Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Christina's Days of DragonCon Delight: Part One

We've all felt it.  That sensation the day after DragonCon where we are technically back in the real world yet we still feel like we are”back there.”  It still isn't over in our minds; it's just way too fresh.  Tis the day after the 2016 DragonCon as I'm writing this and I can tell you that I'm feeling that right now.  I look at the pics people took late Monday night or before check out Tuesday morning of a freshly cleaned and empty Peachtree Center or Hyatt/Sheraton/Westin/Hilton/Marriott, and it just leaves you feeling hollow.  So how does one fix this problem?  How do you fill the void?  With pictures, panel videos, DragonCon's Youtube goodies, DCTV stuff, and of course the fabulous Needless Things post-DC coverage. 

It's time for me to once again deny the real world access to my being and dive back in to the 2016 DragonCon.

The fam and I arrived bright and early (well, just around 11:30AM, but so what) on Wednesday for our volunteer work.  The husband and I work for the Dragcon Store store where you lovely people by all your DC logo shot glasses and flasks, shirts and backpacks, hats and little baby dragons.  We work for the set-up crew so for two days straight we go back and forth setting up all those pretty displays that lure you all in to spend your money!  MUWAHAHAH...ahem.  Sorry.  Anyhoo, after picking up a couple of friends so we could all carpool in to work together we reported for duty and started setting up shop.  I highly encourage volunteer work at the Con, guys.  Yes, the free badge thing is a perk.  But in all honesty it isn't just that.  I have met seriously awesome people doing this, some of which I have forged good strong friendships with as a result.  You get the "behind-the-scenes" look at stuff as a result.  And in some of the areas of volunteering you meet the guests and performers in ways you never expected.  Working the DC Store is an awesome way to have celebrity guests and performers just saddle up to the store to buy merchandise or ask questions while they have free time when they show up early, since they can't during Con due to a book schedule.  Not even kidding.  You wanna miss out on the chance to have Stephen Amell or Voltaire by a lanyard off of you or have John Barrowman come ask you where Guest Hospitality is?  Pft.  Silly person.

Two days later the stores looked "purdy."  Crashing in bed with the hubby to a couple of episodes of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D wound us down (we couldn't wind down the PROPER way, people.  Teenage daughter was with us.  Get your mind out of the gutter....that's what the DIRTY DIRTY DRAGON DRAGON CON CON SHOW SHOW was for.  Pervs.)  Friday hit bright and early as we didn't want to miss anything, so we hopped up around 6:30am and hit the MARTA after showers and food.

We got up early because I had to be sure to catch the earliest train possible; I had a panel to speak at in the early AM hours so being there on time was a big deal.  I was a panelist on the Shannara Chronicles panel, and I must say it was a blast.  The book this MTV show was based on, Elfstones of Shannara, is my all-time favorite book ever written.  I have burned through three copies of the book due to wear and tear after reading it roughly two dozen times.  It's just that good.  As a result I was hyper-critical of the show when watching, but overall was happy with the result.  The panelist I spoke with were all well-educated and so enthused by the show, the author, and the book series; it was wonderful to speak with people so articulate and knowledgeable of the universe we were discussing.  It was a perfect start to the Con.  Want to listen?  The DC site will have the audio up soon.  Be on the lookout. 

Anyone that knows me knows that when the words "Ammo," "Guns," "Fighting," or "Self-Defense" are in a panel title my spider-senses start tingling.  So when I spotted the Medieval Self-Defense panel I perked up quickly. was full of pretties.  Weapons demos, disarming techniques, history lessons on how town's during these time periods armed themselves and the legalities of the periods in regard to self-defense, etc.  Oh...and the truly awesome part?  This panel was cut off due to capacity, but they felt so awful about having to do so that they ran a bit late to give time to move to an even bigger room to fit all the people, and ran over a few minutes to make up time.  THAT is hospitality, people.  Some panels you just wish lasted more than one hour. 

Being the economical people that we are (more like shoe-string budgeteers) we had packed out lunch for most days.  So we ate said lunch on the way to the next panel.  My teen is a bit of a learning nerd.  Think Rory Gilmore, but she goes to Church and is also Goth and a Geek.  Love the mix and love the kid.  Robotics is of interest to her so the Creating Robots panel was a big draw.  When she realized that the co-creators of Battlebots were sitting in on the panel, however, her jaw hit the floor.  She was texing my husband and calling my father (who watch the show as well) after the panel to regale them with her happy-happy-joy-joy.  She picked up a crapload of information for a school paper she's doing, including pics for a presentation.  A happy teen...scary concept, but people I saw one.  I really did.  She was there, man....I'm not lying!

Most of my teen's focus went toward Asian history for a school educational project.  As a result the Silk Road track was the sensible place to spend time.  Narrowing it down between history of the first shadow puppet, Chinese dancing, and history of the Tang Dynasty, she finally found the Friday panel about the Chinese Tang Dynasty to be exactly what she was looking for...and boy was it.  I was in love with this panel.  They played videos on Chinese dancing that were just outstanding.  They passed out charms in red envelopes as gifts, which is a traditional "welcome to my home" type of symbolism in Chinese tradition.  I walked away with four pages of notes from that panel in case it came in handy for any future writing projects and the teen plans to use em' for her paper.  How they crammed so much amazing information into one panel is beyond me, but I tell you, every year that we have gone to any of the Silk Road panels they have never disappointed.  It's a track I hope to spend a great deal more time at next year.

After dinner in the food court we went on to the Awesomely Bad Japanese Music Videos panel were we were gonna meet a friend and laugh at the hilarity.  We get there and it is a full house.  Crap on a stick, man.  So I tell the fam to go on and save us places in line at the Dr. Horrible Sing-Along Blog- another tradition we do every year from the wonderful Whedonverse Track- and I would wait for our friend to arrive and deliver the crappy "panel is full" news.  I passed on the sadness when she arrived and we crashed in the hall for a minute or two to grab some water and rest our feet.  Now, if any of you are new to DragonCon, crashing and resting the feet is the perfect opportunity to people watch.  Do you know how many people pass you by at the Con when you are just chillin'?  It was this relaxing that caused the fam and said friend to see a kid dressed as the Westin hotel, complete with a blinking light at the top of the building and the Westin logo on the outside.  It can get no cooler than that.  Just crash at random places for a few minutes and have your camera ready.  You see some crazy-awesome crap.

After the rest we made our way to the Sheraton and found my fam parked at the front of the line.  Love early line-ups.  I have never had a problem with lining up hours early for big events or celebrity panels.  We don't get bored.  We bring card games like Magic, We Didn't Playtest This, Firefly Tall Card, Sushi Go!, etc.   These keep us company.  We bring books, if the teen is not reading she brings the tablet, etc.  And my husband and I aren't like normal couples.  All the things people say they do in a marriage we just don't do.  The ones that complain about each other, run out of stuff to talk about...yeah, we don't do that.   So we do this wild and crazy thing while waiting in line called talking to each other.  Playing rock, paper, scissors.  Lying on each other’s lap and giggling, much to the chagrin of the teen.  Apparently if you have been married beyond a certain point you are not supposed to act like newlyweds.  Yet another stereotype we screwed up.  Anyhoo...the sing-along.  We get inside, second row center.  Awesomesauce.  There is nothing more rewarding to me at Con than the Sing-Along or Buffy Musical because it shows just how the fandoms can be more than fandoms.  They can be family.  We sing along, we quote favorite lines at the same time, we laugh when the actors on stage due something different on purpose than what the screen shows from the actual episodes, and in Dr. Horrible when the crowd does the wave during "Everyone's a Hero" you see hundreds of DragonCon attendees all doing this at the same time.  The positive energy just seeps into your soul and makes you happy even if you never wanted to be again.  During the show the remote sensor that the “Stage”  Doctor throws on top of the “van” was a plastic yellow cone.   When Neil threw it on the video, it was thrown into the audience...and pelted me right in the ta-tas.  My daughter cracked up, picked it up, and laughed even harder as she looked at it.  Written on it with black permanent marker was "Congratulations!  You now have an official prop from Dr. Horrible Live!"  The highlight for my fam, however, was during the final scenes.  As Penny lay dying (Spoiler!  Oops, too late,) my husband shouts during the quietest moment of the scene, "How much does it cost to get into the Evil League of Evil?"  My teen responds by shouting just as loud, "A Penny!"  The audience busted a gut laughing at the joke.  The track director was sitting in the chair directly in front of us.  She doubled over in her chair and when she finally sat up she turned around and asked for a high five.  She then invited them back to the Whedonverse Track room after the show for prizes for that cleverly timed riot-booster of a laugh.  The walked away with yellow and black bags depicting dozens of Whendonverse characters on it filled with Dark-Horse Comics lanyards and a Firefly action figure of Wash.  Sometimes it pays to be really inappropriate at the wrong time.

Saturday was our designated shopping day.  The teen had money to burn so we got off the MARTA and tried to fight the DC Parade crowd to get to the Americas Mart.  Now here is where I'm gonna bring it down a bit.  For those that don't know me well, I have PTSD and as a result of that, Acute Stress Disorder.  The "how" of it isn't important and is kind of a downer, so not today, folks.  But a personal issue that morning had already spiraled me a bit, and going into the most tightly packed DC Parade crowd I have seen in twelve years just exacerbated the stress.  By the time I got to the "Amerimart" as I call it, I was angry, stressed, and in tears.  I asked the fam to give me a minute and go ahead of me just to let me crash on those cushy blue couches that they have on the bottom floor.  By this time I was actually tearing up and I'm not even a private crier (except around the hubby, as I can vent around him,) let alone a public one.  A few moments later a man approached us, asking if I was okay.  He had a service dog with him.  I explained that I was fine; I just had a stress disorder that had worked me up after an already bad morning.  He sat down beside me, saying "Well I know just what'll perk ya up."  He offered me his dog for a moment.  Turns out his dog was a stress relief companion service dog offered him by the VA.  We sat and talked, I explaining to him that unfortunately PTSD and ASD do not take a holiday for events like these even when you try to enjoy them.  He sat there as I loved on his yellow lab, telling me the horror stories of his time in the Service; turns out he was a Veteran with the exact same disorders I possessed.    He continued his story, telling me of the horrors he’d experienced losing his entire unit due to one change in orders at the last minute that wiped out all of his commanding officers, save him.  The survivor’s guilt alone nearly killed him until a buddy reminded him that living FOR them meant just as much as dying for them.  He went on to say that he's learned the hard way that there is always someone that has it worse.  "I'm alive" he said, laughing.  "I get to go to children's hospital with my furry buddy here and make kids smile.  I got a great and beautiful wife.  Silver lining, honey.  Silver lining."

He fist bumped me as he stood up to leave, "one Vet to another."  The thing that might irk some of you?  I didn't correct him when he called me this, but here is why.  The only way anyone with PTSD will EVER feel comfortable talking about what happened to them is after either years of blue-ribbon therapy or with another sufferer.  That comradery isn't the kind you want to share at all, trust me; it comes with a cost too high to ask anyone to pay.  But it helps you on some high-functioning level to know that there is someone else out there that has seen death with you.  Caused death with you.  Pulled that trigger with you.  Detonated that bomb with you.  As we sat there talking we actually began discussing the fact that it was knew how weird it was for some to understand why people like us reach out to attach you if you jump out and shout "Boo!" at us, why we cock back a fist if we hear a loud boom, why sitting with our backs to the wall in crowded places is necessary, or why you rarely catch our hands in our pockets...only our thumbs if even that.  But we get it.  So for this man to open up so fully about the specific trauma he experienced meant only one of those things; therapy, or I was someone he could talk to.  And what if I had been his first?  I wasn't going to chance that therapy was his fix; if he had sensed a kindred spirit in me that he could confide in after all this time then he was going to get it.  I wasn’t going to take it away from him by correcting a tiny detail that for the sake of healing a soul didn’t matter.  He had earned that.  Maybe we both had.  You don't have to be a soldier to go to war if you have PTSD.  Trust me, you have already been. 

I thanked him, telling him that he gave me more than I think he could ever know in that moment, and said goodbye.  You know, I have had laughter at the Con as well as tears, fun as well as even danger.  Who would have thought a form of healing could be found at DragonCon too?

After my life-changing moment with the Vet and his service dog, the fam and I moved on our way into the Exhibition Hall.  The extra space of this place does wonders for cramped aisles and making for a less comfortable shopping experience.  One could also go broke very fast in this place.  Hours later we walked out with one broke teenager (she spent every dime in one booth) and made our way to the Filk Track's InstaFilk panel.  There are some panels we never miss.  Most from the Filk track fit that list.  InstaFilk is a must for any that are into the joy of Filk.  You pick a fandom (book/tv show/movie) or an aspect of Dragoncon (standing in line, panels, the Con Suite, etc.) and then you pick a song that is easy to sing, and smash them together.  The song is rewritten about the subject you picked in a wacky act of Filkery.  This year we took The Beatles song "Yellow Submarine" and the subject of the DragonCon parade and made Filk magic.  See the results below and prepare to laugh hysterically.  Yes, that is me in the green tube-looking hairpiece.  Don’t judge me:

I think this is enough for a part one wrap-up.  Stay tuned for my part two, coming at ya soon.  From Whedonverse to “Hello Sweetie,” from Cosplay oopsies to getting hit in the boob with a show prop, I have more stories to share.

Christina Sizemore is trained in only four things:  writing, fighting, paranormal investigating, and being a mom.  At this point in her life she truly feels that she is not qualified to attempt to learn any new field.  A twenty year martial artist, mother of three, and writer who is working on the publication of her first book titled “Finding Your Way: A Guide To Your Path In The Martial Arts,” she spends her days working out, writing, making fanvids, going to DragonCon, and playing board games/video games/out in the yard with her kids and husband who are just as geeky as she is.  She is convinced that one day her skills will be of assistance in the Zombie Apocalypse and that while she is of no use in the kitchen, she can Buffy that zombie for ya or teach you the best way to get the blood stains out of your clothes (Psst…the secret is mixing Crown Cleaner and Shout.  Just sayin’.)

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