Everyone needs a holiday now and then, so this coming weekend I’m headed to Charlotte for some vacation time and to attend Charlotte Comicon. Also joining me and the wifey on the trip are my in-laws. It’s a family vacation and what not.
Since Charlotte Comicon is in taking place in the hotel we’re staying at, the in-laws decided to brave the elements and attend their first ever comic book show. This is great news for me for one reason:
As I buy hundreds (and hundreds) of dollar comics, my in-laws can take them off my hands and bring them back to the room for me. Not only will they save me a time-consuming trip, but I won’t have to break my back carrying 47 pounds of comics like I did at New York Comic-Con a couple of years ago.
Good plan right?
Anywho, as the trip started getting closer, I had a great idea: My in-laws should cosplay and get into the show for free. They looked a bit confused, but I told them they didn’t have to dress up as superheroes, but they could go as Ma an Pa Kent. My father in law seems to be in, but I’m having trouble convincing my mother in law.
I keep telling them that if they win the costume contest, they’ll win a convention gift certificate which I will promptly use on more comics. But for some reason that didn’t move her. I’ll keep you posted.
I added a new place to my travel bucket list.
As you may have heard, much of the South got hit by what we Bostonians would call “A minor inconvenience.” For the last few years I’ve lived about halfway between Charlotte and Atltanta, and I’m always amused the reaction when we get snow. We got a little over an inch of snow followed by some ice, both of which have melted already.
However, for an area that doesn’t see this type of weather too often, I thought my city handled it pretty well. Unlike the city leaders in Atlanta, we knew this was coming since Saturday. Anyways, since everything closed on Tuesday, I’m still running a bit behind on things. I’m hoping things will be back to normal later today, but for now enjoy this:
It was October 19, 2003, and I was still reeling from the Red Sox loss at the hands of the New york Yankees in game 7 of the ALCS. Luckily for me, on that Sunday morning the members of The Nerds Uncanny had a road trip planned to Niagara Falls. Talk about perfect timing! A relaxing, worry free vacation with friends to forget all about the Red Sox. This was just what the doctor ordered,. Fate however, had other ideas…
The plan was to spend a few days on the Canadian side of Niagara Falls. Laneit and She-who-must-not-be-named had been there before, and wanted the rest of the gang to see the Falls. Also along for the trip would be John, and for the first time, Wah Kee. She-who-must-not-be-named planned the trip, booked the hotel, and even arranged for us to borrow John’s mom’s van, which I named Talutla. Since Laneit, She-who-must-not-be-named, and Wah Kee had a concert the previous night, it was decided I would drive on the fateful day.
I picked up John first, then headed over to Laneit’s where we found Wah Kee enjoying some strawberry milk and KFC popcorn chicken. Why anyone would eat that at 7:30 in the morning, is anyone’s guess, but the issue would arise later. After loading up the van with a dvd player, a Nintendo GameCube (Remember those?) and enough snacks to feed an army, we were headed north. Believe it or not, for the first couple of hours, everything went according to plan. This was a first for us, as something usually happened during our trips. Well, I didn’t need to worry, because about ninety minutes north of Albany New York, the fun began.
As I sad before, I was behind the wheel, and She-who-must-not-be-named was in the passenger seat serving as navigator. Moe, Larry and Curly were in the back watching Mr. Show. Don’t ask me how I remember, I just do. Anywho, as I was driving I noticed the highway was about to split into two, so I asked “Left or right?” But there was no response. so I asked again, and once more there was no answer from the passenger seat. As the fork in the road got nearer, I looked over and noticed She-who-must-not-be-named was taking a nap. At this point I shouted, and she mumbled “Right, err go right.”
Two hours later we were on a two-lane road, over a hundred miles from where we were supposed to be. I didn’t like the look of the area, as there were too many abandoned cars, and burned out buildings on both sides of the road. I decided it was smart to floor it, and I was doing well over 80 on this little road. Every time I hit a curve, I could hear something sliding in the back.
After about the third time, I looked in the rear-view mirror, and laughed when I noticed the thing sliding back and forth was Wah Kee sitting on the floor. A few minutes later I heard shouts from the back telling me to pull over, and as soon as I did, Wah Kee slid open the door, and puked on somebody’s front yard. John was quick to note that Kee’s vomit was strawberry colored.
Once Kee was better, I floored it again. I think the place we were in was called Boonville or something along those lines. All I know for sure, is that the lead story in the local newspaper was a barn rasing. We stopped for gas at the one gas station in town, and two pick-em up trucks pulled up next to us loaded with dead deer. I guess it was hunting season or something. Anywho, I had driven for eight hours, so She-who-must-not-be-named took over for the rest of the way. In the end, we took a five-hour detour, all thanks to bad directions.
We were all exhausted, but finally reached the border around 8 PM. The Canadian border people collected our paperwork, and asked the usual question when one enters another country. To be on the safe side, I brought along my license, my permanent resident card, my passport and even a copy of my birth certificate. I figured better safe than sorry. As it turned out, it was Wah Kee who was sorry.
Good old Kee had his license, but nothing else, and the Canadian border department would not allow him into the country, until they verified his identity. He was asked to go into the customs building, while we waited in the car. After he’d been in there a good while, She-who-must-not-be-named decided she better check up on him, so in she went. A few minutes later she rushed back tot he car, and she was white as a ghost. Laneit asked “What’s wrong?” She-who-must-not-be-named simply replied, “They told Kee he has ten minutes to get out of the country.”
As she said this, I looked up and saw Wah Kee being escorted from the building by an armed guard. Someone in the car let out a shocked scream, it probably John, but it may have been me. Regardless, we drove towards our friend Kee, and decided to give him a ride back to the States.
On the United States side of the bridge, Wah Kee faced the same issue. He didn’t have valid identification. I asked him why didn’t he bring his green card, and he said “Because its expired.” My next question should have been “Why the hell are you leaving the country then?” but I didn’t think to ask. The border people on the U.S side were really nice, and tried to help Wah Kee as much as possible. It took about an hour, but they finally found him in the system. So what, you may ask, was the problem?
Wah Kee was born in Hong Kong, so the Canadian border people were looking for him as a Chinese citizen. the problem was Kee was born in Hong Kong during British rule. So by law, he’s actually a British citizen. Yup, Doctor Who, James Bond, and Wah kee. All as British as it gets.
Well, our plans on the Canadian side were obviously a bust, and we weren’t about to leave Wah Kee to fend for himself. We parked in hotel lot while She-who-must-not-be-named cancelled our reservations in Canada, Meanwhile Laneit, John, and I decided we should look for a hotel in the New York side. Wah Kee felt really bad about the trouble, but it really wasn’t his fault. He offered to drive around the city as we looked for room at the inn. Boy that was a mistake. As we took a turn, Wah Kee was busy staring at the pretty lights coming from a casino, so he didn’t see the sidewalk, and nearly tipped the van over.
We drove around for over an hour, looking for some place to stay. In the end, we ended up back in the parking lot where we had started from, and stayed at that hotel. Why didn’t we just stay there to begin with? The only one with the answer is She-who-must-not-be-named.
Hard to believe, but it’s been nearly a year since Laneit and I attended New York Comic Con. That five-day weekend was filled with great memories: Me running all over JFK Airport looking for Laneit; the Chinese takeout place that charges more when you dine-in; The Nerdist Podcast featuring Guillermo del Toro, and of course pizza. There are ots and lots of good pizza in Brooklyn.
Sadly, neither Laneit or I could afford a return trip to New York this year. However, we are making tentative plans for next summer’s Boston comic con, but first things first. With the 2013 New York Comic Con a few days away, I thought I’d share some tip for anyone attending this year. Come to think of it, some of these tips work for any major convention, not just NYCC. Hopefully someone benefits from this post, because I learned some of these lessons the hard way, and I don’t want anyone else to make the same mistakes I did. And now, for my tips:
1. Bring Water
The Jacob Javits Center gets crowded, and with such a large crowd, the temperature soars. After about ten minutes, I was sweating like crazy, and the thirst was brutal. I suggest stopping somewhere before the show, and buying a couple of bottles of water. The Javits Center has a Hudson News in the upper level, but I paid $8 for a sprite and a bag of chips. Those $8 could have gone towards more comics.
2. Manage the Weight
I’m not talking about going on a diet or anything, so don’t worry.
I bought a boatload of stuff on the Friday of the show. My backpack was so heavy, the shoulder strap started to rip, and I had trouble balancing. As luck would have it, the Javits Center has a FedEx office next to the Hudson news, so I was able to ship all of my Friday loot. The weight? 47 pounds. If your stuff is really heavy, I suggest shipping some of it home. It’s not cheap, but it saved me a lot of hassle.
3. Feed me More!
The inside of the Javits Center had one little old lady selling cold drinks, and delicious empanadas. Problem is she’s located right smack in the middle of the lobby, and it can be a pain to navigate thru the crowd. The empanadas made for a great snack, but if you want more of a meal, there are plenty of food trucks parked around the convention center. Or you can do what I did, and buy a sandwich at 7-11 to eat later. It’s cheaper, but there’s a catch…
4. I’m still Standing
The Jacob Javits Center has ZERO places to sit. You can’t rest or stop for a bit anywhere! Unless of course, you count the floor which is where I ended up. My favorite place was behind, or around the escalators. For one thing, you’re out-of-the-way, and it’s a pretty peaceful place to sit and read.
But beware: After hours of carrying 47 pounds of comics, then sitting for over an hour, your legs might not work. I found out the hard way, luckily there was a girl dressed as Ms. Marvel who helped me up.
5. Lookee, but no toucheee
Cosplayers are everywhere, and some of the costumes are truly amazing. Most of the cosplayers are more than happy to take a picture with you, so please be nice to them, and watch those hands. I saw too many guys taking advantage of the situation. Oh yeah, if the dude dressed as Tarzan is there again this year? Run the other way.
A Nerds Uncanny Adventure
Over the years, the TNU crew became well-known for our road trips, all of which included a wacky story. This is one of them…
Exactly 10 years ago, the TNU crew drove to Washington D.C after pending a couple of days in beautiful Williamsburg Virginia. Riding in the van with me were Laneit, his then girlfriend HeDie and of course John. We’d planned this trip for months, and I was really looking forward to touring the capital with my buddies. Unfortunately, mother nature decided it was a good time for some torrential downpours. But neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night, would stop The Nerds Uncanny.
Once we checked into our hotel, HeDie suggested we find a guided tour of the city. Made sense to me, why get lost driving round ourselves when we could have someone else behind the wheel. The four of us walked several blocks until we came upon an old guy leaning up against a mail box. I guess he heard us talking because he yelled “You folks looking for a tour?” I don’t know which one of us said “yes,” but there we were, handing over money to guy leaning on a mail box.
The guy got on the phone and started shouting: “Murphy? where the hell you at? Murphy can you hear me? I got four more for you.” By this point John and I were having second thoughts about this situation, but before we could say anything to the others, the van showed up. Not just any van. A very old van with tinted windows, and nothing written on the side. It looked like the type of van used in “Law & Order” kidnappings. The window rolled down, and an even older guy said “I’m Murphy.”
Since this was HeDie’s idea we decided she should ride in the front seat with Murphy. If anything happened, it would happen to her first, giving us a few precious seconds to bail out. Of course, we didn’t tell her that. Murphy informed us that he had “Two old ladies” to pick up at the Jefferson Memorial, so he’d be dropping us off at the Ford’s Theatre. Murphy’s van was pretty tall, so he gave HeDie a tiny stool to stand on as she excited the car. HeDie missed the step and did a swan dive onto 11th street. I missed this, because I was behind the van thanking my lucky stars that Murphy ran a legitimate business.
An hour later Murphy returned, with the “two old ladies” in tow. As he drove along the river, Murphy turned to us and said “Now this here be Maryland, that there is Virginia.” Murphy told us our next stop was the Lincoln Memorial, but first he had to drop off them two old ladies at Arlington National Cemetary. Keep in mind those two old ladies are sitting in the back seat, and can hear him calling them old. After that was done, we toured the Lincoln memorial and other nearby memorials. If you’ve never been to D.C. you’re missing out. The memorials and monuments are not only beautiful, but its a very emotional sight.
Now back to our story….
Murphy returned with the two old ladies, and we were off again. As we crossed a bridge and drove by the river he turned to us and said “Now this here is Virginia” then pointed across the river “And that there is Maryland.” Wow, good to know. He told us he would try to get us to Arlington in time for the changing of the guard, but first had to drop off the old ladies. It was at this moment that one of them shouted back “Okay, enough with calling us old. You’re the same age as us!”
In the end, Murphy got us everywhere in one piece, even if he told us “Now this here be Maryland, that there is Virginia” about eight more times. It was an adventure to be sure, and one of those classic TNU moments. So if you’re ever near the White House, look for an old guy leaning against a mail box. If he’s the tour guy, you’ll have a great day.
Oh yeah, I almost forgot: When we got back to the hotel, we noticed they ran their own tour. It would have saved us a walk and some money, but we never would have met Murphy and the two old ladies.