta.

Sunday I didn't go until later in the day, but dressed up in a nice party dress for the costume ball. I ended up not attending because of the crowd, but my backstage luck was on and I ended up in the greenroom, watching part of it on a simulcast screen with the people who didn't have to be part of the crowd. Later in the evening Susan and I went to retrieve her husband from the LARP'ers and I ended up talking with another friend until midnight.

Social time. That's what I missed in Boston. Huge festivals surrounded by friends laughing and talking all day and night. Susan, Scott, Tony, and Andrew having a room in the Hyatt was awesome, because when you needed a dark, quiet place to get away from the crowd for a bit, you had somewhere to go. Several times over the weekend I was able to knock on the door and enter into a darkened room of calm, where I could sit in a chair with my eyes closed for a minute, and relax from all the stimulation outside. Not to mention the shots and margaritas. I'm going to try to get my own room next year with a few people, near to Tony and Andrew's, so we can have sort of an enlarged, two-room chill out pad. Maybe. It all depends on the money situation, of course.

Monday morning I said goodbye to everyone, and came back to a party at Audrey and Jamie's house, where people were wondering why I wouldn't drink to catch up with them. I had been drinking since Friday, and all though I wasn't hung-over or anything, my body kept telling me how tired it was, how run down it felt. I'm not 19 anymore, and that sucks. But I've decided I might not outgrow the need to go to big festivals yet. I loved being part of the huge crowd this weekend, and I love drinking with friends and people watching as much as I ever have. DragonCon next year is a must do - hooray for super big parties!!!