Dreams.

I rarely remember my dreams.

Every now and then images from a dream (or dreams) will
linger in my mind.  And sometimes these
images float around in my cranial nooks and crannies for seconds, minutes, even
for years on end; camping out until I discover their hiding places.

Then I remember them.

Sometimes.

On Friday, July 24th,
2009, in the early hours of the morning, I experienced a vivid
dream.

A dream I remember.

A lingering dream that went beyond a collection of images
flickering before my eyes at 24 frames per second. A dream full of screeching,
cacophonous sounds.  A dream stuffed with
haunting, pungent smells.

A dream about Comic-Con.  Actually, this was more than a dream.  It was a horrific violation of my sleep.

An intrusion.  Like an
uninvited guest arriving at your doorstep, late at night.  Actually, it was more like a home invasion.

I dreamt of lines stretching as far as the eye could see.  Lines longer than Manute Bol’s forearm.

And I was at the end of every line.  Each one converging to where I stood.

And none were moving.

I was outside of Hall H; the sun scorching my face.  I could feel the heat baking my flesh as
chunks of charred skin peeled from my cheekbones, splattering onto the boiling
concrete.  I gazed down at the remains,
which looked like chewy, sinewy pieces of pulled pork from a greasy Mexican
restaurant.

Then I panicked.  Not
because my flesh was burning off, but because I couldn’t get into any of the
panels.  The lines were too long.  They weren’t moving.  It was as though I was stuck on the 101 North
freeway during rush hour traffic.

I could not get into the Avatar panel.  I could not get into the Terry Gilliam panel.

And all around me, nerds were frying and boiling under the
sun.  Sweat flopped and popped from their
moistened heads; rising like steam and evaporating into the air.

Geek B.O. pummeled my quivering nostrils; suffocating me.

Then, an ocean of white engulfed my body.  Defenseless and immobile, I was ravaged by a
tsunami of unused Clearasil pads.  While these
pads spun me into a Hydrogen Peroxide-soaked cotton cocoon, I watched in horror
as every Con-goer in every line turned to face me.

Everybody who stared back at me was horribly scarred with
acne.  I saw Wolverine with mounds of
purple zits harvesting on his sweaty forehead.  And a farm of plump cherry tomatoes sprouted above Wonder Woman’s
breastplate.

Zits everywhere; on everyone.  On Captain Kirk.  On Captain Jack Sparrow.  On Batman.  My God, even on Pikachu.

I screamed, but nothing emerged from my throat.

Then I awoke.

DING!  DING!  DING!

These were the sounds of downtown San
Diego at four in the morning.  The rhythmic bells of the trolley station calmly
going off every goddamn minute.  I
shuffled out of bed and glanced out my hotel room window, seeing nothing but
blurry red lights.

DING!  DING!  DING!

No trolleys trickled along the tracks.

I climbed back into bed, my heart racing and my ears ringing.  Sleep did not come easy, but when it did, I
did not dream.

When I rolled out of bed at 10:00
in the morning, I quickly realized that my stiff joints had atrophied within
the past six hours and my weary bones felt like they had been pummeled by a
garbage bag full of rusty railroad spikes.  Checkout time was two hours away and I could barely hover above the
toilet bowl to take a whiz.  Things
weren’t boding well for another jam-packed day of wading through sweaty
dorks.  Nor was I looking forward to
tackling the exhaustive drive back home.

So I decided to stay another night.

To accomplish this, I crawled out the hotel room door and
used my prominent gut to propel myself across the carpeted hallways, where the
centrifugal force helped me careen down the stairs like a human luge.  Then I flopped along the slick lobby floor
like a rampaging seal squirming along a barren beach.

At the front desk, I had an enlightening conversation with
the apathetic, disinterested hotel clerk, who monotonously informed me that
another night, in the same room, would cost me an extra 200 dollars.  Already, I had sold my first born baby on the
black market in order to stay one night (I’ll miss li’l Jimmy…he looked just
like a peanut), so, seeing that the product of my forbidden seed was floating
away on a boat somewhere, my bargaining chip was already spent.  So, I decided to hightail it out of there and
try my luck someplace else.

After gathering our belongings (which, in my case, was a
bottle of Gentleman Jack Whiskey and a bucket of Slim Jims), my girlfriend and
I crammed ourselves into the overstuffed elevator, where I found myself face to
face with Billy Mumy.  For people under
the age of 90, Billy Mumy was the creepy, annoying kid in a few Twilight
Zone
episodes from the 1950’s.  The
most well-known episode he starred in was called “It’s a Good Life,” where he
portrayed a ginger brat named Anthony Fremont who uses his mind to strike fear
into a bunch of inbred hicks.

The ride down to the lobby was extremely uncomfortable.  I felt and smelled Billy Mumy’s breath on me
(it smelled faintly of lilac) and my brain kept flashing images of him sending
people to an ominous cornfield.  Every
time Mr. Mumy shifted his weight, cold chills burrowed deep inside my bowels
(then again, maybe this was the previous day’s cheese platter coming back to
haunt me).  Regardless, the elevator
couldn’t reach the lobby quick enough.  And when it did, my girlfriend and I bolted out of there faster than a cheetah
on meth.

So we made our way down the street to the Hyatt, expecting
to get partially lubed and roughly fisted by the ritzy hotel.  Imagine my surprise when I was told that the
room available would be nearly 250 bucks cheaper than the Marriot.  And, it was a bayside view.  On top of this, the Hyatt reminded me of the
Pirates of the Caribbean ride at Disneyland.  It reeked of chlorinated water and musky
antiques.  This was not a bad thing.

After some drinks at the bar and some more drinks at the
bar, we headed out to the convention floor, where we met up with some
friends.  Right off the bat, I noticed a
tall, lanky guy at one of the booths who looked like a young Howard Stern.I kept staring at him thinking,
“Son-of-a-bitch, this tall, lanky guy looks like a young Howard Stern.”  Then it hit me, this guy was Gene Simmons’ son.  So I snapped a photo of him, shooting from
the hip.  I got a nice picture of his
hair.  If you looked at the picture and I
told you it was of Gene Simmons’ son, you would probably believe me.

Maybe.

Then, my friend showed me some photos he took of Seth Green
as he walked the floor, as well as some prime video footage featuring the top
of Rhea Perlman’s head as she scurried and scampered through the crowd.

This was the extent of our celebrity encounters. 

Anyway, after being underwhelmed by the exhibitor floor once
again, my girlfriend and I headed outside to get some air, where we made it our
mission to take pictures with every costumed person that struck our fancy.  While spiraling into this vortex of geekdom,
I spotted a guy in front of me trying to push freebies onto the uninterested
people who passed by.

When it comes to freebies, I’m kind of picky.  I have so much worthless shit in my apartment
right now that it looks like the set of Sanford & Son.  Somehow, I even have an old black man living
with me.  Explain that.

So, I’m watching this guy trying to hand off stuff to people
and everybody is just scooting past him, shrugging him off.  For some reason, this kid’s plight touched
me.  It touched me like a reticent lover
who is too scared and timid to caress my frightening, bulbous crotch.  Throwing caution to the wind, I sauntered up
to the kid and said, “I’ll take one of those.”

His eyes lit up.  His
cheeks flushed red.“Cool!”

Then he handed over a small, xeroxed map and two admission
tickets that had “Flynn’s Arcade” printed on them.  Pointing at the map, he said “Go to this site
at 9:00 tonight.”

I examined the map and saw that it wasn’t too far away from
where we were staying.  Then the kid drew
in closer to me and faintly asked, “Do you know who Flynn is?”

Flynn?  Who the
fuck is Flynn?

Then I glanced back down to the tickets.

Flynn’s Arcade.

Somehow, I drudged up an adolescent memory buried underneath
all the other useless knowledge that resides in my tortured mind.

Flynn.

“Yeah,” I said.  “It’s
the guy from Tron.”

“Awesome,” he cooed, as though I had just lightly tickled
his balls with a feather.  Then he dug
into his pant pocket and extracted a gold coin and handed it to me.  “Is someone else coming with you?”  He asked.

“Yeah.”

Back into his pocket.

Another gold coin.

Flynn’s Arcade.

Then he disappeared, as though an apparition.  Or a symptom of my DT’s.

Does anybody know anything about the movie Tron?  Cause I sure as hell don’t.  I’ve seen the film once, when I was about
eight years old.  Oh sure, I’ve seen bits
and pieces of it on television throughout the years, but I have never sat
through the whole thing again.

I know Jeff Bridges is in it.

I also know that Bruce Boxleitner is in it.

And David Warner.

I also recall a bunch of people wearing tight, weird,
fluorescent body suits.

And it’s set inside a videogame.  With cool bicycles and Frisbees.

Trust me, I am not being condescending or facetious.  That is all I remember about the film.  During my formative years, I was too busy
admiring my pint-sized hard-on while drooling over teen sex comedies like Porky’s,
Fast Times at Ridgemont High, Bachelor Party, The Last
American Virgin
, Fraternity Vacation, Private Resort, Losin’
It
, and of course, Private School. At this tender age, I could care
less about explosions or special effects.  I wanted nude chicks!

Anyway, after some drinks at the hotel bar and some more
drinks at the hotel bar, my girlfriend and I stumbled downtown, where we wound
up in a line outside of a building that had a bright red “Flynn’s” sign lit above
it.

Suddenly, catcalls and handclaps momentarily woke me from my
drunken stupor.  So I whipped around,
only to see Jon Favreau quickly sprinting by.

Actually, he was hauling ass.

As he zoomed by, he raised his hand in a “Hi” motion.  Apparently, some people in line were offended
by Mr. Favreau’s speed-walking greeting and began flinging insults his way.  Big fucking deal, so the dude didn’t want to
stop and get mobbed by strangers in a line.  In the past, I’ve had encounters with numerous “celebs” (I’m looking
your way Diane Lane and
Dave Mustaine) that have been borderline rude and/or frightening, but I didn’t
hold it against them…well maybe against Diane Lane.  Anyway, I thought this reaction by the
assorted nerds was uncalled for.

Anyway, after about fifteen minutes or so, we were finally
let through the doors of the building.  And I use the word “building” in the loosest sense.It was basically a room the size of my
cramped apartment.

The doors closed behind us and a beefy security guard
promptly parked himself in front of them.

We were trapped.

Trapped in a room full of geeks and classic arcade
games.  Old school arcade games like Pac-man,
Donkey Kong and Missile Command.  And, of
course, Tron.  And, apparently, the
arcade game featured in the movie Tron; Space Paranoids (I did not play
this, but I did glance at it).

As 80’s tunes blasted through the sound system, I attacked a
blurry, out-of-focus round of Centipede.  Then I strolled over to the Spy Hunter game and quickly realized that it
was broken.So I moved over to Galaga.

Broken.

Okay, maybe I’ll take
a stab at the pinball machine.  Well slap my dick, what do you know?  It doesn’t work.

At this point, I decided that I had had my fill of 80’s
nostalgia.

Walking over to the guy guarding the doors, I politely asked
if I could be let out.

“It’ll be a couple of minutes.”  He curtly said.

Wait.  We are
fucking trapped in here?

I found this strange and illegal.  What if there was a fire?  Or what if I was struck by a violent bout of
“the shits” and had to get out?  What
if…?  What if…?

More perplexed than anything, I wandered back to my
girlfriend and relayed the guard’s message. And, much like me, she flashed a
“WTF?” look and thought our predicament was strange and illegal.  I momentarily shrugged it off and headed back
to one of the only functioning games, which happened to be the infuriating Paperboy.

After running my bike into a break dancer for the tenth time
and dying, I decided that I had, once again, had my fill of 80’s nostalgia.

Then the lights dimmed.  And the soothing sounds of Journey’s “Separate
Ways” faded.  Suddenly, the wall where the Tron arcade game rested against spread
open, revealing a dark, dank and mysterious hole, which strangely prompted horrific flashbacks of my
first sexual experience.  Then all the
Tron dorks stopped fiddling with their broken games and headed for the wall.

Daft Punk’s music filled our ears.  And swirls of fog spiraled through the dark
hallway that had been concealed by the wall.  The horde of Tron geeks lined up outside the opening and we all
marched inside, single-file.Lining the
hallway wall were pictures of concept art from the upcoming Tron Legacy
film.  It looked like most of this art
revolved around new design concepts for the light cycles.

Then came the money shot.

A full-scale, life-size light cycle rotated in a
cordoned-off area, flanked by two stoic bodyguards.

Everybody (including me) congregated to this area and pushed
forward; snapping pictures.  After this
mad dash (which was reminiscent of he mosh pit I got trapped in at a Ministry
concert several years ago), I got the hell out of there and made my way towards
the exit.  Before emerging from the
horrid birth canal, my girlfriend and I were handed free “Flynn Lives”
T-shirts and were told that secret messages were written on them, accessible by
flashing a black light on the material.

Once outside, we decided to stroll down to the Omni Hotel
for a night cap.  Incidentally, this was
the night of the big Wrath of the Con part at the Hard Rock Hotel.  The lines outside this place were insane and
the subtle, ball-tightening wailing of Daughtry could be heard traveling towards
the streets below.

At the Omni, every now and again various character actors,
comic book artists/writers and directors would pass by, probably heading down
to the Hard Rock.  While my girlfriend
and I rested in the lobby, two guys came in and sat next to us.  One guy was dressed fairly normal in blue
jeans and a jacket…but the other guy was something else.  I couldn’t figure out if he was dressed like
an Italian clothing designer or a 70’s era pimp.  Or both.  He wore a dapper white suit and
underneath the suit he wore a brown turtleneck sweater.  He was an older gentleman; very slight and
frail, yet there was a regal dignity seeping through his pores.  And perched above his nose were a pair of
aviator sunglasses.  His shockingly white
hair matched his suit and his brown turtleneck matched his overly tan skin.

The two men barely said anything to each other.  They just sat silently beside us, not even bothering
to order any drinks from the roaming waitress.  And every few minutes or so, somebody would walk over to the
designer/pimp and greet him with a hug or with tiny kisses on his cheeks.

Who was this guy?

After about twenty minutes or so, more people started to surround
him (and, by default, us); where they would just kind of mill about
uncomfortably.  Then, when about ten
people showed up, they started pulling up chairs.  Instantaneously, my girlfriend and I became a
part of this group.

We did the friendly chatter thing, but did not pry into
anybody’s business.  Soon after, a guy
brushed up beside me, talking on his cellphone.Loudly.  This is what he said:

“Yeah.  I’m standing
here looking right at him.Yeah.  It’s Jim Steranko.”

My head jerked towards the cellphone guy and, me being the
rude bastard that I am, asked him “That’s Jim Steranko?”

He nodded dismissively, clearly annoyed that I broke into
his conversation.

Jim Steranko.  Noted comic book artist.  The man
who propelled Nick Fury into the nerd consciousness during the swingin’ 60’s.

I want to be Jim Steranko, I thought.  I want to have the balls to wear a leisure
suit on a balmy summer night, with an itchy turtleneck sweater underneath.  I want to have the balls to sport sunglasses
in a dimly-lit hotel lobby.  I want
strangers and acquaintances alike to approach me and plant plaintive kisses on
my cheeks.  I want to be Jim Steranko.  Did you hear me?

I WANT TO BE JIM STERANKO!

If I came away with anything during my Comic-Con excursion,
it was this epiphany.

That night, with my bones aching, my sphincter pulsating and
my liver hemorrhaging, I slowly drifted off to sleep.

And I dreamt I was Jim Steranko.

It’s a dream I remember well.  It was not a nightmare.



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