The Great Southern Trek – aka Heading to DragonCon 2013


This year’s trip to Atlanta began with throwing my back out, as I had previously mentioned. Wednesday morning was filled with excruciating pain, assistance from a much loved and wonderful man, and trying to drive to work with as little jostling as possible. Not long into my workday, it became apparent that this wasn’t just going to go away, and that I needed to see somebody about it before I drove several states away for an extended weekend. That would have been no bueno.

So I called around, left a lot of messages (apparently, most of the chiropractic offices around here have really weird hours, compared to my other doctor offices), and finally got lucky with a call to the Evergreen Chiropractic Office, right around the corner and down the street a bit from my house. They were taking new patients, had an opening that evening, and took my insurance, but they were only open until 6pm. Since that’s usually the time I get back from work in Southern Maryland, I wound up taking advantage of some of my sick leave. Some of the pain had abated by the time I got to the doctor’s office, but I still couldn’t really move much without pain in my hip that, at times, radiated down my leg.

After a little consultation with the doctor, it was determined that I had classic symptoms of sciatica. Oh, the joys of getting older! Since I had never had an adjustment before, the doctor didn’t want to do too much, but he put some electrode things on my bag (which felt weird but awesome), combined with some wet heat (no heating pads! Apparently they’re the worst thing you can do for sciatica – try ice instead), and then he cracked all the joints in my spine. I was expecting a jolt of pain when he popped the joint in my left hip – I don’t know why…perhaps just because pain had become the standby feeling for that area – but when it popped I almost cried in relief. At the end of the treatment, I wasn’t immediately 100% better, but I was able to walk and stand without feeling like someone was digging knives into my hip and butt. I walked out of the office thinking “Chiropractors are magic!”

Onyx insisted that he should come along

Onyx insisted that he should come along

After the appointment, I went home to pack. I was able to move things around a lot better – fetching some bags from my closet, lifting small weights on and off my bed. I had made my packing list while at work, so I wasn’t running around in a frenzy, trying to figure out what I needed to get together. Mom had done me a big favor and painted my Oogie Boogie dice, so they were all ready to go. All the costume gear got packed up in a convenient plastic tub (mine was green, to differentiate it from Heather’s and Maggie’s), and “regular” clothes got packed into my smaller bag.

Maggie came to my house, so I didn’t have to worry about packing and unpacking and re-packing my gear in a car, and we headed to her place for the evening. Usually, we spend the night before Dragon Con-roll out working on last minute fixes to costumes, and general trip-fretting. This year, because of my back (and following Robert’s instructions to not stress out), I decided that all my little tasks could be done down in Atlanta, each night. So, astoundingly, we got to sleep at a fairly early hour. Maggie was kind enough to let me sleep in her bed that night, so I didn’t have to try to haul myself off of the air mattress on the floor the next morning.


Thursday morning came and I was surprised that my back was still feeling better from the visit to the chiropractor. We loaded the last of our stuff in the car, stopped by the coffee shop for drinks and ice for the cooler, and hit the road, heading to Heather’s house. The stop there was pretty quick, and we were on our way again (with a brief stop for stretching, tater tots and limeade slush drinks at Sonic).

This year, we wound up with a room in the Hyatt, thanks to our friend Hesa. We checked in relatively early, in a room next to Hesa and herhyatt from balcony friends, and then went down to line up for our badges. The line looked long, but moved fairly quickly. Random line neighbors continue to find me hilarious. There was a group going through the registration line with a boombox and a nice mix of music. Every time we passed them, I danced (as much as I was able, while retaining the “neutral spine” the chiropractor told me to use), and they commented that the only people who knew all of the music they were playing were mid-to-late 30s. I was sad for a moment, remembering my lost youth (yes, I know I’m not actually all that old), but then I remembered…being in my 30s is a lot more fun (health and budget concerns aside) than being in my 20s was.

Badges in hand, we headed over to the Peachtree Center food court to grab some dinner. We opted for Yami Yami, as it’s usually super-crowded during the con and we hadn’t yet had a chance to try it. Eh. It was alright. I think I would have ranked it higher if I actually ate/liked sushi. After some post-dinner wandering, we retreated to the hotel room again to work on a few costume fixes.

Maggie was gluing Hunter’s armor back together after a slight mishap with the costume being left in a hot car (something we learned ourselves the hard way, years earlier…if you’ve got hot glue holding parts of your costume together, DON’T leave it in a hot car!), while I worked on finally attaching the eyes to Toothless. I was bending over slightly, trying to glue things, when I felt my back pop. And not in a good way. I immediately put down what I was doing and went to lay down for a bit on the bed, with an ice pack pressed against the offending body part. I figured the rest of the fixes on Toothless could wait another day, and set to work installing a pocket in Oogie Boogie, and making little holes for my hands in the side of the sleeves. Afterwards, I wound up taking some stuff for the pain later, and conked out for the evening.


In the morning, my back was still making itself known, but only in a few aches and some stiffness here and there. My plan was to wear Oogie Boogie for the whole day, which meant wearing a muslin sack over a pair of grey shorts and a tank top. Woohoo! The costume went on, I grabbed my dice and head, and we trekked off to the elevator.

oogie playingThis year was a little different than most other years, in that I was wearing a costume that A LOT of people immediately recognized. I kept getting stopped for pictures, which was fun. Usually, I’m in the more obscure costume…like a Popple. I managed to find a few folks dressed as Nightmare Before Christmas characters. The first was a lovely adaptation of Sally. I loved that it was her own twist on the character’s look, but that it was still identifiable as Sally. She was excited to find me, and we posed for a few pictures.

Later that day, as we headed either to or from the food court, I encountered a couple who had done an absolutely wonderful gender-swapped representation of Sally and Jack Skellington. We pulled off to the side and were excitedly talking to each other about our mutual costume appreciation – and kept having to stop talking to pose for pictures, as people continued to walk through the lobby. Eventually, we decided we wouldn’t actually be able to finish a conversation, and we went our separate ways.

Maggie was signed up for the Friday night costume contest that day, so we didn’t see much of her after about 3pm. She went off to the hotel room to wash off her Effie Trinket makeup and get ready for the contest, and Heather and I went off to wander about. We wound up going over to check out the dealers hall…and got stuck there for about three hours. The dealers were in a different place this year. The move was, in theory, going to alleviate a lot of the crowding and confusion that comes with having the vendors all stuck in three different rooms in the Marriott. Unfortunately, they weren’t that successful in fixing the crowding and confusion. If anything, finding the dealers was even more confusing this year. I found a lovely “map” of the dealers hall on Facebook last week and, while it is obviously not real, it seems like an accurate depiction of the layout, for anyone who happened to be there.

I wasn’t impressed by a number of booths…so many of them seem to sell the same old things – generic sci-fi/fantasy-themed items made in China that I can order off of Amazon. There were, however, a few standouts. Siege the Day makes personal ballistas and cannons and trebuchets and the like, generally out of materials like mousetraps and dowels. I’ve been admiring them for years. This year, I finally broke down and bought one. And, of course, it wasn’t for me. It was one of the things I got for Robert. I fully intend to “borrow” it, though. 🙂

I also picked up some makeup (in pen applicator form) that activates under blacklight. I was hoping to find some glow-in-the-dark makeup, but neither makeup booth carried any at the convention. One of them mentioned having some in their shop, so I grabbed their card, so I can order online at a later time. Because who doesn’t like things that glow-in-the-dark?

One of the best moments of the weekend for me came in the dealers hall that evening. Heather and I were rounding the corner of one of

This awesome Skeksis was in the Friday Night Costume Contest

This awesome Skeksis was in the Friday Night Costume Contest

the booths, and I happened to glance to my left, at a costumed couple talking to a man with a bandanna on his head. I did a double take. It was RJ Haddy, of FaceOff! I’ve been a fan of his since his first appearance on the show, and I’ve benefited from his wisdom at some of the makeup panels at DragonCon before.

I sort of dance in place for a moment, torn about what to do. I wanted to say something to him, but I also didn’t want to be annoying and disturb him when he was just trying to make his way through the dealer hall. I waffled a bit and, when the couple wandered off, I gathered up my courage and stepped forward.

I should mention now…I have absolutely no problem talking to actors and musicians I’ve met over the years. I’ve never found myself in a state of shock, or been so entirely starstruck that I couldn’t do more than stammer my name and maybe shake a hand. For whatever reason, it just doesn’t happen with me. That being said, I feel like I turn into an absolute idiot when I get the chance to meet authors or visual artists whose work I happen to admire. Tanya Huff, Julie Czerneda, Kristen Britain, Jim Butcher, Stephanie Pui-Mun Law, Donato Giancola…I’ve come away from those chance encounters feeling like an absolute moron. I managed not to be a doofus when I happened to share an elevator with George R.R. Martin at World Fantasy Conference one year, but I think part of that was that I just knew who he was, and hadn’t actually read any of his work at the time.

RJ was kind enough to stop and chat with me for a while, and I desperately hope I didn’t come off as a mindless idiot. I told him how much I enjoyed his work, and how I appreciated that he shared his tips and experience with us at Dragon Con. We actually had a really nice conversation about that…

…and then he proceeded to ask about my Oogie Boogie costume, and inspect the head, and tell me that I was awesome. And then I ran away screaming and gibbering in delight and basically fangirling all over the place.

Just kidding about that last sentence. Well, sort of. I managed to hold it together as he shook my hand, and then Heather’s, and walk away. I’m pretty sure he was out of earshot by the time I let loose my first “SQUEE!” of excitement. Which I continued to do. At random points in the evening. The whole rest of the night. Thankfully, Heather never got annoyed and punched me, because I don’t really think I could have stopped.

After that interlude of awesomeness, Heather and I finally finished our foray through the dealer space and went in search of something to eat. She had brought her crock pot with her, and we had put a loin of pork and some barbecue sauce into it in the morning, before we all left the room for the day. When we opened the door, the delicious aroma of barbecue pork wafted out into the hall. I devoured my sandwich in record time. The room wound up smelling like barbecue for the rest of the trip, and it was well worth it!

Upon completing our feast, Heather and I returned to our favorite activity – aimlessly wandering and admiring costumes. We were out on the terrace at the Hyatt while Heather smoked, when I realized I had left my badge up in the room. I ran up to get it (making record time, and coming down in the elevator with a group dressed like the evil Santas from Doctor Who), and went back out onto the terrace to find Heather. I looked around, but didn’t see her. While I scanned the crowd (which seemed to have doubled since I last saw it), I got smashed into from behind by someone. Thankfully, there wasn’t too much momentum, and my back only twinged a little. However, the stranger who grabbed me from behind happened to grab my boobs. I don’t think it was intentional – the hands moved pretty quick once the person realized I was a woman – but it still annoyed me. Please remember: don’t run up behind someone that you don’t know and grab them. I don’t care if you’re excited (which she was, obviously). I don’t care if you’re drunk and have little to no personal boundaries (which, again, she was). Running up and grabbing someone you don’t know could result in a long list of reactions, and a number of them are bad. I, personally, have a fight-or-flight reflex that is strongly geared towards “fight!” Though not intentional, I do have a reputation for having hit someone in the head with an umbrella when they jumped out at me.

Thankfully, I managed to reign in the urge to smash the person in the face with my elbow. I turned around to find a rather drunk young woman, who proceeded to slur “I love you! You’re my favorite! This is awesome!” I nodded my costume head and thanked her for her praise, and started to head inside to look for Heather, and escape my mauler. As I left, she said “I’m definitely going to look for you later!” To which I responded, sotto voice, “Hopefully after I’m reunited with my handler.”

I summoned Heather via phone, and regaled her with my tale. Over my years of wearing large, unwieldy and, honestly, quite ridiculous costumes, I’ve really had very few negative experiences. I’ve been made to feel uncomfortable in a corset before (which is really not all that revealing, especially compared to other corsets I’ve seen), and I’ve had people bump into my Blink Angel wings while I was sitting down and almost knock me on the ground, but I’ve been relatively lucky where uncomfortable run-ins are concerned. Thankfully, no one else ran up and grabbed my boobs the rest of the night.

Heather and I moved over to the Marriott, and I continued to get stopped for pictures and questions. The most common question I hear is “Did you make that? Yourself?” Yes, folks. This is what I do. I make – and then wear – giant, goofy, costume heads. For fun.

There was a trio of folks who came up for a picture at one point, while we were in the bottom of the Marriott. The woman in the group was interested in learning how to do a variety of things – among them, making a face or head cast. As it just so happens, I told them, I’ve got a tutorial of how to do a casting session up on my blog. (This part of the evening might have tied with meeting RJ, as “best moment of the day.” I love talking to people about costuming, whether I’m asking about theirs or they ask me about mine).

The inevitable "fix it" period of the Dragon Con experience

The inevitable “fix it” period of the Dragon Con experience

We met up with Maggie again a little later that evening and continued our wandering. The shouts of “Oogie Boogie” had not yet abated, and there was plenty to see. I enjoyed actually being able to see out of my costume this time around. It’s such a rare occurrence, anymore. While the muslin breathes pretty well, the head can get a little stuffy sometimes, due to the quilt batting that puffs it up a bit. At one point in the evening, upon removing my head, I heard “Oogie Boogie’s a woman?! Sexy!” I blushed and laughed, and filed it away in the collection of stories about when my gender comes up, in relation to my costuming choices. Perhaps that’s a topic for another entry.

I didn’t stay out as late as I have in the past, partly because I knew I needed to make some alterations to Toothless that night, and partly because my back was beginning to let me know that it would be a good idea to take some more Advil and sit down to rest with an ice pack. So I did. Heather and Maggie stayed out for about an hour longer, while I went back to the room to shower, change, and watch some DragonCon TV.

Stay tuned for more DragonCon 2013!

2 thoughts on “The Great Southern Trek – aka Heading to DragonCon 2013

  1. HI! My daughter and i met you at Dragon-con 2013, you let me try on the Oogie boogie head as i asked you about how to do a head casting, my daughter samantha is trying to figure out special effects make up and costuming.

    • Arrick, thanks for checking in! Talking to you and your daughter was a highlight of my DragonCon experience this year. I hope she is having luck with her makeup and costumes. I’d love to hear how it’s going.

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