(you can follow along with our account of the trip and the party and the aquarium in pictures at www.angelfire.com/ny5/jrminga/nodeisland.html scary, huh?)

January 26, 2002

This was it. Today was the day. We'd spent all week planning, preparing, saving every dollar for Parkway tolls, and now the day was finally here. We piled our belongings into the car, popped the CD full of mp3s into the brand-spanking-new mp3 player, and we headed out.

We were going to Node Island.

We left at about 11.30 and crawled up the Garden State Parkway to I-287 in New York, which took us across the Tappan Zee Bridge to the New England Thruway, which led us to the Connecticut Turnpike (I-95). We documented the whole trip with the digital camera, but it was largely uninteresting.

We amused ourselves by singing along with the mp3 player and making fun of the names of towns in upstate New York and Connecticut. Names like Nyack and Tokeneke.

Around 2.00, we decided to stop for food, so we took Exit 49 (Stiles St.) in New Haven, which led us to the Forbes Diner. We had been attracted by its extreme proximity to the highway and the large sign that advertised many many items for a mere 99 cents each. Cheap, in Connecticut -- who knew? And believe it or not, it was really good food! (Excepting the fact that one piece of my fried chicken was still cold on the inside, that is.) It was good enough that we even recommended the place to the other New York Contingent that was about a half-hour behind us. And they thought it was pretty awesome, too.

So we got back on the road and continued, doing as we were doing, until we hit Rhode Island. Rhode Island is quite beautiful, in that New England winter way. It's also really goddamn boring to drive through. We got off at the right exit, thankfully (the other New Yorkers went the wrong way, unfortunately), and found the general area of the party house within about half an hour. Then we looked at the hill we'd parked at the top of, and decided to find the house BEFORE we parked so we didn't have to go back up to get the stuff out of the car.

We found that that was a good idea. It was a steep hill.

We finally arrived at the house, having parked the car, at about 4.45, to find that we were the first noders there. In fact, the only other people there were three kind of .... interesting non-noders. We sat around and talked listened to them talk gaming and OSes for a while. Non-noders kept pouring in, and we grew more and more frightened.

Thankfully, the Boston Contingent showed up! Cahla, randir, Orange Julius, Dis, and Chihuahua Grub came to save us! The line became pretty securely drawn between noders and non-noders by the time FoxtrotJuliet got there with WickerNipple and non-noder Erin in tow. (Erin was the *COOL* non-noder - she spent her time with us because we weren't disturbed by her and because she didn't really like the other non-noders, it seemed. She will soon be one of us, and therefore does not qualify as a non-noder for the remainder of this writeup.)

Right about then, Critical Mass was determined, and ...


Oh, yeah. Right. Why the hell were we all there, anyway?

See, mkb is going to France, like, tomorrow or something. So his girlfriend, moxie, decided to be extremely sweet and hold a surprise going-away party, aptly dubbed Bon Voyage Monsieur DJ. Invites were sent out, the node was made a superdoc and hidden rather well from mkb, and extensive plans were made, including several series of cover stories in case mkb should begin to suspect (which I understand he did for a little while).


So, anyway, Critical Mass was determined, and moxie was called to bring mkb to da house. Meanwhile, Chiisuta, QXZ, and Walter finally made it to the house (after almost making it back to Connecticut before turning around), carrying some very interesting containers of liquor, which only partially held out until the arrival of the guest of honor.

Meanwhile, the non-noders broke out a board game, and began playing extremely fervently. We noders were confused, so we asked what it was.

It was a board game adaptation of a first-person shooter. It was called Frag. We became quickly disinterested, and went back to the tequila.

A few minutes later, moxie and mkb showed up. Most of us were too busy to notice, but some said, "Hey." mkb looked confused. Then, about 30 seconds later, everyone turned and yelled, "Surprise". mkb was quickly absorbed into the noder area (the kitchen), having been handed two shots of tequila in rapid-fire succession. The tequila absorbed his shock, and he greeted everyone with the enthusiasm of one still slightly confused by all this.

Food was broken out, including (but not limited to) randir's famous lasagna (gear fab), moxie's famous cake (white cliffs of dover?), famous finger sandwiches (jeweler, you've failed!), some famous kind of indian chicken dish (Kaili!) and more famous tequila (doesn't sound a bit like Cagney).**

*ahem* comment of the night: "It's 6.48, and I'm drunk off my ass. I love Rhode Island." -- WickerNipple

After food, someone found balloons that had been purchased previously at a dollar store. We quickly learned why they were so cheap -- they were basically just a pile of balloons that no one else seemed to want. There were random "Happy Birthday" balloons, a couple saying "Mis Quince Años", and an awful lot of balloons that were either animals or aliens, depending on how successful one was at inflating them. (The ears occasionally looked like nipples; this amused us greatly.)

For the next few hours, music was played (Chris-O and QXZ had brought guitars, which provided a whole half-hour of entertainment before they realized that they didn't both know all that many of the same songs, but they played for another hour anyway; Orange Julius, QXZ, Erin, and anyone else who knew words sang), beer was drunk (and so were noders), "yardwork" was done, balloons were thrown around, and pictures were taken of people in various states of respectability (including while in the bathroom, whether or not the facility was actually being used).

Around 8.30, cahla, WickerNipple, Chihuahua Grub, mkb and I all trekked up the hill and piled into the car (comments were made about the state of the car prior to the people-pile, but I didn't rob a cabbie, I swear) and made another liquor run. Yes, Virginia, they had run out of tequila. And more beer, including a couple of forties, were brought along for the ride.

And the party resumed as mentioned previously, with yardwork, drinking, and downright debauchery.

Around 11 or 12, randir and Orange Julius left, as both had important engagements the following morning. We pouted, but not for too long; most of us were too wasted, in some form.

Around 12.30, the Monopoly board was broken out. cahla, FoxtrotJuliet, Dis, QXZ, Chiisuta, Walter, and I attacked the board vigorously and settled in for a long, drawn-out battle, with other noders dropping in and out of visual contact and/or consciousness around us. Chiisuta rather quickly retired, leaving cahla and Dis with a rather large, wealthy corporate holding in the yellows and oranges; QXZ and Dis developed a quick relationship with the dark purple properties; and cahla and QXZ partnered in the railroad properties. QXZ also held the dark blue properties as a solo venture. FoxtrotJuliet held her own with the reds and the pinks, while I struggled valiantly with the green properties and Walter rose to the challenge of the light blues. Around 2.30, I surrendered my holdings to the recently awakened Chihuahua Grub, who succeeded with them for a decent while longer before giving in to the evils of the clock and turning in for the night himself. At some point, cahla and Dis conquered the board, winning as the corporation.

The non-noders, by the way, were still playing Frag. 9 fucking hours of a first person shooter game? Holy shit. mkb played with them for a while, sure, but not for 9 hours, dammit!

** -- References from Help!, if you must know.
January 27, 2002

At around 3 AM, moxie, LadySun, and i retired to moxie and mkb's apartment down the road from wherever the surprise party was. mkb would show up later, having played with his friends for a few hours more.

At around 11 AM, after the four of us performed our morning ablutions, we returned to Party Central. The noders there were just beginning to awaken, and told us fantastic and fabricated stories of the orgies of the night before. It turns out that Dis had left after the Monopoly game ended, but the remaining noders were ready for action. It was decided that this action should take us to the wilds of Mystic, Connecticut.

But first, breakfast.

We drove in a four-car convoy (mkb/moxie/cahla/Chihuahua Grub, FoxtrotJuliet/Wickernipple/Erin, Chiisuta/QXZ/Walter, and LadySun and i), and after making a couple of wrong turns, ended up at a Bickford's. The wait staff seemed bothered by the sheer volume of people at 12:30 on a Sunday morning, but quickly recovered, broke us into two groups, and proceeded to give us fine service and fine food. cahla and i went and played with the crane games, and the whole noder group examined the postcards displayed for sale.

After breakfast, FoxtrotJuliet, Wicki, and Erin decided to depart. After gassing up at the convieniently located gas station, we were on our way.

We met outside the Mystic Aquarium ticket booth, bought our tickets, and quickly ran to the whale tank to watch the belugas being fed, joining in a rousing chorus of "Baby Beluga. We wandered around the aquarium, disappointed by the closure of the penguin exhibit and frightened by the walruses and sea lions, all of whom appeared almost undead with their actions and their really creepy eyes. (It was later determined that the reason that the penguin exhibit was closed was due to the full moon, and that the penguins were actually werewalruses. I guess you had to be there). Then, we wandered around in the inside room. I won't relate the many inside jokes and other niftiness that occured therein, save to say that a good time was had, a large number of children were probably scared, and we actually learned a lot about sea life, especially frogs. We then found our way upstairs to watch a demonstration of Navy-trained sea lions. Afterwards, some of us ran to the gift shop, while others explored the bathyscape. We finally all met up in the gift shop (and are probably never allowed back). After making a few purchases, we returned to the parking lot and said goodbye for about ten minutes.

LadySun and i went back to our car, plugged in the mp3 player, and settled in for the long drive back to New Jersey, satisfied with one of the most fun weekends we'd ever had.

quotes of the day, given late that night: "we can't forget the Navy-trained killer cyborg sea lion robot of death. It barked." -- LadySun, to QXZ

and, "undead walrus vagina ++" -- Walter

More pictures! --

http://people.ne.mediaone.net/cspagnuo/RI/index.htm -- cahla
http://www.geocities.com/jenn0a/mkb.htm -- FoxtrotJuliet
http://www.bluesock.org/~mike/bonvoyage/ -- Orange Julius (whose captions don't suck, tell him)

January 26, 2002 by LadySun
January 27, 2002 by Chris-O
but LadySun gets it 'cause LadySun's faster
Note to editors/Gods: There *used* to be a node about this gathering, at least. The superdoc no longer exists.
PS Walter is right about OJ being able to sing like he was kicked in the... er, frag. That's it, Frag.

Even if Jenny hadn't done a stupendous job of writing up the whole weekend, I wouldn't try to give you the whole story or keep things in chronological order. I did that once and it damn near broke my brain. So instead I give you random snippets. Mysterious. Isolated. Unforgettable.

Somewhere on the Connecticut seaboard, in the passenger seat. Christa hands me her sunglasses and I put them on. She's right; a giant black bar is revealed, slanting across half the sky. I twist my head and it seems to end where a jet trail begins. But that still doesn't tell us what it is.

The three of us, in the diner booth with the mini jukebox. Singing and singing. Loud. Everyone can hear us, no one tells us to shut up. Secretly, I think they like us.

More singing, in the living room, on the couches. Damn, Murray can really play. And Mike can wail like Robert Plant and he knows all the words too. This went on for hours.

This must needs be said. If you take a first person shooter and turn it into a board game it is NO LONGER FIRST PERSON. Hence it's just a dude in a maze and you might as well be playing AD & D which at least has a long proud history of not getting people laid. How the fuck is this appealing? For campouts or blackouts? Or for the unimaginative who don't know how to laugh?

Monopoly. Now, I don't think anyone knows this, but this corporation bullshit actually really pissed me off. You can't change the rules in the middle of the game like that, to say nothing of changing the objective. (Sharing the win? What is this, communism?) I almost ruined the vibe with my scowling. Only the next day did I realize I had the perfect Walter opportunity to break the tension by standing up and screaming, "AM I THE ONLY ONE WHO CARES ABOUT THE RULES?!?" Instead I went bankrupt ASAP and curled up in my sleeping bag early. Usually I can't fall asleep if there's any noise at all. I must have been dead tired.

Wandering through the dark. Sharks and manta rays and frogs. Why did I almost turn this down? Too much of my life is the same sights every day. Too many of these beautiful, scary creatures I'll never see again.

If a bunch of noders are conversing IRL, and there's an awkward pause, and one of them says "and all is quiet...", is that funny, or sad, or both? What if the awkward pause just continues?

Andy hears me say I'm level 2 and tussles my hair, calling me newbie. Truly, it's a shame I didn't join back when the standards were so low that you could get ching power by NFN. Thanks, man (and I do know you were just fucking with me), but I'd rather be proud of my work than have a homenode pic.

Jess: So, where in New Hampshire are you from?

Me: L__________.

Jess: Oh! My cousin lives there. Do you know the R________s?

Me: Lisa R ________?

Jess: Yeah! She's my cousin! You went to high school with her?

Me: Lisa R ________ ruined my fucking life! She left her turn signal on so I pulled out in front of her and failed the driving test so I couldn't get my license and I couldn't ask this other girl out and by the time I could two months later she was going out with this other dude!

Andy: Wait. So this girl, was, like, the love of your life?

Me: It was serious, yeah. First time I ever felt that strongly about someone. I later found out she wanted me too.

Jess: (laughing so hard she has to leave the room)

We, as a group, cannot be fucked with. We'll stick this pen in ya. We are rock stars, you know. We do have secret identities. We can, in fact, define our reality.

When I'm at a gathering, both the front and back of my brain are running full speed. Constantly receiving, continuously retrieving. It's simultaneously exhausting and energizing, and no one can get enough. Whether we're going toward or away or nowhere, it's an aura that surrounds us and reminds us of the greater good.

And I can't put it into words in person, and I doubt I ever could. I can't just go up to you and give you the hardest longest platonic hug you ever had, and whisper, "Goddamit, I fucking love you. Never change. And by that I mean keep changing the way you always have and always will." I can't do that. But if I did, I know you'd accept me the way you already do.

Thank you, all of you. You've taught me generosity, and patience, and friendship. I can't ever fully repay you. But I'll keep trying. I'll see you.

Like Walter said, the chronological account of the weekend has already been given, and given too damn well for me to want to mess it up with my confused and jumbled mass of memories. I don’t think I could write everything out the way it happened and I don’t think I’d want to. I like the disjointed way the memory of it sits in my mind, and I’m reminded of little happy snippets when something jogs my thoughts. Here goes my part:

I was going to pick up Walter and QXZ in Brooklyn and I was going to be prompt, having in my possession directions, an atlas, blah blah blah. (As if that sort of thing ever works!) I ended up having to have the menfolk meet me on a corner, because the streets around Walter’s place suck and now I know there is no exit 34 going west on the BQE. . .

We embarked on a mini road trip!

I think I scared my passengers with my incredible L337 driving skillz. Racing, tailgating and rapid-fire lane changes, all done to the sounds of the some fine musical choices by Walter. Plus singing and one scary black line in the sky (what the fuck?). Oh yeah, and the Forbes Diner (exit 49 off 95), where a cheeseburger deluxe is only going to cost you three fiddy.

We turned the wrong way (thank you, moxie) and drove almost all the way back to Connecticut before I sucked up the shame and called Chris-O to beg for help.

We finally made it to the white house on a dark street and walked in, to the tune of much love from randir, cahla and FoxtrotJuliet. Wickernipple promptly liberated my tequila, and that’s when everything started to get fuzzy. . . but I remember:

Wickernipple and randir being very interested in seeing if I actually had trunkbutt. Which I don’t.

cahla and I having the inevitable "who do you think is hot on E2" conversation.

Being delighted when Chris-O and QXZ played some Weezer tunes – yay for the boys with guitars!

Cordially introducing myself to mkb, who I’d met before, and then covering my ass by asking him to "Meet me again, for the first time."

Smoking way too many cigarettes out on the front lawn with everyone. Especially cahla who started me off in the beginning of the night.

Some sick Monopoly playing where too many people broke the rules, and I messed everything up when I gave all of my properties away. Sorry Walter – you know I didn’t mean to do you no wrong!

Toilet paparazzi!!!

Anyhow, I ended up laying down and listening to the Monopoly game, thereby forcing my claim to the big couch for the night. An elephant was then repeatedly jabbed into my butt (with instant photographic evidence), until we had to move the cars from out of the Mormon parking lot, lest the damned Christians have our cars towed. Then at last sleep, glorious sleep.

But the best part came the next morning…

Not dazedly watching as FoxtrotJuliet cleaned up everything all by herself. Not Wickernipple’s tempting breakfast suggestions (cup o’ lard, anyone?). Not the discovery of an innocent looking turtle that was secretly filled with a burning hate. Not even cuddling into cahla’s legs under my blanket after making my personal, biological mark on the flora of Rhode Island.

It was the euphoric feeling of looking around at a group of people who I haven’t known all that long, and who come from all localities and walks of life and situations; I look at them and I know I like them, maybe a little more than is healthy. Maybe I could fall in love with each and every one of them – it feels that way. I suddenly know I’ll miss them and that a part of my life will now be wondering about them and how they are and what they are doing. It’s knowing that the people around you are friends.

That’s the part I liked best.

Well, that and the living dead sea mammals, of course. And my ray hat. And big hugs. And knowing we're all Kung Fu masters.

I didn't, however, like the part where my rear tire exploded after I dropped off QXZ and Walter. I guess twenty dollar used tires don't take well to five hundred mile long road trips!.....but it was worth it :-)

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