by Larry Peery

Although I haven’t been to nearly as many Diplomacy events as people like Edi Birsan and Matt Shields, I’ve been around for a few:

  • 1971 DipCon IV (San Diego)
  • 1980 Peericon I (San Diego)
  • 1987 DixieCon I (Chapel Hill)
  • 1988 World DipCon I (Birmingham, UK)
  • 1989 DipCon XXII (San Diego)
  • 1993 Euro DipCon I (Paris)

and more recently: 2013:

  • DipCon 46 (Silver Spring)
  • 2013 World DipCon XXIII (Paris)
  • 2014 DipCon 47 (Seattle)

…and in between another 25 or so other “official” Diplomacy events, at least according to the World Diplomacy Database; and that doesn’t even include some memorable “unofficial” Diplomacy events like the 2002 (or was in 2003?) DMZ Con I (Panmunjom) that consisted of two players, one Diplomacy board, a very nervous volunteer photographer, one USA sergeant, one ROK sergeant, and two PDRK sergeants as observers. It may also hold the record for being the world’s shortest Diplomacy event at less than 2 minutes (We were still setting up the board when our host got nervous and chased us out of the DMZ meeting room.). And yes, photos do exist — buried somewhere in the Diplomacy Archive, I suppose. Forgive me if you’ve read all this before, but as I get older I find it helps me to remember what I did when and where if I keep repeating it to myself. Perhaps only Buz Eddy can understand that.

Anyway, this isn’t a story about the past. It’s a story about a current event, the 2014 DipCon XLVII held in January 2014 in Seattle, Washington. I’m sure there will be a lot of DipCon reports in Diplomacy World, and I urge you to read them before you come to any conclusions about the question I raised in the title to my report, “Was it (DipCon 2014) the greatest DipCon of all time?” based on my story alone. As I write this I have not yet read anybody else’s report on the event, although I have discussed it informally with some of the other participants. I mentioned my prior DipCon events above to give you some idea of what past events I am using in making my assessment of this year’s event. Based on all that, I will eventually share my answer to my question.

In addition to this report in TDP there are also a couple of items written before the event pertaining to who might win this year’s DipCon title. I suggest you to read them before you read my comments on the Diplomacy Tournament results. (Specifically: AND THE WACCON 2014 WINNER WILL BE…, WACCON: Where Psychopaths and Sycophants Come Together to Lie, Cheat and Make Merry! Or, WACcon 2014: Predicting the Winner a Week in Advance, both of which appear in this issue I think.) As for the Machiavelli’s The Prince’s 500th anniversary celebration game and my attempt to inject some musical culture into DipCon read on.

After attending last year’s DipCon in Silver Spring and World DipCon in Paris it was almost a foregone conclusion that I would go to this year’s DipCon in Seattle. There were several reasons for this:

  1. It would give me a chance to see some of my old Dip friends who hadn’t made it to the other two events;
  2. It was billed as the last WACcon and I’d never been to one of their events; and
  3. It would give me my third chance in four years to visit one of my favorite cities, Seattle.

Having had considerable experience in traveling and in attending Diplomacy events, I started making my plans and arrangements months before the event. As it had with Silver Spring and Paris, United Airlines won out as my airline of choice. Having a commuter airport practically next door was just too convenient compared to a 60 mile drive to San Diego’s airport. By checking the fares and schedules, I managed to snag a $270 fare instead of the normal $330 fare to Seattle on a flight that included only one connection in Los Angeles instead of the common additional stop in San Francisco. I booked the last seat available for a Thursday 06:00 morning departure that would get me into Seattle at 10:30, giving me time to do some other things on my agenda before that evening’s “roast” event. Recalling what I had learned in my previous trips to Seattle about the lack of availability of quality accommodations at reasonable prices, I did some research and came to the conclusion that the event organizer’s offer of a DD (two double beds) room at The Inn at WAC (Washington Athletic Club) for $199 a night, plus tax, with a third night free, was the best deal around. I lined up Edi Birsan for a roommate and I was all set. Or so I thought.

A week before the Con start I realized that the two calls I had made to the WAC’s executive offices had not been returned. It’s very unusual for a hotel or any travel business to NOT return a call from a travel writer. It’s just not done. Hmmm, I wondered. So I called the Inn at WAC’s front desk on Friday late afternoon and said I wanted to confirm a reservation. I gave my name, the dates, the rate, and the name of the event. The desk clerk couldn’t find any record of the information in the computer, but she said someone would be calling me back shortly. Sure enough, twenty minutes later I got a call from someone at the reservations desk that had more computer access. She also tried to be helpful but couldn’t find any mention of me, Edi, our event, etc. in her computer; although she did see that the Crystal Ballroom was booked that weekend for an event. She suggested I call back on Monday and talk to Amanda, the Reservations Manager. I knew Monday was MLK Day and there wasn’t a snowball’s chance in hell that anybody would be working in the hotel reservation’s office that day, so I made a note to call first thing on Tuesday. I also sent an email to Nathan Barnes about what was going on and he said he’d pass it on to Mark Offal. I called Amanda on Tuesday morning and told her what had happened. Since I didn’t have the name of the WAC salesman or the contract number she said there wasn’t much she could do for me.

According to her there was no record of me, Edi, the group, the rate, etc. in their system! By then I was more than a little upset. A couple of hours later I got an email from Mark informing me that my suspicions were correct; that he had talked to the Inn at WAC people and they were refusing to honor the quoted $199 a night rate or third night free offer (both still on their website, although they were showing a SOLD OUT notice on their web site. He said they did have a deluxe DD room at $285 a night, plus tax, with no third night free, but that the event committee would pick up the third night (I was planning to stay four nights) charge; or we could switch to the next door Hilton for a $199 rate. After thinking it over, the convenience of being in the same hotel as the event won over my desire to punish the Inn at the WAC for their incompetence. Later, when I learned they were also hosting a Miss Washington event that weekend, I realized what had happened. They had over-booked the hotel and were trying to cut their losses. When I checked out at the front desk on Monday I noticed that Amanda, the Reservations Manager (she was wearing her name tag) was standing behind the desk clerk, watching what was going on. She looked up when the clerk called me Mr. Peery and grabbed the bill print out from the printer before the clerk could get it. She looked it over, passed it to the clerk, and looked at me, as I was staring at her. LOL. She didn’t say a word; although I’m sure she knew who I was. I went into some detail on this for two reasons:

  1. to let my story be a lesson to future DipCon travelers to never assume an agreement (especially a verbal one or one done by email) will hold up at the front desk. Trust, but verify, as they say.
  2. It gives me a chance to tip my hat (twice) to Nathan and Mark for taking care of the situation. At one point I was within 20 minutes of cancelling my trip completely, but I’m glad I didn’t.

I went to bed about 22:00 on Wednesday night, planning on getting up at 05:00 for my flight. I was sound asleep at 23:30 when the phone woke me up. It was a desk agent at United’s Carlsbad Airport desk informing me that my 06:00 departure had been cancelled due to fog. Since Carlsbad only has one airline (United) with one plane (a thirty seat Brazilian puddle jumper that makes round trips between Carlsbad and Los Angeles — 84 miles each way — from 0600 until 2300 daily), there wasn’t a lot of room for flexibility. My 06:00 flight — the first of the day — was cancelled, and the next three flights were all already full. The clerk first suggested a shuttle from Carlsbad airport to LAX, but gave up on that idea when he realized I’d still miss my connection to Seattle. Then he offered to put me on a flight out of San Diego at 06:30, which would get me into Seattle after a stop in San Francisco, but I’d have to get myself to San Diego’s airport by 05:30 since I didn’t have a boarding pass and he couldn’t email me one, etc. etc. No way. By now we’d been on the phone for twenty minutes and he was getting desperate. He even asked if I’d consider going through Denver to get to Seattle. By now I was even more sleepy and a bit grumpy; and I said we needed to get something resolved. I could hear his fingers clicking away as he raced down the schedules looking for options. He said he had one seat left on the 13:15 Carlsbad to Los Angeles flight and should he grab that? Doing so would automatically cancel my other flights, and we’d still have to find a way from Los Angeles to Seattle. I told him to grab it. He eventually found a non-stop 17:30 flight from Los Angeles to Seattle that would get me into Seattle at 20:30 instead of the 10:30 I had originally planned. I agreed to that, but I never did get back to sleep that night.

I actually had a delightful Thursday morning online emailing and chatting with others on Facebook who were beginning their own trips to Seattle. From the sound of it, it wasn’t a particularly good day to be traveling anywhere. I also got to watch Tiger Woods pacing up and down the greens at Torrey Pines in the fog waiting for his fog delayed tournament to get under way. That made me feel a bit better. Judy dropped me off at the Carlsbad Airport and it was a lovely sunny afternoon with just a wisp of coastal low clouds and fog hovering over the golf course. As our little Embracer rolled past some of the most expensive private jets in the country that had gathered for the Farmers Invitational I pumped my flabby arm in the air and said, “Seattle, here I come!”

I actually arrived in Seattle a bit early, but by the time I walked from the gate through the terminal and parking structure to the light rail station I was cold and tired. The time and distance on the light rail from SEATAC to downtown Seattle was about the same as it was from Paris’s De Gaulle Airport. The difference was in the fare, $2.25 for an adult in Seattle (and 75 cents for a senior if I’d kept reading down the list of discounts) vs. $12 in Paris. By the time I got off the light rail at the University Station in downtown it was almost 21:30 — too late as Nathan Barnes and I agreed to try to make it to the roast. So instead I walked up the hill, made a left past the Hilton, and entered the WAC. The doorman looked at me, probably trying to decide if I was a terrorist, a street person, or a Dipper. I glared at him and headed for the registration desk, where everything went well. I knew if I wanted to get anything to eat I had to hurry so I raced (slowly) upstairs, washed my face, and dashed down to the Sports Bar where I encountered the largest Club Sandwich I’ve ever run into. I got through three-fourths of it, a few fries, and a class of house merlot. Back in the room I spent a good twenty minutes trying to figure out which switches controlled which lights. I counted 10 light switches in the room. Edi later found 12. But after four nights I still wasn’t sure which switches controlled which lights, and the Sony Dream Machine was way too complicated for me. The first time I tried to turn off the radio I almost disassembled it. I finally found that if I slowly pushed every button on it I could eventually turn the radio on or off. The bathroom was almost as big as the bedroom but it had fourteen towels in it. The separate shower had one of those rainfall shower heads that let you (if you figured out how) aim the spray all over your body: a great toy to play with, but not after a long day of travel. Ah, but the bed was superb. Unlike Silver Spring’s, where I thought I was going to drown in feathers, this one was soft, but firm at the same time.

The next morning I realized that my carefully planned agenda for Thursday was shot, and I only had what was left of Friday morning and Friday afternoon to me before the DipCon’s first round began. I jumped (well, as much as I can) out of bed, showered, put on flip flops, and raced out of the hotel, headed for the Monorail. Fortunately I’d used the Monorail on previous trips to Seattle, so I knew where the downtown station was. It was a lovely, clear morning in Seattle but about a block from the hotel I realized it was also a bit chilly or even downright cold for a Southern Californian. At that moment a nicely dressed lady standing at the streetlight next to me looked down and noticed my flip flops. She leaned over, smiled and in a low voice said, “Mister, if you need some shoes we have a program in Seattle where you can get some free.” I thanked her, explained I was from Southern California, and started off on my way. Less than a block further on another lady carrying a large Starbucks shopping bag offered me a tasty looking breakfast roll, and seemed surprised when I turned it down with a thank you and kept on going. I guess I really did look like a homeless person! By now I was beginning to have fun playing the “senior” game, so I took advantage of the $1 Monorail fare for seniors and enjoyed the brief ride out to the Park where I had visited the World’s Fair some fifty years earlier.

The famous Seattle Space Needle
The Space Needle
(Click to enlarge in a separate window)

Two years ago when I visited Seattle as part of my post-surgery recovery, I had visited the Park and done the Space Needle thing and checked out the other attractions, such as they were. I noticed then that there was something being built almost under the Space Needle, and I was told it was going to be some kind of glass museum. In preparation for this trip I had done some further research and learned that that was indeed the new home of the Chihuly Glass and Garden, which sounded very interesting, and so that was my first goal of the day. Even with a dollar discount for seniors it was $19 to get into the place; but as the pictures show, I hope, it was well worth it. When I first saw it it immediately reminded me of Saint Chappelle in Paris, the chapel of the French kings. The stained glass was awesome. Apparently I wasn’t the only one to make the connection, because a placard inside the glass garden house mentioned that it was indeed Saint Chappelle that had inspired the Chihuly structure. I spent almost 40 minutes staring at one piece of stained glass art inside. I can’t describe it. If the pictures don’t do it justice, then I suggest you go to their web site and look at it yourself. Interestingly, I asked about 20 people at random where they were from; two were locals and 18 were visitors, and most of those were from overseas who were Chihuly fans. Take my word for it, if you ever get a chance this is a “must see.”

Entrance to Chiluly exhibit From outside Decor by Austria and Turkey?
The Chiluly Exhibit entrance
(Click to enlarge in a separate window)
Seen from outside
(Click to enlarge in a separate window)
Decor by Austria and Turkey?
(Click to enlarge in a separate window)

Larry at Chiluly
Larry at the museum
(Click to display in a separate window)

From the Chihuly I took a taxi over to the Asian Art Museum, another old friend in Seattle, to check out its recent facelift. They did a good job. You couldn’t even tell they’d done a tummy tuck and lifted a few sags here and there. For once a cabbie actually waited when I asked him to, and we were off to the Japanese Garden at Seattle’s Arboretum. It’s a classic formal Japanese garden, one of the best in the United States. As anyone whose read my travel stories knows I’m a big fan of Japanese gardens and look for them wherever I go. I also didn’t realize how healthy they were until I had my car accident in 2011. On the way to the hospital in the ambulance I heard the EMT tell the hospital nurse that my BP was something like 290/150; and needless to say I got some fast attention in the ER when we arrived. After the ER doctors did their thing I asked if I could go out to the hospital’s Japanese meditation garden for a bit. The doctor looked at me like I was crazy, but said OK. So they got me into a wheel chair and rolled me outside. I sat in the sun for a few minutes looking at the rocks, sand, and mini-pines and took some deep breaths. Later on when they took my BP it was down to (for me) near normal. So, as I walked briefly in the Japanese garden in Seattle, I let the stress and tensions of the past few days drain out of me. By the time I left I felt great!

When I got back to the Inn at the WAC I was ready for a nap. Enter Edi Birsan, arriving just before the Diplomacy event was to start. We wandered downstairs for the first round and after the usual banter and confusion things got under way. As fate would have it (or perhaps it was my request for some non-drinking tables in the tournament) Edi and I ended up on the same board in the first round. Ironically our positions were just the reverse of the disastrous table we had shared in Silver Spring, where he had won by concession and I had gotten hammered; only this time he was Italy and I was Germany. After it was all over we each ended up with no points. Steve Cooley got a win as Russia, and got 100 points for it. Surely the Lord was with him. Adam Berey was Austria and got no points for his efforts. Ditto Chris Brand as Turkey, who also got no points. Did I mention Chris Prichard, France, who was also left pointless? And how about David Sielaff, England, pointless. I’m sure the complete event results and scoring system are explained elsewhere online, so I won’t go into that. It seems pointless, so to speak. Suffice it to say that Steve and Chris Martin, who also had a solo, were the two big winners after round one.

Realizing that two games in one day would be one too many on Saturday, I decided to forego the morning round and sleep in. I’m glad I did, but I missed seeing Mary Kuhner’s win as Austria, also worth 100 points, in round two — a fact that would cost me greatly in round three. Sure enough, in the afternoon’s round three I was assigned Austria and Mary was assigned Russia. I knew she’d won her second round game; but I didn’t know she’d played Austria in that game, or my playing would have been a lot different. After proclaiming no less than three times that she’d rather not bounce in Galicia because it was a waste of time, Mary got busy and organized a three way attack on me. By the end of 1902 I was looking at six enemy units from Russia, Italy and Turkey surrounding me. Fortunately it was mercifully short and I was gone. In their games, Andrew Goff had a win as Russia worth 100 points, and Robert Premus had a win as Germany in that round to advance to the finals.

The fourth and final round on Sunday morning included a top board consisting of Dan Lester as England, Chris Martin as Germany, Steve Cooley as Austria, Andrew Goff as France, Mary Kuhner as Italy, Robert Premus as Turkey, and Edi Birsan as Russia; and that’s the order in which they ended up the tournament. The scoring system was such that the winner of the top board was guaranteed the championship title even if another player had a higher point score. In fact it so happened that four players: Chris Martin, Steve Cooley, Andrew Goff and Mary Kuhner had higher point totals than Dan Lester, the winner. Now that you’ve read my pre-event performance predictions on what “might” happen at WACcon 2014 based on the event’s previous results let’s see what did happen! (Drumroll please!!) The 2014 results added 16 points to Dan Lester’s total score, 11 points for Chris Martin, 8 points for Steve Cooley, 8 points for Andrew Goff, and 7 points for Mary Kuhner. That was enough to move Dan up from sixteenth place into a third place tie, but nowhere near Brand’s 22 points or Mead’s 18 points. Chris Martin moved from thirty-second place up to fourth, Steve Cooley and Andrew Goff joined Neumann and Saul at the new tenth place. Mary Kuhner joined Cockerill and Shields in 14th place, and became the highest finishing woman ever at a WACcon and only the second to make the list. Before the event started I passed around copies of my predictions and got little reaction. Perhaps the most telling response came from Dan Lester after the event was over. He told me, “After I read your predictions I resolved to try a little harder.” Who knows maybe that was just enough to get him to the championship?

For the record, my fourth round game as England ended up with a four center draw worth 2.54 points, but considering I had Andy Bartalone as France on one side of me, Jake Mannix as Russia, and Jason O’Donnell as Germany, on the other, I considered myself lucky to get out of the game with nothing worse than a broken eardrum!

Best Country Awards:

  • Austria: Mary Kuhner
  • England: Dan Lester (and event champion)
  • France: Chris Martin
  • Germany: Robert Premus
  • Italy: Andy Bartalone
  • Russia: Andrew Goff
  • Turkey: Doug Moore

Doug also won the Larry Peery Prize, a plush stuffed turkey for his Best Turkey performance. Again, all the stats and complete report by Matt Shields are on the web. Somewhere. I hope.

As for the tournament, I was pleased to see the tournament procedures, rules and scoring system were available before the play began, that all but the final round games were played without time limits, that hateful Big Brother timing system that David Norman invented was nowhere to be seen or heard, that no less than three ladies played in the event, that drinking was not a problem (Whether that was due to segregating the drinkers and non-drinkers during the play or the high prices of drinks I don’t know.), that the newbies, although they took the usual drubbing beginners get, appeared to have a good time, and that the caliber of play and sportsmanship seemed to be of high caliber. Matt Shields did his usual “Mr. Cool TD” impersonation even as he yelled at people to leave him alone while he pounded his keyboard and shuffled his 3 by 5 inch cards.

Even before the final results were announced the poker players were at it and the chips were flying fast and furious it was the first time I had a chance to watch good Dippers and good poker players go at it. What was fascinating to me was how different the persona of the same person changed according to the way they played the game being played at the moment. After the usual goodbyes and farewells a dozen or so people drifted into the bar for a drink or two or something to eat. I had a chance to chat with one of Edi’s protégés from the Bay Area and told him some stories about Edi that I’m sure Edi had never told him. Since Edi had left as soon as the event was over he wasn’t there to defend himself. Eventually I retired to my room on the 12th floor and looking out the window I realized I was looking down on the roof of the 5th Avenue Theater, one of my items on my “must see” list. Well, I did see it several times during my stay at the Inn, or at least the roof of it, although I never got inside the theater itself. One comment: guys, you better check the roof. Those puddles never went away the whole weekend. As I drifted off to sleep I pondered my plan of attack for the morrow.

I had managed to sneak away early one morning with some non-Dipper local friends to visit the Kubota Garden, the second most important “must see” item on my list. Thanks to Joy Okazaki, President of the Kubota Garden Foundation, I was well prepared for our all too brief visit which included a fascinating and picturesque drive down Martin Luther King Blvd through several of Southeast Seattle’s ethnic communities, definitely not something on your average DipCon itinerary. My only regret was not pausing long enough to get a picture of me standing admiring some of the local graffiti to go with the one I took of Edi in Paris near the Hotel Louisanne. The Kubota Garden shares little except the name Japanese Garden with the formal garden I had seen at the Arboretum a few days earlier. The Kubota Garden is a community garden. The elements: rocks, water, shrubs, trees, etc. are the same but the two are very different. Again I suggest you look at their respective web sites to see the differences for yourself. The formal garden is a place for contemplation and meditation of the highest degree and deepest sense. The community garden is more a place for light-hearted meditation and idle thought. In a formal garden even the koi behave with dignity as they swim about their ponds. In a community garden the squirrels seem bent on having as much fun as the kids flying their kites. Seattle is fortunate to have some good examples of both, and thanks go to Mr. Kubota who made his life’s work into something the generations to come will enjoy. One of the best things about the Kubota Garden is that admission is free to all because it’s now a city park. My only regret as we left was that I had missed meeting Joy, even though the Kubota Garden itself was a joy. So on Monday morning all that remained was to check out of the Inn, pay a quick visit to the Chihuly Alcove in the hotel for a photo op, stop by the gift shop looking for a XXL sized WAC tee shirt (“Sorry, we seem to be out of them right now although we had plenty a couple of days ago,” is what I was told; so I know that either some other Dippers beat me to them, or some of those Miss Washington contestants are walking around in 52 inch chest T-shirts. Hmmm.)

A few thoughts on the Inn at the WAC, as the Washington Athletic Club called its private hotel:

  1. The reservations process was a fiasco, as I’ve already described.
  2. But having said that, the property was far superior to either the Sheraton in Silver Spring or the Louisanne in Paris (although it’s hard to compare the two in the latter case). The good reviews on Trip Advisor, etc. were generally right on. The place was easily a four star hotel and except for the slow elevators and spotty service in the restaurants and bars it lived up to the organizer’s billing.
  3. The prices seemed high to an old fart like me, but I have to admit that they represented good value for the money: $20 for breakfast, $25 for lunch and $50 for dinner says more about the value of the dollar than it does about the quality of the product received. $285 a night for the room seemed high, but still good value for the money. $45 a night for a city hotel room tax and state sales tax seemed ridiculous.
  4. For reasons I’ve noted I was less than pleased with Amanda, the Reservations Manager, but to balance things out I offer these three one-on-one encounters:
    1. The bartender/waiter in Torchys Sports Bar my first night who was getting ready to close but came up with that French Onion soup with enough cheese on it to cause a heart attack and a monstrous Club Sandwich, and then proceeded to come up with a wine list that he obviously didn’t know much about. He patiently explained WAC pinot noirs came from Oregon, not Washington; that they didn’t have a JR from the Yakima Valley and that they didn’t have many Yakima Valley wines period (I found four after a lot of digging.). He even had the bravery to consult with his sommelier about the later. Good job deserved a good tip. Later visits to Torchys and Hagertys confirmed that the quality and quantity of the food justified the prices. Except for the Lobster Dogs (Yuck!), the chicken wings, Cobb salad and hamburger were fine, I should note that the Eggs Benedict, an item I sample at every hotel I eat at, I had on Sunday morning were disappointing. The English muffins, if that’s what they were, were so over-toasted as to be burned and I needed a meat clever to cut them.
    2. The desk clerk at check out who turned white when I plopped a copy of the coffee table art book on Chihuly that I had “borrowed” from the Presidential Suite to read. She was probably on the verge of a heart attack to have a guest actually return such an item on check out. But she kept her cool, even as my nemesis Amanda hovered.
    3. The people in the gift shop were real pros. I know. I’ve been dealing with hotel gift shop workers for close to fifty years and they are the lowest of the lowly, but the ones at the Inn at the WAC were great. They tore the place apart looking for a tee shirt to meet my needs and seemed genuinely sad they couldn’t produce it.
    4. And, although it has nothing to do with WACcon or Diplomacy, something happened when I stepped into the Chihuly Alcove in the lobby that took me back even before my Diplomacy days.

The Chihuly Alcove was a small area containing a sofa and a half-dozen or so pieces of Chihuly glass that was part of a small meeting room off the main lobby. When I walked into the meeting room I didn’t realize it was being used by a hotel HR person, one of those people we’ve all had to deal with, for interviewing a would be waiter, bartender or banquet person. As soon as I heard the first couple of questions it took me back a good forty-five years or so (before I’d heard of Diplomacy or Calhamer) to my first serious job interview with Horst Dziura at the San Diego Hilton. As I moved about the Alcove snapping pictures of the Chihuly glas,s I listened to the questions and answers. The interviewer seemed totally bored, as to be expected. The interviewee was on pins and needles, also as to be expected; just as I had been all those years before. I didn’t know then that had I listened to Horst, “Stay with me and I’ll take you a long way with Hilton.” I probably would have gone to the top in the hotel industry (After all, he had a long and illustrious career with Hilton that ended up as a SVP and GM of the Las Vegas Hilton.), but I would never have been introduced to Diplomacy or met Allan Calhamer. I wondered if the young man being interviewed was facing a similar life-changing moment without knowing it? Probably not, I thought, as I made my exit: but who knows, and I’ll always wonder. Whether he met his Dziura that day or eventually meets his Calhamer; I wish him well.

As I exited the WAC I turned left and left again and paid my second visit to the Blue Water Taco Grill located in the WAC building basement, a spot the hotel staff had suggested for something good and not too expensive. They were right, but I couldn’t help thinking that anybody who ate there regularly wouldn’t be able to fit into those pricey suits at Brooks Brothers next door. That reminds me of a comment I heard from somebody at the Con that they were very impressed with the women in downtown Seattle who seemed to dress in better taste than the women of Paris. High praise, for high fashion. Perhaps it had something to do with the fact that Nordstrom’s flagship store was only a block or so from the Con site.

This time I took the light rail south to Rainier Park just across the I-5 from the Kubota Garden and the link that binds San Diego, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Portland and Seattle, and Boeing Field (Yes, that Boeing!) to the Museum of Flight. Again a taxi saved the day and got me from the light rail to the Museum and then on to the airport without a problem. Once again Seattle seems doubly blessed, this time with two museums devoted to aviation. Two years ago I saw the northern one up in Renton and got to tour the Museum and the Boeing plant which I enjoyed a lot. This time I planned to see the Museum of Flight located at the original Boeing facility just south of Seattle. This is a more family oriented and kids friendly museum with flight simulators, examples of older planes, etc. It was well worth a visit. Admission for seniors is $16 plus another $2 off if you belong to the Auto Club! By then I had reached the bottom of my “to do” list and there was nothing left to do but head for the SEATAC airport and my flight home. I departed Seattle at 1700, arrived in Los Angeles about 2000 and since I had a few hours to kill I walked over to the relatively recently redone Theme Building at LAX which I had last visited when it was much younger some forty-five years ago. As I looked out the window of my Embracer on the 24 minute flight down to Carlsbad I realized that on this trip I had flown twice on a United Canadian built turboprop, twice on a United Brazilian built prop, and that Boeing had moved their corporate headquarters to Chicago to be closer to their largest customer, United Airlines. I wonder what Mr. Allen was thinking of it all? As I deplaned I gave the little Embracer a pat on the nose to the amusement of one of the ground crew and told him that it was my sixth flight in five months on one of the oldest planes in Sky West’s fleet. He just grinned.

After any trip, but especially after one involving a DipCon event, I always allow myself a few days to digest it and reflect a bit before I start thinking about how it went and the “what might have beens. Seattle was no exception. Generally speaking I was very pleased with the trip and the event, only the Inn at the WAC reservations snafu and the fog delay had marred an otherwise nearly perfect trip, but what of the WACcon itself?

On the plus side the organizers had acted on my suggestion (and probably that of others) and arranged a “photo op” that allowed for a group photo of the entire event’s participants, something that used to be common but seems to have died out in the digital age; the three organizers (Barnes, Zoffel and Shields) seemed to have mastered the art of hosting a con as a team and enjoying doing so. I think their philosophy of doing less but doing it better and enjoying it more had carried over to the other participants; which are why everyone seemed to have a good time. Hopefully future DipCon event hosts won’t take ten years to learn that lesson. Although the scoring system was, as usual, of no interest to me they organizers seemed to have found one that generated little controversy, didn’t use a central time clock, had no time limits for rounds except the final one, and resulted in some “real” 18 center wins!

On the negative side: my hope for a Machiavelli game to celebrate the 500th anniversary of the publication of his The Prince fell through; whether for a lack of a game, interested players, or sufficient hobbyists who remember either the book or the game I don’t know. Ditto my plan to have an international chorus sing an anthem in praise of the event to the tune of Bach’s “May Sheep Safely Graze.” Again, whether it was for lack of singers or rehearsal time I don’t know. Perhaps if I’d suggested doing it Gangnam style instead of to Bach it would have flown. Still, my hopes to see WACcon go out in style did come about, although not in the way I expected. Obviously neither of those failings were the organizers’ fault. Still, there were a few things that were missing at WACcon I feel: 1) the lack of a “real” team event. They were promoting and response was good for something called "fantasy team” Diplomacy, or some such, but it wasn’t the same thing as a real team event; 2) the missing name tags. A minor thing perhaps, but for memorabilia collectors read name tags with the event name, date, location and player’s name are a must. A paper stuck on label that says “Hi. My name is …” just doesn’t cut it. 3) A Facebook site is OK but it doesn’t quite replace a “real” online web site for the event, especially for those few dozen people left that don’t frequent Facebook. And whatever method you use for distributing information it needs to be timely. Don’t wait until the last minute to broadcast details on event locations, times, costs, etc. 4) Missing the “roast” was a big disappointment for me and probably others. This is an old DipCon event tradition that goes back to DipCon V in Chicago. It was held in a site hotel banquet room with Allan Calhamer as the guest speaker. DipCon XXII in San Diego featured a real banquet, complete with a Russian themed menu featuring beef Stroganoff, noodles Romanoff, and strawberries Romanoff with “roast” that somehow ended up roasting me. Even though the dinner cost me $1,700 out of my pocket (mostly because of a “no host” bar guarantee) it was well worth it to me to see Duck Williams in a coat and tie for probably the first time in his life. 5) Unavailability of a WACcon tee shirt was another disappointment, although I understand the reluctance of “older and fatter” (How else can I put it diplomatically?) hobbyists to show off in a tee shirt. Still, some kind of souvenir to take home for one’s trophy wall should be de rigueur for any DipCon event worthy of the name. Many years ago Edi put it best, I think, when he said “I like prizes. Lots of prizes. Everybody should go home with some kind of prize, even if it’s just a pencil. It makes them feel like a winner.” He was right then and it’s still true. Not every WDC or DipCon event can afford a $60 tee shirt, which is what my Paris WDC tee shirt cost, but some kind of logoed event is possible. Summing it up, I can only offer a word of advice to future DipCon hosts: Treat every DipCon event as if it’s your first in terms of your enthusiasm, and your last in terms of your dedication to make it your best. If you can do that you will match what Barnes, Zoffel and Shields achieved at the 2014 DipCon/WACcon.

There were 63 or so players at WACCON/DIPCON XLVII and a week later 82,000+ people attended Super Bowl XLVIII. That’s about 1:1,500 odds, but still better than at my first DipCon, so we are doing better. As I watched Rene Fleming sing the National Anthem at Super Bowl (the best two minutes of the four hour borefest) I couldn’t help but think that both events, WACCON and SUPER BOWL had gone out on a high note. For the future I hope would be DipCon hosts will keep in mind my suggestion for an “internet based Pre-Con” using the internet, email and Facebook to keep those prepping for or on route to the event posted on last minute developments Things like an “ice bombing scare” at LAX (as happened during the Silver Spring event) or the weather delays (as happened during the Seattle event) can affect all of our travel plans. After all, if Super Bowl can spend a week hyping their event we can spend a few hours pumping up for a DipCon and online seems to be the place to do it. I would also hope that the talented people who bring us Diplomacycast.com will consider a “live” broadcast from DipCon for those who can’t physically be present. Surely in this day of live, hourly, or even daily reports via the internet that’s doable?

So, time for the decision: Was it the Best DipCon ever? Edi and I were the only two players apparently to make all three of the 2013/2014 premier events (not including DixieCon/WDC which isn’t due until May). Edi gave DipCon 2013 in Silver Spring a 1 star and 1 black eye (no doubt because of his problem with the scoring system handling), the Paris WDC 4 stars and the Seattle DipCon/WACcon 4 stars, but he’s a much stricter judge than I am. I couldn’t give Silver Spring 3 stars, primarily because of the poor Sheraton performance, so it got 2. The Paris WDC was a solid 4 stars with a strong event but poor venue (Paris) rating because of the food situation in the city. The 2014 DipCon/WAC would have been a five except for the snafu with the hotel reservations, so I gave it a 4.9. My support for that rating comes from the group photo. If you look closely you’ll notice that every face in the photo is smiling except for Matt Shields who, as always, looks intellectually constipated and Dave Maletsky who’s just waiting for the next poker game to start. Juan Antonio Samaranch, who was around the Olympics longer than I’ve been around Diplomacy, and began his trip to the top as a foot soldier in Franco’s army, was known for pronouncing every Olympic event as “the best ever.” The only time he withheld that accolade was for the 1996 Atlanta Olympics; which had some serious problems. I find myself standing with Samaranch, “DipCon/WACcon 2014 was the best DipCon ever — at least until the next one — and that one’s up to you!”


Here are a few more photos from the event! Click each photo to diplay it at full size in a separate tab...

WACcon's own Kathryn Bigelow, Nora Tennant, shows off her iconic WACcon group photo

Alternative roast site in Nathan Barnes' dreams…

Some classic art
(The Anatomy Lesson)

More classic art
(The Last Supper)

Plotting the Last Stab at WACcon

A member of the WACcon Symphony Orchestra performs ehru recital

Chihuly artwork on display at WACcon

Mr. Barnes "bully" pulpit at WACcon

Andrew Goff best Russia, 19 center solo, and 4th place

Andy Bartalone takes best Italy

Chris Martin accepts his 2d place award.

Nate Barnes does what Nate Barnes does best — smoozing!

Matra Hari keeps an eye on Larry while Chris Martin and Andy Bartalone keep their eyes on the chips.

Poker faces at the poker table

Long Live the Queen! Andrew Goff (L) from Australia and Dan Lester (R) from UK

WACcon's resident Rasputin (L) gives Edi Birsan (R) a very cold shoulder.

Steve Cooley (L) isn't buying whatever Chris Martin (R) is selling!

Round III, Table 5 Board

Steve Cooley also had a 18 center solo win with Russia, and took 3rd place

Dan Lester of the UK: 2014 WACcon Champion and 2014 North American DipCon Champ!

Larry Peery

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