It's what we sing when we sit in a circle of friends in a conference room late at night at sf conventions, if we don't choose to tell a story instead.
And we, the filkers, also have our own conventions, where we have concerts and one shots and contests and sometimes memorials. Contata is the New York division of the Permanent Floating East Coast Filk Convention. Thus far, it's never been held in New York, but it's where the committee lives. I'm on the committee. I run the con suite. The con suite, for those who have never attended a fan run convention, is the convention hospitality room. It provides snacks and sodas and hot drinks. I run it because that way I know it will be kosher, and so will the not inconsiderable kosher-keeping contingent of these conventions.
And that's where I was this past weekend. In the con suite itself. I pulled it together in a matter of hours, filling my rental car, a Chevy Lumina, twice. (Is Driving Beeg American Car. Is being bigger than living room. Is carrying in trunk 17 cases of soda with room to spare.)
We got to the hotel on the late side. Jonathan recruited a half dozen elves to unload our luggage and the first load of groceries and, after asking my advice, got the con suite ready. This meant picking up one of the two beds (we'd asked for an empty room), putting out bowls of chips and filling the tub with ice while I went on the second run.
That's when I got the soda. And I got the coke products at half price, too. Such a deal! When I got back, we transported the sodas to the con suite by piling them on a handtruck and covering them with a blanket and pretending they were speakers. We left a flat of coke and a twelve pack of Mountain Dew in the trunk, and forgot about them.
We pretended this because the hotel was being fussy about corkage and we wanted to keep things less than obvious, and there was Staff around the entry way we used.
Within the hour, we'd showered, lit candles for Shabbat and got the suite set up to my satisfaction. Then we went to shabbos dinner, which turned out to be a surprise - they didn't expect us.
Since we managed to scrounge up ten Jewish men, we had a Sheva Brachos. See, the Toastmaster had gotten married the preceding Sunday. (Story there, too. He'd been asked to be Toastmaster about two years ago. He said yes. When asked if June was good for him, he'd said, "Sure, It's not like I'm planning to get married or anything." He hadn't met his bride yet...He proposed to her about six months later, at the end of one of his concerts, at the convention she was chairing. The convention date was chosen, in part, to accommodate the wedding.)
A Jewish custom is to follow a wedding with seven days of dinner parties, each having at least ten men, one of whom had not attended either the wedding or a previous dinner. This way, more people get to share in the joy of the wedding. At the end of the dinner, the grace after meals is enhanced by the seven blessings over wine said under the wedding canopy.
This was the seventh day. We had three chances to say them. We had the ten men for Shabbat dinner. We were not going to worry about Shabbat lunch. The final chance would be at the banquet, which was also our religiously mandated ritual third Shabbat meal.
I spent the rest of Friday night in the con suite, except for a half hour when I went to the filk sing and then came back and closed up and went to sleep. But meanwhile, I got to greet all the people I never other wise see and exchange lots and lots of hugs.
Saturday day was more of same. I had coffee and cereal at the hotel's continental breakfast and opened the con suite at 11, an hour earlier than expected, and with a tray of cut veggies. I pretty much stayed there (with a break for kiddush and challah) until the afternoon, when I attended my friend Matt's concert. Matt is a truly sweet and kind man who sings lovely songs, both funny and sad. He will always be known for his tribute to DeForest Kelley, "A Simple Country Doctor." Then back in the room, chatting, policing, replenishing, etc, until the banquet and then back until the tribute concert for a friend of all of ours who passed away several years ago. Jonathan sang two of his songs. There had also been a 9/11 tribute the night before, but I missed that.
Halfway through, after Jonathan's set, I went back. I closed down about 1:15AM and went to a filk sing until I decided to write one. I'll post it when I'm done. Got to bed at 4PM. Got up for good at 10, just at the time my husband brought me an English muffin (sliced because we don't get them and he didn't know to pull it apart) and some coffee. Wonderful man. And, again, I only escaped to hear him sing the one shots, because someone else sat in for me. Yes, I felt trapped.
I actually had a melt down after the feedback session. Could not stop crying. I was just tired and hungry (I realized that eventually) and frustrated. I did a good job with the materials at hand , considering family crisis and all, and bought well and no one left without something they liked, but. It was over, so I could cry. So I did.
And then I went to the final jam for as long as I was comfortable.
We took our supplies and what food we wanted, presented the Mountain Dew to a wonderful filker who loves it, and went home around 6PM, taking along a family who live near us and whom we love very much. This was after exchanging more hugs. We like hugs. Dropped them off at about 8, went to dinner, went home and collapsed.
The whole thing, feeding 100 people, cost about $340. It helped that we already owned the bowls and the knives and the cutting boards and the trays. I'm proud.
The con chair slept until three both days, which meant he was unavailable. I hope someone else does it this year.
There were a lot of kids, mostly boys, and they were normal fan kids - bright, funny, cute, articulate. I like fan kids.
It was a good con. We broke a hundred. Next time, though, I'm just attending the con. That means going to Boston or DC area cons. I'll probably never just attend a Contata.