August 6th, 2001

self portrait

A week's vacation

Over this past week, I took time off work primarily to attend Gen Con, the annual convention of role-playing, card and strategy games that occurs in Milwaukee. (Though it'll be moving to Indianapolis in a couple of years, apparently.)

Monday, before I left, however, Ericka and I went out to see the new Planet of the Apes film. I'm a fan of Tim Burton's work and enjoyed the film even though there wasn't much of a film there, if you know what I mean. Tim Roth did an excellent job in his role as the chimpanzee general and many of the actors in ape make-up did fine jobs conveying their character through the make-up and also bringing ape-ness to their speeches and movements.

On Tuesday, I packed and headed off to Milwaukee with my friend Bob in the big truck of stuff we were going to be selling at the con that weekend. Bob runs a local game store and is also associated with a corporation that has several interests around the country. At this convention, we were going to be representing two game companies and selling their products (along with a couple of other guys from Minneapolis and some employees of one of the companies and some volunteers from Milwaukee).

I've been doing this for several years, first on an ad-hoc basis where I'd be just hanging out talking with friends and would answer people's questions about the game, but later as a more formal task. I've come to enjoy it quite a bit and many of the folks I know would be very surprised to see me in action at the con.

I'm generally a shy guy, enjoying listening to people talk, not initiating conversation. Behind the huckster's table at a games convention, however, it's a whole new ball game. I'm calling greetings to the passing strangers, dropping into sales pitches left and right, practically dragging people into the booth to sell them games. I'm shaking hands, cracking jokes, bumping up the hard sell, running 30-second demos. I'm a selling machine, taking in hundreds of dollars over the hours I'm on the floor and loving every minute of it.

Over the course of a con, I work up sales pitches for various games, dropping into them quickly when a customer expresses interest. The new "Munchkin" card game at the show became, "just like a role-playing game without all that annoying storytelling and character development." The new edition of the classic "Awful Green Things From Outer Space," was, "the game so good it would not die." And so on. There are also the little quips meant to break people out of their mile-long stare and get them looking at the product in the booth rather than keep walking by. Most of the time a quick, "hello," will do the trick but by the end of the con when people would answer with a "how ya doin'," and look like they'd keep walking I'd go into my spiel about how I was, " achieving spiritual enlightenment by serving my fellow humans. Offering them enormous entertainment for only a few dollars."

So the show went by in a blur. Set up on Wednesday, tore down on Sunday. Had record sales over the course. Made $145 playing poker with other industry folk one night. Attended a friend's surprise bachelor party. Had lunch with another friend. Stayed up until 3:00 a.m. most every night, sometimes drinking and chatting, sometimes playing games, always having a flat-out ball. Drove home with Bob on Sunday, stopped for a trip-defining meal at a small-town restaurant; mid-Western hearty, spiritually satisfying, and in portions bigger than your appetite.

Today, my friends John and Scott had a 12-hour layover on their way back to Seattle and I had the opportunity to show them around my city a bit. They took a much needed rest in the comfort of my centrally air-conditioned home, we had a bite to eat at my favorite local pub and they are now on their way back home.

Tomorrow, I go back to work and, like the brief sojourn camping last month, I'm energized and ready for it. More importantly, networking with the creative professionals at the show has jazzed me up about doing more writing as well. I hope I'll be able to sustain this enthusiasm and make something out of it. I'm not planning a quick turn-around, but want to continue my steady growth.