In late 2016, I wrote over 12,000 words on my trip to Chicago Wizard World. I just started typing and didn’t let up until I finished. I saved it to my email where it’s remained for the past four years.
I knew I’d never be satisfied with what I wrote. It was too great of a weekend to truly put into words. Instead, I just tried to document all those minor details that made the trip magical and worth remembering.
After rediscovering this document in my work email, I decided I’d share it here on the blog with the disclaimer that this was never written with an audience in mind. It was never proofread or organized and is the draft that came straight out onto my head onto paper. The only editing that was done was breaking it down into separate blogs so that it wasn’t one massive post.
With that being said… let’s begin.
In August of 2016, I spent in a weekend in Chicago that was the best weekend of my life. This is that story.
Our story begins in 2005, when I met a guy named Alex through my ex-wife. She knew Alex from high school, and thought we’d get along. So, we agreed to go on a double date and see Batman Begins. Alex and I hit it off right away. We were both Star Wars nerds, loved comics, and were into all things geeky. Back even as recent as 2005, it wasn’t all that common to meet other people in real life who liked nerdy things. The Big Bang Theory wasn’t on the air and people tended to keep their interests quiet to avoid any mockery. Oh, how the world has changed.
Not too longer after seeing Batman Begins, Alex and I hung out once more. That day we ate Memphis barbeque and played video games all day while I gawked at his amazing Star Wars figure collection hanging on the walls. He had them hanging on the walls in order of appearance in the movies, which I thought was great. His cats Anakin and Padme walked around lazily like cats do and Alex showed off his R2-D2 robot that made me so envious it hurt. It was a great day, but unfortunately, I was in the middle of moving to North Carolina following some family issues. I wouldn’t see Alex again for over ten years.
We played Xbox Live a lot on the original Xbox and have kept up via email over the past ten years, but that’s been the extent of our communication. Every year or so, usually in the summer, I get an invite from Alex to join him on one of his escapades to a comic con somewhere in the country. I’m always forced to turn him down, because it’s difficult for me to afford a ticket to comic con, let alone a hotel room and plane ticket.
Last year, Alex shot me an email asking if I’d be interested in accompanying him to Chicago for Wizard World Chicago. My knee jerk reaction was to type my usual, “I’d love to, but I just cannot afford it right now.” But I read a little further and Alex mentioned he had a hotel room already booked with plenty of room, so lodging would be taken care of. He also mentioned what great public transportation Chicago has, so I wouldn’t need to bother with a rental car or anything, just a $20 pass for the train. Basically, I just needed to get to Chicago and get my ticket for the con.
I told him I’d think about it. Not having to deal with a hotel room or transportation was great, but a plane ticket was still a couple hundred dollars and then there is the con, food, and all the other stuff included in traveling. For a guy living paycheck to paycheck, that can be a huge decision to make.
I took almost a month to consider all my options. Within that time period, I went from going to not going, to going and then not going again. The decision to go or not to go was based on a couple of factors:
1. I really wanted to see my friend again. It had been so long, I thought it would be great to catch up.
2. I was watching a lot of The X-Files at the time, and really wanted to meet Gillian Anderson and David Duchovny who were going to be there along with a few other cast members of The X-Files.
3. My experience with conventions was not good. I’d attended four in North Carolina, and all four were mediocre at best. I wasn’t sure flying to Chicago to experience a lot of overpriced entertainment was worth it.
I went ahead and drafted my “Thanks, but I can’t afford it” letter and was ready to send it off, but something kept eating at me inside. This truly was a once in a lifetime opportunity. I’d been through hell the past few years, and it was just a great way to get away for a few days and experience something different. Plus it would be with an old friend. So, I deleted my letter and started again, agreeing to go just a month and a half before the con.
Alex I talked that night. He was excited that I agreed to go and wanted to give me a heads up on one minor change- someone else would be going with us. He told me about his friend Adoniram, who was coming with us. He told me about what a great guy he was and how he was into all the same nerdy stuff as us which sounds great to me. I just wanted to hang out with some other people who’d appreciate the same stuff I do and enjoy whatever Wizard World had to offer.
I booked a plane ticket, picked up some cheap travel supplies, printed off dozens of sheets of paper covering all the information I’d need (maps, train routes, extra tickets, confirmations, etc.) and spent hours tolling over who I wanted to meet and get a photo op with while I was there.
As I mentioned before, The X-Files cast was what really excited me, but after reading about some experience with the cast and looking at some of the photo ops, I could tell not everyone in the cast enjoyed meeting their fans. I’m sensitive about stuff like that, and I know if I had a horrible encounter with a celebrity I enjoy, it’ll ruin the show for me, so I decided to skip any X-Files photo ops and go a different route.
Now, it’s safe to say I changed my mind at least a dozen times. I wrote down and listed all the pros and cons, prices, and time frames, and did everything I could to make the best and more economical choices I could. I decided to do three photo ops: Bruce Campbell, Lea Thompson, and William Sadler.
I met Bruce Campbell once back in 2005 at a book signing, but he wasn’t doing any photos at that time. He was a super nice guy and a joy to meet, so I knew getting a photo with him would be great.
One of my favorite movies as a kid was Howard the Duck (don’t judge me) and Lea Thompson was my first crush. She’s amazing in everything she’s ever done and while I appreciate her performance in Back to the Future more than Howard the Duck as an adult, there is still something about punk rock Lea Thompson that will always bring a smile to my face.
William Sadler is just awesome. This guy shows up in everything I watch it seems and a lot of the stuff I absolutely love: Roswell, The Shawshank Redemption, The Green Mile, Roseanne, Iron Man, The Flash, The Pacific, Wonderfalls, Deep Space Nine, Tales from the Crypt, Bill and Ted’s Bogus Journey, Die Hard 2, and the list goes on and on. Alex actually turned me on to Roswell back in the mid 2000’s, and his performance as Sheriff Valenti is one of my favorites. So, he was a no-brainer to meet.
After visiting Wizard World’s website a few hundred times, buying all my photo ops, packing my bags, and saving as much money as I could I was ready to see Chicago for the first time.