PAX09: The Wrath Of Con

by Molly Lewis on September 10, 2009, no comments

Every day I check to see if any new pictures or videos have gone up.
And so far I don’t have PAXflu. [knock on wood]

I ended up falling heir to an unused PAX badge about a week before, so I already knew I was going to show up and sort of planned to surprise Jonathan Coulton and Paul & Storm at their signing table. Maybe. Or something. But they texted me in the 24 hours leading up and asked if I wanted a badge, and when I said I already had one, they told me to bring my uke. Not wanting to go into the city by myself, I asked for the extra badge anyway and offered it to my next door neighbor Chris, who is a gamer and Coulton/Paul&Storm fan himself. My original plan was to use the 3-day pass for myself on Saturday and then let him use it on Friday or Sunday, but when I was offered an extra pass it was only logical to give it to him.

I’ve joked with Chris and my friend Jeannie about how JoCo is giving me less and less notice on performing with him; I had about a month of notice on the show at the Triple Door, about 3 weeks notice on the Moore/Aladdin shows, about 48 hours on the Largo show, and roughly 24 hours notice on this one. Predictably it will keep halving, and I’ll get 12 hours notice, and then 6 hours, until one day I’ll get a call, “We’re outside. There’s no time for questions, just grab your uke and get in the tour van.

I can’t find a word to describe how enormous the theater is, other than “enormous.” Because it was enormous. Enormously enormous, even. There were chairs for maybe 300 people in the back, and then standing room from there all the way up to the front. There was about as much floorspace as there is grassy space in a football field. Evidently it fit about 6,000 people that evening, comfortably, safely. Paul met us and led us into the hall as JoCo was testing Mr. Fancy Pants on the ZenDrum. “They are going to flip their shit when they hear this remix thing he’s doing,” Paul kept saying. “They are totally going to go nuts.”

After soundcheck was through I asked Jonathan what time I should be back, and he said “Well, my show starts at midnight…” It was 10:30 in the morning.
“So I have 13 hours to kill, huh?”
“Yeah, sorry. Paul and Storm should go on around 10:30, so you could show up then… I’m going to take a nap.”

Since Chris and I had a crapton of time to kill we decided the best thing to do was go to the actual expo. On the way there, I stopped to take a picture with the Prince of the Cosmos, and got recognized by a woman in a kickass GLaDOS costume and another guy in a Swedish Chef costume – simultaneously. We had a mutual admiration society for a minute, and I got sort of punch-drunk off it for the next hour or so. The coolest thing about getting recognized by people was that about 5 minutes later they would Twitter about it, and I would see it because they would say something like “Just met @Molly23, huzzar. #PAX” or “Passed @Molly23 in the other direction on the escalator.” and it was like a nametag on whomever said hi to me.

The expo hall was rows upon rows of booths and displays and vendors. There was this huge rumbling sound from one of the games as soon as you walked through the doors, and it was this rush of people and colors and lights and gunfire foley and free crap. We ended up playing Tekken 6, in which I chose to play as both a bracelet-wearing panda, and a kangaroo+joey with boxing gloves, while Chris chose the standard Tekken-type characters – a man with a leopard head, a black man with a bad haircut, etc. Pfft. Boys.

When we went to grab lunch, we noticed an abnormal percentage of men wearing kilts. It was exactly noon, and so I pulled a notecard out of my bag and started keeping a tally that I would call “KiltWatch.” About an hour later I would start “CorsetWatch” for comparative purposes, and would maintain a steady 3:1 kilt:corset ratio all day.

Chris had a pretty dense schedule of talks for himself, so I knew I would have a lot of time to kill on my own. I wandered around by myself for a while, played Beatles Rock Band and peoplewatched for a bit before I’d had my fill. They had what they called the “handheld lounge,” which was 2 rooms carpeted wall-to-wall with beanbags, in which you could sit and play DS or whatever else. I crashed in one of these for about an hour and solved my Rubik’s cube, and felt VERY heretical and naughty for it.

Around 4:00 I got tired of wandering, and so I left and went to the movie theater across the street to hopefully kill 2 hours, but all the movies were rated R except for The Proposal, Ice Age, and Harry Potter, and I still have no ID with my birthday on it (except my passport). I decided to go to the Gameworks on the same block, put $10 onto a token card, and played Galaga and cheap shooter games to my heart’s content. At Gameworks each credit is worth $.25, and each shooter game cost 1 or 2 credits per player, so I kept entering credit for two players and playing in what I call “Lara Croft mode”, putting a gun in each hand and shooting at two different screens at the same time. Chris called me to let me know that he was done with his panels, and I answered with “Can I call you back?! I’m playing House Of The Dead 3!
“Uh, ok, I guess I’ll—”
“AAAAAH!” [click]

It was nearing the dinner hour, so I told him to come to Gameworks so we could use up the credits on the card faster, and spent it on skeeball and more expensive/realistic shooter games. (Did you know that there’s an arcade shooter game version of Rambo? You’re welcome.) In the middle of a game of skeeball, the little boy next to me stopped his game and stared at me bewildered for a few seconds. “Are you wearing a wig?” he asked. I laughed and said no I wasn’t but I’d just gotten a haircut. His dad wasn’t as apologetic as I would’ve been were I in his shoes, and I wanted to lighten things up by making some joke about how bald his dad was in comparison but I figured that wouldn’t be appropriate.

We had to walk a ways to get food because there weren’t a lot of vegetarian options for him, and on the way we passed the Triple Door, where I was a guest of JC and Paul & Storm for the first time almost a year and a half ago. With Chris there I didn’t have time to wax nostalgic about it, or reflect on how much I’d matured as a performer since then, or how I hadn’t expected to ever EVER have a day like that again — but I did stop to take a picture and send it to my dad.

When we got back to the convention center, I went back to the handheld lounge and flopped into what beanbag I could find, and took a nap. Around 9:30 I found Chris again and we went to the main theater, where Freezepop was playing. I sat and watched until about the middle of their set, and then I wandered up the perimeter of the room towards the stage and sat down in a folding chair at stage left. Paul was running back and forth trying to organize t-shirts and write a set list out, and after about 20 minutes of that he said hi.
“Man, it’s so loud in here!” I said.
“WHAT?! (Get it?)” he said, and pointed towards the back of the room. “Go through that door, it’s quiet outside!”

I was standing outside with Paul and Storm when the door opened and Wil Wheaton came out, accompanied by the winners of some contest earlier that day. At the Largo show I had grabbed my uke and run like a scared rabbit when Wil Wheaton entered the room and I was determined to redeem myself this time, so I looked him in the eye, said “Hi, Wil!” and received a hug. I asked him to also sign my badge, which he did, and took up a generous amount of space. I said “ohh, you didn’t leave room for anyone else…” He raised his eyebrows at me as he crossed his T. “I’m kidding,” I added.
He said, “When you grow up in a large ensemble cast like I did, you learn to take up a lot of real estate whenever you sign things first, so that all the others have to cram in around you.”
“They call that the Hancock complex,” Paul said.

At the top of Paul & Storm’s set, Wil Wheaton issued a proclamation that named Jonathan the 2009 recipient of the Presidential D20 of Geekdom, which Paul and Storm received on his behalf. Paul & Storm played a wild and crazy set, including the song about Frogger with which they challenged me in the final round of Song Fu. They mentioned in the introduction that they had written it for the Masters round of Song Fu, and that they had lost. (“Awwwww.”) My dad always asks if they mention that I’m the one who defeated them in Song Fu, but I don’t really think it’s important.

I always get a little jittery before I go onto any stage, but this time I wasn’t at all worried about getting up in front of 6,000 people, I wasn’t worried about forgetting words or chords or anything. I was worried because geek darling Felicia Day was the guest performer the year before, and I was afraid that JoCo would say I’d like to invite another guest to the stage, she’s from the internet, and everyone would go Can it be?? I thought she was at DragonCon! and then be intensely disappointed when short, not-Felicia me popped up from backstage. I was completely prepared to disappoint a lot of nerds.

So then Jonathan went onstage, he played for a while, and then Paul and Storm went up for a few songs, and then I was introduced, and heard a fair amount of “YAAAAAAAA” from the crowd when my name was called. Ha! Not-Felicia triumphantly takes the stage!
And then this happened:

We played My Monkey (Wil Wheaton), Bills Bills Bills, and Always The Moon. I came back up for Sweet Caroline, the encore, but then there were 2 more encores for which I was unprepared.

After the third encore they shut the curtain, and Paul said “You’re signing things with us.” They went out and took their places at their respective tables, but I felt uncomfortable seating myself at either table and so I stood near where the lines spat out once their stuff had been signed, and caught a few people. In a lull as I was standing there Wil Wheaton stopped by and thanked me for being part of his serenade, that it was by far the peak of his PAX experience.
“Are you going to get up there and sign things?” he said.
“I think I’m just going to loiter here awkwardly by myself…” He nodded. “…because that’s what I do.”
“Good plan. And then occasionally people will gravitate over and loiter with you for a bit.”
“Exactly,” I said, “and then I’m not quite as awkward.”
“Exactly. I would join you myself, but it is way past Wil Wheaton’s bedtime.” I shook his hand and then he left.

It was almost 4 in the morning, so I said goodbye to Jonathan and Paul and Storm. Jonathan said thanks for showing up as he does after each of these shows, which always feels really backwards to me. (Thank me? Thank YOU.) I called a taxi to get back to campus. As Chris and I went down the huge dramatic line of escalators to find it, I was hopping up and down and taking the steps two at a time. “I’m excited,” I said.
“About what?” asked Chris.
“Just – everything.”

The final count on KiltWatch was 37 kilts, 10 corsets.

Group hug!!!

At PAX ’09