Friday | Saturday | Sunday
Remember the ACen recap when I said that due to the fun I had there, my faith in large conventions was momentarily revived? When I posted in big bold letters a subheading reading, "Does This Mean I Have To Go To Otakon Now?" Remember that?
Multiple people wanted me to follow up on that offer. There was Joe Klemm, of course, whom I've met at two Otakons thus far and we always seem to enjoy ourselves. There's "the Jon I was supposed to meet at Otakon," to plagiarize the ACen recap again, but worth noting since it would be great to have another chance to find him again. Then of course, there's Whitewater Nick (still referred to Whitewater Nick, as No Brand Nick pops up later... briefly), who once again was in need of a co-pilot to get that Godforsaken stick-shift to Baltimore.
Baltimore... thirteen hours away- not counting an additional hour for Eastern time and a couple more for unreasonable and hopefully comic delays. Furthermore, I would need to take yet another day off work- two if my employer would want me to be in salvageable condition Monday morning (which, judging from the last two Otakon trips, wasn't going to happen).1
In early June, Jasmine suggested that I join her, fellow 202-er Theresa, and a few Green Bay folk, to Anime Iowa that same weekend. Despite being held in an adjacent state, I had never been to Anime Iowa. In fact, I had never been to Iowa period. By all accounts, I wasn't missing anything on either front. Still, it was a good opportunity to spend time with friends, expand my travel resume ever so insignificantly, and most importantly- give me an iron-clad excuse to not drive halfway across the country for a giant and impersonal behemoth of a convention.
I pre-registered before the week was over and mailed in my AMV.
Screw Otakon: We've Got Corn!
Before I left, my parents (after laughing at the prospect of me voluntarily entering the state of Iowa), gave me two pieces of advice: one was that the trip from home to Cedar Rapids is the most boring stretch of road in the world. Given how beautiful the bluffs of southwest Wisconsin are, the Iowa leg must be *that* much more boring to compensate. Second- in spite of the fact that the trip follows a U.S. highway with a speed limit of 65 mph in most places, roads intersecting it may not necessarily be paved. Asphalt is apparently at a premium in the Hawkeye State.
Deciding to conserve some of my paid sick days for the possibility that I'm actually sick, I showed up to work on Friday. This did mean I had to make the drive alone (even though both the Eau Claire and Green Bay contingencies came within pick-up distance), but trusting my ability to sneak out early and Google Maps' ability to factor rest stops into its calculated driving times, I had an ETA of nine-ish. Not bad, so let's get a move on!
I have learned not to draw conclusions about states based on their reputations, at least ones I plan to visit (Alabama and Idaho are a different matter). New Jersey, as it turns out, actually has some pretty nice scenery in spots and locations that are not as putrid as the state's made out to be. So, after crossing the mighty Mississippi River and getting through the pretty, though somewhat antiquated, Dubuque, it was a straight shot through the countryside to Cedar Rapids.
It isn't different at all, is it Steve?2
These were all taken at random over the span of about twenty minutes: in the car, which is very difficult to do while driving. I couldn't pull over, because sure enough, most of the intersecting roads weren't paved.
I mean, damn, even the state highway markers are boring:
A circle? That's it? The U.S. Highway 151 sign (which also seems to have something of a tan) is pointing to it and laughing!
I made three stops- one to eat, one to take a deep breath on the Wisconsin side of Ol' Man River before entering the void, and one to take advantage of the one thing Iowa has going for it: decent gas prices.
Naturally, they'd find a way to screw with us by making the "Silver" lower than the "Regular," but prices being what they are, I'll take it. The prices are of course, due to the corn-covered state being natural supporters of ethanol (and this particular station doing what all stations should do and making that middle option nobody uses the ethanol alternative). Aurus got the usual 29 mpg out of the cheap stuff (and what does it say that $2.95 is considered the "cheap stuff").
Anyway, as evidenced by the setting sun in the background, I was running behind. It was about 9:00 when I arrived at whatever non-Excel Saga-related hotel this was at. I told Jasmine it would be 9:00-ish, but did so hoping to arrive at 8:30 and brag about making good time. And yes, Google Maps was right on the money.
Given my late-night arrival, I had assumed that registration would be closed and my convention activities Friday would be limited to harassing Narutards in the hallway. In fact, Jas's program book gave me very good news- registration was open until 10:00. I was in- and in such short time that it does my A-M Con Ex of ACen '05 proud!3
Of course, it was 9:30 by then, so there wasn't much to do besides the yaoi panel and karaoke. Since the drive over made me plenty sick of corn, I went with karaoke.
Here, we hooked up with the Green Bay crew- Mike, Ryan and Bryce are pictured (Tony came along, but remarkably did absolutely nothing of note during this convention. This may be the only time I mention him).
As opposed to No Brand, the karaoke here was themed for the anime/video game crowd as it should be. Despite seeing a few potential songs to choose in the folder (including some oldies like BGC's "Konya wa Hurricane" that could have been fun), I decided to bust open my binder of musical goodness. While I was planning to ram the EALA songs down their throats eventually, I knew I needed something in Japanese to establish a rapport, instill confidence in my abilities, and most importantly- demonstrate my musical 1337ness. So I hit the mic with what else? Eyeshield 21.
Apparently, singing karaoke makes one partially transparent. The Devil Bat Ghost in action! YA HA!!
The song of choice was Blaze Away, the second ending. I had lyrics on a table nearby, but used them sparingly. That, combined with the fact that I was just the second one to perform (and the first was a group singing a cappella) was more than enough to win the crowd's approval.
I still wasn't sure about dragging out the English stuff, although there was a very nice rendition of the English version of Hiiru no Tsuki from Outlaw Star (and the Japanese version, for that matter). With the time nearing midnight and the crowd starting to lose interest, I tapped into the well and pulled out the perfect song:
"Furare Kibun de Rock n' Roll," the cheerfully upbeat ending to Doki Doki School Hours.
After spending half an hour desperately trying to remember all the lyrics, I stepped up to the plate and nailed it. Watashi wa DYNAMITE!
Even the host said I was dynamite. Yay...
By that time, however, it was really getting late, and the entries were getting worse and worse. While we were tempted to wait for another No Brand friend to perform, Jas and I decided to head back to the hotel and save our energy for Saturday.
Then we discovered that our hotel's pool was open 24 hours. We stayed there until 2:00 before going to bed.
Despite the hide-a-bed and convenient cot, a kitchen taking up a third of the hotel room isn't so great when you're cramming seven people in there.
No matter- on to Saturday!
The Otakon '04 trip ended with a three-hour nap in the back of my car at some rest stop outside Manitowoc, followed by an extended hibernation the following day. Witnesses say I showed up for work Tuesday, but that's not how I remember it.
Aqua Teen reference? Boku no Sexual Harassment-inspired corn love? Worse- the natural combination of the two borne from AMV Hell 0.
Short for the Anti-Mainstream Convention Experience, where I avoided lines whenever humanly possible, sacrificing pretty much all main events in the process.