Saturday, July 21, 2012

Help me Interpret My Reality - Comic-Con 2012

I went to Comic-Con last week, like I do every year.  The week after I got back everyone  asked me, "Was it fun?"  
I've hesitated a bit before answering that question.  "Yeah...  I had fun."  But that's not the same as whether the convention itself was fun.  
Here's what I mean:  
Wednesday, July 11th
"Ya'll better be THINKING!"  
I recover from nearly stumbling over and then jump back.  I'm on 5th Street in San Diego.  I've checked into my hotel room and now heading toward the San Diego Convention Center to pick-up my badge.  Preview Night is tonight.  The convention starts tomorrow.  
I'm face to face with a well dressed black woman.  Her blouse shines like fresh blood.  Her jacket and slacks are gray.  Her hair is this big curly coif, a burnt ginger color.  She is wagging her finger at me in time with her admonishment.  "Ya'll better be THINKING!"  
I nod at her.  She nods back.  She walks past me, heading north.  I watch her pass me.  Once she's gone, I make sure I clear the broken pavement I tripped over and continue on my way.  
By the time I get to the convention center I decide that the woman must have thought that I was a transient.  I'm dressed for travel, which for me means clothes I don't mind getting dirty or messy.  Jeans with rips across the knees and backside.  My camouflage hat with the flap in the back to protect my neck from the sun.  A faded tee-shirt with a hole at the shoulder.  When she saw me stumbled on the crack in the pavement she probably thought I was drunk or something.
She wants me to think about my life, is all.  Get off the street and clean myself.  That must be it.  
The moment has altered my mood, though.  My mind jumps back to the guy I saw on the MTA Gold Line train to Union Station.  Long, drooping mustache and beard, like Fu Manchu but the color of ash.  Wrap-around sunglasses.  A baseball cap with the San Francisco Giants logo on it.  
The shades made him look like he was spying on everyone and everything around him.  As a Dodger fan, the Giants cap told me he was up to no good.  
I noticed his bike.  His elbow was propped up on the frame.  I had dreamt about riding a bike to the convention.  I imagined him getting up and offering me the bike, saying something cryptic like, "You'll be needing this," as he offered it to me and left.  I braced myself for the offer and how he'd react when I turned him down.  
He didn't.  He got off at Union Station as I did, but I lost sight of him soon after that.  No bikes to San Diego.  It was, after all, only a dream.  
After going to the Random House booth and picking up a free copy of a friend's book, I walked back to my  hotel room to rest up for tomorrow.
Thursday, July 12th
This was the first year I went to the convention alone.  No one traveling with me.  Not sharing a room with anyone.
But it doesn't feel like I'm alone.  I'm surrounded by a crowd of invisible people.  
Text messages from work.  Who should do this?  Who should do that?  I text back.  I call back.  I give instructions.  I feel like I'm in the office.
Text messages from a friend.  He has what he believes is a job opportunity for me.  I don't want to think about jobs or work or anything.  It's a great opportunity, I'm told.  Let it wait until I get back home.  
Tweets from another friend, who is here at the convention.  It's her book I got, which came out this year.  She'll be sitting on a panel called Hungry for Dystopia.  Her name is Lissa Price and the book is called Starters.  When will it be?  Which room?  
I walking down the street and through the crowd all by myself, but there is a chorus of silent voices in my head as I read and respond, read and respond.  
I attend my friend's panel.  I hear where she got her idea for her novel.  I listen to the other panelist talk about the ideas for their books, all about how bad things will be once their apocalypse arrives.  I feel envy.  I want to sit on a panel, too.  
I chat with my friend and her husband.  They hurry off to an autograph signing.  There's another panel at another convention she has to be at in New York the next morning.  
After we part ways, I noticed it has stopped.  The incoming communication has stopped.  The only sound is the indistinguishable babble of the crowd milling through the Sails Pavilion around me.  
I am all by myself.  For once.  For real.  Like the last survivor in one of the books I just heard about.
Time for dinner.
Friday, July 13th
I'm in the Professional Lounge.  I've just sat through a couple of panels on writing by an author named Maxwell Alexander Drake.  I am getting frustrated.  I am growing worried.  
I came here to respond to some messages I've been getting this morning and to do some writing before attending some other panels in the afternoon.  I have my MacBook open.  I'm logged into the free wifi network.  I am writing an email.  
I write...  
my computer...  
After thirty minutes composing an email of five sentences, I take more time to find out there's an Apple Store in Fashion Valley.  It's a half hour trolley ride away, and there is a trolley station by the shopping center.  I pack my Macbook and head over. 
The diagnostic test they run is not encouraging.  The hard drive won't reformat.  The computer sees it, then it doesn't.  I have to leave it.  I tell them that something similar happened last year when something, a cable or connection or what-not, broke.  It should be in my account, I tell them.  They tell me they'll check.  
I get a call on the ride back to the convention center.  The hard drive has failed.  It needs replacing.  I ask about the previous repair.  They tell me the computer works when hooked up to a new hard drive, but doesn't when hooked up to mine.  They give me the estimate.  I agree.  I'm then told they can't install my word processor, because I installed it from a disk and they don't have my serial number for a download.  Even after its repaired, I won't be able to work.  
I now remember today's date.  Hmm.
I notice the lightness of my backpack when I hoist it to my shoulder.  I can definitely tell I'm missing something.  
Saturday, July 14th
I skip the writing panels I wanted to attend Saturday morning, on writing fight scenes, and head straight to the Apple Store.  I get there early.  I sit and wait.
Once it opens, I head straight toward the Genius Bar and give them my name.  My laptop comes out.  They've cleaned it.  They bring out the bill.  I swipe my credit card and then flip it open to turn it on.  The clerk pushes the pad toward me for me to approve the charge.  I don't sign it.  
My Macbook isn't starting.  An changing gray screen has appeared.  I turn it around to show the clerk.  He makes a face and excuses himself.  He's going to get someone in charge.  
By the time he comes back with the manager, it still hasn't started up.  They ask if I want to credit the purchase or use it for when it's actually fixed.  I tell them of course I want a credit.  They finally get it processed.  I grab my very light bag and head back. 
After I get back to the convention center, my phone chimes.  I have voice mail.  I never heard it ring.  It's from the Apple Store.  Someone is telling me it was both the hard drive AND a bracket that failed.  The bracket has been replaced.  It works fine now.  
Didn't I tell them there was something wrong with a connection or cable or...  Bracket or something like that before?  I feel my teeth gritting together.  Did they check what I asked them to?  I decide I'm not heading back right away.  I'm here for the convention.  I'm here to have fun, damn it.  I'll get the Macbook tonight.  Or tomorrow, before I leave for home.  No.  Tonight.  Just in case.  
I attend two panels, a spotlight on J. Michael Straczynski and another on John Scalzi.  Straczynski brought zombies doing Irish line dancing.  Scalzi talked about his new book, Redshirts.  Fun was had, I tell myself.  I head back to the Apple Store.  
They're getting ready to close when I arrive.  A young female clerk brings out my Macbook.  I ask to speak to the person that repaired it.  She gives me a smile that beams with friendliness and tells me she'll be right back.  After a few minutes, she returns and tells me the technician is gone for the day.  She also tells me that there is no charge for replacing the bracket.  
"Why wouldn't they charge me for that?"  If she thinks I sound suspicious, there is no sign of it on her face.  She looks through the paperwork.  She checks the notes in the system.  She shrugs and turns her smile up to 11.  
"Just good customer service, I guess."  I glare back at her, but her smile doesn't diminish an iota.  I pay the bill, stuff my zombie of a Macbook into my bag and head back to downtown San Diego.
Sunday, July 15th
I check out of my hotel and wait for the shuttle bus.  The shuttle buses run 24 hours a day this year, so they are not nearly as crowded as they have been before.  The driver helps me put my suitcase in the storage bay and we head off to the center. 
I go to another set of writing panels hosted by Maxwell Alexander Drake.  His panels have been good.  I recommend them.  He has the notes for them, the MAD writing system, on his website, HERE.  Today's panels are about getting one's manuscript published and about how to market it once you do. 
I'm sitting, listening, taking notes.  I bought a couple of his books the day before, solely based on the panels he's given.  I start getting ideas as I'm listening.  About attending writing conferences, which he believes is the best place to pitch your novel.  About how to plot my stories.  About a fantasy race I will call "dwarves" for my own fantasy novel, which will be very unlike Tolkien's dwarves.  
I feel all the stuff I've enjoyed in between the weirdness come back to me in one big lump.  I feel like I usually feel at the end of a good convention.
I check out the dealers' floor again.  I wander through the crowd.  I stop one last time at the Professionals' Lounge and the Con-Suite.  I get my suitcase out of Bag-Check and head to the station and board my train.   
A group of people enter my car.  They are the Christians that posted themselves at the corners of the convention center holding signs that urged all the sinful nerds to repent while reading bible passages through bullhorns.  By the end of the convention, some of the convention goers were mocking them with signs of their own, that said things like, "Superman died so you could attend Comic-Con!"  They all take their seats around me.  Most of them fall asleep on the ride back to Los Angeles.  
I wonder if they had as much fun at the convention as I did.  


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