Friday, April 25, 2014

Convention Boys (and Girl)

I took my three year old nephew to his first comic convention.  He was surprisingly better-behaved than his big brother was last year at his.

I got the idea that I would be Banner and he would be Hulk, and purposely bought him a Hulk costume with the AVENGERS-movie tan pants instead of the traditional comic purple pants (since I didn't think I'd ever find any purple pants of my own).  Unfortunately, once we got into costume, I realized his pants were brown, and I don't own any that match, so, ah well.
I got to wear my reading glasses for the first time in ages, and found my eyes getting used to the clearer vision.  So much so that, when I lost the glasses toward the end of the night, my eyes gave me a headache to complain.  Sad, since those were my first and only pair of glasses.

My cousin took two of his three daughters, and I suspect they had less fun than my nephews did (since--gasp!--comic books are for boys) but they were well-behaved as usual, and seemed to at least enjoy part of the festivities.  You see, most of going to a comic book convention is walking around, looking at overpriced stuff, and standing in lines with like-minded individuals.  It's like church, in many ways, except with slightly more lightsabers and sonic screwdrivers.

My nephew enjoyed riding on a train for the first time (actually a multi-car shuttle bus, but "train" is more romantic), pointing out all the Captain Americas, and posed for pictures with a few costumed individuals, and since he's three (and at the age where he clings rather than rushes off), I carried him around or held his hand pretty much the whole day.

I really, really enjoy going to conventions.  It's like church, except for actually tolerable.  But the one who enjoyed it most of all turned out to be my niece.  She's thirteen now, and at the age where she's attached to a phone every waking hour, and you'd think that meant she'd rather be anywhere than hanging out with her fat, nerdy, bachelor/loser uncle.  But she was delighted by all the displays and art and costumes and celebrities and booths and opportunities to spend money, and, much like my nephew, had no desire to wander off on her own.

I'm impressed by that, since her mother and I are currently on the outs (she'd rather hang out with whatever's left of Osama Bin Laden right now than with me, and used to tell the tale of how her fascist older brother once forced her to go see a . . . shudder . . . "Star Trek" movie), and it would be natural for a teen not to want to hang out with someone fat, old, and unattractive.  But she happily posed for pictures and stood in lines and paid ungodly amounts to meet people who showed up on "Buffy the Vampire Slayer," and spent waaaay too much cash on a "Doctor Who" t-shirt that will probably embarrass her once she gets old enough to realize cheerleaders and prom queens don't know who Black Widow or Amy Pond are.

I ain't complaining.  I'm glad my niece likes me, and thinks I am cool.  I'm just realistic enough to know that probably won't last.  And I don't know, maybe geeks have so taken over the world that there ARE cheerleaders who watch "BSG" and "Walking Dead," and football players who think Batman and Wolverine are role models.  Maybe they stuff people into lockers who watch NASCAR and pro wrestling, like in a fudgin' "Twilight Zone" episode.

Anyhow, I think what my nephew enjoyed most was when we went by the exotic animals booth.  They had tarantulas, lizards, scorpions, and lots and lots of snakes.  The three year old actually held a big black emperor scorpion, and touched a tarantula, despite his exaggerated fear of spiders.  I took several pictures of him with a corn snake around his neck, and just as I took the one below, the snake opened its mouth, presumably to bite him.  The snake, however, seeing paparazzi around, thought better of it, knowing it would end up in the rags and generate another lawsuit.

This particular convention lasted three days, which is a lot of time for a kid, but felt just about right for me (there were plenty of panels I missed out on, but San Diego has spoiled me, so I don't complain if I miss my chance to see Adam Baldwin or Elvira or the guy who played the head Vulcan in STAR TREK: FIRST CONTACT). 

On the second day, my cousin left his girls home, and I took my six year old nephew instead.  Despite knowing this was coming, my mother had still taken my nephew to school, and we had to go get him out of kindergarten, despite him only having been there an hour.  I'd gotten him an Iron Man costume for Christmas, but he decided to wear his black suit Spider-man costume from last Halloween, so I put on my black suit Spidey shirt too, so we would match.

This kid had gone to his first convention last year, and had abandoned me toward the end of the night to go off on his own.  In a building with fifty or sixty thousand other people, you can imagine that this might have been a bit vexing for me, and I ultimately found him and hour or so later, in the charge of a couple of police officers, who promptly went out and got vasectomies. 

The six year old was a bit more hesitant to pose for pictures, for some reason.  I still got him in a few (and good ones).  Having been to a show before, he knew that there's stuff you can buy rather than just look at, and I did end up bribing him into staying with me the whole day with a Jason Palmer LORD OF THE RINGS print.

I've talked about the people who go all-out with their costumes, and this trip was no different.  My favorite was probably a couple who got all decked out as the Red Skull and Madame HYDRA.  We stood around for fifteen minutes while the guy got his head airbrushed, and then into uniform, and I'll admit I was jealous, since I had wanted to be Red Skull last year, but was unwilling to spend what had to have been at least a thousand bucks for what this guy had prepared.

It's also a little life-affirming to know that a girl that pretty would be willing to put on a Viper costume like that and carry a whip in service to geekdom.  Her father should be proud.

I wrote a story last year, starting it on the train home from the convention in September, about a soon-to-be-divorced dad who takes his boy to a comic convention, knowing it'll likely be the only one he ever gets to see.  It's called "Unconventional," and it's sat on my hard drive for, what, six moths, gathering digital dust.  I may have published it already, had I not had to struggle with the gorram cover art (knowing me, though, I'd still come up with some other excuse).  I got it into my head while walking around, that I could take a picture of the convention-goers, and use one of them as my cover art.

So, at one point while we were walking from booth to booth, I spied a dad with a little kid on his shoulders, and took about six different pictures of them.  I cropped the pic, and went in close, distorting the faces of the people facing the camera, and plan to use that as my cover art.  Someday.

This was only the second big convention the state has had, as far as I know, and this one was way better organized than last year's was.  Part of that was room to walk around, and more options than none for food.  Because my cousin is part cow, he insists on eating several times a day, and we stopped at a few different booths, trying their various uber-expensive wares.  The best deal were ten-dollar burritos which, while overpriced, at least filled you up (unless you were my cousin, in which they simply made a dent).

My cousin has always had a faulty switch in his head that tells the rest of us the difference between "Gee, that thing looks nice" and "I must have that now!"  Even when he was a child, his parents had a rule that they could only watch public television, because on the few times he watched commercial television, he began shrieking that he needed to buy Etch-a-Sketches, or GoBots, or Inhumanoids until he ultimately shat his pants or pajamas.  Luckily, the man he has grown up to be has a tremendous amount of disposable income, because he spends cash like Tony Stark with three Jim Beams in him.

Still, my cousin is one of three or four people on earth who actually seems to enjoy spending time with me, so I cannot complain too much.  He and I get together on a weekly basis, and I would own exactly zero 21st century Transformers if it weren't for him.

At one of the booths we went to, my cousin saw this great big hammer replica that he absolutely needed to buy.  It wasn't a Thor hammer, but something along those lines, that an Orc or a villain in a Conan the Barbarian movie would wield.  My cousin probably would have bought it the first, second, or third times he went by that booth, but I told him it would be too heavy to carry around all day long, and he has a recording on his phone of his wife saying, "Put it down, Ryan.  You don't have to buy that," that goes off at random intervals, and may also have influenced his decision.

The punchline of this particular story is that we went back to that booth at the end of the night so he could buy the hammer then . . . and somebody had already bought it.  They had only brought the one, and they wanted way more on eBay, plus twenty bucks to ship it.  Sorry, man.

Because it had been such a big hit with the three year old, I made sure to take the six year old to the animal booth so he too could hold a scorpion or a tarantula.  But the boy wasn't satisfied with something small; he wanted to hold a boa constrictor or a python, and specifically requested the largest one they had.  They charged me five bucks to wrap my nephew with a twenty-five pound snake, and the lad was kind enough to pose for several pictures with it.  I don't know that I would've wanted to take a photo with it, but I did once pose for a picture with twenty or so toads all over me, so I cannot judge.* 

Also, the kid's Spidey mask would fold up into a French-looking beret, and that's a bonus not advertised on the package.

It's been a while since I started this post.  It's hard to decide how long to go, how much detail to put in, how many pictures to attach.  If I don't write enough, I'll forget whatever anecdotes I would've otherwise had record of, but if I go too long, than it's (probably) boring for the three-and-a-half people who read it.  My friend has a blog where he goes into excruciating detail about everything his children do or accomplish.  It's useful, though, because his kids will be about to look at that blog when my friend is long dead and say, "Wow, I was in a school play in the second grade," or "Hmm, my mother's first husband kind of had a way with words."  So, viewed as a historical document, I haven't gone on quite too long.

I actually intended to do this post solely to talk about the hysterical woman in the Captain Jean-Luc Xavier line, but now I kind of don't want to.  You see, I was so shocked by the behavior of this grown woman that I said to my cousin, "When I blog about it, people are going to think I'm exaggerating," and later, as I thought about it, I realized that, though I've been blogging for a decade, and writing for thrice that, I can't adequately describe the histrionics of this person in the line with us.  If I used the word "wailing," you might think of a person rather than a Mexican ghost in a cemetery, and if I used the phrase "convulsed in almost fit-like outbursts," you'd probably think I was being cruel.  If anything, I would have to underplay how this woman behaved, because if I said I not only pitied her husband(boyfriend?), but felt ashamed for the whole human race, you'd say, "Oh, there's Rish again, pretending that September Eleventh traumatized the nation or something."

So, I'll simply skip it.  Though I'd like to say something, because that reaction was unacceptable.

Instead, I'll focus on my favorite photograph of the weekend.  There were a bunch of haunted house-related people at the con, promoting what has been a huge generator of money for our state ever since I was a little kid (they used to have tons of spook houses every October, and then somebody got the idea to just buy a property and do them all year round.  It was so profitable that there are now several year-round haunted castles throughout the valley), and that means guys dressed as monsters, and monsters dressed as guys.  They had a mock-up of a house being invaded by zombies--

--like so, as well as people in creature costumes lurking about, upsetting the many, many little kids walking around.

They had this truly revolting, rotting zombie child poking his head into one of the "windows," and I took several photos of it, because it was pretty delightful.  My niece, being super-addicted to text messaging, was kind enough to pose for a pic where she was too focused on her cellphone to see the creature leering at her.

If there were some kind of contest for pictures like this, I think mine would at least be a runner-up.

In closing, I am really grateful that not only do we have conventions like this nowdays (and wow, if they had existed in my youth, I wonder how that might have been), but that I have a handful of folks who are willing to go to them with me.  I'm glad I have enough money to blow on stuff like this, and that I have a job that I could worm out of for three whole days.  This is probably the best time in history to be a geek, and maybe I'll look back on this when it's all gone, and smile.

While hiding from the mutant cannibals, that is.

Rish "Convention Girl" Outfield

*I might have paid five dollars to have the girl in the Viper costume hanging around my neck, but that's neither here nor there.

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