a room somewhere


Peoria, Illinois, USA
October 06
I'm an art historian trapped in the prairie working towards tenure and a new career as a writer at the same time. I am also working to reclaim my life and body from 10 months of cancer treatment.


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JULY 23, 2010 5:38PM

The Good Old Days of the San Diego Comic Con

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There was a time, not so very long ago, when my friends and I would mount a “geek hunt” in the San Diego Convention Center every summer.  If we had the money, we pre-paid for a full pass and spent three glorious days amongst our own kind at the Comic Con.   Upon entering the convention center, we saw the various manifestations of fandom from boys with their fathers, Goths, fans in Star Trek costumes (looking for the inevitable Klingon Ascension Ritual), and various fan-boys and girls.  But these people were not our quarry.  They were too easy.


What we hunted was an elusive figure that became increasingly rare as the Comic Con became more popular, the true geek.  Not in the “biting the heads off of chickens” oeuvre, but the kind embodied by the Comic Book Guy on The Simpsons.  You could see him from a distance, pulling an oversized handcart holding a box full of comic books, glaring at the posers and fan boys because he (and it was always he) was actually there to buy and sell comic books.  That’s right.  He was there for a purpose.  The original reason for the existence of the Con, which was being diluted and, horror of horrors, commercialized, by toy dealers who refused to haggle and marginal movie companies with scantily clad models that created a glut of drooling nerds at their booths that impeded his progress.  He sneered in disdain at the happy people around him, elbowing his way through the crowd and taking up over half of the space in front of the displays as he asked for some rare item that he knew the vendor didn’t have and which was only a ruse so he could brag about his own collection.   He hated us all.


But it was not just his demeanor that identified him.  No, one can spot the true geek by his plumage.  He is older than the fan kids he loathes, much older.  Much, much older.  In fact, he is usually in his mid-thirties or early forties.  Any older than that and he would no longer be a geek, but a legend, with acolytes at his feet listening to stories of the golden or sliver age of comics.  But no one listens to this guy, which only feeds his contempt.  The Con is always in the summer, and his concession to the shining sun and waterfront location is to wear long shorts, akin to a scoutmaster, but with infinitely less panache.  These are generally brown, black or light denim, and worn with a dark or black t-shirt with an obscure logo or image that would be recognized only by the truly initiated (like Miskatonic University’s mascot…”Go Pods!”)  A worn brown leather belt paired with black sneakers and black socks rounded out this ensemble.


Most years, I won.  We never actually accosted or even spoke to our candidates, and since this was before the proliferation of cameras in cell phones, in order to win you had to gather your friends and then show them your geek, preferably in action.  My best catch was a large fellow, both in height and girth wearing brown polyester shorts with a black t-shirt bearing an image of Batman from the original Detective Comics.  Having the requisite brown belt and black sneakers and socks, he also sported long, stringy, oily hair that ringed a growing bald tonsure at the top of his head.  He shambled along with his handcart, glaring at everyone around him.  In point of fact, it was not I who found him, but rather, it was he who roughly pushed past me in the “dealer room” and ran over my foot with his cart.    Fate dropped the win right into my lap (or, as it were, across my foot.)


I know this sounds like a cruel game, but our prey never knew they were our targets.  In addition, one of the rules was that the target geek, along with all the aesthetic requirements, had to be a jerk.  And it was all too easy to find that type of geek.  The nice dorky guys there to have fun like the rest of us were never in the running, but an arrogant asshole was fair game.


When my husband and I left San Diego we never went back to the Con.  During the few years we attended we saw a preview of Natural Born Killers, listened to Francis Ford Coppola talk about Dracula, saw Clive Barker, met the cast of Buffy the Vampire Slayer (except for herself, Miss SMG), and pestered Matt Groening for autographs.  I even attended a late night reading by Neil Gaiman.  It was pretty cool, until they installed a red carpet, and our beloved geeks no longer roamed the halls.


Maybe I should’ve had my guy mounted.

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