Furfright 2013 happened! And we - Kjorteo, Budgiebin, Motodrachen, Susi, Scani, DF and others - went for the third and/or second time, and that now makes it a regular thing!
I didn't have anywhere near as hectic a day at work as I did last year, only having to spend some time filling out sheets with comments like "This contractor is an idiot", and had a pleasant journey down to pick up Kjorteo from the airport. The whole thing instantly felt familiar when I met up with him, and it was difficult to believe that it had been a year since we had last done it. Driving through the rush hour traffic once again, we raced Susi and DF's car to the convention and got there shortly after they did.
This was the first year that I had secured a room in the convention hotel, and throughout the weekend I was impressed by what a difference it made - we no longer had to plan in advance to shuttle people back and forth (because even those of us not there were just across the road an easy walk away) and our room was in easy reach, or it would have been if the hotel hadn't been built across a rip in space and time by M C Escher. We started off the holiday by going out for dinner, where Kjorteo presented me with Crush 40's third album (or more accurately, the third slight evolution of their only album), something that I would never have made the effort to import for myself! I am going to have to come up with something pretty spectacular this Christmas...
I was very touched in the evening by my roommates presenting me with a cake to mark the tenth anniversary of us meeting and forming our little community... I had forgotten that it had been coming up, but it's amazing to think of how much we've grown together in the last decade. Going to conventions like this regularly can only increase our bond!
On Friday we attended the opening ceremonies with another warm welcome by Belic, and after that I was in the Dealer's Den straight away to secure a copy of last year's convention DVD. It's odd how they aren't made more available - the higher-tier sponsorship tickets get them and otherwise they're only available at the table the next year - but it was worth the wait to see the slightly uncanny sight of myself on stage. Otherwise, I wandered around the artists' tables and proceeded to blow my entire commission budget within about ten minutes on four separate visits to the cashier. I secured an absolutely stunning picture of Whitney
from Kitt Mouri, whose business card I had had left over from the last year, and got a couple of little character cards done by Caliosidhe. On the way back out, I then noticed that Max Blackrabbit was present with a table, and took the chance to get a piece from him that I had had in my mind for a very long time. And then I found a group of the cuddliest little Daleks ever on the stuffed animal table, so I just had to adopt one (he is now named Robert after the American historian).
So I'm still at... 1pm on the Friday, I'm going to have to speed this up a bit. After all that, I had lunch with Budgie and Max, then came back and some other things probably happened before I went to the Comic Jam with Kjorteo. This was an event hosted by guest of honour Wallaby where we were provided with a pile of six-panel comics with one panel filled in, and could draw one panel each to attempt to continue the story. My favourite was one that we both contributed to, a comic that all the artists involved did beautifully on, and I'll post it soon - it was fantastic to be able to steer the story despite a comparative lack of drawing ability.
We then went to a Friendly's, a sort of chain diner place, that was down the road from the hotel - I had been in one of them before in a shopping centre near our house, and it was incredibly eerie to see as we stepped in that this place was exactly the same decor and layout, as if they pre-assemble their entire restaurants according to one blueprint and then just drop them all over the country out of a helicopter. We created a very hard night for the people there as we were part of roughly four million people from the convention who turned up there, and many people had their food served cold, but ours was ice cream and so it was perfect.
I finished off the evening with DF by going to the karaoke and singing Breaking the Law by Judas Priest, which at least three people recognized - I was unimpressed with some girls in the audience who had been unable to catch the words of the chorus after several iterations. Then we went to a group reading of The Eye of Argon
, a truly horrendous piece of fiction in which I was never clear what the story was or what was happening at any point - our challenge was to read out passages from it without laughing, and I got in to attempt it after someone else's overdramatic "He dropped to his knees!" mime resulted in almost his entire arse falling out of his jeans.
Saturday was the most intense day, starting with the Masquerade rehearsal at 10am. Kjorteo came with me again due to planning to attend writing panels in the afternoon, and DF came down on the off-chance that any of the registered acts failed to turn up. Fortunately, they achieved this in huge numbers, giving the highest number of walk-in slots that I had ever seen (out of, er, twice) and allowing him and several others a space in the contest. As the one with the least setup to do, I was on first again, and I felt far more anxious starting in front of the smaller more silent crowd than I did during the real performance later. It came off well, though, and the rest of the rehearsal was an experience in itself, with a large amount of time watching Belic hilariously trying to choreograph a simple and brief Doctor Who sketch as everything else went wrong around him.
This time, something happened that may have eclipsed even the Masquerade for me, and that was when Susi allowed me to wear his self-made Angel gryphon costume and fursuit with the parade for the first time. Putting it on feels weird at first - it feels close and furry against your skin, especially as I'm built a little heavier than Susi so it looked like the gryphon had been at the pie and chips a little too much this year, but I was able to be zipped into the body with assistance. When the head first goes on and your vision reduces to just two grilled spaces in the eyes, it's like having been strapped into the cutest Darth Vader ever and you quickly heat up - but as soon as I stepped out of the hotel room it felt... incredible, not just wearing a costume but being seen as a totally different character and getting so much attention from people because of it. I was able to adopt his persona, being a lot more... physically expressive behind this strange mask, accompanied by Susi's new wolf suit, DF's werewolf and Scani's amazing otter costume Tautoru.
After the big group photo had been taken at the end, I couldn't resist wandering around more, just... performing and enjoying the reactions from people. In the corridor, I got stopped by a large turquoise dragon who greeted me enthusiastically, but I had no idea who he was and was racking my brains trying to think where I knew him from. He suddenly started speaking in German and I was able to hold up my end of the conversation - he stumbled over a couple of words and asked me for my assistance with them, then went on his way. It was only later that I realized he thought I was Susi (who speaks fluent German) inside the suit - a strange case of stealing someone's identity. If there is a better summary of my weekend than being dressed up as a gryphon trying to speak to a dragon in a foreign language, I don't know what it is.
The Masquerade came next - or rather the preparations for it. DF couldn't find the balaclava that he needed to wear for underneath the werewolf costume, so he went down to the dealer's den for another and found that they had all sold out. With the backstage meeting time upon us, we went down there and reassured the people that we were there, then said that we'd be back in twenty minutes after a zoom to the Wal-Mart just down the street. Zoom there we did, and found out that nobody in the place knew what a fucking balaclava was. Eventually DF remembered the possibility of "ski mask", and we searched the sporting goods and menswear sections to no avail before just heading back just in time for the start of the show.
I was in the fourth slot this time, and so had a short wait before I was on - however, no stage appearance could ever match the stress of the previous hour and time went quickly before I was summoned out to the stage area to give my second Furfright performance
! I walked on without having been provided with a microphone, so my first joke was written for me - and then I just... can't really remember anything about the performance at all. It all seemed to come naturally, apart from the thirty seconds where I completely forgot what the next part was and just had to improvise until I remembered what I was supposed to be saying (7:35 to 8:00 in the video, if you're interested). It was wonderful to see myself so soon after the performance this time, thanks to Kjorteo, Budgiebin, Scani and possibly others filming me from the audience!
DF's turn came soon after that, and I filmed him as he performed a song he wrote on the way back from the previous Furfright, "Open the Way", while in his wolf costume with cable ties secretly digging into his balaclava-less head on the inside. His suit really is... magical - there's an elastic bit inside that fits the jaw, so the mouth really does move as he talks and sings, and... it really is like watching an anthropomorphic wolf there up on stage.
The backstage area came with its own show in itself - I would love to commend the kind fursuiter who saw me on the cane at the end of the show and hastily got up to offer me his seat in the wing area. I tried desperately to whisper to him that I didn't need the cane and it was just part of the act, but he just couldn't hear me through his head. There was also the moment when one of the stage ninjas, who was dressed as Deadpool, attempted a roll on stage and managed to tear an eight-inch gash down the back of his trousers, revealing polka-dotted boxer shorts - the first we knew of this backstage was when we saw him bent over a table in front of us having his bottom duct-taped together again by a helpful stage assistant.
Belic was fantastic throughout as the master of ceremonies - he has a self-deprecating sense of humour that's very British, acting as the only sane man amongst the fluffy chaos that he's barely holding together around him (come to think of it, no acting may be necessary on his part here). At the end of the show when they hand out the awards, I wasn't expecting anything and when he announced a prize for "a very talented and funny individual" I was already moving aside to let the other comedian Flash Timberwolf through, but I was shocked and astonished to receive the 2nd place prize behind regulars Drama Armada. That shock was only compounded when the Belic's Choice award was announced - I think that the audio equipment may have captured an involuntary "Fuck me!" from me as DF's name was called and he stepped forward to receive it. He'd gone from a walk-in on the off-chance to the pick of the night... an incredible achievement!
It wasn't even over after that - as soon as we'd come off stage, we went upstairs to the writing panel where Kjorteo was waiting for us before he presented to the audience, and then obligingly put our elation in check by reading an incredibly depressing passage from The Afflicted
. But this - and the way that the first thing anyone said when he had finished was "That was really intense" - are compliments, proof that he gets the reader to really care about his characters in the oppressive world that he's created around them. It was very well received, they talked about the themes fluently even though he had only had the chance to read one scene... and it was great to watch them discuss it. After that, there was a very funny Hitchhikers' Guide/Red Dwarf style story read by Ben Goodridge - another book that I'd really like to see once it's finished.
We closed the day by staying in the same room to attend an improvisation panel where everyone came up with some fantastic and/or shocking stuff (including one participant who slowly drifted into doing an impression of my accent in the questions game!) and then retired to our room to play Cards Against Humanity, a couple of us in underwear because they had been asleep, and giving very wrong impressions of what our room was like to the visitors.
Sunday was a much quieter day, where we got up late and attended the cooking panel put on by Budgie and Motodrachen, where they gave their group some good advice on the basics and I refrained from mentioning any of my more flabbergasting anti-cooking stories - then a couple of us moved next door to a comedy panel which rapidly became a heartwarming panel, talking about how we can celebrate the creativity of the furry community instead of the negativity and awfulness that characterizes most of the Internet. They called the maker of one of the panellists' fursuits up from the audience - LaughsAtThunder - and I was shocked when they mentioned she was only fourteen years old... she seriously has a very famous future ahead of her.
During the downtime afterwards I wandered the hotel and hoovered up about a bajillion Streetpasses on the 3DS, then we went out for lunch as a large group and came back to the hotel to have a sketch session together (the results of which I'm still slowly uploading as I find them). All too soon, it was time for the closing ceremonies, and we had the surprise of JTigerclaw taking the stage to sing a piece to his girlfriend Katalina... I'm sure everyone in the room knows that there's only one reason you get your girlfriend up on stage in front of a crowd of people, but it was still an amazing moment where he used the last line of his song to propose to her. One wander of the post-party and another improvisation panel run (I wouldn't quite say "organized") by the great Wag later, it was time to sleep for the last night of the convention.
Kjorteo and I were still around the following day, and I got the chance to talk to Kiffa and Sedge and wandered the hotel a bit before I got the message that he was ready for visitors. It's amazing how quickly they transform the building - by the time I was up, the dealer's den had been packed away, the Furfright signs had been changed and there was a hospitality school moving in, with the panel rooms that had previously housed people in giant blue dog costumes playing Party Quirks now hosting some sort of seminar on the history of plumbing. I've only ever thought of the hotel as a haven for this weird and incredible subculture, and it was strange to think that for most of the year it's just a hotel - hovering between two dimensions for just a couple of days near Halloween.
But in the hotel over the road, we had the guitars out and talked through some music we were writing together, with me putting his ideas into the computer... that was a very special and rare moment. It made me realize that while the convention is a wonderful atmosphere, it's not just the environment but little things like that - and introducing DF to sashimi, and Kwisa observing "I know how you play American football - you run ten yards and then you have a commercial break", and Kjorteo instructing Susi on the correct way to get out of a car... those make it truly special.
Are you really still reading this? Wow. In that case - thank you so much to everyone who made it for being part of this experience, and for being part of a cluster of groups of friends that's continuing to grow closer... it's been wonderful for the last three years and I hope it continues to be a landmark of the year for us all!