Well, imaginary blog visitor, I'm glad you asked (and, really, I couldn't think of a good pun title).
I upended my life quite a bit to make this journey happen. At one point, I thought to myself, 'The only way this trip could be anything but a huge disappointment is if I ended up in a three-way.
The three-way did not happen.
Given how set I was on getting my car in perfect, driveable condition, there was no way I wasn't driving to Canada (and flights to Toronto were crazy expensive this close to the date).
I prepared myself with everything I believed I needed: nerdy T-shirts and underwear, money, a loose yet firm approximation of a schedule, money, condoms (spoiler warning: they weren't used...and not because I don't believe in safe sex). I pumped about $30 worth of gas into my car and marveled as the needle approached 'F' (who knew it could do that?).
Thankfully, I didn't need much more than my license and answering a few questions to get across the border. The road to Toronto was long and winding. Seriously. Really long. Good thing I had the soundtracks to "Invader Zim" and "Arrested Development" to get me through...but not even they could alleviate the pain in my legs. All that driving - roughly two hours worth - is not healthy.
Ultimately, I made it to Toronto. The hotel I was staying at had its own parking garage, which was cool, but (in one of those situations where I end up knowing less than I think I do) it said that I had to register before parking. Here's a pop quiz for you: what do you think this meant?
Park your car in the hotel's garage and head straight for the hotel lobby, so you can be allowed to park there
Park your car in a nearby garage, then head back to the hotel and get checked in, then pick up the car from the garage, but somehow manage to miss the kiosk to pay for parking and inadvertantly cheating the garage out of four dollars
If you guessed 'A', you're smarter than I was. I tried like crazy to pay it back, but the machine wouldn't read my card. Because the activity of the garage was caught on security cameras, needless to say I was freaking out.
Given how tired I was from driving and the - shall we say - casual attitude towards getting around that pedestrians and bicyclists took, it's no mystery that I didn't drive at all during this trip.
After finally getting myself settled in my room, all I wanted to do was relax...but I remembered that I had something of a schedule to follow and it was getting late already. (I was eager to trade in my wad of cash for Canadian currency, only to find that I couldn't exchange any unspent money for American; it had to be on a day-by-day basis, which was ultimately wise.) About an hour later, I headed out.
Now, Quiznos closed up shop here in the States, but in Toronto, the chain is thriving. (I have no problem saying that Quiznos kicks Subway's ass.) Though the sandwiches didn't seem to be assembled with quite the care seen in the deceased locations in my town, it was immensely satisfying to enjoy a Turkey Bacon Guacamole sub again.
Even though I would be going to a comic book convention, I still felt I had to visit a comic book shop. Much to my surprise, it was a long ways toward my destination. Something I noticed throughout were people walking all manner of dogs. Every so often, I ran across some of their presents lying on the sidewalk. Thankfully, nothing touched me.
A long walk later, I ended up, not at my comic book store, but at record store Sonic Boom which had a number of soundtracks that interested me. (Not as many as Amoeba, but still a good haul.) I also noticed a number of kitschy items, like originally wrapped trading card tie-ins with various movies and TV shows (and a sign warning customers 'do not chew the gum!').
Just a few doors down was the comic book store - Little Island comics. A cursory glance told me that the store catered to a juvenile clientele, so the stuff on my want list would not be leaving with me. Even so, I picked up many "My Little Pony" comics and the first issue of the "Bob's Burgers" comic.
I just wasn't up to walking all the way back home, so I hopped a trolley toward the hotel. Again, I wanted nothing but to relax...but I did want to get a look at the Fan Expo Canada. I walked the two blocks up to the center and checked it out. Much to my immediate disappointment, there seemed to be more merchandise than comic books. Hopefully, everything would make sense tomorrow.
I checked my schedule and found that the breakfast place I wanted to go to was way out of my way (read: I'd have to drive there and, well, fuck that). Therefore, I opted for something a little closer: Fran's, where I enjoyed the big breakfast. Before that, though, I went to the Shoppers Drug Mart just up the street and loaded up on supplies (iced tea and candy for later). Out of curiosity, I also bought a lottery ticket that paid just what I spent on it. Three bucks, if you're curious.
I walked up to the center. Some of the cosplay was nuts (Maleficent, the exosuits from Edge of Tomorrow
and the kids from "Bob's Burgers" - Louise, in particular - were seen quite a bit). What I wasn't prepared for was all the walking.
The idiocy of the floor plan of the Metro Toronto Convention Centre deserves a paragraph all its own. The North Building is on Front Street West. You go into the building, but let's say you want to snag some comics. Well, those are on the 800 level. From Front West, you get in on the 200 level. You have to head up the escalators to the 300 level. From there, you head across the bridge where you and dozens of other attendees are packed like sardines going toward the South Building and down the escalator to the 400 level...then another escalator to the 500 level...then yet
another escalator to the 600 level...then (you're not gonna see this coming) still another
escalator to the 700 level...then one more mother-lovin' escalator
to the 800 level. ("Why not just enter the South Building then?" I only figured this out Sunday. I'm only human.)
As far as comics goes, the bad news is that there was nothing on my immediate want list. The good news is that, of the many vendors I hit up, the good folks at Comic Hunter had (among many other complete set titles) "Ball and Chain", that comic I referenced earlier. Don't want to tip my hand too much, but it was worth the $12 I paid for it.
The time was approaching for the Edward James Olmos panel. I figured it'd be worth it to get some pictures (the folks being "Miami Vice" fans and all). The main topic of discussion was his time as Adama on SciFi Channel's "Battlestar Galactica", with some Blade Runner
and "Portlandia" bits for flavor. Still, it was entertaining.
The lunch bug bit me and so, I hit up a hot dog stand within the center with chips and a drink. By itself, the dog was $5, but, in making it a combo, the price jumped to $12. To quote myself, fuck that. I'm not made of money! I went outside - all the way back to the North Building - to score a much cheaper drink and side dish. The crowd almost tempted me to put on a lispy voice and yell out 'Wieners in your mouth. Yummy-yum!'. (Not very PC, but it'd get me through faster.)
Not too long after, it was time for the A Nightmare on Elm Street
reunion panel. For whatever reason (I'm going with 'health issues'), John Saxon couldn't make it, leaving us with Robert Englund and Heather Langenkamp. A lot of the information provided I already knew, but there were some interesting tidbits (like how Tina's death was somewhat more elaborate).
Following that, I snapped more shots of cosplayers before waiting in line for the Stan Lee panel. Unfortunately, by the start of the panel, he was still on the Gardiner Expressway. We stuck it out and 'The Man' ultimately arrived. He seemed to need someone onstage to yell him the audience questions (dude is 91, after all), but he was terrific and worth the wait.
That would seem to be the end of the night, but not for me. Not long before I left on my trip, I bought a ticket for a screening at Batman Returns
at the TIFF Bell Lightbox theatre just up the street from my hotel (the main reason I would consider coming back to Toronto, esp. for the Toronto International Film Festival). Good movie; much Tim Burtonier than I remembered.
Having been somewhat indisposed, I got out late and grabbed a muffin and smoothie (as well as the usual provisions from Shoppers) and headed for the Expo. Sadly, I was too late to get into the Nathan Fillion Q & A. It really burned me, but I'd like to think of it this way: the people clear the rooms in between panels, so if I made it for the Fillion panel, I'd have likely had to wait in the long ass line for the next one and risked missing it.
Thankfully, it didn't turn out that way. I waited in line for the next panel. Bruce Campbell and Ted Raimi took the stage, changing things up so that we...or, rather, 'You Are the Panel'. A number of people with unusual talents went to the stage, while our MCs cracked wise. It was a lot of fun.
I considered staying to get into the panels with Hulk Hogan and Dave Bautista, but I decided on lunch instead. I'd never tried Pizza Pizza, but they seemed to be really popular, so, what the hey. Really good stuff.
Next was the Sean S. Cunningham panel. Predictably, it was all about Friday the 13th
, though there was an amusing (albeit brief) tidbit about DeepStar Six
After that, I searched high and low for a table that featured a comic with a ridiculous yet intriguing plotline. I found it: "Fractured", which you'll also be hearing about at the blog.
(Fun fact: there was a signing of voice actors from "6teen" and "Total Drama", as well as fan art glossies to be signed. Among them were the characters of the former as ponies, and a very disturbing - from a shipping point of view - picture from the latter.)
Next, I waited in line for the William Shatner panel. He had some fascinating stories about his pre-stardom days in Canada and the joys of backend participation. (And only now do I realize I probably should've brought my Loaded Weapon 1
DVD for him to sign. Tell me that wouldn't have blown people's minds.)
By this time, I just wanted to head home and enjoy some dinner. There was a Quiznos on the way back, so I got a Turkey Ranch and Swiss sub and headed back...only to be distracted by the bookstore at the TIFF Bell Lightbox. To my surprise, the new Leonard Maltin Movie and Video Guide (the last one that will ever be printed) was already out. As ever, some of his choices leave me shaking my head (**1/2 for Pompeii
? **** for The Grand Budapest Hotel
I got back to my room, where I settled in with my sub, some chips, an iced tea and some of the sparsest TV selection I've ever encountered in my travels. (I don't know, but it's just not Saturday night if I'm not watching an old monster movie and hearing cheesy jokes on Svengoolie.)
Getting a brownie for breakfast, I decided to enter the MTCC from the South Building, as I'd be spending most of my day there anyway. Unfortunately, it was hot as shit outside and I had to muscle past the long line (crowd is probably more apt) of Blue Jays fans waiting outside for the game.
Success. Once again, I searched high and low for a table, but this one had a collection of buttons from "Community" that my sister would love. Then, I got another slice from Pizza Pizza and listened to my "Arrested Development" soundtrack as I watched people walk by.
Now, there was a Richard Dreyfuss Q & A panel on the other side of the building and while it would've been a gas to ask him some questions (like what in the world is he doing here?), I decided to try "Total Drama Goes to the Movies", despite the fact that I haven't willingly watched a TD series since "World Tour". Hey, I'm a glutton for punishment.
To my surprise, the "Total Drama" panel was cancelled (as was, I would later learn on Twitter, the Dreyfuss panel, but that's not here or there), so I went to the "Collecting Horror Soundtracks" panel. The main thrust of it was horror soundtracks getting re-released on LP. Still, they were talking about soundtracks (I'll never forget the weird look I got from the guy a couple seats over when, in response to 'who are some of your favorite composers?', I named Richard Band. Is he not a favorite?).
Figuring I wouldn't have time to search for my sister's souvenir/birthday present and
wait in line for the Elijah Wood Q & A, I decided to wait in line. A lot of the questions were Lord of the Rings
-based, though he was asked about his start in the business, his fondness for gaming and a bit about the climax of The Good Son
Much like the shopper who scours the malls just before they close on Christmas Eve, I searched around for a "Simpsons" mug that I could swear I saw at one of the vendors tables, but damned if I could figure out which building it was in. With a good 15 minutes left before closing, I picked up a "Treehouse of Horror" figure. I haven't opened the box, so I'll likely be as surprised as she.
From that point, it was the same as the previous night: Quiznos (only it's my beloved Turkey Bacon Guacamole), a stop-off at TBL for more Maltin reviews and, finally, TV in my hotel room. This time, I got it in my head to snag some ice to put some chill into my iced tea.
Something I forgot to mention: there was a book on the history of the Second City in my room. Whether it was complimentary or just something left there by a prior guest, I didn't think to ask. I flipped through the book, amazed at how much talented started out there. There was a Second City location not too far from my hotel, but, lacking funds and nerve, I opted not to go. Who knows what could've happened if I had gone? I could've summoned forth reserves of untapped improvisational talent and set my life on a brand-new path. Oh, well.
I had $19 left. Also, it's Labor Day, so a lot of places will be closed. Breakfast at Tim Hortons. $11 left. A piece of cake from Starbucks. $8. A brownie from a local coffee house. $5. Candy and soda from a convenience store. Less than $2. That'll have to do.
Gathering my belongings, I head for the lobby and check out. From there, I return to my car and peel out. It's a pretty long drive to the States, but it doesn't feel as long. Then, I get to the border and customs. The lines of cars make the wait feel much longer than the drive, but, eventually, I get away from the insane heat and deadening wait and drive home.
I had some fun, but I can't help but consider my trip something of a Pyrrhic victory...especially when you consider how many amazing guests New York Comic Con is going to have next month. (Have you been to their website? It's insane.)