Dear JournalCon, I Love You

You know I was worried. You know that I was secretly thinking I was going to hang out in my room all weekend. You know that those first couple of hours in the swag room were just awful…that I actually did the thing where I had a plateful of cucumber with Ranch dressing and was all forlornly gazing around and not talking to anyone because I was too shy. You know I didn’t think it was going to turn out well.

I mean, first of all. That early flight from Seattle? Oh, man. I found Sundry and we checked in and went through security and made it to the gate and got on the plane and the whole thing was a blur…I was so tired. I went in to JournalCon,with a sleep debt, and that’s a crying shame because we know how I love sleeping, bed, and all things associated with sleeping and beds. But that’s okay because I am a hard core punk rocker in red suede sneakers and a hoodie sweater who brings her knitting with her on the plane. Also, I was with Sundry and she was there to share my pain. Also, to share all these embarrassing personal facts about my life I chose to divulge to her on the planes to Austin. On the flights there we sat together in the exit rows which had only two seats in them and it was like we were on our own special little flight there. It was great. But still, early.

I have to give love to my girl Sundry right now though. This will one of the themes of this entry, and I hope you don’t mind if I get a little maudlin right here for a minute. Sundry, simply put, is the best. The best ever. She put up with my mewling about how I was scared of everyone and she sat with me and whispered with me and laughed at a lot of my stupid jokes. She looked great in that denim skirt.

Anyway, do you know what the first thing I did was when we got to the hotel and saw some real live journallers standing around? I introduced myself to Weetabix and had the following conversation. I wasn’t sure how it boded for the weekend, but it turned out to be a very good indication of the rockin’ times to come.

Weetabix: Oh, right, Chiara! I’ve read your journal. I liked your Burning Man entries.


Chiara: Oh, so you’ve already seen my belly then. Can I see yours?

Weetabix: No, girl. That’s too personal. But you can maybe see my boobs. Like maybe later tonight.

Chiara: Great!

I have to admit those first couple of hours in Austin were, interesting boob-related conversation notwithstanding, a little lame. Sundry and I walked around 6th Street forever, trying to get some lunch and ended up all exhausted and disheveled, in the Hard Rock Caf鬠snoring over our overpriced salads and fending off the advances of the server, who just wanted us to get some margaritas already. I was feeling just sort of ridiculous, like here I was in the hotel and all these people I recognize but didn’t know and hadn’t met kept streaming in and I felt like a grubby little kid for some reason, hanging around on the playground where all the seventh graders go. We went and hung out in the Omni bar, me coughing delicately and waving away cigarette smoke and not being able to believe that people are actually allowed to smoke inside in Texas. I met Pineapple Girl and some others but still felt out of it. Felt out of it later in the swag room, where I met M.Giant and Rob (who later told me I had nice nostrils. One of them pre-verts, I’m telling you.) and Mo and lots of others. I liked them all and thought they were all cool but I couldn’t really get into it, you know? I was shy and close-mouthed and sort of sullen.

It got better though. It did. After dinner I was going to go to bed (see: 6:00 am flight from Seattle) but hung out at the bar some more and got to talk to some more folks and start to feel a little more comfortable, as if I was with people that I liked and knew and could get along with. It was so cool to be around people that knew a lot of the same stories I knew and that I’d talked to before on the forum. It was around the time I learned that Gwen and I have the same glasses that I stopped caring about being a little grubby kid on the playground and started just enjoying everyone, and that’s when I knew coming to JournalCon had been a good move for me. Overwhelming, yes. Exhausting…well, just read on. But certainly the right thing to do this past weekend.

Because Saturday was some kind of wonderful. It’s hard to believe it was just one day, because it felt like it lasted forever, and that it was two days ago, because I just can’t remember it very well. I went to several panels and met some more people and told secrets and whispered and went to lunch and then to Sundry’s panel. She did me proud…my only beef was that she didn’t talk as much as I wanted her to. Also, that she didn’t do the whole panel in a pirate accent, as I had heard rumours that she would. On that panel also was LadeeLeroy, who gave me sort of a funny feeling in my tummy, like when you climb the ropes in gym class. That feeling got only stronger and funnier when I saw her perform some bits from her show in a special JournalCon-only performance. Seriously. That girl. Oh, man. I am making plans with several other journallers to marry her and share her out equally during the week. Right now I think I have Tuesday nights.

I went to dinner with the Mathletes, bless their adorableness, and had as much ginger ale as I could hold, thanks to a very attentive waitress. Seriously, I had to really watch my ginger ale consumption over there…every five minutes I had a new glass in front of me. Meanwhile, Erin and Sundry had to wait eight hours for their dirty martinis. Clearly they ordered the wrong drinks. Ginger ale. It’s where it’s at. No, wait, I lied. Where it’s really at was watching Allison get her surprise guitar from all the people that love her (which would be everyone, of course). I know I was wiping away the tears, and I also know I wasn’t the only one.

After the fantastic show (where I didn’t talk nearly enough with either Melissa or Eliza. In fact, that was a theme for the weekend. Everyone was great, and I didn’t get a chance to talk to everyone I wanted to for as much as I wanted) we headed over to some outdoor karaoke place, where it was a good thing thing that it was unroofed, because we would have blown it off. The karaoke DJ said he’d never seen anything like it before. I’m guessing this is true. I’m sure he’s never seen anything like women throwing their bras at Omar when he was singing that song designed with the grind in mind. I’m sure no one had ever uttered the phrase “United States of Awesome” after singing “Proud To Be An American”. (While humping the microphone stand, no less.) I’m sure no one in the history of karaoke has ever sung “Love Shack” the way Allison and M. Giant did, and I know for a fact that “One Night In Bangkok” is forever ruined for me from now on because once you’ve seen Monty do it? There is no subsitute. You will never listen to that song again without thinking of him going “So go back to your temples…your massage parlors…your JournalCon.” Same with Hannah’s rendition of “Hopelessly Devoted”, which included an interpretation of that touching scene in Grease with the stationery and the kiddie pool. Also, I’m sure that karaoke DJ didn’t know that “Nothing Compares 2 U” as interpreted by TranceJen, is in fact a sing-along song. Yeah, well, it is in Texas. That’s all I’m saying. Hint: for those of you trying to get extra bang for your karaoke buck, either dance with AB and Emily (they might grope you, though) or do something “interpretive” with the lovely and amazing Mo. It’s the only way. I have rarely had that much fun with people I had met only twenty-four hours ago. Part of it was that going out and being crazy is very much against my general way of life. I mostly like to be in my pajamas with a book by 10:30 every night. I just had so much fun, laughing and screaming and dancing and yelling and making ridiculous faces for all the photos and gossiping and loving everyone I was with.

Now, you know I don’t drink. You know I am a model of temperance, and that I ordered only cranberry juices from the stunningly handlebar mustached bartender the whole night through. While it’s true that I screamed and yelled and cried for seven or eight hours Saturday, and while it’s true that I presented Hannah with a rose to symbolize my love for her (which had, in turn, been previously presented to me by Sundry, who got it from I don’t know where), and also that Chauffi freaked me during “Baby Got Back,” it’s not true that I deserved the hangover I woke up with Sunday morning. I guess it was cheaper and better for my liver than waking up with a for real drunken hangover, but man. Hoarse voice and headache and light-sensitive eyes and the whole fuzzy “Wha’ happened?” conversations and everything.

We ordered room service and packed up and I watched Sundry do her hair and borrowed some of her hair product and finally went downstairs to hang out and say goodbye about an hour before we had to leave for the airport. I think by that point people were very tired (and possibly hung over for real, unlike me who was hungover for not-real) and everything was sort of scattered and a little sad and weepy because all these new best friends were going away from each other and really, who knows when or if I’ll see some of these folks ever again, you know? I don’t think I would have survived another night of JournalCon but it did feel too short at the same time. We milled around and checked out and hugged and took pictures and then got a cab and then we were at the airport again , walking very slowly and tiredly.

Chiara I feel like I’ve been to war.

Sundry: Dude, I’m totally getting a soft pretzel.

And that was it. It was another one of those experiences I’ve been privileged to have this year, at the ABL 2003 and even at Burning Man. I loved everyone and everyone was the best and it was all so much fun and I never wanted it to end. I wanted to marry every single person there. I never wanted to come home. I wanted to be, for the rest of my life, the person I was able to be for (most of) the weekend: silly, giggly, affectionate with everyone, with a slight Texas drawl that I don’t know how I got.

And here’s what I’ve been thinking about today, besides all the beautiful journallers (seriously, how come all these web writers were so hot?) and the funny things people said and did (seriously, Omar did a spit-take in his panel. Of a Bloody Mary. He said it was like a vampire had found something very very funny up there). I was thinking that everyone has a story to tell, and that some people have a gift for writing it down. Someone said that if you happen to have that gift for writing, it’s on you to get that out to the world, that it’s not enough to just write it down…you have to take that second step and share it with folks. Your story becomes your art and you share it and give it life outside yourself. I thought about that, how online writing has let me learn all these stories that I would have never known about otherwise, has given me a bunch of truths I need in my heart. These stories have created communities that couldn’t otherwise exist, and have formed relationships that would ordinarily be impossible.

The other thing I thought about is about all those links I’ve put in this journal. Every single one of those people are amazing writers with the aforementioned great stories. I figured something out this weekend, which probably those of you who have been to JournalCon before already know: those journals are wonderful because the writers are wonderful people, pure and simple. I’m able to read all these people I’ve admired for so long with a completely new appreciation…I can hear their physical voices now, when I read, I can see their faces. I can’t do that with any of the published writers I love. I’m not ashamed to tell you how important this journaling thing is to me, how grateful I was to be able to finally hear the voices underneath the stories I’ve been reading for all these years.

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