How I Spent My JoCo Cruise 2015

allstars
JoCo musicians in practice for the final show. From left: Jim Boggia, Aimee Mann, Molly Lewis, John Roderick, Storm DiCostanzo, Ted Leo, Christian Cassan, Paul Sabourin, Jonathan Coulton (not pictured here but performing in final show: Jean Grae)

My thoughts, in no particular order.

* I stand on dry land, I feel like I’m swaying. This is what a week and a day on a boat will do to you. It happens every time I come back from the JoCo Cruise. It’s a little weird, but it’s also kind of nice. Like the most innocuous hangover you can have.

Also, I only gained a pound on this trip. Considering the unfathomable amount of food I ate on the cruise, this is well nigh impossible. I must have a tapeworm. Either that or constantly walking up and down stairs actually burned some calories. I suspect tapeworm, however.

* I’ve been on the JoCo Cruise three times now, but this year was the first year I was “on staff” — I was a featured guest as well as running the brand new writing track on the boat. And yes, it made a bit of difference in how I experienced the cruise, in mostly positive ways. I like being busy and I like entertaining people, so programming a writing track with nine events, all of which I participated in one way or another, kept me from being bored — which would have been a possibility this year, as unfortunately my family was not able to come on the cruise with me. It also meant I got to know the performers better, because I was able to integrate many of them into writing track events. And it meant I was able to mix with the Seamonkeys (the self-applied term for JoCo Cruise attendees) a bit more as they came to events, and then sought me out to comment on them. It was fun! And I had fun doing it.

* More importantly (for me, anyway), I think the Seamonkeys had fun with the writing track in general. This being the first year, we threw a bunch of things against the wall to see what would stick. And as it turns out, almost all of it stuck. An event on bullshit in which four writers made up “reasonable” answers to ridiculous Seamonkey questions? Jam packed into its space and a huge hit. A panel on comedy at 9am in the friggin’ morning, on the last day of the cruise when everyone was partying until 3am the night before? 80 people showed up for that. I mean, I’m not gonna lie: at that hour I don’t think that I would have showed up for it if I wasn’t on it (and I would have missed out, since the panel, with Rhea Butcher and Hari Kondabolu, was fantastic) The enthusiasm for the writing track events was pretty cool — and made me feel relieved that I actually helped to add a positive to the cruise.

* My favorite event of the writing track, if I had to name one, would be the songwriting panel, which featured Aimee Mann and Ted Leo (who were on the ship performing as The Both), John Roderick and Jean Grae. With a line up like that, all I had to do as the moderator was get out of their way and let them talk, which I mostly did (the one time I didn’t, I ended up violating my “all questions must be in the form of a question” rule, which was deeply embarrassing). It was in many ways a perfect example of what a panel event could and should be: Four people with a vast range of experiences in their field, coming in from different and diverse angles, in conversation with each other, for the benefit of the audience. It’s hard to see how it could have been better. This was closely followed by the comedy panel, and then the bullshit panel, because, well. That one was just silly fun.

* But enough of the writing track! What about the rest of it? Well, as always, the JoCo Cruise Main Stage line-up was terrific, the usual combination of people I knew I already liked (JoCo and Paul & Storm, The Both, Pat Rothfuss, Matthew Inman, John Roderick and Merlin Mann) plus people I didn’t know I liked yet (Jean Grae, Rhea Butcher and Hari Kondabolu). I like that the folks running the JoCo Cruise do this — drop in new people doing awesome things outside of my usual scope of interests, because then it means my usual scope of interest expands (additionally, they get a thumbs up for bringing in new performers who are diverse in their awesomeness, because that’s a thing worth doing too). All the main stage shows were a blast; in terms of sheer entertainment value to one’s dollar, it’s difficult to see anyone giving a better ratio than the JoCo Cruise.

* The year’s Watkins Award (given to the new performer who just blows everyone away, named after Sara Watkins, who last year made everyone else step up their game with her show) goes hands down to Jean Grae. She didn’t just make all the other performers step up, she made the audience step up as well — she didn’t let them just sit in their seats but made them get down in front of the stage and move and take part. And they did! Because she was just that good. Runner up was Hari Kondabolu, who was almost giddy that he could make a Jonathan Swift reference in a joke and nearly everyone in the house would get it. Yup, it’s that sort of crowd.

Opus Moreschi, in happier times. Photo by Linda Abbott, who is clearly a fabulous photographer and who, if you are in the Los Angeles area, you should totally hire to photograph your wedding.

* One disappointment of the cruise was that we didn’t get a lot of one of our featured performers, Opus Moreschi, because the poor fellow developed appendicitis on the second day and had to be taken off the ship for treatment. However, his spirit hovered over the entire cruise, like the benevolent, sarcastic ghost of someone who wasn’t actually dead but who had rather experienced the joys of Caribbean-style surgery — which is just like surgery elsewhere except possibly they give you painkillers in a hollowed out pineapple with little paper umbrellas in it. The details are hazy, honestly. The point is that Opus is now okay, if roughly two ounces lighter on a permanent basis, and we missed having him among us. Come back on the cruise, Opus! Next year we’ll work on your liver!

* Also one personal bit of mopery was that for various scheduling reasons, Krissy and Athena could not come on the cruise with me, so I was sad that I would be alone, so alone, for the cruise. I mentioned this to friends when I landed in Florida to get on the cruise, and it was pointed out to me that Sara Scrimshaw, who is stage manager for the JoCo Cruise, was also sans spouse for the duration of the cruise (Joseph Scrimshaw staying at home to, oh, let’s say, fight crime). And so it became that Sara and I pledged ourselves to a week of being each other’s “salt spouse,” a special personal relationship valid only on the seas, in which we did various (but not all, you dirty-minded people, sheesh) spousy things, such as go to dinners and beaches together, make sure sunscreen was applied, and generally check in on the other. And it was good!

And then Opus’ appendicitis hit. Opus brought his friend Linda Abbott on the cruise with him, and after he was taken off the ship, he encouraged her to stay on the ship and enjoy herself. The problem was she knew almost no one on the ship, and none very well. So I was asked by the JoCo folks (and also, I was inclined because I chatted with her a bit at dinner one night before Opus had to leave and found that she was a delightful human being, and I was personally concerned for her) to be available to hang out with her, bring her to dinner and generally keep her entertained — a prospect which was made easier, I should note, once it was clear Opus was going to be okay. Naturally I had to clear this with my salt spouse, who assured me that she was often busy, so it would be more than fine if I took on another salt spouse.

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Sara Scrimshaw and Linda Abbott, salt spouses

And so, on the waves of the Caribbean, I was happily saltypoly with Sara and Linda, who as it turned out were crazy about each other as people as well. Since they both live in the same town in the real world, they have plans to become totally be each other’s best friends forever now, which of course I approve of, not that it matters what I think, back here on the land.

Now, all of this sounds very silly, I’m sure, and of course it was. I was surrounded by friends and I wasn’t alone, and I was having a good time. But anyone who is has been happily married for a while knows the little bit of sadness that’s there when your spouse isn’t with you. Hanging out with Sara and Linda and doing the little kindnesses for each other that come naturally with long-time relationships and friendships made the cruise happier for each of us. And the good news is that back in the real world, I have made a new friend in Linda and have become better friends with Sara, and they have become friends with each other. And that’s a lovely thing.

The Wedding I officated on the cruise. From left: Jean Grae, Molly Lewis, Renee Nejo (bride), me, Will Courtney (groom), Jonathan Coulton. I look smaller than everyone else because I am further back, honest. Photo by Andy Steigleder
The Wedding I officiated on the cruise. From left: Jean Grae, Molly Lewis, Renee Nejo (bride), me, Will Courtney (groom), Jonathan Coulton. I look smaller than everyone else because I am further back, honest. Photo by Andy Steigleder

* Tangentally related, did I mention I married some people on the seas? No, not the “salt spouse” thing. I mean, I actually officiated a marriage ceremony. Turns out that two of the seamonkeys brought a marriage license on board were planning to simply sign it on the cruise, in the ship’s chapel, with some friends around. But then it was decided that a small ceremony would be nice, and someone remembered I was a minister in the Universal Life Church and asked if I would officiate. And I thought, sure, why not. But then one thing led to another and instead of a small ceremony with the two in the ship’s chapel, among a small circle of friends, I married the two of them on the stage of the ship’s main theater, in front of hundreds of Seamonkeys, with Jonathan Coulton standing for the groom, Molly Lewis standing for the bride, Jean Grae singing for the couple, and the Monarch of the Seas giving her blessing to the whole affair. For something that was literally thrown together at the last minute, it came together pretty well.

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I strangle Wil Wheaton live onstage while Steve Jackson (right) and one of the JoCo Cruise Singing Interns (left) look on with varying expressions of horror. Photo: Steve Petrucelli

* Oh, and I strangled Wil Wheaton. This happened during Celebrity Artemis, in which the JoCo performers do a late-night session pretending to be the bridge crew of a starship, usually whilst drinking. I was a captain this year, and decided to be the most incompetent captain possible. Which earned me quite a lot of snark from my helmsman, Wil Wheaton. Continually demoting him all the way down to “scullery lad” did not stop his haranguing, so of course eventually I had to murder him, on stage, in front of hundrends of witnesses, and then kick his lifeless corpse, which was then eventually dragged off the stage. I also made Ted Leo quit his Science Officer position in frustration, and in doing so he did the best “fuck all y’all — with science!” soliloquy perhaps in the entire history of the world. It was brilliant, and I want to be Ted Leo when I grow up. And then, being Ted Leo, strangle Wil Wheaton.

Despite all of that, we were not anywhere near the funniest Celebrity Artemis crew. That went, hands down, to the crew of Royal Caribbean staff who came in and schooled everyone on how to do drunken fake starshippery. Seriously, they were at a “I think I may be peeing myself because I’m laughing so hard” level. You can’t compete with that, you can only stand in awe. That said, I had to follow those guys. Thus: murdering Wil Wheaton. It seemed the rational thing to do at the time.

* And so on. I could tell you about the amazingness of the final concert, or how the clear affection between Aimee Mann and Ted Leo took their already brilliant set to another level, or how Rhea and Hari nailed their spotlights, or how Jim Boggia made “meow” the Word of the Cruise, or the amazing acapella interns, or how David Rees made Taylor Swift the cruise’s unofficial mascot, or the pleasant constant buzz of the gaming track and the gaming room (sponsored by Steve Jackson Games!) or how Seamonkey Gavin Verhey became as unto a god by being left behind on St. Kitts and somehow managing to get back on the ship in Haiti, which has never happened before in the history of Royal Carribean, or any other number of moments.

But I think you get the gist: This was a great year for a cruise that, in my experience of it, has always been great. If you were on it, you know. And if you weren’t on it, there’s always next year, and you should go.

The view from the stage, after the final show. See you next year, Seamonkeys!
The view from the stage, after the final show. See you next year, Seamonkeys!

41 thoughts on “How I Spent My JoCo Cruise 2015

  1. As I sit in rainy Beaverton, Oregon, slogging through job applications, am I envious reading all this? Well, of course. Glad you had a great time. Someone has to do it.

  2. The writing track was deeply appreciated and was excellently done. I appreciated the panels where the panelists conversed with themselves and the audience got to sit in on it. Also, “all questions in the form of a question” needs to be adopted by all cons everywhere. Thank you for insisting on it.

  3. Jean Grae is awesome. A legitimate female talent in hip-hop, not a pop singer in disguise. We need more Jean Grae stories next time. What did she sing at the wedding?

  4. Oh, man. This was so fantastic to read.
    I am also typing this comment now, whilst leaning to the side, because my apartment is swaying violently. Feels like acid flashbacks. Kinda awesome, kinda fricking weird.

    An award! I got an AWARD! *twirls*
    Don’t make me cry again. I cried so much on the boat. I thought the sea would distract everyone from viewing my tears, but that did not work out.
    It’s a lot to consistently be moved to tears by music, conversation, jokes and people’s spirits in general.

    Just thank you guys so much, for being so sweet, smart, talented.

    Also, my glasses broke onstage during “Africa” and then Wil Wheaton picked up a piece of them and left the stage. I think he’s building a robot. Don’t tell anyone that I know.

    Miss everyone from this trip already.

    What a brilliant way to start the year, this was.
    Please, please have me back again.

    Or I will kill everyone. From a speedboat alongside the cruise.

    Yes. I have a speedboat.

    P.S.

    I have many more tricks up my sleeve.
    They may involve a longer straw.

  5. if i ever go on a cruise i think it`ll have to be a one of these apparently awesome JoCo. . . cruises. . .

  6. that first ellipsis is an accidental ellipsis

    sorry about that. it makes me seem more skeptical than i am about the nature of the enterprise

  7. Just want to chime in to let you know that the writing track was *fantastic* and I am so, so glad you did it. If it’s not too much work, I think a lot of us would really love to see this become a recurrent fixture!

  8. I assume this crowd wasn’t anywhere sufficient to rent out the whole boat — these specialty cruises never are — but how did the rest of the cruise react to this sort of organized silliness, if at all?

  9. The writing track was pretty awesome! I’d love to see some female writers next year like Mary Robinette Kowal and Seanan McGuire along with you.

  10. I have told my husband that his writing career is important (it is) so we should save and save and save just so he can go on this and attend the writing track. He agrees it would be a worthy sacrifice. We’re in Australia so it’s no small undertaking but we shall force ourselves!

  11. We loved the cruise. My wife, who has never read Sci Fi, thought that you were quite funny (especially when pelting people with beach balls) and excellent at running the panels. She’s now starting to read Lock In.

  12. Forgive me, but I TOTALLY think you need to do a “Finances, Financial Management, and Retirement Planning” track next year, because your practical advice at the end of the last session was SPOT ON and applies to everyone, not just writers. Dang, you’ve driven me to all caps. Twice. And yes, I’m telling THO that, too.

  13. John, I have to wonder if you have a mild form of mal de debarquement. [http://www.webmd.com/brain/mal-de-debarquement] I have enough symptoms from it that I end up taking anti-nausea medication -after- a cruise whilst being completely comfortable during the trip.

  14. I needed about 6 more hours of the songwriting and comedy panels, at least. Thanks for your moderating awesomeness, sir!

  15. i continue to be in awe of the RCI crew playing Drunken Celebrity Artemis. not only did they kick everyone’s asses at it, they were hilarious as well. what excellent sports they were!

  16. John, you were most excellent on this cruise, and it started with your anti-GG shirt that I snapped the pic of the first day! Thanks so much for your hosting and boundless energy and enthusiasm-especially on the dance floor, as that was EPIC! :)

    Glad to have you on the cruise again, great write-up, and please keep coming! So say we all! ;)

    P.S. Go Jean Grae-you fucking rocked our house (maybe it was the sea-I don’t think anyone could tell at that point) and we love you for it!!

  17. Admit it, this is the Davos conference of geekdom. You all gathered at sea to secretly plot the future of the world together, didn’t you?

  18. I battled a hangover in order to sit in on the publishing session. You weren’t kidding about drinking from the fire hose, but the hour flew by. Thank you for hosting/presenting!

    (In the spirit of that session, I waited until I was on the clock and getting paid to send you this thank-you note.)

  19. So many fun moments on the cruise! Your homily for the wedding was really sweet. As was Jean Grae’s wedding song. And then there was the Giant Straw. And Rothfuss’ picture book. And the new scene from The End of All Things. And the zombies zombieing like they never have before during the JoCo Live Karioke. And learning several new boardgames. (Splendor! Must buy!) Sleep? Who needs sleep?

    As to what the 2/3rds to 3/4s of the ship that wasn’t part of the JoCo group thought, I talked to several non-seamonkeys, two sets of whom had coincidentally also been on the same ship as the JoCo cruise last year. Almost all of the non-seamonkeys seemed to like us; several said that we made their cruise “more fun” because we were enjoying ourselves so obviously, and were “all so nice”. (One of the aforesaid couples actually bought a JoCo album to see what all the fuss was about, though he hadn’t listened to it yet.) Then there was the one old guy who yelled at me in St. Maarten because we’d committed the terrible crime against him of taking up almost all of the first seating at dinner so he had to have the second seating. While the words, “entitled, much?” came to mind, I didn’t actually use my out-loud voice.

    Oh, and the midnight pizza was still terrible, but hey, it’s midnight, so who cares? (Besides, the midnight paninis were mostly edible.)

  20. JoCo cruise time is my annual reminder that there would actually be advantages to living in the N/Central America region

    @Katherine
    “Accidental Ellipsis” is the name of my next band!

    @Andrew Lloyd
    I’m pretty sure I can picture those expressions. It would have been very very similar to the time we held a Discworld con in Penrith. For those of you not familiar with less tourist-friendly regions of Sydney, Penrith is full of that strange Australian blend of rednecks and socially-aspiring middle-class suburbanites known as “cashed-up bogans”*. And there we were running around dressed as wizards, apes and seamstresses…

    *I can say this with impunity because I was born there :)

  21. Awesome summary of an awesome 8 days, which I am utterly and completely failing to explain adequately to my local friends, even with the 509 pictures I put on Facebook.

    Answering one question above: yes, it was the same Aimee Mann that was once in ‘Til Tuesday.

    And yes, Jean Grae, you were awesome. :)

  22. As always, John, it was a pleasure to see you on The Boat. I’m glad the writing track was so successful for its debut, and look forward to more of it. Plus I got to fetch you a mildly-chilled Coke Zero then mix a VODKA tonic for Quelle Christopher and pour some Four Roses for Jean Grae in the RS “Not Quite A Dead Dog” Party, so there’s that.

  23. I’m with you, ottojschlosser. I wish I had the disposable bucks to do and be this awesome.

    Also, killing Wil never gets old! (Love ya, Wil! Not that you have any idea who I am whatsoever!)

  24. Thank you for sharing your good time.

    PS: The plural of spouse is spice, much like the plural of moose is meese.

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