The 40th annual LepreCon science fiction convention was held at the Marriott Hotel in downtown Mesa, Arizona on the days and nights of May 8-11, 2014. This is Phoenix’s oldest science fiction convention. Believe it or not, I helped start it back in 1974 or so, and was Con Chairman in 1979. I usually attend–as a guest or participant. I think I’ve only missed 3 of them. I went again this year, mostly to see my friends. I’m long past the stage of gathering autographs, buying things, and paying any attention to the panels. I took a lot of photos this year, and I’m going to share most of them with you here. You should take my comments with a pinch of salt or pepper, as I’m frequently crossing my fingers and/or distorting the truth in what I say about things.
When I walked into the Con on Thursday night, the first person I saw was Jason Youngdale. Jason is a friend of mine. I joined him to listen to some music and drink some beer.
The band is called Squid Dog. They are a motley and aged crew, but they produce a rocking sound.
This is my artistic composition in honor of LepreCon. You can see the program book in the foreground, and the best drink I had for the weekend in the background.
Paul Tanton, Jason Youngdale, and I went off and played some card games. I took a selfie shot of myself while I was playing cards, but it’s way too accurate in representing the real me, and thus too horrible to look at. I’m not gonna show it.
They gave me a grilled cheese sandwich in the staff lounge.
Griller of cheeses. With volunteers like this, the future of LepreCon is in good hands. Of course, this is the only volunteer like this that LepreCon has, so maybe it’s doomed!
I went to the Art Show. I was mostly not impressed, but I did like this troll skull, so I bought it. I’m sure I’ll find all sorts of uses for it. Troll skull by amateur artist David Perrine.
Back in the gaming room, my main home at conventions, we wound up playing Magic for the rest of Friday afternoon.
Late Friday night, I walked into the command center for the whole convention. Yes, friends, this is what the high command of these affairs look like when no one can see them.
Saturday, I spaced it and left my camera at home. I have no pix from the most important day of the Con.
Walking into the Marriott Convention Center from the rear. The Marriott in Mesa has been quite the popular convention site for SF fandom in Phoenix for the last 5 years.
Abandon all hope, ye who enter here! Beyond these doors lies much that is fannish.
Some of the usual suspects. From left to right: The Flash (out of uniform), Paul Tanton, Victor Bugg, Jason Youngdale, and ???. I should know the last guy, but I don’t.
The entrance to the Dealers’ Room. There are many wonderful things and even more wonderful people inside this room.
The woman in white is author Gail Carrigher, our Guest of Honor, best known for her steampunk fiction: The Parasol Protectorate.
An ever-changing cityscape lived on this table. I don’t know why.
The fans of David Weber and Honor Harrington owned this real estate. Spiffy space marine uniforms they have.
Flag desecration in poster form.
Artist, dealer, weird female person. I like her.
Oooh, oooh! That fan might buy something!
Bennie Grezlik, author, nice guy, creator of Princess Pain.
Since she was all painted up like a mime (Harley Quinn for DC Comics) I asked costumer Krysta Crawford to do the “I’m Trapped in a Glass Box” routine.
Local authors. I ought to know everybody. They know me, but I don’t know these guys.
I don’t know this guy either, but he has some cool steampunk weapons for sale.
I took her picture because she was wearing a mask. Doesn’t she look like someone just hit her in the head and knocked it sideways?
Fabulous artist, friendly guy. I don’t know him.
You, too, could be wearing a fabulous mask. Buy them here.
I took her picture because she was wearing a corset. You can’t really see it very well.
A complete gallery of the bizarre art of Steam Crow.
Friendly woman, weird art.
Intentionally weird art for a weird magazine.
Steampunk grandees. I vowed to photograph every corset that came my way.
Phoenix has another small sci-fi convention called CopperCon.
Artist Gilead (yes, that is his whole name) teaches a few people the finer points of drawing tentacles for fun and profit.
They’ll let anyone on these panels–even officers from Star Fleet.
I was trying to take a picture of a table full of fannish t-shirts when a woman wearing a fannish t-shirt walked into it and blocked out half the picture.
The “mand” in Mandy stands for “Command”. She ran the art show, helped with registration, and generally tried to keep the convention functioning normally.
The hotel has a beautiful fountain. We’ve been here before in earlier blogs.
Would you believe that Curt Stubbs here was once known as Captain Coors, and that he helped bring the World Science Fiction Convention to Phoenix in 1978? It’s true. He was also Con Chairman for LepreCon 1, I think. I was there, but I can’t really remember that far back.
The Staff Lounge–where hard working staff and con participants like me could go to party.
The staff lounge had food . . . and television, and comfy places to sit.
My favorite hangout was the game room. Here’s a game much too complicated to even consider playing.
The Pathfinder role-playing game over there ran for the whole weekend.
Many goodies were to be had in the Barry Bard movie previews panel late Sunday afternoon.
Eager fen wait for their number to be called.
Mark calls the numbers. There was a prize for everyone who attended. I got a black t-shirt (of course).
They call your number. You go up and claim a prize.
My son James is developing a bald spot (and he’s only 23). He looked so frustrated every time they called a number that was almost his number. It was kind of funny to watch him from across the room.
With the loot all distributed, James and I went back to the game room for a few more games of cards like Parade, which uses an Alice in Wonderland deck that I want. By 5 p.m. it was time to go home, and so farewell to another fabulous science fiction event!
If you have things to tell about LepreCon or funny stories from other sci-fi cons, why not leave a comment?
Despite the catchy title, this will be the last and probably least interesting of the blogs devoted to last week’s trip to Los Angeles and the Magic Castle. This blog is a catch-all for pix I took on the way in, while I was there, and on Tuesday when I headed back home. I think there are a couple of pix worth seeing, and I’m not competing with anyone for most interesting blog every time. This site is a kind of photo diary for me, of things that entertained me at the time. So grab a cold one, jump in the imaginary car, and come on a trip to Los Angeles and the subsequent escape from it with me.
Mark Anthony, my magician host, talked me into buying a new memory card for my camera, and we had to test it, so I had him shake hands with my son James St. Andre on Sunday afternoon after we arrived.
James looks uncomfortable as he gets dressed up for our first visit to the Magic Castle on Sunday evening.
Wave to the camera, Ken.
Ken gets a hug and a smile from Mark’s date, Jo.
The front door of the Magic Castle. No cameras allowed to be used beyond this point. Grrrrr!
Mark and Jo in the posing area. Mark likes black and red for his magical colors.
Three amigos: Ken, Mark, and James.
Here we are looking dynamic. I wanted to do the 3 Monkeys pose.
Oops! I got a camera shot of the carpet inside by accident.
Magic Castle seen from the street after dark.
The entrance is guarded by a griffin.
Valet parking, of course. There is a lighted fountain outside the castle across from the door.
Big wall ad in Hollywood a couple of blocks from the Castle.
Distinctive tower in the neighborhood. Looks medieval.
Mark Anthony says hi to all the viewers of Atroll’s Entertainment.
Stuff on the wall surrounding Warner Brothers.
I was trying to find my way on my own to Hollywood on Monday. I got about halfway before I got lost. Warner Brothers has all these huge signs for their hits on the wall around the studios.
Big Bang Theory must be a big hit for Warner Brothers.
A distant view of the Warner Brothers water tower, made famous for me in the Animaniacs cartoon show during the 90s.
Totally lost, of course I wound up in a bar.
This is Dawn and Chris. I chatted with them in the bar and found out where I had gone wrong. But it was late afternoon, too late to try for Hollywood because we needed to get back to Mark’s place for our Monday night trip to the Castle.
A better view of the Water Tower on our way back to Mark’s place.
The Warner Brothers gate. Mark says we can get a tour here, and we might do that on my next visit.
Terrible view of the ABC television studios.
ABC was once my favorite television network.
Magic Castle from afar seen through a hellish red glare.
Tuesday morning, I took a morning walk with Mark around Montrose, California and found this old style Spanish church which Mark told me was only built ten years ago. Heh!
Looking for a place to have breakfast with James, I found a windmill. You don’t see many windmills that turn out to be . . .
Denny’s restaurants. In fact this is the only Denny’s I’ve ever seen that isn’t just an ordinary cafe building.
Heading east on I-10, approaching San Jacinto Peak and the pass between the desert and the San Bernardino area where there is a huge wind farm.
Speaking of windmills . . .
Sometimes it looks like you’re going to drive right under them.
Crossing the desert, approaching Blythe.
Very windy. The car was almost blown off the road. Dust storm visible in the distance.
What a weak dust storm looks like from the inside
Back in Arizona now, the air has cleared up.
Rest stop west of Phoenix. We stopped for a bathroom break, and I went looking for striped stones. Didn’t find any.
James is driving. I got to take some pix I’ve wanted to take for years.
This is the skybridge ramp from I-10 to I-17 going north. You can see midtown Phoenix in the distance.
Last pic. Camelback Mountain seen behind uptown Phoenix from the skyramp. We were about 5 miles from home, and the great L.A. expedition was over.
Alas, I’m back in the real world again, but the summer is young, and many more adventures await.
If you’ve ever posted a lot of really ordinary vacation pix, why not leave a comment? 🙂
On Sunday, April 27, 2014 James St. Andre and I set out on a trip to Los Angeles to visit my friend Mark Anthony. It is about a 400 mile drive through the desert between Phoenix and L.A. James has only recently gotten his driver’s licesnse, and I told him he could have some treats: driving across the Colorado River, passing through Desert Center, and maybe we would see dinosaurs. We stopped for lunch in Indio and I took over the driving again. In a few minutes James indicated he needed a break, so I looked for the next place to get off the freeway. The exit said Cabazon. I pulled off and headed for:
Burger King, one of our favorite fast food places. I spotted it from the freeway.
I found a place to park We were just across the highway from:
San Jacinto Peak
James went inside. I looked around and this is what I found.
Wow! It’s a dinosaur, of the kind we used to call Brontosaurus before we learned that brontosaurs never existed and were actually apatosaurs.
By sheer luck I had pulled off the freeway where the dinosaurs hang out. They are not visible from I-10. I remembered them from trips taken long ago when they could be seen from the highway. I had never actually stopped to look at them on any of those earlier excursions. But, James was taking his time so I wandered around, and this is what I saw.
Does this guy look a bit nervous to you?
Yikes, it Tyrannosaurus Rex, and I think he looks happy to see me.
Taller than a palm tree with small front arm/legs. Lord of all he surveys. Bigger really is Better.
Wait a minute! What kind of brontosaur has an observation platform?
This guy must be domesticated. He also provides shade and a picnic area!
That’s great! Who wouldn’t want to eat their burgers in the shade of a bronto? Sure is a lot of room back here. I wonder if there is anything else . . .
Sure enough! There is more. It’s like a sign from God that she wants me to see more dinosaurs.
Look out, kid!
I sneaked past the hungry head and found . . .
something very tall.
This guy was so big, and in an enclosed space, that I couldn’t get all of him into one shot.
He looks a lot like the brontosaur up front, but the apatosaur probably looked more like this.
Aw, isn’t that cute? The big thunder lizard has a pet. Actually crocodiles go back as far in time as dinosaurs–they just didn’t evolve into something different or die out because of meteor strikes.
There are signs of man in this lost world. Is that dinosaur ahead inside a building?
The trail led up into the unknown. What? Tickets? Professor Challenger didn’t have to buy tickets when he explored the Lost Land!
I went as far as I could go and looked into a jungle I don’t think I will ever explore.
Well, I couldn’t abandon James entirely. I headed back to Burger King Land.
I am the Trollgod, and I am not afraid of giant dinosaurs. Anyway, I had to protect this kid from being eaten. I had to do it without my headpiece because the wind was so strong a hat would have blown away.
Selfie: Trollgod walks under giant dinosaur.
Is this a trophy shot, or just me stepping on toes again? Bwa ha ha ha ha ha!
The brontosaur is hollow, and has a store in her tummy. James had joined me by now. The kid just isn’t impressed by anything.
It is a very cool shop. Alas, the trollcave is cluttered enough, and no new trophies were acquired.
We said goodbye to the prehistoric world and jumped back in the car to continue with the adventure. Now that I know how to find the place, I may go back some day just to finish exploring the Land of the Dinosaurs.
If you have ever been up close with a dinosaur, why not leave a comment?
Saturday, April 5, 2014 was National Tabletop Games Day, an occasion for people to get together face to face and play board games, card games, role-playing games, miniatures. Savvy game store owners all over America promoted this event by making space available for people to come in and game. I say it proudly. I’m a gamer. I would not miss it. What follows is my record of the day. I hope the rest of you had as much fun as I did.
Here I am at the front door of Imperial Outpost Games at 49th Avenue and Thunderbird in Glendale, Arizona, ready for action.
Darrenn is owner/manager of the Imperial Outpost. Hard to find a friendlier, nicer guy. He has done more to promote the cause of face to face gaming in Phoenix than anyone else I know, and in the process has built the best game store and hangout for gamers in the city.
It’s a room full of gamers having fun.
Yes, it’s true. Gamers are mostly male, but look there’s a woman in the mix enjoying herself, and also an elf.
Shelves full of games . . .
Elf playing Firefly, a science fiction game based on a Joss Whedon television program and movie. Is that Family Guy sitting next to her?
Finally, some people I know. Starting with the purple t-shirt and going clockwise: Jessie Foster, Unknown Gamer Guy, Will, Devon, Heather. (I admit that I am terrible with names. I’ve never met Unknown Gamer Guy, and it’s only thru years of friendship that I know Jessie’s last name.)
A second room full of gamers.
The first game I played–Ticket to Ride, USA. I took second (out of five) in this game.
The second game I played. Sushi Go. I learned more about sushi in one game than I had ever known before. Came in tied for last out of five players.
Bwa ha ha ha ha! I am a terrible photographer. My plan was just to get the t-shirts without heads because I wanted to focus on t-shirt messages, but the camera’s field of view was a little higher than I knew, and so I caught the excellent gamer beards of James St. Andre on the left and Jessie Foster on the right. It’s kind of weird how they both assumed the same stance for having their pix taken. I did not notice it at the time.
My friend, Vic, stops by to say hello to Jessie during our game of Bohnanza. Believe it or not, this is a German game about being a bean farmer. Supply side economics meets Diplomacy and the Wall Street Stock Exchange. The real action is in bean trading.
Munchkin was there. It was kind of hard to get Devon away from computer games on her Kindle.
I don’t know this woman, but she has bright green hair. That comes straight out of Japanese anime.
Jason Youngdale and Vic are playing Qwirkle. Something like a non-numeric form of dominoes. I don’t know the game, but it looks like fun.
I don’t know this game either, but it’s impressive in its complexity and graphics.
Starting with the guy in the red shirt, Rob, James, Nathaniel and the empty seat is mine. The game is Seafarers of Catan, and I won by a single point. This was the last game I played at the Outpost. I had been there for over 7 hours, and was getting very hungry.
I saw this great miniatures setup on the way out. Look at those dice pyramids in the background!
John Wick (black t-shirt), his wife Ro (in purple), Gillian and two guys I don’t know were having supper near the front door as I exited. This was the last shot I got, but it shows gamers still having fun even when I was calling it enough for the day.
The gaming party probably continued until midnight or later. I had a great time. I saw some friends. I got some laughs. I exercised my brain (yeah, gaming makes you think.) I pronounce Tabletop Gaming Day in the Phoenix area a great success.
If you did some face to face gaming on Gaming Day, why not leave a comment? This is the perfect opportunity to boast about your victories or moan about your defeats and mention the games you played. We’re gamers. We’ve all been there, and we know how you feel. As Wil Wheaton says, “PLAY MORE GAMES!”
Spring Break 2013. Yes, the old troll goes to school–Phoenix College where I take usually one or two courses per semester. I had just finished my mid-term exam in Microsoft Office products (and I think I got an A, but I know I have at least a high B.), and I thought about how millions of college kids would be going off to party through the week, and I decided to take a trip. My youngest brother, Henry, has been inviting me (for the last 10 years at least) to come visit him in Utah, and I never did it. On the spur of the moment, I decided that this would be a good time. After a couple of phone calls that verified it would be okay with Hank to come see him now, the trip was on. I wouldn’t go alone, but would also take my son James to help with the driving and the photography.
The rest of this fairly long blog is going to be mostly pictures that James or I took as we traveled, and I mean that literally. As an experiment, I tried taking some pictures from inside the car as we were moving. They didn’t look too bad. If there’s a little blur to some of these, you now know the reason. If you don’t like family vacation things, stop reading now. Thanks for stopping by. Keep reading and you’ll gain a few insights into my personality, for whatever good that might do you.
Since we were heading north, and since Bear warned me that there was a road blockage/collapse on the way to Utah, I decided to go by way of Las Vegas where my daughter Jillian lives with her husband Nick. I saw her last at the end of November, and it’s good to see the kids once in a while.
We got off on the wrong foot by forgetting to take a picture of us getting into the car as we left Phoenix. Now begin the pictures with fhe first one I did think to take.
Heading west near Lake Pleasant north of Phoenix. We tried taking a picture from a moving vehicle looking straight ahead. Blue skies of Arizona.
The desert gets bumpier. Still bemused by the fact that this was working so well, I’m wasting shots I could have used on better scenery later.
First stop in Wickenburg, Arizona for lunch. The town lives off tourism, and plays up its old west image. Covered wagon and saguaro cactus–what could be more Arizona?
North of Wickenburg on the road to Wickiup, the road turned mountainous with strange vegetation. This is a forest of giant cactus trees, growing as much as twenty feet high, all thorns and prickles. They are called Joshua trees.
There is some rough terrain between Wickenburg and Kingman. The highway, however, has been upgraded and is really nice. This is fun to drive.
We stopped for a break at my favorite roadside attraction between Phoenix and Las Vegas–a trading post/cafe called Luchia’s that specializes in pie and Indian artifacts. Why am I squatting beside this car? Look very closely at its license plate. Science fiction weirdness follows me wherever I go.
The front of the trading post is newly painted with kachinas. This is son James, who is quite proud of his newly grown beard, I think, posing with the God of Turquoise. Really, I have no idea who this kachina is, but he takes a nice picture.
A wildlife diorama inside the post all done in handcrafted silver for the animals and plants.
We stopped at Love’s truck stop before reaching Kingman. James is pumping gas into the car. I cleaned the windows. We also had lunch and played a few games of Magic.
The best truck stops in Arizona look a lot like this.
Snow on the mountains outside of Kingman, Arizona. It may seem commonplace to you, but I go for years in Phoenix without ever seeing snow. The watery white stuff is about to become the theme of this adventure.
North of Kingman now and truly on the road to Vegas.
A poor view of the Colorado River Canyon before reaching Hoover Dam. The area between Arizona and Nevada is some of the ruggedest country in the west.
For a moment I thought I had got a shot of the new bridge that crosses the Colorado above Hoover Dam, but this is only a little one that leads up to the main bridge. You can’t get a picture of the really spectacular one when you go over it. There is nothing to see.
A closer, better shot of the same nameless bridge. I wonder if it has its own troll.
Nevada is famous for its casinos. This is the first one you see as you cross into the state.
A distant view of Lake Mead. This manmade lake on the Colorado is vital to the water supply and electrical power of Nevada, California, and Arizona.
Coming into Las Vegas. We have been driving for most of the day, and are glad to see that the end is in sight.
Lost in Las Vegas. We had a little trouble finding our motel.
Freeway driving in unfamiliar cities is so much fun!
I find our place to stay for the night. Nothing but the best for the St. Andres on the road.
Oops! I thought I was in Las Vegas. How did I get to New York? The motel was in the very heart of downtown Las Vegas so we walked around and did a little sightseeing.
This casino is called Excalibur, but they got it all wrong. King Arthur’s sword was Excalibur. His castle was Camelot. Wrongly named, but very pretty.
With our room secured, James and I went off to see his sister Jillian a few miles northwest of downtown Vegas. She has a nice home in the suburbs with her husband Nick and friends Todd and Steve. It is a model for the new extended family of 21st century America, a sharing of resources that none of them could afford on their own.
This is my lovely daughter Jillian, 8 months pregnant, and about to make me a grandfather for a second time. She reluctantly agreed to be in this travelogue.
Greenlee is 2 years old now, and such a cutie. Last time I saw her I teased her with my hat, popping it on her head just to watch her throw it off. This time she accepted the Trollgod’s hat quite calmly and wouldn’t give it back until she tired of it. I think she looks better in it than I ever did.
I might claim it was to visit family, but the real reason for going to Vegas was to play Settlers of Catan. I talked them into playing a randomized setup version, but couldn’t get Tod and Steve to try the “pick your own number instead of rolling the dice” variant that I created. Tod won this game. I was crushed.
And we followed Catan with Apples to Apples. Jillian won that game. I came in second.
When the games were over, James and I left Jillian’s place and went back to our motel. We still had time to do some sightseeing.
After walking all through the Hooters Casino that was next to our motel, we went upstairs and entered Excalibur on the second level.
We found colossi sitting inside the black pyramid that is the Luxor casino. We walked through a Fun Dungeon at one point–entertainment for kids. The slot machines and gambling tables didn’t appeal much, but the displays were magnificent.
This was like a personal message from the universe and a bit of validation for me. Anyone interested in a Tacos and Tequila roleplaying game?
More of Las Vegas by night. It is a spectacular place from a distance.
After a couple of hours of walking around gawking, but not gambling, we returned to our motel and went to bed. The plan was to get up early on Monday morning and drive through most of Utah to reach Salt Lake City by Monday night.
If you have enjoyed being on this road trip with me, or have anything to add about the places i’ve visited, please leave a comment. And come back in a day or two when I do Road Trip, Part 2.
–to be continued