What the heck? Skippy is using LiveJournal again!??
In a conversation with friends at NordicFuzzCon I shared my struggle of remembering the amazing people and happenings that I experience at the recurring escape from reality known as furry conventions, fleeting wonders for which I have an ever-growing insatiable lust. The fuzzy memories blur together even worse when you reach your mid-thirties, have subconsciously taught yourself to forget information because it's more convenient and reliable to archive it in your cloud service of choice, and importantly, you attend upwards of a dozen of these zany events annually and your lifetime furry con tally is in the low 3 digits. 105 to be exact! What nerdy hobby is complete without keeping exact count of completely useless information?
That's the problem. I've taught myself to remember pointless numbers instead of significant experiences and faces. It's a bad habit for a small fox who wants to be more social. I used to write reports here after all the cons I hit up - Hopefully, that is the kind of exercise my brain needs for it to retain all the good stuff in there.
All "modern" social media has grown...unruly, to put it mildly, so... hi again!
I log into LiveJournal maybe once every 5 years now, and by tradition I go right for my profile to see how horridly out of date it is. Let's see... Ok, yep, I only go to one of those cons anymore...I definitely own more than one fursuit now...I haven't lived in that town for 3 years...or used ICQ or AIM in this geological era...Oh, and I have a bunch of countries and states to add to the map. (More amazing experiences I've regrettably boiled down to useless bits of data.) Yep, totally including the countries I've only seen from inside airports to make my travels look more impressive and fooling only myself... aaaand... done!
My fellow American furs...get your ass to a European convention. They do things so differently there, that it's like a whole new experience completely removed from what you expect at cons over here. And they're so much longer! US furry cons are what...3 days? 3 1/2 tops? It leaves a lot to be desired. Now look at a European con. It lasts for eons. It is an all-you-can-eat buffet of experience. NordicFuzzCon events run from Tuesday to Sunday and it is properly fulfilling. At the end you are not merely satiated. You are stuffed.
My second NFC started back home with a Valentine's Day lunch and heartfelt goodbye to my yote. After lots of hugs I was off. I got to the airport on time, although I still wish I had taken MARTA because it would have actually been faster and much cheaper. My Uber driver was having a rush-hour navigational meltdown, constantly changing his mind and turning around whenever he saw more than three cars stopped at a red light, or switching on and off the freeway on a whim. First time I ever left less than a 5-star review!
Had a brief scare at the Lufthansa ticketing desk, where I was told "Oh no. You have an allowance for only one checked bag." I stood wide-eyed with two big fat fursuit containers and with no way to send one of them home and no idea what to do other than to stammer, "But...but I called the airline! They said it was ok!" To my HUGE relief it eventually became clear that she meant only one FREE checked bag, and I was already ready to pay the bag fee for the other. So all was well. Yay!
I guess not many people pay for a 2nd bag with this airline because I had to go to another desk to pay for the bag after dropping it off. I chatted with another lady in line who was connecting in Frankfurt to fly to Lagos, Nigeria - a 20 hour trip - with an infant and a toddler in tow. Oof! I solemnly wished her the best of luck!
On the flight I watched Joker. A decent movie with some powerful moments for sure. I curiously looked at a foreign cartoon for little kids called "The Fox-Badger Family." Upvote anything with cute foxes and badgers in it. But the animation quality was uninteresting to say the least.
This was my second NFC and the con's first iteration in Malmö, Sweden (across the bay from Copenhagen). I got really sick last year and missed out on exploring Stockholm. Determined not to repeat the same mistake, I made plans to explore my surroundings before the con got underway. This time I flew into Frankfurt to be hosted, chauffeured and guided by the extremely generous and entertaining Aphinic Tiger. Hospitable, good company, and knows a lot about his town!
Customs was a breeze! I was the first in line! And no real trouble getting my bags, though unsurprisingly I found the Pelican cube case sitting around in an odd spot, having been too oddly shaped for the normal bag claim belt. Then I met up with Aphi - in the flesh for possibly the first time, since we really only interacted in fursuit when we saw each other last year at FWA and BLFC! We hugged, loaded up the car, and stopped in a Kaufland supermarket where I could pick up some toiletries, souvenir German snacks for home, and explore the many wondrous sausages and cheeses that Deutschland has to offer.
My first German breakfast consisted of lots of baked bread and different cheeses to try. Mmm. The regional thing to try was Kochkäse, a cheese with a texture I can only describe as snotty, but a decent taste. XD I also quickly got to experience some differences in German lifestyle, namely the fact that carbonated water is more popular than regular bottled water. I wouldn't go out of my way to drink soda water here in the US but I managed to get used to it quickly. ^^ Aphi was also quick to point out differences in European engineering, knowing I'd find his apartment windows unusual in how they open.
I'll just say it, the toilets over there are funny. Flushers in the US are levers. But European toilets have two different sized buttons - presumably one for liquid waste and one for solids. One restaurant we later came across had an old fashioned toilet with a drain in the front of the bowl instead of the back. It was especially weird because the bowl is dry before flushing, no water to dampen the smell. ...Aaand now you know what pooping is like in Germany! \o/
I signed Aphi's speakers (as Brainfreeze). And I left something goofy on his fridge too. Aphi's fridge has magnetic scrabble tiles like ours does! Thanks for making me feel right at home, Aphi's fridge!
So, my first time on the Autobahn. I really wanted to drive so I could say I did (plus it would be nice to take some of that burden off of Aphi for the upcoming road trip) but I didn't rent a car and we suspected Aphi's insurance doesn't cover other drivers. I always imagined the Autobahn to be as wide and sprawling as the US interstate system, but it was a good deal narrower. I never saw more than 2 lanes going in one direction.
Our exit was for Karlsruhe, Germany, about 8 miles from the French border. German furries were meeting up for a "suitwalk." It's what it sounds like - we all get in suit, and walk around town and interact with people! Here I met DASPRiD (the organizer, and he also runs a new years furry con called Furvester), Kestral Fox (a Louisianan on military duty), Rezu (NFC roadtrip companion and roommate to be), Lucer (Rezu's partner), Qetesh (another roadtrip companion) and lots of other awesome suiters and volunteers. DASPRiD immediately started trying to get me to come to Furvester (I'd love to! If I somehow could!??). I guess I sort of reciprocated in a way by convincing Lucer later on to consider coming to Megaplex in Orlando. XD
I suited up as Brainfreeze, and the young and energetic Kestrel soon overheard the American talk and bounded over to greet me. We spent most of the suitwalk walking together and getting to know each other. It's good to know a Louisiana fur - That's another place I've only driven through and would like to see more of, and knowing more people there is a good way to make that happen. ^^
The suitwalk was a great experience - apparently they happen all over Europe but rarely, if ever, in the US! It's a furry community event open to all, and it's entirely out in the public. It's organized with volunteers guiding the suiters across streets and down the designated route, offering us water and air blowers all the way, and a group photo at the end. I'd love to try and organize something like that in my town - maybe sometime soon!
We moved ourselves - all 50 or 60 of us - to an Italian restaurant for dinner. The usual digs was closed so nobody was sure what to expect with this restaurant. They were apparently not prepared to handle a crowd our size, but the food was decent. ^^ I was started to nod off having not slept since leaving the US the day before, so I did something I don't usually do and I ordered an espresso. (BTW - At restaurants in Germany if you order water you pay for it. And bringing your own water bottle is a bad look. Cultural differences I guess!) A fur named Ragear was kind enough to pay for my salad - I could have but it was becoming a real hassle with the way the establishment was taking payments. I had forgotten that the salad was not included with my meal when I paid, but they wouldn't(?) void the original payment, they had a minimum charge higher than the cost of a salad, and I hadn't hit the ATM yet. Oh well. Thank you Rag-Ear!
After splitting off from the crowd, Aphi and I explored Karlsruhe and soak in the atmosphere. We got coffee to keep warm and for me to stay awake. Aphi found hanger-fans being sold in a store and he picked up a couple to use for fursuit drying. I'm told they worked nicely.
Aphi is a furry YouTuber like me. Back at his apartment he showed me an outtake (he hasn't published it yet) where he dislocated his shoulder in full suit. Lots of German swearing. Good times! We also did some nerding out over the movies Arrival and Inglourious Basterds. I can't remember if I met Aphi's roommate Conti that night or if it was the next morning at breakfast. I'll just toss his name in here. XD Finally it was time to ready the pullout bed, cuddle with a PlushLife Cross Fox (very cuddly!!) and conk out.
Guys...ALL of that was just Saturday. I had been up for something like 34 hours. O_O
On Sunday we breakfasted on more bread and cheese, and we swapped partial suits! Aphi tried on Vin 2.0's MoreForLess head and found he liked it. I wore Aphi's adorable dragon and wreaked absolute havoc on the apartment.
We explored historic Frankfurt, crossing the Main river (a tributary to the Rhine and the longest river entirely within Germany) and enjoying the aesthetic around town. I found a jewelry store called Friedrich (my last name) so I had to get a photo of course. Oh, and we saw a crazy ranting dude get arrested. Ah, the urban life!
We went to the top of Main Tower to see the city from above. I've never experienced wind like that. Holy shit. Also, Aphi pointed out the Deutsche Bank twin towers affectionately nicknamed Soll und Haben, and he had to explain that it was finance terminology. I realized I got the joke - Debit & Credit. Can't travel a quarter of the way around the world without being reminded of work shit I guess. XD
We found a Bestwurst location and dined on what is my new favorite fast food in the world. This is a German currywurst restaurant where they cut up the sausage into pieces and dab hot sauce of varying levels on each piece before dressing it with the curry powder. It tasted fucking amazing, and the spice levels were on my scale - something I don't witness often. The different hot sauces are rated from A to F. D was to my liking. We sampled the other sauces. E was tasty too! If I lived in Germany and could visit Bestwurst often, I'd totally train myself toward vacuuming down the F. Always on the hunt for good spicy food!
There was this vague kind of catharsis being a Jew walking around in Germany for the first time. I explained it to Aphi as there are two sides of me, a rational side and an emotional side, where the rational me knows full well that Germany is not the dark place it once was. East Germany disappeared 30 years ago and Nazi Germany is now 75 years in the past (in a couple months, actually). But the sad thing is, all I knew about Germany growing up is what I learned in school. Nobody tells you what Germany is like today. And whenever someone talks about Germany, even if they're talking about today Germany, the association is there. So there's this irrational side of me that hears "Germany" and can't not immediately think about antisemitism. So there was something of a relief seeing modern Germany with my own eyes and experiencing firsthand that things are much better than they used to be. This is the Germany that had a large hand in creating the European Union. It's still amazing, by the way, to look around and think that reunification was just 29 years ago. The people living in Germany today vividly remember what life was like before. They're part of a chain of historical events that stretch waaaay into the past.
Anyways, another fun filled day. Rezu met up with us at Aphi's place and crashed with us there since we planned to leave early for the road trip to NordicFuzzCon. We did some early packing but I was lagging a little and we were up a bit later than preferred. We got 5 or 6 hours of sleep at least. Then, time to get moving! It was still dark out when we loaded our two cars. Aphi and me in one, and Qetesh and Rezu in the other.
The road trip was pleasant and largely uneventful. I saw lots of rolling hills that eventually gave way to flatter lands, and huge wind turbines. We ate at a Burger King - I think the Germans might have been mildly disappointed that I didn't find it to be very different from one in the US - and we saw a bright, beautiful double-rainbow-all-de-way-across-de-sky during an afternoon storm.
Some significant tunnels and bridges - a tunnel in Hamburg under the Elbe, a magnificent bridge in Denmark to get us to Zealand and the massive Øresund tunnel/bridge that took us over into Sweden. The tolls for latter two were huge, too - something like $35 and $55 USD respectively!
The border crossings in and out of Denmark were interesting. Our caravan got split up at both borders (and bad phone signals made it a little harrowing). There is apparently some apprehension over refugees from the middle east and some cars were being randomly pulled over for passport control entering Denmark, including half of our caravan. Aphi and I had our passports packed away in the back of the car, which made for an awkward moment entering Sweden when we had to step out and unload half of our junk (We packed the car all the way to the ceiling with stuff!).
Then, finally, it was a pleasant February night in Malmö, Sweden at the NordicFuzzCon hotel, getting ourselves checked in and unloading the car!
That's it for Part 0, the intense not-yet-a-con adventure where I met (and hugged) lots of amazing furries, fursuited in public in a small town I couldn't pronounce after being awake for 24 hours, ate like a motherfucker, and hurtled down the autobahn like nobody's business. Check back here for Part 1 starting with Day 0 of NordicFuzzCon, and I will eventually have a link to my photos to share as well!