Hoedown in Hontown:

A fictio-factual account

It was a dark and stormy night. Well, acutally, it wasn't stormy at all, and mercury vapor lamps reflected brilliantly off huge piles of snow lying around the parking lot of the Tower Shopping Center on 41st street. (Baltimore has a 42nd Street, but it's in a different neighborhood, and isn't all that interesting except for having been the city line 100 years ago. So we make do with 41st).

As I pulled onto the lot, my mind raced with excitement, anticipating my first meeting with other noders ever. This excitement rapidly devolved into frustration finding a parking spot, as said piles of snow took up 3/4 of the spots on the lot. Eventually, I found a spot, although it was halfway to Catonsville.

For the thirteenth time in two weeks, I wished I'd brought my snowshoes. I suppose the scene was beautiful, in a grimy Baltimore fashion. I eventually made my way to a storefront with "Alissa's" picked out in green neon overhead. I walked through the door into a landscape of oak and hunter green. Hunter green wainscoting with an oak chair rail, hunter green tables with oak edges, hunter green carpet, waitresses in fetching hunter green outfits. The only flaw in the theme was a pathetic heap of misery huddled on a long oak bench against a hunter green partition. It was a person, pulled up into fetal position, tremblling and moaning.

My next step was to walk up to the sign, in hopes of catching a server's attention, and being led to the table of the people I expected to meet. This is when I noticed the sign said "Please seat yourself". There were many open tables and I was afraid there might be a repeat of the fiasco last spring when I wandered around all day wondering where everyone was.

But at that moment, the figure on the bench let out a particularly fearsome moan, and I turned back, thinking to ask if I could be of assistance.

The figure pre-empted me by a croaking a question. "Are you looking for E2?"

I was momentarily taken aback, but eventually replied, "Well, actually yes". A trembling hand extended in tentative greeting. "Czeano", came the choked, nealy inaudible whisper.

I introduced myself, but hurried off to find a waitress. She went in the back and got a stretcher, and between us, we carried my new acquaintance over to tow tables that had been pushed together for a large party, and laid him out on three chairs next to it. Panicked patrons streamed out through the door with the "Please use other door" sign on it.

"Will it be just the two of you?" "No, we're expecting at least four more." Czeano regained consciousness long enough to order a Sam Adams.

After a few sips, the figure who had looked to be at death's door not five minutes ago sat up and said "Please forgive me, I'm just getting over the flu." While waiting for the rest of our party, we exchanged the bits of information that are usually exchanged between new acquaintances. It was a long wait. Bob Turk, a local weatherman, entered the restaurant, ordered, was served, had dessert and coffee, paid the check, and left (through the "please use other door" door). Talk of noding and the WBAL sign sining out across the Jones Falls Valley died away, and "Where are they?" became the prime target of conversation.

Eventually, Czeano suggested we order our food, as it was the one act which was most likely to bring the rest of our party descending on us. Sure enough, no sooner did we order than a young man in a white shirt and tie came through the door, and told a waitress "I'm looking for some friends". Czeano called "Kensey?" and waved him over. The identification appeared to be correct, as he walked over and sat down. Our food arrived,

Just then, another man walked around the partition. Czaeno recognized this one, who turned out to be knile. His statement "So you're Gorgonzola. You look like my uncle" erased any trace of avuncularity I might have been feeling at the minute. A barbershop quartet was out of the question, as everyone was a baritone, so more gabbing and eating ensued. Stories of the bizarre people you met in college always help to pass the evening.

Eventually, we reached the stage of dessert and coffee. Except for czeano, who had been defeated by his chicken parmesean. Knile had to use his credit card, as the store wouldn't change Krugerrands. He also bought each of us a Rolls-Royce in commemoration, which I thought a nice touch.

We filed out of our meeting-place, soon to be marked with a granite plaque, and into the history books.