THURSDAY SEPT 3
G 808: Dragon Con is the Atomsplit hometown convention where we started our convention touring career and as of this year our best convention outing yet! However, it comes a heavy price both physically and mentally.
As vendors, our Dragon Con starts one day earlier than the average Dragon Con conventioneer. I was to meet DJD at around three in the afternoon to set up the booth. DJD was already at it when I arrived. I continued where he left off while he went to get the last load of boxes. When he returned we finished setting up. It took next to no time because this year instead of using one giant banner backdrop that attached to a frame we used three smaller, lighter, shade banners that pull up from their housing and attach to a pole in the back. Tension and two feet keep them standing. We also spent a lot more time on what electronics we were going to use and how we would display the items on and around the table. Once that was done we walked over to Hard Rock for the traditional after set up dinner. Every video they played while we were there was the farthest thing from actual hard rock and the only good song was Amy Winehouse’s Rehab because it is so soberingly ironic. Once we were done eating we parted ways and DJD walked back to his hotel and I went to catch the train back home.
FRIDAY SEPT 4
The next day was the official first day of Dragon Con. I took the MARTA train into Atlanta as usual and walked the rest of the way towards the Exhibitor’s Hall. At one in the afternoon the doors were open and the con was underway! I started working on the current Atomsplit project, The Cursed Guitars Color Remix, as an on the con floor art demo as DJD told people about Atomsplit, got people to play guitar, and sold our books and CDs. Sometimes I would step in and talk about Atomsplit and sell some merch too. We also had some hired help throughout the day as well. At one point our friends N.H. and J.G. came by to talk with us. Around six I left DJD to manage the booth alone so that I could start my hour long trek back to the south side suburbs of Atlanta.
SATURDAY SEPT 5
The next morning I drove to my local CVS and bought a pack of bottled water and some other things for the booth. I looked around the shelves where they usually kept the holiday goods in search of candy corn, but they were still setting the area up and there was barely any Halloween candy out and absolutely no candy corn in sight. Alas, I bought the stuff I needed and then took off towards the closest MARTA station to me.
The trip to CVS, regrettably, set me back on my timing and it was only later that I realized how bad that side trip would cost me.
The train seemed oddly full for Saturday, but of course Saturday is the biggest day of Dragon Con and it gets bigger every year and this year had a record breaking 70K attendance and as I crested the escalator I came face to face with the full force of that number as I was met with an absolute sea of people.
I couldn’t see any walls or exits. I couldn’t move in any direction other than the very slow progression of the mass of people towards the exits. As panic and a sense of claustrophobia mixed in with the extreme heat I started sweating. I sweated so much my hat was completely saturated. I couldn’t wear it anymore so I held it.
I tried to remember the last time I was in that same type of situation and it was in 2011 when I exited the Georgia Dome after Wrestlemania 27 along with what seemed to be the rest of the world. Knowing that I had once been in the same sort of predicament the panic seemed to subside a little and as the line slowly inched towards the escalators I remembered once again when I was much younger and a boy scout in a north Georgia caving slowly crawling and sliding through crevices madly seeking the exit and here I was once again, underground, and desperate for the exit.
After what seemed like forever I was at a wall and around the corner I knew there would be the escalator waiting for me to step on it and slowly elevate me towards freedom. However, the escalator couldn’t take it anymore and it came to a grinding stop. The MARTA police had us all turn around and face the escalator on the far side of us and all that waiting and sweating and panic returned in full force as I realized I had to re-do everything I had just done.
Eventually, I got to the escalator on the other side and began riding higher and higher towards air, coolness, and liberty. Once on the street I had no idea where I was as I am horrible at directions. I was dazed and confused until a friendly fellow Georgian showed me how to get to the Exhibitor’s Hall.
Once inside I got ready and started working on demoing and promoting. Around midday the air to the convention hall came on and took the temperature down to at least 45 if not lower. I was so cold I couldn’t think straight. Having done conventions in the past I knew to pack a long sleeve shirt, but this was beyond that, far beyond. It was like January in there. I had expended almost all of my energy and now I couldn’t focus on anything anymore but the cold. I saw people dressed as Sheera, Umbrella soldiers, and Game Of Throne characters. My thoughts kept deliriously bouncing around to different time periods of my life depending on the characters I saw passing by.
My friend J.B. stopped by the booth to chat, but I really couldn’t concentrate on anything we talked about. I feel bad about that. By five in the afternoon A combination of a sinus condition that I was in the midst of, and still mostly am, along with extreme heat and cold, sleep deprivation, and nostalgic sensory overload had taken their toll and I had had it. I left DJD and B. to run the table and I headed for home.
Luckily there was nowhere near as many people on the train or in the station as there was earlier and so I sat in the wonderful silence of an almost empty train feeling completely defeated and horrible for leaving DJD with two hours to go.
As these thoughts floated around my head I watched “civilians” marvel over a woman that looked like a purple fantasy demon. She seemed like she could be a sorceress or a Jedi or something like that. She stood the whole way home. I don’t think she could sit. She probably hadn’t sat for hours. I wondered if it was worth wearing a costume all day if you couldn’t sit. It really was a nice costume though so it probably was worth it to her because Dragon Con is just once a year and we all need to make the most of it.
SUNDAY SEPT 6
Sunday is nothing like Saturday. I knew it would be a lot easier to handle, but I didn’t trust the A/C in the Exhibitor’s Hall at all so I packed clothes for Georgia in February and I used all of them. After having been beaten by Dragon Con the previous day I was determined to get extra sleep and be refreshed, but that was not in the cards for me because the house alarm went off at three in the morning so after loading the shotgun and checking all the windows and doors I ruled it out as a false alarm and went back to sleep. Despite this I wasn’t feeling very bad. I knew that if I was able to get to the Exhibitor’s Hall then the only thing to really deal with was the cold and I was going to be ready for it this time.
Dragon Con is hard. It’s a long commute, even longer hours of constant focusing, and a wallet, breaker, but just like wearing a costume that won’t allow you to sit it’s worth it because Dragon Con is just once a year and we all need to make the most of it.
At one point my friend Corey stopped by. He always seems to find us. In fact, I think it’s amazing that all of our friends always find us at Dragon Con, and I’m really glad they do. We talked about comics, what all he and his wife had done at Dragon Con so far, and the Braves. It seems crazy that the Braves are suffering from a deficit of arms when pitching is what got them to the Series in the 90’s, but it is what it is. Then Corey mentioned that he was going to do a podcast called The War After The War about the high rates of spousal abuse and suicide among vets who have returned after the wars and solutions on how to deal with those problems. I thought that there couldn’t be anything more commendable to do a podcast about and I hope it is a huge success.
Having outfitted myself for the arctic I was able to demo promote and sell Atomsplit items until the closing bell at seven and I felt vindicated for my failure to maintain my post on Saturday.
MONDAY SEPT 7
The last day of Dragon Con was upon us and I headed out to the MARTA station. I thought I might have trouble finding a parking spot because MARTA was going to be free to the public, but there were plenty of spaces. Even so, I decided to park in an easily recognizable place even though there were spaces closer to the station. A train was coming in from the airport as I was walking down the stairs so I started to run and hopped on right before the doors closed. I got to the Exhibitor’s all with some time to spare and got everything set up and was ready to demo, promote, and sell.
Then came the conversation DJD and I have every year. Should we do Dragon Con next year. We both argued our pros and cons. In 2013 I was over Dragon Con, but we ended up returning. In 2014. In 2014 it was a new location that brought us back for 2015 and now here we were in 2015 unsure about 2016, but also having sold more products than any other Dragon Con. Ultimately we let the other conventioneers decide by setting a quota. The quota was met. Then we set a bonus quota and that was met. If we had a magic eight ball all signs would point to yes and so we re-upped one more time for Dragon Con 2016.
We kept on working at the booth and at five the Exhibitor’s Hall was closed once again for another year. We started our mad scramble to get everything back into boxes and other containers and get it all to the car. By 5:20 we were both headed our separate ways towards home once again.
As luck would have it, or so I thought, a southbound train was pulling into Peachtree Center and I made another dash down the stairs and onto the train. The free MARTA day was now in full effect and the train stayed packed and I stood for the whole trip home. It wasn’t unbearable, but it was annoying. The parking lot was packed by the time to got back to my truck and so I’m glad I parked farther away in a space I easily recognized. I was hot and tired and done with Dragon Con in more ways than one, but made the most of it and that’s what counts!