So a few weeks ago, as I was doing my usual crazy amount of multitasking at home (if you've ever seen my desktop, I'm usually juggling four browser tabs in Firefox, skipping songs I don't feel like hearing in my playlist, running a game windowed, sometimes two games, and holding about three conversations while writing an article) my laptop crashed.
It'd been a long-established habit of my ol' Alienware to die horribly when the first heat of summer started to descend, so I shrugged, gave it a few hours to cool from its usual egg-frying temperatures, and fired it up again.
It crashed within five minutes.
Okay, so I watched some TV, played my Xbox 360 some, and went to sleep. I went to work, came home, and turned the ol' laptop on.
It froze in three minutes this time.
So I was computerless--relatively. And that led to an interesting series of events as I dealt with my primary gaming machine dying--I could still use my work laptop for staying in contact and surfing, but my primary online activities--gaming and more gaming--were cut off from me.
So what did I do? Well, I started to resurrect my old desktop, but in the meantime I did a lot of things. I got out more. I read a lot of manga that I had on my back burner, including the Houshin Engi reprints and a lot of baseball manga. I watched sports. I listened to old music that I've always told myself I would, like Earth Wind and Fire and the Jackson Five.
I made the top 4 of a Magic tournament, coming within two matches of qualifying for the Pro Tour.
But that's another story, and I don't want to think about how much my Nerd Quotient would have risen were I to travel cross-country for a professional Magic tournament.
The main story in this is how I returned to being an attendee at conventions.
See, I realized last month that my finances were stable for the first time in years, I told Fred "Hey, I think I'll be going to ACen." He didn't talk to me for a week after that, but I assumed that his fearful silence was approval, so I booked my flight to Chicago, and thought about what I'd do in Chi-town.
I decided that I'd try life as an attendee, just wandering around and trying to get a feel for conventions again--it's disconcerting to realize that the average age of these things is staying the same while you're getting older. But Fred liked the idea of surprising people at the MT panel with a hidden Dom attack, probably because it kept me out of his hair for as long as possible, and so I arranged to stay with friends and wander around with almost no obligations or constraints, just a wish to see the sights.
As an indication of how little planning went into this, I didn't even know where I was staying until a day or two before the convention, which thankfully only required a quick call over to "Subey" (apparently, Suberunker is too hard to say) and his friends. Many thanks go to the folks at Random Destination Studios for giving me a place to crash at the last minute, as well as being great folks in general.
Anyway, I flew out to Chicago after work on Friday, arriving Friday night--just in time to head into the hotel room filled with raucous music video editors, shoot the breeze with them, and fall asleep.
Saturday was when all the fun started. In a move based on my family's reactions when I don't have my glasses on, I put on a hat and took off my glasses. The result was that even my friends had to take a few moments to recognize me. I felt all proud of myself, like a master of disguise or Superman, and I wandered around the convention. My first stop was breakfast, but after that, I wandered around the dealer's room, where I caught up on some games and DVDs I needed to pick up and indulged in my latest obsession, figures.
Then, I got in line for the autographs at the MegaTokyo booth.
I've always been impressed by what Fred does at every con, even though I think that it's excessive and crazy--or maybe because it's crazy. It takes a special kind of person to take an entire weekend and do little other than sit, draw and talk to fans while signing your name. It's a peculiar madness that Fred has, that everyone who wants his art and name on a piece of paper should get it, and it's impressive.
Anyway, my Saturday morning in line, I talked to a bunch of fans and just hung out, and when Fred spotted me in line (he can recognize me with my glasses off, it's either long association or an instinctive fear) he chuckled to himself and kept at his work. I'm not sure if he chuckled because no one recognized me in line or because I look oddly like a raccoon when I don't have my glasses on, but hey, I got a laugh.
What I did after leaving the dealer's room is a blur, but I do remember falling asleep near the line for the MegaTokyo panel, then waking up and scrambling into line, where I did more hanging out and talking to fans.
Here, I met a mother-daughter pair who were very fun to talk to, and I learned that the daughter was missing prom for ACen and the MT panel, which she attributed either to dedication or the inability to find a date. Since one of these options is much more flattering to everyone involved, I salute you, Girl Who Missed Prom for MT.
Also in line, someone eyed me and said "Did you know that you look a lot like Dom?" But he didn't follow that up with the "Are you Dom?" chaser, so I didn't have to lie, for which I'm thankful--I may be a dues-paying member of the hyperbole club, but I don't like having to lie outright.
Random note: the last time someone asked me if I was Dom and I said no, that someone turned out to be Greg Dean. Who later invited me to his wedding. So I've given up on the policy, which led to one of my opponents at the Magic PTQ asking me "Didn't I see you on Jeopardy? Wait, are you Dom from MegaTokyo?" and me saying yes.
I honestly don't remember much about the panel, either, since at this point we're finding new and amusing ways to answer old questions (is there going to be an MT anime? Where is [character who hasn't popped up in a while]?). People seem to have had a good time, especially Fred's adorable infant niece (I have this avuncular weakness, which I don't mind because it gives me an excuse to write the word avuncular), so I'm pretty sure it ended up alright.
The rest of the con was more hanging out with the RDS folks, which means that ACen is one of the most fun conventions I've had in years--no running from press appointment to press appointment, no booth commitments, the freedom to go out and eat meals whenever I was hungry and not just when I wasn't busy--and I think my enthusiasm for the convention in general is back.
But not for the convention part itself, just for the people.