Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Days of the Dead Atlanta 2013 Part 2 - The Moon Shines Red As BLOOD!

DAY 2
I wanted to be at the Sheraton by 3 PM so we could check into the hotel and pick up our passes for the con. This would give us plenty of time to run by the store, pick our son up from school, and go have lunch together before we dropped him off at his grandparents’. The Days of the Dead website stated that VIP pass holder registration began at 2 PM and the rest started at 3. I wanted to be there when it opened because I felt sure if we waited until 5 when the show actually started there would be crazy crowds. I was right about that. Unfortunately I was not able to avoid them.

            We got downtown in plenty of time and parked in the covered area of the Sheraton garage. I will give DOTD and the hotel credit for one thing – they managed to get the parking fee down to five bucks a day. Now, I don’t feel like I should have to pay anything to park at a hotel I am paying to stay in, but this is Atlanta. If there is gouging to be done, they’re going to do it. They don’t even provide free WiFi in the rooms down there.

Our initial encounters with the hotel staff were quite pleasant. One guy even told us we should just park in the exterior lot because there were plenty of spaces and it would be closer to our room. It sounded good to us, so once we checked in we got in the car and drove outside only to discover that the exterior lot was extremely small and had no available spaces. And then because of how small that lot was we actually had to leave the hotel, drive back around to the front, and re-enter the covered parking area. I know that doesn’t sound like much, but when you’re ready to unload your stuff and get it into the room it is infuriating. Especially knowing the route you are going to have to take to get your stuff from the car to the room.

You see, despite the fact that the Sheraton parking garage is physically attached to the Sheraton hotel, you still have to navigate a ridiculous path to get from one to the other. A path laden with stairs, heavy doors, vehicular hazards, and narrow walkways that literally cannot accommodate more than one person at a time (and not even that for some of your more donut-oriented con-goers) to the point where if you encounter somebody walking in the opposite direction you must have a brief battle of wills to determine who is going to step out into traffic to continue on their way. There are also huge cracks in the pavement that will quite literally snatch your suitcase out of your hand. I know because it happened to me. 
 
Our room was located off of what is actually quite a beautiful pool area that you had to walk through to get to where the convention was being held. Hotel pools tend to be stocked with enough chlorine to sterilize a herd of buffalo, so I’m pretty sure in the course of traversing that area all weekend I inhaled my yearly allowance of poisonous gas. But it was beautiful. I see why they have the pinup party there at Dragon*Con.

The room itself was surprising, in that I had stayed at the Sheraton before and did not remember being displeased. I guess the room wasn’t so bad aside from being too hot and feeling like it was old. The bathroom was the real problem:
That is a tiny bathroom. You could poop and brush your teeth at the same time. And the shower measured six feet and four and one-quarter inches from tub bottom to ceiling. I know this because I am six feet and four inches tall and could feel the stubble on my head grazing the ceiling every time I took a shower, which was often because we were at a con. In order to wash and rinse my head I had to stand like James Hetfield does when he’s really jamming out, which is slightly dangerous to do in a tub where the designers have decided to go with a very slight pebbling on the bottom rather than any sort of actual slip-proof material. All of this is because back in 1822 when the hotel was built people were only four-and-a-half feet tall and didn’t brush their teeth anyway.

Also there was no garbage can in the bathroom, so we just threw our trash on the floor.
I’m kidding. We would never disrespect a hotel staff in that way. We threw it out the window onto Courtland Avenue. I’m sure the bums made nests out of it or something.

Once we got settled in – by which I mean “Once we fought over the two coat hangers and who got to put their suitcase where and used the old-timey thermostat which consisted of a canary perched over a little flame to adjust the room temperature from ‘sweltering’ to ‘mildly stifling’” – we went downstairs to the official Days of the Dead staging ground.

One thing I do like about Days of the Dead is that it is all contained in one hotel so you’re not walking all over the place. It’s all right there.

The registration booth was housed in the same spot where Dragon*Con staffers who can’t pass the shape recognition test are stored. I was hoping the DOTD staffers would be more competent. It was well after three o’clock by the time we got down there, so I thought we should have an easy enough time getting our badges or whatever. Mrs. Troublemaker was able to present her e-mail for a free pass and get hers no problem, which led to the first major ha-ha of the con.

She was issued one of those crappy plastic wristbands like water parks use. The ones that snap. The guy that put it on her fastened it about as tight as it would go and then didn’t fold the extra length back in like you’re supposed to, so my wife had no circulation and about seven inches of plastic sticking straight out of her wrist. I told her to go back and get another one or else she’d end up being pissed off by it all weekend, but for some reason she wouldn’t.

I, on the other hand, was not able to get my pass despite the fact that when my wife gave her name they asked if she meant my name. The regular registration had been moved back to five o’clock. We later found out that this was due to (one of many instances of) dickery on the part of the Sheraton. I have to give the DOTD crew credit for not laying that out. It was actually very professional that they just pushed the time back without mentioning that the hotel was responsible. I’m not sure I would have been so classy. Mrs. Troublemaker definitely wouldn’t have been.

We went back to the room and drank some beers to wait for five o’clock to roll around.

A quick word on beers – the DCW Hooligans like to enjoy an adult beverage or two while at conventions. In our rooms, on the floor, walking around; this is not uncommon. Lots of people tool around the con floor with their beverage of choice in hand. It’s a thing.

So when we left the room to go register and make our first rounds of the con, we brought beers. Nobody seemed surprised or said anything to us. Indeed, we saw plenty of other folks doing the same thing. I got my badge and we headed over to the dealer room to talk to Monkey and see how setup went.

Side Note: I wholly approve of the ticketing method Days of the Dead utilized and wish Dragon*Con would move to something like this. You buy your ticket online and then have the choice of printing it out or downloading an app and presenting your phone to the staffer. I did the app. As I was standing in line, a staffer came out and scanned my phone with her phone and then just handed me my badge. That was it. I’m glad it was a lady because, quite frankly, it was a bit sexy. Like in Barbarella when she has hand sex with Dildano. Dildano. Heh.

The dealer room seemed much larger this year, with a larger variety of sellers. When you walked in the first booth was a display of customized sixth scale action figures of various characters and skill levels. The offerings ranged from “zombie” ninja turtles that had some red paint smeared on them to a fairly impressive figure of Dexter to a whole section of King Diamonds:
There was also a Human Centipede and a Linnea Quigley:
Most of them looked like more time than skill was involved, but it was still an impressive display and there were plenty of neat ideas. Everything was crazy expensive.

There were aisles to either side of the action figures and we took the one on the right. There were a few booths of weird stuff – dead things in jars and test tubes, bone sculptures, contact lenses with various weirdo things on them. I wish I had taken more pictures in there, but I felt like these people were trying to sell stuff and if you wanted to see it you should buy it. I dunno – I’m weird about people’s crafts. I’m always worried about treading on their personal ideas about selling. Or maybe I’m afraid they think my camera will steal their souls.

To the left was a booth with absurdly overpriced toys. The guy had the Jason X figure by McFarlane that I’ve been wanting, but there was this sticker on it that said “80”. I can’t imagine that was actually the price because that is completely fucking insane for an American made 6” scale action figure from (?). Now, that may actually be the market value, but I’m sure as heck not paying it. Especially while NECA still has the Friday the 13th license and could conceivably crank one out. It was kind of weird, because this place had a display of Masters of the Universe Classics at fairly reasonable prices. I’m not sure why everything else was so steep.

Next to that guy was another guy with only slightly overpriced stuff, including a 2002 Castle Grayskull. I was very tempted by that Grayskull. It was mint in box and priced at $100 – a decent deal in my opinion. But I’ve already got an okay vintage one and I’ll have the new one next year, so I passed. The guy also had a whole bin of loose 2002 Masters in good shape, but there were none that I needed. 
 
Just around the corner was Cinema Wasteland, where I made my first purchase. I had forgotten to dip into my cash before we left the room, but I had to have this t-shirt:
Now that I’ve worn it I wish I had bought a couple more shirts from them because the thing fits perfectly. It’s long and not too wide. I love it. I didn’t even really look at the rest of their shirts because the El Santo shirt was so great and also because – and I’ve been saying this for about ten years now – I do not need any more t-shirts. This place also had some videos and other stuff and it was all priced fairly.

There were all kinds of other dealers in that place – one guy had custom-made Lemarchand’s puzzle boxes, including the Lament Configuration. These were absolutely fantastic, they were functional (as in they had moving parts, not that they summoned Cenobites – I think), and a steal at $125 for a non-musical one. I really wish I had bought one, although I think there would be nights where I was down in the Man Room and would maybe get a little creeped out if I had one on the shelf. This is the one item from the con that I keep thinking about and wishing I had bought.

It was interesting to note that most of the dealers were artists. Not so long ago you would go to a con and find a veritable flea market of toys, videos, t-shirts, and various other manufactured collectibles. But now, thanks to the internet, such things are much easier to obtain than they once were. What’s slightly harder to get is hand-made art, like this one-of-a-kind piece we got from Chris Hamer of Urbnpop.com:
I saw it when he put it up on Instagram after drawing it and knew Mrs. Troublemaker would want it. I almost feel guilty for what we paid for the thing. It was a steal.

Another item that I can’t stop thinking about but have a little more access to than those puzzle boxes is this awesome painting of Leatherface that Belligerent Monkey did:
I really love it and keep thinking about it. There’s something about this one that really appeals to me. But when we were at Hamer’s table I half-jokingly told Mrs. Troublemaker that we had to stop buying local art at all of these shows. While I love supporting local artists and feel particularly lucky that we have so many great local artists, I feel like when we’re at a show with folks from all over we should take advantage of it and buy some non-local stuff. But these Atlanta people keep making all the right stuff and we keep buying it. 
 
And then there’s Galaxy of Junk, who once again had an amazing selection of vintage stuff, but just not the things that would scratch my itch this time. Don’t; get me wrong – we still bought some stuff:
But no “big-ticket” items this time. I’m sort of halfway regretting not picking up the Snake Mountain and Fright Zone playsets they had. Okay – I’m totally regretting the Snake Mountain. The Fright Zone is a little too silly; and also I prefer the more technological version. But I wouldn’t mind having a Snake Mountain in good shape. I’m also kind of regretting not buying – or at least taking a picture of – the Star Fortress that I mentioned in last year’s post. They still had it, and on Saturday I suddenly had the resolve that I was going to buy it. But when I went back to the booth it was gone. It’s probably for the best, as I don’t have anywhere to put it and it certainly doesn’t go with any of my stuff (or anybody else’s – it’s a Star Wars knockoff item and not part of any line).

The Dealer Room was full of great stuff, but I just didn’t really feel like spending a whole lot of money. Which, again, is for the best. Oh, and it was during that initial walk around the Dealer Room that I took my first actual picture at the con:
This young lady was walking around all weekend with that yellow snake wrapped around various parts of her body, totally unconcerned with its presence. Snakes don’t generally bother me, but I also don’t go out of my way to hang out with them. But this was certainly a remarkable enough image to want to capture. I found out later that there was a whole table full of reptiles in the back of the Dealer Room that you could have your picture taken with for a cost that was slightly more than some of the human gusets. There was a small alligator (or crocodile – I still can’t tell sometimes) with its mouth taped shut and also a huge-ass boa or python or whatever. I’m not sure how I feel about all of that. Like, that giant snake was in a tiny little tub that couldn’t have been more than 3’ x 2’. Is that okay? Didn’t it feel cramped? I don’t know. I had a very specific reason for not taking a picture of that table. You see – there was one of those hairy spiders the size of a small dog sitting in an open Tupperware dish right on top.

Did you see that? What I just said? A fucking giant spider in an open box. With nothing between it and hundreds of delicious people faces but open air. And it was frisky, too. It wasn’t cowering in the back corner of that little box like something 1/1000th my size should. It was crawling and jumping around, just waiting for a flash to go off so it could zero in on the source and fly out of that box and eat a face. Fuck that spider and fuck those people for having that spider. Screw taking a picture, it took every ounce of will in my being not to come back with a flaming bottle of gasoline and torch the whole table. But that would have involved getting too close.

Okay – enough of the Dealer Room that I barely spent any money in. This post is already long enough as it is.

Ooh! Here’s Leatherface from Texas Chainsaw Massacre Part 2:
It’s not often you see that one.

By the time we took in the Dealer Room and chatted with everybody we chatted with, it was dinner time. We had arranged to have dinner with Beau and Sally since we never seem to get to hang out with them as much as we’d like to, and they suggested a place called Sweet Georgia’s Juke Joint. It was only a couple of blocks away and promised good old-fashioned Southern cuisine. I’m more open to trying new places than I used to be, as one of two things is going to happen – we’re either going to find a great new place to eat or I’m going to have a great story about a terrible dining experience.

The place was very nice. Nice to the point where I felt like if I walked around taking pictures I would probably look like kind of a rube. I already felt underdressed in cargo pants and a t-shirt under my purple hoodie and didn’t want to add to it. Oh, and we were also the only white people in there. I might as well have been wearing my mask – we wouldn’t have stood out any more.

This may not be the time or place, but I do want to point something out that I have only recently thought about; mostly because I have spent most of my life not caring too much about the racial mix of any situation. I’m not gonna lie and say I don’t notice. I certainly do. I think it’s stupid and disingenuous of anybody to claim they do not notice or care about race and I also think the concept of a “post-racial” world is fucking ludicrous and quite frankly undesirable. We all need to have our identities. But I’m much more concerned about the culture of a person than the color of their skin. If I am surrounded by a bunch of thugs with gold teeth and neck tattoos and sports jerseys and knee-high waistbands I don’t care if they’re black, white, or Asian. I am not comfortable. Same goes for people in suits carrying briefcases. 
 
But there’s no denying it’s weird to be the only person of a certain color in any situation, or even just the minority. And I guess that’s what black folks feel like a lot. I’m not going to pretend to understand or even begin to guess at what it’s like to be black in our society and I’m sure it’s different in different places around the country. It’s just that it’s occurred to me lately that there’s an inherent something about being The Other. Varying degrees of tension depending on the situation. Because no matter how little you care about skin color, when there’s less of you than there are of them it’s weird.

I’m not sure how well I articulated any of that and I’m not trying to make any kind of big statement or anything. It’s just something that’s been on my mind lately and it happened to come up again at dinner the other night.

So anyway, Sweet Georgia’s Juke Joint was very nice. The staff was friendly in a very genuine way. Our waiter was very conversational and generous with laughs, but not in a “Tip me well” way, just in a way that suggested he enjoyed what he was doing. He joked around and was quite charming. There was a band that played a short set of covers and they were very good. Not too loud, just funky enough, and pleasant. They played some Dave Brubaker and a version of “Girl From Epenema” that you could have had wine and sex to; something I would have previously thought impossible.

The menu was a bit pricey by my standards, but I’m a cheap bastard. I ordered shrimp and grits and Mrs. Troublemaker had catfish and grits. While we waited for the food the waiter brought our drinks out. The place served “moonshine”. I say “moonshine” in quotes because I really don’t know that it came from a still in some hillbilly’s backyard, but it was powerful. They were out of the peach that I ordered and brought cherry. It was good. It was really good. Like, to the point where I specifically avoided ordering another because I knew it would be Trouble. There was fruit in the bottom of the Mason jar (yes – of course it was served in a Mason jar) and when I bit into the raspberry my whole head got warm and the warmth spread down into my body and I really wanted to either take a nap or run outside naked. So I only had the one cherry “moonshine”, which may well have been moonshine.

Beau ate the rest of the fruit and I think almost fell out of his chair.

We were still able to talk while the band was playing. I don’t remember about what, but we had a good time. Once the food came out I got serious, though. I haven’t had shrimp and grits since we were sampling possible foods for our wedding. It was the first time I had that particular combination and I loved it. We didn’t have it at the wedding because it would have been nine fucking dollars a guest.

The shrimp and grits was amazing. AMAZING. It was worth every penny of the nineteen dollars I paid. Dude – amazing. It was so good that I had to order dessert. We don’t ever order dessert. It’s ridiculous. You know damn well you’re full after the entrée and me and the missus just aren’t overly-dessert people. But if the shrimp and grits were that good, I had to know what this place’s dessert tasted like. I knew I was pushing it and that every new thing I did increased the possibility of a negative experience, but thanks to Beau and Sally’s excellent restaurant taste we were on a roll.

The peach cobbler with vanilla ice cream was amazing. AMAZING. Plus I got the peach fix I had wanted from the moonshine.

By the time we were done eating the place was packed and the band had picked up again. It was a great atmosphere with awesome food and outstanding service. Next time you’re downtown and have a little extra cash to spend on dinner you need to check out sweet Georgia’s Juke Joint. I spent about a hundred bucks plus tip on two entrees, two desserts, two drinks, and probably a couple of beers or more drinks (because I know Mrs. Troublemaker didn’t have just one drink – that’s ridiculous). I guess that’s actually pretty great for such a nice place. I just don’t ever spend a hundred bucks on food unless I’m at the grocery store.
5 out of 5
Afterwards we went outside and it was cold as fuck so I made no pretense of waiting for the slower members of our party as we made our way back to the Sheraton. It was a downhill walk and I made all haste; to the point where I left them behind at one intersection:
Whatever, man. It was really cold.

Me and the missus went back to the room so I could get changed and load up the beer bag. I’ve got to say – the Phantom Murdermaker costume is my favorite one other than just my speed suit with a mask. It’s easy to put on and looks great. The only negative is that the mask is rubber and when it’s on I just sweat constantly. It isn’t hot because the whole back is open, but just having that thing sitting on my skin is sweaty. Every once in a while I’d move my head a certain way or lean down and a little waterfall of sweat would spill onto my chest. But that just added to the effect and overall grossness.

Here’s another Leatherface! This one is Thomas Hewitt from the remake:
That is a great fucking costume.
I also really liked this guy:
I don’t know what the heck he’s supposed to be, but I liked it. I also liked his commitment to carrying that fucking coffin around all weekend.

We met up with the Queen of Crunk, Bear, Rescue John and his new ladyfriend after dinner. The Queen and Bear were storing beverages in our room and I just now realized how misleading the names “The Queen” and “Bear” are when you put them together like that. We all did shots of Fireball that were only slightly flavored by the huge smears of lipstick all over the shot glasses. Thusly fueled, we headed back downstairs to the con area.

The only thing going on Friday night was the Monster Ball with DJ Tre. We all still clearly remembered DJ Tre from last year, but despite that we decided to check it out. It was bad. Pretty much exactly what I remembered from last year with the bad music and DJ Tre trying really hard and just not connecting. Not with me, anyway. There was one major improvement, though. Rather than some idiot in a creepy baby head mask and a diaper they had a girl with a light-up hula hoop:
And she was totally digging it. That alone made this thing about fifty percent better. But it still topped off at “Lame”, so we left.

The only other place to hang out was the Sheraton bar on the third floor. This is where the first instance (that I was aware of) of the Sheraton being King Party Pooper happened. We were asked to take our beers outside. So me and Bear went out to stand beside the pool and finish our beers and, quite frankly, the presence of authority brought me down. I am thirty-six years old and I don’t need to be told what to do when I’m on vacation. I was a paying guest of the hotel and as long as I wasn’t starting fights or breaking shit or pissing in the pool I don’t think those people should have had a word to say to me. It really irritated me.

And on that note I’m gonna close out Day Two. I lost track of where everybody else went because I had been exiled from the bar, so I went back to the room and watched something on Comedy Central until I fell asleep.

The next night would only get worse.

Come back tomorrow for part 3 - The Ghost Of Wrestling PAST!

-Phantom

2 comments:

  1. Love your mask, PT! And thank god you didn't post a pic of that Human Centipede figure. The only person worse than the creator of that movie is the one who said "hey, this needs to be an action figure!".

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    1. Thanks, man! I'm very proud of it. It turned out exactly how I had pictured it. I'm with you on the Human Centipede thing. Those movies are worthless. Not even a "so good it's bad" kind of thing.

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