17 April 2012

C2E2 I: A Crohnie Returns to Chicago

"Hey, dude...shades of the late 90s. Wanna go to Chicago this weekend?"

This was a phone call I received from a friend of mine about a week ago. The reference of the late 90s was that in 1998, we talked ourselves into going to Wizard World Chicago about a week before the show. It was the kind of thing you can do when you're young, healthy, have disposable income and can free yourself up to go. I had just been offered a similar invitation from a friend of mine to go with her family for a week to Tampa, where I have family, but eventually I concluded I shouldn't be gone for that long for various reasons. This proposal, though, for just a few days, seemed to be more practical and so I decided to go for it. Besides, since he was going to have the same hotel and travel costs whether I went or not, he wasn't expecting me to chip in on either. We took a cooler with some lunch meat, so grub wasn't even much of an expense. All I had to hope for was that my body wouldn't betray me.
Chicago is my favorite place in the U.S., and second only to Barbados as my favorite place I've ever been. The people have always been very friendly to me and I have always felt very comfortable in Chicago. As a Southerner, I was raised to be wary of large metropolitan areas, and I laugh whenever I encounter that fearfulness. I have no idea how many times my mom advised me to "be careful" and went out of her way to express to me that "Chicago isn't very safe."

I walked to the convention on Friday and I began to doubt that I had a very good sense of my bearings. I checked a map at a bus stop, and asked the gentleman sitting on the bench if he could direct me to McCormick Place (the site of the show). He smiled and said, "I should; I grew up there!" He gave me directions, for which I thanked him. Just as I turned to walk away, I processed that he was wearing a U.S. Navy ball cap. I turned back around and said, "Oh, I just noticed your cap. Thanks for your service." He smiled again and just said, "Hey, no problem." That kind of friendliness and helpfulness is what I have experienced firsthand in Chicago every time I have been there. That's what I wish people like my mom conjured when they hear the name of the city. In fact, I didn't bother with mapping out my route before I left the hotel. I had a general sense of where I was headed, and I counted on finding that kind of help if I needed it. Sure enough, it was there waiting for me on a bus stop bench.
I was fortunate to snag a press pass to write for Flickchart. (This is as good a time as any to point out that my Flickchart blog posts can be found in the Other Writings tab at the top of this page.) I was chatting for a few minutes with some very gracious cosplayers when someone walked up and asked if he could get a photo of the foursome. Black Cat responded, "I'm sorry, we're doing an interview right now." As soon as he had walked away, I allowed myself to tell her that was an awesome moment for me. I was an interviewer! Someone had to accommodate me conducting an interview! I was like, a real writer or somethin'! It's pretty minor in the grand scheme of things, I know, but it was something I hadn't experienced before and it was a nice little thing for me. (You may recall, Dear Reader, that I'm trying to make a conscious effort to enjoy and celebrate those moments when they come along, rather than dismiss them.)

I didn't get to many panels, unfortunately. I did get to attend one with some of the creators of Womanthology, as well as another with contributors to Chicks Dig Comics. I caught part of "Rewriting the Rules on Queers in Comics," but I had to leave that panel to find a bathroom (the only such interruption I had, to my surprise!). I was very disappointed to miss "Disabilities in Comics" on Sunday, but I'm given to understand that a conversation took place this weekend with another guest and the moderator of that panel regarding invisible illnesses, so I'm hopeful that there will be some greater awareness and acknowledgment of folks like me in the funny books.

One of the first booths I visited in Artists Alley was Jean Kang's. She had a print of Batman on a toilet with the caption, "Everybody poops..even Batman." It cracked me up and seemed perfect for me since it basically connected my Crohnie lifestyle with my love of Batman. It was $10, not at all unreasonable, but I was trying to be a good boy and not buy everything I saw that I liked in the first half hour. Even with my friend's generosity and our frugal planning, I'm still pretty poor, you know.

Kang was one of the Womanthology panelists and her candor, humor and enthusiasm endeared her to me and I returned to her booth afterward to discover she had no more Batman prints. I spent $5 to purchase her Quickie Comics, which she kindly inscribed to me. I read it at the hotel room that night and was so entertained that I only partly paid attention to the episode of Cheers that was on TV. Anyone who knows me knows how impressive this is, because I love me some Cheers. I loved it so much I even forgave her the handful of spelling errors I spotted.

I'll post some more about the weekend, but I'm trying to make this manageable for you, the reader. In the interim, be sure to check out my Flickchart writings (and, y'know, some of the other posts on the blog there!) and Jean Kang's blog, JeanDrawsStuff.com.

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