Anime Expo 2002 Trip Report

07/03/02 Departed at the civilized hour of noon (afternoon flights are your friends) and after dropping Oliver off at the vet’s cat boarding facility (more on this later) went to the airport for an unremarkable flight. Unremarkable is good, especially when you’ve seen the charming “midair collision” scene in Fight Club a few times. Attention passengers, we have just lost cabin pressure. *shudder* Anyway, breakfast was some sausage mcbiscuit clone (actually two of them) and since airlines have figured out what passenger rail service died of - the cost of food - our in-air service consisted of a can of ginger ale and a bag of mixed chip-oids. Which was actually pretty good, all things considered. However, as is our custom these days, we packed our own lunch, consisting of bagels and cream cheese. They travel well, they’re good, they’re dense enough to masquerade as an in flight lunch. Perfect.

The super shuttle ride to the Westin (where we’re staying) was interesting. I have to paint the picture. Imagine a 5-7 year old 8-10 passenger van (two bench seats, two front seats) with three of us in it. Now add the fruity, almondy scent they deodorize bathrooms with. In quantity. To the point of nausea. Now add a driver who’s having a bad day, hates the city, hates his job, hates the dispatcher - who seems to be clueless - and a busy traffic day. Not a happy situation. Oh, add crappy shocks on the van, just for atmosphere. We started out orbiting the pick up area of the airport a few times to try and pick up a few more passengers. Failing that, we departed. Hit traffic. Stop and go, even in the car pool lane. Sooo an hour later, we finally arrive at the hotel, pay the driver in cash so he’ll leave before he goes postal, and head on in.

Once we got to the Westin, things resumed being unremarkable, at least after I caught myself muttering, despite being in the Los Angeles basin, “whew, fresh air.” Check in at the Westin was unremarkable, although we did find out that the room has high speed internet (and friends, they ain’t kidding, it *screams*). After that we went up to the room and dumped our luggage, then went down, checked in with the con, got our badges and had dinner. Marcia and I both had macadamia nut encrusted mahi mahi, which was delicious. For desert she had the bananas foster with pecans in it, and I had the New York cheesecake. Mine was reasonably good, nothing to write home over, but Marcia’s desert was delicious.

After that we went back to our room. But not before stopping at the concierge desk. Okay. Confession time. Your author is broad of fundament, and the Westin has a fondness for chairs with arms too close together for me to sit in. So my aim was to get the concierge to set me up with one of the armless chairs used in the con’s various rooms. Shouldn’t be a problem, there were piles of them.

The concierge here - and I didn’t get her name - is delightfully weird and a bit scattered. When I arrived, she was chatting with a man in a wheel chair who appeared to have forgotten his original mission to get whatever it was he was after and stayed to chat with her. She was also carrying on a conversation on the phone that had her nearly in tears with laughter. After hanging up with that, she was flirting with both members of a couple who was looking for a good restaurant/bar (it bears noting that this woman is probably in her late 40s or early 50s), and so on. I had to explain to her twice what my problem was... “my butt doesn’t fit in these chairs, can I get one of the armless ones sent to my room?”, and after that the search was on. I’m uncertain why she called security to solve my problem, but after four or five calls she located a security officer, explained what she needed, and announced to me that it would be taken care of. And in less than half an hour it was. By housekeeping. How they got caught up in this snowball of effort I’ll never know. But the upshot is I have a comfortable (er... reasonably comfortable) place to sit while typing on this missive.

So ok. Here’s the story. The company Marcia works for is (to some unknown extent) subsidizing her coming on this trip. So the mantra has been “get a receipt”. Marcia’s boss (an old net friend of mine) is on her way here. Naturally this has involved several cellphone calls. Aaand a landline call on my part, relaying to the front desk from Marcia on the cellphone to find out if our hotel has any open rooms (someone didn’t make a reservation.) And now we’re waiting for the boss and her roomie to turn up here at the Westin. Who knows what happens after that. The upshot is tomorrow will probably come very early - dealer’s room setup - where Marcia, H, A, someone from the Japanese end of the company who speaks little or no English, and possibly your author, will be setting up Marcia’s company’s booth in the dealer’s room. This means dealer passes. This means buying stuff before the room opens. Better selection, all that good stuff.

The fly in the ointment to the entire week (and we’ll be here 5 days) is that nearly 2 weeks ago I had a callous on my foot crack and get infected. It’s rather uncomfortable to walk. My dealer’s room crawling may be sharply limited. I’m not certain that I’m not looking forward to that, really. I spend most of my time at this con blowing significantly large sums of cash in the dealer’s room, to the exclusion of really experiencing much of the rest of the con. I may find myself more limited to the video rooms, or to the table top gaming here at the Westin. Or holing up in the room playing games online and downloading stuff with this wonderful fast link.

I’m not the only one with health issues. Oliver (the cat, I mentioned him way up at the top) is, to be frank, dying. Slowly. His digestive system doesn’t seem to work well anymore and he’s not absorbing much nutrition from his food, though he eats as regularly as his more portly feline compatriots. He doesn’t seem to be actively in pain, but he’s so terribly thin and so weak that we didn’t feel he’d do well in the basement with the two younger cats, who pick at him, sensing that he’s weak. So Ollie is boarded at the vet, in a little two room suite with a window to the outdoors (where there’s a bird feeder to watch) and a clear plastic window through which he can look at the fish tank. I’m hoping he enjoys his stay, peace and quiet, free to eat what he wants when he wants. And who knows, maybe he’ll be able to get enough nutrition into his system to improve his health so his digestion works right again. It could happen. I’m not hopeful though. I’m very much afraid that when we get home we’ll have to put the old cat down. This is a reality we’re deliberately ignoring at the moment. We’re here to have fun. He’s literally steps from the vet if he needs care, and somewhere warm and comfortable and pretty much everything an old cat could ask out of life.

Anyway. That’s what’s going on. More tomorrow.

07/04/02 (recorded 7/05/02)
Okay, after I made my entry on the third, we went to H and A’s room to help them prepare the stuff for the Celga booth at the con. We were up with them until the wee hours of the morning of the fourth. Marcia got up early the morning of the fourth, and they all worked the booth (except for yours truly). Booth work seems to take a lot of effort, and seems to greatly reduce everyone’s enthusiasm for pretty much anything else. My foot is causing a lot of problems for me mobility wise.

That said, I got some nice cels - two of Ryoko naked from H last night - for which I still owe her money, one of Arshes Nei from Anime Link, and another Sailor Mercury with her visor from Christie Close at the cel gathering event. Also picked up a Ghost in the Shell book and a thing called a Light Wand, which is just too much a fun toy not to have. From the cel gathering we hobbled back to our hotel where it took an hour to get 3 hamburgers and a pasta dish. All in all not a very good day. And by the time I went to bed I was feeling my sunburn from standing in the line for the dealer’s room, so I was feverish and shivering. Fortunately our Preferred customer room has a down comforter on the bed. Lovely thing.

07/05/02
Feeling genuinely rancid didn’t end with last night. Marcia got up at 9:30 this morning. I staggered around like a zombie for a few minutes, took a couple of ibuprofen, and went back to bed for a couple hours. I feel much better - my screamer of a headache is gone, my back is showing signs of actual flexibility again, as are my hips, knees, and ankles. This limping on my bad foot stuff is throwing my entire body out of whack. Right now I’m debating whether to hobble over to the dealer’s room again, or just explore the con events here - uhh... that’d be table top gaming... and have a quiet day.

By now you’ve read about the shooting at LAX. I’m not sure what to make of it. The FBI is treating it as a simple act of violence or perhaps a hate crime. At this time they’re seeing no evidence of foreign terrorism ties.

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And after that the record ends abruptly. I bought a book called “Virtual Beauties” or something like that, and a DVD of the Excel Saga, and one of Serial Experiments Lane, and one of the Sakura diaries. And I had the chance to watch them all, although I didn’t finish any of them. My foot started feeling better exactly the same day I started having kidney stones acting up.

I’ve had kidney stones before, but let’s just say that these came with symptoms I’ve not seen involving the color of personal excreta (you don’t want to know). I was in a strange town, with no means short of an ambulance of going to an emergency room even if I knew where one was. Marcia was working and as frequently happened in the dealer’s room the cel phone was not, and I have to say that this was not a bright spot in the weekend.

I also have to say that I did discover something interesting having to interact with the health system in a hotel room. There is a thing called hotel docs, a national chain, which for the fairly modest fee of $250 (compare that to going to the emergency room) will send a doctor to your hotel room. I got Dr. Kim, who ran a few tests (you don’t want the gory details, do you? Ok.) and concluded that in addition to kidney stones I had a kidney infection. So I got a shot and some pills - 500mg twice a day of Cipro. He also came back the following day to give me another shot and some muscle relaxants for the back spasms (which like an idiot I didn’t take). I’ve not yet gotten all the paper work from Hotel Docs, so depending on the additional charges I may change my tune, but I have to say... house calls rock. I got better care from Dr. Kim than I did from my primary care physician here at home two days later to follow up on all this. I also suggested that if Dr. Kim was looking for a place to open a practice he should come to Colorado Springs. I’d switch.

Hell, they even have a web site. Hoteldocs.com. You can even dispatch a doctor to your hotel room from the web site. It’s like ordering pizza with papa johns. :) Okay, I wish I’d known about that part, it would have saved me a lot of faxing and expensive phone calls, but still. :)

Anyway, having passed a number of kidney stones and recovered (mostly) from the process, I’m feeling considerably better, if tired.

We had one really memorably fabulous meal. There’s a restaurant called “L’Opera about 2 blocks from the Westin where we stayed in Long Beach. The food we had there ranks among the best Italian food I’ve ever had. I don’t recall clearly what I had - lasagna if memory serves - but I remember being blown away by the flavors. Also had a variation on fried mozzarella - little blocks of mozzarella wrapped in porchutto and pan fried. Delicious. Dessert was a zabaione of some species or other with chocolate dipped cookies in it. If you’re in Long Beach, go there. Unfortunately I had wine with the meal (a really nice Gave) which when you’ve had kidney stones is an amazingly bad idea, as it turned out.

All in all, this con sucked for me, through no fault of its own. Better luck next year, I guess.