I'm at the Hilton. The motherfucking Hilton. But I'm tired and this picnic basket is really heavy no matter how cute it is. Where the fuck is JC? I need to rapidly deploy more alcohol into my system and despite the words coming out of my phone, he's definitely not in the goddamned lobby. What? There are TWO HILTONS in Indianapolis? Well oh la la motherfuckers, now can you tell me how to get to the proper Hilton then?
So far the journey to GenCon had been a total shit show. Sure, I'll take a free ride from NY to Indy... Operating on two hours of shitty sleep on a sofa that's seen better days, I was crammed into the backseat of a minivan stuffed full of weird smelly dudes that take up too much space. There was the notable exception of Anna Cosplay, poor sweet beautiful Anna, but that was cold comfort when I couldn't feel my legs for most of Pennsylvania. She did have the presence of mind to start up some filthy sex talk somewhere outside of Buffalo which served to stave off the crushing depression one feels driving around outside a place like Buffalo. Mostly what it did was give a bunch of young dudes awkward boners and some serious life questions. Somewhere in Indiana Pussywillow got pulled over doing like 90 in a 55. We're fucked we all thought. Hopefully he'll be out of jail in time for us to get him on the way back!
"Hey, I see you're from NY. You should really slow down. Bye."
Our journey into surreality was full and proper begun. Protect and serve my mystical friend!
Back to the issue of this stupid flyover city having two Hiltons a few blocks apart for no discernible reason other than why the fuck not, eventually JC found me in the streets of downtown Indy and led me to OUR Hilton. Now, I've been in a fancy hotel before, but hot fucking wizardry, in addition to 4 bathrooms, a dozen beds and half a liquor store's inventory displayed across what was formerly some sort of massive desk, our suite has a pinball machine! There is nothing more American than pinball. Fuck bald eagles, apple pie and Ford Trucks. Neo Silverball and his amazing machine are the true meaning of the American Dream. Put your money in and play hard to win; sometimes you just get right fucked with a side drain before you even put flipper to ball and sometimes you pop off a multiball bonus mode without knowing what the fuck you're doing. That silver ball is everything. Jeff Luce take note; disk golf is for hippy communists, pinball is for patriots. Doubly so when it's AC/DC pinball in the presidential suite at the Hilton. I'm on a highway to fucking freedom!
JC and I eventually rounded up Power Jeff and headed out into the night in search of whatever we could find. We ended up finding the King B himself. He was of course at some sketchy rip off Hooters with a Scottish (more like sexy schoolgirl) theme. After a half dozen pints we were starting to feel human again. I debated the finer points of universal health care with LudoFrank while JC smoked a lot and King B tried to convince a bartender that he would indeed take her out for breakfast the next morning. She demurred the King but did suggest to me a fine after hours establishment just around the corner that would serve us cheap beers and low standards far into the early morning. The Wild Beaver is really more of an Oddly Fucked Duck; a franchised dive bar in the middle of downtown. I don't know what the hell is going on here, but they have $1 beers, babes dancing on the bar and our newly acquainted local spirit guide Hard Cory is the bouncer, so we decided that it was going to be our forward base of operations for the remainder of our time here. We continued our assault on sobriety well behind the enemy lines of dawn. At some point I went to the hotel? Or to an ally? Fuck if I know, but eventually it was the next morning and I had some serious business to attend to...
I put on my Snow White best, pulled a slug of tequila to get the blood going, JC zipped me up and off I went to sell my soul in the capitalist Stronghold. See what I did there? We sold a ton of Space Cadets: Dice Duel while I posed for literally a couple hundred photos. I made fast friends with a very grown up Arya Stark. King B spent most of the day grumbling at how many beautiful people wanted to talk to me and not him, which gave me the energy to keep talking to everyone despite my rapidly approaching state of sobriety and exhaustion. See, I have a fairly impressive ability to get wasted for days on end, not really sleep and party like a Roman senator, but my Achilles heel is that I can't stop. I am a party shark. If I keep going, I'm unbreakable, but if I stop, well, I'm fucking dead. Fortunately, I drank a lot at my late lunch, so crisis averted!
If you've never experienced it or been around gender bending sexual deviants much, I'm not sure I can fully express just how much being a fit tattooed man in a princess dress makes people want to talk to you. I'm not entirely sure of all the forces at work myself, but I wear a lot of dresses and talk to a lot of people so it's for sure a real thing. I think if nothing else it's like a huge fucking flag that let's people know they are in for a good time if they hang out with me. It was thanks to my unique sense of style that on my way out I made my first acquaintance with the adorable Toni Darling who said some impressively awesome things to me and managed to pretty much blow my mind. Which in turn blew my mind even more. It was like some never ended circle of blowing? I think we'll go with that.
My narrative gets fuzzy at this point. I know there was a lot more drinking. I ate some specially prepared herbal hummus at some point too. Things got rough in a bathroom, I ripped my dress, took a lot of photos with local babes, Power Jeff yelled at a dark elf and we ended up at 50 cent beer night at the Beaver. How does that even work in the most basic economical sense? I mean, I don't actually give a fuck because it was the first time I was ever able to buy a round for a huge crew of friends and friendly acquaintances, but how do they stay open on those sorts of margins?!?! But anyway, I'm dropping this Hamilton like I was Aaron Burr, keep the change! This is what our forefathers were fighting for.I met up with Power Jeff and JC and we headed over to the Iello party. Now, none of us were important enough in the eyes of the French dudes that wear suits to a gaming convention to warrant actual invites to this swanky event, however, King B was so when we got there we just said we were all with him, despite his having ditched us to go in alone before we arrived. With a few well placed smiles we managed to talk our way in. We had these little bootleg badges they made for us at the check in but it didn't stop me from eating like 30 amazing French mini-hot pocket things and drinking a dozen beers in the 45 mins we were there. I feel like I should be making some anti-French WWII joke about them surrendering to my princess-kreig or something, but you know what, fuck that. I like all the French people I know, they have a rad culture and also have historically won more wars than any other nation on earth. My American dream weekend includes fun hangs with foreigners and that rules. On the way out I shook the fuck out of all the Iello guys hands, gave a heartfelt thanks and we were on our way back into the night. We also managed to convince game design superstar Eric Motherfucking Lang that we were the horse he wanted to hitch his wagon to for the rest of the evening and thus he felt the need to drink way harder and curse way more exquisitely than I would have ever expected. I love him more than ever.
I awoke the next morning, barely, next to a fully clothed and fully passed out JC. I managed to squeeze into my Alice dress and scamper off to get into all the rabbit holes I could find! I finally managed to find time to wander around the full exhibit hall and I don't think I could have been in a more fitting outfit. The big shows never cease to amaze me with their lavish set ups and incredible ability to get me excited about SO MANY GAMESSSSSSS! Nothing was of course more interesting than meeting new friends and seeing the old though so I managed to maintain my status of not actually playing a single game all show. I talked to a ton of people, posed for many photos and hung around with the amazing Stella Chu and her D20 Burlesque friends. I also got to have some fun Seven Year Itch moments when we went out to get lunch. Having a couple beautiful girls stand around you and try to tame your dress and keep things modest while you chow down on some Banh Mi is one of those moments when a man can step back out of himself, smile, and know that he is doing life right.
Upon my escape from this gaming wonderland of a hypersurreality and back into the streets of Indy proper, our merry band of adventurers discovered that there was some kind of huge biker thing going on this same weekend. The streets were shut down and lined with hundreds of burly men and their motorcycles. I'm not sure how we managed to not get in a fight with some bikers at some point during the weekend cause for every comment thrown my way, myself and Power Jeff were talking shit right back. But then again, we did it with a smile which is seriously the best deterrent to shitty attitudes. I think most dudes were just trying to be funny anyway so it was actually a lot of fun talking shit in an Alice dress to big crews of bikers while I could barely walk straight. My large associates were also likely instrumental in keeping everything cool since who wanted to risk getting beat up by a dude in a dress and his weird friends?
King B decided we were going to eat dinner at Hooters when one of the waitresses ran out to chase me down the street in an attempt to get me in there. What a weird place that is. King B of course took advantage of every opportunity to lasciviously hit on every girl in there. I had no idea there were so many ways to "compliment the view", it's always so educational with him. Tanktop showed up at some point and within ten seconds of his arrival, Anna noticed his hand resting on top of hers.
"So hey dude I just met, what's up with that wedding ring that's now resting on my hand."
"Oh this?" Without skipping a beat, Tanktop pulls the ring off and smiling, he tosses it into his pocket. "That's just to keep all these other women from hitting on me."
Dude is unreal. Between him and King B I dunno how no one got slapped during dinner. Dinner complete, we journeyed into the belly of beast to safely see the King to his date with Tom Vassel and a microphone. Some joke was made when we got there about my being unwelcome, which while I really like Tom and Eric and I think they like me, isn't really much of a joke cause there is no way they'd have actually wanted me to talk on their very family oriented show. I'd imagine by that point you would have been able to smell the tequila through the internet. So I made some dumb joke I don't remember and we made a quick exit.
Besides, we had far bigger fish to fry. It was time for some serious business. We were going to the game designers meetup to hobnob with the most important dudes no one has ever heard of or cares about. For me it actually was a big deal as it was to be the first time I saw the Fabulous Lee Bros since we had some issues a few months past. I was actually kind of terrified, so I drank more ASAP, hit on a dude's beautiful wife for a while and then made my move into serious mode. Turns out when you're all positive people who genuinely like each other, the bullshit realities of serious business don't mean shit and after a few heavy moments, it was all hugs and high fives. I think we used up all the drink tickets they had to give out to industry people as sponsors in like 10 mins, culminating with a final handful being slammed onto the bar "we need all the tequila this will get us!" Sorry other attendees, but this is way bigger than stupid games. I had planned to meet a bunch of new people and connect with some dudes from the internet, but mostly ended up drinking with dudes I already knew and loved, making friends with a designer's wife and hugging Zev probably a few too many times. Poppa Richard also showed up to disapprove of my poor choices. It was perfect.
More photos, more dress ripping, an incident with lawn sprinklers and too much time spent lost in allys made up the bulk of the late night, though by this time of the night, memories are either too fuzzy or too scandalous to recount with the level of detail typically displayed here. I danced on a bar with a bartender who was also dressed as Alice in a seriously through the looking glass moment. I love this place. Either JC or Power Jeff were getting some serious attention from this girl but then she legit just ran away. Mid sentance. Like out of sight and just gone. So weird. JC also tried to get David Allen to footrace him which I don't think he appreciated. Dude was pretty much Bombaata from Conan the Destroyer and would have totally destroyed JC too. But it would have been fun to watch. I got a magical ride back to the hotel, but we weren't done for the night and went back out for 4am burgers. I think most food tastes better when you're wasted, but greasy burgers are absolutely in the upper pantheon of meals to shred at 4am. Good thing I didn't have to be back at the Stronghold till 9:30!
And then it was Saturday morning. The beginning of the end. Sure, we had Sunday, but that's a bullshit day with no night. Saturday is where the magic really happens at these weekend bacchanalias. Everyone goes wild; people drink more, sleep less and party as hard as they can. Deep in their bones everyone is consumed with the primal need to make the most epic memories. People want to live the tales they'll tell for years to come. "There's no tomorrow baby, so how bout tonight" is both battlecry and philosophy, echoing off the hallowed halls of party Valhalla. Saturday is our ode to hedonistic excess! Or maybe that's just me?
Getting into my Little Red Riding Hood outfit is a lot easier than the others as it doesn't have a zipper, but it does provide the uniquely unpleasant need to wear actual boys underpants because it's just too damn short for the cute stuff at a family event. But so it goes. Sometimes you need to conform to break the rules. I was back in the capitalist Stronghold for the day and spent most of the time trying to convince all the wonderful people that wanted photos with me that they also wanted to buy a copy of Survive!
Dinner was at Hooters again thanks to King B's constant need to get someone to buzz around his hive. Power Jeff, Arya, JC, Anna and Rad Chad, were along for the ride too and the King didn't disappoint this demanding crowd with his ability to fulfil nearly every stereotype about the sort of dude who wants to eat at Hooters two nights in a row. I was embarrassed for all of us, but whatever, I love that d
ude. Then King B had a business meeting at some bar, I had a meeting of a different sort at the hotel and we all had a date with the Upper Deck VIP party an hour later. The UD party was nuts, packed to the rafters and tons of great free food and drinks. I rolled up with a rather impressively sized entourage and have no idea where UD got the idea that I was important enough to warrant my being allowed to get in over a dozen people with no invites. But, they did, and so in we went! I hooked up with C-Note and Mel Money from Quality Playing Cards who also seemed to be suffering from some delusions about how much they wanted my business and came out to the party specifically to meet up with me. Turns out, they are completely fucking awesome and I really do want them to have my business! It's a cruel twist of fate that the people I most want to do business with in the industry all compete with each other, but I guess I just need to be massively successful so I can do projects with them all.
Once inside the swank affair, cute girls just kept walking by and handing me drinks, at one point I was struggling to deal with three or four at a time, but I managed. And by that I mean I managed to drink like a fucking fish. Then things started to get serious... One of our crew knocked over the PA in the middle of the important business announcements and one of our crew was politely asked to leave for getting legit belligerent. It was pretty magical to see her throw $100 at one of the UD people who was trying to get her to chill out with a glass of water and demand to be sold a copy of "whatever your fucking game is". Two for twelve ain't bad, but I was hoping we'd have done better. Well sort of, I really love the UD people and they were super cool about everything. But, memories!
We were shortly thereafter denied entry to the D20 Burlesque show. I'm guessing it's cause we were too awesome, but who knows. I did later find out that we were absolutely supposed to be there and they were mad at whoever gave us shit and the boot. I really just wanted to go support my friends, but no big. Besides, I knew we were all hanging out after the show, so we took the opportunity to deliver our rambunctious associate back to the loving embrace of the Hilton. We triple checked for safety and then headed back out. We couldn't resist the powerful pull of the Beaver, and besides, I had been telling people all day that that was the spot to hit post midnight cause we were going to destroy the universe together. As the night got deeper, more and more of our people kept arriving and each one was a true boost to my party spirit. It was especially fun to see Anna and the D20 girls roll in and blow minds.
Hard Cory got some assistance at the door for a couple hours from one of the Upper Deck dudes who decided he liked being a bouncer which was both amazing and insane. But it wasn't shit compared to the insanity of an unnamed associate getting into some fisticuffs with another unnamed game industry dude. A giant novelty card may have been cracked over a head, punches may have been thrown, a certain princess may have picked a dude up by the neck and a dude absolutely ended the fight with a hot make out sesh. In a rare show of professional courtesy I unfortunately can't give details, but you know that's the case with all the best shit that went down this weekend anyway. Would it help if I referred to people as Deep Throat? I think it would. So basically, Deep Throat got rough with Deep Throat, Deep Throat made out with Deep Throat, and things got messy and amazing. I should have just written that for the whole piece and been done with it since I think it basically covers most of what happened all weekend.
We got some insider help from Hard Cory and were able to stay around drinking till long after the bar was closed. We had quite the crew and it was a sight to see 20+ shots and 30+ beers covering the bar as the deal was they had to stop SERVING us after 3, but if we had already been served, well, let's fucking party! We eventually left there to go play pinball, only to find out that Neo Silverball had already packed it up for the trip home. Fucking Sunday was on it's way and there was no way to stop it. But we resolved to go down fighting. We regrouped by drinking a bunch in the hallway. Drinking... in the hallway of the Hilton... at 5am. One thing led to another and our once mighty ranks were continuing their slow attrition, glorious youths cut down in their prime by that cruel master of passing out. JC got the best kiss he'll never remember at least. Finally, with just Power Jeff and a renewed Arya, we went out for cheeseburgers. Watching the sun come up with a belly full of cheeseburgers and your arms around amazing people is a real fucking victory dance. While not the greatest story ever told, to borrow some language from earlier in the night, it was certainly legendary. We won Saturday.
I also ripped my dress. Again.
A couple hours later and it was time to pack up our shit, lug it to the convention center and do our bittersweet duty. Even I was weakened by the onslaught and opted to wear a simple pink skirt rather and another glorious dress. These events, especially the really big ones, only happen a few times a year and every year there are more and more friends you don't get to spend nearly enough time with. Lots of these people are from far enough away that these shows are the only time you get to hang out, and even those who are close, you still want to see more. The magical surreality of nonstop memory making is a hard thing to let go. But it's inevitable, and also part of what makes these times so special. I spent most of Sunday busy hugging people. Some of them I had just met and some I'd known for years, but they were all fucking beautiful and I didn't want to let them go.
"Let's just keep taking pictures so we can keep hugging." Genius.
But alas, it was back in the death van for me, (did I mention it had no power steering?) for an overnight drive back to NY. I did have some of the most restful sleep of the weekend in a super spoon with Pussywillow and Anna. Snuggling really does make everything much better. Getting back to NY, I don't think we wanted to let go so we went out for breakfast, hung around at the Andy Bear Cave and I gave Pussywillow a fucking rad haircut. But eventually it was time to close the book on GenCon 2013 and so I sped off down the interstate blasting Santigold and loving life.