But it almost didn't happen.
You have to keep in mind, I hadn't been to ACen in over a decade. The last time I went there, I got in line, and I had to set the time on my (then new) digital camera. So I wound up with an unofficial benchmark for how long it took me to get through the line.
Time from when I set the clock? 2 hours 4 minutes. I'm John Cameron Swayze for Timex.
I had it. I had plenty of problems with ACen and how it ran things before, its lack of communication, and this was when the Gen Y'ers, having been raised on a steady diet of DragonBall Z and Evangelion and harem anime were starting to filter in and change the core mentality of the fandom.
* adopts a dramatic voice * ...I promised myself I would never go back to ACen...but just when I think I'm out...they pull me back in....
*normal voice * Regular readers will remember my adventures making the Sailor Moon game for the Atari and getting it signed by Michelle Ruff (voice actress, Luna, Viz dub) and Stephanie Sheh (voice actress, Usagi/Sailor Moon, Viz dub). Well, two signatures isn't enough, I want as many as I can squeeze on that thing. Of all the crown jewels in the Vault Of Pimps, this is the most awesome to me. And upon being informed that another two SM voice actors were coming to ACen, I could no longer ignore the show, and I made plans to make for it.
(Sidebar: the other voice was Patrick Seitz, who is the voice of Kunzite in the Viz dub. Unfortunately, he didn't make it Friday, and Saturday, the day I was there, he still hadn't turned up, so I have to file this under, "I missed." Hopefully, he'll come around again, but he was just a bonus. Getting the sigs of the Sailor Senshi is my primary goal.)
I get there on Saturday, giving myself a generous two hours between my arrival and the show doors opening, 8AM, to get through the line in a timely manner. Surprise! ACen has improved in that critical aspect. Apparently, if you had a full weekend pass and picked it up at the booths, you had a looooooong wait. But single day attendees like myself? The line moved quick, and I had my pass in about 25 minutes. That is ASTONISHING. With an hour and a half to kill. I found myself a comfortable place to make camp, pulled out Cadence, my trusty iPad, and amused myself with Crossy Road and other games until the doors opened.
Turns out, the sigs aren't a general most-of-the-day thing like at other conventions. Mendez would be there from 1230 to 130. I set my alarm for 1215 to remind me to book it over there, and explored the show.
While there, I stopped by the Viz booth to ask a crucial question for us SM fans -- will we finally see an official US release of Stars, the last story arc in SM Classic and the only one that didn't make it over here? I was assured, "yes." No release date yet for the S season, but with Sailor Uranus on Mendez's resume, they are clearly working on it now.
Now, here's where it gets fun. There just wasn't much for me to do there. The fandom has changed, and what motivates it doesn't motivate me. This makes me the anime equivalent of The Old Guy At The Club. So at about noon, I decided to see if I could get in the line for Mendez rather than wandering around so much. Turns out, they let people start qeueing up about a half hour before the signing, so I was bang on time. The line was pretty sizable. This will be important later.
After a while, they let us from the waiting line into the line proper to meet Mendez. Everyone has their stuff, seemed to be a fair sized mix of Kill La Kill and Sailor Moon. (I wasn't worried about Mendez signing the games. She was already aware of me and my creations and was expecting me to turn up.) Mendez turned up early, and decided to start signing right away. This will be important later.
Eventually, I get to the final row of the waiting line. About halfway through it, the show handler comes up and tells us that time is running out. Mendez has a panel shortly after the signing, and at this point, there are only eight minutes left, so some people might not get autographs. I am firmly in the middle of the "maybe, maybe not" block. Get a little further back of me, and they won't be getting anything.
The line actually picks up some speed as Mendez begins working a bit faster to get to as many people as she can. I'm sweating bullets -- this was the sole reason I came here today, and to wipe out when I am Just. So. Close. would blow.
I get to the gate. Three people ahead of me, two minutes left. The person in front of all of us gets her autograph and picture, then calmly starts putting things back in her purse and checking her phone, stalling the line. People, please -- if you get a sig, move over and put your stuff away so that other people get a chance. We were at a point where seconds counted.
I take out my Atari games to get them ready. I've mentioned before I underestimated the Cool Factor of what I did. As I take them out, others around the bend in line can see them, and one girl shouts, "Jesus Christ! Where did you get those?!?" I look, and anyone in visual range looks like they had just seen a miracle. I calmly explain that I made the games, they are real, they will work on a real Atari, but I made them, they aren't official releases. I thought this would make them lose interest. Nope, just the opposite. People who can sew costumes and craft lightweight armor pieces and prop weapons accurately, skills I am jealous of, were impressed by the game I made. When I'm more impressed with them. Go fig.
So, I had gotten in line earlier than I planned. Mendez started signing earlier than planned. It was a perfect environment for luck to shine, and did it ever. With a little over a minute to spare, the last of the three people moved on, and I was up for a precious autograph. I presented the game boxes and carts and asked politely for her to sign them.
"Oh, I almost forgot about these! Sure!"
And I know, at this point, the mask of calm and reserve fell away and I started smiling like a moron and geeking out. Also got a picture with her, as you saw. A few other people behind me got sigs, but not many. I just barely got it.
But I did get it. And I now have three sigs on my game.
If ever it was time for a self-congratulatory hoagie, it is now.