I go out alone a lot. And this probably won’t be news to you, but when I do go out alone, I’m often looked down upon. For some reason, there’s a stigma against going out and doing things for fun on your own. You’re the weird guy who can’t get other people to do something with you. And maybe there’s some truth to that. But as I said earlier, I go out alone a lot. I go see movies by myself. I’ve never understood the need to have an entourage with you to see a movie, and I guess that makes me weird. But I do plenty of things on my own. When I’m at home, I watch movies on my own. I play games mostly alone. I sit with my computer and experience a lot of stories all on my own. I feel like it’s a misconception that being alone is lonely. I’ve been lonely, certainly. But it’s happened just as often in the middle of a crowd as it is sitting alone at home.
There are, of course, advantages to being alone. Most notably, for me, is that getting a table at a nice restaurant is much easier to do by yourself. Making space at a bar or a small table is something a host is easily able to do. It’s not the case for bigger groups. Even a pair of seats can be difficult to get. Any place with a line and a waiting list will make you wait a half an hour to an hour with two or more people in your party. But for me, alone, without a reservation, I wait a maximum of about ten minutes.
For the most part, this is the case at ramen places. I love ramen. Ramen places tend to be the kinds of places that don’t take reservations and you’re meant to get there early and wait to get into. But for someone going in alone, there’s a hell of a shorter wait. But it extends beyond that. A lot of restaurants have seats set away for walk-ins. Some places have a bar where walk-ins can sit alone. But let me get to the real point. I went to a place that I definitely could not have gotten into if it hadn’t been for me walking in alone.
Somewhat recently, I saw something interesting on the show The Mind of a Chef. Chef Eddie Lee made some real interesting food with someone who ran a restaurant with a very interesting concept. It’s called State Bird Provisions. Turns out, this place is pretty well-known even outside of that. In fact, it has a Michelin star. I didn’t know any of that going in. The interesting concept is a dim sum style service where trays full of special dishes are brought out and shown to all the guests, and you can pick up different things that appeal to you. I walked in and there were plenty of people waiting around. Groups full of people standing there, waiting for tables. And yet, despite there being plenty of people ahead of me, I was seated pretty quickly after I arrived. In fact, they sat an old man who also came by himself alongside me. Mind you, there were plenty of parties of two ahead of us. And yet the two of us were seated at the same time, within ten minutes of at least my getting there.
The results were pretty amazing. Aside from one of the dishes I was served, everything was very tasty. The menu had four sections. The first section contained little bread-based bites. Things like steak tartare on a piece of toast, which both I and the man sitting next to me ordered. I also ordered a piece of beef tongue on a piece of bread, which was delicious, despite the juice from the tongue kind of making the bread disintegrate a little. The second part of the menu was what we would probably consider entrees. From that section, I ordered a bit of bone marrow served with some chanterelles and some toast points. It was also served with some extra salt, but I felt that it was tasty enough without the extra salt. The third section was a collection of desserts, from which I ordered a very interesting ice cream sandwich. I feel like I don’t fully understand fancy restaurant desserts. Instead of just serving the ice cream sandwich, it was topped with some sort of macerated berry and on top of a cardamom meringue which I felt overpowered the whole thing just a bit. I felt like it had potential, but I was a little overwhelmed by the meringue, even when I ate it separately. The final section was the most interesting.
The fourth and final section on the menu was just a table with numbers from 2 to 12. Each line corresponded to a different price of a dish. This is where the restaurant starts to resemble a dim sum restaurant and is a genius idea. I ordered three things off this part of the menu. I got a cold potato soup with some seafood served with some seaweed and sesame seeds. That was pretty much the only dish that I didn’t really like. It was very fishy, which I suppose was sort of the point, but in addition to that, the sesame seeds kind of reminded me of sand in my mouth whenever I’ve been swimming at the beach. I also had these little almond cakes served with a duck liver mousse, which was fantastic and a pork belly dish, which was extremely interesting and well worth the slightly higher price. In this case, the potato dish was $6, the mousse was $8 and the pork belly was $12.
I had a great experience at State Bird Provisions, despite the somewhat intimidating price afforded to them by their great food, location and Michelin star. But I never would have been able to try their food if I had not been looking for a table for one.
So let me admit something upfront: I haven’t been to a lot of conventions. I’ll also admit that despite my best efforts, I am at best only half-geek. I strive for more, but certain things don’t really click for me. I don’t collect stuff. Toys haven’t really had any appeal to me since I was a kid, and leaving them in their packaging on the off-chance that their value might appreciate sits somewhere outside my level of comprehension of fandom. I buy comics for the stories they contain and not the value they might attain someday. I don’t even take particularly good care of them. In many ways, I am a failure as a fan. One of those ways prior to this year was that I had only ever been to one convention. It was Fanime, what I have come to understand as a very big anime convention.
Comic book conventions are a beast of a different nature. I went to Big Wow earlier this year, and that one short experience was better than all the years I had gone to Fanime. The vibe was better, they had guests I actually cared about, and the lack of overwhelming crowds was something that I felt was a great boon to a convention. Comikaze’s vibe and scale was very different, but I still enjoyed it a lot. Here are some of the reasons why.
Comikaze takes place in Los Angeles. No, really. It takes place in the middle of downtown LA, just down the street from where I went to college. That meant that not only was I already familiar with the area, but it was in LA, which meant certain things were possible from that venue that wouldn’t have been true if it had been San Diego Comic Con instead. I actually tried to get tickets to SDCC, but that was a failed endeavor. I think that actually worked out in my favor, though. Part of why I wanted to go was to see some old friends and another(maybe proportionally too big a part) was to go eat at some nice restaurants in LA. Thankfully, Comikaze being in downtown LA meant that I could easily make it to those restaurants I really wanted to go to. I’ll save that discussion for another post, but let’s just say I had some really great meals there. The last part of why Comikaze being in LA was great is that the location attracted locals. And by that, I mean a lot of famous Youtubers were around. And I met my share of them.
First things first, let’s talk Jewel Staite. Long have I loved our beloved Kaylee and wished that someday, I would meet the woman behind her. That day was this past Saturday. As soon as the convention floor opened on Saturday, I rushed over to the autograph booth, and then ended up third in line to see her. I got to meet her handler, a former actress(who had apparently been on Star Trek: the Next Generation as well as Babylon Five) who had some pretty interesting stories to tell about acting and booking her clients for various conventions. Then, after what felt like a very short half hour wait, she arrived. We had a brief conversation about her show, The LA Complex, and how her friend wrote her character for her, then she signed the headshot. The experience was well worth it.
Besides Jewel Staite, I met quite a few people I thought were cool. I met the Rocket Jump crew who worked on VGHS. I met Michele Boyd formerly of Team Unicorn, who was also on the Guild and a few other web series. I also met a few of the Geek and Sundry vloggers, most notably Amy Dallen and Becca Canote. There was also Javier Grillo-Marxuach and Natalie Morales of The Middleman, a show I feel was extremely underrated. I’m sure there were plenty more, but those are the ones who stood out in my mind.
I think the biggest thing that makes comic conventions feel more worth it to me than Fanime ever did was how important comics are to them. I don’t just mean flying out rockstar comic celebrities, like Rob Liefeld and Jim Lee. I mean that there are small self-published comic book artists and writers who are trying their damnedest to make and sell their comics. Those are some of the most interesting stories I heard about. Don’t get me wrong. I love a good pew pew laserbeams and grimdark superheroes just like the next comic book reader. It’s just that there’s room in my brain for other stories. Some stories are a lot more fit to do in comic book form than in any other medium, and that’s what excited me. There are stories that are told in comic book form because that’s the only way they are going to be told, and those are actually interesting, too. I feel like Fanime never provided that for me. Sure there was artist’s alley, but I felt like a self-published comic artist or writer would have a much harder time selling in a space like that. It’s just something I feel like there’s a lot of potential in.
As I alluded to earlier, part of the reason I tried to book a ticket to SDCC was to go see old friends. A lot of my friends stayed in LA after they graduated. I did not. So the only way for us to see each other is to travel. And it’s quite a trip. But fortunately, I was able to see my friends. I somehow lucked my way to finding them in the middle of a crowded convention center. Well, actually, it was a little more than luck. I knew where to find them. But seeing them after at least six years of not having seen them was great. Talking to them again. I think that for me, it was the biggest part of what made this particular convention mean so much to me.
So overall, my first trip to Comikaze was great. It wasn’t without a few snags and disappointments, but I feel like in this case, the good far outweighed the bad. I have had a lot of fun times this year, but this is up there pretty close to the top. Thanks, Comikaze. Thanks, LA. I’ll see you again someday.