☆ KatsuCon 2014 ☆
It's been a while since I've written a convention report! Back in 2012 I wrote one for every con I attended, and then in 2013 things went so strangely that I kind of fell off the wagon. 2013 in general was a year of growth and change, and I was too busy living it, to attempt to properly document it, especially when I was caught up in things I wasn't sure I was ALLOWED to publicly record my opinions of. With this new blog, I wanted to attempt to get back on track with the reports, especially since my first convention of the year, KatsuCon in National Harbor, MD went so amazingly well! This was my third year attending KatsuCon, and I didn't really know what to expect; I had a phenomenal time in 2012, while 2013's was arguable the worst con I had experienced in years. It all got off to a very rough start, but that's part of what made it all so memorable in the end. It's bound to get kind of long, so click "Read More" to read the full report. I promise as least a couple of pictures to keep it interesting. I wish I had thought to take more photos during the weekend.
☆ THURSDAY ☆ Since the flight from Portland International Airport in Oregon to Reagan National in Washington DC is roughly 6 hours (plus pre-boarding time, travel to and from airports) as well as the 3 hour time change, getting from coast-to-coast is generally an all-day thing for me. A flight that leaves at 10AM will get me to the East Coast by 6PM, and then I still have to get transportation from the airport to hotel, get checked in, settle in the room.... it's a really long day. It's because of this that I had planned to fly out on Thursday morning, to arrive in the evening the day before the convention. As the convention got closer, I (and lots of others) started to get nervous -- the weather out east and in the south had been so brutal, flights were being canceled. Conditions were making the news. even so, I was crossing my fingers it would all work out. I packed 3 costumes (Mytho's purple tunic, Mayuri Shiina, and my newly-finished Mikasa Ackerman costume), and went to bed for a short nap. I was woken at 5:55AM to the sound of my phone alerting me via my flight-tracker app that my flight to DC had been canceled; a great part of the east coast had been hit overnight with at least a foot of snow and ice, and DCA (my arrival airport) had cancelled all flights incoming and outgoing until late afternoon. I immediately got a phone call from Kayla, who had been on the same flight, along with the rest of our Oregon friends. We started talking about travel options, but what I was willing to do was a lot less flexible than what they were willing to do. They told me that when they called Alaska Air, there were no more flights out to DC until Saturday. My heart sank, and while my friends decided to take a 10AM flight to Chicago and drive the rest of the way to DC, I just wasn't willing to do that. So, I started searching for alternative flights. Everything I came up with had long layovers, getting me in at nearly Midnight of Friday/Saturday morning, and would have cost me a couple hundred more dollars than my initial flight. I watched my friends all over the country commenting on their various bad experiences -- cancellations, re-routed and delayed flights, and people deciding to make insanely long drives. Losing hope, I decided to call Alaska Air myself, resigned to the fact that I would likely be getting a refund, and not going to KastuCon this year. I told the customer service rep that my friends had heard that all the flights to DC were booked through Saturday, but for whatever reason, I asked "Is there really nothing available on Friday?" not daring to hope it were true. Fate was apparently on my side, because the lady on the phone took a look, and said there was a flight from Portland to Seattle, with a connecting flight from Seattle to DCA on Friday. I would have to leave Portland at 6:30AM, and ultimately arrive in DC at 3:57PM -- the kicker? There was only One ticket left on this flight. This was LEAGUES better than any other option I had found so far, and because my initial flight had been canceled, and I was still going through the same airline, they would re-book me onto this new flight at no extra charge. I snagged it, not knowing if this flight might also be cancelled due to weather, but decided that if it did, at least I had given it my all, without bending over backwards and draining away more money that I couldn't afford to spend. Having lost a day of the convention, and now finding myself with a VERY short connection time (barely 20 minutes between the landing of one flight, and the boarding of the second flight) I ditched one costume, compacted my remaining luggage down to Carry On size (saving myself 50 dollar is baggage fees in the process) and went down to Salem to stay the night with my parents, since my dad was giving me a ride anyway; if my flight was cancelled again, I decided I would just spend the weekend with my family. Apparently fate was smiling down on me though, because my flights were not canceled, and I made it out just fine! ☆ FRIDAY ☆ As planned, I landed at Reagan National Airport right around 3:40PM. Since Rynn and her boyfriend Joe had driven to the convention this year, I arranged for Joe to pick me up from the airport, rather than taking a shuttle or taxi. He dropped me at the Gaylord (where I was staying) and I started my adventure of tracking down the room I'd be staying in. Over the course of the day, keeping tabs with my friends, I found out that WCS Craftsmanship judging had been moved from Friday evening to Saturday evening, thanks to the weather delaying so many teams. Originally, I hadn't been planning to cosplay on Friday, but with this new shift in schedule, Jo was able to wear her Kurisu costume, and I jumped into Mayuri. Luckily, both costume was super comfortable and easy to wear. About halfway through getting ready, Rynn texted me that they were going to Potbelly for dinner, so we met them there. After dinner (which involved me handing off the cloak I made for Rynn, as well as the spare button I had brought for our Attack on Titan stuff the next day) we went to the Peeps store next door, looked at cute things and candy, and then made our way back up to the Hotels. Unfortunately, the exact progression of events for Friday night are sort of a blur to me, but it was all 100% awesome. Jo and I split from the others, and we ended up going across the street for dinner (or rather, dessert is Jo and my case) with Sam and Megan. That was a LOT of fun, and I'm so glad they invited me/let me tag along. We were all planning to hit a Kigu party hosted by Suzanne and Nessa at 10PM, so we managed to wrap up our nice little dinner-dessert-thing and head back over to the hotel, just in time to pass Rynn and the others on their way back to their hotel to change. We found Suzanne and Nessa, and after a little while, Jo took off with Megan, to give her her belated Christmas present, and also head back to the room to finish off a few last-minute things on her WCS Prelims costume. I stuck around with Suzanne and Nessa, drifting up and down the lobby, looking for people who were supposed to meet for the Kigu party. The party never really happened, though I did get a chance to talk with Kerry and Michelle, Andrea, and Alli (working out trying to pin-down Steins;Gate group times for the following day), and after an hour of waiting, Suzanne and Nessa decided to go and try to pick up their badges. I suspect the number of no-shows had to do with everyone's con schedules being thrown out of balance thanks to weather delays. It was about that time that Rynn and the others showed up again, and I think this was the first time that I bumped into Malinda and Kyle! It was SO great to see them again after Ikkicon. <3 I'm so glad they found me, because I know most of their days were spent in the dealers room, working the Arda booth. We chatted for a little while, hen they drifted off to order some dinner with their other friends, and I decided it was probably time for me to get to bed before it got too late. I went over and said goodnight to Malinda and Kyle, said my goodbyes to the girls, and then on my way back up to my room, ran into Chris! We chatted for a few minutes, but then parted ways at the elevators, and I went up to my room feeling totally satisfied -- in the mere 5-6 hours I had spent milling around, eating, and loitering in the lobby that night, I had seen more people and done more socializing than I had been able to do ALL of KatsuCon 2013. That evening alone made the trip, even as abbreviated as it was, totally worth it. The only disappointment is that Jo and I didn't get any pics together as Kurisu and Mayuri. Back in the room, I finally took a shower, ironed/prepped my costume stuff for the next day, chatted with Jo, Lauren and Sarah for a bit, then climbed into bed. ☆ SATURDAY ☆ Saturday was, as is the case in most cons, the Big Day -- this was the day I was wearing my Mikasa costume for the first time, along with the rest of our Attack on Titan group. I woke up to a self-set alarm at 9:30AM, feeling like I had been hit by a bus. Our group had planned to be in costume by 11AM, but seeing as the majority of us had never put on ALL of the costume pieces together, it ended up being 1PM before we all gathered in the hotel lobby at the Gaylord.
From there, we spent the greater part of 4 hours in one corner of the hotel, against a bad-ass looking stone wall. The lighting was fantastic, and the backdrop was neutral enough, but still had some character and texture. Kayla took the majority of our photos, with Rynn's boyfriend Joe taking a few specialized shots for us. Throughout the day we managed to see Michelle again (this time in her Petra costume, and she was so cute I wanted to scream) and Renee and India! I think that encounter with Renee was one of the most enthusiastic of the weekend for me, because she practically screamed when she saw I had managed to make it to the con after all the BS. <3 Nothing makes you feel loved like the excited and thoroughly-surprised scream of your friends.
Eventually, we braved the freezing wind to get a few pictures out by the most Titan-Esque statues in existence.
By then, we were right by Potbelly, so we stopped for food. All through the afternoon, I had been trying to keep touch with Alli about our Steins;Gate group for the evening. For a while it was on, then off, so I went to my room to re-charge. Lauren and Jo were just about done getting ready to go to Craftsmanship judging, when Alli texted me to let me know the group was back on. With just enough time to recharge a little, I threw Mayuri on for the second time that weekend, and headed out again. What followed, amused me way too much. First, I had to run back to the hotel room about 4 times, because I continually forgot things, only to go back, pick it up, and leave something else behind. I was supposed to meet Alli at the Gazebo, but because of the way the elevators were running, I had to ride the elevator up, to go down. By the time I got half way back down, Alli texted me: "change of plans, meeting on the pool level". That was fine, I was on the elevator down anyway. But then it stopped on the Gazebo level, and guess who got on? Yup, Alli. So, we rode down to the pool level together, where we met up with our Okabe, Daru, and Moeka only to immediately turn around and get right back on the same elevator, to ride ALLLL the way back up to the top floor, to grab Andrea. A few floors up, just as someone had mentioned wondering were Kerry was, the elevator door opened, and there she was, dressed as Suzuha. There were lots of "Hacking the Elevator" jokes going around. Sadly, by the time we got up to the top floor, it was clear Andrea wasn't feeling well enough to get into Ferris, so we just had to continue without her. Back we went, down to the pool level again to get photos against the white-wavy-wall by the elevators on that level. I have to say, even though I was only in a few group photos before we got booted out of that area, I had a lot of fun just hanging out with a new group of people, and getting to be part of an impromptu accidental Steins;Gate group, and I'm looking forward to seeing those shots. <3 I went back up to the 18th floor and hung out with them for a little while, half-focused on putting out messages to as many people as I could think of that I still needed to see that night. If I didn't make an effort to spend time with them that night, chances are I wouldn't be able to before I had to leave the next day. I made contact with Carleen first, so I headed downstairs to attempt to meet up with her. I met up with Rynn on the second floor, and after a short walk around the Gazebo level, we both went down to the bar to meet up with Carleen, August, and their friend Kelly. We snagged a circle of chairs just as another group was leaving, and stayed there for a while. Ended up running into Malinda and Kyle AGAIN, which made me super happy, so I chatted with them for a little bit before they had to run off to meet up with other people. Just about when Carleen and the others were getting ready to drift off, Renee came into the bar and Rynn and I shouted her over. Rynn left with Mandy and the rest of the OR crowed, and I stayed with Renee and some of her friends while I texted people to figure out where I was going next. I was supposed to meet up with Megan, and when I had texted her that I was in the bar with Carleen I expected she was going to come around, but then she never did. ;_; Turned out, it was Diana who got in touch with me next. I jumped on the elevator, rode up to the 6th floor, and spent about an hour hanging out with Mike, Nestor, Diana and her Fiancee Sam. Diana shoved water into my hand because I wasn't really up for alcohol, and we talked about tastes in anime, and I got to recommend and talk about some of my favorite under-appreciated series. Once I got the word that the Hawaii People were done practicing for WCS, I headed over to visit with Heidi and Kelly, and Diana sent me out the door with the remnants of a large bottle of water.
Stopping to visit with the Hawai'ian crowd was just about the best way to wind down. They're so incredibly chill, and it was great to spend some time with those girls again, since I hadn't seen them since Anime Matsuri. Also, Heidi brought chocolate with caramel and macadamia nuts. I think I ate more chocolate on this trip than anything else! Rynn and Joe stopped by for a little while, and we left together around 2AM -- them heading to meet up with the rest of the OR crowd, and me headed back to my room so that I could pack; I didn't want to get in Jo and Lauren's way in the morning while they got ready for the WCS performances. I don't remember exactly what happened, but I'm pretty sure I died as soon as my head hit the pillow. ☆ SUNDAY ☆ I knew Sunday morning was going to be rough -- travel-days at the end of a con are always a bit tricky, especially since I knew I was going to end up doing SOME kind of work for the event. I showered and did my hair, pulled on my WCS t-shirt, and I got out of the hotel room about half an hour behind Jo and Lauren. While they went straight for the Green Room, I made my way out to find something to eat. Sadly, at 10:30 AM, nothing was open yet, so I ran to CVS, picked up a package of Donettes and a single serving bottle of 2% milk, then marched my way back to the Gaylord, suitcase in tow all the while. I got back to the Hotel lobby just in time for Rynn to say she was on her way over. We met in the lobby, and walked together to find the green room together. I have to say, trying to wrap my head around how things were running for the event was a little difficult, between the sleep deprivation and the fact that it generally takes about 3 times of hearing something before I can completely grasp it and commit it to memory, let alone process it. Having not been involved in any of the pre-convention work this time around, as well as having to miss Rehearsal thanks to my cancelled/re-scheduled flights, it was frustrating to me having to find where the gaps were and try to help fill them in. Tiffany ended up putting me in charge of backstage coordinating with the contestants/MC, and although I was disappointed that I wasn't able to watch my friend's performances from the front of the stage, and I missed half of all of them completely, I hope my presence at least made a difference. I could sincerely have used a paper bag to breathe into, I was so worked up with sympathetic stage anxiety for all of my friends competing that weekend. Once the show itself was over, Rynn and I walked Jo and Lauren to retrieve some things from the Green room (something I had to do for them, since the judges were using that space for deliberation, and contestants couldn't go in) and once we collected our things, we walked out to watch the remainder of the half-time (a documentary on WCS) and that's when I finally got to see Sonnya! I was so disappointed we hadn't seen each other at ALL during the convention, and I somehow managed to NOT have her number in my phone so I couldn't get a hold of her all weekend. ;_; Our time was short, but that was easily one of the best hugs I've gotten in a long time. After awards, Rynn, Joe and I tracked down Chris so that we could watch the skits on his camera. I had just time enough to watch the majority of them, before I had to say my goodbyes, and go catch a shuttle to the airport. I am sad I didn't get a chance to say goodbye to the rest of my WCS Lovelies, but there was just no time to wait for them, or track them down before I had to catch that shuttle. I'm seriously the travel queen though, because I got through security with an hour to spare before my flight had to board. Alaska Air made it super easy by allowing me to check in an keep a digital boarding pass on my phone! The flight home was fairly smooth, and I passed out even before we took off. The landing was pretty rough though -- high winds in Portland meant turbulence AND rocking side-to-side as we descended. Thank goodness I didn't have to drive myself home until the next morning. :) ☆ FINAL THOUGHTS ☆ As soon as I had booked my new flight for Friday morning, I started tweeting with the hashtag "Better Late Than Never" -- and it could not have turned out to be more true. For the vast majority of the convention, I was a free-floater, moving around the convention at my own discretion, meeting up with people whenever I could manage it, and sometimes by happy accident. After my awful experience last year, I was determined that this KatsuCon would be different, and although the trip was cut short, and I worried it might end up being pointless, it was anything but. It was almost a complete 180 from the year before. As much as I love my Usual Group, it was liberating to be around new and different people, to have the chance to interact with them outside of the context of just being one piece of a 'group' of people, or the Tag Along that people didn't really care was there. I felt like more than just an extra wheel, free to do my own thing without being judged for it, and it was a fantastic example of how much I've changed myself over the course of a year. KatsuCon 2013 was a turning point for me, so to see what became of 2014, even given the terrible circumstances around getting there, and having to ditch all but 2 costumes, was the perfect confirmation to me that cons can grow with me -- it's all about what I make of them.