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November 23, 2002: Some tuning required

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This morning we woke up to thick fog outside and a bed full of sleepy cats inside, and the knowledge that we could relax and actually enjoy this weekend since we are no longer required to leave again Sunday afternoon for work. This was possibly more relaxing for me if only because I was really a bit worried about how I was going to manage doing all the Thanksgiving shopping and coordinating the turkey thawing with my mom before we had to leave again. So it was a nice thing to wake up to - that little reminder that I can just take things at a normal pace.

We headed over to the church bazaar for cinnamon rolls and coffee before we dutifully made the rounds of all the tables full of things for sale and picked out a few items to take home. Someone had made jars and jars of pomegranate jelly, so we quickly snatched one of those, plus a few loaves of bread (including one of the pumpkin I'd spent two days making last week). Then it was home so I could spend an hour or so on the piano preparing for my monthly stint as accompanist for church, mainly because I'm scheduled to play tomorrow morning and I thought it might be a novel idea if I'd run through the hymns at least once before I got there. I did my usual frantic scan through my small selection of music to find something that could be used as an offertory and then got online in time to catch the instant message from Beth telling me that there was a game scheduled between Berkeley and Stanford and if I wanted to beat the traffic I'd better get on the road sooner rather than later.

And the reason I had to contend with post-football game traffic was because, after reading about them on the forum and idly wondering whether it might be worth it to go, and especially after having to miss JournalCon, I finally decided to take part in one of the Usual Suspects forum gatherings in San Francisco. Beth and I arranged to meet at her place and then walk to the BART station, thereby avoiding the issue of trying to find a place to park in the city. We crowded onto the train amid a number of deodorant-deficient people who were coming home early from the Berkeley/Stanford football game and eventually made it to the required stop.

Beth and I were the first ones there. In fact the bar wasn't even open yet, although we did get some curious looks from the owner when he came out to update the sign in the front. It wasn't long, however, until we were joined by a handful of other Usual Suspects members, and when the doors were finally unlocked, we all headed in to get things started. A small handful of us gathered around a cluster of tables and did the awkward introductions in the dark bar - the translation of forum handle to actual name so we could figure out who we all were.

The gathering itself was held in an extremely noisy and crowded Mexican restaurant down the street from the bar. We were all crammed around a long and narrow table, and bombarded on all sides with music from the ceiling speakers, the noise from the football game on the TVs over the bar, and the occasional burst from the Mariachi band that wandered around the room. At one point they stopped at our table to serenade us. While the violinist was a fairly decent singer, he'd apparently neglected to tune his instrument to match the pitch of the other members of his little troupe. Hence, the violin was always just enough out of tune to make a number of us wince in pain each time he gave another stroke of his bow.

I'm not sure quite what I was expecting from this gathering. After all, with a name like Boozecon, I shouldn't have been surprised that it took place in a series of bars. But I was disappointed nonetheless. The noise of both the bar and the restaurant made it almost impossible to hold a conversation with the person immediately next to you, let alone trying to holler things down the table to the rest of the group. There were a number of people at the gathering I'd have liked to meet more than just a quick nod and smile when introduced, but in this restaurant it just wasn't feasible. It didn't help that I'm never comfortable in situations where I don't know anyone anyway. At least in a quieter place there might have been a chance of conversations that allowed more of the group to interact with people beyond their immediate table neighbors. But then I got the impression that most of the group already knew each other and so I suppose a more intimate setting wasn't so much a priority

I may not have enjoyed the Boozecon very much, but the trip did have its good side. I got a chance to see how much Beth's little boy has grown. I got a chance to put some faces to names, even if I never actually was able to speak to those people. And best of all, Beth and I got a chance for some good long talks while walking to the BART station; while riding on the train; while strolling down the dark streets of Berkeley eating ice cream from Ben & Jerry's after the gathering.

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