Memories of Keycon: Drinking with a Dwarf

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As a board game publisher and an all-around geek, I attend my fair share of conventions every year. My favorite Winnipeg convention to attend is Keycon, a science fiction and fantasy fan convention aimed squarely at ensuring that its attendees have a great time. Between being able to present panels on board game design to being given homemade alcohol by fellow attendees in taverns meant to looking like something straight out of Tolkien novel, the event is always a fantastic experience.

The one downside to attending Keycon is that given the parking situation downtown, I must rely on public transit to get downtown. Normally I enjoy public transit, but on weekends buses are not my friend. Winnipeg is known for having reduced hours on weekends, with some locations only having bus service once every hour. After waiting for an hour and a half without a bus coming however, I began to seriously doubt the infrastructure of my city, as the bus simply did not come at the appointed time…or after. Eventually succumbing to the basic need of a washroom, I sprinted into a local grocery story for what could only be two minutes. As I stepped out of the store, I saw my bus pulling away from the bus stop that I had committed a significant portion of my day in.

A “hell no” resounded within my mind and perhaps from my lips as well, though I sincerely hope not given the number of elderly shoppers in my presence. My memory is a hazy at this point, as by the next moment I had entered a full-sprint, legs propelling me forward in leaps and bounds. Gone was the carefully manicured posture of a marathon runner, replaced by the lunging sprints of something more akin to the Predator. A bottle of hand-sanitizer flew from my jacket pocket as I bounded across the parking lot and down the street, though I would not until later that day.

What did break my attention was the sound of glass breaking underfoot. A half-broken beer bottle lay on the sidewalk and in my mad dash, I annihilated any remaining semblance of its structure, reducing the clear bottle to a fine powder. Looking down, I saw that no shards had pierced through my shoes and with the adrenaline I was experiencing, if glass was in my shoes, I was not in a mental state to experience it.

Traffic being relatively dense for a Saturday, I was lulled into a false sense of hope, seeing the bus constantly stopping to circumvent parked cars on the two-lane road and the jack-ass drivers that come out of the woodwork on Saturday mornings. With each stop, I closed the gap, coming within 50 meters of the bus before it would drive off again, reaching halfway to the event horizon of visible traffic before slowing down again. This continued for six blocks as I gained and distanced myself from the bus like a cardio-centric elastic

Eventually however, the bus hit broke away from his fellow drivers and began to disappear from view. I slowed at this point, accepting my fate of being late for Keycon and reflecting on how fortunate I was to be scheduled to present in the afternoon as opposed to mid-morning. Looking around at the alien environment that now surrounded me, I began to reflect on the convention that awaited me as I struggled to orient myself.

I could write a book on all the stories that came out of my two years at Keycon, but one experience will forever be mentally bookmarked when I think of Keycon. I was sitting at the aforementioned Tolkien-esque tavern, enjoying the entertainment and company fellow attendees. Suddenly, an attendee struck me on the back as a solider would his comrade, loudly proclaiming “have you tried Gerran’s Mead?” I looked up from the table to see a dwarf holding out a bottle of homebrew to me. When I say dwarf, I do not mean short-person nor do I mean a cos-player, I mean a man who looked like something straight out of Lord of the Rings. The man had a short, stocky build and sported an immense orange beard. A bald-spot featured prominently on the top of his head, but was compensated for by a ring of long hair that hung in all directions, covering his shoulders and the sides of his face. Rounding out the appearance was a tunic that border-lined being a robe and a pair of granny-glasses that gave him the appearance of a Dwarven scribe straight out of a Dungeons and Dragons rulebook.

Being a home brewer, I know how long the process of Mead-making is (2-5 years), so when a fantasy dwarf offers you a time-intensive brew of his own making, the answer is yes, god yes! The drink was sweet and well-balanced, leading to a wonderful conversation with both the brewer and promoter about all types of ales and brewing techniques.

Experiences such as these would never be repeated however, if I was not able to able to get to Keycon in a reasonable time-frame. My despair lifted however, as soon after the transit bus disappeared, another appeared behind me. Apparently, I had chased my wayward for enough to have entered the zone of another bus route, which now conveniently approached from behind. I jumped on and was back in business, ready to attend a convention that had given me so many wonderful experiences.