Ok, so we’re now a little more than a month removed from Celebration Anaheim, and I finally have my thoughts ready. I know you’ve all been sitting in suspense. Thank you for understanding when life gets in the way.
First, a trip down memory lane. If you recall, the last blog I wrote BEFORE Celebration was all about what I was expecting. Well, apparently, I’m psychic, because it was EVERYTHING that I hoped it would be! I said I was most looking forward to connecting with people in person that I’ve been interacting with online for a while, and that’s exactly what happened! I’ll take you through my Celebration experience, day-by-day.
Wednesday: I arrived at LAX on-time, got my rental car, and headed to Roscoe’s Chicken & Waffles. The waffles were amazing, the chicken less so, but I DID get a t-shirt, and I enjoyed the vibe of the place. Then I drove over to Mann’s Chinese Theater (I forget what it’s called now, it will always be Mann’s or Grauman’s to me), and found that my feet are substantially larger than just about every celebrity who’s ever set foot at the establishment. After that I headed to Anaheim to check into my hotel. The less said about my accommodations the better. The Anaheim Plaza Hotel & Suites is not a spot I would recommend. The room was fine, but there was no cellular signal, I had to pay for wi-fi (PER DEVICE) and it wouldn’t even reach into the bathroom. I’ve said too much. It wasn’t enough to ruin the trip, since I literally just slept there, but it would’ve been nice to have a better room. That evening I walked down to the convention center and got excited. The banners outside were HUGE! Everyone around was taking pictures, and I realized I was among friends. Literally among friends, since CWK blogger and Cantina Cast mainstay Becca Benjamin was there as well. It was so great to run into a friend for the first time, and it was the first of many encounters that didn’t feel like an introduction. We walked around and talked about what we were excited about until she had to go meet the Cantina Cast crew, so we said goodbye til the next day. Then I met up with a couple more friends, CWK Blogger and Assembly of Geeks co-host Scott Murray and his wife Jenn. We discovered the most amazing pizza, but I’ve been sworn to secrecy regarding its whereabouts, lest it become a tourist destination. Trust me, this pizza was AWESOME. After that, I went back to my “room” and passed out.
Thursday: This is where the fun begins. I didn’t wake up early to get in line to see the JJ Abrams panel, I just woke up and walked down to see if I could find Dan and Cory while THEY waited in line. On my way to them, I hear “JEFF MCGEE!!!” in a voice that I recognize. I look over to my left to see Chris and Tim from Star Wars: In Character, one of my very favorite podcasts. I’ve spoken to them both online as guests on my shows, but never met face-to-face. This started what was to become a running theme of the weekend. Chris said, very matter-of-factly, “You know, you’re a lot taller than I imagined you’d be.”
I should stop here and let you know, I’m 6’2” and have been since I was 15. “Short” is not something I’ve ever been mistaken for.
Chris and Tim and I made plans to meet up later at the convention to discuss our adventure for Friday morning. More on that later. As I talked to them, my friend Carlos Orosco noticed me and came over to say hi. Carlos is a supercollector from San Antonio, and an awesome guy. He got a picture with Chris and Tim, and while they’re chatting, none other than Dan “The Man” Zehr walks up! I hugged him harder than I probably should have, and the 3rd statement he made was “You’re taller than I expected, I think you may be taller than Cory.” (I’m not, but only because Cory still has hair on top of his head.) So he walked me over to “meet” Cory and, as it had been for every encounter so far, it felt more like a reunion than a first meeting. Everyone was just as awesome in person as they have been online, and Jeff was getting more and more excited about the weekend.
So I went to stand in line to get into the convention. First thing on my list was the Coffee With Kenobi podcast stage, of course, so I sprinted up there as soon as I got in. CWK Blogger Troy “Darth T-Bone” Metzler was there with his awesome wife Brandy, so we got quickly acquainted before they had to go to work passing out CWK Trading Cards. And then history was made. Dan and Cory recorded the VERY FIRST podcast on the VERY FIRST Podcast Stage at a Star Wars Celebration! What a blast that was! Seeing my friends become a trivia question was great, and hearing John Morton speak about the importance of hope and faith just made my heart swell. The guys asked me up onstage to talk about the collectibles from the weekend, and I managed to not make a COMPLETE fool of myself and even got a good zinger in (“I won’t be making my own sushi because I prefer to get my food poisoning from Taco Bell.”), so I’d like to publicly thank Dan and Cory for asking me to be a part of the experience. The rest of the day consisted of standing in line. Technically it was 2 lines. 1 line to get into the Convention Store, and 1 line to pay for my purchases. It was about 4 hours total. And it was the most fun I’ve ever had in line in my life. Troy and Brandy took me under their wing (wings?) and introduced me to a member of their “line family” named Cynthia. Through the course of the day we shared stories, avoided awkward conversations with other line members, and made one another laugh during what COULD have been a very trying and frustrating experience. By the end of the day, I had 3 new friends that will remain in my life forever.
Thursday night was the podcast meetup. It was a lot of fun, although it was so loud in the hotel bar we held it at that I had trouble really following a lot of the conversations. I met a couple of Assembly of Geeks listeners from Washington state, and had a great conversation with Stephen Stanton, voice of Tarkin on The Clone Wars! He's a great guy, and a terrific storyteller. After the meetup we had the CWK Blogger meetup, and I got to meet and hang out with a large portion of the crew, including Jay Krebbs, Tommy Mac (who FINALLY broke down and joined our ranks), Pam Bruchwalski, and Ryder Waldron (thanks for the toothbrush, Ryder!). The only drink that got spilled was an iced tea, so it didn't get TOO crazy, but it was nice to sit and visit with all of my cohorts. Here's hoping we can do it again soon.
Friday: The morning started like any other convention morning. I woke up earlier than I would’ve liked and grabbed a bit of unhealthy breakfast. After that, things took a turn. I went to pick up Chris and Tim from their hotel (which was much nicer than mine) and ended up getting up close and VERY personal with another new friend, Marcus Dohring. Marcus is a great guy. He’s also a 501st member who can’t get dressed on his own. He can do 99% of it himself, but there’s ONE snap he just can’t do on his own. The less said about this incident, the better, especially considering that video evidence exists. After that, Tim, Chris, and I went to Forest Lawn cemetery in Anaheim. Tim likes to visit the gravesites of celebrities when he can, and we found Eddie Cochrane’s grave that morning, and Tim regaled us with the tale of Eddie’s untimely demise. It really was fascinating. On the way back, we stopped at this random diner and had the BEST BACON ANY OF US HAS EVER HAD IN OUR LIVES. Yes, I yelled that. Because it’s true. Seriously, the best bacon ever. We headed back to the convention and went to the first Collecting Track panel of my life. I will never be the collector that the folks putting on these panels are, and that’s ok, I like what I do, and they like what they do, and that’s the beauty of collecting. The other beauty of collecting was the Star Tot that we got at the end of the panel. I love these things. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, go google it and be jealous. The first one I got was the snowtrooper. I ended up giving it to Troy because he got turned away from that panel after the room filled up, and I’m just that nice of a guy. I also attended The Clone Wars Bad Batch screening. It was strange seeing animatics for an hour and change, but the episode was great. What happened that evening is a story of love, lust, and international affection…. and you shall hear THAT story NEXT MONTH!
That’s right, it’s a cliffhanger!!!! My Celebration experience is far too vast to be contained in a single blog post.
Next month you can hear about my experience at a bowling alley, another graveyard, two trips to Sbarro, and what felt like the end of summer camp on Sunday evening. Until then, The Caffeinated Collector will return next month with Episode 17: I Cracked The Code!
May The Force Be With Us All
Jeff can be heard weekly on Assembly of Geeks (www.assemblyofgeeks.com) and on his own podcast network, MarvinDog Media (www.MarvinDogMedia.com) where he hosts The Pilot Episode, Talking Toys with Taylor and Jeff, and Bantha Banter: A Star Wars Chat Show. He is also part-time co-host for Coffee With Kenobi, which you have already found if you’re reading this blog.Powered by Sidelines