The Meetup

xkcd readers successfully overran a park in Cambridge a week ago, and it’s taken me this long to fully recover. But boy, was it fun. Here’s a wrap-up:

Back in the spring, when I lived in Virginia, I drew this comic. The date was in the future, the coordinates were a park in Cambridge. When the date came last weekend, hundreds of people showed up.

How it went:

People were camped out there starting the night before. Without any obvious organization, they brought altered signs for the park, raptor costumes, signs, red spiders, and a tent full of xkcd-related memorabilia. They climbed the octahedral structure in the middle of the park and did their best to collapse it. Afterward, at the nearby Danahey Park, there was a trebouchet.

I had made a point of staying quiet about my plans for the coordinates. I just directed people back to the comic, which suggested that no one showed up. And, indeed, when I have dreams like that and go to the place or look for the person, there’s no one there. Dreams don’t work like that. So if they’re just your own desires whispering to you, of what use are they? As Haroun would ask, what’s the use of stories that aren’t even true? The answer was obvious. Dreams are where messages start, not where they arrive.

I realized roughly what would happen if I drew up the coordinates in a comic. And people came. It couldn’t happen exactly like it did in the comic, obviously, but it was a gathering of lovely people all brought together by their shared interest in adventure, puzzles, and people, and dreams. And it was a wonderful party.

I hung out nearby, with some friends and relatives, and put together my contribution to the gathering. Since the comic had created a counter to its own conclusion, clearly it needed to be corrected. I got 40 feet of whiteboard in 4×8 segments. I drew up the Dream Girl comic on the first one, but left out the concluding line. Instead, I left the next 35 feet for people to fill in what had happened.

I said a few words explaining this, passed out Sharpies, and then was swept to the center of a crowd of autograph-seekers. For a couple hours, I signed every blank surface anyone showed to me. This included playpen balls, shirts, breasts, a mattress, a picture of two monkeys having sex, and, at one point, the side of a Mobius strip. Afterward, we went to a trebouchet demonstration, had food, and (in a complicated string of events) reenacted the couch affair from Dirk Gently. After hanging out with some folks from Kansas and having a lovely hour-long conversation about the Animorphs, I fell asleep at 6:00 AM and slept for a full day — 25 hours — waking up briefly to eat.

Here’s an article in the Phoenix about the meetup.

Click here for a page with high-res images of all five whiteboards:

A few selections:

There were far too many pictures taken for me to wade through them all, but here are a few I pulled from the Flickr pool:

Goodness, there were a lot of people.

All the park signs were helpfully rewritten.

There were several gallant protesters insisting that all assertions be fully backed-up.

There are no words that can improve this picture.

I have not forgotten about the red spiders, by the way. The final two episodes will appear eventually.

There’s a giant structure in the middle of the park — an octahedron with a network of ropes inside. It was covered with people for the entire day, and — for no clear reason — they crowd-surfed a mattress to the top.

The structure, enveloped in people.

Isn’t CD Cambodia?

There was a mighty trebouchet.

Buckles were swashed.

Love was sought.

And thank you to all the people who picked up trash.

This was fun. Let’s do it again next year. Keep an eye out for coordinates.

226 thoughts on “The Meetup

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