Wow. So that was a day.
Facing the morning with a hint of chagrin, I noted it was far too early. 6 hours sleep? This was meant to be my catch up day. Little had I known the extent of what I’d face before the next sunrise. The thing is, I’d been using Twitter for its intended purpose, which is to harass people you don’t really know in an attempt to get to know them better. I twittered Spencer, the Harmontown dungeon master, to see if he wanted to play any Magic the Gathering while he was in town. Turns out he brought a couple of decks and after a little wrangling, I managed to organise meeting him. We had lunch at some place around Dundas Square. The meal was tasty enough, but the conversation was pretty fulfilling. Spencer, as you’d expect, is just a normal guy with a solid, intelligent head on his shoulders. Both being nerds, we talked avidly about Magic the Gathering, human evolution and his experiences becoming Dan’s charge. It was unbelievably great just chatting with the dude, getting a sense for how he’d come to adapt to the challenges Harmontown had placed before him.
We then caught a streetcar to Meeplemart and played some MtG (as the cool kids call it these days. The way things are going I wouldn’t be surprised for Magic to suddenly be a jock pastime. Especially since it can involve the phrase “I’ll tap that”). Having not played in ages. it was outstanding to go up against someone as casual as myself. Twice during the games, people came over and introduced themselves as fans of the podcast. Spencer was friendly and gracious, but their social awkwardness was pretty evident, as if this was a held trait of some kind of typical Harmontown fan. Not that I’d know anything about that… We managed to get in an hour or two’s worth of play before it became evident I should get him back to the hotel so he could make whatever call time he had.
After this I jumped in line for the documentary/podcast itself. At an hour before showtime, the line already stretched around the corner. The tolerable thing about this was at least I was surrounded by other Harmenians, so we were never shy of much to talk about. I could and couldn’t (in equal amounts) believe how far some people had come from to be here, reveling in that special safe space of weirdness Harmon provides us with. Upon entry I immediately shot to the front and nabbed a spot in front of Bobcat Goldthwait. Success.
I’d seen the film before and it was essentially everything I remembered from last time. My eyes welled up at the right places, I laughed where I needed to, felt things. I loved the structure, it felt like Neil handled the material well, creating a compelling narrative. I still felt like Erin and Jeff needed a lot more time to fill out their characters onscreen. Let’s be frank, there were over 500 hours of footage, but the limited running time of the film meant they had to be relegated to sidekick roles. I mean, Erin was practically just Dan’s Girlfriend, which entirely belies the importance of her presence to the podcast. Jeff is like the railway keeping things running on a steady track. He’s almost as central to the thing as Dan is. A damn shame, for two such intelligent, nuanced people to be sidelined. Once again, limitations of the running time. I just wonder how many alternate stories could be told from that treasure trove of footage. So, that was the film anyway.
To be continued…
… Continuing here, since having the second part show up in the feed before the first wouldn’t make sense.
So the film had shown, followed by a quick Q&A with Dan and Neil, the director. I’d gotten a seat right up front which lessened the enjoyment of the film (the soreness of craning my head that much made itself evident soon enough) that I’d already seen, but it was a prime position for the podcast. During the intermission I grabbed two beers, because in the rare chance I got called up on stage I knew I’d need more than a mote of liquid courage to calm my nerves.
Okay, sidebar. Going into the gig I had a strong feeling. After my indescribably enjoyable experience meeting up with Spencer, something told me I might just end up on stage. In the podcast there’s often a call for whichever audience member has come from the furtherest away to come up on stage. I figured coming from New Zealand would lock me in. It’s weird the way that this kind of thing gnaws at you. In the days leading up to the podcast it began to consume me. I started running scenarios in my head, the subjects I’d talk about, whether I’d have little conversational bits at the ready, or go for a laissez faire impromptu approach. I thought about the DnD campaign, if I might get to play a character or not. I became concerned with how Dan would view me, what the r/harmontown community would say. I’m just like everyone else after all, I only want to be loved. Adding to that is the narcissism meaning I really want people to think I’m something special. It’s a horrible trait that led me into a spiral of obsession. I’d wake up in the middle of the night, equally worried and excited. How would I handle something like this? Essentially my most fervent wish coming true?
Skip back to the podcast. It was going swimmingly, but as much as I loved the content, that little niggling voice in the back of my head was recounting everything that’d happened and how I’d leverage that into something clever, a callback or whatnot if I was brought on stage. It definitely distracted me from the goings on. Conversely, my nerdy response to something I really enjoy is to give myself to it utterly. I experienced full body laughs, incapacitated at times by pure joy. Bobkat was an excellent guest comptroller and utterly hilarious, though I’d be lying if I said I didn’t miss Jeff. Too bad he’s off making some game show (man, what an ass. Having an actual paying job to pour himself into. The nerve of some people, amirite?) and couldn’t attend. Spencer was masterful (in the dungeon context and outside of it) as has become customary and Jane, the female identifying transgendered bootleg moonshine magnate was in fine form dropping intelligent discourse and awareness on gender identity and representation.
Dan was Dan, as he always is. It’s interesting to see him perform without Jeff’s guiding hand and there were times I was genuinely terrified this idol I’d created for myself would stumble and crack. It’s evident that the charm of Dan for misfits such as myself is his ready willingness to take ownership of his fallibility. He’s not perfect and celebrates that fact, positing that a world without fault isn’t one anybody would care to live in. The home made moonshine did fuck him up a bit, but he carried on in a challenging dialogue despite the surmounting difficulty in expressing his opinion. He’s remarkably articulate while totally smashed and whenever I thought he was about to step in a load of verbal shit, he managed to steer back on course and make a coherent logical point. D&D was outstanding, with the female audience member brought up (“we need some estrogen on stage here” said Dan. Disregarding Jane sitting next to him) playing Erin’s character remarkably. Progress was made and hilarity ensued with the gang testing out non conflict resolutions and nebulous notions of consent in breaking and entering. Similar to Dirty Dancing, I had the time of my life.
After the show, a throng of people followed Dan and co to Paupers Pub, whereupon Dan made himself available to his fans. Giving each fan as much time to converse as they wished, he’d sign whatever they put in front of him and pose for photos without a care. He was filled to the brim with a fanciful joviality. I was intimidated, though I fully intended to approach him. I needed to steel myself first. I talked to Dustin, podcast engineer and founder of the Feral Audio network. Bought him a drink to say thanks to all the tireless work he puts in and discussed the LA podcast scene and his immense distaste for The AV Club. Cool guy. I chatted with Bobkat Goldthwait about juggalos, Detroit and whether they’ll resort to running Faygo in lieu of fresh water to houses due to the economic collapse. I met a bunch of Harmenians and made fast friends. Despite small differences, we’re a tribe to be sure.
Eventually I plucked up the courage to inflict myself upon Dan. Shaking and stuttering, I gushed ceaselessly about how much his work and words meant to me. I apologised for saying a torrent of things at him that realistically wouldn’t really add value to his life whatsoever, but that I needed to direct them towards him otherwise I’d always regret holding them in. He said I should never worry about expressing myself, not to apologise for who I was. He signed my copy of his book, You’ll Be Perfect When You’re Dead “Leon. I’m thinking mostly of you. I love you.” I knew the words were genuine but non-specific. He probably would’ve levelled them towards any fan, I just happened to be the conduit this time. Still, whenever I look at them a smile cracks my face and I giggle uncontrollably. He was drunk and cuddly, overly friendly and accessible. He seemed to naturally feed off the energy and vibes his fans sent his way. In meeting him it somehow humanised the monolithic God I’d turned him into. It was the most formative experience I’ve had in quite some time, ensuring it’ll carve a place in my hall of hallowed memories for quite some time.
Wow. That was a day indeed.