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Saturday, September 13, 2008

My magical trip to Dorkapalooza

The last week of August I took 10 days off work for a well needed vacay. For part of that time I took an amazing trip to Washington that I have been meaning to blog about ever since my return. But first, there is back story.

In late 2005 a friend that shall remain nameless (oh what the hell, it was Cameron!) invited me to join that cyber world that is myspace. I resisted at first but then gave in and was immediately hooked. I enjoyed the novelty of being connected in such a fun, social way to family and friends and then was completely floored by the people I was able to reconnect with from my past.

After that initial blush began to wear off I explored a little further and discovered myspace groups. I joined anything that struck my fancy: Neutral Milk Hotel Fans, Twin Peaks Fans, Classic Hollywood Movies Group, and several groups for lovers of reading and literature. It was in one of these literary groups that was unfortunately littered with rather boring thread titles such as, "Who's your favorite author?" and "List your Top 3 Favorite Books OF ALL TIME!" and "The Da Vinci Code is Awesome!" that Jonathan Evison came into my life. Equally frustrated with the dearth of intelligent, thought provoking literary discussion he formed his own group, The Fiction Files, and sent out a call for those wanting more out of their literary discussing lives to join him in his endeavor. Hooray for Jonathan!

The Fiction Files immediately became my number one stop whenever I logged on to myspace. From Jonathan's diligence and leadership The Fiction Files grew into a friendly community of highly intelligent, verbose (I use the term here positively, not negatively), eager, and knowledgeable readers that write, writers that read, and everything in between. The Fiction Files has thread titles like, "All Writing is a Species of Remembering" and "Crisis and Contemplation in Suburbia" and "It's a bird, it's a plane. . .NO, it's a Christ figure!" It's a literary love-in baby - truly! The friendships that have formed through this group have broken through to the 3D world. Books, letters, music, baked goods are exchanged through snail mail and every opportunity for two or three members to be in the same physical location and hang out together in a bar and talk books is capitalized on.

In August 2007 Jonathan threw out a last minute invite to anyone who could swing it to join him in a two day party at his home on Bainbridge Island, WA. The event was christened Dorkapalooza. A small handful of die hard fiction filers made it to the event which featured a book exchange, literary trivia and lots and lots of alcohol consumption. Unfortunately it was not enough warning for me to secure the days off work or the money for travel. But following the small yet successful event, immediate plans were made for a more elaborate Dorkapalooza 2008.

So I left on Monday morning the 25th of August on a Fiction Files Adventure! Having never been to Seattle, I found my way to the correct ferry terminal and called our fearless leader Jonathan to let him know when I would arrive on Bainbridge. I had never spoken to him in person before. He answered the phone with, "Hey Kerry!" and quickly made plans to pick me up from the ferry. So simple, no awkwardness, no pretense. I'll never forget walking to the parking lot of the ferry terminal, seeing Jonathan standing next to his car, instant recognition on both our faces, and both of us raising our arms across the distance in silent greeting. And then came the bear hug. Awesome. And he was just the beginning! The next three days were spent meeting more Fiction Filers, feeling immediately at ease with them and then chatting, laughing, playing games, listening to music, exploring, avoiding the rain of the Northwest, eating great food, and, of course, drinking. Lots and lots of drinking. The social lubrication wasn't a necessity, it was just a perk. A keg was tapped, gone within 24 hours, and replaced by cases of beer. Dorkapalooza indeed.

I cannot express how beautiful an experience it was to finally meet this enclave of brilliant minds and loving personalities in the flesh. I was honored to be a part of it and am honored to be part of this group. I can only hope that we can do it every year and that every year it grows in numbers and in heart!

In tribute to my adventure I compiled a list that I am calling What I Learned at Dorkapalooza 2008:

- The awkwardness you expect to feel upon meeting many someones that you have only "spoken" with online disappears almost immediately and you fall into a perfect ease.
- In the Pacific Northwest you can drink water right out of the tap and it tastes good!
- Dan can perfectly place a sarcastic zinger into every conversation and I LOVE THAT.
- Wild blackberries picked right off the bush are more delicious than store bought blackberries.
- Martyn gives great big hugs when drunk.
- Even the Cliff's Notes won't get some of us through Absalom! Absalom!
- How to pour beer from a keg into a red plastic cup without all the foam (thanks Dan & Alan!).
- Jonathan Evison never stops moving, can sing along beautifully with Johnny Cash, and if his literary career fails he could make one hell of a living at Bingo Calling. But only if his employers let him drink on the job.
- The interior of the Dorkapalooza RV is just as 70s-tastic as the exterior.
- Lara likes it neat and is forever "washing up" and also has this adorable way of saying "Yeah?" after almost everything.
- A keg of beer will not last as long as you think it will last.
- Danny's uncle Johnny loves him to bits for good reason. He's an amazing young man.
- Ben cannot be talked into anything despite JE's claims to the contrary.
- Alan looks like a strange version of Pippi Longstocking while running after a soccer ball wearing the warmest hat ever made.
- Sparky, Dave, and Snapper are the best dogs in the world.
- Patty is an angel and giggles like a little girl.
- If you buy $60 worth of books from William James Bookseller in Port Townsend, WA but only have a small carry on bag for traveling, you will have to go to the post office and mail them home to yourself.
- If things go bump in the night, it's probably just Alan trying to "create an experience" for you.
- Neil knows EVERYTHING and is wonderfully generous.
- Evan is a dish washing machine and also an excellent leaper.
- Hugh is a wine connoisseur and has nice legs.
- Patrick is absolutely lovable and I want to squeeze him.
- Two Laurens are better than one.
- In my old age, I cannot drink myself senseless three nights in a row. I can try but I will fail.
- Justin can make a video camera feel nonintrusive and has awesome soccer moves.
- At the end of the night, water is your best friend.
- Every member of the Fiction Files truly is as wonderful as you knew them to be.
- Shel can drink herself into a stupor, sleep for only three hours and wake up delightful and able to drive herself through a strange land to the airport in the dark.
- Random acts of fellatio can be found on the streets of downtown Port Townsend (this should be added to their tourist information).
- Mo makes a mean lasagna that carnivores, herbivores, and omnivores enjoy and laughs louder than anyone I've ever met.
- Danielle can quote Mystery Science Theater 3000 and once sat on John Waters' lap.
- Giraffe night shirts really are One Size Fits Most.
- Lauren Evison can go running for two hours in the rain and still look fabulous.
- Evan has a fear of stinging insects and isn't afraid to say it.
- Elliot Bay Book Company in downtown Seattle has the most amazing bargain books section EVER.
- It really is a love in, baby!

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