My Wiscon 20 Trip
(May 22, 1996, through May 28, 1996)

I flew into Madison early to save on plane fare, and had planned to meet Andy Hooper (a Seattle fan transplanted from Madison who I play poker with) at a local restaurant to get a place to stay the first night. However, we hadn't been clear when we were arriving and I didn't see anybody I knew, so I checked my bags into the convention hotel's concierge and spent the first night at a local homeless shelter which had an extra bed. I got woken up at 4 or 5 A.M. Seattle time the next morning, had breakfast at the shelter, and spent the next several hours looking at book and record stores. That afternoon, I went to see how I could help out at the hotel and ran into an embarrassed Andy. I told him that I'd enjoyed the glimpse into a life I might be living if I hadn't been relinquished for adoption, and let him recruit me as a reporter for the daily 'zine. Then I went to work on an article called "An Out-of-Towner's Guide to Infomaniac's Row" about my shopping spree along State Street, the home of half of Madison's used book or record stores, before meeting up with Jessica.

Wiscon itself was an absolute blast. For one thing, there was more great programming on any one day than in most entire conventions so I took Debbie's always good advice and hung out with my friends, trying not to worry about the missed programming. Otherwise, I'd have gone crazy! Even so, I was on the "Various Faces of Identity" panel with Nalo Hopkinson (a fellow multicultural Clarion graduate from Montreal who I got to know a little), I heard Ursula K. LeGuin's guest speech, and I attended a discussion of healing the past in Octavia Butler's work. I also participated in Elise Mattheson's "Is Gender Real Or A Fetish?" improvisational theater piece, and the follow-up impromptu discussion. Saturday night, I won $4 in a low-stakes poker game with Elise, Debbie, Debbie's sweetie Alan Bostick, and Teresa Nielsen Hayden. I was especially happy with this because we donated several pots to Ellen Klages, a formidable player I met at Potlatch who would have been winning them herself if she hadn't fallen ill after the auction for the James Tiptree, Jr., Memorial Award. And this was just the first two days of a four-day Wiscon, after which I returned to Jessica's room, reflected that this was already better convention than most, and slept for ten hours.

The next couple days were equally packed, with a "Race and Racism in SF" panel with Nalo that I moderated and a "Feminism and Pornography" panel that featured Avedon Carol's "unfuck you" (which I found very funny and thought-provoking) to some guy who was being obnoxious. I also went to the James Tiptree, Jr., Memorial Award Reception and Ceremony, and had lunch with Debbie (who later introduced me to Victor Raymond, a fellow mixed-race bisexual political activist fan). The three of us had a post-convention dinner with Alan, Victor's wife Lynn Litterer, Terry Garey, and Ariel Hudson and her father Jim Hudson (who put us all up and fed us the next morning).

The following day, I donated $20 to the shelter I'd stayed in, bussed out of town, and walked through a field to the airport where I ran into Denys Howard in the waiting area and got offered a ride home once we got back to Seattle. Our connecting flight in Minneapolis was delayed, so I explored local bus connections from the airport; as a confirmed pedestrian, I'm always interested in other transit systems than King County's Metro Transit in my home town. But I was especially interested in this one, as I hoped to return for alt.polycon a convention for folks on the Internet's alt.polyamory newsgroup that I'd heard about at Wiscon. I found the bus stop and saw that I had enough time to visit the Mall of the Americas, so I made a pilgrimage to one of the world's most impressive monuments to capitalism and materialism. These both run against my anarchism and other political beliefs, but it was much more interesting than waiting in an airport. And it made a nicely ironic end to a trip that started out in a homeless shelter.

Go to Part 4: Fear of a Loving Planet

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