Midsouthcon, Part I

Of course, we got a late start. Is there any other kind?

We rolled into Memphis about 5 p.m., which pretty much negated my intent in taking Thursday off work. First there was a snafu at the printer, which required reprinting half my order. Then we had to get gas, and stop at the storage place to pick up the party decorations, and we went to the Halloween store to stock up, but alas, they were closed. At that, we were lucky to get there by 5 p.m.

After sending my son off with his father, I turbo-changed and tore back out of the hotel for dinner with friends. Memphis and Nashville are the two cities to which my college buddies have gravitated, so visiting either city is like old home week. My compatriot Angelia Sparrow joined me with her husband, as did my mother and stepfather. And three old pals from school. The pictures are on Flickr, though it took me forever to remove the red-eye laser beams from David's eyes.

I can say "old pals" because it's officially been 15 years since we all started college together. Ow. Another gray hair just sprouted on my head. I've tried to blame my son for them, but at the latest infraction, he grinned and said, "Actually, it's because of your age." Remind me why I thought an independent-minded, smartass kid was a good idea?

Dinner was fabulous, as it only can be at the Memphis Pizza CafĂ©. I always have their alternative pizza – no sauce, with olive oil and garlic and stuff. I always add feta cheese, which provides the perfect balance. Andy and I put away that whole pizza by ourselves. Who needs Weight Watchers?

Dinner was a surreal experience. On one hand, we're all grownups now, with the gray hairs, extra pounds and pictures of the kids to prove it. On the other hand, after a few minutes of awkwardness, it was as though none of us had ever been apart. I had been a little worried that I wouldn't recognize Scott Duesterhaus – the last time I'd seen him in person, the year started with a 1. But he walked up and it was as though we were freshmen again, hanging out in the dorm lobby endlessly debating where we should begin our Friday-night carousing.

As Andy remarked later, it was as though we'd never been apart. We all fell back into our snarky roles, jibing each other with the same pointy sticks we'd been using since Bill Clinton was a brand-new president. I recounted in accusatory tones the story of how David and Scott had been responsible for my first intoxication:

ME: There I was, this innocent young thing…
ANDY: *cough*
ME: I was.
MOM: Uh huh.
ME: Anyway. I had ordered a Zima –
ALL: *collective OMGs as we remember when Zima was invented*
ME: And I was shocked, shocked I say, that it had no effect on me. So I turned to my companions and said, "Guys, order for me."
ANDY: And that was your mistake.
ME: Words I have never said again, for good reason.
DAVID AND SCOTT: *innocent grins*
ME: And they looked at each other, and in perfect unison, they said, "Long Island iced tea."


There were many memories tossed about, with more than a few in my direction because my mother was present at the table and it was a golden chance to embarrass me. Fortunately my mother has heard it all (or guessed it all).

After dinner, the old married folks all vanished in a puff of smoke and Andy and I proceeded into midtown. See, I'd heard tell of some nightclub in town named Nocturnal. In case you don't know, the vampire club in my Memphis-based supernatural mystery series is named Nocturnal Urges. This was too good to pass up.

Sure enough, the "club" turned out to be a bar on Madison. There it was, NOCTURNAL, as big as life. No vampires, unfortunately. We took a series of photos from the outside, including a few with me standing under the name.

I hereby offer these photos in this Flickr set to all who might be interested. Photoshop away. The best will be featured on the burgeoning fan section of my web site.

Andy and I parted ways, and I was about to go back to the hotel. But I was restless, and just couldn't see going back to the hotel and watching TV. Memphis is my adopted hometown, the place where I stopped being a kid and started the lifelong process of discovering who I am.

So I drove downtown, past all my favorite landmarks. I found my way to the small park by the river and stashed my car in the usual spot. And I went for a walk by the river.

The flooding has hit this area hard. The waters may have receded up where I live, but water travels downhill as surely as the other stuff and Memphis was stuck with a river significantly wider than it usually should be.

I stood under the tree in the surprisingly chilly wind coming off the river and let it blow my hair off my face. I heard voices behind me, and when I turned, a group of ten or twelve young people was passing. They had arms slung around each other, laughing at a joke someone had told. They weren't drunk, just high on being eighteen and out after dark. And they were clearly the best of friends.

They were real. They weren't a mirage or a fold in the space-time continuum. Just the next generation of kids romping the city that used to be our playground.

NEXT: We throw a Halloween party in March.