So, each of our backpacks are filled with pins of various sizes and shapes. Some of them came from conventions we went to, like Anime NYC last year and its incredible artist alley. Some of the pins came from other cons, like Connecticon which we went to this year. The pins are like a walking history of the cons we’ve gone to, and I think it’s cool to look back on them in that way. It gives them a sort of meaning beyond just the image on the pin itself. When I look at the Final Pam pin on Alex’s backpack, for instance, I can remember sifting through the book of Monster Factory-related art at this lady’s table, and telling her how excited we were that we found fellow McElroy fans at the con. It’s like spotting someone you feel like you know outside of a place you usually see them.
I have two Monster Factory pins on my backpack, one featuring Toucan Dan and the other featuring Chiquita Dave. They’re perfect pieces of art, and I only wish I could get more of them in the future. Hopefully the artist is around next year, and has them on sale again. I can imagine picking some extras up for my friend who only recently got into the McElroy brand of content.
There’s also a pin that Alex got at the March for Our Lives in 2018, which says that “Gun Violence is a Women’s Issue.” I remember seeing that and thinking, first of all, I support your message, but second of all, that would make a great pin. And it did. I can only imagine the stares that Alex gets from strangers while walking around New York with that on, but I hope that the majority of them are positive and full of agreement.
Getting Alex a birthday present is always fun. The way we like to do it, the person giving the gifts picks an arbitrary number of gifts they’re going to give the other person, and then in a length of time leading up to that person’s birthday, the gifts are given. This year I chose to get Alex seven things, and so that meant we would start sometime in late July with her getting a gift every three or so days. It’s a little tradition that we’ve kept up for awhile now, and I like to think that it’ll continue as we get older together, too.
This year, the gift field has been dominated by Persona 5-related ideas. It’s not just a fad we went through; it’s a game that thoroughly changed my life and helped me see video games as complex narratives to be experienced, rather than just lifeless fun. But that’s besides the point, and I’ve talked about my love for that game a lot already on this blog. The point is, I got Alex a few gifts related to Persona 5, one of which was a series of pins featuring some of our favorite characters. I chose Ryuji, Joker/Ren, and Makoto as pin picks and the Etsy shop owner was gracious enough to include an extra Haru pin on top of that. I super appreciate what they did and will definitely shop from them again if the chance comes up. When I was shopping for the pins, I knew they would be perfect for her partially because of the original art featured on them, but also because of our history involving backpacks and pins. There’s a story to each one, and it’s nice to look back on them. I could tell a stranger all about Alex’s backpack, for example.
My first comic con, technically, was in 2012, when I was a part of Anime Club at Quinnipiac and I helped out with QuinniCon, the semi-annual Quinnipiac-centered convention. We had all kinds of artists, shops, panels, activities, tournaments, and more going on throughout the day, and I remember getting some classic Super Smash Bros. Melee time in against complete strangers. Melee isn’t my preferred Smash title, but at the time it’s the one I knew best. I also remember picking up House Stark-themed shot glasses. They were tinted blueish, and I remember using them as a freshman in college because I was introduced to Game of Thrones that year by one of my good friends. That’s when that whole journey began, but that’s a story for another blog post. Perhaps the next one.
My second con was Connecticon, though, and I have fond memories of going there with my friend Bryan for the first time and being amazed at the sheer size of everything. It would pale in comparison to Anime NYC, but that took three years for me to get there and I wouldn’t want to compare the two experiences in the first place.
The reason I’m mentioning all of these cons is because recently I visited Connecticon with two people who haven’t been to it before: Alex and Bella. Alex has been to cons in the past, but this was Bella’s first true convention. As a fellow nerd, it was about time she got the chance to visit one of these. I wish we had the chance to spend more time there, but we got done what needed to be done and picked up some sweet loot in the process. Alex and I grabbed a Persona 5 poster, a Cowboy Bebop poster, and a Joker Funko Pop.
There’s nothing like visiting a convention. Even when you’re totally unfamiliar with lots of the depictions on the walls and all the media people are clamoring about, you can absorb so much of the community’s energy from the atmosphere they create. Just from being around people, you can tell what they’re like, and why they love this hobby so much. It felt magical, like traveling to a foreign country and taking in the sights and sounds and touristy attractions; being in an environment centered around a hobby you don’t particularly have can be like visiting an alien planet, inhabited by people speaking an entirely different language and vocabulary from you. The amount of words and phrases I didn’t quite understand all the way while walking around the convention was exponentially high.
I went to Anime NYC this year, my first time going to an exclusively anime-themed convention (though some non-anime stuff was featured, too). I was intimidated at first, as like I said, I’m not much of an anime fan myself, and on top of that, I get intimidated easily when surrounded by lots of people at once. And there were so many people here! Crowds and lines, shouting and laughing, limited wall space to sit against: an anxious mind’s worst nightmare. And yet it wasn’t as stressful as it initially seemed to be. The most stressful part of the entire arrangement was the traveling, believe it or not. Traveling to and from the convention center took a lot of energy, and when I reached the center, I felt less inclined to do things because of my exhaustion from traveling. Though I love traveling, there’s nothing like being home, enjoying the relaxation an introverted person can only revel in. While I’m glad to have spent time at the convention this year, another part of me is thankful I managed to get home in time to go to bed at a reasonable hour. Isn’t that so old of me? I guess maturation has its own ups and downs.
Despite this, Alex had a wonderful experience at the Fairy Tale panel, and we managed to bump into two of the voice actresses afterwards. Alex was able to express her undying love for the series and its effect on her undergraduate years, and I was able to watch and absorb some of the happiness that came from the interaction.