Tuesday, July 17, 2012

California Dreaming Part 1: I Survived Comic-Con 2012

San Diego. Beautiful, lovely city. Home of the fictional yet much adored Ron Burgundy. A city with a mediocre at best baseball team. The city where the words 'bad' and 'weather' are never together in a sentence. San Diego. The home to Comic Con.

There I was, about halfway through the Kirwan family vacation. We started in Los Angeles and drove down to San Diego for three nights. Little did we know that we chose an interesting three nights to stay in San Diego, because during our stay, the world famous Comic Con was being set up, and the hoards of diehard comicbook lovers were coming to town. There I was, sitting alone in a bar in downtown San Diego my first night there, harmless really. Just me and my bottle of Newcastle, people watching at the bar and watching the latest on the Dwight Howard trade saga that is currently pissing off the world. My parents were in bed, my sister was underage, so there I was, a man in an unknown city with a good bar scene, during Comic Con. I was just there, thinking about the fact that I really needed a haircut, when all of a sudden someone sits at the bar to my right.  Being the friendly and sociable person that I am, I turned and looked at my new neighbor, only to be put in an utter state of amusement, puzzlement, sadness and shock.  Instead of the nice possibility of a gorgeous young woman, I laid my eyes upon a Storm Trooper.  You know, like from Star Wars?  The guys in the white costumes with the weird looking helmets.  There’s like a million of them but they couldn’t take down Harrison Ford, a jedi, a bear, two robots and Carrie Fisher.  Those guys.  Anyways, I’m sitting at this bar with this Storm Trooper next to me, who honestly looked sad.  I don’t know how since he still had his mask on, but I could just tell he was sad.  He was kind of hunched over, looking at his Storm Trooper boots, and he just looked sad.  Meanwhile, I’m too confused to look away, so I’m just staring at this poor guy.  He ends up ordering a drink, still with the mask on, and only lifts up his mask, letting it rest on the top of his head, so he can take a sip of beer, putting the mask back on as he is done with his sip of Bud Light.  It was one of the strangest moments in my life, but it was an important one. 

From the brief reveals of his face that he gave, he looked like a man in his mid 40’s, somewhat balding and with a goatee.  After a few minutes, another guy, dressed as C3PO, just kidding, he wasn’t really dressed as C3PO, just normal clothing, sat next to him and started chatting him up.  I couldn’t resist myself from listening in.  This is where everything changed.  The normal clothed man, after a few questions, came right out and said, “So, I just have to ask, why do you wear the costume out at night?  You don’t care about what other people think?”.  This question seemed almost scripted, but the response was brilliant.  Storm Trooper Joe says (and I’m paraphrasing this, but I do remember most of it) “No not really.  Comic Con gives guys like me a bit of hope.  It’s a place where we can truly be who we want to be.  I’ve been a Star Wars fan since I was about 10, and it’s been a big part of me.  This time of year is my favorite because it’s the easiest time for me to blend in, while showing off the real me, which is a giant Star Wars fan.  As for other people, like at this bar, they may see me and make jokes, but honestly I feel completely comfortable right here in this costume.  Here I’m a Storm Trooper.  I can’t say that when I’m at work or out at restaurants and stuff like that.  I get to be myself.”  Preach on Storm Trooper man, preach on. 

Before going on, just a quick explanation of what Comic Con is for those of you who don’t know.  Basically it takes place every year in San Diego at the Convention Center, and it’s a gather of all different sorts of comicbook, anime, TV and movies, along with the companies promoting them.  Over the past few years it has really taken off and more and more celebrities have been making appearances (for instance, Christian Bale was signing autographs, the cast of Big Bang Theory was there, previews and trailers for upcoming shows and movies were shown).  Essentially it is a huge fanfest nowadays with thousands of people showing up.  Many dress in costume, which were creepy/funny/awesome/dumb depending on the costumes.  Needless to say, San Diego was a zoo for the few nights I was there, and that was only the beginning of the convention.  Now back to the Storm Trooper’s wise words.  

To be very honest, I was taken aback at how awesome of a response it was that this man gave.  The normal clothed man liked it too and bought him his next drink.  I actually wanted to say something to him myself but I really didn’t know what to say.  I didn’t know much about Comic Con beforehand, and certainly not how big/popular it was.  But seeing these people in their costumes and seeing people truly love these various TV shows, movies, superheroes, comicbook characters, etc. really stood out to me.  I consider myself very big into music, but this made me realize that I am nowhere near as big into music as this Storm Trooper was into Star Wars.  This kind of made me happy for this guy.  This was his week to shine on and blend in with people who were just like him.  I will admit, it was odd seeing some of the costumes, some of which were awesome in their detail and design, and some were just laughable, such as one dude I saw with a Smokey The Bear costume.  If Smokey counts as a superhero, then he’s worse than that bitch Aquaman.  Anyways, it would be very easy to make jokes about how many of them lived in their mother’s basements and blah blah blah, but I’m not going to do that.  Instead, I am going to give a shoutout to Storm Trooper Joe, for making me and the normal clothes man realize that Comic Con may be a laughing matter to most of the world, but to some people, it’s truly a time that they cherish, and a place where they can feel like their true selves, without having to feel shame or nervous to do so.  I think that in a world today with so many people trying to be who they aren’t, we all need our own Comic Con at some point to just not care about what other people think, and to be ourselves. 

As for San Diego, it was a city that truly surprised me.  It was gorgeous, the people were friendly and it's a great scene down there.  Special thanks to Johnny Frese for taking me out on the town that one night.  Hope that tattoo came out alright man.  If I were you, I'd visit San Diego if you have the opportunity.  It's an underrated city with a lot going on.  This is part 1 of a probably 3 or 4 part series on my California experience, so please stay tuned.

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