Sunday, July 21, 2013

When Zombies Come True

Yesterday, I was followed by zombies through the streets of San Diego.  And it was fun.  
It was part of the seventh annual Zombie Walk at Comic-Con.  It marks the high point of the convention.  The climax.  
It starts with a gathering in the Children's Park, at the corner of Front Street and First.  The organizer, a woman whose skin is colored a bluish-gray with dark patches like bruises, stands on a knoll in the middle of the park.  Surrounding her is an army of people comprised of two parts.  One division is dressed up to look like zombies.  Some are very simple zombies, with blood smeared on their throats and faces.  Others are more elaborate, with prosthetic gunshot wounds and scars, plastic flaps of flesh peeling off the their faces, and other props.  One woman I saw had a brain molded from cherry jello that she ate from as she walked.  Another guy had wounds that squirted pus and blood as he shambled along.  The most creative costume I saw was a guy who had a zombie puppet attached to their body that moved and growled as he acted like it was attacking him.  
The other division was the rest of us from the convention, come to cheer our tribesmen on, take pictures and follow along.  I was thinking that we could be the victims, fleeing from the zombie hoard, but that would have taken too much coordination and planning.  This was a zombie parade.  
The Zombie Walk has two parts.  The first part is the gathering in the park.  The best way to describe it is a Woodstock for nerds.  The park is filled with people.  Everyone is talking and laughing.  Music is playing.  People are taking pictures of zombies, zombies are taking pictures of people.  "Awesome!" and "Kewl!" are heard again and again as you see someone's effort to out gross, out gore, out clever, basically out zombie the others.  
For a time, you really feel you are someplace where a zombie apocalypse can take place.  A happy, fun-filled zombie apocalypse.  
It is a place where being a nerdy old geek is, for once, the norm.  
Eventually those participating are gathered together and told the rules.  Yes, a zombie hoard has its marching orders.  We'll be taking our weirdness into the world of the mundanes and we have to be careful.  Stick to the route.  Don't get ahead of the leaders.  No "fast zombies," a la "28 Days" are allowed.  Do NOT touch anyone eating outside at one of the restaurants.  Do NOT touch anyone, period.  Obey the traffic signs and the police officers lining the walk route.  In other words, don't do anything that might get this event cancelled at future conventions.  
The head zombie rallies the troops.  
"What do we want?"
"When do we want it?"
Then the walk begins.  It curves first around the western edge of the Children's Park then makes its way along Harbor.  At first the crowd is comprised of fellow conventioneers, the people that followed them to the park and those just leaving the Convention Center.  There are more cheers, more pictures.  The zombies are acting out the shambling effort to get brains to eat.  
Somewhere after the Trolly's Convention Center station, the atmosphere changes a bit.  It is here that the number of "normal" people increases.  I watched as people in the restaurants, driving past, or walking the streets would stop and turn and look at this shambling mass of people at their pretend play.  Some, the shop-owners and restaurant workers that have seen in before, smile with their arms crossed in the doorways of their shops.  Others whip out their cameras and start taking pictures.  
"Dwayne, here...  Hold my purse!  I gotta get a picture of this.  We got nothing like this back in Kansas!"  
The city blocks off part of Fifth Street to vehicle traffic.  The zombie walk turns up Fifth to join the ongoing street party that is going on the last day of Comic-Con.  When I saw the mass of people, heard the loud music, the honking of air horns, the blaring of police whistles as they try to direct the traffic along different routes, I remembering thinking, "This is the end of the parade.  The end of the zombies.  They are going to get swallowed up by the people partying and drinking."  I was sure they were going to dissipate amongst the crowd and become lost.  The same one's dreams and fantasies can become lost when faced with reality.
It didn't happen that way, though.  Instead the people gathered close.  They formed a pathway in the middle of the street.  Like a runway at a beauty contest, instead its a runway of zombies.  The cheering continues.  Pictures are still getting snapped.  It has a congratulatory feeling.  The way you might applaud someone for finishing a their first 5K.  Except for the zombies, you can't tell which of the watchers came to the convention, and which were just out on the street and decided to join the fun.  Nerdiness overcomes normalcy and the normals are welcomed in.  
I've been going to Comic-Con for nearly twenty years now.  Most of those years I've been going as a professional, which means that I've been published or produced in some form at least once every three years.  Recently I've been wondering how long I can keep attending or whether it is still worth going for me.  Watching the Zombie Walk reminded me of the one consistent aspect of Comic-Con for me. 
Comic-Con makes me yearn.  That's the most true think I can say about the convention.  Every year, like right now, I have a list of things I want.  To publish more stories.  To be invited to sit on a panel myself.  To have my story turned into a movie.  To find a female friend who has the same nerdy inclinations as I do.  A list of things from my fantasy and dream life that I want to see expressed in the real world where everyone else can see it and now that it exists.  
Just like a zombie on the streets of San Diego.  
It's good to yearn.  It's good to want to see your dreams come true.  
See you next year, San Diego.  

For those interested, here is a link to the pictures I took at the 2013 San Diego Comic-Con Zombie Walk.  Enjoy.


Post a Comment

<< Home