Wednesday, July 28, 2004

The Unhappy Hollisters

Sunday at the con is always the most quiet time. Things are dying down as people are too worn out to party anymore. While the Winkies are not generally party animals, Sunday tends to be the same at their convention.

Eric and I started the day with a nice walk down to breakfast. Usually, at Asilomar, you get your food cafeteria-style, but the servers assigned to our dining area were bored so they brought those of us who got there early our food. It was really nice of them. I have to mention... the folks who work at Asilomar are some of the nicest people you could want to meet. I'm going to mention an exception, but please don't judge the whole place by that person. The hotel staff there is just wonderful.

After breakfast Eric and I went down to the beach, which is a short walk from the dining hall, and took a few pictures. While they are part of another project I'm working on, one picture came out so well I just have to share it:

I'm quite pleased with that one, and it's not even the best shot I got during that session.

After the photo shoot we wandered back up to the Winkie area and hung around talking with people. There we learned the sad fate of the annual Treasure Hunt, which suffered a premature and somewhat embarrassing end.

The annual Treasure Hunt is the big Sunday activity at the Winkie convention. Oz items are secreted around the grounds near the Forum building that the convention uses, and adults and kids go hunting for them. In years past, most everyone participated, but recently it has become more of a kids' program. The Hollisters were in charge this year, and planned to change that, big time. They had worked hard on the items for the Hunt, coming up with some really clever visual puns. They knew that everyone would want to participate just to figure out what each item meant.

At 1 am Sunday morning, after the late night events had ended, the Hollisters went out to hide the items.

They had a good chunk put out when the park ranger arrived. See, Asilomar is a conference center, but it's also a state park. And recently a new ranger was assigned to the park who is a real stickler for rules. The Hollisters had gotten permission... from the hotel staff. But the park ranger had technical jurisdiction over the area the Hollisters were using, and came down hard on them. She threatened them with fines and jail time, and insisted that they pick up every item. When one of them pointed out the two huge bags of garbage that they had picked up just to get the area prepped for the hunt, she relented a little. However, a hunt of any kind was out of the question. They had to pick up every item.

It was late, it was dark, they'd almost been finished. They pleaded with her to allow them to wait until morning, and she sort of agreed. Sort of, as in, "I'll start picking up stuff, and anything left in the morning you can get. I'm confiscating all the stuff I pick up." Well over half was gone by morning, found and removed by the ranger.

Angry and dismayed, the Hollisters considered trying to hide their remaining items in a more acceptable place, but when they broached the subject, the ranger told them the only acceptable place was inside the main Forum building. They gave up. The only Sunday morning activity was thus canceled.

Later in the morning, a couple of the hotel staff brought back the confiscated items, having snuck them from the rangers office. They mentioned that a few folks already thought of the new ranger as the Wicked Witch, now everyone was saying it because she'd disrupted the activities of one of the staffs' favorite groups. The Winkies, on the other hand, started calling the ranger "Mombi", which is the name of the witch in the book that is celebrating its centennial this year, The Marvelous Land of Oz.

Now, to be absolutely fair to the ranger, she had a point. The area the Hollisters were using for the Treasure Hunt was protected state land. There was a safety issue, too... namely poison oak and ground wasps. When Peter announced at the general closing meeting why the Hunt had been canceled, the few people who hadn't already heard were not entirely surprised, but everyone was disappointed.

Ok, that's enough for the moment. There's much more to come, including the rest of the convention and our Monday morning visit to the Winchester Mansion.