Warm Memories of BreeMoot 4 / Mythcon XXX
by Lee Speth
(This report originally appeared in Mythprint 36:10 in October 1999.)
The fell rumors out of the North proved true. The fiery blasts of the dragon’s breath had scorched the air about the town of the Lake-dwellers. OK, it wasn’t actually called Dale. Mythcon this year was at the Archbishop Cousins Center, down Lake Michigan from Milwaukee, located, if I read the signs aright, in a suburb called St. Francis. But the searing dragon’s breath was real enough. Fortunately, we who attend these cons are a robust lot. We came, we bore with the heat, we conferred, we donned costumes, we processed, we bought and sold, we were solemn and silly by turns, we fluorished. And the heat tapered off.
This year Mythcon XXX was combined with BreeMoot 4, the occasional gathering of Beyond Bree‘s subscribers. Breefolk were prominent in the leadership of the event and so Milwaukee seemed an obvious site; Bree is an anagram for beer, as I judge Tolkien knew quite well.
On Thursday night, a number of us early arrivals, along with the BreeMoot/Mythcon staff, were to beer-bountiful Mader’s, a noted Rhineland outpost in Milwaukee, where we had a banquet room and three tables forming a square with one open side. My Speth forbears came out of Bavaria, but I’ve never liked beer, so I couldn’t fully exploit the occasion. At dinner I sat between Dr. Bill Sarjeant from Canada and former Mythprint editor David Bratman and felt clean-shaven. A rollicking time was had by all, then it was back to the heat of the Cousins Center, some mystification about the room key (eventually located), and sitting up late in the con office, conversing and watching a couple of the mini-Mythies, Claire Lenander and Tristan Hunnewell, attack a computer game with that focused energy shared by children, fanatics and Amway representatives.
Heat aside, the Cousins Center was an admirable site. All activity was in one building, and that building was, it seemed, ours for the weekend. At the usual Mythcon campus we share, if not with other conferences at least with summer students. But aside from some resident retired priests (spoken of, but never seen) and the kitchen/cafeteria staff, the sizeable building was pretty much our plaything. It is elegant without being oppressively solemn, and has a number of displays, if one is curious, touching the history of the Milwaukee Archdiocese. OK, the food. Not varied, not that good, sometimes not enough. But against that one can set the large handy field, just right for late-night Golfimbul. And Lake Michigan, to whose storied shores I wandered one still morning before breakfast, crossing the highway and tramping through a shiny green, gnat-infested park. Looking north, one could make out the Milwaukee skyline where the lake shore curved. And gazing out across the blue expanse of the lake to the horizon, with the trees at my back and the bugs all about me, I felt like a seventeenth century French voyageur, with a disposable camera.
It was a smallish turnout, especially in contrast to Lewiscon last year. But small has its distinct benefits. About a hundred attended, the Guests of Honor were long familiar to the Society, no one from outside interfered. There was casual and intimate feel to this conference, even though a certain number — Breefolk, I suspect — weren’t known to me. The Duke of Numenor returned (but the King still didn’t). Pat Tressel — hadn’t seen her for a while. Darrell Martin.
The most important new face, no doubt, was that of Dr. Ted Sherman. Nominated sight unseen, on the strength of his application and resume, to take over Mythlore next year, get it back on schedule and revive its subscriber base, the gentleman from Tennessee slipped quietly into the con, but was soon enough gathering handshakes and ovations.
In the dealer’s room —
Me to P.C. Hodgell: I remember you from Minneapolis in ’93; you were committing excesses with us late at night.
Ms. Hodgell: Golly, let me think; it’s been so long since I committed an excess …
Lasting memories (in no particular order):
Douglas Anderson’s infectious delight in being probably the only living person to have read The Flying Cows of Biloxi;
Ted Nasmith’s slide show of his accomplished Tolkien illustrations, some seen before, some new to us, parading in rich detail on the meeting room screen;
Gary Hunnewell’s Tolkien Collectors Anonymous meeting (“I’m Bruce and I’m a Tolkien collector.” “Hi, Bruce.”) that spiralled out of control as more and more addicts shambled up to testify, with Gary looking increasingly bemused;
The concrete tunnels beneath the Center where we went Golfimbowling. Bowling in a real alley! And I kept thinking of the crap-shooting sequence in Guys and Dolls;
The photos, displayed at one panel, of Birmingham Oratory where Tolkien and his brother spent their youth, doubly meaningful to those of us who own shelves of Tolkien and Newman;
Playing Sauron as a vampire in this year’s Not-Ready-for-Mythcon production, and wondering if Berni Phillips was really going to stake me;
Being part of the kazoo band for the Golfimbul medal ceremony. This was a consolation position, alas, since I had failed to defend my last year’s distance medal. This time I had to watch other people get the medals, in a spirit of sportsmanship and camaderie. People like Leonard, Rauscher, Long (undeserving scum! some people get everything handed to them! dumb luck!) Hostetter (a linguist! gimme a break!) Farrell (hmmm — she’s editing this — better be careful!) …;
Lynn Maudlin using Anne Osborn as a prompter for Lynn’s own song lyrics, and Anne forgetting;
David Bratman’s talk on Tolkien’s false starts in composing The Lord of the Rings, a topic remarkably suited to David’s voice and delivery;
Eric Rauscher in a tux; The photo presentation, which just squeaked in on Monday, of next year’s picturesque Mythcon site in Hawaii.
When the last song was sung and the last goodbye said, a nomber of us found ourselves crossing paths in Milwaukee’s Mitchell Airport. Upstairs from check-in, Jane Bigelow of Colorado sat snacking and reading. I saw Ellie Farrell in a baggage check line and Paula Di Sante scurrying by. And I ended up sharing a quickie lunch with Bruce and Marcy Leonard, Arden Smith and Carl Hostetter. I savor these prolongations. But at last I had to shoulder my carry-on and make my solitary way to my particular flight gate. Till next year.