But I was restless and feeling crazy and stupid and mixed-up. Out there there were people doing all kinds of things and I was sitting here watching TV and smoking cigars and feeling sorry for myself. As usual the wife slapped me around a bit and then gently suggested maybe I needed a break and since there wasn't anything going on panel-wise we went to the Salvation Army down the street.
The prices at this place were really good and some stuff was half-off. We bought a bunch of things, I got some more glasses and such for my bar, it was fun. Going to this con was starting to become more an excuse to get me out of the house and into the real world than anything and I think it was helping. We got back to the hotel and I felt moderately refreshed but still grappling with the problem of trying to talk to people.
Oh, lemme jump back a second. I know we're in Saturday here but I forgot to mention a nice fellow I met at the first panel of the day and saw around later a few times. Stephen Zimmer impressed me with his hustle right out of the gate, going around the room and handing out bookplates and bookmarks from his latest book, which you should follow the link and check out. He was also the only writer I saw who showed up with a bookstand for his book, everyone else just stood theirs up on the table which only kind of worked compared with Zimmer's bookstand. While we waited for the panel to start I checked out the PDF of the first couple chapters of his book on my phone. It was not really my thing - the tone was very dramatic and apocalyptic, but I thought the story sounded interesting. And anyway he's got a big book deal for a whole series and he's done his own films so who the Hell am I anyway. But he is a real nice guy and I probably should've talked to him more. I kept running into him all weekend and he is actually one of only a few people I actually talked to and gave my card myself - the rest of the time my wife would grab my cards out of my pocket and hand them over while I stood there feeling stupid about handing out my card. Ah, that's why I married her.
I guess I could have gone back and put that in the earlier post but fuck it.
Anyway, I tried to go to some panels. Unfortunately most of the ones I was interested in were in a tiny room on the lobby floor which held about ten people, that was not really a great idea but I could see what the con people had to work with and it wasn't much. Though if it had been me I would've figured the panels about writing might be more popular than the filking and switched the spaces, but I didn't go to the filk show because folk music about Hobbits and whatever makes me want to put on my headband and bust up the place like Kwai Chang CoCaine, so I don't know how popular that was.
The point is I gave up on one earlier panel and cruised by the free table. All my chaps and some cards were gone and I had a moment where I wondered if I'd broken some unwritten con rule. Was I supposed to get permission to put that stuff out there? What if some con staffer had seen it there and been like, "what is this shit" and just thrown it away? And then I got a text from my brother.
I should mention here that my father is currently in Afghanistan. I only know a little about what he's doing and where he is - as usual I don't know much about his life. A "bad incident" he'd called my mom about on Thursday had turned out to be an attack on a convoy he would have been in but for a lack of enough vehicles. The convoy tripped an IED and then Hadji came out of the hills, guns blazing, and three good men died, all men my father knew well. And he had gone with the bodies to Bagram AFB to get them home.
I went back up to my room for a drink and sat there in the quiet and the dark, looking out over the empty pool as I tried to steady my nerves with straight scotch over ice in a plastic hotel cup. I felt again like I was doing something stupid instead of something real, like going outside the wire and fighting for my country. I have a lot of complicated feelings about the whole thing so I'll just leave it at that.
Later, my wife calmed me down and pointed out that my dad was still alive, and that I was not allowed to sign up for the Marines to fight Hadji, if I wanted to join I had to be a Navy officer so the living was not too miserable and the pay was okay. I am married now, after all, so any chance I have at a life of adventure like that is gone, I guess.
As for the free table, cards were still there so therefore I was just being paranoid again, and I should get some more chaps and put them out there. She'd been at the screenwriting panel, which I could have gone to after missing the other one, but I'd needed a drink more. Of course, I'd fucked up, missing a chance to meet a guy from the ATL who had done a comic book I'd really liked, "Surrogates", and there were currently filming the movie version of it. I'm normally skeptical about "the movie version", but they're actually filming it, Bruno liked the project and all that, so good for this guy. I lost my copy of the schedule and he's not in the program, so I'll just put up a couple links: Top Shelf Productions, which published the comic, and here is the Surrogates Trailer.
I fail at the con.
Anyway, I inscribed a couple more copies of the chap, now indicated as the "Supernumerary edition" and number 5 and 6 of 4. I also had a bunch of PDF versions on CD that I forgot about and I put the stack of those as well and refreshed the cards. I dumped them on the free table, trying to respect other people's space, and headed for another panel in the Tiny Room. Of course the seats had gone about ten minutes before so I had to stand around. It didn't help that I kept giving my seat to ladies or people who needed a chair a lot more than I did. But those chairs weren't that comfortable anyway and I kind of preferred to stand. The panel was all about writing endings and was pretty good. It was the only time I got to see Brian Keene, whom I feel comfortable mentioning by name since my only impressions of him were that he is a hard-ass in a good way, with a lot to say about writing, and though I'm not a huge horror fan I should check out more of his books. I keep wondering what part of PA he's from and wanted to ask him but after Friday I'd resolved not to talk to anybody ever again. But if I had to guess I'd say he's Western PA all the way. I should know, I lived there. He doesn't strike me as the East PA type.
Part of my problem at this thing was that I felt like I wasn't writing the same stuff these people were. Most of them were horror writers and seemed to enjoy cramming their books with gory murders and all that. I'm not really into that, never have been, for a lot of reasons. My old pal the publisher told me that horror is a pretty expansive genre these days, but I didn't see any signs of that at this con. I could be wrong, I guess, I haven't read a lot of these books, but mostly the point seems to be people being horribly murdered and a nihilistic tone. But I'm not a sci-fi author either and I haven't yet written anything with dwarves or elves in it. So I feel more than a little lost. But I figure I'll just keep punching and hope for the best, it's either that or give up.
Anyway the panel ended and I roamed around the con with the wife, not sure what to do next. For a while I hung out on the roof with a nice guy named George, wearing a camouflage vest. He was smoking a cigar and so was I, so I asked him if he had any butane since my cigar lighter had died shortly after I got to Nashville. He didn't but we talked about cigars, the con, that kind of thing. He was a Nashville native and wanted to know if I knew what the new building was - I didn't. When I saw it downtown they hadn't finished it yet, so it's pretty new (it's not in that picture from the last entry, it would be over to the left a little more). He told me the locals call the AT&T building "the Bat Building", which is certainly a good name and gives the Nashville skyline a kind of Gothic appearance most Southern cities don't have. It reminded me of the buildings in Pittsburgh.
It was around this time that I discovered what all these people were doing wandering around on the 9th floor. There was this thing called the "con suite" where they had free food and drinks. I had no idea, they need to put something in the program about that. If you were to ask me, I would say this was a dumb idea, but people really like it and it kept the wife in Diet Cokes throughout the weekend, she likes her caffeine. So what do I know. To me free food is a good way to lose a lot of money but then I'm a cold bastard.
I left George on the balcony and me and the wife went out for dinner. We went to Cadillac Ranch first, which is what I imagined when I thought of a restaurant/bar in Nashville. There was a guy playing John Mayer songs on the stage and that made the wife want to leave - she's hated him ever since he started dating that actress chick, can't remember her name - and we went up to Piranha Pete's. They had food that was surprisingly East Coast, it reminded me again of Pittsburgh since they put the fries and slaw on their sandwiches like Primanti Brothers. I hate slaw and can't eat a lot of food but it was still tasty stuff, I had about half of the 1/2 pound "hot dog" which was more like a brat, with chili and cheese on it. It was very loud, the NHL playoffs were on the TV. Why does it seem like I can't go out without feeling like I should've worn earplugs? Am I the only one who likes it quiet, maybe a little jazz? I am old before my time, I guess. Maybe my hair will go white when I turn 35 like Lee Marvin, I kind of think that'd be cool.
Back at the hotel me and the wife roamed the con again. I'd thought about going to the parties - when I checked the free table again, all my chaps and CDs were gone, so I figured some motherfucker out there had to have picked up the book and at least read the first chapter and liked it. On some of them I'd promised a free drink to anyone who read my book, but I never did run across anyone. Well, the offer still stands, anyway.
The wife wanted to hit the con suite again so we went up to the balcony. And that's when the whole night changed, because I ran into D.A. Adams, whom I later took to calling "Dave" though I can't exactly remember if that really is his name. I remembered him from some of the panels he'd been on, especially the Friday panels. I should mention I pre-drank a little because by this point I'd decided that maybe it would help if I loosened up a bit. So I ran into Dave up on the balcony smoking, which always improves my opinion of a person - not that I don't like people who don't smoke but I find I'll almost always like a smoker - and he was just standing there in the dark looking at the Bat Building and he said something to me and I realized who he was and we started talking. He'd already been partying and proceeded to drag me off to the parties on the 8th floor, where I'd wandered around before not really knowing what to do.
My memories of this evening are a little hazy. I remember meeting Toni Weisskopf, who was a very nice lady even though I'd been drinking. I think she had, too, anyway. We both went to the same college so we mostly talked about that. I think my wife got her card and gave her mine but I can't remember too well. I hadn't bothered approaching her because she's a sci-fi publisher so I don't think anything I'd write would be a good fit. But, shit, now that I think of it I do have a project that's kinda sci-fi...
Dave admonished me often that night for selling myself short. It's true that this is something I do very often. I don't consider myself worth anyone's time or interest, and I guess that's dumb because that means people will probably agree. It's something I've dealt with all my life and I'm sure there's lots of good reasons from my childhood or whatever why I am this way. But hanging out and partying with Dave I saw that this means I miss out on a lot of things. I always try to be the considerate guy, not intrude on anyone's space, because when I let that half of me out I think I'm an obnoxious asshole, drinking and talking over people and shooting off at the mouth with all my opinions that tend to be way out in left field. I've always figured I can be like that when I write something like "City on the Edge of Forever". Until then, though, I tend to try to hold all that back.
Writing is the only way I can really let it go. I guess that's why I keep doing it.
I was so drunk that night I actually almost braced The Baron again but fortunately I was not that drunk. As great as it might be to say "I got punched in the face by" that guy "and still like his books" or whatever I think it would have put a stink through the fun atmosphere of the con.
I don't remember much more from Saturday night. I ran into Zimmer again, he was going to bed, I was still partying. Oh, I do remember one other thing, which also led me to try to engrave in my mind this rule for yet another time:
Jim Gavin's Rule of the Con Number Three: A man's got to know his goddamn limitations.
One of my limitations is sugary drinks. I like them, everyone does. But I can't have more than two. Any more than that and I will be legendarily hung over the next day, moreso than I should be given my drinking experience. I drink a lot, it helps me write, and if you were to call me too late in the evening I will almost certainly be half in the bag. But I get up the next morning (usually) with few if any ill effects. Oh, not with the sugar drinks. Those things really slam you. Unfortunately the party that Dave was hitting, celebrating this dude's birthday (it later won best party for that night at the con), they were serving "punch" which tasted to me like Hawaiian punch with vodka in it, though the wife swore there was more to it than that. Dave kept being like "drink the punch," and I was like "What the Hell." No. Remember.
Jim Gavin's Rule of the Con Number Four: DON'T DRINK THE GODDAMN PUNCH. I DON'T CARE HOW TASTY IT IS. NO PUNCH FOR YOU.
I went back to my room at some point, obviously, because I didn't wake up out in the hall, and that's the end of Saturday night.