Friday, December 29, 2023

Longest Night: A Solstice LARP

I'll admit I have a little bit of a problem with over-committing.  I have major FOMO.  But I also find social interactions to be incredibly emotionally draining.  It's not that I'm not social; I'm actually a pretty big extrovert.  But I also have a pretty high degree of social anxiety and tend to mull over every interaction I have trying to figure out if I did something wrong.

This anxiety isn't entirely misplaced, because I've stuck my foot in my mouth before.  On the other hand, there have been times I didn't, but interacted with the wrong person at the wrong time.

For example, there was a Solstice parlor LARP I went to several years ago in which someone thought a thing I said was directed to them.  (It wasn't.)  The statement was something like, "I don't think people who bring negative energy to parties should come to parties.  It just bums everyone out and dampens the whole mood."  I stand by this statement; don't be a drag.  

One of the people at this party was apparently going through a rough time and stormed off to cry in a backroom somewhere.  (Worth noting that this proves my point; two people had to leave the party to go comfort them, which was probably not how they wanted to spend their night.)

I learned about this instance years later, when I was invited to a party and informed the person was in attendance and didn't like me much because of this situation.  It was the first time I had even been made aware of it and I was horrified to think I'd inadvertently ruined someone's night.

So I went to the party, found the person, and apologized.  They generously told me that there were no hard feelings at all, because obviously, I hadn't directed my statement toward them and didn't mean it cruelly, and the whole "they don't like you" thing that had been relayed to me was just miscommunication from my brother-in-law.

I felt really relieved, until the next day, when I discovered they had gone to my brother-in-law and told him I was "talking trash" about him.  (This is debatable.  I did say my brother-in-law is the king of miscommunication and social awkwardness, which is 100% true and something he already knows about himself.  My brother-in-law was one of the few mutual friends me and this person have between us, so we swapped a few stories, all of which I felt were light-hearted.)  I had very specifically told this person that, to avoid future miscommunication, they should tell me if I ever did or said anything to make them uncomfortable, even if it wasn't directed at them.

Discovering they had taken the first opportunity to complain about something I said was devastating.  It sent me into a real spiral, because it's really one of my biggest fears that people who seem nice are secretly plotting my social demise and talking about me behind my back.  (Happily, my brother-in-law took the accusation with a grain of salt; there's nothing I would say about him to others that I haven't already definitely said to him directly, so the potential drama fizzled out immediately, which was a relief, though the issue was really that anyone tried to ignite it in the first place.)

Rationally, I knew none of this was really my fault.  I can't be expected to be a mind-reader.  I can only do my best, and if someone is going to hold a grudge but not have the decency to tell me, I can't be expected to know.  And the stuff they complained about wasn't stuff that was really directed at them in the first place.  Sure, if they'd told me in the moment to shut up, I would have, out of common courtesy.  But I got the impression this person really just wanted to find fault with me.

But even knowing that, it triggered some massive social anxiety issues.

So this situation, combined with my recent move, made me pretty anti-social for about a year.  Worse, the person who had dredged up all this negativity had a lot of overlapping social circles with me, and I was scared of being around them, since we were 2/2 on them creating issues when I thought there were zero issues.

But I couldn't be a hermit forever.  As you know, I went to Great Western War and had an amazing time, and while I was there, I reconnected with the friends who threw the Solstice parlor LARP.  I hadn't gone in a few years and had gotten it into my head that this was because of the drama this one person had created at the first one I'd been to.  But I had gotten it all wrong.  There hadn't been any LARPs because of, you know, the pandemic.  They were having their "Longest Night" Solstice LARP in 2023, the first since the pandemic, and they were happy to invite me.

I was thrilled!  Unfortunately, when I got the invitation, I realized I had did that whole "over-commitment" thing I mentioned earlier.  See, the 2023 winter solstice landed on Thursday, Decemer 21st, and the party was on the weekend.  On December 23rd, all night, meaning it would finish Christmas Eve.

My family had plans to spent Christmas week with my brother in St. Louis. 

But I was determined to go to Longest Night, and so I braced myself for a classic Tony Turn n' Burn™.

On December 23rd, I drove down to Los Angeles from the Bay, with plans to drive back in the wee hours of the 24th to board a plane and get to my brother's on Christmas day.

A few days before the 23rd I discovered another event that looked appealing: the Fae Picnic.  This is a quarterly event that roughly aligns with the solstices and equinoxes (equinoi?), and it's pretty much exactly what you think it is: people dressing up as mythological fae creatures and then having a picnic.

I didn't see it as much of a stretch, really.  I was already attending Longest Night as the character Dionysus, so it wasn't a big stretch to throw on a pair of hooves and horns and go as a satyr to the fae picnic.

(Not pictured: hooves.)

I swung in, noshed, swung out, and wandered into the Longest Night thoroughly exhausted but determined to have a good time.

About the LARP: the setting was an amalgamation of prior Longest Night LARPs, with most people playing a "returning" character, though all characters were from different LARPs.  The idea was that a rift in universes had deposited multiple people from multiple worlds into a single bar in New York on the winter Solstice.  Most characters were seeking a way home, and there were a few in-game items that could restore them to the correct universe.

As a Greek God, I wasn't actually especially concerned with going back, since I'm, y'know, a god with magical powers.  Also, as the Greek God of wine, being deposited at a bar was great news for me.

I had arrived with my buddy Poseidon.  There was meant to be one other god character, but they couldn't make it, which left me and Poseidon without any strong goals.  We decided to make our own: all we had to do was fit in with the humans for one night, until our powers would be restored at daybreak!  Easy!

What commenced was a hilarious, bumbling, sitcommy situation.  We told everyone we were "normal humans" who worked at the "normal human zoo" (to explain why I was wearing a leopard pelt and why Poseidon kept talking in Dolphin).  We introduced ourselves as Paul Siden and Dio, and overall just had a hilarious time being ancient Greek himbos.

 I searched for a meme with Poseidon and Dionysus together and this was all I could find.

10/10 accuracy.

One of my favorite interactions was speaking to a backwoods hillybilly from the 1920s, who, in the midst of Prohibition, had never touched a drop of alcohol and was a little nervous about the whole idea.  Dio was quick to set him down the right path (that of drunkenness).  The player was so convincingly awesome that, at the end of the night, a few people were genuinely worried that he was actually drunk.  (He was not.  Just a great, great actor.)  Other memorable characters included a steampunk skyship captain and a scientist who had mutated himself into a half-rat, half-man type creature.

In short, it was silly and weird and funny, as all LARPs should be, and I had a great time.  I mostly hung around the bar loudly telling everyone that I was not a Greek God and that they should have some wine.  Having Poseidon around to do bits with (increasingly bad

(I'm terrible at taking pictures.  This is one taken after the party, which is why Poseidon and I look so wasted.  Because we are.)

At the end of the night, as is typical of LARPs, everyone went around the room to talk about their character, their goals, and what had gone down for them during the night.  There were about 30 people total and I hadn't manage to meet all of them, unfortunately.  We also filled out small feedback cards to offer up ideas to the GM and to mention who was our favorite character.

I was flattered when the half-rat scientist turned to me during his summary and earnestly informed me that I was his favorite character and he had had so much fun interacting with me.  That meant a lot because he'd been one of my favorite characters as well.

I didn't remember this from the previous LARP, but after all the comment cards had been collected and the GM had read them, he announced a "winner."  With surprisingly casualness he said it'd been a landslide vote and about half the people in the room had stated that their favorite character was Dionysus.  The prize was the homemade, in-game McGuffin, an electronic "transporter" puzzle box, which came with an elaborate set of instructions to solve. 

How I normally feel interacting with other humans.

I was floored by this revelation that everyone had actually enjoyed hanging out with me.  I had felt a little bit in over my head at times, but had apparently nailed it.  (I felt like I was playing off Poseidon a lot, though.  He helped me carry a lot of the gags.  The GM mentioned, in his own summary, that the favorite interaction he overhead was the bartender offering Poseidon gin, and Poseidon turning to Dionysus to ask if he liked gin.  Naturally, Dio said yes.  "It's wet," he said, which was all the information Poseidon really needed.)

In the future, for the sake of my social anxiety, I would like all parties to have a vote at the end to inform me that I was cool.  It made my whole night and absolutely justified the over-scheduling for me.  After a lot of worry that I was secretly bothering people, during an event with an actual vote on who was the coolest, everyone agreed publicly that, "Yes.  Tony is a cool guy and we appreciate his presence here."

This marks the second time ol' Dio had my back in a party situation.  Maybe there's something to be said for just letting go of my worries and trusting that the rare problems I encounter aren't ones that I actually have anything to do with.

Saturday, December 9, 2023

Here Today, Con Tomorrow: The Cons I've Been To (And Not Been To) This Month

When I last updated this blog, it was about my ongoing dislike for Pete the Cat.

I still don't like Pete the Cat very much, which is just too bad for me, because my kid remains very much in love with him.  He went as Pete the Cat for Halloween and drove almost an hour to San Ramon to meet Pete the Cat in person (in cat, anyway).

At the San Ramon book fair, Pete the Cat was a dancing ball of furry blue energy, and Calvin was delighted to meet him.


He was even more delighted when Pete the Cat offered him a special, exclusive backstage tour.

In case you're wondering why I was okay with my preschool-aged son going into a private backstage area with some sweaty dude in a mascot uniform, it's because that sweaty dude was me.  It was me.  I was Pete the Cat.

If you can't beat 'em, join 'em!

While I might not harbor any major love for Pete, I do love costuming, and it's hard to say no to a paid gig that also helps encourage literacy.

I needed the money for San Francisco Fan Expo, the biggest and most local Con for me here in the Bay Area.  It's not necessarily my favorite (L.A. Comic Con will always be my one true love... foreshadowing...) but S.F. Fan Expo was conveniently a week before L.A. Comic Con, allowing me to test out my latest and greatest cosplay: Spider-Man!


I've always wanted to do a Spider-Man.  In particular I wanted to do Homecoming Spider-Man.  I'm only six years late, so, not bad!  This is definitely one of my best true-to-the-cinematic-universe fits, and it was relatively comfortable considering the limited visibility.  Among the major advantages were allowing a backpack to be part of the costume.

"Aunt May, can you drop me off at the convention center?"

My Con started a little rough when I was unable to locate the entrance to the convention center and just wandered around San Francisco anxiously, dressed as Spider-Man, although a lady did slip me $5 after asking me to take a picture with her kid.

Once inside I discovered I'd missed the Marvel photoshoot meet-up, which was a disappointment.  But things got better when I met up with some old friends.  (Remember this guy?!)  Also, unlike last time time I went, I did not get lost on public transit.  And no one really bats an eye when they see Spider-Man taking the subway with a take-out container, either.

Andy snapped this when he came to pick me up from the train station.

Honestly kinda captures the whole essence of Spider-Man.

Overall it wasn't the best Con, but I did feel immensely validated by everyone asking for pictures.  I finally got to join a "Spider-Man Pointing" circle (long-time dream of mine), and I was really surprised at everyone's enthusiasm for seeing Spider-Man.  There's always like, about 100 Spider-Mans (Men?) at every Con, but that does not dampen anyone's enthusiasm for seeing Spider-Man.  

Except J. Jonah Jameson.

With my new cosplay, I finally felt I had the credentials to submit an application for The Avengers Initiative, and I can't wait to dip my toes into that in the coming year!  (You might remember them from an article I wrote about Causeplay a few years ago.)

Unfortunately, during the week following the Con, I developed fever and chills.  And being a responsible adult who cares about the well-being of others, I took a Covid test before embarking on my trip to Los Angeles.  And it was a good thing I did, because, what do you know, I had contracted Covid at the convention.  Instead of going to L.A. Comic Con, I spent the week in bed with the typical cough, chills, fatigue, and soreness we've all come to associate with the 'rona.

 Artist's depiction.

I was out the ticket, but I couldn't justify going to a large, crowded event while sick.  So I stayed home.  Because with great power comes great responsibility!