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FilkCONtinental 2001

Read the Puzzlebox ConReport!

Wednesday, 26 September

Woke up early. 8am. Drove in to work. All the while I was at work, I wondered what it was going to be like at the airport. My flight was at 5:45 that night; just to be sure I was having myself picked up at 1pm; and delivered to the airport by 2. Almost 4 hours, should be enough. Shouldn't it?

I left work at noon, went home and finished packing. Evil picked me up (yes, that's her name) and we drove to the airport without incident. She dropped me at the curb- and here I was.

Post-September 11 Airport. There was no curbside baggage checkin; I walked inside and got in line for the ticket counter. I had a pleasant conversation with an older couple behind me; they were going on vacation and to see some of his family in Rome.

Except for the slight tang of tension in the air, things seemed almost normal. Oh, and the obvious Marshals watching every public area.

I had a small disagreement with the lady at the ticket counter as to whether or not I'd be allowed to carry on my guitar; she was concerned that Security wouldn't pass it for some reason. She left the counter, and went to actually *talk* to the folks at the Security checkpoint.

They looked at her as if she were nuts.

She came back, shaking her head, let me take the guitar, and promised me that I'd have to check it at the gate and pay an extra $100 for the bag...

sigh

Security was... fast. The guitar and my backpack went right through, and I walked through the metal detector without a beep. The backpack had my computer in it; I was frankly a bit suprised that I wasn't asked to power it up.

The time? 3PM. And I'm in, and just waiting for the plane.

The airport was actually very busy; almost as busy as I've grown used to seeing it this year. I read for a bit, and called Alyse. We boarded at 5:15, and took off without a hitch.

I sat back, relaxed, and enjoyed the flight.


Thursday, 27 September

And I didn't sleep. Silly me.

The plane arrived at 7:30am local time (1:30am US); and I had no problems getting through Customs. (It was interesting. I walked up to the Customs officer. He looked at me suspiciously. He said 'Guten Morgen'. I smiled, said 'Guten Morgen' back to him. He waved me through).

Right outside the Customs area, Katy was waiting. It was a welcome sight- I was prepared to sit a bit and wait; but was a bit nervous since I don't know the language, or anyone else there, or...

But she was there. :)

We drove to Robert's house (Katy's SO). Paul Kwinn and Taunya Gren had arrived Wednesday evening; Anke Teschke and Katy stayed overnight there.

Visited in the kitchen with the Puzzles (Paul and Taunya); and eventually made our way to the great room for breakfast (the kitchen is very small).

I took a brief nap, then went into the great room to rehearse with Paul, Taunya, and Katy. Alisa Garcia (the third member of Puzzlebox) couldn't make it at the last minute, so Paul and Taunya were tapping anyone they knew for help to fill out the two hours of concert slots that they had.

Franklin Gunkelmann had arrived just before we started rehearsal; we were going to caravan to the convention. So, after practice, we loaded the cars and started our driving adventure to Freusburg!

And promptly slowed to a crawl... because we were driving through the heart of Frankfurt at the beginning of rush hour (4pm or so).

We reached the castle at about 7pm, seemingly driving up sheer cliffs to reach it.

In the States, we talk about castles. In England, they actually have a few- of the civilised sort. We forget that these things are FORTRESSES. It's SUPPOSED to be difficult to get there!

We parked in the car park at the base of the castle, and walked up to get our rooms. The operative terms here are "walked" and "up". Up takes a whole new meaning here. Especially when you're dragging 150 pounds of tshirts and CD's to the castle.

We were assigned temporary rooms for Thursday night; the rooms we would use for the weekend were in use by a youth group that had been there all week.

By this time, we were getting pretty well hungry; but we had heard that the first contingent of British were nearly there, so we decided to wait for them before heading off to find food.

And while we were waiting for them, Paul discovered that his wallet was missing. We had taken a wrong turn several kilometers up the road, and had gotten out to get our bearings. Paul thought that his wallet might have fallen out there. So, whild we waited for the British, Franklin and Paul went on Wallet Search (tm).

About an hour passed, and then Rika Körte, David Peek, Valerie Housden, & Chris Croughton arrived. Paul and Franklin came back, empty handed. More on the wallet tale later...

The Brits unloaded. Up. More up. wow.

Then the hungry horde descended upon the local village of Kirchen to find food.

Picture this: we're in the middle of nowhere in Germany. It's nearly 10pm. What kind of food do you think we found?

Thai.

Good Thai.

Just as we were finishing dinner; Volker, Kirstin, and Nicholas arrived at the restaurant.

And behind them came Kathy Mar. Supreme shock ensued- along with extremely interesting mandible calisthenics by Katy. (What?!? You're here? But.. but... but...!) We were very thoroughly suprised.

We drove back to the castle ("Hey, didn't we pass a castle back up the road? Maybe they have a phone...") Volker drove the car up close to the entrance, and we all helped schlep stuff up to the rooms (Volker was carrying half the sound equipment, baby, babystuff, Kathy, and Kirstin. It was a full car!! Chris Croughton had the other half of the sound equipment).

While unloading, we also decided who would go into which room. I don't know how, but I ended up rooming with Anke, Katy, and Taunya. Lucky me! :)

We were all very silly and giggly until about 1am; and I finally dropped off to sleep- about 35 hours after I got up on the other side of the ocean.


Fri, 28 September

... "woke up, fell out of bed, dragged a comb across my head"

Katy, Anke, & Taunya started their morning rituals at 7am. Each took 20 minutes. Breakfast was at 8, and I was still pretty out of it. So I stayed in bed and slept more, sleep being more important than food at that point.

I ran to the store to pick up munchies with Katy & Taunya- German supermarkets are very American in appearance. I had wanted to go specifically to pick up scotch tape so that I could put the captions in the WorlDream photo albums. And I was having so much fun looking at stuff that I COMPLETELY forgot the tape.

Franklin called the police in the other village, and; wonder of wonders... THEY HAD PAUL'S WALLET!!! So, while we were at the grocery store, Franklin and Paul went to get it back. sigh

Got back late for lunch, so I went upstairs instead to help Katy open the music room. There is an elevator in the castle, but it can only be operated with a key. If you don't have the key, you can't even get into the elevator to use it.

We took the elevator to the top floor (where the room is); and dropped the groceries. I walked around the room opening windows, and slowly became aware of Katy becoming involved in an ever-more urgent search for something.

The elevator key.

When we walked into the room, it was in Katy's hand. Now, it was nowhere. I watched as Katy carefully turned out each pocket. Twice. She went through all the grocery bags. We looked under the chairs and tables. I went downstairs 5 floors to see if it was at the bottom of the elevator (it wasn't). I went back up to the room. Katy turned out her pockets again. I went through the grocery bags, completely emptying them onto the table.

While all this searching was going on, I jokingly suggested that the key had rotated itself into a parallel dimension. It would pop back up seemingly out of thin air the moment we stopped looking for it.

We gave up the search, and went down to the temporary Ops center. I grabbed some leftover lunch, and Katy explained to Anke that the key had disappeared. On my way down to lunch, I ran into Kathleen Sloan. And almost fell down the stairs in suprise. SHE was a suprise, too! The sneak.

While I ate lunch, Katy went back upstairs to search- and shortly returned with the key. It was in one of the grocery bags.

Now, I KNOW that it wasn't in any of the bags when I searched them. It wasn't there when Katy searched them earlier.

I think the key heard me- and came back from its alternate dimension when we left the room. That's my story, and I'm sticking to it.

And you know what? I think Paul's wallet went there, too. You know, just pop off to a small little vacation dimension when life as an inanimate object becomes just too much...

After lunch, we were able to move into our rooms for the weekend. Just as I was finishing setting up in my room, I heard a SHRIEK in the hallway.

Ju met Kathy. And was just as suprised. :)

After that excitement, I was still pretty fagged from Wursday (that's Wednesday running into Thursday); so I laid down for a nap. And slept through the first half of supper. sigh

Eventually, Anke came and found me; and taught this ignorant American where the food room was. I was able to get some food, and I ate with Rafe Culpin, Kip McMurray, and Ju.

After supper, I changed the strings on my guitar, and went upstairs to see the Opening Ceremonies. Which was done as a soft shoe dance by the entire concom- Anke, Volker, Katy, Franklin, & Kirstin.

At FilkCONtinental, a 'concert' is an hour or more. A 'spot' is a 30 minute set. After the opening ceremonies, Kirstin, Ju and Katy, and Kathy Mar each had 30 minute spots.

After Kathy's spot, the chairs were circled, and we started a poker chip bardic using puzzle pieces in honor of Puzzlebox.

And the puzzle? Anke created it out of the WorlDream logo- Taunya cut out the pieces. The *name badges* were even puzzle pieces of the WorlDream logo- tying both the WorlDream and Puzzlebox together.

This is all the more appropriate to me- since Paul Kwinn's wife, Beckett Gladney, created the logo.

I decided at the very beginning that I would use my two pieces to request hearing others. I had a spot on Sunday; and it's not every day that you get to hear Germans... (well, not if you're from the US... ;))

As it was, Rafe requested that I play Journey's Done, and Jerusalem got requested as well. Taunya had never heard Jerusalem, and nearly fell off her chair laughing... :)

Puzzlebox did a Lou and Peter Berryman piece- "Why Am I Painting the Living Room"; and schtick abounded. :)

I asked Anke to play- I wanted to hear more of her- especially since she's the InterFilk Guest to FilKONtario next year.

Things wound down to chaos, and eventually it was just me, Carroll, Dreamer, CJ, and a couple others holding out until 5am.


Sat 29 September

I woke up at 10am. Gee. Go figger. :)

So much for the 8am breakfast...

I guess I should comment on food. Remember, we're in a castle. On the top of a rather large hill. It's a loooong walk to the village. Breakfast is at 8, lunch at noon, and dinner at 5. Period. If you miss the mealtime, you don't have a lot left to eat.

Have I mentioned that I lost a lot of weight this weekend? :)

However, I was up in time for the Harmony workshop. This year, the workshop was on a piece by Eva Wiest, 'Promise'. The arrangement was done by Valerie Housden. And we were to learn the piece well enough to record it on Sunday for the WorlDream CD.

It was kinda rough on this first run through, but us tenors sat around after rehearsal and worked on our parts.

After lunch, I practiced with Paul, Taunya, Katy, Ju, and Rika to get ready for Puzzlebox's first concert that evening.

The spots started again a bit later; with spots by MeToo and Anja. Then, the Main Concert.

Performers in the Main Concert were:

Anke Teschke
Valerie Housden
TheaEvanda and Felicitas Bergermann
Aryana & Thesilee
Thesilee, Silva, and Sabine Kinder
Esteban
Pug and Shaya
Alexa and Franklin
Dreamer
CJ
Kjenjo

Highlights- Esteban singing a filk of a Bonnie Tyler piece. He asked me to accompany him; and wasn't bothered by the fact that I'd never even played that song before. We got the hang of it about halfway through.

Alexa and Franklin singing the Sand song. It's all in German, and ties together every single SF/Fantasy film that has sand in it. The song is longer than HorseTamer's Daughter. Trust me- I'm not exagerrating. I think that they sang for nearly a half hour... :) They hit on Dune, Stargate, Star Wars, and... Baywatch... :) But it WAS a great singalong song!

After the main concert was the Fan Fund auction. This year, they decided that the proceeds from the auction would go to the Checkpoint Charlie Foundation this year, instead of to the Fan Fund. The Foundation is supplying relief to children left without one or both parents from the WTC disaster.

The puzzle pieces used Friday night for the poker/puzzle chip bardic were assembled into a frame and placed in the auction. I managed to get it; I'm sending it to Beckett Gladney as a 'thank you' for all she's done for the WorlDream.

After the auction, Rika had her spot (right before dinner... :)). She did very well; I do enjoy listening to her.

I took what was supposed to be a short nap through dinner- and overslept. Which meant that I managed to sleep through most of Kathleen Sloan's spot arrgh. Kathleen has a wonderful, pure soprano voice; and the wickedest sense of humor this side of the Atlantic. She finds some of the craziest songs; and turns them immediately into memorable performance experiences. Just ask her to discuss the key of RflatMinor the next time she has a guitar... :)

Thesilee and Silva are a duet called Lord Landless. They had a spot, and sang wonderful songs in German. I believe that they did one upbeat one about the Plague in there somewhere- which probably makes them eligible for Ose Bunny status.

Christine Hintermeyer had the next spot. You know, some people have said that I am intense when I perform. This woman redefines performance intensity; and the SOUND she gets out of a classical guitar has to be heard to be believed!

After Christine, Eva Wiest had her spot. Eva composed one of the songs that FilkCONtinental selected for the WorlDream project, 'Promises'. She has an operatic soprano voice, with incredible power and range.

You know, just these last three spots (Lord Landless, Christine Hintermeyer, and Eva Wies) are worth the plane ticket to Germany. Rika, Anke, Ju and Katy, Kirstin, and Franklin pay back the conreg. Ya know, you're just gonna have to go... ;)

After Eva's spot, Puzzlebox gave their first concert. I helped out and sang on 'Lucky Man' and 'Urban Legends'- and then helped out with their first encore, 'Volcano' (I think it's called). They did a second encore as well, reprising 'Painting the Living Room' from Friday Night. Massive schtick with Kathleen and Franklin ensued- with Franklin and I ending up miming Abbot and Costello with open paint cans.

After the PuzzleConcert; we circled the chairs in preperation for the 'Many Hearts, One Voice' rehearsal for WorlDream. Franklin translated the song into German; so we rehearsed in both languages.

wow.

You know, there was no need to work through my scansion issues- Germans sing scansion naturally the way I seem to write it. (Hmm. Mebbe I should start writing in german...)

After the rehearsal, we started open circle. I managed to make it to bed at 5am, again.


Sunday 30 September

I woke up at 10:45- and just made it to the last bit of chorus rehearsal on 'Promises'. Katy told me later that I was starting to make folks nervous, since the rehearsal ended at 11am, and my spot started at 11:30...

Carroll Ray Johnson's spot was right after rehearsal. I'm sorry to say that I missed most of it, due to having to run back down to my room to change for my spot. However, what I heard was very enjoyable.

So. My spot. My first concert on German soil in 21 years. Walking up the the stage, I still didn't know quite what I was going to do.

I figured that since I was in Germany, and in a castle, that I'd don my Ren garb for my spot. So, I walked up to the front in my doublet and hose; the suprised looks I got made it worth the change.

It ended up being an up and down set- the songs went upbeat and ose/touching very quickly:

Renaissance Melody: This seems to be pretty much my standard opening song whenever I'm in a new venue; it's upbeat, singable, and fast. And I have a lot of fun playing it.

To Touch A Star: I wrote this for my younger son, Joshua, at FilKONtario in 1995. It's still true...

I Am Filker: heh. One of the things I like about this piece is the looks of suprise I get from people when they're mentioned by name in the song. :) And I change the names every time I sing it...

Dutchman: I still can't really describe this piece. You'll just have to buy the CD...

Silver Gilt: Last month I spent a couple days with Tim and Annie Walker. Annie told me some of the most wonderful stories about their relatinship; I put them in this song.

B Movies: This is another old standard; about a movie media fan's way of life.

Merry Meet: I wrote this from things said at a friend's funeral; and it's become a song that's very close to my heart.

After my spot, Franklin and Molly Gunkelmann had a spot. Katy helped Franklin out on two of his last three songs. And the last three songs were... awesome. I cried. A lot.

Next, Puzzlebox did their rock set. More help from me, Katy, Rika, and Ju. I wish I had the words to describe how much fun these guys are in concert!! I think if Alisa and Luis had been there, there would have been no way that they would have been allowed to leave the country. Paul and Taunya are a powerful combination- and the addition of Alisa brings things to entirely new levels of wonderful. I really, really hope that the entire band can make it back to Germany some time in the future so that they get a taste of the full Puzzle impact.


WorlDream
Again and again I come back to the growing chain of family and community that echoes from the oldest link (my recording, alone, in December 2000) to now. This was such a good weekend, and except for the language differences, Freusburg is just as much "home" as any filk con in an English speaking country.

So, folks were milling around after Puzzlebox. I ran back to my room and changed back into jeans and my WD tshirt. I got back to the room, and sat down in front and watched the tech setup. I was sitting, feeling at home, and I started playing MHOV to start pulling people together for the recording. About half way through the song, I looked up. The room could have been anywhere; but looking out the window I saw the tree-lined hills, with a radio tower on top that could only be in Germany. I was gripped by a very deep sense of vertigo- I'm home, but not-home; but it IS home...

By this point, pretty much everyone in the room was singing, warming up. And I felt love- palpable, warm, there,holding all of us.

I remember craving acceptance as a boy- it's why I started playing guitar. I remember needing someone, anyone, to listen to me play. And now...

Now; ironically, I find that I'm uncomfortable with the heartfelt thank you's and inclusion I get. I honestly never expected the feelings, the depth of the love, the ... wholeness of it all. I never expected people to thank me, and never expected to touch the way I've touched and been touched.

Yes, it makes me uncomfortable- because I feel like I'm being thanked for doing a "Great Working"; when I'm not really responsible for what's happening in the room. All I do is encourage- the feelings come from within each heart; connecting to each heart. I don't know how to react to people thanking me for doing nothing more than encouraging all of us to feel the connection we already have. I know that we already have that connection- it's what brings us to these conventions in the first place, and keeps bringing us back.

So, don't thank just me. Thank the person standing next to you. Thank the people whose eyes you connected with. Thank your friends, your found family, your community. Hug the person next to you, whether you know them or not. All I'm doing is holding up a mirror; and trying to show you how wonderful you already are- and trying to do it in a way that everyone can accept.

The WorlDream isn't a song. It isn't the CD project. It isn't even the travel, all the cons, or the money that will go to our organizations.

The WorlDream is that flash of global connection that happens when we raise our voices in song together. Our wonderful, cacophonous, human voices and souls combined for one moment with the world.

I am not important. The singing is. And the singing goes on- through sadness and joy, laughter and tears. the Song will continue so long as there is breath in even one single person's lungs.


We sang. And sang. And after we were done recording in both German and English, the choir assembled and we recorded 'Promises'.

I had dinner w/ Kathy Mar, Silva, & a friend of Silva's (arrgh, I never got her name).

After supper, I ran upstairs and recorded Silver Gilt to take back to England so that Tim and Annie can add tracks to it.

Then, the sunday night open filk. Anja, Puzzles, Kathleen, Ju, Katy, Anke, Christine, Keris, David, Esteban, CJ, Alexa, Franklin, Kip, Rafe, etc. etc... :) We had a marvelous time.

Somewhere in here, Paul borrowed my guitar. I should have been afraid... Kathleen Sloan had asked him to play Many Hearts, One Voice so that she could sing Merav Hoffman's parody- Many Huns, One War. So much for that 'Nothing sacred do we hold...' line...

When things started getting a little slow and tired, Taunya told a fairy tale. Not just any fairy tale, NOOOO! A fairy tale of love, hate, cruelty, and a heroic little dog that gave its life for its master. Taunya assigned several people in the circle to play the various parts of the fairy tale- Paul was the cruel old man, Rika was the lovely daughter, Christine the heroic, and doomed, yappydog.

After this, I went off with the local massage therapist, Billy, and got a reallllly good workover. :) She told me stories of growing up in East Germany; and what it was like when the Wall came down. You know, stories like these really make you happy to live in a free country. And she is glad to live in one now.

After the massage, I staggered off to bed early- it was only 3am. :)


Monday 1 October Wow! I actually made it to breakfast! I sat w/ Keris, Rika, David, and Katy. After food, we went back to the rooms to pack up to get on our way home.

We loaded the cars, and sang the Hockey Monkey song to ourselves as we made our final walk down to the parking lot. Franklin, Paul, Taunya, Ina, Ralf, Kirstin, Volker, Anke, Katy, Christine... we were very silly. And we couldn't quite bring ourselves to actually climb into the cars and drive away.

We must have hung out in the parking lot for at least 45 minutes before we finally started to drift into the autos. And still, schtick ruled.

Franklin, Paul, and Taunya got into Franklin's van; I pressed my face to the rear window in the classic "kid at a candy store" fashion. Franklin (the sneak) turned on the rear wiper blade. I pretended to be swiped off and run under the wheels.

The car turned off. The drivers side door opened. Franklin was laughing so hard he couldn't drive. His feet stamped, his hands were holding in his sides.

My evil plan worked. We had another 10 minutes of their company. teehee!

We Hockey Monkeyed Christine out, then Ina and Ralf. Franklins car was next; they were Hockey Monkeyed as well.

Then Anke, Katy, and I got into the car and drove off toward Hamburg. Kirstin and Volker were busy with Nicholas; we didn't get Hockey Monkeyed. :(

However, this does maintain my perfect record.... :)

Mom? Can I go back next year?

Copyright © 2001 Steve Macdonald