The Astral Log

31 December 2015

Why am I writing about Skepticon 8 now, more than a month after it happened?

Filed under: Artifacts & Holdovers, Skepticon, US-Illinois — Andrew T. @ 21:54

Time flies when you’re not having fun.

The weekend of November 13th to 15th was the weekend of Skepticon…the signature conference of the atheist/skeptic movement; held every year in the Bible Belt city of Springfield, Missouri.

I drove straight home the evening of the 15th, collapsed into bed, and plunged straight into a hectic work week. If there was time for any respite, it didn't last long: Days after that I was in the hospital, having a cyst on my finger removed. The surgery went well, but my hand was wrapped in bandages and I could barely type for the next two weeks.

December was yet another month of preoccupations. Once going through the year-end household chores and Christmas routines, however, it was time to go right back and finish what I had set out to do more than a month ago: A write-up about my experiences at Skepticon.

Skepticon was a new experience for me, but Springfield wasn't: I passed through the city on my way to the year's ALPCA Convention in Arkansas last summer. Not surprisingly, my journey through Illinois and Missouri closely paralleled my path from five months earlier; though I bore southwest from Rockford and drove on different highways to provide a bit of variety.

As for artifacts and roadside architecture sights along the way? There was plenty of that to go around. I'm not sure which of these may have been the better find: This early 1960s Texaco station in Milan, Illinois with perfectly-preserved green and white porcelain enamel, or this 1930s-40s Standard building in Macomb with art deco lettering.

Eventually I ended up on U.S. 54...a highway that would take me out of Illinois and far into Missouri. Alas, the Clark 54 Drive-In in Rockford had recently closed; though I wouldn't have had time for a movie show that evening anyway. Seems the property was a victim of the digital projection transition.

Minutes after the sun disappeared over the horizon, I crossed the Mississippi on a quaint, narrow truss bridge built in 1928. By driving this way, I had the feeling that I was partaking in an experience not long for this world...and indeed, a new bridge is reportedly in the works.

Then, I was in the dark. Since it was too dim for any sightseeing or photography, I drove like hell through the bulk of Missouri; eventually reaching my hotel after approximately 12 hours on the road.

The hotel in Springfield was easy to find, but it felt like an enclave. It was removed from downtown, separated from the road by a long driveway and security gate, and directly attached to the host convention center so that I didn't even need to step outdoors: Undeniably convenient, but isolating. I felt as if I was in a world away from the spectacle of southern Missouri that surrounded me...and if I was going to have a taste of local happenings, it was going to have to come through the words, actions, and interactions of the people who were there.

Why hadn't I attended Skepticon before? Years ago, I didn't attend Skepticon for the same reason I didn't attend the Reason Rally in 2012: I was confined by my circumstances. In more recent times, the main impediment was simply the fact that the conference was in the middle of November...and I usually don't feel like doing anything at that time of year. I got as far as pre-registering for Skepticon 6 in 2013, but chickened out at the last minute. 2015, however, has been the year of cons: After the Freethought Festival in Madison, the aforementioned ALPCA convention, and River City Reason Fest in Manitoba, Skepticon was merely the cherry on top.

©2015-16 Andrew Turnbull