October was a heck of a month. It was the busiest October I’ve had since I got married 13 years ago. Knowing it was going to be busy my wife and I got together mid-September and planned/negotiated the weekends so we could try to get everything done.
The first weekend of October was the Build Gathering at my house. I hadn’t hosted one since my 6-month-old daughter was born and it was time to get back in the game with Clem getting married. If you read Clem’s blog, you might have missed the fact that he got married. About 10 sentences in he made some obscure reference to extra weight on his left hand. That’s the wedding ring he’s wearing cuz HE GOT MARRIED.
So back to the Build Gathering… I’m not going to sugar coat it. It was pretty sad. Most of the regulars didn’t show up. Clem was too busy with his family because HE WAS GETTING MARRIED, so he just dropped by long enough to say hi, and “Wow nobody’s here.” Brandon’s got a new girlfriend so he was a no-show. Terry had to go to a family dinner or something like that. I don’t know what happened to Dave. Angel was the only really OG member to show up and I guilted him into sitting next to me the whole day so I didn’t feel like such a loser. Xavier and Ed showed up and Ed brought enough ice cream for 25 people. I’m still eating it. Xavier let us know about the upcoming MG Tallgeese which was still a secret at the time. I can write about it now that the whole world knows.
I had the next Monday off and so did my older daughter so to be a good dad and proactively make up for all the time I’d be gone, I took her to Disneyland. We spent the bulk of the day there and then dropped her off at my mom’s to go to my daughters’ parent conferences and then picked her up to go back to her school for Back-to-School night. Busy day.
A few days later I took off fairly early Thursday morning to go to Las Vegas. I was going to meet a bunch of the guys and their significant others for a kind of Bachelor Party trip because CLEM GOT MARRIED. The drive to Vegas was great. On a random Thursday morning there was no traffic headed out to Vegas and relatively few big trucks and campers. There was a bit of rain at the beginning and end of the trip but not enough to have any impact on the drive and the weather was cool (as opposed to our trip in August where outside temperatures reached above 110). Since I was by myself I drove my TSX (usually we take my wife’s Camry on trips) and just enjoyed the hell out of driving it at speed and taking advantage of the bit of extra power it has to take the hills and pass vehicles with authority. I love my car. Oh, and I just paid it off. Wooo!
I got to Vegas and got settled just in time to go with Clem, Angel and Dave to the Gun Store. Now I’m a peace-loving Democrat and all but my mom’s family is from Kansas and they like their firearms. When I was a kid we’d go to my grandparents out in the desert outside Barstow and shoot target practice from inside a reservoir they dug out but never filled with water. Still, I hadn’t fired a gun in about 8 years when me and my dad went to the firing range with his neighbor, a police reserve officer.
We get there and they’ve got a menu of different guns and gun combos that you can try out. We’re thinking of guns we want to share but come to find out that everyone has to buy their own combo. We thought we’d a couple combos and all get to try out 5 or 6 guns. Sadly we had to all more or less buy the same combo and use the same guns. You could pick whatever guns you wanted, but ordering a la carte got really expensive. I was leaning towards the WWII combo with the 1911 .45, the Thompson submachine gun and the MP40 but I didn’t really want the MP40, I would have preferred and M1 Garand. I didn’t want to pay the higher price for that combo and not get the guns I wanted (don’t wanna shoot no gott-dang Nazi gun). So I went with what everyone else got, the modern gun combo. We all shot the 9mm Sig Sauer and the MP-5 submachine gun (and at $100 that was enough… ouch). Clem got a more expensive combo and also shot the M4 as well.
Anyway after paying and waiting in line we get our guns. Actually we don’t. The way they run it to maximize the number of people they can put through the range and I’m sure for safety reasons and their insurance policy’s sake is that one of their staff keeps the guns and clips and loads everything for you (I also noticed the staff is packing, not a bad idea when you get a hundred or so armed strangers a day through your business). When it’s your turn, you get handed a loaded gun in battery so all you have to do is point and shoot. Clem was kind of annoyed by this. I didn’t really care. I’m a tourist, just let me shoot.
Speaking of shooting… I’m a pretty dang good shot. I was clearly the best shot of our group and the guy managing our group even commented on my shooting. Not bad considering Clem is ex-military. Of course, as he was quick to point out, he was Air Force. Shooting a gun is lots of fun. It’s just undeniably macho. There’s no way to feel like a wuss with a loaded gun in your hand. Some of the group next to us were firing .45 automatics and a .44 Magnum and even with the ear protection you know when those things go off. You can literally feel the concussion in the air. Lots of grinning going on. Also, for an OCD kind of guy like me shooting accurately I kind of like model building. It’s a skill I enjoy practicing. Firing the MP5 was a new experience. They have you start with short controlled bursts, two or three rounds at a time for about half the clip, and then have you squeeze off the rest of the clip in full auto. I definitely wasn’t leaning into it enough the first time I did it and I literally scooted back about two feet from the recoil. Rather than try to outmuscle the recoil I just kept the red dot on the target and went with it. If I had tried to lean harder into it or changed my footing I would have gone completely out of control. And in a couple seconds the clip ran out and after a lot of laughing (okay, maybe you CAN feel like a wuss with a loaded gun in your hand) I got a new clip, leaned in a lot harder the next time and did better. One thing I’ll say for the MP5, it kicks pretty straight back. Even when it was pushing me backwards I was still able to control my aim. All but a few shots out of the 75 I fired (3 clips total) were reasonably well grouped and not a single one was outside the outer ring.
One piece of advice I’ll give if you ever go do this and want to actually shoot accurately is select a light-colored boring target to shoot at (I mean a paper target, not a politician. Can I get a rimshot?). You can’t see the bullet holes in the black parts of the black and white target (like say, the inner rings where I counts the most…) and you really can’t see them on the cheesy garish targets with pictures of zombies, terrorists and clowns. I picked two light targets but somebody took one of mine so I fired the MP5 at the dark ringed target. I was shooting a bit low (overcompensating for recoil, I think) but couldn’t tell until I got the target back.
Shooting was pretty much the highlight of the trip. We agreed we’d all do it again. It’s expensive, but you could easily lose as much in Vegas in the same amount of time. I’d like to go with my dad and do it sometime.
After shooting we all headed back to our hotels and got ready for dinner. We hung out in Clem’s big-spender suite for a while and then went to Caesar’s Palace’s Bacchanal Buffet. I looked it up, Bacchus is like the god of wine and orgies. I had neither with my buffet.
So I’m not a big spender when it comes to food (or almost anything else…) so $50 was quite a lot for me to spend. Was it worth it? Probably not for me. I have pretty simple tastes when it comes to food so I’ll take some of the blame (like a lot of buffets, you’re penalized for not liking seafood). I really got the feeling that their approach was to go all-out on the fancy stuff and make the basics, well… basic. About 70% of what I ate was typical meh buffet fare. So for $50 I was pretty ruthless about leaving food half (or quarter or eighth) finished and moving on to something else. The real highlight for me was the lasagna which tasted like the Cannelloni that Olive Garden hasn’t served in at least 10 years. They had something they were calling Machaca (I think that’s what it was supposed to be, the people putting the food out were having trouble getting the nametags aligned with the proper foods across all ethnicities). It was kind of a mexi-souflet. Whatever it was I liked it. They also had little cheesecake lollipops and the chocolate one was fantastic. The desert bar was pretty impressive. But still, no orgy.
After most of us were done eating we left to head back to Clem’s suite. Yuki and some relatives stayed behind, getting their money’s worth (and probably my money’s worth) of crab legs. We were going to take a cab back but the line was crazy so we walked. On the way we stopped at a CVS for booze. Angel and Nikki went in and disappeared for a long time. Too long. While we were waiting Clem and I got to talking to a girl selling from the carts in the middle of the mini-mall. While we were talking to her I got sexually harassed by a group of gay guys, one of them brushed up against me as he walked by. Seriously, I checked to make sure I still had my wallet. It was karma working in advance though because a few minutes later the girl said something about cleaning hotel room floors until you saw yourself on them that got me and Clem looking at each other and grinning (see, she slipped and said **on** them not **in** them). Being Drunk Dan I had to go and make some stupid comment and so I paid the sexual harassment forward. Sometimes I’m an ass… but WTF it was Vegas and I was drunk and did I mention I had just been brushed up on by some guy. That was just a bad 5 minutes.
Anyway, once Angel and Nikki finally appeared (we were too distracted at the time to wonder too much, but what WERE they doing in that little CVS for so long???) we started walking back to Clem’s hotel. Again. There was this little bar that looked like it had been made from an abandoned mini-mall store. It was gore themed (I think it was actually called Gore) so they had a lady above the bar that looked like she had been cut in half (and her blood was supplying the bar), a midget in a coffin with fake body parts around him (why???) and a guy out front who was really missing an eyeball and had stuck a little LED light in there so light up his socket in flashing red and blue. WTF?
After walking in some rain we finally got to the MGM Grand and got to Clem’s suite. It had a panoramic view so we turned out the lights and watched the lightning. I know, WOOOOOOOOO!!! Nobody does bachelor parties like Those Gundam Guys. Just 4 guys in the dark. Watching the lightning. Oh wait Nikki was there. Thank God somebody was there to bear witness that nobody took advantage of the romantic sausage fest. All corniness aside, it was the most relaxing thing I had done in months. I sent Vanessa a couple texts along the lines of “wish you were here.”
With our fill of romance it was time to go find some strippers. I mean, we’re in Vegas for a bachelor party, there’s got to be strippers, right? Well, no. We got a bitchy PaiGow dealer instead. Fortunately she kept all her clothes on and the only boobs I saw in Vegas were on those cards on the street that those guys hand out. We checked out gambling in the MGM but Pai Gow is $25 a hand there (on a THURSDAY) so we moved on over to New York New York and played there for $10. We had 2 dealers trading off but as the night wore on one of them started basically insulting us because we weren’t tipping enough. She said MGM had better players. At first I thought she meant we sucked at the game (me and Dave are new to it) but it turns out she meant we were cheap. The high rollers are better tippers. That may be true but with your shitty attitude you’re sure as hell not going to make it to the MGM.
About 2:30 we called it a night. Dave and Clem had been ahead in the chips but were back to even. I had been down to almost nothing of the $60 I started with (I was down to just my active bet at one point) but then rallied to be down by just $14 so I was glad to leave with ¾ of my money.
The next morning I got up too early, as usual. I think I was awake by about 7. I read for a while and then when I couldn’t stand killing time anymore got myself all ready and packed up. I texted around 9:30 to see if anyone was up for breakfast and when I didn’t get a reply in the next 10 minutes I headed down to my car to put away my suitcase. Then I headed back into the hotel for some food. Dave texted me that he was already at the airport (I guess he was as ready to go as I was) so I just grabbed some Quizno’s and then checked out. I’m not one to hang around and gamble in the daytime in Vegas and I wanted to hit up some local hobby shops and then head home so I could be there during the evening with my family since I knew I’d be off again the next day.
On the way out of town I stopped at Hobby Lobby. They’re a large Mid-West-based craft and hobby chain that has recently started popping up on the West Coast. They’re like Michaels but with a better supply of kits and accessories, and like Michael’s they have a 40%-off coupon. The one in Vegas didn’t have more kits than Michael’s but they did have a bigger variety with a smattering of kits from Tamiya, Trumpeter, Academy and of course Revell and Testors. I found a Trumpeter 1/72 F-100D on clearance for $11. I also grabbed a circle template for painting tank wheels and a couple other odds and ends. I was impressed that they carried Vallejo paints and Iwata airbrushes and parts. After leaving I decided to just head home rather than go to another shop.
The next day a bunch of us (Clem, Angel, Brandon and myself) all met up again for Orange Con, the local IPMS chapter’s model contest. Brandon’s girlfriend Jackie joined us (poor thing, Orange Con is not so interesting for the non-modeler) as did Clem’s friend Brian from the East Coast, who was in town for Clem’s wedding, because CLEM GOT MARRIED.
It was a pretty good Orange Con this year. I was disappointed that my Valkyrie only got 3rd place (probably because I was rushing to finish it, along with bases/diorama for three other entries), but I was really happy that my little OOB Airfix 1/72 Spitfire Mk. IIa got first place. Incredibly, that’s my first 1st place finish at an IPMS competition. In previous years the GP01 Hangar diorama that got me to Hong Kong only got 2nd place at IPMS and my Hazels that got 3rd place in the then BAKUC didn’t even place at this local IPMS show.
I also got 2nd place in dioramas with a few of my GMs from the Those Gundam Guys GM Assault diorama. I used the 4 GMs and 2 tanks I had built for it and split them up between 2 different dioramas.
Clem got 2 first places in Gundam and Sci-Fi Dioramas (bastard beat me in both categories). How his OOB Zaku he threw together in a couple weeks beats the Valk I massively modified and improved over the course of 2 years… oh, wait, it’s IPMS, don’t even wonder. It’s OK I beat him the other year with my dumb little 1/144 Enact from 00 (it beat my own massively-modified GM Custom that year as well). I think the lesson at IPMS is go with a simple kit and build it simply thus reducing your chance of creating any imperfections. IPMS doesn’t really give you credit for modifications and improvements (especially in Gundam/Mecha, where they aren’t familiar with the subject matter), but they deduct like hell for imperfections.
Angel got 3rd place in dioramas with his Duel Gundam attacking the ship bridge. I want to say he won something else but I can’t remember. Of course, what Angel really cares about is that the same model won this year’s North America Gunpla World Cup qualifier and he’s going to Tokyo. Congratulations, Angel! Brandon got kind of shut out on the trophies this year, although he did win one of the major prizes in the raffle, a Wingnut Wings WWI aircraft kit. All the reviews I see of the Wingnut kits are that they are excellent and I know they’re all worth in the neighborhood of $80 to $100 so that’s not too shabby. At the vendor room I scored an Accurate Miniatures 1/48 B-25G and Hasegawa 1/72 F-18C from the same vendor for $20 (those kits are worth $50 to $60, easy) and a set of decals for my future F-16C Block 42. Now I just need the F-16… (edit: picked one up off eBay) So yeah, good year at Orange Con and we managed not to get into any shenanigans so we can show up again next year in our Those Gundam Guys shirts.
The next Saturday, the 20th was Clem’s wedding dinner. He had already been MARRIED to Yuki on Friday and Saturday was the big dinner. Since it was within a few miles of the Macross World Con event the next day and since my wife and I just needed to get the hell away we got a room in a little motel in downtown Alhambra. Since we were going to split up the day we decided to bring two cars. This turned out to be a problem as this motel was tiny and had about a dozen parking spaces for its 50 or so rooms. Wow, you should really mention that before somebody books… We managed to get Vanessa’s car in but we had to leave my car out on the street AND I had to hike down to the police station to go buy an overnight parking pass. Fucking retarded. Good thing we got to Alhambra early with the idea to have a relaxing late afternoon before heading off to Clem’s dinner. Instead it was a hunt for parking followed by a hike to the police station. Fun. We showed up to Clem’s dinner frazzled and I was burnt out from being pissed off most of the last two hours instead of relaxed. I walk in the door and Clem’s like “DAN!” and we’re taking pictures and he’s talking 100 miles an hour and I’m kind of shell shocked and I’m walking away and he’s like “Aren’t you gonna congratulate me, you bastard?!!” Yeah, I will, let me get a drink and sit down for 5 minutes, crap I should have worn that tie I brought… Shit like this is always happening I’m always hustling to take care of X, Y and Z and then I get to where I’m going I’m just a useless stressed out stupid zombie for a while until I settle in and relax.
Those Gundam Guys and their significant others filled out most of a table at the wedding although Terry was promoted to a family table because his girlfriend Christiana is Clem’s cousin. She’s fun. She’s like that commercial for that place in Vegas, just the right amount of wrong… Angel meanwhile wasn’t at our table because he brought the whole famdamily and they filled out a table of their own. Angel’s family remodeled Clem’s house; it’s like a hobby for them.
So I did manage to get a drink and sit down for 5 minutes and had a good time. Our table was filled out with Clem’s East Coast friends so we all had a few drinks and BSed all night. We were served plate after plate of various Chinese food and there was just enough Duck and Chicken in there so I didn’t need to hit up Jack in the Box afterwards :). Clem made the rounds and came out at one point in some traditional garb. We were next to Brandon and Jackie and we found out Jackie is a teacher and so she and Vanessa (and to some extent myself since I was a teacher for 3 years) started teacher talk for most of the rest of the night. Vanessa really liked the Moscato and I managed to get Clem to liberate another bottle from a table that wasn’t drinking it. That’s cuz they were pounding he hard stuff, Clem’s family REALLY parties! Heh, just kidding. I was kind of surprised to see things winding down by 10:30. The friends hung around longer but by 11:30 we were singing a bad country song (Hey, Clem, WTF are you doing singing country songs, you’re CHINESE! Hahahaha) and it was over.
The next morning we packed up and had IHOP and then Vanessa went home and I went to the other end of Alhambra for Macross World Con 2012. I’ve never been to this event and as kind of a Macross fanboy I was excited to go, although I didn’t really know what to expect. Once I got in I more or less went straight to look for the Customs contest so I could display my Super VF-1D and not have to worry about getting bumped and breaking it. Unfortunately I broke it anyway. Taking it out of the box I was transporting it in I snagged an outboard drop tank on the T-shirt I had it resting on and broke it off. Shit, and I didn’t bring glue so out comes the smartphone. Luckily there was a Jo-Ann’s nearby and I figured they’d at least have super glue. I eventually found Jo-Ann’s (the entrance is upstairs and you come in through the parking structure, not easy to find) and got some Krazy Glue and got the drop tank back on.
After that I was free to roam around and take the whole Con in. All three and a half rooms and one hallway of it. The hallway was full of glass display cases and one of them was dedicated to 80’s-vintage Macross, Orguss and Mospaeada toys. There was one of every 1/55 Valk I’ve ever heard of and one I even hadn’t (I never knew there was a 1/55 VF-1D, unless you count the Super Ostrich). Cool stuff, definitely worth a few grand, even after all the re-releases brought down the prices of the originals.
The first small room was a dealer room. One guy was selling decals and posters (forgot to get a decal for my spraybooth) although he had annoyingly put Robotech logos on a bunch of it. Pfff… Robotech. I mean, I wouldn’t be an anime fan if not for it, but there’s been so much drama in the intervening years around the whole Macross/Robotech thing I’m done with Robotech. Let’s do the math: Southern Cross + Mospaeada < DYRL + Macross Plus + Macross 7 + Macross Zero + Macross Frontier. Can I get a US license, please?
The other guy in that room was selling a good collection of Hasegawa kits. VF-1s in every variety, VF-0, SV-51, YF-19, YF-2, the stands, the weapons sets. Some prices were really good (Super VF-1A for $25) but others were just OK. I almost picked up either the YF-19 or YF-21. Almost… but not quite.
The next room had a couple guys who were mostly selling toys but nothing that interesting to me. The half room was the Anime book store that was at AX. I had already bought two Macross books from them at AX (the only two I could stand the price of, damn, Japanese books are expensive).
The last room was the big room. At one end was a display of Macross memorabilia, several large personal collections, and then the Customs contest entries. At the other end of the room was a small impromptu stage that for the moment had a TV airing Macross footage.
And that was it. It was all very cool stuff but there was nothing planned until 1pm and it was now probably 10:30 and I was starting to wonder what I was going to do until then but then people I knew started to show up. First was Jordan and we went round the whole thing together and then Mike, Yuki and a couple other guys showed up and we went around again and then… Jeff showed up! Jeff used to be a regular at the build gatherings but disappeared about a year and a half ago after he got a girlfriend. I had to poke him in the arm to make sure he was real. After every group of people showed up and we took another lap through the place it was still only about noon so we wandered to a local Rite Aid to get some drinks.
We got back about in time for the Mari Iijima concert. She told stories, sang a few songs, answered a few questions and dropped a couple hilarious F-Bombs. It’s funny to hear a Japanese lady with a cute little voice say Fuck. After the concert an autograph line formed which I got in. Once I got nearer the front one of the guys held my place so I could get my Super VF-1D. For $20 I got a signed CD, my VF-1D base signed, and a Destroid monster kit signed. I’ll probably sell that one.
After that, it was back to waiting. It was now about 3pm and the Customs contest was scheduled for 5. There was an art contest, a cosplay contest, and a 1/55 transformation contest (for speed and accuracy, I would have been really good at that back when I was 12). That contest went on and on as it was sweet-sixteen style and so they didn’t even get to the Customs contest until 5:30, just after the last raffle of the day and by then everybody was streaming out. Wow.
I took second in the Customs contest. I was happy with that, the guy who beat me had taken a 1/48 Yamato Valkyrie, put a resin conversion on it to turn it into a VF-1D, ripped the arm off and scratch built little Hikaru and Minmay figures to make the famous scene where Minmay falls out of the Valkyrie’s hand mid-air and Hikaru dives down and saves her by pulling her into the cockpit. It was very cool and I didn’t mind losing to it in this take a Macross-related toy or kit and make something cool out of it contest. Part of me thought, “My God, just because they’re toys doesn’t mean you don’t have to fix the seam lines!” I’ve been in the world of competitive model building for 5-6 years and it’s hard not to look at a contest and expect all the entrants and especially the winners to apply all the modeling skills to their pieces. But this isn’t a model contest and model contest rules don’t apply.
So ironically even though I got second place, I got a better prize. The winner, EXO got a Ranka Lee figure that I think was probably worth about $50. I got a vintage Nousjadeul Ger (male power armor) kit and a poster. At first I was thinking, “A poster, cool.” I figured it was one of the ones the vendor was selling. Maybe it was one of the ones where they took the nice Tenjin Hidetaka artwork and slapped a Robotech logo on it. But then EXO was like “I wanted the poster.” At this point I unroll it a bit and it’s a black poster with a cutaway of a Super Valkyrie drawn in white on it. Wow, it’s pretty nice.
Exo asks if I want to trade the poster for the figure. Since I have a Ranka Lee Deculture VF-25 that it would go good with I’m about to say yes but I can hear people in the crowd saying, “Don’t do it!” At this point the contest organizers ask Exo if he wants to trade the prizes by his rights as winner. He’s nice enough to ask if it’s OK with me and I’m fairly agreeable to that when the crowd is like, “Nooooooooooo!” I turn and look at them and ask, “Should I do it?” Again, “Nooooooooooooo!” I looked at Exo and shrugged. Obviously I’ve got something good in this poster. Sorry, man.
The contest organizers explain the backstory on the poster to me. These posters were printed to go in a book printed in 1984 to go along with the release of Do You Remember Love? It’s known among Macross fans as The Gold Book. The poster were folded up and placed in the back of the book along with a film strip and the book is now rare and worth a lot. Somehow some of the posters made it out of the printers on their own, in unfolded condition. These aren’t worth as much as the book but they’re also pretty rare and I’m guessing worth somewhere around $30-40. Looks like I’ll have to get it framed.
So with that, the show was pretty much over. I went home and the next day was family photos. The next weekend I took my wife out (belatedly) for our 13th anniversary. We went to the Circle (downtown) in Orange for a Halloween event (horrible parking, not a lot of fun). On Halloween we carved pumpkins (I did a Mono Eye, lol) and then we took the girls to downtown Brea on Halloween for their trick-or-treating event (good parking, good time) and with that the very busy month of October was finally done.