living out loud

amy does dragon con

I had my badge. I was completely overwhelmed. But I was there I WAS THERE. Dragon*Con 2016.
I had my badge. I was completely overwhelmed. But I was there I WAS THERE. Dragon*Con 2016.

Y’all, I went to Dragon*Con. I WENT TO DRAGON*CON. I felt so empowered by just getting there! I took Uber all the way up, and I took Uber all the way back. Both female drivers, and both really lovely people. Debbie took me up and we talked about her 18 dogs (no, for real–she trains dogs and goes to dog shows). Elyse took me home, and she was much quieter but then so was I and it was 2:30 AM. Thank god for Uber–it wasn’t really the driving TO downtown Atlanta, it was the parking situation and the insanity of navigating traffic and 75,000 people. (ATLANTA. Get a better public transit system.)

To get around Dragon*Con itself, I asked exactly 1200 people for help. And I met up with 3 very nice ladies who sweetly offered to hang out with me AND helped me meet Jason Isaacs, my storyteller hero, in person. I saw 10 billion fantastic cosplayer dressups…5 billion of which were various takes on Harley Quinn. I only took about 5 pictures of cosplayers, because there were too many and I didn’t know where to look. Also, I only understood about 1/4 of what the cosplayers costumes even were (my niece clued me in on why that possibly was, because she’s become fascinated and interested in creating her own cosplayer outfits,  and apparently many cosplayers like to mix characters…like a Power Rangers Batman, or a Sleeping Beauty Smurfette). At lunch, a Dr. Who with a full tardis on wheels almost clocked me in the head as I was eating a sandwich, but worst of all he called me “M’AM” when he asked me to move my chair…I’m pretty sure the real Dr. Who would NOT call someone “m’am,” and also that was a shitty British accent. I really thought I’d totally overshare all day on social media, but I was so busy I didn’t. And finally, I got to go watch karaoke with my friend Jamie, who has a special VIP table and a good singing voice. A bearded Ursula helped run the karaoke thing.

This is Lucius Malfoy, but without his wig. He was also the very bad guy in The Patriot with Mel Gibson, the kind of guy who causes a girl to feel conflicted because that guy just NEEDS to die…but wait! He has nice eyes! (Can’t he be redeemed somehow?) But Jason has also been in a lot of other movies that I really, really love–he has a scene in this one film called Nine Lives that is just really superb acting and the whole film itself is good storytelling. And he was a general in the Civil War independent film Field of Lost Shoes, which my dad would have loved so much. And if you like watching gore and guts, you can watch his insides get ripped out in Event Horizon. FUN!

But mostly, can I tell you about meeting Jason Isaacs? Because they say don’t meet your heroes, but if Jason Isaacs is your hero I will promise: he’s a good hero to meet. I got to meet his sweet assistant, who helped the three ladies I was with and me get much better seats to hear him give his talk about being an actor and being Jason Isaacs. At the end as she was leading him away she stopped him and showed him where we were and we got to wave at him. Y’all. Y’all! Jason Isaacs is a NICE, genuine human being. Even though I was shy about meeting him (as I’d be shy about meeting YOU, if we don’t know each other), I felt like I was waving at one of my neighbors: oh, hey you! You did GREAT!

Jason is an amazing speaker–if you ever have a chance to hear him do his spiel in person, please do. He’s at the TOP of my Fabulous Dinner Party guest list now. I bet he’s got great stories about Hollywood in his actor brain. He is a natural storyteller, even in front of 900 people…whenever I watch people onstage just talking like they’re talking to good friends at a dinner party, I am amazed. I sometimes have to present information to small groups of adults at work and I get nervous doing that. Jason, on the other hand, was presenting information to a billion people (seriously, the line to hear him talk stretched about 2 blocks) and had just flown in from Australia and was jet lagged, operating on 1 hour of sleep. THAT’S a trained actor at work, dear Internet. And amazing stamina. I recommend a superhero role for him next.

He was funny and engaging during his talk, but do NOT take your cell phone out while he’s talking because if he sees you, he will stop and make you put it away and you will feel like you’ve been put in time out (okay, fine…I felt like those people had been put in time out–I don’t know how they felt). (Seriously, Internet, the cell phone thing in theaters is rude and weird–once, I sat in a dark movie theater behind a lady who was with her kids and I watched her, through the entire movie, work on editing pictures of herself and her kids–sharing pictures of what a great, fun mom she is with her kids…meanwhile, completely ignoring them right next to her. This is when I note that social media is destroying society.) And I did really admire this about Jason–he’s assertive, and that’s nice. (I do not ever want to be on the receiving end of him being assertive. Note to self.)

Queuing up to see Jason Isaacs Live! And In Person! (This was my part of the line, which was towards the front…”in front” meaning 1 mile away from the entrance doors. The rest of the line stretched behind us for, like, 5 more miles.)

After his talk, the ladies I was with and I walked back to the Marriott where actors were signing autographs. Jason was sitting next to his very attractive friend Sean Pertwee, and my friends and I got to talk to a man dressed up like Negan from The Walking Dead, who I’ve still not met yet because I’m not at that part. I thought he was Rick Grimes with a bat, and I told him that and he looked at me like I was crazy. Even though HE was the adult dressed up like a zombie killer. At any rate, one of the things I’ve learned about sci-fi convention goers is that most are really friendly–and I think it’s like self-preservation, because you HAVE to ask questions about where to go, is this the line for…, and who the heck are you dressed up as?? So we stood in line and talked to these nice cosplayers, and suddenly there I was! Standing in front of one of my favoritest storytellers!

I really thought I’d be starstruck. I didn’t want to be starstruck, but I anticipated it. In reality, when standing in front of Jason, I felt like I was interacting with my boss. He felt like an authority figure to me, so I didn’t want to say anything weird or dumb, or get on his bad side. But he was very real, and very human. In fact, every person in that signing area was like that–Adam Baldwin was next to him, too, and he seemed incredibly kind and friendly to his autograph seekers. These are just very very real and normal people, living regular lives like anyone else, but just happen to work in a very irregular kind of job. But listening to stories about what some fans do from the ladies I was with, and having just talked to my friend Jamie about some of the things he’s witnessed with some of his friends I just…y’all. Humanity! Get. A. Grip. (Jamie actually wrote a really good article about what he calls “fantitlement.” If you have a moment, you should go read it–we should have heroes, we should. But we should also remember that our heroes are real people, who have their own life stresses and hopes and dreams. Just because YOU know a lot about them from the Internet, does NOT mean you know them. Be respectful.)

So anyway. Jason Isaacs! In person, he looks just like he does on screen. I thought he’d be taller or thinner, but nope. He’s just Jason. Jason is a handsome man, with lovely eyes, and he talks with one of my favorite kinds of accents. There is not much I won’t do for a man with a good UK accent. But he’s also a good storyteller and a talented actor. I’ve followed his career for about 5 years, I think, JUST so I can hear him talk about telling stories and the process of creating them. He can also just suddenly start talking like someone from Long Island or Sydney, Australia or Edinburgh, Scotland and I like people who can do that because I think that kind of talent makes a cool party trick.

When he first stepped onstage, it was a bit surreal–there he was! Huh. So THAT’S what he looks like off screen. He’s looks just like himself. They had big screens set up so you could see him better if you weren’t right up front, but I found myself just watching him onstage. We look at screens too much these days. The experience felt very similar to going to hear an author give a talk about their book. Before I had Miss M, I used to go the The Margaret Mitchell House a lot to hear writers on book tours give talks and do signings for their latest books. I’ve gotten to meet T.C. Boyle, the great Robert Fulghum (Everything I Learned I Learned in Kindergarten), as well as a really funny author Kaye Gibbons. I am in love with getting to hear creatives talk about their process. Just in love. Had I not had a group of sweet, friendly ladies to hang out with, I probably would have gone to Dragon*Con, listened to Jason talk, and then been too shy to meet him in person and just found my friend Jamie’s booth to give him a hug, and then I’d have gone home, happy I got to be in the same spot for an hour with THE Jason Isaacs, breathing the same air, listening to him tell his stories and talk about what he gets to do for a living.

Which is why I’m so very grateful to the three ladies who didn’t know me at all, but still trusted me and hung out with me for the WHOLE day. Literally, morning til evening. They let me into their hotel room so I could use their bathroom and freshen up for karaoke, we had dinner together, we got to know each other a bit, and I felt so comfortable with them. And they helped me meet one of my heroes. So grateful to them for that.

this is a from a different Dragon*Con year, but it really does look like this…shoving through people and saying “excuse me, oh sorry woops, excuse me” a lot is just something you do at Dragon*Con.

I had no idea what I was going to say to Jason or if my talking words would even come out sensible, because oh I write all flow-y and stuff and I can joke with him and all his actor friends on Twitter all the time–I don’t even know if he or any person with a blue check even sees half of what’s said to them there. But in person? Seriously. Sometimes I words how can’t speak how know to.

When I was standing in front of him and the three ladies I was with were just chatting away to him (they know him, he knows them), I think I actually felt like I was at a meeting with my boss. In these meetings, I often find myself feeling the need to speak, but also wanting to sound competent and professional and saying things to myself like: don’t be a weirdo, Amy, don’t say anything dumb that’s going to get you written up or fired. So I picked a picture of him as Captain Hook (because he once sweetly answered a question my students asked him on Twitter about Captain Hook) and also Jason’s Captain Hook is literally the best one of all the Captain Hooks, and I started by asking him if I could tell him what to write. He said yes, and then inside I went: Crap! What do I tell him to write?! And so then I reminded him he once, on Twitter, told two show runners to hire me based on my geeky research issues and he said he remembered me. And then I said, “But they did NOT hire me.” And he said, “No, they didn’t.” (Because that is not how Hollywood works.) And then I asked him if he’d write something encouraging about writing and keep storytelling, but on his own he came up with this:

It says: To Amy, If they’d hired you, DIG would still be on TV! Jason Isaacs

And I will cherish that forever. Because damn straight it’d still be on TV. If they’d hired me.

(But I’d have actually needed them to pay me like $200,000/year plus benefits so I could quit my day job and focus on whatever I was doing for them. And that’s not how Hollywood works either, I bet. And also Hollywood seems scary, and so if standing in front of a really nice, kind British man who felt very normal and human was intimidating to me, imagine what I’d feel like if I was standing in front of an egomaniacal, demanding Hollywood producer who wasn’t being sweet to me like Jason Isaacs was on Saturday. I just need to stay in Atlanta, Georgia and write my little stories and be irreverent on my little blog.)

And then that was it. I had dinner at the Marriott’s restaurant with a couple of the sweet fellow Jason Isaacs fans, and then they graciously let me use their bathroom so I could freshen up for a big karaoke party at the Hilton. And I had two glasses of wine. And then three rums and cokes while watching things like a man in a bright red wig sing Frozen and for sweet Jamie to show up. And also, I tweeted to Jason Isaacs and his attractive friend Sean Pertwee that they should come to the karaoke party on Sunday, and look! LOOK what you two are missing! (Because I’m sure they weren’t peopled out or tired at all by the end of their crazy Dragon*Con Saturday.)

Looking up from the Marriott Marquis’ Atrium Level. If you ride the elevator all the way up to floor 45, your ears pop. It’s a fact. And DON’T drop things over the side of the wall once you’re up there. That’s a dick thing to do.

If I had to sum up my first Dragon*Con experience, I would use the words queues, adrenaline, queues, apologizing for stepping on people’s feet, massive crowds, costumes, Harley Quinn, queues, and ginormous sprawl. Dragon*Con is spread out among 5 hotels, and the cosplayer parade is amazing but also…just don’t get smushed. You can totally be smushed flat in all of those people. If/when I do it next year, I will stay at one of the hotels (I may have to go place a room on hold, like, NOW). I will bring costumes to wear. And I will take more pictures with cosplayers. And I will try not to be shy. My inner introvert didn’t get enough sleep, and all of Sunday I was decompressing and processing all of Saturday.

If Jason Isaacs comes back next year to Dragon*Con, I’ll get a picture of myself with him, too. But first I have to lose 5,000 lbs.

(In conclusion: I’m glad I went. And next year, I will force my niece to go because THESE are her people. I think she should get to know them. Especially the man in the picture below.)

When you go to Dragon*Con, it’s like going to that one bar in Star Wars, where strange, fantastical creatures from all over are communing and drinking and eating together. And it’s all just completely normal. Nobody even goes: woah! I’m eating next to a Tiger Guy! You just go: oh hey, Tiger Guy. Mind if I sit here and eat my sandwich? Love your ripped off hand-paw.