In many ways, BLFC was the exact opposite to Furlandia. It was bigger, with a full suite of events and there was never a time when you were struggling for something to do. Going to a con that was tipping over 5000 attendees always filled me with some element of trepidation as there is a very real chance of being lost amongst the crowds, but this didn't happen in Reno. Indeed, it turned out to be one of the best cons I have ever attended.
Just walking through the lobby you sensed that this would be unlike any other convention to which you had ever been. The clinking sound of casino instruments greeted you, along with the guady lights tempting you to play. The thing that struck you most was the darkness though, in complete contrast to the warm sunny afternoon from which we had just emerged. We checked in and spent the next hour shuttling supplies from our car to the hotel room, which was way up on the 23rd floor. The hotel itself was split so there was a set of lifts for floors 1-8, others for 9-17 and more for 17 and above (floor 17 got double service for some reason). This meant that waiting for a lift wasn't as arduous a process as I feared it would be, and going to and from the room turned out to be a breeze. Once checked into our room, we met with our other roommate Sierrapup pretty early on, with him being a long friend of Tux. He arrived early evening on the Wednesday after finishing work two hours' drive away, and it turned out we shared a good number of interests.
The hotel itself was fantastic. The large casino dominated the main floor but most of the convention space was in the basement, where there were huge events spaces, not to mention a number of eateries including Port of Subs and Johnny Rockets. There was also a full 30-lane bowling alley tucked away to the side, with go-karting and bungee jumping in the parking lot outside. On the main level, there was a choice of eight restaurants with all different cuisines, while we were also introduced to the wine vending machine, where you loaded up a special card with money and you could get 2oz, 5oz and 8oz samples of any of 80 wines. It was a really good system and cheaper than the beer, which was quite expensively priced due to where we were. The place itself was absolutely massive and there was an awful lot of walking, which made the con feel quite spread out. Registration was a synch and shortly after proceeding, we bumped into Tarka and Taneli, with the three of us retiring to the otter's room to sample some more of the wine he had brought. It was to be the first of many room parties we were going to enjoy - indeed I have never been to a con where I have been invited to so many.
The Wednesday evening really was just an orientation day. We bumped into one of my Hong Kong friends, with whom we ate dinner in the wine place, before we had gone to Tarka's for wine. After this, we must mooched around downstairs, ending up in one of the bars where I ended up being sucked into an argument taking place between a man and a woman who were clearly partners. He was a bit of a wanker but she was incredibly drunk, and spent the next twenty minutes hemming me in and telling me how proud she was of herself, which was a bit odd. This was after I had explained what the furry thing was and how it was an expression of individuality, which is something with which she could get on board. She also detailed her childhood history of abuse, which was incredibly awkward, and I listened sympathetically while Wolfie and Tarka were enjoying my discomfort. At an appropriate point, I made my excuses and headed to the toilet before returning back another way. Earlier in the day, Tarka showed us his photography ruse of taking three pictures of fursuiters using an old 90s camera and then giving them a floppy disk with those images upon it. The look on their faces was priceless and I was even given a disk of my own.
There were a number of interesting panels at BLFC but other things so often clashed, meaning I only got to do half of the things I wanted. I did go and visit the pup play area and enjoyed my first puppy mosh, although I was too shy to get on the mats and play. Part of the problem here was my lack of availability in the days before the mosh, which took place on the Saturday, to meet up and get to know the other pups at some of the other social events they did. I did bump into Nachohusky though, who I had spoken to earlier in the con, and he assuaged my fears somewhat. I had only intended to stick my face in and see what it was all about, but on his recommendation I went back to the room and picked up my latex pup hood for the final half hour of the event. I am glad I did this, as I was in two minds about whether I wanted to go at all, not really knowing anyone there. However, I had signed my name up to the event and there were puppy prizes on offer (not that I won any) so it was good to make an appearance. I had hoped to go to the beginners guide to pup play on the Friday night but it was an 18+ event and you needed ID, something I didn't have as I was fursuiting at the time.
The reason for the Friday night fursuiting was that this was the Fursuit Festival, which was their equivalent of the Fursuit Parade. Due to the numbers and the nature of the hotel, a parade wasn't appropriate so from 6pm to 9pm all of the suiters gathered in the huge main dance area. The main purpose of this was to take the big fursuit photo, where I was once again obscured by some tall guy with his arms in the air, after which there are a number of different photoshoots littered across the hall. Done in 15 minute intervals, they are based on things like maker, suit colour and species, although initially I thought it was just by maker, meaning I was to be billy no-mates again. This meant that I missed the pink photoshoot but at least I got to do the husky one, which is indeed where I met Nacho and my green friend Hex, who I kept bumping into on a regular basis. Indeed, he was at the inflatable panel the following day, where a large collection of inflatables were set up. I enjoyed taking photographs here and helping the fursuiters create a tower of deer made out of the smaller inflatables. There were a number of my SE Asian friends in this panel for some reason and it was great to see them so soon after FURUM, so this was definitely a fun panel to go to.
Lerching back to Friday evening, I sat out the pony play event, even though I really wanted to go as I had a room party to attend. It was with a group that didn't really get going throughout the con, which was a shame, although part of the problem was it was quite cliquey. The room party was small and thus didn't prevent me from going to the 10pm event which was the Kink Discussion Panel hosted by Stormy and Toby. One thing to point out about BLFC was just how open everyone was regarding their fetishes - it was certainly okay for people to walk around in latex pup and pony gear, which is something to consider should we ever go again. I quite liked this more adult side of furry being on display and felt that in an 18+ venue such as a casino, it was an appropriate place to express this. It also made meeting kinky friends an awful lot easier, which is also no bad thing. The Kink Discussion was very good, even if we did have to speak louder during the second hour due to the recording of a furry podcast in the adjacent room. We explored a range of different fetishes and many people discussed their experiences, both positive and negative, dom and sub. We also delved into the psychological aspect of fetish, which touched on things like it being an outlet for childhood abuse. I ended up discussing in-depth about my self-harm issues and how a kinky lifestyle has enabled me to channel these destructive emotions into something more productive. It was an incredibly hard thing to admit, and I hadn't gone there with the intention of discussing it, but it seemed appropriate given the nature of the talk along with the supportive people who were around me. I had liked to have stayed after the event, but Draken was hungry and wanted to get some food, so ushered us out rather quickly. This was a shame as it meant that we were somewhat on our own that night after midnight, with Wolfie having gone to bed to nurse his foot after the panel and Draken having gone to a room party. This left Taneli and myself alone in his room eating Cheetohs and drinking wine, feeling somewhat deflated.
I didn't really go to many room parties, although I did host one for littles which was quite well attended. We ended up watching the Disney version of Robin Hood and eating junk food, which was a great way to spend an evening. There was a second similar party in our room the day after as well, which was even better attended, so we did get to meet some like-minded people. Wolfie was away both times as it wasn't really his thing, the second time having been roped into the rope workshop panel as they wanted volunteers to demonstrate some tying up techniques. There was the usual room party at Spoticus's place, but he had an executive suite which you needed a special key card to access. I tried going up the stairs but they had locked the door on floor 27, meaning I had to miss out. I wasn't too fussed about this though as Spoticus will be at EF so I'll be able to have my fill there.
Aside from this, the only other room party we attended proved to be the one which has generated the longest lasting friendships - Ofthewild's Beer Tasting Event. I found out about this as we were touring the Sierra Nevada Brewery on the Wednesday morning, with Tux saying I should get in touch with him. This I did and it was one of the reasons why I ended up buying the Beer Camp box set from Sierra Nevada. Fortunately, I didn't seem too weird or pushy when I kept asking him for details, which he finally gave on the Friday night. He was staying in a deluxe room and once we were there, we were greeted by about 20 furs who were congregating around a sofa, all supping beer. There was a huge red ice chest which was full to the brim with booze, while we added the bottles we had brought too. This was the same night as my littles party so we could reluctantly only stay an hour, but we got to try small splashes of about ten different beers in that time, all from breweries of which I had never heard before. Meeting Ipequey was the highlight here and we bonded over music, as he was wearing a Pulp Different Class T-shirt, which was very much the music of my teenage years. We chatted endlessly about the Britpop and indie scene, forming such a friendship that he has already invited us to visit Austin for a craft beer tour there. There was a second beer party the next day, which we also dropped into, but alas Ipequey wasn't there so we couldn't meet up. We are chatting regularly on Telegram though and of all the new people we met, he is the one who is probably our closest friend.
The Dealers' Den was pretty extensive, although noticably there was a huge vacant space in the middle. All of the NSFW stuff was shepherded into one room, and you had to show ID to get in. Wolfie convinced the bouncer to check ID on the way out, ensnaring one poor chap who didn't have ID on him. With the bouncer not letting him past and the room being a dead end, he was stuck there in limbo for a considerable amount of time. There wasn't an awful lot of adult stuff on sale at the con, with most of the main space being taken up by the usual mix of accessories, clothing and books. We bumped into Fox Amoore and we chatted a wee while, while I picked up some glowy pink ears. We also looked at getting a pink harness, but the prices were quite high and Nachtkrallen told me that he can make them for an awful lot cheaper. This meant I skipped this purchase. Meanwhile, I thought the art show was quite poor, with very few works at all and only a modest artist section. For a con of this size, I would have expected more, but there wasn't really anything.
Aside from all of this, we just had fun bimbling around the con. The go-karting and bowling was free at certain times of the day, meaning I got to experience karting for the very first time. I was a little nervous at first and ended up dropping a half lap behind everyone else, effectively racing on my own for most of the middle part of the race. However, once I found the racing line and boosted confidence, I managed to catch up with everyone. Unfortunately, as I was making my first overtake, the power was cut, bringing an end to the racing, but the fortunate aspect of this was it did prevent Wolfie from lapping me. I was a little distracted at this time though as this was when news of the London terrorist attack was filtering through and we wanted to keep up-to-date with everything that was happening. Wifi was a little difficult to get outside and it was only when we returned that we realized the full horror of what was unfolding.
As well as the con, we did manage to go into Reno on the Thursday, exploring the city for half a day. There was a biker festival being set up in the middle of town so some of the main thoroughfares were closed, but we wandered through stalls selling aggressively patriot and invariably black t-shirts along with other biker paraphenalia. We had gotten a Lyft to downtown, with the kind driver correcting Taneli's random pinpoint destination by driving us to where we actually needed to be. He also highlighted one of the gay bars in a rather matter-of-fact but borderline homophobic manner, before dropping us off on one of the main intersections. We then started exploring this rather modest place. We saw a number of old casinos, which were looking rather tired in comparison to the more modern Grand Sierra out of town. The guady lights were particularly enticing however, particularly in the evening, with the pink 'Reno The Biggest Little City In The World' being the iconic symbol of the city. Before nightfall, we walked along the Truckee River which was rather picturesque in the beating sun, stopping at a cafe to grab a beer when we felt we had done enough exploring. After this, we headed to the National Automobile Museum, one of five dotted across the US. This one contains many vehicles from the private collection of late casino owner William F. Harrah, and details the history of the American motorcar from around 1900 all the way to the 1970s. Each gallery is linked by a themed "street", featuring vehicles as well as faux shop fronts, adding a little style to proceedings while there were also a number of cars there owned by famous people such as Elvis Presley's 1973 Cadillac Eldorado, Frank Sinatra's 1961 Ghia L6.4, John F. Kennedy assigned 1962 Lincoln Continental and John Wayne's 1953 Chevrolet Corvette. The range of cars was extensive and indeed we struggled to find time to see everything before the museum closed, with Taneli and Draken being far more efficient than we were as we wanted to appreciate all of these fantastic machines.
The Museum closed at 5:30pm, with us having covered Galleries 1 and 2 pretty well, but really rushing through 3 and 4. It was here that we said goodbye to Taneli and Draken, who headed back to the hotel, while we were due to meet up with Tux an hour later and go to the Reno Aces baseball game. With an hour to kill, we walked back along the Truckee River and headed to the Sierra Nevada bar, which was a little dingy, very much like a rock pub. There was a nice outside bit though overlooking the river so we sat and had a drink, overlooking a charming park on the other side. Enjoying the sun, it was shame we had to leave, but the ball park was right next to the Automobile Museum and we had to walk back along the river to reach it.
The hub-bub of fans heading into the sports stadium was starting to build and Tux arrived about five minutes after we did. We looked at some of the stalls in the grounds of the stadium as Tux collected the tickets. Soon we were inside and found our seats, with us going to get the traditional hot dog and beer that accompanies American sporting events. It was expensive but delicious, and we did get a beer for tips as they had inadvertently poured one too many for a previous customer. We were happy to take it. The game itself started at 7:05pm, with the national anthem sung in unison by over 4000 baseball fans. I always struggle with national anthems so it did feel a little awkward, but we stood in reverential silence as it was played. After this, the ball game began, and what I didn't realise was just how tactical it was. I do know the basic rules of baseball but there are times when it was hard to follow, but fortunately Tux was giving me in-depth analysis of pretty much every play. The Aces won 9-2 against the Las Vegas 51s in the end, but it certainly wasn't a fast-paced game, with boredom creeping in on occasion. Of course, the breaks between innings meant the crowd could be geed up with all the phony stuff such as dancing and clap-o-meters on the huge Jumbotron. We appeared once and I must admit seeing a huge image of your face is fucking terrifying. Anyway, as the ball game took place, there was music playing every now and again, and of course the famous seventh inning stretch was a huge highlight where, right in the middle of the seventh inning, everyone stands up and stretches. There was a special song here too about being taken to a baseball game by your dad sung by a scary anthropomorphic baseball which popped up from behind one of the Jumbotron screens. It was all rather worrying. Almost equally worrying was Archie the Reno Aces mascot, which looked like a hirsute rubescent Grimace. His moves were rather good though and he did provide entertainment at least. The match lasted three hours and it was of high quality - with this being the league below the MLB (and indeed the Arizona Diamondbacks have an arrangement with Reno) - and I was very glad that we went. It was after the game that we saw the city in darkness, with the bright lights of the casino enticing you in. It was definitely a nighttime place, largely because I couldn't see many of the usual shops and restaurants downtown you would expect to find anywhere else, so at least it had some life about it. Still, we had to get back to the GSR and the con, so we got a Lyft to take us back.
The only other thing we had scheduled was a trip to Lake Tahoe on the Sunday. Taneli and Draken had hired a car for the subsequent week and were due to pick it up that day. They proposed a road trip to the lake, which was only about a half hour drive away. After a fair bit of fannying about, we got a Lyft to the airport, which was just two junctions away down the interstate. While Draken was sorting out the rental arrangment, I walked around the modest terminal building, which seemed to celebrate the winter Olympics which once took place in the area. Once the administration had been done, we clambered into the white Flex van they had rented and set off, climbing into the mountains quite quickly on twisty turny roads. The first view of the lake was magnificent and it only got better the more we saw. Some of the vistas were high up on the mountain passes, affording great panoramas with snow capped peaks in the background, but we also got to go right by the lake shore too and see it up close. At one point, we stopped where a waterfall cascaded down the rocks and into a drain by the side of the road, with a manmade tunnel having been constructed to guide it under the street. In the end, we did a circular around the lake, crossing into California without even knowing it and having a very sub-standard meal at a local iHop (a word that the sat nav said in a very funny way). While driving around the lake, we also got caught up in a cycling road race, meaning that progress was somewhat slow. Still, this gave us more time to view the lake, which was no bad thing as it was truly stunning. Sierrapup had given us a few tips and places to visit too, but a few of the sandy beaches were charging extortionate amounts for parking so we avoided them. We did go to some of the vantage points though. He also suggested we look at some local horses but we avoided that as Taneli isn't a fan. On the way back, we also stopped by a rather nice river before hopping into Nevada and returning to the GSR. The whole trip took about five hours and it was a really pleasant day, just hanging with friends and chilling. It's something of which I would like to do more in future.
We stayed at the con until Monday, getting an incredible deal on the room due to Tux's frequent stays there. All in all, it was one of the best cons to which I have ever been, partly due to the friendliness of it but also because it was something different. Having done two cons in two weeks, we had definitely made the most of the furry side of the trip, but we still had five days left in the US and there was plenty of tourist sites still to visit.