AC 2007 Weekend in review
The flight up to Pittsburgh was very uneventful. I'd figured, after working the night before, that I'd get sleep on the plane, but I was so jacked up about going to AC that I couldn't sleep. zervon was nice enough to pick me and a few others up at the airport and bring me back to the hotel.
On arrival at the hotel, we were greeted by protesters. It turns out they were not "real" protesters, but just a bunch of guys that like to troll internet forums and events when they can. I just wish I could have gotten in early enough to see unclekage and some of the other guys messing with them.
I met up with pandaguy and got settled into the room. Leo traveled very well in my hockey bag and I think that will be my permanent transportation method for him. After the costume is complete it will fill out the bag perfectly. For this trip, I had the mask wrapped in a blanket with the paws and tail stuffed inside the mask (the body of the suit will replace the blanket in transport when completed).
Afterward, it was time to case the hotel/convention center. I met Blackfoot in the lobby and delivered his badge (1 of 4 badges I had to give away). I also got confirmation that I was needed for their skit in the masquerade. I located the dealer room, main ballroom and all the meeting rooms. I was immediately struck with the realization that I was going to be doing a LOT of walking and even some running to get to all my events. After the quick walk through, I went back up to the room and donned Leo for his first run through. I happened to put the 3 remaining badges in my pocket and it was a good thing I did. Within 30 minutes, I had delivered 2 of them. I crossed paths with Orion on the escalator and had to turn around at the top and chase him down, then skawurrldawg found me in The Zoo and we traded badges (she had drawn me in the previous month's badge trade).
I decided to sacrifice the bulk of the evening and get caught up on my sleep so I could function for the remainder of the weekend. I ended up going to bed just after 8pm after being awake for 31.5 consecutive hours. It turned out to be a wise choice.....
Much to my displeasure, I woke up at 4am SHARP and couldn't go back to sleep. That's the one thing I haven't gotten used to about taking the Melatonin supliments. You get 8 hours of SOLID sleep and that's about it. Then....BLAM....you're up and wide awake. It's very efficient, but I was afraid it would bite me in the butt later on that day.
I decided to roam the hotel a bit and see if there was anything going on or if there was anything open this early for breakfast. The internet lounge was open and I sat and caught up on my email chess games while talking to the others in the room. When the restaurant opened I went in for breakfast. It was your typical overpriced hotel breakfast buffet. Considering I was probably only getting one meal as full as my schedule was I didn't mind the price to badly. I was wearing my poker badge and my tail at the time and the waitress came up to me while I was making my plate and asked "did you make that?". I've gotten that many times from people and they are always referring to the costume pieces. I told her the tail was commissioned from someone else and she said "no, I mean your badge". I really didn't quite know how to respond to that and was quite shocked. I verbally stumbled around a bit before eventually stuttering that yes, I did do that. It was the 1st time that someone has taken note of my artwork above another persons and it was quite moving to me (and you know she got a nice tip for that). She also wanted to see my costume, so later that morning, I ran by as Leo and said hi to everyone. I will say that, not only were the hotel staff extremely nice, they were also VERY curious about us and what we are all about (I have more hotel staff encounters later on). I also ran into Sharky and heard from him that he was looking for 1 more person for his skit, so it appeared that I was to take the stage twice during Saturday night's Masquerade.
I went to opening ceremonies, but did so for only one reason....to meet others. I hung around in the back and on the Concourse as people were filtering in and spoke to those I know and met a few that I had not yet seen IRL.
After opening ceremonies, I was talking to freecat68 and Far Raptor about my thoughts on going to the fursuit dance class. I had never had any dance instruction and figured I'd stand to benefit tremendously from it (both in and out of costume). Freecat responded, "yea, we're going to go laugh at them". I balked at going after hearing that, but they assured me they would laugh at everyone else and I decided to join in. I'm really glad I did, I got about as good of an understanding of basic dance as you could get in an hour and met a few really meet characters in the process.
We all took a break in the headless lounge after the dance class, then joined the fursuit meet and greet. I figured the best way to appear would be with the head off so others could put a real life face to the costume, but the event wasn't anything like what I had hoped or planned for. Early on, a few guys were in the front of the room kicking a beach ball around. They got a bit carried away with it and wound up knocking a crystal off the chandler (I'm sure Kage had a fit over that). I think that had a ripple effect causing the dodge ball games that were to take place later in the day to be canceled. Not only was everyone in full suit, but the music that was being played was too loud to talk to anyone (in or out of suit) killing the "meet and greet" aspect. Before long, the room became too loud and crowded for my comfort and Freecat and I ditched the event.
Leaving early cleared up some time on my schedule and I decided to go to the game room for some DDR (in suit). Unlike Animazement, the gameroom at AC was VERY small and there wasn't really a lot going on. I played a few courses and, unlike Animazement, failed miserably. It was just one of those days where I wasn't quite in tune with the arrows. I may have also been slightly fatigued from the earlier activities, but either way, I didn't look too good on the pad that day.
Next, it was the Performance (Beginner) class. Most things covered in the class that I'd already experienced first hand or were common sense to me, mostly costume/personal limitations (visibility, movement, endurance, etc.). I did, however, get some great tips on dealing with situations that can come up, especially when performing in public (and I do hope to get involved in some volunteer work at some point).
The day was really starting to get long at this point and fortunately, I was able to get a break. I think this was the point where I joined FreeCat and his crew in their hotel room to go over the skit. I listened to it and got my part down (and it wasn't a tough one).
From there it was on to the Unicorn & Griffin room party. Something I'd been looking forward too and it was everything I'd hoped it would be. It was great finally getting to meet everyone in the U&G as well as the gang from Furs For Christ. It's really nice to see 2 religiously based groups so willing to work together instead of what I'm used to seeing (bickering and end fighting). hollyannvix was nice enough to allow me to bow her on Wally's behalf (Wally thanks you BTW) and I saw Heavy Horse (literary_equine successfully saw stokerbramwell in half (I never knew you were a magician HH). The time went by way too quickly and I left a bit early to catch the live action chess game. The one choice I made this weekend that I will always regret....
The chess game was scheduled for 9:30, but when I got there at 9:15, the board was already full! Not only was it full, but there were only 3 suits on the board. I should have known better than to join in, but one of the players backed out and a space opened up for me. Sadly....I did. The game itself wasn't set up too badly, but was a bit too involved for people to follow along with. In addition to that, no one is going to hold interest in a live action game where there are only 4 players in costume and before the 1st round was completed, we'd lost 90% of the audience. This event was a major failure, but there is potential. I will forward footage of the cosplay chess game at Animazement for reference. As for my role in the game. I was a dark bishop (a white lion as a black bishop....go figure). I did not get to take part in the very elaborate battle system (involving rock/paper/scissors and hit points), but I did get 2 spells that I got to use. The 1st was "add 2 hit points to a piece on an adjacent square" so I stepped next to our king and healed him. The 2nd spell was "sacrifice up to 3 hit points to resurrect up to 3 pawns as zombies (1hp per pawn)" and I got to run all over the board resurrecting pawns. I didn't even really care about winning the game at the point where I used my 2nd spell, but was more interested in getting to act something out for a change. The way the game was set up, the knights were nearly unstoppable and just plowed down the middle of the board destroying everything in their path (including our king). Next year, fursuits ONLY on the board and no stupid battle system...let's just play some chess.
The death of our king came as quite a relief to just about everyone involved in the game as it meant it was OVER! The next event for me was the Poker tournament. There was a series of tournaments set up throughout the weekend that were dubbed the "Furry Poker Tour". I only took part in the events that did not conflict with other items on my schedule. Friday nights event was short table N/L hold-em. There were 22 players and it was quite a fun little event. actofphoenix (Celcius) had already won the 1st and 2nd events and seemed to be unstoppable for the title of "Furry Poker Tour Champion". I was only playing in 2 of the 6 events since playing all of them would have eaten up my entire weekend. The tournament went very well. I fought my way into contention, but at the 8 player mark I ran into some problems. There was one player at our table that was very loose and clearly a fish. I had AK in a hand against him and after flopping an A ended up all in with him. He was chasing a flush draw and hit on the turn. He doubled up through me and put me in the position of short stack. 2 hands later I picked up a few big bets pushing all in with pocket 3's and the very next hand landed AK again. I figured pushing again, someone would put me as being on tilt and I did get called by the same loose player. He shows Q8 and proceeds to flop 2 pair eliminating me in 8th of 22 (3 spots out of the money). I found out later that he beat Celcius pretty much the same way in heads up to win the tournament and earning the nickname "Jamie Gold".
Saturday began with Masquerade rehearsals. I went down to the ballroom and, quite frankly, didn't know exactly how I was going to pull off rehearsing for 2 skits at once. Fortunately, my visit to freecat's room to preview their skit was all I needed. My part was not at all complicated in that one. Sharky's was VERY involved and we spent a good hour working out all the cues. My 1st impression of the skits had me thinking that Sharky's would be more of a hit than Far's, but I thought both skits were well thought out and I was more than happy to be a part of both.
With my parts in the masquerade set, it was time....in fact...past time for me to run back to the hotel for the intermediate performance class. I arrived 15 minutes late, but hadn't missed much in the way of instruction. Lucky was actually having us work on walking and posing since we were only 2 hours away from the parade and that's what we were going to be doing. That alone turned out to be enough to fill the hour and was very informative. My best benefit from that class was to learn how to think as your character. We would view a walk and pose, then figure out how to make that walk or pose better for that character. Getting critiqued myself and critiquing others is the best way for me to learn and this was probably the most informative class I attended the entire weekend.
The fursuit parade was next and it was an incredible thing to be a part of. There was a record shattering 353 costumes. We started in one of the rooms near the West Corner of the Park, went over the dealer's room and out onto the balcony. There the parade came to a temporary halt. We were all lined up on the rail of the terrace and had a photographer take a picture of us from across the river. It is to be a panoramic shot of the building with all of us on the terrace and I can't wait to see how it turns out. I might even order a copy of it if it's not too expensive. While we were waiting for the picture, the tour boats going up and down the river seemed to get a big kick out of us being out there. Before long the lines started moving again and we were off to the dealers room. I'm hearing last years route was unbearably long and, since I have no basis for comparison, all I can say is I had no problem handling this years route. It was...over the dealer room, out to the terrace, downstairs and through the dealer room and back upstairs ending in the headless lounge.
I was tempted to join the dodgeball game that was to follow the parade, but it turned out to be canceled anyway, so it turned out my choice was made for me anyway. I went to the webcomics panel. I'd been hoping to get there before they started since I was only interested in meeting the server admin for comicgenesis and saying hi to the_gneech. As it happened, I got there just as they were starting and ended up having to sit through the panel. I did, however, get some information on self promotion, so it was all good. Afterward, I had a good conversation with the comicgenesis admin (something I wouldn't have been able to do if I'd gotten there early).
I ran into jairus_greywolf after the panel and had lunch with him and while I was down there I ran into the DDR furs group. I just wish I could remember their website, but as I recall, I gave them mine so we'll probably be in touch.
Next was the masquerade! The one official event I'd been most looking forward too (especially after getting drafted for 2 skits). It was to be my 1st time performing in front of a crowd this big (probably over 1000). We were staged in the headless lounge and brought around to the green room via service corridors. My skits were lined up in the #4 and #7 slots. A very good draw for me. Not too much time between to get uncomfortable in suit, but not one right behind the other either. My 1st skit was with Sharky, Norby, Ozzy and Tig and was titled Billy the Theme Park Shark. As we were approaching the stage and (I thought) getting ready to go, they called Pinky on stage instead. He and guest of honor Rob Paulsen did an unscheduled bit together and afterward Rob spoke to the crowd a bit, then performed Yakko's World. The entire time that was going on, I couldn't help but think that we were going to have to follow THAT! Aside from that, probably the one downside to being in the masquerade was not being able to see it myself. As soon as the DVD comes out you bet I'm ordering it. We finally got moving toward the stage to start our skit. For some reason, Ozzy and I were already well in character and were already stalking sharky with the net. Rob was standing next to the stage and as we walked past him I heard him say "Wow! This looks interesting!". It made me wonder what he thought of not only the acts that night, but the weekend in general. I would get to ask him later. Sharky's skit didn't run as rehearsed, but that seems to happen with all his skits, lol. We only had 2 minor flubs, but they were substantial. 1st Norby was unable to get a hold of the football he was supposed to hold over (and eventually drop on) Sharky's head, and the "See Sammy the Seal" sign never got on stage. Not things the crowd would notice, but they did take away from the act. Got off stage and ran into Far's group right at the edge of the green room. I got back in line and awaited my return to the stage for the 2nd skit. This skit was called "Office Space" and was about a bunch of furs in an office and their "quirks". I played my role well, but I would expect that FreeCat stole the show. He was on the other end of the stage and was supposed to be a serial killer. During the act, he slowly destroyed a plush toy with a boxcutter tearing the insides out and looking like he was enjoying every minute of it.
After returning to the headless lounge, we were all hit with a surprise. We were all to return to the stage for the finale where we would dance "The Time Warp" from The Rocky Horror Picture Show. I knew the song, but didn't know the dance and only had 20 minuites to learn it. Turns out, it was pretty easy and I had it down after 2 or 3 tries. Also, it turns out that dance class from yesterday came in handy as the refrain of the song was the only part we rehearsed and I had to ad-lib the rest of it. We were not on stage as I thought we might, but we were instructed to spread out into the audience and the audience were invited to join in. I was surprised to see that probably about half did AND knew the dance. After the show, myself, PandaGuy, kuddlepup and a few others I didn't know were standing around talking and I heard KP say that was the best finale they had ever done. I really can't wait to see this show when they release the highlights DVD. It was my 1st try at acting and I loved it!
After all that excitement, it was time to wind down with some poker. Saturday night's event was Limit HORSE. It seemed at 1st that we wouldn't get enough to play and we would up goating a few furs into joining us. It turned out to be a bad decision and this tournament featured players that were not only drunk, but not truly interested in the game and thus, played very poorly. I became increasingly agitated at the apparent level of apathy coming from the other players and it finally came to a head in a hand of Razz. For those who were there, I might get some details of the hand wrong so feel free to correct me. The real fireworks started on 5th street. Ian and I were both showing solid cards (I think Ian was 7 high and I was 8 high). My problem was that 4th street and 5th street matched my hole cards leaving me to hit runners to complete a hand (by my estimation about a 4:1 shot against). There were 4 players in the hand. Myself, Ian and 2 others who I've forgotten the names of. One of them was trying to get out of the game and raised while showing a pair of tens. The woman behind him reraised showing A3K. I had no business staying in the hand, but something inside me just snapped. I decided I would break these other players or break myself trying. Either way, the irritants would be removed from me and I could either enjoy the rest of the tournament, or I'd be eliminated and I could enjoy the rest of my night. I have always sworn never to pull a Matasow and tell someone they sucked or didn't know how to play, but that was exactly what I did after seeing that raise and reraise. I went ahead and pushed in another raise. After long consideration, Ian looks at me and says "If you don't flip over an A3 I'm going to HIT you!". I began to realize what I'd done at that point and felt kinda bad. I'd chased out the one player in the pot that had a real hand and could have actually helped me eliminate the other players. At that point I was committed to go for it. 6th street game me a much needed 5 giving me a 4 card low and keeping me alive in the hand. There was more raising and insults during the 6th street betting and my river card hit me completing a 9 high hand (98652) and winning. As it turns out, both me and the woman next to me were drawing on the last card....I hit, she missed. Celcius tells me that If we both hit, she had me beat badly.
It was the only time I've ever had a major meltdown on the poker table and I'm ashamed of it. I can only learn from the experience and hope to improve my play should I end up in that situation again (and being on a table with drunk, apathetic players is NOT a far fetched scenario in Vegas). After some discussion (we thought about ending the tournament right there and chopping the entry fees), we decided to go up to the zoo to continue the tournament. With all the uninterested parties removed from the game, it turned from a disaster to a brilliantly fun game. I finished 3rd getting eliminated at the same time as Ian, but he had me out chipped by one quarter (smallest denomination of chip available). Turned out not to matter...we both won the same amount.
Sunday morning I started out with a trip to the spa. I'd spent about 20 hours in costume to that point and my back was really starting to scream at me. While there I got to talking to one of the health club employees. We had an excellent conversation discussing everything from the furry fandom to politics (he was a libertarian too!).
I had another choice to make at this point. Attend the Advance Fursuit Performance panel and take a chance on not being able to get my Animaniacs box set signed by Rob Paulsen or playing safe and moving to the dealers room. I decided on the later and it was a good thing I did. I found something for myself and Tina and as soon as I got over to the signing table the line started queuing up. Within 5 minuites it was wrapped around artist alley and disappearing behind the art show. I got to ask Rob what he though of the show (and us) and got a thumbs up from him. He recognized my costume from Sharky's skit (I was carrying it since I didn't know how much time I'd have before the construction panel). I only regret not bringing my camera. I probably could have gotten pictures with Rob both in AND out of costume.
I was invited to join Sharky in the Costume Construction Panel, but left early as the fursuit games started at the same time his panel was ending. The games was another one of those events I couldn't wait to participate in, but it turned out to be a bit of a let down....
On to the games....it started out great. The 1st event was tug-o-war with us divided into 25 man teams. Stria and I were on the anchor on our side and as soon as the horn sounded, we started walking the other team in our direction. We moved them about 10 feet and stopped. I've seen footage of it now and it turns out we were VERY close to winning the round at that point. I leaned back further and gave the rope an extra tug. Just as we started moving again, I felt the rope unravel from my paw and I went flying backward off the end of the line (please someone tell me that got caught on video!!!!). As soon as the rope slipped out of my grasp, the line started moving in the other direction and I had no chance to try and get back in to help. Before round 2 Stria and I switched spots and a knot was tied to the end of the rope to prevent another slip off. Not only did we win rounds 2 and 3, but we did so in a decisive manner. There were 3 other events after that....none that really deserve mention in my opinion. Two of them were relay races and another where we all stood in a line and had to hold hands while passing through a hula hoop. That event would have been challenging except that a handler held the loop for us. I noticed the other team was doing it without help from a handler and, of course, not using their own hands (the way the challenge was designed to be). We lined up for one final event. It was supposed to be a twisted version of duck duck goose. I had no idea what was going on and figured if I got selected I'd just be out. Turned out that in the 1st round one of the participants turned his knee and they decided to end the game at that point. It was probably for the best. I'd been looking forward to the games before AC, but now I'm pretty cold on it and I don't know if I will participate in them any more. If I do, I definitely will look for opportunities to ham it up and will have no interest in trying to win. I think I'd prefer to spend that time doing exactly what I did next....
I went to the sub shop down the street to pick up some diner IN SUIT! I was a bit surprised to see so many non convention goers on the streets this close to the con and they seemed to take well to me. With the classes and instruction I'd received I felt, for the 1st time, like I really knew what I was doing and not only do I feel like my interaction was more natural, but I got a much better reaction from the people I encountered. The sub shop people were nice, but really didn't react to the costume (I guess after an entire weekend of it they were fairly well adapted). While I didn't venture very far from the hotel, I'm still very happy to have done it and I'm very pleased with the results. It was at this point that I realized that Leo's character, while not quite fully developed, was becoming defined. I think the one big thing that I've taken from this weekend is that, just because a character CAN talk, doesn't mean he should. My comedic style has always been more verbal, but I'm going to have to move away from that and become better at working with props and acting things out. I still have the ability to speak and that's still part of the character, but I'm finding I get better reactions by minimizing it and focusing on the physical aspect.
Just after moving through the revolving door coming back into the hotel, I walked by someone and caught their badge out of the corner of my eye. It was Evan Li, creator of The End of Days. It took just a moment for me to place the name and when I did I backtracked, pointed at his badge and said "HEY! I've read your comic!". We spoke for a moment and he got a picture with me.
I got back to the room, ate and took what was, at that point, probably a MUCH needed shower (I'd been taking 2-3 per day and I'm sure I was overdue at that point). I'd hoped to go out with Pandaguy some during the weekend and take turns photographing and spotting for each other. Unfortunately, I'd gotten completely sucked into the con and never really found an opportunity. I had thought that, with us both fursuiting, we'd have a common schedule, but a lot of the events I participated in were pretty high energy and he just can't do that. I'd decided that I was not going to lose the last night of the con and I was going to cancel my plans to play in the final night's poker event and get as much out of the evening as I could, not only for him, but for myself. I also needed to try and stay up all night as I was returning to work the following night nad would need to ensure that I could get some sleep during the day Monday.
He went out 1st in his panda/coon hybrid suit. I have to say....I know of the health issues he's having and I know his vision in costume is bad, but I had no idea just how bad it was until I spotted for him. There were times where I was standing within 5 feet of him and he clearly couldn't see me. I literally had to guide him through parts of the hotel by hand. That gave me a new understanding for just how bad his condition is. He gave his best effort to have a good time that weekend and I understand more than ever how frustrating his situation is. I also perfectly understand why he will not come back to AC. It is about a quarter mile walk to the dealers den which is almost more than he is able to handle out of suit. The times I saw him come to the convention center, he made it to the headless lounge, but had nothing left. I wish him the best and I hope things get better for him.
We switched out after a while and Leo crashed The Zoo...and I do mean crashed. I had, to this point, never just dove into a crowd and started acting up like that. Pandaguy got some great shots of me playing with props, begging for pizza and other assorted craziness. The one moment he didn't get (my fault for moving so fast) was when I crashed the poker game. The game that I mentioned that I'd skip was in progress and I ran by to say hi and see how everyone was doing. No surprise to me that it appeared Celcius had things fairly well under control once again. I approached the table, snagged the top half of Celcius's chip stack and ran over to an empty seat like I was going to join the game. The impressive thing about it was that I grabbed EXACTLY the number of chips I was aiming for and did it without disturbing the rest of the stack. It took incredible focus to pull that off and I think the table was impressed by it. They also got a kick out of me jumping in the game. If it had not been a cash tournament, I would have insisted on being dealt in the next hand, but I didn't want to disturb things THAT much. The only other truly notable moment was (and I don't remember if PandaGuy was still with me or not) semjay's friend building the shrine out of empty pizza boxes. I hear that right after I left the room it was destroyed by the purple thing.
There was a fursuit dead dog party on the 2nd floor, but it was basically a rave and that's not really my thing, so while i did go by and say goodbye to everyone, when the dance started, I took off. As I was leaving the dance I saw Provo and company horseplaying in the lobby. I deiced to test my skills and see if I could pounce the beagle. Of course he was running all over the place and it was all I could do to remain out of his sight (let alone sneak up on him). Quite unexpectedly, he stopped running around and I had my chance to catch him. I was crouched down as I approached so I didn't see the reason he was standing still. He was playing to someone with a camera. The cameraman was on one knee so I didn't see him until after I pounced. If that turns out to be one of the AC camera guys and that moment ends up on the DVD, that will make my day.
I spent the rest of the evening and night in The Zoo talking to friends and getting my final farewells in before leaving. Then I went up to the room and got things packed up and prepared for the flight back.
Monday morning, Zervon took me back to the airport (thanks again). When I got there, I decided to be bolder than normal and wear my ears. The 1st woman I ran into sees my ears and says "That must have been one hell of a party!". My response "....you have NO idea" I explained AnthroCon to her briefly and moved on. I probably left her with more questions then she originally had, but I really didn't have the time to spell it out for her. I got all sorts of looks while I was in line and moving through the airport, but I think most of the people there were at least aware of us with all the media coverage. I cut it a bit closer than I preferred arriving at the gate just as they started boarding and the woman at the ticket counter asked me "Hey! Are you one of those 'animal' people?". I nodded and boarded the plane. Much to my surprise, I had some difficulty sleeping on the flight back, but I did get a decent nap. There were obviously no other furs on the plane seeing as my ears would have sparked an immediate conversation. The return home was again...uneventful and AC07 was no more.
25 hours in fursuit over 4 days plus all the extra running around I did! I gave my weight a few days to stabilize after trip and the net results seem to have me dropping 4lbs over AntrhoCon weekend! If there could be a con every weekend, I'd drop about 100 lbs by the end of the year and probably build enough endurance to run a marathon. In addition to that, Leo now has direction and much more personality and I think some of that has crept into my everyday, out of costume, personality as well.