By Paul Wein
Regardless of the fact that we have all been members of the same Booster Club for so long and that we have “spoken” to each other either by phone line or on-line – and despite the fact that we all booked the same vacations to the same destination – the fact remains that we are all still strangers who have never ever met each other before. So while everyone’s reaction was sure to be excitement when we all met – the realization that this was the first time we have ever been in the same room together is going to eventually set in.
After the last hour that I bothered to count during my almost fifteen hour marathon in the airport – I was starting to go nuts. I began to remind myself that I never met any of the people that I have spent the last half day waiting for. And then – I thought about how pissed off I get when I have to wait even twenty minutes for something – but felt that this weekend was going to be so amazing – that it was worth every minute.
When I finally caved in and headed for the bar at hour twelve – which ironically was noon – I was now starting to get excited because Terry – the first conventioneer to arrive after me, was meeting me at Benjamin Books at 1:00pm. So I took the last swig of my cold one, took one last puff of my Don Diego – and headed to Benjamin Books to meet a man I have communicated with for the last six months – for the very first time.
When I turned and saw him for the first time standing there with his girlfriend Tisha – the aforementioned excitement obviously set in – but then we headed for the hotel in Terry’s car. Here I was in the back of a car of a person whom I never met before this moment – and he treated me as if I have been in his car countless times.
After Terry, Tisha and I spent a few hours getting to know each other – it was time to head back to the place I spent my first 15 hours on the West Coast for the first time in thirteen years. The reason for the return was to meet Michael and Wendi – the next two arrivals.
Wendi I have met before. She visited my house in March of this year – Michael, I never met but was one of the people I was really looking forward to seeing in person. His love for South Park was so strong that he turned every attendee of this convention into the characters of the show that we all adore so much. And if that is not dedication enough – he also is the Moderator/Editor of the Daily Marklar. A newsletter similar to the Booster Club that many of the members enjoy looking forward to. So I was eager to congratulate him on all that he did without having to use my keyboard.
As the day stretched into night – this pattern repeated itself. After we met Michael and Wendi at the airport, we then all went to search for Dan. When we found Dan, we headed for a beer run and made it back to the hotel where we discovered Arthur and Lori – who flew together for fourteen hours from England to join us on the other side of the planet. After Arthur and Lori, we met Marty, Debbie, Steven, Barb – and the two men that brought us here – Bob and George – and all wound up converging in my room to drink – drink – and be merry.
The day before we all met, we were people that had never even spent ten seconds in the same room together – and the day that we met – we were having a party and laughing with each other as if we were friends for life. I can honestly tell you that there are parties I have had with my friends at home that did not have as much camaraderie, positive energy – and friendship as last night.
This morning, I awoke to another day of exactly what I did yesterday – meeting people that I never met before – but came to know as if we were always friends.
Today’s first old friend actually was an old friend. Sara – who has, as of late, become someone I speak to and is now a frequent attendee of my parties – but even though she is someone I have met before – I was as excited to see her again as I was my “new” old friends.
Our most interesting introduction came when a woman walked into a photograph that was being taken of all of us to tell us that she was with the convention. How amazing that the very moment we met was accidentally caught on film. After the odd introduction – Marianthi just sat down at our table at the end of breakfast – but acted as if she was there the whole time. Even when Terry, Tish and I went to run an errand, she decided to come with us – and had the same reaction that I did when I sat in Terry’s car for the first time – as if this was not the first time that the four of us spent time together.
It was when we returned to the hotel that we met Prudence, Jim, Ramona and Hilde, Tick, Ron and Linda, Pat, Gregory, Helen and Kandice. And then when we spent the last hours before tonight’s banquet in my room doing exactly what we did last night – laughing, making each other laugh – and “hanging out with Cartman” – this time with some “old” new faces and some “new” new faces.
If what I have experienced over the last two days has showed me anything – it has showed me that Matt Stone and Trey Parker are geniuses. To take an idea that one day popped into their heads and turn it into something so popular and so encapsulating that it brought almost three dozen strangers together is proof that anyone that doesn’t appreciate South Park is not someone I want to know – because this Convention is proof that South Park is a show that is popular and has a very loyal fan base. So to the critics of South Park, I ask you this – when is the last time you loved a show so much, that you took a vacation to meet other people who liked the same show you did?
As for the way this weekend has made me feel so far, I will say this – if this column was a million words, it would still not explain my feelings with accuracy. I have gone on vacation by myself before to meet friends and family and gone on vacation with my friends and family – but I have never traveled alone to meet people I never met before – let alone spend a weekend with them. And although I knew that we would at least get along based on our collective love for South Park – I did not expect to blend with so many different people from all different walks of life so easily and be able to spend an entire weekend with my new found friends – all who I never met just forty-eight hours ago.
The sickest part is – the convention hasn’t even begun yet – but the partying, the good times – and the friendship has.
Vive La Convention!
“Kickin’ back on the coast of (Maine) Colorado,
with some of my favorite people.
R&R is why we came,
to forget about life for a little.
Cold beer and conversation,
makes for a great vacation.
Kickin’ back on the coast of (Maine) Colorado,
with some of my favorite people.”
Bruce Jacques – Kickin’ Back