A Cheap Holiday in Other Peopleís Misery

(Al's 2003 San Diego Comic Con trip)

Hereís the link to my big, green sketchbook collection!

Wanna know what a Comic con is like through the eyes of a bitter Brit? You found just the place! This intro was written before I became a lazy shit and left this for 10 months.

Well as itís almost a month since the con, I better get a move on and write this report while itís all still fresh in my headÖ Well, not so much fresh, but not as bad as itís starting to smell! I apologise in advance for forgetting peopleís names (Iím embarrassingly hopeless with them) and for all the inevitable spelling and grammar mistakes.

Wednesday 16th

That day was the longest day of my life! Literally! I got up at about 5am without getting a wink of sleep. Thatís mainly because 5am is when I often GO to bed, not GET UP! Also I had a massive bottle up my arse about the whole trip and news reports of a hurricane in Texas (where I was getting my connecting flight) didnít help my nerves any. Even my parents told me to try to calm down.

My dad gave me a lift to the station in his company car (a white transit van full of plaster) and he stayed with me on the platform. The train company playing "swap the platform" didnít clam me down ether, but I felt a lot better when I was on the train to Gatwick Airport.

Iíve been told Gatwick is the far nicer of the UKís main international airports. The train station is literally inside the airport, so you got off the train, up the escalator and you were in check-in! Groovy! With help of an airport worker I got talking to on the train, I was quickly through check-in and was catapulted at unnaturally efficient speed through the security checks. It didnít take long even tho I was "randomly" stopped (because people with long hair always want to blow up planes! I even had my shoes swabbed to test for explosives) and I was soon dossing about in the lobby looking at the duty-free and eating Macdonaldís crap.

I started on the diary in comic form in the Big Green Book™ at this point, but due to the lack of time later on this never panned out. Then there was the call to board and the long hike to the gate. There was minimal delay and it wasnít long before I was in the air.

This was a leaning experience for me. That day I learned that;

I FUCKING HATE AEROPLANES!

Ten and a half-hours of sitting on your arse still not being able to sleep is NOT FUN! Also my ears popped like a bitch for ages! Luckily, Continental where one of the better carriers Iíve learned and it wasnít as bad as it could have been. We all had interactive TV things to play with for a start. Although I wasnít in the mood I watched some of it, mostly a number of shows called CSI or something, that was kinda like an dumbed down American version of Waking the Dead and the like. A better example would be a modern, watered down Quincy without all the nasty long words. Good enough to watch, but it lacked any depth at all. They had two stories running in a 40-minute show, which gave me the impression all Americans suffer from ADD or something. Waking the Dead is hardly a cranial workout, but one story covers two one-hour episodes.

Ten and a half hours and no sleep later, I land at George Bush International Airport! Iím in America! YAY! Ö. And God what a shit-hole! Houston airport was a toilet and as we all queued in a dingy hallway by the gate, I felt the foreboding hit me. The only time you wait in a corridor is when the palace you normally queue is so fucking full itís the only place they can put youÖ

I fucking hate being right too!

The customs hall was PACKED! It took close to two and a half-hours to just show my passport and hand in the ham-fisted scribbles I made on the forms they wanted. For the fraction of the checks I got at Gatwick it took over three times as long! And I was a LUCKY one! Also I had to play "hunt the luggage" after customs as they where so behind they had to pull it off the carousel and put it on the floor. That took forever too! Luckily I was to tired to be an arse-hole so asking a hander nicely where my fightís luggage ended up bare fruit. Unlike some guy who flipped his lid and wouldnít stop screaming at the staff. I was gone before security was called for him. Managed to knock off all the paper slips off a desk we all need to hand in at a checkpoint too. I had a feeling this wasnít the first time this had happened by the security guyís sigh. It just wasnít my day at all so farÖ Or his for that matter.

At first my connecting flight was 20 minutes after landing. I was pissed that it was changed to three hours, but Iím sure glad it was. Anyway I still had time for a bite to eat and had an overpriced burger at Wendyís (yuck!) then sat around the gate for the connecting flight.

That was more or less of the same, only more cramped. This time I got a window seat so I got to see outsideÖ Once youíve seen one cloud youíve seen them all. However there where some odd shapes with the flight diverted to avoid the scary looking thunderheads. One cloud did stick in my head though. It looked like a giant hand giving the plane the finger! If I was fearful of God and/or scared of flying, that would shit me up! However I was more worried how much the fucking wings bend when things got choppy!

San Diego airport was a welcome relief. It was a nice shiny building amongst lots of other shiny buildings. I more or less walked out of the place and got a cab outside. Still had no sleep mind, and I was running off nothing but caffeine. The cab ride woke me up a bit, as the thing only seemed to travel at two speeds: 70mph and stop. There was no middle ground. Anyway I got my first taste of San Diego at brake-neck speeds I was glad to see the hotelÖ kinda.

On the outside the Pickwick didnít look too badÖ if you didnít look too closely. Same can be said about the lobby where I ran into Josh Lesnik with a box full of shirts. I walked with him to the convention centre taking turns carrying the box. True my turn didnít last too long due to the fact I was running on willpower alone now.

For the preview night I wasnít really in a state to appreciate the centre and the shear size of it. First thing I did was stand in line (again) for my badge. Needed to be done if I wanted to get onto the floor. When I got my "Keespot" badge (I wasnít the only one that joined the renamed company) I hit the floor and aimless milled around for the Keenspot booth.

I met with Frank and Terry Crosby and Howard Taylor. Possibly some others but I was too wasted to notice. I said hi and it was almost time for the place to close.

Walking back to the hotel my knee caved in. You might remember the time I got knocked off my bike and the knee clocked it? Well I thought it had healed. I thought wrong. After buying a bottle of Mountain Dew from the nearby Ralphís (grocery store) I limped back to the hotel.

It was dark now and I wasnít having fun. I got a glimpse of the room when I dropped the bags off but now I got to see it in glorious detailÖ

And what a fucking dump it was! At the time I didnít care. I wanted a wash as I must have smelt as bad as I felt. I wrote off a shower after looking at the showerhead (and I didnít think I could stand much longer) so opted for a bathÖ After going down to the front desk for a plug and working out the hot came out of the cold tap and vice versa I had said bath. It was then I met T Campbell briefly who found out there was no lock on the door!

I took the time to take in the bathroom. Well, look for yourself:

Yes, the bath IS as rough as it looks and I never needed have bothered getting a plug as the fucking thing was blocked anyway! Also there was a ribbon on the toilet declaring it was "cleaned for your protection" Ö Really? WHEN?

Well I crashed on one of the beds in just my underpants. I must have looked a pretty site Iím sure. I finally managed to get SOME sleep, but the heat (no air-con and the windows wouldnít stay open), jetlag, noise from the street and T Campbellís snoring made it a rough night. Josh seemed to sleep like a log thoÖ

Fucker!

Thursday 17th

I "woke up" (read "gave up trying to sleep") about 6am and watched the traffic go by. The others didnít take long to wake up ether so I went for a washÖ and met my first cockroach! This was also learning experience for me. I learned that cockroaches REFUSE TO FUCKING DIE! Fast too, and I had to chase the little shit into a corner before clocking him good with my shoe.

This was the first time I really met my other roommates, as all I did was grunt at them the night before. I already mentioned T, but I havenít said anything of the kilt wearing Spencer King yet! Anyway it wasnít long before me, T and Spencer were hanging outside the nearby Wendyís waiting for it to open. Josh stayed in the hotel eating cereal bar things.

I spent eating my sausage biscuit teaching T and Spencer British swearwords. The thing tasted alright and I was going to buy another, but it made me feel ill. To be fair I donít think this was Wendyís fault, as I had put my body through a lot of shit the last few days. If I go again Iím defiantly going to see the doctor about getting some pills to knock me out the night before and through the flight.

After eating we went back to the hotel. I didnít want to, as I was a lot cooler outside then that sweatbox. However we did pick up a number of other cartoonists to walk to the convention centre with. We had to wait a while but as T and Spencer talked I doodled in Spencerís and my own book. It was then I realised I lost the ability to draw that day!

This was the first time I got a good look at downtown San Diego. It is an unnaturally clean and shiny city. The bright colours, the over use of modern art and water features, the big, shiny glass buildings, the lack of litter (although that changed over the course of the con) seemed a littleÖ odd to me. I guess Iíve spent too much of my life in a shit hole of a town I call home.

Anyway we got to the centre early but thanks to most of us having pro badges (apparently they handed out the things like sweeties without checking the credentials so I neednít had worried in getting one) we were let into the lobby, if not the con floor. We all sat on the floor and people got sketchbooks out. It disappeared then reappeared with the first sketch in it. Iíve no idea at this time who the hell did it but I can guess Iíll be put right soon.

When the floor opened I tottered off by myself to the Keenspot booth. Even though my scheduled stint there wasnít till Sunday, I did a few hours there regardlessÖ I dunno why as I had nothing to sell (which is something I HAVE to fix) and I couldnít sketch for shit! Oh wait, I remember! There were CHAIRS at the booth! I LIKE sitting down!

After vandalising some peoples sketchbooks, me, Howard Taylor, his mate (I think was called Mark), Clint Hollingsworth, his wife and Brad Guigar all talked shit on one of the buildings many, many balconies after meeting them at the booth. While I took forever doing a retarded scribble in Howardís sketchbook he did mine. It was really pissing me off that I couldnít draw at all that day, and like a few people I did him another sketch a few days later that was a lot quicker and a hell of a lot better.

The rest of the day at the con I spent wondering around looking at crap. It was a big building so there was a lot of crap to look at! In fact over the 4 and a bit days there I didnít get to see everything. Also I ran into a lot of cartoonists and coned them into drawing in my book. Also of note was the amount of "Youíre not what I expected" comments I got. Of course they met "nice" me and not "me off on one" but itís a little worrying that so many people was expecting an insane freak!

Later at the booth after I when back to the Pickwick to make some lunch (I picked up some rolls and butter from Ralphís on the way there) I met with Gregory Chaffes, AKA CPOC (Chief Petty Officer Klerk) of the CRFH boardies. Being Australian, heís was the only guy there I knew of that had travelled further, and had a shitter flight then did (Chinese airlines sound like a laugh a minute). I told him about the Pickwick and that the fact it was STILL sickly hot in there. Greg offered me a place at the Harbour View Inn with the other boardies. The mention of air conditioning made me say "yes"

I felt bad about dumping my old roommates and having to ask Josh for some of the money back. I only asked for $50 later on to cover the rent in the new place but I still felt shitty for increasing everyone elseís bill. However I was told later that the place was a lot more bearable with only tree people in there so that made me feel better.

After the centre closed Greg and me went back to the Pickwick for my stuff and gave Greg a quick tour of the dive! Ö

Then came the saga for Gregís luggage! I wonít say any more about Gregís missing bag in case my crappy memory conflicts with what he tells his insurance company. What I CAN say is that the bag WAS stuffed full of high-quality, uncut diamondsÖ and half a pack of my bloody rolls I was going to have for dinner!

Anyway the Harbour View Inn was hardly the Grand Hotel, but it WAS clean(ish), cool and spacious. However the toilet did block up the first time I used it. It was an unfair fight I guess as it was the first dump I had in days! The staff were helpful though. Couldnít speak a damn word of English but at least they always made an effort!

I also met the other boardiesÖ Because they all instead on using their forum handles I was screwed. Iím useless remembering real names, so I was fucked trying to remember made up ones!

Later I watched some TV. For some REALLY UNKNOWN REASON I didnít seem to be too embarrassed to watch a cartoon. "Gary the Rat" was possibly the only thing worth watching my entire stay in the US. After that I turned in and had the first descent nights kip in days!

However I did have a sore throat which was the beginning of the cold I probably got on the plane!

Did I mention I REALLY FUCKING HATE AEROPLANES!

Friday 18th

Got up feeling a shit load better then the previous day. I blagged a microwave cheese pocket thing off "LCARS" (christened henceforth by me as "L") for breakfast. It tasted horrible but it WAS free food!

As everyone took turns in the bathroom (I got up first and got first dibs) I watched some TVÖ oh boy! You know I always thought it was an exaggeration that American news networks where devoid of news, but itís true! Bar some sports star (as no one else of the planet gives a shit about American sports, I was at a loss to remember who it was) raping someone allegedly, there was nothing but "human interest" crap (L taught me that phrase. In the UK itís called "filler"). While Dr Dave Kelly, the guy at the centre of the dodgy evidence for the war on Iraq had "killed himself", I was watching a story about a fucking cow with the worlds biggest horns.

Okay, is it just me, or is there something REALLY fucked up about that? The guy in the middle of the so-called "evidence" on the war on Iraq tops himself, and I only learn about it when I get home because I was being shown a FUCKING COW! True I didnít see much TV during my stay in the US (and I count that as a good thing because thatís not what I went for) but itís almost as if the rest of the world doesnít exist to the US media. "And now the world news! Today some bad things happened, but never mind! Look at these puppies! Awww! God bless America!" I mean sweet, holy fuck! I didnít dare watch Fox in case I kicked the TV screen in!

Of course there are conspiracy theories abound that this is all a plot to keep Americans uneducated. Ignorance is bliss and all that, and the fact youíre too stupid to ask any questions is a nice bonus. Sadly however it all boils down to economics. In its simplest form, news costs money. REAL news that is! Ask yourself this; what is cheaper? Reporting on a war in some far away shit hole, or filming some fucking livestock down the road? Of course being a right wing corporate whore rakes in more money then being nutty lefty (unless youíre the BBC). Also not bad mouthing your sponsors is a good idea, even if you think they peddle the biggest load of shit on the planet. Ratings matter, the truth doesnít. Americans want to see feel good stories. The British, being tainted and cynical, what to see bad things. So in the end we see "the truth" of jumpy American soldiers blowing holes into Iraqi police and British soldiers being killed while the evidence of the war (and the death of the government scapegoat they hounded into committing suicide) is put on trail, Americans see FUCKING COWS WITH BIG HORNS!

God help us all.

Anyway back at the storyÖ Greg, another Brit answering to the name of "Low" and myself got a lift in Lís SUV thing to the con. Now I never "got" big cars. Most seat the same number of people of a small car, have shitty mileage and you can never park the damn things. Guess what? L couldnít park the damn thing! He dropped us all off at the centre and when on his fruitless quest to park somewhere and possibly invade another country so he could refuel it too.

However I was grateful of the lift as it was raining. It was light rain form the hurricane I worried so much about a few day previous, blowing itself out. I didnít mind it at all. By the time we were all out the car it had died down to the light stuff. I loved it actually, as it cooled the place down a LOT.

Also while stuck in traffic previously, I flicked trough Lowís program for panels to attend. The first one I picked was self publishing, but I stumbled across a panel on CG cartooning while having flash-backs from the airport gates in this fucking huge-ass building I was in. Anyway I wasnít too impressed with that one and should have stuck it out and found the other room.

The next panel was a shit load better. Held in one of the big theatre halls, "artist improv" was killer. If you canít figure out what it was about from the title, then you are stupid!

Those two panels took up most of the day. I didnít bother with the secret viewings of cartoons and stuff because even if I gave a shit (which I didnít) there where all packed with fan boys.

The rest of the day was spent looking for food which I didnít need to take out a bank lone to buy, and pounding the floor. I found a relatively cheep pizza place in the Gas Lamp quarter while walking with a boardy calling himself "Starlock" (sheesh) who was looking for a sandwich for his goddess. Anyway I spent every lunch after that eating pepperoni pizza and probably will again if I ever go back to San Diego.

Back at the floor I found Stephen Notleyís booth with Stephen in it. I wanted to buy at least one Bob book but he had sold out. Bummer. At first I thought it was dumb of him not to bring more books, but then I remembered that I hadnít brought ANYTHING, and people told me they would if I had any. Doh! I HAVE to fix that, and while Iíve been back I made a T-shit design that Iíve not started hating within seconds of finishing it! I also bought a "Too much Coffee Man" mug too. More on that in a sec.

After the centre closed there was the rush for the trolley (San Diegoís tram system) with the group of bordies staying at the Harbour View. That was an experience, as a lot of other people had the same idea too! As part of paying off my stay at the new hotel, I paid for everyone and we all managed to somehow squeeze on.

There was talk of a party later on at the local house of a number of web cartoonists. So I had a quick wash and popped a few of the more painful blisters on my feet (I left a few evil looking bastards alone as they didnít hurt too much, and Iím still dealing with them a month after the con).

Then I went looking for some milk, and managing to hunt down a nearby liquor store (an "off licence" to us Brits) I returned triumphant! Boiling some water in the TMCM mug in the microwave I got my PG Tips from my luggage and with the milk, made my first cup of tea in three days! BLISS! Also I revelled in the irony that I was drinking tea out of a Too Much Coffee Man mug.

After hanging around the hotel a group of us all squeezed into the cab of Starlockís spotless pick-up. Now in the UK, a pick-up truck is a working verical. Two seats and a steering wheel in the cab and a working radio and cup holder if youíre lucky. These things are normally filthy "white" in colour highlighted by rust patches. NOT spotless jet blue. Like Iíve said, I never really got over the really pointless cars Americans drive. Meh, a shit load better then the trolley at night I guess, AND I got the front seat and wasnít squashed in the back, so I shouldnít complain about someoneís choice in gas guzzler.

Also it did look cool!

We stopped by an off license (sorry, "liquor store") to pick up some drinks for the party. I got some blue label Smirnoff, and while I boggled at the fact it came in a plastic bottle, Greg bought some "jerky". In the car park outside he offered me some. After spitting it out and clawing at my tongue to try to make the taste go away, I decided that I didnít like meat that had apparently been stuffed down a sweaty manís arse crack for several months.

Not long after we were at the house of the many cartoonists. After a few shots of vodka while talking shit with people (there where a lot there), I remembered I hadnít eaten since lunch. To remady this I joined up with Greg and some other guy who for the life of me canít remember. Nice guy too, so to remembering his name pisses me off. Anyway the nice guy suggested a diner "close" to the house because of the special they did on Fridays (I canít remember what that was called ether). In the end "close" turned out to be "quite a slog" but I digress. The special that I ordered was nice. No idea what was in it (bar a pea I saw) but it tasted alright and I got stuck inÖ Until Greg and the nice guy started talking about old, concealed fat for some reason and I lost my appetite. Also the vodka sitting in my empty stomach didnít help.

By the time we walked back, our ride home (Starlock) was thinking about leaving. As he was driving I guess he was getting bored not being able to drink and all. We stayed a bit longer, but I didnít really get chance to look around or talk to everyone. Soon we were shoehorned back into the pick-up and going back to the hotel to hit the sack.

Saturday 19th

After a good nightís sleep, wash and watching dog trails on TV for some reason (like "one man and his dog" but with ducks and guns instead of sheep) which was probably boredom, me and Greg took the trolley to the centre. I was going to grab a slice of pizza from the same place I found the day before, but apparently nothing in San Diego opens before 11 so I went back to the centre hungry.

Also my cold was in full swing now, and while I could suppress it with numerous packs of cough sweets it didnít help the fact I was going to appear on a panel that day. Also there was the presentation... At the booth I saw Chris "does exist and not a bag full of puppies" Crosby and most of the other Keenspoters all getting ready to plug their strip for a TV show to the TV guy Chris had lined up. I wasnít going to plug SSDD for obvious reasons, but in the spear of the moment I scribbled another idea Iíve had in my head for years in my sketchbook. Chris was kind enough to give me some of his time (so I was quick) to plug "Mr Angry Voodoo Man". Mr TV guy liked it, but I would only work as animation and they werenít looking for them. Oh well, I was hardly gutted seeing it took me 10 minuets to prepare my plug. The others hard spent some time on theirs sadly.

While walking the floor some kid walked up to me and said "Who are you meant to be?" I was like "huh?"

"Who are you meant to be?"

"Em, Iím me?"

"Oh, cool!"

He smiled and walked off. I then cottened on that I was wearing my sun glasses still as I forgot their case, and my Aphex Twin shirt. The encircled stylised "A" on the shirt and wearing sunnies indoors and my glued back hair must have screamed "cos-play" to all non IDM fans.

I just laughed and walked on.

Lunch, some walking around and a dump later and it was time for "the" panel. I got there early like suggested and Howard, who was moderating, pulled us to one side and asked as what questions we would like asked. After a long silence Howard just made some up.

We took our seats and somehow I ended up slap bang in the centre between Gav and Marisa. I consider myself one of the more worthless of the Keenspot crew, and I was taking centre stage while far more popular and talented people sat behind me.

In the crowd in the small room there was the choir we where going to preach to, but there where a few other there. Most notably, and almost impossible to miss was Scott Kurtz. Now a lot of people say that Kurtz is full of shit. Well by the look of him, heís definitely full of SOMETHING. I mean Chris is a big guy, but he LOOKS big. Kurtz looked like a big blue tent with a tiny head poking out of the top!

Maybe Iím being a bit unfair (Iíve put on weight for one thing), but Kurtz reminds me of the odd kid at school that kicked everybody then later canít understand why everyone doesnít want to play with him. Also thereís the ego. I hate big heads! Especially oneís who think their so shit hot for pandering to one of the most retarded demographics on the net (said the guy with the fucking furry comic). Itís just the fact that itís obvious that a crack baby can make a popular gamer comic, so it doesnít make you a comic genius if yours is popular! Iím not saying PvP is bad (in fact I do find it funny sometimes), but do you think it would have the same popularity if it wasnít about video games?

Anyway where the fuck was I? Oh yeah the panel. It went "okay". Steveís Melonpool animation kicked ass and I was told I did alight. In fact me, Gav and Marisa (oh and Howard naturally) were the only ones doing much of the talking. Chis said a few things but I donít remember anyone else speaking too much. Oh well, people told me I did alright so thatís okay I guess. They might just be buttering me up of course, but still Iím glad I didnít make a fool of myself. Especially since I had to drink about three-quarters of the water jug in front of me to drown the need the cough all the time.

After the Keenspot panel I joined the audience for the Modern Tails panel that was in the same room. I donít want to be too negative as a few of the panellists were cartoonists I was just talking to, but Iíd be lying to say I was impressed. Made me worry a bit if I bored people that much.

When that was over it was kicking out time. I hooked up with a group of Keenspacers and when looking for somewhere to eat. As a metric fuck-load of other people had the same idea again, and also had a head start this time so this would be tricky. This is why picking a place so close to the con centre surprised me. It soon dawned on me that the eating experience at "Dickís Last Resort" is indeed an experience thatís not to everyoneís taste. Not there was anything wrong with the food! I had possibly the best pork chop I ever had there (even if it was a bit small)! However the deafeningly loud music and having to cover your food and drink every time the paper towel fights started up again (started by Dickís staff I might add). I thought it was a riot myself...

apart from one thingÖ Iíve never been asked for ID in my life for alcohol. In fact I used to carry around ID to prove how YOUNG I was so not to pay full price. Initially I was impressed with list of drinks with beers from around the world. I was dreading having to ask for some American dish water but luckily "Newcastle Brown" was on the list. ("Fosters" was under the Australian heading, which would have pissed Greg off tho). Due to marketing laws, Newcastle Brown HAS to be made in Newcastle, so was a safe bet. I say this as I swear Coke and Mountain Dew taste different in the US, even if they have the same name. On the flip side tho, things named differently had obvious UK counterparts that taste exactly the same (Layís "chips" are Walkerís crisps in the UK and the only difference is the name).

Anyway I was asked for ID. Now this came as a big surprise to me for reasons stated before. My only real ID was my passport, and there was no fucking way I was going to carry THAT around with me all day as Iíd KNOW Iíd lose it. Anyway to cut a short story long, I ended up with a PepsiÖ Whoop-de-fucking-do!

After I had scribbled my annoyance down on the table cover, I got involved in my first jam of the con. Now this is what I was missing out on by leaving the Pickwick. While the broardies where all nice, only a handful where actual cartoonists. Then I remember what a shit hole the Pickwick was and decided I could live with that. Maybe it was best I missed out, as predictably it didnít take long for dicks and boobs to get drawn! Said offending, offensive item was stuffed into the menu when we left.

Leaving the chaotic place was another thing. As the place had two exits onto different streets, our group got split up. After getting bored waiting around a talked shit about not being served. No one was surprised, as apparently anyone who appears to have all there own teeth and repeatedly wet themselves got asked for ID. And this was a LACKS state! I got told horror stories of states whose laws where made crack bible thumping nazis! As I spent half of my college life pissed (literally half, as most lunches where of the liquid kind) the idea of being 21 to drink and people ENFORCING that was totally alien. Tails of government owned stores that where only aloud to sell alcohol and almost only all American crap (Americanís must a gene that means they canít distil alcohol for shit or something, as thereís got to be a reason for it) chilled me to the bone!

After giving up on finding the others we where going to see the Anime-MatrixÖ but I wasnít too keen. Matt Trpeal wasnít ether and he had a car, so I managed to scab a lift off him. This is when the neat pop-up map thing I ordered of Amason came in handy (as it did MANY times over the con, plus the cool pop-out-ness of the thing impressed a lot of people) as I had no idea where I was going.

Most people where already asleep when I got to the room. Watched a weird Japanese "Endurance" game-show rip-off then went to bed.

Sunday 20th

Today was one of the least interesting daysÖ for me at least. I wanted to do the shopping that day so I went over to the motel down the street to cash the first of the travellerís cheques. As I wasnít staying there (the hotel I was staying at didnít have the cash, or so they said) so I only did one of the $50 ones.

Me and Greg took the trolley into town to get breakfast. Greg suggested a Subway. You know I didnít think getting a sandwich was such an arduous task. Ask for just cheese and ham with nothing else and they look at you as if you landed from another planet. I was repeatedly asked if I wanted olives and lettuce and shit, not willing to except that all I wanted was cheese and ham with some bread! It was nice when I finally got it though!

In accordance to San-Diego law that anything useful shouldnít open till mid-day; the really convenient cheque cashing place across the street from the Subway was closed. That meant I ended up in Ralfís again. Greg wanted something and I wanted to offload another cheque AND get what my brother asked for. What my brother wanted was a tacky, cheep little American flag on a stick. You know the type that the crowed wave at the gormless chimp of a president on FOX news. Anyway I thought it would hard to get such tat in a city that wasnít well known for being a tourist trapÖ Of course I found them the first day I got here and knew where to get one.

More American stereotypes confirmed later.

After piss-arseing around trying to convince the cashier I was me (I HAVE to take some ID other then my passport next time), Greg walked to the centre and I took a trip to the open-air mall down the road. I was looking for another bag to take my loot home with me (along with the clothes that somehow doubled in size). I when around a few shops (a hard job when said mall is vertical, and is higher then it is wide) and was about to give up, but then I came across a stall at the end that sold cut price luggage and got a good deal on a bag.

In it was a tag with of the Stars and Stripes declaring "God Bless America!". Well Iím British, so fuck you bag! Thatís all I need! Xenophobic luggage!

Anyway I tottled off to centre for the last time and went about filling my new bag, visiting the stalls I had noted in my head to buy stuff from. This was mostly books and the odd CD-ROM, however there was a more interesting accession that I had pegged a few days earlier. One of the stalls was selling computer gear. It sold some bread and butter stuff but the most part it was aimed at the con goers. While I was impressed with the electronic microscope, what I was really after was a G2 Wacom tablet. I was told it was far superior to my crappy old Genius Easy Painter (and it is by a VERY long way) but the price in the UK and the horrid colour put me off. The one on sale was cheaper (until recently you had to import the things) and it had a iMac colour scheme of white and clear plastic rather then the standard mushy greeny blue with the white fittings.

What I noticed that after buying it the stall holders got a lot more friendly. I was waving a packaged Wacom tablet about which meant two things:

  1. I was an "artist".
  2. I had money and I was spending it.

Funny that the pro badge I had didnít impress but the hardware under my arm did. Well I dodged them for the most part and stated my real stint at the Keenspot booth. It was pretty uninteresting truth be told. Got a few interesting requests though. Nothing perverted (tho the number of Red requests was worryingly high) but doing two sketches of the Inglorious was a nice change. I even conned some money out of some furries (first oneís free and all that).

Ö This is the point where I leave this document my hard drive to rot for 10 months, so from here on in it gets a little vague. Apologies for me sucking donkey dick.

After the con I found myself back at the Pickwick drifting between rooms with cartoonists in. Mostly playing video games, eating yet more pepperoni pizza (which I stuff myself with and REALLY regretted it later) and drinking warm, cheap, but free beer.

After a few rounds of Worms Armageddon with "Yamcha Hibiki" and Teague Tysseling I conned Matt Trpeal into another lift. What I wanted was the last item on my shopping list. A big ass box of Prismacolor pencils, which are impossible to get in the UK (I still donít have them) which I had spotted in an art shop close to the Harbour View InnÖ

Of course we got hopelessly lost as the average human male can and ended up parking miles away from the store. It was a moot point as the store was closed. I had checked the closing time before hand when I first want there window shopping and it was 9pm (good I love San Diego, itís almost a city made for bums like me) BUT I forgot it was Sunday, and closed early at 7pm.

But hereís where it gets a bit interesting. We didnít know the store was closed as the door pushed to. The door wasnít locked properly with only one lock. With double swing doors you have to lock them all else it would be easy to force or, as in this case, just swing open.

I yelled "SHOP!" a few times to see if anyone was out back but nobody was. I thought about stuffing the money into the till and taking the box of pencils, but I wanted to pay by card as I was low on cash. I decided against it and just walked out. Good thing too as I was on to my last dollar buy the time I got back onto the plane. Heh, you know if I wasnít such a nice guy I would have just took them. Lets face it, theyíd never find me cameras or not!

So me and Matt trudged back to his car and headed back to the Pickwick empty handed. On the way there were a few American oddities on the way back I couldnít get my head around. Again. First was the parking system because I've no idea how that was meant to work! In the UK you park anywhere in the car park and go to a machine for a ticket with a time stamped on it. You stick it in the inside of your window with the time showing out so they know you paid and for how long and donít clamp your car. Simple. The new batch of ticket machines are even solar powered!

In the US you donít get a ticket machine. You get a board with numbered holes in. You park in a numbered lot and stuff notes into the corresponding hole in the board with a pokey thing. Thereís no way of telling how long youíve been there or in fact it was your money. Unless there was electronics inside the board (looking at it, highly unlikely) there was no way I could see how this was enforced.

I think too much.

The next thing was the HUGE American panted on the side of a building, two, maybe three stories high. Under it was the obligatory "GOD BLESS AMERICA" in huge, bold letters. In the UK that wouldnít happen with a union flag. If someone didnít complain about it (which it would) the thing would be vandalised. Sure you could get away with a cross of Saint George when thereís a football tournament on, but thatís it. Anything permanent like that would be victim to PC nazis, busy-bodyís who said it "ruined their view" or graffiti artists who have as much national pride as the rest of us.

Maybe we didnít have a 9/11 to unite us. Maybe we got screwed over one too many times by a load of lying fuck-heads we still keep voting for. Maybe weíre still sore that we donít control huge lumps of the planet any more. However I think the link developed between "national pride" and "racism" was the major factor why I didnít like that thing.

I definitely think too much.

After more dossing about at the Pickwick, I conned Matt into giving me a lift back to the Harbour View. That guy is just too nice.

Monday 21st

And now for the shortest day of my lifeÖ thankfully.

Setting two alarm clocks paid off as I slept through the first. I, along with everyone else, was packing up and getting ready to leave. One quick wash and brush up, and trying to figure out why that the stuff that used to fill one bag, now filled two, me and Low called for a taxi. No time for food, the plane was an early one.

It was waiting on the steps outside that I found I had diarrhoea. After abusing my stomach for the last few days it had decided it had enough! Given the fuel from last night it surprised me when my tired defences were low! By the time I kicked a disgruntled L out of the shower it was RIP one pair of briefs! Yuck!

After one lightning fast clean up (luckily it was just the underpants that bought it) and digging out an worn pair of pants that had seen enough active service already Again yuck, but I hadnít counted on shitting myself (who does) so I had run out of clean ones.

Tired, sore and my ego needing mouth to mouth I ran out to the now waiting taxi.

Low joined me even though his flight wasnít till much later. Good thing too because even when we split the taxi fair it broke both our banks. All I had left was a dollar bill and some shrapnel.

I managed to get through check-in before I needed the loo again. Luckily the airport toilets where as unnaturally clean as the rest of the city. I had popped some anti-diarrhoea pills back at the hotel I had taken with me, and will do again, as that was the last of it.

Sorry for all the gory details, but I think you have to learn the ins and (pardon the pun) outs of travel if you feel like doing this yourself. Going to a con I mean, not crapping yourself.

After the security check I went shopping for the rest of the family. Two mugs with "SAN DIEGO" on them for my parents. My dad loved his big Starbucks one (where I got some tea) but sadly the print came off my mums from a gift shop in the first wash. In the same crappy gift shop I got my sister the shot glass with San Diego on it. Dunno what she did with that. Everything at this point was paid for by card.

One unpleasant plane trip back to Texas (oh joy) and I find my brotherís flag was now in two parts. Because it stuck out of the bag, I had to take it on as carry onÖ where it promptly got smashed in the luggage holders.

GrrÖ

After checking that taking a pointy stick that was once the flagís handle didnít class as a deadly weapon (it would be just my luck if security jumped me for it so I thought it was best to be sure) and a short wait, I was in the air heading back for Blighty!

This trip was shorter (wind was with as on the way back) and a lot less stressful. The cabin crew where even nice enough to give me extra food when I asked for it. I would defiantly recommend Continental as at least they tried to make the trip suck less. Sadly it was more or less the same shows on the little TV as on the trip out, but this time I had a door seat, so hello loads of leg room!

Tuesday 22nd

Thanks to the loveliness that is time zone jumping, I landed back at Gatwick Tuesday morning. I get though passport control and make a call home. Due to the hotels charging stupid money for ANY call and attempts at using public phones ending in failure this was the first time I did. I at least wanted to call mum to tell her I got back in one piece.

Despite the rail companies best attempts to put me on the wrong train (both boards and platform guys I asked got it wrong, so ALWAYS ask the guard, it pays off) I was soon back in sunny Littlehampton. One taxi home (I still had a bit of real money on me) I was home!

After mum made me a nice cup of tea, a wash and a change of cloths I promptly passed out. Thus ending my little adventure!

Would I do it again? Hell yeah! I now know what to do and it wonít cost as much (offers of squatting in a house and no need to buy another passport etc) so itíll be an even bigger blast! Sadly this year (2004) I had to spend my money on the beige box of crap Iím typing this on.

Oh and the flag is now glued together and hangs from the wall in his room. I also lost my con badge. That sucked because that was the only thing I had with the Con logo on it. Oh well!

Again, thanks to everyone you donated money so I could go on this trip! I love ya all!

-Al

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