Sunday, October 22, 2006

Spinning Heads & Head Spinning

Yesterday was the main day of the Horror in the Hills/H.P. Lovecraft in VT event, and I quickly found myself in -- one of those days. Though I think it all went OK in the end, with most of the disorienting nature of the day invisible to all, it was a real head-spinner.

The spinning was, now that I place everything in context, kicked off by another bout of "I can't publish my post!" spinning-wheel frustration on this very blog, as the week-long technodread associated with this venue reasserted itself. (It's now the norm, damn it.)

The plan was to drive to the Dummerston Town Grange locale of yesterday's festivities with my amigo Joe Citro, a fellow guest and semi-organizer, in two cars (so Joe could leave whenever necessary; my obligations extended to the end of the show, with the presentation of two Lovecraft films, Joe was free to go before that -- and did).

En route, I had to turn around to head back home to grab the combo DVD/vhs player I'd forgotten to pack the night before, intent as I was on making sure my laptop slide presentation was in order and everything I did remember to pack was indeed in the car.

Part Two of the day's plans was to dash into downtown Brattleboro to pick up my son Dan around 2 PM, as he got off work, and drive him to the Lovecraft event for the afternoon panels and such.

Part One of the plan went OK through breakfast (at the Chelsea Royal Diner, where we found ourselves standing in line with two of the Lovecraft attendees, who were quite cordial and conversational: a good omen). After breakfast, though, a quick stop at the little gas station/convenience store perched alongside the Exit 3 rotary off interstate 91 led to Joe and I getting seperated. As I came off the rotary heading up Route 5, Putney Road toward the grange, I looked in my rear-view mirror to see -- no Joe. I pulled over by the ballfield and waited -- and waited. 10 minutes later, I turned around and went looking for Joe.

No Joe.

Knowing he was fully capable of finding any town in Vermont, however remote, I turned about after some fruitless backtracking and heading to the Dummerston Grange solo (sure enough, Joe had taken a long way around to the grange, and showed up jes' fine about 20 minutes after I got there).

Once there, the usual convention setup disorientation -- with halting conversations conducted between dashes out to the car to get my boxes of sale items (prints, books, DVDs, etc.) and the equipment necessary to the afternoon presentations (my laptop lecture on Lovecraft in Comix, with a focus on Jack Jackson and Richard Corben's seminal Skull adaptations, and the end-of-show pair of films) -- kicked in, though soon all was in order and I was happily chatting it up with folks at the conference, selling odds & ends, and in full show mode.

The pisser for this ol' Pop was the subsequent confusion over the panels and schedules. Plan Two had been prepared around the schedule of events we'd picked up the night before, with Dan and I making our rendevous plans around a slot around 2 PM when it looked likely a dash to Brat and back would be a piece of cake. By 1 PM, the schedule was being rerouted, and I found myself around 2 PM hustled onto the stage as part of a panel originally scheduled for 2:45 -- c'est la vie! -- and, while on stage, suddenly realizing I was supposed to be in Brat picking up my son right now, with no way to gracefully exit as I had been appointed moderator amid the shuffle -- with two guests added to the panel onstage only I knew anything about. I somehow kept myself from breaking out into a cold sweat, and carried on. The panel was, from my seat, madness, though I think we pulled it off.

To make a long story short, my panicked exit at the end of the panel to call Dan was complicated by more schedule reshuffling needing immediate attention and a struggle to find a phone to call Dan. Once I did so, there was no signal, then I got through, and by the time I'd succeeded in leaving four messages for Dan (all apologies -- he is, of course, 20 years old and was waiting in Brat, his town, so it's not like he was five years old and I'd stranded him completely, though I sure was feeling like the worst Dad on Earth by this point) it was 3:30 and hopeless. This Dad had majorly fucked up. Dan and I finally connected last night, and all's well (turns out he'd forgotten to mention it was his friend Matt's wedding, and he ended up spending the afternoon at the wedding reception, so all was well, and he no doubt had a better time there than he would have with us old fuddy-duddies), but -- well, you get the idea. I fucked up.

More headspinning disorientation madness followed, though again it was (I think) invisible to everyone else, Joe included. My mind was a miasma of parental agony (I'd abandoned my only son! What a shit I am!), and nothing offered recovery or relief. I managed to settle into my laptop lecture shortly after the appointed time, after serving as my own roadie and seeing to the tech setup. Co-organizer Sheila insisted I eat something, and a bowl of organizer Alan Eames's chili went some way to reestablishing my balance.

The films followed, and to my horror the first feature was, once projected digitally onto an archaic silver grange screen (the old 1950s/'60s gray-ground-glass kind designed for slide projection), damn near impossible to see. Lovecraft's fiction indeed thrives upon barely-glimpsed horrors and unseen terrors, but this was ridiculous: the film was reduced to occasionally-visible edges of faces and murky gray soup split by flashlight beams, the sound mix tinny and often indiscernable via the sound's muffling in the grange auditorium. It was excruciating (no fault of the film or filmmakers, mind you), and I'm amazed anyone sat through it. As a film programmer/exhibitor since junior high school, I'd had experiences like this before -- unless the audience en masse revolts, you just shoulder on. Well, no one was complaining, out of either politeness or genuine interest, I couldn't tell. Some were laughing properly at key lines of dialogue, some seemed to be responding to the action (which, from where I sat in the back of the hall, was impossible to make out) -- they were enjoying the film, so you let it run. Someone is enjoying it, they paid their dollars, and you let it run its course. Thankfully, this eventually ended.

The second feature went swimmingly: The H.P. Lovecraft Historical Society's The Call of Cthulhu (2005) sounded and looked pristine, its black-and-white photography and imaginative imagery sharp, its musical score clear and resonant, the entirity blessedly and entirely clear, sharp, and enjoyable, rewarding all who endured the prior hour of agony. However, the head-spinning was not yet over: I had a major karmic debt to repay.

Toward the end of the first feature, organizer Alan Eames shouted, "Steve Bissette! Is Steve Bissette still here?" into the hall, and I dashed out of the hall to talk to Alan. He asked if I could see to closing up the grange: no sweat, easy pie. I'd closed more than one Vermont grange up in my lifetime. I accompanied Alan to the basement kitchen, said goodbye to Alan and his wife Sheila, son Adrian and all, made sure I knew my duties, and they headed home after cleanup as I headed back upstairs to see to the rest of the film event.

After the triumphant applause for Call of Cthulhu, I had to bow out of a loose plan or two to make sure I attended to my new duties (and to see, ASAP, to Dan and my houseguest Joe's needs -- I'd yet to reach Dan, able only to leave messages, and Joe had headed home early, exhausted and eager to snag a nap).

After farewells, a new dilemma: a lone attendee was stranded, with an hour to go before his ride (his father) was scheduled to arrive. It was an inversion of my own grevious faux pas with Dan: a son stranded until his father arrived or could be reached or found. With darkness reigning over all, the crisp fall temperature already down to 37 outside, the grange having to be closed up, and no way to reach his ride (he left cell phone messages, just as I had earlier in the day for my son), I volunteered to get him whereever necessary, and we closed the evening chatting and driving up and down the route twixt Dummerston and Brat until his cell phone rang and rescue was arranged.

All was well, and I was at last able (with eerie ease at last) to reach Dan by phone immediately after all this.

A couple calls back and forth, a call up to Joe at my hacienda, and I was at last on my way home after a busy, productive, profitable, but in many ways quite discumbobulating day.

This is the short version, mind you, minus the multitude of other momentary speedbumps, omens and odd events that emphasized, stem-to-stern, that Lovecraft Day was to be a day of confusion and turn-on-a-dime upsets and recoveries.

Thankfully, it's now Sunday, and it's all behind me.

Joe
and I are looking forward to an inconsequential day of pleasure, visiting at some point with our good friend Mike Dobbs and hopefully catching up with Dan for a meal or two. All, it seems, is well.

Now, let's see if this post will post -- or if the wheel of unpublishable shame still spins, spins, spins --

[PS: 9 AM -- It won't post/publish, damn it! I'm once again writing to blog support -- they who never reply but seem to mysteriously see to my posts finally appearing days later -- as I have almost every day now for over a week, and cursing these ongoing blog difficulties. What is going on??]

6 Comments:

Anonymous Cthulhu's Favored Spawn said...

God, Steve, I'm surprised you didn't blow up or go shrieking into the hills like a Lovecraftian protagonist. I didn't notice that anything seemed wrong or even bothering you. Wish I could have helped, but glad it's all behind you now.

10/24/2006  
Blogger SRBissette said...

Hey, 25+ years of conventions, I'm an old hand at it under any circumstances. "The show must go on" and maintaining one's professional cool are credos to be adhered to whatever's happening, save mortal danger or cataclysmic events -- but you can perhaps see, too, why cons are by and large a thing of the past for me. That said, I enjoyed the Lovecraft weekend, despite the craziness, and would happily do it again, as long as it remains a modest venue.

10/24/2006  
Anonymous Mark C. Williams said...

Hey Steve,

I just thought I'd pass along that my wife Debra thought you had held the whole thing together on Saturday quite well.

I had absolutely no idea that all this was going on for you, you certainly remained professional throughout the ordeal.

It was great talking with several times that day I hope to once again stumble into a meeting with you someday.

Thank you for making the "convention" much more fun than I expected.

Mark

10/24/2006  
Anonymous Mrs. Eames said...

Wait til next year!

10/27/2006  
Anonymous Mark Williams said...

I'll be there!

BTW Did you happen to catch Joe Citro's commentary about HPL on VPR yesterday afternoon?

As can be expected, a very nice job:

http://www.publicbroadcasting.net/vpr/news.newsmain?action=article&ARTICLE_ID=986253┬žionID=4

Mark

10/28/2006  
Anonymous Mark Williams said...

Ooops, wrong commentary...I can't seem to find the HPL one. This one is ABOUT Joe. Still, it was very good anyway.

Mark

10/28/2006  

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