And this year, that’s saying something. (I’ll get into that later.)
Sometime Thursday afternoon or Friday morning I concluded that we’d remember this year’s trip more for the circumstances around it than for the con itself. I had no idea.
For starters: We had tickets for Thursday and Friday, and planned to drive into town Wednesday afternoon and drive home Friday evening. Sure, Comic-Con is stressful, but we always used to drive home Sunday evening and I was fine.
Of course, most of those times we weren’t bringing a toddler along.
Comic-Con is a stressful, high-pressure, taxing experience. Vacationing with a small child is also a stressful, high-pressure, taxing experience. And so many little things went wrong the first two days: Leaving the stroller behind and having to buy a cheap one on the way, the leg cramp in stop-and-go traffic, having to search for outlets to plug in the lamps in our hotel room (and having to unplug them in order to charge more than one phone at a time), the fit at dinner that had strangers commenting on how J must be tired (actually, ma’am, he acts like this regardless of sleep quotient). Getting out too late to take the shuttle back and having to take the trolley instead (though that actually worked out fine, as J loved the idea)…at which point we learned that the routes had changed since we last rode the trolley, and we got off one stop too early to make the transfer.
Thursday morning we had everything planned out: We’d go to breakfast at Broken Yolk Cafe, then pick up our badges, then I’d take J around while Katie tried to catch the first big panel of the day. So what happened? We missed the shuttle because they moved the stop from where it had been last time we stayed on this route. Then I ordered blueberry crepes and managed to spill them on my shirt and shorts. They went into the con while I went back to the hotel to change clothes and try to rinse out the blueberry syrup before it stained.
And the first taste of Comic-Con is always overwhelming. Always. Add in these circumstances and you won’t be surprised that when I finally caught up an hour and a half later, Katie was ready to swear off ever coming back.
- Always bring spare clothes. (Done, fortunately.)
- Don’t start the con with a breakfast that might stain if it spills.
- If you’re bringing a small child, find some way that you can start the con without them, then bring them in later.
Overheard: “It was! It was! It was Reptar!”
Fortunately, things improved over the course of the day, and the rest of Thursday actually went pretty well. Friday, on the other hand…well, we’ll get to that.
Anyway, after lunch we dropped J off at child care and went off to do the con for a few hours. Katie caught a few panels, and I roamed the floor.
In particular, I went through Artist’s Alley, where I bought a sketchbook from Lady Mechanika creator Joe Benitez, and stopped to chat with Flash cowriter Brian Buccellato. We got to talking about the annual, and he handed me his iPad with the complete uncolored art for the main story to read. Then he asked me to booth-sit for a few minutes while he ran to the lobby.
So, yeah, I got to booth-sit for half of the current Flash team and read a story that’s not out yet. That was pretty cool. Though I felt really awkward telling people “I’m not him, he’ll be back in a few minutes!” when they came by!
I picked J up from childcare — it turned out he had a great time — while Katie was watching the voice actors’ panel, and we met up afterward to head out to dinner.
As well as the afternoon went, we were still exhausted, and I found myself dreading the drive home Friday night. So when we got back to the hotel, I asked what I figured was a dumb question: Was there any possible way we could extend our stay another night? Amazingly, the answer wasn’t just “No,” but “Not right now, but check back in the morning in case someone cancels.”
Overheard: “I should’ve been quicker. I was too busy holding the damn pineapple.”
Awesome Friday Morning
So the next morning, we packed everything up, ready to store our luggage and check out if we had to, but asked again: was there any possible way we could stay an extra night? Two cancellations had been made. They not only got us a room for a third night, they gave us the convention rate and put us back in the same room. This far outshone all the little annoying things from Wednesday!
Then for breakfast, we walked down the street to a cafe in Little Italy called Pappalecco. Great breakfast, away from the convention crowd, and amazing cappuccino. I felt guilty drinking it out of a cardboard cup.
We got to the convention center too late for the start of the panel Katie wanted to catch on how to write fight scenes, but it was a technical panel, which meant she was still able to get into it. And because it was two hours long, she didn’t miss much of it either.
I got one of the last few wristbands to pick up the Super BFFs exclusive set that I was trying to pick up for someone (after arriving too late the day before due to the blueberry incident). I took J around the floor for a while, stopped at a few booths with kid-friendly books and toys, and finally made it to the LEGO booth, which had a large play area where we happily whiled away the next 45 minutes or so.
- Sometimes the impossible is merely improbable.
- It’s worth asking.
And then we went to lunch.
We went to New Break, a coffee shop near Ralphs, which we’d been to before. I ordered a drink named the same as drinks that I’d had before at other places, but two sips in I knew something was wrong. They had to call the owner to confirm that the unlabeled mix contained peanuts in it. To make a long story short, I thought I had the allergic reaction under control with medication, but by the time we got back to the convention center, it became clear that it wasn’t. Thankfully we’d already arranged for a few more hours of daycare, and Katie was able to drop J off before they wheeled me out through the service corridors normally seen only by staff and celebrities to an ambulance and carted me away to the hospital.
I was so relieved we’d managed to get the extra night at the hotel, and didn’t have to worry about how to get home that evening.
I spent the rest of the afternoon hooked up to monitors until they were sure the anaphylaxis had run its course. Katie went back to the con to pick up J, and they spent some time roaming the floor, catching up on things from that morning, and finally settling, again, at the LEGO booth.
They let me out about twenty minutes after the close of the pickup window at Graphitti Designs. (If it had been a ticket instead of a wristband, I could have handed it to Katie, but the wristband was stuck with me.) By the time I caught a cab back to the convention center, the main floor was closed.
At that point I had to decide on catching the Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox premiere. On one hand, I’d been kept away from the convention all afternoon by a medical emergency. On the other hand…I’d been away from my family all afternoon for a medical emergency. Add in the uncertainty of being able to make it into a Ballroom 20 event with only 15 minutes to spare, plus not having eaten more than a few bites since breakfast, and still feeling the after-effects of the reaction and the medication…
- Sometimes it’s not enough to mention that you’re allergic to peanuts before ordering. If they don’t know what’s in the food, they can’t steer you away from it.
- Yes, people will actually put peanuts in coffee.
- If you’ve successfully controlled a reaction with medication short of an EpiPen…don’t exert yourself by walking all the way back to Comic-Con until it’s really done.
- If you have to leave Comic-Con for an emergency, don’t count on getting back that day.
Lazy Saturday in the Outer Circle
We slept in a little on Saturday, checked out, stored our luggage, grabbed croissants at Pappalecco and hopped the shuttle back to the convention center to check out some of the outside exhibits that don’t require badges. Mostly we walked around the Hall H end where they had giant inflatable Teen Titans balloons, life-sized LEGO statues of Batman, Robin and the Joker, and a life-sized (but LEGO style) Bag End with Bilbo, Gandalf, and several of the dwarves.
Overheard: “Why are you here? You’re dead!”
Then we wandered the Gaslamp a bit and took the trolley back to Little Italy. We had lunch at Burger Lounge — comfort food. Then we picked up the car (at which point I discovered that I’d left the driver’s side window open all three days!) and set out for home.
Thanks for reading this far! If you’d like to check out more photos, I’ve got the full photoset on Flickr.
I don’t know if we’ll try to take the whole family next year. It might just be me hopping on the train for one day.