Posted March 7, 2008 by Creator in Makers

Fiery Foods Show ’08: A Defcon Perspective

It’s Thursday morning, February 28. It’s also 4:30 am, 12 degrees, and the wind is kicking. We load our luggage into a friend’s car who volunteered to drive us to the airport (for a free case of beer, of course). We get to Newark airport and join the rest of the red-eyed zombies to be first-hand witnesses to the ineptitude of the Newark TSA agents. It’s truly is amazing to watch, kind of like a cross between “Stupid Human Tricks” on David Letterman and Ed, Edd and Eddy on the Cartoon Network. We get through the security, put our boots and belts back on, and head towards the gate. Cripes, it’s so early, the bars aren’t even open yet by the gate. Damn, not a good start. Let me qualify this statement. These trade shows are my vacations (for the past three years), and vacations are supposed to start with a beer.

We board the plane for the first leg of the annual Albuquerque pilgrimage. Our first stop is Houston, which will be my nemesis down the road”¦But I digress. The plane, to my unexpected and overwhelming joy, was nearly empty. Everyone was able to find a row of 3 seats and catch a nap. Even better, we arrived in Houston an hour early. Now this is usually a good thing, however, this being the annual pilgrimage to the Sandia Resort and Unsecured Casino, there was bound to be unforeseen problems. Well, now our layover was 2 and a half hours, instead of 1 and a half, ugh. At least the bars were open. We killed the time making fun of the people walking around in the airport, which is always a lot of fun. We grab a bite of some fast food, which always gives me gastrointestinal problems, and not to mention a lot of gas. While we’re eating our genetically-enhanced airport pseudo-food, we spot Captain Thom at the counter.

We greet each other and join them at their table for a bit. We’re on the same flight, and Captain Thom and his wife, being the awesome people they are, offer us a ride in their rental car to the Sandia Resort and Unsecured Casino when we land. What a great offer, as I really wasn’t looking forward to the Sandia shuttle bus, I wanted to get there before the show ended. Well, we board the plane and take our seats. As we sat, the plane became more and more and more full. Yup, packed flight. It’s amazing how many interesting smells get on a packed aircraft, most of them comparable to the fragrance of a back end of a sheep before shearing season. Of course there were a few cretin-like offspring, with the manners of hungry goats, but that was to be expected. As we sat there, a gentleman (and I use that term very loosely), began to sing, directly behind us. I’ve become used to this sort of behavior as of late, having to deal with the multitudes of people who are unplugged from reality and plugged into their iPod, so it didn’t really affect me”¦At first. The crooning turned to singing, which wouldn’t have been that bad, if the guy didn’t sound like a pregnant cat being squeezed in a vise. The plane departed, the singing picked up its pace and volume, and the cretin-like offspring began their ill-mannered, primate-like behavior. Myself and Maggie just looked at each other and started laughing, and joined in a duet with the moron sitting behind us. Only difference was, he was singing one song, and I broke out into a quite eloquent version of Motorhead’s “Orgasmatron”, quite funny.

By this point I began to notice something rather unusual. The woman sitting next to me seemed to be growing. I was in the center seat, always allowing Maggie to sit by the window (that’s just the kind of guy I am). I don’t mind being the buffer, but this woman began taking over much more than her allotted “room”. It was then that it hit, the gastrointestinal distress from the quasi-food we had at the airport. Ah yes, it was time to make my move! I unloaded a vast gastrointestinal cloud in my seat. Maggie looked at me with a look like Jack Nicholson in The Shining. I sat there and began to chuckle, watching the growing woman to my left begin convulsing. The man behind us stopped singing and coughed. All was well. Having had my revenge, even the goat children didn’t affect me anymore.

We landed, got our luggage, picked up the rental car with Captain Thom and his wife, and headed to the Sandia Resort and Unsecured Casino. We arrived uneventfully, checked in, and the bellboy and Maggie went up to drop our stuff in the room. I went directly to the location in which the 3 days of battle would take place. I was kind of psyched about setting the booth up, as we had acquired substantially more electronic goodies for this show, and we never did a dry run with all of it. I met up with Lynn (Devil Duck), who had waited patiently for our arrival, at the booth. When I looked, I initially thought Lynn did the unthinkable in goodness and had broken down our pallet. However, fear and madness quickly took over my psyche when I came to the realization that our pallet wasn’t IN our booth (oh joy!). With my head quickly filling with vile and quite reprehensible thoughts, I made my way to the delivery station. They stated to me the pallet had never been delivered. Folks, this is the FIRST time in my entire life I was at a loss for words. My mind was spinning, and before I performed a larynx removal on the gentleman with my bare hands, I called Maggie back in our room, as she had all the delivery information. I explained he will be dealing with my wife, as my patience had worn out, and I didn’t feel like getting a complimentary pair of shiny bracelets from the Unsecured Casino security guys. Soon after that, distant thunder could be heard, and the faint smell of brimstone could be detected, when all of a sudden, in the midst of a rage not seen since the days of the Vikings, Maggie (The Ex Unit, aka The Createss) enters! I softly told the gentleman when conversing with her, to move his hands very slowly or she will attack, not unlike a badger protecting its young. I walked away and watched my lovely wife verbally flay the skin from the bones of the delivery gentleman. Soon after that, she was told that the pallet would show up in a few hours. Way to go Maggie!

Well, with a couple hours to kill, and a large amount of evil adrenaline flowing through the veins, what else is there to do, DRINK! We headed to the “Single Screen Sports Bar” (things are a little different around here, I always thought a sports bar had more than one TV. But then again, this is the same Unsecured Casino that doesn’t allow alcohol into the casino area). Anyway, we met up with a number of vendors and others. Yup, there was MSK, in his glory! We put a few tables together and shot the sh*t, catching up with each other since the last time we all met. Chili, The Badgerland Crew, the Anchor Bar dude, Greg form Bodines, Lynn, and many others had a pretty good discussion. After a time, I felt it was time to check on the pallet. I strolled into the War Room, watching as most people were finishing up setting up their booths, and there it was, THE PALLET! It was now about 6:30pm, and we began the daunting task of setting up our booth. I thank Lynn and Greg from Bodine’s from the bottom of my cryogenically-frozen heart for their help setting up the electrical stuff, which is a majority of our booth. We were about 1/3 of the way done, when they promptly kicked us out at 8pm, knowing full well we had just gotten our pallet. How nice. Well, it seems the annual mis-adventures of the Sandia Resort and Unsecured Casino is once again definitely unfolding, and having already prepared myself, knowing what has transpired in former years, the Rod Serling-esque escapades are surely not over. My premonitions would turn out to be correct.

After all the excitement the first day, we really weren’t hungry. We headed to the infamous Unsecured Casino Bar, and proceeded to have a few beers. We met up with Greg and MSK and a few others. I asked MSK if he’d like to try the ZERO. I was half-joking, as I knew he had already had it in the past and it hit him like a lightning bolt, but to my amazement, he said ok. I put some on a cocktail straw, and with my standard evil smirk, watched in abject pleasure as he consumed it. His reaction made me scan the immediate area for a defibrillator, but the tears of painful bliss put my mind at ease. He rode the wave of capsaicin like trooper, but I don’t think he’ll fall for my ruse again. Many people went there own way that evening, and we soon found ourselves in the roof bar for a nightcap with the gentleman from Carlsbad Gourmet. We had a couple nightcaps, and headed off to sleep. While we were walking to our room, that I hadn’t been in yet, Maggie informed me of another Sandia Resort and Unsecured Casino nicety, we were given a lovely smoking room. Yeah, I smoke, but never in my house. The stench of our room was awful, and we inquired if we could change our room, but the boundless generosity of the resort would show itself again, and they said no. How nice. Well, realizing we were once more captives of the Unsecured Casino, we fell asleep in our own personal tar den.

Friday morning came, and I awoke to the acrid smell of many White Owl and Dutchmasters ultra-premium cigars. We got dressed and headed down to the infamous “Groundhog Day” breakfast. We consumed our breakfast, and off we headed to our booth, to finish what we were only allowed to start the previous day. Our Defcon Acolytes Miriam and Larry, and their little guy Remy (with his own 2-year old sized Defcon shirt) joined us. We set up the rest of our booth, and when we were finished, I headed back to our smoking lounge (room #548 for future reference) to morph into my alter ego, The Creator. It turned out to be a pretty good morning, it seemed many more retailers and wholesalers were drawn to our glowing booth, and many more contacts were made. Cheffy stopped by with a beautiful package of jerky, man I love that guy. If you’ve never met him, he’s got a heart of gold and an attitude to match. Lynn showed up with the dry ice the day before, and we once again we had the coldest beer in the house! It was a happy time, but we all knew that the Gates of Hell would open at 4pm, and the first wave of the biomass would approach. At about 3:45, I went to the smoking area for my final cigarette and white blindfold. As usual, many vendors were present as well, and a feeling of light-hearted levity filled the air. The first day is always like this, as everyone is still fresh and awake. We chatted, and then went back to our allotted parapets to lock and load, and man the battlements for the ensuing skirmish.

The Horn of Valhalla was sounded, and the Gates of Hell opened right on time. Friday is a little more frantic, as the biomass knows that everything is in stock, and most have made a list of what they want, and make their way rather quickly to sate their shopping lists. I was amazed at how many people I recognized from last year came to our booth. A few of them even gave me beers, thanking me for my return, now THAT’S what I call a nice gesture! Many had heard of the release of our new product, the DM MKII, and came in specifically for it. I happily doled out many cocktail straws, and watched in boundless joy as they joined in the chorus of pain-filled whimpers and tears. It was only 3 hours of biomass this day, and the time went quickly. It was a good day, as many friends came by to say hi and just catch up on things. 7pm came, and we packed up. All was good.

We went back to our olfactory nightmare of a room, changed, and then met up once again in the “Single Screen Sports Bar” and met up with a few vendors and friends. I wasn’t really hungry again, so Maggie joined Greg and a few others for the buffet, as I headed back to the “sports bar”. I met up with Pepperman and his wife and we shot a few jokes back and forth, what else is new. Pepperman is the type of dude that just exudes personality, and the fact we both enjoy our hops and barley, we always seem to get along great. After laughing it up for a while, it was time to hit the Roof Bar. We took over the same table we had last year, and as time went on, more and more tables were joined together, and formed a sort of “Camelot of Capsaicin Round Table” with both vendors and assorted friends. Beer flowed very nicely, and the discussions were quite lively, as did the candid picture taking. As a helpful hint for the future, order your beers from more than one waitress, that way you get more than one every 45 minutes. I ended the night by having to concentrate on remaining vertical for the walk to the elevator. See what happens when you don’t eat dinner?

It’s Saturday. I awake (if that’s what you want to call it) feeling as if I slept with a dirty sock in my mouth. I get the clouds out of my head when I pound home the reality that yesterday was the battle, today begins the war. We consume our Groundhog Day breakfast, and once again prepare for battle. I spent most of trade time out in the smoking area, hanging out trying to clear my head from the previous night. I then remember, I have Fosters on dry ice! AWESOME! I don’t care what anyone says, a bit of the hair of the dog works, and I was back to normal (???) soon there after. The couple hours of trade time allowed us to clean up the booth, and prepare for the inevitable onslaught of the second wave of biomass. 11 o’clock came, and the Trumpets of Tarterus sounded, the biomass descended upon us like a tidal swell. Like lightning, Acolyte Larry handed out samples, like lightning Maggie filled shopping bags with product, like lightning I handed out pain to the masses. It was then that it happened. You see, our booth was heavily awash in ultraviolet light, with about a dozen blacklight fixtures that adorned the inside of our booth. As a gentleman handed Maggie a five and a single, the music in my head suddenly stopped when she handed me his currency and asked, “Do you think there is something wrong with this five dollar bill?”. Being directly under one of the fluorescent blacklight fixtures, I gazed upon the currency, the single looked normal, but the five dollar bill glowed like burning magnesium. I examined the bill, it was printer paper. I handed it back to the gentleman and told him I need real money this time. He exchanged it and took the monopoly money to the Unsecured Casino Security. This event put me on guard, and I closely examined the rest of the money. Sure enough, we had a number of singles that glowed as well. The Feds were called in and we were told that they found a number of vendors with a few fake singles and fives. Needless to say, a number of vendors would stop by our booth every now and then to examine their currency under the blacklights. See that, Defcon to the rescue! LOL! The amazing annual mis-adventures of the Sandia Resort and Unsecured Casino ring true again. Another bump in the road was also found out around this time. There was no wireless internet. Great, that means no credit cards, how wonderful! We would soon find out that the Unsecured Casino was actually charging for wireless. Ummm, perhaps in this alternate plane of existence this is ok, but from where I come from, virtually every business (hotels, resorts, CASINOS, etc) has free wireless throughout the building. Perhaps Rod Serling was indeed in the building for an extended stay!

After these little doses of reality had been digested, we resumed our work, and carried on. Many people showed that day, including Nick, ChiliHeadEd, Buddah, and many more. A blogger from another blog greeted us well, Dreamtheatervt. Nice guy, and really helped us out at the end during breakdown. All you guys definitely help take the days pressures off with a little well-needed humor, I appreciate it more than you know.

The masses kept coming, the pain was endlessly handed out, and our stockpile of products was quickly being depleted. During the afternoon, a code word seemed to have been generated when approaching our booth. One by one, individuals would scrape there way through the audience that stood in front of our booth all afternoon, and approach the guy with the labcoat and orange contacts. I would greet them, and the only thing they would utter was the word “vial”. At first, I wondered if they were describing me, which wouldn’t be too off the mark, but I soon realized they wanted the ZERO, which I keep on my person 24/7 during the show (and usually anywhere else). I happily served the Mephistophelean elixir to the gent, and reveled in happiness as their faces contorted into shapes like something out of the movie “Altered States”. Many testosterone-laden individuals would approach me stating the usual line, “Gimme the hottest you got, ’cause you can’t make it hot enough”. Well, perhaps they shouldn’t say that sort of thing to a dude in a labcoat and gas mask. One by one, I made them the laughing stock of their “tough guy” crowd. As the afternoon progressed, I took occasional smoke breaks, and would hang with various vendors and customers. It was fun seeing the previous ZERO subjects on the deck, still red-faced and drooling. I would look at them and smirk, and they would inevitably turn away, kinda funny. We had a couple of camera crews come by and do a few shots, even Peppers got in on it, and served up a plate of Defcon wings at our booth to a nice unsuspecting couple. We could’ve been mean, but we served them the #2 (medium). Others tried to take a wing or two, but the gentleman who had been served the plate quickly slapped their grasping hands, gee, he must like the stuff. Another camera, from KOAT, Channel 7 stopped by for their annual take. They filmed one of the ZERO candidates, and his initial ensuing pain, and then showed clips of many different booths and people. At the end of the TV clip, which we saw the next morning, the ZERO candidate uttered, “Winner” and then panned over to the back of Maggie’s chef coat. Nice. It was also nice to see another large group of repeat customers flock to us this day, and they were overjoyed by the fact we had the 32 ouncers available. Many stated, “Man, this should hold me over until next year”. The afternoon turned to evening, and 7pm came and we went. We decided to go to get a nice big steak somewhere, so myself and Maggie, Greg from Bodine’s, and Tom and Michelle from Intensity Academy hopped into Tom’s car and shot off to the Texas Steakhouse where we enjoyed a nice, well cooked hunk of slaughtered bovine.

After dinner, we headed back to the Sandia Resort and Unsecured Casino, but stopped off at a quicky mart for some supplies. My wife, my wonderful wife, with her eagle eyes, spotted my favorite bourbon, Woodford, on one of the shelves, and it was a lot less expensive than it is in New Jersey (come to think of it, most things are). Anyway, we went to the roof bar again for a short while, had a couple beers, and just crashed. It’s good that we did, as tomorrow, Sunday, would be the Day of Judgment, the light at the end of the tunnel, Gettysburg, you get the idea.

It’s Sunday, The Battle of Ragnarok lies in wait. We awake in our nicotine-laced cubicle of residence and prepare for the final battle. We chow down our Groundhog Day breakfast, and head to the glowing ultraviolet fort. The vendors met on the deck before game time. Most, including myself, showed signs of fatigue. The mental wounds of perpetual inane questions like, “How do you make a pepper hot”, began to take their toll. It was time for the vendors to fight back against the biomass of baneful lemurs. Sunday is also the day when the subterranean bipeds come above the surface, and stumble the aisles with a beer in each hand. This usually doesn’t occur until about an hour before the show closes on the last day. I find this time to be the most enjoyable, as any sort of quick wit flies right over their heads, and you are left with a deer in the headlights stare. This day was to prove to be no different. The Drums of the Apocalypse sounded at 11am, and the gates of the Nine Hells opened, and spewed forth its final assault upon us. We stood our ground, and gave no quarter, for this was our day. We had fought the masses with an unending passion that rivaled that of the Spartans at Thermopylae. As the day progressed, and we saw a few of our troops beginning to waiver, they would quickly be brought back from defeat by an adjacent vendor shouting, “HOLD THE LINE! NONE SHALL PASS!”. The day progressed, and the mind-numbing questions, there were many. Our feet and ankles no longer hurt, as we could feel them no more. Mid afternoon came, and the fatigue of the last 72 hours began to weaken us. But it was then, our hearts were lifted, our souls were recharged, for it was the Bermuda Jam guys to the rescue! As they did last year, the Bermudian Knights appeared as benevolent angels, for they had the elixir of life with them, as they did last year, the DARK & STORMYS (Bacardi 151 & Ginger Beer)!!! We pounded back their life-giving manna and resumed our posts, with a heightened staunchness not seen since Friday. We weathered all the public could throw at us. Our stockpiles of product quickly dwindled, and our pockets, they did grow with green.

Twilight was upon us, as the light in the tunnel was near reachable, when we were set upon by the aforementioned subterranean bipeds. They came in packs of 6 or 7, each filled to the eyeballs with testosterone, and a beer in each hand. They approached, and demanded the hottest we had. I looked at my Acolyte troops, Maggie and Larry, and they shot me back the evil grins I so wanted to see. I dipped the cocktail straws into the ZERO and handed it to the greenhorn wannabes. They ingested, they fell, we laughed. Our fortification stood, the Day of Reckoning had ended in victory. It was time for breakdown.

Our breakdown is a little different from the other booths, as the 17 extension cords, and dozens of pieces of lighting equipment take a while to pack up. I was ordered to leave the booth by my trusty wife, so she could clear off the tables first. I have learned to heed her words, for the tone she said it in, there was the ever-present inherent warning. Tony Legner stopped by (the CAT-5 guy), and I followed him back to his booth. I hadn’t the chance to walk around much this year, as we were continually swamped, so I was happy to join him. We traded goods and apparel, and I met, I presume his wife (the Dark & Stormys were taking their toll by this point). Well, this lovely woman is an ex-patriot from New Jersey. When I found this out, I saw an opportunity for some really funny stuff. I had the booth laughing their asses off, as I allowed the New Jersey attitude to roll off my tongue in a non-stop diatribe that would make The Soprano’s proud. Well, it was back to the booth. We had some amazing help from some really great people. Lynn, Greg, and Dreamtheatervt gave us the help we so desperately needed. The best part is, we still had a cooler full of Fosters on dry ice, all is good. The beers were being consumed, the booth was broken down, the pallet was being created, all ahead of schedule, all is very good.

After the pallet was wrapped, we exited to the roof bar for some well-deserved libations. We first met up with Lynn and Kim (Devil Duck and Devil Duckette), Dreamtheatervt, and Greg from Bodines. Soon after, we were joined by the infamous Pepperman and a few others. Pepperman and I sought to retake the table which formed the Camelot of Capsaicin’s Round Table two nights earlier. We approached the gentlemen sitting at it and asked if they would move as we had a mass of people that would likely be showing up. They were leaving anyway, so all was good, and no pressure had to be put on them to relocate. The vendor numbers, they did grow that evening. Much talk of the day’s events ensued, and war stories were told. It was a warrior’s night, a night of remembrance. Friendships had been forged this weekend, and others just reinforced. The night went on, and goodbyes were met with handshakes and embraces. ‘Tis a strange industry we are a part of. Not unlike a Band of Brothers, this species of warrior is unique. Goodhearted and giving, this group genuinely cares about one another, even though their meetings are few and far between. Camaraderie exists that is like no other, and I am proud to be a part of it. The time came when we had to disperse and depart. We loaded into the elevators and one by one said our goodbyes until the next time we meet on the battlefield.

Next stop, Zest Fest, Miami!!!