It's going to be fun typing this today, because I cut my left pinky pretty badly last night, rushing to make dinner. Never handle sharp knives when you're still recovering from Otakon!
On Friday, The Gryphon and I got up with enough time to grab some breakfast in the staff suite. I always enjoy chilling out in there and swapping stories with people from other departments, before we all rush off in separate directions.
Me on Friday morning
Within about 15 minutes of each other, all the members of Press Relations arrived: The News Producer, The Rock Chick, our boss, The Pottermaniac and me. The News Producer brought his cousin, who typically helps him out wherever he is. I'll refer to him by his family nickname, Quack.
We got busy right away registering press, many of whom told us that they had arrived late last night. The Pottermaniac took requests for interviews and began working with The Godfather, the head of Guest Relations, and Doc the Stampede, the head of Industry Relations, to secure interview times.
I volunteered to run errands when it was needed, just so that I could get some exercise. This gave me at least a few glimpses of the rest of the convention, and when I wasn't in a high hurry, I could stop and snap a picture or two. I love this shot of our president, whom I'll refer to by her Internet handle, Vyxle. She looks so cheerful and calm in the midst of the madness around her. Seated in front of her, by the way, is the Corporate Lawyer, apparently deep in thought.
I also caught the staffers of Info Desk at a rare time when they weren't surrounded by tons of people.
I also caught The Cousin while she was assisting at Registration. She was on a special troubleshooting squad for the weekend, comprised of experienced staffers who could help out wherever needed.
Incidentally, every Otakon, I get mistaken for her, even though she's several inches taller than me. This time, it was actually a staffer who thought I was her, although he realized his mistake when he grew closer. I think it's the hair and the glasses.
The Gryphon came to get me at about 12:30 to have lunch, and we went up to sign up for some food, provided to staffers who can't get away to the staff suite during the day. The person who was distributing the sandwiches told us we could have two halves of anything but that there were limited vegetarian and we should only take them if we really were vegetarian. I opted for half a turkey sandwich and a bag of chips, which is a little more than I typically have in terms of calories, primarily because of the chips, which were not low fat. Next year I have to remember to pack some low-fat snacks, like Kashi bars, which I can have when needed.
We ate our lunches in Con Ops, talking to a few people we ran into there. Of course, The Gryphon kept dashing around the room to gather information he needed from people he saw passing through. That's pretty typical for The Gryphon, who tends to run himself ragged every Otakon. Fortunately, he has remarkable resilience, and it never seems to get to him.
When I returned, The Pottermaniac had a job for me. She wanted me to go up to our interview room, which was separated into three booths for private one-on-one interviews, and facilitate an interview between voice actress Willow Johnson and a media outlet. So I dashed up there, made sure that the interview space was prepared, and waited.
First, I met a group of reporters who were flushed and out of breath. They were the same ones that we'd tried to reach that morning about a last-minute availability with voice actor Yuri Lowenthal. Very apologetic, they explained that when they got the call, they were across town at a bank, exchanging Canadian currency. Their phone had failed to pick up the number when I'd left a message. I gave them the Press Relations number and told them to call The Pottermaniac and see if Yuri would be willing to reschedule.
Of course, if I'd known that Willow's interview would also run into trouble, I would have asked them if they wanted to stick around and interview her instead. However, I'm not gifted with foresight, so I bid them good-bye and waited until Willow arrived. She was fresh out of an autograph session and was carrying some flowers and other gifts that fans had given her. This being her first Otakon, she was pleased with how well she was being received. We chatted while we waited for the reporters, and she told me that she was having a good time.
While we were waiting, a fellow staff member, who happened to be lost, looking for Con Ops, arrived. He was one of the Guest Relations staffers I'd met the previous day. At first, though, I asked him if he was the reporter, because that's who I was expecting. Then I looked up and realized my mistake. I told him where Con Ops was and then introduced him to Willow. Turns out that he'd been looking for her to tell her that he had something for her in the Green Room, so it all worked out.
I called The Pottermaniac to let her know that the reporter was late, and she called them and got no response, so she returned my call and told me to apologize to Willow and tell her she was free to go. By this point, Willow's boyfriend had arrived, bringing her some food. They took their time heading out and still no reporter. I never did find out what happened, but I did apologize to Willow as she left.
When I returned, I asked The Pottermaniac if I could visit the Dealers' Room. I was hoping to find a birthday gift for my friend, The Artist, who was celebrating her 30th birthday with a barbecue at her place the next night. She lives in the Baltimore area, so I'd already gotten permission from The Pottermaniac to attend.
By the time I headed for the Dealers' Room, it was fully operational and packed. In fact, I was so overwhelmed once I got in there that I felt a bit lightheaded or dizzy. I'm not sure if it was from perfume and cologne or simply from the giddy atmosphere of all those bouncy, happy people.
I breezed through, looking for something that might interest The Artist, but I saw very little. She's not an anime fan, and nearly everything else I saw was either out of my price range or something that wouldn't appeal to her. Then I got the brilliant idea to head for Artists' Alley to look for some original art.
When I got there, I immediately felt better, because it was a lot less crowded and I could breathe. I walked up and down the aisles looking for something that she'd like. Along the way, I got a picture of some artists who were cosplaying in extravagant outfits. They were selling really cute wooden boxes decorated to look like cakes.
Not long after that, I ran into Georgia Horesh, whom I remembered from when I used to help staff Artists' Alley, about seven years ago. She was selling a book of prints, so I bought one and had her sign it. To my delight, she even did some artwork along with her signature.
Finally, I found something that I thought The Artist would like: it was a necklace, bracelet and earring set made from washers, wrapped wire and polished glass beads. The craftsmanship was excellent, and the necklace had a quirky sophistication that I felt The Artist would love. I've since received an e-mail from her thanking me and telling me that it's just her style.
On my way out of Artists' Alley, I ran into another cosplayer. This one had a metal arm that she'd fashioned herself. It looked terrific, but it wasn't terribly useful, and since she was right handed, a friend had to do many things for her. "You must be a good friend," I observed.
There were a number of interviews and press conferences that afternoon, and we all took turns handling them. There were still press wandering through our room, asking questions and looking for information on such topics as the photo policy for the JAM Project concert that night.
Our work tended to come in spurts, with periods of quiet interrupted by busy periods. We had a gofer assigned to us, and we tried to keep them occupied, knowing that once we needed them, it would usually be too late to contact Gofer Ops . When the place started looking like a disaster from all the activity, we asked our gofer to tidy up the room and decorate a folder to put all the loose papers into. Yes, we had our gofer do craft projects, and he seemed happy about it. He also didn't mind when we joked that we were calling all gofers Matthew just so we wouldn't have to learn new names.
Near the end of the day, The Water Ballerina came by to find out if The Gryphon and I would be interested in grabbing dinner. We try to get together with her at least once every year. She hung out while I tried to arrange things with The Gryphon. We also had to wait for another full-fledged staffer to return to take over the Press Relations room. In the meantime, she told me about a videogame she'd been playing passively throughout the day. It's a game that allows you to interact through a wireless network with other people playing nearby. If you run into them, you can buy objects from them. So when she had a quiet moment in Video Ops, she would pull it out and play it actively. Otherwise, she would stay logged in but tuck the game in her pocket, and her character would still randomly encounter people. Apparently, you can text them messages or draw things and share them, too.
Finally, The Gryphon managed to extricate himself to meet us at Press Relations, and a staffer returned so that I could go. We decided we had to go somewhere close, so we chose a nearby sushi place by the harbor, Edo. When I checked in with The Pottermaniac, she said that it was so close to the time the room would shut its doors that I could consider myself excused for the day.
The restaurant was surprisingly open when we got there, and we had no trouble getting a table for three out on the balcony, which gave us a nice view of the harbor.
We were all badly in need of a break, so it was great to have such a calm, beautiful place to eat. We discussed what we wanted. Both The Water Ballerina and I selected sushi, while The Gryphon got another entree which I've forgotten. Along with my sushi, I ordered a Green Tea Martini, which looked a lot like a margarita but tasted more like green tea ice cream with a little bit of a kick. I think I amused the waiter, who spotted me taking photos of the food. "It's so pretty," I told him.
The Water Ballerina was very excited about a trip she was going to be taking to India, and she told us about all the research she'd been doing to figure out which sites to hit. She is planning to take a train across the country and visit such sites as the Golden Temple at Varanasi. While she won't pass the Taj Mahal, she's going to try to visit it before she catches the plane home.
The Gryphon had to get back to work after his dinner, but The Water Ballerina and I stuck around for dessert. We both had ice cream, which was creamy and fruity tasting. A nice finish for the meal. Then we walked back to the BCC together. She said her good-byes then, because she was going to meet up with a friend from Baltimore. I wandered up to Con Ops to see who was around.
Sure enough, The Gryphon was up there, as were The Pottermaniac, The News Producer and Quack. I asked The Pottermaniac if she'd eaten yet and when she answered no, nudged her to get some dinner. They had some provided food for staffers across the hall. Turns out that the three of them were going to the JAM Project concert, and when I expressed an interest in going, they invited me along. On the way, we made sure she grabbed herself a sandwich from the staff room.
The concert was already underway when we arrived, but we had no problems finding seats in the section reserved for staff. It was actually somewhat brilliant: staff seating was in the first balcony off to the side, where it was easy for staffers to come and go. Sometimes people can only spare a short time to enjoy events before we have to resume our duties.
The News Producer, The Pottermaniac and I all tried to get some decent shots from where we were sitting. I think that The News Producer's will probably turn out best, since he had a SLR camera with a long lens. Still, I got a couple shots that I found conveyed the experience, albeit in a somewhat Impressionistic way.
For the first part of the concert, the band primarily sang harmonies to a prerecorded background. A lot of it was from anime series that the audience recognized. Then, near the end, their roadies brought out three guitars, bongos and some Congo drums, and they played several acoustic songs. We were blown away: they were really good. Some songs even gave me goosebumps. I wish they'd done the whole concert that way.
In particularly, The Pottermaniac and I loved the female singer in the group, who had a beautiful voice and was also very stylish, in an animal print, high-waisted flowy dress that gave her an effortless style. The rest of the band was dressed in typical rock garb: leather jackets, tight pants and lots of extravagant details, paired with big hair.
At the very end, each of the band members did a solo performance, singing a song that he or she had made famous. You see, they were all artists in their own right before combining forces. We left just as they announced the last song, in order to beat the crowd out of the theater.
We passed a couple people who were just arriving, and we told them they'd just announced the last song, but they went anyway. I'm told they gave a couple encores.
Back at the BCC, in Con Ops, I hung out for a little while with The Laughing Man, The Scrapbooker, and their infant daughter. She seemed to think it was hilarious when I made funny faces. I held her for a while and was amazed by how much mobility and strength she had. She also took a shine to The Pottermaniac.
Afterwards, I spent some time with The Court Wizard and The March Hare. We had a little fun with a "Quiet Zone" sign we found outside one of the staff rooms (The March Hare is on the left in this shot).
Then we roamed the halls a little bit, finally settling on the patio outside on the third floor level, from which we could see people walking on both the third and second levels. This was a lot of fun for people-watching. We had a lot of fun critiquing costumes, many of which were very impressive. One of my favorites was two guys dressed like Spartans from the movie 300. Most of their costume was simply that they'd been working out! I also loved a black, flowing Victorian costume with a cross on the hem. It looked so good I could have sworn it was made by an actual designer.
Of course, being staffers, we're never totally off-duty. A guy in a samurai costume ran past us on the gravel, lost his balance and fell, breaking his sword and gashing his face. The March Hare accompanied him to get it patched up.
When we headed back towards LARP later, we encountered a guy with his amp plugged into the wall, which is against our rules. The last thing we need in a busy hallway next to panel rooms is someone with a loud, amplified distraction that can create an impromptu crowd. I had seen him earlier in the day and told him to unplug it, and so this time I was a little mad about it, especially when he denied having spoken to me before. We let Spec Ops know, just in case.
In LARP, things were just winding down, but The Dormouse and The Cheshire Cat were still helping players. I had a unique chance to get a good shot of both of them. (The Dormouse is in the foreground, while The Cheshire Cat is helping people in the back.)
We happened to run into The Court Wizard's roommate, who had lost his room key and had been looking for us. It was just another instance of being in the right place at the right time.
Sometimes, if you just walk in a direction, you're where you need to be.