This file will appear in a future cDc publication…
December, 1993 ————————
Loosely based on the Exploits of HoHoCon 1993.
All experiences are relative.
HoHoCon 1993…Austin, Texas…
With a sigh of fatigued steel touching down on the tarmac, I was jarred into semi-consciousness. A tourist from Japan seated next to me immediately passed gas and smiled bemusedly, mumbling something incomprehensible. I decided against the quick escape of the Emergency Exit and blinked away tears of joy and olfactory irritation…my destination beckoned me. Snatching my baggage and fleeing the ensuing odor, so I arrived in Austin with the best of spirits.
They grow ’em big in Texas…as I saw the 20 foot tall inflatable Oki 900 cellular fone anchored on the lawn of the GTE Mobile office, I knew this to be true. “Life is made up of moments, and this is one of them” I said to the driver of the airport shuttle van. He agreed, and we sat silent in awe.
Hotels are mini-ecosystems, quietly humming with the Caretakers of travelling human spirits. The Hilton reminded me of an elegant Pueblo, draped with pottery and sandstone artifacts. “Smoking or non-Smoking?” asked the receptionist at the front desk. “Smoking” I replied. “Definitely.” In my room, I sparked a Camel cigarette into life between my teeth.
Deth Veggie met us in the hotel restaurant, bearing gifts. A silver cow’s skull was pressed into my hand. Pinning it onto my lapel, I felt accepted without question. The Spirit of the Dead Cow burned in the metal with a bright, hard light. Upon realizing that the waitress had only charged me for a fraction of the numerous Screwdrivers I had consumed, I felt a moment of confusion. “It’s the Cow,” SwampRatte intoned as he stared beneath his low-brimmed hat. With alcohol-numbed fingertips I fingered the metal talisman on my jacket. “Yeah…” Somewhere, a dishwasher dropped a tray of wine glasses.
More HoHoCon guests arrived, milling aroud the lobby like cattle on the open plains. Nearby on a table was a pottery bowl full of stalks of wild grain and strange softball-sized spheres of paper-mache. Without a word, one of the hackers plucked a sphere from the setting and placed it into his backpack. “Perhaps he has a genuine need for it” I thought, “but *what*?” After an hour of pondering this, I decided I needed a drink.
Somewhere beneath the mound of salsa, cheese, sour cream, and bean dip lurked my nachos. I knew they must be in there somewhere, obscured by the landslide of mexican toppings. Louis Cypher and I alternated between chain smoking and tugging frantically at the chips. While struggling with a particularly testy slab of melted cheddar, we discussed our plans for the first night. “6th Street” I offered. “Plenty of clubs and music to sooth our souls.” Giving up on my nacho excavation, I focused my frustration on my drink. It yielded without a wimper.
SwampRatte steered his truck to the side of the road. “Damn it, we lost Hoss’s truck” cursed Deth Veggie in the front passenger’s seat. “Now we’ll never find 6th Street.” Without our escort, we were hopelessly lost in a stray suburb of Austin. “Check my map,” SwampRatte said. We did. It worked flawlessly. Within minutes, we found 6th Street. “Cool…” said Deth Veggie, “but I can’t seem to fold this map back up.” “You never can,” intoned SwampRatte.
Exploring 6th Street, we found ourselves walking amongst a large field of automobile dealerships and antique shops. “This looks wrong,” I remarked. “Let’s call Base for guidance.” Pulling my handheld cell fone from my sportsjacket, I contacted the Hilton front desk and asked for directions to the “hot spots” of 6th Street. Within minutes, we were back in the car and in the thick of things. “You’re a gadget freak,” Kingpin told me. “Be quiet, and give me back my laser pointer” I countered. It returned to my sportscoat pocket, nestled comfortably with other smooth, black-matte finished electronic devices of questionable purpose. I’m Batman.
Emo’s was a young crowd of funk and grunge. A Lethal Enforcers game eagerly swallowed my handful of quarters as easily as I swallowed my lukewarm Rolling Rock. Alcohol and violence mix well. Like Vodka and Orange Juice. Wandering, I randomly slapped HoHoCon ’93 stickers on every available surface I could find. “Like the numerous young of the great Sea Turtle, only a few of these shall survive to maturity,” I thought. Natural Selection is everywhere. Darwin rules.
“Good place to park,” I thought as SwampRatte pulled his truck into a space under a tree. Stepping out of the auto, we noticed a brooding flock of hundreds of birds chattering immediately above us in the branches. Their spotty droppings covered the heavy steel fence in front of us, rendering the scene in a bizarre pointalistic flair. “Uh, mebbe this is a disaster waiting to happen,” someone suggested. SwampRatte moved the truck to an un-defecated zone. We praised him for his foresight.
“Any club that is named after the universal symbol of Resistance has got to be cool,” I told Kingpin. “I just want to meet girlies, yo.” he replied. We entered Ohm’s and grooved to retro-techno til our eyes itched with white noise. “This town is great..I could live here” said Deth Veggie. “At this moment, we do,” I grinned, sucking down a gritty Kamakazi. Videos on the wall flashed silently, superimposed over dancing sillouettes. “You dance very 80’s,” Veggie told me. “Art Fags must die,” I grunted. In the depths of an overstuffed couch, SwampRatte stared at a sparkling disco ball. White Knight appeared, enhanced by various narcotics. “I can’t stop dancing into that damn pole,” he commented. As quickly as he had appeared, he vanished into the belchings of a fog machine. A payfone suddenly rang, but noone answered. Life doesn’t accept incoming calls.
Saturday, the conference proper began. Tedious hours passed in a crowded conference room. “You are all part of the Cyberspace landscape,” said Bruce Sterling. “Then I am a Shrub,” I countered. Sterling preached against the ills and evils of viruses. “Sounds like the bitter rants of a man who recently lost his FAT table to Stoned,” I spoke up. Other speakers came and went. Bryan O’Blivion (the lawyer) spoke eloquently of the hacker spirit. Captain Crunch spoke of the benefits of PGP and Raves. Try as I could, I could not imagine Crunch raving or trading disks with PGP keys in so-called “chill rooms.” “I got an idea..How about using blotter as disk labels?…lick my disk and get my PGP key as well?” I asked Kingpin. He simply grinned, licking his gold tooth suggestively.
Eventually, Kinpin and I collected ourselves..I donned my shades and carefully arranged the Cow Talisman in the center of my suit. We moved to the speaker table and practiced our gang hand signals to DrunkFux. I spoke about the L0pht and packet radio. Other speakers distributed handouts like confetti. The crowds boiled around the table grasping frantically, reminding me of mornings on my Grandfather’s boat…as we chummed for sharks in the dark waters. “Information not only wants to be free, it wants to be consumed,” I pondered. LoD members in spiffy matching shirts described their laudable project to archive the philes and message threads of years long past. Items of semi-worth were raffled off, and most people went away happy. Small acoustic couplers in vinyl pouches still smelling of free monomers finally found homes after years of neglect. Throughout it all, Torquinada filmed the event for her video project…like an unblinking eye it captured all without bias. Video is cool. The cathode ray tube is the retina of the mind’s eye. I wish I had said that.
Kingpin and I presented a packet radio demo after the formal speaking broke up. A third person brought his own packet station, and soon we were burning up the out-of-band airwaves on 2-meters with 3-way network traffic. The demo was stopped when we were informed the police were coming to investigate the theft of a telefone handset on a nearby table. Packet equipment was quickly squirreled away, and we fled. Law enforcement officials dusted the area for prints, but found only cigarrete butts and the faint echos of radio traffic in the ether. File this one under “Elusive.”
Back in the Suite of the El1te, I grooved to a CD titled “Sedated in the Eighties” that Deth Veggie had offered. “Election Day” by Arcadia mesmerized me. I wandered the pool area with Diskman in hand and eXtended bass pulsing in my ears. A bubbling hot-tub beckoned to me. Touching the waters, Deth Veggie found it was ice cold. “Freaky,” I mumbled. The Cow Talisman suddenly felt as hot as liquid steel.
Sunday arrived, and at the last minute I rescheduled my flight for Monday afternoon. “I don’t feel ready to leave,” I told my companions as they left on a flight back to Boston. DrunkFux swiped my cellular fone as I napped out by the pool where Erik Bloodaxe was being interviewed by Torquie. I didn’t have to watch…it would all be recorded to video for later viewing. “The ability to fastforeward any experience…that is my dream,” I thought as I woke up, frantically patting myself down for the missing equipment. Later, a group of us went to the local Mall for exploration, finding the usual wasteland of pastel and suburban clans. A later trip to WalMart proved more inspiring.
That night, we vegetated in the hotel bar, where I unsuccessfully tried to seize control of the remote TV with my univeral remote control watch. “No, it really works,” I told Crimson Death. “Yah right, now give me that laser pointer.” He proceeded to frighten our waitress with coherent light. “Try these cigs, they’re French.. they’re harsh,” said Rambone. “I believe you,” I replied, eyes watering after sniffing the foil package. Torquie polished off more Margueritas than I could count. “Hollywood has left its hedonistic mark on her,” I thought. Back in a room, I noticed that Crimson Death had hacked the pay TV box into giving them free access to the soft porn channel. “Interesting technique,” I said, brushing away the tiny pieces of broken plastic under the forcebly opened case. When in doubt, use more muscle. A neverending melange of porn played on their television. Porn wants to be free. And so it was.
The last night, we went back to Emo’s. It was strangely quiet and abandoned. “Probably because it’s 1AM on a Sunday nite,” said DrunkFux. We drank heartily and fed quarters into the jukebox. Crimson Death keyed up several Sinatra tunes. The final song played was one of my requests…the theme to the “Space Madness” episode of Ren and Stimpy. I felt blessed. Blessed by the Cow.
Back in Crimson Death and Rambone’s room, we talked and laughed. Byron’s tattoos still impressed me. Torquie eventually fled with Drunkfux, escaping the steamy porn channel. “Human nature isn’t always pretty, but it’s always fascinating,” I thought as I watched the action on the tube. Byron and I discussed a particulary nasty GIF he had uploaded to my BBS months ago. We succeeded in nauseating ourselves, and eventually went to sleep.
Final day…waking late…Torquie loses her battery charger…we hear stories from the hotel staff of smoke bombs, a compromised Unix-based hotel management system, and bootleg fone extensions run thru the hallways with reckless abandon…the usual. I can’t find my friends as I catch the shuttle bus to the Airport. Disenheartened, I ride alone to catch my plane. Later, at 30,000 feet, I think about the con. Life is good. I enjoyed myself more than I usually do. Perhaps it is the fleeting nature of such meetings that make them so significant to me. We never get to speak with everyone we want. Several of the attendees had disappeared before I could say goodbye (including SwampRatte), but I still felt satisfied.
My plane was de-iced in Pittsburg. A prehistoric looking crane spewed clouds of frothing liquid on the fuselage. Bizzare. Looking down, I see that I am still wearing the Cow Talisman. I closed my eyes and slept.
Now, finishing this piece in the L0pht, I can relax to music and watch mesmerizing fractal patterns on one of my monitors. I think of a con years past, where Crimson Death and I were talking with Bruce Sterling standing next to a payfone. “I don’t need to hack..I have money..I can make that payfone do anything I want without hacking,” says Bruce. “Yeah Bruce,” replies Crimson Death, “but can you make it Dance?” I laugh and accidentally extinguish my cigarette in Bruce’s unfinished beer. Hackers make machines dance. Beautiful.
End of Line.
..oooOO Count Zero OOooo.. *cDc* -=RDT
“I pull my shot off and pray…I’m sacred and bound, to suffer this heat wave..”