Dr. W's Space Travels
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2021-11-01 23:48:00 (UTC)

Space Cadet Gains Four Brothers


I have just returned from one of the greatest weekends of my life. We had an absolute blast at AWA Con! I don’t even know where to begin with describing how amazing it was. It was the most surreal thing to meet all my friends, one after the other, and shop for merchandise, and laugh (a lot), and eat so much sushi, and laugh some more… my excitement was not let down in the slightest. Saying it was worth the hassle of traveling is an understatement. I will treasure this memory so dearly.

I vlogged during the whole trip, so I will have a visual record of what all we did. But I guess I should also include a written account of it. So I’ll start with Friday, naturally. I drove out to the airport at like 4:45am, parked at economy this time, and got my flight with no issues. Did my first Uber ride, and that went really well. The driver was very friendly and told me a bit about the city as we drove past certain landmarks. I was surprised by how beautiful downtown Atlanta is – it’s got some extremely modern-looking buildings. At that point – and as I foresaw in my previous entry – my travel anxieties had dissipated, and I was totally excited for what was to come. I was going to be rooming with my friend Brandon, and my other friend Syed had also just arrived at our hotel, so I was gonna see them both when I arrived. Seeing them after spending a little over a year talking to them over Discord VC and occasionally video chatting was such a hard thing for me to mentally register. I had been hyping up the meeting so much that it didn’t feel real at first. And of course, they were as cool, wholesome and friendly as they are in our Discord correspondence. Our friend CJ met up with us at the hotel shortly after, and our little quartet headed off to the Cobb Galleria for the first day of the convention.

I’ve been to my share of conventions before, and no matter how many times I go, I am no less enamored by subsequent ventures. I adore seeing people of all different fandoms, cosplaying as their favorite characters and just going about their business. The creativity that some of these people put into their outfits is noteworthy. We spent much of our first day going through the exhibition hall and looking at fudge-loads of merch (and thereby buying fudge-loads of aforementioned merch). Art prints, wall scrolls, charms, figures, manga, stickers… typical merch you’d find at a con, but no less awestriking in how much of it there was. We went to a panel as well, where people would proclaim the waifu or husbando they were gonna defend before engaging in a rock-paper-scissors match with another contestant to see which would reign supreme. We had our laughs at that one – nothing crazy spectacular, but fun nonetheless. I think the highlight of that day was just being with the friends for the first time ever, and actually perusing anime goods while physically together and making playful remarks to each other the same way we’d do in Discord. They pointed out one vendor to me that was selling Aikatsu stuff too… RIP wallet on that one. After spending a good portion of the day at the con, we had sushi at Kuroshio, which was Syed’s first time trying it (he gave it an 8 out of 10). That sushi was astoundingly good, like holy fudge it was delicious. Came back to the hotel that Brandon and I stayed at and just chilled the rest of the night, trying to find something good on TV and settling for 2 Broke Girls. My spoils of that day included three artistic prints (one of Maki from Danganronpa V3, one of Higurashi, and one of Doki Doki Literature Club), a bunch of Aikatsu charms, an Aikatsu visual book (mainly featuring the girls of Luminas) and some Demon Slayer postcards.

The next day, Brandon and I had breakfast at the hotel and talked a bunch about CS:GO and Valorant while watching some CS:GO tournament matches on Youtube. CJ came over later and we played some Super Smash Bros. on Brandon’s Switch while waiting for the fourth member, John, and Syed to come over. Once John and Syed arrived, we went back to enjoy the fruits of the con! It still hadn’t quite registered at that point that I was spending time with my friends in person. I get starstruck real easily. So yeah, we did a lot of con-walking that day. CJ bought a sword, Brandon and I explored the dakimakura section, Syed succeeded in being the most frugal of us all and buying nothing else, and John caved in on some really dope-looking car decals with urban-style depictions of popular anime characters. When I say that John caved in… I also mean that Brandon and I did too. I ended up getting a sticker of Usagi from Sailor Moon, and I can’t wait to put it on my car. At some point we went to a screening event where AMVs were being shown. All the ones we saw were incredibly done – I particularly remember the two that were edited using the same song: one with Kingdom Hearts cutscenes and one with Honkai 3rd Impact cutscenes, both with “Turning Out” by AJR. The #1 winner was the video done to the tune of Bo Burnham’s “White Woman’s Instagram” – stellar work on the part of the editor, it was really entertaining and humorous. After walking around and taking photos of cosplayers and pouring our bucks some more, we went out to go to a Korean BBQ with another friend from the server, Sam (whom we spent only a few hours with), though we ended up passing on that due to the hour-long wait and instead opting to eat at another Kuroshio. I had some really tasty, crispy pork katsu there. We were gonna go to a con-sponsored rave happening that night, but tire closed in on us, rendering our desires futile. We logged off shortly after. I think the sticker was the only thing I got that day? Oh I think I got some My Hero Academia pins that day too, as a gift for someone. OH and how could I forget – I bought an exclusive $50 merch box with a bunch of DDLC stuff. I was goin’ ham on the buying. I didn’t buy a sword, though, so I can’t claim to have been the biggest spendthrift of us five.

The last day was also a ton of fun. While I had to say a bunch of goodbyes, we made the best of it. I bought a really cute original print with a roller skater anime girl, a Macross Frontier visual book featuring Ranka Lee (lookin’ fiiiiiine), a Shirobako fan book, a Steins;Gate fanbook for my friend Tyson, an Aikatsu movie… and I think that was it? I really spent a lot of merch this weekend but I just checked my bank account and I think I’m still doing all right. We later attended a big panel featuring an “Ask an Anime Character” event, where viewers could ask questions to a number of English VAs, answering as their respective anime character personas. This included Hawk from Seven Deadly Sins, Aqua from Konosuba, Kiba from Naruto, Lina Inverse from Slayers, Astolfo from Fate, Burnin from MHA, and – the one I was most pleased to see appear – Sailor Mars from Sailor Moon! (This was not all the characters featured but that’s what I can remember right now.) While some of the questions that people asked were kind of awkward (and one dude plugged his Youtube channel in the question he asked, oof…), the VAs were absolutely on-point with their responses and were genuinely entertaining and funny. Made me wanna watch more dub stuff, honestly (though I’m still strongly partial to subs). Following all that, we eventually parted ways, and after a delayed flight with an hour and a half extra spent on the tarmac upon landing, I made my way back into bed at home by 2:15am. So here I am, typing this, still kind of exhausted, and also with a few hours of Valorant under my belt (and we all know what Valorant bittersweetly does to my soul…) I’m tired. But I needed to write this all down, because I wanna remember it vividly. Between this and my vlog, I think I’ve got enough to somewhat relive the experience.

While being in anime heaven was easily remarkable, the best part of course was sharing a special weekend with my dear friends. I’m very generous when it comes to the adjectives I use to describe experiences, so it admittedly gets harder and harder to express greater amounts of amazement. I could list a bunch of words to potentially use… but I think I might go for simplicity instead. I felt like I was living – truly living. After being in such a Groundhog’s Day rut during overtime season, it was a much-needed porthole into what it’s like to really live. It’s been a long, long time since I shared such uplifting, synergetic moments with friends – real friends. Friendship in itself has always been kind of a weird thing for me. There aren’t many people I’m super close with outside of family (there are some, just not many), and most of what I do I prefer to do alone. But that weekend would not have been anything close to what it was if it wasn’t for my Friends Club friends being there. I feel like I could confidently proclaim them as family. Brandon, Syed, CJ and John are all officially family in my book. (There are others in the club that could qualify as that too, but I feel like meeting in person is like the gateway to true familial initiation.) I really, really mean it with all my heart when I say that I can trust them, and I know that they will not pass judgment on the kind of person that I am. I can be myself around them, without feeling inhibited. I know they have my back. They’re the kind of friends that I needed in my life long ago. Reliable, self-sufficient, sincere, trustworthy, and incredibly enjoyable to be around. If I had to pick one regret from this weekend, it would only be that I didn’t hug them a little bit tighter.

I’m optimistic that we’ll get to meet up again someday. This definitely won’t be the last Friends Club meetup. Looking back to the day I joined The Friends Club… I never would’ve expected to be so invested in it that I’d do an in-person meetup with other patrons of it. This community truly changed my life for the better. I often define myself as a lover of being alone… but I realize that a big part of why I feel so content with that identity is because I’m never actually alone. The community is always right there, just on the next tab over, and there are people on there that I feel genuinely love me. I know “love” might be a weird term here, and perhaps a bit strong too, but I feel compelled to write it that way. Where have these friends been my whole life? Well, in thinking about it, I’m older than most of them – I think only one of the many friends in the server that I’m close with has actually lived longer than I. But that aside… yeah, I’m just grateful I ever found these friends. Thank goodness I could make these memories with such stellar people. I’ll never forget this.

This week will be spent working on my vlog and playing catchup, the latter of which is exactly what I had to do after the breast cancer walk. But I think we’re heading towards easy street, now. Overtime should be over in a few weeks, and I don’t have to do any major traveling any time soon. Don’t get me wrong – I love to travel. But now that I’ve done so, I’m perfectly happy with lying low and doing things at home, or with local family. I’m really looking forward to decorating my bedroom with all my new stuff, too. Gonna do that this weekend once I’ve bought some frames. I’ve got a lot that I need to do, but I’m determined to get it all done. It’s downhill from here, I feel. Anyway, that was a heck of a weekend. Life is truly good, and I was quite bluntly reminded of that.

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