[ Sorry to be late; I, er, forgot. Was busy online. ]
I don't want to sound cranky, but the Great Lakes Fur Con was disappointing us. There wasn't much programming, what programming it had was buffered by hour upon hour of empty space on both sides, the schedule kept being wrong, and the social areas were buffeted by arctic air every time the hotel doors opened. We decided Sunday to skip the breakfast service and just eat after the Fursuit War Stories at noon, which would give us a couple extra hours to sleep, to pack up and to check out.
But Fursuit War Stories, supposed to be people sharing their experiences about weird or amusing stuff that happened in costume, was not at noon, another point where the schedule was wrong. We decided not to wait and to go out to eat instead. We'd passed a Chinese buffet restaurant on the way in, and although we'd both gone years without Chinese buffet (probably wisely for me, as, you know, I lost 120 pounds in a year, which is the result of my having 120 pounds of surplus weight, because in part of Chinese buffet visits), we've been to three in the past month. This was a pretty beautiful one, including a good-sized goldfish pond out front with a lot of room for the fish to explore; it was also festooned with banners urging people to vote it one of the top 100 Chinese restaurants in the nation on some web site or other.
We went next door, to the Dollar Tree, because we needed Chapstick, and also picked up some LED glow sticks that we thought would be useful for the Dead Dog Dance. They turned out to be more signal flare-type sticks than showy spectacle types, but, we figured we could use them anyway.
Since we'd missed the Fursuit War Stories event, if it ever happened, and the next thing on the schedule was Closing Ceremonies, we took another detour. The small bookstore chain for which bunny_hugger has two stores in Grand Rapids, including the mothership, the oldest in the franchise, and she'd never seen it. Most of the people in her store hadn't seen it. It was barely a mile down the road from the hotel.
It looked very similar to one of the stores in the Lansing area, though it had a couple wonderful little alien touches: way more Info Desks, notably, including one just for the Children's Section, which is a great idea because Children's is such a weird little pocket universe of its own. They also had a little alcove specifically for book gathering events and which looked like the altar for one of those minimalist-modernist Catholic churches built in the late 60s and early 70s. They also have one of those Google Books print-on-demand machines, and while they had the finished product on hand --- the books come out looking like real books, albeit ones from niche presses --- there wasn't any demand for one while we were there so we couldn't see it working. They also had, for some reason, a selection of greeting cards from a proudly Australian company. We were left with a sense of wonder and amazement at this strange alternate universe version of our familiar bookstore.
(And yet we'd learn we might have made a mistake focusing on this one: the other bookstore they have in the Grand Rapids area is to close in a little more than a month. If we'd known we would have gone to that instead.)
We went back to the hotel and poked into the game room where there weren't very many people and I made some hissing noises at the Intellivision. But there were a couple folks and we got a game of Devil Bunny Needs A Ham going, first with bunny_hugger beating us all soundly, then with her watching the others of us playing and my getting beaten, again, quite soundly. Although the game room would be open after Closing Ceremonies, the guy who'd brought in many of these games would be leaving, so there wasn't much to do, and we resolved to bring some of bunny_hugger's board and card and other table games to future cons that clearly need the love.
I should point out part of the game room's problems were that the guy who was supposed to run it died unexpectedly just a few weeks ago, and while they found a substitute there just wasn't the time to organize as wide and as thoughtfully balanced a selection of games as might have been. That's sad and understandable, but, on the floor, it just meant the game room was a lot of people popping in in the hope there'd be something to pop in for, and popping back out again.
Closing ceremonies went like these typically do, with the con organizers looking frazzled and saying how glad they were to have been able to put on such a great convention, and the presentation of the money to the charities and the charity liaisons choking out about how overwhelmed they are. I forget if they announced the theme for next year or if they just promised they had one; certainly it's going to be later in the year next time around and we'll just hope the weather is not so brutal. Some of the folks for Motor City Fur Con, this con's partner in mitosis from Furry Connection North, were there and showed off their MCFC construction helmets and stuff. The con's guests of honor, Step and the other person, weren't there because they had to drive home.
And then, well, the dispersal. People just vanished. The Dead Dog Dance was scheduled for 8 pm, and it was maybe 5:30, and … what was there to do? The hotel lobby should have been a good spot to hang out, except that the winter air blasted in with everybody who was leaving. The game room had lost all but the video games people didn't know how to play. We wandered into the hotel's ``water park'' --- a game room with some video games, some pool and air hockey tables, a swimming pool and one big water slide --- for which nominally we were supposed to wear wrist bands. Nobody was there to check and nobody challenged us. There was also nobody from the con there, although a couple families were hanging out and even went swimming. We played some air hockey and found the time just crawling agonizingly by in the march to 8 pm.
I had seen an indoor mini-golf spot and bunny_hugger agreed that'd be a good thing to do even if it meant abandoning the molecules of con left behind. It turned out that while I did see a spot called Galaxy Golf or something like that, it wasn't an indoor mini-golf place so much as it was a sporting goods store, and at that, it was closed, because it was Sunday.
We did find a bowling alley, surprisingly close to the hotel, and I wondered why there wasn't a furry bowling expedition to it. We thought we might just spend some time in the arcade; it had no arcade. So with an hour or so to the Dead Dog Dance, we guessed we could take in a round of bowling and amuse ourselves with our attempts at playing. We also got milkshakes that were very satisfying, quite milky.
Normally while bowling, with our regular friends or in furry groups, a game takes roughly forever to finish. bunny_hugger and I both love the hanging out, certainly, but we take seriously the idea that when it's our turn, we should go up and bowl, and with both of us paying attention and going up to bowl when our turn arose instead of whatever it is other people do, we finished a game in something like forty minutes, and that with our dragging our feet after we realized the first five frames had taken like two minutes. If we had any idea we'd have bought the ``all you can bowl for two hours'' package, but, we didn't think we'd need it.
Incidentally, I had a pretty good first four frames --- two spares and eight and nine pins knocked down --- and then went on to roundly suck the rest of the game. Neither of us got a strike. It was a charmingly old-fashioned lane, though, with none of the computer animations that taunt you for a gutter ball, although the computer scoring system did indeed baffle us as we tried to enter our names.
So we didn't spend as much time bowling as we might have, and even less time mini-golfing, but it seemed to us that 40 minutes or so hanging out before the dance was survivable and we got back to the hotel. I got my tail and ears on and then we discovered that, despite what we thought we heard at closing ceremonies and what we remembered from the con booklets, the Dead Dog Dance wasn't starting until 9:00.
This was crushing. We'd spent the whole weekend waiting for stuff to happen, only to find it happening later than we imagined, if at all. We'd done exactly one con-related thing all day. We'd managed to spend two hours doing something interesting only by giving up on the con altogether. And now we'd need to do another ninety minutes of nothing, in a con that was pretty much a rarefied gas rather than a community hanging out, if we were to get to the dance at all, if the dance would be held.
I gave up. We both did. We just couldn't drag the night out much longer, so, with some reservations --- after all, wasn't it silly to have spent the whole day in Grand Rapids and leave just barely before the thing we were waiting for? Or isn't that just the sunken cost fallacy --- we drove home.
It was depressingly early in the night by the time we got home, so, we went up to the hipster bar where pinball league is held and got bunches of change and a couple drinks and practiced on pinball. bunny_hugger did very well at getting to perform tolerably well, and repeatedly, on Lord of the Rings, while I practiced again and again on Tales of the Arabian Nights, on which I'd done disastrously the last league night.
I hate to say bad things about a con, especially one as clearly in need of love as this one, but going home early and playing pinball was the high point of the day at least, and it's hard to argue that we might have had a more fun weekend if we'd skipped the con and hung out, either in Lansing/East Lansing, or gone down to Ann Arbor, instead.
Trivia: Just after Canada beat the United States 6-1 for the hockey gold medal at the 1924 Chamonix Games, news of the death of Woodrow Wilson was announced. The Olympic and United States flags were lowered to half-staff and the band played ``The Star-Spangled Banner''. Source: Encyclopedia of the Modern Olympic Movement, Editors John E Findling, Kimberly D Pelle.
Currently Reading: A Splintered History of Wood, Spike Carlsen.