This past weekend for the first time ever I attended a convention as a Guest. That’s “Guest” with a capital “G”, as I was acknowledged in the program. Granted, I was acknowledged under the wrong name, but that’s neither here nor there. I was a Guest. On a panel and everything. I probably could have been on more panels, but the one I was on was my first panel ever and if I hated doing it I really didn’t want to be committed to more.
Did I hate it? Hang in there and I’ll tell you.
I decided Friday night would be family night. TimeGate seemed like the sort of con that would be mostly all-ages and Lil’ Troublemaker loves going to conventions when he can. The one-day Atlanta Comic Cons are always fun, but don’t really have any costumes or anything. We took him to Dragon*Con a couple of times when he was younger, but there’s just too much dirty stuff down there – even during the day – now that he’s old enough to get it.
We were planning on heading over to the Chamblee-Dunwoody Holiday Inn – or as I like to call it, the Holiday Inn Chambodia – around 3 PM. As sometimes happens, our Auxiliary Backup Dog, Evie, had other plans. She decided to crawl under our hilarious excuse for a back deck, cover herself in mud, and then bring that mud inside to spread all over the living room.
Side Note: We lost our original deck after the house flooded in 2009. It turned out that the back wall of the basement – buried in the earth – had been constructed by drunks with poor stacking skills. This was obvious from all of the holes between the cinder blocks. Though they had attempted to fill some of them in with Pabst Blue Ribbon empties. The contractor who used approximately 1.5 million dollars worth of pick-up truck bedliner to seal the back of our house had to tear up the concrete slab that was our old deck. Later, he constructed what basically amounts to a wrestling ring minus the pads and canvas and called it our new deck. It’s seriously just all this nailed-together, uneven lumber that springs only slightly less than our trampoline.
So thanks to our Auxiliary Backup Dog we ran a little late. But not too late. There was almost no traffic on the way to the hotel, so we arrived at about 5:30. I was wearing an actual costume, only the second time I have ever done so for a con. I mean, I guess I consider the mask and jumpsuit or a suit or whatever dressing up. It’s not really a costume, so to speak. But on Friday I was wearing a full-on costume – the Fourth Doctor; but Phantom Troublemaker style.
I had been wanting to do something like this ever since a conversation a few months ago with costume designer extraordinaire Little Pond. I told her I was going to be a doctor for Halloween (Hugo Strange). She thought I meant a Doctor. And I realized what a good idea that might be. Any costume I wear is going to have a variation on my mask. I like the idea that I’m Phantom Troublemaker in a costume, not that Phantom Troublemaker is a costume, you know? The first time I did this didn’t go so well. I put together a full Mandalorian costume with a wrestling mask designed to look like a Mando helmet. It actually looked okay – a lot better than many costumes I’ve seen – but when I dropped by the Mando table at Dragon*Con the great percentage of them were total douchenozzles. Criticizing the mask, the size of my armor plates; whatever. I just dropped by for a laugh and they were acting like I was applying for membership. Which is really funny, because if you know anything about Mandalorian society, they accept anybody. It’s the defining factor of the people. There is no Mando race; it’s a culture that is wholly based on acceptance.
Honestly, there were only a few that were dicks. But they were vocal and clearly in charge of the group, so the rest will be judged by their leaders’ actions. Fuck those Dragon*Con Mandos. Posers.
Anyway, I put together a Phantom Troublemaker as the Fourth Doctor costume. I found this totally kickass purple velvet jacket on eBay, a decent hat, a great sweater vest (try finding a purple and green button-up sweater vest), and a shirt and trousers. Mrs. Troublemaker dyed a neck scarf green (not The Scarf, just a light scarf kind of like a tie that Tom Baker wore at first). But the most critical component came from my sister-in-law. She has taken up knitting as a habit, so as soon as I heard that I hit her up for a Baker scarf. I had one when I was a kid. Grandma Troublemaker made it for me, but I lost it in the flood. I wanted a new one badly. My sister-in-law delivered a replica scarf that is just too amazing for words. I can’t get over how good it looks. It’s hanging in my room – so gravity can lengthen it just like it did Baker’s original – and I just stare at that thing sometimes. Just like an old episode of Doctor Who, that scarf reminds me of the youthful wonder I experienced on Saturday nights. It’s easily the very best birthday gift I have ever received. Of course, now she’s working on a new one just for Dragon*Con. But you’ll have to wait until then to see it.
So once we arrived at the Holiday Inn Chambodia I suited up. It was hotter than… um… I can’t come up with anything. It was super hot that day, so I was going to be wearing all that stuff any longer than I had to. Once I had everything on I felt great. I knew the costume looked good and I knew that the sort of crowd that is into Doctor Who would be much more welcoming and open-minded than anybody at Dragon*Con, where most costumes seem to be purchased rather than made now anyway.
And believe me – I don’t say that as an indictment on people who have things made. There is a big difference between wanting to dress like Colin Baker, not having the skills to put that coat together, finding a way to get one, and wearing a Dawn costume you ordered because you have a hot body and want attention. I am also not going to deny I have a certain appreciation for both. Not the same respect level, mind you – but I’m not going to forgo ogling a hot lady. I’m still human.
So we’re in the hotel parking lot and there is no sign that a bunch of nerds are congregating there. No costumed smokers standing around outside the lobby. No large, sweaty men hauling folding handtrucks loaded with cardboard boxes held on by bungee cords. Not even a banged-up old Datsun with an “I Grok Spock” sticker on the bumper. Slightly concerned, we checked the details on our handy matching Droid X2s and this was the place. So we headed in through the lobby doors and beheld… maybe about two dozen folks just sort of standing around. But there were tables on the sides of the large, open room, a few costumes spread about, and – perhaps most telling – nobody was looking at me like I was a crazy person. I can’t imagine most hotels would let a 6’4” dude in a purple wrestling mask and a fourteen-foot-long scarf just wander around without at least offering to call a cab. Or a cop.
On our way back to the registration tables I saw this long-haired guy that looked very familiar. I still don’t know his name or anything, but I’m pretty sure he’s been at other cons and I’ve probably even spoken to him before. He was with this other dude with Tony Stark hair – head and face.
I get exactly two reactions when I’m wearing the mask. “Rey Mysterio!” or “Nacho Libre!”. The first irritates me and the second pisses me off.
My mask is not a Rey Mysterio mask. At all. Nowhere near as much detail, different closure, totally different shape. People calling me Rey Mysterio is akin to me calling a guy in a Cylon costume a Cyberman. But at least Rey is a great professional wrestler and the people who say that probably don’t know the term “luchador”, so whatever.
My mask is also not a Nacho Libre mask. At all. Nacho only wore blue with red. His mask had a closed chin and was very simple. Also, Nacho was a short, fat man in tights. People calling me Nacho Libre is akin to me calling a guy in a Cylon costume Johnny 5. Also, I didn’t care for the movie. The concept had so much potential to be exciting and hilarious, but was just kind of boring. And again – neither I nor my mask look anything like Nacho.
But the long-haired guy at least said Rey Mysterio. I really need to get a rap down as to why I wear the mask. It’s difficult to explain in a couple of sentences. I tired and I guess they went with it. Long Hair made a couple of excellent puns. I can’t remember the first, but the second was, “So you like wrasslin’ and Rassilon” and I thought that was pretty awesome. He got off another good one I can’t remember later in the weekend.
I went to the registration table and confused the ever-loving shit out of the poor lady there. Mike F. had told me to go there and tell them I was with ESO on the guest list. So that’s what I did and the lady just looked at me. I went on to say that Mike Faber – one of the guests – had told me to tell the people there that I was with Earth Station One and they would have a pass for me.
Another blank look as she pecked at her laptop. I could tell this nice lady had no idea what an Earth Station One or a Mike Faber was; a might not even be too sure about a pass or a TimeGate. I looked to the people sitting with her for help – another lady, an older gentleman, even a small dog – and none of them had a word for me. I was about to try again in German when Mrs. Troublemaker walked up with a laminate and told me she had found Mike and the gang. Relieved, I proceeded to the ESO table.
Mike had his Mac set up with his mic beside it. And Mike beside that. As in Mike G., another founding father of ESO. Mike and Mike’s Mac and the other Mike are all impressive and stuff, but I want to talk about Mike’s mic. It’s called a Snowball and it looks rad:
The thing around it is a sound something-or-other. It captures sound and diverts it directly into the mic. Or something. I don’t really care, because it makes the thing look so awesome. It could just be window dressing and I would still totally buy one if I had a Snowball.
There wasn’t a whole heck of a lot to do at 5:30. The Dealers Room didn’t open until 7:00, most of the fan/guest tables were still vacant, and not a lot of con-goers had arrived yet. So we hung out with the ESO crew and chatted for a while. There were some other great costumes – a couple dressed as Leela and the Master (who were Jamie and the Second Doctor on Saturday) were particularly good. I don’t know why I didn’t get a picture with that Master, too. There was also a redhead in a great TARDIS dress. She gave me a card and asked me to tag her in any pictures I put up, so I did. Check out her Facebook page if you want. She’s a made a bunch of neat costumes.
Obviously me and Lil’ Troublemaker were excited about the Dealers Room. I had been having a lot of trouble finding an Idris figure (the Doctor’s Wife). You can get them online, but typically either for a ridiculous price or as part of a case lot. I didn’t want to pay for either of those. Lil’ Troublemaker just wanted some new Doctor Who toys. Just inside the door to the left was a setup that was mostly devoted to toys. They had a good number of the more recent releases, including an Idris. The only problem was that everything there was grossly overpriced. All of the single-carded action figures were twenty dollars or more. Idris was $25, but that was about the best I’d seen for her. And the guy was courteous enough to point out that there were two different versions – one with five cubes and one with a single cube. Naturally I picked the one with five.
Since I bought something for myself I felt obligated to let Lil’ Troublemaker pick something out. He immediately grabbed a Tom Baker figure. I was so proud I told him he could pick out a bad guy, too and he grabbed a blue Dalek. He said he wanted a green one and I told him they hadn’t made a green Dalek, but the dealer grabbed one of the Dalek Ironsides and handed it to us. Lil’ Troublemaker didn’t like that one, though, and stuck with his blue Dalek. Over the next couple of hours we ended up buying him a TARDIS pencil case (cheaper than a toy and you can actually put stuff in it unlike the toy versions) and a few of the minifigures – all at a premium. But he was being very good and deserved some spoiling. Especially since Mommy and Daddy would be staying there without him the next night.
Side Note: Just to be clear – the folks at that toy table were helpful and friendly beyond belief. They were very nice to my family and I appreciate that a lot. But their prices were still too high.
Also since I bought something for myself, I felt obligated to get Mrs. Troublemaker a couple of adult beverages. I was driving that night, but no reason she couldn’t have a couple. I went to the centrally located bar and did the “I want some booze” lean – the one where you keep your wallet conspicuously above the level of the rest of your arm so the barkeep knows you mean business but you’re not flashing a bunch of money.
As I was standing there waiting I couldn’t help but notice a nice-looking lady right next to me. She turned around and said she was going to have to ask me about the scarf. I told her the deal while she examined it. She asked if I was from around here and then said she had just basically come to the con from Africa. Huh. I told her coming directly from Africa to the South must be some kind of culture shock. She talked a bit about the cultural differences and how she wasn’t going to miss being spit on and derided, but yeah. It was her first time in the South.
She held out her hand and said her name was Mika.
I had sort of gotten the impression that she was Somebody when she turned around. She just sort of had a look about her. I was unfamiliar with the non-Amelia Pond guests, but I did know their names. I shook her hand and asked if she was Stargate: Atlantis Scientific Advisor Mika McKinnon (pronounced “Meeka”, which is ironic because meek she wasn’t) and she said that she was. I am not equipped to have any sort of conversation with a Scientific Advisor – particularly a nice-looking one – but I had a beer coming and had no choice in the matter.
We chatted a bit more, my beer came – my WIFE’s beer, mind you – and I said I had better get back to my table and it was nice talking to her. She said she was sure she’d see me around.
I am not going to claim that the Scientific Advisor from Stargate: Atlantis was hitting on me because I claim that sort of thing all the time and I know how ridiculous it is. Besides, I had my mask on and she couldn’t even tell how handsome I am.
I went back and told Mrs. Troublemaker and the ESO crew my little story. Everybody was suitably impressed with my level of self-delusion.
It got to be about 8:30 and there just wasn’t very much going on. We decided it was time to head back home and get some sleep in preparation for what would undoubtedly be a long - but probably fun - Saturday.
Come back tomorrow for Part 2!