Last weekend I attended a local conference, a big ole stampeding thing with thousands of attendees. Many of you know that my field is Early Childhood Education, and gatherings within my field tend to be somewhat …. hmmm. What’s a good word to combine enthusiasm with frump? Let’s just say that although there is great diversity among the group, the majority demographic has to be the wonderfully passionate, intelligent woman of a certain age wearing appliqué. This was St. Patrick’s Day weekend, and you can probably imagine that the festive adornments reached a fever pitch by the third day.
The conference was held at a huge hotel and convention center here in town, the place was so big that even a conference of our size could not fill it. On the first day, there was a benign and well behaved group of business people sharing an entrance foyer with our behemoth. I coveted the tote bags that their people received, but was otherwise completely unfazed by their existence.
On the morning of the second day, an interesting phenomena began to occur. There were unusual characters popping up all over the place... people in costumes of some sort. I distractedly assumed that they were there for some sort of childhood related performance or something. It was cute how they were posing for photos in the trees, whatev.
I headed into the registration foyer, thinking maybe those lucky business tech folks might have some coffee I could pilfer. Things seemed a little...different on this second morning. Everyone was still lined up conscientiously, but the overall vibe seemed to have changed.
I quickly found a helpful official in uniform to explain the situation to me
It was an anime convention! OMG, the fodder. The spectator sport! The fun!
The clash of cultures was so rich, it was a feast for the imagination.
As the day began, my reaction to the parade of crazy was unadulterated amusement. These were semi-grown people, dressed in elaborate costumes! Is that not that meant to be funny?
I quickly realized that the Anime enthusiasts were not sharing my chuckles. They were dead serious! they had planned and pined for this, it was their Superbowl! Or at least their regional championships. I don't know, they were pretty dramatic.
So I tried a new tactic: I acted like I cared! I paused to question several masqueraded marauders, I queried about their persona and their tale, seeking to understand this strange alternate universe I'd stumbled upon. The problem with this approach was that the peeps really wanted to talk about themselves, and they spoke a very strange language that I did not even remotely understand. And alas, I did not indeed care.
By the third day, my friends and I came up with a pretty great combination approach to contend with this alluring and alternative new cohort of ours. It involved mild forms of kidnapping and demands for entertainment. It was aces.
We started out in our room, lying in wait for unsuspecting anime peeps to pass by on their way to respite. We would then entice them in with promises of grandeur and candy, requesting only performance art in return.
We had some takers
but we also had some fairly vehement refusals/threats of vengeance, so we moved on to our final stand.
We positioned ourselves in the most central place available on that rainy San Diego night: the giant hotel jacuzzi.
At first we had it all to ourselves, and we simply enjoyed the parading party peeps. We asked the passersby to identify themselves. We maybe asked them very loudly, with my husband patenting a voracious battle cry of IDENTIFY YOUR CHARACTER! whenever a costumed kook walked by. A young couple joined us, and the boy knew everything about every one of the characters that came along. It was such good fun, he was a bona fide carrier of a cool card in this environment, giving us all the history and battle tales we could ever seek about each hybrid freak that crossed our path. The more we drank, the more curious we grew. Answer man knew it all.
At one point, a cool looking chick with blue hair came upon the scene, and we bellowed our request that she identify. She did so, the knowing boy provided additional details, and we turned back to our bevs as we were wont to do. Then she turned to him and said: "Mom said to get out of the pool."
Cool card revoked.
And a weekend of contradictions that I won't soon forget.