It was one week ago today that I was headed up to Dragon*Con for what I had promised would be my last one.
And after Dragon*Con 2014, I plan to keep that promise.
Not that I’m saying I didn’t have fun. I did. How could I not have fun hanging out with a bunch of my fellow weirdos, seeing people I have immense respect for (Terry flippin’ Gilliam) talk about their passions? All in an environment that encourages 24/7 partying?
Dragon*Con is fun. There is no doubt about that.
The problem is this: Is it fun enough to outweigh the costs?
And I don’t mean a monetary amount, although that is part of it. Dragon*Con costs me and my buddy about $1,000/each to attend every year, between the hotel room, tickets, drinks, food, and various sundries. Is it worth $1,000? I clearly thought so five years ago, so what has changed?
Well, for one, I have changed.
But I also think Dragon*Con has changed, too.
Thursday, August 28th
If you followed my old blog, “Fit for Dragon*Con”, and remember my Dragon*Con 2013 recap, you know that I drive all the way over to Pensacola to pick up my official Dragon*Con Buddy. It’s out of the way, I know, but now it is tradition.
We went to our usual breakfast: Chik Fil’A, which is also tradition now. Last year I got something that was, basically, everything they had in the kitchen on a bagel. I never go to Chik Fil’A, but on Dragon*Con Thursday, it is a must for a late breakfast. This year I got a breakfast burrito, which actually wasn’t that bad. It came with a side of “fruit” which was almost entirely made up of chopped apples.
Apples fucking suck. Fuck apples.
Then it was on the road up to Auburn, where me and Dragon*Con Buddy (DCB, from now on) went to college. We had plans to meet up with some old cronies at a restaurant that almost all of our friends worked at, at one time or another, including me.
I ordered a salad. Because I am a gross fatass.
The food was good, and we had some beers. I was sorely disappointed that the only Abita they had was Purple Haze.
Speaking of beers, I remember when I was in college, this place was known for having a ton of obscure beer. In 2000, this meant they had about 12 taps that were loaded with imported beers. Obscure shit like “Guinness” and “Stella Artois”.
It’s weird now to think back to those times, what with the craft beer boom and whatnot.
We made it to Atlanta (Falcon Country, which kinda grosses me out) without any problems, but when we went to our hotel…
See, we’ve stayed at the Marriott (a host hotel) for the past few years, but this year I was unable to snag a room within the 3 seconds they were available. I blame my geriatric computer I was using at the time which, instead of transferring my credit card information in a timely fashion, sat down on the internet ethereal couch and pooped all over itself.
You can imagine my reaction to that. I almost took its Metamucil ass outside and beat it into a million pieces with a hammer.
As soon as I realized I wasn’t getting a room at the Marriott, I began scrambling for a room elsewhere, preferably within walking distance of the Con.
I got one, but it was at the “Holiday Inn Centennial Park” and it was actually more expensive than the Marriott and several blocks from the action.
Once we got to the Holiday Inn, there was a problem with our reservation, which is always frustrating, especially after navigating hellish Dragon*Con/Football traffic. I won’t get into it though, because a blog about how terrible traffic is and hotel problems is about as much fun to read as a blog about fitness.
The next part of our trip was, personally, one of my favorite moments.
We rolled up to the Sheraton, where in previous years we’d waited in line for hours to get our Dragon*Con badges.
That was not the case this year. We were ushered in by some friendly nerdlingers and waited in line for a grand total of about 10 minutes before we stumbled out a little bewildered by what had just happened. “Did we really just get our badges in 10 minutes??? Really??? I bet any minute someone is gonna come out here and take them from us for some unknown reason.”
It was awesome. I don’t know what they changed, but somehow they had spun gold out of a hairball.
It was then time for another Dragon*Con tradition: meeting some Atlanta friends at Trader Vic’s in the basement of the Hilton.
Trader Vic’s is a famous tiki bar. Not sure if you knew that.
It’s always a moderately bad idea to meet here on Dragon*Con Thursday. However, it does get you acclimated, immediately, to what the rest of your weekend is going to be like.
It’s crowded. So crowded you can’t really move, actually.
It’s expensive. A gin & tonic and a beer: $20.
Atlanta, you are Atlanta. Not New York.
They also have the same band every year, who thinks they’re real clever by playing ironic cover songs. Dumb.
I spent the rest of the evening, and coincidentally, the rest of the weekend, swigging from my flask of Scotch. I think that’s why I can always remember Thursday so clearly: it’s the only day that I spend completely sober for almost the whole day.
Oh, I almost forgot: we decided on Thursday to go home on Sunday. Mostly to save a little money, but also so we could have Labor Day to do whatever we wanted to do, besides spending our holiday driving home. In retrospect, this was one of the best decisions of my life.
Friday, August 29th thru Sunday, August 31st
I know, I know.
I’d like to do a day-by-day breakdown, but I honestly can’t really remember all the things we did. Dragon*Con is always such a blur of activity and drinking that I can never recollect what we did, or when we did it.
I know on Friday we saw Patrick Stewart, who I kept referring to as “Mon Capitan Jean-Luc Picard” in a dirty French accent. I’m sure this got annoying, but it was a case of, “I am drunk. You did not laugh as much as I think you should. Therefore, I will repeat myself until I get the reaction I deserve.”
Patrick Stewart was really only one of two “must-see” people this year at Dragon*Con for me. My buddy and I saw a Next Generation panel (almost everyone but Picard) a few years ago that was kind of a bust. One of the panelists got miffed and walked out. That was a bummer, but Levar Burton and Brent Spiner were great.
On Friday we also went to a panel for “Snydecast“, which is a podcast featuring one of the funniest motherfuckers to ever walk the Earth: Dana Snyder, who does the voice of Master Shake on ATHF and Granny on Squidbillies, two of my favorite shows.
A few years back, Dana was part of the greatest panel I have ever seen in my entire life. It was an ATHF panel where they had puppets and did a reading from the show, but the best part was when they turned Dana Snyder loose with a Granny puppet to interact with the crowd. It was hilarious, it was crass, it was creative… it was everything you could ever want from a panel.
I also learned during this Snydecast panel that they are part of “Drunk On Disney”, which as a guy who loves WDW and loves drinking, found relevant to interests. In fact, I drank my way through this panel. Discreetly, so as to avoid being called out by the panelists, which they made clear they were all about.
Try as I may, I could not avoid detection forever, and ended up being front and center in a video Dana Snyder shot for his wife.
After the Snydecast panel, we got in line for a Battlestar Galactica panel. I made a lame joke about, “It’s not Dragon*Con if we don’t go to at least one BSG panel!”
We’ve been to a BSG panel every year, but we’d never seen Tricia Helfer (aka #6), or Kate Vernon, who was also going to be there.
All in all, it was a fairly mediocre panel, but like a lot of my Dragon*Con experiences this year, it was probably just sourpuss, glass half empty, me. But I can’t help but compare it with the first BSG panel we went to, where Edward James Olmos led the crowd in a “So say we all!” cheer.
I also never got the nerve to ask my question. A question that I’ve had planned for years now, but have never gotten up the nuts to ask at the panel…
“Mr. Richard Hatch, if Tom Zarek’s rebellion had succeeded, do you think he would have made a better president than Gaius Baltar?”
Mr. Hatch, if you’re out there, feel free to respond, that would make my month. Anyone else is also free to weigh in, of course.
That night we made a mistake and decided to go to a panel that was called “Celebrity Improv”, because it featured James Urbaniak and Dana Snyder, along with a couple guys from MST3K.
A sure shot, right? Wrong.
We thought it would be the funny famous people doing improv. Instead, we got one funny famous person at a time, paired with two guys who were not nearly as good, with the whole thing hosted by another unfunny guy that reminded me of all the dudes who were really into anime when I was in high school. At the end we were supposed to vote on which “celebrity” did the best job. I refrained from voting because I felt like all the genuinely funny people had been dealt a bad hand to deal with, and couldn’t really turn it loose like they maybe would have been capable of doing if they’d all been together at once.
On Saturday, after almost getting trampled while trying to make our way through the parade crowd, we saw Terry Gilliam, a hero of mine for several reasons. He’s hilarious, he has a unique vision (which sometimes can be boiled down to, “What is reality, really?”), and I feel like he’s a genuine diy success story. I love seeing uncompromising artists succeed because it makes my innate stubbornness seem sorta legit.
He talked, mostly, about his new film, “The Zero Theorem”, but he also spoke a bit about his white whale, “Don Quixote”, which was very interesting.
Saturday night, we went to the “GONZO Quiz Show”. We pondered exactly what was so “gonzo” about it. Was Gonzo the Great going to show up? Hunter S. Thompson’s ghost, maybe? Or maybe the questions were all going to be about Gonzo.
In the end, gonzo, of course, just meant it was gonna be “cuh-razy”.
You would think we would have learned our lesson from the night before. The lesson being that a bunch of funny people, thrown together with random unfunny people, does not a great panel make.
However! Doc Hammer was there, and he pretty much carried the whole show. I know this is a dumb, sophomoric question, but I really wonder what sorts of drugs are Doc Hammer’s favorite. My buddy said “prescription pills” while I leaned more towards the party end of things with “c-c-c-c-cocaine”.
The Quiz Show was better than the improv, mostly because of Doc Hammer and the host was better, also.
While all this was going on, I somehow found time to get souvenirs.
I got a couple of Warehouse 13 autographs for a tattoo artist friend of mine, who said he would tattoo me for free, in exchange for Warehouse 13 shwag.
I got Bob Camp, creator of “Ren & Stimpy” to autograph a print for my wife, who is a big fan.
I got a few Frazetta prints because they were 3 for $20 on quality paper.
I also got a screenprint poster from a guy in the Artist Alley for my wife, and got him to sign it.
Every year, before Dragon*Con, I say I am going to take a lot of pictures, and I never do. Partly because I’m just too busy to stop and snap photos, but mostly because I’m not the kind of guy who is going to take someone’s picture without asking, or receiving consent in the form of “I’m gonna stand here and pose while you all take pictures of me in my costume”. Since I don’t talk to strangers, this results in very few pictures.
But, what few I did take, I will now share with you….
This next one is my personal favorite costume photo, that I took. I like it because the guy is just some dude. I mean, he’s not a professional costume maker/designer, but he wanted to be Godzilla really bad, so he got together some foam rubber and made it happen. That’s the kind of costumes I like the most. The ones that are somewhere between “crappy store-bought whatever” and “movie-quality realism”. The ones with a heart and a soul, that some fan just spent a year putting together, and it’s still not perfect.
I caught this guy in the lobby of our hotel and he was super nice. Godspeed, Gojira.
Aaaaand here’s a few pics from the Dragon*Con parade, taken from the safety of a parking garage after spending one of the worst 20 minutes of my life trying to get through the crowd.
Um, as you can see, I like the ECTO-1. It was definitely the highlight of the parade, for me. The last pic is of one of the few actual “floats” from the parade, and it was sponsored by a local haunted attraction. It was awesome and had glowy jack-o-lanterns all over it.
Overall, we had fun. We left on Sunday and I was glad because I was fed up with the heat, the crowds, our crappy hotel (the tv didn’t work half the time), and the lack of things that I wanted to do.
I really think it’s mostly a case of Dragon*Con burnout. We never ran into anyone that was a jerk (like that one year) or anything. It just felt, this year, like the expense and hassle was just simply not worth it.
– Hotel was too expensive and kinda shitty (after taxes and parking, about $350/night. I could stay in the Contemporary at Walt Disney World for that much.) Plus, having to walk 2 or 3 blocks to the action was extremely inconvenient when we’re used to having our room upstairs to visit whenever we need a flask refill or a little respite from everything.
– Too crowded. ‘Nuff said.
– Too hot. For some reason, I felt like I was covered in sweat for 3 days.
However, despite these things, we did have fun, but I think that has more to do with hanging out with good friends than with Dragon*Con.
Oh! And speaking of hanging with good friends, I finally got to meet my buddy Brandmed in person at Dragon*Con! Brandmed and I have been “internet friends” for a few years now, having met on X-Entertainment, which was Dinosaur Dracula before Dinosaur Dracula. Brandmed and I have been trying to meet up at Dragon*Con the last few years, but it never seemed to work out. This year, however, one of the main highlights of my experience was meeting him and his sweet wife in person!
Here we are!
The internet is a weird place, but I know I’m not telling you anything. It can be so awesome, when you meet people like Brandon or WillBill, but then you hear catfishy horror stories all the time. I think people my age and older are at a higher risk of this than others. We didn’t grow up with the internet. It became a thing when we were adults, so we don’t really know any better, which can be good sometimes, but could also land you in some shit if you’re not careful.
Anyway, friend, it’s time to wrap this up. Both this post and my brief love affair with Dragon*Con. I’m ready to move on, which is obviously why I changed domains.
You may say that I’m too hard on Dragon*Con, or that I’m old and bitter, and you’d be right. Dragon*Con is awesome, if it’s for you. If you’re young and semi-nerdy and like to party. But it’s just not for me anymore.
I’m also ready, in more immediate terms, to move on into the Halloween season with this blog. Dragon*Con has acted as my “summer closer” for years now, and it will this year also. Time for pumpkin spice, ghost stories, sweatshirts, and Saints football.
I also think that if I have to type “Dragon*Con” one more time, I may kill myself. That asterisk is just too cumbersome for my hen-pecking fingers to get to.
Dude, getting to finally hang out with you was one of the highlights of my Con too. I showed this to Elizabeth and she said “someone else thinks I’m sweet too.” I wish we could have hung out more. As we were leaving, she asked me where you lived. She said too bad it wasn’t closer. I agree.
I’ve always gone to a BSG panel too, but not this year. I wanted to go the one on Sunday with Mary McDonnell, but I skipped to go to a Sleepy Hollow fan panel instead. I’m glad I did. That panel was good, and my DCB and his wife went and he said it was boring and more of the same. There are only so many funny stories from the set you can hear about a show.
For the last few years, I’ve done more of the big ballroom panels and a few of the smaller track room sized panels. This year, I said I was deliberately choosing the smaller ones. For the most part, they’re just more fun. I went to some great panels on the horror track on Sleepy Hollow, American Horror Story, and a Q&A with Voltaire. Some of my favorite panels were on the Classics track with stuff about 80s toys and the Ninja Turtles. If you ever do go back to Dragon Con, you should make it a point to attend some smaller panels.
Dana Snyder is hilarious. I love Drunk on Disney and was disappointed I missed their live panel. The program listed it weird. I did get to meet him and the other guy on Saturday. I saw the Venture Brothers panel on Sunday, despite only recently having started watching it on Netflix (I’ve seen 4 episodes). It was still a fun panel.
I was at the Patrick Stewart panel on Friday. Now I’ve seen the entire TNG cast at Dragon Con and I don’t feel any need to wait in long lines to see them anymore. For the big ballroom, my favorite panel was James Gunn. Unlike the actors who are usually on these things, he could and did answer questions about the creation of the movie. He was super nice and fun. And it helps that I went by myself. I would have been seated near the back of the Atrium ballroom but I lucked out and they were filling those single seats that are reserved for wheelchair companions. I got move up to the center section of the second row.
That asterisk is annoying which is why I’m glad they officially dropped it with all the rebranding in the wake of finally getting rid of Kramer. I don’t like the new logo though. I like that old purple dragon with the earring.
I’ll be perfectly honest. I will probably be back to DragonCon. It just may take me a few years of being away from it and recuperating from the crowds and heat.
This year we didn’t hit any small panels, but I’ve definitely done that in the past. It always seemed like a crapshoot. I guess any panel is, really, but the small ones were usually either really good, or really dull. A lot of it depends on the energy of the audience, seems to me.
The Patrick Stewart panel was a complete Charlie Foxtrot. We got there 2 hours early and were told we couldn’t get in line yet. So, like everyone else, we lingered in the area. When the line was formed, we were put in the back of it, merely based on the random chance that we were standing in the wrong place. Good thing we got there early!
We wanted to do the Mary McDonnell BSG panel also, but it was on Sunday. I think she’s the only cast member we haven’t seen in person now.
Word on the apples sentiment. On a related note, “mixed nuts” ratios are like as not total bullshit.
On behalf of those of us who are genuinely annoyed (for all kinds of reasons) with how easy it is to surreptitiously take photographs these days, thank you for asking permission from your muses.
Always brings a smile to my face to see an Ecto-1 on the streets. Apparently, they’re a mother to keep road-worthy; I’ve heard of a couple Ghostbusters fans who had restored the ’55 Cadillac ambulance/hearse as their chosen labor of love, and out of necessity became gold members of AAA from the countless times they required rescue.
Best of luck to you in finding another summer season closer, dood. Whatever you ultimately decide on, I’ll still park myself and read each word as though it’s a newly discovered Michener.
Man, I’m normally a “never let ’em see ya sweat” kinda guy, but when I saw that first ECTO-1, the classic ’55 one, I completely lost my shit. Squealed like a girl and even hopped up and down a few times. Totally blew it. Which the couple standing next to us happily pointed out.
As always, many thanks for the continued support, my friend!
Wow, Dragoncon. Hadn’t thought about that in ages. I attended one of the very early ones in the early 1980’s (I worked for TSR’s Dragon magazine at the time). It was held at a small college in WI.
That is so awesome that you used to work for TSR, back when it was still cool and Gygax was still the honcho.
Your shaving videos have been an inspiration. Your MWF video, in particular, was extremely helpful and is legendary, as I’m sure you know.
Working for TSR in those days was interesting. The “company car” was a Porsche. Any employee could drive it…after a short check-out ride and test with the guy who was responsible for it.
Glad you like the videos! 🙂