Author Topic: the 2003 Alternate Realities Conference - Tenessee  (Read 2341 times)

Desdemone
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the 2003 Alternate Realities Conference - Tenessee
« on: July 28, 2003, 02:43:16 PM »
Destination: An Alternative Reality Tennessee


July 27, 2003

I drove through 25 different states throughout my journey and noticed how every state has a different way of greeting you. Some go for the standard "Welcome to wherever," whereas others go all-out with massive roadside murals.

When you drive east into Louisiana from Houston, for example, you cross the border and are immediately greeted by the billboard asking "What do 80,000 Louisianans have in common?"

The answer?

"Hepatitis C."

Definitely the warmest greeting I got anywhere.

The leg of the trip from Houston to Atlanta was a little more rushed than I would have liked, but I had a pressing engagement the coming weekend: the 2003 Alternate Realities Conference in the mountains of eastern Tennessee. Back in my undergrad days, I worked on a documentary on the Nebraska sasquatch. When I heard this conference had new evidence on bigfoot, I had an urge to revive the project.

My friend Heather in Atlanta had agreed to join me on the trip. The ARC deals with bigfoot and UFOs and ghosts and basically everything paranormal, so I had absolutely no idea what to expect. So in addition to helping me with any videography, Heather would be an anchor to reality. Or as much of an anchor to reality as Heather can be.

The opening ceremonies for the conference were Friday night in Elizabethton, Tenn., which is basically straight north of Atlanta. They included dinner, an introduction of the speakers and a performance by a paranormal rock band.

After stopping by the library to check the Web site for the details (which simply said to be at the Rotary Park in Elizabethton by 7:30 p.m.), we took to the tiny highways to the north.

When it got to be about lunch time, we pulled off into a small town in South Carolina and passed a café called "Me-Maw's." I asked Heather if she wanted to stop there, and she replied "What could possibly be better than Me-Maw's?"

Wouldn't you know it, the next building down the road was "Pe-Paw's." I swear to God, that was really funny when it happened.

Later that afternoon, a road sign that said "Bat Cave" lured us in its direction. What we thought would maybe just be a cave a mile or so away ended up being a town about 20 miles down the road.

The town of Bat Cave was essentially a dozen houses and a few shops huddled around a river in the mountains. It was a beautiful little village, and so we stopped to get out and walk around. As we walked away from the riverside, a swarm of gnats grew fond of my head. I put on what must have been a wonderful show for anyone driving past, as I frantically swatted at the air around my head, desperately trying to get these things away.

One of the shops we walked past was peddling "Authentic Indian Crafts," and inside sat a fat white man with a feathered headdress and no shirt. Further down the road was a gift shop that was apparently gnat-proof, because they abandoned me at the door.

I got a cool Bat Cave T-shirt (which would aid me later in the trip). They didn't have the color of T-shirt Heather wanted, so she went with the logical next choice -- a slingshot.

We went outside to the river so she could practice shooting only to reunite with my gnat friends, so we took that as a clue that it was time to move on.

Eventually we arrived in Elizabethton to search for the park. I didn't register us for the dinner, and I wasn't particularly intrigued by the paranormal space band, so we were going to be fine not getting there until 8:15 for the speaker introductions.

It was about 7:30 and we were having no luck finding this park. We stopped for dinner at this bizarre fast food place called Pal's that had a giant hot dog and hamburger on this blue stair-step building. We asked the employees where the Rotary Park was, and none of them really knew; the four of them had four different answers. One guy emerged as being more confident in his rightness than the others, so we followed his directions and just wound up in the middle of nowhere.

We brought up how strange it was that this convention was in town, but there was no mention of it on hotel marquees or anything.

Then Heather asked me how I found the Web site, and I said that I had just Googled "Alternate Realities Conference" and it was the first thing that came up. She then confessed that she had done the exact same thing at the library that morning with no results.

She had Internet access on her phone, so as we made another aimless pass through town, she Googled it again. Nothing.

So at this point, we were looking for a paranormal convention in the mountains of Tennessee in a park that none of the locals knew of, and now the only trace of the Web site appeared to exist exclusively in my head.

We accepted that this was either some kind of hoax or that I was simply insane, and either way, the conference didn't really exist and we should just find somewhere to eat our rapidly-cooling food.

We had passed a park along the river earlier, so we decided to head back there to eat. When I pulled into the parking area, I asked Heather where she wanted to sit.

"Not by those scary people," she replied.

The words "scary people" set off a mental alarm, and my eyes darted over to catch three slightly-overweight young adults dressed all in black.

"This has to be it!" I proclaimed. Sure enough, hanging on the little footbridge entrance to Riverside Park was a banner for the 2003 Alternate Realities Conference.

We timidly approached the picnic shelter, where we met Stacey Allen McGee, the founder and director of the ARC. I told him about how I was driving around the country writing stories, and he was pretty impressed at how far we had come.

He pointed out to me how hard it is to get people from that area to attend -- being nestled in the Bible belt means that an organization that investigates the paranormal (i.e. "things that aren't listed in Genesis") is not looked upon very favorably. The people who have enough courage to attend and participate in ARC activities have to be pretty confident and thick-skinned.

So we filled out our registration and left with programs in hand and the anticipation of a full day of speeches on aliens and ghosts and the exclusive new bigfoot evidence.

The_Seeker

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the 2003 Alternate Realities Conference - Tenessee
« Reply #1 on: January 29, 2006, 08:11:14 PM »
Though there are some good morals in this here's the one you all should focus on.  When talking about any sort of conference/expo/box social/whatever, make sure you give proper contact information.