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Last year I managed to hit Anime Milwaukee and Kitsune Kon on back-to-back weekends. It really wasn't that bad. It's not recommended for the faint of heart, but as a seasoned professional at attending/staffing conventions, it was certainly manageable and a repeatable feat. Until, that is, we consider the circumstances. One is that Milwaukee and Appleton are each only an hour away. Another is that while both cons had impressive attendance, neither are all that huge. Finally, I forgot to bring my camera to Milwaukee last year and only wrote an abbreviated recap.
This year, the doubleheader is ACen and No Brand. Both are 2.5 hours away. Both are traditionally eventful experiences that demand lots of pictures and proper recaps. One is freaking Anime Central.
To compound things further, I had already attended a con a week before. While OddCon in Madison is a relative breeze and does not necessitate a recap, it's still a drive and it's still a convention. Therefore, Anime Central is the second step in our quest for a treble. Back to back to back.
Did I mention it was freaking Anime Central?
Bowling a Turkey
The riding companion for this iteration was Deanna, with Scott, AJ, Bryan and Bob's friend Robert rooming with us. We stopped at Mitsuwa, of course, this time eating an early dinner there as well. After filling up on udon, it was off to the races. This year, the Hyatt set a new policy where only the person actually making the room reservation could use their parking garage, which was a problem for us as Bob had made the hotel reservation but wasn't actually attending the convention. I had to convince the gate attendants that I would be the one checking into the room and listen to them repeat over and over that were Bob to show up, we would be royally screwing him over. We repeated over and over that he was not showing up, gave them our $51 and drove in.
As it turned out, I wasn't the one checking into the room. Robert was. This was a little detail we probably should have ironed out in advance, but after the gate incident scared us into calling Bob to verify a few things, we got Robert's number and met him in the lobby. At this point I took my camera out to prep it for battle, expecting Robert to take a million years to show up like all my friends always do every time.
Less than a minute later, Robert showed up and got us into the room. His promptness shocked me so much I apparently left the camera in the hotel lobby. I did not notice this until after we got into the exhibit hall to set up our table.
ACen did not have our exhibitor badges ready when we arrived. Surprise, surprise! With panelists required to do two panels in order to get in free this year (a change designed to both curb abuse and generate more panels), this was my only ticket in. Nothing was functional yet so no big deal, but the fact that they screwed this up two years in a row is insane.
Once the table was set up, I realized my camera was missing and needed to hit the lost and found. I was not panicking... due in no small part to the realization that no pictures would mean limited recap work pre-No Brand. While heading back, I ran into Kim and Autumn from Day-Glow making their first ACen trip! We had coached Kim up at a prior Geek.Kon meeting and she not only took our lessons to heart, she was apparently in prime position to completely own this con, with her Sayaka cosplay accepted into a group of Madoka cosplayers that would be representing Aniplex at the con. She'd even be signing autographs and stuff.
For now, however, they had hit a rookie snag- toll booths. They had found a ridiculously massive hotel room at a ridiculously cheap price, but it was ridiculously far away and tolls are ridiculously expensive for those who are not properly equipped with an I-Pass. They were also looking for something to do Thursday night. I had both an I-Pass, plus Apples to Apples. If my parking garage had in/out privileges, the slumber party was on!
But first I had to get my camera back.
This is not the first time I've lost my camera. I had left it in a panel room at Ohayocon '08, but retrieved it from their lost and found within an hour. The fact that I'm even mentioning this should be an immediate red flag.
Here's the order of operations: check with hotel front desk, who sends me to the con's Info Services. Con's Info Services isn't open yet. Ask patrolling IRT guy, who doesn't know where con lost & found is. Stop by staff room, who shoos me towards the lost & found next door. The lost & found guys do not have it, but take my information, writing only “digital camera” along with my name and number. This is bothersome as not only was it logical that my camera would have either been turned in or stolen by this point, that vague description meant I'd be getting calls for every camera they received (and if Convergence was any indicator, they'd get several).
They then told me to check with the lost and found at the hotel front desk. So I circled back to the front desk, where this time I was forced to wait for the next available representative. When I got there, they made a quick phone call and returned the camera within five minutes.
At least their parking garage did come with in/out privileges, making the haggling with the gate attendants totally worth it. I met up with Kim, Autumn and their friend Sam and we broke out of there. Thanks to Kim's GPS, we found the hotel easily enough, but as we wanted to catch the hot tub there, we had to find a place I could buy some trunks. The GPS was absolutely no help with that and we were driving aimlessly through an endless business park, nearly running out of gas before finding a K-Mart.
All that and we got back with only ten minutes before the pool closed. Even more dismaying was that the pool was visible from our room, tormenting us with its lights on all night.
But damn that's a sweet place! It even had a kitchen stocked with silverware, a dishwasher and a microwave. We hit up the “24-hour market” for some grub... which was a fancy name for a standard overpriced canteen. At this point, food's food.
Our awesome hot tub party ended up being us playing Apples to Apples with episodes of Future Diary on in the background. Fine by me, as it was nice to see some new anime for once, especially something with such breakthrough potential as Future Diary.
Thanks to a red card awarded when Kim declared a three-way tie on the word "Wee," my winnings, when ordered correctly, seemed to suggest the chain of feelings during a regrettable one-night stand.
Friday morning was a bit tight as the one downside to rooming with a bunch of costumers is that morning dressage tends to take a bit longer. At least Autumn and I got a good breakfast in while Kim and Sam got dressed. We had to speed through post-rush hour traffic to get to the Hyatt before the exhibit hall opened, making it with only a couple minutes to spare. This did prevent me from getting the banner from the VGR room, but that could always come later.
They still hadn't printed badges. At this point, since security was letting me in anyway after explaining the story, was there even a need?
This year the ambassador tables were tucked away in a large cul-de-sac next to Artist Alley, which meant less foot traffic. It was quite discouraging as far fewer people walked by, but considering we're getting free space and free badges, it's hard to complain too much.
Those that did stop by brought time anomalies with them.
Deanna had a break in her autograph collecting to sit at the table while I ran to the video game room to get the banner. Geek.Kon was only lending TVs and not running the room, which was nice as our shleppers were nowhere in sight and I could steal our banners and use the good one at our table.
After returning, and after Deanna had left for another conquest, I decided it was high time to get my damn badge. It took a good half-hour for them to get the proper superiors to show up to grant the proper access, then figure out how to work the damn printer. Once Anime Weekend Atlanta showed up, wondering where their badges were, things seemed to go a bit faster.
While I was away, the Kitsune guys had a jolly good time messing with our stuff. Mike was disappointed that he couldn't sell a pre-reg for us.
Yelp had a booth across from us and were taking pictures of cosplayers walking by, including an extremely dapper Vader and his army of wingmen.
Since Scott and AJ hadn't arrived yet, it was pretty much all me at the table Friday afternoon. Thankfully some people stopped by to say hello, including DimensionThree, who dropped off a CD of his fantastic Geek.Kon.11 pictures (his 2010 pictures were being used for our "photo frame") and a surprise visit from Natalie! I hadn't seen her since her overseas trip post-con, but our Dairy Queen runs post-Iowa are still in her honor.
One guy started playing his ocarina and drew in a Link cosplayer for some duets. We couldn't get them to play dueling banjos.
I don't think I'd ever seen a Gogo Yubari cosplay before. How did we let that slide??
Contrary to popular belief, Digimon is not on my "snap every cosplayer that I see" list (and the amount of so-so Persona cosplayers struck that off the list too). Still, that's one big Gatomon.
Kermit was a real treat, not just for the impressive construction, but also because the guy had the double-rod puppeteer work down perfectly, giving Kermit genuine Muppet-like motions like head scratching and hand clapping.
I packed up the table at about 6:00. Thankfully, I had arranged it so all the table essentials fit into a bin so all I had to take back was my computers and the cash box.
How's about we go enjoy this con now?