Sunday, June 15, 2014

Happy Holiday I Can't Name or I Get Spam Day

Melissa gave me this picture from last summer in a frame today. I miss you, Dad.

Tuesday, June 03, 2014


Friday night I came across a thing on the USA Today site about BookCon, the first ever consumer conference piggybacking on to Book Expo America, or BEA, in Manhattan. My daughter has always said she wants to go with me to a conference but I've had to tell her they're not really geared for kids her age. A large part of this one was, so it seemed like a good option.

The problem was, it was 9:30 at night, my wife didn't want to spend any money, wanted to spend Saturday working on the yard, and didn't want the distraction. My point was that it was a one day show (so we wouldn't need a dogsitter or guinea pig wrangler), it was a rare opportunity for the kids, and--this is the biggie--that we're getting old. See, if we were younger, it would have been a no-brainer, we would have just jumped in the car and gone.

Ultimately, that's what we did, throwing stuff and kids in the car, driving six hours to Manhattan, letting the family sleep in the car while I strolled through Times Square at 3:30 in the morning, and then showing up at the Javits Center at about ten after seven. Which was too late to avoid some crowd, but much better than avoiding the small country that had formed on the streets behind us.

BookCon sold out all 10,000 tickets and that was great, except that this was the worst run conference I'd ever seen. The display floor was quickly gridlocked, and this being the last day of BEA, shut down too early in the day.

Every venue was too small. This meant that in order to be sure to get a seat at a panel you might have had to spend the previous time for a panel... standing in line for the next one. You couldn't go from panel to panel because the one you were going to was probably already full.

They had overlapping times for the panels. This was ridiculous. My wife was greatly enjoying the Carl Hiaasen and John Grisham discussion when she and my daughter left to see Veronica Roth, one of my daughter's favorites. My son and I stayed so that we would be sure to be able to see Stan Lee, who was featured next in that room. After the Roth panel, though people had left the Stan Lee show, no one was allowed to enter.

Rather than have parallel timelines, they had overlapping ones, and that made for some painful choices. I would have loved to see David Mitchell, Amy Poehler and Martin Short, John Green--but the "big room" would only hold about half the number of people who wanted to see that hour's event. Then they would clear the room. Could you go back in? No, because all the while you were in there, people were outside queuing up for the next one. And it would already be full. So all those people who had been lining up for an hour weren't able to see another panel or visit the display floor--they had to stand in line.

At the end, after we found there was no way back into the big room, the only thing that worked time-wise was to see Jason Segel. Couldn't do it--the line was already bigger than the room.

What we saw at the conference was wonderful, especially Stan Lee and seeing my son get to go up to him and ask him a question while wearing a Marvel comics t-shirt. A great experience for a ten-year old. The problem is that half the time we should have been watching some panel, any panel, we were either in line or had already been in one that overlapped with it and we couldn't walk in for the last twenty minutes or so. 'Cause it was full, too.

So it ended up being an earlier day than it should have been. We went back to our hotel room/parking stall and put our loot in the van, and then walked about Times Square until the Saturday evening theater-goers threatened to inadvertently crush us. Then back to the van and another six hour drive home. We were gone a few hours longer than a day, had a good but still disappointing time, and all of us sincerely hope that the BookCon organizers either wake up or resign, because they were a loooooong way from getting this right. Other than lining up good guests, that is.

And we found that Rick Riordan is funny, but Lemony Snicket (Daniel Handler) is funnier. Maybe there's something to these YA books my daughter keeps reading. I'll have to ask for a recommendation.