"Of course you should come," said qousqous, "lots of low level users go to gatherings. Besides, you have already met Flaming Death." As though that awkward half-hour in ideath's kitchen were some sort of baptism by temporary tattoo: I have met noders, therefore I should meet more noders. Hmm.

Still, I was curious, and part of me really did want to go. I almost backed out a hundred times, right up to the night before, but Saturday morning found me at qous's house, as the Portland Caravan converged. We loaded into vehicles (Wonko, Unless, qousqous and I in one car, dwyn, ideath, and moJoe in the other) and set off. I eyed Wonko warily as his spedometer crept into triple digits, but no major catastrophes happened. Qous and I suggested Spiffy's for lunch, the restaurant being a favorite among our friends. The food is not especially notable, but 1) it's called Spiffy's and 2) it has the largest and most interesting collection of religious tracts I have ever seen. By this time we'd gotten over the "these are strange people I don't know" factor and become a group of people traveling/hanging out together. The whole weekend I was surprised at the ease of this transition. I often forgot that I had only met these people a few hours before.

We made our way to the Seattle Center, where the gathering gathered itself. Introductions here were strange, because no one knew who I was but they were soon introduced to my sad lack of artistic ability via the illustrations to Flammendes Wiesel. The afternoon blurs together. We rode the monorail, I hunted for an ATM that would actually give me money, we wandered the streets hand in hand, played games in the grass, and eventually found ourselves eating dinner at the Sit 'n Spin. Qousqous, Flamingweasel and I played Sorry! I don't know what it is about this game, but everyone always has 3 men home while I still have 3 men in start.

Chez Weasel. The evening was pretty mellow. I watched movies, hid from the webcam, and helped qousqous make sushi. WonkoDSane gave me a juggling lesson, and in order to spread the love, bestowed upon me my own set of juggling balls, that I may practice on my own time. Whee! I didn't get to see the troll; I did get to play Eat Poop You Cat. I didn't know that I knew all the words to The Princess Bride until I found myself reciting them with everyone else. It was a laid-back night of noder love.

Sunday morning got off to a slow start. Being a bit late for breakfast, we headed to Dixie's for lunch. We got stuck in traffic. Dwyn and the people in his car would have to leave as soon as we got there, because he had a plane to catch. Only 3 of the 4 cars eventually made it to the restaurant - but it didn't matter because it was closed. Sigh. There was vehicular reshuffling as the Portlanders decided to stay and dwyn headed back by himself. We retrieved the people in the lost car and headed to the Hurricane Cafe. After lunch, qousqous gave a reading of Flammendes Wiesel while perched atop a newspaper dispenser.

We hung out a while longer Chez Weasel, and then qous and I were fetched by some non-noder friends of ours. We stayed the night with them, and took the train home Monday morning. (our ride had left early Sunday morning, and reportedly made the trip back to Portland in about 2 hours. Ack!)

"Of course you should come," said qousqous, "noders are cool." And of course he's right. Everyone was just nice. This was one of the coolest bunches of people I've met. Special compliments and thanks to flamingweasel, who was fabulous both as a host and just as himself.

Thank you everyone! Maybe I'll see y'all again in Portland.