The phone rang too early.
"Hello?" I asked blearily.
"You're working Maron this weekend, right? In Columbus?" a voice asked.
"I thought you should know that your Guest of Honor, Robert Asprin just died."
It never bodes well when a conventions guest of honor passes away expectantly. I wasn't a rabid far but I did enjoy his written work and always planned on reading more some time. And now? Well, the show goes on...
Lindsey and I went to load the car and the moment we opened the door to the van I knew something was wrong. The van reeked of death.
Something much have carwled up into so inaccessable hole and died. Fabreeze did almost nothing. Death weas everywhere. Not a good sign.
There was no time to investigate, we loaded up and drove down to Columbus with the windows open.
Marcon is one of the VERY few shows that is run by pretty damn competent trained monkeys. This is in stark contrast to the majority of shows, conventions and even Ren Faires we do over the course of the year. They do not loose paperwork. They send you a map of where the loading dock is. They help you unload!!!! And when you're set up? They offer free soda and cookies. Really. For this I and the rest of my fellow godless capitallists are eternally grateful.
The crowd was looking a bit thin at the start of things. I mean almost scarce. There are always theories for this. The economy, gas prices, competing events. We merchants are great at determining reasons why the hall isn't packed like it used to be. But that didn't mattter. Once the doors opened we started moving corsets. And with the influx of people comes the usual cast of 'colorful' characters.
Charly is what many long time con-goers would call a 'creepy camera guy'. Short, heavy-set, thick glasses and thin mustach. He is constantly taking pictures, usually of women. I used to avoid him if at all possible. He didn't seem to hang with any of the social groups that I did. But Rossana is a kinder soul than I and a better judge of character. She talked with him and then I got to talking with him a few years back. Now he shows up with stacks of prints which he gives away for free to people he photographed the previous year. He's no Ansel Adams, but he's actually a pretty nice guy. Last year the day after the con he was nearly killed when a kid with no license and no insurance crashed into him while he was riding his bike (he doesn't have a car). I was taken alittle aback. Marcon without Charley wouldn't feel right.
Not long after another friend I haven't seen in quite a while stopped by. His story was even wierder. It seems that he, after studying for and obtaining his conceal carry gun permit, had purchased a handgun several onths back. He bought the gun at about 11am. What happened next is a little unclear. But he somehow managed to take the loaded weapon and for reasons known only to him, went to tuck it between his legs. In doing this he somehow cocked the gun, and then discharged it. He shot himself in the leg at about 4pm, five hours after getting the gun. Luckily he missed his ding-ding and the femoral artery. It was a clean through and through. He drove himself to the hospital. He's had some legal troubles as a result, which strangely enough would have been far worse if he hadn't gotten his conceal carry permit. This was why I hadn;t heard from him in a while.
By the end of the day I was feeling dizzy from the wierdness that pervaded the air. Rossana turned in but Lindsey and I were restless. We hit a room party on the fifth floor of the Hyatt Regency. This is the floor specifically set aside for parties. This is where many of the legendary U.B.S. Casual Star Trek themed parties took place. Parties that would generate so much body hear and funk that the fire alarms often went off. The party we attended was thrown by a fellow merchant and wasn't too big. I helped serve drinks a while before I had to get out. Hotel room air conditioners simply cannot handle 20 people in them at the same time. I needed air.
I took up position in the celebrity autograph area which was empty at that late hour. I used a crayon to make two signs "Free Advice" and "Free Insults". This kept us busy for a while and even earned me a $5 tip.
We wrapped things up Sunday and drove home bone tired, the van still smelling of death, but it didn't matter. We were alive, our friends were still alive. That was the important thing.