By now you probably know that I always look forward to Emerald City Comic Con in Seattle year after year. The convention always incredibly well-run, and the attendees are consistently awesome folks who come out to support comics. But most of all, I have to tell you, it's the way I'm treated when I go out there. The brothers Demonakos and their crew always treat me like a king when I'm there -- way better than I deserve -- and I always leave wishing there were more conventions like ECCC.|
So imagine my unmitigated joy upon arriving in Calgary for the Calgary Comics and Entertainment Expo. It was exactly the same kind of convention as in Seattle -- with top-flight convention staff plus phenomenally supportive comics fans -- but after the show, I was invited to spend three days at a mountain resort in nearby Banff with some of the other convention guests.
It was quite possibly the most enjoyable convention I've ever attended. From the show to the afterparty in Banff, I had an absolute blast.
Here are a few photos from that week. As always, click on the thumbnails to see larger images.
Of course, a major highlight of the show for me was another opportunity to hang out with my friends Kris Straub and Dave Kellett.
This is us just before we entered a packed room for a live recording of our popular Webcomics Weekly podcast. Yes, that's an official Calgary cowboy hat that one of Dave's readers brought for him.
Speaking of highlights, here's another one. See, at Calgary, like Seattle, the promoters shuttle guests to the hotel / convention center / airport / etc in vans. Often, this turns into excellent opportunities to meet incredibly talented people who are also exhibiting at the show.
On the first evening of the show, as Kris, Dave and I were leaving for the hotel in a convention shuttle, Kandrix Foong (the main force behind the entire show) swung back around to pick up a couple more people: The Honky Tonk Man and his lovely wife.
Now, I was hitting my teenage years in the eighties roundabout the same time that professional wrestling was really cresting in America. And I spent many a Saturday night watching Hulk Hogan, Junkyard Dog, Mr. Wonderful Paul Orndorf, "Mean Gene" Oakerlund, and, yes, the Honky Tonk Man.
Honky Tonk had the entire van in stitches throughout the ride. The man is a genuine storyteller. And what made it so special was this: I was in the very back of the van with his wife, and out of the corner of my eye, I started watching her every time HTM would launch into a story. I watched her face.
It was the same look Lois Lane reserves for Superman.
It still makes me happy just to think about it.
After the show, we were whisked away to Banff by bus. Late into the night, we arrived at the Blackstone Mountain Lodge. To say that this place was incredible would be selling it short. And we comics folk has the run of the entire place. This is the kitchen in the suite that I shared with my friends Chris Giarrusso and Jacob Chabot. Chris and Jacob were kind enough to put me up last year when I exhibited at Wizard World New York.
I'm telling you, it was gorgeous out there. For a good chunk of the time, the three of us just kinda hung out in our suite, working on projects that we had going. It was a very relaxing atmosphere to work in. The first afternoon we were there, though, we ventured into Banff to ride the gondola to the top of Sulphur Mountain. The view was astounding, but getting there, as always, was half the fun.
Y'see, that first morning in Banff, they announced that they would be running shuttles into Banff for people to go sightseeing, shopping, etc. Chris, Jacob and I (that's Jacob on the right) decided we'd wait for a while because with about forty people going into town, the shuttles would have to make multiple runs. However, by the time we moseyed down to the lobby of the lodge, the last shuttle had already run. So we called a taxi.
The taxi, a minivan, arrived to take us on the twenty-minute ride to Sulphur Mountain. The driver, Jim, a man with wispy grey hair, welcomed us with a smile. Chris and Jacob are from Queens. I'm from Philly. Smiling cabbies are definitely not a regular occurrence.
As he pulled away from the lodge, his dispatcher phoned in.
"Do you guys mind if we pick up 'Mamacita'?" he grinned. "She has to be to work by one-thirty."
"We're on vacation," I replied, "We're in no hurry."
"Thanks," he replied, "A large part of our daily business is getting people to and from work. Mamacita is a regular."
In fact, Jim had a CD of Mamacita's favorite mariachi band, and he replaced the classical music with it about a block before turning into her development.
"I like to have it playing when she gets in my cab," he explained.
"Nice," said Jacob, "She has her own theme music."
Mamacita entered the cab and greeted us all. She was about to start her shift at the Tim Horton's in town.
"Have you boys eaten at Tim Horton's yet?" grinned Jim.
So, when Jim dropped off Mamacita, he didn't pull up to the door. Instead, he headed straight for the drive-through. Mamacita handed him a five, and said good-bye. And Jim ordered a box of "Tim-bits" (donut holes, back in the states), a half-dozen assorted donuts and coffee. Chris and Jacob aren't coffee-drinkers, but I accepted a small double-double.
He handed the donuts back.
"No charge, boys. Enjoy."
It seems Canadians have a kind of pride in Tim Horton's that can only be eclipsed by hockey. And he thoroughly enjoyed our enjoyment as he whisked us to Sulphur Mountain.
He replaced the mariachi music with opera ("It's the best kind of music to drive through mountains in") and proceeded to narrate our trip with sightseeing facts, lessons in geology, and stories and poems that he had written.
We were actually a little sad to arrive at our destination.
Donuts asside, the gondola ride to the top of Sulphur Mountain -- and the view from the top -- were awe-inspiring. I've never done that thing where you hold your camera at arm's length and aim it at yourself. Never really felt as if I had a reason to before.
But this was difference. I really wanted to remember that I had been there. I wanted to remember what that felt like. Too bad I pulled such a sour face. Transformative Moments notwithstanding, I really don't do cold weather well.
This is only one of about a dozen photos I took on the top of the mountain. It doesn't even come close to communicating the Majesty of the view. We spent something like an hour up there.
When we finally got back to the lodge, it was time to get ready for the barbecue. The Calgary crew had been to town for supplies, and were already hard at work grilling steaks, mixing drinks, and throwing an all-around great party. Everyone there were comics folks, so we all spoke the same language. It was a fantastic night. I lost track of all the people I met that night. You could literally sit down at any table at random, introduce yourself, and be in the midst of a terrific discussion within minutes. Nights like that are rare.
The next day, we went to Canmore -- the small, less touristy counterpart to Banff -- for some sight-seeing and shopping.
It was really cool to walk around this little town nestled at the foot of a giant mountain. It felt downright mythical.
We nosed around in a used bookstore, and I stopped at a jewelry store to buy a little something for my wife to thank her for agreeing to let me have this little vacation.
Now that our boys aren't babies anymore, she's back to wearing jewelry, so I have a little catching up to do.
That night Jim Demonakos (he runs Emerald City and he and Kandrix Foong are pals) drove a few of us to a wonderful Greek restaurant that he knew of for our last dinner before everyone had to head back.
It was Greek night, so the dinner was punctuated by breaking dished, rollicking music, and, of course, a belly dancer. Jim was quick to record the moment for future
Would you like to share this post?
First, click on "read/post comments" (below)
then scroll down to this button