Sunday, April 06, 2014

How We Ruined Everything Down in New Orleans

It was the 90s, and this is a story about my 20-something self.  He didn't much care for working hard and being responsible.  I do, so if you're a potential employer reading this, c'mon, gimme a break.  That said:

A friend (let's call him Tim) from New Orleans invited another friend (call him Glen) and myself to stay with him and attend a Nerd Convention there, where we would play live-action Vampire: The Masquerade (whatever that was) and hopefully meet girls girls girls.  Glen and I signed on to work as volunteers at the Con, in exchange for which we'd get discounts on our admission fees.

The event took place in a conference center, and the first day Glen and I went to mission control for our volunteering orders.  Boss Lady, a foxy, busty, stern young woman, assigned us to guard the door at a movie screening room, keeping out anyone who wasn't a paid-for Con attendee.  The guy running the screening room told us that, legally, we couldn't keep anyone out, though, because of the legalities of playing commercial videotapes in a hotel screening room.  Did we go back to mission control for a new assignment?  Nope.  We sat back and watched Das Boot, which someone had decided was a suitably vampiric film (well, Nazis, close enough).

That night (first of two, I believe) we started playing the Vampire game, which involved each of us wearing badges and running around the conference center, pretending to be vampires from different clans, because vampires have clans, it seems.  Each player's badge had a symbol on the front (my symbol, a cryptic glyph which I can't recall, meant nada to me) and on the back, a brief biographical note (I was playing a thief named Stinky with no clan and no friends).

I wandered around the halls a bit, and not much happened for me.  Most players were finding their clans and doing stuff together; they also seemed way more comfortable and familiar with this masquerade than I was.  Tim was all dressed up in his The Crow regalia (remember The Crow?  It was the 90s) and he was off with his clan, Glen was off with some other clan, I was on my own, my social skills were about the same as they'd been in the cradle, and I had no idea how to play this game.   Mapping the diegetic reality of the game onto the halls of this conference center took a facility, or at least a familiarity, with these Vampire games that I didn't have.  At one point I was strolling through the crowd when this one guy spotted my glyph, and his eyes went wide.  He begged me to come find him in Room such and such at a specified time.  Nowadays, well, nowadays I wouldn't be playing the game, but nowadays I'd do as he requested.  At 23, though, I really needed for this request to come from a girl, and it wasn't, so sorry, dude.  I went to the dancing room instead, because the Con had a dancing room.  I took off my badge, which officially signified that I was pausing my involvement in the game, and danced to 90s techno for the rest of the night.

The next day Glen and I did some actual legal volunteer work (in my case, watching the door of the merchants' room to make sure no one swiped anything) and then shifted to more work that mission control didn't realize was illegal (keeping people out of the screening room again, although this time we actually performed a public service, chasing children out during Fritz the Cat and Heavy Metal).

That night I don't think I bothered putting my badge on; I just didn't care about vampire games.  I cared about dancin'!  The dance floor got nice and friendly; in particular, my boy Glen was slow dancing with Boss Lady.   She'd been assigning us work during the day, but was getting quite cozy with the help by night.  Glen and Boss Lady were shooting off sparks, no question.  Meanwhile I told a woman I was dancing with about the (awful) screenplay I was writing, and she told me she was on the board of the New Orleans Film Festival.  I should have gotten her digits.  I didn't, because I was in a monogamous relationship with Akane Tendo.

Well, the next morning it turned out no one won the game because it had been designed such that Stinky was The Chosen One and whichever clan got him on their side would win, or something.  Too bad Stinky was out of commission.  I like to imagine he went to Nashville and became a professional dancer, avoiding the responsibilities of Chosen Oneship.

Also, Glen, who had been warned before about his tendency to speak without thinking, made the mistake of confessing to Boss Lady that we'd gamed the system and avoided doing real work, and she shot off some sparks of a decidedly non-romantic kind, and didn't give us our refunds, and I was glad because we didn't deserve them.  I went home and told my Goth friends that I'd played Vampire: The Masquerade in New Orleans, letting them think I'd been slinking around on Bourbon Street just a'reveling in the Anne Riceyness of it all.  They spit with envy.  Haw haw.

I apologize to New Orleans for screwing up the game, but maybe you should blame the designers who evidentially didn't provide multiple paths to success, because in reality There Is Always Another Way To Succeed!   Glen and Tim and I are all happily married to other Boss Ladies, so we all Won The Game, even without refunds, so Happy Endings all around!