Monthly Archives: October 2013


31 Oct

Hosting Halloween

Posted by on October 31, 2013 at 4:56 pm

Jason and I just held our annual Halloween bash. As always, it was a tremendous undertaking. The planning for this event usually begins sometime in August and escalates as it approaches. Thinking of putting on a Halloween shindig of your own? May our terrifying process convince you that that would only be lunacy. Every year is a little different but here are the 26 steps that were required to produce and recover from our festivities this time:

1. Create and order invites.
2. Buy prizes for the costume contest, bingo and various other games with all ages considered.
3. Order costume contest medals.

Jason and I went steampunk this year.

Jason and I went steampunk this year.

4. Buy fabric and sew costumes. One sentence doesn’t seem adequate to represent the work involved in this. Good thing I just made it three.
5. Tag and decorate 48 bottles of butterscotch beer as party favors for the adults.
6. Buy a piñata and its fillings. Stuff it.
7. Arrange for food. This year’s sustenance came in the form of catering from Waffle Love. They brought their delicious waffles, and waffle truck, to us.

I don't even want to acknowledge how lont it took me to tag and decorate these 48 party favors.

I don’t even want to acknowledge how long it took me to tag and decorate these 48 party favors.

Silas dressed as a possessed doll and played the part quite creepily.

Silas dressed as a possessed doll and played the part quite creepily.

8. Buy supplies for the kids’ craft table.
9. Build a custom playlist with all those Halloween favorites and some lesser-known creepy beats.
10. Buy kiddie goodie-bags plus an assortment of innards and cram them all in. This year we put together almost 40 of these bags and all but a few were given out.
11. Address and mail invites.

What a darling family.

What a darling family.

12. Gussy up costume contest prizes with ribbons, feathers, eyeballs and anything else bumpy in the night.
13. Prep craft table by constructing examples of all the finished products so that the little folk will know what they’re trying to make.
14. Go to a patch and handpick pumpkins. Paint these pumpkins black and white so guests can decorate them with chalk and decals. All this jack-o business took way too long so don’t expect it to happen again next year.

Never underestimate the eeriness the right lighting can add to a scene.

Never underestimate the eeriness the right lighting can add to a scene.

Eden took undead to the animals with her zombie cat costume.

Eden took undead to the animals with her zombie cat costume.

15. Create costume contest ballots.
16. Buy utensils, plates, napkins, drinks and all those other eating niceties.
17. Move couches, rugs, kitchen appliances, pictures, etc. upstairs or into the garage, anywhere they are out of the way.

Drew and Simone came as Dr. Who?

Drew and Simone came as Dr. Who?

18. Vacuum, dust and straighten the basement. Everything has to be tucked away somewhere to make room for the people explosion that’s about to occur.
19. Decorate, decorate, decorate, decorate, decorate, decorate, decorate, decorate, decorate, decorate, and decorate. I feel like I should say “decorate” a few dozen more times because decorating is a monster of a job. We meticulously arrange creepy cloth, candlesticks, bones, potion bottles, pumpkins, lights, ravens and so forth throughout our yard and two floors of our home. Every year we display our extensive Halloween collection differently and every year gallons of creative juices get consumed in the process.

These serving-dish fingers may be proof of a twisted mind...mine.

These serving-dish fingers may be proof of a twisted mind…mine.

This graveyard scene was a design of mine.

This graveyard scene was my design.

20. Arrange studio lights and a background to form a makeshift photo spot. I didn’t have a clue how to work and situate studio lights before this little experiment. It took some messing around and research to figure it out.
21. Rent space heaters so that the backyard can be a toasty hangout location.

Thirty-one feet of ruffles were squished into the back of this skirt.

Thirty-one feet of ruffles were squished into the back of this skirt.

22. Clean. Everything has to be spick ‘n span before it’s thrown into chaos. It’s a lot like nursing a patient back to health before serving out their death sentence.
23. Throw party!

Waffle Love catered our party via their food truck.

Waffle Love catered our party via their food truck.

Penny's no garden-variety gnome.

Penny’s no garden-variety gnome.

24. Clean up the raspberries smashed into the sidewalk, the sticky goo left on the kitchen floor, the blob of who-knows-what dripped on the carpet. Cleanup is lengthy and not especially fun.
25. Put relocated furnishings back where they came from.
26. Pack away the dozens of boxes of Halloween décor so that they are ready for the vicious cycle to begin all over again next year. (This step has not yet been completed and will still take us weeks.)

Bart and Brandi cleverly used a bulging belly to their advantage and came as Juno and Bleeker.

Bart and Brandi cleverly used a bulging belly to their advantage and came as Juno and Bleeker.

Too many steps for you to follow? Not to worry, you can come to the Sabin party and enjoy all the fun and fright without rattling your work bones. So why do we do it? The obvious answer is that we are crazy but, besides that, we love Halloween and conjuring the spooky magic of the season up for the wee ones. We also enjoy reminding adults that costumes aren’t just for kids.

I made sure this jar was crawling with centipedes. The gruesome details are never overlooked by yours truly.

I made sure this jar was crawling with centipedes. The gruesome details are never overlooked by yours truly.

This year we had considerably more help pulling this madness off than we’ve had in the past. Many thanks to Lee and Jacob for lending us a hand with basement prep one evening. Keith, thanks for the pickup service. A big thank you to Drew, Adam, Jacob and Lee for helping the kids bowl and Jenny and Simone for assisting with some of the other games. And muchas gracias to the various people that collected many of the cups and craft fragments scattered throughout our house: Abigail, Simone, Drew, Adam and Jeremy. Since Jason and I are a tiny team, any bit of assistance from others goes a long way. Maybe we aren’t quite mad yet…

25 Oct

Run, Dead Boy, Run!

Posted by on October 25, 2013 at 3:40 pm

Every October Jason and I mutate into carnivorous corpses for the Night of the Running Dead. It’s always a horribly tasty event but this year it was even more satiating because our friends West and Wendy shambled along with us. Fresh flesh is good.

Gone but not for coffin.

Gone but not for coffin.

The Night of the Running Dead is an apocalyptic-themed 5K race where participants can either run to stay alive as a human or run after fast food as a zombie. The humans, AKA refreshments, get a short head-start and then all undead breaks loose.

Wendy and West made killer cohorts.

Wendy and West made killer cohorts.

Jason and I are always dying to be gross so, once again, we festered ourselves fastidiously to fit in with the hordes of foul carcasses. (Warning: If you are the deadly departed, do not attempt to say that sentence five times fast or your tongue is likely to fall out.) Why would we want to be human when we can run humanly any day? Wendy and West also enthusiastically joined the ranks of the rank.

Faster than a speeding corpse?

Faster than a speeding corpse?

Although Jason and I biked Mill Creek Canyon just hours before this race, with those mouthwatering human-carrots dangling before us, we sprinted it as animatedly as the reanimated can. Jason loped in at 21:42 and I was done at 27:57. West, who was thrilled to be competing in his first race ever, finished about twenty seconds before me and Wendy pushed her nasty corpse over the line just a few minutes later. Nicely done dead people!

Blood and Filth: fall's hottest fashion trend?

Blood and Filth: fall’s hottest fashion trend?

With those memorable features, you know we'd produce astonishing offspring.

With those memorable features, you know we’d produce astonishing offspring.

Night of the Running Dead might involve a bit more of a workout than the typical zombie welcomes but if you’re already undead then a little exercise can’t kill you. Right? I’d say that if you can do without a limb then you can certainly stand to lose a pound or two. I’m sure Jason and I will be chasing brains again next year. Perhaps you will find yourself of a mind to join us?

18 Oct

The Maine Attraction Part II: Inland

Posted by on October 18, 2013 at 1:30 pm

Last week I shared my maritime tales of Maine’s shoreline and now allow me to follow up those salty stories with the details of our journey into the scenic core of New England.

Bethel, a small Maine village of 2,500 residents nestled near the New Hampshire border, was our first inland stop. Jason and I strayed from our comfort zone a bit and stayed at a little B&B while in this tiny hamlet. The building was over 100 years old and its age showed. The floors squeaked and the doorknobs didn’t turn so well but there was a feeling of significance in that vintage dwelling. The innkeepers were very hospitable and cheerily made us a delicious breakfast each morning using eggs from their own happy chickens. Sometimes comfort zones are for sissies.

The Artist's Bridge near Bethel is the most photographed or painted covered bridge in Maine. It was easy to imagine the Headless Horseman waiting at its end, pumpkin in hand.

The Artist’s Bridge near Bethel is the most photographed and painted covered bridge in Maine. It was easy to imagine the Headless Horseman waiting at its end, pumpkin in hand.

Like our B&B, every part of Bethel spoke history. It was full of antique church spires and homes not much younger than America. Its widespread white clapboard buildings and village greens were lovingly preserved and just plain lovely.

We came across Step Falls unexpectedly. What a nice surprise.

We came across Step Falls unexpectedly. What a nice surprise.

Table Rock in Grafton Notch State Park became our lunch table.

Table Rock in Grafton Notch State Park became our lunch table.

Bethel’s charm wasn’t its only appeal though. It was conveniently close to Grafton Notch, a U-shaped valley carved out by glaciers, which we were eager to explore. Glaciers receded from New England about 14,000 years ago yet their icy influence can still be seen in its rounded mountaintops and pitted rock. Potholes in this region, sculpted by glacial debris, have turned the streams cascading down them into nature’s waterslides over the millennia. These acrobatic rivers frequently twist and jump across their granite platforms, performing a continuous magnificent show.

Screw Auger Falls plummets 30 feet into a granite gorge.

Screw Auger Falls plummets 30 feet into a granite gorge.

In the Grafton Notch area we saw a couple such jumps, Screw Auger and Step Falls, and took a hike through some of the oddest terrain I’ve ever stood on. Table Rock, a giant block of granite, was our 2.4-mile destination. To get to it we had to climb a never-ending flight of roughly-hewn rock steps. These giant “stairs” only ceased when the terrain became a jumble of massive boulders, which had to be leapt and scrambled over. Although strenuous, this trek was quite fun and the fantastic views of the Mahoosuc Range from Table Rock would have been worth it regardless.

Not all of the leaves were changing yet in Stowe but splashes of color were everywhere.

Not all of the leaves were changing yet in Stowe but splashes of color were everywhere.

Upon leaving Bethel, we proceeded west to Stowe, Vermont, famous for its ski resorts and fall leaves. We paused as we passed through New Hampshire to do a short hike in Moose Brook State Park. Our little walk followed Perkins Brook through a quiet mossy forest. The spongy soil was peopled with mushrooms and anything that hadn’t moved recently was covered in swaths of flourishing life. The dappled light filtering through the emerald canopy doubled the green of the ground and brought to mind the realm of fairies.

The road up Smugglers' Notch was tiny, twisty and lined with boulders.

The road up Smugglers’ Notch was tiny, twisty and lined with boulders.

Although our visit did not coincide with "peak" fall foliage, all around us intense reds, yellows and oranges mixed with the green leftovers of summer.

Although our visit did not coincide with “peak” fall foliage, all around us intense reds, yellows and oranges mixed with the green leftovers of summer.

After that brief intermission, we continued on our way to Stowe, a beautiful drive. The Vermont countryside was dotted with bright weathered barns and hilly pastures, which the dense forests just beyond seemed plotting to reclaim. Stowe was made of the same scenic stuff. In the shadow of Mt. Mansfield, Vermont’s highest peak, this quaint little village looked like it hadn’t changed much in many years.

The Basin on the Pemigewasset River was created by glacial erosion.

The Basin on the Pemigewasset River was created by glacial erosion.

The "Dream Cottage" at Sugar Hill Inn lived up to its name.

The “Dream Cottage” at Sugar Hill Inn lived up to its name.

While at Stowe we hiked in nearby Smugglers’ Notch, so called because it’s been a favorite route for sneaking alcohol, people, you name it, into and out of Canada throughout American history. The trails we took to Bingham Falls and Sterling Pond were stunning but crossed by rivulets and trickles so often it seemed that the whole area was part of some makeshift waterway. Along with the views we encountered by using our feet, we caught a ride on the Stowe Mountain Resort gondola and got a cheater’s peek of the panorama from the top of Mt. Mansfield.

The Baby Flume was just another interesting Franconian backdrop created by water and stone.

The Baby Flume was just another interesting Franconian backdrop created by water and stone.

Our visit to Stowe’s happened to be the same weekend as their annual British Invasion, a regional British-car show. After gorging on fantastic dinner fare one night, we decided to drive into town but found the road blocked off for the “British Invasion Block Party.” Stowe’s main street was lined with tiny English sports cars and people eating ice cream cones and generally having a good time. We thought we might as well have a good time too so we took to mingling with the jovial throngs. A band was playing some classic rock tunes and soon the crowd started boogying and swinging to the music. Everyone, from children so young they could barely walk to gents so old they could barely walk, joined in the fun. Jason and I also took to grooving on the pavement. Thus, we connected with that friendly community on their small street with the full moon and historic steeples floating above us. It truly felt like something out of a movie.

We made it to these cascades in Franconia Notch State Park right as a brooding mist settled over us, giving the scenery a supernatural quality.

We made it to these cascades in Franconia Notch State Park right as a brooding mist settled over us, giving the scenery a supernatural quality.

This little cascade near The Basin seemed to hold a secret that could only be heard in the rustling whisper of the dancing fallen leaves.

This little cascade near The Basin seemed to hold a secret that could only be heard in the rustling whisper of the dancing fallen leaves.

The last stop in our inland interlude was Franconia, New Hampshire. Franconia, in the midst of the White Mountains, is definitely a blink-and-miss town but enchanting nonetheless. While we didn’t find the foliage in Stowe as impressive as we’d hoped, due to the earliness of the season, the woods around Franconia were smack in the middle of their fall fire. The whole area was ablaze and gorgeous.

This stream of water slid through worn stone like a zigzagging ghost.

This stream of water slid through worn stone like a zigzagging ghost.

We stayed in the “Dream Cottage” at the Sugar Hill Inn our night in Franconia. With a giant fireplace, private sauna and comfy porch swing, it’s a shame we couldn’t just spend the evening slouching in our bungalow but Franconia Notch State Park was not to be missed. This notch’s rugged beauty inspired authors like Nathaniel Hawthorne and Henry David Thoreau. It inspired us too. Oddly enough, sometimes inspiration feels a lot like a downpour. We hiked to various falls and features along the Pemigewasset River as rain pelted us through an eerie blanket of mist. It was surreal yet soggy.

The poet Robert Frost spent five years and twenty summers at a farmhouse that overlooks the Franconian mountains. We visited it.

The poet Robert Frost spent five years and twenty summers at a farmhouse that overlooks the Franconian mountains. We visited it.

Before we headed to Boston to catch our flight the next day, we stopped at Frost Place, home of the poet Robert Frost for five years and twenty summers. The spectacular views of the Franconia Notch from his modest farmhouse made Frost’s wooded muses almost tangible.

Flume Gorge is an 800-foot-long gap with narrow granite walls.

Flume Gorge is an 800-foot-long gap with narrow granite walls.

Although time wasn’t really permitting, after Frost Place we hurriedly explored Flume Gorge, an 800-foot-long chasm created by a plume of lava squishing through a crack and then eroding. I wish we could have enjoyed its lush sheer walls and impressive falls without time constraints but seeing it in a dash was better than not seeing it at all. We rushed back to Boston after our gorge tour with just enough time to not feel panicked about making our flight. Whew!

Avalanche Falls hurls water 25 feet down Flume Gorge.

Avalanche Falls hurls water 25 feet down Flume Gorge.

New England may not be a common vacation destination for those in the west but Jason and I are very glad we’ve roamed its precipitous shores and saturated woods. Compared to visiting Maine and its neighbors, all other holidays are minor.

10 Oct

The Maine Attraction Part I: the Coast

Posted by on October 10, 2013 at 2:23 pm

The company that Jason works for pays for him and his family (i.e. me) to go on a vacation once a year. We had a hard time narrowing down where we wanted to go for 2013. In the end, we decided on a part of the United States that we had never visited but had always wanted to: Maine, Vermont, and New Hampshire. New England’s charm, beautiful coastline and vibrant fall foliage was a salty recipe for retreat that we couldn’t resist taking a bite of.

Portland Head was commissioned in 1790 by George Washington. It's Maine's oldest lighthouse.

Portland Head was commissioned in 1790 by George Washington. It’s Maine’s oldest lighthouse.

The lobster shack by the Cape Elizabeth lighthouses had the best lobster I've ever eaten and probably ever will.

The lobster shack by the Cape Elizabeth lighthouses had the best lobster I’ve ever eaten and probably ever will.

New England is a big chunk of land with lots to keep your eyes and feet occupied so choosing where to spend our time was not easy. I read a 400-page travel book as I puzzled over this quandary and researched a whole lot on Trip Advisor. Our friends were no help as none of them have ever been to this region but I think I sorted out a pretty good itinerary for our excursion without the assistance of acquaintances.

Cape Elizabeth's twin lights weren't open to the public but they were still pretty from afar.

Cape Elizabeth’s twin lights weren’t open to the public but they were still pretty from afar.

I wish we could have spent more time at the Inn at Sunrise Point. It was a tranquil and pretty place.

I wish we could have spent more time at the Inn at Sunrise Point. It was a tranquil and pretty place.

We flew into Boston and began traveling up the coast, staying our first night in Portland, Maine. We found Portland, Maine’s only real city, quaint and historic. Whiffs of briny air hit us now and then as we wandered through the cobblestone streets of its Old Port district and took in the scenic shoreline from its Eastern Prom Trail. Delightful.

The "sand" on Sand Beach is mostly composed of the remains of marine life. Graveyards don't usually look this nice.

The “sand” on Sand Beach is mostly composed of the remains of marine life. Graveyards don’t usually look this nice.

The Ocean Path Trail wound through one gorgeous vista after another.

The Ocean Path Trail wound through one gorgeous vista after another.

While in that town we toured the magnificent Victoria Mansion, circa 1858, widely regarded as the most ornate dwelling from its time period left in the country. Beyond exploring that spectacular building, we couldn’t leave Portland without also checking out its famous lighthouses: Portland Head and the twins of Cape Elizabeth. Lighthouses in Maine? Funny you should ask. Maine’s shores are guarded by 66 lighthouses, 52 of which are still in working order. Why so many? The coast of this state is more hazardous than most. Rocks + fog = ship booboo = sad panda. It’s easier than algebra. Although somewhat antiquated with today’s newfangled technologies, lighthouses still service small watercraft and conjure romantic notions of a tough solitary existence. In short, when in Maine, visiting at least a few of these steadfast beacons is practically mandatory.

Just another candid moment.

Just another candid moment.

Thunder Hole, a naturally-formed inlet, was so named because of the roaring sound trapped air makes each time a wave crowds in.

Thunder Hole, a naturally-formed inlet, was so named because of the roaring sound trapped air makes each time a wave crowds in it.

After leaving Portland, we stopped in Freeport to visit L.L. Bean’s flagship store, a strange request of Jason’s, and check out a few other shops that featured local handmade pottery and jewelry. (Yes, I did purchase some. Do you really need to ask?) Then, we settled in for the evening near Camden at the Inn at Sunrise Point. Don’t let the “inn” in that name mislead you, we were really staying at a private cottage on the beach. Ahhhhh. Our “Rachel Carson” cottage was lovely: a giant wall of windows looking out over the ocean, a porch with wicker rockers to encourage relaxation, a gas fireplace and a monstrous jetted tub. Following our arrival, we walked along its rock-strewn beach under the dreamy light of the nearly-full moon and then cozied up by our fireplace with good books. After that thorough unwinding, we cracked our windows just enough that a refreshing ocean breeze drifted in as the rhythmic pulsing of the waves carried us off to sleep.

The red sun hitting the pink cliffs below Bass Harbor lighthouse created this blaze of color.

The red sun hitting the pink cliffs below Bass Harbor created this blaze of color.

Taking pictures was one of my favorite pastimes on this trip. The area's dramatic shorelines and cascading flows provided endless subjects matter.

Taking pictures was one of my favorite pastimes on this trip. The area’s dramatic shorelines and cascading flows provided endless subjects matter.

As for Camden, a classier and more charming New England village you will not find. Before we continued on our way north, we took a little time to stroll its picturesque streets and catch an aerial view of the surrounding bay from Mount Battie, a 780-foot verdant outcropping that gently rises behind Camden’s pleasing avenues.

The fiddler on the roof? No, just Jason on the rocks below Bass Harbor Head Light in the near-night

The fiddler on the roof? No, just Jason on the rocks below Bass Harbor Head Light in the near-night.

Leave it to Jason to capture this moment of contemplative entrancement.

Leave it to Jason to capture this moment of contemplative entrancement.

Too soon we were moving north again or, as the locals put it, Down East. After a couple of detours to check out the Fort Point lighthouse and fatten ourselves further with lobster rolls from yet another waterside shack, we arrived at our last coastal destination: Bar Harbor. Bar Harbor, located on Mount Desert Island just outside Acadia National Park, has an outdoorsy touristy feel that caters to the wannabe-naturalist crowd but it’s still a cute town. In Bar Harbor we gobbled some of the best ice cream I’ve ever eaten, however, we spent most of our non-gorging hours inside Acadia, America’s second-most visited national park. With lush forests rimmed by cliffs of pink granite that plunge into the ocean, it’s easy to see why Acadia attracts 2 million visitors each year. Since our time was limited, we had to choose wisely which of its 125 miles of trail options to hit. It was difficult but I believe even that last knight of the Crusades would be proud of our decision.

The Bass Harbor lighthouse was truly a photographer's dream. I got over ten mosquito bites on my feel while trying to capture its descent into darkness but I didn't even notice.

The Bass Harbor lighthouse was truly a photographer’s dream. I got over ten mosquito bites on my feet while trying to capture its descent into darkness but I didn’t even notice.

The sun and I have a precarious relationship; no matter how much I love it, I always end up getting burned. Still, it felt right to welcome it to a new day from on top of Cadillac Mountain, it being the star and all.

The sun and I have a precarious relationship. No matter how much I love it, I always end up getting burned. Still, it felt right to welcome it to a new day from on top of Cadillac Mountain.

We walked the Ocean Path Trail, a 4.4-mile stroll along Acadia’s jagged coastline, our first day in the park. It was a mellow and beautiful meandering. The following morning we set sleep and mellow aside to embark on some sunrise madness. Cadillac Mountain, at a whopping 1,530 feet, is, oddly enough, the tallest peak on the Eastern Seaboard north of Brazil. (No snickering please Utahans.) Because of its eastern location and height, it’s the first place in the country to see the break of day each morning. It’s a longstanding tradition among tourists and locals alike to greet the rising sun from atop Cadillac’s rounded dome and, hence, be one of the first in the country to see a new dawn. Jason was a little reluctant to get up at 4:55 AM (2:55 back home) to greet anything but he gave in to my enthusiasm and, thus, we found ourselves out in 37 degrees with the wind hustling around us as we waited for the arrival of that glowing orb. It was bitterly cold but I’d like to think it was worth it…I’m pretty sure it was.

For how short the South Bubble is, climbing it supplied a surprising amount of exercise and adventure.

For how short the South Bubble is, climbing it supplied a surprising amount of exercise and adventure.

Scaling rungs and squeezing into crevices was required to reach the top of the South Bubble. Awesome!

Scaling rungs and squeezing into crevices was required to reach the top of the South Bubble. Awesome!

Since we were already up, I convinced Jason that we might as well hike to the top of another mountain. He was a little resistant to this plan but he eventually caved to my stubbornness. (Are you seeing a pattern here?) I only had to wear a beanie, gloves, a sweater and three jackets to stay marginally warm as we made our way up the South Bubble. You westerners might laugh a little about me even calling the South Bubble a “mountain” since its summit is only 766 feet above sea level but, apparently, that’s what it technically is. Our chilly jaunt was too early and frigid for all but the senseless and stupid so we saw absolutely no one on the Bubble and only ran into other wanderers as we neared the last curves of Jordan Pond, a deep glacier-made lake that we circled to reach our “mountain.”

Bubble Rock was dropped by a melting glacier 15,000 years ago.

Bubble Rock was dropped by a melting glacier 15,000 years ago.

Much to Jason's delight, I am always willing to be a photo's fool.

Much to Jason’s delight, I am always willing to be a photo’s fool.

And, thusly, we ended our time on the coast and began our trek inland. I will save our adventures in New England’s interior for next week. I wouldn’t want to add too much excitement or too many thoughts of lobster to your lives.

3 Oct

The Pros of the Con

Posted by on October 3, 2013 at 10:25 pm

Jason and I have attended San Diego Comic-Con for a few consecutive years now. As the elves migrated west to the Undying Lands, we too have gladly traveled westward to be part of the eternal…the eternally nerdy that is. So, of course, when we heard that Salt Lake City would be hosting a Comic Con event and the gift of geekery would be left like a chest full of Star Coins on our doorstep, we registered quicker than Sonic runs a Shuttle Loop.

William Kircher, AKA Bifur the dwarf, was such a nice guy. It truly was a privilege meeting him.

William Kircher, AKA Bifur the dwarf, was such a nice guy. It truly was a privilege meeting him.

Why does this T-Rex have a Captain America shield? Only a Q could tell you.

Why does this T-Rex have a Captain America shield? Only a Q could tell you.

Now, let me just say, with a shake of the head and a roll of the eye, that many of our geeky acquaintances lacked the faith or foresight that Jason and I possessed when it came to Salt Lake Comic Con. They predicted that it would be lame or practically unattended. Jason and I didn’t think that that would be the case but, even if it was, we were still game. As we saw it, our support of this local event was the best way to ensure that it continued and improved. Our enthusiasm convinced others to join the ranks of unwashed goers or, perhaps, it was the thousands upon thousands of other attendees that eventually persuaded them. It’s a mystery really.

Q, played by John de Lancie, was always a favorite Star Trek character of mine. John was very intrigued by my occupation as a food scientist; we had a nice little conversation about it.

Q, played by John de Lancie, was always a favorite Star Trek character of mine. John was very intrigued by my occupation as a food scientist; we had a nice little conversation about it.

As Salt Lake Comic Con approached, the numbers registered for this convention skyrocketed. They passed 20,000, 30,000 and then, during its last day, they exceeded 70,000, a record for an inaugural regional Comic Con. That final afternoon the crowds got so massive that the fire marshal closed the doors to the convention center and wouldn’t let anyone else enter until some legions of clone troopers left. So much for those “practically unattended” predictions.

We were less than 10 rows from the state at Stan Lee's panel. He was quite energetic and animated for a ninety-year old.

We were less than 10 rows from the stage at Stan Lee’s panel. He was quite energetic and animated for a ninety-year old.

Henry Winkler was cheerful, genuine and not afraid to get close to his fans.

Henry Winkler was cheerful, genuine and not afraid to get close to his fans.

Despite those historic numbers, compared to the relentless crowds at San Diego this baby was as empty as the sandy deserts of Tatooine. You actually had room to expand your lungs on the convention floor, AKA breath. I’m not complaining though, I’m a fan of that whole inhale/exhale thing. Breathing space aside, there was plenty to see in the exhibit hall. Not so much that you felt completely overwhelmed, like at that other con, but definitely plenty to keep you drooling and ogling for hours. We bought author-signed books, artist originals, nerdy t-shirts and prop replicates. All the wishes of my little geeky heart were granted; take that Zahra!

Jeremy Rowley bought a Cobra Commander action figure while masquerading as Cobra Commander. It was quite amusing.

Jeremy Rowley bought a Cobra Commander action figure while masquerading as Cobra Commander. It was quite amusing.

The panels were, in general, not as good as those in San Diego but I went to a few that surprised me with their informative insightfulness, namely those hosted by various sci-fi and fantasy book authors. The Will Shatner and Stan Lee panels weren’t half bad either and by “not half bad” I mean that they were awesome!

We had to wait in line for over an hour to get a picture with Stan Lee but I can't complain, some stood around all afternoon for that privilege.

We had to wait in line for over an hour to get a picture with Stan Lee but I can’t complain, some stood around all afternoon for that privilege.

We're ready to believe you!

We’re ready to believe you!

Ample stars congregated at Salt Lake Comic Con. Perhaps some of these enduring personalities would have been out-gleamed by new-found heartthrobs in San Diego but in the Beehive State they were bigger than a bowl of green Jell-O: Will Shatner, William Kircher, Henry Winkler, Taimak Guarriello, Ray Park, John de Lancie, Dwight Schultz, Peter Mayhew, Kevin Sorbo, Stan Lee and David Prowse. Most of these fellows were pleasant and friendly but William Kircher, who plays Bifur in Peter Jackson’s hobbit movies, was exceptionally nice and courteous. What a gentleman and a decent human being. He has found a stalwart fan in me. Henry Winkler was also very good-natured and gracious. He wandered through his line of fans shaking hands, giving hugs and doing magic tricks.

These Simpsons costumes couldn't have been more perfect. Their attention to yellowness was impressive.

These Simpsons costumes couldn’t have been more perfect. Their attention to yellowness was impressive.

Sophie and Turnip-Head are favorite Myazaki characters of mine so I was thrilled to see them at the con.

Sophie and Turnip-Head are favorite Miyazaki characters of mine so I was thrilled to see them at the con.

The congeniality of most of the famous at the show made the one man that wasn’t agreeable stand out as even more of a jerk: Adam West, AKA 60s TV Batman. We had a chance encounter with Adam that proved him arrogant and condescending. The details of that meeting are too convoluted to relay here but I’d be happy to share them personally with anyone. Let’s just say that for someone nearly 90 years old, Adam behaved ridiculously immature. Shame on you Mr. West! A man of your age should have figured out how to show others civility and respect by now. Do you believe that being in a moderately successful TV show a million and a half years ago somehow justifies you treating people like dirt? I think not. If you can’t behave at an event like Comic Con then might I suggest that you don’t come? Oh, sorry, I forgot that you need the money.

Dwight Schultz played Lt. Barclay, a playground of neuroses, in a couple Star Trek series. He was fun to meet and teased me about shaving my hobbit feet.

Dwight Schultz played Lt. Barclay, a playground of neuroses, in a couple Star Trek series. He was fun to meet and teased me about shaving my hobbit feet.

I almost landed myself in the middle of a Kirk/Gorn battle. Shirts would have torn!

I almost landed myself in the middle of a Kirk/Gorn battle. Shirts would have torn!

Salt Lake’s Comic Con may have been smaller and less showy than San Diego’s but, as The Blob can attest, being bigger doesn’t always win you the battle. Salt Lake proved itself the quiet superhero of cons in one department: costumes. The get-ups in Salt Lake were more impressive and prevalent than in San Diego. Is it possible that the people of Salt Lake have nothing better to do than sew sequins on their Green Lantern unitards? Perhaps.

This AT-ST was definitely a one-man vehicle.

This AT-ST was definitely a one-man vehicle.

Since Jason and I didn’t have to squish our handmade outfits into a suitcase, we were all for dressing up. Although we weren’t planning on donning garments de la geek every day of the con, that’s what we ended up doing. It’s hard to resist transforming into an uber-nerd when you can smell the stench of nerdery all around you. First, Frodo and Aragorn formed a nifty companionship that could rival the Mormon missionaries. Then, Batgirl and Captain America added their muscle to the convention’s superhero white-noise. Finally, Katara and Zuko, our Avatar: The Last Airbender duo, brought elemental, and color schematic, harmony to the con’s last hours.

Ray Park, who played Darth Maul, was friendly and personable.

Ray Park, who played Darth Maul, was friendly and personable.

Taimak Guarriello was Leroy Green in The Last Dragon. We enjoyed chatting with him and posing martial-arts style.

Taimak Guarriello was Leroy Green in The Last Dragon. We enjoyed chatting with him and posing martial-arts style.

Frodo was all the rage and asked to pose halflingly for pictures often. “That guy” with him, unfortunately, was not recognized as frequently. I guess there aren’t too many Ranger fans in these parts. Katara and Zuko were nearly as popular as the shaggy-footed and were especially well-received in the teenage-boy demographic. While these outfits were awkward to wear for 6-10 hours at a time, it was gratifying to have my handiwork admired and appreciated.

The WETA booth came with an Orc.

The Weta booth came with an Orc.

Salt Lake Comic Con was a nerdy delight. Being its first time, it had some glitches but to a veteran of San Diego, where everything is chaotic lines and stacks of stinky humanity, it seemed comparatively relaxing. I’m sure the enormous number of attendees this year attracted the attention of many self-important celebrities and next year’s con will be wilder and more packed than the Mos Eisley Cantina. And, unlike Chalmun’s, at Comic Con droids are always welcome.