I am always a little apprehensive the night before I speak at a paranormal convention. Friday, August 20th, the night before the 2010 Ohio Paranormal Convention, was no exception. You see, I’ve been speaking at these sort of venues for many years now. Along the way, I’ve become known as “the guy the paranormal community doesn’t know what to do with”. That’s because, while I take what I do very seriously, I also understand that in order to be successful in this field, one has to have a sense of humor. So I’m not afraid to poke fun of the paranormal field, including myself. Plus, I spend a lot of time rambling on about homemade roller coasters, pickled fingers in jars, and whether or not Paul McCartney is dead. Some people get me, others don’t. James and Brian, the two guys running the convention, definitely get me, which is why they asked me back after my 2009 presentation. But whenever I agree to speak at a “paranormal” event, I can’t help but think that people want to hear about serious research. Still, the way I see it, people are usually paying money to come to these conventions, so they should be entertained and walk away feeling they got something for their hard-earned money. Even so, my presentations have resulted in more than a few blank stares from audience members. Which is why there’s always a bit of anxiety building up inside of me before a convention as I pondered whether or not the audience will “get me”. Of course, on this particular Friday night, the anxiety levels were particularly high as Steph and I had decided that this convention would be Courtney’s first.
It didn’t help that my plan to be home from work by 5:45 in order to be in Dayton by 7:30 so Courtney could have dinner quickly fell by the wayside. As luck would have it, I was stuck at work until 8:00 pm. I dashed home and while Steph fed Courtney, I crammed books, clothes, presentation materials, and assorted trinkets and baubles for the GOO table into Ol’ Blue. After filling up every square inch of the car, I let out a sigh of relief that it all fit. It was right around that time that I realized I had forgotten all about my nemesis, the Pack & Play.
Not only the Pack & Play, but I had totally forgotten about the fact that I was now traveling with Courtney. When traveling in the past, I had totally exploited the fact that I am married to a wee bit of a woman. Put another way, the passenger seat of Ol’ Blue is usually shoved all the way up so that I can jam even more stuff in the back seat. But at that very moment, I scanned the back seat of Ol’ Blue and found that I had gone so far as to stack two cases of Weird Indiana right over the top of the base for Courtney’s car seat. After contemplating using a slide rule and possibly making a call to my Engineer father-in-law, I came to the conclusion that there was no denying the fact that we were going to have to take two cars.
Thankfully, Steph has become an expert with the Pack & Play, so I didn’t have to attempt to wrestle it into its way-too-small carrying case. All I had to do was pick it up the throw it in the back seat. But the Pack & Play was only the beginning. There were bottles and containers of powdered formula. And bottled water for the powdered formula. Plus toys and diapers and clothes and an endless supply of lotions and potions. Sure, this was Courtney’s first weekend trip, so it is possible that Steph and I went a bit overboard with what we were bringing. Still, when all was packed and ready to go, the “Courtney Car” was every bit as packed as the “GOO Car”.
After a quick stop through Wendy’s drive-thru, we were on our way. We ended up rolling into the hotel parking lot around 10:45 pm. Once again, it hit me that the tradition of entering a hotel room, turning on the TV, turning down the AC, and collapsing into bed was a thing of the past. The evil Pack & Play was beckoning to me. Amazingly, I was able to lug the damn thing into the hotel room and get it set up in under 10 minutes. All the while, Courtney sat nearby, enjoying a bottle and basically being bored by the whole thing. Shortly after that, Steph and Courtney settled in for the night while I paced around nervously wondering what the morning would bring. I took one last look at my presentation, cut a few things, adding some new stuff, then called it a night.
Saturday morning came pretty early and while I packed the car (again), Steph got Courtney all dolled up in some spooky ghost attire. Traditionally, I’ve always been a fan of the spooky/creepy ghost. But there’s something about seeing your own daughter in orange and white stripes with a ghost bow that just looks so damn cute! Once the three of us arrived at Hara Arena, fellow GOO member, Wendy, was there to help us set up. In the past, we’ve always had to hurry and set things in place due to people wanting to talk to us, browse the selections of books, or just generally catch up on things from the last time we spoke. This year, things were different, though. There was a new star at the James A. Willis/Ghosts of Ohio booth; my daughter.
It quickly became evident that while people were still interested in talking about all things strange and spooky with me, they were really there to see Courtney. Hell, people were even wanting to take pictures of her! Through it all, Courtney just sat there and smiled, which made me think that I at least had a couple more years of my daughter tolerating her father’s “other career”…at least until she learns to walk!
As for my presentation, turns out I didn’t have anything to worry about. Even though my presentation somehow managed to come right after several speakers who come dangerously close to being considered para-celebrities, my talk seemed to win people over. Sure, there was the first few minutes of stunned silence as the audience tried to figure me out. But by the end, we were all laughing and enjoying themselves, which, to me, is what these type of conventions really should be about: having a good time.