It costs me $70.00 to fill up my car at current prices. SEVENTY DOLLARS. And then I have to do it twice a month, sometimes more. What else can you get for $70? Ten movie tickets. Thirty-five medium-sized Fuji apples. Nine-tenths of a Snowball microphone. When I was a kid I drove a Volkswagen Bug with a ten-gallon tank and thus it cost me $10.00 to fill it up. One-dollar-a-gallon gas might be the only thing I remember miss about the Reagan years. I only bring this up because I drove down to MaxFunCon last weekend and whenever I drive to a conference I tend to forget to save my gas receipts for tax purposes, and I would have forgotten this time, too, except that I'd been strangely compelled to print out my last two gas receipts, and then photograph them. Like you do.

The pump just happened to shut off and charge me these oddly symmetrical prices for gas, so naturally I printed them out so I could ponder their significance a little longer. And add them to my collection of tiny bits of paper that have nowhere else to go.

I'll just put them . . . here.

Because I knew I had a three-hour-plus drive ahead of me, I checked out a few audio books from the library for the ride, one of which was by Antonia's father, called Sharpe's Trafalgar. It's one of a series of books with the main character of Richard Sharpe, a battle-scarred professional soldier who will kill a man as efficiently and horribly as possible while in the midst of an affair with a deceitful yet golden-hearted married woman, and then you will also learn a lot about nineteenth-century shipbuilding. The story could not have been more disconnected with the reality of driving through Encino on my way to a convention full of nice people I only knew because they sound real on the Internet.

I feel as though the maxim Be bold and mighty forces will come to your aid had particular resonance on this occasion, for I had boldly signed up to go to a place where I knew basically no one, and a mighty force indeed came to my aid. Maggie decided to go to the conference just a few days before it happened and also got to the Lake Arrowhead venue first, got us registered for the same room, and instantly cut down my social anxiety by half. Maggie also happened to know 500% more people there than I did so she was able to introduce me to several handsome, self-deprecating, well-dressed, friendly people I might not otherwise have spoken to, and once again I was reminded how lucky and grateful I am for her generosity and friendship. Too bad I don't have any pictures of her. I have one of Greg and Matt though, which also includes Jon's hand and shoulder:

In looking up a link for Greg just now I realized that he's the author of Rainy Day Fun and Games for Toddler and Total Bastard and I am really mad that I didn't know that when I met him because I totally followed the blog tour for that book and got flamed by some guy named Anonymous as a result. Remind me to tell him that story next time we meet.

I really blew it on the picture-taking end of things, but I'll show you what I've got anyway.

Here's a picture of John Hodgman's benediction at the opening of the conference. He passed around several bottles of what tasted like liquor made out of brussels sprouts and then played a ukelele and sang La Vie En Rose with John Roderick. This simple presentation, along with the fact of the conference organizer, Jesse Thorn, being so kind and funny and such a gentleman, set the tone for the whole weekend. Jesse created this event with the underlying notion that creative people in general (and comedy nerds in specific) will come together to be awesome in a beautiful setting; that everyone will be open to meeting you; and that we're all potentially best friends. It is in this spirit that people were encouraged to leave their bullshit at home. As far as I can tell, setting that intention worked. Jesse Thorn is a smart man.

And he is married to a smart, beautiful, pregnant woman named Theresa who claimed to have a copy of Let's Panic! on her nightstand. She didn't have to say that, but she did and I want so much to believe her.

What else? I went to a session on podcasting presented by Adam Lisagor. I'd been thinking about doing some podcasting myself and now I feel far more capable of doing what it takes to make that happen. Adam activated my dormant editing genes merely by teasing apart a couple of episodes of You Look Nice Today, and the clarity and delight that he brought to the process helped my brain-heart start to blossom.

I also took a "Yoga for Comedy Nerds" class with Neal Pollack, which we did on a high platform overlooking the top of a mountain and which I did without benefit of sunscreen. I can't complain, though, because it gave me a hour to appreciate the beauty of our natural surroundings before heading right back into a series of darkened spaces to hear more hardworking people talk about what they do.

Hodgman interviewed Lee Unkrich, the director of Toy Story 3. Naturally I took a picture of the event before they even walked onstage. That's just how I operate. Maximum listening efficiency was MINE.

However, the next morning I did happen to end up having breakfast at Mr. Unkrich's table. I told him how my Barbie and my Malibu Ken used to sleep naked in a shoe box under my bed, which didn't appear to shock (or interest) him in the slightest. I forgot to tell him how I'd just been to Dreamworks and that based on what I learned from that New Yorker article, purely on the basis of workplace mindblowingness, Pixar wins. Even though I thought Kung Fu Panda 2 killed. We'll see if with Cars 2 Pixar can clear the bar Dreamworks has set.

On a final note, the whole weekend earned me my podcasting supporter badge! Now I just need to decide what to sew it onto. A sash of some sort, perhaps. Or a jaunty beret.

More stuff happened and more people were met but that's enough for now, I think. Go see Maggie's post for better pictures and another take on the whole weekend.