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THE HAPPIEST PLACE ON MARS

One of the most frequently asked questions I get during audience Q&A’s is “What’s the strangest request ever made of you, the oddest gift ever given to you, the most bizarre experience that you’ve had on the road traveling in promotion of your work as an artist?”

ZonaCon_Signing

Normally, I struggle to answer this question.  I’m sure this struggle comes across as backpedaling, as me trying to avoid the question, hiding what must be a juicy tale.  This is not the case. Those of you who follow this blog can attest to the fact that sometimes I’m a little too forthcoming, what with my tales of masturbation, Down’s syndrome stomping, and homoerotic massages.  No, the reason I’ve scrambled to provide a satisfying answer to this frequent and extremely loaded question is that I’ve actually had very few off-putting exchanges during what’s been almost a year-and-a-half of nonstop traveling.

During this time, I’ve met and mingled with thousands of folks and can honestly say that everyone has been great.  I’m not just referring to the fans of my work, but also the countless promoters and organizers who have been gracious enough to invite me as a guest to their various events.  Everyone has been so friendly, so supportive that I’ve found it difficult to recall a singular incident that would serve as a worthy answer to the popular, baited inquiry above.

Until now.

This past weekend I was a special guest at Orlando’s Anime/Horror event, ZonaCon, where a heaping dose of The Crazy was served up right before my eyes.

Novemeber 20-22, 2009.

Contrary to what you might imagine, The Crazy did not come in the form of an obsessed fanboy or girl.  It didn’t rear its Crazy head in a package containing a severed ear stapled to a deranged love letter.  I wasn’t bestowed with a if-I-can’t-have-you-no-one-will stalker sonnet composed of letters clipped from magazines.  No, ZonaCon’s attendees couldn’t have been nicer and I thoroughly enjoyed my time spent with them.

ZonaCon_AmberSweet2

The Crazy had nothing specifically to do with Florida either.  This was my third visit to the Sunshine State and I’ve enjoyed each of my stays.  On Friday, I was even given a tour of Disneyworld—my first visit—by a Con-going, REPO! The Genetic Opera-loving Floridian.  Considering the title of the new issue of my 12-part comic book series, The Molting, exploring “The Happiest Place On Earth” was not only fun, but also poetic.  Thank you, Alexie!

ZonaCon_DisneyWorld

The Crazy also did not manifest itself in the disgusting blister that inexplicably formed on my right ring finger on Saturday afternoon: a painful yellowish swelling that had to be pierced and drained with a heated sewing needle.  I’m deeply sorry that I did not have the foresight to film this filthy process so that I could share it with all of you on this online journal.

ZonaCon_Blister2

Nope, all of the above would seem positively normal next to The Crazy, straitjacket unhinged, that came out swinging on Saturday night.  It happened in front of an auditorium full of ZonaCon’s attendees, moments before I was scheduled to introduce a 7:00PM shadow-casted screening of REPO!.

What I’m about to share took place inside an auditorium within The Holiday Inn Resort, which was also home to ZonaCon.

7:00 PM.

The Con’s organizer took the stage, stood in front of a podium, and blurted into a microphone that a mad gunman was loose on the premises.  She ordered everyone to stay in the screening room, feverishly repeating the words “Lock Down!” to the seated, worried onlookers.

Something didn’t seem right about all of this.  I had just left the hotel’s lobby where everything seemed normal.  The hotel’s staff was carrying on with business-as-usual demeanors, casually checking in guests, guests casually strolling the halls.  Nothing was out of place.  No hysteria.  Not even the remotest sense of panic.  Yet inches away, within the walls of the hotel’s screening room, pandemonium was just unleashed.

ZonaCon_Luigi

I approached ZonaCon’s organizer, the woman who just made the terrifying gunman announcement, and asked her what was going on.  She revealed that she “locked down” the screening room for my safety, that the roaming gunman was specifically targeting me and that she had been receiving “death threats” towards me for over a week.

Several on looking Con attendees overheard this exchange and immediately perked up, concerned for my safety.  Who wouldn’t be?  Especially me!  But if someone was armed on the premises, someone who had been threatening to kill me for over a week, shouldn’t I have been made aware of this before boarding a plane to Florida?  I had been staying in the hotel for two nights now, shouldn’t I have been warned about this potential danger before tonight?  Before this moment?

Something obviously wasn’t adding up.  I decided to ignore the “quarantine” and venture out into the main area of the hotel to consult with its security.  Shockingly, I was informed that not only was there no legitimacy to the imminent gunman claim, but ZonaCon’s organizer had no legal authority to “lock down” a room within the hotel.  The Holiday Inn’s head of security shook his head and rolled his eyes as if this was not his first outlandish encounter with the person behind ZonaCon.

ZonaCon_GraveRobber

Sadly, this was not my only bizarre exchange with ZonaCon’s organizer either: she’s flooded my inbox with a flurry of strange, hostile, and often incoherent emails, every-other one bearing the threat of some sort of frivolous lawsuit.  These odd correspondences began back in August and have continued through this week. These experiences are the main reasons that I did not grant credence to the wild gunman proclamation.

Several guests and vendors from past events that this lady has organized have also contacted me.  These people, mostly strangers to me, all shared similar tales involving elements of The Crazy, warning me to not participate in ZonaCon.  I would have heeded their warnings and cancelled my appearance were it not for the fact that my name had already been advertised in connection with the Con and I didn’t want to let down anyone who may have purchased a non-refundable ticket.

ZonaCon_Tattoo

Why would someone do this, create an unsubstantiated sense of panic to an auditorium full of people?  I don’t know.  If it made sense, it wouldn’t be The Crazy.  And I wouldn’t now have an answer to the question of what has been my strangest experience on the road.

ZonaCon_ZAddict-GENtern

Fifteen minutes after leaving the hotel’s screening room I returned and introduced REPO!.  The evening, and the rest of the weekend, carried on as if nothing had happened.  There was no formal declaration that the threat had been quelled.  No reassurances that my life was no longer in peril.  Nothing.  Nada.  From the attendees’ perspectives, I think it was easier to pretend that the bizarre announcement never occurred because sometimes when you gaze into The Crazy, The Crazy gazes also into you.  To that end, I realize that by posting this blog I’ve probably invited a slew of all new Crazy into my life, but I felt that the experience was too wacky not to share.  The writer in me couldn’t resist because these sorts of real life instances are so bizarre that even a writer of fiction couldn’t make them up.  I hope that someone was filming the encounter so that you can all watch The Crazy on YouTube from the safety of your homes.

A big thank you to ZonaCon’s attendees, Erik Scott, Movement Magazine, “UNworthy Heirs”, and “Cheap Little Punks” for making my stay in Florida a pleasure.  Thank you, all!