Round about noon I rolled into the parking lot of my comic shop, amazed at amount of cars in the tiny lot. Getting out of my car I saw two Jedi smoking and chatting in the parking lot. I still consider myself new to this part of nerd culture so I had to do some degree of self-preparation before going inside. I could tell, of course, that the store was packed. Now, I’m no stranger to this store. Long before I started buying comics (about January of this year) I would go in there for Magic: The Gathering cards when I played seven or eight years ago, so I was well aware of the general client base and just how tightly packed the store is. When I walked in I was met with a wide variety of characters- literally and figuratively.
In the back issue aisles were folks looking for a deal and at 20%-30% off for back issues, I can’t blame them. At the new book wall was a Spider-Man posing with people while parents and store employees got pictures. There were many kids… many, many kids. Then there were the guys at the gaming tables. Of all of us in the store, it was clear that they were the regulars, those that spend the weekends saddled up to the tables playing Munchkin, Magic, or Warhammer. They. Were. Pissed. Off. They felt like their store was being invaded by people who don’t belong there. You could see in their faces the sheer disdain at having to share the store with pretenders. They were The Angry Nerds (TANs).
One TAN patrolled the tables- where the temporary FCBDay display was set up- keeping people pinned against the display, hurtling snide remarks at the children, and generally just being an ass. The others held court in the back corner, not playing anything, but making sure to occupy two tables with their gear and half-empty Mountain Dew bottles. One leered at two girls, probably no older than fifteen, who were dressed as Black Widow and a goth Deadpool. The other TANs kept keen eyes on the little kids that were dragging their parents around the store.
My patience was tested, there is no question of that, when dealing with the children, but it was fun seeing the little girl dressed as Spider-Man, and the pack of kids come through dressed as all of the movie Avengers + a Kate Bishop Hawkeye. It was encouraging to see the store staff happy to be there and interacting with everyone. They were accommodating to everyone who had questions and un-endingly patient with the kids running about. Even though it took a lot for me to tolerate the packed store and loud children, I was still happy to be there with people who were out celebrating nerd culture. Which makes me wonder how the TANs could possibly be so angry. Maybe it’s because they are younger guys, older teenagers and early twenties, or maybe it’s because they feel like the sudden surge of patrons is due to part-time fans/pretenders trying to score free books, but I can’t understand why they wouldn’t be happy to see that their culture is alive and thriving.
Overall, my first Free Comic Book Day was a fun, if trying, experience. I was more than happy to plunk down $53 for a few trades and a storage box to support a local shop and the people who facilitate my weekly book purchases. I was glad to see so many people coming together as a common culture, even if we don’t all read the same stuff. It is definitely encouraging to see a once white male nerd dominated community have such diversity as I saw in my store today. It’s just a shame not everyone was so welcoming to the influx people into the comic shop.
I’m in the beautiful pigeon forge, TN with a friend and her family. The past three nights I’ve slept in someone’s living room, and I will return to my own bed sometime in the next few days. Though my travels haven’t taken me out of Tennessee I’ve enjoyed my time much more than on a regular vacation. Coming to pigeon forge, a place I have been many times, with a local is a completely different experience, and even while on elijahthefluffymonster’s futon (though it is a rock to sleep on, sorry dude) I started to entertain the notion of why this week felt like such a great adventure.
I come upon many answers to this notion, particularly the concepts of friendship and hospitality, the stereotypical vacation, and the need for individual experiences. Today’s vacation style, I think, takes away from what is best about travel. Today, you go to a hotel by yourself or with family, go take pictures of things, buy shit to take to your house, and go home. As I’ve grown up that has begun to appeal less and less to me.
Nerdfighting taught me an extremely important thing - people are the meaning to life. We make life meaningful for ourselves and for each other. In the modern world, we have the capabilities to do this but not always the values. Focusing on stuff instead of focusing on people is easier. People are complicated and aren’t always nice, fair, or act the way we want them to. I believe that if we are able to understand and accept these things about our species, we can solve any problem and overcome any challenge.
And therein lies the need for travel. Travel (especially solo travel as i am starting to learn) is important not for the need to see new places but for the need to understand the diversity (yet similarity) of other peoples and cultures. As John green says, learning that there is no “them”, only reflections of us. “Vacation” in many ways is isolating from this. Staying in a hotel isolates you from the hospitality, kindness, and friendship of new and old companions. Sightseeing and souvenirs (though I do think we should appreciate the beauty of the world, it is meaningless to simply stare at it) take away the value of people and move it to objects or places. It is only when we interact with others and our world in an open, interested, and engaged way can we begin to learn anything about ourselves. At least, that’s what I’ve been attempting in my current adventure, and hopefully thoughts from places (both new and revisited) becomes a thing I do not because I’m in places that matter but because I’m with people that matter.
Anyway, time for some chocolate pancakes. Yum.
It’s raining outside. I’m curled up in my borrowed car, lying flat against the seat as the gearshift digs into my leg. It’s perfectly silent except for the rain—each little drop bounces off the hood of the car, and I can feel the echoes in my bones.
If I were to leave now and race this thunderstorm across the country, how far could I go? Would I be abandoned in the desert, mouth dry with a thirst for something I can’t ever seem to find? Would I make it to the sea, only to be mocked by an infinite horizon?
A cop knocks on my window. “Miss, are you okay?”
I am not, I want to reply. How can anyone walk in the rain and find themselves to be only ‘okay’? But instead I nod and restart my engine, the blissful silence transformed into a desire to be everywhere all at once; to be as small and as infinite as the rain.