Friday, June 14, 2013

The Battlestar Galactica Love Fest, Part III: Being An Oracle

I won't go through each day by day because even though I lived it linearly (is that a word?  In a linear fashion), it had themes and through-threads that are best taken together. 

It was at first terrific trouble to try and find my table, on the convention floor.  Besides the ginormity of the place - it holds, I believe, up to 85,000 souls (the last record-breaking attendance was just earlier this year, a mere couple weeks before BSG descended: it was an NRA gathering) - there was the mix of the thousands of Comicpalooza attendees.  The two groups seemed to have less overlap than might be expected, and didn't mix much socially.  But the convention center was all jumbled, with rooms next to year other.  The BSG folks, especially us Gold Members - who ended up paying quite a bit for what turned out to be more generally available for anyone who attended (or even just, you know, STAYED at the hotel!) - kept to our own circles, at least I did.  And this was the first time I was part of THAT side of an event like this: I was a semi-volunteer / semi-participant / semi-guest. 

This triple nature of my presence at Galacticon caused nothing but confusion at first.  A tall dark haired man with an incredible voice named Steven Elliot became our de facto announcer and host, and he was indeed the first person I approached that first morning.  He didn't know much but who was I?  He would try and help me if he could.  Surprisingly, to both of us, he HAD heard of me, and in fact had seen my table.  It was in a good spot.  I was near the Cylon Raider.

"The Cylon Raider, you say?" I said.  He confirmed it, but he had no additional information.  I made my way in, and found what the spot where it looked like where my table should be, numerical-wise, but someone else was setting up there.  She was certain it was hers.  There was no one to ask.  As I've mentioned, the organizers were fans (not necessarily professionals - it's a labor of love, this love fest) and while I'm thrilled they threw us a party, there were some serious organizational issues, the biggest one being a chronic and often debilitating lack of information.  I've planned events, my biggest one with almost 3,000 people in attendance over two days which is sizable, and I know how things go wrong, last-minute changes and so on.  But for whatever reason, there was a pervasive and ultimately beneficial lack of clarity about many events most of the time.

It meant there was no one to ask about where my table was; there was not even someone who could tell me WHO could help me.  It was like the JFK assassination: an enigma wrapped in a riddle surrounded by a mystery.  They had emailed me, the night before I left, their floor plan, but my iPhone was too small to navigate the detailed map and didn't help much. There were hundreds of tables.  Who could help me?  I approached the Comicpalooza door guardians, who were polite and friendly but absolutely clueless about anything Galacticon-related.  A fellow vendor - he turned out to be a twin, he and his brothers draw lifelike portraits of science fiction characters, Han Solos and Starbucks - tried to help me, led me back to Steven, who knew nothing either but led me to someone else who I followed to the back of the room and happened to pass my booth on the way: 8168, BSG Divinations - it caught my eye.  It was clearly marked after all, and in I dove. 

I looked around, my neighboring vendors looking professionally set up.  I had some minimal decor, stuffed into my carry-on yet still impactful, I hoped - scarves and sandalwood beads from India, a faux pillar candle, things picked up from my travels - a glass Ganesha my team member gave me, crystals from southern Oregon, and of course my reading mat and the cards.  Behind me, I hung a large red silk scarf and put up enlarged prints of the some of the cards, as decor, as enticements, as omens.  I chose carefully, hanging up cards that had characters at the Con: Trucco, Tahmoh, Kate "Ellen" Vernon, Benedick's Starbuck (the "Birth" card), a couple with Edward James Olmos aka EJO, the Old Man, one with Tigh: "There's Too Much Confusion Here," one of my favorite cards.  Later, after a trip to Whole Foods - stock up on goodies and healthies and avoid overpriced, time-consuming hotel food - I had flowers stuck in Q Ginger drink bottles (they make nice vases), and some leftover buds strewn on the table.  It was quite lovely, enticing.  I even made signs: "The Oracle is Out" or "Oracle Hours: Back at 3:30."

How many readings did I do over the next three days: Friday, Saturday and Sunday?  I don't know.  I should have kept track but I didn't.  I'm guessing about 40 or a few more?  I did them back to back almost the entire time I was at my table.  I was doing them for free - one guy tipped me $10 - but even so, many people came back to get one before asking how much, as if they were ready to pay.  I may have sat at my table about half the time the Con floor was open, and I was busy all but maybe 15 minutes - excluding times I was decorating, working on my phone, or otherwise obviously out for a moment.  It was a steady stream.  Far more often, I had to turn people down.  I discouraged a few people who had NO familiarity with the show (Battlestar What?), though if they insisted, I did a reading. 

How did they go?  Pretty good, most of the time.  I had a few difficult ones - a couple of people who were relatively clueless and could not process the concepts I was presenting, which was to be expected.  I said things as simply as I could.  There were a few people who had difficulties that wanted to talk about them, which was okay with me, except not too much.  Each reading was 10, 15 minutes long, and intense. I concentrate, I pay attention, I give of my energy - my spiritual energy, my awareness.  It wears on one, though it also replenishes one.  Some readings were hard - the 45-minute one with a woman who had true troubles, yet we could not connect over the simplest of ideas that she might try to relieve or resolve them.  Yet the even the hard ones I welcomed.  And I don't say I am truly an oracle - the title is more of a hook, the easiest way of starting to describe what happens when you use an oracle tool, which is what the cards are more properly called; I say "tarot" because most people know that.

Offsetting the tough readings were the ones where I connected to the person, where I could see by the expression on their faces that it was falling into place for them.  More often than not, it clearly was resonant.  I would often ask if they found it so, and they would nod, laugh, maybe look at their loved one knowingly (they sat with friends, husbands, sons). "Oh yeah," they would say.  "This makes perfect sense to me."  This happened far more times than I'd expected, and I was even expecting Universe to show up and take care of me.  I am no expert, and I don't pretend to be.  I briefly explained to each person just what this was - a conversation between you and your Higher Self ("Do you know what I mean when I say, Higher Self?" I'd had to ask, unless I could otherwise tell if they did - or did not), and the cards are a way to externalize that, and I am here to help facilitate that.  And so on.  Most people seemed to get it, if not at the beginning, then by the end.

And it was a challenge to me - outside my comfort zone, for sure - to find the theme, the thread, the elegant way to pull all the concepts together.  One gentleman drew Power, Duty AND Commitment;   "Yep, this guy is a warrior," his friend, watching, commented - moments before The Warrior card appeared on the final reveal.  And this wasn't really unusual.  The thing is, I don't know HOW it works, but it seems to; it seems to be a useful thing for humans to do, together or alone.  To tie an oracle tool into a show that a bunch of people love made it interesting, approachable - most of these were first time readings. I made it clear this did not have to be "serious" but was certainly not trivial.  It was a privilege to experience, for me, these intense, brief conversations about the show, experience - as the actors might - on outpouring of mutual, collective love for the powerful story and characters. 

And all of it taking place in between heading to panels where the actors were - THOSE same actors who were literally in my cards.  Or hanging out with them, in bars, or outside in the smoking areas.  It was utterly charming, just delightful.  I wasn't alone - others were elated, thrilled, awake.  We were all fans together, and we got together in formal ways to talk about the show we all love, and we got together in informal ways to just talk to each other, people we all loved.  There was Love Fest feeling.

And now I have to take some time to talk about this aspect of the weekend, this surprising element - the actors were incredible, as were the other guests, like Bear, the genius and kick-ass composer, whose music really is integral to the show or Eric Chu, the so-called Cylon God.  They were all so kind, polite, engaging, tolerant, enthusiastic and incredibly generous.  Over every thing else, generous - with their time. their attention, their wit, their heart, their stories, their bodies and their love.  They hugged you.  They posed with you.  They kissed you on the cheek, they ruffled your hair, they thumbwrestled with you.  Hogan and Hatch gave me hugs that rated a perfect 10: they seemed to hold nothing back.  That kind of hug.  Who gets that kind of hug from celebrity?  It felt very good - not just their love, either, but the love of each other.  The sense of community building as we went along was apparent to us all; we saw we were forming friendships, we greeted each other by name, hugged hello in the mornings, teased, bought each other drinks, saved each other seats and so on. (I won't mention the hookups I'm sure happened).

And I liked that I was there, doing my part to build community.  It's such a good and energizing feeling, that you are indeed, indubitably creating community - and we all seemed to be doing it, in our own way.  Part of this arose from the fact that the organizational needs were so great that many of the fans who had talent or time to donate to helping out did so.  I counted people and brought up the rear of the tour at the Kennedy Space Center; I blogger I met was asked to be a handler for Trucco for a few hours.  We all pitched in to get through the weekend - and strangely, I think that in the end, this worked in my favor, the favor of the fans.  The sense of shared fate - we're all in this Con together, we might as well muddle through somehow and have fun doing it! - was palpable, and accelerated bonding.  I was the Oracle.  It was a good assignment. Rumor of the cards spread, I did readings as requested during the parties, at the little cafe by the bar, quiet, a break away from the action.  A couple of these were golden readings - the ones that turn into conversations, when I connect with the other person, and they to me, and we both open up, and I listen, and I gently offer some perennial wisdom at appropriate moments, and somehow, we get somewhere together. 

I noticed, as I have before the few times I've given multiple readings in a short-ish space of time, that certain cards will continue to come up - and some will remain buried.  Last time, the Community card came up all the time.  This time there were a few cards that appeared abnormally frequently, but freakishly the one that never came up was, of all things, Community.  I've no idea why but I wonder if it'd have been redundant.  The cards tell you about what you need to know, to focus on, to be aware of.  Maybe it didn't need to appear - singing to the choir, if you will (even more useless than preaching to them).  I didn't question it too much; it's a mystery.

Rather fascinatingly, The Storyteller card kept appearing.  This one featured Ron Moore, basically the creator of the re-imagined series; the picture was his cameo that happens in the last couple minutes of the entire show.  In fact, the Storyteller came up under special circumstances, twice, which was when I gave a reading for one of the actors from the show.  This was one of the highlights, obviously, of my stint as Oracle.  I had allowed myself to entertain the possibility of an actor being interested in receiving a reading, which of course would be totally cool, and have great potential for nuance and beauty.  I would enjoy that, I thought, and then I did.

It happened rather unexpectedly.  I was just returning from a panel - the one with Bodie Olmos (Eddie's son, and Hotdog in the show), Trucco and Tahmoh, which was really fun, quite delightful - so I was all blissed out and feeling relaxed.  I was just taking down my "The Oracle is out" sign when someone came to my table.  It was Luciana "Kat" Carro, Rekha "Tory" Sharma, and another woman who seemed to be a friend or relative of Luciana's.  Luciana wanted a reading, so I gave her one, with her and Rekha sharing one chair, very adorable.  Luciana was funny, turning over cards and making spirited exclamations, while Rehka and her friend were saying, "See?  That's JUST what we have been telling you!"  It seemed to be quite useful for her.  She drew the Storyteller, and said "'s Ron!" with nostalgic sighs; I miss him, because I miss the show, but of course it was different for them, as they know Ron.  It was a good reading and I was pleased it went well. 

I made a point of showing the actors some of their cards, which they seemed to like.  Tahmoh has Strength and, with Athena, The Lovers.  Trucco got Balance, with Starbuck; and the Perfection card is all about him, Anders' vision of perfection (the perfect throw, the perfect catch, the moment).  EJO was clearly tickled by the few of his he saw - he's got a lot - namely: Gravitas, Lighten Up (Adama toking up on New Caprica, with Laura), and the So Say We All Card, the best one in the deck.

It's a picture of EJO and Mary McDonnell when they were before the U.N. which EJO had spoken of earlier, that beautiful moment when the show definitively transcended "television."  When they invite you before the Secretary-General for Policy Planning at the UN to discuss the impact the show could have on - well, policy planning - that's so frakking out there fan-frakking-tastic I don't even have the words.  How can that NOT be my favorite card?  It's reality, which is always the best part of any story - when you realize it's true.  When you realize that what happens out there is really a reflection of what happens in here - when you realize your life is a story, and you the storyteller.  The real trick is to see the story in your own life, how you are Starbuck, how you are Apollo.  For the artists, it's even MORE a reflection of the inner person: the show was conceived, born and grew up, fathered by Glen A. Larson and Ron Moore and mothered by everyone involved.  It came from them, or really us, from all of us, because once you find your way into a truly great mythic story, you become part of it.  It's insane to think that a TV show can reach a level like that, but myth can come from anywhere - and God knows, we're all desperate for it these days. 

There is more to the story of the BSG Love Fest, but this is a good stopping point, and I should start a new entry before this turns into a novella.


  1. Great Blog, really brought back the memories of the weekend. I remember getting my reading from you, I believe it was late on Saturday. Everything clicked in my mind, we had a little conversation afterward about how I had cast runestones in the past.
    In a lot of ways, G3 was the best convention I've ever been to. At the time, it was frustrating, but in the past couple months, I've been telling people about the amazing access we the fans had to the celebrities. I'll always remember hanging out in the hotel bar on Friday and Saturday, having conversations with Trucco & Penikett, singing along with Esai Morales and Richard Hatch, listening to EJO's brilliant recollections in a little circle trying to hear above the hubbub, and most of all, the regular people that made up the COMMUNITY of Gold members. All in all, I can't wait for Galacticon 4, hope to see you there!

  2. So cool to hear from someone I did a reading for! I love to hear about someone with the same memories too...Here's to the next one!