Phoenix Comicon - Part 3. Saturday at the Phoenix Comicon
(I've had this written for awhile.... but it ended up being 22 pages long... so in lieu of posting ALL of that at once, I'm going to do it in two parts again!)
I awoke on day two of the con to the voice of my friend Tanya. I’d somehow slept through her alarm and her getting-up and her getting-readies. I grumbled into my pillow, wondering what the time was. Nine o clock, she said. I peek through my eyelids, knowing it’s far too dark for it to be nine.
Oh, yeah. Hotels have those awesome blackout curtains. Those always trip up my mental clock.
I sit up and stretch, and look out into the amazingly awesome hotel room my cousin had paid for us to stay in that night. I look down and see that I’m still wearing my Rock Band shirt, and that, being an XL to my L, it was very comfy to sleep in.
So it all really did happen, I think to myself with a smile.
I get out of bed and go about getting myself ready for the day. I put on my badge. I use the bathroom and brush my teeth. I grab the Prilosec I’d just started taking for the annoyingly persistent heartburn I’d developed while at college, and after trying to dry-swallow the pill House M.D.-style, I hurry back to the bathroom to take a sip of water from my hands.
I swallow, wipe my chin, and turn.
Suddenly, the world shifts into slow motion, as I watch, both entranced and in horror, as the glass cup I had left far too close to the edge of the counter sails off of it, propelled by the sweeping action of my arm. I reach to try and catch it as it falls towards the tiled bathroom floor, knowing all too well what was bound to happen. I wince as it lands on the tile with a force to shatter, but somehow it bounces up fully intact, like a ball - who knew glass bounced? I grapple for it, but realize there is no way I’m going to be able to catch it. I stand back, prepared for the inevitable, bracing myself for the lashing my feet were going to get.
The shriek of glass shattering reverberates in my ears. I see sparkles as the once-complete cup becomes a puzzle of broken shards across the floor.
I don’t feel any pain. Tanya comes running over, frantically asking what happened. I look around, seeing shards as far away from the impact site as the area behind the toilet and out into the carpeting of the hotel room. But my feet, somehow, though only inches from where the glass splintered, were completely unscathed.
I still count myself as extremely lucky. The potential had been there for an emergency room visit, and yet, I didn’t even get a single nick.
Tanya lends me her flip-flops to get myself out of the bathroom (my flip-flops have holes in the heels, which makes for a fun game of hot potato on the city streets of Phoenix), and then she runs off to tell the front desk about the accident. I go back about my getting-readies, smiling at my luck, already knowing that the day was going to be a good one.
We check out of the hotel and, after a quick stop at the car to drop off our stuff and pay the fee for parking there overnight, we head back to the convention center. Kitt and the cars from the Dukes of Hazzard greet us as we approach the main doors (only the former actually talked, of course, but I don’t know if it ever said “hi.”)
Inside, Tanya and I parted ways. I can’t remember where she was headed, but I knew where my task lay -- The Guild panel with Wil Wheaton and Felicia Day!
It wouldn’t start for another few hours, so after some loafing about, enjoying the cosplay costumes wandering the halls, I make my way into the south ballroom of the convention center, to find myself in the midst of some amusing Star Wars-related shenanigans.
Upon first walking in, you passed a special “So You Wanna Be a Storm Trooper?” type training course, which I found to be epically awesome. The guys in the costumes really seemed just like Storm Troopers, and the kids appeared to have much fun training to take out the rebel scum.
...although....I have to go on a tangent and get a confession off my chest.
I am mildly terrified of cosplayers in Imperial uniform.
When I was in San Diego last year for Comic-Con, I was walking through the lobby towards the exit, for whatever reason. I glanced up and saw something that made my heart race and fear legitimately well up in my chest.
It was Darth Vader.
I don’t think you get it. Don’t think I can’t hear the chuckles inside your head, oh reader. Until you’ve met Vader -- the real Vader -- in the flesh, you will never truly understand how he was able to almost single-handedly crush opposition and destroy worlds. He was every bit as tall and menacing as you’d expect. His dark armor sucked away the light and warmth of the world. His very stance thirsted for blood and the sound of his respirator exhaling was enough to freeze yours.
And he was walking... Right. Towards. Me. Flanked by two stormtroopers, his cape wafting with his gait.
And I thought I was dead.
I mean... no don’t be stupid, I knew it was just a geek in costume. Of course.
I mean... I know that now...
But... yeah... anyways... since that encounter, I’d been wary of Imperial troopers at conventions. I keep my cool, but I always keep a close, watchful eye on them, while my head is silently screaming “KEEP WALKING KEEP WALKING I’M AN INNOCENT CIVILIAN I AM NOT THE DROID YOU’RE LOOKING FOR!!!!”
....what can I say? I’m a geek!
So, anyways, back to the story.... in the ballroom....
Beyond the Imperial boot camp, at the foot of the big stage of the ballroom, they were having Jedi Academy training sessions. I managed to grab a seat up front, so I would have my spot for The Guild, but also just to observe what Jedi training entails here in Con Land. It was awesome. Three Jedi, two younger Padawan and one of their older masters, would call up all of the “Younglings” in the audience in order to teach them the ways of the Force. The Younglings were split into two groups, and each group was taught the Jedi Code by one of the Padawan (which the kids didn’t exactly learn too well - there’s a lot of complex ideas at play and some big confusing words, like “serenity.” Even though I had learned the code when I was 11 (geek, remember?), I had only barely understood what it meant -- and I had had much more than a “Repeat after me” segment to memorize it.)
The kids then went on to learn how to use the Force to knock blocks of stone (read: styrofoam) out of the master’s hand. And then, all of a sudden, this terrifying Sith woman (who definitely was a canon character from the Clone Wars series that I didn’t know) approached. The Jedi and the Younglings worked together to knock the lightsabers out of her hands and drive her away. (Except for one little Youngling who couldn’t have been more than four-years-old -- he was scarred for life).
After photos with the Jedi and then a repeat performance, all the Star Wars actors cleared the area, along with the families in the audience who had only been there for the Jedi training, leaving the rest of us waiting for the Guild.
I shared a few words with the girl beside me, a dark, burly-haired twenty-something with three lip piercings and a copy of Happiest Days of Our Lives, by Wil Wheaton. I read over her shoulder, but cocked an ear at the conversation behind me.
“Did you get tickets for tonight, yet?”
“Wait, you already got yours?”
“They aren’t selling them at the door?”
“I think so, but they’re also selling them at a booth in the exhibit hall.”
I was fully attentive now. The event they were discussing... it was an event I was most looking forward to. But the advertising had said tickets would be sold at the door...
My “dude, this could end badly” sense was tingling, and despite social phobia, I turn around.
“Excuse me,” I say to them. “But, which booth in the exhibit hall?”
The two girls look at me. “Right to your right as you walk in, the Kids Need To Read booth. They’re selling them there, five bucks each.”
“Thanks,” I say honestly. “I hope there’s some left -- there is NO WAY I’m missing out on this...”
I turn back to face the stage, but a new tingling was setting in.
Dude... don’t you know that chick...?
It was that familiar voice. I turn around, though making it seem as though I was observing the ceiling or the crowd slowly filing into the seats behind her rather, to hide the fact that I wanted to stare at her.
It.... kinda looked like her....
I kept glancing back, trying to find some surefire telltale sign that it truly was her. I mean, how embarrassing of a situation is it to ask “Hey don’t I know you?” and then it turns out you don’t? I continued to check. She was sitting with a bunch of her friends, talking constantly. I wait for a break where I could possibly speak up and ask “Hey, do I know you?” but an opportunity evaded me for a long while.
At one point, she turned to talk to her friends to her right, the ones seated directly behind me. Her eyes focused oddly, a clear sign of some kind of lazy eye.
....oh holy shit.... it was her....
She turns from her friends and looks at her phone for a moment.
I leap at my chance.
“Um, hey,” I say slowly, grabbing her attention. “Um, are you from Tucson?”
She doesn’t move, but glances up from her phone. “Yeah.”
“Did you, um, ever work at Valley of the Moon....”
She lifts her chin, fully focused on me now. That was a bit more narrowing of a question than the first - after all, at least half the people in the hall had to be from Tucson. But how many people ever volunteered at Valley of the Moon (an amazing little performance center, where actors take audiences on desert tours through worlds like Alice in Wonderland, and Nightmare Before Christmas).
She slowly smiles. “Oh my god, I recognize you!” she says, and I grin. Being remotely unchanged in appearance since childhood has its advantages.
“That’s so insane!” I laugh. “That had to have been, what, ten years ago?” It was true, I realize. I was in sixth grade when we were there together.
“Yeah, that was the last time I ever volunteered there.”
“You know,” I went on, “I don’t think I even know your name....”
“Not surprised. I think everyone knew me as ‘Jedi.’”
I laugh. That was true, too. In my memory I had only been able to label her “Star Wars chick.” During the traditional Halloween “Haunted Ruins” show, she had been a teenaged Jedi tour guide, accompanied by a Padawan learner that I only wished could have been me.
“You know...” I start, probably something like wonder and gratefulness in my eye. “I should thank you... it was because of you that I ever got into Star Wars...”
Her friends, who had been listening in, all snorted with laughter.
“She does that all the time!” one of them sputters between laughs.
“I work at a high school now, as an English teacher,” she grins, a twinkle in her eye.
“Yeah, she even has a cardboard cutout of Darth Vader in her classroom. She’s always converting students.”
I laugh. “I got my little brother a cardboard cutout of General Grievous when I worked at Toys R Us.”
We maybe speak another few minutes, and then I turn back around, brimming with happiness. How cool was that? How befitting, that I go to Comicon, go to a Star Wars event, and not only find the very girl who got me interested in Star Wars all those years ago, but also had a chance to thank her? I may have been born a geek, but she was the one who turned me into a true science fiction/fantasy geek.
Although the bowing shelf of my bookcase would probably be happier without all the Star Wars novels.
Time dragged on slowly after that, I’m sure, but in my memory, it passed quickly. The next thing I knew, they were calling Wil Wheaton and Felicia Day onto the stage, to much cheering and applause, especially from me.
The panel was great, as anyone could expect. The dynamic between Felicia and Wil was amazing, and it was awesome to hear, from their own mouths, that Wil was going to be in Season 4, and that they were just wrapping up shooting the season. There were very few hints as to what might happen in season 4 (although, thanks to some fan questions that resulted in Wil turning to Felicia and saying “As your lawyer, I advise you not to answer that question,” there is alot of speculation), and they weren’t even able to give us a release date (“Sometime before San Diego Comic-Con” was all Felicia could say with certainty, which is certainly better than September, which is what I’d thought).
The stories they told were hilarious. Felicia talked about gaming and being a girl gamer, and mentioned she had purchased Red Dead Redemption, but hadn’t really had a chance to play it, because she had been so busy working the last six months.
“So, you haven’t accidentally killed your horse yet?” Wil asked with a childish grin.
Felicia looked over at him mortified. “WHAT?! YOU KILL YOUR HORSE?!”
“Um, you’re not supposed to... but I did, accidentally... See, you have to go out and kill some bunnies--”
“--Bunnies?! You have to kill bunnies?! Why would you do that?!!”
“You have to kill lots of things in the game. It’s the old west.”
“I don’t know if I can play this game...”
“What about cougars? You have to kill cougars---”
“Um. Cougars are endangered.”
“But it’s kill them or they kill you!”
Felicia still looked mortified, and increasingly so as Wil explained to her and the audience the story I already knew, about how he had actually managed to kill his horse by mistake, and had been so traumatized by it that he’d had to restart from a save file.
“I’ll only kill bunnies if they’re, like, zombie bunnies...” Felicia said.
In my mind, I saw Tim the Enchanter holding his fingers up to his mouth and saying “...with nasty big pointy teeth!”
I was disappointed Wil didn’t pick up on the idea.
The rest of the panel went on awesomely. Felicia and Wil discussed how much they hated internet pirates. “It just makes me so angry!” Felicia snarled, balling her hands into her fists. “I see that, and it just makes me hate your face!”
“Dear Internet,” Wil began, holding his hand out to indicate writing invisibly appearing before him for all the world to read. “Felicia hates your face. You know who you are. Love, Wil. -- Oh! P.S.: I hate your face too.”
I laugh, and relish in the knowledge that I’m a recovering internet pirate, having learned my lesson after pirating Wil’s first audiobook, and then learning just how hard he worked to get where he was. In the end, I purchased BOTH his audiobooks to make up for it. My face could now be considered unhated by him, and thanks to my copy of The Guild, legally obtained from Felicia herself, I was unhated by her as well.
At another point in the panel, an audience member approached the Question Mic, and said something congratulatory and complimentary to Felicia, probably about her writing, prompting Wil to cry out, in mock offense, “Dude! I’m sitting right here!”
“Wait, what did he say?!” the questioner asked over the roar of laughter. Wil, pretending to be further offended, promptly stood, and walked off the stage to a chorus of sympathetic “Awwwww”s, while the questioner looked around perplexed, not understanding what just happened. The guy even tried to go on asking Felicia his question, but he was drowned out by the audience crying out for Wil to come back. After a moment, he finally did, taking his seat again beside a giggling Felicia Day. He laughed a little and leaned into the mic, his voice a little strained as he tried to hold onto his act.
“I was just giving you two space to have your little talk...” he said, face pink from bottled up laughter.
After more questions, the panel finally wound down to a close, and I’m pretty sure I leapt to my feet to applause the two, standing ovation-style -- Felicia especially deserved it. This was her baby and her success.
I can’t wait for Season 4.
The moment they left the stage, I leapt to my feet, snatched up my bags, and made like Luke through the forest of Yavin with Yoda on his back, veering around slow, waddling nerds and crowds of other types of people heading out the door. I ducked around the curtains in the back of the room, and made my way out the door and down the hallway, annoyed at the crowds -- why did all the panels have to finish at the EXACT same time?! Congestion! Augh!
Somehow, I managed to make it through the crowd unharmed, and shot straight into the exhibit hall. Following instructions, I headed to the Kids Need To Read booth.
“Please tell me this is where I get tickets!” I gasp, out of breath.
“It is indeed!” responds the girl behind the table.
“Please tell me you haven’t run out!”
“Please let me have two!” I didn’t know if Tanya wanted to go, but I didn’t want to take any chances - they could run out at any moment.
We exchange money for tickets, which I promptly put safely in my wallet.
“And please tell me those pins are free!”
So I grab one, thank her, and walk off.
Not long after, either Tanya called me, or I called her, and I went to meet her in the food court area. After a bit of wandering around searching for her, I found her, and I sat and told her about the tickets, and we talked about con for awhile. Soon, a couple of her friends arrived - a squirrelly sort of woman wearing a WoW hunter t-shirt, and a large man who would be the first of many guys I’d interact with who reminded me of Comic Book Guy.
We talked about cons - they were all much more experienced than I was. We talked about Wil Wheaton -- Tanya’s female friend told me that she and a friend of hers had a contest going to see who could creep him out the most.
“I asked him what Felicia Day’s hair smelled like,” the woman said proudly, and with an air of weirdness that kinda made me back away. “I ran into him, and I just made idle talk, and halfway through just blurted out ‘What does Felicia Day’s hair smell like?’ and then went right back to what I was saying.”
“Oh, wow, that’s not creepy at all,” I responded, flabbergasted.
“That’s exactly what he said.”
I sat there for a moment, chewing on some potato chips that had been given me out of charity by the family sharing the table with us in the crowded court. I stared out at nothing, chewed, swallowed, and paused.
“....god, now I want to know,” I admitted with an apologetic smile, aimed towards Felicia Day’s presence in the building than to the woman. It was creepy, to be sure, but the idea was in my head, now. What would the hair of someone like Felicia Day smell like??
“I know, right?!”
We talked about it more, coming up with strategies of how to, scientifically, go about finding out.
“We just need to know what kind of shampoo she uses....” I suggested between chips.
“Nuh-uh, when it mixes with the natural odors in your hair, it changes. Two people could use the same shampoo but have hair smelling completely different!”
“Maybe if you go get a picture with her....” piped up one of the others.
“I dunno, did I get close enough to smell her hair when I saw her?” I asked Tanya. She pulled out her camera and flipped through the album on her memory card
“Actually, yes you did,” Tanya told me with a smile, holding the camera out to me. I gaped down at it.
“Well, son of a bitch!”
(I feel I should state for the record that I would never, ever, have actually tried to actively smell her hair. That would have just been weird. Besides, somehow we found the answer out from someone -- her hair smells like strawberries, as red hair should. ^_^)
We laughed and joked more about it, finishing our food before standing up. Then, the three veteran con-goers stood and announced that they would be making their rounds of the convention floor, prompting me to ask to tag along. After all, there weren’t any other panels I wanted to see, and I was curious as to how REAL convention people did conventions. I had already seen Tanya, an aspiring comic book artist, network in the booths the previous day. But now I could tell I was with different levels of convention geekery, and I wanted to observe...
As I’d predicted, Comic Book Guy (I honestly don’t remember his name, or the name of the woman who wanted Felicia Day’s hair odor) was into purchasing stuff. He searched for specific toys, and got into conversations with Tanya about how one toy wasn’t as good as the edition of another similar toy. I just stood with them, a quiet little shadow. As they talked semantics, I just stared up at the plastic cases containing plastic figurines, passively wondering only two things of each toy booth we passed -- one, was there a Joker figurine in the lot? Two, was there a Wesley Crusher in the lot? The verdict for each question? No, probably not, and I didn’t need to spend anymore money anyway. People like Tanya and Comic Book Guy? They purchase most items for one specific reason -- how much money could it eventually get on ebay? I don’t trust online selling, unfortunately. I’ll have to get over that one day, but for the moment, the last thing I needed to do was spend money.
There were some tables that interested me. I kept getting sucked back to a Lolita table, incredibly entranced and tempted by some plastic bins full of paper “Grab Bags,” for $15. As a child, my family would go to Topsail Island, NC for a family reunion. There was this gift shop called the Docksider that sold grab bags, and we always made sure to grab at least one, most likely more.
I wanted one so bad. There would be amazing things inside.... I just... wanted.... one....
I somehow managed to find restraint.... I think Tanya had to forcibly pull me away. That’s restraint of one kind, anyway.
There was also some pretty interesting webcomics artists there, ones I hadn’t heard of, but ones I definitely wanted to check out. (I still haven’t -- I need to empty out my purse and find the ads for them).
The artist for Something Positive was there. I’d only read a few of the comics before I couldn’t stomach it, and somehow, just from his very appearance, I understood why. Sometimes you can just tell these things.
At one booth, I stopped because I felt a rush of nostalgia hit me without really even understanding why. I turned to see the opening screen, and the opening theme, of the Super Mario Bros. World game for Super NES on a television at one booth. My palms itched for the controller, and I thought of Wil Wheaton and all of his stories about playing Atari...
We made it halfway through the convention hall before I decided to bid everyone adieu and find something else to do. Between the day before and that day, I had seen every single booth, and I didn’t really have any desire to revisit any (especially with my lack of income, let alone disposable income). I walked out of the hall and back into the food hall, where I sat in the back and people watched.
All I could think about was how much I wished this had been here when I was in high school, how much I wished I could’ve been to something like this in high school, when I was far more geeky (or at least much more appreciative and outspoken with my geekiness) than I am now. I watched a group of otaku, most of whom were cosplayed-out, dancing to anime music in a huge group. They did what I can only refer to as “The Ear-Flappy Dance” (but I’m sure it has a real name) many times, along with other anime songs I really didn’t recognize (except for the end theme to Fullmetal Alchemist - that was awesome). A few cosplayers fought with foam swords. It began with two, but then another with a plastic samurai sword joined the mix. At least one of them was really good, doing some moves that would have made Ray Park proud. Many costumes in the bunch I recognized, but many more I did not, and that made me a little sad.
After awhile, the cacophony of voices and music and battling became a little overwhelming. The light shone a little too bright. The people were a little too numerous. I gathered my stuff and headed out of the convention center a little quickly, out onto the street, making my turns down the blocks and into the garage of the next building, where my car was parked.
I looked around to make sure no one was paying attention, and hopped in. I lay back in my backseat with my head resting on Totoro (who sadly was not the enormous size he should’ve been), and my hands over my eyes. The air in the car was warm, but not overbearingly so. I let silence and darkness soothe me - a geek like me can only handle public social situations for so long before it just becomes too much. After a long while, I pulled out my phone and watched the video footage of Wil geeking out over my present, as I had done randomly since the event had happened. I felt so far removed from it already, as though it hadn’t happened to me. I was glad for the video -- like I’d said before, I wouldn’t have remembered much of anything otherwise.
Not long enough after I’d retreated to my car, Tanya called, wanting to get into my car anyways. I tried to hide in my car a little longer, but she insisted that being in a garage full of CO2 gas was not healthy. I tried to counter her reasoning, but I really couldn’t. I knew sleeping in there wouldn’t kill me, but as more cars began filing in full of people there for something up in the symphony hall, there was at least some risk.
Next year, we would definitely be getting a room at the Hyatt for the entire stay.
We parted ways again, and back on the surface, I debated my next move. Would I go to the Star Trek: The Next Generation Reunion panel? It had Wil Wheaton in it, along with LeVar Burton and Jonathan Frakes. In the end, I made the decision that, no, I would not attend that panel. I’m a Wil Wheaton fan, but honestly, I’ve never consciously sat down to watch TNG since I was maybe three years old, when all I cared about was the end sequence when the ship shoots off into the background of space, and that the Reading Rainbow guy was on the show, and he wore a hairband in front of his eyes for some reason (at least, that’s how I replicated it. It was a hairband, right?)
One day I will watch TNG. But for now, I just want to be blissfully unaware of how awful/awkward Wesley Crusher actually was. And I don’t know if I’m ready to possibly tiptoe into the realm of “Trekkie.” We all know that’s what would happen to me....
Also, Trekkies are FLIPPIN TERRIFYING!! Especially en masse....
Once thoroughly rationalized in my decision to avoid the TNG panel, I stopped by Starbucks -- two butter croissants and those potato chips were the only food I would have the entire day. I sat myself outside of the cafe as the sun began to set, pulling out my sketchbook and drawing whatever I felt inspired to (which was little). I people watched -- it was so interesting to see nerdy cosplayers (some damn good ones I might add) walking around amongst the throngs of volleyball players, also there for a convention, as well as normal folks wandering downtown with no clue as to what was happening. Although that didn’t stop some of them from taking pictures with Batman, or thoroughly enjoying the Ecto 1’s presence by the hotel.
After awhile I packed up and returned to my car. I grabbed my backpack and ran back upstairs into the west building of the convention center, and made my way into an abandoned bathroom. I went about getting my outfit together for the nighttime festivities. I wore the dress I had the previous night (I know, ew, but I realized it would be best), with some leggings (I debated which ones, and finally settled on the black, not the animal print). I dug through my bag and pulled out a cape -- Batman on one side, Joker on the other. After debating which to use, I finally decided on Batman. It was as close to “formal” as I was going to get. I debated whether or not to wear my tie. I ultimately decided it wouldn’t work with the cape. I pulled out my nerd glasses - 3D glasses taped up in the middle. Last, I threw on converse shoes that were well-decorated with permanent marker. Shoving everything back into the back, I emerged from the toilet stall and went to peek in the mirror.
I think it’ll work, I thought to myself.
I wish I had a proper dress, like Stephanie and Danielle, but this will work.
I threw my backpack on, dropped it back off at my car, and walked tall and proud to the hotel, not even caring that hot volleyball chicks were probably staring. It wasn’t like I was the weirdest-dressed one with a Comicon badge.
I sat around in the hotel, reading my book, looking at the pictures in my sketchbook. Restlessness was relentless, and time moved slower than waiting for a Harry Potter book the night before. I wandered around. I contemplated and then gave up on the idea of food. Finally, I headed to the ballroom, wondering if there was a line, and if I was dressed appropriately.
Well, Spock, Link, other cosplayers and even more nerds in normal everyday clothes definitely told me I was in the right place and in the right attire.
It was just about time....
For Geek Prom.
(That concludes this overly embellished and explained segment of my adventures! Tune in to the next post for the exciting conclusion of Saturday, in "How I Went To Prom With Spock!" or "Have I Lost My Mind?")