by Pteropod

Imagine having one of those dreams that fictional characters always talk about, where you find yourself walking down the hallway naked in middle school.  Everybody you know, including Pat, the kid you've had a crush on ever since that gerbil thing when you were nine, laughs hysterically and points as you try, in vain, to cover yourself with a tiny translucent paper napkin stolen from the cafeteria. 

Then imagine that you're testifying before Congress about something that will surely bring about world peace if only you can articulate your point.  You're standing up there at the podium, right-haired and wearing your best black bra under a quality suit, waxing eloquent about percentages and acronyms and other important stuff when suddenly there's a short circuit in your brain and everything you try to say comes out as the lyrics to "Baby Got Back" by Sir Mixalot. 

Now imagine the embarrassment of these two experiences put together.  Know it; feel it. Internalize it until your face gets warm and you want to dig a hole in the ground and gently collapse under the earth, never to be seen among humankind again. 

My first five minutes at Fest weren't anywhere near as embarrassing as that. 

Oh sure, I got a little red in the face when I walked into a big room full of people I didn't know and Autumn blew her whistle and everyone on the planet turned around and shouted.  But I'm one of those unfortunately-complexioned people who gets red in the face all the freakin' time.  Especially at an event like Fest, which is not about personal dignity but is, to a certain extent, about liquor. 

"Why did all those people shout at poor Pteropod?" you wonder.  I will tell you: I was a FEST VIRGIN at the Holy Gathering of the OBSSE'd in the Land of 10,000 Bait Shops, and what all those people shouted when Autumn blew her whistle was, in fact, "FEST VIRGIN."  In case it's not as obvious as a salad fork to the cornea, the Y2K FEST VIRGINs were those nuns fortunate enough to attend Fest 00 but not fortunate enough to have attended Fest 99 or Fest 98. 

"What was it like to be a FEST VIRGIN?" you wonder, filled with curiosity.  Well, for me, the most important thing it meant that I hadn't met a single one of the sibliren at the time I filled out the registration form and sent my check to Autumn.  Not one.  Zero.  Perhaps understandably, I was a little concerned about the prospect of flying to another state and driving into the wilderness for two hours to attend an event potentially populated by a) psychokillers, b) aliens posing on the internet as witty and charming people, or c) witty and charming people who might not like me.

Well, they weren't psychokillers.  That much I can say for sure, since I'm sitting here writing this article.  And they disguised it admirably if they were aliens, so for the sake of positive thinking let's just say that I ended up putting names to faces for one hundred and one of the most fantastic people I've ever had the pleasure of meeting.  And it's even possible that they liked me, if all the hugging on Saturday night is any indication. 

Back in the day, at about the time of registration, I was pretty sure I'd have to spend Fest weekend living in a van down by the river.  The problem was that although I didn't know anybody, many of them already knew each other.  My impression was that everybody else, therefore, already had a place to stay, but poor li'l Ptero didn't even know where to start looking for people to share a room with.  I was sitting around crying into my daiquiri  when Reade's roomie message board came to the rescue.  It turned out that sister sandy had taken it upon herself to reserve a cabin and invite all the people who were posting things like, "um, I don't know anyone" on the message board.  Thus was born the Medical Hut, and I was one of its lucky inhabitants. 

The Medical Hut, unlike all the other cabins , was home to a MEDICAL DOCTOR.  Neener.  We were able to rest easily at night (or rather, if we'd rested, we could've done so easily) knowing that sister sandy was ready to save our lives at a moment's notice.  She'd even brought along her first aid kit, just in case.  (She almost brought her suture kit, but decided that would've been going too far.  I must humbly disagree.  Going too far is not a known concept among the OBSSE'd -- you can bet your underpants on that.)  As it was, she could've eased the pain of a headache!  She could've given someone a Band-Aid!  She could've done whatever it is that gets done with gauze!  She could've performed an emergency tracheotomy!  At least, I think she could've.  We kept asking her about all the procedures she could perform if the need arose, and I'm pretty sure tracheotomy came up.  Then again, I have only the haziest idea what a tracheotomy is, and even less of an idea what kind of situation might necessitate one.  (Note that I am doing my best to suppress my memories of Agua Mala, so y'all don't need to write and tell me I should watch it again.) 

At any rate, sandy's first aid kit and medical knowledge came in pretty damn handy over the course of the weekend.  Or at least her first aid kit did.  On Friday I almost lost my camera, and decided that I should label it to prevent further mishaps.  A piece of white medical tape made a good, no, an ideal label, and sandy ripped the little piece off the roll just like the pro she is. 

I was especially thankful for the presence of a MEDICAL DOCTOR when it came time to meet Autumn.  It's no big secret that online, Autumn is incredibly scary.  She's got a sharp tongue, wields a mean trout, and puts the smackdown on idiocy and rampant pissiness; I'm sure it will come as a surprise to nobody that I was terrified about the prospect of meeting her in person.  Who wouldn't be? 

Well guess what.  She's every bit as scary in person as she is online.  It's even possible that she's more scary in person.  She never laughs and she has not an ounce of schmoop in her body.  I did not see her hug a single person and she certainly never gave me Tic Tacs or anything else.  I saw her perform troutslap after undeserved troutslap and revel in giving out the Hooter of the Day awards.  On Saturday night, she kicked people off the island and meant it every time.  Let there be no mistake: Autumn is fierce.

In addition to finding out The Truth about Autumn, it was inevitable that this ignorant little munchkin of a FEST VIRGIN would learn some life lessons at McQuoid's.  And, hoo boy, did I ever.  Whole legions of numinous mysteries were revealed, some in moments of quite-possibly-divine inspiration.  Luckily for you, gentle reader, I subscribe to the hive mentality of the Borg: just plug in your brain and the whole Abbey can learn from my experiences. 

  • Things Ptero learned, not in order of importance but rather in the approximate order that they occurred to her as she was writing this article.  It is a completely insignificant fact that the first three items on the list have to do with liquor.  Do not struggle to give it meaning.  
  • Hazelnuts do not, in any way, enhance a margarita. 
  • A bar that doesn't share the building with a bait shop just isn't a bar.  (This one has turned my Boston nightlife options into a big black hole of staying home and watching TV.  Oh wait.  That doesn't change anything.)  VISUAL AID  
  • A thorough and scientific analysis of Bud Light indicates that it is nearly identical to water. 
  • Autumn is fierce. 
  • Take ten Scullyists to a grocery store and you may well end up with half a dozen containers of cream cheese in your fridge.  That would be both real cream cheese and lite cream cheese.  VISUAL AID  
  • Taking one for the team can improve your life, especially if it's the team that Princess and Lensie are on.  
  • The OBSSE'd cannot be programmed, categorized, or easily referenced.  
  • No one in Isle will ever, in the billions of years it will take this planet to succumb to its inevitable destiny and collapse in upon itself, run out of Jello salad as long as the SUPR SAVR is open.  
  • If Rania tells you she has a vision, pull up a chair and listen.  Your life is about to change. VISUAL AID  
  • There are sibliren with actual talent.  
  • Not the least of the talents is Mandy's ability to do the handcuff trick in less than the time it takes for a hummingbird to flap its delicate little wings. 
  • It is possible to go without email for four days without lapsing into catatonic schizophrenia...if and only if you're in the same place as everybody who usually fills your inbox. 
  • Creme brulee doesn't sing.  It lip-syncs. 
  • Reading the words of a filk is a pale and ghostly shadow compared to hearing it sung around a campfire by dozens of nuns. 
  • Fifteen is a hella big number when it comes to crackers.  
  • There's something very special about being in a place where nearly everyone has a dolly and knows how to use it.  
  • Fest is about many things, and one of them is girl kids. VISUAL AID  
  • Another is toast. 
  • Any number of caterpillars greater than zero is too many caterpillars. VISUAL AID  
  • Kirby's head is addictive like crack cocaine. 
  • Stretch before PornoNurseKicking, or you'll wish you had. 
  • Nuns do not forget anything, ever, and do not let you live it down. 

To everyone at Fest 00: you are my 101 in five billion. To the OBSSE'd who didn't make it this year, for the luvva Scully give some serious thought to picking up the registration form and making it happen in '01. Even if you're new or shy or still not convinced we aren't all aliens in disguise, I swear to you that Fest is way more fun than a tower of office furniture. You won't regret it. 

Besides, if I could shape-shift, don't you think I'd look a little more like Scully? 

by Gen

Sister Beer is nothing if not generous. Say you'd like her to bring a little cheese to taste, she'll bring kilos of the stuff. Ask her for a beer, she'll probably give you a keg. Then it wasn't that surprizing to see her park her truck at Camp Scully with a canoe strapped on. Yes, you got it, someone mentioned a lake, so our Beer decided she'd haul her canoe from Raleigh NC to Isle MN, via Chicago to let the assorted riff-raff play. All at the risk of being whisked off the highway at any time, so much did the boat act as a sail on top of the vehicle. Sister Beer indeed does it all for us.

Anyhow, the water was calm, the weather warm and sunny and we did need to make sure there was in fact a lake beyond the marsh and trees before Camp Scully.  A few of us gathered and helped Beer unload the canoe -- although as I recall, once the thing was off its rack, she mostly did the rest herself, like dragging it towards the water as I was feeling, providing moral support.

We set it to water and, wearing Sonya's Captain's hat (she was sweet to lend it to me considering I'm only a noromo with minor shipper tendencies) I sat in front -where you don't have to steer or do much -- as Beer took the stern. As we were leaving, Glasses formally christened the canoe "The Piper Maru" by pouring beer (what else) on the bow and splashing this passenger in the process. Under the cheers of the crowd, we paddled off at a relaxing pace to the lake and back. After I had my turn, other canoeing adventures happened over the course of Fest, involving wet feet, Preggers!Scooby, asses below the waterline, EvilBetty, more of Beer and possibly others.  My only regret -- aside from the fact that in retrospect I should have canoed more -- is that  I should have given Beer the Captain's hat. She is as competent a canoeist as she is a cheesemonger.