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Ground Zero For Crap

June 12, 2012

That’s right. That’s the way I felt after a recent convention -- like I was Ground Zero for Crap, as just about everything that went wrong at this convention happened to or around me.

First off, it was my second convention in as many weeks, so I started out tired. I took the extra night the convention was willing to pay at the hotel and came in Thursday night. Everyone insisted that the best thing for me to do was to hand the keys to the single most expensive thing I almost own -- loaded with a cash box full of money, the credit card machine, and $4,000 worth of books -- to a total stranger wearing a dirty T shirt and calling himself a valet. I now have no idea where my car or even my keys are as we rush off to have dinner at a restaurant that a member of the concom choose. We get to this restaurant, and the prices are through the roof! There is nothing on the menu that really sounds good, and by the time I take all my allergies into account there is only one thing I can eat -- and it sucked. The food sucked and it was expensive, but the company was great. We were just a bunch of people having a good time, in a restaurant with outrageous prices and crappy food.

The next morning, we have to go through the whole exercise of getting the car back so that we can load in. It’s a hassle, but Traci gets the car and we go to the loading bay. That’s where all the REAL fun starts. The loading bay is a pit. It smells like ass, the ramp is broken, and we had to use a broken service elevator to get our stuff to the right floor. The distance from the car in the loading dock to the dealer’s room is about three blocks, and we’re hauling a thousand pounds of books and other crap. The loading dock is already about 110 degrees.

When we finally found our place in the dealer’s room, one of the fans had gifted me with a Rock’em Sock’em Robots game -- not the little mini thing you can get now, but the real deal. This cheered me right up.

And that’s how the whole weekend went -- total crap, followed by something really cool. But as we all know, one bad thing will cancel out 10 good ones.

I get back to the loading dock and one of the dicks on the hotel staff has poured a five gallon bucket of slop water right where I have to walk, because of course they couldn’t possibly be bothered to walk down the stairs and pour it into the drain. They rehydrated all the funk and splashed this crap all over my car! Traci and I have to wade through this shit to finish loading in.I don’t care how much they hate their job or their boss; we didn’t do a damn thing to them, so this slop shower was completely uncalled for.

I was toastmaster, so I did opening ceremonies. I started off with some funny stuff that got some laughs and introduced the guests. Then, towards the end, I started to eulogize my dear friend Mark Shepherd, who had killed himself just a few weeks earlier. Mark was a well-known writer and known by most of the people there. But in the middle of me saying a few words about Mark, some fat fuck on the third row jumps up and interrupts me to announce the name of someone else who had recently died – someone I didn’t recognize then and still don’t know now.

My very first thought was, “I bet that’s some comic book artist or writer that three people have heard of.” But I didn’t know, so I thought, “Surely it is some local fan who everyone knows and loved other wise no real human would do this.” Either way, everything I was going to say about my friend of 30 years and his tragic end was washed away, and I wound up saying something lame about how I don’t want to bum everyone out and go on.

Later, of course, I found out that the idiot was talking about some guy who had created some obscure roll playing game. I wish I’d known when he’d said it because if I had, this is what I would have said to him in front of G-d and everyone: “Seriously, Dick, you’re going to interrupt me in the middle of eulogizing my dear friend of 30 years, a man well known to a great many of these here people personally, to shout out that some guy none of us knew has died? Tragic I’m sure, but Not The Same, because you see, my friend killed himself largely because of Insensitive Bores like YOU!”

And the crap continued.

We had a huge party and the con let us use the con suite, which was great -- except that the closest bathroom was a two-block hike and no one I asked seemed to know where the hell I could get ice to serve with the drinks I wasn’t supposed to serve. I finally took the con suite ice chest and pulled behind the bar. But that didn’t work because then every gamer in the world crawled out of their gaming hole and crawled behind the bar, getting right in our way so that they could get ice. Again, I tried to get someone to tell me where I could get ice. Finally, I just put the ice chest where the gamers could reach it without to come behind the bar. Jimmy made sure no one but us came behind the bar.

As we’re sitting up for the party, my assistant Traci gets a call that her grandmother is ill. She is upset and I’m trying to figure out how to get her home. Finally, they explain that she isn’t really any different than she has been and Traci’s all right. The show must go on.

The party was great! David Lee and Star Cruisers did the show. Brad Denton sat in for a couple of songs. We had a cupcake story battle, with lots of great stories and lots of great cupcakes.

By the end of the first day of the con, we had sold exactly one book. I had 31 people there, all of them busting their asses, and at the end of the convention if the con hadn’t paid all my expenses, I wouldn’t have broken even. This was in part because of the higher hotel rates, higher gas prices, and higher parking costs -- but there was another, bigger reason: the higher cost of food.

There were no decent, affordable restaurants in the entire area, except Subway -- which since I can’t eat wheat, I can’t eat there anyway -- but it closed at 5 p.m. The hotel restaurant was expensive and so under-staffed that the food was being served in various stages from cold to raw. So whatever people might have spent in the dealer’s room, they ended up spending it to eat high-priced, low-quality food. As a result, the starving hoards descended upon the green room, leaving no food for the pros and working the poor green room staff to death.

Jeff Turner shot a movie while we were there, and a bunch of us Yard Dogs were in it, which was a real high point. We shot the movie right before the Yard Dog Press Road Show, which most of us scheduled to be in. This wouldn’t have been a problem, except for some mullet-wearing woman with the intelligence of a gnat came stomping in. We had to stop shooting three times while this idiot in a maintenance uniform made sure that we had permission to be there  (in an empty-except-for-furniture-no-one-uses room, you have to worry someone might do some damage). Jeff had to tell her three times that he did indeed have permission to be there. Needless to say Laura – Miss Tittywhump --  had to hold down the Road Show until the rest of us could get there, which she did very well.

That night we went to dinner. I let the group pick the restaurant, and the only thing on the menu I could eat sucked dog ball sweat. Once again I found myself paying out the ass for really bad food. Immediately after spending what was left of my per diem, I talked to three people all who knew more about the work-for-hire job I’d just done then I did.

Now let me fill you in: I just spent six months writing a work-for-hire book. I’d planned on it taking three months, but it took six because they just kept asking for rewrites. The process was a nightmare. I’m now three months behind on everything, and the money I got for doing it was sooo chicken-shit that the only reason for doing it was that they said if the first book did well there would be more and more money -- good money -- could be made writing future books.

So, as I’m talking to these three people, it becomes painfully clear that I never had the full picture and further, if there will be any more books in this series, they won’t be written by me. And if I get the other half of the chicken-shit amount of money I was to be paid, it will only be at the mercy of one of these people.

So I’m in the middle of a show where I have to be on, on, on, and I’ve just learned that I have wasted the last six months of my life for nothing.  Beautiful!  But I put on my happy face and go on because really what choice do I have?

Later, I hang out with my friends and listen to music played by Bland Lemon Denton and the Lemonades. Sherri and I help them take their instruments up to their room when they’re done playing. Sherri and I walk down to her room just two doors down, at which point some total douche opens his door steps into the hall and screams to the top of his lungs, “Get in your fucking room and shut up!”

I say something like, “That’s what we’re doing.”

Then he screams, “I’ll call the fucking cops!”

At which point I say, “Why don’t you do that, Dick.”

Apparently the irony of yelling at us to be quiet was completely lost on this douche.

Sherri goes to her room, and I leave for the elevator. What the hell is in the water? I wonder. I really want to kick the guy’s ass. I think about going back and banging on his door then kicking his ass when he gets there. But like a giant chicken shit, I just get in the elevator.

It is 1 a.m. when I get to my room. Our toilet won’t flush. Beautiful. I don’t bother to call the front desk, because while the front desk is all pretty and pristine and filled to the gunnels with happy pretty plastic people who want to help you in any way they can, they send a staff full of hateful disgruntled people to do the actual work and... Well, I already wanted to kick someone’s ass.

I’d feel better now if I had kicked someone’s ass. Being civilized doesn’t really serve anyone. Face it. If mullet-wearing woman or screaming dude had gotten a good ass-kicking, they’d think twice before being shitheads next time.

On Sunday, load out was better only because we didn’t use either the dock or the freight elevator.

At the first panel of the day, one of the guys who was supposed to be on it with us didn’t show up. Someone in the audience said jokingly, “I wonder if he’s one of the people who got arrested at (a restaurant that shall remain nameless) last night.” It seems that the softball people -- who had been nothing but trouble all weekend -- had gotten in a fight in that restaurant and a couple of the convention people were picked up when the cops swept in. Since someone popped in the room and told us the guest in question was across the hall doing another panel -- someone had put him on two panels at the same time -- I naturally assumed he wasn’t the person who got arrested at the restaurant.

At closing ceremonies, I start telling what I think are lies about this guest being arrested at the restaurant. Everyone’s laughing -- including him -- and afterwards I even go up to him and thank him for being such a good sport. Nothing he says gives me any idea that -- you guessed it! -- he was the one arrested in the restaurant. Further, he wasn’t involved in the fight at all. The cops came in, saw this strange-looking dude, and just assumed he must be one of the trouble makers. They ruffed him up and threw him in jail.

Come on! Seriously? A joke like that’s only funny if it isn’t true! Now I just feel like a total ass. I want to apologize to the guy and let him know I’m not a total douche, but I haven’t found the words to really express myself. “Sorry I made a joke about your recent imprisonment, but I really, really thought I was making shit up.” Well, that just sounds really lame.

Anyway I came home and had to get right to work. Lots of things have to be done and they have to be done now, but the whole experience has just left me feeling kicked and bruised. It’s hard to get motivated. I just do what I have to do with no joy in my soul. Even when I finish, find myself asking What’s the point? I put six months of my time into a project only to learn it’s a big dead end, and I needed to make enough money from it in the first place to make it worth my time and I didn’t. Not even close.

When I’m in the middle of talking about my friend who just killed himself and some douche interrupts me to talk about someone he thinks is famous, that sort of tells you why he killed himself. When creative people get shut up, because of  something the business or other circumstances do, they go nuts. Creative people only feel fulfilled when other people see, hear, or read their work.

There are times when I feel like I’m screaming in pain and NO ONE hears me. A weekend like this last one -- where every time I turn around someone is going out of their way to be hateful or I’m having to spend huge amounts of money for crap food, or all the people involved with Yard Dog are having to dance like trained monkeys all weekend to try to sell books -- just makes me feel like everything I do is a waste.

Ever since I got back from that con, I’ve been working in the heat on my house and even this feels pointless to me. I’m having to do everything the hard way because I have to bust my ass to make any money at all and then... Well, everyone has an angle, don’t they? It’s almost as if society as a whole is working to make sure that I can’t make any money. I know a lot of people know exactly what I mean. We’ve worked our asses off assuming that if we did, there would be something for us at the end. Now all the rules have changed and there is nothing left for any of us.

Art isn’t supposed to be about money. But if you can’t pay your bills, if your house falls down around your ears, then you can’t create art of any kind.

Is this our lives? Just shoveling shit against the tide?

Mark Shepherd had made it, at one point he made good money writing, and he had many adoring fans. When he killed himself, he looked around saw everything that he should have been, everything he was, and everything he wasn’t, and he just couldn’t handle it any more. He got tired of shoveling, and he drowned.

Do I feel guilty? You bet. Why? Because there was a point at which I knew he was struggling, and I had my own problems. While I didn’t quit calling him, I did in my own way give him up to G-d. I decided there was really nothing I could do that I hadn’t already done.  

In my heart I know that’s true. He was just too far gone, he couldn’t be reached and I did try. When that dumbass interrupted me when I was trying to eulogize Mark, I think that’s when I really understood fully for the first time. Everyone wants to leave their mark, but no one really does. We are what we are today. Nothing we’ve done matters. Nothing we will do matters to the people we encounter today. All they can see is the person you are today.

When you’re feeling low anyway and people line up to kick you, it doesn’t really matter if anything good happens to you, because the bad will always outweigh the good. It’s the bad that will stick in your mind. Mark had one too many bad things happen to him, and he withdrew from everyone and everything in an effort to keep from being hurt again. Unfortunately, if you withdraw from everyone and everything, nothing good can happen to offset the bad -- and the bad will keep coming because the less you do the worse it gets.

But it’s hard to even think about putting yourself back out there when you have a weekend like the one I had last week at that con.

I feel like I’ve been run over by a bus.

People don’t need meds for depression. What they need is for a big happy to fall on them to balance out the crap.

Selina

If you enjoy these bitches, please contact Selina directly at selinarosen@cox.net. Thanks!

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