Fred Patten News

CaliFur 3 convention report, May 4-6, 2007

There are some benefits to being wheelchair-bound. You get to go to the head of the line a lot.

I attended the first two days of CaliFur 3, at the Holiday Inn Costa Mesa. There was nothing on the program schedule for Sunday that I was interested in, and I was having trouble getting the Golden State Colonial Convalescent Hospital to let me go out at all, so I skipped Sunday and asked to go out on Friday morning and return Saturday evening - only one night out of the hospital. They finally agreed, but at the very last moment, on the Monday before the con, which the caregiver service said was as late as it could stretch its deadline for confirming a caregiver and nurse to take care of me. And when I returned Saturday night, the hospital took a photograph of my pressure sores as evidence of whether they were worse or not. (They were not, but my arms were bright red from sunburn, which the hospital tut-tutted over and covered with salve.)

Glen Wooten in San Diego again made my hotel reservation and arrangements for medical care for me. He arranged the latter with Care Plus Nursing Services, the same service that provided my care during L.A.con IV last year. It did another excellent job. I had a new wheelchair-pusher/nursemaid/Certified Nursing Assistant this time, Fernando Guerrero, but the nurse who came Friday evening and Saturday morning to give me my required medications was the same, Analen Blancaflor.

My sister Sherrill picked me up at Golden State Convalescent Hospital at 10:15 on Friday morning. According to her Mapquest directions, the drive to the Holiday Inn Costa Mesa was supposed to take only 57 minutes, so we should have gotten there in plenty of time to check into my room before the Opening Ceremonies began at noon. But Mapquest did not allow for traffic jams on the freeway. We got to the hotel about 12:30. Glen Wooten and my caregiver were waiting for us with my membership badge. Glen said that he & Sherry would register for my hotel room (which would have an extended checkout time the next day) while Francisco took me to the Opening Ceremonies, which hadn't begun yet since everything was late. We hurried past Kjartan Arnörsson, who offered to take me to lunch ("maybe tomorrow", I said), and an incredible crowd at the Registration Desk whose automated equipment had broken down. This was lucky for me, or the Opening Ceremonies would have been over. After ten more minutes, enough attendees had been processed through Registration that the Opening Ceremonies could begin. Rod O'Riley formally opened the con and introduced two of the main guests-of-honor, Celtic filk-singer Marc Gunn who specializes in pub-style drinking songs for cats, and artist Balaa (Anastasia Korochansckaja). Gunn sang one of his songs, accompanying himself on a zither. The third g-o-h, artist Roz Gibson, would not arrive until the next day; and a fourth Furry artist whose appearance was a major expected draw of the con, Dark Natasha (Mleynek), had cancelled due to being hospitalized after an automobile collision two days earlier. (The driver who ran into her was, of course, uninsured.)

After the Opening Ceremonies, Fernando & I went to see our hotel room, 160, and for Fernando to give me the first of several standing-for-five-minutes breaks. The marble washbasin in the bathroom was just the right size and placement for me to pull myself out of my wheelchair and hold myself up at for five minutes. It was one of the Holiday Inn's designated handicapped rooms, and was nice enough except for being on a floor up a short flight of stairs. It was only wheelchair-accessible by exiting the hotel lobby and going around outside to a rear door up a ramp. It was pleasant enough on this sunny weekend, but I would hate to have been there in rainy weather. On our way around the hotel, I heard a lot of birds that I am sure were parrots. Rod O'Riley later confirmed that Costa Mesa has a large feral parrot population.

The con had announced that the Opening Ceremonies was the only event that would be delayed for the registration snarl, so after checking our room, we went directly to the 2:00 p.m. "What Are the Ursa Major Awards?" panel. However, due to the registration snarl, most attendees were still milling around the registration line, waiting for their badges or socializing with others who were waiting for their badges. There were only two others at the program, one of whom was Rod O'Riley. We declared the panel cancelled after ten minutes, but Rod told me that another event that I had planned to attend, the 7:00 p.m. "Ursa Major Awards Nominated Shorts", had also been cancelled due to video technical problems. This led me to rearrange my plans for eating, to have a lunch after all and a normal dinner instead of a very early one. But we were shocked to be told at the hotel's only eatery that it did not serve food at all between breakfast, which ended at 11:00 a.m. and dinner, which started at 5:00 p.m. It "did not need to serve lunch" since there was a McDonald's right next door, where everyone went (not surprising considering the hotel's restaurant's prices). However, since I was handicapped, the waitress offered to make us sandwiches if we would wait. We would, and I soon got one of the best roast beef sandwiches I have ever had, although I think it cost around $15.00.

At 3:30 p.m. was the "Greymuzzle Meet", for veteran Furry fans, in the Con Suite. On our way there, we passed a fan who had a live dog of whatever breed Maggie's Fifi was in the Bringing Up Father comic strip, except that this one was obviously male. I had read an article about how most of the public in the 1920s had assumed that Fifi was an imaginary creation because she looked like a cartoon dog's head on a stick-figure body, but that she was a genuine breed; but this was the first time I have ever seen a real one. It really did look like a head and male genitalia on a tiny black-silhouette stick-figure dog body; vaguely like a Chihuahua except that most Chihuahuas I have seen looked like they were only moments away from a nervous breakdown, and this dog was bouncing with enthusiasm.

There were about twenty fans at the Greymuzzle Meet. Mark Merlino, one of the founders of Furry fandom, was describing how it got started in the 1980s. He said one thing that I have never heard before (and wonder about); that it got named "Furry fandom" to distinguish it from the s-f fans who collected plush animal dolls and called themselves Fuzzy fandom. I will have to ask Elayne Pelz about that. We agreed that it had been the popularizing of personal computers around 1992 and 1993 that had brought about the discovery and flooding of what had previously been a fandom populated by cartoonists and readers of novels like Watership Down, by the Fursuiters and the lifestylers who insisted that they are really wolves or tigers or whatever trapped within human bodies. It was a hot enough day that I drank several cans of the Con Suite's imitation-Dr. Pepper.

The Con Suite was just a few doors away from our hotel room, so we stopped there for another standing-up break, then went to the hotel lobby to meet the nurse to give me my evening's medications (in applesauce). Next we rushed to the 5:00 p.m. Ice Cream Social at the poolside. I was disappointed that they only had vanilla and chocolate ice cream, but I had a heaping bowl of chocolate that took me so long to eat that we went directly to the hotel's Handfords Restaurant for dinner afterwards. Michael Burlake joined us at our table. I had the salmon dinner, and again, while it was excellent, at $25 it was about double the price for a similar salmon dinner at Marie Callender's.

We finished dinner a bit too early for the Ursa Major Awards Ceremony at 8:00 p.m., so we went to its room for the last three or four ballads that g-o-h Marc Gunn performed with his zither at his concert, and to get good seats for the Awards. I was in the front row so I couldn't see behind me too well, but the Harbor Room (the largest for programming events) seemed pretty full. Glen Wooten presented the Awards, along with an audio-visual presentation of all the finalists prepared by Rod O'Riley. There was only one recipient in the audience for the ten winners, Timothy Fay of Minneapolis as the representative of Sofawolf Press in St. Paul; but he collected four trophies for them, for Best Novel (Pendant of Fortune, by Kyell Gold), Best Short Fiction ("Jacks to Open", also by Gold), Best Fanzine (Anthrolations, although it only published one issue last year), and Best Published Illustration (for the novel's cover painting by Sara Palmer). One other winner was at the con, for Best Comic Book, but none of its creators attended the Awards Ceremony. Rod O'Riley announced that the nonattending winners' trophies would be shipped to them on Monday. Next year's Awards Ceremony will be at Morphicon 2008 in Columbus, Ohio.

The evening's late events were mainly the 9:00 to midnight Fursuit Dance, but Glen Wooten held an impromptu wake for Gerald Perkins in the Con Suite. Perkins had been such a quiet, low-profile attendee of Furry conventions that many Furry con veterans were not sure that they had ever met him. Kay Shapero told me there that I was wrong in my Apa L comments about Marji Holt having brought the reptiles for last year's Reptile Meet; I had gotten her confused with Diane Myers, who was still very alive and was running the event again this year. I was very glad to have learned this the day before the Reptile Meet, to avoid what would have been a pleasant bur possibly embarrassing surprise.

After the wake, Fernando and I went to our room to bed for the night. The Holiday Inn had a very good bed for me, and I got an excellent night's sleep. We awoke on Saturday around 7:30, and were dressed and ready to go by 9:00 when Analin arrived with my morning medications. Fernando & I then went down to the Handfords Restaurant's breakfast buffet. After that, we went into the Dealers' Den & Art Show (I was glad to see some of the UCRiverside Library's brochures promoting the Eaton Collection for donations of Furry collections) to tour it at leisure since we had not had time the day before. I had expected to spend several hours there, but it was small, very cramped, and much more T-shirt & art-oriented than literary, so we got through it in a hurry since there was nothing to justify standing around blocking the aisles. (I never stopped at the Loscon 34 table in the narrow hall outside the Dealers' Den for the same reason.) I did have the pleasure of watching Thomas Dye, the author of All the Newshounds Fit to Print, as he read my review of it in Anthro's May-June issue, on a laptop at his dealers' table. My review was favorable, and he was delighted. Kjartan Arnörsson renewed his invitation to lunch, but since the hotel restaurant wasn't serving, neither of us were impressed with McDonald's, and anyplace further away wasn't worth a wheelchair journey, we agreed to postpone his invitation until the next time we meet.

I might note that CaliFur already announced at the beginning of the con that it had outgrown the Holiday Inn Costa Mesa, and would move to the larger Hyatt Regency Irvine next year. This year's total was 498 memberships, with 478 actually attending, including a small group of Seattle and Vancouver fans who had traveled together by Amtrak from Seattle. Larger halls and a bigger dealers' room next year, and hopefully a restaurant or coffee shop that serves food all day long, will be definite improvements. Anyhow, we finished the Dealers' Den around noon with nothing else that interested me for several hours. Fernando wanted to smoke, so we went out to the poolside tables where he had a cigarette and I dozed in the sun. (This is when I probably got sunburned.) Then we went back into the hotel lobby to watch the various Fursuiters strutting around. (I got several hugs from them during the con.) There was another live dog that was the opposite of the previous day's toy; a Great Dane big enough to ride, with a Dalmatian's black-spotted white coat instead of the usual brownish tan coloring. Very striking.

Aahz climbing Fred's arm
Aahz checking out Fred's sunburn.

We checked out of our room about 1:45, and brought my luggage to Glen Wooten in the Dealers' Den to watch. I asked him if Roz Gibson had arrived yet, since she had promised to loan me some British Furry novels to review. He said that when she did, she would probably go straight to the VIP Lunch in the Con Suite; but that I was entitled to that, too. We passed Roz as she was checking into the hotel, and she gave me her books right away because she wasn't interested in the VIP Lunch. Fernando & I continued to the Con Suite, where I nibbled on cold cuts, cheeses, & pineapple cubes until 3:00 p.m., when we were to meet my sister Sherrill in the lobby. I showed Sherry around the Dealers' Den (she bought several blinky-light knickknacks) and the Art Show, then we went to the Reptile Meet for awhile where I was delighted to see Diane Myers still alive, and I got to hold Aahz the ball python again. She was much more active this year, slithering all around my arm & shoulders instead of just going to sleep on me as she did last year.

By now it was 4:00. The last event that I was interested in was the "Who are Your Favorite Furry Villains?" discussion at 5:00, but I was not interested enough to kill time for another hour until it started. Sherry agreed that it would be better to return to L.A. in daylight, so we dismissed Fernando a couple of hours sooner than expected, and drove back to the hospital. Leaving early also gave us time to stop at Solly's Restaurant in Sherman Oaks for a leisurely dinner which we probably could not have done if we'd waited until 6:00 or later to leave Costa Mesa. I had a very enjoyable CaliFur 3, and I did not miss not being able to attend the third day at all.

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