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The Caffeinated Collector: Episode 17 – I Cracked The Code!!!!

The Caffeinated Collector: Episode 17 – I Cracked The Code!!!!

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Celebration Memories, Part 2. In our last episode, Jeff stood in line, walked among the tombstones, celebrated bacon, and procured his first Star Tot. What’s left? Oh my, so SO many things.

Friday evening meant it was time for the Star Wars In Character meetup, classily called “SWIC Balls For All,” cuz that’s just how they roll. I was walking to the venue and I heard, yet again, “Jeff McGeeeeee” being yelled in my direction. Once again, it was Chris from SWIC. He and Tim and the amazing Lou were driving to the bowling alley, and were kind enough to squeeze me into the car for the trip around the corner to the lanes. Once we got there, I was able to help the guys prep the badges for the event. On every episode of SWIC, Chris gives his co-hosts names associated with the character being discussed, so he gave all attendees a Star Wars nickname. Mine? Jeff McGee-Yees. I loved it! It was great getting to hang out with fellow SWIC fans, some of whom were listeners of MarvinDog Media shows as well. The first one I met was my first international encounter. I was standing by the namebadges, and this gent starts heading toward me. He looked like a friend of mine from high school, but when he said “I know you, you’re Jeff from Talking Toys with Taylor and Jeff!” I knew it wasn’t my old buddy. I knew because of his pronounced Australian accent. Thankfully he introduced himself quickly. “I’m Wayde Burton, it’s nice to meet you!” I had corresponded with Wayde several times on the Talking Toys page, so I knew who he was immediately. So here I was at a meetup for one of my favorite podcasts talking about MY podcast to a guy from Australia who listens to MY show! Wayde and I spent the evening talking smack to all the other bowlers, and I introduced him to Blue Moon, my beer of choice. He was appalled that it was served with an orange, but I chose not to hold that against him.  I didn’t win the grand prize for bowling, mostly because I’m an awful bowler, but I had a blast, as I knew I would.

Saturday: The day started with another trip to pick up Chris and Tim. This time, it was Tim’s turn to help Marcus into his armor. He failed completely. We visited another cemetery to see the grave of the baseball player who was the home run king before Babe Ruth, complete with more history from Tim. On the way back, we visited the arena for the Anaheim Ducks, who were in the middle of a playoff series. I picked up a commemorative puck for my BFF Turtle, and we headed back to the convention center. Saturday was the busiest day, of course, so it was a mad dash to get entrance into each panel. I managed to make it into the first collecting panel on my list, which resulted in me getting my hands on the BOSSK STAR TOT!!!!! That was one of the 2 Star Tots that I was determined to get, so Jeff was happy. In the middle of the panel, I get a text from CWK’s own Dan Zehr telling me that if I can get down to the StarWars.com cantina, he’s pretty sure he can get me next to Weird Al Yankovic! Anyone who knows me knows that Weird Al is a hero of mine, I’ve been a fan most of my life, and I FINALLY have tickets to see him live this summer. Needless to say, I made a beeline for the cantina as soon as the panel was over. I was whisked away upstairs to be costumed. They were going to put me in a mask, but a very wise young lady said “You know, he’s got a great character face, let’s just put him in a hat!” Once again, my “unique” face served me well. I won’t bore you with the details, since I’ve already talked about it on several podcasts, so I’ll just let you gaze upon the image below, which tells the entire story:

Me and Al

As if this weekend wasn’t already everything I’d hoped, I got to stand next to one of my idols for 3 whole minutes. I was close enough to sniff his hair. But I didn’t, because that would’ve been creepy. Right? After my Al Encounter, I walked the floor and found a few vintage items that I couldn’t live without, namely a few old storybooks that I had as a kid. Then, I met up with Dan, Cory, my Assembly of Geeks co-host and fellow CWK Blogger Scott Murray, Thomas Riddle from Star Wars In The Classroom, Marcus (of the stormtrooper armor from earlier), and author Ian Doescher. Ian wrote the Shakespearean adaptations of the Star Wars Saga, and he’s just as interesting and cool as you would expect. We all enjoyed some pizza from Sbarro, and I managed to make everyone blush when they asked me about my experience with Marcus’s armor. But beyond that, it was nice to sit and share stories of the weekend with some old friends and some new friends.  After dinner, Dan, Cory, and I sat down and recorded the throwback segment that everyone seemed to enjoy so much on the Lou Mongello episode of Coffee With Kenobi. “My mom’s hot?” is apparently my new catchphrase, which is probably a little better than my previous catchphrase, “I had a coupon.” I’ll let you decide.

Sunday: The final day of the con. Bittersweet but still exciting. After breakfast with Dan, Cory, and Ian, I headed to the con to see the staged reading of selections from the first 3 of Ian’s Shakespearean Star Wars books. It was absolutely AMAZING! The voice actors brought life to the words in a way that both honored and elevated the material. They took the already-impeccable work and managed to make it even better. It was easily the highlight of all the Celebration stages for me for the entire weekend. If you haven’t already, I HIGHLY recommend downloading the audio versions of Ian’s books, they are a great listen, and will make you appreciate the saga in a new light.

After the staged reading, it was time for more collecting panels. It’s difficult to explain to non-collectors why it’s interesting to watch a slideshow of props that have been collected, and proof cards that have been located, so you’ll just have to trust me on this. I ended up with a Boba Fett Star Tot, which I knew would be great trade-bait. I knew my friend Carlos is a Fett collector, so I let him know I had one if he wanted it, and he was thrilled beyond measure. I could have held onto it and probably traded it for several different Star Tots from a stranger, but it was much more satisfying giving it to a friend who appreciated it, especially knowing it was going into a collection that makes me green with envy. And, once again, the subject of my height came up. Carlos mentioned that every time he sees me he’s surprised at how tall I am. I don’t get it, but whatevs.

After the collecting panels, I headed to the Star Wars Collector’s Archive Podcast’s live appearance on the Podcast Stage. Skye and Steven produce a great show each month, and their live show was no different, it was a lot of fun, with plenty of audience interaction. I even got in on the act, so if you listen, I’m “The MarvinDog Guy” they speak to. Then it was time for the Tattoo contest. Ordinarily, this isn’t something I would have been drawn to, but Troy was competing, so I went with Brandy to cheer him on. I saw some of the most amazing body art I’ve ever seen! Sadly, the judges were blind, and Troy did not win, but we had a good time marveling at the other tattoos, and it gave me a few ideas should I ever decide to take the plunge and get some ink myself.

The Collecting Panels had some Star Tots left over, so people were lined up to go in and pick a Star Tot of their choice, then get back in line to do it all again. As I walked to the end of the line, I held up the 2 Star Tots that I wanted to trade, and I found someone with the Bespin Han Star Tot that was #2 on my list. I was able to trade for the Bespin Han and an FX-7 Star Tot for Taylor. I settled on FX-7 because Taylor hates FX-7, and apparently I’m a jerk. But he liked it anyway.

Then, it was time to say goodbye. Even the goodbyes were better than I could’ve imagined. Every single person I had met over the weekend showed up at some point outside by the fountain. It was like the last episode of Seinfeld, where every single character shows up to say goodbye. All of the CWK bloggers gathered, and we were joined by Marcus, and even Wayde! Wayde was kind enough to snap all the pictures so we could get all of the bloggers in a photo together, thanks Wayde! Thankfully, in this age of social media and instant messaging, it’s much easier to stay connected on a daily basis than it used to be, but it doesn’t make it any easier to say goodbye. It felt like the last day of summer camp. You’ve forged bonds in a short time with people you barely knew to begin with, but you know you’ll be friends for the rest of your life.

The internet has made the world smaller, but that interpersonal in-person connection is tough to replicate, but we try, and do a decent job most of the time. Since I’ve been back, I’ve been able to stay in touch with just about everyone, and the connections are deeper now that we’ve all got a shared experience to connect us. You may have noticed that I didn’t spend a lot of time on the actual con itself. That’s because the convention really served as a backdrop for spending time with my friends. Honestly, sometimes it felt like the convention got in the way of the real fun for me. In that way, I feel like I’ve cracked the convention code. The surest way to make sure you have a satisfying convention experience is to be able to share it with people you care about. It doesn’t’ matter what happens at the Con, if you’re there with people who matter, it’s always a good time. The people I met and spent time with are my friends. We share many common interests, which is how the friendships started, but it was the connection we share as human beings that will inform our friendships for the rest of our lives. Podcasting and blogging for Coffee With Kenobi has expanded my social circle exponentially, and I will be forever grateful for the friendships that have been forged over the last few years that were enhanced and deepened by our experience in Anaheim. Things got a bit rocky for me upon my return (which I wrote about back in April), and the support I received from my “new” friends helped me immeasurably. Here’s to many more Celebrations, and many more years of friendship!

Come back next month for more random thoughts about Star Wars, collecting, and Star Wars collecting!!!

May The Force Be With Us All

Jeff can be heard weekly on Assembly of Geeks (www.assemblyofgeeks.com) and on his own podcast network, MarvinDog Media (www.MarvinDogMedia.com) where he hosts The Pilot Episode, Talking Toys with Taylor and Jeff, and Bantha Banter: A Star Wars Chat Show. He is also part-time co-host for Coffee With Kenobi, which you have already found if you’re reading this blog.

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