Friday, September 16, 2016

Dragon Con 2016

With one Dragon Con (2015) under my belt, I spent the majority of the days in between that one and this one planning. So much planning. From travel to hotels to budgets to cosplays, there is more planning involved in Dragon Con than any other con I've been fortunate enough to attend to this day. And it's all worth it. Although sometimes you emerge on the other side of a con completely exhausted and sometimes ill with the dreaded "con crud," you will never hear me utter one word of regret for attending the one and only Dragon Con.

In the months leading up to DC, my partner in crime, Stephanie Gentry, aka my #conbestie, and I messaged daily. And when I say daily, I mean approximately a few thousand messages every day, with very little exaggeration. Stephanie is the best person to attend cons with. We totally get each other on every level of our mutual fandoms. There are very few people in this world I'm able to spend literally every minute with for days on end and not want to strangle. Consider yourself lucky if you fall into this category, as that number is minuscule. So, those months of planning were made up of, including, but not limited to: spreadsheets, calendars, maps, Groupons, reservations, and a series of complicated scientific calculations of each and every aspect of getting the most out of our con experience and our short time together, as we live miles and states apart. I'm not sure we'd even recognize each other outside of the #conlife! JK, Stephanie. #conbesties for life!

Thursday

4:00 a.m. Time to stagger out of bed and hit the road. Getting to sleep the night before is like Christmas Eve when you're a kid - I was almost too excited to sleep, but the adult in me was totally aware of the commute that lay ahead and the long days that make up Dragon Con. Top that off with the panic that comes with the thought of forgetting something integral to the numerous cosplays, and you've got one neurotic psychopath on this, the first day of Dragon Con.

I made the 7 hour/500 mile-ish drive with no issues to speak of, my car loaded to the hilt with a whopping 2 suitcases, 2 garment bags stuffed to the puff, a rolling cooler, and several handfuls of other con essentials, including some gifts for Alex Kingston. Ah! The keywords you were waiting for, right? As you might know, the entire reason I purchased a membership for Dragon Con 2015 was to meet the one and only Alex Kingston, my #1 lady. She unfortunately canceled last year, but I was able to meet her at Chicago TARDIS, which wound up to be an amazing experience that I might not have had in the larger arena of Dragon Con, so, everything happens for a reason. She was, however, slated to be at Dragon Con 2016 and with the con already in motion, the chances of cancellation were slim to none. #AlwaysRiver meets #RiverSong "Part Deux" was about to go down. My excitement over this was of course off the charts. Stephanie's main attraction for this year was to be Charlie Cox (Netflix's Daredevil). We were a bit surprised there were no Doctors on the guest list. But, with that being the case, and with the schedules of our main celebs being on opposite days of each other (Charlie there Fri. & Sat.; Alex there Sun. & Mon.), all was scheduled to work out quite nicely for the both of us.


Gifts for Alex Kingston

Our mutual driving times couldn't have been more in sync. We pulled into the Target outside of Downtown ATL within minutes of one another. This time around, we had made lists of what we could buy to keep us from starving/dehydrating while at Dragon Con without breaking the bank. So prepared, aren't we? After accomplishing mission #1, we hit the liquor store for mission #2: acquiring the necessary libations for me to make a series of signature cocktails for us, based on our daily cosplays, again saving us an exorbitant amount of money. Last year I believe we had some adult beverages that cost more than a king's ransom.


The Signature Cocktail Mini-Bar in Room 3921

After our missions were accomplished, we caravaned to the Marriott Marquis, otherwise known as party central for Dragon Con. Probably considered the primary "host hotel" for the con, this is THE place to be most nights of the con. Score 1 for Stephanie snagging us a sweet spot here less than a month after Dragon Con 2015. The so-called Hunger Games for Dragon Con 2017 host hotel rooms shall commence soon.

We quickly dropped our flatbed's worth of stuff at the hotel and headed to Peachy Parking at the ATL airport to park our cars for the weekend. This may seem crazy, but consider the fact that parking at the hotel is $35 a day. We snagged all 5 days of indoor secured parking for less than $40. It takes a little more time and a tad more planning to do it this way, but when your mind measures money in terms of photo ops and autographs, this is the way to go. A quick jaunt from the airport back to the hotel on the MARTA and we were checking in with time to spare.


How much stuff do 2 people need for Dragon Con?!

As compared to last year for me, what a relaxing way to start a con (Last year I arrived Friday morning & went right to it! Never again.). I couldn't believe we had more than enough time to leisurely unpack, even shower, and plot out the coming day's events. While Thursday is not officially a part of the con, the festivities begin earlier and earlier each year. We had starred a couple of events that we would consider checking out on our first night. A surprising number of people do full-on cosplays even at this early stage of the con. I hear tell there were people there Wednesday and even earlier in the week that had been seen in and around the host hotels already bringing their A-game. I personally tossed in (at the last minute) my stand-by TARDIS costume from Halloween past, and we set to milling around our beloved Marriott. We ran into some Doctors along the way. Hello, Sweeties!


Me as the TARDIS with 11, 10, & 9

There's something to be said for not putting pressure on yourself to attend all the things. We have just as much, if not more, fun making the rounds. The signature cocktail for this night was The Dragon Con. You can make your own at home and relive the wonder that is Dragon Con:


The Dragon Con Signature Cocktail

There was quite a buzz about an official Dragon Con event, The Nerdy New Year Party. So, natch, we thought we'd hit it up. What we found was a huge room filled with a bunch of chairs lined up as if prepared for a panel, a big open space up front, and an empty stage. To this day, I have no idea what was actually going on there. Most people coming in were sitting down in the chairs, all of us waiting for something to happen. There were reportedly some technical difficulties, but we felt generally uninformed as to the nature of what was happening. Shout-out to the random raver glow-stick guy. That's all I've got. At least we came away with a cute pic of us:


Lana & Stephanie at the Nerdy New Year "Party"

Outside of hitting the sauce and meeting and greeting, there was nothing else that warranted our attention, so we retreated to our room, tucked at the end of the hall by the mechanical closet, equipped with a weird murder door, but with a primo view, and got what was likely to be the most sleep we would get in one night for the rest of the con.


Friday

Our Friday cosplays were to be Daphne & Velma from Scooby Doo. But since I always need a little bit o' River, let's go ahead and say we were River Song & Amy Pond headed to the mother-daughter costume party:

Daphne/Amy Pond & Velma/River Song

That's us - at the front of the room, absolute front row, no less, for the Daredevil (read: Charlie Cox) panel. What beginning luck! The only other time we'd seen Charlie in a panel until now was at Wizard World St. Louis earlier this year, which was kind of a bust since we, for some reason I can't recall now, were really late to and had to sit/stand against the wall choking down the worst soft pretzels known to man. So, this was, needless to say, a far better experience. As Stephanie says in her blog, In case you were wondering..., Charlie Cox is one of the most humble, well-mannered, genuinely NICE celebs either of us has ever met. He is not only an actor worthy of his accolades but a man worthy of our blatant admiration.

The Walk of Fame was up next on our things to do. This is usually filled to the brim with people we know and love. For some reason, despite the long list of guests this year, there was not much that we were interested in. This is not to say there weren't some amazing celebs, but just not many who fall into our fandoms. A lap around took little to no time once you got past the Power Rangers pile-up on Route 3. We reconnected with our friends Scott & Cathy from last year & made plans to dine together on the morrow. I also ran into some friends from home, from my ORCs group - what a delight!

Next on the agenda was our first photo op. Stephanie very graciously allowed me to bust in on her pic with Charlie Cox, but I'm pretty sure she's glad I did, because this happened:


Me, Stephanie, & Charlie Cox

That's what my genius planning gets you in your photo op. I'm for hire, btw.

From there, we headed for the Torchwood panel that, because of a slew of last-minute cancellations, was just Gareth David-Lloyd. I had been really excited for so many from Torchwood to be there and so, although I adore Gareth, was admittedly a tad disappointed that Eve Myles and Burn Gorman couldn't make it. Gareth held his own, though, and, despite being sick, made for a hilariously side-splitting panel. And did I mention we were front row for this, too? And center, too. Which made for his reenactment of the Big Finish kissing scenes a wee bit awkward.


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If memory serves, we went back to the Walk of Fame for my second try at getting James Marsters' autograph. Are you keeping track? There will be a quiz later on how many tries it took to get an autograph from this gent.

Friday is not nearly as jam-packed with panels and such as is Saturday, so we had ample time to take a breather and for me to prepare the evening's cocktail, The Scooby Snack, of course. Super-delish, if I may say so myself. We need a better system for next year, though, since we had no good way of carrying any refills.

The Scooby Snack Signature Cocktail

Surprisingly, there were no official parties happening, so this was to be round 2 of making our way 'round the atrium and loft levels of the Marriott. We found a particularly appealing place to lean near the bar, which we would return to throughout the con. It seemed the optimal spot to watch and greet (Hello, Drunk Stephanie!) passers-by. Here we are posing near said spot, doing our best detective work.


Daphne & Velma on the case of the missing Scooby Snack!

These cosplays were so much fun! We're already planning next year's duos, likely more of Amy & River. We'll also consider your requests, which you can submit up until 3 months before the con. I didn't take that many photos this year as I should have or would have liked to. That's not to say there were not amazing and outstanding cosplays such as this one, for instance, from Scream Queens:


The Red Devil & Velma: matchy matchy, aren't we?

We also ran into these guys, and we were not going to pass up this opportunity, as they so eluded us last year:

Daphne & Velma visit Sparta

And with that, we conclude our adventures of the first official day of Dragon Con.


Saturday

It's always best to hit panels earlier in the con rather than later if at all possible. Although we had seen Charlie Cox on Friday, we were going to make an attempt for his Saturday panel as well, since there was nothing else going on that we were so inclined toward. We didn't swing front row this time, but still not too bad. Thus far, we had had superb luck with regard to seating in our panels. I just hoped our luck would hold out for the remainder, since Alex was yet to come...


Lana & Stephanie as River Song and Charlie Cox's personal Steampunk wench

I thought after this panel that I would shoot for getting into the Arrow/Flash panel while Stephanie went off for her alone time with Charlie. That line was wrapped so far around the building outside that I didn't even dare. I had attended almost all of the Flash and Arrow panels last year, and some at cons in between Dragon Cons, so I don't feel too slighted. Missing a panel happens at Dragon Con. There's no way around it. There's often no rhyme or reason to the lines, either. Although Stephanie has never watched DC's Legends of Tomorrow, I drug her to the panel. I'm fairly certain she's glad she came. We landed in the front row (see above pic) again, making it an opportune place to capture this:

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That's Falk Hentchel, aka Hawk Man, grooving so graciously for us. Swoon. We later spotted him in a kilt. I'm going to go ahead and call a crush situation here. And also, how much do I now love Ciara Renee for citing Imogen Heap as her theme music, if she were to adopt some? So, so much. Here's her panel selfie:

Under Arthur Darvill's thumb is not the worst place to be

As this is being composed a little too long after the event itself, I fully recognize I'm going to flub up some details. But I'm going to go ahead and say that we made another pass through the Walk of Fame for James Marsters' autograph. That's 3 (probably more since there are these weird black spots in my memory). I did, however, almost literally stumble across Craig Parker, who I didn't recall as being on the guest list. I cannot fully express how much I love Spartacus, so this was just about the best surprise I could have asked for. He's an absolute darling man, bad guy or not. Love.


Craig Parker and ME!

My how time passes so quickly at Dragon Con! It at once felt like we'd been there for weeks or even months as well as just arrived. For me, the time had come for a cosplay change and a new cocktail. This one I dubbed the Teselecta, as I was debuting a River Song cosplay that has a screen time of literally minutes but that is striking to me. I still have some work to do on it, but I was fairly pleased with it overall.


The Teselecta Signature Cocktail


as River Song in The Pandorica Opens

We met our con friends, Cathy & Scott, at the place where we first met and had a great time catching up. I've said it before and I'll say it again, con friends are the best friends, because they KNOW. This here is a picture of 4 people who understand each other to a degree that you don't get in your everyday life. I'm so glad we had the time to reconnect. But we have to get Bob next time 'round!


Cathy, Scott, Stephanie, & Lana out on the town

Although there were in fact several official parties on the docket for the evening, as Saturday is when the con is in full swing, we chose to stay close to home and work the scene from the loft of the Marriott. That expanse of floor you see between us? I'm going to assume that's someone's Invisible Man/Woman cosplay, since that's quite a lot of floor to see at any given time in the Marriott during Dragon Con. The loft was not as hoppin' as it was last year. The music was sporadically good at best, but not a lot of dancing or geeks gone wild. We did see some things, some sides of things, some entire things, and the fallout of some things. We try to forget these things. And we move on.


Saturday night from the Loft

I had gotten my 2nd wind by this point, which I attributed to the impending excitement of seeing Alex again. Butterflies, sweaty palms, you name it...I get them all when faced with the prospect of being in her presence again. A modicum of partying (as much as we could have mustered) later, we hit the hay.


Sunday

IT'S ALEX DAY! IT'S ALEX DAY! IT'S ALEX DAY! IT'S ALEX DAY! IT'S ALEX DAY!

Early to rise, as the primary motivator for today was looking our best for Alex. I'm not sure what happened overnight, but we were both a little worse for the wear on this 3rd day of the con. I *may* have had a little more to drink the night before, since I brew a damn fine cocktail, but I guess my liver was not up to the challenge. Some mild dehydration and hunger had also set in, as we had been unable to procure any Smart Water and we both thought it a good idea to go with salads for our big dinner out. Healthy-schmealthy. That was not our best series of decisions and actions. Live and learn, as it were.

This was to be a carefully orchestrated day of activities centered completed around Alex. For the remaining 2 days of Dragon Con, our lives would center around all things Alex. And I'm OK with that. As you know, I first met Alex at Chicago TARDIS last year, Thanksgiving weekend. So, almost a year had passed. In that time, I had seen picture after picture of Alex wearing the TARDIS blue Christian Louboutin nail polish I gave her in Chicago. This still makes me giddy beyond belief. I'm sure she receives gifts piled upon gifts, and I'm certain she passes most things onto charity, as she is obviously not a woman in want. I can't say I didn't hope she would remember me almost a year later and after having met probably thousands of other River Song cosplayers, but I surely didn't expect what happened next.

We hit the Walk of Fame to rally for Alex's autograph straightaway since there was really nothing else to do in the meantime and the lines would likely be longer as the day wore on and people stumbled off their hangovers. We were in que for a very reasonable amount of time and slowly made our way to Alex, gifts for the day in hand. Stephanie allowed me to go first, as she likes to see me interact with the celebs. I'm hoping she'll tell me if ever I look like an absolute fool. I was shaking so hard and it's almost funny to me how blindingly nervous I get around Alex. This doesn't happen with anyone else. Just Alex. I'm so glad she turned out to be as amazing in person as she is on screen. I had meticulously selected some gifts for her (I also don't give gifts to other celebs - she's got me wrapped): a personalized tea blend from Adagio Teas, with our picture on the tin, a tea ball with a dragon charm, and a hand-blown glass fleur-de-lis necklace, representing my hometown of Louisville, KY. As she accepted the gift, she was taken aback by my cosplay for the day - the Nazi uniform as seen in Let's Kill Hitler. She exclaimed over and over how amazing it was and I admitted to the amount of time and work it took to get it assembled. She is so supportive and appreciative of River Song cosplayers. So to get this seal of approval from the woman herself is just about the best compliment one can get. As she looked me over and began to delve into the gift bag, it clicked. "I know you!" she proclaimed. Wait. Stop. Is this real life? Well, turn me into a puddle of goo, why don't you? Alex MF Kingston remembers ME. What is actually happening right now? The handlers (one of which was Matt Smith's BFF, btw) were not at all pushy with us, so I really don't know how long we were at her table, but she took the time to open each item from her gift bag individually and exclaim her delight upon discovering what each thing was. She laughed and asked, "It's not more nail polish?!" Not this time, but I suppose I'm going to have to keep a strong game going and have already tossed around some ideas for the next time. Yes, there WILL be a next time. Stephanie captured a voice recording of the whole event (just for my ears), which I will treasure always. I had brought a canvas print of our picture from Chicago TARDIS for her to sign. This is perfection:


Alex Kingston's autograph, "To Lana....Always :)"

I know Stephanie talked to her after I did, but I was so far above everything at this point, I couldn't tell you anything that happened for the next several minutes. Right after the autographs, we floated on to where the Pond Family Reunion panel would happen. The line was, by this point, strung outside, and we honestly thought we would be really, really far back. We managed to somehow snake in literally at the point where the volunteer made a cut and let us in because the people stalking the line before its time were moved back to accommodate those who followed the rules. We were thankfully under the cover of the valet area for the Marriott. We would have otherwise died in the sun that was beating the people on the sidewalk to near death. Thank the gods for little victories. We stood in line for a really long time and should probably have taken the opportunity to eat something other than some peanut butter crackers, save one for the pigeons. But at some point during every con, you stop making good decisions altogether. Our time had surely come. We made it into the panel, but the way they were seating people really stunk. People that were much farther back in line wound up with way better seats since they were filling sections rather than rows. We were initially right behind the podium for the video camera but bolted for the middle section and wound up with not the worst but not the best seats in the house. While it was a disappointment that Karen Gillan had canceled, Alex and Arthur Darvill still made for a fun-filled hour of family hilarity.

After the panel, it was downstairs for our Pond Family photo op. Alex and Arthur are both so great to photograph with. They try to mix it up and do different things so they're not just stock photos over and over. Stephanie and I staked our places so that we would both be close to Alex and then one of the best photos ever happened. Alex gushed again over my cosplay to the point that the photographers were getting antsy with the time she was taking with us. GAH. I still can't believe Alex Kingston called my cosplay amazing. More than once. More than a few times. Color me appeased for the rest of my life.


Rory, Amy, River, & River

Not passing on any opportunity to buddy up with my lady, I also sprung for a solo op on the same day. Another reason I love this Let's Kill Hitler cosplay is that it's so versatile. "River got undressed!" she exclaimed as I sauntered into the photo area. This pose is all her. She took the end of my stole and said, "May I?" Um, yeah, Alex, you can do whatever. I am merely your pawn. I adore this photo. Adore.


River & River

In my head, after a full day of work, Alex went back to her room and enjoyed a cup of the tea I had made for her. So that's what happened, OK?

Time again felt extremely wibbly-wobbly. We had done so much, but yet so little, and the day had passed so quickly, yet not at all. We still had a lot ahead of us for the night. On the way to dinner, we ran into this guy. Hopefully he would bring us some more of that good luck we'd had so far.


Falcor from The Neverending Story

Before the Doctor Who Ball, I had planned and promoted a gathering of my River Sisters, as I like to refer to fellow River Song cosplayers. I managed to wrangle in a good lot of us, and hope to make this a Dragon Con tradition!


#AConfluenceOfRivers

The Doctor Who Ball last year was SO. MUCH. FUN. I must say we had great expectations for this year as well. Most unfortunately, our steam was running extremely low at this point. We're convinced something was definitely up with this year, as we were somehow so much more worn out than we were the year before, although we had prepared ourselves so well. I suppose there's something to be said for flying by the seat of your pants.

I ran into some fabulous River cosplayers that didn't make it to the Confluence. You ladies are killing it. And fellas, the mind races, does it not?


3 Rivers

I'm not sure what kind of paradox happens when you have this many Vashta Neradas and River Song in the same room, but I kept getting confused as to which one of these guys was my buddy from home and which was the one who was The War Doctor at last year's ball.


Vashta Nerada, River, Vashta Nerada

I'm sure at least Rory's head would spin at the idea of three Amy Ponds...

Amy, Amy, Amy

While the party was still likely the best party of Dragon Con, we just didn't have it in us to hang for long. We did some time warping, entertained ourselves with a very lively Tenth Doctor, and dragged our spent selves back home to the Marriott before the clock struck 12.


Monday

OK, in all seriousness, was someone sneaking into our room at night and dropping some kind of subtle poison on us? We both woke up feeling like we had been zombified and reawoken several times over. The tiredness and lack of motivation was unbelievable. A fly on the wall would have surely been entertained by our lack of f**ks at this point. No amount of Airborne or protein bars was going to cure what ailed us. It was all downhill from here. And we still had a few hours of Alex left to go!

Outside of my comprehension of how we did it, we were loaded and ready to roll out in time to get in line for Alex's solo panel bright and early. They usually let the first panel of the day line up whenever, and we thought that, due to our sluggishness, we would barely be getting in the door and would land in the back row for sure. By some grace of the gods, we were pretty close to the front-ish portion of the line. This bode well for us, on this, the last day of Dragon Con.

The bad thing about a con dragging you down is that you can just be over it. You don't care about pictures. You're not overly chatty with your line mates. Everyone and everything is an annoyance. Yep, we were there. All of it. Some lovely lady in line was wonderful enough to snap this pic of my day's cosplay and send it to me. Thank you! It's actually one of the best photos of this cosplay I have yet.

Let's Kill Hitler!

Due to our places in line, we scored 4th row center seats for the panel, with a perfect observation point and view of Alex. She definitely holds her own when it comes to panels, and is as cheeky as you like. I am thankful and fortunate that I've been able to attend her panels and connect with her in ways I never thought possible.

After the panel, it was time for another solo photo op with Alex. When I came into the photo area, she hugged me and, without letting go really, I asked if we could take our picture hugging. So, this! I know I look a bit like a scared rabbit, but, what can I say, I'm just about as happy as happy can be here, so I'm OK with not looking my best. Let's face it, next to Alex, we can all really hope for the minimum. After the pic, she still kind of kept me in an embrace and asked how my "party" had gone the night before (the Confluence of Rivers)! I told her it was great and she asked if I had pictures. I said yes of course and that I would show her at her table later, since the photogs were once again rushing us along. Hugs. Words. Yay!


Me and Alex HUGGING

So probably the only negative thing that happened for the entire con was how the volunteers handled the line for Alex's autographs on Monday in the Walk of Fame. It was chaos and lots of people got screwed and lots of people who didn't do the time got preferenced. C'est la vie, I guess. We had to wait way longer than we should have had to, but all's well that ends well, I suppose. And Alex is always worth the wait.

Stephanie was just there to keep me company and bask in the Alex, as she had gotten her autograph the day before. I had another gift for her, natch, which was a bottle of wine from City Winery in Nashville, one of my favorite places to go hear live music. The name of the wine is, get this, "Two Rivers." I couldn't pass that up. I have a bottle at home for me! She pulled it out of the bag and couldn't believe it. Again, Stephanie recorded the whole conversation so I can always listen to my time with Alex. I presented Alex with this photo that Matt Smith had signed earlier this year and had joked that he better had leave space for her lest she be cross with him. She giggled about that and affirmed he was right indeed. She thought a good long while as to what to write since I already had all her standard autographs. This is pretty much perfect. Nailed it. Hopefully I'll get the chance to show it to Matt someday.


Alex Kingston's autograph alongside Matt Smith's


So this blog wouldn't be complete without mentioning how the James Marsters fiasco worked itself out. Let's just say that, after 5 or 6 (still not 100% on these numbers) tries, this is the closest I got:


Not James Marsters

I'm not sure what the deal was, James. I thought we were past that. I'm not going to forget how you dissed me anytime soon. Till then...

Well, that's about it, kids. Dragon Con #2 for me. Despite the 7 excruciatingly long hours it took to get home, and the week of con crud, I'm still saying it was all worth it. And I'll do it again next year.

Next up, you can find me at Cincinnati Comic Expo.

#DragonCon2016
#OEISS
#bewarethefallout2
#iwasreadytowaltzyoufuckers

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