So I'm home again, ready to settle back into the daily/nightly grind of minor academic stress inflated by major procrastination. I slept through my first class Monday, skipped my Long Hard Slog biology lecture Tuesday, turned in homework late to every teacher I'd promised prompt and proper little scribbles, crashed at weird hours, and in general made a total muck of things in a state of post-inebriation and sleep deprivation for the past two days.

In exchange for this, I got to attend yclept's Loterific nodermeet feast extravaganza. I call it a bargain of astounding misproportions.

Transport from the stinking marshes of the flatlands to the realm of highways and highstrung truck-drivers was provided by Mr. I-know-every-damn-road-across-the-continent Wiccanpiper. I packed into a nice and cozy car with him, LaggedyAnne, BriarCub, and later eien_meru at about 4 a.m. on Friday morning, fully expecting this to be the Longest Car Ride of My Life. Anything but. The bunch of us chatted, sang, ranted, and mumbled our way across Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey with bare notice of the passing time. I'd like to request Wiccanpiper and his coterie for all my future travelling needs. Beats lost luggage and strip-searches from surly pseudo-cops by a bajillion.

Arrival at yclept's rustic cottage (well, as rustic as one can manage on the East Coast) clocked in at around 10pm. Those noders who had already congregated were breaking out the cheap wine just as we burst in, which was as good an omen as I could ask for. I poured something French and astringent, then mingled in a half-assed fashion trying to learn everyone's names.

Now, I'm not particularly good at names. There are people on my dorm floor I've talked to regularly for months whose names I still have trouble recalling. I'm that annoying person who never, ever addresses you by your name when he's trying to get your attention because I know everything about you except your name. I need a second to remember my own damn name. It's a perverse social deficit. Nonetheless, I was dead-set on making sure names were going to get tied to the usernames along with faces. So imagine my dismay:

"Hi.. I'm Chris, avalyn on E2."
"Hello, I'm cbustapeck, also Chris."
"I'm Chris-O, or just Chris."
"Heya, I'm Chris. Ysardo on E2."
"Chris. Not a noder, just Chris."

Etcetera. In all likelihood, I've forgotten and/or misattributed a Chris or three, but frankly I think forces beyond the ken of mere man were playing with me in a manner most cruel, so I declare the utter failure of Operation Don't be a Dork and Learn People's Names Correctly. Fair warning.

The evening was spent in a pleasant daze of intelligent and/or hilarous conversation with sundry nodertypes, including an especially riotous commentary on yclept's ornamental goldfish and his imposing brain tumor with either Scribe or Ch'i-Lin—I'm not quite sure which of you it was because I was ducking frunk by that time. Feel free to stab me with pointy sticks for the memory lapse.

Next morning Wiccanpiper whipped out his Pancake Mix of Doom and made us all some tasty weekend breakfast fare while people wandered out of bed, got themselves showered/sobered up, gathered firewood, and prepared the living room for movie viewing. I got to meet redbaker during this period after several conversations over the /msg-ing system, who proved just as cool in real person (and way, way too knowledgeable about U.S. presidents). Thereafter, yckie, Hyphenated, and two non-noders occupied the kitchen for seekrit cooking rituals not to be described by the uninitiated. The rest of us wandered in and out of conversation in a circle in the living room. And altusmens knitted. Continually.

Around 2pm, we gradually streamed up to the first floor to behold the utter madness that is yckie's cooking skills. She had charted out an edible journey from Bag End to the Grey Havens with thematic cohesion, a crazy feast of apple/pear pizzas, vegetable assortments, sashimi, guacomole, cured ham, roasted tomatos, turkey, s'mores carved into individual figures, dead marshes hummus, rocky-road fudge, Lothlorien cookies, breads and cheeses, and... I can't even mention it all. This was only the typical tastiness. More spectacular courses dominated the rest of the table.

There was the Gates of Moria fudge sculpture with ominously opening doors and belieing elven inscription (the terrible secret of this mini-Moria being that the fudge was so damn good I could only handle a little slice at a time). There was the One Ring cake, tengwar encircled, gold-coated, and oh so tasty. There was the Mt. Doom ice-cream concoction, which leaned a little too periously to the side and collapsed on itself most tragicaly when we didn't get to it quick enough in the course of the feast, but filled happy stomaches just as well. There was the lembas bread, the sweet, sweet lembas bread. Seriously, she has the recipe up, go make some for yourself within the next twenty-four hours. Besides being of an excellent filling quality and good by itself or with toppings, it also tastes and looks exactly how one imagines lembas bread. Yckie could discuss this edible invention philosophically. She is the uncontested master of lembas. There was a frickin' foot-tall Shelob made out of creampuffs. Serious chef-fu we're talking about here.

Of course, all this served the purpose of merely enhancing the Lord of the Rings experience. We got started around 2:30pm with the Fellowship and took breaks between each disk. In addition, folks meandered in and out of the room to grab more food or to rest up and talk during a lull in the movie. I myself spent a while talking with ameriwire, who stopped by for a spurt on his way to see friends further south. Gorgonzola made a similar brief appearence to prove that he knows more about Middle Earth than you ever will during the prize drawing. By the time we were at the third movie, it was well into the early morning and most noders had curled up in bed dreaming of balrogs and seeing stones, but I stayed the course long enough to get into a long and heated argument between yckie, Walter, Wiccanpiper, Julie and myself about the Scouring of the Shire and its merits as a book ending. Intellectual debates about geeky subjects at 5am rule.

Eventually it was time to head homeward. I trundled myself back into the car with the same entourage, forgetting pretty much everything important at yckie's house in my sleep deprived state (I'll get the postage for that to you soon Dale!). There was time yet for a few dozen inside jokes (And my grandmother... said the world... would end... in FIRE.) that grew progressively more nonsensical as the night wore on before WP brought me nicely to my doorstep and I crashed into bed, far beyond satisfied with my first stateside nodermeet.

Thanks all!

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