The week following Balticon 48, my social media feeds could easily be broken down to two topics: retrospectives of the event (which was awesome, by the way, and if you werenâ€™t thereâ€”think about being there in 2015) and a variety of perspectives on the #YesAllWomen hashtag. While nostalgic and contemplative the looks back to the Memorial Day Weekend were, itâ€™s been equally disheartening reading stories from people I admire and hold in high esteem like Dr Pamela Gay, Jared Axelrod, Chris Miller, either being victim of or watching others victimized by people who think they are cast in a season of Mad Men. Sure, there are men who behave badly in our culture but I had no idea just how deep this dark, twisted rabbit hole reached.
In this post I want to talk about both. In particular I want to talk about that amazing cookout you may have heard Balticon talk about on Friday night, and what we all can take away from it.
If you didnâ€™t know about Balticonâ€™s Third Annual New Media Meat & Greet, donâ€™t sweat it. The event wasnâ€™t â€œon the gridâ€ at Balticon. Never is. This was something that had started two years ago when I offered to host a cookout at my (then) hotel, the Residence Inn. The idea couldnâ€™t be more simple: bring for the grill something for you and a friend (be that a close friend or complete stranger), and then socialize. When we first did it, about thirty or some people showed up. It was a nice, comfortable outdoor gathering, easing all of us into the weekend.
The turnout this year was a bit larger than that…
I think folks were worried about me as I got asked several times if I wanted to take a break from the grill. Much appreciated, but I was in a very special zone. Part of my joy in flipping steaks, chicken, venison, brontosaurus ribs and prime cuts (and you think Iâ€™m joking thereâ€”trust me, Iâ€™m not! The Encaffinated One brought it hard for this yearâ€™s cookout.) is having the party come to me. Stands to reason: if you are hungry, you go to the grill to place your orderâ€¦
With my â€œSocialâ€ playlist offering a backdrop, the MeatÂ & Greet offered an open air atmosphere outside of the hotel for attendees to mingle. I got to say â€œHey!â€ to a lot of familiar faces but there were a fair share I did not know. It was extremely cool meeting those new to the cookout, saying â€œWe didnâ€™t know how this worked until we got here.â€ That disorientation didnâ€™t last long as food came off the grill, the camaraderie and community nurtured by the guests ranging from podcasters to writers to artists to attendees to all of the above. I was particularly grateful that the Residence Inn were so accommodating in managing the trash cans and offering their courtyard to us collection of nerds for several hours. I looked to my left and I saw Nobilis Reed and PJ Schnyder assembling an assortment of kebobs. To my right there were new people arriving withâ€”yesâ€”MOAR MEAT, which evoked some snark from the cookÂ but also led to food orders, where to find drinks, and what brought them here. I donâ€™t know how long I manned that grill, but the hours slipped by and when I finally got a moment to enjoy a quick hit of the Midas Touch (see above), I got a chance to enjoy the company. Good company, all around.
Since ourÂ Balticon weekend and reading the discussions spawned from events atÂ UCSB, I keep thinking about that barbecue, about what made it work. Like any event, especially one as big as that cookout became, I was worried about pissing off the hotel, disarming any volatile situations, or cleaning up any messes from folks who didnâ€™t know when enough alcohol was really enough; and chances are I will be worried about that next year (oh there will be a cookout next year, have no fearâ€¦).Â None of that happened. I met for the first time folks like J.R.D. Skinner andÂ Mike Luoma, connected with the hosts of the MythWits, and re-connected with friends from previous Balticons. We were all there, together, and nobody got hurt. As far as I saw and heard, nobody walked away offended, violated, or insulted. Nobody felt threatened. Nobody was in danger. We all trusted one another.
It was a matter of respect. There was no entitlement, no expectations. We respected each other, and something that simpleâ€”something so simple as saying â€œI donâ€™t know you but Iâ€™m cool with you if youâ€™re cool with meâ€¦â€â€”made for an unforgettable night, a night that reminded me of why I not only love Balticon but truly love the circles in which I travel. Great people who truly get it.
Yes, I believe we are better than male entitlement, better than PUAâ€™s, better than bad behavior. This isnâ€™t rocket science. This is about respect and about trust. Is that so difficult to grasp? I donâ€™t think so. If enough individuals make these choices and understand that regardless if youâ€™re a CEO, a writer with a few awards under your belt, or just a fan of the 2014 Tomb Raider, youâ€™re all putting your pants on the same way. Provided you believe in pants. If enough individuals get this, you create a pretty damn cool community. A community that is easy to believe in and create great things, be it art, social accomplishments, or friendships.
This is the zen of a barbecue, and we can all do this. We can be better. What happens next is up to you.