WEDNESDAY MORNING – BREAKFAST IN CARLSBAD

I settle in to a small table on the patio of a cafe, look over the menu, and order an omelette and coffee. Joggers periodically jog past, stopping at the edge of the patio with their backs to me as they wait to cross the intersection. There’s only a handful of people at this early hour. They’re scattered about the empty tables and umbrellas and towering silvery space heaters that look like props from an old episode of Star Trek.

Across the way there’s a man in a grey business suit leaning forward as if to launch his ideas at his companion, a younger man in a black polo with a stitched-on company logo. The young man sits back in his chair, arms in his lap. The be-suited man gestures and talks and then rests his forefingers on his lips, as if waiting on an answer to sift through his experience and knowledge. He wears his suit like a symbol of rank, a officer instructing a young enlisted man in some matters of duty.

The officer begins to check his phone. The enlisted man sits, still leaning back in his chair. The the officer must organize his day full of responsibilities. The enlisted man’s duties are organized for him.

I check my own phone from neither responsibility nor duty but from bad habit. More coffee is offered. More coffee is poured. Tables are pushed together for a party of twenty two. The number is repeated among the wait staff like a piece of gossip. I calculate 20 percent of fifteen and sign my name.

Three older men are the first of the twenty two to arrive. A waiter tells the next table they’re retired Marines. They look to be the right age to have been in Vietnam or maybe Korea. I want to stay and eavesdrop on their stories, but the day is getting on and I should give up my table to another customer.

I drink the last of the coffee and meander out into the street among the joggers.

WEDNESDAY AFTERNOON – BADGE PICKUP, PEOPLE WATCHING

I painlessly went through process of getting my pro badge and headed outside to wait on a friend. I find the perfect spot for people watching, right next to an entrance and in the shade. People pass back and forth, some of them multiple times while looking for the right line to stand in, the right door to go in, or the right place to meet a friend who had picked up their badges for them. Costumed folk both worthy of Hollywood and worthy of pity entered and exited and dodged and said “sorry…excuse me”. Some people do that professionally I hear (cosplay that is) though I only know the names of one or two. One of those two wandered by as She-Ra followed not long after by an anonymous young girl in a much too skimpy getup holding a sign that reads: “Fat chicks cosplay too.”

It’s preview night–a mass of human movement, noise, and odors. Exclusives and limited edition items draw them in and I have a hard time imagining wanting something bad enough to endure it. Maybe it’s a personal defect on my part.

A text from my friend lets me know he’s ten minutes away. I’m in no hurry and want to get my money’s worth from the parking lot. Two young men with accents that I can’t pinpoint try to enter through a closed door. A security man tells them which door they need to enter, but they think he’s sending them to stand in another line. They eventually leave, needlessly disgusted.

Jet lag sets in and all of a sudden I want to rest and be somewhere quiet. My friend arrives, badges are exchanged, beers are drank and eventually I get on the freeway still feeling like I overpaid for parking.

THURSDAY MORNING – BREAKFAST EXTRAVAGANZA

It was five years or more before I realized there was a diner within walking distance of the convention center. Its been less than that since it agreed to clothe itself in one big advertisement for whatever TV series or channel is (or wants to be) the next big thing. The staff is friendly and the food is good and relatively inexpensive (by San Diego standards) but the experience is like crawling through your television screen into a commercial and ordering eggs.

I was handed a comic book and shown to my seat at the end of the counter where the waitstaff hustles into the kitchen. Before I sat down a man asked me to spin a wheel for a “prize.” I did, hoping that my prize would be that he’d go away but instead received a cheap pair of sunglasses I’ll never wear. He explained the complimentary iPhone charger in front of me, the ATM outside, and the upcoming signing on Saturday by the stars of the TV show. He then sets up an iPad so i can watch clips from the show, if I so desired. He left, more servers shuffled by, and a voice asks me if I’m ready to order. I wasn’t.

Large TVs on each wall played, ad nauseum, the same four or five clips from a reality show that centered around childish pranks. As much as I didn’t want to look, I couldn’t stop watching. Not because of interest, but because it was there. I finally ordered and tried to stop looking up. I noticed no one else was given an iPad and wondered if it was a prank in keeping with the theme du jour. It seemed a pretty expensive thing to leave on the counter in front someone without first sizing them up for honesty and coordination. If I spill my coffee on it, would they add $400 to my ten dollar breakfast? Perhaps I was sized up and found adequate for being given random technology. In the end I managed to avoid spilling coffee or water on it. I also opted out of using it.

I finished up my breakfast, full of eggs and toast and a mild sense of mourning for the decline of western culture. With two more hours to kill before the show I wandered a few blocked up to a Starbucks, but not before passing a parking garage that drove the point home that I had indeed payed too much for parking.

THURSDAY AFTERNOON – ELECTRO!

I’m waiting for a friend in front of a hotel barely a block from the convention center. Two security guys are checking for room keys before letting people into the lobby. A short teaser trailer plays for the new spider-man movie. Over and over–designed to engrain itself in your mind through sheer sensory overload. I imagine that should I live to be 100 I will still know that the villain in the second movie of the Spider-man reboot is Electro.

A black SUV pulls up. A man with an earpiece asks security to make a path. Cameras come out, the door opens and a young smiling man walks past within feet of me. For a few seconds average people transform into the paparazzi. He’s ushered in quickly. I don’t recognize him and am almost convinced most people don’t either. I begin to wonder if they’re taking pictures of the star or simply taking pictures of fame. A menacing voice reminds everyone once again that he’s Electro.

A group of young women dressed in generic superhero costumes gather around another young woman holding a clipboard. They’ve apparently been recruited to promote a movie on demand service. There’s a problem with their time sheets, they’ll sign them tomorrow. The menacing voice is still Electro.

The group disperses. I’m asked if I’m a San Diegan. I say that I’m not and the man, disappointed, says he is looking for fish tacos. I send him across the street. I’m proud of myself for knowing where to get fish tacos. Electro doesn’t seem to be impressed.

My friend shows up and my evening gets underway after my brief pause. The man re-emerges from the fish taco place complaining about the wait.

Electro.