Monday, May 29, 2017

So I Lost My Mother...

We had a death in our family last week. My mother, Naomi, passed away suddenly, leaving us stunned, shocked, and deeply, deeply hurt. Our hearts are completely broken, and will never, ever, be the same. I can say for myself that, although I knew this time would eventually come and I called myself mentally preparing for it, I was/am just not ready for it. I guess no one ever really is...

Please keep my brothers and father in your thoughts, prayers, and wishes as we prepare to lay my mother to rest. This is an extremely trying time to say the least, but we are fortunate to have the support of so many great friends and family.

My beautiful mama.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Comicpalooza 2017

This past weekend was one that Shaundra and I look forward to every year--the annual Comicpalooza pop culture extravaganza. Comics, cosplay, celebrities, panels, games--you name it, they have it. It's an event we've been going to every year for the past several, and although they have their share of snafus and WTF? issues, we never fail to have a good time (though, honestly, a lot of it is due to us being two goofy, nerdy fools).

This year's event got off to a negative start for us. We arrived early enough on Friday to grab a spot in our favorite parking lot literally right across from the George R. Brown Convention Center, a massive structure right on the southeast edge of downtown H-Town.

Or, at least, we thought we arrived early enough. In past years, the entire lot (not a huge one) was first come, first served--but apparently this year, Comicpalooza decided to reserve half the lot for folks who had prepaid, three-day passes. I didn't see these passes online when I bought our tickets (otherwise we would've grabbed one if the rate was reasonable), so we were out of luck when we were informed that the half reserved for non-pass-having folks like us was full and we'd have to find another lot. There was one close by, so it wasn't a huge issue, but I was a little bummed nonetheless. Anything a convention can do to squeeze a few extra bucks out of us hapless nerds, I guess.


Since we did already have our badges, we were able to walk right into the GRB and head upstairs to our first panel. The celebrity Q&As are always awesome, but I rate a con by how good their panels are. After all, I'm here to learn how to better myself as a writer and entrepreneur, so, push come to shove, I'll take a good panel over a cool celebrity appearance (something that got put to the test on Saturday). Unfortunately for us, however, the folks who were supposed to present at our first panel, "Building a Podcast," decided to pull a no-call, no-show--leaving us completely SOL. It sucks because while I myself was interested in what they had to say (I've batted the idea of doing a podcast back and forth), it was one of the few panels that Shaundra was really interested in, as she's thinking of doing a podcast for her personal business. With the extra time on our hands, we went to the main lobby and watched people go by until it was time for our next panel.

The rest of the day went off without a hitch--though, by the time we headed home, we had made a few major changes to Saturday's schedule. There were a few celebrity panels we were looking forward to attending, but after realizing where they were scheduled (the same room), when they were scheduled (one after the other, with short breaks between), and the organization's practice of clearing the room completely before letting folks in for the next session, we decided it would be too much of a hassle to subject ourselves to. We wanted to go to all three, but thought (and will think as long as they do this) it was stupid to make people who are already in the room leave, only to get at the back of a line (that was already building while the previous session went on) to go right back in the same room--and most likely get worse seats than the ones they just had. As it was, I had decided against attending a couple panels that really interested me in favor of the celebrity Q&As, so, after weighing things (I could either attend something that would feed my knowledge/interest/passion, or something that would be very cool to be a part of, but ultimately fruitless and empty), we decided to forgo the Q&As in favor of the panels.

I don't regret that decision one bit. The panels we attended were awesome, and we were still able to lay eyes on the celebrities we wanted to see by strolling through the autograph/picture area during a break (we even wound up attending one of the Q&As we had decided against when the panel we wanted to go to got cancelled without letting us know--sloppy work by the convention, but we turned the negative into a positive). The last panel we attended turned out to be a waste of time and we left early to head home, but by that point we had learned what we wanted to and were just looking to fill time to extend our experience.

Sunday was slower, due to being the last day of the convention as well as Mother's Day, but it was another winner for us, as we got in our last bits of junk food (we treated it as a "cheat weekend"), attended a final couple of informative panels on securing a literary agent and budgeting for comic books, and sat in on a couple of celebrity Q&As, one of which featured a WWE star we absolutely adore. We rounded out the day with wrestling by a local indie federation, then headed back to the lair to recoup, recharge, and get ready for the coming week.

We had a blast as usual. I learned a lot, gathered motivation and confidence to continue my creative endeavors, and made some promising connections that might be helpful in bringing those endeavors to fruition. All in all, Comicpalooza 2017 was exactly what I needed it to be. Now it's time for me to get to work. After all...

It'd be cool to be at Comicpalooza as something more than just an attendee. ;)

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Random Ramblings #50 - "Inconvenience Store"

I do the weekly grocery shopping for my household, since I work from home while Shaundra has to brave Houston traffic to commute to her office. It's a hassle since I hate going to the store, but it's also a hassle to starve, so...you know...

As such, I've come to know a few of the checkers and baggers at my local store--and their tendencies. Armed with this knowledge, when I'm ready to leave, I'll pick certain lines based on the personnel. The lines might be longer than others, but if it ensures me a less stressful checkout experience, I have absolutely no problem waiting.

This logic flies directly in the face of "The Expediter," however--the person I've noticed popping up more and more often who's sole job is to throw a wrench into my plans by calling me out and directing me to a line that's shorter, most likely because I've avoided it due to not wanting to deal with someone working it. I've been foiled by this nemesis before, and she got me again today.

As I was scanning the checkout lines, I saw one staffed by a particular bagger I don't care for (nothing personal of course; I don't even know the guy's name). Not only is he slow physically (and maybe mentally, I can't tell), he bags items together that shouldn't be (think cheese and raw meat) and puts stuff in areas of the basket that I don't want them in. So, when I saw him, I simply moved on to another line. All was good. All was fine...

But "The Expediter" wasn't having it. "Sir?"

You know how you think you hear something, but you're not sure, so you ignore it? Yeah, that was me. There were plenty of other people in the store. Surely she wasn't talking to--

"Sir?"

Dammit.

I could've been an ass and kept my eyes locked straight ahead, but unfortunately for me, I'm too nice for that. So I looked over at the destroyer of my good vibes, and she motioned me, naturally, to the line I had specifically avoided. I thought about telling her that I was fine where I was, but then I'd expose myself to her scrutinization of my choice, and ultimate discovery that I was, in fact, being an ass. Deciding that was worse than whatever bagging fate awaited my groceries, I reluctantly took her suggestion.

The expected annoyance soon followed. If I roll up with everything in the top portion of the basket, why in the name of Asgard would you put something under it? I bought an 8-pack of paper towels. Yes, it's large, but it fit in the top of the basket with everything else. But, of course, once Mr. Sorry Sacker got his hands on it, he slapped a sticker on the package and shoved it under the basket. Why, for crying out loud? Look at my purchase! Why must I bend over when there's absolutely no need to? 

Luckily, that was the only infraction this time around. The list was small, which didn't allow for too much sacking that could lead to food contamination, and there wasn't so much that he tried to put something in the baby seat--

Talk about something I really can't stand...

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Random Ramblings #49 - "Basic Gym Etiquette"

For financial reasons (but mostly convenience and laziness), I workout in the fitness center at my apartment complex. Depending on what I'm doing that day I might listen to music--but most of the time, I prefer to be alone with my thoughts in complete silence. That can be hard to obtain in a common facility, naturally, but with a little clever scheduling, you can maximize the likelihood of getting the place to yourself. If there are others there when I show up it's no big deal. I do what I came to do and move on.

I do have a code, though. A simple one, based on basic respect: If you come in the gym, and something you want to do is going to change the atmosphere of the gym for persons already there, at least be courteous enough to check with those persons before you just up and alter things.

See? Simple. At least you'd think it was...

I was alone in the fitness center today, working back. the door from the outside has a coded lock on it, and everyone who lives there is given the code. So it's safe to assume that anyone who can't open the door has either forgotten the code--or doesn't live there. So anyway, I'm doing my thing, when I noticed what looked like a Black woman standing outside with her hand on the doorknob, peering in to see if anyone was inside with a Black man over her shoulder. I'm not gonna lie, sometimes I've pretended to not see folks at the door, or stood completely still hoping they wouldn't see me, all in the name of preserving my silent gym. Most of the time, however, I wind up opening the door for them because they've either spotted me and started knocking or I've spotted them before the knock and know what's coming. In this case, I hadn't heard a knock, but I figured if I saw them, they saw me, so...

As I approached the door, I saw another Black dude coming and my concerns only increased. If they were all together, I just knew they'd come in, talking all loud and goofing around (the third dude was scrawny as a rail; I had no delusions he was coming in to do any serious work; alas, he never did anything but sit). When I reached the door, the guy who I thought was behind the woman was now front and center. For all I knew, maybe he'd been there the whole time. In any event, I opened the door, and he said, "Thanks." At least there's that, I thought. Then I went back to the bench while he, the woman, and the scrawny guy came in.

As I picked up my weights and got a better look at my new gym mates, I realized that the "woman" was most likely a transsexual--the only thing giving it being the muscularity of her arms. They weren't muscular as in a "she works out" kind of way. No, they were muscular in a "those are the arms of a really skinny guy" way. Either way, it didn't matter; she wore a long sundress and was snacking--loudly--on a bag of chips. In other words, she wasn't there to do any work, either. And unless you count a few seconds of watching herself twerk in a mirror was work, she lived up to my assessment.

So with Scrawny Dude just lounging around and Ms. Thing checking herself out and grubbing, that left the other guy--the only one that was there to use the room for it's intended purpose. As expected, they talked loudly, disturbing my peace, but it wasn't until Mr. Workout pulled out a small radio and turned it on--without so much as a word or look in my direction--that I really got annoyed. It's weird; we've gone from having radios playing music out loud or over speakers, to doing our own thing via headphones, back to having our music playing out loud, this time from phones or pill-like wireless devices.

You might be reading this and think I'm making a mountain out of a molehill, but my thing is this: if someone was quietly working out in the gym when I got there, what in the world makes me think they want to listen to my music out loud--music that didn't exist before I walked into the room? To me, that's a special kind of arrogance, but it happens all the time. And what pissed me off in this particular case was that the problem wouldn't have existed if I hadn't let them in. So, in essence, it was my fault. Being nice had, as it has so many times before, bit me in the ass.

After doing absolutely nothing but adding noise to the room and loitering around on equipment I thought I'd have to ask them to move from so that I could use it, Ms. Thing and Scrawny Dude left, going outside with Mr. Workout to a vehicle they had guided by cell phone into the complex. Apparently there was a trade-off; Mr. Workout returned with a new friend, while the vehicle with the loiterers went on its way. Mr. Workout operated as a trainer, showing his friend a few things. At least he was there to actually workout. I don't know what all they did, though; I left soon after my last set.

Just another day in the fitness center...

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Kevin's Cinema Chronicles #1 - "Excuse Me"

So Shaundra and I went to the movies tonight to check out Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (great movie, by the way--lots of fun, and heavy on the feels) at our current favorite movie theater, the Santikos Palladium ATX West Houston. Had a great time for the most part, but something happened that really pissed me off before the show started, and it's an ongoing thing that's bothered me since at least 2000 (I remember the year because there was a very specific instance that occurred when we went to another movie based on a Marvel property, X-Men). It's folks who don't know the meaning of the words "excuse me."

Now, to me, "excuse me" is a very simple phrase, taught to me by my mother, who instilled basic manners in my brothers and I. We've all heard it at some point in our lives, so ignorance of the words is unacceptable. It costs nothing to say, and doesn't diminish you in any way when you use it. In fact, it's great sign that you were raised with at least smidgen of decency and not by a pack of hyenas. Why, then, are there so many asshats out there that seem to not be aware of the concept?

Here's the deal: we were sitting in our seats, waiting for the show to start. One of the things we love about this theater is that you reserve your seats ahead of time--so you know if there's going to be people sitting next to you or not. According to the layout of the theater online, we were going to have some people sitting right next to us on our right. A group of four friends came in and sat to our right, but there was a spot left between us and them. Maybe they read their seats wrong and skipped a seat, I thought, or maybe they didn't want to sit next to Black people (we've had it happen where it seemed folks left a buffer on each side of us on multiple occasions--I call it our "Black halo"). It never occurred to me that there was one more of them to come, and he/she was delayed for some reason.

Sure enough, right before the show is about to start, down the aisle comes some greasy-headed punk in glasses and a red t-shirt. All the seats to my immediate left were taken, so I knew he was going to step in front of Shaundra and I. No problem. But since at least 2000, I've had an issue with people just crossing right in front of me, sometimes stepping on my feet, and not saying "excuse me." We've even seen it where the words were uttered to the folks immediately to the left or right of us (who were non-Black, interestingly enough), but not to us. Now, maybe it's coincidence, or maybe it's what I call my "Black paranoia," but it seems to imply this attitude that we're not important or worthy enough to extend a basic courtesy to. Fact is, it's happened so many times that I've gotten in the habit of making sure not to move my feet when I see someone coming, just to see if they have any home training, or if they're entitled assholes.

Believe me, there have been plenty of assholes.

But anyway, back to greasy head. So I see him coming, and my feet are already comfortably extended before me--and I ain't moving unless he uses the magic words. Everyone else he crosses either had their feet pulled closer or moved, but that was them, not me. So this moron walks up to me--

And pauses. But only for a split second. Instead of saying "Excuse me," he decided he was going to step over me (one fool tried this in the past, only for me to raise a foot and trip his trifling ass--X-men in 2000). In the process, he stepped squarely on my right foot, and acted like nothing was out of the ordinary. Now we've all stepped on things in our lifetimes; you know immediately when your foot is landing on something that isn't flat. So for this butt wipe to ignore it told me he didn't give a fuck, and/or likely thought it okay and what I got since I didn't automatically move for him without him saying anything--as if it's my place to do so.

Surely, this dude will at least say "excuse me" or "my bad" for stepping on my foot. Nope. No such thing. So I did what any person with a devil on one shoulder and a petty little muthafucka on the other would do--I raised my foot while he was on it and tried my best to send him stumbling to the floor. Alas, I was unsuccessful, and the jackass took his seat--right next to Shaundra. I really wanted to say something--charge his bastard ass up for being such a rude piece of shit--but then I realized if I caused static, my baby would have to deal with the awkwardness of sitting next to his ass the entire movie, or worse, it could lead to an altercation that would get us thrown out and we'd miss the movie altogether. So I sat there, stewing, until I finally got lost in the film and forgot about it.

Until it was time to leave. The sorry bitch-ass was behind us as we filed out of the theater, but I noticed he wasn't brave enough to walk past us. Outside in the lobby I stepped aside and mugged him as he passed, but he kept his eyes straight ahead--like a punk who cut you off in traffic only to wind up next to you at a stop light. I threw a few more menacing looks his way, but our eyes never met. On their way out of the building one of his friends, a scrawny type who I was beyond confident would stand no chance against me if it came to blows, looked me dead in the eye, but kept it moving. The offender, though, acted like he didn't see me.

Whatever, man.

I wasn't going to hit him. I wasn't necessarily trying to start a fight. But I was trying to scare him, though. People tend to act all badass until it's time to deal with someone face-to-face, and since I've apparently made people nervous just by coming in their direction and being Black in the past, I figured I might as well use that power to my advantage for once. But if he did "come at me" physically, I was ready to lay his ass out--and his wormy-looking friends, too. I'm not a big guy by any means, but I had the size advantage on them. Maybe it helped that I've been working out, and the shirt I was wearing fit snug on my biceps.

Then again, I'm sure having the Hulk on it didn't hurt, either...