It’s my favorite time of year again, that magical holiday of fandom and geekiness, of cosplay and panels and running into celebrities on the street…of buying too many toys and pieces of art you don’t need (and comics and books you do), of late nights and early mornings, of aching backs and aching feet, of braving the dreaded Hall H line just to say you were there when Loki demanded you kneel before him or when Misha Collins bought pizza and coffee for the line. It’s the holiday they call San Diego Comic Con. Unfortunately, for the first time in twelve years, I found myself unable to make the trek down to San Diego…mostly because the trek is over 1,500 miles longer now that I don’t live in California.
Comic Con has been a family tradition since my parents took me for the first time when I was twelve. To be honest, I don’t remember much about my first Con. I remember seeing the exhibit hall for the first time and having my little head explode from the sheer enormity of the place, from far too many things to see and do in the single day our badges allowed. But beyond that, the specifics of that day all get blurred together with the first few years I went to the convention, I couldn’t begin to tell you what I saw one year or the next. I do remember the first year I tried to go to a panel–a Psych panel because of course it was–and learned that one does not simply walk into Ballroom 20 twenty minutes before the panel begins. The year after that I learned you don’t do it an hour before either. I remember the year we finally did make it into Ballroom 20–getting up at the crack of dawn to get in the already absurdly long line for panels that wouldn’t even start for six or so hours (later I’d learn that six hours in line is in fact nothing)–and camping out there all day seeing panel after panel after panel with my parents. It was glorious. And exhausting.
A ton of amazing memories have been made at Comic Con over the years—especially once we started going for multiple days and got to enjoy more parts of the Con outside of the exhibit hall. There was the year Mom and I went to the Psych the Musical premier, standing in line for hours, getting free Psych themed swag, watching the cast pull up in the Weiner Mobile and walk the line to greet fans, and getting to see the two-hour long musical episode in the theater a full six months before it aired on TV. Or the year I ran into Misha Collins outside my hotel. For those who don’t know, Misha Collins plays my all-time favorite character Castiel on Supernatural and is generally my favorite celebrity. I somehow managed to hold it together long enough to get a picture with him but the second he was gone my friend Michelle practically had to carry me away from there as my legs were basically noodles at that point. That was also the year I tried cosplaying for the first time and went as Scarlet Witch from Avengers: Age of Ultron for a day. Another great year was the year I went to a Supernatural fan party and made two new Supernatural-loving friends and—later in the weekend—ended up spending the night in the Hall H line with them for the Supernatural panel—a major rite of passage for Comic Con attendees I hadn’t actually done before. So many great memories, and I’m sad that I didn’t get to make even more this year but although it might be a while before I make it back, I’m confident that last year was not my last year attending San Diego Comic Con.
(Photo credit to my dad @kenhammond on Instagram)
It probably comes as no shock to you at this point that I am a major animal lover. Fuzzy, feathered, or scaly it doesn’t matter, I adore them all–to the point where for most of my childhood I wanted to be a vet or a dolphin trainer or a zookeeper–so the Nashville Zoo is something I’ve been wanting to do since we moved here in July but I haven’t had the chance until now. The past couple weeks my grandparents have been visiting from California which means we’ve been taking them on the usual Nashville tourist haunts: Civil War sites, Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, the Parthenon and, my favorite, the Nashville Zoo. Of course, being from SoCal, I’ve grown up with some pretty amazing zoos such as the San Diego Zoo, San Diego Wild Animal Park, and LA Zoo, and while the Nashville Zoo was nowhere near as big as those and didn’t have nearly as many different animals–big cats are my favorites so I was a little disappointed that all the Nashville Zoo had were clouded leopards that I didn’t get to see because they weren’t out when I was there, and a couple cougars–it was still a really neat little zoo. My favorite animal that they had there (that I actually got to see anyway) were the red pandas. They were so fluffy and adorable and I’ve never wanted to sneak into an exhibit and steal an animal (or at least play with them till security dragged me away kicking and screaming) more in my life…I resisted the urge, obviously, pretty sure you’d have seen me on the news if I hadn’t. Still, they were beyond cute. My favorite experience, however, was definitely the kangaroo exhibit. Any exhibit where I get to touch a fuzzy animal is going to be an instant favorite for me so the kangaroo exhibit at the Nashville Zoo where you’re allowed to touch the roo’s (so long as they’re within reach of the path you have to stay on) won me over pretty quick. I mean I can now say I’ve pet a kangaroo–which was so much softer than I expected btw–how cool is that! Now if I can just find a zoo that’ll let me pet a red panda…
Christmas Eve began with me bundled up in front of an Italian bakery at 7:30 in the morning with my mom and aunt, as we stood in line in the twenty-degree Massachusetts air waiting for the bakery to open so we could get some cannolis for the huge family dinner we were having later that night. It was my first Christmas in Nashville and I was spending it in Boston. My Mom, Dad, and I flew up the day before Christmas Eve to stay with my aunt and uncle for the holidays. I’d never been to Massachusetts before and I don’t think I’ve ever been so cold in my entire life; over the ten days we were there, there were times the temperature dropped below zero and I found myself fantasizing about the California sun. I was very glad we spent most of that time curled up in front of the fire watching movies and the Punisher Netflix series.
Still, as dreadful as the cold was, there was something magical about waking up on Christmas morning to snow lazily drifting down onto the winter wonderland that is my aunt and uncle’s backyard. That’s something I’ve never had in California: a white Christmas. I’ve got some vague memories of a Christmas or two spent up in Big Bear with my other aunt and uncle and that uncle’s parents many years ago but while there may have been snow on the ground I don’t think it actually snowed on Christmas day. Of course, spending Christmas somewhere I’ve never been before meant missing a couple of Christmas traditions this year. Stockings and Christmas presents—at least those given between my parents and I—were opened on the Friday before Christmas instead of Christmas morning. There was no homemade coffee cake—a staple in my house for the morning of every major holiday—on Christmas (or New Years) morning but my aunt did make potato casserole—another holiday tradition for my family—for the huge Christmas Eve dinner the night before. Instead of a big ham dinner on Christmas day we had homemade spaghetti with family members from my uncle’s side of the family—whom I had either never met or met when I was too young to remember meeting—and had the big ham dinner—complete with potato casserole and my uncle’s famous Jell-O casserole–with a bunch of that same part of the family on Christmas Eve instead. I missed my cats but did get to curl up with Roger, my aunt and uncle’s pit bull, on the couch a couple of times.
As different as it was from my usual Christmas, I loved getting to have the traditional White Christmas you see in movies and on TV and getting to spend it with family I don’t get to see very often and even meeting some family I’d never met before.