Much the same as many geeks in the Metropolitan Chicago area I made the trek to McCormick Place for the Grande Midwestern Geek Mecca – C2E2 (Chicago Comic & Entertainment Expo).
This is my harrowing (somewhat) tale.
Friday started off like most mornings, I woke up, checked my iPhone for messages/emails and started to get ready. However, knowing that I needed to maximize my power usage I decided to turn off my phone to kill all the running programs and then charge it to full while I finished getting ready.
This was a fatal mistake.
The phone turned off a little too fast. When I went to plug it in to charge, nothing came up on the screen. Since this had happened once before (about 7 months prior) I at least had a plan on how to fix it. So I plugged it in to my laptop and went to work at allowing the upgrade.
Little did I know this would wind up taking THREE FRAKING HOURS!
As I arrive at the train station I am surrounded by 20-something aged baseball fans wearing Chicago White Sox t-shirts, jerseys, hats, jackets, etc. and I am reminded that it is Opening Day on the south side.
It’s amazing that two events: C2E2, a haven for geeks, nerds and outcasts of all kinds can take place just miles from an event that spells the beginning of America’s past time, where “cool people” congregate and get drunk. It starts almost immediately as my train compatriots riding the upper level of the car pull out canned beer and canned red bull, downing gulps of one followed by the other in some horrible concoction of horribleness.
The train rolls on and an automated automaton voice tells me we are progressing to the next station, invariably to allow additional amounts of future drunks onto this electric powered steel box of stale air and segregated people trying desperately to own a food of personal space. Also known as a commuter train.
The train comes to a stop a few stations down the track in a small burg called River Glen and the station is set against a backdrop of humongous expansive cemetery. So big is this temple to death that it crosses thoroughfares. Dividing it in the middle is the town’s main north/south road. The graveyard seems to go on forever. Even from this raised viewpoint in the train, headstones go on and on and on.
Cemeteries have always been an oddity to me. Burying one’s dead and marking the site with stone engraved with words seems like an incredibly narcissistic act. But if we humans are, at our root, one thing; it’s narcissistic.
The train rolls on and as the houses and small towns speed by I am left to wonder: how many of these people read comics? Play RPG’s? Or are making their way, like me, to C2E2? Surely not enough of them.
Chicago approaches, I notice the buildings growing taller, less green vegetation can be seen on the ground. There is less, if any, space between the towns as one runs into the next with no discernable change; only names on a map.
Finally I reach my destination of Union Station and I head out into the wilds of Chicago’s urban jungle. The forest of skyscrapers highlight the world above, blocking out the clouds and sun alike. The vegetation here is riddled with local species, as different as they are myriad. Like no other place on Earth; major cities are a place where you can see a person wearing a $4000 suit standing next to a hipster wearing a $40 outfit, half of which came out of a dumpster as they patiently wait for the crosswalk to approve their forward progress.
I make my way to the Van Buren station to catch the electric line down to McCormick place, a short trip but better than walking. While waiting for the next train I am approached by a young woman who I had noticed looking my way. Not a hard thing to notice when the train you’re expecting is coming from the North and you are standing at the southern end of the platform, deliberately trying to ignore people; as I am prone to do.
She wanders over and, despite my earbuds being in, asks me a question. Since I’m not a complete ass I take them out and she repeats her question in a thick, English-isn’t-my-first-language accent. Apparently she wasn’t familiar with the train system and wanted to confirm that this train was going to stop where she was headed. Using my handy-dandy technology I showed her the train route on the Ride Metra app I was using to plan everything myself. Despite not being a “true Chicagoan” I can still pull of looking like I know what the hell I’m doing.
The first day of the ‘Con was great. Small crowds allowed for virtually unrestricted movement through the show floor. I spent the first couple hours walking around getting the lay of the land and checking out all the booths in Artist Alley. For such a large show I was surprised that there seemed, at least to me, to be a dearth of true comic book vendors. There were the obligatory “I sell Golden/Silver Age Books” guys because they want to actually move product, something that rarely happens on a normal business day. But the majority of the space was random vendors and companies.
I would have to say it’s the one thing that even last year’s sad Wizard World had an edge over C2E2 on. Perhaps I’m a little bias because I’m a comic guy and not necessarily interested in purchasing a handmade Ocarina flute…perhaps.
I attended an interesting literary panel designed mostly for Librarians (the ALA has a big presence at C2E2 which I applaud) but I found it tremendously informative and interesting to get their perspective on the industry. My review of the panel will be up later this week.
Day Two started out much better, meaning I didn’t break my phone. I got on the morning train, which was significantly less crowded and made my way in to the city. I paid less attention to my surroundings and instead used my time on the ride to finalize my schedule for the day and make plans for what I wanted to do on the show floor. This was hindered by the fact that I didn’t really know when I was going to arrive. I’ll explain.
So the train I was on was supposed to arrive at 9:17am and the next train leaving the Van Buren station was scheduled to leave at 9:22. After that there wasn’t another until 10:32 (a seriously intense wait). But as the inbound train arrived at Union Station it was only 9:10. I thought to myself: hell I might actually make it!
The streets were barren; carrying none of the weight of a busy Friday in Chicago. I walked, briskly, towards the station and cutting down the block from Jackson to Van Buren I was about 4 blocks from the station, just on the lake side of Michigan Avenue. It’s at this point that I break into a run.
It’s important to note that I’m balancing a messenger bag over my shoulder that’s not light carrying all my gear to survive the day at convention. Thankfully my basketball-playing stamina made the run seem to almost glide by. I can feel it, though, my head is starting to sweat heavily and my lungs start to get that burn feeling of “what the hell are you doing to me” as I hit Michigan Ave. The signal says stop. Fuck that. I run right through it. There’s a bus coming from my left, I could say it narrowly missed me, but that’d be a lie. I slid past it with room to spare. The opposite traffic was, thankfully, empty so I was unimpeded there.
I make my way down the steep staircase trying not to let that be my undoing and then as I enter the station and make my way up the ramp I have to be mindful of the utterly wet concrete surface, apparently Saturday morning is the perfect time to drop buckets of water to “clean” the station. I burst through the first set of doors, then the second and I am standing at the tracks. I am now bent over, breathing heavy, people are looking at me like I’m a crazy person and as I muster the energy to glance up I see the train pulling in. I look down at my watch and it reads 9:25.
Thank the train gods of Chicago for almost ALWAYS running late.
I find a seat on the train, more looks from people, as I’m still breathing heavy and sweating like a cave-troll on vacation in Death Valley. But, I don’t care. I made the train.
Once I arrive at McCormick place I meet up with Jesse and Brandon of this great site and we set the schedule for the day; deciding which panels they want me to hit up along with the ones I want to do (luckily for us all I was already planning to go to the ones they wanted me to hit up…great minds and all that). I attend Womanthology and Avengers vs. Xmen panels (articles will be up later as well) and I am once again impressed with what I hear.
The show floor, riddled with Saturday conventioneers, is almost impassible as I try to go from one end to the next. I get a chance to meet Jean Kang, who sat on the Womanthology panel, which was a real treat. And the rest of the day went off without a hitch.
In the end, like most conventions, I feel like I survived more than conquered, the weekend. I thoroughly enjoyed C2E2 and was impressed with how well managed it was. The floor plan is, admittedly, a little hard to follow since they have it all broken up in the abstract and not linear to where locations actually are so I was a little lost trying to find the Press Office, but I can’t completely blame them for that.
I hope you enjoyed reading my tale of C2E2. I hope to see you there next year!