THERE AND BACK AGAIN Episode IV: A New Hope, Part 1
But first, a little backstory...
I almost didn't go on this trip. I had basically quit Smogon quietly in early May when I altogether stopped posting and going on irc. It was for a multitude of reasons, but first and foremost was this: I just wasn't happy on Smogon anymore. I continued making my submissions for the karaoke contest and watched the voting from afar, but aside from that, I had no contact with the community (outside of the usual Facebook status comments).
That all changed when user: Fish called me one day and left me the longest voicemail I'd ever received (in which he proclaimed it was the longest voicemail he had ever left). Fish, Arti, and I had been discussing going to Europe last summer for Smocon09, but due to lack of funds for both Arti and me (I was about to move back to Buffalo), we didn't take a trip for the first time in four years. So, in his message, Fish asked me if I was going to attend the pokemon Video Game Championship in Indianapolis, and proceeded to begin naming all the prominent Smogonites that would be in attendance. After listening to that voicemail, I became set on going to Indianapolis and hanging out with everyone, so I told him I'd be there.
But I wanted it to be special, so when I rejoined the forums and the chat shortly thereafter, I continually told everyone who asked that I would not be going to Indy. Fishy and chaos were pretty pissed about me not going, and chaos berated me to the point where I finally had to let him in on the secret. Arti was also in on the secret, so I began using him to convince evan to bring his guitar with him to Indy (so that I could bring mine and we'd jam). alex in particular was fun to convince I wasn't going, because he used my absence from Indy to justify his own.
Fast forward to the week of the trip. I had planned on driving down there on Thursday and getting in right after Arti's flight arrived (to be one of the first people there, I like to experience everything). Fish was also going to throw together a team for me so that I could enter the Last Chance Qualifier. Naturally, life threw me a curveball and I wasn't able to leave Buffalo until Friday afternoon, so I missed out on the LCQ.
All that being said, on with the show...
Yet again, the Hero of our story!
Yet again, the Hero of our story!
And what would it be without the Men of Room 3360?
Jason "Articuno64" Wynja
Description: Still the same old Arti. Quick with a joke or witty comment, and doesn't mind sleeping with dudes in the name of chivalry.
Jason "Fish" Fisher-Short
Description: The mastermind behind my special appearance. Still a very special boy, but still has a lot of work to do on those pokemon movies.
More reappearing characters!
Judd "Kongler" Price
Description: Aside from the above three guys, he is the only 4-time Smocon attendee! And it is always a huge pleasure having him around. He is one of those people that just makes everyone around him happier, just by being there. A true champion.
Chris "chaos" Monsanto
Description: Still the same cuddly bear chaos I remember from Kentucky three years ago. Smogon couldn't ask for a better figurehead, chaos is well-spoken, passionate, and incredibly gregarious. Everything anyone could ask for in a pokemaster.
Mike "skarm" Papagianis
Description: The other half of Team Canada! He represented the Great White North well, and will do so again in Hawaii. It was great to see him again after three years, also great that the missus let him come in the first place!
Ian "EeveeTrainer" Garvey
Description: ET has matured a lot since I last hung out with him at JAA, but he is still the same great guy. He has that quiet cool about him; he has warmed up to me considerably since I forced that first hug on him in NYC, and I'm glad for that.
Stephen "Imawario" Shotwell
Description: I haven't talked to this guy since JAA in 2006! It was quite a pleasant surprise to bump into him again. We hung out and joked a lot during the battles, but it's too bad I lost track of him outside the events. I also, for the second time, did NOT get a Red Corvette picture with him. I suck, I know, and that situation will be swiftly remedied at the Nationals next year, I promise!
Description: Kongler's JAA travel buddy makes his reappearance. I only saw him briefly this weekend, so unlike at JAA I didn't get to hang out with him much at all, which sucked.Others that our Heroes met on this journey:
Evan "TheBM" Latt
Description: indievan! I couldn't just use his current nick in quotation marks, how redundant would that be? Just like I imagined him, we talked about music every chance we got. Props for carrying around a guitar for an entire day.
Alison "Fishy" McDonald
Description: I'll be dipped in shit if I write Dromiblahblah there. She is a ferocious hugger, which I enjoyed immensely (although Arti's foot did not). Couldn't have shared the Greatest Piece of Cheesecake Ever with a cooler girl. (Just needs to turn 21.)
Robbie "Biffster" Miles
Description: I have known this guy since my days on the Uber forums back in... 2003? One of my oldest internet acquaintances. It was so cool finally to get to meet him in person.
Description: Buddy that Biffster brought along with him. I'm not sure if he's on Smogon, but if he wasn't before, chances are he is now. He fit right in with the group, plus he earned super bonus DM points for quoting UCB.
Danny "TTS" Zollner
Description: I've been chatting with this guy in #smogon for 5 years, so it was awesome to finally meet him face to face. Never goes anywhere without his trusty laptop, and he always seems to find the free WiFi. Awesome for the Office Space reference, even if no one got it. TRAINER TIP: Always put him on his tab.
Scott "Synre" Glaza
Description: Synre has come a long way. First he was Synre, the LordS clone, then he became Teifu, lovingly known as Tofu, and now he's back to Synre again. We lost him for a while to other internet pursuits, but he is now safely back in the fold. I loved to talk hockey with him face to face for a change. Surprisingly ungay in person.
Huy "Batpig" Ha
Description: One half of the Ha Dynasty. Just as awesome and friendly in real life as he is in #smogon. Just like Kongler, he is one of those people that you just can't help but feel happy around. He will be a great representative for Smogon in Hawaii.
Duy "Bianca222" Ha
Description: Huy's awesome brother, the other half of the Ha Dynasty. He should no longer live in his bro's shadow on Smogon, because his accomplishments speak for themselves. He will be another great representative in Hawaii.
Luke "tad38" Swenson
Description: tad goes way back on Smogon. He's been around since he was just an excitable 14 year old, and although he has grown up and matured a lot, he is still quite excitable. I was very happy to meet him, as I've always had a soft spot for him. He brought a lot of great energy to the group, and I couldn't imagine what the weekend would have been like if he hadn't been there.
Mike "OmegaDonut" Suleski
Description: OD is one of those guys who have been around Smogon for a long, long time but I have never had a lot of contact with. I really wish I would have befriended him more before, he is an awesome guy to hang around with, and it was really fun to squat in Paul's room together.
Andrea "godudette" Shaffer
Description: I had limited exposure to godudette before Indy. All I knew of her was what I had seen during the karaoke competition (namely, she has a wonderful singing voice) and what I had heard about her and Huy being all cutesy. I got to spend some time with her in Indy, and I learned that she really is a super cool girl. (With an amazing singing voice.)
Rory "rory" Neithinger
Description: Will land me in felony butt prison yet. I can't be sure of this, but I think he might actually sleep more than Kongler. He has a great future as a college boozer... just needs to practice patience and moderation.
Taylor "TAY" Gugino
Description: TAY is an American, and AMERICANS DON'T RUN. Well, sometimes they do. (Sorry man.) Just don't let the waitstaff near him. Especially if he's trying to go drink for drink with me.
Alan "Dubulous" Sutterlin
Description: Quiet at first, but once I was around him a bit he opened up a lot, and by the end of the trip I liked hanging out with him a ton. I called him Dubs all weekend, and that has apparently caught on, so I'm happy for the change. He is a fellow indie, which automatically garners respect, and I look forward to (hopefully) rocking out with him down at Cedar Point in August!
Bill "mingot" Young
Description: The only exposure I had to mingot before Indy was when he was trolling everyone on Facebook, so I knew he was a goofy dude. What I never realized was that he is a grown man with a daughter who is into pokemon also. What I should also mention is that daughter could easily beat me up.
Len "Alaka" Deuel
Description: I knew very little about Alaka before I met him, but his reputation on Smogon apparently preceded him: when someone told me he was "Alaka," I said, "Oh, Alakapimp?" An awesome guy, I can't wait to see how he fares in Hawaii!
Tyler "tyler422" Hagan
Description: Quiet at first, but a great kid. His appearance belies the intelligence lying beneath the surface, and he definitely knows his pokemon. He was nice enough to walk me through what was happening when we watched battles, and I thank him for that!
Joseph "Ninahaza" Ninahaza
Description: NOBODY FUCKS WITH THE JESUS. And with a name like Joseph Jesus Ninahaza, who would? This kid was hilarious; it was great to meet him. He is one of those Smogonites I didn't even know existed before I went to Indy, and he's one of the reasons I'm glad I went!
Kamaal "Sixonesix" Harris
Description: Another quiet, cool type. He apparently built BadIntent's team, so his pokemon chops are not in doubt. My favorite was how he drank just as much as rory, yet never showed a single effect.
Daniel "dtrain" Levinson
Description: Arti has a rival for the "Tall and Lanky Smogonite" label. A really cool guy, he was one of the first guys I met right when I got into town, and I wish I had been there the day before to hang out with him more.
Matt "mattj" Carter
Description: In real life, he is surprisingly (and thankfully) very little like his online persona. A really friendly guy, I only got to talk to him for a short time, but I can tell that Smogon is better off with him around. I mean, as long as he stays out of Firebot.
Jeremy "Bonta-kun" ???
Description: Honestly, I have no idea. This is a friend of Fish's, and he is the one who made me take the picture. Fish isn't even sure of his Smogon name. So Jeremy, if you're out there, PM me with some info! I hate having an incomplete story.
Patrick "Sixfortyfive" Smith
Description: There is not much known about him, except that he is a boy. But really, he and I were chatting during a bunch of battles on Saturday and I didn't even realize he was from Smogon! I should realize that people don't just randomly talk to me; this gorgeous face is just too recognizable. Um, anyhow, I missed another opportunity to get a Red Corvette picture. Or his name, for that matter.
??? "Nekusagi" ???
Description: Met her during the finals. I didn't realize she knew we were from Smogon until she started taking our group pictures. She ended up taking about 374 pictures, and her patience was amazing. chaos even jokingly promised her an Artist badge for taking all the pics. Cool girl, she's been in the chat a bunch since the trip.
CHAPTER ONE: Friday, June 25th
I was all packed up and ready to rock. I left my girlfriend's apartment around noon and headed out on my journey. As I am wont to do, I decided to narrate videos to show my journey down to Indy.
Um... then I screwed up. Good start, eh?
For the most part, my trip was very uneventful. I stayed true to my word and sped like a demon, and before I knew it I had hit the Pennsylvania border.
Naturally, not long after that, I was into the great state of Ohio.
Oh, did I say "great"? I meant to say "the worst state I have ever had the displeasure of travelling through."
Not only does the state take about 17 hours to drive across, but EVERY SINGLE DRIVER with an Ohio license plate sucks at life. They just pick a line and go, "slower traffic stay right" be damned. I can't describe how many times I raged at other people, nor can I even begin to count how many times I was forced to pass jackasses in the right-hand lane. To you reading: if you ride the left-hand lane, you are a BAD DRIVER and SUCK AT LIFE.
Anyhow, I kept in constant contact with Fish so that we could coordinate my arrival. Google Maps told me it would take eight hours to get there, but I was hoping to make it in 7. Also, Fish and I realized I'd be gaining in hour, so I would be showing up right on time for dinner!
Soon enough, I was crossing the Indiana border. The only problem was that I had to get off and get gas, and the welcome sign was right to the left of my exit. I quickly tried to take a picture, but my camera was still on video. im noob.
After the long slog through Ohio, crossing that state line filled me with a renewed sense of purpose, as well as lots of excitement. DM was back on top, baby.
Traffic slowed a bit outside Indy, so I took the opportunity to snap a couple pictures of my surroundings. It's incredibly flat out there, not really much to look at aside from religious billboards, but there was this really weird mist hanging right above the ground. It was a creepy, grey pallor, and unfortunately the pictures didn't really do it justice.
At long last, I had made it into the city of Indianapolis! I talked with Fish to find out where exactly I was supposed to park when I got the bad news: there really wasn't anything for me. I would either pay the hotel to stay in their lot (if they even let me, I wasn't technically in a room) or find a public overnight lot and pay out the ass. To make matters worse, the team's minor league baseball team had a game that night, and the ballpark is right next to our hotel, so the ENTIRE area is a Charlie foxtrot. Fish kept calling to ask me where I was, and my response was usually: "I moved up about half a block."
I finally got up to where the hotel is when I realize the address I had put into Google Maps is the address I got from Arti... which is NOT the hotel I'm staying in. Fish tried to tell me how to get to our hotel from there, literally a couple blocks, but I had already gotten swept away in traffic. I ended up going past everything and crossing a bridge into an entirely different neighborhood before turning around and making my way back.
By the grace of some higher power (I think Fish helped), I ended up on the street I needed to be on and was pulling right past our hotel... when I saw a parking spot on the left, right on the street, literally 200 feet from the front door. I pulled into it, thinking it too good to be true, and then I saw the sign: 2-HR PARKING M-F 9-6 ALL OTHER TIMES FREE PARKING.
HOLY SHIT. I RULE.
Easily one of the luckiest things that has ever happened to me. I had just gotten off the phone with Fish, who had just said, "well, good luck, call me when you find something." So I called him back and told him where I was.
Fish: Wait, what? That's, like, right in front of the hotel.
Yep, I'm a best. Fish came running down to greet me, and it was great to see him again after two years. He began to help me carry my stuff up to the hotel entrance, and as we walked toward the hotel I saw a tall, lanky guy standing there. I figured he was with our group, and Fish introduced me to dtrain. I loved this introduction, because he already knew me. I was going to say my name, but he said, "Yeah, you're DM. I recognize your... everything." I didn't realize I was such a community figure!
Walking up the hotel drop-off, I saw a familiar face coming out the front door. Fish started to tell me, "hey, that's..." but I didn't waste any time yelling, "ARTICULATE POTTY LID." Now that I was already surrounded by new Smogonites, I went in my bag and busted out an old friend and snapped some pictures. First TTS.
Fish and I had to convince them both it wasn't some sort of joke, and those wouldn't be the only times. We made our way up to our hotel room, and I walked in and met OmegaDonut (whom I called OD the entire weekend, and was the only one to do so). RC pic.
You can tell he's a bit wary of the situation, but once Fish and I explained the car's history, he embraced the idea fully.
I dropped all my crap off and empties my bladder, something I had been holding for hours. I was excited to meet up with everyone else, so Fish and I headed over to the other hotel. (Two Marriotts mere blocks from each other, so silly.)
On the walk over, we bumped into some kid that Fish knew. I was introduced to Jeremy, and this was literally the only time I spoke with him the entire weekend. Fish wanted me to take an RC pic with him, so here it is.
When we got to the other hotel, Fish realized the flaw in the plan: you can't ride the elevator up without a room key. He called Arti a bunch of times, but got no response, so he had to call skarm. skarm came down to get Fish and was pretty surprised to see me. After some greetings, we headed up to complete the surprise.
It was really fun to surprise everyone... except no one was surprised. Arti had been in on the plan from the start, and chaos had let slip to Fishy and evan that I was coming. (Not that evan would have shown excitement anyway, hipsters aren't allowed to.) Fishy did still hug the crap out of me, which was really cool. TAY, rory, and Synre were all in the room also, deep in a game of pokemon mini-games or something. TAY and rory weren't surprised to me because they really didn't know me, and Synre wasn't surprised because... well, he wanted to win the game (plus he was not used to being recognized himself).
Anyhow, with my grand entrance out of the way, I realized it was Synre sitting there, so I said hi to him, and then introduced myself officially to TAY and rory. We hung out there for a little bit and chatted it up, and eventually we decided to head to a place Fish knew called Scotty's Brewhouse. We rallied the troops and were eventually joined by tad and Dubulous (hereafter Dubs), and rejoined by TTS. I should mention that tad and I go way back, so when we finally met, he basically attacked me and hugged the SHIT out of me.
Someone mentioned that Kongler was napping upstairs, so Fish and I led the group upstairs to see if he was interested in having some beers with us. The door was answered by ET in his boxers, telling us that Kongler was sleeping, but Fish, skarm and I sort of wedged ourselves into the room anyway so I could say hi. Kongler was indeed snoozing, but the second I walked in he looked up, saw me, and snapped right up to attention. I exchanged greetings with Kongler, and also with his buddy Kevin, who I was surprised to see again (he was also in NYC in 2006).
Kongler said he would nap some more and try to come out later for some beers, so we let everyone get back to sleep and headed down to the lobby to regroup. (It should be noted that although evan agrees with me that getting lemon in your water is bullshit when you only order water, we both enjoyed the lemon-flavored water in the hotel lobby. It was just a huge jug of ice and water, filled completely with lemon wedges. It was like lemonade without sugar, very refreshing.)
We set out on the "quick" walk to Scotty's.
Turns out every time Fish said we were almost there, he was lying. It also turns out it was WELL worth the walk. We walked up and people were playing Cornhole (sack toss) right in front of the place, and there were tons of outdoor tables, as well as a giant square area of couches, all outside. We walked in and asked for a table and were told we'd get stuck in some back corner because we weren't all 21... and then I asked about the couches. Apparently they were fair game, so we obviously headed out to the VIP section.
TTS, of course, had his laptop with him, so he hit up Scotty's free WiFi with TAY.
Fishy and Arti hanging out with their non-alky beverages.
We all sat in a row, so I was taking pictures left and right because I was in the middle. It looks like TAY is about to slap skarm on the knee.
Fish and evan, having some big boy drinks! (There was a pitcher special that night, $10 each. CLUTCH.)
We pretty much just hung out, drank, and talked about everything. I devoured and entire plate of loaded waffles fries, and let me tell you, after not eating for 8 hours, it was HEAVEN in my mouth.
skarm, TAY, rory, Synre.
Silly me! I forgot that I had just met a ton of new Smogonites, and I hadn't taken one RC pic. I went to work on that right away, knocking them off one by one. First tad. I was so happy, because right when I pulled the Red Corvette out of my pocket he got really excited. I think he was the only person I met (for the first time) all weekend who actually knew what was going on.
Fishy. She obviously DIDN'T know.
evan. I was sitting right next to him, so I bogarted the picture a little bit for fun. I like the way it turned out.
TAY, looking completely confused.
And finally, Synre. He was sitting at the far left end of the group and was separate from a lot of conversation, so I think this caught him off guard a little.
With those out of the way, we could continue enjoying the fine Indy night. I had complained earlier that it was too hot for my Buffalonian body, especially with the humidity, but once it got later in the evening it began to cool down perfectly. The Indy down area is also very nice, I was surprised at how much I liked it. Here is a shot of our view from the couches.
Empty pitchers, empty plates, full, happy stomachs. Dubs, Fish, evan, Fishy.
Biffster showed up! Like I said before, I have e-known him forever, so it was great to meet him in person. He came with his friend Tyler, who is on the far left.
I can't remember what's going on here, but I was talking to Fish about cameras and taking sneak attack pictures (as I like to do). Naturally, this was a sneak attack, just too bad it's blurry.
Another RC pic! This time Tyler and Biffster.
Not everyone was drinking beer, obviously, so the six of us who were sharing the pitchers wanted to get a group shot. I really like how this one turned out: skarm, TAY, DM, Fish, Arti, evan.
Fishy had taken the last pic and wanted to be in one with us, so her and skarm switched.
That was not the only time an underaged person held a beer that night. I gave Fishy a couple sips of mine throughout the night, and I heard later that rory had gotten his grubby little hands on some also. This led TTS to make a joking comment about me ending up in federal pound-me-in-the-ass prison, but somehow when this message got back to me (like the game telephone) it turned out I was going to felony butt prison. (Running joke established.)
This next one is a picture I hated at first, but love now. I mean, how can you dislike such a handsome group?
ET eventually showed up as well and joined us in the festivities. We hung out Scotty's for a while, getting pitcher after pitcher. Every time someone would say we should stop getting beer, the waitress would come around and ask if we needed any more... and I'd get some. It's not that I'm an alcoholic or anything, I just ordered them because everyone was having a good time and didn't want to leave! Well, turns out I ended up getting everyone drunk while I myself took it pretty easy (I only had 5 or so).
Around 1am we finally closed our tab and headed back to our respective hotels. I can't quite remember what this picture is of, but I'm pretty sure it's Arti sprinting through traffic to cross the street.
Fish and I parted ways with everyone and headed back to our own hotel to bed down for the night. I had brought my sleeping bag (I never travel without it), so I threw that at the foot of OD's and was out for the night.