Sleeping with the Fishes

January 25-26, 1997

Be sure to check out the picture page for this social after you read the summary below. Or, skip the text and just look at the pictures; I don't care.


The Wheel of Time turns, and Ages come and pass, leaving memories that become legends. Legend fades to myth, and even myth is long forgotten when the Age that gave it birth comes again. In an Age called January 1997 by some, an Age long past, and Age yet to come, a storm hit California. The storm was not the beginning, because it's been raining practically every damn day in the Bay Area since November, but it was _a_ beginning.

Our car sped along a country road in the aftermath of the rain, a swollen lake lapping at the edge of the pavement. "That's pretty badly flooded," said Hawk.

"Yeah," I agreed, looking out over the newly-formed seascape. "There's a tractor and a barn in the middle of it. Farmers don't normally park their tractors in lakes. And they certainly don't build barns in lakes."

"I'm glad we decided to go to this Darkfriend Social in LA instead of staying around here and going hiking like we planned."

Thus it was that we drove from San Jose to Pasadena for a Darkfriend Social on January 25th.


We left the country road and hooked onto I-5. The drive through California's Central Valley was a monotony broken only by the occasional flooded field to gawk at, tumbleweed to dodge as it rolled across the highway, and cows to look at. I spotted one cow lying dead in a field. It was on its back with its legs erect in the air. I thought that only happened in cartoons. Maybe it died normally, but the wind rolled it over halfway.

Before heading to the social, we stopped at Julie Kangas' house, since she was graciously allowing us to crash with her for the night. Julie really does have fish fetish; fish were everywhere. There were picture of fish on the walls, fish pillows on the couch (Pepe was cute), fish toys in the kitchen, and an entire fish motif in the bathroom (where a trout mounted on the wall held the hand towel). Julie also has a dragon fetish. Where there wasn't a fish, there was a shelf or a miniature castle populated by an army of dragons. There were also several cats and quite a few dinosaurs. It's not a house that Julie has, it's Noah's Ark.


Julie Kangas, Hawk, and I arrived at the restaurant before anyone else. We promptly began shoveling chips and salsa down our throats. Tony Zbaraschuk arrived a few minutes later. This was the first time I'd seen Tony, and I must say that he looked much different from the mental picture I'd formed of him over the past 3+ years of hanging out online. I can't explain why, but I'd always envisioned him as short and thin. He turned out to be a bear of a guy, closely resembling Robert Jordan but with shorter hair. (Hmm, maybe I should check Tony's past plot predictions to see if they're unusually accurate....)

We had a pleasant surprise when Hohn Cho arrived about half an hour later. We weren't expecting him since he's been spending entirely too much time at work lately. (Actually, I shouldn't poke fun too much, since he's working the type of hours I worked in grad school, but he's probably being paid 5 times as much as I was.)

We had another pleasant surprise when Rick Moen arrived after another half hour. He was late because the bicycle ride from San Francisco had taken him longer than expected.

As we prepared to order dinner, we noticed that Goat was on the menu. We wondered, would anyone dare to order it and become... a Goat-Eating Trolloc??! Hohn was brave enough to do it.

The six of us groused about recent threads on the newsgroup. We agreed that most of the on-topic discussion is pretty boring. "Only the TAN stuff is worth reading," I opined. "I think all those boring on-topic threads should be marked with a special tag in the subject so those of us not interested in them can skip them. 'JORDAN', perhaps."

We reminisced about the Good Times at past socials. The June 1995 social in DC seemed to be a favorite for Hohn. That was the social where well over $100 of beer was consumed and where lines like "Let the wookie win, Hohn" came from. Hohn explained the wookie line: he was playing pool with a babe at a bar, and he kept making terrible shots and letting her win despite not trying to tank the game.

A few people complimented Hohn's flirting skills. Someone said he should offer Chad some help. Hohn said Chad had his own style, and could maybe even teach _him_ some lessons. "What's this?" I quipped, "You wish you were as good with women as Chad... or even Mark?"

We talked about the merits of various Internet Service Providers, taking extra time to poke fun at AOL. It's the target of several class action lawsuits and examination from several state governements. "Do you know how those class action suits got started?" I asked. "One person said he was going to sue, and a million other users responded 'me too!'"


Julie invited Rick to crash at her place with us. Rick was hesitant, but then Julie bribed him with beer, and Rick snapped up invitation like a beggar grabbing a twenty dollar bill. The four of us drove back to Julie's place. Rick followed us in his car. I tried to lose him on the highway several times, but he managed to get to Julie's.

Back at Casa Kangas, Rick was introduced to all the fish and dragons. Julie broke out the beer. We started with a kind of darkish beer, then had a kind of light foggy wheat beer, then a beer that tasted like raspberry jam and came in a bottle with chubby naked guys frolicking around on the label, then another darkish beer, then I had some more of the foggy beer... or was it just my brain that was getting foggy by that point?

Julie claims that the beers went cloudy, raspberry, dark, and clear. Normally, as a beer connoisseur wannabe, I can at least remember what I've been drinking. I've had very little beer in the past 6 months, though, and I think I've lost whatever tolerance I had built up. That, and Julie was trying to get Rick and me drunk. She'd pour a few ounces for herself and a full mug for Rick and me....

We had taken some pictures before the beer, and we were planning to take a second set after the beer (boy, those would have been interesting) but we got too tired. Rick, Hawk, and I unfurled some sleeping bags and crashed on the living room floor, while Julie retired to her bedroom. (Hey, Julie, you wouldn't happen to have a waterbed, would you?)

The following morning, Rick impressed us with his culinary skill by making crepes for breakfast. We had raspberry jam with them, which I swear tasted just like one of the beers we had the previous night. (Yes, I'm sure I didn't actually drink the jam and think it was beer.)


Rick was talking about his plans for driving back to the Bay Area via 101 and Big Sur. Remembering how the most interesting thing along I-5 the previous day was the dead cow that defied gravity, Hawk and I decided to take a more scenic route home. We drove west from Julie's house and then cut north through the Los Padres National Forest. The mountains were lovely to look at-- or, I'm sure they would have been if we could have seen them through all the rain and rain clouds. There was plenty of driving excitement, though. I got to curse at plenty of asshole drivers (especially the bucolic locals who believe in driving 10mph below the speed limit on narrow roads and blocking the passing lane when there is one), drive across flooded roads, and dodge rockslides up in the mountains.

At Julie's place that morning, I had been boasting about how much inclement weather I've handled in my car. I told of driving through 9 inches of standing water, 6 inches of unplowed snow, tropical storms, sleet, and hail. My car has also been buried under 5 feet of snow and has carried a full load up 20% grades. Anyway, on the drive home, I got a chance to put my money where my mouth is.... Er, put my car where my mouth is... um, that sounds kinda odd, so... well, I put SOMETHING where my mouth is, and it wasn't my foot.

I've liked to say that of the four natural "elements" -- earth, wind, water, and fire -- my car has been through everything but fire. On this trip I certainly proved the water part by driving through a few rivers that had decided to route themselves across the road. The water at one was deep enough that I felt a buoyant force pushing up on the floorboard beneath my feet. But despite all the water, the element earth is still crusted all over my car. I was sort of hoping that one of those rockslides would happen just as I drove past and a clod of mud would land on the roof of my car... because then I'd have an even stronger claim to "being attacked by earth" in my car.

I got to add one composite element to my list on that trip: Critters. See, when I was tearing along at 80mph, some birds couldn't get off the road fast enough. One decided on a kamikaze attack against my windshield. It hit low, rolled up the hood, and left several of its feathers stuck in my wiper. For the rest of the trip home, I got to watch the little feathers waving at me like they were saying Hello. Hawk was upset.

All in all, it was an enjoyable weekend. I got to hang out with some friends for a few hours, drink lots of beer, and drive 800 miles in 2 days. Which is to say, it was a typical vacation weekend for me.

Back to the Darkfriend Socials page

Bill Garrett