This past weekend the folks from TheOneRing.net’s IRC server gathered once again for the 4th Annual Barlibash, held this year in Boston to coincide with the Museum of Science’s Lord of the Rings exhibit. Barlibash 2004 saw a lot of returning attendees as well as a new crop of Barlifolk to enliven the festivities. What follows is a highly personal account of the weekend of fun and mayhem.
In attendance: Corvar and Kallisti, Charliems and daisygamgee, jincey and samgamgee7, HannaBoffin and Tim, Po and Elfriend, Thorongil and Mrs. Thor (and baby Thor), Nocturna and Angmar, djdeathkiss and Ricky, Balin, Anne, Arwen, JPB, mallorn, Alquawen, Sheelf7, Sirelle, Lursa, Beruthiel, The6thWalker, and Miss Kitty. Lycorth and Nocturna’s sister, as well as Alatariel and WeaponX, turned up for the exhibit; Mom, Denise, and Lurking Laurie of #teunc came out for the dinner at Dick’s, and Lurking Laurie returned for the pool party.
* * *
I arrived in Boston on Thursday night and the festivities were already in full swing. Wednesday arrivees had had a great night out in the North End on Wednesday evening, dining on fine Italian food and then purchasing vast quantities of pastry from Mike’s Pastry to bring back to the hotel. According to folks on the spot, the potential to damage the faux-velvet couches with Tiramisu smears was very real. The hotel staff must have been VERY VERY AFRAID.
The hotel, I should say, was fantastic. Our location this year was in Boston’s fashionable Back Bay neighborhood, in Jury’s brand new American hotel. The Irish chain is renowned for its Eire hospitality (in Ireland at least), and they’ve retro fitted an old Police station into a very swish hotel. We lucked out in obtaining the introductory room rate, as this is very much a boutique hotel full of original art and hipsters.
Some service wrinkles aside (Hello, Jury’s, whether we’re cool or not, it’s still the *hospitality* industry), there were no complaints about the choice. The absolute heavenly feather beds and pillows really made up for any other burps.
I met up with the gang outside of Dick’s Last Resort, a restaurant in Copley Square known for its food fights, rude waiters, and interesting concept of entertainment. I had left New Jersey late, so I didn’t roar into town until about 9:15 p.m. I drove up Huntington Avenue searching for the restaurant while guided via cell phone by Thorongil, who was saying helpful things like “look for the hotel which is at 11:00,” but couldn’t understand why clock-positions aren’t relevant unless you are standing next to each other.
When I pulled up to the restaurant, the TORn gang was milling outside like a restless pride of lions in search of a watering hole. I hailed them, and was quickly joined car side by TORn PTB Corvar, Kallisti, and HannaBoffin. We all decided that heading back to the hotel bar was the wisest choice. Kallisti hopped into my car and we left the others to hoof it back.
We were rejoined by the group in the hotel lobby bar, where we terrorized the other patrons into amscraying to the downstairs bar. In the process of rearranging the hotel’s upscale furniture to our liking (a big circle instead of artfully grouped chairs and couches), Hall of Fire moderator po managed to nearly wipe out what had to be a $1000+ crystal lamp whilst trying to pivot a chaise lounge. After a few minutes, hotel staffers with ear pieces snaking out of their heads began to nervously circle our group. One young man gingerly approached us, but in true TORn fashion po had the young man laughing uproariously within seconds, and then the staff left us alone to buy drinks from their bar.
Had a nice chat with Barlimans senior Op Balin, HannaBoffin, and HB’s boyfriend Tim. Got to meet Lursa and Nocturna (who were looking as shell-shocked as I felt at that point). Had a Guinness bought for me by the gallant Balin, and after an hour or two tottered out into the night to drive to HannaBoffin’s house in the suburbs, which was my residence for the evening.
Drive to their house took about 15 minutes and passed in a blur. HannaBoffin and Tim have a lovely place, and I dove onto the futon for a much-needed night’s sleep.
* * *
Awoke Friday to the smell of bacon. Ah, I’d forgotten what it’s like to wake up to the scent of someone else cooking breakfast. Was very very nice.
Tim put on a veritable feast for us: eggs made to order, peeled and segmented orange slices arranged nicely in a bowl, freaking AMAZING blueberry pancakes with warmed maple syrup, tea, and orange juice. It was great. HannaBoffin, Kristin (HB’s friend who stopped by for the repast), and I ate like queens.
HB and Tim were headed out to the Boston Museum of Science to meet up with the IMAX gang (who had met up with the insane 8am Duck Tour gang), but I drove back to the hotel to check in and find Thorongil and Mrs. Thor, who, like me, had decided that people on vacation do not go sightseeing at 8am.
Baby Thor is beautiful, and almost walking! Hard to believe that he’s not quite 11 months yet, though. This has been one bloody LONG year.
Sooooooooooooooooo… the Thorongils and I drove to the museum after a wee period of dealing with the hotel staff over the small matter of the valet service having smashed in the bumper of Mrs. Thor’s car. Suffice to say, New York prevailed over Boston, and the bumper damage will be paid for.
#TheOneRing.net’s mom and Head of All Things, jincey, awaited us at the front door with our tickets. jincey oversees TORn’s chat room and has been a part of the site since the very beginning. We’re all hugely indebted to her for keeping the chat family-friendly and a great place for TORn folk to hang out.
The LOTR museum exhibit was very impressive. To be honest, it was a bit overwhelming to me, because there was just so much there that I’ve written about for TORn over the last two years. Luckily, the details on the exhibit have been reported elsewhere, so I don’t need to give exhaustive detail. Highlights for me: the Requiem dress, Galadriel’s dress, the color studies done for pre-production, and the massssssssssssssssssive Alan Lee and John Howe pencil sketches. Oh dear Eru. If the exhibit curators had had their acts together, there would have been an exhibit program at the very least, if not actual posters and etc. Alas, the merchandise was limited to Sideshow and etc. stuff much available elsewhere — at better prices. My one regret: Arwen’s banner from ROTK was not there, and all the banners that *were* there were suspended from the ceiling high above the exhibit, so it was impossible to view them. Also, no furniture was on display, or housewares. Sadness.
Barliman’s chatter Lycorth was able to hold Anduril, one of the swords on display at the exhibit, and was seen wandering around with a dazed expression of utter rapture. Everyone who was there had their own little thing that just enthralled them. Our resident Nazgul, Nocturna and Angmar, drooled over the Ringwraith set pieces, and mallorn and Alquawen — ever the Hall of Fire moderators — eagerly perused all of the exhibits to check the accuracy of the Tolkien knowledge on display. I nearly wrested a large color study of Caras Galadhon at twilight off of the wall. jincey and samgamgee7 had their picture taken on the forced-perspective interactive, which rendered one of them as hobbit-sized and the other as human-sized. Very amusing.
Since everyone was on their own time schedule in perusing the exhibit, we separately migrated back to the hotel, to meet up several hours later for a group trip to Legal Seafoods for dinner.
Sat with Beruthiel and Lursa for a while in the hotel bar. Two super-friendly people. Beruthiel is exactly as you’d imagine, and she’s soooo funny. Lursa is adorable — very nice, very easy to talk to, and a great person. Of course we had the laptop running in the bar — thank you, Jury’s, for your wireless network. I managed to resist the chat’s lure, and had an excellent time getting to know them better.
At Legal Seafoods we snagged a private room for our group — in a very nice wine cellarish atmosphere — which was great because we are LOUD. The roars of happiness when Table Two donated their appetizer platter to Table One could have shattered glass, I think. We had grown to quite a crowd at this point — nearly 40 folks by my estimate.
Dinner was great. After we’d consumed all the seafood we could (well, I had steak, because… I don’t eat seafood), some folks took off to go barhopping around Boston, while others retreated back to the hotel for drinks within walking distance of our beds, and a herd of hardy folks went in search of munchies to take back to mallorn and Alquawen’s room for a viewing of ROTK, which reportedly went on until 1:30 a.m.
According to mallorn, at about 1 a.m. the room was strewn with potato chips, soda, and other junk food, while everyone watched in mostly rapt silence. Partly because the sound system wasn’t great, but also because — hey, these are hardcore LOTR fans 😉
I opted for the best choice, imo, by choosing Guinness in the hotel bar with HannaBoffin, Tim, TORn Staffer Arwen, and others whom I can’t recall, lol. While sipping, Arwen showed us her pictures from the Ringers trip to New Zealand for the ROTK premiere and on the Red Carpet Tour. The pictures were amazing, and I am envious anew that I never followed through on my plan to go last December. C’est la vie.
Several Guinnesses were followed by a night in feather mattress heaven. I forgot I am allergic to down, but the headache in the morning was still worth it.
* * *
Saturday morning. A nice peaceful breakfast in the hotel restaurant. A bunch of different things were planned for today. Corvar and Kallisti, mallorn, and a handful of other people opted to go whale watching (or whale seeking, since no whales were ever actually seen). Arwen, Sheelf7, Sirelle, Mr. and Mrs. djdeathkiss, and myself decided to walk Boston’s Freedom Trail. Beruthiel and Lursa were meant to join us, but the sleeeeeeeeeeeeeeepyheads had stayed up far too late the evening before, and decided to sleep in, as did Po and Elfriend.
Out on the trail were a crowd of Navy ROTC students, looking spiffy in their white uniforms and hats. God, they are soooo young.
It was a beautiful day, sunshine and puffy clouds, when we started out. At the start of the trail is the monument to the 54th Regiment of the Civil War, the first all-black, all-volunteer regiment to fight in the U.S. armed forces. The massive bronze statue is impressive, depicting Col. Robert Gould Shaw on horseback alongside his troop. The granite plinth features the names of all the men who died alongside him in battle, and we spent some time studying it while waiting for djdeathkiss and Ricky (who had diverted to a coffee shop) to rejoin us.
Sirelle is a history teacher back in Rhode Island, and while we waited she proceeded to tell us the coolest stories about how she actively engages her students in the study of history. The thing I wished that *I* had had in school was the week-long session on the Revolutionary War, where she abridges all the student’s rights arbitrarily (no mixing of the sixth and seventh grade, imposes a tax on candy bars, has parents cooperation to assign punitive chores) to teach them how the colonists were treated by Britain. At the end of the week they get to “revolt” and overthrow the Lieutenant Governor (i.e. Sirelle) and hold a “Tea Party” of their own. It sounds very cool, and Sirelle herself is very cool, and her students are lucky.
We walked along the trail for a while longer, stopping at the Granary Burying Ground to see the graves of Ben Franklin, Paul Revere, Sam Adams, and many other famous Americans, including “Mother” Mary Goose, the author of children’s nursery rhymes. Also on the trail were the Old North Church (of “one if by land, two if by sea” fame) and the Old State House — from the balcony of which the Declaration of Independence was first read to the public on July 18, 1776.
After this we wandered over to Faneuil Hall and Quincy Market where we split up. Arwen was headed back to the Science Museum for her second visit to the exhibit, and Sheelf7 wanted to explore the historic site museums, which Sirelle, djdeathkiss, Ricky, and I decided to skip. We went on a little further into the North End, pausing to take a gander at Paul Revere’s house before sitting down to the largest hamburgers known to man at a local restaurant. The North End was draped in bunting and lights for the Fisherman’s Feast which starts next week, and it really reminded me of Hoboken and Little Italy.
Sirelle and I split off at that point to make our way to the Science Museum where we were meeting Arwen and Alquawen for a Duck Tour of Boston. For the uninitiated, Duck Tours are conducted around Boston via amphibious motored trucks which can navigate land and water. For that reason they are known as “Ducks,” and you are encouraged to shout “Quack Quack” at people as you pass them, and Bostonians (or maybe they were tourists?) actually ‘Quack Quack’ back at you. As a nearly-New-Yorker, I was disconcerted by this, since we tend to pretend that the tour buses wending their way around Manhattan don’t exist (sort of like Hogwarts Express).
It was fun, and Alquawen and Sirelle both got to steer the Duck, earning themselves a “I Drove the Duck” sticker for their efforts, which they did continue to wear for the rest of the evening. For some reason our tour guide was Australian, and kept going on at great length about having been an alligator wrestling champion. But he was nice, and it was a pleasant hour and a half.
We all went back to the hotel after that, and prepared for HannaBoffin and Tim’s pool party.
The party was a huge success. First of all, HB and Tim are … like… the BEST. HOSTS. EVER. Food, beverages, party games, pool toys, snacks, cakes, tents, and LAPTOP were all provided for the very rowdy TORn bunch. I’d like to say that I availed myself of all the party paraphernalia, but I got my hands on a computer for the first time in a few days and I didn’t let go of it. Lursa sat by my side chatting via her cell phone, and we proceeded to have a very amusing time in #TORn chatting with Wingfoot (who may or may not have actually been on the road to Boston and chatting via a wireless connection, oddly with the same IP address as his home computer. But, enough about that 😉 ).
At the party, Elfriend appeared suddenly in full Pirate garb, complete with eye makeup. Very fetching. He proceeded to throw himself into the pool, before any elf-tossing could occur. A few folks got their shots at him later, however, and Elfy did spend most of the party soaking wet. Being thrown in and out of the pool didn’t work up enough appetite for the Elf to finish off his special key-lime pie, but he did make a valiant effort.
We had some hardcore swimmers who never left the pool. Who knew jincey could be so feisty with a beach ball? She was lucky Barliman wasn’t there, or she just might have gotten herself kicked 😉
samgamgee7 and Balin and Corvar and Miss Kitty also fully enjoyed the pool, and hostess with the mostest, HannaBoffin, did find time to splash around too. Meanwhile, Tim was amazing — cooking up a storm, keeping things flowing, and in general just being awesome. Tim’s sister Donna also worked incredibly hard setting up for the party, and chauffering folks back and forth from the T, waiting patiently as people asked to stop and ogle the LOTR sand sculpture of Saugus, which is down the street from HB’s house.
While Lursa and I chatted, the rest of the gang retreated to the SECOND tent (the first one housing the enormous spread of food) where they held two rousing games of LOTR Trivial Pursuit. Sirelle turned out to be whipsmart at Middle Earth facts (makes sense for a history teacher) and reportedly beat everyone handily.
At the end of the party portion of the evening, everyone rejoined us chatters for a small session of “Where is Wingfoot,” before we all split up again. A few people went off to see a Comedian/Hypnotist perform at Faneuil Hall, while the rest of us lounged for a while longer before returning to the hotel.
Since I hadn’t had a drink all evening due to being a driver, I went back to the hotel bar, of course. We commandeered ourselves a bunch of tables out on the terrace and quickly proceeded to order drinks. Well, as quickly as we could, since the wait staff at the hotel are not exactly eager bunnies. Thanks to The6thWalker for being outspoken and unafraid, and who marched into the hotel to complain, we eventually got rather good service until the end of the evening. We all had a great time talking and recapping the weekend. Miss Kitty patiently read everyone’s tarot cards, and Nocturna and Angmar made a surprise appearance (particularly to the other guests sitting on the terrace) in their RingWraith costumes, which were awesome 🙂
The comedy club folks eventually returned, and we all had one final round of drinks before we were unceremoniously asked to leave the bar, lol. That’s TORn folks for you — we don’t leave until they throw us out.
* * *
Sunday morning saw some folks out the door before I even crawled out of bed. Those who stayed later journeyed far afield to find a restaurant serving breakfast at a reasonable price, and stumbled upon Vox Populi which served up the best breakfast taters ever. One-by-one Barlifolk departed, until just a small knot were left. We strolled back to the hotel, and everyone crowded into my room for an awed look at my bathroom (which turned out to be larger than most people’s and was able to hold 6-7 people comfortably) and then we all said goodbye. I piled my stuff into the car, and headed south to New Jersey.
* * *
This was my third Barlibash, and I think it may have been my favorite. I want to thank HannaBoffin and Tim with every ounce of appreciation I have for their hospitality: both in putting me up for the first night and for their amazing party hosting. I also want to thank jincey and HannaBoffin for coordinating things so spectacularly, and Kallisti — our Jenny-on-the-spot — who provided local intelligence, wisdom, and patience.
It was so wonderful to meet everyone, and to discover once again that Barlifolks are so damn cool. I wish I could see all of you guys more often, up close and in person. But, I’m thankful that we all make the time to see each other as often as we do. See you all next year 🙂