My First Trip to LA
Posted by pandatr0nics on 07/11/2014
It’s been a while since I’ve made a blog post, but I felt there is a lot I want to say and a Facebook post is too small to do so. I attended Anime Expo this year and while I’ll get to the actual expo I’d like to share the entire experience from planning to coming home. It might be long and maybe uninteresting, but it was important for me.I won’t put the names of the people, but they know who they are and how this all happened. I may get a little emotional, but I will start it off after the jump.
In November of 2013 after months of thinking about what I wanted to do and where I wanted to go I made an important decision for myself, I decided that Los Angeles, California and Anime Expo were where I wanted to go next year. I started planning and saving and changing all my schedules that had been set for early 2014 to instead accomodate the July 2014 trip. There was quite a bit I had to do and check and remember, but first I had to talk with my friends who already live in the general area and it was there that I began to worry about the decision as there wasn’t much interest in the convention amongst the group. Did I make a wrong choice? I wasn’t entirely sure, but my heart was set on going because that very same group of people are incredibly, irreplaceably important to me and I wanted to finally see them outside of my computer screen.
December came and I began my saving and planning which was fairly difficult considering christmas was right there, but I forged ahead as best I could and set a plan for myself as 2014 rolled around to take a hiatus from events and tournaments and dinner parties just so I could spend less money and save it for the plane ticket. It soon became February and then March as discussions began again with my friends as to who would be going to Anime Expo and yet the response was that they were mostly still not too interested, but would probably attend if I was serious about making the trip and so from March onwards we started planning together instead of me alone.
I was incredibly persistant about it and I felt badly because I was feeling maybe I’d forced them into a convention they weren’t really interested in, but as time rolled on more of my friends were joining us in the plans and things were starting to look up! I would spent my 30th birthday in April very excited for my trip in July. As May came I pre registered for Anime Expo and also booked my flight after having saved enough funds for both, and I would begin to save for spending money for the con after that. There were a lot of friends now attending at this point and I was incredibly happy I would get to see so many people at one time.
I organized my things, printed out my stuff, and bought the canadian snacks my friends asked for! It was June and my excitement to see everyone couldn’t be contained. My friends have been supporting me without knowing for 4 years as I was battling with myself about my hearing loss. It was an incredibly difficult time for me and just as the great friends here in the city helped me, these friends online have become some of the most important people in my life. I will treasure them always and I wish for them to know. I have always been sort of closed off with them about how I am doing, but that was much the same with others after the hearing loss…It was hard for me as there were so many things that happened in my first year of hearing loss and when I met them all in an online chatroom I was in a dangerously low place within myself. You guys are just that important as I explained in a post on facebook before the trip. I’ll continue on with the trip now.
Last week as tuesday came and I couldn’t sleep a single wink on Canada Day knowing that I had to wakeup and be at the airport at 4 am the next morning and so my journey began I went to Pearson International for 4 am eagerly awaiting my first flight in 20 or so years and my first flight without hearing. I was incredibly nervous! I think the Disability Assistance lady knew though as she assured me I would be fine. Having finished with security she then sent me on my way to the flight gates alone and there I would sit with my ticket and everything as my plane was docked and getting ready for boarding. I sent my friends messeges as I was excited I would see them in 5 hours and then the man at the gate waved me over to check the ticket and show me onto the plane in seat 12b which wasn’t really a favourable seat…I should have chosen a window ^^;
There I sat with two people on each side of me, one who would watch Noah on the inflight movie and the other would put on the new robocop movie only to fall asleep and I watched it without captions…It kind of sucked because I really liked the old robocop movie ha! After that I switched that screen to the Map view since that guy wasn’t waking up for anything and just watched that the whole time until Los Angeles and as I got closer and closer to landing I would smile more, but try not to show it or my excitement to the other guy or the people across the aisle who kinda kept looking over. The plane was landing and I saw the cityscape passing by the window I couldn’t believe it, I had finally made it on my own to a place I’d only seen in movies and television. I had landed in Los Angeles! I grabbed my backpack carryon from in front of me and headed out thanking the crew of the plane.
I had to get my bearings quickly as I tried to navigate myself to the baggage claim of LAX…This place is really big and confusing as I quickly lost sight of people who were on the same flight as me until I found one who was in cosplay that was also on the flight and followed them to the baggage area. There is where I had trouble! I now had all my stuff, but attempted to make use of free wi fi to find my friend who was picking me up and ultimately I had to text a bit from my phone, which may cost me a bit on next months bill ;~; She found me though and off we went for a planned breakfast in Santa Monica. We talked and most of the time I was admiring all the scenary outside as I was still having trouble believing I was finally there in California meeting up with so many people that I love more than anything.
We arrived at a place called Barney’s Beanery for breakfast and to meet up with another friend who would also give me a phone to use for texting while I was there. We talked, laughed and I made jokes about America’s “breakfast syrup” that came with my pancakes. We finished breakfast and walked across the street to a small convenience store (I forgot the name sorry guys), which had some really neat stuff as far as convenience stores go! After picking up a few things my pals decided to show me around a bit before we headed off to the convention centre and so we walked to Santa Monica Beach and the pier there. It was my first time at the Pacific Ocean, but it was still incredibly hot there! No sea breeze ;~; I enjoyed the view and all the shops and rides along the pier all the same. By that time though it was time for us to head to the convention centre as it was Day 0 for Anime Expo and we had to pick up badges and I would see first hand the difference between the conventions I’m used to and this one.
We parked and started walking slowly seeing more people heading in the same direction (and hearing a horribly loud noise from the staples centre) I saw the beginnings of what didn’t quite resemble a line, but rather a large mass of people crowded around. There were people, a lot of them sitting, standing, dancing, chanting let us in and so on and so forth, It was quite an amazing sight as we walked by to find a convention worker to show us the disability line. At my home convention Anime North, the line is Single file, but here there was this large coiling beast of a line and my hats off to all those people who were there under the hot sun for so many hours to pick up their badge. We arrived at the line and waited as they opened up the doors letting us in and the size of just that main hall was amazing! The banners, the registration booths, the many different sets of stairs and escalators to take you to different areas…yeah I was excited, but who could blame me! I’d never been to such a large convention centre before. I got my badge and the sticker they put on for disabled guests so they have an easier time getting around and to the events; we stuck around a bit to cool off and see what came in our weekend swag bag, but at this point it was time to check into our hotel so off we went and not very long after leaving we arrived at the place we were going to stay at.
The Vagabond Inn would become my temporary home for the next 6 days, it was a nice place and I would stay there again. We would stay there and be joined by 1 more friend and I would try Carl’s Jr, see what CVS has, and then go to a place I’d heard about so many times in conversations over the years, In-n-Out! I enjoyed what I had there, even though I didn’t get the secret menu stuff I had a 2 x2 combo which was quite good. I had wanted to go to Super Arcade afterwards, but my body just wouldn’t hold up as I had been awake for 2 days, a 5 hour flight, and walking in the sun…I fell asleep almost instantly when we returned to the hotel. The next day came and more and more of my favourite people started to show up, some who were also staying at that hotel and some who were sharing the room with us, but I would buy a notebook and pen before the others would show up and I would see what Day 1 of Anime Expo is really like. I was not prepared for the initial sight.
Arriving at the convention centre that morning the line that I would see was a whole different kind of beast than the evening before. You could see only people standing, or slowly shuffling forwards, barely seen was the street that they were standing on and no gaps inbetween! It was a sea of people that continued well into the convention centre and though I could not see nor hear the opening ceremonies other than some taiko drums and rumble of use being let into the now opening exhibit hall, I was in awe of everything going on and I had finally reached the entrance gate and walked through the exhibit hall doors, in an instant my breath was taken away from the sights and I had to just keep moving because if you stop you’ll definitely get bumped into or run into by a bunch of people. I pressed on being handed flyers and posters and little things it was all so amazing. Having gone in together we quickly became seperated and while I was a little panicked, I would still explore and find somethings I liked and bought a few things. Some 2 hours or so later I left the exhibit hall to meet with the group again only to leave and meet another group of friends back in the exhibit hall. This second group was comprised of some of my oldest friends from a chat program I used in the late 90s that so many of us would meet in person in 2014 really shows how far the internet had come when we had started using it.
My second group of friends were all wonderful to meet and I really wish I had been able to spend more time with them, but the time I did spend was very memorable for me. We went out to get some food at a place nearby called Yard House. I would take this oppourtunity to have them write in the notebook I bought, as I didn’t know when I’d have another chance to meet with them over the weekend. The notebook went around and everyone was chatting with each other and enjoying stories, the food we all ordered arrived! I ordered the Hawaiian Burger (I really almost wrote Kawaiian), I enjoyed it a great deal and it was even better because of the wonderful people I was with. It was only a short time, maybe about 2 hours together before I had to return to my original group. To those with me at this part if you’re reading this, Thank you all so very much! I really enjoyed meeting you all and chatting with you however briefly it may have been.
I rejoined my group of friends and many more joined us! I really have no words for how happy I was to be meeting so many of them all at once. We headed for a place called Road to Seoul for korean bbq…yes that’s right I just had a burger and was going to eat more! This place was simply amazing ! We spent some time here having a huge group together laughing, and generally just having a great time together. I was having the time of my life, but I was also waiting still for the last set of friends to arrive. Friday morning had come and one of my most important events of the convention came too, as I brought a tribute artbook with me all the way from Canada to be signed by Mr Keiji Inafune himself. Long has the megaman franchise been important to me from childhood to now and for me this chance to meet Inafune was important. I joined the autograph line with my good friend and she took photos while the book was being signed.
Having completed that task I would return back to the hotel with my friend and two more important people to me would arrive. The 4 of us would have dinner together while the others were all at the convention still. It was a nice quiet evening and they would take me to another place I often hear about called Panda Express. It was great I enjoyed the food and most importantly who I was sharing that food with. I had one more task to complete come Saturday morning and that was to attend the Premiere of the brand new Sailor Moon. It was something that I just couldn’t miss as an anime fan. I went to the priemere with my one of my good friends and I thought it was great even though some people don’t seem to enjoy that first new episode. Most of saturday I would spend exploring the convention with two friends and then return to the hotel with one of them. As Saturday evening came we had a bit of fun! I let them doll me up in make up and wigs and had a blast with that, because it really was a lot of fun for me and I didn’t really mind it at all. We went back to the convention centre and some went off to the rave while the rest of us played cards against humanity in the lobby. It was my first time playing the game, and I didn’t win a single round!
Returning back to the hotel that night I realized my time here with these amazing people was coming ever closer to an end as some of them were heading back home on sunday and began packing up. There wasn’t enough time. I would spend the majority of Sunday hugging many of them and saying goodbye. I had most of the group write in my notebook over the course of the weekend. As the convention itself came to a close, I would see off quite a few friends before nightfall and in the evening the hardest goodbyes were said with some staying in the same hotel and some in the very same room. I miss them all very much and I wanted more time with everyone. It felt so short and yet the time I spent with everyone meant so much to me. I didn’t want to leave yet, but I knew I had to. We were down to a small number once more and the last place I visited in California was a Barcade. I enjoyed the games and the last bit of time with friends as one more would leave for home. We went back and I forced myself asleep since I had to be up early for my flight home.
5 am on Monday came and I woke up, showered and dressed for my flight home, packing the rest of my things up as the others began waking up. I would say goodbye to one more friend before we checked out and left the hotel. While in the car heading to LAX, I could only just sit there and take in the sights of the surroundings and of the people with me. I was sad to be leaving already… We took care of everything and there I would say my last goodbyes to what I have called everyone I met on the weekend, my American Family of friends. I got on the elevator with the disability assitance worker and headed through security alone, and waited for my plane once more at the gate. It was there that I would use that same phone I received (and came home with) to send everyone a text messege before I boarded the plane. While on the plane, having already left the ground I decided to read the notebook and everything I’d held in on the weekend rushed forward…I sat silently with my hood up in tears reading all the things everyone wrote for me. I just sat there thinking about everyone the whole way home and landed back home in Toronto in the evening.
These friends that I spent all this time with in Los Angeles will always be important to me and I will try my hardest to see you all again. I miss you guys so much and wish that I had stayed longer, but I will just have to wait until I can take another trip out. I love you guys a great deal! Thank you so much for making my first trip alone so amazing. Friends for life, no matter what may come.
~ David Farinha