Defcon @ the 2006 Fiery Foods Show
Well, here we are, when I started this article, it was Tuesday, the morning after the first full night of sleep I’ve had since last Thursday. After a request from Nick to do a write-up on the show, I agreed to do a recap of the festivities, in my own sardonic style of writing. If you find any of it offensive or distasteful, well, so be it, these are my own observations. This is my first person accounting of the goings-on, and my manner of getting my point across may be found to be a bit crass, but those who know me wouldn’t expect anything different. Here it goes:
We left the lovely and picturesque Newark Airport about 5:00pm on Wednesday, as the setup day for the Show was Thursday, and why the Hell would you fly in the same day you have to set up your booth? I knew this weekend would be a memorable one even before we even took off the ground. During the security check, the lovely and gracefully inept TSA agent, whose must have been born with the extra chromosome, had an amazingly difficult time pondering the fact that my belt buckle was comprised of ferrous metals, hence the little beeping noise each time I traversed the detector. After an extended deliberation, an education into the ways of the belt buckle, a composite mineral breakdown of production metals, and an exemption from a cavity search, we were on our way. Stopping in at O-Briens, the only place within the entire terminal to grab a cancer stick, I stopped in for a quick smoke, fearing the worst from the impending flight; a screaming 2-year old named Jeremy or a 600-pounder that smelled of rancid onions sitting next me.
We took off late, the standard protocol for the lovely Newark Airport troglodytes whose brain matter rivals that of a door wedge. The flight was quite uneventful, and the beers were cold…The Creator was happy.
We landed in Albuquerque, about 11:00pm, and so did our luggage, an occasional nicety the airline industry grants you from time to time. I immediately began to notice that the people were a little different, but I digress, back to that later. We met up with Tina and Greg Brooks from Peppermaster in Canada, and proceeded to get a cab to take us to our respective places of rest. We asked how far the hotels were from the airport, and the driver stated just a “couple of miles”. I was soon to learn that a “couple miles” in New Mexico is equivalent to the distance the Space Shuttle traverses after initial reentry. Anyway, we dropped off Greg and Tina at the Marriott, and continued to the Sandia Resort, just a “couple miles” more down the road. We checked in uneventfully, but then asked the question that would haunt me, and nearly every single person we met that weekend, “What time does the bar close?” She replied, “One O’clock”. I glanced at my watch, and to my horror, it was 12:40am. Must have been that “short” ride from the airport. I ran to the bar in a manner which would’ve put O.J. Simpson to shame in a Hertz commercial, and grabbed a couple cold ones before bed.
After passing by what seemed a gauntlet of security personnel, who we would get to know quite well in the upcoming few days, we made it to the elevators. The accommodations were pleasant, and the view was stunning, however, the thermostat only went down to 65, which kind of pissed me off, as I like to sleep as if in a meat locker.
We awoke the next morning, and went downstairs to grab a bite to eat at the buffet. Not bad for 8 bucks, I just wish they didn’t have the same food every morning, by the third day I felt like Bill Murray in Groundhog Day. We met up again with Tina & Greg, who we had flown down so they could meet up with the industry down there (see that, The Creator has a heart), and they were going to help set up our booth. After breakfast, we proceeded into the main show room. It was pretty large and well setup, albeit a little strange, as they had covered every square inch of the carpet with saran wrap-like material. Walking on it was like walking on bubble wrap. Very strange, and at the same time annoying, as the little popping sounds began to get to you. In talking to some vendors, they had originally thought the rugs were covered due to the testosterone-filled idiots, in recent years, who would consume too much of the extract sauces in order to “prove” themselves, and would pass out and vomit all over the floor. One vendor even told us a wonderful tale of a lovely braindead public lemming who projectile vomited all over another vendor after showing his friends how much hot he could consume, great stuff. I wasn’t aware of any of these events happening in the show area this year, but by the end of each day, the mens room rivaled the vomitoriums of ancient Rome.
Our Mount Everest of a pallet lay in wait for us at our designated booth area. We unmummified it, and began the setup. It was great having Greg and Tina there, as they had done numerous shows in Canada, and were a great source of trade show knowledge. This was our first “big” show, and the anxiety and trepidation was there days in advance, but we were calmed as the setup progressed. Our booth came out much better than we expected…Wait until next year, just think Borg!
After the setup, we made our way to the main casino bar. The bar kind of overlooked the casino. I have been to Atlantic City a few times, but this was a little weird. NEVER in my life have I seen a penny or even nickel slot machine before. As expected, just as in any casino, there were people populating the slots areas acting as if “their” machine(s) was a conjoined twin. We had a couple beers, and a couple more, and then we had some more beers after that. Tina and Greg went back to their hotel to change for dinner. We met them again and headed to the County Line BBQ. We had been told this place had great food for a decent price they were right. We grabbed a cab from the Sandia, and headed a “couple miles” down the road. Great place, good food, a lot of food. A hometown (“townie”) bar, family style. I had the Big Daddy ribs, 7 beef ribs, cooked to your liking, with all the sides, for about 14 bucks, awesome! We get back to our hotels and just crash, as our digestive tracts were overloaded with large quantities of tasty animal muscle.
Friday morning, we have our “Groundhog Day” breakfast, and proceed to man our booth. We were in a pretty cool spot. We had Simmie J’s BBQ on our left, Southafricans.com, who make great peri-peri sauces, on our right, Captain Thom in front, and Blair’s booth just down to our right. Friday was mostly a trade day, so, as expected, was relatively calm. We met up with a number of retailers and a couple distributors, and were mainly putting faces on people we’ve been talking to since our inception. By this time, the lack of humidity was starting to take its toll, and we ended up buying a couple cases of water from the trade show supply people (DPI). We would end up drinking over a case of water a day after this. Anyway, so the day goes along without a hitch, and we are getting some pretty good feedback from our sauces, and some lovely tears and whimpers from the individuals who consumed our Defense Condition #1 sauce.
OK, now, Friday’s hours were 9-7. Trade people only from 9-4. It’s now 3:50pm and I go to the patio for a quick smoke. I notice a few other vendors out there as well, and I strike up conversation, of course donning the lab coat, doo rag and goggles. A vendor points to the side of the building where the attendees were lining up. In a communal gasp, we saw them, by the hundreds, lined up like cattle before the pneumatic head hammer, THE PUBLIC!!!
The vendors, feeling as if they should put on a blindfold as this is probably their last cigarette, enjoy the last puffs, and go to man their booths for the ensuing first round of battle. Then it happened, the horse race bell went off, and they came, and they came, and they came, not unlike a Ceceil B. Demille film. Cheffy appeared within the shuffling herd of mindless protoplasm. We spoke for about 1-2 seconds when I told him to shut the Hell up. He looked at me quizzically, wondering if he had offended The Creator somehow, and I told him they had just opened the crates of N-59’s for sale. I probably don’t have to give you a visual on this, but I wasn’t aware the human body was capable of such directed acceleration.
Our booth was a continual crowd of people, which is a good thing. And, it was for only 3 hours, which is another good thing, as it was nice to get a taste of what was to come in the next couple days. Well, 7pm came, and we went to the main casino bar, imagine that. Well, the bar had many more people in it this time around, mostly vendors, not to mention many more security goons. Well, we joined Tina and Greg at a table. It was now Tina, Greg, Myself, The Createss, Cheffy, Paul (or Pete I can’t remember…Cheffy’s buddy), Cajohn, his wife Sue, Nick, and MSK. We proceeded to drink heavily, which, in my opinion, is a good thing. We drank more, and Cajohn presented an absolutely beautiful framed label arrangement to MSK. It was a great item, and I thought MSK was going to lose it right there, but fear not, he didn’t he just went up and bought us all a round, which again, is a good thing. Nick took a picture of the Cajohn presentation and the table was promptly greeted by a small herd of humorless security Gestapo. They informed us that there are no pictures to be taken in the casino. Hmmm, we’re at the bar above the casino, in the back corner. But why cause waves, Hell we have to be here for a few more days. Anyway, I can’t remember the exact topics at the table, but man, my stomach was cramping from the laughter, especially the previous misadventures of Cajohn and MSK, man, great stuff, and then Chili from Ohio joined us. Well, we drank more, and then came the infamous MSK head signing. Randy was in great spirits and in fun we signed his head with gold pen, which was of course another hilarious addition to the evening. Well, Nick took a picture of it, without a flash, but Chili, having just arrived at the table wasn’t aware of the Gestapo bylaws and snapped a shot. Well, let’s just say, we didn’t drink anymore that evening, and were promptly escorted out. MSK was very glad that the Gestapo agent that led him out got his ass kicked later that evening from a fight that broke out that we missed. Enough of the color commentary for that evening, I don’t really want to embarrass anyone (see, The Creator has empathy as well).
Well, perhaps it was a Godsend that we got booted that evening, because Saturday would prove to be the “Nutbuster” of all the days. Well, we broke up that night (the pics of Tina, Greg, MSK, etc that Nick had posted were all taken just after we got tossed) and Myself and The Createss just crashed. Oh yeah, did I mention we forgot to eat dinner that night?
It’s Saturday. Groundhog Day breakfast, but this time the potatoes were a bit overdone, and could be used as caltrops on a Hun battlefield. We entered our booth fully aware of the upcoming onslaught. Trade people were only there for a couple of hours Saturday morning, and I had time to go talk to a few vendors. At 10:55, it was time for the vendors daily arrival on the patio with their blindfold and last cigarette. This time however, the line of attendees was nearly a parsec long. We enjoyed our final butt, and headed in for the Battle of Concord, or perhaps Agincourt or even Stalingrad would be more apropos. The gates opened and not unlike the Michael Jackson video “Thriller”, they came, and they came, and they came. As I stated, this was our first “big” show, and I had been used to one on one’s with people, being able to shed The Creator’s intellect and overall knowledge of the pepper to the inquisitive. This was not to be, for the wave assault that was thrust upon us, is one for the history books. We weren’t aware of it, but DEFCON Sauces had not only been selected as Best In Show by Channel 7 in Dallas, but had hit the early news on Channel 7 in Albuquerque that morning (even the weatherman gave us a plug)…And I guess in Albuquerque, a lot of people watch the early news. Well, needless to say, there was a bipedal ocean around us. The hands of the masses grasping sample cups like third worlders grasping for life-giving grain. This is a good problem, even if it was unexpected, but good Lord, it was surreal, like something out of an Isaac Asimov or George Orwell novel (Klaatu Barata Nikto). The day went on, and the wave assault slowly died down, but the attendee beer consumption didn’t. After about 6pm, most of the normal attendees had done their shopping and were either on their way home, or dealing with the Gestapo at the casino bar. This is when the real ‘winners’ began their pilgrimage to the surface, a beer in each hand, having to focus on staying vertical. Of course the only thing that comes out of these dregs is “Give me the hottest you have”, or better yet, “Gimme da hottest, (hiccup), you got”. Well, I most appreciatively did, and thoroughly enjoyed the tears of agony, and cries of cauterizing bliss afterwards.
Saturday night was the night set aside for the vendors at El Pinto restaurant. We met up with basically everyone there. Man, beer always tastes better when it’s free. We told many jokes, and stories of the public run-ins, and of course, in the midst of the conversation, lovely Nick, pal ‘o mine, snaps the infamous cat picture. I even threatened him with gruesome and agonizing death if he posted it, hmmm, that gets me thinking…But I digress. We ended at El Pinto after feasting on really good food and REALLY free beer, and headed back to the Sandia, the only casino I’ve ever seen where they don’t allow alcohol on the casino floor, and they serve you coffee. I don’t know, I’m from New Jersey, and have been to Atlantic City quite a few times. I always thought you wanted your betting public drunk off their asses and stupid, not sober and pinging off the walls. We regrouped at the hotel, and once again, to our horror, the casino bar dealt us another unexpected pleasantry. There was a line of mentally-conditioned lemmings (let’s call them “The Multitudes of Algernons”) awaiting entrance into this place, and we were told there was a 2 and a half hour wait. Now, keep up with me here; Perhaps the people in line were a little slow, but the bar was only open for another 2 hours, see what I mean about the public? We decided to hit the bar upstairs, a place I didn’t even know existed until tonight. A little less casual, but we were told the food was really good, perhaps next year we’ll try it, because we keep forgetting to eat. We had a couple beers, and Me and The Createss were just ready to crash.
Sunday arrived. Perhaps a more fitting name would be Armageddon, the Final Battle, Ragnarok, Gettysburg, you call it what you want, I’ll stick to Judgment Day. Screw the Groundhog Day breakfast, got a bagel and a Coke. The standard calm before the storm, the 2 hours of Trade personnel went smooth once again, as we inhaled our last few breaths before the inevitable final combat began. Again, at 10:55, the vendors gathered to discuss battle tactics. The conversations seemed a bit lighter this time around, as the light at the end of the tunnel could be seen, kind of like opening your eyes for the first time after surgery. We finished our daily final cigarettes and traipsed to our booths to man the parapets so as to counter the all to familiar inundation of mindless drones who will converge upon us in a final wave assault that would rival the orc hordes in Lord of the Rings. Zero hour came, and the battle ensued. Once again, our audience grew even larger, to our amazement, for we thought this would be a day of fewer…we were mistaken.
But victory can sometimes be bittersweet, for the legions did amass at the DEFCON Sauces booth, and oh yes, they did purchase the DEFCON Sauces elixirs. However great in number the purchases were, and they were great, were no match for what lay ahead for The Creator and Createss. For three days, the placation of the lemming commenced, for three days we filled the grasping paws of the public with free samples and inane discussions, for three days we dealt with the casino Gestapo. But, we were not prepared, nor could any vendor have been, for the questions that would be bleated from the lower, intellectually-challenged subjects of the masses, the Adherents to the Temple of the Sub-Genius. Questions and comments, even when repeated were nonsensical. Perhaps they asked these questions so as to tear our intelligence asunder, to mentally flog us until we were broken.
There were questions and comments, such as “Last time I tasted something like this, it tasted just like this”, “What do you add to make a pepper hot?”, “Are you sure there are peppers in here? I don’t see any.”, “Is this the Fiery Food show?”, “How hot is this?”, “The mild says mild, is it hot?”, “My friend would love this stuff, but she died”, “How hot are hot peppers?”, “Wow, this tastes like wing sauce, did you ever use it like that (while staring at our banner)?”, “I can’t eat anything hot (why are they there?)?”, “What is the recipe for this?”, or “Did you ever try selling this stuff, it’s really good.”. My favorite, after an entire day, a very intoxicated individual slithered up to our booth, grasping his two 12 ounce glass containers of his fermented life essence, and stated quite fluently with slurred speech through his gin mill haze, “I don’t really like your sauces, pal”, I replied, “And I don’t really like you (thinking the entire time, this guy would look great under the heel of my boot)”. He stood there, as if attempting actual thought, and then tripped on the imaginary line and allowed gravity to let him taste the floor with his face. It wasn’t until after the show that we realized our sanity had been at stake, and we had successfully fought back the worst, and retained all but the weakest of brain cells.
Sunday night was prescheduled to consume large amounts of inebriation vessels, and we did. We went to the upstairs bar again, so as to keep away from the intellect devouring lemmings in the hour plus line at the casino bar. We were hanging out, checking our wounds from the past 3 days, most of which were inside our craniums. The guys from Badgerland Printing met up with us, and we discussed the daily events. In our discussion, we had found out that they had to endure the same sort of zombie-like questions, even though they were a printing company. The undead would approach them, take their articles of information, read their signs, and then ask them, a printing company, where their sauces were. It was a good discussion, then the house lights came on, it was 10:45, last call. We thought to ourselves, this is not a bad thing, for perhaps the lemmings downstairs have somewhat dispersed, and we shall find a seat the bar, for it is in the casino, and casinos always stay open late, all the time forgetting we were in the land of Rod Serling. We got to the lobby floor, and to our abject horror, the casino was still open, but the bar was not (ELEVEN O’CLOCK!). Even though the bar was closed, I was quite surprised to see that no one was still standing in line to get in. You could not order package goods to the room, and even the convenience stores had shut their doors nearby. This too was surreal. Well, that ended the night, and we actually got the best sleep we had that evening.
We awoke to a beautiful morning, complete with a lemming-free afternoon. We slept in a bit and went to the airport a bit early, so as to avoid the Groundhog Day breakfast, complete with shuriken-potatoes. We ate at the airport, and then were happy to meet up with MSK just after the security checkpoint. We had a couple drinks, said goodbye, and boarded our plane back to the global superfund capital called New Jersey.
Well, that’s it in a nutshell folks, I would suggest if you have any want to go, just do it, you are guaranteed to have a good time. Here are a couple helpful hints though:
1. Bring beer and put it in your room, the casino hours change as much as the temperature
2. Bring food, there isn’t much of a selection.
3. Bring your own hot sauce, even in the deli, during a Fiery Foods show all they had was Tabasco.
4. Wear aluminum on your heads when in the show hall, it will avoid your brains and intellect from getting sucked out of your head by the mindless drones, sent by some dark force looking to wreak havoc upon the chilihead world.
5. Rent a car if you are planning to go anywhere. The cab rides are EXPENSIVE.
6. When someone says a place is right down the road, DO NOT believe them, buy extra gas.
7. Do not always ask for the hottest of everything, not only will you just cauterize your mouth, you will show many vendors you are just a mindless drone for the heat, and know nothing about flavor and taste. The flavors and tastes in this show were incredible. It takes no skill to simply make something hot, you have to have flavor to back it up.
8. Make reservations for the next year.