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Confessions of a New York Comic Con Virgin – Part 5: American Gods and Heading Home

Last weekend I was in New York for the New York Comic Con. It was the first time I had ever been to the convention and it was a little overwhelming. I had an amazing time, met incredible people and saw fantastic things. I wrote down my thoughts and experiences. Now I am back home so thought I would share it with you.

Check out what has gone before.

Sweet 44H. An aisle seat right at the back of the plane. With nobody behind me so the seat can go right back. My neighbour is a kindly chap called Wellington. This plane has individual screens unlike the flight out but I am too tired to care. I hope I get some sleep on the flight home. As I have begun typing these words I think it will be a while yet.

Home, such a sweet word. The end and the beginning point of all journeys. I have only been away four nights yet it feels much longer. I have done so much. The messed up body clock and long hours at the convention have taken their toll, but what a delightful time it has been.

Bob and Hue are the pilot and Co-pilot and the flight time is 5hours 54 minutes due to a tailwind.

A short wait then takeoff. Seat back, wrapped in a blanket and watching the virtual plane on the screen before me make its tiny way across the computer sea. I think back to the last few days.

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The four of us had made our way from the Convention Center for the last time. I had thanked Jeff for letting Mike and me keep our things at the Darby Pop stall. I also wished Darby a happy 14th birthday and gave her a birthday present for the following week. I had got my daughter the same as they shared the same birthday. You will know that if you had read the previous installments. During the walk, Russ and I planned on sharing a knish but none of the street vendors had any left. Obviously a popular dish.

Then it was Penn Station and time to bid farewell to my three friends, two new and one old but who I had met for the first time those few days before. I told them what a great time I had had and how brilliant they had all been and then we went our separate ways.

I paused to get a drink from a shop and then went to catch the A train to the AirTrain to the airport.

Wouldn’t you just know it, the Metro card I had wouldn’t work. Then the machines nearby would only accept cards….except my card. I walked around looking for more ticket machines but the others mentioned places I knew not where.

Going back to the original machines I stood there a moment, not quite sure what to do. There was no staff for me to ask. I was tired and just wanted to get to the airport. A felt a tiny glimmer of panic.

A homeless man (or so he said), as thin as a rake and as smartly dressed as he could be, called Austin saved me.

He had heard me asking a fellow traveller for help that they could not give. “Are you from England?” He asked as he stared at me. His eyes tiny through the thick glasses he wore. His woollen hat pulled tight and his wispy white beard hiding the lower part of his drawn face. Wary, but with few options before me I said yes as I tried looking for another ticket machine.

He then asked if I was going to the airport. Before I had a chance to answer that he said, “You want to get the train to Jamaica Station. Only two stops, not like the A train and as it’s a Sunday you can get it cheaper than that.” I thanked him and began to walk off in the direction he pointed. “I ain’t doing it for thanks, I’m doing it to help. We all get lost from time to time and if we don’t help each other what’s the point?” I couldn’t argue with that and so we walked to the other ticket machines were Austin, “as in Austin, Texas,” pressed the buttons on the screen and I put in my four dollars and change. The ticket was mine. We then walked to the correct platform. Austin then began talking about being homeless and needing money for food, but I stopped him saying there was no need to tell me. He helped me, so I said I would gladly pay him for the service he had provided and gave him some

We then walked to the correct platform. Austin then began talking about being homeless and needing money for food, but I stopped him saying there was no need to tell me. He helped me, so I said I would gladly pay him for the service he had provided and gave him some money. Austin nodded. We shook hands, his handshake firm and Austin walked away calling out how different trains could get you to the places you wanted to go, but nobody listened. I hope he is okay.

Then the packed train, with just the two stops, then the air-train followed by check-in and customs (where a TSA agent had to shout at a woman not to get one of the trays out ready for the x-ray as she was going to hit the man kneeling in front of them who was taking off his shoes) and I arrived on the plane where I met Wellington.

At every point of my journey to the airport, there were people who had been to the Comic Con. Some still wore their passes or cosplay costumes, others were laden with the many purchases, and others had T-Shirts or tattoos of gremlins and other movies or comic book characters. We had all been part of something and all shared the secret. I chatted to a few at various points. Simply saying, “did you enjoy the con,” brought a smile to their face as they realised you were one of them.

That may well be the greatest thing about a comic convention. Forget the promoting of things and the merchandise. The comic con brings together all these like-minded people who have a passion for the many different works of fiction. It doesn’t matter what that fiction is. All are accepted. Nobody is judged on their Race, religion, colour, age, gender, sexuality etc. All mix freely, united by their love of all things geek and/or nerd. Total strangers stop and share a moment simply because they are dressed as different Spider-Men or members of The Avengers and so on. That’s kind of cool and it has been a privilege to be part of it all.

Okay, so last time I said I would tell you about George. This was last night, the Saturday, as I write this. Mike and I swung by the Darby Pop Booth to meet up with Asaad and Russ, before leaving the Con. Making our slow way through the crowd the plan was to get back to the hotel, drop off our bags and then get back to The Stitch Bar on 37th for the American Gods after party. As we walked up we talked about food. The plan for the evening meal was shawarma as this was New York City, The Avengers ate shawarma, and we all loved comic books so it all made sense. It was a great idea as the shawarma was so delicious. I’m getting ahead of myself.

So back to our slow walk from the Javits. As we talked about food I mentioned how I had crossed off some of my New York bucket list. Just to be clear, this is not an actual list I have written down. Simply a few things I wanted to do associated with NYC along with whatever random things happened. Turns out George would be one of them, but he enters our tale in a moment. So I mentioned I had eaten in a diner, we were going to get shawarma, you get the idea. Russ asked about pretzels. I’d done that as well as the obligatory hot dog when I was last in New York City many years ago with my brother and Andy…ha, we had also done Hooters back then. I had forgotten about that. Andy was a trooper!

So Russ asked had I tried a knish. I hadn’t and had no idea what it was. Russ explained and we were going to keep an eye out. However, we had only gone a couple of blocks from the Convention Center and wanted to get back to the hotel and out super quick. Therefore a taxi seemed the best idea. As we looked for a yellow cab who should appear but George. A scrawny looking chap with a tired attempt of a moustache, but he was friendly and enthusiastic. He had a cab, did we want it he asked. How much? 20 bucks and we were sold. Crossing the street we jumped in the shabby yet perfectly serviceable town car, Mike in the front with George the rest of us in the back, and headed to the hotel.

I gazed out the window and watched the streets of New York slide by. I had already seen that the “change oil now” sign was permanently lit and the radio didn’t work. That didn’t matter. George started talking and took us deeper into his world with every word. He talked about how his birth date was the same as the presidential elections, how his mother had passed away on that same date years before, how various American politicians and presidents also were associated with that date and so on and so forth. He pulled out his cell phone, he was still driving and showed Mike a photo of a number plate he had taken. We were too far down the rabbit hole to ignore him. The photo had some fours and fives and George then managed to fit that into the dates and people he had been talking about. He said he didn’t know how to use a computer, so he spoke to his phone asking it about various facts and it would tell him. He would add that to his theory, which could change as his worldview altered. We never did find out what the point of his theory was but everything seemed to be connected

Don’t get me wrong, I am not trying to belittle George in any way. He was a nice guy and got us where we needed to go, but he was one hell of a character. Maybe he was crazy and needed help, maybe he was a lost soul simply wanting to connect but never knowing quite how to do it, maybe he did just sit in his taxi and talk to his phone while taking photos of car licence plates, or maybe he was just George making the way in the world today with everything he’s got. He seemed happy and he was polite, helpful and got us back to the hotel. We bid him farewell and then compared notes to see what his theory actually was. None of us knew.

Me and Mike

In, out and shawarma eaten at a place called Middle Eats – do you see what they did there? It was so good.

Getting an official yellow cab we headed off to find the American Gods.

The bar was cool and packed out. A neon American Gods sign bathed everything and everyone in a warm red glow. We met up with some of Mike’s friends and had our photo taken as American Gods. We stayed a while and drank a few drinks.

Asaad left early to fulfil his quest to watch a movie with the D Box system. He saw Kingsman: The Golden Circle and would later tell us the D Box was everything he had wished. The chairs tilted and moved, water droplets sprayed on him during rain scenes (or when a person’s head was blown up) and wind was blown on his face. It sounded very cool and I must try it at some point.

Russ, Mike and I left the bar and walked back to the hotel. It was time to pack, which also meant sorting out the things we had either bought or been given at the convention and the rest you already know.

If you have read this far then thank you for indulging me. These long, rambling reports on my journey or not something I had planned to do. They simply began. I was going to just write up the various interviews and news pieces for the Comic Con. I would like to think it was inspiration from the city I that never sleeps. Reading The New York Trilogy in my journey over May have also played a factor. Those three strange tales of lost identity and obsession all told to the backdrop of NYC seemed to spark something within me. I have often written about my travels, but the muse usually left me within a day or two. Yet wandering around the city streets when I woke early on that first night, the skyscrapers towering above me, gave everything a cinematic quality and the words flowed. At the very least it will help me remember the events of this all too brief trip.

As for sharing them with you. I don’t know. It wasn’t to soothe my ego as I never expected anyone to read it. At the back of my mind, I keep thinking that if people did they would think it all a bit pretentious or silly. Even writing these last few sentences makes me feel that. If it is pretentious then I apologise. I also apologise to my future self who is also bound to read this and think I was an idiot for posting it as he picks out the mistakes and cringes. The only rough guide in my mind was to write about things I saw and experienced and to do it honestly.

I simply felt that better to post them than not. The words, the memories are now out there, so they don’t get lost like tears in the rain as that dead Replicant once said.

New York, New York is a hell of a town and Cliff Clavin had it right. The secret to happiness is comfortable shoes. Damn blisters!

The Earth spins beneath us. We land. I am home.

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