ACPL, Part One!

We all know how this pans out. After all, I have done this twice before. If this were a combat tour, I’d be a decorated veteran. Especially after last year – we (or our car, at least) would have a purple heart!

However, this year, being the hardened veterans we were, we decided to do things a little different. To start with, instead of leaving Thursday, staying up at my dad’s place that night (he lives about 30mi SW of Boston), then driving to the gathering Friday afternoon, we were going to be leaving Friday morning.

See, we had actually planned a real vacation around this. We took off of work from the 11th through the following Friday and planned on visiting the New England area.

Because, you know, everyone up there wants to buy me dinner. Or at least I thought they did, until I showed up at people’s doorways with “I’m Kwip!” only to be met with slamming doors, rude comments, and tasers. Ha, New Englanders are such kidders.

Anyway, so our plan is to leave Friday morning. This has the added benefit of allowing me a full night’s sleep prior to the drive. And with people on the New Jersey Turnpike alerted to my presence and already welding spikes, blades and arrow launchers onto their vehicles a la Road Warrior, I figured that I needed to be as well-rested as possible.

That was the plan, anyway. What REALLY happened was that I got so caught up in working on the “Kwip Blows Up” story/video/pics, that I didn’t get to bed until like 2am. Then I was all excited, and when I tried to get Kwipette to wake up and let me practice all the cool questions I was going to ask the Devs, she thankfully beat me into unconsciousness. So while yes, I did manage five hours of sleep, they weren’t what I like to refer to as restful.

But the next day rolled around. I sprung out of bed gleefully – gleefully being any time that Kwipette isn’t forced to use the cattle prod to actually wake me up. I had some errands to run prior to departure, so I had to get up and rolling.

First thing I did was hit Farmer’s Market. There I acquired suitable traveling supplies: six Amish Egg Rolls and a pound of Lancaster Beef Jerky. Yes, I know – a POUND of Beef Jerky? Well, hey – I wasn’t planning on it lasting the ENTIRE trip up. I was gonna stop along the way. Then I stopped and got my hair cut. Unfortunately for me, the person I chose to get my haircut from, while being a superb barber, was also very, very insane. He proceeded to lecture me on the incredible value he got at local flea markets by buying shot glasses in BULK, instead of the sucker’s way of buying them one at a time.

Sigh. I wish I was making that bit up.

However, after MUCH time, the haircut was complete! I was oh-fish-all-eee a secksay bitch! NOW I was ready to depart for the ACPL!

We were a bit worried, due to travel times. We have always dreaded driving through/near NYC. Not the same sort of blinding terror we hold for New Jersey, mind you – but that’s only because New Jersians will smash your car, summon their evil state police who PRETEND to write things down, only don’t, and then mysteriously cease to exist, making you spend the rest of your life trying to collect on damages from the car accident. Whereas people in NYC will merely make you wait two hours to travel a mile’s length. Or, at worst, kill you and steal your car. Far, far less on the Infernal Scale than New Jersians all around. Plus, Bats lives in NJ, so they’re automatically doomed.

However, we had a beacon of hope for us. Cheryl, the lovely wife of Circeus (whom some of you know from WCoD), had stepped forward to offer us a slick alternate route. A little route we now refer to as:

DESCENT UNTO THE 10TH LEVEL OF HELL
(Or, I-287 E / Tappan Zee Bridge)

Apparently, from what I’ve learned from this trip, Cheryl actually hates me and wishes me to first be driven completely insane just prior to being ground to paste beneath the tires of large construction vehicles. A wish she very nearly got. You see, the Tappan Zee Bridge is actually one of those portals that everyone likes to talk about but never really do anything about unless they’re mad scientists, and even then, due to the shortage of proper hunchbacks, they can’t really open the Gates of Hell as well as they used to. Instead, they can only create TWENTY-THREE MILE TRAFFIC JAMS and lots of insane people with their windows down, talking in strange, guttural foreign tongues VERY loudly into their cell phones whilst competing with their radio. Which they CAN’T friggin’ turn DOWN – oh NO! – but instead must scream into the phone to be understood whilst competing with their own friggin’ stereo! All of which I don’t really mind you doing – SO LONG AS YOU’RE NOT DOING IT TWO FEET FROM MY FACE!

Also, the Bridge exists in New Jersey. Oh, sure, geography will place it in New York. But owing to it’s infernal nature, we have concluded that the Bridge, besides being an evil entity, is also existing in New Jersey. Because it is that evil

Oh, but it’s okay. Because at the end of the Hell Ride across the Bridge, we got to laugh (and make rude gestures) at the idiots who didn’t have the Mana from Heaven, sometimes referred to as, “EZPass!” For those of you not in the know, let me just clarify: EZPass is pure love from the Baby Jeebus in a small plastic device that contains magical fairies. The fairies make it possible for you to drive through toll stations – without stopping – while other, dirtier, smellier, and much less loved by Gord people are left to deal with the infidels of “Collection.” You zip right past them, sometimes offering them a rude gesture, sometimes a smirk, sometimes just the smug confidence of leaving them behind whilst you bask in the love of the Baby Jeebus and his magical EZPass fey folk.

Seriously, if you don’t have EZPass and you do any sort of traveling in the North Eastern United States on toll roads, wtf is wrong with you? Loser.

The really fantastic thing is that I ordered our EZPass a week before we left (which was the 4th of July week – a HOLIDAY week, no less!). I was kicking myself, quite hard, for not having ordered it sooner, as I was sure it would take about 4-6 weeks to arrive. Instead, it arrived Thursday Night – perfectly in time to join us on our trip! At the time, I thought it was Baby Jeebus sending us His blessings on the trip. But after suffering through the Tappan Zee Bridge, I realized He was doing what He could to keep me from exploding in a ball of rage. Which is pretty extensive, considering how easy it is for me to explode – actually, with my mass, it’s highly more probable I’ll collapse and implode, but there you go.

However, finally, THANKFULLY, we out of New Jersey (even the evil entities posing as structures on the metaphysical plane of New Jersey). However, due to this unbelievable congestion and infernal interference, we are now backed up in our time table. Severely backed up. So much so that I begin getting phone calls from people in Boston who were expecting to meet us at the hotel, only to have to inform them that we were about 4 hours still away. This continued almost the rest of the trip – I received numerous phone calls asking how long it was until we got in. To be truthful, I have no idea who it was that called. My phone completely sucks. It’s what I like to refer to as a “Lying Sack of Shit” because it perpetrates the illusion that it has a perfect signal; however, if you actually try and talk on it, you are now forced to carry on a conversation that sounds as if you’re on the bottom of a very deep well, yelling up to the person at the top, all the while being slowly beat about the head with a metal gong. Can you hear me now, bitch? For all I know, it was those maniacs from the Tappan Zee Bridge calling me. Not content to have delayed us by three hours, it was now flashing my cell phone number to any stupid bastiches that crossed it’s toll booths. It probably manifested signs like, “Not happy with the delay? Dial 1-800-DIE-KWIP to speak to one of our friendlier complaints handlers!”

There was some joy to alleviate our frustration in the delay. For starters, very shortly after leaving the Zone of Hell known as the Tappan Zee Bridge, we encountered the Fung Wah Bus. I don’t know if anyone has ever heard of them, but they actually have a website. And let me tell you something: besides the obvious pleasure that just saying their name over and over again can bring to us, this bus was a holy avenger, and it’s mission on this planet is to kick traffic jam’s collective asses. We got behind that thing and held on for dear life. I tried to turn on the cruise control, but FUNG WAH had already usurped control of our vehicle and held us under it’s sway. We were the orbiting moon to it’s planetary pull.

They say on their site that it takes 4-4.5 hours to get from NYC to Boston, but I’m hear to tell you, unless they stop for ice cream for 3 hours someplace, that’s a lie. Their busses are fitted with warp drives, I’m pretty sure. You know how normally busses are just big, cumbersome, slow-moving bastiches that get in your way when you’re trying to do anything? You know, like me in the ice cream aisle? Well, the power of FUNG WAH is such that it just shoves lesser vehicles out of it’s path. In fact, I’m pretty sure at one point FUNG WAH transformed into a giant robot and bitch-slapped a dump truck that tried to break down in the Restricted Lane.

However, even the power of FUNG WAH wasn’t enough to get us to the hotel by 7pm. It was close, but just not enough. We arrived at like 7:20. I was very, very afraid of Boston. I’ll admit that right up front. I do not like big cities, and I like driving in them roughly about as much as I’d like a salad for an entree.

However, we managed to luck out. Because of the fact that Kwipette knows me very well, she knows a basic premise of riding in the vehicle with me: I am a Gord-damned idiot. If we’re attempting to go someplace, the easiest way to get there is to ask me which way to go, and then go the exact opposite direction. Laugh all you want, but this has proved so true as to be a new law in physics. So, in preparation of this, she has directions to the hotel, and she is not allowing me to know nor even look at the directions. I am only allowed to follow her guidance. As a result, we have no trouble finding the place and do quite well.

Parking. Oh, my dear friend, parking. When I think of a hotel, I tend to think of things like parking lots. You know, being adjacent to each other. This just goes to show you how back-woods and Amishified my poor self is. Because while there was parking, the valets there were not going to allow me to park the car myself. If they knew me, I would suspect this was because they knew I was an idiot and would get promptly lost. However, being strangers and not being aware of any Idiot Detectors on their persons, I have to assume that they were just greedy bastards who wanted the extra money to park our car.

Very well; I will not begrudge them that. Especially because the Doorman (I don’t know if that’s his official title or anything, let’s just stick with it) was so incredibly cool I was immediately impressed. Which, I will again assume, is his job. To make people think that their stay is going to be enjoyable, safe, full of competence and pleasure. And  – look, this far into the story, I’m sure you’ve already detected my foreshadowing here, so I’ll skip being clever. 

If the Tappan Zee Bridge is a demonic entity from the New Jersey plane of existence, then the Boston Sheraton is it’s Lord and Master.

I have never managed a hotel, so I don’t pretend to be an expert on the subject. However, being someone that has stayed at a number of hotels on several occasions, I feel comfortable in stating when a hotel behaves impressively.

Conversely, of course, I feel confident in saying when a hotel is full of the most stooge-ish, bumbling, simpletons ever to have donned an employee nametag. Guess which one I’m going to go for this time?

Okay, I will give you that we weren’t VIPs. Not even IPs. And the girl behind the counter was very attractive and nice. And yet, it turns out that she was also evil.

When checking in, I often take the time to spell out my first name (S-H-A-W-N, not Kwip – the boring people in the ‘real world’ don’t recognize greatness, as we all know by my lack of employment as Gillian Anderson’s personal masseuse). Because I have a common last name (Williams), I tend to emphasize my first name, because often times there are multiple “Williams” present. Shocking, but true.

I do the same thing with this nice young girl checking us in. I ask some questions about our room, which I will touch upon later. In turn, she asks me if I’m traveling with people.

“Urm…my wife?” I respond, thinking quickly.

Then it strikes me: OBVIOUSLY, she’s referring to Bats and Sneezy. See, the three of us were going to try and get rooms next to each other for more spill-over room from the Death Tank goodness. Last year, with Quix adjoining us, we were still kind of crowded. But hey, I think to myself – this is the Boston Sheraton! It’s not like they’re going to stick us in a SHOEBOX or anything! (Foreshadow foreshadow foreshadow).

“Oh!” I tell the young girl. “Yes, I am hoping to have two other friends’ meeting up with me here – they will hopefully be on the rooms on either side of us?” She smiles politely at this, as if everything now makes sense. She was actually smiling at the fact that she spotted a way to help drive me insane. As she’s giving me my room assignment, another mysterious person calls and I tell them what room number we’re going to be in, and to head up to meet us.

Now we leave check-in. At this point, we meet a Bellhop.

I don’t know about you, but when I hear “Bellhop,” I tend to think of Im-Ho-Tep. Yeah, that scary mummy guy. I don’t know why. I blame it on too many video games, myself. But it turns out I’m not so nuts – well, I mean, I am, but not for that. No, it seems that Bellhops at the Boston Sheraton are the envoys of a Dark and Sinister Force. If we were in an ocean swimming, Bellhops would approach with the music “Dun dun…dun dun dun dun dun dun dun dun…” playing in the background.

I’m pushing our luggage cart fine. However, apparently this was not acceptable to our new bestest friend, whom I shall refer to as Joe. Joe told me guests were not permitted to push luggage carts. This was the solemn duty of Bellhops.

Hey man, he was probably lying, but what do I know? You know in New Jersey you’re not allowed to pump your own gas? Well, there you go. This was probably something similar.

So Joe leads us to our room. Now as I see it, Joe has a pretty simple job. Push the luggage cart. When we get to our room, he might even open the door for us and turn on a light or two. But that just shows how ridiculously high my expectations are. Joe instead stood and watched me – for a good thirty seconds, mind you – as I fumbled with the card lock, trying to figure out how to unlock the damn door. Once I got the door open, I was allowed to stumble into the room alone.

Where I discovered shoes, clothes, luggage and a laptop.

“Woah,” I thought. “Joe unpacked our shit at light speed! I better tip him good, or he’ll kick my ass, rapidly!”

But turning around, I saw that Joe was still standing in the hall. With our luggage. Grinning wildly at me. (I should have known right there that he was in on the “Drive Kwip Insane” scheme initiated by the Tappan Zee Bridge).

At first I was just confused. I thought maybe we were in Sneezy’s room. Or Bats’ room, even. Joe looked in the room and asked, “What’s wrong?”

“What’s wrong?” I stammered. “Look! There’s things in this room! Other people’s things!”
“Your friends, yes?” he questioned, all the while with a gleam in his eye that said he knew the answer and also knew it would drive me further towards shaving my body and running through the halls pretending to be a lima bean.

On the table next to me was a receipt of some sort. Picking it up, I saw the name was Sean Williams. Sean. S-E-A-N. (Which is how everyone spelled Shawn after that guy Sean Connery got so damned famous).

Goose bumps rose on my arms. Suddenly, I was very certain that Tim was going to be standing behind the shower curtain wearing an identical Hawaiian shirt and having dyed his hair brown.

Joe gets on the phone to clarify this. He was speaking in low tones, so I’m not positive of all what he was saying, but I’m pretty sure at one point he muttered, “Oh, man – you shoulda seen his face!” and then looked at me and chuckled evilly. Also, he muttered something like “Ia! Ia! Cthulhu fhtagn!” I heard him.

I got out of the room as quickly as I could. Besides being scared of Joe’s phone conversation, it was obvious this was someone else’s room. To me, that felt entirely wrong. Well…at least, after I tried on some of the panties, it felt very wrong. 

After conversing with his fellow imp, Joe explained to us that we had the wrong room. Which is a good Gorddamned thing he told us. I mean, how embarrassing would it have been if we went to sleep with someone else? Oh sure, that might’ve fed some of my fantasies, but let’s face it: I’d be snoozing restfully, and all of the sudden some Sean would climb in with me and we’d be like, “Woah! You’re not supposed to be in here!” Then we’d get into all sorts of wacky hijinks around the hotel, culminating in our kidnapping of an orangutan, and only Babe the Talking Pig would be able to save us.

Confusion all around, I tell you. But luckily, Joe pointed out the problem. AND took us to our new room.

The first thing that struck me about our new room was the walls. They were very, very close to me. Some of you skinny people maybe don’t notice these things, but when you’re large enough to rate your own gravity well, the distance between you and adjacent walls suddenly becomes important.

Some people have referred to these rooms as “shoeboxes,” which I feel is not at all accurate. But maybe they were in the luxury suites or something. Our room could barely fit a pair of socks, let alone entire shoes. And just as we dropped our bags, the phone rang. People were already enroute for Death Tank. And after pounding on the doors next to us and getting tasered, maced and generally mocked, I discovered that our adjourning rooms were not occupied by Bats OR Sneezy.

So here we were. A tiny room, and hordes of people about to descend upon us. I didn’t even have any beer in the fridge. For that matter, I didn’t have a fridge in which to put beer. Fortunately, Nik and his lovely wife and her lovely sister (you’re a lucky, lucky man, Nik you bastich) arrived. Nik helped me fill the tub with ice by repeated visits to the ice machine. Now we were able to chill some drinks.

Kim, Rebecca, Sean and Maggie. If Sean’s not thinking what a great Seanwich this scene would make, there’s something wrong with him.

The past two years, we had made kind of a big issue of ensuring that there would be enough room to gather in our room for the Pre-ACPL Death Tank party. I’m not sure how it got started, but, by Gord, it is now tradition. Therefore, forsaking a night of Death Tank prior to the ACPL would be blasphemy. Also, not fun.

This year I would soon learn would forever be referred to as the “Tiny Shithole Year” because of the utter lack of room.

It was entirely my fault, of course. You see, when I made our reservations, I requested a large room, king size bed and, if possible, a corner room where our noise level could do the least amount of harm.

The Boston Sheraton, sensing my frail nature, instead chose to ignore whatever the hell my pathetic desires were and give us a tiny room, queen size bed, and a room not only not in a corner, but surrounded entirely of old women. Old women who considered it entirely natural to throw their shoes at the wall to express their displeasure at our noise level.

I don’t know, man. I like it when we take over a hotel. This business of having a billion other people there makes me nervous. For example, when I get on the elevator laughing heartily at the time I killed the one guy and took his only pair of pants, before this has never been a problem. THIS year, it caused an unfortunate misunderstanding with the straights that were on the elevator with us. Granted, while I would love to tell you how sexy it was to have women offer me their pants, I tend to prefer when those women are young, attractive women totally turned on by my presence. 

Not elderly terrified women convinced I was some Pants Thief they’ve been reading about.

It was fine for the first five minutes until all of the oxygen was used up and people began passing out.

We did not have the Death Tank party people in the past have come to expect and love. Instead, we had the Death Room party, which consisted of people getting crushed beneath my girth every time I tried to get up and go to the bathroom. Which was every five minutes, thanks to my little girly bladder.

Needless to say, I was hugely disappointed in our room. Everyone else was, too, as they made various excuses to get the hell out of there without further ado. Which really broke my heart – the one thing I love above all else at the ACPL is being able to hang out with everyone. It’s always been cool before, because thanks to the very addictive properties of Death Tank, I’ve always had a captive audience to touch. They hate listening to my stories, but they have no choice, because in order to play Death Tank, they HAVE to sit through my droning!

Now, we didn’t have Death Tank. We didn’t even have DDR. And even if we did, we didn’t have enough room to set it up with proper space (“Proper Space” meaning enough distance between me and the game so that I can’t “accidentally” kick the reset button every time I start losing – which is – well, every time).

Although we did get a call from Tim later on. I invited him up and gave him his very own N3 Tshirt. Hey, being a fanboi should have some reward. Even if he’s more of a Maggie-stalker than a Kwip-fanboi. But still, I’d just like to say: when’s the last time Maggie gave you a tshirt, eh, Tim? Think about it. Being my fanboi carries privileges, man! So Tim came up with his friends Echo and Raist. I must say, I like those people. I am always scared of people, but they sat there quietly, laughed at my jokes, and generally made me feel like not such a loser as I was feeling at that moment in my Death Tank-less room.

Yuan was hanging around because Luke was supposed to be enroute, but finally couldn’t handle the old ladies pummeling the walls with their shoes. He left – and of course, five seconds later, Luke showed up. Now I had the chance to feel really bad. Instead of the awesomeness of Death Tank, Luke was the lone Dev in a room of players. The look of terror on his face when he realized this was the saddest thing I’ve ever caused in my entire life. We all went out for a bite to eat at some nearby restaurant.

I wish I could remember the name of the place. I’d really like to rant about it for quite some time, but without the proper name, it lacks that “oomph.” I will just tell you that apparently their entire staff is made up of mal-treated prisoners, which is obvious in their resentment towards us, their cruel master. Oh, no, wait – that’s right, they’re employees. I guess they get paid to act like total assholes and treat the customers as if we’re intruding upon their private quiet time with their grills. My bad!

We retreated to the calmness of the hotel. Everyone else parted, and Luke came up to our room to administer a private beating for wasting his time in such a manner. Also, I had to give the guy at least one beer after making the trip all the way out there for a lack of Death Tank. However, I was saved from this thrashing by the very sudden, very loud appearance of Bats and company: Orion (the Dev), Weeks, Pew, Apropos, Bel’el, and Inigo (sp?). All from MT, all very loud, and all the saving grace of an evening I felt very bad about.

And Pew had on a nice shirt (yes, there’s an in-joke there, and don’t you just wish you knew what it was?)

When I told them that I wasn’t sure who our adjoining rooms were occupied by, Weeks attempted to find out for me by breaking down the door. I panicked and did the only thing I could think of – throw him alcohol. Luckily this worked, and he quickly became more interested in telling us all embarrassing stories about Pew.

If you’re not from MT, you probably don’t know these guys. But having grown up there before moving on to DT, these were some big names, so it was cool to put faces with the names. And the fact that they had me laughing so hard I nearly wet myself a few times – I mean, we’re talking Orion and a bunch of other zany people. Can you just imagine how fun it was? If you can’t, ask Weeks how his first meeting with Zyrca went. That pretty much sums it up. Really. If you ever find yourself sitting around, miserable at your shortcomings at party arrangement, I highly recommend an evening of their company to make you feel better.

Finally, after Kwipette passed out in her chair, the gracious (and mega-hawt) Apropos noticed our sorry butts were tired and drug the boys off to sleep. Or bother someone else. I don’t really know what mischief they caused. I heard a police siren a little bit after that, but the next morning Pew only had one wrist handcuffed, so it couldn’t have been that bad.

Not ALL of our pictures turned out this good! Just the really, really important ones!

The night passed quickly, even in our queen sized bed. Yes, maybe some of you think a queen sized bed is large. However, when your circumference is nearly the same as your height, trust me, a queen just doesn’t cut it. King or nothing, baby!

However, I do have to say that the bed was very comfy. Of course as exhausted as I was, I probably could have slept on a mattress stuffed with bowling balls and slept fine.

The next morning, we made our way to the rooms where the ACPL was taking place. We got our swag bags – the Luggies were SOOO cool! – and even had time to get them autographed. Someone was passing out Krispey Kremes. Who, I don’t remember. It’s usually about three hours into the day before I properly wake up. Whoever it was, thanks.

We got our seats and did the clapping, nodding, taking picture thing. I can’t really elaborate any further on what everyone else has already said. For that matter, I don’t remember most of what they told us. Hey man, I come just for the people – I still don’t know how to play the game! Changes are for other people to worry about, not me! Actually, it’s just that my memory really is that bad. But I figure I never really have to worry – there’s so many other people there better at that reporting business than myself, I never sweat it.

See, in this one you can actually almost make out people. Scary, huh?

One thing that did strike me was Jessica’s speech. I can’t really cite any specifics, but she really impressed me. I think the AC community is much better for having her on board, and I’m very eager to see what she’s going to lead an already great team on to do.

It was cool to hear her speak. I would like very much to someday be ‘in the business.’ Doing what, I have no idea, but it will probably involve emptying trash cans, polishing boots and hiding dead hookers that mysteriously show up in Crowley’s office.

Sigh. Someday.

 

Here you see the rest of our team looking on in abject horror as they suddenly realize that the Kwip they thought was oh-so-funny is nothing more then a terrifying hairy fat man.

After lunch came the MEO preview. Or Whose Drudge? One of them. Then the other. Yeah, as I said, great memory I’ve got here.

Now last year they had HUGE prizes for the Whose Drudge contest. Like really scphiffy video cards and stuff. I was all about winning one of them this year – so much about it, in fact, that I slipped Orion a bit of horse tranquilizer and got him to let me on his team. AEternal and his girlfriend Heather made up the remainder of our team, the poor souls. Our subject was “Tells Gone Wrong” or something similar. We got into our huddled, quickly agreed upon a course of action, broke…and then I went completely insane.

I guess it was the greed taking over, but whatever plan we had was out the window. I proceeded to make a giant fool of myself. To any small children or emotionally unstable people in the audience that are now scarred for life, I humbly apologize.

Luckily for us, I had entered the voice contest, and was called away to enter that during the follow-up round. It worked perfectly, because without my interference, the team went on to win.

The ACPL wrapped up shortly after that. But our story’s not done yet. Oh my heaven’s no. We still have: THE AFTERMATH! Plus, Bats has a bunch of really good pics, not like these crappy ones. I’ll continue this story AND include the nice pics!

(coming soon to a website near you!)