I never really understood the point of conventions, street fests, fairs, or any of that shit. Unless you have about $200 to blow and enjoy trying to navigate through the more hapless end of the population, it’s all just rash-inducing. Slap horror on top of it, and I only get more anxious. If someone asks me what kind of movies I like I answer horror without a second thought, but I always feel somewhat conflicted about labeling myself a horror fan, much in the same way I do about identifying as a metal fan. It’s that confusion that always arises from the next inevitable questions — Friday the 13th or Nightmare on Elm? Slayer or Metallica? When you bumble something about none of the above you even start to question your own authenticity.
I have my exceptions. Sabbath. The Exorcist. As I’ve stated before, the classics, by and large, live in the portion of my mind that hosts things I know exist but know little about beyond the fact that they’re influential. And it’s not something I’m afraid to admit. I find lines from Sweeney Todd swirling around in my mind whenever the shit side of humanity rears its ugly head, and I always buy the 25 cent Now & Laters when I go to the Korean to feel like I’m inside the snowy abyss of Let Me In, but when it comes to knowing (or caring) about which Halloween film Michael Myers comes back to life in, you got me.
For the aforementioned reasons and more, I felt a good deal of apprehension going to an event like Monster-Mania Con. The majority of the names on the guest appearance roster meant nothing to me, with one very big exception. Fuck Ass, Baltimore County, Murderland, US of A was going to be hosting Phillip H. Anselmo himself for an entire weekend. Yep, right in that horribly 90’s looking log cabin-ass hotel I had driven past a million times when getting off the highway from my ex’s house, right across the street from the movie theater where I had gone on a million awkward high school dates, and right down the road from where my friend was lost in a terrible car wreck. I cleared my Saturday schedule. My hands were tied.
Escaping the rain through the side entrance of the hotel, I was immediately met with a snaking line, where I took my place as bottom segment, right behind a woman in a witch’s hat snarking about how she had moved a whole four feet in the past twenty minutes. I was in no mood for some kind of Harry Potter on the opening night-ass shit, but was at least glad that I was underdressed in my Ed Gein shirt and giant flannel. I had felt like a bit of a jackass waltzing into Starbucks on my way down looking like something out of a school shooter starter pack, but I wasn’t nothing compared to the six thousand slutty Freddy Kruegers. After a few jittery minutes, I realized something. All these motherfuckers in line already had wristbands on. So if they weren’t waiting to get into the convention, what the fuck were they waiting for?
In a rare moment of braveness, I abandoned my place and went to investigate what awaited at the front. I led myself to a doorway surrounded by security, a large poster board next to it reading “Robert Englund,” a picture of him as a grinning Freddy underneath.
For the love of fuck.
After finding the ticket counter, I took the escalator next to the sign reading “everyone else.”
I was met with a clusterfuck of kiddos in costumes, tables from DIY jewelry designers and screen printers, and random basement dwellers standing absently in black robes and gruesome masks. I had an appreciation for the amount of passion driving all that was churning all around me, but I couldn’t help but be more concerned with finding Father Phil, and finding the beer. My stop-and-go survey lap led me right into the throws of the room where the Housecore meet and greet was being held and I naturally took off running to the bathroom. As I contemplated myself in the mirror, I seemed to have more questions than answers. What is the scientific explanation behind the nervous pee? Why is there a disproportionate of titty-milking going on in here? Where. Is. The. Booze?
I knew it was time to leave when I could feel the self-consciousness radiating from the mother trying to change her baby about six inches away from me. I wasn’t sure what was more terrifying; the prospect of having children, being thrown into a bowl of American populous soup, or the baby skin masks for sale outside the door. But despite the horror, I managed to keep it together long enough to go see Phil without jumping out the nearest window. As I pulled my copy of NOLA out my bag to have signed, I got the sentimental bitch pangs from all the memories the six inches of plastic and I had shared together. Hell, when I had pulled it out of my collection that morning I had to wipe off all the crust the case had accumulated from the years it had spent flying around my car. But with a few quick slides of silver Sharpie, it got the best desecration of its lifetime. Father P grabbed my hand tightly.
“Thank you, Jen. Now go bananas,” he said in his signature grumble.
And bananas I did go, indeed. Running into friends old and new, we sought safety in the hotel bar. There was something about the warmth of whiskey and the rhythm of rain that can make any kind of anxiety quietly wash away after a heavy strike, like blood from a murder scene trickling down into a storm drain. The spattering of decked out conventioners from the East side sat equally among middle aged tourists enjoying their shrimp salad next to depictions of hounds hot in the hunt. Running out into the rain after three, or maybe four or five, rounds was another blissful awakening, as if I had just felt light again after being trapped underground for an amount of time whose exact count had been long lost.
After making a special delivery to Cattle Decap, who had hopped off the highway on their way to their show back in the city that night, and a quick descending in and out of a backseat, I ran back through the storm that was picking up, nearly slipping in the grass, my drawers still half way down my ass. And then I blinked, and there I found myself, standing in a circle of a covered deck next to no other than Phil.
“You feeling good? He asked.
“Never better,” I said, still very wet, and becoming very weedy.
After bonding over the disgustingness of dairy, he grabbed my shoulder and broke out into a full-on serenade. I stood frozen, my arms t-rexed and a shit-eating grin on my face, like a little stoned chipmunk that you would slam on your breaks for. I thought of when “the incident” occurred and how his closest of friends came out vouching for the good character they knew was within. “If only you knew the real Phil, if only you knew.” In that moment, I got to bear witness. I saw it sparkling out.
As event security came out to break up our spirit circle, I checked my phone for the first unsober time all day. Seeing that the day was as young as 3:00 only elevated my high, but then hit a rapid descend as I discovered the book-length texts of family drama that had sent my inbox into a tailspin. I went back inside with a friend and tried to think of what I could do to salvage the situation, but I was too much of a blurry Mr. Crabs. I had nothing. So, I did what any normal person would do and let out the water works in a crowd of about 20 celebrities and 200 plebs. While it still may be less embarrassing than the time I had to stop an Uber ride so my friend could piss on the side of the highway, it still reaches the top of the charts.
The screaming kids and I had hit our limit; it was time to go home. The only problem was that I didn’t quite make it there. I got pretty close, though – I went to the bar about a block over from home. I had hatched some plan in my mind where I was going to pregame and then Uber to the Cattle show, pretty much doing anything to detract my thoughts from confronting the implications of the mess that was in my phone. But after a few margaritas and a very unfortunate misplacing of my flannel, I ran out to go somewhere, but I couldn’t remember what that somewhere was supposed to be. A better life maybe? I opened my Uber app. Judging from the $5 cancellation charge I saw the next day, I guess it didn’t pan out. The next thing I knew, it was 4:00 AM, and I was in my bed.