The 2011 Alternative Press Expo is a rare instance where I actually owe a debt of thanks to a whole bunch of people before I even got to the show.  I hadn’t even been to the West Coast in a decade, nevermind done a show there, so I had to navigate a bunch of hurdles I had never considered before, including the state’s local bureaucracy.  Word to the wise; If you want to do a convention in California, you have to get a temporary seller’s permit from the local Board of Equalization, something I didn’t know until almost the last minute.  So it’s by the assistance of Tamesha Gray of the San Francisco office I even got it in time.

Then there was the question of my printer.  There had been some database problems at Ka-Blam which resulted in orders getting processed more than once or eaten completely by the computers.  Their employees were pretty much working around the clock to send out orders in time for this show, and artists like me were messaging them all hours of the day panicking trying to make sure we’d still get them.  So in particular Barry Gregory of Ka-Blam deserves special credit for making sure my order got processed and my books were over-nighted in time for the show.

Arriving in Oakland, I was retrieved by my Aunt Kerrin and Uncle Victor whom I spent lunch with.  Then I dropped off my stuff at my cousin Bridget’s house (the sister of my cousin Melissa, who I stayed with in New York) before heading to the pre-APE mixer.  Cans of Pabst Blue Ribbon awaited me at the bar, so it’s like they knew I was coming.  Actually, a lot of people seemed to be surprised that I was from Chicago.  Perhaps it was traveling so far for a relatively small show, or Californians simply not being used to meeting people from the other 49 states (maybe a bit of both).  I could barely contain my sarcasm when someone asked me if I was from “Chicago?  Like the actual city of Chicago?”

– “…No, I’m from the principality of Chicago.”
– “I’m from the commonwealth of Chicago!”
– “I’m from the sovereignty of Chicago, ruled over by the mad Duke Rahm Emanuel.”

I was also referred to as “the enemy” by a woman who ran a mom-and-pop art supply store because I work for a major art retailer back in Illinois.  She said it jokingly and was kind enough to get me some replacement glass for the frame of one of my originals, but it still kind of hurt.  It’s not like I’m some corporate mastermind there; I’m just some regular schmoe who’s trying to get by and make a decent living.  Suddenly I’m “the enemy” for that?

Saturday morning I was up and navigated the BART down to the Mission District for the show.  I was struck by all of the gorgeous graffiti on 8th street as I walked by, as well as the architecture.  Never thought I’d say THAT with such fasincation.

The layout of the Concourse Center spiraled up and down with staircases and elevated areas, leading to some complex arrangements for the tables.  Imagine my surprise and delight when I discovered that they sold BOOZE on the convention floor (somehow I have a feeling Danielle would be right at home at this show).  And discover my FURTHER surprise and delight when I saw Katie Shanahan AKA KtShy was my table neighbor.  I had had the pleasure of meeting her earlier this year at MoCCA, and she was promoting her new mini-comic co-written with her brother Shagster.  To their right is Chloe Dalquist, who does the comic “Jamie the Trickster“.  A delight to spend the weekend with them.

And of course we have Rebecca Hawkins of French Toast Comix, and who’s currently interning for Periscope Studios, pictured here.  To her right is the delightful Alexandra Cowell, who’s available for flute lessons.

At the pre-show mixer I had the chance to meet Ian Jones-Quartey, an “Adventure Time” animator who was promoting his own mini-comic.  But the reason I was so excited is because I knew him as one half of the cartoon rap duo nockFORCE, which sadly is no longer active.  Going back and watching one of their old videos, I discovered one of MY old YouTube comments was the highest rated, and he even remembered this!  Talk about a bunch of nerds.

I was surprised to see a few guys and girls in costume at APE, mostly because you don’t expect to see “Venture Bros” cosplayers in this kind of crowd.  What struck me about the girls in particular was that they considered what they were wearing regular daywear.  Say what you will about the Bay Area, but the indie hipster chicks take their fashion very seriously (and thankfully they didn’t mind me taking some pictures).

Perhaps the best destination I hit was the after party at the Cartoon Art Museum after the first day.  I got to suck down all the brown ale I wanted for free while perusing 70 years worth of “Archie” cartoons (fitting, since “Archie” was one of the earliest influences for “Oh Goodie!“).  I also partook in the Drinking and Inking showcase they were having amongst the artists, where I contributed a quick sketch of Koriko for them and donated a copy of “Introduce Yourself” for their “independent artists” section.

All in all, this weekend was mixed.  I’m happy I went and had a great time, but the financial return wasn’t very much.  I had to dip into my rainy day money a bit for this trip and while I made my table back, I didn’t make back my plane ticket or printing costs.  Traveling to both coasts in one year has been a blast, but it’s been hell on my mind and my wallet.  At this rate I’m going to bleed myself dry before I really start getting attention and readers.

This was my last con of the year.  I’m thinking next of year of making it a point to only do shows in the Midwest, particularly ones around Chicago if possible.  C2E2 was a blast last year, I’ve had my mind on ACen for a while, I may be in a space to forgive Wizard Entertainment, and there’s always SpringCon or MIX.

In the end, this weekend was fun.  But I’m going to have to come up with some new plans and maybe make some hard decisions about the long term if I plan to keep going like this.  There is one bright spot though: just before flying out of Oakland I got to hit the local In-N-Out Burger with Kerrin and Victor.  She was on Atkins, he’s a vegetarian.  She had the patty, he had the bun.  There’s some lesson about long term marriage in there somewhere.