We brought our own darkness. We all made it to the dungeon together. It was supposed to be a goth club but when we got there, we found a lot of tourists listening to Lynyrd Skynyrd on the jukebox. This wouldn’t do. I looked around and saw my comrades at the edges of the walls quietly drinking, disappointment in their eyes. Something had to be done. The Rolling Stones’ ‘Satisfaction’ came on the jukebox. So I went into my most effervescent make Jagger impression. I danced like a rooster. I shook my arms and pointed at things that weren’t there. I lip-synched as poorly as I could. Within moments I was joined by a pretty blonde I had never met before. She went toe to toe with me, doing her own Mick Jagger. We mirrored each other’s moves. I thought my heart was gonna explode I was so drunk and tired. But it was invigorating. I could smell her breath. I could see her blue eyes. And I could see redemption. For her and for me. She needed that release is much as I had. Then the song ended and I gave her a huge hug. Anyway never see her again. And that was as it should be. These sort of things are moments in time I can’t be re-created and will get destroyed if they’re trying to be re-created again and again. So she left and we moved on.
There were actually some good 80s metal songs being played on the jukebox. Judas Priest. Ozzy. Guns n’ Roses. Nine inch Nails. We rocked to the house. We created our own multi-person karaoke. We thrashed around the dance floor. The bouncer took an immediate hate to us. But the cube bartender quite enjoyed us. I caught her mouthing the words and rocking her head when I looked over. She reminded me of a prettier Lady Gaga. She had a great Roman nose. I love great noses. I like girls with messed up noses. I think they can smell better. Which means they have better intuition when they meet people. She had a birthday a few days later and I happily pend a dollar to her chest. It’s in New Orleans tradition to do so I’m one’s birthday. It been my birthday but I didn’t feel like being paraded around like that. I wanted to drink in peace. Unless of course I was getting my rock on.
“Born to be Wild” came on and we aped riding motorcycles throughout the bar. It was all quite undignified. But we are having so much fun and burning are obligate Tori calories that who cares. To me I was hanging out with some people I’ve always wanted to hang out with more. Kelly Layman. Sèphera Girón. Mikey Hayek. Tod Clarke. John Urbancik. Soundgarden’s “Rusty Cage” came on. I took the opportunity to jump into one of the small vestibules and pretend I was a third-generation Chris Cornell. It was my determination to break us out of our rusty cages. Things were a little far when I jumped out of my cage at the end of the song and smash my head into an above chandelier. The bouncer finally had a real reason to come over and bounce. He been waiting all night to bust us. He had so much contempt for us. So it must’ve been nice for him to come over and yell and be a placenta. How if I were him I hate us too. We were brash and of noxious and taking over the entire back of the bar With our shenanigans. I quickly told him it wouldn’t happen again that it was an accident and I would become from there on out. He whispered something I’m not sure what an half away. And that’s fine. Because it was around three or four in the morning and we are already to go back home.
I crept soundlessly into my hotel room and gently lay next to my roommate on the bed. He is another writer and I hope I didn’t wake him. I did my best. I didn’t think about what my insomnia would be like living with for my other roommates. Oh well. I had to be up in a couple of hours because the convention would be going on, and I had work to do.
I made the opening ceremonies. It was wonderful to see Rocky Wood and many other people I hadn’t seen in a long time. Getting in and getting settled had been a big challenge for me. I was originally supposed to stay with a local friend, but that didn’t quite pan out. They got I had a Plan B and my roommates were also there early and Artie had a room booked. This meant more money, but life is short. Even the sleepless sleep sometimes.
This was my first convention working. I’ve been a trustee of the HW a for over a year now and I had commitments. I had to help the video crew. I had to be on a panel appreciating Clive Barker. It was a very different experience from the outside. I think I really enjoyed myself in that regard.
Was horrified I had not turned off my ‘birthday’ setting on Facebook. Somehow word got out and the crowd saying to me during the ceremonies. I tried to hide under my table but Laura Hickman stopped me. John Little and his beautiful wife Fatima were next to us too. One of the things I hate is that unless you really try it’s very difficult to spend any quality time with people. That brief 20 minutes was all I really got with John Fatima and Mara. I really felt spread thin. I barely even made it to the dealers room until it was closing. Depressing.
I shared an amazing meal with Lisa Morton Ricky Grove. I think I could talk about things with Ricky forever. We talked about acting. And not just whose a good actor and well blockbuster but Series and styles and techniques. I love those kinds of conversations. They’re so inspiring. I hate gossip but I love love love exploring creation and imagination. Somehow, the three of us ended up on the same flight out of LAX and enjoyed spending some pre-con time together. We split a cab to the hotel, thankfully, and I got to peek into the room of a Vice President and her man. Quite posh.
New Orleans brings out a lot of memories for me. As I walked down the streets I distinctly recalled visiting with my father mother and brother. Vivid memories of us walking and of our conversations slurred me. That trip had been among the last times that my family had been hole. My father suffered a car accident and that made him unable to walk very far. Hey since suffered several strokes. And I had ghostlike visions of seeing my father walking ahead of me with his bag over your shoulder like I had seen when we had all visited New Orleans. I heard his voice. For me the ghosts that everybody sees don’t have to be of people that have necessarily died. For me they are of moments that I’m missing. Not only did I hear my father’s voice but I heard my mother’s voice. A lifelong jazz fan, she was so excited to be in New Orleans. She gave us a running detail of everything we were passing. The architecture. The history of the street. The creation of the food we ordered. Her enthusiasm at finding Dickie Brennan’s. Still one of the best meals of my life. I can stillest taste it. Of course I had memories of my ex-wife as well. She joined us on the trip. Back before she was angry. Back before she turned. Back before the world had made her angry and cynical. Back when she was filled with light and happiness. Don’t let me make you think that I was in morning though. I was ready for this. And I planned on making those old memories into a kind of party. New Orleans funerals are parties, after all. That’s that’s what this would be.
I was quite anxious to discuss writing and meet people at the convention. I look forward to this all year. The biggest surprise for me was seeing Sèphera Girón come off of an elevator. Rhonda Wilson commented my eyes popped out of my head, but it wasn’t because of Sephera’s obvious assets, it was because I was not expecting her to be there. We’d grown close online over the past few years, both being cheerleaders for one another during some nasty splits. Here is my friend in the flesh. The last I had known she said she wasn’t going to make it. How exciting. Just one of many fantastic surprises. In the end going to New Orleans and shaking our asses really felt like we both put away a lot of that her and this things we’ve been through. It was one of the most cathartic trips I’ve ever had. I felt like I buried my grief and sadness once and for all.
A true highlight of the trip was seeing my friend Jennifer Raven again. We grew up together on the East Coast and she been in New Orleans for over a decade. She was a very popular tour guide. It was so strange walking up the street and just seeing her standing there. She really hasn’t changed much. How rad. It seems like we slipped right back into our friendship. We went back-and-forth both talking hundred miles an hour. The same kind of report that used to get us detentions in high school. The tour was phenomenal. We learned about history and she dispelled a lot of misconceptions. She really was fun. I was so proud of her. She stood in front of all those people and was completely at ease and extremely entertaining. I laughed out loud at one point when a couple next to me said boy can she talk. Well of course I said she’s your tour guide. We went into the St. Louis cemetery and saw Marie Lavaeu’s grave and also the weird-O Nicholas Cage’s grave. Got nothing to say about that, except good luck with Xenu. I had to get back to the convention but we made plans to meet up again.
Later that night, in the wee hours I got to hang with Hank Schwaeble. He had a guitar. We were looking for other musicians but it was just he and I. We found a place and swap the guitar back and forth and sang songs. I think we both sounded pretty great. But even greater we shared a great conversation. Hanks perspective on a few things really cut me deep and a fantastic way. It was like we had a musical therapy session. I was so happy we finally got to talk in depth about things. Him and roadie Armand my favorite people. It was so fun. And God knows if anybody heard us singing “Born to Run” at the top of our monks in the middle of the night.
Here’s another dream come true. I’ve been asked to play bass with slash pile. This band consisted of Dave Simms, F. Paul Wilson, and Heather Graham. They’d sent me a list of songs and I learned them. We met on Friday morning and drove into the heart of the city. We rode past the Superdome and toward a loading dock where there was a fully outfitted rehearsal room. We ran through a few numbers and it sounded great. The camp Dave’s is using started making the weirdest noises. It was as if Syd Barrett and Jimi Hendrix had plugged in their fax. But there were no effects. Very bizarre. I’ve always wanted to play music in New Orleans. Ever since my mother and me Sanford a preservation Hall all night listening to music as talking to musicians. And here I was Finally doing so. What a trip. A big highlight of the convention was getting to know Heather and Paul and Dave. Such damned good people. One evening we shared some drinks with Kathleen Pickering and Lincoln Chrisler, both fantastic folks I look forward to meeting again soon.
There was a short amount of time between the end of rehearsal and our show. I was scheduled to do the mass signing and brought humble amount of books with me just in case. It was a zoo. There were so many people that I wanted to meet. I found my place next to Glenn Chadbourne and had a great time getting to know him. For such a talented artist, he is extremely humble and fun. Artists fascinate me. My father is an artist, so I’m quite fond of the species. I was also shocked that I sold all my books rather quickly. I wasn’t expecting that because the last few signings I had had me carting every single book home but I brought. A nice surprise. And I met some amazing people. Especially nice to get a word with Michael Bailey, quite never seem to get enough time with. One of these days we’ll get to have our deep philosophical talk with always wanted to half.
I made my way back up to the stage area. Everyone was upset. I’d somehow slipped the time. We had a rehearsal and sound check an hour earlier. I apologize profusely but doing my heart would get through the show with no problem. There are a few songs we hadn’t been able to get to but thankfully they were the easier ones.
The room was packed. There were so many people. I pulled my hat low so they wouldn’t have to think about it. That was all fine until Jen showed up with her longtime boyfriend and his friend both Dressed exquisitely as Buccaneers.
The show went off without any major mishaps. I think Dave ended up breaking for strings. Maybe it was an apparition playing a prank on him. But for the most part everything went fine. My own turn at the Mike singing “Gloria” was funny. When I just at the mike to start singing I somehow knocked the clip off the stand. I ended up having to hold the microphone in one hand and play bass with the right. I quickly found I couldn’t do both. So I chose to really concentrate on the singing and played lightly. The bass wasn’t very prominent on the original recording so I didn’t think anybody would really notice. Nobody seem to complain or mention it so I guess I played it off pretty well. My favorite part of the set they’ll didn’t even involve me. Heather serenaded Rocky with nobody does it better. How appropriate. Rocky has been such an amazing part of bringing HWAY only to another level but to another friggin’ mountain. The guy is a powerhouse. And the fact that he is fighting ALS on top of that and traveling from Australia is remarkable. His spirit is nothing short of inspirational.
I’ll never forget meeting Rio Youers for the first time, on stage, in front of the entire convention. We’ve known each other online for ages, since his first novel came out. What a thrill cranking some Ramones with him on the lead mic. We shared a fantastic night on the town later on.
One of the Buccaneers won the costume contest. And from there we raided the streets. That is, if you count being stopped every five feet by tourists wanting pictures as raiding. Our crew made it past Bourbon Street and into the depths of the quarter. Jen brought us to several small places Where the drinks were actually affordable and the clientele wasn’t drunken frat boys. They were dark they were perfect. We stayed out late listening to tales from the Buccaneers and catching up with Jen. I got in close to 7:45am. That was really bad. I had a video interview at nine. So I put on my trusty eye pillow and shut my eyes. I didn’t sleep so much as just meditated for 45 minutes. I got up took a quick rinse and did my duty. And for the record I’m not a really heavy drinker but I am an insomniac. I had a few beers and a few drinks over the nights but I nursed him. I got into some great conversations with people. I love talking to people and picking their brains and having them pick mine. It’s the big attraction for me and going to these conventions is really going to talk to people. I get lost easily and conversations and I remember looking up at the sky and thinking there must be a fire somewhere. But I quickly realized that been the sun coming up. Sometimes I really hate the sun and wish it would just go away with its happy sunrays in heat and stuff and just take a vacation for a couple weeks so I can enjoy endless nights.
After the video interviews I had to be on the Clive Barker panel. I felt lucky to be honest on the panel. My own connection to Clive Barker is only that he’s been an influence to me. That was the angle I was going to take. Didn’t know him personally. I wasn’t old enough to see his rise firsthand. I came to his work rather late. A friend gave me the first “Books of Blood.” That’s the power of his writing. Whenever you first encounter it, the stories feel fresh and vital and new.
It was a true joy running into Doug Winter and sharing the stage with him. He was one of the teachers at the great Borderlands Boot Camp, run of course by one of my favorite people, Thomas F. Monteleone. I haven’t seen him in a while. He’s been fighting some ailments, but he looks fantastic. And I got to meet his gorgeous Wife too. We had a great panel. I even called on Ramsey Campbell to tell how he met class. Finally getting to meet Ramsey was a highlight for me. I love his work and he is splendid. Even when Brad nearly destroyed the steps going down and took a slight tumble couldn’t even mark the panel.
Next came my reading. When I got there Paul and Rhodi were finishing up. I heard them asking at crowd if they wanted to read one more thing. I encourage them to do so but they declined and apologize for taking up my time. I whispered that I had just gotten there and I was going to be fast anyway. But they still took off.
Built in my reading with a poem from my departed friend Steven Wilson. Again I told people that I didn’t want to make this a sad occasion. I wanted to celebrate his life and the mortality that reading his poetry gave him. When I read his words aloud he was alive again for those few minutes.
Then I read some very brief excerpts from some of my work. I can do so many readings and they can be very tedious. It’s very hard to sit there for 30 minutes and hear somebody talk and try and tell the complete story in that amount of time. I’ve never really liked them that much. I have trouble With the words forming in my mind with readings and audiobooks. It’s just a weird thing with me. After a few minutes my mind wanders and it’s very difficult for me to focus. I need to see the words. Often readers go way too fast for me and I have trouble making sense of things.
The last excerpt I read was the very first bit of what is going to be the NERVES prequel. I thought that was a cool way to wrap it up. But I was only the opening act. Joe McKinney followed and broke all of our hearts. He told us of how his story was written for a program to be distributed at the funeral of his good friend John would passed away. He choked up and wept openly during the reading. I don’t think any of us were unaffected. A truly powerhouse reading.
Then we had to get ready for the Stoker banquet and words. Not much to be said about that. Some friends pitched in and got me a banquet ticket but when I got to the food smells trigger my days in the hospital with Leo. I felt like I needed to be alone. Thousand pictures of what he went through flashing in my head. I went back up to my room laid down and used my trick of visualizing him older to get me through the moment. It worked.
I made my way back down to the event and found an nice bit of flooring in the back next to Shane McKenzie and his brother. Had a bad case of the giggles. Probably had to do with being nominated and the sudden fear that I might have to say something in front of 500 people. Thankfully the ceremony went quickly. And thankfully I didn’t have to come up with something to say in front of an entire audience. I was thrilled with all the other nominees and ecstatic When Lucy Snyder Monday award for her gorgeous story.
Then a bunch of us went out again we want a little crazy back at the dungeon. But we also went to another bar next-door and had some great conversations. Had a great time with Pete Giglio and Eric Miller, Ben Ethridge and Brad and Shannon. Me and Shannon found out our paths across several times in the past without us knowing it.
After another Fun night dancing and talking ended up missing a bunch of folks who went to Frenchmen Street. I was pretty bummed about this. I was making my way there and kept getting distracted and having great conversations. Before I knew it it was The sun rising again and it only made it halfway there. Ended up at the rooftop pool was Sephera talking and laughing until the wee hours. All night we watched as people through in the towels hour by hour. We were the last two standing. I think we only went to bed because we felt we were supposed to. I know I probably could’ve stayed up and not even slept.
Sunday was a great day. I got to venture out into the quarter again for the last time. I met up with Jen and had a few last laughs. She gifted me with a jar of ecstasy pickles. I’m pretty sure they’re not named because there’s a drug and, although you do feel a little bit of a buzz after you eat a couple. She makes them by hand. They’re like bread-and-butter But also spiciest well. Somehow you can taste both distinctly that one overruling the other. They’re delicious.
And with that I was off, back to the Louis Armstrong airport. Shared one more round of laughs with Ben, Irma and Rena, and it was off into the sky. Like many others, my jet hit some terrifying turbulence on the way back to Los Angeles. This was made much better by the laughter of a New Zealand surfing team behind me, who were comparing our dips and dives to waves they’ve had. “I’ve had bigger!” Okay. So I wasn’t aloud to be scared. But I was allowed to enjoy a truly spectacular, multi-story cloud formation that surrounded us as we came through. The sun was directly in front of us, and its rays painted everything gold. Me? Was on my way home from my other home: New Orleans and the ever-growing band of eccentrics I call friends. See you all next time. — Jp