My job for the convention is basically to organize the Concourse area, with its performing band-tables and to coordinate performances on the Hyatt Concourse's acoustic stage.
I wrote most of the story between deliveries at Primo's Pizza, and got a lot of razzing about it at the time from my co-workers, who collectively had the intellect of a concussed gnat. I guess the laugh's on YOU, kids; I even got paid real money for it. :)
I've had other scribblings published in various places, and I've never sent
a letter to the editor of a paper and not had it published.
An op-ed letter to the editor of the
then-Atlanta Journal was published with my photo and a short bio.
My review of Storm Constantine's Wraeththu was reprinted in her fan club's zine, Inception, and an excerpt from my review of her book The Bewitchments of Love and Hate was used as a blurb on the back-cover of the newly revised UK edition.
I've had two books dedicated to me, Michael Moorcock's The Fortress of the Pearl (in part) and Storm Constantine's Three Heralds of the Storm, and I've been thanked in several places for help, assistance with proofreading, etc.: in the beginning of the short-story anthology The Crow: Shattered Lives and Broken Dreams (Ballantine/Del Rey), in Storm Constantine's Stalking Tender Prey (US edition) and Stealing Sacred Fire (British edition), and a few other anthologies edited by my friend Ed Kramer.
Musically, I've been thanked in several CDs; here's a list, that I know of, as of the end of 2004:
My best friend back then was a great guy named Robert Cirella, who, despite being technically inclined, seems not to be on the Net these days according to the web-crawlers I've checked. Rob, if you're out there, drop me a line!
I attended Masuk High School in Monroe for one year as a freshman, and was the "staff meteorologist" at the school's FM radio station, WMNR (600 watts). I had a Class III Radiotelephone License from the FCC at the tender age of 13...wish I'd kept it! I still have a great love for the physical sciences, especially meteorology, astronomy, astrophysics and cosmology. It was here also that I was first introduced to computers (this was 1977-1978), thanks to the school's ancient Educomp beastie, and it wasn't long before I was skipping lunch to play on the computers. Ever landed a lunar lander at 2 x ten to the minus twelfth miles/hour? Rob and I did!
Despite its humble nature (North Cobb once had a section of its yearbook devoted to "chaw" tobacco....no, I'm not kidding), the school had some truly excellent teachers, including Wes McCoy, Doug Carter and Linda Morrison. Teachers often get short shrift these days, and I think there's an unhealthy push toward getting more and more mediocre ones rather than encouraging the really good ones. That, and a scary trend toward acquiring Internet access and technical "toys" instead of encouraging a firm grasp on the basics of education, like reading and comprehension....but I digress. Anyway.....
Just about a year after moving us down to Georgia to take that job, my
dad passed away in 1979, a victim of cancer. The
night before he died, my mom and I were returning home from seeing
him at the hospital while, off in the distance to the northeast, a
vast electrical storm played under the clouds, ground-strike after
ground-strike. I think it was then that I knew what was
coming the next day.
My mom remarried within a year, to the consternation of us kids; she married a widower from the church, Henry Goetze.
Meanwhile, I'd taken my first job, in the Grounds department at Six Flags over Georgia, a job I kept for three seasons (they paid ten cents below minimum wage, but some of the perks were kinda cool).
Oh, I already knew a lot about them, and we had an Atari 800 back
at the house (it cost $800!), but WGC had a dialup terminal with a
300-baud acoustic coupler parked in the library lobby, and one day I
wandered by and watched a user talking to other folks elsewhere in
the state. It linked to the CDC Cyber mainframe at UGA in Athens,
GA, and all the schools in the state university system were tied to
that mainframe over a network called the University System Computer
Network. A loose statewide confederation of users already existed and
had become friends over the network -- this was many years before the rise of
Internet email, chat-rooms, IRC, home computer BBSs, etc.
I was entranced.
That moment, my life changed.
Every quarter we had a FUG -- a Forum Users' Gathering -- near a different school on the network, lasting a whole weekend. Some drew as many as 60-70 people, mostly students, from all across the state! I made many friends, and I still miss many of them dearly. Some of the FUGs were held in kewl surroundings: one was held in a big ol' cabin out in the woods, owned by Middle Georgia College; another was held on a similar property near Columbus College. We had some great times back then.
In later years some users were 'hacking' the system pretty regularly, acquiring the big Cyber mainframe's password file and generally doing a lot of non-destructive playing and looking around, so elegantly that the system operators were totally unaware of the activity. I was peripherally involved in this until the sysops replaced the mainframe's operating system with NOS version 2, which coincidentally saved them from most of the ongoing cracking. I finally lost access to the USCN in 1994 after twelve and a half years or so of being online there. In some ways, those were the happiest days of my life.
There's a new effort to reunite many old Forum/Talk users underway, coordinated by Teri "Scorpion>" Sears. If you are such a lost soul, please E-mail me.
Finally word reached me that CBTCorp. had indeed gone bankrupt, and the programmers and courseware writers who'd been left at the end were let go with nothing -- no severance pay, etc. I realized later that they'd done me a favor, cutting me when they did. Several reasons were given, including the fact that they really had only one primary customer (AT&T), and there were also tax problems....
At the time I wasn't too impressed with my assignment -- a grade 4 tax examiner in the Combined Annual Wage Reporting ("CAWR") Unit -- but as time moved on I realized that, as IRS billets go, this one was much cooler than most. Instead of going after people who owed taxes, auditing and examining them, it was our responsibility to investigate cases where an employer's payroll tax returns didn't match what he reported on his employees' W-2 forms for the year. So, in effect we kept your employers honest, making sure they actually paid the government for the tax they withheld from your wages! :)
If someone had suggested that I'd still be employed by the IRS, a unit of the Illuminati, bane and mortal enemy of most Americans, over twenty years later, I'd have laughed in his face, but it's been many years and yea, I'm still there. I'd rather be writing, or broadcasting or whatever, but the benefits are good, the pay is improving and I'm trying to save up money....
After the CAWR program was dropped for a couple of years (and yes, you're right to worry about whether your employers were being honest), my co-workers and I were reassigned permanently to the Customer Service Division as telephone customer service representatives. We handle all sorts of problems: refund inquiry calls, correcting simple math errors on returns, establishing payment plans, etc. As the bird says ruefully in The Flintstones, while being used as a backscratcher: "It's a living...."
I joined Dragon*Con staff in Guest Relations, and as the convention
weekend progressed in late September 1987 I befriended Michael
Moorcock and his wife Linda, as well as Eric Bloom from the band
Blue Oyster Cult, who was likewise a guest at the convention by virtue of
being Michael's musical collaborator. Together with Ed
and another big local Moorcock fan, Shane Russell, we decided to restart
a new fan club for Michael, since his old one had died. The following
year MM visited in the spring, and we consummated the deal and
formed The Nomads of the Time Streams, the International Michael
Moorcock Appreciation Society. I would eventually handle the Society's
affairs as de-facto "President" for about six years before turning it over
to some British fans, who still run it to this day.
To this day, because of my involvement in Dragon*Con and the friends I've made thereby (plus my first acquaintance with Starfire Swords, with whom I've worked ever since), I regard that fateful day in the spring of 1986 and that visit to the Rennaissance Festival as the single most important day in my life.
Thanks (oddly enough) to my managing the Michael Moorcock
Appreciation Society, I learned of a new band from the Seattle area
called Queensryche, recommended to me by the club's very first paid
member, Randy Sarbacher. One day I won a coupon from 96rock
here, good for any free cassette, and I decided to try out QR's
Operation: Mindcrime album, which Randy had been touting via
mail for years....
I was entranced. I had to pull off to the side of the road to hear it without road-noise.
Paul had discovered metal. :)
(Say what you will about hair-metal, but in contrast to many of today's two-hit wonders, they at least had substantial musical talent. You know something's gone dreadfully wrong in the musical industry when mediocre bands intentionally play poorly and get stardom out of it. And let's not even go near rap and hip-hop.)One fine Florida day my good friend and homeless-waif street-poet Moebius befriended Queensryche at an in-store record show signing, and cajoled them out of some backstage passes. He went backstage and then befriended Metallica's Kirk Hammett, who, it turned out, was a fan of Michael Moorcock like us. Eventually I met Kirk and befriended him too -- he'd much rather talk about books and movies backstage than music, it seemed. I haven't actually spoken to Kirk since 1992 -- as the years passed, Metallica (except for Jason Newsted) became increasingly less fan-friendly -- but he did yell "How's it goin' Paul!" at me from the stage at Lakewood Amphitheater during the 1994 Summer In the Sheds tour. :)
Although progressive music -- typified by good, tight musicianship, songs that don't quite "fit the mold" and are often too cerebral for mainstream interest -- isn't a huge scene in the States, at least right now, its adherents are very vocal and extremely dedicated. I signed onto Ytsejam, the Dream Theater mailing list, and immediately made some great friends online. Many of us used to hang out on the dedicated Dream Theater Chat server. I later met many of these great people up in New York at Ytsecon II, the second gathering of Dream Theater fans, in the winter of 1995. I owe a lot to these people, and I've discovered a lot of terrific music solely because of their recommendations and suggestions. If I've brightened any of their lives in the meantime, so much the better. Other roadtrips and DT shows have followed. Many emigrated elsewhere -- to Mike Portnoy's website and the Perpetual Motion web-board -- but I'm still subscribed to the Ytsejam, which nowadays is but a shadow of what it once was.
I'm still a "community host" at WREKage as mentioned before, and in fact for a time I was the only host routinely showing up and "holding down" the show for several months. We do have several student hosts involved with the show, now, which is pretty cool. I have to say that I get a feeling of pride when listeners call up and thank me for helping establish and guide their musical tastes for over a decade, now: we have listeners who first listened to the show ten years ago when they were 15, and have "grown up" with the show and my choices of bands and songs to play. Pretty awesome!
I'm still a director at Dragon*Con, although locations for things have changed between the various hotels.
I no longer work for Starfire Swords at the Georgia Renaissance Festival, since they pulled out of the Faire beginning in 2010. I still go down there fairly often -- why waste a good costume? -- and like to go to the drum-circle and dance that forms up after the last day of each Faire weekend, at a restaurant in nearby Union City.
In 2005, after our next-door neighbor was bludgeoned and died (drug-related), my roommates Tim and Adam and I decided it was time to vacate our apartment in northeast Atlanta; two months later I became the proud owner of a house in Auburn, Georgia. Not a big house, but an affordable one, and the area is quiet and certainly a lot less crime-ridden! I deliberately chose an inexpensive home so I could be sure to afford the mortgage myself, without needing roommates, although various friends have stayed here for up to a year at a time (generally rent-free, since I'm too nice for my own good). It's a loong commute to work, though, but at least I'm building equity in a home!
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