HOT DAMN. Well call me "Chris" and gnaw on my arm! (Oh wait, someone already did that.)
What a really fun 4.5 days that was. Yessiree, my noders-met-ometer has been kicked up really high as a result of this gathering, and I was happy to meet each and every one of you. (Even the ones where I said "Who? Ahhhh." in response to your informing me of your E2dentity. I think I just coined a new term. E2dentity. Go me.)
Driving north from Atlanta on Wednesday, I call Bart once I reached Cincinnati to find out where the hell I was going. I get directions, and eventually just call him back to get turn-by-turn instructions until I see him waving on his steps. I park in the lot across the street, and make my entrance. Over the next day or so, noders continued to arrive. I saw many new faces, and a few familiar ones. Prior to this meet, I hadn't met that many noders in person, and it was nice to up that count. As I came across person after person I was meeting in person for the first time, I realized something.
I already knew most of you.
Of course, I saw many friends that I had already met prior, but I also immediately connected with some brand new old friends.
I know of no other community where, upon meeting someone for the first time, we can immediately jump into conversations as if we were friends for years. The thing is, we all share the common thread of E2. While writeups give a glimpse into what a person is like, talking to a person (say, on IRC) goes a lot farther in establishing relationships. And then the gatherings fill in the final variable of the equation - meeting in person.
There's also the experience of meeting totally new people; those who share the same happiness that comes from E2, but haven't necessarily crossed paths yet.
Memories that stick out, because I was stupid enough to forget a notebook:
Singing along to an impromptu group rendition of Dancing Queen on Bart's porch with Qeyser leading the song and playing guitar, and seeming to be the only other person who knows all of the lyrics.
Borrowing a really silly sign from a nearby pizza place.
Watching WonkoDSane inflict movie-monster-like terror on an unsuspecting 747 by catching it mid-flight, ripping off the wings one by one, repeatedly smashing it nose-first into the ocean, and taking several bites out of the fuselage - all in stiff, monster-like movements.
Photographing every fucking thing and person in sight, amassing one hundred forty-three pictures total.
Discovering a new favorite state park.
Seeing Void_Ptr dressed for a night on the town in a duct tape top, with flashing blue nipples.
Seeing Pyrogenic dressed for the same night on the town in a black leather corset and matching miniskirt.
Chasing Cow of doom in an attempt to retrieve an aerobie.
Meeting what seemed like hundreds of other noders, all named "Chris".
Tasting, for the first time, the foulest of foul swill known as Pabst Blue Ribbon.
Experiencing the effect of wind chimes inside my head by standing in the kitchen, with a grill rack tied to my fingers which subsequently plug my ears, and jessicapierce gently running a fork over the grill rack.
Hearing lots of well-written writeups spring to vocal life thanks to Walter's Node Slam, and many fantastic noders and their writeups.
Sitting outside, talking to Spackle, WonkoDSane, and panamaus in the (sort of) cool night air.
Having Chihuahua Grub tell me to "Shut the fuck up, God Dammit!" because I didn't know he was about to start node slamming.
Seeing lots of friends again, many of which attended The Whiz-Bang Atlanta E2 Party, or Get your ass to Mars: an Atlanta E2 gathering (Whizbang the Second Coming).
Meeting Void_Ptr, because she's just so "fucking fabulous."
There's more, but it's all swimming in random patterns through my brain. Realize that I thoroughly enjoyed every minute of the gathering, and it will take a lot to make me forget any of it. (Except the stuff I've already forgotten, which, is to say, not a whole lot.)
Gatherings are a wonderful thing. They allow us to take our online relationships into the real world, and enjoy the physicality of actual, interpersonal contact. When each of us gets home, we will return to our normal, established methods of communication with one another, and continue our friendships... until we can meet in person again. Probably at another gathering.
You're all my friends. I miss you.
See you tomorrow.