Swim to the light source, or fly like a moth,
and toss away stuff you don't need in the end,
but keep what's important, and know who's your friend.
--Phish, Theme from the Bottom
I knew I was coming from a co-worker's wedding reception. I knew that I would be arriving before czeano. I knew a few E2 names from the guest list. Other than that, I was going in completely blind--but at least I was going in well-dressed. Overdressed, it turned out. Having come from a wedding reception, I had a necktie on, and if one didn't notice my belt and combat boots, one might swear that I was a laid-back conservative suit.
Arriving in a smoky living room in zot-fot-piq's den of decadence, I realized that I didn't know anyone, and that jeans were in order. Introductions were made all around. I promptly forgot most of them, but managed to retain ideath, Becca, brainwave, ccunning, Void_Ptr, WonkoDSane, and zot-fot-piq's noder names, which was enough for me to (gradually) piece more names together later. Becca and I had a brief but animated discussion about her teddy bear's name as it related to my "real" name. I politely declined to be called by it and opted for Jurph or J.R.; I prefer Jurph, but noders are expected to have two names, I guess.
Someone with initiative suggested dancing--a trek was organized to Outland. I ditched my buttoned-up shirt and tie on the dance floor and improvised a choker out of a shirt garter. I didn't get a look at myself in the mirror, and in retrospect, I probably looked pretty silly, which my dancing probably didn't help. By the time I took my first break from the music, a non-noder who had come along was being flayed, and taunting the dominatrix. For those of you who have never had the pleasure, this is a bad idea. I volunteered for the electric chair--a van de Graaf set up next to the rack. My impressions:
The fatigue of a long day set in, and I settled down, and tandex's wife--soon to be my gracious host--told me about the really cool restaurant she's opening up near I-71. Now that I've had her cooking, I'm definitely going to eat there, just watch me and see if I don't. So there. The walk back was amusing--Becca had hiccups, the whipping boy was drunk, and I was getting sleepy. On our return to ground zero, I met some more noders--I remember aphexious being someone I hadn't met yet--and probably re-introduced myself to people I'd already met, and generally wandered about. WonkoDSane and I lucked out and scored beds at tandex's house with the cats that think they're dogs. Actually, Niles was the one that really blew my mind. I'm not a cat person, but HOT DAMN! this was a cool cat... I petted the cat for a bit, talked E2 with WonkoDSane for a bit, and slept for the other bits. I don't think I realized what I had gotten myself into, but it seemed like the potential for fun and insanity were there in equal parts.
"Upon us all, a little rain must fall."
--Led Zeppelin, The Rain Song
Woke up at nine-ish, after bad dreams about drowning. The cat by my bed spoke to me, but I'm not fluent in Cat. I showered, got dressed, and tandex and I passed the morning in pleasant conversation, with NPR in the background. Eric the Multifaceted dropped by with his wife Jeanette to help tandex and Stephanie and WonkoDSane and I prepare some of the catered food. They brought back some Wendy's for a late late breakfast... Mmmmmmmm, Frosty. I put my skills to work in the kitchen helping prep the veggies. Jeanette humbled me with her much simpler method of dicing tomatoes. WonkoDSane and I departed for the party, which, according to the warning label was not set to go off until 8pm. Dire Straits on the stereo--a good omen.
Czeano was the first noder I saw when I got in, and glorious guttural growls of "Dongtar!" were uttered along with the requisite hugs of recognition. I was stunned to note that I recognized other faces, and hadn't forgotten everyone's names. I remember a brief discussion about fireworks, which czeano recalls in much more detail. Despite the light mist and threat of rain, we--or damn near all of we--headed for the park.
Frisbees were there, and a balloon, and ideath with her indian clubs and juggling balls. An aerobie was in the tree, but that didn't last long. Some rope from my car, and Sane Guy's pinpoint accuracy caber tossing, and that thing didn't stand a chance. Nor did the tree, really. Agent Orange never defoliated this well! I suspect there were people who were enjoying tossing things at the aerobie more than tossing the aerobie to other people.
In between the various bouts of things getting thrown with high precision, I managed to actually get to know a bunch of noders. Books, movies, music, corporate law... it was all good. If I had to pick a moment of the party that I enjoyed most, it was that hour or two. Like the guy from that sci-fi flick, I realized it all at once: E2 is people! It happened while I was talking to ideath and Void_Ptr, or maybe aphexious and BAR and Protector of Mankind, or possibly neil--I felt the full impact of the idea that every noder has a whole life of stories to tell, and experiences that they share with the rest of us, and every node is a hopelessly inadequate expression of that, until you've met the person who wrote it and can see them in the situation. From there on out that day, I realized how amazingly cool it is to look through the eyes of someone totally unlike you, and realize that, by some quirk of fate, he or she sees a lot of the exact same things you do.
When the rain started to threaten us, most people left, but a few stayed back. Like Schroedinger's Cat, the aerobie came out of the tree as soon as nobody was observing the effort it took to remove it. A victory cry of "Dongtar!" was briefly rallied, but it didn't catch. As the people continued to arrive, the park group began to percolate through the house, grabbing snatches of face time and wisdom from passing noders, or settling like leaves into short-lived conversational piles.
Alcohol, forbidden by the state of Ohio's "open container" laws, was imbibed. I didn't partake, but I rarely do, and I didn't want to miss anything that might occur later. There were portabello mushrooms, and I almost missed out. There were cake and ice cream, and I did not miss out. Brassmule and Sane Guy went in search of miscellanea, to include alcohol and Pizzeria Pretzel Combos. I bumped into a guy who I recognized as Eric the Multifaceted, only he was airbrushed to a lovely golden sheen, like Doc Savage, Man of Bronze. We exchanged greetings briefly, I wondered about his "theonomist" name tag briefly, and then went out to eat my cake while he painted a bat on Clampe's face. The groceries got back, and I scarfed my Combos until ccunning suggested that I retrieve my amp and set up for our epic setlist of twenty or so half songs. When we set up, I didn't have any idea what to expect, but we had an amazingly supportive audience. ...until they realized what they were supporting.
We sucked in the grand style of all street performers who have never practiced. We sucked with pride and glory and audience participation and forgotten lyrics. We rocked.
We played such favorites as:
We heckled the audience, and we earned a quarter.
Around this point, karmaflux showed up. He really likes West Side Story. He named his Government Issue rifle Fibonacci, because its serial number was #235. He's a grunt, but he's not your average grunt by any stretch. Adding karmaflux to the mix at this point, along with the carload he came with, was like turning the "weird" knob up to 11. We talked military with the Pope and Neil, and it was educational to say the least--I'm just a lowly second lieutenant, and I learned a lot just listening. At some point, karmaflux explained to Becca what could happen to him if he disobeyed my direct orders. Honestly, until that point, I didn't understand what it meant to be in charge of--and totally responsible for--someone.
I went back inside, talked with more people, had another Coke, continued to marvel at the density of cool people. Girlface and I talked about India and the Atlanic Ocean and whale watching, and Void_Ptr and I climbed around on the outside of zot-fot-piq's Yellow Brick Noder Shell, leather booty and all! I had a stunning (actually incapacitating) burst of deja vu from a dream I'd had almost a year ago. At this point, things get hazy in my mind: did Gone_Jackal and karmaflux get in the pudding pile before or after Rocky Horror Picture Show? Did the Pope give me South Dakota before or after zot-fot-piq reluctantly agreed to let me place an inferno inside a beer bottle? Who didn't I manage to talk to? What was the song playing on the computer upstairs? Was that stand/alone/bitch who taught me to say "Where are my pants?" in Hungarian? I remember taking a mouthful of 151 rum and breathing fire briefly. That was fun.
By the time I got back to tandex's house, I had already begun to forget things, muddle them in my mind, and I had to refer to the journal I brought for details. Even there and then, the answer to "what next?" was: talk, and listen, and listen, and talk. After one last really cool conversation, I fell asleep almost instantly, and dreamed of the ocean and a desert.
Again with the cat in front of my face. Again with the paws. Hmmmm.... breath tastes like Pizzeria Pretzel Combos. Brush teeth. I managed to snag a ride with Morgon77 and his Delaware Destroyer back to the Short North. Great bumper stickers and a smooth transmission. Not quite WonkoDSane's rented Mustang, but WonkoDSane was, at the time, easy to measure, and I had a car to load. Tandex informed us that there were breakfast reservations for a party of 20 at 2pm. I love America.
Upon returning to the party, I found that everyone was still there, and the party was still groggily going on. I mean: everyone. Well, I think czeano bugged out. I went out back, found my Pizzeria Pretzel Combos that I'd left neatly sealed in their waterproof bag during the night's rain, opened them again, and scarfed a few. Brassmule, bless his soul, was entitled to a handful or two, since he'd bought them for me--nobody else seemed interested in sodium and cheese that early in the morning.
After trying, in vain, to convince aphexious, BAR, and Protector of Mankind to join us for breakfast and convoy back with me on I-70, I packed my gear back in my Honda Accord, including the mix tape Girlface gave me and a robin's egg that I found while talking to Gamaliel.
I pulled my car back up to the party when it was announced that the breakfast convoy was leaving, and took on one passenger. I was third in the convoy, so what could possibly go wrong? The two cars in front of me split up. I decided to follow the leftmost car--it was Bart, our host, so he had to know where he was going... right? Right. He knew the route so well that he had shaken me in about 4 blocks. I tried faking it--but I should have known: Faking it with a cute girl makes you both look silly. That is to say, I informed Void_Ptr that I was winging it, and trying to lead the convoy to glory or breakfast. Glory must be south of Columbus, because I missed the exit for breakfast and kept losing latitude. At a fortuitous red light, Sane Guy flashed his headlights. I believe he was behind Xamot, who had elected to trust my driving, too. Foolish mortals.
I'm shocked that I couldn't feel the XP bleeding out my ears--Sane Guy was cursing me left, right, and sideways for missing the turn... but still following us. He pulled around and took the lead, and life was good once more. I'm glad he stopped us when he did, or we might never have eaten. On our (correct) way to the Starliner Diner, Void_Ptr and I discussed National Missile Defense, trophy girlfriends, dyslexia, and how her brother is a shoo-in for the Naval Academy.
The Starliner Diner was The Paper Moon Diner meets Holy Frijoles--great breakfasty food with a Cuban flavor, slightly overpriced, but huge portions. I ordered the blueberry banana pancakes, sat between mordel and brainwave, and we talked about how nodes grow up, how noders grow up, and how strange it was that
- We all met on "The Internet,"
- we had only met each other face to face, for the most part, yesterday,
- we were, nonetheless, all friends.
Weird, neh? The food was great, the check was huge, and the tip was almost as big. E2 is a good customer. Conversation died down, seats were shuffled, and the party revved up again, quietly, in the parking lot. At this point, I had to say my goodbyes and get back to Fairborn, OH. So, how do you say "goodbye" to forty complete strangers you met less than 48 hours ago? Hugs. I could rant on this for hours--about how people are afraid to hug each other, how homophobia has made us all idiots, how Europeans know how to hug--but I won't. I'll just say that Everythingians are some of the coolest people I've ever met, and I've never met so many awesome people in so short a time span.
The drive back was good and bad: there was so much to think about, and my good mood to revel in, but there was nobody to share it with. It was a long hour and a half. When I got home, there was a /msg from a noder wishing me a safe arrival.
E2 is people!
/me gives zot-fot-piq his Alfred E. Neuman mask, his Sergio Aragones backdrops, and a Spy vs. Spy hat. That's right... MAD props.