Thursday, November 29, 2012

Just Another Black Friday

Greetings, Loyal Readers!

The following story came about after I did some independent investigation about our current financial quandary and then watched one too many scary Black Friday videos.  I hope that it's not too "real".



Every muscle in Lynn's body was as taut as an iron cable.  She knew that if she dropped her guard for even so much as a second she'd probably be crushed.  The last time she was in a crowd this frenetic was at a Foo Fighters concert back in 1997.  She'd made the mistake of venturing into the mosh pit during a boisterous rendition of "Monkey Wrench" and barely escaped with her cranium intact.  But that was a long, long time ago when people risked life and limb for something so frivolous a cause as entertainment.

Standing in that nebulous lineup for the past five hours, Lynn realized that she'd been in similar situations plenty of times before and all of them were self-inflicted.  Indeed, she'd stood outside of a Wal-Mart, Best Buy or Target store on countless occasions on the eve of Thanksgiving or early the following morning.  Instead of being at home, warm and cozy with her family and friends she'd often be found languishing in an outdoor queue and willfully risking exposure.  All of this for the privilege of participating in an organized stampede and then getting into a shoving match with a complete stranger over a competitively priced Kindle Fire Tablet, Logitech Webcam or a leather iPad case.

'What an idiot,' she thought to herself as she braced her foot against the glass door.

She looked up and caught a glimpse of fear in the eyes of the blue-vested minimum wage junkie just inside.  She imagined that from his perspective the throng barricaded behind the door must have bore a striking resemblance to the shuffling, brain-dead ghouls in George A. Romero's Dawn of the Dead.  Here they stood, pawing at the doors of a retail store, desperately trying to gain ingress to a place they were irrationally compelled to gravitate towards since it "meant so much to them in life".

Lynn was jolted from her mental reverie as some very large and very strong people crushed into her from behind.  She battled a wave of claustrophobia as her own clenched fists dug into her torso.  She had to keep her arms gathered up around her chest in order to protect her ribs from getting crushed, otherwise she'd have the air squeezed out of her like a rat in a python's grip.  She could only imagine the purple and greenish bruises that were starting to appear just underneath her breasts.

She dared to reach down and make sure that her satchel was still closed and oriented in such a way that she could keep an eye on its precious contents.  She knew that if it had been left slung across her back it would probably be completely empty by now.  For the tenth time she unzipped it a crack just to silence that irrational voice in her head which insisted that if her money was out of sight it had probably been stolen.  Mercifully, the significant chunk of her life savings was still present and accounted for.  This was good since the stores had stopped taking credit cards weeks ago.

The odd sight of her money stuffed loosely into what could pass for a bank robber's sack made her think of a story Mr. Peavey, her High School History teacher had told her ages ago.  Lynn hated most of her subjects but liked History because she never thought of it as a bunch of disparate fact and dates, but as a series of stories.  And Mr. Peavey was very good at telling stories.

'After World War I the Allies decided to punish Germany's aggression by, essentially, invoicing them for the entire war.  In order to pay these impossible debts, Germany was forced to print its own currency hand over fist, resulting in what's now known as hyper-inflation.  Well, as you can imagine it didn't take very long before the Papiermark was about as plentiful and subsequently as valuable as Monopoly money.  Can you imagine... pushing a wheelbarrow filled with cash down to the market just to buy a loaf of bread?'

Inflation.  Debt.  Fiscal Cliff.  Every recent warning that Lynn heard through osmosis had since fallen on deaf ears.  'Probably because I didn't hear it from Mr. Peavey', she mused.

When the jittery employee standing just behind the threshold began to fumble with a comically over-sized key ring the crowd took this as an omen and surged.  Lynn winced as a three-hundred pound man avalanched into her, smudging her cheek into the glass.  Just before her face had a chance to go through it she managed to slide her arms down to the metal door handle that was pressing into her mid drift and shove back violently.  It was the only way to win a modicum of space for herself and, more importantly, the microscopic passenger resting somewhere inside her belly.

Directly behind her right shoulder someone angrily shouted:

"Calm the fuck down!  Push one of my kids again and I will stab one of you motherfuckers!"

The threat was so loud that the skittish store employee jumped back from the door as if tasered and then dropped his keys.  The crowd instantly took this as a sign of weakness and began to shout and pound on the glass.  Lynn immediately felt her innards turn to ice.  Things were already starting to fall apart and the doors weren't even open yet.      

"Stand back! Move back!" screamed the store clerk as he bent down to recover the keys, his eyes never leaving the roiling crowd.  Absently, Lynn wondered if he was the only person to show up for work today and if he regretted that decision.

Then, from out of nowhere, she heard someone bellow:

"Out of the way!  Get the fuck out of the way!"

She glanced up to see the crowd part like the Red Sea off to her left.  Three heavy-set men and a wiry, unkempt woman were running towards the glass doors holding a newspaper dispenser above their heads.  In response to this odd sight Lynn was instantly teleported back to that Foo Fighters mosh pit.  At any moment she expected to get kicked in the head by a Doc Marten-wearing crowd surfer.  Just as quickly she was distracted by a fleeting glimpse of the stale newspaper headline inside the box as it sailed overhead towards the door.  It read:


The concrete base of the newspaper machine went through the glass window without a hint of resistance.  Lynn flinched as it crashed into a vacant-looking shelf and then slammed violently to the floor with a loud BANG.  She stood there for a moment, stunned, as the reservoir of humanity immediately began to pour through the improvised breach like fluid lanced from an abscessed wound.

Lynn cursed herself for taking a moment to absorb what has happening.  By the time she got inside, a huge chunk of the crowd had already begun to ransack the store.  She also saw that the door's defeated guardian was lying off to the side nursing an angry-looking head wound.  She paused for a moment to make sure that he was alright before snatching up a wayward basket and charging into the fray.

She hurried past the racks still laden with night lights, spa kits, cameras, Blu-Rays, shower heads and designer fragrances.  All of this was landfill now.  Instead, Lynn sprinted through the nearly-vacant grocery, pharmacy and hardware sections, snatching up cans of tomato soup, bottles of Advil, toilet paper, batteries and several jugs of water.  By the time she was done the plastic handle of her basket was bowed from the weight. 

During her mad rush, she spied a furtive-looking employee hastily assembling a pallet filled with bread.  Unfortunately, by the time she got there, the plastic trays had almost been picked clean.  Lynn was forced to engage in a brief altercation with a panicked-looking Asian man after he tried to snatch a multi grain loaf right out of her basket.  After blasting him with several choice epithets he seemed to experience a moment of clarity, gave her a knowing look that suggested penitence and then turned back towards the empty pallet.

With spurts of violence breaking out everywhere, Lynn decided that it was time to leave.  En route she noticed a display shelf stocked with pads and instinctively made a bee line towards them.  Just before she got there she bumped into a pair of store employees who were attempting to wrestle a customer to the floor like a pair of ice hockey referees.  The jolt gave her pause for thought and it finally dawned on her that probably didn't need them anymore.

She flirted with the idea of grabbing a few packs for the distant future but decided against it after another hooligan appeared from out of nowhere, grabbed one of the store employees and whipped him into a shelf filled with razor blades.  Lynn thought the better of it, turned away and began to sprint stop-start towards the exit, hoping to extricate herself from the store with both her spoils and savings intact.  Unfortunately, it was not to be.

As she approached the battered front doors she quickly realized that the keymaster had plenty of reinforcements after all.  A phalanx of about ten or twelve employees blocked the exit, armed with what appeared to be the entire sporting goods, hardware and hunting sections of the store.  A supervisor distinguished herself from the line up, shifted a primed crossbow to her off-hand and then repeatedly stabbed a finger towards the few manned cash registers that were already beginning to back up.

By the time all of her acquisitions were accounted for, Lynn was forced to leave behind a pack of batteries.  Although it was heart-rending to turn over such a disproportionate amount of cash, she also knew that it had to be done.  What other choice did she have?

To add to her annoyance, the store had run out of bags, so Lynn stuffed as much as she could into her now-empty satchel and then carried the two jugs of water out in either hand.  Her spirits were instantly buoyed as soon as she left the oppressive atmosphere of the besieged store.  A quick glance at her watch revealed that she was also making better time then expected and she humored the possibility of cobbling together a humble repast for her husband before he got home.

It would have been great to have Bryan by her side today but she also knew that this just wasn't feasible.  Indeed, it was encouraging to know that at least one of them still had a job to go to.  Although his pay had been severely slashed by what his supervisors now grudgingly referred to as "austerity measures" and he was usually gone anywhere from sixty to eighty hours a week, his work was still a Godsend.  Without it, she knew that there'd be no way to stay afloat financially with a kid to feed and another on the way.      

Lynn came to a sudden halt as she rounded the corner and found herself staring at a small cadre of lean-looking young men, several of whom appeared to be holding baseball bats.  She immediately broke eye contact with them, put her head down and resumed her course.  As she felt their collective eyes pawing at her and heard their coarse laughter, she started to double-time her way towards the parking lot at the back of the store.

As she started down the dirt trail which eventually led to their apartment building one of Mr. Peavey's follow-up lectures popped into her head:

'Eventually the Weimar Republic tipped into economic anarchy.  Hate crimes, violent uprisings and widespread thuggery became the order of the day.  The situation became so toxic that it eventually gave rise to one of the most degenerate regimes in human history.'

Through the haze of her mounting fear, Lynn absently wondered if humanity was on the cusp of eclipsing that level of barbarism.  Just behind her she heard the sound of several pairs of boots sliding down the gravel path.

And that's when she dropped the water, shrugged off her bag and began to run.




Sunday, November 25, 2012


Greetings, What-Iffers! 

Here's a fun little alternate reality to ponder in light of recent headlines...

1878 - After an extended period of concentrated discrimination the Ohmish people of Europe decide that they will never be free of persecution until they have their own state to live in.  Immediately they set their collective sights on establishing a new homeland within the expansive, prosperous and peaceful borders of Canada.  At the time, 97% of the population of Canada is identified as Canadian while only 3% of the population is Ohmish.

1882 to 1914 - Named after the prominent Ohmish activist Bygor Flemmeth, Britain and the United States spearhead the Flemmeth Accord which commits to the establishment of an Ohmish homeland in Canada.  Although they harbor no pre-existing ill-will towards the Ohmish people, the Canadian government is in vocal opposition to the Accord, claiming that it's in direct violation of the MacKenzie - Grant Declaration of 1915 which guaranteed Canada's right to self-determination.  Regardless, the Accord is ratified by the United Nations in 1917.  Not long after, close to 70,000 displaced Ohms immigrate to Canada.  Over the course of thirty years, Ohmish lobbyists continue to pressure Britain into establishing the infrastructure required to establish statehood for the Ohms in Canada, including the creation of an armed defense force.     

1922 - Census data has 88% of the total population identified as Canadian with 11% listed as Ohmish.

1920 to 1931 - Almost one-hundred and ten thousand new Ohmish settlers arrive in Canada.  Almost immediately hostilities flare up between the native population and the immigrants.  In reaction, the Ohmish Defense Force, now a fully constituted military presence, begins to evict Canadians from Alberta and Saskatchewan.

1931 -  Census data has 82% of the total population identifying as Canadian while 17% are Ohmish.

1932 to 1945 - During the Nazi's rise to power, European Ohms suffer an intense period of persecution as well as the horrors of mass genocide.  Before the end of World War II in Europe, 294,000 Ohms immigrate to Canada.  To make amends for the Holocaust, there is a renewed push to have a section of Canada declared the official homeland of the Ohmish people.  

1947 - With clashes between Ohmish immigrants and native Canadians spiraling out of control, Britain turns the problem over to the U.N. who propose splitting the country up into two separate states.  Canadians are evicted from Manitoba, Ontario and Quebec, leaving them with 43% of the country's land mass, despite having 70% of the population and legal ownership of 92% of the land.
On the flip side, the Ohms receive 56% of the country's land, despite having 31% of the population and technically owning only 8% of the land.

Another major disparity in the division soon becomes apparent: the Ohms have been granted the most fertile and prosperous territory in the country.  Although native Canadians are quick to protest the division, their disparate efforts are easily extinguished by the Ohmish military.  Before the end of the year, the Ohmish army has assumed control over all major metropolitan Canadian cities.  The expulsion happens so fast that many Canadian families are forced to flee from the chaos without taking their belongings with them.

At the end of 1947, unconfirmed reports begin to circulate that one-hundred Canadian men, women and children were killed during the occupation of Degelis, a town close to the New Brunswick border.  Fear and mass panic ensues in the wake of these reports as displaced Canadians scramble to relocate anywhere behind their newly designated re-settlement zones.

1948 - In May Ohmstad is officially declared a state.  In reaction, Australia attempts to intervene on behalf of Canadians by sending relief supplies as well as military equipment and personnel.  There is an abortive attempt by the native Canadians to fight back but sheer logistics are against them and the attack fizzles.

By the time the Ohmish army is finished consolidating the borders of their new nation, the Yukon, Northwest Territories, Nunavut and most of British Columbia have also been annexed; nearly 80% of the country's land mass.   From Atlantic Canada and a small patch of land on the west coast now known as the Prince Rupert Strip, hundreds of thousands of refugees languish in hastily assembled camps, some still in sight of their former homes which they still legally hold ownership of.

Most of these towns are systemically obliterated, either re-fashioned into Ohmish settlements or flattened in order to convert them into fertile land.  By the end of 1948, its estimated that nearly five-hundred Canadian villages have been destroyed.

1956 - Concerned that such a heavily-armed new nation now sits so close to its borders, the Soviet Union makes several tentative aerial incursions into what was once British Columbia.  The United States intervenes, nearly prompting a Soviet amphibious invasion of Alaska.  At the last minute, the U.N. steps in and tensions slowly begin to abate.

1967 – A renewed attempt on behalf of Australia to support a Canadian armed uprising stalls within a week.    

1973 – Australia, New Zealand, Scotland and the Republic of Ireland conduct a clandestine joint effort to sponsor a third Canadian uprising.  The resulting month-long conflict is better co-ordinated but ultimately does very little to dislodge the Ohmish occupation.  When their involvement in the rebellion is revealed, all four sponsor countries face heavy sanctions imposed by the United Nations.   

1974 – The F.L.C. (Front de libération du Canada) becomes the sole political representation for the Canadian people at the United Nations.  

June–December 1982 – The New Brunswick War takes place.  Weary of constant guerrilla attacks along their Eastern border by the F.L.C., several divisions of the Ohmish Defense Force invade New Brunswick.  This results in the expulsion of Canadians from most of "The Picture Province" and the creation of a security buffer zone in what was once York and Northumberland counties. 

1987–1991 – "We Rise": The first truly unified Canadian uprising occurs against the state of Ohmstad in both Nova Scotia and along the Prince Rupert Strip, resulting in a protracted series of deadly skirmishes.  But whereas the Ohms are using arms and armaments procured from American and British defense contractors, the Canadians are forced to use stolen weapons, antiquated equipment and improvised explosive devices.  

1993 – A tentative cease-fire in the form of the Stockholm Accord is signed in Washington between Elme Narsfursian of Olmstad, John Chrétien from the F.L.C. and Bill Clinton of the United States.  All parties agree on the principle of Canadian self-determination and the Olms also promise to withdraw from contested regions along the Prince Rupert Strip as well as Restigouche and Madawaska counties in New Brunswick.   

2000–2005  – "We Rise Again!": With the Olms still firmly entrenched in the regions that they promised to vacate, a second mass Canadian uprising occurs along the Prince Rupert Strip and in New Brunswick.  What begins as a massive co-ordinated demonstration by Canadians soon turns violent after the Ohms deploy their military to tamp down the protests.  Without the weapons and equipment needed to compete against the overwhelming might of the Ohmish army, the Canadians launch a protracted campaign of guerrilla attacks.  For the first time ever there are reports of suicide bombings conducted within the state of Ohmstad.  Destitute and separated from their lands and loved ones, this sees to indicate that some Canadians have become so patently desperate that they have nothing to live for.  

2002 – Due to the increased frequency of Canadian suicide attacks, Ohmstad constructs the Madawaska / Resitgouche Wall, claiming that it's required to protect their citizens from acts of Canadian terrorism.  True to the barrier's intent, suicide bombings decrease considerably over the next three years.  Canadians who are routinely forced to cross through the security checkpoint for work or other reasons now find that quick travel is next to impossible.  To Canadians, the wall becomes yet another symbol of restriction and detainment within their own country.     

2005 – Under pressure from the United Nations, Ohmstad begins to abide by promises made during the Stockholm Accord and begin to withdraw their citizens from twenty settlements along the Prince Rupert Strip as well as Edmundston, Kedgwick, Campbellton, Charlo and Dalhousie in New Brunswick.   

2008 to 2009 – The Prince Rupert Skirmish: An extremist wing of the F.L.C. uses a battery of obsolete rockets procured from clandestine sources to target several major Ohmish cities including Farfhand, Nurben, and Liederzaus (formally Vancouver, Edmonton and Calgary).  In response, Ohmstad Defense Forces attack dozens of targets in the Prince Rupert Strip with planes, tanks, helicopters and artillery.  Dozens of civilians are killed on both sides.    

2012 to now - The Ohmish Defense Force initiates Operation Shell-Shock, a full-scale military operation in the Prince Rupert Strip in response to hundreds of rockets being launched at military targets within the state of Ohmstad.  When challenged over the attacks, radical F.L.C. leader Stephen Harper claims that his only intent is to force some semblance of stability in Western Olmstad by attacking what his claims are "terrorist assets".  The Ohmish campaign escalates after Harper is assassinated in November.

To be continued...





Tuesday, November 13, 2012


Greeting, Self-Talkers!

As I've said before, the first thing I'd do if I had a time machine is go back to 1997 and kill George Lucas with a shovel.  But the second thing I'd do is pop back to 1985 and pay a visit to a certain shy, awkward, retiring, insular teen.



"Oh, Jesus!  Where the f#@k did you just come from?!?!  You scared the crap outta me!"

"Sorry, sorry!"

"Who...who are you?  And what the f#@k are you doing in my room?!?"

"Well, technically, it's my room, too.  Y'see, I'm"  


"Yeah, I'm you at,...frrar de rass a mass."

"What's that?  I didn't catch you, you sorta trailed off there a bit."

"Forty-two!  Alright!  I'm forty-two!  I'm you at forty-two friggin' years old!"

"Oh, wow...really?  I didn't recognize you what with that shock of white hair and your vaguely pear-like shape..."

"Yes, fine, I know!  I'm workin' on it, okay?"

"So, what are you doing he...wait, is that blood?!?!"

"Oh, yeah, that's nothing.  Don't worry about it."

"Nothing?!?  Who's blood is that?!!"

"It's's George Lucas's blood."

"George Lucas!?!?  What...why?!?!?"

"Well, did you notice how Return of the Jedi kinda sucked a little bit?"


"Well, in 1999 Lucas starts filming the Star Wars prequels and they end up making Jedi look like Citizen Kane."

"Whoa, really?  I didn't see Citizen Kane..."

"Oh, you will.  In 2001.  And you're gonna love the shit out of it."

"Cool.  Still, did you really hafta kill him?"

"Trust me, kid, it was for the best.  Sooooo...whatcha doin' there?  Drawing?  Writing?"

"Oh, nuthin' really.  Just workin' on something stup...Hey, wait!  If you're me then you should know what I'm doing!"

"I do know, Matlock, I'm just tryin' to make polite conversation."

"What's 'Matlock'?"

"Never mind.  It looks like you're working on some sort of D&D adventure, right?"

"Yep.  I'm gonna run my first adventure for Greg, Lawrence and Stuart this Saturday.  It's gonna be awesome!"

"Yeah, I know.  They're really gonna dig it."

"Hey, can I ask you something?"


"Are we still playing D&D when we're forty?"

"Not nearly enough, dude."

"Bummer.  So, why are you here?"

"Well, I just wanted to come back and pass on some advice.  First off, I know that books, movies, and games are cool and all, but there's a big, wide, wonderful world out there and you really need to start living in it."

"Great.  Apparently old me sounds a lot like our friggin' parents."

"Yeah, well, I hate to break it to you, pal, but they were right.  You're only young once so you really need to start enjoying it!"

"What are you talking about?"

"Yknow, get out there!  Buy some decent clothes!  Get a new pair of glasses!  Go to parties!  Get drunk and go skinny-dipping!  Start mackin' on girls, fer Chrissakes!"

"Okay, not only does old me sound a lot like our parents, he's also apparently a giant perv."
"Who...?  What...?!?  No, I'm not a perv!  I'm just sayin' that you need to take advantage of this time in your life, when you have absolutely no responsibilities!  Have some fun, for f#@k's sake!  Live a little!"

"Whatever.  The girls that I'm interested in at school don't even know that I'm alive.  Even if I could screw up the courage to talk to them I'd probably end up sounding like an idiot."

"And that's the reason why I really wanted to talk to you.  Look, you're a decent, smart, good-looking kid.  You should be happy."

"Yeah, well, it's not that easy.  Do you think I want to be nervous and depressed all of the time?"

"I know, buddy.  It ain't easy.  But if it makes you feel any better, everyone you know is dealing with the same thing.  In fact, most of them are trying to contend with a lot worse.  The only difference is that most kids have a small but persistent voice inside their head that re-assures them every day that they're gonna be okay and that things are gonna get better.  For some reason, you can't hear that voice right now, but I'm here to tell you that it's there.  You just gotta start paying attention to it."

"Hmmmm, that sounds a lot better then the inner voices that I have been listening to."

"Which brings me to my next point.  When are you gonna start thinking about, our future?"

"Oh, God!  'Incoming Lecture Proximity Alert'!"

"Cripes, don't be such a friggin' dweeb!  Look, you gotta start thinkin' about what you're gonna do for the rest of, our life!"
"I have no idea whatsoever.  Honestly!"

"Look, I can understand your paralysis.  The school you're going to right now sucks balls."

"Yeah, tell me about it!  The only thing they're interested in is teaching math and science!  They treat literature, creative writing, and visual art like a big joke!"

"I know.  That's why you can't wait for a teacher or a guidance councilor to help you.  You've gotta do it yourself!  Start researching schools that'll give you the accreditation to do what you really want.  Hey, what about art school?"

"I thought about it, but every time I mention it to someone they make fun of me and tell me that I'll never get a job."

"F#@k 'em!  Look, the world needs more creative people!  And you need to do something about it before you find yourself sitting in a gymnasium, writing an exam with three-hundred commerce students, most of whom'll end up working in a call center."

"What's a call center?"

"You don't want to know.  Seriously."

"Well, to be honest, what I really want to do is go to film school."

"Okay!  Great!  That's awesome!  Vancouver, Los Angeles, Toronto and New York all have great film programs..."

"Oh, no!  I'm couldn't possibly do that!"

"Why not?"

"Well...I'm scared."

"Scared?  Scared of what?"

"I'm scared of people."


"I dunno.  I guess I'm always worried about what they think of me."

"Okay, I'm gonna tell you the truth right now and I want you to take it to heart.  By the time you're forty, you won't give a damn about what other people think of you.  So, why don't you just cut to the chase and start believing that right the f#@k now!?!"

"Heh, heh."

"What?  What's so funny?"

"Nothing.  I'm just glad you stopped by."

"Yeah, me too.  Take care of yourself, okay?"

"Wait!  Before you go, I just gotta know...are we gonna be okay?  In the future I mean?"

"Yeah, buddy.  We're gonna have a great future.  Just know that, right now, you've got the power to make it even better."


Sadly, even if time machines did exist, this conversation would probably never happen.  And that has nothing to do with a temporal paradox preventing the both of us from being in the same place together at the exactly same time.

What can I say?  I was a really shy kid.

EPIC PHOTOS    Young Me Now Me is a pretty cool blog!  I'm gonna try and do one of these photos when I'm home this X-mas...

EPIC THEORY  I'm totally convinced that time travel is more feasible then "now me" successfully initiating a dialog with "young me".


A BRAVE FAILURE  If I end up doing one of these Young Me/Now Me things I hereby promise to remain fully clothed.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

"CONNNNN!!!" II: The Awesome-ing

Hey, all youze Convention Crawlers!

Simply by providing an abundance of open-gaming tables last year the organizers of Hal-Con ensured that everyone in my circle of friends would be going back.  In fact some of us were so impressed that we made a point of getting passes for two days instead of one.  

But as I was perusing their website two Fridays ago, I began to worry that they'd scaled back this consideration.  As such, we decided to forego our traditional pre-Con breakfast on Saturday morning in lieu of registering early, getting a jump on the long line-ups and finding a place to pitch.  This allowed one member of our esteemed Fellowship, Sabina, to scout ahead and reserve a spot for us.

I have to say, the organizers did a fantastic job this year improving line-up efficiencies.  They had a metric shit-ton of folks helping with registrations, which really helped to expedite the admissions process.  In fact, it didn't take very long for the rest of us to re-united with our dauntless scout.  This gave us plenty of time get our bearings and ponder what board games we should roll out first.

This year the gaming area of Hal-Con was on the third floor of the World Trade and Convention Centre.   The dedicated floor space was impressive and the library of check-outable games was pretty comprehensive.  On the down side, our paranoia regarding the availability of open gaming tables turned out to be somewhat justified.  At face value, it looked as if there were only six free play tables and the rest was set aside for organized tournaments and game demos.

"Only six 'freeplay' tables?  WTF!?"

The first table we snagged could only seat five or six people so we quickly Borg'ed a larger playing surface that could accommodate double that number.  After all, at any give time we could have Andrew, Sabina, Mike and myself as well as Chad and his entire family playing games all at once.  We really needed all the space we could possibly eke out.

While Mike and Andrew took a quick inventory of the vendor room, Sabina and I reviewed our schedules and pondered what our first game should be.  Given that the signature session with John Rhys-Davies was happening within the hour, we really didn't want to get into a lengthy game that we couldn't finish in time.  In fact, we silently hoped that Mike and Andrew would be back in time for us to get away.

During this time a well-intentioned but slightly militant Hal-Con volunteer came up to our table and started to cross-examine us:

HER:  "Hi, are you going to be playing board games here?
ME:  "Um...yeah."
HER:  "Are they board games that you bought here?"
ME:  "Well, yes. (Lying!) We've got a couple of friends down in the vendor section right now."
HER:  "Okay, but did you check with anyone to make sure that it was alright for you to play games here?"
SABINA:  "Well, I'm pretty sure that the map in the convention guide said that these are the 'free play' tables."
ME: (Lying, again) "Plus I did check with a couple of people and they said that it was okay for us to be here."
HER:  "Oh, okay!  Sorry, I'm new to this and I'm just getting the hang of things myself!"

Now before I go on my rant, I want to declare that the Hal-Con volunteer staff was nothing short of amazing.  But just like every other Con that includes board-gaming in its curriculum, I should be permitted to bring in my own previously purchased board games, play the crap out of them and meet with some of my fellow local gamers.  Especially if I paid thirty bucks a day for the privilege of being there.   

Look, unless I'm standing on top of a table with my pants down around my ankles inviting people to check out my "Warhammer" then you really need to make like Luke in his landspeeder and "move along".  

Mercifully Andrew made our occupation completely legit by coming back from the vendor room with a board game called Lords of Waterdeep.  After that, I decided to tempt fate somewhat by setting up a little guerilla-style promotional display for my book.  Self-whoring is fun!

"Um...sure I paid a booth fee."
After that I had a chance to poke around for a little bit.  After video-bombing some of the exotic-looking board games being set up, I checked out the awesome array of Dungeons & Dragons paraphernalia assembled by local RPG group "The Gelatinous Dudes".  After that, I rummaged through the vendor section, snagging a copy of the Star Wars: X-Wing Miniatures Game from Mike at Monsters Comic Lounge.  Hooray for tax-in game dealz!

When I got back, Sabina and I made a bee-line for the autograph session.  Although I was super-excited at the prospects of meeting John Rhys-Friggin'-Davies, Sabina was positively beside herself.  Her natural abundance of nervous energy was clearly heightened by her T.V. co-workers, who were milling around with cameras and threatening to videotape her meeting with the highly-revered actor!

Just a quick word about John Rhys-Davies.  He's easily one of the most recognizable character actors of our time.  In addition to portraying weighty historical figures like King Richard in Robin of Sherwood, Vasco da Gama in the mini-series Shōgun and Macro in I, Claudius, John has also served as "Fellowship of the Ring" charter member / spokes-dwarf Gimli in The Lord of the Rings trilogy, General Leonid Pushkin in Bond flick The Living Daylights, Professor Maximillian Arturo in the classic sci-fi T.V. show Sliders and (my own personal favorite) master excavator and archaeological sidekick Sallah from Raiders of the Lost Ark and Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.

While both of us inched ahead incrementally in the lineup we encountered yet another irksome phenomenon: entitled arseholes armed with "Warp Passes".  I can only assume that these things were premium-priced tickets that let self-important jerkstores blast through autograph line-ups and snatch up front-row seats at events.  Well, I gotta tell ya, this might sound like a good idea in theory but in practice it's a f#@king pain in the nacelles.

There was one particularly oblivious social reject* who decided (on a whim, apparently) to blow through the line-up and cut in front of Sabina.  The moron didn't even have anything ready for John to sign, he just felt like exercising his authoritah to put the rest of the world on hold.  The really funny thing was that John noticed that this clown was holding up the lineup.  Eventually he 'shooed' the guy away with a wave of his hand, flashed a look of bemusement and then encouraged Sabina to ignore him and come on over.

The item that Sabina tabled was a Lord of the Rings poster featuring John as Gimli in full dwarven regalia standing slightly behind Orlando Bloom as Legolas.  After John realized that it was futile to sign such a huge poster with a standard Sharpie he pulled out a marker the size of a lightsaber hilt and went to work.

After noticing that Legolas was the more dominant figure on the poster, John suddenly thundered: "Oh, that Orlando Bloom!  Here, I'll sign for him!"  He then proceeded to scrawl a big "O.B." on a Post-It note and plaster it right over Legolas's pretty-boy mug.  YES!!!

I couldn't help but watch Sabina as she drifted away from the encounter, looking slightly dazed.  But when I heard that famous baritone voice declare "Hello, young man!" I quickly snapped back to attention.  I looked up to see John flash a genial and approachable smile while he bade me to come over.  After a quick reality check, I confidently strode up and shook his hand.

Without a doubt, John was one of the nicest celebrities that I've ever encountered.  Our meeting was a genuine moment of quid pro quo; for every question I asked of him, he asked one of me.  As he signed by 8" x 12" picture of Sallah he asked about what I did for a living and I told him that I was trying start up a career as a writer.  He then asked what I wrote about so I told him about my book and this blog, as well as my entertainment and tabletop gaming sites.  The opportunity to talk about this gave me the perfect in-road to ask him about his first trip to Nova Scotia as well as Gimli's accent and what it was like working with the delightful Denholm Elliot in Raiders and Crusade.  

If I ever have to go on an archaeological dig, I'm totally bringing my old buddy Sallah.  

Boundlessly impressed by John's approachability and his warm and friendly demeanor, Sabina and I wandered back to base camp, just in time to witness Andrew and Mike polishing off a game of Sentinels of the Multiverse.  All of us then indulged in a few games of Saboteur, which turned out to be a simple yet highly-strategic card game.  Taking advantage of the time between turns, I roamed around the main floor with my video camera, trying to document all of the board games, RPG's, video games, writers, artists, vendors, displays and amazing costumes!  Surely no easy task.

By the time we finished up our overtime match of Zombie Dice, Sabina and I had to hustle downstairs to take in John's Q&A.  By the time we found the right place there was already a pretty sizable line up.  As we slowly filtered into the massive Main Stage room we noticed that there were several rows of empty seats right up front and that most of the floor seats were already occupado.  As such, both of us moved to stand just behind the last row of chairs, content to remain at attention for the next hour in exchange for the clear view.

But then we heard an open call for Warp Pass holders to help themselves to any of the empty seats in the first two rows!  After a small handful of people took up this offer, the volunteer staff did what they could to shift the already-seated folks closer and accommodate as many of the standees as possible.  As you can imagine, this was comparable to herding a bunch of catnip-intoxicated felines.

As seats suddenly became available towards the back I made the single most idiotic decision of the entire weekend: I decided to sit down.  Man, I wish I could hop into a Tardis and go back to prevent myself from making such a stupid call.  At the time I thought that I could just lean out into the aisle or hold my camera aloft to get a clear view of the stage.  Unfortunately, by plunking my ass in that fateful seat I ended up fumbling a video capture opportunity of a lifetime.   ARRRGGGHHHH!!!

We sat down with a reasonably clear view of the right hand side of the stage.  Unfortunately, John sat to the left and when fans began queueing up to the microphone to ask questions, my line of sight became totally blocked!  For awhile I tried holding the camera over my head, but my sad, frail, Gollum-like limbs gave out on me within a few minutes.  Then I tried shooting between all of the craning heads and costumed headgear but invariably someone's melon ended up in the way.

Then I tried standing up but it was already too late.  Every decent vantage point had been snapped up and I certainly wasn't going to block anybody else's view.  Begrudgingly I took my seat again only to have someone's kid start wailing on cue right behind me.  Awesome.

I'm still haven't forgiven myself.  The previous year I was in the perfect spot to capture Nicholas Brendon's Q&A.  That year there were no accursed Warp Passes and Sabina and I managed to nab front row seats just as the Kag Kanada Klingon assembly began to break up.

I've since written this debacle off as a highly egregious learning experience.  Unless I can somehow score front row seats, next year I'll just find the best possible vantage point and shoot from eye-level while standing up.  Particularly galling to me is the fact that John's Q&A had some really amazing highlights, including a wonderful moment where he lapsed into full Gimli rage mode!

Here's everything that I managed to cobble together from my paltry footage.  Excuse me while I don the Cone of Shame.      

Hey, if anyone out there captured the entire Q&A, drop me a link and I'll "EPIC" it below with a credit!

After everything wrapped up 'round 3:30, Sabina and I slowly inched our way through the throng of people to our table.  We played another game of Saboteur, this time with Matt and Chad, and then finished the day with the "Escape in the Truck" scenario from Last Night on Eath: The Zombie Game.

Another thing that kinda sucked was the fact that Hal-Con fell on the last weekend before Halloween and I was committed to go to a costume party.  This meant that I had to leave Hal-Con early Saturday night and miss the Nerd Army / Paul & Storm concert which was slated to begin at 6:45 that same evening.  Oh well, I guess that's the way the dilithium crystal crumbles!  

But going downtown turned out to be a really fun time.  We went to the Lower Deck's annual Halloween party and spent most of the night trying to guess what people were dressed up as.  Needless to say, more than one Hal-Con refugee drifted into the bar that night:

Little know fact: when not looking for droids or shooting at rebels with appalling poor accuracy rates, Imperial Stormtroopers can often be found at local cantinas playing air guitar with their blaster rifles and bobbing their helmets to crappy Bruno Mars songs.

Knowing that I had an early rise the following morning, I played the role of designated idiot and abstained from drinking copious amounts of Guinness.  Nevertheless, I still got home around 2 pm and subsequently experienced a genuine system shock when my alarm clock went off at 7 am the next morning.  Motivated by the promise of yet another blissful day of geeky revelry, I dragged my sleep-deprived carcass out of bed, got cleaned up, had a snack, grabbed my fun bag (?) of games, jumped in the ole' Ninjamobile and hauled ass down to the Dork Tower.

I arrived at our muster station (the Starbucks on Barrington Street) way ahead of everyone else.  As I waited for my peeps to arrive I hit upon a stellar idea: since I didn't have my entry bracelet for Sunday yet, why not take a dart up to the convention center, get registered and run back in time to meet up with everyone else?  Brilliant!

Ah, no.  When I got up there I learned to my disbelief that the registration desk wouldn't be open until  9 am along with everything else.  I thought about sprinting back to Starbucks but then I remembered  what Sabina had gone through on Saturday in order to secure a table.  Since she wasn't there to help us again, I decided to stick it out.  Unfortunately I had no way to get ahold of my party and inform them of the brilliant scheme that my caffiene-deprived brain had cooked up.

When 9 am finally rolled around, I rushed the registration desk, got my bracelet, ran to the back of the entry lineup, rushed up two floors and parked my ass at the very same table that we'd used the day before.  Even still, I had to fend off threatened incursions from other gamers.  Eventually my posse gave up on waiting for me and walked up to the convention center.  Imagine their surprise when they came off the elevator, rounded the corner and saw me siting there as if I hadn't moved from the previous day!

Honestly, Day Two at Hal-Con was a complete and total blur.  I know that I picked up a copy of the Dungeon! board game from Mike at Monsters Comic Lounge.  I know that we played a slew of board game (like Lords of Waterdeep, Magic: The Gathering, and Small World Underground) and that they were all so friggin' engrossing that I completely lost track of time.  I know that the schedule that I'd so lovingly assembled and printed off for myself completely fell by the wayside.  The next thing we knew it was 5:30 pm and time to get the f#@k out!      

Notwithstanding my complete and utter failure to document the Q&A's, I still had an absolute blast.  In fact, we all enjoyed our time at Hal-Con 2012 so much that most of us have already commiteed to being there for all three days next year!

I just need to strike a better balance between my board gaming and all of the cool organized activities that are constantly going on.  Next year I'll pay more attention to the major events and sneak in the odd board game during my "down time".

But then there's another philosophy: Hal-Con is an awe-inspiring tsunami of pure, unadulterated geekery which you really should allow yourself to be swept up in.

In fact, to go into something like this with an agenda or a work ethic is almost anathema to the whole giddy, disorienting experience.

NOT-NEARLY-AS-EPIC-AS-ACTUALLY-BEING-THERE  Here's my humble l'il video ode to Hal-Con 2012:

FAIL  Trust me, I saw nothing at Hal-Con that even came remotely close to these cosplay disasters.

*P.S. FAIL  The same mouth-breather that tried to cut into the autograph line-up in front of Sabina kept surfacing.  At one point in time, he actually attempted to weasel his way into one of our in-progress games.  When we told him to go pound sand, he spent the next few awkward moments rummaging around in Andrew's game collection and mauling the stuff we'd purchased in the vendor room.  Dude would make an awesome TSA agent.