Monday, September 14, 2015

Dragon Con 2015 – Phantom’s Recap Part 1 - Thursday

Dragon Con 2015 was, beyond a shadow of a doubt, the best one yet. It was a weekend full of highs, and at my lowest points I was still in a state of pure contentment. That’s as bummed as I got all weekend – completely satisfied.

Over the course of however long it takes me to recap events I am going to tell you about minor victories, moments of joy, hard work paying off, and delightful surprises the likes of which I could never have imagined. I’m going to try to be a bit more concise this year, which should be easy given the lack of disappointing factors. As my brother from another mother Mike Gordon is so fond of pointing out, I am at my best – and lengthiest, it seems – when I am complaining.

This year’s Dragon Con has left me with very little about which to complain.

Way to sell the post, Phantom.

Thursday

This year marked my earliest arrival at Con. My hotel had offered early check-in (and late check-out) for what I consider a nominal fee. It’s worth it to me to be guaranteed a room at 10 AM when there have been times in the past that I couldn’t check into certain hotels at my normal check-in time of 3 PM. When I’m at a con I’m probably traveling pretty heavy, so not being able to get into my room ASAP is a massive problem.

I arrived just after 11 AM and checked in with no issues. The clerk gave me a voucher that would allow me to go ahead and book my room for next year, so I headed over to that line. At this point in time the host hotels for Dragon Con get booked so quickly that they’re willing to grandfather guests in each year just to nail down that business. I’m sure there’s some sort of benefit to having those reservations on the book going into the next fiscal year.
This brings me to my first complaint.

I stood in line for two and a half hours to book that room. Two and a half hours. Granted, it was worth it because now I don’t have to experience the panic whenever the host hotels start opening rooms up and worry that I’m going to end up in the Sheraton or (shudder) The Westin. Or worse, one of the hotels that isn’t even a host hotel. My room is booked and that’s totally worth 2.5% of the total time I spent at Dragon Con.

However.

At the Hyatt, this year’s guests were asked if they would like to book next year when they checked in. The clerk then pushed a button and it was done. A button. No line, no voucher, no wait - a button. You may doubt the accuracy of this statement, but believe you me, sonny Jim, every single person that I knew that stayed at the Hyatt this year enthusiastically related this tale.

But that’s okay. I am booked for next year.

Once I had everything up in my room, I did what I always do when I first arrive at a con and just hung out for a few minutes, soaking the excitement and freedom in. For the next four days, the world was mine. I had panels scheduled, sure, but every minute of every day was going to be of my choosing.

After that, I chose to go to the pool to meet the Hooligans.

If you don’t know, the DCW Hooligans are a group of friends that partake in certain Dragon Con activities together. Like Dragon Con Wrestling, for instance. Because of the number of things that I do at Con now I don’t spend as much time with them as I used to, so I wanted to be sure to make it down to the pool on Thursday, the only day that I had nothing scheduled.

So let’s talk drinking.

I like to drink at Dragon Con. Alcohol. Beer, mostly, but liquor tends to sneak its way across my palate a few times every year. Fireball whisky has become a favorite of mine. Because of the aforementioned things that I do I can’t be the irresponsible drunk that I used to be and I’m surprisingly okay with that. As much fun as I have binge drinking for four days straight, it’s a lot more fulfilling actually accomplishing things and working with others to entertain. I get more personal satisfaction out of the few days of a single Dragon Con than I will have had from the entirety of my day job whenever I retire.

I had a full day scheduled for Friday this year, so I needed to pace myself on Thursday. This is something I have had problems with in the past. It’s unbelievably difficult to be responsible on the first day of vacation. You’re free, you see friends, people are in costumes, and before you know it you’re already out of whiskey.

So I pulled a single beer out of my newly filled and chilled cooler – the same Styrofoam cooler that I have been using for the past four years – and had every intention of pacing myself for the remainder of the day. I’d say it was around 2:45 PM EST at this point.
I got to the pool and spent a few minutes catching up with the Hooligans before it started raining. Since pool partying was out, I decided I’d go back to the room and mask up for my first tour of Con, culminating with a World Famous Bucket O’ Rum at the Hyatt. It was around this time that Oz – my new Con pal and Head Propmaster for The Dirty Con Game Show – slipped and broke his wrist. In two places.

Oz missed Dragon Con last year which, ironically, is how I got to know him. He fell twelve feet off of a ladder and basically exploded many of his parts. Somehow or other his dilemma came into my feed and I joined a group called “Take Oz to Dragon Con”. The idea was that everyone in the group would print up this picture of Oz’s head and we’d all bring it around and take pictures of it and with it so that Oz could live vicariously through us. I didn’t know Oz at all at the time, but it broke my fucking heart to know that anyone would miss Dragon Con in that way. So I printed and laminated an Oz head and brought it to Con with me. He followed along at home and made several comments about hating having missed our first game show, Whose EFF Is It, Anyway?. He asked if he could help out with this year’s iteration and I told him he absolutely could. Since then our game show group has become quite the little family and we ended up hanging out for a good portion of Con.

So this year, on Thursday afternoon, Oz slipped and broke his wrist. I do not know how much of this story I can or should relate for legal reasons, so I’ll keep this simple – I almost busted ass in the same area where Oz went down. It had just rained and the surface was inexcusably slick. As a matter of fact, if I hadn’t been prepared by Oz’s unfortunate story, I probably would have gone down. This area must be changed. Someone could very easily fall and hurt themselves much more severely than Oz did. And Oz broke his fucking wrist. If I can share more info at some point, I will, but for now I’ll just say that Oz went to the hospital and got a cast and was able to enjoy the rest of the weekend as much as one could with a broken wrist.

With Oz momentarily out of the picture, I decided it was Bucket O’ Rum time. I wanted to get that out of the way early. After a brief visit with Lt. Moxie, I met up with Needless Things Lead Correspondent Beth V and her husband, Mr. Tibbs.

Actually, prior to that I wasted a bunch of time trying to find the damned 22nd Floor Lounge, which is where the Bucket O’ Rum event was listed as taking place. It is not, in fact, on the 22nd floor, but in the lobby. I’m sure most of you are laughing because you already knew that, but this was my first year actually getting a Bucket O’ Rum. It was my last, as well, because they should more accurately be called “Bucket O’ Kool-Aid”. It was the weakest, most sugary “alcoholic” beverage I have ever consumed. Also I think it played a significant role in the nightmarish hangover I suffered Friday morning.

But I’ll get to that.

Trader Vic’s is the spot on Thursday night. The food might be crazy overpriced, but it is good and I always run into a ton of people I know. Barely a minute passed that I didn’t see some acquaintance or other that I don’t run into every day. The patio is always jumping, but this year there was some kind of godawful cigar party going on. The air was so thick with smoke that I could barely see (and almost literally couldn’t breathe), so I had to move out to the curb. Eventually they had a table for us and we moved inside.

I ended up on the end of the table next to some folks I didn’t know. Normally this would mean I would keep to myself or, at best, speak quietly to my nearest acquaintance. But not at Dragon Con. Nosiree. I quite clearly remember the thought, “I am going to make these people my friends!” going through my head. So I engaged them and talked about the game show and who knows what else. I had also downed a Trader Vic’s Mai Tai – second only to Hsu’s Forbidden Mai Tai – at this point, so I was definitely primed for friendship.

Side Note: You might be inclined to blame Trader Vic’s Mai Tai for my unfortunate Friday morning alongside the World Famous Bucket O’ Rum, but I assure you that Vic’s product is less a traditional mixed drink than a batch of liquors thrown into a dispenser by a crazy person. Yes, it will light you up, but it isn’t the sugary beverage that the Bucket is.

Oz showed up at one point, which made me happy. I also tracked down Mike Gordon and Cousin Bill and accosted them for several minutes during the interminable wait for my food to show up – I had the Kung Pao Chicken and it was delightful going down. Not so much coming back up later.

After dinner I was ready to party. I threw together clothes that seemed ridiculous enough to support a luchador mask and headed for the Marriott.

I did a fair amount of wandering and running into various people. It took no less than three trips through the Pulse Lounge before I found Mr. Beau Brown, but once I did I camped out and was well rewarded for it. I got to spend the countdown to Dragon Con – the annual count to midnight that takes place in the Marriott on Thursday night – in the company of a group of fantastic puppeteers, as well as Crispy and his lovely lady, who I had the pleasure of meeting for the first time. And then, just past midnight, like Cinderella arriving late for the ball, Miss Lady Flex appeared as if to reassure me that yes, Dragon Con was on like Donkey Kong and this thing was happening.

I partied a little longer, but quite frankly the night had gotten about as good as it was going to get. Of course, I had no idea what was in store.

I got back to the room and felt okay. I flossed and brushed my teeth, which are not things I always remember to do when I am inebriated to the point of hangover. I put Dragon Con TV on and laid in bed to let the beautiful sounds of dorkery lull me to sleep.

Around 5 AM I awakened with a searing pain in my head, as though there was an evil spirit in my skull. In those predawn moments I totally understood how primitive doctors thought that drilling holes in their patients’ heads was an acceptable practice. If some Victorian quack in one of those lab coats with the buttons off to the side had shown up in my room – a distinct possibility at Dragon Con – and offered to puncture my cranium, I might have agreed.

The worst part was that I wasn’t nauseous. There’s only one way – hole-drilling aside – to make the hangover go away, and if you’re not nauseous it’s a lot harder to make it happen. But through perseverance and hard work, I eventually managed to purge myself of the foul spirits that were so bedeviling me.

Several times.

By 7 AM I was pretty worn out, but felt much better. My first panel was at 11:30, but I wasn’t technically on the schedule for it. An oversight had left me off of it in the Program. So I could skip the Schwarza-Panel if I really needed to. I set the alarm for 10 AM, just in case, and drifted off.


When the alarm woke me up, rather than saying, “Fuck it”, and going back to sleep like I wanted to, I rallied. I knew that if I didn’t get up and start my first full day of Dragon Con by doing that panel I’d sleep until 3 and be pissed the rest of the weekend for wasting a morning. So I manned up, brushed my teeth (twice), and got on with it.

Be sure to check back in with Needless Things over the next few weeks for the rest of my recap, as well as more Dragon Con 2015 goodness from the Needless Things Irregulars!

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