8,000 cherry bombs and brain cells later:
The Florida Gulf Coast New Year's aftermath.

Bryan, Ken, Ted and I left New Orleans at 11pm Friday night en route to Beacon Hill, Florida. We arrived at around 5 am to a house littered with sleeping noders. Some of us tried to find a space on one of the three levels of the building, and some of us could not sleep. I, like the Christmas morning, wandered from room to room, trying to recognize noders by the tops of their heads, the muffled and sleep-matted balls of hair peeking out of dozens of sleeping bags and beach motif comforters. In some rooms, you could smell the morning breath as soon as you opened the door, the warm barnyard smell of unwashed breathing. Mike and Miller were asleep on the stair landings, and some were sleeping on couch cushions from the pull out sofas. The snorers were so well sprinkled throughout the abode, you'd think it was done on purpose, so that the collective wheezings would gently lull you to sleep.

I walked outside to a screened in portion of the top deck to see the remnants of the previous night that we had missed in our timing. I saw Brian's Zippo, many packs of cigarettes and half empty bottles of beer, red plastic keg line cups, and a bong. Yes, I surely had the right place. I tried to sleep a little, and Ken and I were up a bit before other noders began becoming aware of our shuffling presence. Ken contended that he had been up over 24 hours and didn't see a time coming when he would sleep, but as soon as Indra363 moved from her small space on a wicker love seat in the living room, he snarfed it and passed out for some time. I stayed outside as smoking noders began coming to tend to morning bidness.

Jared was one of the first ones to awaken, likely since he was right next to the sliding door leading to the smoker's corner and we kept having to walk over him to get out. He shook my hand and told me it was good to see me again, and that made me feel really special, that he remembered me at all. It had been over a year since I last saw him, when I attended my first real gathering in NYC in September 2000. Then Josh and some others began to surface and slowly the house began to stir. I again went from room to room to see who had been up asking, "Hi there. Who are you?" Many hugs were dispensed. Soon there was bacon and eggs. I had to learn how a Braun coffee maker is different from standard coffee makers: you pour in the water to replace the water that's already in there and kept hot for the next pot. Needless to say, I made a mess learning that.

There was/were:

• Many many empty cigarette packs that were decorated with wild designs in black Sharpie marker, most or all of which were done by Josh.

• A handful of ashtrays made from soda cans by Josh and Carla.

• A Lego robot which was guided via remote control/laptop. At some point, a soda can ashtray was put on top of it and it was programmed to make rounds toward noders on the deck.

• A suitcase full of Legos.

• A humongous wheel of 8,000 cherry bombs.

• 5 games of eatpoopyoucat.

• One glass bong with a Lego monkey (which had a Lego helmet from a Lego stormtrooper) stuck in the bottom.

• Several handfuls of shells picked from the beach and seemingly forgotten once they were laid on the deck's railing to dry.

Most of Saturday was spent smoking, munching, lounging on the decks to take advantage of warm sunlight, laughing, talking, and walking on the beach. Lee was gearing up for a big fish fry and had been gone for several hours getting oysters and whatnot. Many were still sleeping where there were extra beds, since the agreement was that if you got a bed one night, you were on the floor the next to keep the rotation fair. Sometime that day, David announced that the owner of the beach house wanted to show it to a potential buyer the next afternoon, and since the house is only supposed to house 8 (instead of the 30+ it was currently holding), some major cleanup was needed.

The fish fry was amazing. We had fried shimp, boiled shrimp, fried grouper, raw oysters, tempura fried vegetables, beer, and hush puppies. Then the smoking and drinking re-commenced. Lee gets major props.

I brought some peppermint massage lotion with me and later on in the night, I got to watch Pyrogenic being lulled into massage ecstacy with Kara doing one hand, me doing the other, and cahla working his toes. Back and scalp scritches were randomly passed around by yours truly. I was offered at least one marriage from those. Scritches is good.

I passed out, being the maw-maw I am, so I missed out on the late night run to a diner where the phrase Your condiment skills are making me randy! was uttered. More to follow on that.

The following morning, we were supposed to start cleaning up the house for the realtor, but we were called out on the beach for a group meeting. We were told by David that the house owner's dad lives 3 house over and was quite concerned about the noise, number, and length of the deck conversations the night before, not to mention the 9 cars in the parking lot. In addition, we were also told that there would be no one on the beach after 1am, especially if they are naked at the time (The second letter of the English alphabet is B. Think about it.) The tour of the beach house had been cancelled as a result, but we still needed to clean up more and be more attentive to our number and presence in the resort.

Later in the afternoon, Ted slept out on the beach while most of us went to a seaside diner that didn't serve alcohol on Sundays. Half of that party went on to tour an island that was supposed to have a lighthouse on it but didn't, while I went back to the house with the others to chill.

That night was just more of the same: drinking, the arrival of TheDeadGuy with non-noder friends, and the later arrival of WonkoDSane, radlab0, and SundayGirl. Ted, drunkenmonkey, Mitzi and I went out to the same diner the gang had went to the night before, John Boy's. I was still recovering from the bout of smoking earlier and was quite giggly, right up to the point where we got pulled over on the way back for going 66 in a 45. Luckily we were stopped by Air Force patrol, so the cost was $50 instead of the $283 ticket David got on his way back from my gathering on the same stretch of road. Still I had to fight the giggles in the car.

When we got back, Wonko had already arrived with 4 cases of Shiner Bock. We hung out for a little while and then packed up the car, said our goodbyes and headed back the New Orleans, arriving there at 6am on New Year's Eve.

Throughout the weekend, the overall feeling I got from the gathering was how good it was to see new people, people I've been wanting to meet, people I'd met either at my gathering or other gatherings. It felt so good to be included, to have people want to meet me, to have everything be so mutual among us. Since it wasn't my gathering and I didn't have to be the sole denmother (though I still couldn't not do my part at times), I was able to relax and be more sociable. I tried to say hello to everyone, even if I didn't know everyone well. It was a vacation I sorely needed, and Ted is to thank for getting us there in such good time and good company.

Things about noders:

galt is one of the quietest noders with the most interesting and thought-provoking face.

cahla and pyrogenic are Wayne and Garth.

perdedor took pictures with everyone's cameras when they weren't looking.

One of my hand massages, according to panamaus, almost turned him to "the other side."

guinea pig has lots of change in his pockets and looks good in blue painter's tape.

ccunning, jethro bodine, and GangstaFeelsGood are skillful mooners.

radlab0, when she's around a lot of people and doesn't know how to talk to them, gives away small toys in the hopes they will forgive her for not being able to interact much (the people, not the toys).

Purple hair dye is hard to clean out of a shower.

Mitzi likes to have real, serious conversations; in contrast, making her snarf on every inhale is downright fun.

ccunning's ass is STILL all talk and no action.

brassmule has a nice chest and is adorable as hell when he's sleeping in a stairwell.

Infinite_Burn's leather studded choker looked equally good on Mitzi as it did on discofever.

With the help of a blue camoflauge bandana and a borrowed cell phone, GangstaFeelsGood looks like, well, a Gangsta.

ModernAngel and I have the same birthday.

Indra363 deserves a job that doesn't give random drug tests.

My homenode is too long, everybody says.

(More to follow)