The End of the Road

Dearest Rachel –

I’m beginning to wonder if my running shoes should have come with an odometer, or some other means to indicate when I’ve gotten to the end of their useful life. They still cover and protect my feet from the elements, both above and beneath, but I can feel the difference in support from when I first wore them home. They aren’t quite broken, but they’re far more than broken in. As a result, I’m starting to feel the effects of these back-and-forth perambulations between the hotel and the convention center; perhaps these shoes are reaching the end of the road.

In any case, the convention certainly is. While it’s not running out of steam just yet – the crowd waiting to get into the exhibit hall was immense; no social distancing here – there’s also a considerable amount of activity just trying to get out. The elevators to the parking garage are not only packed for the first time this weekend, there’s a line to get into them. Everyone is moving out of their rooms and back into their cars for the return trip home – wherever that may be.

I’d actually gotten ahead of the game, clearing my own stuff to the car while the boys lounged around in the room for a couple hours. Hey, they’re watching anime, so at least they’re getting into the spirit of the weekend regardless. After hiking past the vendors and artists – including giving my address to the one I’d commissioned on Friday, so she can send me the finished product once she has it (I still have to figure out a way to get everything to her, too. Neither email nor Twitter has proven particularly effective in that) – I’ve come to the conclusion that there really isn’t that much in the way of merchandise that I need or want to own at this point.

However, the other artist I’d commissioned actually put together this impressive sketch over the course of the weekend. I didn’t quite recognize you at first; she probably could have used a purple pen to make it more obvious. I always did like it when you let your hair down.

Almost nobody recognizes Daddy Cat anymore; a couple people pointed out that I had something on my back, or following me, but only one even tried to guess who he was and what he was from. I’m getting old when these references no longer mean anything to anyone anymore.

Imagine how obscure this Ranma/Utena crossover image I’m wearing must look to most people. Odds are, it wouldn’t even occur to most of them that it’s even a crossover.

With that in mind, and seeing that he’s rather an encumbrance, I decide to return to the hotel to drop him (and your artwork) off in the car. No sense carrying anything around that I don’t have to – especially since I don’t have a backpack to store anything like you used to (not that Daddy Cat would fit in any backpack; although, had we designed him that way, he might have made a splendid one).

You can juuust see the city from the parking garage. It actually looks nearer in person than it does in a photograph, although I don’t know how that works.

I text the boys to see if they’ve cleared out of the hotel, and as I do so, I receive a text from someone else. It’s Erin, asking if we can meet for lunch if she were to bike down to the convention campus. Well, sure, why not? Both Logan and I have other places we want to be eventually (so I’m sorry, honey, but I’m not sticking around for closing ceremonies this time around, any more than we managed to bother with opening ceremonies on Friday), so this seems like a perfect excuse and time to wrap up the weekend’s events. We get a general idea of when she’s likely to get there, the boys meet me in the lobby after dropping their stuff off, and we head off to the convention center.

We’re not the only ones observing the end of the road; the theatre (which is between the hotel and the convention center) is holding a commencement ceremony for a local high school. No, not the same one that was holding their prom on Friday; that was Maine South, rather than Maine West. And I realize that a ‘commencement’ is supposed to represent a beginning by its very name, but come on – we all know better than that. It’s the end of everyone’s high school career; what happens next is something entirely different, and isn’t going to be experienced in a group setting like this. It’s the end.

Logan hasn’t actually put everything away in the car; he’s carrying this thin cardboard box with him. He explains that he’s going to see if he can’t find a few artworks to purchase, which he’ll be putting in said box. While he shops, Daniel and I make our way through the one part of the exhibit hall he hasn’t been to yet; the gaming space.

And it is quite the space, both in terms of PC gaming…
…as well as stand-up (and sit down) console games. There’s so much going on.
As a particularly unique example, along with the usual Dance Dance Revolution clones, there are some interesting consoles like this: a taiko drum competition. Only in Japan, folks.

Daniel seems interested, but not to the point where he’s wanting to play any of the games. At least he’s out and about and scoping it all for the time being; it’s a new experience for him. That, and we’re at least managing to kill time until we’re set to meet Logan, and then Erin.

As we make our way back to the Artists’ Alley, we find Logan almost immediately, and head for the entrance. We try to find a spot outside the building where we can meet her, preferably a place where we can sit down; I’ve already put in my ten thousand steps and then some, and my feet aren’t thrilled about it. We find a place, and I send a text detailing where exactly we are.

She responds almost immediately that she can see us (although for whatever reason, we can’t see her; you’d think a girl on a bike on River Road would stick out more), but she has to cross the road to meet us. It’s at that moment that it occurs to me that the city’s entertainment district is on the other side of the road (and a bit further west from there, but regardless, we’re the ones who have to cross the street). I let her know this, and cross at the corner. Unfortunately, she doesn’t get the message until after she’s crossed the road herself. We’ve just gone full Gift of the Magi on each other.

Eventually, she crosses back over, and we head out for lunch. After wandering around the square (it’s not entirely like you remember, honey – several places have been replaced, albeit not the ones we tended to favor), we settle on the Five Roses (like that one). To be fair, it’s changed, too, in that its menu is a little pared down from back when we used to visit.

Still, we have our fill, and after an hour or so of conversation, we make our way back to the hotel parking lot, so that the boys can head home, and I can be dropped off at church for our annual celebration. I can’t remember the last time we made it to one of these.

The folks take me home, and Dad asks if I would go back next year. I think it may depend on getting a room nearer to the action. It’s a different dynamic without you as each other’s accomplices, honey. Even the panels that I used to enjoy are a little bit lacking, and while I can snark a bit with Daniel at the things we see along the way, it’s not quite the same vibe. It would be nice if Megumi were into this sort of thing, but I doubt it will really ever be the way it used to. I’m not giving up just yet – it’s not so awful that I’m swearing off a two decade long tradition – but I do find myself rethinking whether this is a priority anymore.

And for now, as it comes to a close for this year, I don’t have an answer. But it isn’t as if I need one just yet, in any event.

Well, when it comes to making that decision, honey, wish me luck. I’m going to need it.

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I am Rachel's husband. Was. I'm still trying to deal with it. I probably always will be.

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