Josh Play Gay motss.con.ix: My reflections

Originally posted Jun05/96; updated Jul16/05.

[Note] Not all people I talked with or to are mentioned explicitly by name. This is not intended as a slight or insult; right now I simply hope I got to say at least more than Hello and Goodbye to everyone. (I suspect I didn't. With at least 86 attendees to speak of, I'm in fact sure I didn't. Maybe next year, OK?)


Tuesday, May 28th

Bear Pride and IML over, I invite a few people over for the 'Tween Cons Dinner. (Invitations were posted to the con96 and chi-motss mailing lists.) We wind up with six total for dinner and go through well over a pound of pasta (rotini) with most of the alfredo and tomato-with-beef sauces, a reasonably large salad with a homemade raspberry vinaigrette, and an entire (store-bought, I'm afraid) chocolate cake for dessert. (Ob-oenophile: The wine was a reasonable merlot, Buena Vista Carneros 1993.) A grand time was had by all, if the reactions of the guests (and their own commentary) is to be believed.


Wednesday, May 29th

Work. Drive to Gerry's then in to Chicago where Gladys, Goddess of Parking, is kind but not wonderful. (If you have to park anywhere near Eric's, remember to pray to Gladys:

Hail, Gladys, full of grace
Help me find a parking space!

I'll note that doing it in four-part harmony is probably better, but when you sing it, sing with feeling!) Great dinner (where the folks who're in town early — like Greg Havican and Leith Chu, from IML weekend, and the Amherst folks, who've driven in — join the Committee in a massive con.packet stuffing party). The con packets are stuffed and we traipse out around 11ish to let Eric get some sleep. We do leave him the packets, though.


Thursday, May 30th

Events begin today. I pass on the Brookfield Zoo — I'm not much of a zoo person, really, though the Brookfield Zoo's supposed to be very nice. I leave home around 10, drive to Ilona's (Hi, Ilona! Hi, Season!), park, walk the 8 or so blocks to the El, and go to the hotel.

Check in, meet motssers in the lobby, chat, offload luggage in the room, come back, chat more. Write up an events schedule and hide it under the glass top of the table by the windows. Run out to lunch with the assembled motssers -- a mediocre nearby grocery store-cum-delicatessen-wannabe, with Ned and Champ and Scott and Robert and John — and back to find more motssers at the hotel. Chat, visit, chat, schmooze, chat, flirt, chat.... A nice slow start.

I make the mistake of calling Ilona to chat about a few things (such as Sim's initial flight being cancelled, and wondering if she's heard anything — after all, he is her fiance!). Find out incidentally that her street, where my car's parked, is a tow zone for the entire weekend — surprise! I grab Derik Cowan (whose car is also parked on Paulina) and we head up to Ilona's to move our cars. Unfortunately, the City's already moved them for us. I ask the guy in the City vehicle what he suggests we do; he says to talk to the guy in the green shirt. I do. When I say that the signs weren't there (as Ilona told me on the phone), he says they've been there for two days (they weren't) and I must've been drunk when I parked there. (The putz.) I inform him coldly that he shouldn't call people either liars or drunks, especially with no evidence, and ask where my car is. He says to call the number on the sign. I do. After 15 or so minutes on hold (Derek, am I exaggerating here?) we find that the Chicago Department of Transportation has not yet received the faxes from the drivers of the tow trucks saying where they've towed the cars to. He suggests we call back in half an hour, but also that we might check a three block radius. So Derik and I walk down Paulina, across the cross-street, up Hermitage and in the block beyond Lawrence find our cars. Legally parked, no tickets, no fees. Wow. We drive back to the hotel in Derik's car, going via Eric's place so Derik can grab his and Jessica's and Beth's stuff and I can grab the con.packets.

We hand out the con.packets at the hotel in the afternoon/evening as guests arrive. Including an unexpected guest: Ilona's husband shows up, surprising the hell out of me (and most of the rest of those assembled). I suspect "You're not supposed to BE here!" is going to be the refrain for the next couple of days.

For dinner, go with the group across town by car to Greek Islands. There were about ten or so of us, all told, and we had a lot of very yummy food and wine. (No, I don't remember what the wine was; I vaguely recall it being both Greek and white. Ken? You ordered it, what was it?) After dinner we go back to the hotel to figure out what to do afterwards. A large group of people head off with Tim Pierce to visit piano bars and jazz clubs; I stay and chat in the lobby before collapsing upstairs. Oh, and rerecord the motss.con.ix Events Hotline with information for Friday's events, and put the Friday schedule on the table under the glass.


Friday, May 31st

Brunch is called for 11am, so a group of us meet in the lobby and take the El (and then a long walk) to the West Egg Café. We've got reservations for 15 or so, and 30-odd show up. (This should have been a hint. Yikes.)

Gerry Swetsky is to give a quick tour of the Frank Lloyd Wright Home and Studio for his houseguests and anyone interested, but the brunch bunch decides to stick with museums (a group heads to the Art Institute and a second group goes off to the Shedd Aquarium (Hi, Ri-Jen! Hi, David!)) and shopping (a group of us head off to Michigan Avenue for miscellaneous shopping. (The six of us left in my group enjoyed seeing Michaeltje in the too-large small stocking-mesh army camoflage muscle shirt, and Darren in the too-small large stocking-mesh army camoflage muscle shirt; neither bought 'em. (Saks at Water Tower Place.) We also managed to grab our freebie bags from Marshall Fields — for those of y'all who didn't get them, they contained an information card or two (repeated in the con.packet), two 10%-off-a-single-item Marshall Field's coupons, and a small Frango bar. Munched an afternoon snack at Water Tower Place, cruised the Borders bookstore (no action, darn), scandalized the Rand McNally folks, took pictures for biiig arnold of the rock from the Mammoth Cave in (I think) Kentucky) that's in the wall of the Chicago Tribune building, and headed back to Crate & Barrel (I escaped with only a wine rack extension) to meet the rest of the shopping group for a group trek back to the hotel. (We all felt like napping more than seeing the city from the Sears Tower.)

Lay down for a nap and got maybe 45 minutes of sleep, then back to the lobby for pre-dinner chatting. More folks have arrived (surprise!); a laaarge group of us brave the El and a cross-town walk to get to Reza's — the first official event of the con, after nearly two days! — in Andersonville. Three appetizers, soup, salad, five entrees, two rices, a pitcher of Coke, three or four pitchers of water, a bottle of 1993 Chilean merlot for our table, lots of conversation and food and fun. Urp.

Got to see Jeffrey kissing Kira's ass, the [rest of the] Jewish motssers present attempt to dance the Hora (I'm surprised we didn't damage the floor; thanks go to Steven Levine for teaching us what we were doing), and make some announcements and presentations.

We presented Scott Safier with a small token of our collective esteem for the defense of motss against the Bulgarians — a Bulgarian flag. Scott seemed rather flustered, much like Arnold when a similar presentation (rainbow flag) was made at the Lambda Rising bookstore in Washington DC at the '95 con. Seems as if the flag presentation is becoming an annual event at these things.

We — okay, Ilona and Ellen — also presented Melinda with the now-famous lopping shears. (They've posted about those in other threads, so I won't prattle on about same here.)

[...]

After dinner we headed over to the theatre for Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind, 30 plays in 60 minutes (well, 29.8 anyhow). We arrive — get this!! — EARLY!! So we stand and chat, and Ilona tells her true Mad Masterbator story with Tim Pierce's visual aids. (Tim finally did the reenactment without the boxer shorts, to the entertainment and dare I say joy of many (including the group across the street and one or two surprised motorists).)

Anyhow, the theatre gives us each a "You're sure to get in" preticket and tells us to go away for another 40 minutes or so. Several of us go to a bar, several to a coffeeshop, several to walk around. Me? I stayed with a small (but ever-growing) group of folks on and around a bus-stop bench. After conversation began running down we broke out the signs to flash drivers — 9.5, 9.9. 9.7, and a 3.4 from the Russian judge. (Vadim Temkin had the honor of that sign.) We even "flashed" Ilona and Season when they joined us. (They're really not cute. They're both way too EVIL to be cute.)

The show, when we finally got there, was good. (Ellen commented to me that it was one of the weakest that she'd seen them do; I enjoyed it nevertheless.) On your way in, you roll a 6-sided die and pay $3 plus the face value. They give you a nametag that has nothing to do with your name (I was "Flash"). You sit down, heckle the rest of the arriving audience, and wait for things to begin. I enjoyed the "Rapscallion" and "Safe sex" skits, as well as the "Deja Pirate" and "Three Men in a Tub" bit, quite a bit.

Back to the hotel, rerecord the motss.con.ix hotline message and post the information about Saturday. Go to bed worried about the picnic and the weather therefor.


Saturday, June 1st

Wake-up call at 8:20 from a local friend who, when he hears how gravelly my voice is (between the infection I'm on antibiotics from Bear Pride for and the little-sleep and lots of talking in loud crowds), decides I need my sleep more than he needs to meet me for an early breakfast. I try to get back to sleep but get a call from Tim Pierce, saying that the rain should hold off 'til 1pm or so, so we'll have the picnic at the lakefront after all. I rerecord the voicemail thingy whatsis and post that the weather is good and we'd be at the lakefront on the table (apparently making a fetching appearance in my International Male Step-Ins (and nothing else, even my glasses) in the lobby; I wasn't so unconscious as to forget to notice Jess' comment), and head back upstairs to shower and dress ("Ah, I feel wefweshed!"), meet folks in the lobby, and head across Belmont to the lake. Long walk. Even excluding the stop to get drinks at the Walgreens on the corner. Stinky walk; dead fish decomposing in the no-current-to-speak-of harbor. Ick. Exasperating walk; we get to the site and find nobody there. No Tim and Ellen (who have the food); no Gerry (who has the grills). Josh begins fighting the panic attack symptoms and scouts off with Ayana Craven and Pieter Hazewindus, finding Gerry as he drives up (in search of the rest of us and a parking space). We pile into the Jeep and drive off in search of a closer parking space. (The route I had Gerry use would've been ideal if that last gate hadn't've been locked. <Sigh>.) Drag the grills to the shelter and set 'em up. Tim and Ellen are here with the food by now (they drove in as we were parking in the new spot), so we unpack and start cooking.

All goes well until the drizzle starts; then it's everybody in the shelter with the grills in a corner. We cook until people stop begging for more food. Urp. (Ellen probably has the total counts of foodstuffs consumed.) Some folks begin playing volleyball; there's lots of chatting in small and large groups. Some folks go to sit by the lake and look out at the waves. Some just cuddle on blankets on the shelter floor. After a while, I head back to the hotel for a nap, walking back with a smallish group of motssfolk.

Whoops, forgot about the Belmont Street Fair — the block of Belmont between Clark and (uh, I think) Sheridan has been closed off for a street fair this weekend (Saturday and Sunday both). There are annoyingly chipper border guards blocking the entrance to the sidewalk. Even more annoying they want my money. I wave my hotel room key (the little plastic whatsis) and snarl "Hotel" and push past the obstructive folk. (To be fair, I don't go to the street fair. Nothing looked so wonderful as to make me want to go there instead of to bed to rest.)

After a brief nap, and lots of more chatting in the lobby, I lead a group of twelve of us through the drizzle to Arco de Cuchilleros (and after about two months now I can finally pronounce it!) for tapas. A little too loud, so I couldn't hear the far end of the table well (if at all). Food was most yummy (including their wonderful mussels in a cream sauce (prompting one at our table to ask me (ha! and I bet you thought I'm the one who said it!) if the dish represented Clay StealthSmurf Colwell after a particularly enjoyable session) and a seafood ravioli); conversation was very enjoyable.

Went back to the hotel and sent the men's event group on their way to the pub crawl with Eric, the women's event group on their way to the open house at Ilona's, the other event group on their way to the Halsted Street Café for the dance, and still had a dozen or so others hanging out in the lobby. So, I did the next best thing: I invited 'em all up to my room where, as Beth Linker has already commented in passing, I inflicted a small audio cassette on them: The Rocky Horror Muppet Show. I suspect I earwormed the attendees for life. (I won't do it again here, but I will say that neither Feelin' Groovy nor Ode to Joy will ever sound quite the same again. <innocent look>.)


Sunday, June 2nd

Gorgeous weather — perhaps a little warm for the black jeans I'm wearing, but the lighter blue ones are muddy from kneeling at the picnic. (From kneeling to unwrap foodstuffs, silly. I did comment to Ellen that I was on my knees at the con and nobody was standing in front of me, Sigh. She offered to get someone to help, but I declined (silly me).)

Pager goes off at the ungodly hour of 07:36. Work can't get the trouble ticket database server to come up, so they page me — even though (a) it's not in my area of responsibility and (b) it never was and (c) even had it once been it was over a year ago (Oct/94 to Jan/95). Seems I'm the only one who regularly answers his pager. <Growl>. I try to be tactful in telling them to page K____ and D___, and when told they have been paged but aren't responding my comment is "Their managers are Y____ and R____." Back to bed, but no more sleep. <Sigh>. To the lobby!

Dim sum at Won Kow. We arrive for our reservations and they want an exact count. With 35 or 40 of us in their stairwell. I guess 50 to 75. (Did anyone get a headcount from that event?) We get at least six tables in the same general area and pig out big time. Yum. (We did not order the Steve Dyer Commemorative Jellyfish at our table. Traditions are all well and good, but that's just plain Silly.)

After dim sum, with the moment of silence at 1pm CDT (oh gods do I wish we didn't have the reasons behind having those, damnitalltoAryienne), we split off into random groupings again. I go with one group of 15 or so folks to the Museum of Science and Industry and wind up looking around at the fairy castle with Dino, and two of the newer exhibits (the flight exhibit in the 737 and the cartoon-based HIV/AIDS exhibit, both on the balcony), with Dean Allemang and John Gintell, before adjourning with them to Finnegan's, an old-fashioned ice cream parlor. They each wimp out and order single scoops of strawberry ice cream (mainly because they have to run out early to meet up with Steven Levine et al for the shapenote singing; see Steven's wonderful article talking about it), while I pig out on a hot fudge sundae with chocolate ice cream, whipped cream, nuts, and a cherry. (I did offer "my nuts and cream" to them both; they declined. I didn't offer my cherry; I like maracino even if I can't spell it. (Get your minds out of the gutter, sheesh.)) Ran into SimMike as I was leaving, chatted a bit, and headed off to do some more exploring.

Met back up with the group around 4:15ish at the West entrance and caught the bus back to the El to the hotel. Once again, street fair. This time we were entering in the middle (thanks to the El's proximity to the hotel and the fair), so no annoying border guards.

I go upstairs to nap again (after updating the dinner information in the lobby). Surprise, my roommate shows up with a potential. They undress and start going at it — on my bed, on which I happen to be resting (granted, I'm resting in the buff, but still...) — so I join in. After a little while, a fourth individual calls down and then joins us. Neat. Roommate gets dressed and heads off to the motss.food event at Charlie Trotter's; the remaining three of us keep going. A fifth individual calls over and then comes to join us. A great time is had by all (judging by the, uh, side effects). Don't get much rest, but that's probably just as well.

(Note to those who are expecting a hothothothothot manmanmanmanman sexsexsexsexsex story here are going to be temporarily disappointed. When I have time to do it right, it'll join the other based-mostly-on-truth stories on my web page. Stay tuned.)

Shower, dress again, head down for the dinner thing. A large group is off to Mexican, a larger group is off to Thai, and nobody is off to the brew pub. <Sigh>. Must be the distance from the hotel. A few of us — notably Morph, Marina, Dino, and I — go off in a smaller group in search of food. We find the Mongolian Barbecue and decide to go in and pig out. We do. (Szechuan Shrimp Triangle was submitted as a recipe to them; we'll see if they ever actually put it up on the board.) Dino and I split an apple caramel somethingorother for dessert; yummy, and I'm glad he ate the larger portion of it. Urp. :-)

Back to the hotel, chat for a looong time in the lobby, say some goodbyes to those not sticking around through breakfast. Head up to bed, where one of the folks I'd said goodbye to comes to visit me for a roll in the hay before vanishing into the aether. (See the parenthetical note above.)


Monday, June 3rd

Straggler's breakfast at Ann Sather, 2 doors down from the hotel. I was expecting 32 or so, based on the number of people who told me they'd be there. The restaurant was ready for 30. 43 finally showed up (44 if you count John Dorrance, who showed up after the food and who just nibbled on leftover cinammon buns or muffins or whatever he was munching on — but don't tell Ann Sather's). No problems with the bill this time — either folks are scared of me or it's simple enough to handle $11. (And I apologize for the confusion as to whether or not tax and tip was included in that $11; it was. If you were at my table (FJ!! collected the cash), let me know if you expect money back. The excess went to the restaurant as extra tip money since they were so fabulous.)

Much hugging and pictures and chatting and hugging and goodbyes, in the restaurant, in the street, in the hotel.... It's happy-sad time for me: I'm sad that the con is over and y'all're leaving (dinner Monday, alone, was really depressing), yet on the other hand it'll be nice to be able to relax and stop planning and plotting and trying to figure out how to get folks to enjoy themselves.

Roger Klorese is kind enough to El with me out to Ilona's — or nearly — to help drag my overstuffed baggage to my car (on Hermitage, not Paulina, though the repaving/resurfacing on Paulina is nice — no more potholes on the street where Ilona lives (well, in her block anyhow)). I head home, unpack (mostly — the toiletries are still in their kit, as if unpacking that last little bit means the con is really over), nap, and try to get through a weekend's worth of e-mail. (Slow weekend; only 240 new messages, Thursday morning through Monday afternoon.)


Editorial

Several people asked me (mostly Thursday and Friday) if I'd ever consider doing this (i.e., organizing a con) again. Frighteningly enough, the answer is Yes, I would. Not next weekend, for damnsure, but yes. I think I enjoyed the experience of planning enough to be willing to go through it again. (I don't know what I'm going to do with my Wednesday nights now, though, since there're no more con.ix Planning Committee meetings. Except the post-mortem dinner Real Soon Now.)

There were some minor problems I wish I could avoid if I were to do this again. One is with restaurant reservations (I'm not sure if we cancelled the reservations at places where nobody went, and I think I'd try to cluster places together — or at least distance-wise — better (the places that nobody went to were the "really far" ones relative to the others on the list for any given evening)). [...] [Another] is the picnic; in retrospect we should've had someone there a little early to set-up so (a) folks would know where we all were, (b) we could get the coals started earlier, and (c) we could've cooked outside instead of having to move into the shelter when it started to rain. All of these, however, were minor nits, and I don't think any caused any attendees any serious problems.

There were some things we really lucked out on or planned faaabulously, in my (admittedly biased) opinion. We chose a really great hotel. Fuck the Palmer House Hilton and their holier-than-thou attitude; the City Suites on Belmont was superb. The elevator was quaint, the staff was friendly and helpful, the complementary cinnamon rolls and coffee and juice every morning was grand; they let us use their lobby exclusively for virtually five entire days without a word of complaint; they let us use one of their tables as a schedule board. The only problem I heard about at the hotel was that Champ and Scott managed to break their bed while, uh, watching television. (Poor Champ. I hope those infrared burns from the remote control heal soon, or else someone might suspect that you've got a lot of hickeys.)

We chose some excellent restaurants. I certainly enjoyed the Greek Islands, West Egg Café, Reza's, Arco de Cuchilleros, Won Kow, Mongolian Barbecue, and Ann Sather; I've also had wonderful experiences with Las Mananitas in the past. Certainly the Charlie Trotter's group enjoyed themselves, and I didn't hear any complaints about any of the restaurants we recommended.

We managed to stay friends. I won't deny there was some tension (and that I was even the likely cause of some if not all of it), but there's no real feuding going on.

Having gone through this once, now, I know some of the pitfalls and problems that can occur. I want to especially thank the rest of the Con Committee for all the work they did: David Morck, Eric "International Mr. Tweed" Holeman, Chuk Craig, Ilona Koren-Deutsch, Tim Pierce, Ellen Seebacher, and Gerry Swetsky. I want to thank the local chi-motsseurs who helped out with housing or offers therefor and who helped out with events, especially Peg for her leading a group to the Blues festival and her supplying picnic-game-type supplies for the picnic-type-games. I want to thank Bob Donahue for advice and the banners. I want to thank all not-quite-ninety of you for attending. I hope you all had a good time overall; from reading the threads it seems as if you did.

Thanks to everybody who helped make the weekend so wonderful!!

-j, almost caught up on the work-related e-mail, missing y'all terribly, and wondering where this thing is gonna be next year