Baltimore, Saturday

Saturday at the con was all about Barry Kitson. Now, I must admit I’ve seen hardly any of his work. I ended up in his line because that was where I was taken. Barry’s deal is that he will do water-colour pieces for free but you have to stay in line and wait your turn. This meant a six hour wait for me. Six hours is a long time in one spot, especially when we had this utter arsehole to deal with. It didn’t start well with him. I’m 100% certain he cut in front of me in the line and he had this attitude that he was entitled to everything. But being an arsehole, he thought the “you must stay in line and wait” rule didn’t apply to him so he wandered off. I was already annoyed with him to begin with so I had absolutely zero qualms about sticking the knife in at the first opportunity.

Barry isn’t the quickest artist, the pieces he does take on average an hour but he is working with water-colours and they do look amazing. However, he’s a good guy and doesn’t expect you to stay in the line the whole time. Food, toilet and walk around breaks are encouraged to stop you from going stir-crazy so I did manage to walk around a little. It’s all about coming back to the line.

It’s fascinating to watch Barry at work and he’s quite chatty while he’s working. We covered loads of topics in our chats and he seemed impressed by the fact that I’d traveled so far. He was also totally in love with Haley which was cute and completely understandable as she’s gorgeous. As my turn edged closer and closer, the arsehole returned to claim his spot and was not at all happy when he was told he’d lost it. He tried the whole “I drove down from New York and I’m only here for today” line which I, of course, could totally trump. Chad, Barry’s assistant, was far too nice to the moron and eventually Barry got really annoyed and essentially told him to go away. We all cheered.

It was a really long wait but I’m glad I did it. The Daredevil piece I got from Barry is extraordinary and I was so shocked when he said he’d never done one of that character before. It looks like it’s a cover, it’s that good. Every time I showed it to anyone, their reaction was widening eyes and an exclamation of “Wow!” (Turns out that Barry thought it was his best piece of the con which pleases me to no end.)

I managed to have a wander around and bought a few things. I totally went to town on Matt Wagner’s pieces. He had a superb colour Green Arrow which I snapped up as soon as I saw it and I surprised myself by buying the pencil prelim for a Spectre cover which I loved as soon as I laid eyes on it. I wandered around trying to find Amanda Connor so she could sign some comics for me and ended up sitting behind Darwyn Cooke’s area because Marsha saw me and offered me a seat. Have I said how much I adore that woman? She’s all kinds of awesome. Nick and Steve were flicking through Darwyn’s folio and I saw a piece I liked as soon as I saw it so Marsha snagged it for me. Tee hee. Turns out it was one of three that Steve was trying to chose from. It was cheeky I know but the one Steve bought is beautiful. Total impulse buy and I really should’ve looked through the rest of Darwyn’s folio but the one I’m happy with what I bought. (Later I saw a fabulous Black Canary piece he’d done but I decided it was too much at $600 as I didn’t want it as soon as I saw it.) I umm’ed and ahh’ed about buying a Batman and the Mad Monk page from Matt Wagner for a few hours but in the end I decided I had to have it. Turns out it’s one of Matt’s favourite pages and he’s really pleased I bought it.

We were supposed to go the baseball that night but it had been raining heavily all day and it looked like it was going to rain again – which it did – so we ended up going out of dinner instead. By this point, I was feeling quite a bit better so I think I had a much better time at dinner than I did at the room party the night before. I got to talk with Kelly plenty which was wonderful because he was one of the people I really wanted to meet. Tim finished my Batman/Catwoman piece and I love it. My next claim to fame is that Matt Wagner gave me a big, sloppy kiss when he was leaving. That man is totally crazy.

It amazes me how great everyone is and how well we click as a group. I know what I did is crazy but I’ve never felt an immediate bond with a bunch of people like I did with them. They were all so concerned about how I was, if I was feeling okay, if I managed to get all the things I wanted. I was so well taken care of. I’ve ended up feeling a bit guilty because I had so many meals bought for me. I think the whole time I was in Baltimore I bought exactly one meal. I know I’m very social awkward and I don’t enjoy being in unfamiliar situations but I’d do it all again in heartbeat. In fact I can’t wait for the next one I can make it to (although I hope it’s on the west coast the next time). Going on this trip has been one of the best things I’ve ever done and I’m so glad I decided to do it and stuck to my decision.

Baltimore, Friday

I didn’t have the most positive introduction to Baltimore. As I said in a previous post, I was sick and all I wanted to do was get out of the car and lie down. But we got caught by a traffic accident. I felt really bad because Lisa had agreed to pick me up and I could barely string two sentences together. I was exhausted and I felt so awful. Once we arrived at the hotel, I found the room I was staying in and laid down. I slept for three and half hours. I missed a group lunch, which really upset me. I’d traveled so far to spend time with these people and because of a stupid cold, I was crashed out on my own in a hotel room. Sigh. It had to be something though. Nothing every goes 100% the way I want it to.

I woke up in time to discover Matt Wagner in the suite’s kitchen preparing food. Kinda surreal. Then Tim popped in to use the stove for his chicken wings. Even more surreal. At least this time I didn’t have a fan girl melt down when I went out to say hello. Matt Wagner was totally awesome. And looks exactly like his self portrait on his website.

Friday night was really the reason so many of us had traveled to Baltimore. We managed to squeeze way more people in a hotel room that really should’ve been in there.

(I’m going to name-drop like crazy now so get ready).

Having adjusted to being in a room with Matt Wagner (who loved the print of Man of Steel I gave him), I had a mini fan-girl freak out when Darwyn Cooke and his lovely, lovely partner Marsha arrived. I barely spoke to him but it was amazing to be in a room with him. I spoke with Marsha for quite a while and I totally adored her. She told me that she also has problems eating after a long haul flight which made me feel much better because I thought it was only me who got crazy nauseous. She loved my Docs and threatened to steal them. Awesome, awesome woman with that fabulous attitude that so many Canadians seem to have. Jimmy Palmotti turned up with Amanda Connor and he actually remembered me from Armageddon last year. I was shocked. There was no way I thought he’d remember me. Amanda made key lime pies but they didn’t set before the party wound down so I didn’t actually get to have any which meant I missed out on an American tradition.

Richard Starkings also turned up in a Doctor Who t-shirt which I thought was fantastic so we had something to talk about. He found my copy of Tim Sale: Black and White Revised and signed it for me which gave me the idea of milking the event as much as I could. I got Matt to sign my copy of Trinity, thinking he’d just scribble his name in it and be done with it but he did the most awesome sketch in it. I was flabbergasted when I saw it. I also managed to nab Darwyn to get him sign my copy of Selina’s Big Score in which I got a little Selina sketch. He also scrawled on my copy of Superman Confidential #1. I actually forgot I had it with me until I went to put my books away and found it in a bag. Naturally enough, I got Tim to sign it as well. Very happy about that. Tim also signed my Black and White book with a lovely message and a cute Catwoman head sketch.

So even thought I was feeling pretty poorly on Friday night I did manage to have a good time at the party. I tried to hide behind a door when Christina said a few words which included thanking me for being there. I was so embarrassed. But you know I was also secretly really pleased about being singled out too. There are some crazy photos of me with Matt Wagner and Tim that have to be emailed to me. There’s also one of me with Darwyn Cooke.

(See, I said I’d be name-dropping.)

The presidential race debate was on Friday night and I watched about half of it. It was intriguing to watch the two candidates go at it in a controlled environment. Obama was definitely the winner in my eyes. He was so much more poised and definite in what he was saying. McCain seemed to start every single sentence accusing Obama of being naive which I thought was quite insulting. He also came across as being a bit sleazy as well. Well, not exactly sleazy but more condescending. He really did seem to have the attitude that anyone under 50 was lacking in life experience which was never going to endear him to me. Obama just presented himself better. And to be honest, he looks better on TV. He has a wonderful speaking voice that makes you want to listen to what he’s saying while McCain sounds like he’s whining. What was really interesting was how engrossed everyone watching it was. Until Matt Wagner came in and started hurling the occasional insult at McCain. I’m certain everyone in that room was an Obama supporter and McCain didn’t win over a single person. So I shall wear my Obama 08 badge with pride. I think he’ll made a great choice for president. There’s absolutely no way he could be any worse than the current incumbent.

And the word is: GAH!!

I missed my flight from Baltimore to Los Angeles.

Sigh.

I ended up at the wrong desk and by the time I got to the right one it was too late, I’d missed the check-in. Guess who totally freaked out and had a mini meltdown? Right when my dad decided to call to see how I was going. A very nice man at another counter talked to me very calmly (I got the distinct impression he’d talked down quite a few passengers) and put me on the next available flight. Which included a two hour stop over at Denver Airport, which I must admit has a pretty spectacular main hall. I deliberately booked direct flights but now I think that was probably a bad idea. At least this way I got to walk around and wasn’t stuck on a plan for five solid hours.

Okay, so it was really my fault for not being more careful when booking my flights and really combing over the fine details but the majority of the people on the counters were so extraordinarily rude to me. I’ve been sick the last few days so my voice is totally screwed and they would’ve heard my accent which would’ve marked me out as an ill foreigner but not one person at the check-in desk helped me. I was really shocked at how rude they were after all the fantastic people I’ve met on my trip.

But then again I must remember what Shadow is told in American Gods: Don’t mess with the check-in staff.

Right now I’m in the relative safety of a hotel room at the Four Points by Sheraton right near LAX. The room rate was pleasantly cheap for a decent hotel and I’ve ordered room service for the first time in my life. I’m gonna lounge around in my jim-jams, eat something when it arrives and try to unwind after what was a fairly traumatic morning. I may even try to get some sleep – operating on about an hour and a half at the moment. However, it’s all part of my dastardly plan to get some sleep on the plane – wait until I’m so totally exhausted I can’t function and lapse into a coma when my butt hits the seat.

But I made it!

The con was brilliant and I have loads of goodies. I blew just about all my money, which was the point wasn’t it? I’ve been writing about my trip on my laptop’s text editor because I didn’t sort out the internet in the room in Baltimore until last night but I decided I’d rather spend my last few hours with my friends than hang out in a hotel room on my own.

Long Beach to Washington D.C./Arlington

I’ve had the red eye experience and I have to say it’s one I never intend on repeating. It was a five hour flight from Long Beach to Washington D.C. on a plane that felt incredibly small and cramped (even though it really wasn’t). I hopped on board and was totally freaked out by how the flight staff said Dulles – they made it sound like Dallas so I started to think I was on the wrong plane. I figured that they wouldn’t have let me through the door if I was and I did double check the gate before going anywhere near the boarding area.

So yes, what felt like a small plane with loads of people. It was fully booked and the chick in the seat behind me decided very early on that she was going to sleep with her head on the fold-out tray. I discovered this when I tried to recline my seat in an attempt to get more comfortable. She was not happy at all and retaliated by elbowing me in the back – repeatedly. It was a very long five hours not being able to rest or get comfortable. However, for all the whining I’m doing, I did get to see a storm at 30,000 feet which was pretty spectacular. Entire clouds lit up by lightning strikes. I think I was the only person on the plane who noticed because everyone else seemed to be asleep.

I’ve discovered that I really can’t sleep on planes. Which is a problem. I can doze but I can’t managed to shut off my brain enough to sleep. I’m not sure what I’m going to do when I fly out Monday night. Hopefully I’ll be so tired I’ll just conk out and sleep anyway.

Staggering off the plane at 5.15am, I found Washington Dulles airport to be a confusing place. Baggage claim is in a totally different part of the airport and you have to get on a shuttle bus thingy to be taken there. Very weird. But I was very pleased to see Steven waiting for me. It’s been a bit of theme of this trip – I’ve put my trust in people I’ve only meet online and it’s paid off. I thought I was okay with it before actually doing it but have to admit it has been quite scary. I’ve been really lucky that everyone I’ve meet have been great.

Steven was my next host and technically, I stayed in Virginia as his apartment is in Arlington. First thing I did when I got there was get changed and stretch out on the couch. My sleeping patterns have been totally and utterly destroyed even though I thought I had adjusted pretty well to California time. This time change of only five hours has really knocked me around, evident in the fact that I’ve developed a first-rate cold. I must be the only person on the planet who travels to another country and gets sick. I tried so hard to convince myself I wasn’t sick but it didn’t work. I am sick but now I’m working on telling myself I’m getting over it and I’ll be fine when I wake up. You never know, it could work. I’ve got myself some heavy-duty nasal sprays and they seem to be working really well. I didn’t realise how hard it would be to be ill in another country. None of the drugs are familiar so it’s totally hit and miss. I guessed when I went to the chemist but I think I picked the right stuff because it’s certainly working.

But anyway… Arlington and Washington D.C. I didn’t go to Arlington cemetery like I had planned to. I did however, get to see the Lincoln memorial at night which was pretty spectacular. I can definitely recommend going there at night. It’s nowhere near as crowded and it looks wonderful. It does make photography a bit difficult but I got at least two shots during our walk in the pouring rain that I was pretty happy with. The Lincoln memorial really enforced how young a country Australia really is. Lincoln’s time happened before we even existed. It also made me kinda sad because he stood for so much. He believed in human rights for all regardless of colour or creed and that as a species we can be so much more but now his beloved America is something I think he’d be ashamed of. I think he’d be horrified at the direction the country he helped found and fought for has taken. But that’s me getting political, which is boring.

I do wish I’d spent more time in Washington. I would’ve loved to have visited the various museums and art galleries. The Smithsonians! I could’ve visited them and been in heaven. Well, I know for next time.


Fountain at the World War II memorial, Washingon DC


Does this really need a title?

Exploring Orange County

We drove around Orange County today looking for comic book shops. There were meant to be four within easy distance but in the end we only found three. MapQuest lead us astray.

The second one we found to was a bit creepy. It’s everything a modern comic shop shouldn’t be. It smelt bad and the people behind the counter were the scary comic book guys I tend to run away from if given a choice. We stayed in there for about five minutes before bailing and moving on.

The final one we went to was Comics Unlimited and it had the rarest of creatures – a chick working behind the counter! I finally bought something – a t-shirt with the yellow elliptical Batman logo and vol. 3 of Runaways (so much cheaper than what I’d pay at home). I’ve got my green Superman t-shirt on and she commented on it so I gave her one of my mini-moo cards. Pity I didn’t have one of my superhero cards – which reminds me I need to find them because I’m sure I put them in my suitcase somewhere.

Tonight I’m flying to Washington. I’m sure there’s a million more things I could’ve done but I’m actually glad I skipped the standard tourist things like Disneyland. The closest I got to it was a visit to downtown Disney for dinner (Cajun food – yum!) and driving past it. The standard tourist fare isn’t something that really appeals to me but I do wish I could’ve managed a visit to Venice Beach. I could’ve gone to MOCA yesterday but it was getting on in the afternoon and we got stuck in traffic as it was. I dread to think what it would’ve been like if we’d left later. Maybe next time.

Today’s photo:

The Getty Centre and the Walt Disney Music Centre

Today was a more cultural day.

Jackie took me up to the Getty Centre which would have to be one of the most amazing places I’ve ever been. The contrasts are amazing. The buildings are stark white, there is creamy, yellow tinted stone all around and beautiful gardens with lush green grass. Being California, there’s plenty of blue skies as well. We had a brief wander around, checking out the art but we were more interested in being outside.

photo title: zig zag
Stairwell at the Getty Centre

After this we meandered our way to the Walt Disney Music Centre. This building is truly astounding. It would have to be one of the most amazing pieces of architecture I’ve ever seen. It sweeps up into the sky, all lusterless, curved metal that can be lit different colours. Every time I looked at it, all I could say was it’s amazing, just amazing. There’s an amazing blend of glass and metal so hence this photo of the front entrance:

photo title: swept away

So, a few days into my trip and I’m still freaking out about the traffic. Part of my brain is telling me we’re on the wrong side of the road and we’re going to be crashed into. The whole left-hand turn from the centre stresses me out because I can’t help but think someone is going to smack into us. I’m not sure I’ll ever get used to but I’m trying. When we’re on the freeway it’s okay because all the traffic is moving in the same direction. I’ve promised myself that I’m never ever going to drive in America. I think I’d have an accident in about two minutes flat.

But now I’m going to have a grumble because I checked my flight details today from Baltimore back to LAX only to discover it’s been moved forward by two hours. So now it’s leaving at 7.05am which means I have to be at the airport by 6am. Which means getting up obscenely early. I have no idea how far away the airport is from the hotel. What really stings is that I now have to work out what I’m going to do for 12 hours at LAX. Sigh. Thank god I checked.

Tomorrow is possibly a trip to Golden Apple comics. We were at Borders this evening and I was so tempted to buy a hardback version Runways vol 3 because it’s a good $10 cheaper here but I couldn’t bring myself to give money to a global business when I could give it to a local trader. (But how do I explain buying stuff fro Amazon?) I did buy myself a diary for 2009 because yet again, well cheaper here than at home and it’s exactly the same as the one I have for this year.

Maybe tomorrow I’ll actually buy something. I’ve bought hardly anything at all.

Squee!

Jackie is a crafty, crafty woman. We went to downtown LA today to go to some comic book shops and have lunch a nice hotel (as you do). We went to Meltdown on Sunset Boulevard which was pretty cool. I spied a Batgirl t-shirt I really liked but they didn’t have it in my size unfortunately.

We were going to go to Golden Apple comics but decided lunch would be a better choice. Jackie took me to The Standard and we settled into a table outside by the pool. We’d ordered and were just chatting when I was surprised by a guy walking in wearing the Joker t-shirt I’ve got on my Bubble folio. That man turned out to be Tim Sale with his lovely girlfriend Christina.

Squeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!

I had no idea and I had a mini fangirl meltdown at the table. (Hi Tim!!) As I recovered, the fangirl part of my brain was kicking the rest of me for finally taking out my copy of The Long Halloween out of my backpack. D’oh!

It was a brilliant lunch and Jackie is a crafty, superb woman 🙂

Today’s photo (which is probably going to be a favourite even though I hate having my photo taken and I should’ve taken my sunglasses off):
tim and me
Tim and I, The Standard Hotel, Sunset Blvd.

I’m here

My laptop is telling me it’s 10.48 Monday morning but it’s actually around 6pm Sunday here. So I’m feeling a bit disorientated and my stomach is having a grumble.

I didn’t really sleep on the plane (dozed for about two hours) so I conked out at about 2pm and slept for four hours.

Check-in at Melbourne and customs at LAX was pretty awful. At LAX, three planes essentially arrived at the same time and it appeared that they’d seriously underestimated how many people there would be. So we queued. And queued. And queued some more. But in the queue, I had my first star sighting. Guy Pierce! Lined up with the rest of us smucks. When I finally made it through and was out on the other side, I was so, so pleased to see Jackie standing in a Tim Sale Emerald City Comic Con t-shirt. Jackie, Jake and their adorable son, Daniel are my incredibly generous hosts while I’m in Los Angeles.

Anyway, I’m here. I’ve seen the Pacific from the other side. And I got to see the dawn at 30,000 feet.

Today’s photo:

A mono-rail station at downtown Disneyland.

It’s almost time

Well, it’s officially Sunday 21st of September (by 15 minutes). So today’s the day I’ll be going to the airport. 15 months in the planning. Lots of scrimping and saving. Plenty of wondering if the day would ever come. I’ve sat at work, looking at the damn calendar since the start of the year, willing the days to count down.

And here we are.

I’ve packed my bags and I think I’m all organised. Right now I’m backing up my data to my removable drive (worse case scenario stuff). I’ve tried to think of everything. I’m sure I’ve forgotten something but hopefully it’s not something expensive and I can get whatever it is once I’m there.

Squee!

Eeep! moment number two

I have no savings. None at all. All the money I had saved has been converted into American dollars. Nothing, nada, zip. Eeeeeep! I keep thinking oh, I’ll just get money from my ING account and then have to remind myself there’s nothing in it and there won’t be money going into it until October. It feels very peculiar.

Only four more days at work and nine days until I leave. I really need to write myself a list of all the things I need to get before I go. Shopping day next Friday.