Lazers and Dragons and Siths – Oh My!

  This year is the 10th Anniversary of Dragon*Con, a multi-genre high fantasy festival/convention which, prior to my great geek awakening, I had never heard of. Imagine my delight when I discovered it was in my very own back yard here in Atlanta! A quick hop on the train with the stroller and 2 of my 4 children and I was downtown in the midst of ghouls, gunmen and gargoyles.

The festivities got underway with a parade, but the excitement had already started building at the Marta station. In true Atlanta style, only ONE of the ticket machines was working at the Sandy Springs station, and a Marta attendant was working feverishly to get people onto the train by pressing the buttons for them. This was actually a great help, because I personally haven’t ridden Marta since they stopped dispensing those gold/copper tokens eons ago.  I chatted with a 20-something woman who told me about her experience riding the Metro in DC for the Beck/Palin event and how the crowd surge compared to this phenomenon. Behind me there was an Indian guy who had his daughter dressed up as Snow White.  Even though the line snaked and barely moved for 10-15 minutes, time seemed to fly by as we amused each other with talk about nothing at all.

Huh: Republicans and Hindus assembling peacefully together in pursuit of their piece of geek. Maybe the road to unifying this nation has less to do with red states and blue, and more with what tint of red or hue of blue to slather on our Sith and Smurf costumes.

As I said before, the train ride prepared me for what was to come. A mousy girl with brown eyes was dressed up as the Mad Hatter. Never mind that it was (and still is) 90°+ outside; she had left no detail unattended. She wore a long tailcoat, velvet/felt top hat, boots and about 100 other articles of clothing. Her companions were a Jedi knight, a princess, a Red Cross nurse and an obese girl who looked like she had not been outside in the sun for years.

The parade was already underway as it started at 10. We arrived shortly after. Our guide for the day was Chris (whom you may know as the ‘Narco Nanny’), but he was late for the same reasons we were. While we waited to find Chris, I hoisted Aya up onto my shoulders so that she could see. At my height, all I could glimpse was the tops of every third person’s head in the throng. Then I had a brilliant idea.

“Aya! I’m going to give you Daddy’s camera,” I said cheerfully. “Can you take some pictures of all the cool things you see for me?”

“Yay! Pictures!” Aya clapped.

I let her down, put the camera strap over her neck, showed her how to work it, and smiled smugly to myself as she snapped away at the vehicles, zombies, fairies and princess that I barely saw from below. I was going to see them soon enough thanks to my little photog!

“Mommy, I’m tired of taking pictures,” she declared just a few minutes later.

“That’s okay baby. Let me see what you’ve got!”

I was giddy, imaging all the amateur shots that I would use for this blog. She took this shot – 35 times.

*Sigh*. I hoisted her back onto my shoulders as a pack of people dressed up as My Little Pony (on acid) walked by.

“Yay! I can see everything!” she squealed.

Yeah. Good for YOU.

The parade ended by the 20 or so folks that were in front of us making a hasty retreat.

“We gotta get outta here before the Jesus people come!” one of them shouted.

I looked up in the clearing and I saw this sign. A man was barking authoritatively.

“It is better to go to Heaven than Hell! Love God!!” he raged.  Judging from the lineup this weekend, he was going to be busy. Black Gay Pride and a Maroon 5 concert were all happening in venues around the area.

I fled the yelling man with the rest of the crowd and was thrilled by the visual feast. Was that Jem to my left?

“Aya! Get in the picture with her!” I ordered.

My daughter had no clue why I was so excited about this woman in pink hair, but I knew my sister would approve of the photo op. (Don’t ya Adj?)

Dear mercy. Was that Mr. Tumnus from The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe?

“No, actually, I’m Pan – the god of the wild. We’re having a mythology gathering a short distance from here,” ‘Pan’ said solemnly.

“Oh…I see. Can I get your picture?”

“Yes, of course,” he said benevolently. He gazed, eyes unwavering into the camera, and blew into his plastic pipe.

At that moment, someone fell off the wall in front of the Hyatt. The crowd reacted by screeching for the police to get an ambulance. There was so much going on I hardly knew where to go.

“Ahh; don’t worry about it,” said Chris (by that time we’d found him in front of the Hooters), “the police know how to deal with this.”

“Oh. Okay.”

I hoped whoever had fallen the 10 foot drop was okay, but in the meanwhile snapped pictures like Japanese paparazzo, capturing the weird and awesome while attempting to do so ‘incognegro.’ At times, people would find my lens trained on them and would offer to pose for me.

“Sweet! Thanks!”

As we made our way to the registration line, things only got more interesting and at times, frightening. An Indian woman brushed past us, calling loudly.

“Brandon! Brandon!!! Brandon Singh!!!”

She was circling wildly, calling her lost charges name when a White couple appeared.

“Come this way! We’ve got him.”

I had been panicking with her, and shared her palatable relief. Just minutes before, I myself had ‘lost’ Liya when I let go of her stroller to take a picture while it (and she) went rolling down the street.

“That’s the good thing about Dragon*Con,” said Chris. “People will help you find your lost kids. ‘Yeah, we saw him drinking out of the gutter. We gave him a meal and took a pic of him with Darth Vader. Here’s your son!’”

We both laughed. We were interrupted by one of Chris’ associates, who informed me with pride that he was a veteran of DC.

“Well! I’m a virgin,” I countered..

He stared at me through his dark shades, looked at my stroller and my 5 year old, then back at me, and told me he was going to leave that one alone. After we three adults shared an inappropriate snicker, he moved on.

By noon the girls were beginning to fade, and I knew that they would need naps and air-conditioning quickly. I told Chris we would have to go home. He seemed disappointed. He had promised to show me the inner workings of Dragon*Con – an event he had once lost his job for- and now I had to bail on him so soon.

“But next year, I am definitely dressing up,” I said with resolve.

I got back on the Marta with all the other moms whose kids were not taking the heat too well. We pushed our strollers past each other and found a seat on the electric train, leaving the world of high fantasy behind us.