Commercial Break

Dearest Rachel –

As crass as I consider it to be to acknowledge it most of the time, everything in life floats upon a sea of money. Very little in life gets done until someone gets paid – or at least is given a promise that they will. Everything costs something… no free lunch, and all that.

That being said, there are some times when someone else pays on your behalf – which, when you’re so used to paying for yourself and others, feels a little strange – and you’ve got to smile and let them know you’re grateful.

So it is this afternoon as Nightelf (an old nom de plume from fanfic writing days) joins me here at the convention, having just wrapped up the RAGBRAI (the Des Moines Register’s Annual Great Bicycle Race Across Iowa), and still clad in bike racing gear, no less. With Greg seemingly absent this year (and understandably, given the global situation and his wife’s health issues), the two of us are all that’s left of AnimeIowa’s fanfiction representation. And that isn’t much, since neither of us has written much on that subject in so very long. Even the impending demise of the Fan Fiction Mailing List wasn’t enough to drag either of us out of retirement for a last hurrah of any consequence.

Having earned a graduate degree here at the U of Iowa, Nightelf knows the area – at least, better than I do. It’s true that the area around the hotel has built up beyond much recognition from student days, but closer to downtown Iowa City and the campus (but I basically repeat myself), things are more familiar. We drive to a local burger joint that names its creations after various towns in the state, and I’m not sure that they haven’t included everywhere on the state map, given the length of the list – although N.E. assures me otherwise, as several of the stops on the RAGBRAI route (including N.E.’s hometown) are not included.

We talk about the trials and tribulations of participating in such a multi-day event as RAGBRAI – not to mention a fair number of misadventures involved with even getting there, including a flat auto tire on a Sunday (and trying to find a place open to fix it), and almost missing the registration deadline due to being on the literal wrong side of the tracks – as so many of my friends and acquaintances from Des Plaines know, like with tactical nuclear weapons, it only takes one freight train to ruin your whole day.

It’s nice to have someone to talk with for a while like this, even if there’s a whole lot of catching up to do after the pandemic interruption. Life in academia contrasted with life in retirement; buying a house versus losing a spouse (and the sorting – and occasional discarding – of possessions that accompany both); and so many other changes and adjustments in life since last we meant. Much to my surprise, we even are comfortably able to touch on the third rails of religion and politics – albeit separately, and fairly briefly. After all, these aren’t supposed to be things that should be taking up so much of our universal collective headspace (at least, not the political part) as it causes so much division among us, when, as individuals (and more germane to the current situation, as fellow otaku), we have more in common with each other than not (out of common?), and should be dwelling on that for the time being.

All of which circles back to the free lunch – or rather, one paid for by another. Nightelf has driven us to the place, and now pays for our meals. It’s a weird feeling, and I wonder if this is what Erin experiences on a regular basis. Only, I let it go – it will most likely be my turn later on this weekend – and offer my gratitude.

Nightelf’s room turns out to be only one or two down from the recharge room, and I point that out. But having just been biking, a shower is the first order of business. So I take my leave, and head over for a bit. As usual, there are only a handful of people there, and as one talks of a series of merchandise purchases made over the weekend thus far, I decide to grab prints of a few things I saw as I was leaving the market last night, and couldn’t buy at the time since the place was effectively closed.

So… more commercial dealings.

I find the place I saw last night, and buy the prints I had been looking at – I do hope Daniel will enjoy them.

I also look up a few more artists, and grab business cards to contact them later about memorializing you in various anime styles. One seems somewhat promising with regard to making a ‘waifu’ out of you, which seems appropriate. However, his commission queue is, in his words, “about two years long, so if you’re in a hurry…” I’m not, necessarily, but he recommends I get in touch with him after the con, and he’ll recommend me to a few others. Hey, the more the merrier, no?

After some catching up, down to Nightelf’s room for more catching up. Not sure if I actually will bother with the masquerade – there’s something of a compulsion that tells me you would want to know what goes on, but after viewing the camcorder footage from 2006 and 2007, it hardly feels relevant; to tell about the cosplay is the text equivalent of those camcorder recordings, where the camera is focused on the play rather than the audience (us).

Anyway, that’s all for now. Take care, honey.

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I am Rachel's husband. Was. I'm still trying to deal with it. I probably always will be.

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