Saturday was the last time the Otakon staff met before the convention, a session traditionally known as the Panic Meeting. It was held at the Holiday Inn in Baltimore's Inner Harbor. The Gryphon and I got a ride down with The Dormouse on a wretchedly hot day, which is probably what we can expect at Otakon itself in a couple weeks.
Paper flower made by an Otakon staffer
The Gryphon and I haven't actually attended a lot of Otakon meetings this year, because we ran into a number of scheduling conflicts. But this is typically one of the most important meetings.
We arrived in time for the board of directors meeting, which The Dormouse had to attend as a member at large. The Gryphon and I chose a seat in the back close to an electrical outlet, because I wanted to be able to use The Gryphon's laptop during the meeting. I am, after all, a chronic multitasker.
My main purpose for the meeting was to connect with my supervisor, The Pottermaniac, who will be running Press Relations this year. Unfortunately, she is currently out of town, as I learned from The Godfather, who is the head of Guest Relations.
A lot of people showed whom I hadn't seen in person in a while, and it soon was standing-room only. I was surprised to see one person in particular, though, The Actor. While I know that he helps with Philcon every year, I had no idea he'd been tapped to help with Otakon, as well. I gave him a hug and asked how they'd managed to talk him into it. He told me he'd be helping with the LARP (Live Action Role Playing), which is run by The Cheshire Cat and The Dormouse. So he should have a relatively drama-free weekend. Actual drama, that is. Fictional LARP drama, though, he's likely to see oodles. He took a seat at the table in front of us.
It was good to see people. Of course, most of them seemed preoccupied, focused on their upcoming duties at Otakon. I wasn't feeling terribly sociable, either, because I was suffering from indigestion. This was doubly frustrating because we'd eaten at home, and I'd had a fairly typical breakfast of frozen whole-grain waffles, yogurt with a little wheat germ mixed in, and some fruit. The only difference from my normal breakfast was that I'd had some rather strong coffee. Lately, strong coffee in the morning has been enough to throw me off for most of the day. This is odd, because I drink it every evening to stay away while I do my work, and it doesn't bother me a bit then. I swear I didn't used to be so delicate!
My ex-boyfriend, The Invisible Man, couldn't find a seat, so he stood near the door. It was a perfect spot for him: he could view all the action and yet remain relatively unnoticed, as he prefers. A keen observer, he noticed something was wrong with me, and asked me why I looked so sad. I told him that I wasn't feeling well and that I was stressed about getting the next issue of Wild Violet out. "But you like doing this, right?" he reminded me.
Perhaps it wasn't the best idea, when we had lunch, to follow a crew of people down to a new place nearby, California Tortilla. As the name implies, they offer Mexican food with a California flair. We went with The Actor and a couple of people from Spec Ops, whom The Gryphon got to know quite well when he was the head of Human Resources.
I ordered one of the vegetarian burritos, the Spinach Burrito. If I'd known it included sour cream, I would have told them to hold it, but at least it didn't contain an excessive amount. The burrito was crammed full of rice, beans, spinach, and onions. It was much more filling than I'd expected, so I was glad I hadn't taken the cashier's suggestion of making it a "combo" by also ordering tortilla chips.
We took a seat in the upper level, which was a great place to sit: our little brightly-colored balcony, soon resounding with our conversation. We swapped recipes for things like chili and guacamole. I'll have to get written copies at some point.
When I have indigestion, the only thing that makes it better is taking some over-the-counter medicine, such as Gas X. Over time, it does get better, but every time I eat it worsens a bit. Truly, I don't think the burrito was to blame; it could have been any food. So after lunch, I was once more feeling miserable.
It doesn't help that I've felt increasingly stressed out yesterday. The year seems to be flying by, and I've always got more personal projects going than I have hours in the day. Plus, there are daily priorities, such as exercise, pet care, running errands, cooking and cleaning. My valuable personal time, it seems, always gets eaten up. Sometimes these unfinished tasks whirl inside my head, spinning and spinning until I can't even think straight. I wish I could afford to quit my job and focus on my writing and editing full-time.
Back to the meeting, which covered many important topics, such as finalizing the master schedule for all departments, conveying information about hotel registration and other staff bulletins, announcing the final guest lists and special events. It was hard for me to hear a lot of it from my seat in the back of the room, next to an open door. This was exacerbated by the fact that people had spilled out into the hallway, either having private meetings or socializing loudly. I'll have to find out from The Gryphon if I missed anything important. He tends to be more connected than I am, even though he's no longer head of Human Resources.
Like last year, he'll be helping Doc the Stampede run Industry Relations, a subset of Guest Relations. We are both under the same section chief, The Godfather, who runs Guest Relations. Of course, in Press Relations, our job is twofold: to facilitate press access and to help guests connect with the press for interviews.
There were some pleasant moments at the meeting, as well. I got to see The Hugger's new camera, the latest version of the Canon Powershot. I pulled my Powershot out to compare. Hers is sleek and pretty with twice as much resolution and all sorts of special features. I want one. I can't justify it right now, but I'll put it on my wish list.
I got to meet the newest arrival to the family of The Laughing Man and The Scrapbooker, who also have a little boy, about 5, and a little girl, who's 3. The youngest addition is an infant girl, and she seemed so delicate that when I picked her up, I was ready to cradle her head. Surprisingly, she's already very good at keeping her head upright. She's probably already striving to do everything that her brother and sister do.
Even at this age, you could see how much she resembles her parents.
Their older daughter was also at the meeting, running around and being her bubbly self. By the end of the day, she started to get cranky, having missed her nap. She was lying on the floor kicking me while other people were cooing over her sister. I wasn't sure if she was kicking because she was tired or jealous. I told her that kicking wasn't nice, and she stopped briefly but then started again. The Laughing Man told her to stop. When I asked if she'd missed her nap time, he agreed that she was tired and told her to crawl in the small closet nearby with a blanket and rest. She lay there, sucking her fingers, watching us quietly. But it was way too exciting in that room to sleep!
I got to see some other people in person, such as The Cosplayer, who I'm sure will be dreadfully busy at the con. She was head of publications this year. While I'm not sure what's she's doing at Otakon, I'm sure it will be important. She, too, might be in Guest Relations, like she was last year.
When the meeting was over, a bunch of us got together for dinner. In addition to me and The Gryphon, the group included The Dormouse, The Actor, The Punster, The Cheshire Cat and his wife, The Paper. I had to wait for The Gryphon to finish meeting with Doc the Stampede, and then we joined the others in the lobby.
Our friends had requested a restaurant guide from the front desk and been given a guide to Baltimore, with maps and all. From this, The Punster had selected a BBQ, steak and seafood restaurant called Milton's Grill, several blocks away on Charles Street. By the way, Charles Street contains a lot of restaurants, so if you're ever in Baltimore wondering where to eat, head for Charles Street.
Just as we left the hotel, I heard my name mentioned in conversation, so I asked The Gryphon what they were discussing. "We were just talking about how cool you are." The others asserted that was, indeed, the case.
Still lost in my thoughts about all the things I should be doing, and how I hadn't accomplished very much this year, I said, "It's interesting to hear what other people think about me."
The Cheshire Cat said, "Speaking of what other people think about you, I do consider you to be a blonde." He was referring to my entry last week, where I observed that nobody thinks I'm a blonde any more, due to my darkening hair.
"That's because you knew me when I was still blonde," I said. Ah, to live again those glorious college days of natural blonde highlights. Of course, that's only because I had no air conditioning and walked everywhere, so that my sweat-dampened hair lightened in the sun. So maybe I'll stick with the air conditioning and the darker hair.
The walk to the restaurant was longer than we'd anticipated, especially on a hot day. Along the way, we passed some production trucks for a movie (you'll pardon me if I don't remember which one). This is a frequent sight in Baltimore. The Actor regaled us with stories of his work as an extra in several films shot in the Philadelphia area, which made the remaining few blocks seem shorter.
The restaurant was colorful and air-conditioned. The waiter was outgoing and tried to involve us in conversation. When he asked what we'd been up to, we told him we'd been in a meeting all day. "That's not interesting," he said. "Couldn't you make something up?" We asserted that it was, indeed, interesting because we were helping to plan one of the biggest conventions in Baltimore, due here in a few weeks. When he found out it was Otakon, he got excited and told us he loves to see the cosplayers. We told him he should come by and check out the convention, maybe on Sunday when he can do a one-day pass.
I ordered the crab cakes, which is one of their specialties. It was served with a gargantuan sweet potato, which had already been cut in half but was still as big as a regular potato. It also came with some summer squash. I couldn't finish all the veggies, so I had them boxed up, with half of the sweet potato.
Over the course of dinner, we took turns telling Otakon stories to The Actor, who is new this year. I cautioned, "Don't scare him away." Instead, he seemed fascinated by all of our war stories. Of course, he's worked at other conventions, so I'm sure he knows about the kind of craziness that can result.
[NOTE: As I'm dictating this, in my car on the way to the gym (yes, multitasking), there are two guys riding in the back of a heavy construction pickup truck ahead of me. The mud flaps say Lancaster Truck Bodies. I feel like I'm back in Central Pa. Both of them are young guys wearing white T-shirts, and they're staring at me. Maybe they're the sons of whoever runs the business, who apparently doesn't value their lives.]
We had an uneventful ride home, during which I got a call from my sister, informing me of the latest news in my family. My mom's dog, Sunnie, is undergoing surgery today for breast cancer, so anyone who loves dogs, please be thinking of Sunnie and of my mom.
Stress is not good for the digestive track.