Monday, February 11, 2013

Days of the Dead Atlanta 2013 Part 4 - The FINAL Chapter!

*WE NOW RETURN YOU TO YOUR REGULARLY SCHEDULED DAYS OF THE DEAD COVERAGE*
Okay, so where was I?
Ha! What a writing falsehood that was! Obviously I can just look up two lines to see. You, however, will need to go back to last Thursday to see that we were just arriving at Hsu’s Chinese restaurant.
We got the big table again and me, Monkey, and Lady Monkey ordered Forbidden Mai Tais again. That is a good damn beverage. Mrs. Troublemaker ordered a beer because she doesn’t play that fruity drink bullshit.
            We had a great time there. It was a good crowd with us, the Monkeys, Rescue John and his lady, Virginia Ham, and Kay and Jim. Ham told us about the worst haunted attraction in the world that basically consisted of a tunnel and some air pistons. She also mentioned that Predator is her favorite movie of all time but that she has never seen any of the sequels, which is utter insanity. I can understand skipping the Alien Versus Predator movies (which I don’t hate but they certainly aren’t good), but to not have seen Predator 2 or Predators is just damned strange. We all heartily recommended Predator 2 and had varying degrees of endorsement for Predators. I bet she still won’t have watched them by WrestleMania. I’m going to quiz her.
The food was good again and it only just now occurs to me that this is the second Saturday night we’ve been there and that place was not busy at all. It was our group and maybe a couple of other tables. That was it. Nobody at the bar and nobody came in while we were there.
I know why. It’s because of the Haunted Bathroom.
Okay, this is another one of those instances where I really should have taken pictures, but I really just wanted to get out of there so you’re going to have to deal with my words instead.
I had to pee really bad by the time we were done eating. I had been drinking beer all day, then the Forbidden Mai Tai and a couple of glasses of water at dinner. But we were having fun and everybody was being full-on funny and I didn’t want to miss anything. I also didn’t want to walk back to the hotel needing to pee, so after the (hopefully) chocolate-dipped fortune cookies I excused myself and went to look for the facilities.
The location is already weird. The restrooms are way down this narrow hallway that you have to go up a ramp to get to, and it’s tucked away behind the bar. It’s all dark and quiet. I opened the door to the Men’s Room and before I noticed anything else I saw that the setup was off. In a standard Men’s Room you have any urinals on the left and stalls on the right; regardless of the total number of receptacles. But in Hsu’s there was a urinal right in the middle with a stall on either side, and this is where things get all Silent Hill and I promise you I am not making any of this up.
The stall on the left was pitch black. The door was only slightly open, but through it the toilet almost seemed to be hunched over, waiting. Hungry. And I don’t think there was anything in there but the toilet – no toilet paper fixture, no plunger or toilet brush. No paper seat cover dispenser. Just that menacing, angry toilet.
The stall on the far right was lit slightly better but looked like a tornado had hit it. The door was wide open and there was paper all over the place. It also seemed to be affected by some sort of spatial anomaly, as the bathroom was quite small but that stall on the right seemed terribly far away and isolated somehow.
You might wonder why I’m so concerned about the stalls when I just needed to pee, but there’s something you should know about tall fellows (for the purposes of this little narrative, anyway) – we cannot use around sixty percent of the urinals in the world. Urinals come in all shapes, sizes, and heights. And if a urinal is too short you have to have really spry knees to avoid peeing all over your shoes. Now, I’m not going to draw any racist parallels between an unusually short urinal and a Chinese restaurant, but the urinal in Hsu’s Haunted Restroom was really short and simply not an option.
But those creepy fucking stalls were not an option, either. So I turned around to leave and saw the strange arrangement of paper towels on the counter between the two sinks. It was a sort of “X” and there was a dead flower sitting on top of it. So before a stark white Asian girl with greasy, black hair in her face could pop out of the mirror and groan at me I got the fuck out of there.
The host seemed surprised to see me again. He must have thought I was some kind of Superman for having survived their Haunted Restroom because he literally followed us out of the restaurant asking if we would be back and when. We said we’d be back around Dragon*Con and I kid you not I think he wrote it down. Once we were all outside I realized our party was a member short. Jim had gone back in to use the facilities. I almost rushed in to stop him, but I realized it was too late. I wasn’t going back in there. I’m not sure I saw him again that weekend. He accepted my Friend request on Facebook the other day, but I think it was from inside the Black Stall of Doom. Maybe we’ll get some of the Ghostbusters together at Dragon*Con and go back for him. That’s two projects I have for Dragon*Con now.
After dinner, my only concern for the rest of the night was seeing Fiend Without a Face. This was fine since that was the only thing really going on.
Actually, that wasn’t my only concern. Once we got back to the Sheraton we found out that they had escalated the dickery. Now they were not allowing any sort of drinking containers. They had made Bear and the Queen dump out their coffee cups. This shit was getting ridiculous and was, quite frankly, bringing down the tone of the whole affair. We had brought a stockpile of beer and I wasn’t about to pay six dollars a bottle at the bar. So I did what any rational human being in my position would do – I got together with Bear and we transformed a Pringles can into a beer-smuggling device.
It took an enormous amount of planning and measurement. There were so many considerations – how resistant to beer was the Pringles can? What was the distance between the bottom of the Pringles can and the bottom of my Miller Lite can and how would we compensate? Would the inertia of the beer pouring from the opening of the can be enough to get it into my mouth or would it dribble down inside of the Pringles can?
Just like the Mythbusters, me and Bear were going to find out.
  1. The first step was to drain a PBR tallboy can of its contents.
  2. The next step was to eat all of the Pringles potato chips, but to leave the layer of broken chips in the bottom of the can. These would soak up any excess beer that does not make it across the gap between the lip of the beer can and the lip of your face.
  3. Next we found the precise amount of crushing needed to make the PBR tallboy the same length as the distance from the bottom of the Pringles can to the bottom of the Miller Lite can when the top of the Miller Lite can was aligned with the top of the Pringles can, but not exceeding the edge. The lid of the Pringles can would still need to fit on top.
  4. Then we inserted the PBR can – top-up so as not to spill the backwash into the Pringles can – into the Pringles can.
  5. Then the Miller Lite can was inserted.
  6. Once that was done I was able to place the Pringles lid back on and remove it to drink as needed. I wedged my lip into the gap between the Miller Lite can and the Pringles can to maximize the flow of beer into my mouth and prevent any from dribbling into the Pringles can and weakening its integrity.
Success! It was time to go to the rock show.
We went back downstairs to find that not only had the Sheraton posted their own security outside of the ballroom where the show was, there were also Atlanta cops there. This was really getting absurd and I seriously considered just going to bed. They were checking everybody that came in. Not only that, they were checking IDs to make sure everybody was 21 and issuing wristbands. Obviously this didn’t present a problem for me, but I did not approve. I switched my Pringles can to the hand furthest away from the cop and was thankful they didn’t search my beer bag.
We went in and found Ham and Kay and I did my best to not look like I was chugging beer out of a Pringles can.
Fiend Without A Face was great and Brent Hinds was playing the biggest guitar I have ever seen live in my life. It was absurd. But they were just as good as I remembered and it made me wish I owned some of the music.
Chambers of Horror were doing their Wheel of Torture thing again after Fiend Without A Face finished, but I was just too frustrated and annoyed by the heavy security/police presence to stick around. It was a bunch of overbearing, authoritarian nonsense and was totally unnecessary. We went up to the bar and hung out with Beau and Sally for a while and met a couple of new folks that were pretty cool. Bear and the Queen showed up with Mikey, who I ended up talking to about music for a while; something I haven’t done in a long time. I went back to the room to ditch the mask – a sure sign that I was over things – and brought some Twizzlers back with me. And thank goodness I did, because it gave an extra twenty minutes or so of excellent entertainment.
Virginia Ham was drunk. Really drunk. As I wrangled the first delicious, red vine out of the bag I heard her say, “No – don’t do that,” and I just sort of looked at her. She had an expression of pure disgust on her face. Wow. I shoved the whole Twizzler in my mouth and smiled at her and said,” Huh?” and she flipped out. She just kept begging me not to eat any more Twizzlers, so of course I offered them to everybody at the table. A few took the tasty treats and Ham looked at all of us in horror and began to describe what Twizzlers are made of. I don’t care if Twizzlers are made of goat scrotums and old rubber bands – they’re delicious.
So we were sitting there eating Twizzlers and Ham was growing more and more upset with each bite. So naturally I chased her around with one and then threw it on her neck:
This is pretty much why she left and went back to her room. I would have felt bad if it weren’t so fucking funny. I stuck around for a little while after that, but I was done. Knowing we wouldn’t be able to just wander around and freely drink and do our con thing had sucked all of the fun out of being there. At that point I just wanted to make sure everything was packed and be able to get up early so we could check out, pick up Lil’ Troublemaker, and get to the Atlanta Comic Convention. Mrs. Troublemaker stayed at the bar and hung out for a while and I went back to the room.
Before I got to the room it occurred to me that I had a mission. And that mission was to leave a pentagram made of Twizzlers in front of Ham’s hotel room door. I ran over there with my half-empty bag of cherry confection, hoping I had enough. There was some wobbly redneck standing down the hall and he watched me as I squatted down and arranged licorice. I don’t know what he thought, but I gave him a story. As soon as I was done, I posted this on Facebook:

I got up early the next morning and loaded the car. While I was out in the parking lot I got to hear the church bells from across the street, which was really cool. I am not typically up at that time on a Sunday morning when I am downtown.
We didn’t even bother doing another run-through of the con. Both of us just wanted to get to the Atlanta Comic Con, which I’ll briefly cover in a moment. First I want to give my general impressions of Days of the Dead:

The guests were all fantastic. Everybody was very nice and more than willing to chat and hang out. The selection was good, as well.
The Dealer Room was solid. I liked the amount of homemade merchandise there. It made it seem much more special. The internet has definitely taken away some of the impact of your average Dealer Room, so it’s important to have a big variety of interesting stuff to make them seem exciting. I feel like Days of the Dead succeeded there.
The actual, physical setup was solid. The Dealer Room seemed to have plenty of space, as did the Guest Rooms. The ballroom they used for all of the events was large enough to fit everybody comfortably. And the proximity of the rooms to the events was fine. Everything was easy to find and get to.
As I have mentioned, the Sheraton cast a heavy shadow over the whole thing. They created problems for the Dealers by double-booking the room. Originally the Dealers were supposed to be able to set up on Thursday evening. Instead they had to do it starting at 1 PM on Friday, three hours before the VIP pass holders were allowed to enter. I don’t know if you’ve ever set up a booth, but three hours is not enough time. On top of that they would not allow the Dealers to park in the driveway of the hotel to unload. I spoke to a couple of them that had to park at parking lots a block away and make several trips to get all of their wares. This is absolutely inexcusable. I’m sure the people running the con felt like Lando dealing with Vader – the deal kept getting worse all the time.
I can’t even explain the drinking restrictions. I have partied in and around the Sheraton and have never experienced such bullshit. That’s what ruined it for me, personally. Take this as you will, but a large part of the fun of a 24/7 con is drinking. Take that away and you might as well be at a day con.
In talking to the Dealers at the show I naturally mentioned Needless Things, and one of them volunteered this via e-mail as a sort of different perspective on everything that went on. They prefer to remain anonymous:

The general consensus between the vendors I talked to was that this year had more people and a higher attendance than last year.  However sales seemed to be down across the board compared to last year. Some theories as why more people equaled less money were the change in date and the change in venue.  The convention was over a month earlier than last year which meant it was a only month after Christmas and before most people get their tax refund check.  This could mean less money in people's pockets.  The venue last year was secluded but that also meant that the weekend guests were stuck there the entire time.  Being stuck could've meant walking through the vendor room more often and potentially seeing more things and buying more stuff.  The layout and signage could've been a bit better.  Unfortunately a few attendees mentioned that they didn't realize there was even a vendor room until Sunday. Any savvy attendee should realize there's a vendor room but I think additional signage and better layout could've improved things.  The weekend started out a little rough with the load in being confusing and problematic.  The load in time changed multiple times with short notice.  The hotel and convention seemed to be on different pages as the last thing the vendors heard was 1pm and the hotel was turning people away because they said you couldn't load in until 2pm.  While an hour doesn't sound like a big deal, the negative way the hotel treated vendors as they arrived as what they thought was on time and the fact that they were supposed to be set up by 4:30 made for a rough start to the weekend.  Between the con, the hotel, and the sales, I heard a few vendors mention they were doubtful for a return appearance next year.

I hadn’t thought too much about it, but the thing about the date is a good point. While I had managed to sock away some cash in anticipation of Days of the Dead, I still hadn’t recovered from the holidays enough to want to spend it. I was still in Maximum Savings Mode. I didn’t even spend half of what I took down there and I was in a place surrounded by old toys, great art, and puzzle boxes.
While we had plenty of fun down at Days of the Dead, it was attributable more to our company than the con. We spent the whole weekend with a bunch of awesome people. We would have had fun in a warehouse. And we would have been able to drink unimpeded there, so it might have actually been better. The attractions offered by the con itself were fine, but overall they were outweighed by the negatives that the Sheraton imposed. I can’t imagine that DOTS will return to the Sheraton next year, but if they do we will be treating it as a day con if we go at all.
Speaking of day cons, after we picked Lil’ Troublemaker up we headed to the Marriot Century Plaza to attend the best one day show in Atlanta – the Atlanta Comic Con. It was one year ago at this very con that I first hooked up with the Earth Station One crew and sowed the seeds for my Z-grade internet fame of podcasting.
We hung out with Mike, Bobby, and Mike a little bit and naturally bought some stuff. I was lucky enough to score a Nien Nunb and (other) from the internet-exclusive Vintage Collection wave. I bought Lil’ Troublemaker a gigantic Leonardo.
He is way into Ninja Turtles right now, which works out well for me.
I also got one of the shirts they were giving away:
I dig it. Baby blue might not be my thing, but free certainly is.
That’s about it. Now I’m trying to decide if we want to go over to Conooga for a day in March. The ESO crew will be there and form what I understand it isn’t a bad drive. And we have all this money left over from Days of the Dead…
Come back tomorrow for review of Netossa, Wednesday for the DC Signature Collection Lead, Thursday for an extra-special Valentine’s Day post, and Friday for my Toy Fair 2013 recap, which I'll be doing a podcast about as well. That should be up late next week.

-Phantom

P.S. - Ham got me back:
Deviltry!

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