North Coast Gathering II

Today I attended the second North Coast Gathering for vloggers hosted by Zen Archer of Stickam’s Zen Live show fame. It is one of the most popular shows on Stickam and demonstrates the potential for average people to broadcast online. Zen Archer does a talk show and relies on his natural gift for telling anecdotes to build an audience. I’ve become slightly more interested in online broadcasting because I now listen to Internet Radio that plays my favorite kind of music. I’d like to find an online party hosted by a DJ based on the alternative music genres I like. Unfortunately there are few people with the vision to take advantage of new media and social broadcasting so I hang with the people who pioneer it.

The gathering was held in Strongsville Ohio. I did not have any problems traveling there because you can just follow Route 80 West the entire way. I like easy to follow directions like that. Route 80 is a popular highway in Pennsylvania so I’m very familiar with it going east. I don’t travel west so often.

The meeting place was at The Chalet in Mill Stream Run Reservation, located on Valley Parkway between Routes 42 and 82 in Strongsville OH. The Chalet is an interesting place with a curious atmosphere. It is sort of a combination hunting lodge and ski resort. It has big, roaring fireplaces and a concession stand. It creates the kind of conflicting impression that I tend to enjoy. The fireplaces made me dream of fancy hunting lodges which is a world that I’m not familiar with; luxury accommodations in the woods for outdoor recreation. The architecture and winter sports scene put me in mind of ski resorts. However the concession stand and shabby bathrooms reminded me of cheesy amusement parks. This creates a very subtle surrealism where the elements don’t complement each other and your imagination must supply the synthesis.

The big draw at The Chalet is the two 1,000-foot refrigerated ice chutes for tobogganing. You have to drag your toboggan up a series of wooden steps before riding down the hill. I shot some video of our group doing that. Up to four people can ride on a toboggan. You have to put the legs of the person behind you under your arms and hold onto some rope straps with your hands (which must be gloved). It was a curious way to cram people on a toboggan. I was afraid my hands were going to rub against the sides of the chute. I only went down the toboggan chutes once. It was rather thrilling.

I arrived at The Chalet an hour early but I wasn’t going anywhere after finding the place because I was afraid I’d never find it again. I did manage to squeeze in some shopping because I was so early. I found a Borders bookstore and bought “Vampire Zero: A Gruesome Vampire Tale” by David Wellington. I’m reading a lot of dark fantasy now, a style of horror novel with darker themes. I also bought a documentary on Joy Division and the foreign film “Angel-A” on DVD. I’ve never heard of “Angel-A” but it concerns a mysterious blonde who rescues a suicide so it looks interesting.

At Noon Tara916 and Pamela showed up followed by a few other vloggers and then Zen Archer. Zen passed out mittens, baseball caps, ski hats, and camera tripods as little gifts. We passed around baseball hats to autograph and I videotaped Zen with the fireplace behind him. Zen was dressed all in black and looked quite fashionable. Then we all went outside to go tobogganing. There was Christmas music playing over loudspeakers and a light snow began so it was a perfect winter scene, one of the few occasions where I did anything special to enjoy the winter. We tried to videotape other members of our group as they came down the chutes but it seemed like everyone delayed going down and there was much confusion.

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At 4:00 PM we left the chalet and I headed out for my hotel on Royalton Road, the Holiday Inn with Zen following behind me so he could show me the way to the Seekers Coffee Shop. Unfortunately Zen thought I was heading the wrong way so he asked me to follow him to an area where everyone else was staying at various hotels. Once Zen realized that he misdirected me, he kindly offered to pay for my room at a nearby Residence Inn by Marriott. Personally I would have been fine with just turning around and going back to the Holiday Inn but I appreciated his hospitality. Zen also took care of me by making sure I had a car to follow so I would not get lost driving to the other places where the group was meeting. I genuinely appreciated this because there is nothing I hate more than getting lost while driving. It really stresses me out. It was snowing out so driving around in circles would not have been fun. If you are contemplating attending a gathering hosted by Zen Archer, remember that he will take care of you.

After I checked in at the Residence Inn by Marriott, we drove to the Seekers Coffee Shop, a faith based coffee shop where I gave Zen the gift I bought him for his birthday, a professional microphone. That should make up for the hotel room because it was a fairly expensive microphone. After that we went to Buffalo Wild Wings Bar & Grill for dinner. I don’t go out to eat much and I’d never been to a restaurant like this. They had a lot of football playing on large televisions and wide screens so it was like a sports bar. Zen was given many more gifts and told many amusing stories including some I’d never heard before. We were also amusing by children struggling to win stuffed animals using a nearby mechanical claw arcade game. I had the “Wild” sweet fruit lemonade and some boneless barbecued wings which frankly tasted like a TV dinner recipe.

I followed Tara916’s car to find my way back to my hotel. This is an unusually nice hotel room with a complete kitchen. It has a stove, a refrigerator, a dish washer, and a kitchen sink and countertop. You could practically live in this small apartment which must be where it gets its name “residence”.

Although this trip wasn’t as exciting as a cruise vacation, I don’t get out much for a change of scene so I enjoyed it. It does not take much to entertain me because I usually appreciate new surroundings. I’m the kind of guy who would like to spend every day in someone else’s house or apartment just to gather the impression of a life lived in different surroundings.

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