27 August 10:00
Olpe, Germany

Breakfast here is not a very dramatic affair: cold cuts, cheese, and bread, just like we would have for lunch back home. The coffee is very good but quite stronger than I am used to. I sat with three Germans, a girl from Sweden and a very jolly lady from Czechoslovakia. Sorry -- the Czech Republic, now. I am not going to make that mistake again. Everyone speaks English -- mostly -- so I am no longer worried about my inability to speak German. I only know "Wo ist die Toilette?"

All of the programming events are conducted in English, too, which I suppose is necessary when we have people here who speak a dozen different languages. I got to meet some of the artists whose work I have been admiring on the Internet for a long time. There is quite a lot of talent here, all around. The guest of honor is an animator who is making a CG movie about a tiger-warrior. I may go to his workshop later.

I had the honor of meeting Gregor, the man in the Kchierath costume. The very moment he walked into the room I knew that it was him. He has big, expressive dark eyes, just like the suit, and you can recognize the same subtle movements and mannerisms, just like a cat. I approached him from behind after he sat down and said, "You're the catcoon!"

He almost jumped out of his skin, poor fellow. Then he laughed and said, "When I am Kchierath, I am Kchierath. When I am Gregor, I am Gregor. Now, I am Gregor." That is an impressive attitude! I am afraid I turned into something of a blathery fanboy, which embarrasses me a little, but he did not seem to mind. I imagine he gets that sort of thing a lot. I found out that he is an automotive engineer. That explains how he has gotten the ears to work so perfectly, and the eyes. We talked together for quite a while. He is a sweet, shy-looking little man, very friendly, and his English is much better out of the suit. I mentioned that. "It must be easier to speak English when you don't have a muzzle and sharp teeth."

"Ja ja!" he said, laughing. "The poor catcoon has as much trouble with English as he does with German."

It seems that he likes to use the costume in Live Action Role Play (LARP) events, especially in the fall when the leaves are starting to turn. I told him very honestly that he is the most talented costumer I have ever seen. He almost crawled into his shoes and turned as red as the juice we were drinking. Then I asked if he could show me the mechanism that makes the costume's ears move, but he only gave me a crafty smile and said, "Trade secret!" He is really into gadgets and has designed a lot of the high-tech mechanisms in German automobiles, so this might well be something he picked up "in the shop."

I am not going to attend any panels or workshops before lunch. Instead, I will sit out on the grass and draw. There are two sketchbooks in line right now. An Englishman also asked me for a full color commission. Interestingly enough, I had more difficulty understanding him than many of the Germans. He is going to pay me 100 Euros ($130). Yow!

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Der Kostümträger, Story © 2004 Samuel C. Conway, Illustrations © 2004 Gideon, The character of Kchierath, the catcoon, is ©2001 G. Haßler