Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Drinking With Geeks

Every Fourth of July weekend Sj and I go to a large Sci-Fi/Fantasy convention held in Bloomington, MN called Convergence.  We started doing this many years ago when we realized that both my friend Peter and Sj's friend Jody were both involved with it.  Since that first, somewhat awkward, visit we have become regulars and use this convention as a way of recharging our Geek Batteries (TM pending) for the year--catching up on the best genre movies, books, games, etc. from the past year.  These days I spend most of my hobby time with beer and homebrew related things, but this event always gets me going and reminds me where I started.  (Oh, and geek is the label we prefer nowadays instead of nerd, dork, dweeb, pencil-neck, poindexter, ad infinitum.  Geek is more of a smart person with an obsessive interest, not necessarily lacking in social graces.)

Cons are all different and even at the same one, people can have wildly different experiences.  Some folks take this time to game (roleplay, board, card, larping, whatever.)  Others go to most of the panel discussions and book readings.  The guests of honor are always interesting to hear speak--this year I got to see a couple of my favorite comedians Kevin Murphy and Bill Corbett from Mystery Science Theater 3000.  There is always live music going on in the Harmonic Convergence theater: Sj and I saw The Dregs, Adam Stemple and Courtney McLain & The Dirty Curls this weekend.  Book signings, live theater, crafts, dealer room, art show and silent auction all round out the possible events to take part in. 

Trippy Tardis
The most important aspect of this event is the people, in all their glorious and zany variety.  Seriously, people watching is fantastic at these things.  Ranging from the classic overweight and scruffy guy in a Star Trek shirt to professional level super hero costumes, there is always something interesting to see.  Recognizing obscure characters from your favorite movies and books is always cool.  There were a ton of Doctor Who folks this year due to the increasing popularity of the new series as well as the British Invasion theme of this year's Con.  Sj and I did dress up in our steam punk outfits for one night, but little photographic evidence exists. 

Aboard the Brass Falcon

Why am I going on about geeks in my beer blog you may ask?  Because these guys know how to party!  Convergence split off from Minnicon several years back due to an increasing desire to embrace more than just books and to party more vigorously.  It has expanded greatly in the intervening years and has expanded to a four day event that broke 7000 attendees this year.  And the parties just keep getting bigger.  The Double Tree in Bloomington has a swimming pool and indoor patio area in the center of the large tower, surrounded by two levels of larger Cabana rooms.  All of these rooms are taken up by various groups and decorated impressively to host open parties for the evenings.  On Friday and Saturday night one can barely walk around these rooms due to a huge press of be-costumed and tipsy humanity.  Some parties are family friendly, with crafts/games and lemonade or teas and snacks.  The House of Toast is a perennial favorite:  coated in mylar with red lights to simulate being inside a toaster--and they serve free toast with any of 100 different toppings to hungry and drunken geeks.  Word to the wise: do not get the marmite and Dave's Insanity Hot Sauce on your toast like I did this year!

Many of the parties will card you at the door and offer a range of disturbingly colored and flavored theme drinks. 

"We'll take the green stuff..."

In a room made up to look like the helm of a dirigible, a fine gentleman in a top hat served us absinthe that tasted of both madness and despair.  And of tongue-numbing licorice.  Visiting all of these parties is entertaining to say the least.  Sometimes they are lame: just some people who all know each other renting a room out.  Others are impressive and embrace the theme they have chosen with much abandon. 

Almost more fun than the parties themselves are the signs all over the Con...

So in this party milieu, we wove between music, panel discussions and more parties.  This year the Double tree has expanded its bar's craft beer selection by having Indeed and Fulton beers available, as well as serving Romulan ale and other multicolored nerd drinks to a perfect target audience.  They seem to have really embraced the culture...and made a load money off of us!  While waiting in the 4 hour registration line (don't get me started on that cluster^%$&*) they actually came by with a cart loaded with beer, food and even jello shots.

And on to one of my favorite panels in the whole Con:  Drinking With Geeks.  They did this a few years back as an experiment, basically as an excuse to have the panel members drink in front of the audience and talk about booze and geekdom.  It quickly devolved into people from the audience giving them more booze and watching the panel (made up almost entirely of local comedians) get loaded.  The following year they skipped the pleasantries and moved directly into the drinking, and had a cash bar at the back of the room for the rest of us to use.  This year had no bar, but we were prepared enough to bring our own beer along.  The panel members were much the same as the previous years' and did a great job of drinking.  They would take turns passing around disturbing boozes that had been brought by panel members or the audience and giving their impressions.  Watching 6 people in a row try to choke down an alcohol made to taste like imitation blueberry pancakes was priceless.  Perhaps more fun that observing this strange spectacle is seeing the ASL interpreters try to handle the potty-mouthed and drunken chaos.  This panel and our enjoyment of it simply underlines the concept that geeks like to drink just like everyone else, but often have a better sense of humor about it!

Not to give the impression that all we did was drink during Con, but it certainly is a part of the experience.  Some of my friends don't go to the parties and that is totally fine, but I enjoy this social aspect of the event.  If you have a secret geek/nerd side to you, then you owe it to yourself to try this out some time. 

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