It’s Friday and I think I have all of the Con Crud out of me. I’ve also had time to organize my thoughts regarding this year’s Dragon*Con. I also didn’t sleep ’til noon today.
All of that is to say I’m ready to tell you the highlights of Will Kenyon’s Dragon*Con 2012.
1) THE CROWDS. I was having breakfast with two good friends (and partners in crime at the Con) Wednesday, when one of them - Eddie - asked if my concerns about the noise and chaos had been justified. I’d expressed some trepidation, you see, about how prohibitive the massive crowds were to getting around, and how the constant noise level could make even a social animal like me look for silence and solitude. Here’s my wishy-washy answer, and little factoid for you: Yes, the crowds got on my nerves. But no, not as badly as I anticipated and not as much as last year. You see, this year the Con and the host hotels were much more strict about letting people without badges or hotel room keys into the hotels themselves.
That means there was likely more than 10,000 potential onlookers - people who wandered in off the streets to goggle at the costumes - who were NOT in the walkways, nor crowding the bars, nor taking photo ops in the middle of high traffic areas.
And you could feel the difference. Sure it was still an adventure to cross from the Hilton to the other side of the Marriott Marquis. But you could do it, and in decent enough time, too. (As a side note, the elevator wait times were down, too - less party crashers hitting buttons for every floor.)
My friend Jay, who works for the Hilton, seems to think there were probably less incidents which required a visit from the police, because the “football” crowd couldn’t come in. Of course, this reflects poorly, but I think accurately, on a certain type of football fan. (I’m sure you’re not that kind of person, dear reader who happens to like American football.)
2. THE DECATUR BOOK FESTIVAL. This is not to say that the crowds didn’t get to me. Au contraire. On Saturday morning in particular I had to fight them, and I almost gave up and just went back to the gaming pit. You see, I had decided to go to the Decatur Book Festival that morning to visit my friend Jason Snape and to hear my friend Collin Kelley read. I’d neglected to take into consideration the parade, however. So it was that I found myself a salmon swimming upstream - one guy trying to get AWAY from Dragon*Con while literally THOUSANDS of people were converging ON IT. Add to that the problems MARTA was having (don’t get me started on MARTA tonight)….
I got to Decatur an hour and a half later - sweaty, hot, and irritable. I was too late for Collin’s reading, so I just hung out with Snape until I was less sweaty and irritable. And until I thought the parade crowds had dispersed back to the suburbs. Then I headed back.
3. GAMES. All in all, I played a lot less games than I usually do. My trip to Decatur took up over half of Saturday, and being tour guide for my friend Eric Sasson took a chunk out of Sunday. And being an old man now, I only stayed up until 3 a.m. one time. ONE TIME.
Unbelievable, I know.
4) PICTURES. People have requested pictures from me, because Dragon*Con IS an opportunity to see some pretty amazing and amusing costumes. Unfortunately, I’m not much of a picture taker, and after 14 straight years of going to the Con, I’m rarely amazed - not because the costumes aren’t still amazing, but that I’m jaded. So I don’t take many pics. My friends DO, however, and I’m in the process of combing their Facebook pages for the best ones. I’ll compile them, resize them and post them as a gallery in the next couple of days. So look for them. As a teaser, there’s one at the top of this post… Avengers Assemble!
Yep. It’s that time of the year again, when tens of thousands of people descend on downtown Atlanta and indulge themselves in a celebration of things that most people looked down on when I was growing up: comic books, superheroes, science fiction, fantasy, RPGs, cosplay, and games. This is my element, folks, and I love it. Dragon*Con marks the beginning of my favorite time of year - the months of September through November - and I can’t think of a better way to ring it in.
Admittedly though, after last year I was a little bit ambivalent about Dragon*Con this year.
Until this morning when I sat down to write this little tribute to it….
You see, last year I had a little trouble with Dragon*Con - something that, unless they were blowing smoke up my ass, other people also had a problem with. And that, ladies and gentlemen, was simply the AMOUNT of people who are showing up to my favorite party. The number is nearing 100,000, and last year I could feel it. Every time I went to go find food or drink that was better than the foil-wrapped burgers and hot dogs the Hilton provided, the path was blocked by literally thousands of people. Many of them were the “face of Dragon*Con” - the costumed cavorters who spend the day giving photo ops, and spend the night drinking flavored vodka out of plastic cups.
I’m thankful for those people in a way, because they have contributed significantly to the pop culture legitimacy our particular subculture can now claim. But when I’m trying to go pee, the last thing I want is to have to push my way through a cadre of Starhip Troopers posing with styrofoam Poke-creatures. They need to get the fuck out of my way.
Also, there’s the noise. I am not an introvert by any stretch of the imagination, and I LOVE crowds. But days and days of shouting to be heard gets old. And I get hoarse. And I don’t like having to say HUH so much.
So yeah. Ambivalence.
But this weekend, as the number of hours until Dragon*Con begins (it begins for me the minute my best buddy Jay Elgin’s plane lands at the airport tomorrow night and only escalates from there) slipped into single digits, I started getting really, really, really, really excited. And I realized as I started writing this that the reason I’m excited is not because of all the gaming and partying and people-watching I’m about to engage in. It’s because of all the people I’m going to be seeing and hanging out with. For instance, I haven’t seen Jay in almost a year. And there’s others - I’m not gonna list any other than Jay because the list is looooong and I don’t want to leave out anyone - but they’re coming, and I’ll see them, and it’ll be like we just saw each other yesterday. (And yeah, Jeff and Ken, I know we did just see each other yesterday.)
If you’re coming to Dragon*Con, come see me. I’ll be the one with no costume other than a big, fat grin.
This year, my birthday fell on the last day of the Con, and so the day was more about saying good-bye, resting up, and winding down than it was about balls out partyin’ and celebratin’. I did plenty of playing and partying the days before, so that was fine. Besides, it would have been IMPOSSIBLE to top the surprise and awesomeness of last year, so I’m glad nobody tried it.
Good times. Great times. And like I said it would be, it was great to see many of my friends again - to speak with them, drink with them, play with them, people-watch with them. I did miss a few friends this time, for a variety of reasons: Alan, Jen, Shoemaker, others. And I don’t think I spent enough time with Joe or Chris. But I met new friends, who will likely become good friends and/or great acquaintances in the future.
I have to make a complaint though: this year was different than previous years, and I know why, even if I don’t fully comprehend yet the exact ramifications of the “why”.
To quote/paraphrase Henry Jones, Sr., Roger Mutaugh, and John McClane: “I’m getting too old for this shit.”
OK. Not really. I’ll bet money that I am one of the youngest 40-year-olds you’ll ever meet, and the zaniness, cacophony, noise, and fervor of Dragon*Con suits me just fine. For me, relaxing is going to a bar, downing a few, and shooting the shit with good friends. It’s going to Six Flags and riding Goliath 10 times. It’s running a 5K, then splitting a six-pack with your running partner. It’s playing blackjack in a casino.
Sure, I like to read, paint, listen to music, and occasionally just veg. And those are relaxing things - but they’re no more relaxing than the things I listed above.
For some reason, though, late Sunday evening during Dragon*Con, I’d had enough. I remember looking across the table at my buddy Eddie and saying, more or less, “That’s it. I’m done,” and then heading upstairs to crash. I remember getting up to my room at the Hilton and finding it utterly blissful to be able to talk to my other buddy Jim in a normal tone of voice - no need to shout. Truth be told, my nerves were shot, my voice was going, and I needed to detox.
And I don’t know how you other folks who went feel, but this year the crowds REALLY got to me. Supposedly, the Con keeps getting record attendance - and it shows. It takes sooooo much longer to get from one hotel to the other, so much longer to get food, so much longer to get an elevator up to your room or down to the lobby. The dress-up people, like The God of War dude pictured above, are the face of Dragon*Con - the chief reason we get the level of press that we do. But lemme tell you from experience - the fucking picture-taking of the costumed people in the middle of every thoroughfare that “normal” people are trying to traverse is just… annoying. Believe me, I understand the need to be the center of attention, but sometimes their sheer thoughtlessness gets to be too much.
I love crowds, but this year, I wished sometimes there were less of them.
And I know it’s just me, and I know it’s just a symptom of me getting older and crotchetier. I know that in a few years, I’ll be chasing whippersnappers off my lawn with a rake and a garden hose. I know the time is coming when my daughter Madeleine starts to think my musical tastes are quaint. I know. I know. I know.
Let it never be said that Dragon*Con is not a good time. It remains my absolute favorite time of the year. I WILL go again next year.
But next year I’m bringing ear plugs and a taser.