The Fourth Southern California DFS

Featuring cow towns, jellybean fights, cake tossing, and badger blowing!

The Southern California Friends of the Dark met on Saturday, August 12, at Bobby McGee's restaurant in Brea, California. Todd, who took notes and promised to post a writeup within a few days, seemed to have dropped off the planet. Or, more apropos, perhaps he was attacked and eaten by Trollocs. Either was, none of his messenger pigeons had arrived within two weeks after the social, so I decided to go ahead and describe what I remember.

Let me start by answering the one question you're probably all dying to know: No, I didn't travel from the East Coast to the West Coast just to go to a DF social. I was in Los Angeles that week attending the ACM-Siggraph annual conference in Computer Graphics. With only a few small threats, Jim Ford scheduled the social to fit my timetable, and Julie Kangas graciously ferried me between LA and Brea.

So there I was at about 5 on Saturday, tired from a week of going to paper sessions that started at 8am and parties that ended at 2am, tired from hours spent wandering the demonstration floor where technical content had been carefully removed to leave only pure marketing drivel, and tired from trying to avoid 20,000 hangers-on stumbling around the convention floor muttering "VR is cool. Huh, huh."

Like I said, it was 5 on Saturday, and I was waiting to meet Julie at my hotel. There I was, trying to spot a person I had never met, driving a car I had never seen, in a city I had only spent 5 days in to date. But I had no trouble spotting her once she pulled up in front of my hotel, for she had cleverly placed a drawing of a Dragon's Fang in the windshield of her car. As I hopped in, I saw that she was wearing a shirt colored with a prominent fish pattern. No offense, Julie, but some of us need lives.

As we plied our way through the afternoon traffic in LA (it was surprisingly light), we discussed our destination. I asked if Brea was a cow-town, since I had checked my maps before leaving home and hadn't found it marked on any of them. Julie's remark was noncommittal, but I think she agreed with my suspicion. As we neared Brea, a foul odor wafted into the car... it was the scent of cow manure. Sure enough, we saw a herd of cows in a field, and next to it was a sign that said, "Brea City Limit, Population 29,000". I commented to Julie that the population was less than that of the city of Ithaca, New York.

Okay, enough of that stuff; let's get to the fun part. Julie and I met Jim Ford at the restaurant. We passed the time talking about our respective jobs (mostly mine, since I could throw around hot catch-phrases like "Virtual Reality" and "Immersive Environment"). Todd and Mark arrived about half an hour later. Apologies in advance for getting names wrong; I'm bad with names to start with, and I didn't write any of them down since I didn't think I was going to be writing the summary.

The 5 of us present decided that 5 was a quorum. We took our seats and started getting likkered up. The beer of choice was certainly Guiness, which Todd described as "Hey, what's that glass of bog water?" His comment unfortunately caused me to spray a bit of my bo^H^HGuiness across the table.

Jim produced his copy of the FAQ. He'd had it bound.
I say, some of us need lives.

More people arrived. I think they were Kogan, Todd2, and his wife. (Again, sorry about the names.)

Bobby McGee's is a very lively place. The waitstaff there are all costumed for various roles. For example, the hostesses were Snow White, Dorothy, and Cinderella. Our waiter was dressed like a mechanic but introduced himself as Chevy Chase. He explained that since Chase lost his talk show and the endorsement for Dorito's, about all that was left for him was a job changing tires and oil.

In addition to all these television and movie characters running around, there was a young lad offering to make balloon animals. When he came to our table, I said I'd like one. "What kind, sir?" he asked. Duh, I should have been ready for that question. But someone else at the table filled the gap left by my silence by saying, "A platypus!" Several of us chimed in with our agreement. The lad stared blankly at us. I figured he'd never heard of one. So we asked for a badger. Again, he stared at us, but this time like he figured we were just crazy, and that his best choice would be to leave us as quickly as possible. So he inflated a balloon and twisted it into a shape that vaguely resembled a badger, at least as much as it also resembled a dog, a cat, a horse, an aardvark, or any other four-legged creature with a tail.

I proudly posed for pictures with my new badger.
(Okay, so I need a life, too.)

This, of course, spawned many badger jokes. Todd industriously wrote them down, but after the twelfth one in the first two minutes, he closed his notebook. "Hey, why didn't you write down the last one?" queried someone. "With what he has already," I pointed out, "he can put John Novak and Chad Orzel off their food for a whole month." Todd whipped his notebook back out and cited me with the first Novak reference. Some of us really do need lives.

(Chad, count yourself lucky that the Trollocs tossed that notebook in the fire, too, when they caught and roasted Todd. There were some damn awful jokes in there. Prolly enough to make Mark Loy fall to his knees and cry, "I'm not worthy!")

At some point in the social we discussed the books. I think the only real topic we considered was the mystery of Asmodean's killer. We all explained our pet theories and tried to figure out just _what_ the clues were that RJ referred to when he told us that we have all the clues we need to solve the mystery. We scoured the part of TFoH where Asmodean died, but the only additional clue we noticed was that the first letter of each line on one page spelled out "Texas DFs Rule".

Anything we might have said about the books was far overshadowed in enjoyment by the antics of our waiter. He started a jelly bean fight with the family at another table in our room; they had requested him as their waiter. He hid behind a pillar and sniped at them, he crawled across the floor commando-style, and he went running in tossing them everwhere. We had a good position, on his flank, so we shelled him occasionally. It wasn't much of a waste; the jellybeans tasted foul, anyway. Maybe they were meant as ammunition.

Several people in the room were celebrating birthdays. (Actually, I think there were one, maybe two, people with real birthdays, and the others just said "Oh! Me too!" when they found out they could get a free cake.) Each time the waiter brought out a birthday cake, he offered to toss it in the air and catch it. Most groups took him up on the offer -- especially after the first time, when he demonstrated that he _could_ do it. He tossed the cake 12 feet in the air, over one of the rafters, and caught it back on the plate. Sometimes he caught it upside down, but always he caught it... if it came down. You see, the fourth cake he tossed landed gently on one of the rafters and sat there.

While our waiter disappeared to get another cake, most of the staff of the restaurant passed through our room, one and two at a time, to glimpse of the cake stuck in the rafters. The waiter came back with a replacement, and the customers asked him to flip it again because _they_ hadn't seen him succeed and apparently didn't believe that he could do it. So, up went their second cake and... SPUAT! It landed right side up, ON TOP OF THE FIRST CAKE! Two cakes, one sitting atop the other, stuck on a rafter! Must've been Rand's influence.

We couldn't think of anything we could do that could possibly top that. Badgers, bound FAQs, fish shirts, hoaxes -- they all paled in comparison. We decided to sell all our WoT books, donate our life savings to charity, and take up residence in cardboard boxes somewhere in Oregon.

I have a few pictures of the event, including at least one shot of me with my inflatable badger, which I will add to this page once I get them developed and scanned in.

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Bill Garrett