August 9, 2017

San Diego Comic Con 2017 recap

SDCC 2017 RecapOur travel cost breakdown

Food and lodgings, $125*
Gas, $143
Parking, trolley: $20
Car rental, $317
Books, $100
Badges, $240**

Total: $1,022

* We lodged with friends this year, and they never let us pay for that, so we paid for take out one night.

** This was for two days and two adults. SDCC has a great child badge policy – children are free up to age 11.

This year, the weather was so much better than last year when it was well over a hundred degrees Fahrenheit!

The lottery systems this year

Badges: success for us by the skin of our teeth. A good friend wasn’t able to get enough days to make it worth coming out so this was only sort of a win.

Hotels: not necessary this year.

Parking passes: one of the 7 of us got into the lottery! (It was me.) I bought passes for all four days but on consideration, passed that along to my friend because we decided to try the trolley this year. And also because he missed the lottery. Now that JuggerBaby is mobile, it was a really big place we could save, assuming we survived the experience. Every parent of a toddler knows that they go boneless, right? This kid has been practicing that since infancy. It’s awful.

Anyway, the passes were $191.80, versus the $20 we paid for two adults, so it’s a big price tag. That convenience can’t be overstated some days, if you’ve been trudging along for 8 hours logging mile after mile on the exhibit floor! But we were already paying for a rental car to reduce wear and tear on our two cars that are incidentally due for service, so we survived without it this year.

On making it happen.

I found myself dreading the week, rather than anticipating it. This is the second year I’ve felt this way, this time it had everything to do with all the work we had to complete before and after, with the reno. Too much stress!

It was also a bit weird because many of our friends couldn’t come this year, so it was an awfully quiet year but I’m so glad we went. That’s the most relaxed and at home I’ve felt all year, eating with and catching up with Mama S.

On food.

We thought we’d try our hand at cooking with Mama S this year, but it wasn’t a good time for it. We feasted, still: my annual pancit and lumpia, the original baked pasta and garlic bread.

We packed our PB&Js for lunch this year, avoiding the fancy deli meat and veggie sandwiches we used to be weighted down by, and snacks, as always, to avoid the atrocious and overpriced convention center food. I always think it might be better this year, but it never is. 

On having fun.

This was a funny old year. Half of our now-usual crew were in attendance, and we picked up a handful of first timer friends to escort around the exhibit hall. We have a Marco! Polo! system by text – we clump together when we find a good booth, we expand and filter out to explore, then text our location to re-cluster the group. There isn’t planning or rhyme or reason, it just works organically.

This year’s exhibit hall was chock full of cute things and fantastic displays. I was hard pressed not to go on a buying spree – only the knowledge that I didn’t want to pack another 60 pounds of detritus saved me.

There was an astonishing Tamatoa cosplayer, a life size Lockjaw promoting the Inhumans show, fabulous (as always) new Lego creations.

We discovered awesome artists, we visited awesome favorites, we laughed til we cried at JuggerBaby.

Empowered by the fantastic superhero costume my unspeakably awesome friends had commissioned, ze spent the whole first day “flying” in spurts through the crowded exhibit hall. No sooner did one of us catch up to the slippery scamp, ze would throw zir “wings” out and race off again shouting “uncle, look at meeeeeeeee!”

Uncle was charmed, of course, and threw over all his plans to run along behind my stampeding bull toddler all day.

I tell zir often that ze’s lucky to be cute but cute won’t last forever.

The second day, ze kept chanting “where is Spider-Man?” No one knows where that came from – we haven’t introduced Spidey to zir lexicon yet! All day, where is Spider-Man?

Uncle spotted a particularly good one and shouted back to me, whereupon I turned and pointed to our right, look, JuggerBaby! Spider-Man is right there!

Spidey heard us and went into a web slinging crouch for zir. As Spideys do.

JuggerBaby, face frozen in a rictus of horror, scaled my leg trying jump right back into the womb. “NO NO NO!”

Poor confused Spidey. He crouched further down to make himself shorter, inoffensive, non-threatening. He did a stupid little jig to look like a clown. Finally he cowered, hiding his head a little, apologetically, because JuggerBaby was having NONE OF IT.

Sputtering, I tried to reassure zir that it was ok and Spider-Man wasn’t going to hurt zir but my sincerity may have been muffled by the choked back laughter.

For the next twenty minutes, ze declared vehemently: I don’t want Spider-Man.

Never meet your heroes, y’all.

On family time.

This is the only place I feel at home away from home. At peace. I forget sometimes that this is the home away from home to retreat to, then I arrive in July and find myself breathing serenely again.

Mama S is the mother of my heart. She’s the best. Period.

This isn’t to malign my irreplaceable mother who physically raised me, just filling my heart with people who are still here so it’s not so lonely. It’s a strange feeling to grow up with tons of family and then be separated from all of them whether by distance or by feud. I’m related to terrible people so I have chosen to distance myself from them and fill that space with good people.

That means being welcomed with open arms, seeing your pictures mingling with the family pictures, sitting around comfortably chatting about old times or random events that have meaning. That means knowing Grandma’s got your back when the toddler is trying to pull a fast one.

Books books and more books!

Highly recommended books are great.

For the adults:

For the whole family:

  • Skottie Young and Eric Shanower’s Oz Omnibus Hardcover
  • Shannon Hale’s Princess Academy is highly recommended, I might pick that up even though JuggerBaby’s not ready for it yet. For investigative purposes, you know.

For the kids:

Little Golden Books does Star Wars books! And DC books! I did not know this. JuggerBaby loves:

:: What would you have your eye on if you made this pilgrimage?

August 22, 2016

San Diego Comic Con 2016 Recap

SDCC 2016 Recap: Yet another year of conventioneeringOur travel cost breakdown

Food and lodgings, $200
Gas, $150
Parking, trolley: $100
Gifts and things, $150

Total: $550

I normally love San Diego Comic Con. Perfect weather, all geek all the time, lots of fresh air and walking and being surrounded by people who are just there to enjoy the goodness.

These days, it’s so much more fraught to prepare for. The lottery system for the badges. The lottery system for the hotels. The lottery system for the parking passes. Everything depends on luck and that has my insides clenched with worry that we’ll miss something this time. This year I did miss something. We didn’t get a slot in the lottery and forgot to secure parking passes after the lottery was over. I panicked, then a friend saved me with her extra passes. (They were pricey but uber convenient for our JuggerBaby needs.)

I found myself dreading the week, rather than anticipating it. I wondered if it was a mistake to go. By the time we were a week out, already having spent far too much time working and hosting guests, a probable panic attack set in and if I could have, I’d have cancelled the whole thing.

Thankfully, by the time we reached San Diego, most of that feeling had dissipated.

On food.

We have a tradition of staying with family friends – friends who have become family, over the years – and San Diego just wouldn’t be the same without staying with them. They’re not just good company, Mama S is an amazing cook and does a fantastic family dinner every night. I could eat that baked pasta and garlic bread for a week straight. I could eat the pancit and lumpia for a month. It’s probably a good thing that it’s not an option…

We packed our lunches and snacks, as always, to avoid the atrocious and overpriced convention center food and enjoyed leftovers for breakfast. Best week of eating all year long.

SDCCA

On having fun.

SDCC is just too big. It overflows from the convention center out to all the nearby hotels and their ballrooms. The whole area out front is usually packed with promotional booths for tv shows, with prizes and treats. This year it was an enormous Superman statue, the Batmobile, and a Kristen Bell show, with an ice cream parlor theme. The crowds and the lines and the noise and all of it don’t bother me. It should. I normally hate all of that. But for this? It’s just right.

The downside is that I logged far more steps than is healthy for me. We had to walk three miles to get to the Marriott to get our badges on Wednesday whereupon they insisted that JuggerBaby had to physically be with me to pick up zir badge. So that was a wasted trip and then we had to go back with zir on a busy Thursday, wasting precious time between naps.

We took it almost as easy this year as we did when I was pregnant, but this time we shared the extra load. JuggerBaby rode piggyback in our Craigslist-purchased ErgoBaby ($50!) with me in the mornings when I was fresh, PiC backpacked zir in the afternoons. We walked the floor together discovering all kinds of new cute things, and visiting old favorites. It was a weird year, we bought more art then anything else and that’s never happened before.

I caught a couple of panels while PiC and JuggerBaby went exploring on their own. That always feels a bit luxurious because, though PiC is happy to give me a break, I always have a tinge of guilt that he’s doing all the heavy lifting whether I’m there or not so we tend to stick together more than not.

:: Do you have an annual vacation destination? What would it be if you didn’t? 

June 20, 2016

Emerald City 2016

Emerald City Comic Con 2016: We'll definitely do this againOur travel cost breakdown

Lodgings, 48,000 StarPoints / $0 (cost if paid out of pocket, $859.65)*
Airfare for 3, $350
Rental car, $250
Boarding, $450
Taxi, $50
Groceries and eating out, $240
Gas, $20
Gifts and things, $100

total: $1460

* This is why I love my SPG American Express. We pay a $95 annual fee, and redeem an average of $500-$1000 in hotel room value per year.

On food.
Meals were eclectic. Usually our lunches or dinners are the highlight of the food experience but it was flipped this trip. Lunches were picked up from a food truck (meh) and sandwich shop (awesome). Dinners ranged from fantastic Indian food, to average sushi (which still makes me sad to this day, I was so looking forward to it), to sandwiches from the amazing deli. We supplemented with the free Noosa yogurt they kept handing out at the convention center – JuggerBaby is a HUGE FAN.

Breakfasts were the fun stuff. PiC would take JuggerBaby out for an adventure every morning and they’d bring me back some yummy tidbit from Pike Place or something thereabouts. Favorites: Piroshky Piroshky, The Crumpet Shop, Honest Biscuit and Top Pot Donuts.

On tourist stuff and having fun.
We were in town for Emerald City Comic Con and to meet up with local friends. It’s great to be centrally located or located close by one another so we can easily spend a little time on the Con floor and then get back for JuggerBaby’s nap or to have dinner with friends. We still haven’t been to the Space Needle but I’d like to one day, just to do it.

:: Have you visited Seattle? Do you have any must-see or must-eat recommendations? What’s your usual travel budget for a longer than a weekend trip? 

July 29, 2015

SDCC 2015 recap

SDCC6

Preparation for this year was brutal

Badge purchasing was organized by lottery system.
Hotel booking was a lottery system.
Parking passes were sold on a lottery system.

It’s a flipping miracle that we got passes, secured a hotel room through the lottery system for friends, and secured a parking pass.

Our rental vehicle was booked for the week and I let out a sigh of relief on June 28th.  All was set, I thought. Then I quickly sucked it back in because with my luck….

Sure enough, I’d booked the wrong dates for the rental and rebooking was estimated to be $1800. A panicked call to Enterprise + a reasonable service rep = corrected booking. Whew.

Oh wait.

At the last minute, our lodging plans changed and we needed to book a hotel for ourselves. Two weeks before Comic-Con. Now THAT was a hoot. 99% of the hotels in our desired region were booked out and the hotels that were available were the Embassy Suites for $800/night, the Doubletree for $900/night and the Indigo for $1800/night. Awesome.

We needed both a baby and pet friendly hotel and I was not paying over $500 a night for four nights of an average hotel that would then charge for parking and a pet fee for Seamus, no way, no how!

Ten hours of searching, and 6 bookings later, we booked an average hotel somewhat near downtown that didn’t have recent reports of bedbugs. (Ugh!) Clearly, our standards had changed. And it was going to cost nearly $1700 for the whole stay. *clutch throat* I’ve never spent that much on an entire trip to SDCC, forget just on hotel! But it was a last minute change, it couldn’t be helped, and I refused to let it ruin our plans. One side effect of having been a extra frugal Con goer, and spending next to nothing on hobbies, is that our savings are absolutely solid and our cash flow can bear a hiccup or two even in the four digit range.

Packing was a bummer this year because I still don’t fit most of my clothes and that includes my standard Con wardrobe of geeky shirts.

Comic-Con commenced…

Left: BADGED! Right: a fantastic cosplay.

Left: BADGED! Right: a fantastic cosplay (I didn’t know the character, unfortunately).

We didn’t get Preview Night for Wednesday which, in retrospect, was for the best. Logistics were already well nigh incomprehensible, trying to make it to town and ready to hit the floor on Wednesday would have been excruciating stress.

Thursday was our first day on the floor and it was yet another bust: Seamus hurt his paws before we left. While one paw was responding to home treatment, the other significantly deteriorated in just the two days since we left San Francisco. I made the call to give up an afternoon at Con and take him to a San Diego vet to head off a major infection. I was grouchy about the loss of floor time but it was the right call. He responded to the medications overnight, allowing his paw to actually start healing. Hallelujah! And it was “only” $110.

With Seamus all set, we headed out Friday for our full day on site with a lighter step and clear conscience. Despite all the missteps and mishaps leading up to this day, it was wonderful.

SDCC photos courtesy of @ashleyserena

Left: I’m really not sure what’s happening here. A unicorn/centaur Colonel (KFC)? Right, top: Ashley on the Iron Throne (Game of Thrones Experience) Right, bottom: Tribbles! All photos courtesy of @ashleyserena

The Kelly Sue headed panel on writing, and then on their company Milkfed Criminal Masterminds, were both fantastic.

We browsed a discount TPBs booth where I impulse bought $45 worth of comics for myself and a friend. Browsing wasn’t even on the list of things I thought we’d have the freedom to do but LB was so incredibly cooperative. Ze was just hanging out, enjoying the sights and sounds, and it was awesome. I picked up gifts for three people and got myself a new t-shirt. We took a dozen pictures of LB and PiC hanging out and having a good old time, and had silly pictures taken at promo booths.

I was sad to miss the panel with Congressman John Lewis, the last surviving member of the “Big 6” from the civil rights movement, who marched in Selma on Bloody Sunday. Even typing that makes me tear up at what people had to go through to be treated like humans. But I’m really happy that it happened.

There were many other fun and wonderful things this year, and we missed many of our regular visits (Marian Call’s concerts, for one) but this trip renewed our enjoyment of the event. Every year we’re aware it might be our last, but as long as we can go, we will.

July 28, 2013

SDCC 2013: Best SDCC ever?

I think we all know I’m crap at anniversaries, right? Well, I’m pretty sure this was my tenth anniversary of attending Comic-Con. Or 11th. Whichever it was, it was AWESOME.

Welcome to San Diego, Comic-Con Style

We had to make a lot of compromises throughout the Con due to schedule conflicts and I was at least a bit amazed: they were none of them disappointing. I rarely experience that “Fear of Missing Out” except at SDCC when I hate giving up even a minute of hard-earned fun. Other than having to reconcile myself to not getting Preview Night, which wasn’t really a choice, we had barrels of fun. But that’s ok, we spent Wednesday with family friends and then goofing off at the close of the Petco Park exhibits.

Thursday was full of floor time to make up for missing out on the usual Wednesday Night scouting run. I bought seven TPBs, two to give away, commissioned a tiny pet portrait from the talented Katie Cook (@katiecandraw, now of My Little Pony fame), and got to chat with both her and another talented creator, David Peterson (of the gloriously cute MouseGuard).  The creator and artists of Elephantmen were again, super funny and super nice. I wished Pia Guerra were there hanging out with them when I stopped by.  I missed her if she did.

I blew through one-third of my $300 allowance in a day. !!

DTTrolleyDogsCollage2

Scratching every possible itch I had:

Top left: A DUCK TALES GOLD VAULT TO DIVE INTO.
Top right: Game of Thrones trolley station stops.
Bottom left and right: Dog-Friendly on the floor and across the street. ConDogs were dressed up as Princess Service Dog, Scout Service Dog, BatDog, DogRobin, and casual we’re here to play Dogs.

BloodConcertCollage

Top left: Blood Drive at the Omni Hotel
Top right: Molly Lewis, singing about her offer to bear Stephen Fry’s baby
Bottom left: Marian Call, pre-Browncoat song
Bottom right: All the ladies together!

I’ve never been one to go to concerts but lately, indie artists who are both a delight in person and amazing on stage have been creeping their way into my schedule.

My attempt to give blood post-weight gain was denied, but we basked in the musics of Marian Call, The DoubleClicks, and Molly Lewis at a coffeeshop later and that salved my wounded pride of being rejected. I was so excited! And then so dejected. The guy who gave me my consolation t-shirt saw my face said, “Oh nooooo….” Oh well.

The Money Recap

… and “never again”…

After totaling the cash and credit card spending, it looks like I’ve only spent $220 of my $300 personal allowance.

Our hotel rate was bumped up a bit because it was evidently booked wrong, but since we usually share rooms, it keeps our accommodations cost to a reasonable rate. This time, the room-sharing was a bit of a disaster and has gotten one person bumped off my list of “I’d be fine never seeing you again” forever.

By common consent, shared rooms get divvied up into personal zones. You don’t put your stuff on another person’s bed if you’re not either married or related to them, you share the common desk areas and split the use of nightstands down the middle: you get the one you’re closest to and you don’t spill over into someone else’s. And you always respect the sleep! You don’t make noise when anyone is still sleeping, clattering and clanging, slamming doors and such. It doesn’t matter if they’re the last one to wake!  (This hasn’t always been me, either.) And snoring? You warn your roommates if you snore. These are all courtesies observed without discussion by all roommates we’ve had, male or female and we’ve generally had decent rooming experiences.

Shared rooms can be a somewhat tight fit and we go out of our way to be more polite: asking if people are night or morning shower-ers and what schedules look like so we don’t cause a bathroom traffic jam, checking to make sure that no one wants the bathroom or shared surfaces when you’re about to monopolize it, etc.

This time? Oh man. We checked into the room after dropping off our stuff, claiming one bed and the area around the bed, furthest in the room to give our next roomies a clear path to the bed by the bathroom and door. We came back later that night to find that Roomie 1 had strewn stuff all over his bed, gone to the far side of our bed and claimed the whole desk with his electronics and food and beer and trash was on our nightstand, the floor, and the desk. He’d basically pooped on every surface. He didn’t shut down the computer until nearly 1 am, took a phone call in the room at 445 am and conducted a full freakin’ conversation, then let his phone alarms go off multiple times until 6am. Then at 630, he decided work at the desk next to our bed instead of taking the laptop back to his bed, so as to put space between us and his clicks, clacks and beeps. Then he acted put out when I lost my temper and asked him to leave the room as he’d keep me up for the past two hours already and I was sick with exhaustion.

That was Day 1. If you wonder if I had strangled him by Day 3, that’d be a valid question. He was passive-aggressive when he wasn’t being downright rude, talking through me to PiC. What a jerk. Once we get his repayment for the room, I wash my hands of him. You can be certain that I set a deadline for that payment.

The rest of the Con was fantastic and worth every penny. But I will likely never allow someone to room with us again without a full background check. I’d simply say no roomies ever again but it’s such a good way to save money and hang out with good friend-roomies that I don’t hate it.

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