I guess it was in 2015 when I decided to finally fulfill my wish of acquiring a tablet. iPads were too expensive, so I opted for a Samsung Galaxy Note Pro 12.2″ instead; I’ve always been fan of Android-based products, and I liked the fact that Samsung always provides a stylus pen with their high-end products. Aside from a holiday discount, the Note Pro came with a nice keyboard which served as a hard case –which was a good thing, seeing how I was never able to find a proper cover for this unusually humongous tablet…
The Note Pro came with a Samsung-proprietary version of Autodesk’s Sketchbook app which was very simple to use –also very LIMITED, in retrospect– and this is what I first used to fool around, and experiment in order to teach myself how to become one of those cool ‘digital artists’.
Initially I just thought about using these doodles to express myself on social media in a more original way than merely texting.
The Note Pro proved an ideal alternative to bringing my laptop to flying trips, because they are exempt fro them mandatory airport scanning enforced to bigger electronic equipment –there was this time in Atlanta airport when a TSA employee spent 10 minutes or more screening my computer, only because it had a ‘menacing’ Gears of War sticker on it! So I brought my tablet to the first ParaMania gathering organized by Steve Ray and Tim Binnall.
ParaMania was Steve’s brainchild, and came about because he once asked my buddy Greg Bishop, “Hey, if I bought you a plane ticket to Dallas and paid your hotel room so you could come and give a talk to some folks, would you do it?” To which Greg immediately said, “F#$k yeah!” Soon the rumor began to spread and Tim got wind of it, causing him to enthusiastically jump into the opportunity to participate in a paranormal “un-conference”: Distilling the fun things of going to a conference –i.e. meeting like-minded people, hanging around with your favorite authors and engaging in stimulating conversations while having a drink (or five)– while leaving behind the not-so-fun things of those events –i.e. paying hundreds of dollars just for a ticket to a conference for which you may not be interested in listening to 30% of the speakers, waiting in line to register, wearing a god-damned badge with your name on it, etc.
Tim came up with a name inspired by his deep love for Wrestling, and the fact that the un-conference would be scheduled to coincide with that year’s Wrestlemania, and Boom: ParaMania was born!
Back then my economic situation wasn’t as horrific as nowadays, so I decided to join in so I could finally meet Tim and other friends I’d only interacted with online. Since I wanted to make the most of my expensive airline tickets, I chose to arrive to Dallas as early as possible. When I arrived at Dulles Airport only Tim and Steve were there to meet me –Tim was almost completely aphonic, and Steve was carrying this bizarre-looking LED-lighted case which a banner inside that said “You Are Right!” I guess it was his way to greet people who are used to being reminded how wrong they are in their views about UFOs and stuff…
It was just after noon and the next ParaMania member wasn’t scheduled to arrive until hours later, so Steve suggested the three of us should leave and go somewhere to eat. Tim and I agreed, thinking Steve, being a local of Dallas, would take us to some little place where we could grab a quick bite and a beer before returning to pick the rest of our friends. Unbeknownst to us, after a 20-min drive we ended up… at a strip club.
At first I was confused, and I looked at Tim to see if he knew what was going on. It turned out that because of his line of work, Steve knows A LOT of those kinds of establishments (no, he’s not a pimp), and told us strip clubs are actually great places to have lunch. Tim and I didn’t know what to say, but the two were too hungry to disagree (and Steve was the one with the car) and so enter we did this adult entertainment establishment that from the outside looked like a refurbished warehouse.
Now the last time I had been at a strip joint had been like 10-12 years prior, and it’s not like I’m prudish or anything –if I were I wouldn’t have designed the cover for Chris Ryan’s Sex book, would I?– but it’s just that after a while blue-balling loses a lot of its allure. We sat at a table near the stage –to my surprise, Steve was right: the club was not empty– and sure enough, a few minutes later a few scantily-clad girls came to join us.
The money I had brought for this trip was scarce enough as it was, so even if I wanted to, I was in no position to be ‘friendly’ with any of these ladies, and since Tim could barely speak, Steve was the one who made all the talking.
—“Hi, what’s your name?” asked Steve.
—“I’m Amy, but you can call me ‘Amy Baby’!”, said the smiling woman, while closing her eye and clicking her tongue.
—“Oh, are you by any chance a member of the !Kung tribe?” replied Steve.
(Amy did not get the reference)
Soon it was evident to Amy and her friends we were either too poor or obnoxious for her to make any extra dollars, so they finally left us alone to eat in peace. Nevertheless, for the rest of the trip Tim and I used the “Amy Baby *clicks tongue*” as our little private joke to tease each other (and Steve) at the most inappropriate times. After that the rest of ParaMania 2016 was more PG, and also a lot more enjoyable –including the part in which we thought we were going to be hunted for sport at a mansion that looked like an European castle… but that’s a story for another time.
Later that year, my financial situation took a nosedive (still plummeting, actually) and by October or November Steve texted me because he wanted to know if I would be interested in making an artistic commission. His timing couldn’t have been more appropriate so I said Yes. The end result is what you see at the beginning of this post: The concept is ENTIRELY Steve’s idea (except for the Castro reference, which I decided to add because he’s such an anti-communist), the girl to the right with the fan is his girlfriend and the other two are also friends of his which I selected from a WIDE variety of pics he sent me.
Despite the poor craftsmanship shown, the concept still cracks me up, because I’ve always been fond of self-deprecating humor. Steve and his lady friends were all very pleased, and that’s what gave me the idea to solicit more commissions online. The rest, as they say is history.
So thank you, Ray. Thanks to my ParaMania comrades. And thanks to Amy Baby, wherever you are *clicks tongue*