They say you can never go home again. As I take my first step through the wide doorway into BLFC's con space, I have a feeling "they" have no idea what they're talking about. The enormous room is packed with furs dressed in living dreams of tails and ears. A colorful swirl of people from an imaginary world brought to life here in this space. The room is warm with laughter and cheerful conversation.
I feel the guard against the outside world, usually so ubiquitous in my life I barely notice it anymore, begin to fade. It leaves behind a smile. That smile grows as I recognize the music in the background. The 80s tune carries with it a flood of fond memories, both lonely and warm. The nostalgia adds to the feeling that has been growing since I set foot in this room. I'm home.
Vibrant lights dance across the wooden floor like shadows across water. The synchronized heartbeat of bass thumps in our chests… Irreversible hearing loss probably happens.
I’m not really paying attention to that. I furrow my brow and swing both poi behind my back. The poi rattle angrily and the strings tangle, forming a knot that would make a Boy Scout proud. I try again. This time, both poi miss entirely and I hit myself soundly in the rear. It's a little embarrassing, especially in front of the people I'm with.
I really admire them. Jei for his incredible skill and humbleness, Chatah for his almost supernatural ability to learn even the most complex things in no time at all and his ever-present smile, and Floww for his quiet competence and ability to throw himself into dance with a fun, pure passion.
C’mon you can do better than this. I’m suddenly painfully aware that everyone’s watching. But they’re all looking at me with encouraging, hopeful smiles. It suddenly hits me that they - these people I look up to - are rooting for me.
I go into a behind the back weave, then twist. The strings of the poi shoot towards one another. There’s the contact… now, pull. The poi snap into a clean orbital. HOLY CAT’S MEOW, I DID IT! Behind the back orbital, baby!
I feel like cheering. A second later, I realize the others actually are. I feel on top of the world. I don’t know how many people get to have such encouraging friends, but I suddenly feel very lucky.
Chatah, Floww, and I look out the car window to see a wolf in a go kart small enough on him that he looks a little like a wolfamuffin. He’s leaning dramatically to one side as he rounds a turn like someone right out of Tokyo Drift. He’s closely followed by a fox and a tiger who are both trying to pass him, only they’re kind of swervy and getting in each other’s way. The only thing missing is Yackety Sax. None of us can hold back the laugh at the sight as another half dozen oversized animals with goofy smiles race by. It’s like something straight out of Mario Kart.
“I keep expecting someone to throw a banana peel,” I say.
We pull out past the turn, grinning to ourselves. This is why furries are awesome.
Behind the curtain, I shift my weight back and forth and tap my foot nervously while dozens of other fursuiters mill about. We’ve been waiting for our turn in the dance competition for quite a while now.
You can tell the veterans. They're the ones that don't seem worried in the slightest about going out to be carefully scrutinized and judged by every single fur in the entire con. I, on the other hand, am sitting here while butterflies engage in siege warfare against my stomach. Jei doesn’t look much better, this being his very first dance competition. He’s in a corner walking back in forth in the trench that has formed from him his pacing.
Siber gets called. I'm next, so I start preparing. Only seconds seem to pass before I’m told I have 15 seconds before I need to be out there. I quickly turn on my poi and step out from behind the curtain. Act confident, I tell myself. I hope nobody can see me shaking.
My first look at the stage makes my stomach turn. That's a LOT of people. When I look more carefully, I feel even more worried. I asked about the stage ahead of time so I could choreograph things. The audience was supposed to be on three sides with the judges on the left. Instead, the audience is all around the stage, and the judges are on the right. Now what? Can I mirror my entire performance? That’d be REALLY confusing after all that practice! I can’t perform it with my back towards the majority of the people! Maybe if I put in a few extra turns part way through? No, that doesn’t work… What if I… oh gosh, they’re going to start the music any second now! What am I going to do?!
I’m interrupted when the first few notes of "You Spin Me Round (Like a Record)" play. I’m just going to have to hope things somehow work out. My mental counting drowns out the worry, at least a little. But something's wrong. I'm not moving as fast as I need to be. My injured back is giving me trouble. The poi nicks my tail, causing me to completely flub one important combo. By the time the first chorus comes in, I'm disoriented from trying to improvise ways to deal with having an audience on an extra side. By the time the second chorus comes in, I goof up the combos for the climax and just sort of flail around.
When I finally execute the complex ending move,, I’m so relieved it’s over that I barely notice the audience erupting into cheers.
I take a bow, then leave as fast as I can. Man, I messed up EVERYTHING there. Well, except the ending. That worked out. But the rest... sloppy, off beat...
"THAT WAS AWESOME!" I’m a little surprised by the enthusiasm of the guy in front of me. Another tells me the same, then another, and another as I make my way back behind the curtain. OK, so even if it wasn’t how I wanted it to be, apparently it didn’t look bad. That’s good! Maybe it wasn’t a disaster after all.
Now free of worrying about the competition, I wait around as the rest of the dancers take their turns. Time moves faster, now. A pattern begins forming. Someone leaves. At random points of the song, there’s suddenly thundering applause and cheering. I peek vainly through the curtain trying to see what was so cool. Then the dancer comes back. Many express how they weren’t really happy with their performance.
Thing is, I’ve seen all these people dance in the prelims. I know how incredible they are, and judging by the noise the audience was making, everyone else agreed too. Their uncertainty seems ridiculous. There’s a lesson behind this, but I don’t have time to think about it. They call us back on stage for the finale of the dance competition.
Oh noes! I’ve been recognized! My roguish good looks have betrayed me!
Someone waves from a table across the hall. I’m not really sure who it is at first, but I head on over to say hi anyway. Oh wait, that’s Kijani! I give a high five.
“Great, now you got mustard on him,” one of them jokes.
I fix this by returning the imaginary mustard to the group by wiping it off on the shirt of the nearest person at the table.
We goof around a little when I notice orange bag on the table. Cheetos! Don’t mind if I do. I critically succeed my pickpocket check and snatch it from the table with smooth feline deftness before making my escape. Muahahahaha! I hold up the bag victoriously. The Final Fantasy song plays in my head.
Suddenly, I notice something odd. I lower the bag and look inside. It's empty.
You maniacs! You ate it all! Darn you! Darn you to heck!
I throw the empty bag back on the table and walk off, pouting.
I hold up my “Free Hugs” sign, doing my little idle animation dance when I see a flicker of movement through the mouth opening of my fursuit head. I immediately freeze because I’ve learned that when there is a flicker of movement like that, it means that some little kid has just run right in front of me and is about to be punted into orbit if I don't immediately stop. As a member of the fandom that would prefer our reputation to not include child-kicking, so I try not to send more than one or two kids into space per con.
“Hey! Hey! Listen!” says the girl. I decide to name her Navi on the spot and cup a hand around my ear. “There’s someone needs a hug,” she informs me somemly. “Follow me!”
She takes me by the hand and leads me down the hall on a quest to deliver that much needed hug. It’s about the most adorable thing ever, and it turns out she was right. Someone did need a hug.
It’s the Saturday dance, so the headless lounge is pretty packed. I carefully navigate my way through the minefield of feet, tails, and chairs below my field of vision when an otter stops me near the door.
I wave happily. It’s always nice to be recognized. Especially when people don’t call you Sky or KwiK because apparently all cheetahs look the same, even when they’re several feet different in height and different colors. Then again, at least I'm not getting confused for a fox anymore.
“Hey, you probably don’t remember me,” says the otter. Sadly, I don’t. I’m really bad at faces and names. “I was upset a few years ago at FC and you came by to cheer me,” he informs me. I barely remember the incident, but I do remember it. “I just wanted to say thanks.”
I suddenly feel a little mushy, and if you think I got a little teary eyed, you're a stupidhead and you can't prove it, jerk. Making people happy is the reason I love suiting so much, and hearing that I actually made a difference anywhere, no matter how small, means a whole, whole lot to me.
“I’m also really drunk,” he adds, kind of pulling a mood whiplash on me. Still, I find myself smiling as I wave goodbye and head back into the con space.
I head down the escalator, holding my two suitcases steady behind me. We’ve already checked out, but I still have several hours before my flight. Many of you may know about this, but I have this tradition. I always have to walk the con after it’s over before I can really accept that it's done. All this does is make me sad, but I still have to do it.
As I near the bottom of the escalator and the hallway slowly comes into view, I crane my head forward a little, hoping to see a circle of furs talking. Maybe even a die-hard suiter, keeping the flame alive! Instead, I’m greeted with a devastatingly empty hallway. Even the wide door that used to be the entrance of the con space is closed.
Wait… the side door is open. I pick up a little speed and look inside hopefully. The faithful warm, orange large room is still there to greet me, but it's off. Some things remain untouched: the DJ booth, the Lego table, and several of the cloth-covered dealer’s den tables. Most of it, however, is already gone. I mentally tick off who should be sitting at which dealer’s table. None of them are there. The wares are missing, and many tables have been removed entirely. In my mind, I try to fill in the missing pieces. The art gallery cage, and there’s the tower of boxes, ready to be knocked over yet again. The tricycle skidding around the dance floor. The bright displays of tails and paintings. Most importantly the wonderful, colorful furs from that imaginary, bright world, filling the room with cheer and laughter. For a moment, I can almost see it all again.
Just as quickly, it’s all gone. The room’s empty again, and the little that remains is being efficiently taken apart by staff. I want to tell them to stop. That’s my home. That’s where all my friends should be, and the music, and the fursuits, and they need to put all the tables up again and call all the people back! This isn't right!
Obviously, I'm just being silly, but... well, I'm a bit of a sentimental cheetah sometimes. I turn and head back for the escalator. Maybe there's still some furs upstairs I can say goodbye to. As I head back up, it occurs to me how derpy it is to spend time looking at the husk of the convention space when there might have been people I knew leaving above me. After all, what really makes the con? I mean, when you think about it, there’s not really much to it. A bunch of us meet in one location for a few days and some hard working people organize some big events. But cons are so much more than that. In the end, it always comes down to all the beautiful people who join together to celebrate everything that makes us who we are.
I take a seat at one of the casino machines (they're the most comfortable!) and watch furs check out one by one. The hotel gradually shifts from a magical place full of color and life to just yet another money-machine casino, but I have fun imagining that all the wonder concentrated in the con is once again going out in the world where it can spread all the happiness we experienced during the con back out in the wild.
So, to all of you who were at the con, thank you for making it such a wonderful one just by being your wonderful selves, and don’t forget to keep shining brightly when you’re out in the big wide world again. You never know who you’re inspiring without realizing it.
See you next con!
The Ghostbusters team had proton packs that happened to be toys they sold back in the 80s. I used to have one as a kid, and it was like the coolest toy to me. Seeing one again was pretty awesome.
Doc Brown vs. Master Chief in a light saber battle.
The unicorn dance.
Getting to have dinner with Kijani and friends. He's always been someone I've looked up to as a fursuiter, and it was great getting to get to meet the person behind it.
Elaki: Who was there at the airport to meet me back in the future, and welcome me to my other home. He was even wearing a con shirt, that I'm pretty sure was intentional to help me feel better after having to leave the con. He knows me pretty well. Thanks, fluffytuft!
Ace, Rom, and Alistar: Sorry I wasn't around all that much, but thank you all. You were so wonderful to room with, and I had a blast getting to hang out with you! Special thanks to Ace for the wonderful badge (it's my absolute favorite badge, now!), Rom for the adorable bathrobe drawing, and Alistar for going out of your way to help me with suit shipping, even when it took way longer than expected!
Chatah and Floww: Thanks so much for the awesome shirt, Chatah! And the squeaker! And the badge! XD It was so great getting to see both of you again, and I really appreciate the support during the dance prelims. Way too much fun dancing, spinning, having meals with, and generally hanging out with you two. Both of you are amazing. Stay awesome, and I can't wait to see you next time we're in a con together!
Jei: I'm so glad I got to get to know you a little better! I still can't believe how skilled you are at poi, yo-yoing, and dancing. Always a pleasure to watch. And thanks for sort of being my nervous-buddy while we were both going through the dance comp!
Simboku: Sorry we didn't get to do quite as much spinning as I hoped, but I'm glad I got to see you again! And I'm glad you found that nifty harness you were hoping for. :3 Next time we see each other, definitely much more spinning, and we'll have to be sure to at least have one meal together!
Chance and Fenris :3: Thanks for saying hello! Both of you are way too awesome, and a special thanks for capturing some of my dance routine with that high speed camera. That was pretty awesome. :3
Kijani, Ace, Dakota, and... Ack, I can't remember all the names - I'm really bad at this! Well, everyone who went to not-Trim. :3 It was so much fun just relaxing, having good food, watching silly sports replays, and talking about fuzzy stuff! I'm really glad I got to do that with all of you, and I hope we get to run into each other again soon!
Rex: Sorry I didn't have any new moves off the top of my head to show you! Even so, it's always such a great pleasure to get to see you again. ^^ You're like the best coon ever!
The Ghostbusters: Thanks for letting me hang out on the last day! It was really nice getting to have one last meal with furs. ^^ Oh, and Nye, if you're going to RMFC again this year, we'll definitely have to arrange to hang out again!
Telephone: I always so nervous trying to talk to you because I'm silly that way, so thanks for saying hello on your way out. I'm glad you liked the PCD kit. ^^
Eaite (which I now know how to pronounce): You have the most honkable cute nose ever. That is all.
Scruffy: Glad I got to see you again, fox-friend! I hope you had a ton of fun! :3
Angel: Once again, I'm so sorry you weren't able to perform at the dance competition. I really meant what I said, though. You were absolutely beautiful in the prelims, and I feel even more special than ever having gotten to be one of the few who got to see you dance. If you end up in doing your performance in another place and I'm not there, please let me know! I really would love to get to see the whole thing!
As usual, there are a TON of people I'm missing (particularly all the people I got to talk to in the headless loung), mostly because I have a really bad memory and can't remember your names! Even if I didn't mention you, though, thank you for helping make this con a spectacular one. Also, feel free to yell at me for NOT mentioning you so that way it helps me remember your name next time. XD