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Journalcon San Diego: The Cleavage Strikes Back

I know that the internet is full of linky squee right now, but honestly, I sort of hate writing these entries after these weekends. I just know that no matter how many words I pour into this page, I’ll never be able to capture the essence of what was one of the highlights of my year. I’ll never be able to explain the hugs, laughing at Pratt’s goofy one-liners, Bozoette Mary’s kind eyes, Arianne’s lovely smile lit by a green glow stick in the darkness of my hotel room, or the way that Mare’s borrowed wrap smelled a bit like her and it felt like I was snuggling in the best aromatherapy for a half hour. I’ll never be able to explain the serendipity of being able to glance at someone across the table and know that they know exactly what you’re thinking because they are thinking the same thing. How can you explain talking to someone like Kymm who still remembers a tiny offhanded remark two years ago or tells you that your eyebrows are absolutely perfect. Who takes a Janis Joplin song and knocks it out of the park so hard that Janis herself looked down from some party in infinity and nodded and smiled? There’s just no way. I’ll never quite lock down the feeling of being a part of a great community who celebrate each other, every one, and cheer loudly when you shake a clearly non-perfect ass or tell you that you look gorgeous even when you are pale from an impending cold and feel a bit like death warmed over. I can’t do it. If you weren’t there, you just won’t understand. You just can’t.

However, here goes.

I decided to fly out of Milwaukee, since I had class on Wednesday night and wanted to travel on Thursday. The flights were cheap enough to justify the cost of a hotel room overnight, and since it would save me the two-hour drive that is exhausting on Wednesday night, it seemed like a good plan. On paper. However, my pre-trip anxiety combined with all of the niggling Journalcon details that came with being on a the committee, I really didn’t have time to pack until the very moment I was supposed to be leaving for class. I had a bit of hyperventilation and Esteban monitored my packing, talking me through a complex clothing schedule and teasing me for planning two clothing changes for each day, each with a different pair of shoes. Ah boys. They are so silly. However, even with that and a 1.75 bottle of Doctor, I still fit everything into two carry-on bags. I ended up getting to Milwaukee too late for class, however, so then went to get my nails done and pound a bunch of Odwalla, since it was feeling like I was getting a cold. Or, God forbid, Death Throat 2005 V2.0. I skipped dinner, checked into the little airport hotel, put in a wake up call for the bone-chilling hour of 4:00 AM, and then went to sleep. Two minutes later, when the phone rang, I was completely entrenched in a serious pre-cold sore throat and fever. I took a shower and then continued to let the shower run on hot while I packed and got ready, trying to knock the congestion out of my head. Then I hopped into my car and found a 24-hour Walgreens where I proceeded to load up on every cold remedy that science has to offer. Zi-Cam, Airbourne tablets, Airbourne throat lozenges, Day Quil, lotioned tissues, Advil, giant bottles of Dasani for the plane, vitamin C, and some more orange juice. Then I popped a Zyrtec on top of that. I’m surprised I could walk, but I made it onto a packed to the gills plane and then zoned out reading Donna Tartt and listening to my iFetus, taking care to dab the Zi-Cam travel swabs up my nose every couple of hours. By the time I landed in San Diego and was greeted by my psychic doppelganger Minarae, I just wanted to crawl into bed and never come out. A quick stop for some Chinese food was restorative, and then we were off to the airport to retrieve Mare, whom I did not hug nearly enough. Then off to the hotel, where I jumped into the Heavenly two-headed shower at the Westin and let the steam batter its way through my sinuses, and giving Zi-cam another run at burning out my nasal passage. I would persevere. I would stay alive. I would slip in the shower and possibly break my This Little Piggy Stayed Home toe. And was that the telltale twinge of princess time cramps? Of course it was. Fuck.

Minarae and I met with our event planner to make final arrangements for the weekend. I must mention right now that if it had not been for Minarae, there would not have been a Journalcon. Period. I’ll be honest: I didn’t want to deal with the Journalcon legacy and the baggage associated with it, nor with the inevitable drama and especially the extremely shortened amount of planning time. But Minarae was optimistic and I agreed to get involved. So if you had a great time, it’s probably because of something Minarae did. If you didn’t like something, it was probably something I argued for or against.

After meeting with the event planner, the weekend’s events were already put into motion. I threw on the dress I had planned for the drag queen show, and immediately knew that I was going to freeze my fine assets off, but decided that I would just carry on and pretend as though I was not sick. This has been a good mindset for me in the past, so I would try it again. Looking at the pictures from Thursday, I had the consumptive pallor of a Cure concert goer. After dinner that held no interest for me, it became pretty clear that I needed to put on some socks and a sweatshirt and rest if I was going to be worth anything the next day, but I didn’t want to waste a chance to hang out with Petrouchka and Minarae, my girl Deb, the most adorable and scarily efficient couple in the world Science Girl and Mr. Science Girl, the hilarious Pratt who got to meet his online journal mentor Carrie, and my wonderful friend Mare whom I never get to see nearly enough. However, finally I cried No Mas and cut out at half time, taking a cab back to the hotel and marking the first time in my entire life that I’ve ever turned my back on half-naked drag queens. People, you know that it had to have been bad, right there.

Jake had landed and arrived at the hotel about the same time, so he kept me company while I shivered and drank juice (as well as vodka, purely for medicinal purposes, I assure you). I think part of my exhaustion was the intense fear that the last six months of planning and preparation would have involved some incredible lack of foresight and we were going to have missed something important or forgotten one major detail, but at that moment, realizing that no matter what happened, I was in the company of some of my favorite people in the universe and I could close my eyes and trust that we had made the right decisions. It was a good feeling, actually.

I woke up early and met Jake in the lobby. We stopped at Starbucks for him and Jamba Juice for me (still on the cold defense kick, I got Vitamin C something or other with an Immunity Booster) and the drugstore, where I picked up more drugs, tissues and water. Then we walked to Hennessey’s for an incredible breakfast with a great soundtrack of British punk songs from the 80’s and 90’s. You can’t have asked for better than that. We were the first shift at the registration desk, so we went back, changed into our corporate softball jerseys, and sat at the table, checking people in. Well, Jake checked people in. He had a complicated system and I was too scattered and med-head to understand it very well, so I just sat there and finished the The Product Junkie swag and wore really dark lipstick (a test run for a product review). Then I was joined by Kymm and Mare and Minarae and we had a great little production line going on. It’s good to know that if we ever needed to, we could set up an Online Journaling sweatshop. While we were assembling swag (I wasn’t a procrastinator’ I had the swag delivered right to the hotel because I knew that I wouldn’t have room in my bags) Jake checked in Mr. and Ms Science Girl, her hotness LA-the-Sage, Cruel Irony, AmandaPage, Kymm and Xeney Beth, who isn’t as tall as she seems on the internet, which is approximately four stories high.

We were relieved of duty by Amanda and Deb, so Jake and I went shopping. I didn’t really find very much, other than a rather embarrassing turn at the Hello Kitty store, in which I tried to be strong but Jake is a cruel-hearted man and Sanrio merchandise is apparently my kryptonite. I fought back at the Nordstrom watch counter, but thank the heavens that he didn’t see my jaw drop at the zebra-print Kate Spade leather bag with the red silk interior, or the ante would have once again been raised and our credit cards would now be melted lumps of plastic.

We crashed out in the library lounge and then chatted with Pablo (aka Sex on a Stick) and Jecca (the cutest of them all) and ThatGrrrl, whom I haven’t seen since the incident with the knee. We were both shocked to learn that the evening reception was starting in ten minutes, so we rather rudely left all of our new and old friends to change for dinner. I had been having wardrobe difficulty, mostly because the symphony dress I bought did not have sleeves. I hate my meaty grandma arms with a passion, and the cruel twist of the universe is that I know I will have them until I am exactly 126 pounds and have stopped menstruating. There’s nothing I can do about it, other than hide them with sleeves and perhaps elaborate fans. Thus, an otherwise adorable dress was sort of useless unless I was strong enough to embrace them. I am not that girl. However, I did have a black cardigan and also a black shruggy capelet thingy from Torrid that Esteban declared a showcase for my boobs. After taking a shower and throwing on the dress, I tried on the shrug and decided it worked with the Audrey Hepburn aspects of the symphony dress and my pointy Anne Klein shoes, so I threw on my grey Ass Splinter pearls and whipped my hair up into a Hepburn ponytail and tzuzhed the bangs. Not bad for only having a half hour to get ready. I didn’t have a decent purse, so threw everything into the Pelt and ran downstairs with as much grace as I could muster. Kymm accused me of having just escaped from the Fifties.

Everything from that point forward is a blur of laughter and witty comments and smiles and hugs and introductions and refraining from grabbing the asses of married women. I paid Dashby $5 for losing the bet that he wouldn’t show up and then tried to make the rounds during the reception, getting a chance to briefly say hi to the beautiful Karen D and that wily camel racer, Mr. Karen D, Carol Elaine and Nancy and meet Biensoul’s beau, Christopher, who must have been wigged out by all the squee but seemed to be taking it in stride, and give a giant hug to Lisa-Marie. And then suddenly there was dinner and game playing and then a field trip to reacquaint friends old and new with Doctor, and more alcohol spilled inappropriately in my room, and then candy. And rereading that last sentence, it’s pretty much the recipe for a good time. We socialized all evening, then wandered around the Gas Lamp to find a crowded bar, then decided to walk back with Kymm and sit in the sports bar, where we found Beth and my favorite airport buddy Shawn. Then we gossiped for a few hours (and yes, between the four of us, we know ALL the dirt, apparently) and then were joined by the rest of the crew. At one point, I remember clapping my hands over my breasts to prevent them from being accosted, and also thinking that Mrs. Pratt is a very lucky woman. And then Cinderella’s coach turned into a pumpkin and we adjourned to our respective rooms to catch up on sleep while others went out for ‘food containing cheese’. And then someone dialed my room shortly after I fell asleep. I suppose it’s a Journalcon tradition at this point.

In the morning, I woke up early because I had promised Mopie that I’d come to the Ice Breaker she had agreed to host at the last minute (Mopie is the angel of Journalcon, just so you know. She helped out with everything from making Jingo to hosting a panel to being a panelist to helping with check in, and she wasn’t even on the committee). And the icebreaker rocked, although everyone knew which one of mine was the lie right away. I share too much, I think. I think my favorite part was Dichroic’s impression of a frustrated penguin. Cruel-Irony is right: Dichroic is a real live action figure.

The panels were great, and everyone was fantastic, especially considering the last minute substitutions and switches that had taken place in the weeks preceding. I can’t thank the panelists and moderators enough. The readings were fantastic, making everyone laugh and cry and run through the gamut of human emotion in a concentrated way that is a pretty good symbol of the weekend in a whole. There are tears. There are laughs. But no matter what, there are people who pour themselves into something and care about it deeply, whether it is an event or their writing or their relationships with people they only get to see once a year or maybe have never met face to face until just then. And for those open hearts and willing spirits, I cannot tell you enough how much I adore you all.

We ran out for hot dogs on sticks, then back for naps and the afternoon panel, which was great, no thanks whatsoever to my lack of Oprah skills. After that, I went up to my room to attempt a nap, but the phones were ringing and then I gave up and did a status check with Minarae which ended up with both of us in bed, whispering in the dark. Wow, if that’s not the sentence that launched a hundred diarist slash fictions.

Clearly, the nap was not going to happen, so I jumped into the shower, dried my hair and then tried to figure out the appropriate top to wear. I had one shirt that really showcased the cleavage and another shirt that wasn’t so much a shirt rather than a Cleavage Delivery System. I wasn’t sure about the goth connotations, so I was leaning toward the other one, but surprisingly the Cleavage Delivery System won critical acclaim, especially with the rosary necklace. So my boobies go, so goes my nation, apparently.

And then there was karaoke, which was awesome. Some of us got busted for visiting a doctor without proper insurance. I seriously suspect that Mr. Science Girl is actually a government spy or maybe a double secret agent, because the man is scarily capable. If I were stranded on a desert island, I would want him with me because he would MacGuyver a boat out of palm fronds or something and we’d be home in a jiffy. I suspect that he and Cruel-Irony could possibly combine their superpowers and team up with James Bond, er, Pablo to fight crime, taking out the evil masterminds like Meth Beth and Ray, who disarms you with his modest chuckle and entrancing tattoos while he’s busy tapping into the world’s bank system or something.

Seriously, though, who would have ever thought we knew so many world-class singers from the online community? Kymm, who claims she hates karaoke, knocked some Janis Joplin out of the park. Pratt was a man on a mission and pulled out songs I haven’t heard in ages. Bozoette Mary and Carol Elaine (and her cleavage) rocked out with no question. Monty repeated the Best Karaoke Ever from Austin, doing One Night In Bangkok and his spoken word version of U2 was a crowd pleaser. He also joined Jake and I doing the Time Warp in the back, to the cheers of the adorable bartender Miguel. Arianne lost her karaoke cherry like the rock star she is. Jessie ain’t nothing but a G-Thang, yo, and every time I think of her doing karaoke, it makes me smile. And Trance Jen needs a fucking recording deal. She’s got a velvety smooth voice that sounds like sex. Not only does Pablo have a fantastic voice, he stands in such a way that I get the vapors. Myself, I never personally put one song in, but agreed to sing a few songs for other people and somehow ended up there five times, fighting with my cracky congested out-of-breath voice. Hopefully what I lacked in vocal stylings, I made up for with amount of cleavage and props (thanks again Mary for the feather boa and LA, who gave bravely of her fashion accessory, at risk of losing her pants) And also, I still haven’t found out who put my name in to sing Push It. Luckily, Jecca was willing to Pepa to my Salt, so it was all good.

The end of the evening came way too quickly but we were not ready for it to end. We walked over to Hennessey’s, the Irish pub that was featuring a reggae band (huh?), but learned they did not have pancakes. Chauffi really wanted pancakes, so we left the pack at the bar and walked several blocks looking for an elusive restaurant that no one had ever heard of, finally hailing a cab to take us to the grossest Denny’s I’ve ever visited. Suddenly, in the harsh diner light, the Cleavage Delivery System did not seem like the best of plans, as I drew stares from every drunken direction, and also, had cycled out of the fever and was freezing once again, so after a few bites, we decided we didn’t care about pancakes anymore.

In the morning, I overslept, the sleep deficit beginning to demand some attention. I missed the morning panel and reading (Bad panel coordinator! Bad!) and was roused only by the promise of Jamba Juice and hot dogs with sticks in them. After a late breakfast, we crashed in the library lounge and began to decompress from the weekend, saying goodbye to folks as they left, talking to some people for the first real time, like Fredlet and Meg and meet Mary Ann for the first time. We were already missing the people with early morning departures. As our numbers dwindled, we bid adieu to the last of the Sunday departures, hugged it out bitch with Chuck, got to meet Kymm’s mom (a delightful creature who regaled me and Pie with tales of David Niven and Marlon Brando!), was the shell of a taco with my betrothed beloved ShannonK, and then I wandered back upstairs to take my first successful nap of the weekend. Love naps. Love them.

I woke up just in time to get ready for dinner with Chauffi, Mo and her best friend Bruce, who drove down from LA to see her. Bruce suggested the Hashhouse and described it as ‘farm food on steroids’ which sounded intriguing. Mo and I decided to split butternut squash risotto because I can rarely finish anything I order (I know, counterintuitive) and Mo wasn’t that hungry, plus the portions were ginormous. Bruce and Jake each got the famous chicken and waffles, which Bruce had described the entire way there. Because as if it weren’t enough to have chicken and waffles on one plate, they put BACON inside the waffles. Oh my word. Having tasted both, Mo and I also should have gotten chicken and waffles because damn. Damn.

After dinner, Bruce drove Chauffi and I back to the hotel and Mo left for the airport. It was an interesting goodbye because Pie and I were like ‘Ok, have a safe flight. I’ll see you tomorrow!’ and it wasn’t nearly as sad as every other one of our Journalcon goodbyes have been. That was probably my favorite part of Sunday’ the soft goodbye.

Chauffi and I had tentatively talked about going out on Sunday night, but after an exhausting weekend and also chicken (and waffles!) we could think of nothing better than to put on comfy clothes and lounge around the hotel. Which is what we did, chatting about nothing at all in particular until two in the morning when we reluctantly said goodbye. Except it wasn’t a ‘see you tomorrow’ goodbye, so very sad.

As it turned out, he was my last goodbye of the weekend, as when I woke up (late) I couldn’t find LA-The-Sage or any of the Monday departees, so I hung around the lobby until it was obviously time to get in a cab and go to the airport. I decided that I didn’t want to cart my luggage around DFW, so I checked the leopard print bags and wandered around carrying my backpack purse, a jug of water and a Dwell magazine.

And then, before I knew it, I was pointed into a Monday, chasing my friends eastward, leaving others in the west, honored in the fact that I get to hang out with such incredible people, even if I forget to tell them that they are beautiful and strong and hilarious and sexy and quirky and adorable and brave and that they are rock stars and they are my heroes and above all else, they are my friends.

I miss you all very much.

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