July 30, 2009

I have been told the floor opens at nine on Thursday. I take for granted that it is going to take me any time at all to walk from our nearby hotel to the Convention Center. It is in fact going to take me tons of time, because even this early in the day there are French Revolution-level crowds thronging the very narrow strip of sidewalk. Also I am carrying a box full of Mystery Team trading cards so I can’t break into a dead sprint. I am supposed to meet my friend Kiki who will be helping us work the booth outside around now. She calls to tell me she got stuck in traffic and she’ll be a little late. By my calculations, the floor is opening now and there is no one manning our booth. And once I’m inside, I won’t be able to go outside to get Kiki her badge. Total tactical snafu. I have a feeling I often have, which is, “I should have been an adult and shown up at dawn and then nothing would have gone wrong.” In my head the solution for everything is showing up at dawn. I have never shown up anywhere at dawn so I have no way of gauging if this is actually the solution to anything.

I get inside and the floor is still only open to exhibitors. I guess the nine o’clock information I received was mistaken. I had imagined our booth being torn apart by hordes of eager kids anxious to run away with anything not screwed down, but instead there are only a few people walking the floor who aren’t manning their own booths and everything is cool. (This would be a theme for the entire Con: I was told to expect a lot of fast-handed no-goodnik kids with hate in their hearts who would eviscerate our little booth like adolescent piranhas, but everybody who came by our booth, in fact, pretty much everybody I encountered the entire time, was patient and good-natured and nice. No one stole nothin’.)

I start cleaning up our booth. The booth across from ours belongs to a specialty Asian-cinema release company. They are playing a loop of a trailer for an R-rated animated movie. In it, among many other weird things, a little girl gives guy a nut-shot with a crowbar. Donald comes by after a while to relieve me so I can meet up with Kiki. Kiki and I talk about having known each other since high school, and realize this means we have known each other for probably almost ten years. I leave her to staff our booth before we both turn into dust and blow away.

A lot of kids, most of them in their teens, are wearing shirts reading “FREE HUGS.” I will see this tons of times over the weekend, including satirical takes on the “FREE HUGS” phenomenon, like “DELUXE HUGS $1.” I feel about this how your mom probably feels about “poking” on Facebook, where I don’t get it and assume there is fact something there to “get,” when in fact it’s probably just a thing people do because they think it’s funny. Does anyone know what the “FREE HUGS” deal is? If it turns out to be connected to some artistic or corporate entity beyond just being a thing nerdy kids think is fun, I might be sad.

I overhear a security guard greet another security guard: “Hey, Bertha!” Bertha is also the name of the plus-sized blow up doll that is shoved into the bottom shelf in one of the cabinets in our booth. (One cabinet is full of things representing the innocent, child-like origins of the Mystery Team, the other is full of fucked-up adult shit representing what they encounter on their adventure in the seedy underbelly of their town. It was way more fun to buy the kid stuff. Adults just don’t have that much fun stuff made for them. Sex and booze and drugs and that’s it. It’s all seedy and vaguely sticky and for the most part not stuff you can put on a shelf.)

I'm walking along the sidewalk outside the Convention Center and a car that’s stuck in traffic is blasting the fast dance-y “Birthday Sex” remix. I am so primed to receive marketing I assume that this song is advertising something. There is also a big “Halloween 2” billboard-truck stuck in traffic, so I imagine “Birthday Sex” is being played in conjunction with Michael Myers gutting people. I will sing the “Girl you know I-I-I” section of the song to myself for the rest of the day involuntarily but that's not to say I don't enjoy it.

Our own personal hero, Rachel, Con publicist, fellow NYU kid and all around badass, gets us in to Hall H for the “Avatar” panel. The drawback is, we will have to sit through the Summit Entertainment panel, including “Twilight.” This turns out to be a total blast, actually. Hall H is what I imagine one of those mega-churches is like: folding chairs stretching as far as the eye can see, towering projection screens broadcasting what is going on on stage, overwhelming religious fervor. Watching anything on screens that big, in 3-D, with sound that enormous, with that many people around you, is a gas. The sound in particular is boner-making: the bass is clean, physically huge, but somehow un-loud. Several horror movie trailers play and the crowd, which is mostly girls under 18, goes gasp-crazy. It is SO fun you guys.

If the Twilight panel is Beatlemania, I am your paunchy bemused father standing in the back with his arms folded, half-grin on his face, saying, “Well, I s’pose I felt something like this about Benny Goodman.” I am not a Twilight fan. But I am unequivocally a fan of Twilight fans, especially after this panel. They are a roaring ball of enthusiasm for books and movies. They will never again in their lives think it is weird to get excited about a book or a movie. And not just excited, RABID. That is normal to them now. As a person who makes things I want as many people in the world as accustomed to getting excited about art as possible, as in-the-habit of seeking out books and movies and paying for them as possible. Get ‘em girls.

I am walking to the bathroom while a middle-aged bookstore-y woman in black is hamming up her question to Robert Pattinson. I overhear one blonde long-haired fifteen-year-old kid standing into the back say to another blonde long-haired fifteen-year-old kid, “This is the gayest panel I’ve ever seen.” And he says it in the PERFECT disaffected teenager voice, too, the kind of voice you use to say “Cha! Right!”

Lots has been written elsewhere about the Avatar panel so I’ll mostly refrain except to say I couldn’t stop writing down James Cameron quotes, like when he said the film was “14 years in the dreaming” and when he said our love of science fiction had made us all enraptured of “the idea of living outside our bodies on a great adventure.” Also: Sigourney Weaver, what’s it gonna take to make this work between you and me? Me charming your grown children and lots of sex, you say? Great. Done.

During the Q&A, a timid kid in a knit hat I know is from Firefly because I saw it for sale earlier thanks James Cameron for making something that isn’t a sequel or a remake. I will go ahead and thank him for that too! Original properties. Let’s get ‘em out there. Otherwise what will people like me remake forty years from now when we are old and creatively bankrupt?

Our “Mystery Team” screening is at a multiplex at a nearby mall called Horton Plaza. We go there to check out the theater before we go and grab food. At one point I wander off and lose everyone. Horton Plaza is like a first person shooter level as done by Sunset Magazine. Everywhere I look is an Escheresque angle of stucco, store, shopper who isn’t my friend. I am starving. Finally I get a message that they are at the Hard Rock Café. I join them. Our Convention eating style is, food is placed in front of us and it ends up in our stomach later and therefore we assume we must have eaten it.

In Starbucks, there are either one hundred European tourists or no European tourists.

Our screening that night is a rocking good time. There is a completely full house and we stick around afterwards and meet kids and sign posters. If you were there, thank you for being there! You were a killer audience. Right outside the mall there is a full-sized Ninja Turtles van. I did not have that toy when I was a kid, but I had a Ninja Turtles blimp, so my childhood wasn’t a total bust.

Posted by DC at July 30, 2009 02:45 AM

It's only disaffected teenage logic that could characterize hundreds of screaming, horny teenage girls as "totally gay."

Posted by: Shannon

saw your GC commercial while eating at a burrito place for lunch today. gg.

my blimp was leaky from the day i got it, which was a massive bummer. i did have the van, though.

Posted by: rebecca

There was a viral video of a guy with a "Free Hugs" sign that made people feel warm and fuzzy, and at some point someone realized holding a sign gets in the way of hugging and it became a tshirt. My friend made one that said "free hugs" on the front and "For ten dollars I'll let go" on the back.

Posted by: Max

Gotcha. Thanks Max.

Posted by: DC

i love your twilight realization. more of us need to learn to see some things objectively like that instead of just thinking "gay". that still doesn't mean i could stand to watch more than 20 minutes of it on a plane.

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