Monthly Archives: February 2007

Pcon Postscript

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I have recovered. Three days of laying low, staying warm, and sleeping a lot helped me cross over back into Life Outside the Pagan Hotel. I can tell that I’ve fully recovered, because just now I was remembering some really great things that happened last weekend that are worth mentioning.

Several people came up to me at the booth and said they read my blog. That was really great! It is wonderful in this fairly anonymous medium to actually make contact with readers face to face.

The number of adorable little children there seems to have increased exponentially from last year to this. Watching little toddlers with fairy wings is a cure for cancer! I’m sure of it. Watch – some Pagan Studies grad student will ask you to fill out a survey on it pretty soon.

There was a much larger and more visible contingent of Pagans following Afro-Caribbean trads. Aside from the American Umbanda House which is always there, Luisah Teish led a couple workshops, as did priestesses from different African diaspora lines. Now if we could only get some representation of Central and South American Pagans, maybe some Central and Southeast Asian practitioners, the con would almost reflect the cultural variety of the area which hosts it.

I got to do some kick-ass drumming with friends at the Feri ritual – Brook, Thorn, Ravyn and I all had a great time keeping the rhythm tight and breathing like a living being. And Macha flipped us all out by leading the spiral back out a second time – and it worked great. I stayed energized from that spiral/drumming/cone o’ power for quite some time.

The bar was serving some stiff drinks this weekend, no doubt to match the price they were charging for them. An Irish whiskey with friends after at least one evening event is one of my basic requirements for the con, and boy did it taste great after the Feri ritual!

Having Lyra there from Chicago with all her artwork for sale at our booth was a real delight. It was fabulous to see her, and especially good to be there with both my daughters the whole weekend. I loved introducing them to people I know, and drumming up a little business for Lyra, too.

People were friendly. The bacon was cooked better at the coffee shop. (And I heard the expression “bacon is a gateway meat” for the first time! That savory smell lying in wait for unsuspecting vegetarians…) Workshop audiences were engaged and enthusiastic. Workshop presenters were good.

I think that’s enough. You get the idea. Next year I hear that the con will be at the same place, but the year after that it may move to an even larger venue! Remember to check the PantheaCon website starting in about August for details. See you there next year!

Back from San Jose

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Contrary to what Burt Bacharach and Dionne Warwick might have you believe, it is far more important to know the way back home from San Jose than the way to it. After all, there are three major freeways that take you right through the town and it’s easy to get off of ’em. But getting back on the right one, going the correct direction – that takes more than a sprig of white sage on your dashboard sometimes.

And so earlier this afternoon, bleary-eyed and sleep-deprived, I wandered for a while through the streets of decrepit, weird San Jose. I was following signs to 280 North which mysteriously petered out at key intersections, leaving me at the mercy of the Fates and my own sense of direction which is, fortunately, very reliable. I hadn’t guessed exactly which way East was during Patrick McCollum’s workshop on Saturday, but I got within 45 degrees which I’d say was pretty good for first thing in the morning. So after stopping to fill up at the grungiest Chevron gas station I’ve ever seen, in a particularly unappealing part of town, Jojo and I made it onto the freeway today without losing too much time.

PantheaCon, or Pcon as I heard it affectionately referred to, was a great success. I’m declaring a two-way tie for Best Thing About the Con this year, between 1) tons of new people and 2) the new novelty of humorous little ribbons to affix to your attendance badge. Hopefully someone will post pictures of these widgets, which were the same size as the little ribbons the workshop presenters wore, but which ranged the gamut from saying “Friend of CoG” to “Pixie Power” (for the little kids) to “Burn Rome!” (courtesy of the Heathens) and “Bravo Foxtrot Delta” (BFD, aka Big F***ing Deal) to…well, you get the idea. (Honorable mention: “Whiskey Tango Foxtrot”) Everyday new ones appeared, until at the end of the con Joi Wolfwomon was wearing her badge in her hair and the trail of attached ribbons swept the floor.

The Worst In Show prize would have to go to the hotel air conditioning which was on full blast in many of the workshop rooms, so that by the time I got back to my room I had the chills and had to drink hot tea under the covers to avoid catching a cold. Honorable mention in this category goes unanimously to the guy who, for the third straight year, walked around all weekend dressed as Capt. Jack Sparrow.

I mean, it’s bad enough that a certain elder in the community thinks it’s a good idea to walk around in a wizard costume to promote his new book and correspondence course. He had us covered for “Sorcerer’s Apprentice” lookalikes. But the Johnny Depp wannabe was just disturbing. In the first place, he was in no way as good looking as Johnny Depp, which made him an object of derision more than a sex symbol – probably not the effect he had intended. In the second place, it was annoying to see some guy in a pirate outfit with beads hanging from his beard every day. He served as a reminder that many among us are in no way ready for prime time, and that it’s really a good thing Christopher Guest hasn’t chosen the Pagan community to mock in his next film feature. Why bother, when we mock ourselves so well?

I’m sure tomorrow some more rested, reflective Pagans will blog about more “pertinent” or “relevant” details of the Con, but for now I am content to be the first overtly snide, not-yet-recovered Pagan blogger posting about it. Hey, we all need our niche, right?

Preparing for the Con

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Next weekend I will be headed, along with a thousand or two other Pagans, to PantheaCon. I have been there every single year it’s been held – with my booth in the marketplace, my kids, notes for workshops and rituals I’m doing, and every scrap of shiny, colorful clothing I own.

Among the many things I am doing this week to prepare for PantheaCon is ironing those scraps of clothing, some of them still wrinkled in the closet from last year’s post-con washing. A clothes horse I am not, but after my first foray to witchcamp in 1994 where I realized that the only colorful thing I’d packed was a red sweatshirt, I took the challenge to upgrade my wardrobe. Since then I have slowly gathered a respectable amount of ritual clothing, most of which meets my prime criterion for dressy clothes: they must feel as close to wearing pajamas as possible. Comfort trumps fashion to me, which admittedly sets me at odds with most of my Pagan brethren here in the Bay Area.

If you’re coming to the con and are worried that the clothes you’re bringing might be over the top, just remember: there is no top. In its first few years the con was not large enough to book a whole hotel and we had to share quarters with all manner of other weekend conventions. My favorite year was when both the little girl beauty pageant and the armed servicemen’s ball were there with us. The beauty pageant mothers were completely shocked and repulsed by the lot of us, which was predictable, and as I recall they even got the hotel to turn us down the next year.

The little girls went to bed early so they didn’t have to be exposed to the crazed evening wear choices some Pagans revel in. After a day of being chastised by the con organizers for scaring the little girls and their mothers with our get-ups came one particular evening scene I will always remember. Keith Hennessey, Alphonsus, Madrone, myself and a few others were hanging out in the main corridor after some spectacle performance Keith had a hand in. They were dressed to the nines, nipple piercings, corsets, makeup and all, and we were horsing around, joking about the oddity of being in a downtown San Jose hotel, when suddenly the military ball let out down the hall.

When the first couple emerged, they saw us blocking their way in the corridor and hesitated. Soon both we and they realized that they had to get by us to get home, and the fun began. Our group parted, half to one wall and half to the other, forming an impromptu Pagan gauntlet through which they had to pass. All these lovely young couples began to promenade past us, uniformed men with white gloves leading their debutante dates in formal gowns down the corridor to the lobby doors.

It was high comedy, an improv Who’s Queer Here? show, and all in good fun. The couples who had the most fun were the ones who laughed along with us at the unlikely scenario. As I recall we applauded the ones who were dressed to the hilt and had the campiest swagger walking past; the timid ones we encouraged to strut with confidence. After a few minutes they were all gone and there we were still: a strange crew in a very, very strange environment.

PantheaCon to me is part old-home week, part Learning Channel, part never-ending amateur hour, beauty pageant, and bad food festival all rolled into one. There are a few things that keep me sane during the weekend: a room of my own to retreat to, friends to laugh with, offsite food, and the onsite bar. Nothing at the hotel is very good to eat, though much of it is passable – especially if you’re really hungry. But the bar, a sunken area in the main lobby, is a thing of beauty. It’s a recovery room from bad performances, a dimly-lit place to hang with friends, and a spot from which to watch the endless stream of preening Pagan celebs saunter past.

One year I was hanging out with Macha having a bad whiskey (don’t ask them for Jameson’s) late in the evening. We were, I’m sure, having a riveting discussion about some important thealogical issue, when there was a commotion down the way. We both turned to look, and here came this chanting mob marching toward us with signs and strange costumes. Imagine my surprise to see Bowen and Lyra towards the front, shouting some ironic Discordian slogan and laughing at the nonsense they were engaged in. Yep, I thought, I raised ’em right. There go my kids actually attending a Pagan ritual, while their mother is holed up in the bar recovering from the day’s events. That’s a vignette we neglected to put in the book.

This year will be weird for me because Bowen is not coming, for the first year ever since PantheaCon began. He has his own life up in Portland now, and can’t take time off work to come down. I will really miss him – in fact, I already miss him even though the weekend isn’t here yet. He was the only kid I brought with me that very first year, when he was all of 8 or 9 years old. I was at my little music booth most of the day, while he stayed up in our room watching TV and eating all the expensive candy in the self-serve fridge. Being there on my own with Bowen was often nerve-wracking for me, but Bowen had fun. From that year on, going with me to PantheaCon was something all my kids desperately wanted to do.

Those were years of impossibly difficult situations for me, since their father expected me to watch the booth, watch the kids, and attend all the events I was part of, while he stayed home relaxing. My experience of PantheaCon is still tinged with PTSD from those years of intense exhaustion, even though as the kids have gotten older and able to help out more it has gotten far easier for me. In fact, going there with my kids is really fun now, and frankly I can’t imagine being at the con without them. I have always appreciated their presence, but now I get to be relaxed at the same time.

For all that Paganism is a place where women can be respected leaders, it is still necessary to walk the gauntlet between the harmful roles people want to put you in. There are the men who think you should do it all because hey, the Goddess did, and besides they are too resentful of your status to help. Then there are the men who see the entire female contingent at the con as their own self-serve candy fridge. And make no mistake, there are women who are just as bad, if not worse. But they’re not as fun to write about so we’ll save them for later.

Fortunately, even the vicious ones look a little ridiculous in the strange light of the Con. It is easy to see who is putting on airs, who genuinely has something to say, and who is acting like a legend in their own mind. The community is still small enough that word does get around; in that way it’s like any small town with really bad fashion sense.

I was telling a friend yesterday who will be coming to PantheaCon this year for the first time that it’s a lot like Disneyland: you really must go at least once in your life. You won’t need acid to feel like you’re tripping, though I’m sure there’s some there you could find. And provided you have one or two things that can keep you sane amidst all the crowds, you are sure to learn something, meet up with someone truly inspiring, or gain a bit of insight you wouldn’t have otherwise. In that sense, there is no preparing for the con, you just have to pack a lunch and dive right in. If you do come, stop by and say hello. I’ll be the happy one in the comfy clothes.