Friday, March 30, 2012
Roll Out Roll Call Convention Report
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 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.
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.)
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.
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.
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.
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 Carré 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.