San Diego Comic-Con 2011

I have crazy wanderlust right now. I want to go everywhere and travel everywhere. I am dying to explore but in order to save money I must stay right where I am. I am reminiscing hard about my time studying abroad, both in Tokyo and in Paris. I want to go back to Europe and visit as many countries there as I can (otherwise the cost of the plane ticket isn’t worth it!) even if that takes months. I want to go back to Japan so much. I want to go to New York, where I have never been (but have wanted to go since middle school), which seems strange considering I’ve lived in Paris and LA and have been to Tokyo, Edinburgh, Rome, Brussels, Chicago, New Orleans, San Francisco, Austin, DC, etc. (I love cities. Someday I want to live somewhere that is public transportation friendly where I won’t need a car.) Plus I’ve since discovered so many cool places to visit in the cities I’ve traveled to that I never got to, that I really want to go back and hit. (It always drives me crazy to find out about an amazing place I didn’t know about while I was there–like all the legit Japanese places in Paris, that I never ever knew where to find.) Can you believe I haven’t been out of the country since I got back from Paris in 2007? And before 2006 I hadn’t ever been out of it.

But since I can’t go anywhere for now, and I did put the word “travel” right in my blog description, I can at least talk about past vacations. The most recent one was last July, to San Diego for Comic-Con 2011 and to visit my friend Elen who lives in Oceanside now (I’ve known her since middle school). I haven’t really written very much about that trip yet anywhere, mostly because I have so many mixed feelings about it. I mean, I justified the trip and the expense by telling myself I was going to try and network to get more freelance work in the comics industry after TOKYOPOP shut down publishing in April 2011, ending my English adaptation writer gig. In the end, I tried my hardest to do that but no work has materialized at all since then, so I guess it was more or less a failure. And I don’t really like to think about that.

At the same time, I can’t regret it too much. There were some very fun times. I’m very glad I visited Elen, and it was wonderful to see some old TOKYOPOP coworkers again, most for the first time since 2007. As an intern I attended Comic-Cons 2006 and 2007. In exchange for working the booth, all of our expenses were paid: badge, lodging, even food. Even valet parking at the hotel! (Took advantage of that the second year.) Both times were absolutely fabulous and a dream come true in every way. Especially the second year. I had sooooo much fun hanging out with the TP editors at night, attending panels during the day (the first year meeting much of the Veronica Mars cast and getting them to sign my season 1 DVD!), it was just glorious. The second year some of the people from the Tokyo office came so it was nice to see them again. My sister also joined me the second year, though I still hate that she wasn’t able to get into the Heroes panel.

Comic-Con has changed a lot from 2007 to 2011. I used to come home with a bulging bag full of free swag. I’d walk around the exhibitors’ hall and just pick up random giveaway items from each booth, and I’d rack up a LOT of stuff. In the interim, with the economy, that practice has gotten curtailed a lot. There were hardly any swag giveaways at the booths. So strange. Of course, the things I hated hadn’t changed: being forced to purchase crappy, stale, tasteless, insanely overpriced food; the crush of crowds; the impossibility of getting into a super popular panel and how there still isn’t a venue large enough for those events…

It was also hard to attend for the first time without an exhibitors’ badge. I used to go as part of the industry. This time I went from the outside looking in, hoping to be considered part of the industry once again. (At the time I had quit my editor job in publishing so I was feeling insecure from that as well. I have it again now though–which I suppose is a story in and of itself.) But I should say that I did have a professionals’ badge, which I got for free, thanks to my TOKYOPOP freelance work. (The free badge was a pretty big deciding factor on whether I’d go. It was too good to pass up.) But it still sucked to feel like I wasn’t as part of things as I used to be.

I also tried to balance too many different things: hanging out with Elen and Katey, who were going for the first time, vs. attending industry panels and networking with peers. Before going, I had written down a list of the times and rooms of all the industry panels I wanted to attend: Dark Horse, Kodansha USA, Oni Press, Viz, Yen Press, Del Rey, as well as a j-manga panel, a manga translation panel, and a state of the industry panel. I attended, like… two of those (the last bit of the Kodansha panel, and the first half of the translation panel–wish I’d stayed longer but I thought I had to be somewhere earlier than I did), because most of those were on Friday, and I spent most of that day in Hall H with Elen and Katey watching big-name actors promote upcoming movies (including John Cusack [who was so lovely, amusing and charming], Colin Farrell, Anton Yelchin) instead. I also missed several media panels I’d considered attending, like the one for The Big Bang Theory (I actually attempted to go, but saw that the line was ridiculous and gave up), the Castle one (but it was on Sunday and I had to get to the airport!), the Lost one (I really regret this because Damon and Carlton showed up by surprise!! Noooo I love them, but I had caught the Lost panels of 2006 & 2007 so it’s okay). But I did make it to a few not on my list, such as the Star Trek one with William Shatner! So cool! In any case, I really wish I’d been more aggressive about attending those industry panels.

Katey and I flew into San Diego (on separate flights) Wednesday morning and Elen picked us up from the airport; we had lunch in SD and then drove to Oceanside where she and her boyfriend live. Only a couple blocks away from their apartment was the hair salon Elen goes to, Lotus Den, and I’d been wanting a haircut badly (my hair had grown long, which had been my goal, but it was driving me crazy) so I went to go get a haircut there and it was soooo amazing. They’ve since moved to a bigger location, but even then it was so quaint and cute with the décor, and they offer you beer! And I got a great short haircut (the last one I’ve had, actually) that still looks good as it’s growing out to shoulder-length, and it only cost $40. Pretty amazing! I also got an eyebrow wax at a place down the street while I was out, then walked back to the apartment.

The next morning Katey and I, who were both on fitness kicks at the time and going to the gym a lot, went for a run on the beach (Elen’s apartment is only a couple blocks from the beach, so we could walk over). This was my first time doing that and it was faaaaantastic. I wish I could go regularly but I have no beach access… So first I went dressed in my usual workout outfit: top, capris, running shoes and socks, and tried to run on mostly dry sand. Then I discovered running on mostly wet sand in shoes was better, but it still got a lot of sand all over and sometimes inside my shoes. After Katey’s shoes got soaked by a wave, I decided to just take mine off (in solidarity?) and carry them because I love walking on the wet sand in bare feet. Then I realized–I could RUN on the wet sand in bare feet, easily! So the next time I went, which wasn’t until a few days later (I believe Sunday morning) and I was by myself, I wore flip-flops and hid them under the stairs that go to the beach and then walked/jogged/ran barefoot on wet sand. It was absolutely wonderful. Again dressed in workout clothes, I began to notice the girls around me in bikinis and realized–here, in California, is one place where it would feel completely natural to work out/run outside in a sports bra, midriff exposed, or I could just go all the way and run in a bikini. While normally I wouldn’t be onboard with that idea, somehow there it felt so appealing and I wished I had a chance to do that too. I’ll have to try it sometime. I love California. Also, may I say that while I can only sprint for short distances/periods of time, I love love love full-out running. I’m beginning to think I should have joined track in school, and now it’s too late. It is exhilarating and I adore running as fast as I possibly can (which is something I had recently discovered at that time after trying out incorporating the treadmill into my cardio at the gym).

Hanging out around Elen’s apartment was fun. She had just gotten a new kitten, so I realized this fact: kittens are assholes. One morning I was lying in bed, everyone else had gotten up, and the kitten came tearing across the bed and scratched my cheek. I let out a shocked yelp, and Elen and Katey just laughed. I had forgotten what it’s like to live with a kitten (I was too young to remember when our family cat was a kitten, and I adopted my cat at three years). Now I do. They are jerks. But they also have a wonderful border collie that I adore and a cute soft agreeable bunny, so the other two pets made up for the cat…

As for the con, Thursday was probably the best for me personally (and professionally?). Katey and I rode the Coaster down from Oceanside (this is how we got to the con each day. I think all three of us agreed that should we return, securing accommodations IN San Diego would be a great benefit to make it easier to enjoy the nightlife. Certainly this was true when I went as an intern and TOKYOPOP paid for rooms at the Marriott with everyone else in the industry!). Upon arriving at the con, we separated, I went to the Kodansha panel, found Hope (former TP editor), she led me to a couple other people I recognized (one was a graphic designer at TP but she works for Viz now–and in September Hope began as a Viz editor!). I said goodbye to them and went to take in the exhibitors’ hall. I found the Archaia booth and Tim and Paul (former TOKYOPOP editors–Paul now edits at Archaia and Tim does a lot of freelance work for them); Paul introduced me to his girlfriend Heather, an Archaia writer. Tim told me about an industry party that night at a restaurant in the Gaslamp, and I said I’d be there.

I had a good time at that party, met a lot of new people including an artist named Nichol, and then a group of us including Tim, Paul, Heather, Nichol, and a few other girls who were mostly Tim’s friends went to have dinner. At that point I had been thinking I’d take the Coaster back to Oceanside after dinner (Katey had already gone back by herself), but then I realized I had already missed the last train. Oops. Fortunately, Tim and Nichol’s room had a fourth spot open, so I was able to stay there that night (I paid them, of course). With that secured, we made our way back to the hotels around the convention center (doing a bit of meandering along the way–someone knew of some party at a bar that a friend was involved with, but when we got there it was already full to capacity) and eventually wound up at the Hilton bar.

That was where things got a little interesting and I had a celebrity sighting. (“Celebrity” as defined in Comic-Con terms, of course.) (I spent two summers living in LA, plus I’ve visited numerous times, and I had still never seen a single celebrity out in the wild. I remain extremely jealous of my mom and sister who saw Naveen Andrews [Sayid from Lost] at LAX. So even though it’s silly and makes me seem the opposite of sophisticated, yes, it was exciting to finally have something like that happen.) We were out on the patio that overlooks the pool, which was pretty crowded with mostly comics industry types, just chatting, when someone says, “Johnny Galecki is here.” I didn’t immediately recognize the name but I turned to look, and realized I did know who it was–Leonard from The Big Bang Theory! Nichol orchestrated a covert photo op with him in the background (smooth) and we spent a lot of the rest of the night commenting on his activity (he moved to the pool lounge below and got a little cozy with a male admirer, we thought).

Friday, like I said, I failed to attend the industry panels I should have and instead hung out in Hall H for much of the day with Elen and Katey. But I can’t regret it too much… I saw John Cusack and he was charming and a dreamboat. We did decide against staying for the Spider-Man panel with Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone, though, and that had been our main reason for spending hours in Hall H watching all the previous panels. (Too bad… I love Emma Stone.)

On Saturday I went around to some manga publisher booths, attempted to network. I found Alexis at the Viz booth and we chatted a little. That night there was a TOKYOPOP reunion at the Marriott poolside bar, and it was pretty fun, though I didn’t see anyone from editorial that I hadn’t already seen. I saw a lot of familiar faces from other departments as well. I also got the chance to congratulate Paul on his Eisner win! Very exciting. Things broke up a little early and I spent the next little bit watching movies with Elen and Katey before we headed to the Hyatt bar, where there was going to be a big meetup of industry people. (The Hyatt bar figures prominently in one of my most hilarious memories of Comic-Con 2006.) It took a long time for the people I knew to show up, though, though I did see and briefly chat with a couple people I remembered from the party Thursday night, and by the time Paul, Tim, Heather, Nichol, Hope, and so on rolled up, Elen’s boyfriend had arrived to take us back home.

Overall, I had a good time, and I was glad to renew my acquaintance with Comic-Con. In terms of networking, I did what I could; I did my best. At the very least, I got to see coworkers who were great mentors to me again, get caught up on their lives, and enjoy their successes. And I had fun spending Elen and Katey’s first Comic-Con with them and getting to know Elen’s new neighborhood where she lives now.

Actually, writing this post inspired me to reach back out to some contacts, and it might have gone well…? We’ll see!

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