I awoke early in the morning, giddy as a boy heading out for the first day of school. I strapped my exhibitor’s badge in and ventured forth with Jonathan and Dashiell to check out Indy and get some supplies before erecting the booth with BJ and Daniel – and, as a German hailing from one of the most notoriously unfriendly and gruff regions of Germany, the culture shock was pretty pronounced.
The streets were huge and so were the cars, the monuments…pretty much everything; it makes the European moi pretty conscious of why Americans tend to consider even the busiest of European metropolises as somewhat quaint. And that’s “just” Indy. Woa. A brief trip to the stores did show me a vast array of softdrinks, food and products I had never even heard of, with only precious few familiar ones stocked in the shelves. Similarly, being accustomed to practically being yelled at when paying, I was pretty unprepared from the sincere kindness exhibited to me: When I saw Dr. Pepper infinite refills in a café, I almost started jumping around…and when the barista handed me a free cup to get as much Dr. Pepper as I could stomach, I was somewhat blown away; you will not experience the like in Germany…at least I haven’t.
Anyways, entering the convention center proved to be a humbling experience as well, as the whole SIZE dwarfed pretty much anything I had heretofore seen…just picturing the finished booths everywhere made me grin from ear to ear and so we began setting up the booth…and I met other folks. I *think* the first people I met would be none other than the immensely talented and kind Jason Nelson as well as the fabulous Rachel Ventura from Legendary Games and the absolutely awesome Stephen Rowe from the Four Horsemen. Well, turns out Stephen is not only exceedingly talented, he is also an all out amazing person; just talking to him time and again made me wish I could talk to him more often, share stories and discuss designs. Humble, kind, friendly…little did I know that this was to become a leitmotif for the people I’d meet, though Stephen did indeed stand out.
Another shout-out here goes to Ben McFarland, who is a true trooper: He not only is extremely talented, he is exceedingly kind, down to earth, and actually provided food for the hungry 3pps manning the booths; at the point where he shook my hand, I flashed back internally to all the glorious moments my game had thanks to his modules and material and I think I may have gone full-blown starstruck fanboy for a while there…something that would happen more often throughout the con. I really wished I could just take Ben aside and annoy him with detailed accounts of how his works played in my game and have him sign all those delightful tomes gracing my bookshelves.
So, let me make this clear…if I was tripping over my own words, stammered and wouldn’t let go of your hand or became repetitive, it is mostly due to, well, my brain short-circuiting in this moment in time. Still, this day was pretty much defined by getting the lay of the land down…and it blew by as if in fast forward. Much like one life may only be a blink to the sun, so did this day begin…and then, it suddenly was evening.
I am not engaging in hyperbole when I’m saying that the passing of Steven D. Russell has ripped a whole in my heart; has shaken me to the point it took me weeks to touch a RiP-book again, since I knew I couldn’t let grief compromise my reviewer’s integrity. His passing is the one regret associated with my trip; I would have given a lot to actually talk to him, play with him…At the same time, I am absolutely confident that Steven would have loved the atmosphere at his Irish Wake – it is here, I felt, more so even than in the huge convention hall that dwarfs the paltry mortals inside, like part of a huge family – whether it was Monica and Andrew Marlowe and their great kids, Mike Welham, wit whom I wished I had the chance to talk more, the talented Wendall Roy or the great Dave Paul…with both of whom I thankfully had the chance to speak, at least a bit, more later…but I didn’t know that yet.
It is also here, I met none other than Lou Agresta, a man I’d consider a brother in spirit indeed, for the first time in person and a man I sincerely hope to see again and spend more time with: Here’s to you, my brother! Similarly, I was completely blown away by meeting Greg A. Vaughan: Ladies (and gents so inclined), he *does* look a bit like George Clooney and is smart, funny and exceedingly cool as well; While the Slumbering Tsar and similar Frog God Games books were too heavy to carry along, I couldn’t really bring them along to sign; but beyond his titanic creativity and generous heart, master Vaughan definitely ranks as one of the most impressive persons I had the honor of meeting at the con.
While I was oscillating between being overwhelmed by bittersweet nostalgia tinted with grief and sheer ecstasy of meeting all those folks, I also made the acquaintance of Tim Hitchcock, Dan Dillon and Steven T. Helt – Tim has btw., as a talented musician, provided the “going to Indy”-soundtrack with his convention hymn, a song that perfectly encapsulated in positivity my whole experience. Pretty overwhelmed, I also got to tell Owen K.C. Stephens via skype finally kinda-in-person what his designs meant for me and my game…thank him…and while I felt woefully inadequate, it still was simply glorious. When we toasted Steve, the spur of the moment took me and I did my best to try to put the impact Steven D. Russell had on me, as a friend and as a publisher/author, into words – I know that I won’t ever be able to properly enunciate everything…but I sincerely hope that he would have approved of my paltry few lines.
It is also here I met Alex Abel of Flaming Crab Games, Michael Azzolino, none other than Adam Daigle, with whom I’d have the pleasure of talking more through the days – and indeed, so many, many more of you – I know I will forget to list more than one of you if I ever try to generate a concise list, so I’m just leaving it at that – please do not take this as an insult; Instead, consider it a reflection of my thoroughly emotionally and intellectually overwhelmed state. To me, this congregation felt more like a homecoming, like family, than the usual festivities I attend.
I was totally overwhelmed in more than one way and I don’t really know how I must have looked; oscillating between joy and remembrance, looking at folks with fish-eyes and often, downright confusion as everything overwhelmed me; we did move on after the wake…but at this point, I honestly have to give up trying to put all my impressions into chronological order; the whole convention became a blur of frenetic activity, so next time, I’ll tell you all about how the convention itself was as an experience.
See you there and thanks for reading my undoubtedly rambling account!