In the pretty white ships that I’ve been dreaming of

by Molly Lewis on January 12, 2011, no comments

Last February, I was in a van going up to Vancouver with JoCo and Paul & Storm. We were all getting in the last of our smartphone usage before we went into roaming in Canada. We decided to broadcast on Ustream very quickly before we crossed the border, so Paul alerted Twitter, while Storm drove and Jonathan and I sat in the bucket seats in the back with assorted instruments and boxes of t-shirts behind and between our chairs. Everybody was quiet for a while, as Paul twittered and fielded questions. Jonathan turned to me,
“Hey Molly. Want to go on a cruise?”
“Alright, awesome.”

I’ve had a hard time explaining it to people who weren’t there, how it was different and better than W00tstock or PAX, because while it has the same ‘geek homecoming’ sort of feel, we’re all always in the same place, eating at the same times, going on day trips to the same places.

At a normal convention, you might travel with a pack of 2 or 3 friends, but there are so many panels going on concurrently that you’ll never sit with the same crowd twice. But in the context of a cruise ship, we were all programmed for a few events a day, with little to no overlap, and so we all traveled about the ship in a big geeky pack. Everyone sat in on everything worth sitting in on. In-jokes from the concert on night 1 could carry into the concert night 4, and everyone was in on it.

At a PAX or a W00tstock, some people have to break off from the gathering early (they’re in another hotel, or they’re crashing someone’s couch and don’t want to get in too late, or they’re local); some people can’t stay up late to drink and goof off (they have to drive, or they have work in the morning, or they only bought a 1-day pass so they have to leave early tomorrow). At a normal convention, would it be plausible to stay up until 4:30 in the morning playing tabletop games? Probably not.

But on JCCC, one of us was as busy as any of us. In the wee hours of the morning we could say “We’re at sea tomorrow!” and it was determined that we all had nowhere to be the next morning and could play tabletop games for as long as we wanted – or we would say “Well, there is the Q&A tomorrow morning” and everybody retired to bed accordingly. And this confinement on the ship combined with the openness of the JCCC schedule gave way to such a unique kind of freedom that I’ve never experienced at any convention ever. It made way for iPhone handbell choirs and Pirate Fluxx tournaments. The cruise was about the roaming pack of nerds as much as it was about JoCo and his Superfriends.

When David Rees ran into the Crow’s Nest Lounge late in the evening and said “There’s a faction of nerds in the Harbor Lights Disco. Let’s go!” we went. And why not? If we don’t go dancing with David Rees, what else do we do?

Nothing. We had no excuse not to.
And that’s what was so freeing.

I feel like I’m still at this weird transitional point where I’m onstage with a bunch of these ridiculously talented people, but I’m also still a huge fan of them to the point that I feel out of place sharing a stage with them. I’m not sure how well I downplay my constant, overwhelming giddiness, but if the guys notice it they’re kind enough not to acknowledge it.

I have to mention how grateful I am to Paul, Storm, Liz, Armand, and Jonathan for inviting me onto this magical mystery tour and trusting me with their audience, and I have to thank the Sea Monkeys for being such great company and not poisoning my food.

(Aside: Peter Sagal, I’m sorry I said that Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me is my mom’s favorite NPR show – I mean, it still is, but I realize that it made me sound like a turd and that you hear it all the time from turds like me. John Roderick, you are no longer dead to me. Nolan, I haven’t forgotten that I owe you $3.)

It was a wholly wonderful and bizarre experience.
It was bizarre to feel tipsy all the time. It was bizarre to be tipsy for only maybe a quarter of that time. It was bizarre to have ladies in maroon double-breasted coats bringing whatever drinks I wanted, whenever I wanted them. It was bizarre not to handle actual currency for an entire trip. It was bizarre to be completely out of touch with my family for a week. It was bizarre to wake up to different scenery at my window every morning. It was bizarre to be invited into the company of all these guys I’ve admired and modeled my work after for years. It was bizarre to be recognized by strangers for my music. It was bizarre to stand in a crowd of hundreds, all dressed to the nines, and all wearing self-adhesive mustaches. It was such a drastic departure from my real life. From anybody’s real life, I think.

A lot of people from the cruise have been twittering recently that they still feel like the ground beneath them is pitching and swaying, after a week of living and sleeping in a cruise ship. Sometimes when I’m sitting still, I can still feel it in my back, like the entire chair is filled with water. Like right now, for example.

Paul’s daughter Shawn said that it might be because the entire cruise is only happening in someone’s dream, and we’re all trying to perform inception on that person, and that person was sleeping on a water bed. So, here’s hoping that the vague sense of swaying means the dream isn’t over yet.