Over Labor Day weekend I attended Dragon Con for the 10th time, and this one was one of the best! I don't know if it can top that first time, but it came pretty darn close. I saw and did things in a whole new way, and couldn't have asked for a better time. I even had a good time waiting in line!
There is always a sense of warm fuzzies you get once you cross the threshold of the Dragon Con campus. For me, it starts when riding up the Deathscalator (aka the longest flipping escalator ever) from the Peachtree Center Marta station up to the food court between the hotels. Well, it's a mix of warm fuzzy and unbridled terror, but you get the point. It's a cocktail of emotions that I never experience anywhere else. One you get that first glimpse of a Star Fleet officer or a Captain Mal sticking out from the crowd, it feels like coming home. (You know, if getting to your house involves climbing a chompy mountain of doom.)
I could (and as you see, will) spend paragraphs waxing poetic on the essence of Dragon Con, on what it means to different people. It's community; it's a party; it's acceptance; it's playing pretend; it's being yourself; it's passion; it's comedy; it's LIFE. There's this energy, this love, whether you're at 45 minutes and counting of waiting in line, or asses to elbows with 17 of your closest strangers in an elevator; you always feel it. (Though perhaps a little less love in the elevator when someone is unsure of the range of their costume and you take Loki horn to the eye) You could be coated in sweat and Con funk from marching in the Parade, and you still have that tingling of emotional electricity that comes when you've made a connection with thousands of other people, thousands of people with the same passion and love that you have.
So if that energy is always there, pulsating under the feet of the 50,000+ people all descending on downtown Atlanta, then what made this time so special? Well, let me tell you - it did not start out well. Last year, we had incidentally timed ourselves such that badge pickup (in the past a lengthy, Herculean affair that filled all with dread) took about 10 minutes. We did not possess such luck this year, and ended up waiting almost 90 minutes. This was a portentous beginning, to be sure. BUT, even in line, things can be awesome! Case in point, we found ourselves lined up next to the lovely lady from the wonderfully excellent "Last Dragon Con" parody video (linked here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=shrNm-tXJgs
Stop whatever you're doing and watch it because it's FABULOUS. I'm serious. I'll wait.)
Okay? Wasn't that cool? The answer is yes. And we just got to chill and chat with her. We got to make that connection, tap into that energy. It set the tone for what became, for me, a weekend of connections.
Riding the high of finally getting our badges, I powered into panels. Most years previously, I was hesitant to go to panels by myself, so I tended to miss a lot of things. But this time was different; I said to myself (in a British accent, because I always talk to myself in a British accent) that I was just going to *do* things. I hit 5 panels that first day and had an absolute blast getting to touch on several segments of my passions (and that one Haven panel I went to with my sister because it was something to do. And even then, I left the panel wanting to start watching the show, so good on you, American Sci-Fi and Fantasy Media peeps!)
Saturday morning kept up the trend. We marched in the Parade again this year. However, due to some construction for the Atlanta streetcar thingy, we had a new route. Maybe it was the new view, but I felt completely energized and excited! I find myself saying this over and again, but it comes back to making connections. There were thousands of people lining the parade, all cheering and taking pictures. We marched with the Doctor Who group, and watching little kids go wide-eyed at seeing *The* Doctor or a Dalek just fills me with the warm fuzzy. Have you ever seen a 4 year old meet someone in a Batman costume? In that moment, that cosplayer *is* Batman. He has walked out of the TV screen or off comic book page and that child is meeting the literal guy who swoops in to save the day. The awe in their faces is truly magical. The parade is getting to live that moment over and over again for a mile-long trek. Having the new route breathed new life into the Parade and made those magic moments all the better.
Later that day, I went to panel where my first TV crush was a guest. It was just as fun as any other panel, but something about seeing someone I pined over since I was 10 ramped up the awesome - again, making that connection: seeing someone as a real person. It made me happy. (I also finally worked up the courage to go meet him 1 on 1 in the Walk of Fame, but by the time I had done, he had left the Con. Maybe next year...) That night, I really got to step up my connection-making. One of my favorite musical acts, Paul and Storm, were performing in show that night and asked for volunteers to help man the merch table during the show. I kicked my shyness in the ass and went for it. I got to go backstage, watch them warm up a little bit, and meet a lot of the other performers (people I know of from the Internets). I just got to help them all out during the show; selling their wares. It was minor in the grand scheme, but it was ULTRA cool to me. They signed a CD for me for helping out, but I would have done it for nothing. Just getting that experience, getting to help out someone who's given me a lot of laughs was really special.
The rest of the weekend continued along these lines - it was all about making those kinships, no matter how fleeting. And that's what Dragon Con is to me, and why I love it so much. It's taking your passion, your love, and expressing it via questions and handshakes, fabric and styrofoam. I've been attending Dragon Con since high school. I've gone with many different groups of people: people I haven't talked to in years, people I miss dearly and would love to see again, or people I get in touch with almost every day. And during the Con I always run into many other old friends, or start meeting new ones. Through all these relationships, Dragon Con has always been there. It was there to welcome me as a shy 15 year old who didn't know too many other "nerds". It was there for me to share with my best friend from high school, once for just a day, when we were separated by going to different colleges. It was there for me to introduce to my (now) husband, and I can't wait for it to be there to share with my son when he's older (he went last year at 11 months old, but much like a platypus, he didn't do much). And as new adventures begins in my life, I'm happy to know it will be waiting for me then, too.
So that was my weekend. I was so busy soaking up the group energy I successfully went another year forgetting to take pictures. But I did make a lot of memories, and can't wait to see what's waiting for next time.
While this isn't about Dragon Con specifically, Wil Wheaton has this lovely video on why it's awesome to be a nerd (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H_BtmV4JRSc). You should watch this one too, because he so eloquently speaks of that passion and that love.
Shameless plug: The Atlanta Radio Theatre Company (http://artc.org/) performs a couple shows at Dragon con each year. They are so much fun, and bring so much of that love and passion I keep raving about to an art that doesn't always get the appreciation it deserves. Please, check them out.
EDIT: Because I am a JERK and forgot this: My sister and I casually said hello to Noel Clarke (Mickey in Doctor Who) and explained Cards Against Humanity to him. As you do. Also my sister is awesome and I'm glad to get to share Dragon Con moments with her.