This weekend was Com Con, which is the annual winter retreat for Otakon staffers. Traditionally, it is both a working weekend and an opportunity to socialize.
I take a look at The Pirate's camera
The Gryphon and I drove up Friday evening, arriving about 8:30 or 9. Previously, our shared department head, The Godfather, who's in charge of Guest Relations, had requested a meeting in the public area of all available Relations staffers.
This year, we all had suites, because the retreat took place in Embassy Suites. Every room had a front area that was a living room/office, with a bathroom in the back. This would lend itself well to working or small meetings, if desired. After we unpacked, The Gryphon tried calling The Godfather but didn't get an answer.
We headed first to the meeting space to find out who had already arrived. We didn't see The Godfather, but we did run into some people who needed to talk to us about our sections. The Gryphon is helping to run Industry Relations, which is something he's done the last couple years. This year he should be more actively involved. I am the head of Press Relations and am hoping to find some more reliable, professional, independent people to serve on my staff.
I spoke to the head of Human Resources about a few personnel issues, and I also met this year's Chief of Staff. Then we headed over to the bar area to relax and wait for The Godfather. The first person to greet us was The Pirate, who was already deep into his cups. I got an interesting picture of him.
Then I spoke for a while to The Guest Handler. I'm calling him that because that's his function on staff. I've known him for a long time and enjoy talking to him about pop culture, about which he's extremely knowledgeable, even if we don't always agree.
For a while, we also spoke to The Ukulele Player, who has been a translator for Otakon for years and only recently joined staff. He's currently a member at large on the board. As members of the Guest Relations staff, they were also waiting for The Godfather, but when the time had come and gone, we kind of forgot about it.
Then, a hand landed on my shoulder, and I looked up and saw The Godfather. He apologized for having been so late, explaining that he'd had trouble getting there and then had stopped to get something to eat. We spent a few minutes talking about issues directly related to Press Relations, so that gave me some idea of what I needed to be doing. He told me there would be a full meeting of Guest Relations staff Saturday, after dinner.
We didn't stay up terribly late, because we knew Saturday would be a long day.
Saturday, the board of directors meeting didn't start until 11. The Gryphon had to attend, as a member at large. This meant we had quite a bit of time beforehand. I set my alarm and got up at a quarter of 8 to work out in the fitness center. The Gamer was already there, using one of the stationery bikes, so I had a workout partner. We talked and joked around as I used an elliptical trainer for about 45 minutes. We were also joined by the staffer who's in charge of phones this year. He told us he's striving to get an hour of exercise every day. Since he spent part of that time standing near the water cooler, talking to us while The Gamer and I worked out, I teased him that he was only exercising his mouth.
Then it was back to the room, where I changed into my bathing suit, and The Gryphon and I made for the hot tub. We figured it was the only time that weekend we would get a chance. We turned it on, but you couldn't see any numbers on the timer, since they'd worn off. We stayed in as long as we wanted, which coincidentally turned out to be exactly the amount of time we'd agreed to stay.
After changing out of our wet clothes, we headed to the breakfast area, where the hotel provides quite the spread, much bigger than any continental breakfast I've seen. It included several stations where you could get items like scrambled eggs, omelets, bacon, potatoes, grits, mini bran muffins, fruit, yogurt, toast, juice, coffee, and possible some things I didn't notice.
We joined The Otakon Lawyer and his wife, and as we ate they updated us on our friends Agent Smith and The Costumer. I went to college with Agent Smith, and the couple now lives in Northwestern Pennsylvania, expecting their second child.
Back in the room, The Gryphon took a shower and then headed off to the board meeting, and then I got a shower and spent some time on the computer, doing work for Wild Violet before the 1 p.m. general meeting. I arrived just as the board meeting ended, and The Gryphon and I took the opportunity to get a light lunch in the hotel restaurant.
Usually, in our meeting space, we're capable of doing things that involve Internet connections. But while we had slow, halting connectivity at the beginning, by the end of the meeting, it was pretty much dead, perhaps from overusage. Since I'm a multitasker, I looked through some submissions for Wild Violet, but I took notes of all the things that would affect my section as various speakers gave their reports.
Our new president, The Minion (whose nickname comes from back when he was lower in the organization), was good at keeping things moving, making sure to stick to the schedule, and we ended the meeting exactly on time.
After an hour break, everybody changed and returned to the same room, which had been shifted around for dinner. For several years, it has been a tradition that some members of the staff dress up for Com Con dinner, but about an equal number just wear whatever makes them feel comfortable. One tradition spanning back several years, though, is to get a picture of all those who did dress up.
A very nice staffer took the picture with several cameras, including his own, which has photo stitching software that will create a panoramic shot.
I have to spend more time experimenting with my new camera, since I'm not used to how the settings work. Hopefully, I can get a handle on it soon and start taking better photos.
Dinner was a buffet, and it included a wide selection of meat and vegetable dishes. I filled my plate mostly with veggies and also got a small amount of turkey. We sat with The Otakon Lawyer and his wife, The Godfather and his mom, The Guest Handler and a friend I'll call Mr. Mutton Chops, since he's had white mutton chops ever since I met him at Penn State many years ago.
Me and The Gryphon at dinner
The Video Editor and The White Rabbit
The Godfather brought us all cookies from the dessert table, correctly surmising there'd be a run on the dessert table after people finished their main course. We had a good time, talking about things like exotic foods.
The large room was then converted into three separate rooms. One end was the bar area, where people who had received green wristbands, indicating both that they were 21 and had paid the cover charge, could help themselves to an open bar. The middle section was for board gaming, and the far end was for videogaming. Many sections split off to hold planning meetings, such as the LARP staff.
(from left) The Cheshire Cat, The Plushie, The Dormouse, The Moogle
(back from left) Kapow, Batman
The Guest Relations staff tried to meet in the bar area, but it was too loud, so Doc the Stampede did a little scouting and discovered the conference room across the hall was empty. The Guest Relations meeting, once moved, was productive. I could tell we have a lot of good people on staff and are already making plans for a great Otakon.
Doc the Stampede in the Guest Relations meeting
Guest Relations staffers during the meeting
Immediately after that meeting, I was supposed to meet with Mistress Chimera, who is our Correspondence Secretary. She needed some information from me to set up an e-mail account which I can use as head of Press Relations. I also need to go through her to get access to the Guest Relations section of the Otakon Staff BBS.
I also spoke for a while with the head of Human Resources, and while I did so, The Gryphon took a nice picture of her.
The Gryphon had already begun socializing with some other people, and I refilled my wine and did likewise. I chatted with Batman, The Dormouse and a couple of their friends, while we played with some miniature cars and planes that someone had left on a table.
The Dormouse left to play Rock Band, and after awhile, Batman and I followed. When we arrived, The Dormouse was on vocals, rocking out.
Also playing was a new staffer I'd met several years ago when she was an Otakon member, helping with LARP. I've gotten to know her a little better since then. She's a petite woman who's very outgoing and likes to give hugs even more often than my friend The Hugger. She asked me what I'd call her on my blog, so I asked her if she had a preference. After thinking a few seconds, she suggested The Plushie, which suits her. I imagine she'd be one of those huggable bears you give people on Valentine's Day.
An old friend of The Plushie's who's practically a sister was also a new staff member, attending Com Con for the first time. The Plushie suggested I call her The Moogle (hope I'm getting it right), which I believe is an in-joke between them. She will also be on the LARP staff.
As I watched the Rock Band players, The Minion made an appearance in the room, sporting a jacket, button down shirt and cool shades.
We chatted about high school band experiences, and how much fun we had as band geeks. He was joined soon by his wife, The Corgi Mama (named after her love for her beloved, cute pet), and the two of them joined in Rock Band.
I checked out the board gaming room and saw The Gamer playing a card game with some of my favorite people. I asked if I could join, and they said yes. Also playing were The Gamer's Fiance, The White Rabbit, and a guy I don't know well enough to nickname (pictured here).
The Video Editor and The Cheshire Cat watched and made funny observations as we played Chrononauts, which I've played quite often with The Gryphon. This is a card game where you try to change the path of history to suit your own objectives. After having a couple glasses of wine, though, it's more difficult, because it involves planning and strategy and stuff.
Twice in a row, I received a mission directive that had me trying to legalize marijuana. I was close to achieving that end during the second game, where The Cheshire Cat had joined in. He figured it out and played a card that swapped my mission for a new one. Since I was basically starting over, I legalized marijuana anyway. Why not?
Another way to win is to collect specific artifacts, and I was supposed to collect the lost play of William Shakespeare. When someone else played that card, I joked that the play wasn't that good, because it was just slash fiction about a romance between Henry V and Falstaff. The Cheshire Cat and I kept that up as a running joke throughout the game.
At about 1:30, after the second game ended, The Gryphon suggested we get some sleep.
Sunday there were no activities planned, so we slept in a little and then had breakfast. We initially had a large table all to ourselves, but then we were joined by The White Rabbit, The Dormouse, The Cosplayer, The Godfather, The Guest Handler and a couple other Guest Relations staffers.
It was a merry little group. Instead of talking Relations business, we talked pop culture, primarily Dr. Who and Battlestar Galactica. I have little knowledge in either, so I just listened in and joined the conversation whenever I could.
Then it was back to the room for showers and to pack up. The common rooms were still open for several hours, so we headed there after checking out to see who was still around. The Gryphon got on Kodak Gallery and showed The Corgi Mama our wedding pictures, which she'd never seen. We also chatted a little longer with The Cosplayer.
The Pirate found us about noon and asked if we wanted to join him and some people for lunch. We all drove to the Outback Steakhouse, only to discover it was closed. Instead, we ate at Carraba's, which was in the same building. The lunchtime conversation was entertaining, as it always is when The Pirate was involved. He was regaling us with tales of the science of monstrously large numbers, such as Graham's Number.
At other moments, though, he was a little more mischievous (as is his wont), insisting that we were all considerably younger than him. One 30-year-old Spec Ops staffer, he said, was 19. I was 14, and The Gryphon was 29.
Then he turned to The Gryphon and said, "Shame on you."
It's possible to mix work and pleasure.