My life is a blur of furries and cars these days.
There is nothing left for me. I’m dispensing with all of the neat and happy intro stuff this time to dive right into the breakdown of my time at IndyFurCon 2017.
I swear to god these guys are like a cult. They lure you in with all of the neat art and friendliness, you think maybe it’d be a little fun to interact with them, then next thing you know you’re hauling ass across three states in the dead of night because they raised money for a convention and your stupid ass made a promise to go to another convention on like three days notice if they did that. So, you know, you hop your ass in the car and drive in the dead of night through fucking Ohio to go visit the furries in Indianapolis, arriving in the “Oh my god, there’s a three in the morning now?” hours of Saturday worn out from a drive to shamble into a hotel and be greeted by a giant goddamn panda who, despite running a convention, is now currently waiting for your arrival in particular.
Every weekend has turned into a mixture of Hunter S. Thompson and Salvador Dali for me now. This is my life. So take my sweaty, cold, oversized hand and close your eyes tight, and we’ll just get right down to business here as we discuss Indy Fur Con: The End Result Of A Series of Bad Decisions.
How Did This Happen, Man?
This all fucking began with a joke and a goal I never thought the fuzzy little assholes would hit. I was helping another convention raise a little bit of cash for expenses, and someone messaged me on Twitter, which has become a more reliable form of communicating with me than my office phone, with one simple question: “How much to get you to IFC?” After a bit of Googling, my excitement at being invited to appear on the Independent Film Channel faded as I realized this was a reference to yet another furry convention, this time in Indianapolis. Indianapolis being, of course, a nine hour drive from my home.
[Note: It was literally cheaper for me to fly to L.A. than it would have been to fly to Indianapolis. West Coast, here I come].
Now, don’t get me wrong, as a native of a certain Southern city where we race horses around a track and like our mint juleps made the way god intended [ask me for a mint julep recipe sometime], I was intimately familiar with the great city of Indianapolis, located in Indiana, Land of Hoosiers and Heroin! But nine hours? In the dead of night? After closing an office?
I quoted a number back that seemed, to me, to be unlikely to be met.
…I am not an intelligent man.
Cursing the fates that dragged me to this point in my life, I closed up the office on Friday night and headed off to Indianapolis, stopping only briefly to fuel up on a “Bag of Jerky As Big As Your Head” for the road. It was somewhere around the time I realized it was 10 p.m., I still had five goddamn hours to go, and I still hadn’t left Pennsylvania that I thought “This is not a sterling example of your decision making process. Perhaps you should think these things through a bit more.”
To silence those doubts, I played “Try Everything” on repeat for two hours, then listened to podcasts the rest of the way before finally pulling into the hotel at three in the morning with a single bag and a shit-ton of regret. And that, folks, is where I met the giant panda man first referenced above.
PandezPanda is his name, and he was the Chairman of IFC, a nice guy, and for the next two nights my roommate. That’s how goddamn generous they were. When they heard I was coming the Chairman, the most overworked man in the con business, reached out and said “You can bunk with me, man!”
Now, I’d love to say we had a long conversation or some such shit, but in fact…we didn’t. It was three a.m. I had been driving all night, and he had been running a convention. Instead, I got the room number and, after a brief cigarette, headed to the room.
I also saw a furpile.
…I was uncertain as to what a “furpile” actually was.
For a moment, I genuinely assumed several fursuiters had overheated and collapsed while some cruel soul took pictures of them.
But no. It was a furpile.
[A furpile, for reference, is when a group of people in fursuits all lay on the floor together. There was nothing sexual about it, despite what I had been led to believe. Instead, it was a group of people laying on the floor. The only thing different about these people laying on the floor at this convention and every other convention or conference I’ve been to was they were sober and they were wearing an entirely different type of suit than what I was used to seeing on the folks who have decided the ground is a nice place to take a lay down].
Saturday came early, with a shower and shave after a few hours of sleep and then immediately down to the convention floor. After stopping in at registration, giving my name, and having the kid behind the desk look at the badge, look back to me, and say “You’re that lawyer guy!,” I was off to the races. A quick breakfast with Fox Amoore and his manager, Dixie, both of whom Captain Eyebrows and I had met at Anthrocon, later and I was off to the races, taking a look around the dealer’s den, the panel rooms, and the hotel itself to see what I can see.
You’ll recall that I described Anthrocon as a fully functioning furry fiefdom. Not so much for IFC. Where Anthrocon was a goddamn city of furries, IFC was more like an outpost. A settlement, if you will. A colony of furries on a wind-tossed shore, populated only with the indigenous peoples who stare on in wonder at the brightly colored animals parading past (represented in this case by the VFW convention held in the same hotel). But, it was an organized settlement, none of this starving settlers out in the cold thing going on here! For a taste of the action I swung by their operations center to chat with the crew running the show and get a peek at the command center…and it was there I ran into a rather excitable man in a lab coat.
…This time without the bottle of wine.
“We have a problem!” he had announced, striding into the operations room with his cellphone stretched out in front of him. I was briefly put in mind of an exorcist striding into the room of the possessed with a cross in hand, except in this case there was no young priest. There was merely a very, very perturbed research chemist with a bone to pick.
“This lady,” he said, waving the phone, “is letting her dog defecate in the courtyard area! Does anyone know who she is?”
[Two notes: A) The courtyard was very clearly marked as an area where you could not allow your animals to crap on the grass; B) If you’re a furry, you just read that quote in his voice, with the proper inflection. All is lost.]
[Actually, one more note: who actually says “defecate?” It’s 2017. We can say “shit.”]
Which really brings me to my first huge takeaway from Indy Fur Con 2017: Furries and lawyers have a lot in common when you get down to how we handle things. See, Dr. Conway, better known to the furries as “Uncle Kage,” was in no way shape or form working Indy Fur Con (to my knowledge). He was just…there. There to support another convention, I assume. But when he saw something happening that A) broke the rules, B) could affect the relationship of the convention with the hotel, and C) could harm the perception of the furry community as a whole he went to report it to the appropriate group.
Sound familiar? It should, you fuckwits, because this is exactly the same thing the legal profession does. We’re an entirely self-regulating profession, depending on the membership of our profession to act as the first line of defense in reporting bad actors who happen to have law licenses and in protecting the respectability of our profession. What I saw Kage there doing was not unlike an attorney calling in a report to the Disciplinary Board for a bad actor in the legal profession. Suddenly I felt a little closer to the good Doctor…but not too close.
I’ve heard he can get handsy.
After a brief interlude with the Good Doctor, who insists on referring to me as “my boy” (I love that fact), I was off to the races. Unlike the previous conventions, who I was and why I was there wasn’t obvious (although at the time I thought the shine was wearing off and I may be able to return to my normal life of misery and crippling depression soon enough, a thought I would be promptly dissuaded of the first time I was dragged onto a stage later), so there weren’t a lot of “walk up and say hi!” moments this convention. Which is good, because, having driven 9 goddamn hours to be there, I wasn’t as personable as I normally would have been. It’s also good, because it meant for the first time ever I really got to attend some panels at one of these events!
Mainly, that meant I spent the majority of my day watching cartoons and amateur comedy acts.
I fucking loved it. The community is talented, and many of the folks I saw get up were on stage for the first time ever. But even if the jokes fell flat, there was none of that mean-spirited criticism you see. Instead, the pros of the furry comedy circuit (oh god, is that really a thing?) provided gentle constructive criticism and accolades to the performers, and each one got a hefty and hearty round of applause.
…Then I got yanked on stage to drink and tell jokes with a few people for charity. Then I got yanked on stage to school a furry musician, Fox’s partner Pepper Coyote, in the proper way to shotgun a non-alcoholic carbonated beverage with a trademarked name. Then I got yanked on stage to peg a magical top-hatted booze-generating fairy in the head with dodgeball while screaming “CATS!” at the top of my lungs. Then I got yanked on stage to read bad fiction with the aforementioned booze-fairy. Then I went the fuck to bed.
But what were the Saturday highlights?
- I met a couple from my hometown who had gotten engaged at the convention the day before, and my withered heart may have given a single beat for the first time in years.
- I had a conversation at the bar with a pair of parents who “didn’t get the furry thing,” but wanted to support their kids and so had driven across two states to bring them there.
- I watched a lot of people simply hang out and chat.
- I had a deep heart-to-heart with a giant fucking cockroach about the furry fandom, and what it means to all of these people, that left me contemplative and a little tipsy. He picked up the tab. I now owe him several drinks.
- I had a chat with a divorcee who talked about how wonderful the furry fandom was in helping her recover, and how great they were with her children, and smiled a bit.
Notice only one of those involved booze or hitting people with things, and that’s because the best part of going to these things is hearing about all the great fucking things that go on within the furry fandom, and the huge amount of support furries show each other.
Lawyers, on the other hand, are likely to cut your throat for a case.
Sunday was the day I needed to make a 9 hour drive back across the damn country, but not before doing a couple things. First there was the “Furry History” panel where I was able to hear about the history of the furry fandom from some strange old man. Then there was the charity auction.
…The charity auction fucking killed me, you guys. It killed me.
After Anthrocon I made a joke about a certain giant motherfucker who could crush me with one hand being a “magical top-hatted booze-generating fairy.” I had no clue what I was unleashing, but someone made FAN ART of this and donated the piece to the iFC charity auction. So I started bidding on it naturally, but with firm instructions from back home not to “lose my shit bidding” as the trip had been unplanned. When it got to about $110, I realized much higher and my ass was sleeping on the couch, given that I had another convention the next week, had just come back from vacation, and was working on a refinance. So I stopped bidding.
…And that’s when someone else jumped in, bid it to $169…then gave it to me.
I wasn’t crying! You were crying! Fuck you!
I have never met a more generous community in my life.
Also, I have the art in my actual law office now (it went to the framer’s shortly after this was taken).
After the charity auction (where I bid on and won a board game), I had to head out. It was 3 p.m., and figuring in gas and pit stops I was going to get home around 1:00 a.m. with an office to open shortly thereafter. Before hitting the road I said a few goodbyes, but on the road I got a message:
Approximately $14,500 raised for charity by a little over 1,200 people.
Yeah, let’s do one of those things.
Indy Fur Con was a well run machine. It was a small convention, but with no immediate problems and a staff that was dedicated to everything related to it. For fucks sake, their convention chair let me share a room with him. It was good, and while I’m sure there were some minor problems over the weekend the fact is I didn’t see them and that means they were minor problems that were handled very quickly and efficiently by the staff.
It also served, to me, as a shining example of the generosity of the furry fandom. Not to me, but to charities and to each other. First, the whole goddamn reason I was there was people from iFC donated to help another convention to get me to show up. Second, I found out small things like they had previously built a goddamn wing for an animal shelter. Third, everywhere you turned there were chances to donate money for the charity. Literally everywhere. It was…I mean…It was something else.
And it was fun. There were some panels and ideas I’d never seen before: A Nerf war, a panel where you just watched old cartoons, an open mic training event that didn’t try to make a laugh off of the people. I saw two musicians say “Yep, we’re not gonna drink this weekend,” and got to watch the pure amazement in the eyes of one of them as he realized that, holy shit, the convention doesn’t end after the nineteenth shot. I met families with their children, recently engaged couples, and a whole variety of folks.
Guys, I met the coolest fucking park ranger in the world, whole looks like a cross between Walt Whitman and a biker. It was amazing.
And that’s the point of all this, isn’t it? To be amazed? To go to an event and become a part of a community, spending time bonding and having fun and leave feeling tired, maybe worn out, maybe a little disappointed, but still amazed at the fact that for two days you get to exist in a goddamn fantasy land filled with giant talking animals?
…Shit, it is for me.
That’s why I’m doing it again this weekend.