WhoFest at the End of Time

Thursday, Gina, Wiggles and I loaded up the car and set off along rivers swollen past bursting. Once again, Doctor Who had us Texas bound.

Now that’s what I call a view.

We arrived at the DFW Airport Westin around 5 pm and checked in. Gina had already creeped the flights from Heathrow to DFW and predicted Peter Davison would be on the one arriving at 5:05 pm. We took our things up to the eighth floor and came down about an hour later in search of sustenance. On our way out the automatic sliding glass doors I saw a familiar man walk around an SUV in the drop-off zone. A respectable kite-flying breeze whipped his grey hair up around his head.

“That’s Peter Davison,” I said.

I rolled Willie’s stroller out the doors past him and said, “Excuse me.” He’d been discussing something with the co-occupants of the vehicle he’d just exited. The Doctor sighed and walked inside.

“Wow,” Gina said, “he seemed exhausted.”

“Yeah,” I said. “Showing up on Thursday keeps paying off.”

We hopped into the car and Gina navigated me to Afrah, which is a Mediterranean restaurant in Irving, Texas. My god. Can I eat there every day for the rest of my life? Now I know why shawarma was the first thing Iron Man requested in Avengers when he’d cheated death.

After getting our fill and then some, we headed to Target for supplies and went back to the hotel to collapse in exhaustion. Wiggles was as cooperative as he could be. It took him a bit to get used to the new environment, but once he conked out, he reverted to his regular schedule of torturing Mom nearly to death all night long.

Friday morning we rolled out of bed around 10 am and headed over to what might be the greatest Denny’s on Earth. Hear me now and believe me later, those folks take breakfast seriously. The service is always quick and professional, and I could tell the oil was clean from the taste of the fried potatoes.

Now that I mention it, I haven’t had a lot of bad restaurant experiences in Texas, and we aren’t always eating at the places with three or four Google Maps dollar signs. Is the pay just better here? Is there something about Texas culture that lends itself to finer dining whether you’re at the Dallas Fish Market dropping $200 or the Waffle House dropping $20? Some budding sociologist needs to investigate, but it sure ain’t the Arkansas Experience.

We jogged the stroller back across the street and headed down to the conference area of the hotel. I was too full of coffee or anxiety or both. My heart hammered. I was in familiar surroundings and around familiar faces, but holy shit I was wracked with trepidation over something. Gina felt it too.

I know it’s sideways. I’m road typing on my phone. Deal with it.

When the first panel with Peter Davison, Dan Starkey and Mark Strickson began at 3 pm, we were up front and ready for action. Gina realized that her nametag had been slicing her to pieces. The plastic edges were sharp like blades, so I fished my Swiss Army Knife out and gave it to her so she could file the edges off. Later, we realized my nametag had scratched Willie’s foot a bit so we doctored on him, too. These are the random-ass things you have to worry about.

The MC, whose name I don’t recall (does it matter, really?), came out and introduced each actor as they leaped out of a TARDIS onstage. I snapped a couple of decent photos and Wiggles seemed to be weathering things well until the first time things got loud.

Oh bother

Wiggles yelped and we immediately moved about ten rows back. One of the large speakers had been situated right above his head, and that wasn’t his bag at all, baby. The next time the panel joked around, though, he wailed again and I jumped up and took him to the back. Dan Starkey made a joke about scaring children. The audience roared in laughter. I gave a feeble wave on our way out the door and we stood in the lobby for the rest of the panel.

I wasn’t disappointed at all, but I was gripped by a great sense of guilt. I’d dragged my son to this thing that he probably wouldn’t weather well (at least the panels) and I spent at least a few minutes feeling sorry for myself and browbeating Bob Talbot for all his terrible life decisions.

We had a meet-and-greet to attend at 7:30 pm, and I was absolutely horrified that Willie wouldn’t like it. Gina and I were both nervous in general about meeting the actors, and we spent the afternoon discussing every potential horrific outcome. We were made for each other in this regard. By the end of the conversation we might as well have concluded that our meeting with these fellows would somehow result in a domino-effect end of our lives and civilization itself.

Then, we thought better of it and agreed everything would probably be fine. Our meet up, that is. We are certainly living out the last days or the end times, whatever that means to you. Secular or religious, we are totally fucked, y’all.

In fact, today during some downtime I saw Trump’s Facebook post about how the media had “censored” his 100 Days ad, and how it was time to “FIGHT THE MEDIA – (LONG PAUSE) BIAS.” I commented under his post that “This is the craziest fucking thing I have ever seen in my life.”

This is the goddamned President, y’all. We haven’t just crossed the Rubicon. We aren’t just through the looking glass. We’ve broken the woks and sunk the boats and Steve Buscemi has Space Madness. Someone call Aerosmith and Ben Affleck. We gotta drill this meteor and our future depends on it. (For what it’s worth, I prefer Deep Impact.)

It wasn’t lost on me that my friends were all wailing and gnashing their teeth on Facebook over healthcare and executive orders and I was here attempting to hobnob with celebrities. Every time I attend one of these now I wonder if it’s the last one. I consider how bad things will have to get before we stop celebrating, but then I remember birthdays and Christmas, and how even during The Great War people supposedly paused to observe holidays. Maybe we can eke out some existence in this hellsphere, but I think this might actually be the time we don’t make it back from the depths.

It is with that great idea looming above our heads we launched into another year of schmoozing with British science fiction pantomime heroes.

Help me Obi Wan Kenobi, you’re my only Oh wait

Gina strapped Wiggles to my chest, and Master Blaster trundled toward Thunderdome once again. It was showtime.

We checked in for the big elbow collision and stood in line in front of the conference room. Wiggles was his super cute self so our fellow attendees took turns saying hello. The con staff let us file into the room and Gina and I claimed a big round table. We’d just eaten so we didn’t take advantage of the buffet, but I quickly walked over to take a gander. Prime rib. Shit. Maybe we shouldn’t have had supper after all.

Peter Davison and Dan Starkey cruised in and headed straight to the food. They must have been hungry because they piled it on and sat down at a mostly unoccupied table to chow down. A guy we’d met at WhoFest 3 last year plopped down next to Starkey and chatted with him as he stuffed his face. Davison concentrated on his food, and I stood there bouncing William while Gina went to retrieve the one beer each our tickets afforded us.

I was gripped with the fear that I had become this dance’s wallflower about fifteen minutes in. Mark Strickson had snuck to the table behind us and was deep in conversation with a young kid in a soccer uniform. This wasn’t going as I had planned. At dinner, Gina and I had discussed A Beautiful Mind, game theory and our strategy for approaching the actors. We’d decided not to converge on Davison because he was the blonde, figuratively and, at least at one point, literally. Now it looked like we might be going home high and dry.

The blessings of the all-father on the people who run WhoFest. The handlers sprang into action and tapped each actor on the shoulder. It was time to chit chat.

In a bit of serendipity I could not have manufactured, I had been standing up bouncing Wiggles next to my empty chair. Our round table was full and the only empty seat was mine. Peter Davison sauntered over and said to me, “Oh I can’t take your chair while you stand.”

“No,” I said, “the kid loves to stand. You take this one.”

Fucking jackpot.

Ninja photo

You Whovians will recognize the Leela cosplay from the photo before this one. She was on the other side of Davison and did a wonderful job playing the resident interviewer. We sat around the table and listened to them chat for about twenty minutes when she asked him if he’d ever thought of writing a story for Big Finish, the company that produces the audio Doctor Who adventures.

Peter said he didn’t have time to sit down and hammer one out, and he’d begun to say he didn’t know if it would be rubbish or not when I blurted out, “Well, it wouldn’t have been the worst thing by far.”

He looked at me and asked, “Oh you mean Big Finish?”

I said, “Oh no, I really almost said something terrible there. I mean, considering fifty years of Doctor Who, there is no way anything you’d write would be the worst.”

Peter Davison, the Fifth Doctor, looked at me and said something about writing and how he’d use a pseudonym, I think, in case it was shit and they had to throw it out. I’m not sure because I was smiling in a cringe so hard my face split in half and I died a thousand deaths.

Wiggles fussed a bit, so Gina unhooked him and bounced him back to happiness. Davison paused to greet William and comment on his size. Every time today we told someone he was six months old, they said they guessed he was at least eight or nine. Yes, he is literally Harrison Bergeron. It’s about goddamned time, probably.

After about thirty minutes the handler came by (and, if I recall, he was the same guy I exchanged witty banter with the year before when he handled Ian McNeice all the way to the bar – “I’m second in line,” I’d said in an attempt to be witty – it went OKAY) and told Peter it was time to switch out for Mark Strickson, who you might know as Vislor Turlough, or the guy who discovered Steve Irwin, or “I have no idea who that is.”

The dude in this sideways photo that I’m not going to fix because I am typing on a Dell keyboard attached to my fucking phone on a WordPress app, yeah, that is Mark Strickson.

Leela took the reins again and gave Mark the full Oprah treatment. I was in awe. They mostly spoke about radio dramas and I didn’t know what my input should be on that front. There was a moment, after discussing high school kids with a teacher who sat immediately to my left, when he started talking about how his parents had a one-room flat and he’d come from “nothing,” and I was afraid he was about to get all bootstrappy on us, but he said, “Luck, just luck and being in the right place at the right time, and don’t ever think that you did something that makes you special. Look, I worked hard, I still work hard, but I am so lucky, so much of this is just chance.”

I was like, yeah bro. I can get down with that.

Mark was forced to leave like Peter, but as he got up he played with Willie and said, “Oh, he reminds me of my Tommy when he was a boy!” Wiggles, I love you buddy, but you are the best bait.

Dan Starkey aka Strax the Sontaran (as well as other various Sontarans) sat down as we crossed well out of our time slot and launched into an animated discussion about stunts and makeup. Leela once again dominated the chat, and I didn’t care. I interjected at one point about how the Sontarans in “The Two Doctors” had been six feet tall, and he agreed it was a bit ridiculous, but I was mostly content to just watch the magic happen in the chair right next to me.

We’d run thirty minutes over schedule and the convention staff were getting pretty antsy. They begged us to take the contents of the buffet with us “or else it’s going in the dumpster,” but we didn’t haul anything away except our commemorative WhoFest glasses and Wiggles, who was, as always, the star of the show.

We headed to our room and I wondered aloud why I’d been shitting myself in terror. Gina had a few ideas but it all boiled down to my neuroticism and our general malaise. We got back up to our room (which is right across the hall from Mark Strickson, apparently – Holy shit this could be interesting) and settled in for some rest before tomorrow, which is the big day. I went ahead and shaved my beard into a tactical mustache. The Brig and the Squig are coming out tomorrow. Gina Jane Smith will be in attendance, and I’m sure the guy driving around the RC K-9 (with the app he wrote himself – I asked) will have a field day. We’ve broken the ice with our actors, so the rest is future history.

I don’t want to get too personal with someone else’s story, but Leela implied she’d had some tough times Doctor Who had gotten her through. I remember sitting in an empty house over two years ago and watching the First Doctor wildly flip switches to the drop and whine of the TARDIS grinding to life. I was still eating groceries my ex had bought and my only company was Ian, Barbara, Susan, and a zany old space wizard. Cherry tomatoes. I had a box of cherry tomatoes to go with my bachelor meal. I was a lost dad with estranged children and that boom, like a timpani, along with the sound I now know was piano strings, was escape. It was life.

I’ve now watched fifty years of Doctor Who and then some. I’ve met most of the modern companions, a load of supporting characters, and Doctors Four, Five, Seven, and Twelve. Matt Smith has booked Dallas for October, and we will get here again by hook or crook. We have to, don’t we?

Tomorrow will be another adventure, and I hope I have something to tell, dear reader. Times seem final, or at least approaching finality, and these distractions, while frivolous, represent something we cannot lose sight of. We can’t let go of fiction. We can’t release our want for wonder. We absolutely cannot give up on the romance of what could be.

I claim to be a cynic, but I am the poet who languishes. I want to be hateful, but I am a sentimental softy. Though the thin curmudgeonly crust of years remains that kid who watched every episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation and took notes with illustrations. I wish I could find that notebook.

Our stories are all we have. This shit is fleeting, y’all. Fiction is forever.

See you tomorrow, space cadets.

Dallas Fan Angst

Yesterday morning I was all fired up to do a week-series of calumnious missives about how the folks who run the Dallas FanExpo should go stand in the street in front of the Book Depository. This morning, however, I spent an hour attempting to get a detailed receipt from the Omni Hotel, and that has a way of withering one’s wiener. The valet parking was pretty affordable, but it’s not so cheap that I’d like to pay it twice.

If you yearn for vituperation, check out every post on FanExpo’s Facebook page (like, heart, angry face) and revel in the horror stories. While Gina, Willie, and I occasionally had a bad time, a lot of folks had their hopes and dreams crushed. I can’t say I’m one of them. I’m experiencing the same level of glass-is-half-empty dysthymic angst I did before, but now I’m a little deeper in debt and I have a few more star-chasing stories to tell. I’m going to call it a draw.

It’s weird to get back into the world and see everyone else grinding away about politics. There’s always this shock, like we’ve arrived back from another planet, but at least someone didn’t die this time. In 2016 it was David Bowie and Prince while we were at Wizard World in New Orleans and WhoFest in Irving, Texas, respectively, but now that I think of it, one of the founders of WhoFest died last year at the con, in his hotel room.

There was no general announcement, although I’m sure most of the core convention group was aware. I’d volunteered to help clean up that Sunday afternoon, and in hindsight I can tell who didn’t get the news. There were guys marching around in a fugue like, well, like one of their friends had just died, and there was a guy making stupid jokes about how certain pieces of equipment looked like a prop from Fourth Doctor episode “The Pirate Planet.”

I know everyone grieves differently, and I didn’t know anything at the time, but when no one laughed or even spoke in reply to this dude’s spur-of-the-moment comedy routine, I looked at him and said, “Dude, I think maybe the time for jokes is over.”

The cloud was so obvious that some part of my subconscious picked up on it, but I still didn’t get it. When I was invited upstairs to the pizza party afterward, I walked into a small hotel room full of forty or fifty volunteers packed in, butts on every surface. Peter Pixie, the master of ceremonies, practically sat on the lap of Frazer Hines, and they were in intense, quiet conversation. Everyone spoke in hushed murmurs, and I said to the guy nearest me, “Yeah, we just got done unloading the truck in Richardson.”

He nodded and said nothing. I left the room roughly 45 seconds after I’d entered and went downstairs to apologize to my wife for bailing on her during her nap in an attempt to get some celebrity face time. It went okay.

We left Texas the next morning and reminisced about Wendy Padbury and Richard Franklin the entire way home. I ranted about how much Prince had reportedly given to charity over the years. “He was a weird dude but wasn’t he some kind of superhero?” I did mention the strange atmosphere to Gina, but we chalked it up to Whovians being Whovians. It wasn’t until we got home that she found the obituary online while searching to see if WhoFest had anything planned for 2017.

“Holy shit.”

Not to be indelicate, but Doctor Who actors have a sort of history of dying at or around conventions. Patrick Troughton, the Second Doctor, died at the Magnum Opus Con II science fiction convention in Columbus, Georgia, on Saturday, March 27, 1987 (source: Wikipedia), after his doctors told him not to leave the UK because of his heart condition. At 7:25 am, he died of a massive heart attack just after ordering breakfast. He had celebrated his 67th birthday two days prior, and the convention goers had planned a party that night in his honor.

Jon Pertwee died in Connecticut on May 20, 1996 at age 76. He was often on the convention circuit, and while the kiddies always talk about Tom, Jon was the Doctor who brought the show into the modern era. His first episode was filmed in color, and he threw a bit of James Bond into the space wizard mixture (they name-dropped Bond at least three times I can remember during Pertwee’s run). He was flamboyant, fun, and loved attention like all great folks do. He also appreciated the hell out of his fans, and if he’s not the reason, he’s at least in the top five reasons the show had, and has, such a big following.

After all this, Tom Baker said he wasn’t going to America anymore because it was killing Doctors (source: my ass), and it must have been effective. He’s still kicking at age 83, and if you want to meet him, you’re going to have to do the flying.

I won’t pull out that old “dying doing something you love” turkey. Most folks don’t want to die no matter what they’re doing. There’s no last meal equivalent of a treat that can silver-lining getting your thinker snapped off. Had fun yesterday plus dead today equals nil. Nada. Zilch.

Still, while there aren’t better ways to go, there are definitely worse ones (source: The Bob Talbot Experience), so maybe there’s something to looking forward to a nice Saturday and hey what-

Sometimes you don’t even get a last breakfast, and I can’t even say it would help. I haven’t done it myself and when I do, you won’t get a trip report. Last time I checked, Harry Houdini hasn’t called back, either.

What I do know is that I’m going to enjoy the good times I had last weekend with Gina and Willie, and for that matter, John, Alex, Billy, Catherine, Katee, and all the Whovians and science fiction fans we chatted with all weekend. We made some connections in those mashed, sweltering crowds, and we got so much love from so many people who just wanted our photograph.

If you’re looking for any more Dallas FanExpo opprobrium, it’s going to have to wait until October when Matt Smith, who they’ve booked for the second time (he didn’t show in 2015), inevitably cancels after we’ve risked life, limb, and bank account on our third attempt to meet him (he also cancelled on us in New Orleans).

As we prepared to walk out of our hotel room yesterday morning, I fumbled with the door handle with my left hand. I had three bags in my right, and the rolling suitcase was propped against my left leg. Gina was behind me with Willie, his stroller, and two more bags.

“That’s life, Willie,” I said, “It’s a bunch of bullshit but you’ll find there are a few diamonds-”

“Bob,” Gina said, “did you remember to check out?”

“Oh shit,” I said. “Heh, yeah, I’d better do that.”

I sat down my pile, walked around it, picked up the room phone, and dialed “*-3-4.” It was finished.

Today I’ll do a few of the things I’ve been putting off. I’ll also check my email obsessively until the Omni gets back to me about my room charges.
Until that’s through, I’ll think about adventures past and future, and I’ll look to here, now, for what’s important.

As far as the FanExpo goes, any convention you live through can’t be that bad, can it?

Worth every penny.

The Dallas Fan Existential Crisis

Friday morning we loaded up and headed to Dallas. We had a date with Alex Kingston, and we weren’t about to miss it.

Willie weathered eight hours in a car as well as a five-month-old possibly could, which is to say he was amazing. It’s not spoiling anything to tell you he was rad through the entire weekend, teething pains and all. They say to show not tell, so I’m supposed to intersperse him being the coolest baby ever all throughout this narrative so you come to the conclusion on your own that he’s amazing without me telling you he’s amazing, but fuck that. Hear me now and believe me later, he was amazing.

We checked into the Omni and were greeted with champagne, which was a new experience. I’m an easy lay so the Omni totally had me at hello with that bullshit maneuver. They could have tossed a Bud Ice at me after that drive and I’d have been ready to pull out the credit card for all those incidentals, baby.

We threw our shit into the room and hoofed it down to the FanExpo, which was a five minute walk down a hall and a twenty minute wait in another line just to get a wristband for a ticket I’d already purchased online. This is the harbinger part. I’m breaking all the rules tonight, baby.

No retakes on these bad boys. If you have stoner face you’re going to have to live with that shit forever. Get a nice frame at Hobby Lobby.

We finally gained access and wandered around the floor for a bit before our photo op. If you’ve never done one, they’re always rushed affairs, and there’s no real face time involved. I’ve seen people get online and throw fits over this and let me tell you guys and gals, if you go into this expecting anything more than wham, bam, thank you ma’am, you’ve entered the land of expectations.

We did stop by Alex Kingston’s autograph table afterward to get her signature on the photo, and that’s where the magic actually happened. She cooed at Willie and said, “Hello, gorgeous!” She showed him her big-ass ring, which looked like a rose with diamonds set into it, and said, “You’re going to have to buy your girlfriend a ring like this in, oh, sixteen years.”

I fucking hope not.

She was absolutely stellar, though, and we thanked her and went on our way over to John Barrowman’s domain.

The John Barrowman Experience

John got it into his head that he wanted this kid to give him pink belly. I shit you not, he pulled up his shirt and this little boy slapped him while a FanExpo employee down the table gave the most epic side eye that went on for so long I was able to point it out to multiple people.

“Oh wow, she doesn’t get it at all. Look at that side eye! Holy shit she’s still doing it!”

When we got to the table, John spent at least a minute rubbing Willie’s head.

“I love rubbing baby heads,” he said. “They’re so soft. I love to kiss them.”

Unfortunately he didn’t kiss him, but it would have been okay, although it might have prompted more side eye.

He then proceeded to take Gina’s camera and crank out a few selfies. He’s an expert at this, so they all turned out amazing.

Petition to make this John Barrowman’s profile pic.

On our way out we noticed Billy West, the voice of Fry from Futurama among others (you might know him as Doug Funny or Bugs Bunny from Space Jam or Ren AND Stimpy) had shown up. He’d been running late and they sent his line away, but he was there now and man we were aching to say hi after seeing him last year in Richardson, Texas.

When we got to the table we expressed our love for his podcast, which is fucking excellent by the way. I performed a short rendition of the Stingray theme song and we talked about zany marionette shows for a couple of minutes. We introduced Willie, and Billy decided to come around the table for a photo.

Willie is more interested in Billy’s con badge.

“Welcome to Earth, kid,” he said. “You took a wrong turn.”

Completely satisfied with all our life decisions up to that point, we returned to the room for some rest after the best day ever. As I drifted off, I told Gina, “Wow, that was the most amazing day. It was so perfect. Oh my God, I forgot my army shirt.”

Like Buckaroo Banzai said, revelations always come in the three B’s: the bed, the bath, and the bus. I’d checked and rechecked the luggage, and I’d forgotten something as simple as my goddamned shirt. Oh well. I groaned and gnashed my teeth while Gina Googled a solution. There was an army surplus store about eight miles away. I would have to make a run in the morning.

I woke up at 7 am, unable to take it anymore, and fired up the shitty hotel Keurig for some diarrhea water. I threw that down my throat, left the fam at the hotel, and went down to the valet to get the car. I had a mission.

Dallas highways are a spaghetti pile of drunken engineering. The GPS yelled at me and I thanked Odin I’d suffered through the twitch game parts of Grand Theft Auto. I hate that Dance Dance Revolution bullshit but if I hadn’t become begrudgingly adept I never would have made it to the surplus store where an old dude awaited to try to sell me $20 Dickey shirts.

“Where’s the surplus, man. I can rip the patches off, I don’t care.”

Eight dollars and sixty-one cents later, I was the owner of a brand new slightly used Marine Corps khaki shirt.

I raced back to the Omni, threw a couple more bucks at the valet (they say not to tip when you drop off but you know you’re paying for them to not fuck your car up, right?) and headed up to the room to get into cosplay. It was TIME.

We headed down the hall past the Roberta Flack quote emblazoned on the wall, which always makes me start hollering “Killing Me Softly,” and stood in line thirty minutes to get armbands for tickets we’d already purchased online. Then, we entered Pandemonium.

It was bodies wall-to-wall, straight up worse-than-Disney foot traffic. I’ve ranted about this situation many times before but the Dallas FanExpo keeps growing and their floor engineering remains a libertarian mess of “Oh yeah I guess this can go over here.” The autograph lines are about one foot wide taped off. The photo op lines are hemmed in by booths and convenience stands. People started behaving like cattle then like water. I’ve read before that when you’re in a crowd like that, it’s best to get the fuck out or risk death. If there’d been any reason to spook us, it would have been a global-news-making disaster.

I’ve been to Wizard World. They stanchion that shit off and everything takes place in an orderly fashion. We were caught, hot, in the middle of a crowd of people to see Catherine Tate, who maybe had a hundred tickets sold, but because the con workers didn’t line up the adjacent ticket holders properly, we were trapped in a scrum for 45 minutes while foot traffic from the vendors and autograph lines tried to squeeze through two feet of walkway. It was a nightmare.

There’s tape two feet from that green backdrop that marks the photo op lines. I got yelled at for stepping one foot over that tape, at which point I yelled at some guy and went outside and made a very embarrassing Facebook live video, which I deleted ten minutes later. It was cathartic, at least.

I had ample time to let loose one of my epic tweetstorms at Dallas FanExpo. They actually replied and said they’d get right on it, but I didn’t witness anything you’d call a response.

We got our Catherine Tate photo, wheeled back around to get into Barrowman’s line, and waited another hour. My feet were on fire. and Gina breastfed Willie in line like the hero she is.

Worth it.

We had some time to burn before we could get the photos signed, so we caught Katee Sackhoff at her booth. I wasn’t aware she was a Whovian until I checked out her Twitter and saw that her profile pic is her face pasted on the Fourth Doctor. She was bonkers over Willie. She called him the best thing she’d seen since the woman at Dragon Con with the painted belly who was due to drop her baby any second and the doctor only let her attend because the con was closer to the hospital than her house. We got three selfies with her and I have my eyes shut in two of them. In the third one, her head is down. If anyone wants to Photoshop my open eyes onto one of the good ones hit me up. I’ll get you a $5 Starbucks (pun intended) card or give you a handy.

I need to reiterate how great Willie was during all this. He kept doing his baby things, you know, slobbering, puking, occasionally crying, but he weathered it all like a champ and we kept getting stopped for photos every five minutes. I lost count of how many people got our pics but our classic Doctor Who cosplay was obviously off the chain.

We got through Catherine Tate autograph line first and she laughed when I told my terrible Michael Scott joke, which goes, “Gina says I’m her Jim but I’m definitely more of a Michael Scott.” I also thanked her for being so real in Doctor Who. She really was the most human companion, and that’s the companion’s job. You can’t identify with a fucking space wizard. The people around him are supposed to be YOU.

I am the luckiest man on Earth.

We wrapped it up waiting an hour for John Barrowman to make his final appearance. In the meantime, Mark Hamill’s handlers had whisked him away and he still had thirty people in line. The fans proceeded to mutiny and wouldn’t stop threatening the staff with lawsuits until they went and dragged him back. It actually worked, which was one of the few fan victories this weekend. Norman Reedus and Jeffrey Dean Morgan ended up showing for only a couple of hours because of some scheduling mishap. There were hundreds of people who had to be issued refunds and they are pissed. Just check the Facebook page.

Our third meetup with John Barrowman was worth the wait. He said hello to Willie again, and he complimented our costumes. He actually apologized for misidentifying Gina’s outfit earlier at the photo op, and he and I compared watches. He’s a class act.

I keep saying I’m not coming back to Fan Expo. They are notorious for booking people who cancel at the last minute, overbooking celebrities who cannot possibly work through the number of tickets sold, and bad line management. I love small hotel cons where you actually get face time with people and make real connections. Everyone knows large cons are Disneyland but FanExpo can’t even get that shit straight. They aren’t Six Flags. They’re a carnival full of meth heads and rusty Tilt-A-Whirls with diesel smoke belching out the top and they’re in way over their heads.

This is the fifth annual event they’ve held and the third I’ve attended. The crowd management issues have increased exponentially and I’m not sure what it would take to get me back, except maybe Matt Smith, who they’re having at their secondary event, Fan Days, in October. You motherfuckers. I wish I could quit you.

In any case, we’ll be doing Friday and going home Saturday. This one was hell, and it was worth it, but I can’t endanger my child and exhaust my wife battling overcapacity crowds and unmanageable lines. Get your shit together, Dallas FanExpo.

We’ll be headed to WhoFest 4 in May and we’ll spend a weekend with Peter Davision and a few dozen other hardcore Whovians. Well also swing by Texas Frightmare to meet Malcolm McDowell. Small cons like those are where the magic happens, and that’s where I keep saying I’m going to spend my time, but this goddamned FanExpo keeps dragging me back for more punishment.

I’ll skip the angry email this year. They obviously didn’t read mine last year when I described the stunning innovations of roped-off areas and better space management. Maybe they’ve outgrown the Kay Bailey Hutchinson Convention Center but I’m not sure where they could go from there. If this is all the fourth biggest city in the United States can offer, well, maybe it’s all we deserve.

I’ll see you bastards again in October when Matt Smith inevitably cancels at the last minute like he’s done on us two times before. I’m starting to believe they’d never booked him in the first place and it was a charade meant to sell more tickets. I mean, The Crown is a great show, but Matt can’t really be up to all that much, can he?

Convention Countdown

Tomorrow Gina, William, and I are heading south. This is my first extended time off work since Willie was unceremoniously ripped from Gina’s body, and I’m ready.

In the past I’ve made the mistake of opening my mouth around celebrities. Gina is the charming one, so it’s usually best if I hang onto her arm and let her work her magic. Just about all the happy memories I have of real connections with folks I admire are thanks to her. All the cringefestival trainwreck gutpunch nightmares that have me waking up in cold sweats at 3 am are thanks to my terrible overly-planned notions of what I thought would be funny.

“See, you push a robot in like, every episode. Well, every one with a robot.”

“Well,” said Frazer Hines, “I did push a Quark once.”

“No man it’s like all of them. Every time, and I was like, ‘Hey it’s time for Robot Tippin’ with Jamie McCrimmon.’ You should have t-shirts made, man.” I flailed around mimicking shoves to an invisible robot.

“Uh,” he said, “I need to go talk to someone over here.”

This was after I asked him what a drink ticket was. This motherfucker owns racehorses and some hayseed just asked him, “What you do with this ticket?” at a mixer that said hayseed paid for in advance knowing there would be drinks involved. I went to get a beer.

By the time I got back, Frazer Hines was chatting up my wife and I had it all figured out. Well, I had two things figured out. Frazer would much rather talk to the ladies, and I’d do better to let Gina sparkle and just observe and report instead of trying to perform around performers.

I really phoned this one in. Fake mustache, wrong beret. Frazer said I made a stunning Saddam Hussein.

We ended up spending most of our time that night with Richard Franklin and Wendy Padbury. Richard brought up politics, which amazingly did not go badly, and he ended up being the de facto host of the whole shindig. We talked about work, and from that point on he knew us as “Gina and Bob, the booksellers.” Gina made the real connections there, though, especially with Wendy, and it was wonderful how they palled around all weekend.

Andrew Cartmel caught me on my way out and expressed dismay at not getting the opportunity to spend more time with me. Me, BABY. We talked about bookselling for a couple of minutes and he invited me to stop by and see him the next day. I didn’t take him up on that because I was afraid I’d have to buy his $40 paperback. When I got back to work, I ended up tweeting to him about another new release of his, The Vinyl Detective: Written in Dead Wax. He replied, sparks flew, and we’ll be getting married in the spring.

So my charms do work, but only on a relatively small demographic.

I have a new plan that will surely widen my audience: I’m going to strap Willie to my chest. Yes, I became a father just so I could use a super cute kid as celebrity bait. Nothing can go wrong with this strategy.

I’ll have on my brand new, getting-much-closer-to-screen-accurate Brigadier costume, and Willie is going to be Baby Benton from the Third Doctor story, The Time Monster. “We” (meaning “Gina”) took some artistic liberty and made him a baby UNIT outfit since Sergeant Benton just wears a diaper in the episode and that’s not a costume, that’s neglect. I even have a UNIT button on the front of his carrier. It’s going to be amazing.

Gina spent the last couple of months making Sarah Jane Smith’s Andy Pandy outfit from scratch while wrestling with a growing infant. That’s right up there with summiting Everest in my book. I also realize this jumble of names and words probably means nothing to 95 percent of the population, but believe me, this shit is important to Whovians.

This is a large convention, so I don’t expect anything as intimate as what I’ve just described to occur. We’re going to WhoFest 4 next month, which will be a small weekend hotel hangout, but FanExpo is more like riding Space Mountain. You spend hundreds of dollars and stand in line for hours for mere seconds of thrill, but some of those memories last a lifetime, which is what keeps us going back. There are also weird moments, like the time I poured my heart out to Rob Schneider about watching SNL with Dad and he seemed to really get it. Then, Rob and Gina eloped.

So happy together.

This brings up an important point, though. I am easily cropped out of every photo we’ve ever taken with a celebrity. Gina looks like she belongs there. It usually looks like the actor showed up for a photo with her.

Willie is my secret weapon. I’m going to be all up in that photo op now. I don’t care if Alex Kingston and Catherine Tate are going goo goo ga ga over him, he’s strapped to me. We’re Master Blaster. Quaid, start the reactor. We’re a team, baby, and I’m going to get me some love.

If all else fails, I’ll ditch the fam and run away with John Barrowman. No one can resist a man in uniform.

The Brig

Nicholas Courtney died six years ago yesterday. If that doesn’t mean anything to you, it’s okay. It meant absolutely nothing to me at the time, and even if it had, I wouldn’t have noticed. I was too busy occupying a couch in the St. Bernard’s Regional Hospital MICU waiting room.

Waiting.

I wasn’t familiar with Mr. Courtney until Gina introduced me to Doctor Who. Since then, we’ve spent many afternoons and nights plowing through over fifty years of British science fiction, the brilliant and the terrible.

We didn’t cosplay when we first started doing conventions, but it looked like so much fun that we couldn’t resist for long. I went through a number of ideas before I settled on Brigadier Alistair Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart (who was played by Nicholas Courtney, of course). I didn’t really think I looked like him, but I don’t look like anyone from the show. I can, however, grow a helluva mustache, and I’ve always had a thing for military garb.

Better yet, he’s British, so I wouldn’t have to worry about any stolen valor bullshit when I put on his uniform. I stopped wearing my olive green jacket years ago because some dude at the Memphis Zoo had marched towards me and shouted, “Where did you serve?”

“Nowhere, man.” I said. I should have sung it. “Nowhere.” It was covered in patches from places I’d been. I pointed at one. “See,” I said, “It’s just a Ron Jon patch,” which was doubly idiotic because I don’t know how to surf.

I’ve been the Brig a few times now, and I have a wall full of photos of Gina and myself standing beside British actors old and young. Once, I didn’t have time to grow a mustache, so I sported this funny fake thing I glued on with spirit gum. It was a sonofabitch to keep on, and I vowed, “Never again.” From now on I’m sprouting my own, and if it’s a week old and mostly eyeliner pencil, so be it.

Convention goers tend to get pretty excited when they recognize me because people don’t often cosplay the Brig. From the reactions I’ve received, I assume I do a decent job. I’ll never forget when Peter Capaldi saw me and shouted, “Brig!” with open arms. That’s endorsement enough.

Part of me wants to draw a connection between Mr. Courtney’s departure from this earth and my father’s a day later. I’m not sure things actually rhyme this way in real life. It wasn’t the same day, just close enough for curiosity, and it’s confirmation bias to draw such conclusions. There are only so many days in the year. After you’ve lived long enough, you’ll certainly pile enough events in one spot to look like a pattern.

Still, I think it might be ironic (I’ll have to run it by Alanis first) that someone I loved, love, passed one day, and the day before (unbeknownst to me) someone who I hadn’t been acquainted with yet had passed away and I’d end up dressing up like him in convention centers years later. When I put it like that, yeah, it’s a complete coincidence. It’s mildly interesting, but not a humdinger.

I’ve invested in a few new costume pieces, and I’ve planned to attend at least a couple more conventions this year. Six years ago today I watched my father stop living. If you haven’t been there, it’s something that sticks with you. I’m not sad today, though. I’m excited about putting on that uniform and walking into the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center in Dallas, Texas. Gina and Willie will be with me, and so will Dad, in a way. He’s not here, because he can’t be, but he’s part of my programming.

Maybe a bit of Nicholas Courtney dwells there, too. Just a smidge. A suggestion. An idea. As long as someone is thinking of you, you aren’t gone. Pretty gone, maybe, but not completely.

Not by a long shot.

Conventional Care

The world is falling apart, and Peter Capaldi is leaving Doctor Who.

I’m glad I can still be concerned about frivolous shit. There’s still another season with Peter at the helm, so I’ll have a number of episodes to say goodbye. There are still conventions to attend and as long as actors are willing to brave the wild American wasteland, I’ll attend them.

Hell, Mark Hamill is coming to Dallas. He’s been pretty rough the ol’ Pres on Twitter. I hope the citizens of Texas are kind to him. I’ll be there for a photograph, perhaps. I’ve met Captain Kirk and two Doctors in Dallas (had to fly to London to see Tom), so I might as well add Luke Fucking Skywalker to the mix.

I’m going to bring my laptop so I don’t have to clumsily SwiftKey the convention roundup from my hotel bed. We actually got into the Omni this time, connected to the convention center, so no traipsing across Dallas streets with an infant, unless we want to.

We have plans this year, Gina, Willie, and I. We’re going to hit the FanExpo in Dallas, we’re going to WhoFest 4 in Irving, and we’ll most likely be driving across town that weekend to spend some time at Texas Frightmare, where, among others, we’ll get a chance to see Malcolm McDowell and the kids from Stranger Things.

I’ll be the Brigadier, most likely, with my stupid, glorious mustache. Willie will be Baby Benton. Gina is working on Sarah Jane Smith. If you aren’t familiar with Doctor Who, those sentences mean nothing to you, and that’s okay.

Maybe this is boring planning-talk but I need to repeat this to myself. I need to think about spending time with my family. I need to remember there are things outside the wailing and gnashing of teeth. Cora starts kindergarten this year. Bea will be in preschool by the fall if she can get the potty thing under control. The cat, well, if she doesn’t eat our pet butterflies (which she is attempting to do behind me right now), I’m sure we’ll have some other caged insect for her to fret over. GG want’s ladybugs but I’m leaning towards Madagascar hissing cockroaches.

I’ve spent my recent days with a never-ending tension headache caused by constantly clamping my jaw. I only find solace in family and friends, but it’s hard to talk about anything that isn’t the nosedive we’re currently in. It’s like asking the passengers on THAT GODDAMNED PLANE ANALOGY to play some amusing parlor games while Donnie pushes the yoke forward and the nose tilts down, the refreshment cart goes crashing by, the whine of the engines and the air ripping over the wings sounds like a WWII buzz bomber you probably only heard on Looney Tunes propaganda films, and we’re supposed to do charades.

Maybe we should. I’m going to try to go through the motions and stand in lines, stalk the Celebrity Zoo and take ninja photographs of actors I’ve never met, pay absurd amounts of money to press their flesh and snap a photo, or go through the autograph line and quickly run a well-rehearsed ridiculous anecdote by them and either make a connection or completely bomb my performance. I have a solid fifty-fifty record on that one. Maybe I’ll hold Gina’s arm and let her do her charming thing, which is always a sure bet.

Maybe this isn’t your bag, folks, and that’s okay. Make sure you make some time for you while you’re struggling for the fate of humanity. There may come a time when that’s an impossible thing, and our memories of life mostly unencumbered will be the only thing we have to drive us forward to the clearing. I don’t know who waits for you there, but for me, it’s people in funny costumes, and performers who made me feel.

Do the things people do until you can’t do them anymore. Make them drag it out of your hands, but while you hold it, live it.

Live, dammit. I’m going to try. Yeah, yeah, “Do or do not,” Yoda, but sometimes all you can do is give it a shot.

This is not a post

I’ve tried too hard to do art farts and I’ve censored myself quite a bit as well, which has really cut down what I publish online. Wait, this is misleading. It’s not like I have some grand work waiting in the wings. I’ve been going to the bookstore, exercising, and hanging with the fam’. Noble pursuits, I know, but they do nothing for the ol’ EXISTENTIAL ANGST.

For example, I’ve probably deleted half a dozen shitty poems in the past couple of weeks but the world doesn’t need more shitty poetry. I thought of doing a post in defense of my classification as a young Gen X-er instead of a fucking Millennial. Goddamned Millennials. I considered calling it Gen X Babies and tying it in to Muppet Babies. As in, if you grew up watching Muppet Babies you might be a Gen X Baby. This follows the Foxworthy “You Might be a Redneck” format too much and also who gives a fuck, really?

I just watched Stranger Things with Gina. I thought of doing a post about how the nostalgia affected me but it felt too much like being a shill, which is weird, because I gain nothing material. I don’t work for Netflix or Kellogg’s. I’d also run up against the inevitable, “You were only five years old when that show was set,” argument, which I can’t really rebut. I was fucking alive and aware of my surroundings, but whatever. Also who am I arguing with, myself?

Oh, and I’m not mentioning all the political temptations that I refuse to get into. Fuuuuuuck that shit. I guess I can do metaposts forever about how I can’t write.

I have been reading some philosophy during my breaks at work. I recently finished Winning Arguments, by Stanley Fish. It’s not a how-to guide. He describes what the winning arguments have been, historically, and how they came about. I’ve started on Intuition Pumps by Daniel Dennett. While I’ve gained some insight, I’ve also lost quite a bit of motivation to talk to anyone about anything because it seems even more futile. Don’t get me wrong. It isn’t! It’s all about the struggle, really, since that’s all there is, but right now I guess I don’t feel like struggling.

This year is making everyone insane.

I haven’t even attempted to read the new Harry Potter book. I had quite a bit of fun dressing up as old whiny britches himself and running around the store being ridiculous at the midnight release party on 7/30. Gina told me she was proud to be my wife. That was nice and I’ll never forget it. However, there’s a however coming. However, I was pretty down about it in the days following, because it was fun, and I did feel important and liked, and that seems too rare to the sucking black hole self esteem singularity that lives at the center of my soul, which requires, no, DEMANDS rock star level worship at all times.

This is a perfect segue into the other thing I keep not writing about. I keep thinking to myself, “Why aren’t there more books and films about THE SUCKING HOLE OF DOOM,” and then I realize that there are, but they at least try to come at it from an interesting angle. You can’t fill a work full of sad, pathetic shit and expect any large number of people to read it. Well, you can, but it has to be Steel Magnolias or one of those really gut-wrenching Robin Williams movies like What Dreams May Come.

So, I do this. I go through the motions and put it out there, like the days when I don’t feel like working out but I work out because if I don’t I’ll have the regrets. That’s another deleted post, by the way. My Workout Routine, #Slothswole, spiced with hilarious musings from The Bob Talbot. If I actually wrote every idea I had there’d be two posts a day.

The other night at 2 am I almost got out of bed to write a post about how I’d gone to Doctor Who conventions in search of some meaningful interaction with people and, while I had found it, I had also encountered so many cringeworthy moments that made me feel like the most unpopular kid in the schoolyard.

Maybe this is what I need. Maybe I’ll just be silent and let it build again, and then metapost more about the things I didn’t do. I can do that as well. Maybe I’ll proofread this 30 times, more times than there will be readers. Maybe I’ll get down about that act of futility. Well, everything is futile in the long run.

This is the workout I don’t want to do. These are the reps I did when I had influenza. These are the push-ups I did, often do, in an office because it was my only opportunity that day.

It’s not lost on me that I do so much and still find time to do this, but it isn’t enough.

Scream into the hole. Scream into the hole. Shitty indie films have been made about less. Insert pop culture references. Breathe. Fart. Shart.

Look. It’s a post.

Comic Convention Celebrity Cheat Codes

Now that I’ve been attending conventions for over two years, I’m pretty certain I have everything figured out. Been longing for that special access? A $40 handshake from a Power Ranger isn’t quite enough for you to get it up anymore? Then hold onto your socks, kiddies, because Bob “The Merchandise” Talbot has the inside scoop.

  • Cute babies wow celebrities. Note: be sure your baby is objectively cute. Bonus Level: if the baby is hungry and the celebrity is lactating perhaps they will feed it for you although this has only been successfully tested with Salma Hayek.
  • A precocious child interviewer will get you everywhere. Again, take great care that the child is actually cute and not just taking up twenty feet of three photo-op lines with their entire complement of Thomas & Friends and their Radio Flyer wagon fully kitted out to take on the fucking Oregon Trail.
  • Be attractive, don’t be unattractive.
  • Press Pass. PRESS PASS. Don’t work for a journalistic organization? The editor-in-chief of The Bob Talbot dot com, “Howlin’ Mad” Bob Talbot, says you do. Go get ’em, Tiger.
  • Catch the falling stars in the hotel bar.
  • Find a photograph of their deceased parents and cosplay it with extreme accuracy. Grab your best cosmetologist buddy and hit the vintage clothing stores. Hang around the periphery of the lines and look forlorn. Disappear soon after they notice you.
  • Volunteer. That’s right. We need someone like YOU to stand around and yell at people while you work the curtain next to David Tennant. Now you’re living the dream.
  • Start a small business, put in 20 years of work as a vendor at every convention you can possibly attend, and feel the rush of adrenaline as your shop gets mentioned during a Q&A panel.
  • Spend literally thousands of dollars.
  • The washed up actor with no line? You’re now their biggest fan with streetwise knowledge of/folksy wisdom about the local scene. They probably need someone to do a “liquor” run. Your keen hustling skills honed from years of GTA will finally come in handy.
  • Be John Barrowman.

With these secrets at your disposal you’ll be doing coke off hookers with Chris Kattan in no time. Here’s to adventure, junior space cadets.

What’s in a Name

Hello, Willie.

Yesterday, your mother and I found out that you are going to be William Patrick instead of Evelyn Rose. Gina has loved the name Evelyn since she saw The Mummy as a child. It’s the one with Rachel Weisz. Rose is for the character Rose Tyler from Doctor Who, which I am sure you will find out about at some point. I took your mother all the way to London to propose to her on the spot where the TARDIS landed outside Rose’s apartment. I must admit that I am pretty proud of that feat. It may be one of the top five greatest things I’ve pulled off.

You are William Patrick Talbot, which means a whole load of things. You are named after the first two actors to play the Doctor, William Hartnell and Patrick Troughton. We had the great fortune to be able tell some of Pat Troughton’s co-stars about this in person. Wendy Padbury seemed particularly enamored with your mother. You were there with us but you didn’t know it. I do hope that you are able to meet her again when you come out to see the world.

You are also named after two actors who represent my first science fiction love, William Shatner and Patrick Stewart. You’ve been right beside Mr. Shatner although you were comfortably hanging out in your mother’s womb. I’ll show you the photograph when you’re older.

I don’t know how you’ll spell Willie but I’m going with the Willie Nelson spelling for now. Willy seems a bit off to me, but it’s definitely Willie and not Billy. Willie may become William or Will (or even Wil), but Billy turns into Bill, and I don’t feel like you’re a Bill. It’s really up to you, though. Maybe you’ll be Pat.

Talbot has many meanings, depending on who you ask. To the English it’s an extinct breed of dog, but, before that, the French said it was a robber. The Germans, who were the earliest, called it messenger of destruction.

They were warriors, probably, who came across the English Channel during the Norman Invasion. It doesn’t matter, though. That’s only a small fraction of who you are. Once you go back a few generations we’re all cousins. We’re all children of Charlemagne or Genghis Khan. We’re all related, and that’s the important part. Never forget it.

You have two sisters, Coraline and Beatrix, who are both very excited to see you. You can thank Neil Gaiman and Beatrix Potter for their names. Oh, and another English author, Mary Norton, for Bea’s middle name Arrietty, which is from The Borrowers. Cora and Bea love to snuggle Gina and pat her belly. They give you kisses and I know they love you already.

I hope to write you more often, Willie. I’ll do my best to filter out the ridiculousness and keep it to things I actually know (you’ll learn more about this later, I am certain). I really don’t know much, but compared to you, I know everything, so you’re stuck with me for a while, Kiddo.

I love you dearly, and your mother does too. I cannot wait to see your little face. I think of your sisters, and your mother, and you, when things are tough. You give me strength. I’ll repay that by being your Dad. It’s the least I can do.

Love,
Dad

Dirty Jobs, Done Dirt Cheap

I like Mike Rowe. He’s a likable dude. If you’re not familiar with his work, he’s the guy that got famous doing that Dirty Jobs show where he visits people who haul garbage or shovel shit, then he does essays and videos online about how you should be happy hauling garbage and shoveling shit.

There’s some truth there, but it’s buried in garbage and shit.

It’s easy to shoot the messenger, so here I go: I can’t forget the times when there have been stories of police brutality and civil unrest in the news and he’s gone out of his way to tell everyone how we should back the big boys in blue and be good little citizens. Those were hard words to swallow from such a usually-charismatic guy, but they echo the thoughts of millions of Americans who think that you can live your lives flying under the radar, hauling garbage and shoveling shit, and never be touched by the jackboot of oppression. That is, until you see a video of a 17-year-old at a routine traffic stop being tased until his heart stops and dragged, limp, across the pavement, then dropped face down on concrete.

Yeah, that cop got sent to prison. Yes, these are exceptions to the rule, which is that vast majority of us will survive a traffic stop. Some of us might have less traffic stops than others because of the color of our skin, and some of us might be more likely to survive, but Mike Rowe’s world is the one in which you just trust that everything is going to be all right, because that’s the system.

Most recently, he’s published a video where he tells everyone not to blindly follow their passions. This is, on the face of it, good advice. I’ve heard similar advice from Billy West at a Q&A session in Richardson, Texas, where he asked for everyone in college to raise their hands then told the hand-raisers to drop out. “You’re going to end up in debt wearing a paper hat with that fancy diploma,” he said. Then, he told us to be persistent, to never give up, and to never let someone “put you in a box and label it.”

What was key, though, is that he said “If you want to work in showbusiness, you can. You may not be the actor or the director but if your talent is doing hair or making clothes, you can do that. They need carpenters, people to machine things…” and so on. Sounds pretty Mike Rowe to me. They’re both suggesting that you find your talents and follow those. They’re not talking about blind passion, they’re talking about realistic expectations.

Most recently I was at the Dallas FanExpo and I witnessed Peter Capaldi’s Q&A session. A mother dragged her six-year-old up to the microphone and, after some prodding, she coerced him into asking about how he could work on Doctor Who when he grows up. It was cute, regardless of the circumstances.

There’s video of this so I won’t butcher it from memory, but the gist of his answer was that the boy needed to explore his talents, find what he was good at, be passionate and persistent, write a letter to the BBC, and maybe some day they’d want to talk to him. Our hearts swelled. We applauded. Perhaps that would be the case. Peter has been a Whovian since childhood, as evidenced by his heavy correspondence with the BBC, and he’s the friggin Doctor. It’s a nice thought. Hell, I’d love to work for the BBC, but I don’t have anything they need.

(You can stop right there, if you’re being so kind. I don’t fancy myself much of a writer. That is, not on par with what they’d require. There is that fear of being, as Mike Rowe said, the guy on American Idol who doesn’t understand how bad he is. I will wrap myself in a protective shield of self-deprecation if need be. This is my hobby.)

When I was a teenager and in need of more attention than anyone could provide, the latter of which is still the case, I began singing on the high school band bus. This led some guys to take notice of me and invite me to practice with their rock band. I can carry a tune but in comparison to the world of vocal talent I am mediocre at best. I probably could have gotten by on that and personality if I’d had any. I don’t know if there was exceptional musical talent in any of us except for the drummer, T.J. Burgess, who did follow his dreams and tour the country in various bands. I’ll never stop seeing the irony in that, because in our band he’d just picked up drumming and the guy who considered himself the band leader was always trying to fire him. T.J. was persistent, though. Tenacious. Always practicing. Never stopping. He got farther and further musically than any of us in that band, that’s for damned sure.

My father, whose philosophy matched that of Mike Rowe’s closely enough, wanted me to come up with a real career idea and do music on the side, as a hobby. He was supportive, though. He bought me a PA system (which I ended up selling), and a 1971 Martin D-18 (which I can barely play and has collected dust for 15 years). I don’t regret my dabbling in music but I wish I had at least gone balls to the wall if I had planned on doing it at all. I could have majored in music at Arkansas State instead of the mishmash of shit I ended up pursuing. I could have sold everything and gone on the road. Instead, I gave up at the first sign of difficulty. In retrospect, I was probably far too used to being petted on the head and given an award for everything. Public school fucked us kids up in the 1980s and 1990s with that “everyone is special” bullshit. Once again, I blame society.

There’s definitely a place in our current society for accountability. I keep coming back to that persistence thing and, while anecdotes are not data, it has been my experience that the people who just kept banging their head against that brick wall are the ones who found some purchase. There’s a corollary, though. They not only didn’t stop banging, but they figured out exactly where to bang.

It’s easy for me, as a late Generation X, early Millennial, Star Wars Generation whatever-the-fuck-I-am, to wallow in our Brave New Global Economy and point fingers at everything else except myself because, like it or not, that is a characteristic we share. Maybe I’m starting to sound a bit like ol’ Mike Rowe himself here but I do come from that MTV generation where we were all going to be rock stars. We were all going to be beautiful famous snowflakes and when I realized that not only were we not going to be on posters in teenagers’ bedrooms but we weren’t even going to be making $30/hr at a factory, that we were going to be sweeping floors and making coffee with our fancy degrees, there was a disturbance in the Force.

We’re rocking and rolling with that right now and, while I do blame society, I also think that maybe some of us should get right with hauling garbage and shoveling shit, although I, too, struggle with it daily. The rest of the world has for all its history. People right now toil their whole lives for little gain, and while politically I’d like for us to do everything we can to improve this situation, I’ve also realized that we aren’t so special that we won’t have to grit our teeth and haul and shovel, ourselves.

See, there’s enough self-hatred in me to take Mike Rowe and run with it. I can do it. It’s in my blood.

I can dream, though. I will dream. I will listen to Mike Rowe and take his broken clock messages and agree when I do and throw a fit when I don’t. I will spend my hard-earned money on shaking hands with actors and telling them how they gave me hope or occupied me during hard times. I will dream that someday I will find a vehicle to speak to more than a dozen people on Fucking Facebook. I will write in my spare time, as Mr. Rowe suggested, because I have to feed my family. There is great honor in not quitting your job and ruining everyone’s lives. There is dignity in working a service industry job where you are disrespected by management and customers alike. Stand tall, because you are doing the difficult task. You’re keeping yourself alive to fight another day.

So we’ll haul garbage and shovel shit. Some of us will be rock stars, but most of us will not. I can’t forget though, that every time I think we’re not meant for much, I see someone get published who can’t put a sentence together. I used to get angry about that, but now it gives me hope. If they can do it, why can’t I?

Well, maybe their uncle knows little Jimmy Patterson, but I digress.

I see you guys crying out for justice, on a number of issues, and I feel you. Maybe it can all be boiled down to this: Your experience ends when you do, and solipsistic as it may sound, you’ve gotta make your own fort strong before you go out and do battle with the world. If all you ever accomplish is taking care of you, you at least did that, and that’s worth more than Honorable Mention. I’d dishonor the majority of the human race who died from famine, disease, and violence, if I looked that gift horse in the mouth.

Maybe I have more in common with Mike Rowe than I’d like to think. Maybe I’m not as dirty of a commie as I thought I was.

Maybe we all balk when Dad Voice comes and tells us to like it or lump it.

So, here’s to us, The Loudest Generation. People have always whined, but we’ve got the tools to take that shit global. We will haul garbage and shovel shit. We will struggle, noble in our efforts. We will fight until there is no fight left in us, and we’ll never, ever, stop fucking complaining.