Saturday, June 13, 2009


I'm sitting in the bar at the Double Tree hotel and conference center in New Brunswick, host of the AnimeNext! convention.

Brief explanation: Anime is Japanese cartoons. Like Speed Racer and Astro Boy, but apparently more hip, although, truly, to a 12-year-old girl, Speed Racer was kind of hot, even if the thin lines of his animated lips only moved up and down to accommodate the English language, rather than form themselves around every vowel and consonant.

Manga is the graphic novel version of anime. Both platforms boast many of the same characters, one of the most recognizable being those from the Naruto series or Avatar. Avatar: The Last Airbender, is in live action production, directed by M. Night Shyamalan for release in 2010.

I am here in the bar because it's hot outside and there are a zillion kids moving about, up to maybe age mid-20s, here for this convention, and the lobby is crowded and stifling.

Last year when I brought Evan here for the MangaNext! convention, I was a tad hungover from Halloweening at the Nutty Professor's; consequently I forgot to bring things to keep me amused, like books or the puter or my phone or my driver’s license. So I spent a couple of hours in the parking lot, napping. I am a model of exemplary parenting.

But this time I came prepared and not hungover: I've got the Mac, snacks, 2 books, my filing cabinet so I could file a bagful of bills, and I even cleaned the trash out of the van. I mean, we're here for a good, what, 8-10 hours, anyway, and for the price, it ought to include a hotel room and room service and complimentary massage.

These conventions are extremely well-run and well-staffed. For the fringe element I imagine this thing attracts, I'm amazed at the amount of things they have for these kids to do/see/hear. Most attendees dress as their favorite anime character, or perhaps whatever character's costume is currently on sale, because most of these come from Japan or China and they ain't cheap.

Some of them wear their own elaborate creations; others are bought by parents who are too lazy or uninspired to help their kids make their own. Guilty as charged.

Attendees have these "cosplays," in which they perform skits; they have fighting demonstrations using foam and plastic weapons, and they all go around hugging each other.

This year, Evan is Haku, who was a villager from the land of Water from the Avatar series. His character is rather androgynous and has long black hair. He later became a Ninja after meeting Zabuza Momochi. Haku has the kekkei genkai ability of Ice Release, which allows him to control two types of nature chakra. He can control both Water and Wind chakra; this gives Haku the ability to use Ice chakra, a mixture of the two.

I have no idea what I just wrote.

In any event, this is Evan's character:

He dies early on in the series, so girls yell “Haku!” and come up to him and give him sorrowful hugs. Girls here seem to be especially empathetic to characters that die.

Here's the thing: this is about as geeky a convention as you’ll find. But fortunately you won't find any fat balding Yodas or middle age Sith-types here. It's all kids. White kids, black kids, all nationalities. All oddly dressed, all geeky and probably pretty smart, happily sharing character stories and adventures.

There is no hint of self-consciousness in these kids. They mill about in their pink platform boots and swirling robes, colorful masks and wings and orange spiky hair and, for some, tails, among the regular hotel guests. It's a chance for me to see kids who are, at least for today, a little like Evan, and share his interest in this world I don't understand. I love Evan a little more because of this.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

shout out

I'd like to give a shout out to Helen Mae, always and forever first lady of Wenonah, for coming to my defense at a funeral of someone I didn't know.

This will make sense to no one but H, and surely Helen Mae probably doesn't have a blog, much less a facebook or a twitter account, and she will never see this, but, just in case: thank you, Helen Mae. You're a classy lady.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

the perfect trip to wawa

I stopped into Wawa tonight after Remy's game. They won 6-4, and he wanted what he calls a wet pretzel--a pretzel with that kind of slimy coating on it from the humidity or whatever. And I needed half and half for my morning coffee.

So I parked and went in, and went to the atm because I had to get money out.

I'm standing at the machine and this familiar clangy guitar comes on, rather loudly, for the Wawa...and it goes

der der der der dederdederdederdeder

der der der der dederdederdederdeder

and then the happy drums and tambourine..

The Las: There She Goes.

A modern classic, in my mind, and you don't hear it much anymore. Any song that makes you move your head right and left like that one dancing girl from the dance scene during the play rehearsal in A Charlie Brown Christmas, when Schroeder's playing the piano...she just goes right to left, while Sherman shrugs his shoulders up and down, and Snoopy, well, he's got happy feet.

Anyway, I stand there, making my transaction, grinning from ear to ear, head bobbing back and forth at the atm. Singing. Just a little.

So I get my half and half, searching for one with a late date (they call women like me "milk maids") and then go up to the counter, grinning, to the pretzel thing, get Remy's wet pretzel and place the items on the counter. For once, I am FIRST and ONLY in the Wawa line, there is no one ahead of me, with their hot dogs and Gatorade and too-sweet, machine-made cappufrappuchinos, asking for smokes and a money order and digging through their pockets for change. I am alone at the counter.

The checker says something to me, but I am totally not paying attention. It's the Las, for crissakes, don't talk to me now!

I finish paying, and the song is ending: There She Goes....there she goes...there she goes....

and I left. Perfect timing.