Thursday, September 5, 2013

Dragon Con 2013: Day 1

Well, Dragon Con 2013 is all over now and I am back at work. A lot of people posted about the post-Con blues on Monday night and Tuesday, but my blues didn’t hit until I woke up at 3:30 this morning and realized that the magical experience that I had this past weekend was over and that dull reality was inevitable. 
 
Being able to spend some relaxing time with my family on Monday and Tuesday kept my spirits high. So did the fact that this year’s Con was satisfying and productive in a way that dwarfed the feelings of accomplishment I had after Dragon Con 2012. Everything was bigger and better.

But I’ll get to all of that over the next few days. For now, I have to start at the beginning. I have to start with Thursday night when I pulled into the Hilton garage and entered the alternate reality known as 
 
Dragon Con

Day One – Thursday
Remember when I said I wouldn’t be staying at Con on Thursday night again? Well, that turned out to be a big, fat lie.

I realized early last week that it was simply impractical for me to go back home on Thursday night. I had two parties to attend and also had arranged for early check-in at the hotel (the clever bastards had figured out that they could charge $25 extra dollars to guarantee a pre-3 PM time). So I would be driving back home around midnight and returning around 8 AM. It was ridiculous.

First I called the hotel to see if I could book Thursday like I had last year. But it was too late. Next I texted Evil to see if I could crash in their room. He said no problem. Whew. 
 
My whole problem with Thursday night last year was that I had been too excited to be at Dragon Con already and had gotten thoroughly shitfaced. I slept late on Friday and missed out on the stuff I normally do when I first arrive. I had a plan for this year, though. I didn’t carry beer with me. This meant that I would have to buy anything I wanted to drink. Since I was lighter on cash this year than I usually am, I shouldn’t have a problem resisting the urge.

My first stop after parking was Evil and Lady Evil’s hotel room. I left most of my stuff in the trunk of the Phantomobile, but there was no room in there for my suitcase and there was just too much stuff in my suitcase to leave it out there. I ran into the lovely Lady Abigor in the elevator. I’m always surprised when I see somebody I know at Con. This is a convention consisting of around 50,000 people spread out over five hotels and an event center. How the heck is it even possible that I would just happen to run into an acquaintance? But it happens a lot.

When I got to their room all of the Hooligans were there looking suitably hammered. We were all going to Trader Vic’s in a bit, but I had to go get my badge and check in at the American Sci-Fi Classics Track Party. I had seen the line for registration at the Sheraton when I drove in and it was crazy. Fortunately, I had been accepted as a Media Representative for this year and had a different destination – the Hyatt Regency, in… the… basement.

Well, not really the basement, but a lower level that I don’t think I’ve ever been to before.
I ran into my ESO mates Mike G. and Bobby outside of the Marriott. We had a brief discussion about our hopes and dreams for the future (three days) and then I continued on my trek into the Hyatt, where I saw my very first costume of Con:
Not a dead ringer, but a totally solid first costume and pretty well done, at that. I was pleased. Both with the costume and with the fact that I remembered to take a picture of the momentous first costume. Yeah – I’m sure I passed some people that were dressed up on my walk from the Hilton, but this was a for-real costume.

I reported to the Greenbriar Room where two incredibly nice ladies got me checked in and badged up. I signed some paperwork, attached my badge to my trusty Anthrax Army lanyard, and thanked them very much. That turned out to be the one and only advantage I got out of my Media Badge. Don’t; get me wrong – I’m not knocking the Media Pass. If I hadn’t already paid and if I had requested more than one interview and if I operated in the same ways as a normal journalist; I’m sure it would have been super. But it turned out that it wasn’t really my thing. The stuff I do can be done without a yellow ribbon pointing me out to people. Plus, I had to cover up my real name because they don’t put pseudonyms on Press Badges:
My next destination was the Track Party. Gary Mitchel and Joe Crowe are the guys that run the American Sci-Fi Classics Track. My work with Director Faber is what got me on the Track last year and my general awesomeness is what got me invited back and given my very own panels to run this year. Gary and Joe are both smart (obviously) and supportive guys that I have maintained contact with over the last year through the magic of Facebook and podcasting. I was really excited to see Gary and Joe in person again.

But first I had to find them, and let me tell you – rooms 303-304 on the Marriott Marquis Level are not the easiest rooms to find. I knew exactly what level they were located on and felt like I was looking for the TARDIS swimming pool. The 100 and 200 rooms were clearly labeled with big, light-up signs and even video monitors. I reasoned that the 300 rooms would be across the floor in the same locations – the corners. I had familiarized myself with the floor plan by looking at the map from the Pocket Program while putting together my schedule, but my memory seemed to be failing me. No biggie, though – I could simply load up the trusty Dragon Con Mobile App and check it out again.

Product Review – Dragon Con 2013 Mobile App

I didn’t actually need to use the app much this year since I pretty much knew where and when everything I was doing was, but the few times I did need it the app was useless.
As I stated in Shaun Rosado’s Survival Tips post, every time you open the app it will want to update or sync or whatever. If you have a good signal this isn’t a big deal and only takes a few seconds. If you do not have a signal you just have this loading icon on your screen.

Side Note: I found out late Sunday night that you can back out of this screen and still use the app. I think I knew this last year, but there was no indication of that within the program, so I didn’t remember. Plus, like I said – I didn’t need the app that much.

Here are the things I tried to use the app for and found it to not be useful:
  • Finding the American Sci-Fi Classics Room (loading issue)
  • Looking up the DC*TV channel for my hotel (could not find the information)
  • Finding an artist’s table in the Comic and Pop Art Room (could not find the information)
  • Seeing where the Sylvester McCoy/Peter Davison panel was being held (event details page would not load)
  • Rating panels (has produced an error message every time I try to rate a panel – is still occurring now. And no – I am not trying to rate my own panels.)
I found the 2013 app to be essentially useless. I was disappointed because I used the heck out of the previous two years’ versions. 
 
This is just my experience. I have read positive things about the app on Facebook, so apparently there are people who were happy with it. And in its defense, cell signals were the worst I have ever seen on Friday and Saturday. There were times when I couldn’t even get a signal outside in a clear space. I could usually get one in my room, but not always. Dragon Con appears to have some sort of sponsorship with Comcast judging from the Masquerade Ball prizes. I’d say they need to get some sponsored signal boosters for next year.

Side Note: I just said “signal boosters” like that’s actually a thing and I know what I’m talking about.

I’m not going to give the app hard rating because I wasn’t trying to use everything that it can do. But it wasn’t able to do the few things I did need from it.

For next year I would suggest it incorporate the same sort of functionality for Facebook that it has for Twitter. The “Friends” feature is nearly useless. We’d all be better served with a Facebook connection. 
 
Hey, at least it supports Google+!

BWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!

****

Okay, back to business. Or non-business.

After three or four complete circuits of the Marquis Level I finally located the Track Room – behind the FedEx office and the shitter. I do not normally use the word “shitter”, but by the end of the weekend there was an abundance of olfactory evidence that could simply not be denied. I don’t know if pipes got backed up or what, but the smell outside of the Track room was so brutal it was even overwhelming the traditional Dragon Con Herd Scent. It occurred to me at one point that if you got tired enough of the combined stench of body odor, patchouli, and body paint that typifies the Con experience; you could simply step into that corridor and be bombarded by the even more offensive poo odor for awhile. Afterward the Herd Scent would seem like sweet relief.

Okay, maybe not. But it sure wouldn’t seem as bad.

The first thing I saw upon setting foot in the Track Room was that I was actually setting foot into some sort of pile of green felt. No, it wasn’t Kermit the Frog. That’s a different Track. This was a tiny felt lawn that had been set in front of the door so that a lady dressed up as an old lady could yell, “GET OFF MY LAWN!” It was actually pretty funny, but I was not in full-on Entertainer Mode yet so it just sort of bewildered me.

Fortunately Gary Mitchel came to my rescue and said, “Welcome to the Over 40 Party!”
That was the theme of the party because most of what the American Sci-Fi Classics Track encompasses is older stuff. Granted, it’s not all that old, but it was a funny theme. I gave Gary a big ol’ hug and immediately realized I was super hungry. I had planned on hanging out at the party for a while, but Trader Vic’s was beckoning. I had to go. 
 
I had never been to Trader Vic’s before last Thursday. I knew it was some kind of Tiki-themed place, and I now know that it is the birthplace of the Mai Tai. I know this because Little Pond told me approximately one hundred and forty times over the course of the weekend. Every time I mentioned Mai Tais – which to be fair ended up being fairly often – she would tell me about Trader Vic’s inventing the Mai Tai. She was like a little, ginger Drunkipedia. I’m not sure I saw her sober all weekend.

Trader Vic’s occupies an entire floor in the lower portion of the Hilton. When I stepped out of the elevator I was greeted by two large Tiki heads. It was impressive and a sight I had not been prepared for. I honestly thought Trader Vic’s was just a bar. I even asked Mike G. and Bobby how big it was because pretty much everybody I knew was planning on meeting there. They said it was a big place and they were right.

The first people I saw when I walked into the restaurant proper were Rescue John and his lady. John had a fancy mug in his hand and was pretty clearly on his way to being properly lit. He highly recommended some kind of coffee drink that they set on fire. It’s what had come in the fancy mug he was now holding. While there wasn’t one part of that that didn’t sound appealing to me, I had to have a Mai Tai. 
 
The bar was packed. Not as packed as it could have been, but packed enough that I knew I was going to be waiting a minute. I was a bit shocked to see that the signature mixed drinks being offered that night were in big dispensers behind the bar – like the ones that cafeterias serve iced tea out of. But the second I realized that this was going to speed up the serving process I was okay with it. I think there were four of these containers – Mai Tai, two I can’t remember, and Pan-Galactic Gargle Blaster. I wanted one of the latter pretty badly, but this was Trader Vic’s and I had to have a Mai Tai. Also, I think Little Pond might have punched me if I had gotten anything else; what with her slightly mad devotion.

Eventually I was served a plastic cup full of various alcohols. Rescue John was very disappointed on my behalf that the place had run out of their signature mugs and given me a regular glass, but I didn’t care. I just wanted a drink. And I got a drink. That thing cleared out my sinuses like a mofo. The only beverage I’ve ever had that was stronger than the Trader Vic’s Mai Tai was whatever the bartender at Mary’s gave me last Christmas. That thing didn’t even qualify as a beverage. I’m pretty sure the FDA would classify it as Yak Sedative.

I decided this mighty Mai Tai was going to be my one and only drink for the evening.
As I look back on my evening in Trader Vic’s, I am utterly confused by the setup. I ran into Rescue John and Ashley, Beau and Sally and Alex, Little Pond, Gnoll and his new lady, and Indrid and Jonathan and Shane all in different places that were not the bar, the eating portions, or the deck. This was the first of two places I would go that seemed – if you’ll excuse the expression – bigger on the inside.

All of the Hooligans were out on the deck waiting to be seated. It was pretty clear that everybody had enjoyed a Mai Tai. Dragon Con had begun.

I ended up talking to a table full of extremely drunk dudes about Monstrosity Championship Wrestling. Actually, I have to say that I’m very proud of the amount of promotion I did for all of my various pursuits over the weekend. I gave out a ton of my brand-new business cards, I talked up the site and wrestling, and I gave out most of Billy’s cards as well. Here’s the thing – when I’m done with a panel, I tell everybody I have cards up front and to please take one. Up until this year at Dragon Con only a couple of people would come up and do so. But at all of my panels this year a large number of folks did a run by the table to grab a card. And even better, they wanted to hang out and chat after the panel. 
 
Again – I’ll get to all of that.

Every ten minutes or so Little Pond would stomp up to the front of the restaurant and ask about our table. And every ten minutes or so she would stomp back to us and say they had told her ten more minutes. We did eventually get seated, but I looked at my fancy, new Batman watch at one point and realized that despite having an 8:30 reservation it was after 10 PM and we had not eaten yet. I was oddly okay with that. I was having a nice time talking to Matt, Soozie, and K-Dawg at our table (we had several small tables rather than one big one) and Gnoll’s new lady was a hoot.

Restaurant Review: Trader Vic’s in the Hilton Atlanta

It took a long time to get seated and served, but there were easily eight million people in that place. I’m not taking points away for that. Well, maybe a couple since we did have a reservation.

The Mai Tais were, indeed, excellent. The staff was courteous and friendly. Our waitress was very good. I had no trouble ordering a second Mai Tai (yes, I know – shut up about it).
I ordered fried prawns as my meal and they were easily the best fried prawns I have ever had. I mean, I’ve consumed absolute metric tons of shrimp, but I’ve never had prawns. They were the bee’s knees (or is it bees’ knees?). They came with a hot mustard that made a sweat break out on my forehead but that didn’t linger.

The atmosphere was perfect. Dim lighting and low music made it easy to converse and enjoy a meal.

The prices were a tad on the ridiculous side, but what I had was worth it.

I give Trader Vic’s a 7473.

****

After dinner we went to see a band called Grandpa’s Cough Syrup. They were playing very good bluegrass, but it just wasn’t the right thing for Dragon Con. Not for me, anyway. There were better things to see.

Like that, for example.

At some point in the evening I ran into these two incredibly nice dudes and their lady friend. The three of them were extremely young but extremely nice. I qualify that by pointing out that they kept feeding me beer for some reason. I was all like, “No, no – I can’t drink too much tonight! Lot’s to do tomorrow!” and they were all like, “Here’s another PBR, dude!”
It would have been rude to refuse them.

Once I caught back up with the Hooligans we hung out in our regular spot for awhile and just looked at people, including this girl that had made a Knifehead mask:
Not the Pacific Rim costume I was expecting to see.

Sooner than later it was time for bed. I knew I wanted to get up at 7 AM so I could be ready to check in to my room at 8, so I went up to the Evil’s room and crashed out.

-Phantom

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