Letters to Holly

Thursday, September 8

Car Talk

Da Missus drove the car with the bad tire to the local garage. They plugged it. But she was told that when she needs a new tire, she has to replace all of them at the same time. All-wheel-drive cars require this. We did not know this. We would have bought another type of car.

I've heard there's a service called 'shaving' that can make a new tire match the degradation of the other three, but that sounds like something beyond our local guys' ability. This stinks out loud.

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I have now ordered the Star Wars Blu-Rays from the Amazons. I only got the original series.

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Despite allergies and congestion, the sidekick has slept through the night since last week. Hu-fucking-zzah.

Picture of the Day
I have found my costume for next year's con.

Tuesday, September 6

There and Back Again 2011

Here are my con photos.

I stayed home Friday to prepare the boy and My Mom for our vacation. She arrived a little later than I'd hoped. I wanted to caulk our bathtub and give it the whole weekend to dry, but I discovered very late that tubes of caulk can and will go bad. We had three tubes. All liquified. I grabbed the boy and hustled to the nearest hardware store. Mom showed up about an hour later, and I caulked the tub as he went down for a nap. He didn't like it, and Mom had her first exposure to a cranky sidekick, and I think that prepared her for the weekend.

Your Sis got off work at 3:30, and we were on the road by 4:15. It was about half an hour later that we realized one of her tires was perilously low. We could either ignore it, swing by Greenville and patch it (if a garage was open at 5 on the Friday before Labor Day), or go back home and switch cars. We picked C. While it added almost two hours to our ride, it was the quickest option we had. We got to Atlanta at 9. Could have been worse: We passed a 13-mile stretch of interstate where cars were not only parked, but people were milling around on the pavement and playing sports in the median. I have not seen anything like that.

The check-in was seamless, despite the hotel switch, and we charged right out to get our convention badges. The phone GPS was confused by Atlanta's density, but we found the correct hotel downtown and were officially conventioning well before the con closed shop for the night. We hung out with some online friends. The convention started Thursday morning, and the foot traffic was already strong. That was nothing compared to Saturday.

We got up around 7:30 to prepare for the parade. Instead of shelling out $13 for hotel cereal, we found a Starbucks right around the corner. We dressed in costume and hit the road. Between leaving the hotel and finding the parade, random folks had yelled out my character name, including security guards. One approached to check my handgun, and I showed him it was completely fake and plastic and harmless. We learned he was in the Air Force, and he talked Germany to Your Sister.

Right before we got to the parade, we passed a street preacher who was angling for a fight. He was yelling at passersby, including the family with young kids ahead of us. He berated them for reading Harry Potter (assuming they read Harry Potter) instead of the the Bible (assuming they didn't read the Bible). Convention people can validate a lot of geek stereotypes. He was doing nothing to help the stereotypes of fundamentalists. And yelling at kids is the mark of a total asshole. He wondered aloud again why the parents let the kids read Potter instead of the Bible, and this was right as we walked by, and I responded "Because it has a better ending." He stammered a bit and went back to his spiel, and I hope he was soon after hit by a bus filled with drag queens.

Your Sister grabbed a seat near the gathered horde, and I searched for the parade staff so we could officially join in. That done, I sat with her, and we ate breakfast and pointed out costumes. We found a contingent of GI Joe/Cobra folks and complimented each other on their outfits. I saw WKRP's Loni Anderson ride by, and I assume she was a Grand Marshal. On the dot of ten, we started walking, and we quickly found the parade to be immensely immense. Here's Your Sis in all her costumed glory. I love this picture.

I was gobsmacked by the audience. A good number yelled GI Joe catchphrases and character names. It was by itself worth the cost and planning to attend. I saw and hugged my hometown gang along the route, and we were met at the very end by a college buddy and her gal. It was a perfect parade experience.

And then we went into the madness of the convention. You do not walk. You shuffle. Shamble even. You do not talk. You yell. You sweat. You say "excuse me." All the time. You gawk at costumes. You pose for pictures. You obey the security folks even as you grumble about the policies (like no standing along a wall to catch breath). We hit some booths and tables for knickknacks. I found brand new Joe figures that I hadn't seen before. We started snapping costume photos in earnest. The sheer number of people boggles the brains. And it spread over blocks of downtown. It filled hotels. It smothered the streets and restaurants. This is truly an international gathering. And we were INSANE to think we could have brought the sidekick. Some folks brought their kids and shoved them around in strollers, making the crowds less navigable and smooth-flowing. Those people should be ejected. And hit by a bus of drag queens.

We left the crowd and found the Gone With the Wind restaurant where we ate for Your Parents' anniversary. And back we went, into the mob. It really is all about milling and shuffling and sight-seeing. The variety of costumes from every conceivable genre is endless, but there were patterns emerging: Dr. Who, Captain America, Spider-Man, Vader. The biggies.

Your Sister called it a day around 4:30, and we went back to our hotel. It was about seven blocks from the action, and we appreciated the separation. The host hotel elevators were impossible to nab and fit into. We did begin to run into those attending the nearby college football game; some of them had not heard about the convention and reacted as you might imagine Southerners With Money would: Exaggerated confusion and stares. And these were people festooned in school gear as much as we were in our costumes. But I had a bird on my shoulder, and that threw many a debutante. (I know you were a debutante. But you ain't these people.)

I aired out my costume in the hotel room before dressing up again and meeting my online gang for dinner downtown. Your Sister grabbed dinner from the Starbucks (they serve bistro boxes now) and shooed me out the door to enjoy myself. The gang and I gobbled Mexican and rested briefly in a hotel room before diving into the chaos. Saturday night at DragonCon is utter calamity. It's nonstop revelry with obvious debauchery lingering at the fringes. It's Mardi Gras indoors. For hours we walked and gawked and clicked and chatted. I was pulled aside many times for my outfit; most people were delighted to be reminded of a character they hadn't seen in 20 years. Some were confused. Two people asked if I was Popeye. Another person asked if people knew who I was and was relieved when I said absolutely. Some actual firefighters knew me. That was cool.

I packed it in around 12:30. I had worn contact lenses all day, and my eyes were shot. Also, my feet. I carefully walked back to the hotel and initially avoided the drunken game fans whose team just lost. But right as I was about to take the quiet detour away from the mobs, I got my dander up. Fuck 'em. I walked along the main road and right toward the drunks. Some were mighty mad that my comeback was funnier than their jab. One older lady, I suspect, debated tackling a sailorman for a sidewalk quickie. Your Sister was out cold when I got to the room.

We grabbed Starbucks the next morning before officially checking out. The hotel warned us that the valet car service would be swamped Sunday morning, and we may have been the only people to have heeded that warning. The lobby was crammed with crabby hungover game fans bitching about the wait. See, we checked in a day earlier than they, and our car was parked closer. They arrived after everyone else hit the city, and their cars were practically parked at our house. Also, and this can't be ignored, the valets were all black, and these unhappy guests sounded like nothing less than sons of the plantation owners bitching about workflow. We kept silent lest we delay our departures. Let the howler monkeys howl. Brats. Where is that drag queen bus anyway?

We met up with my college buddy and her gal for brunch, and we spent a chunk of time catching up and trading convention stories. They didn't officially attend, but they did donate at the con's vampire blood drive. We managed to escape town before the tropical storm hit, but the Twitter feeds did speak of people waiting in the rain for con events. Your sister suggested new costumes for 2012 before we left the city. We got back about 5:30. Mom was aglow with her time with the deputy. She agreed to do this again next year if we went. And I think we will.

Recap: We're exhausted but deliriously happy in a geek cloud of camaraderie.

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On Monday, I watched the boy while Your Sis caught up on school stuff. We also had to address her flat tire. We called AAA and learned we could have the car towed to the nearest garage, and we pursued that for a while. Then we considered simply putting on the spare tires and having her drive it to the garage later in the week after school. That's what we did. But that car and that wheel are gigantic. A AAA tow driver came by and switched out the tires. I did the grocery run and bought cider for her to swig after the long weekend and last-second workload. The sidekick slept through the night. Thankfully, so did we.