Friday, March 30, 2012

Roll Out Roll Call Convention Report

I've put this off long enough!  It's time for me to cast my mind back to the Roll Out Roll Call convention.

David Tree of All The Cool Stuff, along with the Mapes bros, sponsored Bill and I for their annual RORC convention in Southampton, England.  The upshot of all of this was that Bill and I got to spend almost a week in the United Kingdom, sightseeing, meeting fans, promoting the upcoming  The G.I. Joe Field Manual: Volume 1 (preorder it today!), and generally having a good time.

Tuesday, March 6th: Things start rather leisurely on this, the Tuesday before the convention.  Our flight leaves at 4:30 PM, which for an international departure requires a two-hour advanced arrival.  Getting to LAX by 2:30 means a 1:30 departure. Morning is the usual routine for me, exercise followed by a hearty breakfast.  I then do some last minute packing and am all set by 11:00.  I know that Bill had a harder time of it, running around picking up prints.  His gal Jillian gives us a ride.  We leave a bit early so we can grab some lunch on the way, though I polish off some leftover spaghetti right before she picks me up.  No sense letting good food go to waste when it can go to waist instead!  Bill and Jill get some Carl's Jr by the airport.  I try to meet up with a D&D buddy who lives down that way for lunch but the logistics don't quite work out.

Security is light at the airport and we breeze through, giving us plenty of time.  I read some Tarzan (I'm chewing through the whole series, I was up to Book 7 when I started the trip) while we wait.  I read it on my new Kindle, a Christmas gift from my wife.

(Aside... I LOVE the Kindle.  I wasn't sure I would.  I read voraciously, and was skeptical that an eReader could keep up.  It can, and does.  If you are of a literary bent, I highly recommend you check it out.  Great battery life, easy to read, and there are a whole world of public domain books out there you can get for free. I haven't tried the color one yet, and am not sure if I need to quite yet, but for regular reading you won't go wrong.)

I'm pleased to find that, though this is a BA flight, it's an American Air codeshare, so I get a bunch of miles I can actually use.  There is a chance I'll have to go to Japan for a new project I'm working on, so the more miles, the better.  The flight itself is direct to Heathrow, which is very nice.   Those who remember my Auto Assembly ramblings might remember that we had some issues in Charles De Gaul Airport on our connection back to the US last time.  Instead, we get a quick flight that lands us in London at about 11:00 AM on

Wednesday, March 7th: David Mapes works near Heathrow, and is nice enough to meet us at the gate.  Sadly, it takes about an hour to get through immigration, reclaim our baggage, and then clear customs.  He stands around for most of that hour.  It's very nice to see a familiar face, though. We walk to the car park and deposit our baggage, and he drives us a short distance to the hotel where we'll stay until Friday morning.  It's an airport inn but fairly nice for all of that.   David lends me a power adapter for my laptop and a Blackberry so I can make some local phone calls.  Very handy.  Bill and I get a bit of rest, not too much, then head out to see the town.

We figure out where the local train station is.  It's about a mile away, on a bus line.  The day passes we want to get work for both buses and trains, but you can only purchase them at the station.  We make a minor error in judgement and decide to walk it the first time.  It's not a horrible walk, but it kind of starts to drizzle and it isn't too pleasant.  We make it, though, and get two day passes each, so no more of that.  The Tube takes us to downtown London, where we check out the Natural History Museum and the Victoria & Albert Museum.  The Natural History Museum is nice, especially the dinosaurs (they have a G1 Grimlock toy!) but nothing we haven't seen before.  The V&A, though, really impressed me.  I'm a big fan of statuary, and they had plenty.  There was also much jewelery and gold, which I always find interesting.

We head back to the hotel and meet up with the Mapes for dinner.  They take us to a Persian restaurant.  Bill was skeptical, but he needn't have worried.  It's a great dinner, though I make the mistake of getting the yogurt drink.  I was expecting something like a Lassi, but what I got was much more salty and bitter.  We turn in for an early night, since we're still fairly exhausted from the trip.

Thursday, March 8th: We start with a nice breakfast buffet, which will be a staple of our diet here.  When food is consumed, we have before us another day of tourism.  This time we hit the British Museum and Bill indulges in his love of Egypt.  Seeing the Rosetta Stone was a big highlight.  My contribution was to steer us towards the Parthenon exhibit.  After we finished up here and grabbed some lunch, we meandered down to Parliament, Westminster Abby, Big Ben, and Buckingham Palace.  All in all a big day of touristy stuff.  We cap off the day with a nice Indian restaurant, tasty food but weird acoustics.  We could barely hear the waiter even when he was obviously speaking very loudly, and the ambient noise level wasn't all that high.  Odd.

Friday, March 9th: Getting closer to the main event!  After breakfast, we pack up and check out.  The Mapes pick us up and we begin to meander down south.  First stop, Windsor Castle.  I think Bill and I were both skeptical, especially with the 17 pound price tag, but it was definitely worth it.  Wandering the grounds was interesting a bit, but the real magic happened inside.  Room after room of amazing art, architecture, swords and armor, crests, goblets, jewels.  One really gets the sense of the grandeur and majesty of empire here. 

We eat some nice pub food outside of the castle, then head on down to Stone Henge.  I've been here before, Bill hasn't.  We opt not to pay the entrance fee, as you get very nearly as close to the monument from the road as you do if you obey the foot path sign.  It's a neat structure, to be sure. 

Now it's mostly local roads to Southampton.  I was surprised to see a road sign disallowing Super Dimensional Fortresses, but then different culture, different customs.

Arrival!  We check in, and Bill takes a nap.  I meet up with my good buddy Bish and the two of us catch up for a bit before heading down to the bar area to see who we know.  It doesn't take us long to find some familiar faces, and time flies.  Before we know it it's time for dinner.  Bill rejoins the land of the living and we grab some Chinese food.  Then it's back to the bar, where we spend the rest of the night.  Simon Furman, (legendary Transformers scribe and a personal hero of mine) turns in just about when we get there, before I can buy him a beer, but he assures me he'll be around the next night.  (And he makes good on his word.)

Saturday, March 10th: It's go-time!  This hotel's breakfast spread is a bit more elaborate than the inn by the airport, so Bish, Bill, and I enjoy our morning repast, and are soon joined by Sprite.  Things start out slow and quickly move to busy as the attendees figure out how the rooms are laid out.  It turns out that Bill and I are in the more Joe-centric room.  I get to sit across from Larry Hama and chat with him a bit, which is completely awesome.  At one point, he even asks me for a character model for Falcon, which I'm happy to be able to supply.  The big autograph rush subsides at 12:30 or so, but by now I've missed most of the Regeneration One panel.  Ah, well. 

Things quiet down a bit, so I get to know some of the other guests a bit better.  Simon Gough (artist extraordinaire) and James Kavanaugh Jr (author of the R.A.H.C. Guide to Second Generation G.I. Joe Figures) in particular I hit it off with.  Once again, I find myself impressed with the caliber of show that David Tree and the gang have put on.  The attendees are also uniformly friendly and interesting, and I get into some great conversations and debates.  (Isn't the tattoo on the left lovely?  The other side of his calf includes the Decepticon symbol and the Beast Wars symbols.)  I've also got an agenda, to get some material for the next project (after the Joe book) and manage to make some good contacts in that regard.  Sadly, nothing I can talk about quite yet, but suffice it to say that my time is spent productively.  

Thus passes the day. I do get the chance to wander the dealers room a bit and marvel at some of the cool toys and merchandise.   One unexpected pleasure is that Barry Shaw, the mad Scott, mangeds to show up!  We had heard he wasn't coming, so his presence was a welcome surprise.  Before we know it, it's time to pack it in.  We decide to do Italian tonight, and hook up with a large party of convention goers.  Sadly, without reservations, our party of 12 gets split up into four tables, but it's still a nice meal.  Bill, Bish, Barry, and I dine together.  Back to the bar!  We go till about 2:00 AM, but things are hampered a bit by the bar running out of beer.  Let me say that again... the bar RAN OUT OF BEER.  How on Earth does something like that happen?  One by one, the on-tap beers get, well, tapped out.  They did comp us a few bottles, though, as the bar staff seemed fairly embarrassed by the whole situation.  I do buy Simon a drink or three, and we get to discuss a far-ranging set of topics including but not limited to politics, religion, transformers, film making, conventions, BotCon, the Transformers Hall of Fame, sports, and Sherlock.  (If you haven't seen Sherlock yet, order it now: Sherlock: Season One Seriously, it's that good. )

I'm still a bit jetlagged, so sleep doesn't come easily, despite my weariness.  Still, I get a few winks in.

Sunday, March 11th: Morning!  Breakfast with the same gang, then back to the guest table.  It's a bit slower today, but that's ok.  It gives me some time to get ready for the panel Bill and I are doing.  I decide at the last minute to preview some of the Field Manual.  This decision is largely because the attendees are overwhelmingly Joe-focused, so I want to give them some Joe material to talk about during the session. 

This turned out to be a great decision, as our session runs about half an hour long.  Lots of great questions were asked, and I seldom had to get too evasive.  The level of excitement, at least among this community, seems genuinely high, and I hope that they enjoy the Field Manual when it comes out.  It turns out that Larry Hama is doing another panel right after ours, so when they go to take our photos after the panel, we get a nice one with the two of us and the grandfather of G.I. Joe himself.

After that, we sign a few more autographs and then get called upon to judge a costume contest. Unexpected! Bill, myself, Simon Furman, Andrew Wildman, and Larry Hama get to judge the many talented folks.  We all vote and the prizes go to Lady Jaye, Ripper, and Snake-Eyes.  There was only one vaguely TF-themed costume, Combat Collins.

Next up is a charity auction.  There is some production artwork that I consider bidding on, but when I find out that the Mapes are also going for it I demure.

Things are definitely starting to wind down now.  Everyone packs it up, and the doors start to close.  Some fans congregate in the hotel lobby and we chat for a while.  Nick Snowden shares with us some hilarious hotel stories. Then it's the sad part, as people start to depart.  I bid Bish a fond farewell, as he has a dinner date that night.

Then it's just Sprite, Bill and I for dinner.  Everything is closed, so we wind up doing pub food again.  The place is nice enough to start, but when they start their trivia contest we decide it's time to head out.  We even skip the hotel bar scene that night, as everyone we know has already turned in or found another venue.  Still, after all the fun we've been having, an early night is not the end of the world.

Monday, March 12th: Time to head home.  We catch a slightly early breakfast, then meander to the lobby, where David Tree is waiting.  He's rented a van, and is taking many of the guests down to Heathrow.  We drop off those of us with early morning flights, then head downtown to drop off a few more folks at the outskirts of London.  Bill and I are the only ones left, so David treats us to a quick roadside lunch where there is much discussion of Joe, Transformers, and Ponies.

We get to the airport by about 1:30 for a 3:00 flight.  Now, here's the funny thing... it's an 11 hour flight, but the time zone difference is 9 hours.  So, we get on the plane, fly, fly, fly, and then land... at 5:00 PM.  The sun more or less hangs motionless in the sky as we go, which is certainly a bit disorienting.  I watch a few films this time: The Adventures of Tin-Tin and Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy.  Both are quite good.  I'm a bit of a fan of the  le CarrĂ© books, so movies make me a bit nervous.  I needn't have worried, they were faithful enough to not annoy me.

I get bored of sitting and stand at the back of the plane, reading.  Then I listen to my iPod and dance a tiny bit.  The plane, by the way, is full of college kids from Edison.  One adventurous girl makes the mistake of moving behind me and making fun of my dancing by dancing herself.  I notice right away and turn and start dancing with her.  She turned bright red with embarrassment and fled to her seat.  I'm absolutely shameless, so mock me at your own peril!

After landing, we clear customs pretty quickly and are picked up by Jillion.  I'm home by 7:00 or so, and manage to stay up for 3 hours before heading to bed.  (My theory on jet lag is this: go to bed at a reasonable time the first night and you'll thank yourself in the morning.) 

Roll Out Roll Call was a terrific experience, very well run and enjoyed by all.  I'm proud and honored that they chose to invite me, and would return in a heartbeat.  If you live in the UK and are a fan of either G.I. Joe or Transformers, I urge you to give it a shot.

1 comment:

Sid said...

Nice to see my leg in one of your articles!