I am a wolf who lives up in Maine. I'm not much of an artist in the traditional sense so my creative output is generally photographs, video and the occasional construction made of tiny magnetic buckyball spheres.
I am a bit of a humorist and may occasionally compose parody versions of the lyrics to known songs. I may be inclined to post them here and there with perhaps a vocal rendition. If anyone who can sing would like to record a version, let me know.
For the first time in several years I have been able to return to Pittsburgh for some sunny, summery, furry fun at Anthrocon. It's been a while since I attended even a local fur meet; I was feeling rather withdrawn and disconnected from the fandom, so I was happy to be able to recharge my social batteries. Winter arrives at my place Wednesday afternoon. We decided to drive there together, using his car, as neither of us wanted to drive the distance solo. I loaded up a few duffel bags and a cooler of cold sodas. Pro tip, put the ice for the cooler in ziplog bags (double-bagged to be safe) so you don't have soaked cans or risk a spill of melted water. I'd spent the previous couple of days packing and re-packing my stuff. Part of my brain overthinking things and trying to plan for any contingency, the other part of my brain taking stuff out I never used last time and pointing out encumbrance rules aren't just for D&D.
We get on the highway, with a small detour for candy. dondrakore was bringing me some werewolf comics from the UK and I wanted to show my appreciation. My Coyote side, CinnamonRed, believes candy is a great way to say thanks, and suggested Goldenrod. They're a small candy shop in York Beach that make their own salt-water taffy. The taffy pulling machine is visible from the sidewalk, a great way to entice tourists to step inside for treats. The drive from Maine to Pennsylvania was uneventful. Winter and I passed the miles in idle conversation, discussing various interests and swapping music and game recommendations. We spent the night at a Super 8 motel inside the Pennsylvania border. Decent beds, but the toilet made a high-pitch squeal when it flushed. I think every dog in a ten mile radius knew when I had to pee.
Thursday we head out, it's a nice sunny day so I take off my shirt and see if I can get a seatbelt tan. I find out unit555mage is riding with thecraftycanine and they're not far behind us on the highway. He messages me a few times when they pass a sign I'd posted in a tweet (along with a joke) a couple of minutes before. We arrive in Pittsburgh my mid-afternoon. It is possible to drive from Maine to Anthrocon in one shot, but you have to factor in hotel check-in times, when Registration opens, how tired you're going to be when you arrive. I prefer to spend an extra day to enjoy a stress-free drive and arrive refreshed. We pick up Winter's boyfriend ezenbaklattan and go to the hotel to drop off our stuff. The four of us (including Howl, who I'd meet later that evening) would be staying at the Drury, a short walk from the convention. The hotel was previously a Federal Reserve building and they kept a lot of the bank aesthetic. The Omni hotel was the same, keeping the 30s and 40s vibe. You wouldn't have been surprised to see a gangster in a pinstripe suit and snazzy hat walk by with a tommy gun to hold up the place. Of course, this was Anthrocon's weekend so you wouldn't have been surprised to see a tiger in a pinstripe suit and snazzy hat walk by with a tommy gun.
After checking in and stowing my stuff, it's time to revel in being a furry. I don my Wolf Hollow cap with red fuzzy ears, attach my red floofy tail and give it a few spritz of cinnamon-scented fursuit spray and head to the DLCC. I put on a face mask, pass through the vaccine checkpoint and pick up my badge. And for the first time, it says STAFF. I am officially back at Anthrocon, yay.
And then I goofed. See, back in 2018 I did some volunteering and got pegged to be on Staff by the head of the Artist Alley. And then missed three years due to Covid and other reasons. So I hadn't been in touch with anyone. I wasn't sure how being Staff worked. I was on the staff mailing list and getting emails so I assumed they knew I was coming and someone would reach out to me with directions. Well, ConOps should know. I get there, after trying to remember how to navigate around the multi-tiered labyrinth of the DLCC. I tell them I'm new to Staff, where should I go. It's the first day of the con, of course they send me back to Registration. I send the rest of the day checking in attendees and stayed with them until they closed around 11p, doing what I could to help and making mental notes on how we want Registration to work for Furcationland. It had been a long day so I head back to the Drury to meet Howl and get some sleep.
I get up Friday, grab a coke to wake up and take a shower. The guy in the mirror holding a hairbrush tells me I really should check in at the Artist Alley. Good idea. I head over, look for the long row of door that mean I found where the Dealer's Den is, and spy a sign on an easel that says Artist's Alley. I see Shadow, yep he looks like the guy who pegged me for Staff way back when. I introduce myself and apologize for having my head up my ass and not reaching out before the convention. Shadow is a cool guy and gives me a basic rundown of the con store area, introduced me to my fellow cohorts and assigns me some hours. Afternoon hours, sweet. I love being able to sleep in! I spend the day handing out t-shirts and making suggestions on what size the sponsor should get (assume it will shrink a little in the wash), and working the con store, selling official con merchandise and chatting with shymatsi, a fur I'd known for years online but never met irl until today. I got to check a few others off that list, including rick2tails and Arcatin. This is one of the reasons I like coming to conventions, to get to meet some of these people I'd known from online chats.
The other reason is to visit the Dealer's Den and see all the cool stuff people are selling. I take a break in the afternoon, walk over, check out some of the tables. I say hi to the_gneech., it's cool getting to see him again. nightspiritwing is there, and Lukon is helping Radar run his table. I bought a pair of fuzzy red ears so I could attach them to another one of my hats, and a pair of red claw leather gauntlets from Red Falcon. For years I'd been debating whether to buy some. Sure they're dragony, but they look awesome. Sure they're a little expensive, but fuck it, I paid off my credit card debt, I can afford to splurge. The dealer lets me try them on, shows me how to buckle the various straps and took my card cause they were coming with me. At six, the den and alley close up for the night, I have nothing planned and go over to Furryland (formerly Furnandos) for a Dog Bowl Special. Unfortunately, they were sold out of regular bowls so I got a collapsible one leftover from 2018. I don't know if they didn't order enough or they sold out just that fast. Lesson learned, next year get there much earlier. The pizza was simple, but good. I sometimes want a slice that's a bit greasy with super-stringy cheese. Like getting popcorn at a movie theater. Sure it's overpriced, but it's part of the whole experience. And the memory of that pizza stayed with me the entire night. Literally. With my face mask covering my mouth and nose, I was smelling my own mozerella-scented breath all evening.
I wander the DLCC and briefly run into a few people, Richard, a former MaineFur, lancedrake (another to check off the irl list) and NightEyes. The roof is locked, something they started doing at night. I wonder how this will impact future Astronofur panels. A storm is passing by and the thunder is echoing off the skyscrapers making weird sounds, but the storm, and the rain miss us. Not finding anyone to hang out with, I head to the streets. In prior years I've found some pretty cool stuff in the neighborhood (posted to my various galleries) and wanted to see what new art had cropped up since 2018. The vibe I'd gotten of Pittsburgh is of a place that welcomes individual expression, artistry and the weird. A town that embraced the annual visit by the furry fandom. This isn't speculation, I have had locals tell me how much they loved having us here (I'm wearing ears and a tail, it's obvious what I'm in town for). Even this night as I'm walking, a local guy passes by and tells me he's glad we're back. He also mentioned he was a DJ...but I forgot his handle and didn't write it down.
Saturday I return to the streets to take more photos. The art I saw would look better in natural light than the flash of my iphone. I have some time before my shift starts and visit the Dealer's Den again. I buy a black wolf plushy at the Dragon's Lair table that looked cute and thought Oscar could use a boyfriend. Howl is working a table selling naughty fursuit sprays (HuffAromas). I pick up a bottle out of curiosity. I stop at NightEyes table and buy copies of his book. We chat about writing, I mention my interesting in doing audio adaptations of stories (I've been told I have a good "professional" voice) and he recommends The Voice of Dog, a podcast that features furry audio books. Next table over is his husband, Othello. Othello sells various jewelry and LED products. This year he has an LED badge that can be programmed via an app. An improvement over the older models where you had to enter each letter manually, scrolling through the alphabet to get to the character you wanted, like adding your name for the high score on an old arcade machine. I checked out some of the vendors selling shirts, wondering why no one sold animal-themed pants or shorts. As I phased out my t-shirts that became too raggedy for everyday wear, the remaining selection is made up of mostly MLP ones. And while Friendship is Magic is still dear to my heart, I'm not the fan I once was. I haven't decided what pop culture trend to base my current wardrobe on, none of the shows I currently enjoy give me that "advertise on my torso" vibe. I always will be a furry and therian so I picked out a couple of nice wolf shirts from Rukis. And a few more Certified badges from MaryMouse.
Back at the Artist Alley/Con Store I hand out sponsor t-shirts and "other duties as assigned by management." I actually like handing out the t-shirts to sponsors, thanking people for having given a little extra to the convention, and meeting some cool people. Like, I got to meet Grandma Kage again when she came by to pick up her shirt. We actually chatted for a bit about our fitbits and getting in daily steps.
That evening I was able to connect with Don and estobhan and pick up the comics he got me. I gave him the bag of candy, which I knew would thrill Erin as she was familiar with Goldenrod and would enjoy a small reminder of home.
Another evening of walking around, checking out the quieter wings of the convention center away from the crowded center areas where the fursuiters all gather to be admired and photographed. Out here you'll find the game rooms, some late night panels, maybe an artist leaning against a wall working on commissions in the quiet area cause their hotel room is being used for a loud room party. You try some doors to see if they'll lead to a Room of Requirement, Narnia, or even a few furries making out.
I met up with Fenrari, another online fur I'd wanted to meet irl. We hung out in the corridor that overlooks the Den and chatted for a while. I was glad for the opportunity to just hang out and chill with someone for a while. While we talked I saw a young man with a familiar purple shirt walk by. "Hey, PineFurCon!" I said loudly, to get his attention. He came over to talk and we discussed the rise and fall of Maine's first furcon. He said it was gone, it was the closest furrycon to where he lived in Canada. I told him about Furcationland, and got him into the Telegram chat for it. I may have subtly hinted at the need for Staff but apparently Canada has some policies that make it a hassle to deal with the paperwork.
Sunday morning I wake up and finish packing. Ezen only reserved the hotel room through Sunday. Problem, I wasn't planning on leaving until Monday. I came to the convention with no backup plan, just rugged optimism. Fuck, I figured I could catnap on a bench near the convention if need be. Fortunately, Radar and Lukon came to my aid and offered a space in their room. So I loaded everything except the essentials into Winter's car and headed back to the con for one last pass of the Den. I was feeling splurgy so I picked up the complete set of Circles (all four volumes) and the collected Anubis: Dark Desires. I knew hbruton had a table so I went and asked if she could sign my copy. Not only did she sign it, she told me the other artists who worked on it had tables in the same area and I could get everyone's signature all at once. Totally awesome. I bought some prints from Gneech, I really want to bring home a print of his Shade character. And a few other odds and ends (I'll upload pics of my swag). Of course I now had a backpack full of graphic novels that I'd have to lug with me the rest of the day as I no longer had a place to offload swag. And I finally met Wolfy from the Crossroads chat face-to-face. If you want to meet online friends, work in the Dealer's Den/Con Store area. It's like Rick's Cafe, everyone comes there.
It's the last couple of hours of the con. For sponsor shirts, and the con store we're out of everything but small. We're still collecting vouchers so more can be ordered and mailed out. And then it's 4 o'clock and we are closed! I help with packing everything up. Much like Xmas decorations, you want to make sure everything's packed neatly so you have an easier time setting up for next year. Jackson Browne's Load Out/Stay is running through my head, Now the promoter don’t mind, And the roadies don’t mind/If we take a little time/And we leave this all behind and sing/One more song. And we're done. I leave the hall, briefly meet J'Ra-Nha Casareth from Crossroads and head out into the open air. Later I get dinner with some Staff and hang out a bit as the sun goes down. It's Sunday night and everyone's Dead Dogging at the Westin. I run into a few people, and try looking for a few others who were supposed to be there, but to no avail. I'm tired, my feet are aching and I decide to head over to see Radar and Lukon. Why does the time on Google Maps keep going up? Damn, I had it oriented the wrong way. I'm definitely a dead dog. I turn around, get to their hotel and crash on their floor.
Monday morning I wake up around 8. I say goodbye to my hosts and head to the DLCC to wait for Winter. Yesterday I told him we could head out around 10ish. Whelp I've got time to kill but my feet are too sore for exploring so I enjoy a quiet sit for a few hours. Winter arrives and I enjoy one of the final colas from the cooler. We set the GPS to Maine and head out of town. We make the periodic stops for gas and colas. Winter wanted to visit a Sheetz, having heard about how great they are. I'd heard other furries say the same, but I never saw what was so special about them. We worked on our seatbelt tans and traded off driving, as on the way in we discussed random stuff and listened to his eclectic playlists on Spotify. How have I never heard of the Australian band The Beards before? How had Nonograms escaped my notice? Ah well, I thank Winter for introducing them to me. We made good time and stopped in Tewksbury, Mass for dinner before the final stretch to Maine. He dropped me off at home and continued on his way. I brought my stuff inside, said hi to Ben and Anthrocon was fully over for me. I didn't have to work until Wednesday so I had the extra day to unpack, sort through my notes and avoid the dreaded PCD.
I do have some regrets. There were a few people I didn't get a chance to meet and hug. I didn't attend any panels, even some I noted cause they looked interesting. I didn't visit any sites on the drive down or back. I didn't get to hang out with friends as much as I wanted. Some of that was due to my own failure to plan. Overall, the convention was a lot of fun. I enjoyed the drive with Winter, he is an excellent traveling companion. I enjoyed being on Staff and contributing, in my own small ways, to helping others have a great time. I got some sweet purchases from the Den and I can't wait to show off my gauntlets. I barely ate anything, mostly some small snacks I brought. Which is good, cause it reinforced that when I put my mind to it, I can control my appetite. Before leaving, I set the daily goal on my fitbit to 2k steps. I thought my daily totals would be low from spending days in the car, or sitting at the Artist Alley and I didn't want to break my step streak (I did have to contend with breaking my NYTXW streak, tho). Nope. The travel days I came pretty close to 10k and during the con I exceeded it. On Sunday I did 29k steps. That's 14.5 miles of walking. So I did a lot of walking (often carrying a backpack full of swag) and ate very little and when I weighed myself on Tuesday I had lost 7 pounds. Yes, a lot of it was water weight, but it was a great achievement for me. And I did get to meet some good friends and get some great ideas for stuff I can do. I am definitely going back for 2023, pandemic-pending. And I will be uploading some of the photos I took. After a long dry-spell I finally have con pics to share.