Tampa Noder Gathering Aftermath...or...How I Learned to Handle Anml4ixoye's Hose
There once was a young noder (with some goofy MST3K-related username) who had posted a few writeups, leveled-up a couple of times, but never attended a noder gathering. Then, one day, in the hopes of meeting some of his e2 friends in person (and possibly fooling them into thinking he was 1337 and/or hardcore), he hopped in his tiny car and drove from Birmingham (the home of the Civil Rights movement) to Tampa (the home of the Buccaneers).
It's a story of a fantastic host, an incredible museum, a breezy picnic in a park, an afternoon spent developing sexual euphemisms for firefighting equipment, and much, much more...all from the perspective of an e2 newbie. (And somehow, despite that last part, it manages not to suck...at least, I hope that's the case.)
That's right, ladies, gentlemen, and hermaphroditic friends—look no further, for you've stumbled upon the Springian aftermath writeup for Anml4ixoye's highly successful Surrealistic Florida Adventure.
There but for the grace of conservative talk radio
As it turns out, Birmingham is about 8-9 hours away from Tampa. After the sixth or seventh hour of driving, I was doing fine, because, after all, I AM FRICKIN 1337 AND HARDCORE TO THE MAX AND SHIT. However, as I hit the eighth hour, my hardcoreness began to wane and I could feel myself wanting to nod off at the wheel.
So I did what any good hearted liberal does to keep himself awake: I flipped through the AM dial and found the most hideously conservative talk radio station in the land, maxed out the volume, and spent the rest of the trip being amused/horrified by various talk show hosts. Fortunately for me, Florida is (apparently) chock full of reactionaries with microphones.
One host decried the sorry state of our nation after reading a news story about how some college student somewhere had filed a sexual harassment complaint against her professor for fondling her breasts. Gosh, what a whiny bitch.
Later, one commentator went on a rant about welfare and how there should be no "safety net" for the poor. A caller, who identified herself as a single mother of five who received $10 in food stamps to help support her family, was told to "quit stealing money from the taxpayers." (That one nearly ran me off the road.)
Half of the time I found myself laughing at the radio, the other half of the time I was screaming at the top of my voice—you stupid motherfuckers, don't you realize...and the like. All in all, it was an excellent technique to keep the adrenaline pumping (one which I would suggest to any driver who has a strong stomach and no family history of heart trouble) and before I knew it, I was almost there.
Anml4ixoye and his labyrinthine apartment complex
Several months ago, Anml4ixoye has the opportunity to move out of his one-bedroom apartment and into a two-bedroom, lakefront townhouse while paying the exact same rent—a great deal of which he was wise to take advantage. The only downside to the whole thing is that now Anml4ixoye and his 4000 neighbors live in the oddest, maze-like structure of one-way streets and artificial lakes I've ever seen.
Though his directions were indeed accurate, they were daunting to read at first. I had printed them earlier in the day and now, my eyes blurred from hours of driving, I looked down at the piece of paper and read: At your first stop sign, make a right-left (it is a right followed by an immediate left to get you onto the inner road). Um, yeah...okay.
Fortunately, while I was driving in circles, the little worm from Labyrinth appeared, telling me "Don't go that way, never go that way..." Lemmiwinks provided me with his magical helmet-torch, and soon, after narrowly avoiding the lure of the Castle Anthrax and its Grail-like beacon, the path to freedom was clear. (Only I wasn't looking for freedom, I was looking for Anml's place...so, at the time, this wasn't very helpful.)
When I finally did finally happen upon Anml4ixoye's home I knocked on the door and was greeted with a smile and a handshake. He showed me around the place and soon it dawned on me: Wow, this is my very first noder's meet, I'm actually here, and I actually just met my very first noder.
I wanted to sit there and bask in the amazingness of it all, but all those bottles of water I drank on the trip began to call my name and I had to excuse myself to the bathroom. (So I now have the great distinction of knowing that the first thing I said to the first noder I've met was something along the lines of, "Hey, nice to meet you...so where's the can?" That's some classy shit, folks.)
Lemme take this moment to say a couple of things about Anml4ixoye. I don't want to start sounding all mushy and stuff, but this guy's a class act. I was the first noder to arrive Friday night (except, of course, for Anml, who lives there and thus arrives on a fairly regular basis), and he was already well into his preparations for the next day's festivities. He was planning our menu, gathering ingredients, flipping through a cookbook—but when I arrived, he stopped everything, asked if I was hungry, and threw a pizza in the oven for us to share.
Anml was extremely considerate regarding those of us with dietary restrictions. This guy was taking the time to cook for a bunch of people he'd never even met before, and yet he was still concerned about keeping everybody happy. I say this because, as a vegetarian, I've run across more than my fair share of people who find it annoying that I'm "picky" about what I choose to eat. It's always nice to meet someone who respects your beliefs and doesn't get all pissy about it. With Anml, it was quite the opposite: keeping track of the vegetarians (there were two of us at this event) was a priority, not a nuisance.
For risk of sounding like I want to marry the dude (too late, he's already engaged...see his homenode for details), I'll limit myself to one last thing: our amiable host came across as a very genuine guy. When I was talking with him—even as he juggled all kinds of cookware, threw things in and out of the oven, etc.—I got the feeling that this guy really wanted to get to know me, that he really was interested in who I am and how I came to be a noder on e2.
So by the time Billy and panamaus arrived, I felt I hadn't just met a noder; rather, I'd made a new friend.
Communing with the gods (or one of them, at least)
Being a relatively new noder, I had a googol or so questions to ask panamaus when he arrived. After we all sat down and got through the usual GTKY stuff, I initiated a volley of querries (that would continue over the next day and a half) that would have brought even the fastest database server to a grinding halt.
How did you become a god? How long have you been one?
What crazy bastard almost started World War III by deleting all the C!s off Ralph?
What's the real story behind Butterfinger McFlurry (because apparently the FAQ isn't exactly the whole story)?
Have you met nate and dem bones? What are they like?
What's [insert random noder, god, or editor here] like?
How does [insert random e2 technical issue here] work?
What was it like at the NYC Noder Compound?
What do you mean by, "Stop asking so many questions, you fucking freak?"
Why are you hitting me?
was very patient with me and answered pretty much everything I threw at him, and in reality, he didn't really hit me all that hard (or often). And such was the circumstance under which No Springs
was educated as to the history, inner-workings and underpinnings of everything2
. And yea, his eyes open to the light of the world, young Springs
realized that he was truly blessed...but he wept, for with knowledge comes responsibility, and though the world seemed as brilliant and filled with mystery as ever, it was now just a tiny bit smaller. (Or some shit like that.)
Well, Hello Dalí
As the gathering's title suggested, our trip to Tampa would include a trip to the Salvador Dalí Museum in St. Petersburg. There we met up with Segnbora-t and tregoweth and toured what was probably the best art collection I've ever seen. (Of course, I'm a Dalí fan, so my account is admittedly quite biased.)
Like many casual Dalí fans, I was most familiar with his surrealist works, such as The Disintegration of the Persistence of Memory. So I was surprised when our tour guide said something to the effect of, "In this room, we see Dalí's early works and works of his 'transition period.' In the next room, we have work from his surrealist period. We'll skip most of that so we can get to his fourth period, the Classical."
Skip surrealism? What the hell was this guy smoking? But then I understood. Dalí's fourth period, the so-called "master works," were astounding. As I said, I was a casual Dalí fan—that is to say, I'd seen a few of his paintings and I'd liked the few I'd seen, but until that sunny Saturday morning, I'm embarrassed to say I'd never even seen a print of The Discovery of America by Christopher Columbus, Galacidalacidesoxiribunucleicacid (Homage to Crick and Watson), or even the famous The Hallucinogenic Toreador.
But while I may have been embarrassed at the time (having never seen, or even really heard of, these incredible paintings), I'm very glad my first experience was to see the actual works in person. As Segnbora-t correctly pointed out, prints of these huge canvases can't possibly show all the detail that Dalí put into them, including hundreds of (often small) hidden images. As tregoweth so aptly put it, "They're like paintings with easter eggs."
I could go on and on about this place, but I'll quit for now so I don't get too off-topic. (If you want to read more about the museum, you can always just go here.) Just suffice it to say that the museum is incredible and if you're ever in St. Petersburg, you should definitely check it out.
We left the museum and, after taking a few group photos, we piled into our cars and took off for a local park, where Anml4ixoye wowed us with the meal he had prepared. Pasta salad (with and without chicken for the veggies and the carnivores), fresh bread, and tomato soup with basil...with basil for Christ's sake!
You know, people say all kinds of mushy shit about "the simpler things in life," and for the most part, I usually think that kind of stuff is full of shit. But I can't remember the last time a group of friends and I packed a cooler, drove to a local park, threw out a blanket, and had an honest-to-god picnic. And, as clichéd as this sounds, it was a great day for a picnic. There was a cool breeze, no mosquitoes (or any insects, for that matter) in sight, a couple of friendly squirrels came by and played for a bit, and we even found a nest of parrots* in a nearby tree. I really expected someone to come by and start singing "zippity doo dah" at any moment.
*That's right, non-domestic, uncaged parrots actually fly around in certain areas of Florida! Maybe I'm naïve, but I thought they only lived in the tropics—and for the most part, they do—but here they were anyway, just sitting there, looking at us as if to say, "Hey, fuck you...I'll live in Florida if I fucking want to, you stupid fucking noder!" Hey, who am I to argue with a friggin parrot?
Gamaliel met us at a tourist trap called "The Pier," which was, surprisingly enough, a fucking pier with some shops and stuff. We stayed there for a bit, checked out the view and cruised some some of the shops, but we flirted with disaster when the group was cornered near the elevators by some stupid tour guide who wouldn't leave us alone despite our best efforts to shoo him. Only after Anml4ixoye hit the "elevator close" button frantically about 60 times did we finally manage to shut the door in his face and free ourselves from the his fiendish grip.
After the mystery and the majesty of The Pier™ wore off, we packed up and caravaned over to the next stop on our journey, the county firehouse.
Blowing one's load in full heroic attire
Though it was advertised in his original gathering writeup, most of the noders thought Anml4ixoye was joking when he said he'd let us play with his firehose.
But it turns out that our host is actually Deputy Commander Brigadeer Sergent-at-Arms (or some shit like that) of his county's volunteer fire department. Though we were warmly received by Anml4ixoye's friends at the firehouse, I think most of us kept looking around, somewhat expecting to be attacked by large men with axes (firefighters or lumberjacks, take your pick) as he gave us a tour of the inner sanctum of the firehouse.
Despite my unvoiced concerns that in this post-September 11th world, firefighters wouldn't take kindly to civilians screwing around with (and/or running off with) their stuff, Anml calmly started one of the larger engines, pulled it out of the station, hooked up a bunch of clamps and hoses, held aloft a set of firefighting gear, glanced at us and asked, "So, who's first?"
Billy was the first to rise to the challenge. And what a challenge it was. There was quite a bit of laughter from the peanut gallery as the brave noder stumbled while putting on the awkward fire suit, boots, suspenders, coat, helmet, gloves, et al. (The laughter died out a bit when Gamaliel, tregoweth, and I took our turns, losing our balance quite a bit—Jesus, this shit actually is pretty damn hard to put on, was heard on more than one occasion.)
With the exception of panamaus and Segnbora-t (the latter of whom I believe was worried that "in Florida, we don't let our women handle firehoses," which is certainly a legitimate concern), we all took a turn grappling with Anml4ixoye's hose. Not even at full power (a mere 100 psi), the hose was thick, powerful, and quite firm—and Anml assured us that among his set of interchangeable hoses, some were even thicker, as to accommodate an even greater discharge. Whew.
After having our fill of Freudian fun for the day, we caucused back at Anml's place and headed off for "Circles," a restaurant with an eclectic (but tasty) assortment of menu items (kind of a fusion of Thai, Chinese, and Italian cuisine, along with a ton of seafood and vegetarian selections).
Everyone was quite happy with the meal, and we sat around gabbing for a bit afterwards. Eventually Segnbora-t pulled out a bag of raffle tickets for her afghan project. tregoweth reached into the bag and pulled out the winner: yonder. Sadly, my suggestion that we keep drawing names until he pulled out one that said "No Springs" was ignored, so congratulations yonder, you're a wiener! :)
After the meal, tregoweth and Segnbora-t took off, because they had a long drive ahead of them. The rest of us headed back to Anml4ixoye's place to plot our next move.
Cruising for gay bars
Sylvar and turtlebat joined us for a short while at Anml4ixoye's house, after which those remaining took off for an adult arcade (read: place where we could get alcohol).
The adult arcade was a lot of fun, besides being a dramatic (yet welcome) departure from where I thought we were going... Though I still think I heard correctly, Anml4ixoye and Billy swear that they said, "Let's go to Gameworks," and not "Let's cruise gay bars." (My response being: um, okay...but...um...why?) Hmm, I guess I need to have my hearing tested.
We spent a few hours at the arcade, playing everything from Galaga and Ms. Pac Man to games that allowed you to pretend you were a truck driver and one game that allowed you to play what was essentially a Nazi gunman protecting the beaches of Normandy from encroaching troops. (Yeah, that last one disturbed quite a few of us.)
We hit Denny's for a quick breakfast and headed home, at which point Gamaliel took off and the rest of us headed to our respective sleeping bags. The next morning (er...check that, the next afternoon) everybody said their goodbyes and I hit the road (since I had the longest drive ahead of me). I can only assume that all the debauchery and other cool stuff occurred after I left. Damn it.
Miscellaneous assorted other stuff
Anml4ixoye's home was well-equipped for the noder meet, complete with Hello Kitty party favors. (The party favors were the kind that have rolled up paper tubes that extend when you blow on them...so, in a sense, we all got to blow Hello Kitty multiple times.)
On Saturday, Anml sported one of Roninspoon's Giant Squid and Knife-Fight Monkey t-shirts.
Butterfinger McFlurry was discussed, though none were consumed.
Lesbians were also discussed, as it is apparently the case that one of the noders at the party has turned three ex-girlfriends into lesbians simply by dating them (sorry, two is a coincidence, but three is a trend).
All your base are belong to us and soy also made appearances in various noder conversations.
It was determined by Gamaliel and myself that a certain phrase would be the next great meme to take e2 by storm. Shortly after we voiced this discovery, it was decided that Gamaliel and I should not be allowed to come up with any more memes, and we were forced to spend the rest of the evening with a lexan partition between us at all times to avoid any further nodegel contamination.
From the "It's a small world after all" dept:
Apparently panamaus, who used to live in Panama City, actually knows the racist tatoo artist I described in my Getting a tattoo writeup. (Actually, "knows of" is more precise...panamaus has heard of this guy because—big surprise here—he made the news a while back after he went to jail for killing somebody.) The venerable e2 god even remembered the guy's name (I can't believe I forgot this): Adam West! (So there's a racist alter-ego Batman out there somewhere in one of Florida's prisons....shudder.)
I had a ton of fun at this noder gathering. I met a bunch of really cool people and we hung out all day and through the night doing all kinds of cool stuff. So my takeaways are:
- I've got to attend another one of these, and soon!
- Indian River Fruit isn't as exciting as it sounds. (But that's another story.)
- I don't care if I'm hardcore or not; fuck driving. I'm flying next time.
All in all, my first experience with an e2 noder gathering was a blast. I hope to see you all again really soon.
Postscript: For those of you who are interested, panamaus has placed pics from the weekend at the following site: http://panamaus.org/gallery/Tampa2003