Well holy Hera, we're back! Our vacation that we've been planning and dreaming about for the last year is over. We decided to do the geekiest thing possible and save our cash, book at hotel in Chinatown in downtown Toronto, and spend four solid days at FanExpo Canada with probably close to 100,000 other geeks.
IT. WAS. AWESOME.
It was everything I hoped a con could be; welcoming, easy to navigate, full of great people and wonderous treasures, and icons in the geek industry (though three of our BIGGEST weren't there; Nathan Fillion, Sir Patrick Stewart, and Stan Lee).
First things first we had to arrange for nearly a week of childcare so an ENORMOUS shout out to Bree, my parents, and my sister Wendy for taking excellent care of our two munchkins while we were gone. It means the world to us that you could give us this time together, our first vacation in 6 years!
Wednesday the 2nd we dropped Kat off at school and Gabe off at Grandma's house (that's my mom) and hit the road. It was a bit of a rocky start as Kat had a meltdown in the car and I was *not* at my best in that moment as I was anxious about the trip, but I made sure before saying goodbye (and crying all over the place; I am so my mom!) that I said I was sorry for yelling at her and that I loved her. So that was both good and bad. After that it was an 8 hour drive with over 900 songs on the iPod where nothing eventful at all happened. I'm serious, it was just a great drive with my favourite person in the world. We sang, we laughed, we ate delicious snacks and then we missed a turn off to the hotel in downtown Toronto and added a half hour to our drive, THEN we missed the parking garage for the Super 8 and added another quarter hour or so swinging back around in 5 o'clock traffic. But we made it! We checked in, ordered pizza and slept the sleep of the sleepy with lots to do the next day.
Thursday Sept 3: We'd decided the night before to do some touristy stuff before the con opened up at 2pm so after a quick breakfast we decided to walk to the Royal Ontario Museum. It was a hot, muggy day but we made it, passing through Chinatown, around the Ontario Legislature and then finally at the ROM. I'm so glad we decided to do that! It's a beautiful old building and it's absolutely FULL of neat things from around the world; prehistoric Chinese tiles, Greek statues, dinosaur bones, crystals and gems; you name it, it's probably in there. After that we walked all the way back to the hotel for a quick shower and pick up our official FanExpo wristbands (yay for getting them mailed and avoiding lines!) and then it was down to the Metro Toronto Convention Centre.
It's about the size of a city block and the con was divided between the North and South buildings. We were able to just walk right in after flashing our silver bands and take in some sights. The vendors were up in the North where we entered and so was where the stars were going to be signing autographs. A few were already there, so I took a sec to say hi and chat with Robert Picardo, who played The Doctor on Star Trek: Voyager. Good times! His voice is a bit higher in person. We got a feel for the place, walking from North to South to find a very nice couple Ryan knows from his time in Southern Ontario two years ago, then went for dinner with my friend Mel.
Mel is an internet-only friend I've known for years; we met on Twitter, became Facebook friends (so she knows the real me, has seen pics of my kids, etc) but of course I'm never in Toronto so we've never met. We had a great time at a pub on Front St; she's a lovely person with a great laugh and I hope we meet up again someday; maybe at next year's con! After stuffing ourselves silly Ryan and I walked back to the hotel and slept. Well, maybe not right away...
Friday Sept 4: Another semi bright and early morning where we went to the con at open, but this time we took the trolley! And by that I mean the electric streetcar. Super fun, very quiet, not a lot of seating. It was much faster to get down to the con but we got right in again when we wanted too. We browsed around some more then I waited in line with Ryan to meet one of his favourite voice actors, Vic Mignogna, who plays (among many others) Edward Elric of FullMetal Alchemist. We went our separate ways after that, Ryan to learn about running a successful Kickstarter and me to watch a special airing of the show Mr. Robot and listen to the delightful Christian Slater speak. He really loved our room and said it was like Shangri La but his handlers made him leave on time. I snapped a few pics though-this one is my fave:
Mr. Robot isn't a show I'd normally watch but it was worth sitting through to listen to Mr. Slater. After that I ran over to where Ryan was going to another panel, this time on publishing your own tabletop role play game, then we went back to the hotel to get away from the crowds and relax a bit before preparing for the big FanExpo party at the Brassaii Lounge on King St.
Super swanky party was super swanky. We had a delicious meal, hung out on the patio and drank delicious drinks, then went inside and danced a bit with some VERY enthusiastic geeks while the InnerSpace hosts and a couple of stars from DarkMatter mingled. Anthony Lemke even took a few minutes to randomly talk with us and has even been to my hometown! We decided that was a wrap and went back to the hotel.
Saturday Sept 5th: We got to the con as early as we could, having heard multiple horror stories from people about how busy it would be, and they weren't kidding. I literally RAN across the floor as soon as the doors were open and crowd would let me so I could get in line meet Ming-Na Wen aka The Cavalry from Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Two and a half hours later she appeared and made US feel like rock stars by waving and shouting hello, then took a couple of pics of the crowd on her phone! Her treatment of her fans was much different than that of Tom Felton, Rupert Grint, Jenna Coleman or The Phelps Twins when they came out; a smile and a wave then sit down and get to work signing. Ming-Na was lovely to talk with, very warm and welcoming. We chatted for a minute while she signed my massive S.H.I.E.L.D mug and I pointed out to her how different her treatment was of her fans from the other stars who'd come out earlier. She thanked me and agreed that she was as big of a fan of us as we were of her. I may have left her table clutching my mug and grinning like an idiot, internally squeeeeeing.
BUT! The awesome of the day wasn't over yet! At the panel where I found Ryan we met Ed Greenwood, legend and superstar of the tabletop RPG world! He created the Forgotten Realms fantasy setting back when Dungeons and Dragons was still a baby, has written countless modules and many books, and gave us some fantastic advice on how to get published. I posted a pic of him on my personal Facebook page and a friend commented he's looking more like Elminster every day. He's got a good sense of humour but you can tell there's steel under that fluffy beard.
The rest of Saturday is a bit of a blur of artist's alley, shopping for friends and then driving to London to pick up a friend for revelry on Sunday at the con.
Sunday Sept 6: After a loooong night driving to and from London to get our friend Will, we got up even earlier the next morning to get in line so I could meet Hayley Atwell, start of the tv show Agent Carter. I wasn't quite as quick but the time and line passed quickly while I chatted with a cosplaying family (mom was Black Widow, kids were Poison Ivy, Cable and The Scarecrow), a couple of scientists and a pair of moms. Just before she came out we were told there were no pics allowed from the line but I had a very tall and very nice man snap one for me anyway, and then she signed my mug as well. Not as warm and welcoming as Ming-Na, that's for sure, and her handlers were rude.
By the time I finally got my autograph it was time to head down to a special hour long panel with the aforementioned Vic Mignogna that was at times hilarious, touching and thought provoking. He had some very needed things to say about bullying inside geek communities that touched a lot of people; geeks are almost by definition outsiders and when you get push-back from people inside the community, for making not-perfect art or not-perfect cosplay or liking the 'wrong' things or liking something the 'wrong' way, that's the opposite of what we should be doing as a community. We need to be a force for light and good and hope, lifting each other up every way we can. We know what it's like to be on the outside, to be pushed around and laughed at. We definitely don't need that INSIDE the community. And yes, for the record, Edward Elric is his fave character ever to do voice acting for.
That's it! We left the con shortly after and spent the evening with Will at Medieval Times (which I HIGHLY recommend if you're on vacation in Toronto and looking for something amazing to do; use code MINI when booking for 40% off your tickets!) then spent all day Monday driving home.We had a wonderful time all the way around, and as long as there's a couple of BIG stars for us to go see next year, we'll be back.