Monday, March 26, 2012

On and Off at Gary Con IV -- Part Three

Day Three—Saturday evening, the 24th

Much of the day is spent writing and cleaning pictures. Saturday's big event for Janet and me is the TSR Dinner. Margaret Weis and I put together this event, hoping to bring together more than fifty former TSR employees, many of whom who haven't seen each other for nearly two decades. Tension mounts all day. I'm not entirely certain how well this will go.

At last, Janet and I get in the car. It's late in the afternoon. Her badge is ready at the registration desk, and Jeff Hammerlund kindly makes TSR pins available. Nice touch. I give Janet a quick tour. Hallways and game rooms are packed. People are lining up to bid for the silent auction. I wish that I had more time. The dealer's room is already closed, of course. We'll come back tomorrow just for that.
The Auction

F. Mentzer, Auction Meister
We head off to the auction. It is for the benefit of Jim Ward who's run into medical troubles since last year. We're glad he's still among us. The auction is going well thanks to efforts of many. Live long, old friend. Janet and I head off to the bar and immediately connect with old friends and acquaintances already there. It isn't long before everyone shows up and fills the area.

J. Ward, Mrs. Gygax, Heidi Gygax, & Luke Gygax

The maître d’hôtel comes by, waving menus. “Order now if you want your dinner served on time!” It will be a bit of a logistical headache for the kitchen to get fifty or so individual orders ready for us when we all migrate to the dining room. I mentally cross my fingers. Use the Force, Bruce... Use the Force! Janet and I dutifully fill out ours, but by the time we look up, the busy fellow's waltzed out of the room already. Yeah, okay. Nothing a quick manhunt can't solve. Now back at the bar, I pick up a glass of Chard and a copious serving of the local Spotted Cow brew, which I never got around to finish. Too much running around, recognizing familiar faces, and chit-chatting for that. Things are looking good.

Allen Hammack & Diesel
Dale Donovan and his daughter scamper off. The little's one getting bored. It's time for her dad to entertain her. Janet and I grab their seats and join Cindy Donovan (Cindy Rick). They moved back from the Seattle area. Cindy tells us about the challenge of moving yet again and recovering piles of nearly forgotten boxes still in storage. Shudder. Jim Lowder joins us. So does Penny Williams (Penny Petticord). Skip had to go back home and will miss the party. He and Penny live three hours away, and the only one available to feed the pets is (drum roll, please) a gamer who is attending Gary Con as well.

Jonathan Coke & Sue Weinlein
I made it halfway though my beer when Sue Weinlein joins us. She too has returned from the West Coast. The circle grows in more ways than one. Anne and Ben McCready (Anne Gray) make their entrance. I haven't seen them for ages! Forget the beer. I rush off to greet them. What a blast! We talk about each other's kids and discover all the news, the old and not-so-old ones. By the time I look around, the bar is nearly full. Dan the Bard is in a corner, singing his heart out.

Greetings from all of us!
Gary Con's photographer herds everyone toward the back for a group shot. After a dozen and three-quarters takes, we're done! We got the sillies something fierce. Soon, an unspoken word magically signals everyone to head for the dining room.

Patty Martin & Doug Blume
It is packed. I think almost everyone showed up. A few came for cocktails, and had to leave to handle other obligations. I'm really glad they showed up anyway. Other guests who were at TSR well before my time are present too. How cool. I'll have to find out who they are. The waiters show up and service begins. It's all working out very well. There isn't much of a wait and if there is one, in such great company, I don't notice it. I'm just too excited.

Debbie Conrad & James Ward

Janet's on my left, Doug Niles on my right and, one seat farther, Margaret Weis. Liz Baldwin, Mike Car, Sully, Doug Blume, and Jim Ward are across from me. Kifflie Scott, Debbie Conrad (Debbie Poutsch) and her husband sit near Janet, and Jean Black heads the table.

Liz Baldwin & Jean Blashfield Black
I lean over to Jim and ask him if he knows anything about Dave Arneson's old campaign notes. “I'm sure Arneson recovered them after David Ritchie finished working on the modules. Why do you ask?” I tell him of fans in Norway who really would like to access them. Jim makes a slight grimace. “They were hand-written notes and mostly unreadable. Certainly nothing in publishable form.” That's too bad.

Margaret Weis & Doug Niles
Mike Carr leans toward me and points at the gentleman sitting at the next table, the guy with the straw hat. Yeah, okay. It's one of the mysterious guests. Who's that, I ask. “It's David Megarry. If you have questions about Blackmoor, talk to him. He was a personal friend and gaming buddy of Dave Arneson.” Yeah, okay. Duly noted. Thanks, Mike. I'll have to connect him with the folks in Norway. I finish off my appetizers, grab my camera, and start making the rounds.

Janet Deaver-Pack & Mr. Conrad
There's hardly enough room between the tables for my tripod. Some guests are so busy chatting they don't notice me making faces at them. Others do and wave. Looks like they're having fun. Mission accomplished. Just before heading back to my table, Dave Wise shows up. Hallelujah! I was worried he wouldn't. Sadly, he lost someone very dear to him just recently. But he's a trooper and he made it. That's awesome. The convention's photographer catches us chatting and takes a few shots. I want them. I'll be hunting down the staff at Gary Con until I get them. 

Bill Hoyer, Allen Hammack, Jon Pickens
This episode makes me think that time doesn't stop for any of us, and that we should keep up these gatherings. Gary's gone and so is Dave Arneson. There are a number of others, some I knew well, who also passed away. I stumbled on this while looking for past TSR folks. At times, it led to rather embarrassing and saddening phone conversations. Yeah, okay. None of us are eternal. And to me, TSR is and always will be family.

Harold Johnson, Tim Cahoon, Mr. & Mrs. Megarry
I tell Dave Wise to quit standing around, and shove him over to a spot with Karen Conlin (Karen Martin/Boomgaarden) and the Donovans. They're a happy bunch. Just squeeze in there, big guy. I return to my seat. Entrees are being served. Plates are hot. Food's decent. Staff's friendly. Doug Niles has to ask for another steak. It wasn't done right. No problem, a waiter comes back with another plate. 

Tracey Isler , Charles Kohl, Barb Nish
I watch quietly. It's all working out smoothly. I make a mental note to send a thank you card to the staff. Dinner winds down and people begin switching seats to connect with someone they missed. The conversations linger. Many aren't in a hurry to leave. Terrific. We all sign the poster by the entrance. I get a lot of pats on the back. “Hey Bruce. Thanks! We've got to do this again next year. Keep me on the list.”

You bet!


Our Illustrious Guests
their spouses & children

Lisa and David LaForce
Andrew Conn, Ken Whitman, Lester Smith
Elizabeth Baldwin

Jean Blashfield Black

Douglas Blume

Tim Cahoon

Jonathan Coke

Dave Conant

Karen Conlin

Debbie Conrad (Poutsch)
Peggy Cooper

Cindy Donovan

Dale Donovan

Jeff Easley

Allen Hammack

Bruce Heard
Mr. & Mrs Martin, Jeanine Mielicki

Kris Holder  

Bill Hoyer

Tracey Isler (Zamagne)

Harold Johnson

Charles Kohl

Diesel, Jeff Easley, Mr. & Mrs. Isler
David "Diesel" LaForce

Lisa LaForce (De Leon)

James Lowder

Kathy Lynch

Patty Martin 
The Donovan Family & Karen Conlin

Anne McCready

David Megarry

Frank Mentzer

Jeanine Mielecki

Lori Nevin (Cooper)
Marlene Vail

Douglas Niles

Barb Nish

Jon Pickens

Lester Smith

Stephen Sullivan

Marlene Vail

Charles Kohl, Barb Nish, Kevin Vail

James Ward

Sue Weinlein

Margaret Weis

Tom Wham

Dave Conant

 Ken Whitman

Penny Williams

Janet Winters

and last, but not least, my good friend

David Wise

Doug Blume & Steve Sullivan

If I missed anyone or got any names wrong, please do let me know.  I suspect I may have.  I'll make changes asap.  My apologies to Janet Winters, Lori Nevin, and Peggy Cooper whose table I missed.
Mea culpa!  
Janet Deaver-Pack, Kifflie Scott, Mr. Conrad

I'll endeavor to post pictures taken by Gary Con's photographer, and the "group shot" as soon as I can get my hands on them.  All my pictures will be available on Facebook and on Media Fire for our non-Facebook friends.

I bid you all a good night,

Now breathing with relief!
with a few words from our friend Dan the Bard

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