9 Days or so since Dragon*Con 2013!!!
I am going to start this wrap-up of my experiences at Dragon*Con this year in the most appropriate way I know how: by having a tall tumbler full of Blanton’s Bodaciously Badass Bourbon.
Therefore, by the end, I should be sufficiently lubricated with truth serum to “let it all hang out”, so to speak.
I am a sucker for tradition. If I do something twice, it is a tradition. Last year, I picked my Dragon*Con travel buddy up and we had breakfast at Chik fil*a (I think that is how they spell it. It’s stupid). It was terrible. So we did it again this year. I had some sort of bagel with egg and chicken on it. The whole life cycle, right there on a “bagel”. The bagel was a napalm-hot sponge and the eggs were some sort of yellow plastic, like a playtime kitchen set you might have as a kid. I threw the “hashbrowns” in the garbage.
Next year I’m getting something else that will be equally as bad.
This is exciting shit, I know.
On the way up, we stopped for lunch in Auburn, AL, which is where my Dragon*Con Travel Buddy (from here on out, referred to as DCTB) and I went to college, and where I met most of my close friends. We did this last year also. We went to a pizza place that I used to work at and met a couple old friends who still live there for lunch.
It’s always weird going in there, and I honestly would rather go someplace else, but this too has become a tradition and cannot be broken.
When we got to the Marriott, I immediately knew it was going to be more crowded this year than it was last year, just like last year was more crowded than the year before that. Last year, when getting there early on Thursday we walked right in to pre-reg and got our badges. This year, we waited in line for about 30 minutes. Nothing, I know, compared to some people, but 30 minutes compared to nothing is a lot.
DCTB and I discussed the situation on this badge. He said it was a sort of Aquaman situation, with the lovely young lady controlling the seabeast. To me, it looks more like two buddies frolicking in the ocean (as opposed to one being controlled by the other). We both agreed that the seabeast was not going to eat Miss Hawaiian Tropic. They both look, to me, like they are smiling. Nevertheless, it is some quality art.
After we got our badges, we went to the room for a nap. What can I say; we are old.
Then we headed downstairs to go to Trader Vic’s and meet some friends, another Dragon*Con tradition. Trader Vic’s is great for two reasons: 1. Werewolves of London 2. It’s in the basement of the Hilton, meaning we can walk to it without even going outside! Thursday nights are still Mai Tai night also, where the normally expensive beverage is knocked down to $6.
Unfortunately, the secret is out and it was butts-to-nuts in there. Last year, they had the outside bar going, but this year they had one poor guy handling like a thousand people. I felt bad for the guy, with his Hawaiian shirt and slicked up hair, he was really trying hard to keep up, but he was drowning in the weeds. Although, the tub of Mai Tais tasted like sour mix with a little TMNT ooze mixed in.
Then we all went up to the Marriott for a little people-watching and costume-spotting.
These were the best costumes I saw all weekend, and they popped up on the first night! I’ll take “clever and inventive” over “movie accurate Iron Man” any day. In case you can’t tell what is going on here, a couple people painted up some BDUs (which me and my roommate used to pronounce “bedoos”) to perfectly match the carpet on the mezzanine at the Marriott. The first thing I thought when I saw them was “Someone left their shoes down there!” They were lying on the floor, perfectly still, and I seriously did not see that they were people for about a full minute. I am not kidding in the least. Granted, I had a few Mai Tais and scotches and beers in me, but it was still awesome. In this pic, they are crawling across the floor.
This night ended up in our room with a lot of talking and drinking with old friends, a recurring theme and, in my opinion, the absolute best part of Dragon*Con.
Friday my main mission was to find Wendy and Richard Pini, creators of ElfQuest, one of my favorite comics of all time. I knew they were going to be there, but I didn’t know where, and I had promised a friend that I would get their autograph for her.
Finding the Pinis was easier looked at in the program than done, however. I first went to the “Comics & Pop Art Alley” (which is way too small for a Con this size, by the way). They were not there, despite my mind telling me that I saw their name there in the Pocket Program.
I then looked them up on the Dragon*Con app, and when I asked a D*C volunteer where that was, I found out that there was a whole new building this year! All the vendors had been move to a place called “AmericaSmart”. How comic artists are vendors, and not on the Comics Alley, I do not know.
I’ve never seen a place like this. I have no idea what is in this building the other 360 days a year, but last week this place was a 2-or-3-or-4-or-more story maze of vendors. If I was a vendor, I would be pissed that I had been moved into a building that was completely removed from the other Dragon*Con stuff. Meaning that if someone wanted to buy some crap, they had to travel a block or two (outside!). Despite my opinion, the detached Geek Mall didn’t seem to dampen the legendary consumerist spirit of the average Con-goer, as I had to wait in a line just to get into the building!
After a lot of squeezing through crowds, I finally found my heroes:
They were at a tiny booth in the middle of all sorts of philistines! I couldn’t believe it. This just goes to show a good point on geek culture: something that, to you, may be the hugest deal in the world, doesn’t mean shit to anyone else. It’s why we get so excited at Dragon*Con: in our daily lives we’re surrounded by people who think we’re stupid for caring about how The Hobbit movie was different from the book, but at Dragon*Con we are around our own. I know that’s kind of common sense, but seeing the Pinis right there, in real life, was a lot for me to handle.
I patiently waited in line behind a gaggle of giggling beauties dressed up as elves, who each had 30 different things they wanted signed. I had two. My Issue #1 of ElfQuest and an ElfQuest card that I bought for my friend.
I was really nervous, but they were very nice people. I was especially nervous about telling them that my wife and I are starting a band called ElfQuest and I’ve been working on a song called “Wolfriders”. Instead of informing me about copyright laws and how they relate to intellectual property, they said, “Cool! What kind of music is it? How can we hear you?” I told them it was metal, which didn’t put them off at all! The truth is, we’ve never even played a show yet, but now I feel like we have to get it done.
On Friday we also attended a Battlestar Galactica panel. Even though we’ve been to numerous BSG panels over the years, Edward James Olmos is always a treat to listen to, and Richard Hatch seems like a very interesting guy. This year’s panel also included Kandyse McClure, who played Sweet Dee on the show. She didn’t talk as much as I would have liked, and EJO and Richard Hatch had a tendency to bogart the mic a little bit and drone about non-BSG topics. This was fine, to me, because I’m interested in sociopolitical issues, but it seemed a lot of the natives started getting restless. All in all, the panel was good, but not as good as BSG panels have been in the past.
Then we went up to the room for a respite. This year we took many respites. I can’t deal with crowds the way I used to could. I need a break every now and then. It was during this break that I was participating in one of my personal favorite Dragon*Con activities: hanging out on the balcony outside our room, drinking scotch, and people-watching. Then I saw my second favorite costumes of the weekend:
I’m pretty sure I saw these guys last year, or some other time, but I love it.
See, in my mind, I am done with Star Wars. Star Wars, to me, is like that first love who rips your heart out and stomps on it. Years later, you think you’re over it, and you are, but when you see her there’s still some little twinge in the back of your soul.
As much as I hate Star Wars now, part of me will always love it. I can’t help it.
And there is no doubt in my mind that The Muppets are one of my favorite things ever.
These costumes, of the ever-popular “mash-up” variety, hit me right square in the soul. But they didn’t usurp “Marriott Carpet Soldiers” spot as #1 in my mind because I think I’ve seen this before, and being a bit of a contrarian, it’s my job to hate on new trends. Like “mash-up” costumes.
Still, look at those bastards. Muppet stormtroopers. Jaysus.
It was then time to get in line for a Game of Thrones panel, which we anticipated to be a long line for.
Allow me a short rant here: the reason the “Comics & Pop Art Alley” is so small and impotent is because people these days come to these Cons to see celebrities. That is a bummer, to me. That America’s worship of celebrities has infiltrated geek culture to such an extent that we have to get in line an hour early to see Lord Mormont, some other asshole, and Osha (whose name I’ve found funny since I read the books. “Occupational Safety and Health Administration” ha!).
Rant aside, we honestly just didn’t have anything better to do while this panel was going on. Neither one of us are the biggest GoT fans in the world (I think the books are not that well-written, to be honest. They make for some good tv, though).
While in line, we saw this badass She-Ra costume, which I took a picture of for my wife, who loved She-Ra.
Once inside the panel, I was glad we came. The panelists were very interesting and Mormont and Osha seemed like genuinely nice and interesting people. DCTB stated that Osha was a lot sexier in real life, and not on the show dressed in rags and covered with shit. I agreed, she was hot. Mormont was charming and regaled the audience with tales of being on other hits (like Braveheart) and on his not-so-great roles: such as in “All the Queen’s Men”, which I have never seen, but kind of want to now. Not really.
I think the other guy was in the show for one episode, and for one purpose: (spoiler alert!) to stab Craster. I think. He was funny and made humorous remarks about his small role in the show.
We probably ate after the Game of Thrones panel. Even if we didn’t, I’m going to say we did as a way to talk about eating at Dragon*Con.
Our favorite place is Yami Yami in the food court at the mall. It’s an Asian-but-mostly-Japanese buffet/cafeteria style eatery where you purchase your food by the pound. You go down a line, putting sushi into your tray, and at the end they weigh it and you pay.
To us, it’s not only convenient, but it is consistently tasty, and even when there’s a long line, it doesn’t take very long.
Our second favorite place was High Velocity, which was a sports bar place in the Marriott. There was rarely a wait, and even if there was a wait, it was very short. The food was good enough, and the price was not very high, at least to have a table where we can have a little peace and order a beer.
My least favorite place was in the Hyatt. It was a buffet, but you could order off the menu. I ordered a Cobb salad off the menu and it was fairly terrible.
That night we made sure to attend “An Evening in Bree”, which is a party put on by theonering.net, one of my personal favorite websites. We’ve tried to get into this party before, but it is always capped out.
Of course, being denied entrance before made us want to get in worse than ever, and also contributed to me building this party up in my mind as one of the greatest events I would ever experience in my entire life.
Before the party, I took this pic of some movie dwarves chasing a little kid dressed up as Gollum.
All of these people were involved in the costume contest, which was held at the party.
Here is my review of the party, broken down into pros and cons:
The bad news first. The Cons:
– NO ALCOHOL. This is a huge mistake, although the next day we chatted with a fellow at the TORn booth and he said the hotel wouldn’t let them have beer in there. Nevertheless, this made the whole thing suck, in my opinion. It was no longer a party! More like a random gathering of nerds. Granted, in my mind, I had built this party up so that it could never live up to my expectations. I was picturing people in dwarf costumes having drinking contests, wizened old wizards smoking pipes in the corner and quietly discussing world events over a mug of ale, and hobbits dancing on tables and singing drinking songs. Basically, I wanted to spend a night in the Prancing Pony, and Butterbur does not serve water! I had my flask, but I think the party would have been livened up a bit if everyone had been given a mug of beer upon entrance.
– The Atmosphere. The room looks like what it is: a conference room. In my mind I was expecting to magically be transported to Bree. Into a large pub with great wooden tables, with a thatched roof held up by great wooden beams, and a huge wooden keg of ale in the corner, filled with a special brew that was made just for tonight. Instead, it was all metal girders, folding chairs, and fluorescent lights. The first thing I would have done is get rid of the chairs. Then dim the lights a bit. Then have a giant wooden keg of ale, free to all party guests.
If we ever attend this party again (spoiler alert! we won’t), I’ll know what to expect, and won’t be let down when I’m not ushered directly into Middle Earth from the basement of the Hyatt.
Now the good news. The Pros:
– The band was good. I love Irish music and this band played a few Irish tunes, mixed with a few songs from the movies. They were great and I would have loved to gyrate on the floor to them with a mug of ale.
– The costume contest was hosted by real celebrities! Granted, the new Hobbit movie can, in my mind, suck it, but I hafta admit that it was cool of these stars to come host it. I’m sure they did it for free and out of the kindness of their hearts. It was Radagast (Sylvester McCoy) and one of the dwarves. The costume contest was cool, and there were some truly great costumes, but the whole time I was too busy whining about there not being any beer in Bree to properly pay attention.
– Most everyone seemed real nice. I had on a TORn tshirt and got at least one “Mae Govannen!” from a fellow Tolkien fan. Startled by this, as I never encounter anyone in the real world who just suddenly greets me in Elvish, I stammered, “You too”, which is dumb. If I had been on my game, and not half-snookered in Laphroaig, I would have given him a “Suilad, mellon!” I am positive that is the first time anyone has said Mae Govannen to me outside of Lord of the Rings Online. Regardless, it was awesome, and I wish I had responded better.
To be honest, I don’t remember the rest of that night. I think we turned in early, in anticipation of a long day and night on Saturday.
We woke up this morning and went to panel that featured one of the devs from Blizzard, who had worked on WoW and Diablo 3. DCTB had been saying all along that he wanted to try and do some gaming at Dragon*Con this year. We never got around to it.
I did take this picture, however:
The Hilton, in case you don’t know, is where all the gaming stuff goes down. If it’s a video game panel, it is here. If you want to meet up with some random nerds and play Magic, it’s here. I took that picture right outside of where the Blizzard panel was going to be. DCTB and I played a game of Pathfinder not too long ago, and I enjoy the game, but Dragon*Con always seems too hectic to stop and play games. Plus, why would I want to play Pathfinder at Dragon*Con when I can do that at home? Granted, I can drink scotch at home too, but it’s just not the same without hordes of costumed people swarming around you.
This is some dude from Blizzard. It is sad that I don’t know his name off the top of my head, as I have more respect for him than some idiot who gets paid millions of dollars to “play pretend”. Let me look his name up… he deserves at least that much…
I think this is Alex Mayberry.
He is nice, and I wanted to ask him a few questions, but it was during the Q&A section that almost every Con bad-question stereotype reared its ugly head. No one asked him for a hug, but it was close.
– The rambling for five whole minutes (which is a long time if you sit there and watch the clock for five minutes) and never really asking a question, meanwhile the audience starts mumbling and getting restless, person: CHECK
– The boasting question. This is a person who thinks up a stupid question because they want to boast of their achievements, not because they are genuinely interested in what the panelist has to say. These usually start with, “I’m an artist too, and my work blah blah blah…” I would wager to say that almost everyone at Dragon*Con is an artist of some sort. Either drawing a little bit, or making costumes, I’ll bet you a Coke that Dragon*Con has a lot of creative people in attendance.
This one was, “I’m in the greatest guild of all time on WoW [glances around pridefully], and blah blah blah…”
DOUBLE CHECK. There were several of these.
I still wish I had asked my questions. One of which would have been, “At some point in your life, you must have played a game where you had an epiphany and said ‘This! This is what I want to do with my life!’ What game was that?”
I am pretty sure that was the only panel we went to that day. After this, we wandered around looking at costumes, occasionally stopping for a beer break.
It was during this time that I saw this:
A Skeksis! I’m pretty sure that this person went on to win the whole banana at the costume contest, and here we got to see it up close and personal. I know it looks impressive here, but I promise you, this thing was unbelievable. My personal award for, “Looks like it took the most time and attention to detail” goes to this person. I could have stood there and gazed at it forever. Dark Crystal, man. Wicked.
It was around this time that our friends from out of town started showing up. We all walked to Ted’s Montana Grill and ate buffalo burgers and drank beers.
On the way back to Dragon*Con, I bought cold ones for everyone from a guy on the street who was selling them out of his cooler. Coming from here, that’s no big deal, but he was really nervous. I think drinking on the street is probably a no-no in Atlanta, which is lame.
We got back to our room and drank and drank drank. In fact, I drank straight through the main thing I was excited to see at Dragon*Con: the “Cabal Cut” of Nightbreed. Oh well. I had more fun doing what I was doing anyway.
We all moseyed down to the Marriott floor to mingle, where I shared my flask with a loud woman dressed as a Viper pilot from BSG. I also took these pictures:
I have a ton of drunken, “Let’s get together and make a picture!!!!” photos, but out of respect for my friends’ privacy, I won’t post them here.
I don’t remember much after we went downstairs. I know one of my friends got a picture with the Road Warriors and I told a Marriott employee who was just trying to do his job to “go fuck yourself”. My bad, dude. Thanks for understanding that I was drunk as hell and not kicking me out. DCTB caught an extra-potent strain of Con Crud this night, also.
Oh, and I tried my best to convince an old friend of mine to move back home to the area by repeatedly telling him, “It calls to you!!!”
I also wound up singing loudly along with some Hank Williams Sr. that was on our radio, as I am wont to do when wasted.
At the end of the night, we said our farewells. Some of us back to our homes in cabs, some of us back to our respective hotels, and me and DCTB back up to our room to pass out. I think.
Damn you, black-out blinds!
We didn’t wake up until almost 11am, which was when we had planned to go see the Shatner.
We stumbled out of bed, hair all sticking up every whichaways, no shower, still in our clothes from last night, pulled on our shoes, and hit the streets.
The Trek Track is in the Sheraton, which is a few blocks from the Marriott, which meant we had to go outside.
It may have been the worst 3-block walk I have ever been involved in. The sun was merciless.
But we made it! We did it, and I applaud our efforts. We found the line and, even though we were pretty far back, still got in and got decent seats through sheer dumb luck.
And I am so glad we did, because it was, to me, the best panel we went to all weekend. William Shatner is 82-ish years old and is still full of, as my dad would say, “vim, vinegar, and vitality”. He was engaging, funny, and most important to me, he seemed to genuinely enjoy being there. He told stories, he answered questions, he paced about the stage. It was magic, I tells ya.
After we saw the Shatner, we went back to the room to recuperate and received texts from our friends that none of them were going to make it to Con that day due to hangovers that were tougher than old sailor meat. So we took steps to recover the day: showers and naps.
The only other panel we went to that day was for Muppet Babies. Yes, the cartoon from the 80’s. It featured Michael Frith, a guy who worked with Jim Henson on The Muppet Show, Sesame Street, Fraggle Rock, etc. He even collaborated with Dr. Seuss at some point!
He told us how the Muppet Babies came to be, and showed us some killer clips from the show and a music video for the Muppet Babies song from “Muppets Take Manhattan”. Apparently they made a video for the whole song, of which the portion in “Muppets Take Manhattan” is only a small bit.
One thing I found interesting is his answer to the question, “What do you think of children’s programming today?”
He said out loud that he doesn’t watch it at all, but implied that it is all shit. He also said that they always tried to make their programming as positive as possible and that entertainment these days is too cynical, sarcastic, and jaded, which I completely agree with.
Then it was off to the vendor rooms. It was this day that I wore one of my favorite shirts. A shirt that is so mighty and intense that I only have the balls to wear it once a year, at Dragon*Con.
It is a shirt with a dragon on it. Scratch that. It is the Dragon Shirt. It is a shirt that I saw on every little dirtbag, DnD-playing, skateboard-riding, metalhead in the 80’s. I picked it up on eBay.
As I told DCTB numerous times, one of the best things about it is that the print covers every single inch of that shirt. It goes all the way around my generous midsection. It goes, literally, all the way to the ends of the sleeves. Its mastery over other dragon shirts cannot be denied.
In fact, the shirt is so good that while I was chatting with Lloyd Kaufman (the Lloyd Kaufman) at the Troma booth, he said, “I have got to get a picture with this shirt.”
He called his booth babe out from the other side of the table and we got a picture together.
And here it is:
It was around this time that DCTB finally admitted to me, “I think I’m getting sick. My throat’s on fire.”
We hightailed it back up to the room. He laid in bed and we watched the Masquerade on DCTV. I had gone foraging for more booze and brought back a bottle of Johnny Walker. Not the best, but for the price the corner store was charging, it was all I could afford. And if anyone was counting, we went through 3 bottles of whiskey Saturday night, and not the cheap shit, either. One bottle of Glenlivet, one bottle of Laphroiag, and a bottle of Blanton’s bourbon that our out of town friends brought. I was unfamiliar with Blanton’s, but it was delicious.
That was, more or less, the end of Dragon*Con for us. We went in like lions and slithered out like a couple weasels in the henhouse.
On Monday we just woke up and went home. I wanted DCTB to be able to get home and see a doctor that day (Monday).
The theme this year could almost have been “missing the stuff we want to go to”.
We tried to get into the “ElfQuest: 35 Year Anniversary Celebration”, but Dragon*Con had booked it into a room that held about 15 people, so hundreds of us got turned away. We couldn’t even stand in the hallway to see our heroes due to some mess about “fire hazards”.
We tried to get into a Fraggle Meet n Greet, but it was full by the time we got there.
We drank through the Nightbreed: Cabal Cut thing.
We slept through the “Return of the Living Dead” panel, which featured Linnea Quigley.
Despite all this, we had a blast, because as anyone will tell you, Dragon*Con is about much more than the panels. It’s about whatever you want to make of it. To me, that’s hanging out with my friends and being around a bunch of people who don’t want to talk about football or fishing all the damn time. (For the record, I like those things, too)
I was chatting with a friend of mine on facebook recently and I told him about our trip home, and how we stopped at a random gas station, only to find it covered over with rednecks. It was a bit of a culture shock, and I find it amazing how quickly our mind can alter our perception of reality. I was used to being around my fellow kooks, but suddenly coming to the realization of, “Oh yeah, most people in the world suck. I forgot about that.” was an adjustment. One that took a full few seconds, of course, but an adjustment nevertheless.
I hope you all enjoyed reading about my adventures at Dragon*Con 2013. I know it wasn’t as exciting as last year, but so be it, Jedi.
See you all at Dragon*Con 2014!