Indianapolis, Indiana. A nexus of my life for some strange reason.
People look at me strangely when I say I love Indianapolis. But I don’t know any other way to say it. It’s not that the town itself is the greatest place ever, but it is home to a great number of happy memories that I’ll carry with me for the rest of my life.
I was actually pretty thrilled to go back there this past week, if for no other reason than to look upon it and reminisce.
Who knew I’d have so much fun again? And this time, it was for a business trip so you know…free booze.
The first time I saw her was in May 2002 (right after Hawk’s birthday), when the world still had not seen Episode II. We were all full of anticipation, gathering for the second Star Wars Celebration. Hawk was there with me of course (along with another friend), bearing witness to the fact that I’m not, in fact, as over-the-top in my love for Star Wars as many, many others are. I can at least move through society as a Norm when I need to.
It was a blast. I had just started up a new job, was still recently emancipated from a rough relationship (listen to I’ve Done Everything For You from Sammy Hagar for an idea), University of Maryland had just won the NCAA basketball title and come on…I love the prequels. I was completely stoked for it.
To make it even more fun, we’d made it a road trip complete with requisite CD mixes for the long miles in front of us. I even enlisted the help of my on-staff sound engineer to create a truly memorable one. Back then, gas prices made car trips economically possible.
I remember going to a great little Indian restaurant and witnessing a marriage proposal on the steps of an RCA Dome between two people dressed as Imperial Officers. (I said, a little too loudly at the time, “Oh God, they’re going to breed now!” Plus side, they didn’t hear me.)
I remember waiting in line. FOR EVERYTHING. To those of us who had survived the original Celebration in 1999 (Denver), at least it was inside. But for goodness’ sake, I have no doubt that the team that planned the lines and session times was a crack-addicted set of monkeys recovering from brain injuries (and it got worse 3 years later).
Funny side story. The 2002 Star Wars Celebration was where they had their first convention-only figure, an X-Wing pilot version of George Lucas. Only you had to wait in line to buy your maximum number of two, even though everyone wanted one. I mean, it would have been crazy to allow us to pre-order at registration, right? RIGHT?
So anyway, they got the 501st Legion, a stormtrooper cosplay group (essentially) to do the security. They got free autographs from celebrities and then handled line management, while presenting a neat look that stormtroopers were managing a Star Wars conference (at no cost to Lucasfilm…clever).
But there was one guy. Bald, mustache, salt and pepper hair. Drunk on the power, unable to manage the line. I can see him in my mind still. I recall reminding Hawk there would be real-world jail time for pounding the snot out of him. Even though I would have gladly helped him. Stay focused, we thought. Just stay focused on the goal of…buying an action figure.
I can’t imagine why people think I am thought I was a nerd.
In April 2005 I had been married five months and was happy to be travelling back to Indianapolis. This was the Celebration for Episode III, the culmination of everything fanboys like me had awaited for years. Vader was coming back, the Empire was rising and we were going to see the betrayal that before had just been legend.
For reasons only a handful will (or should) ever know, this was a very important trip to be taken in the short decades I’d lived to that point. It’s impossible to say more than that without seeming maudlin about it.
Hawk went again; how could he not? Honestly, I couldn’t imagine going without him there. Agent Bun went with us, but she was a tourist to this world. She had no idea what awaited her.
She made sure that this time it was a plane trip. She got us a nice hotel room (connections!) in the Hyatt and later committed a very selfless act of sacrifice that involved sneaking out of the hotel room at 5:30 a.m. and letting me and Hawk sleep an extra hour-plus while she staked out our place in the line to buy crap in the convention store. Six hours later, when they blocked an entrance and wouldn’t let us out through the doors closest, she was ready to cost jobs. I remember chuckling at the fiery reaction; Hawk and I had just gotten used to bad management after so much abuse.
Hawk and I, using only our sense of direction and memory, managed to find the Indian restaurant we’d been to three years earlier. Agent Bun didn’t go; but it was still fun. I remember it snowed (!) while we walked there, and all we could say was, “Why the F**** is it snowing in April?”
The hotel pool at the Hyatt in Indianapolis is metal, not very deep and suspended over a hollow space by the way. Hawk and I kind of jumped up and down making thunderous noise enough to rouse security. Because you know, maturity is stupid.
And then the trio of people showed up at the hot tub: a scrawny guy, a ponytail computer nerd and a girl that spurred a “real or not?” discussion later. (Along with, “Why the Hell was she with them?” and “No really, what the Hell?” discussion.)
Oh, and then the rainy, cold day where we decided to use the skywalk from the hotel to enter the convention so we wouldn’t get wet and cold. Security stood in the way and wouldn’t let us in. The skywalk got full of people. We were literally getting ready to rush the doors, fed up that they were letting other lines in and not ours, when one of the security guards started having a seizure. That’s a true story.
That convention went a very long way to putting some things back together in my head, though. I’ll always remember it fondly.
A month after this trip, to boot: got my first real, paying job as a Web Dude. This ties in the next part of the story.
And now I’ve been back (in April again, no less), this time as a professional in the nebulous Web field, to attend a conference all about professional type things. And the whole time I was there, I looked upon the convention center fondly and created new memories with colleagues through the association industry.
The RCA Dome is gone, replaced by The House That Manning Built (Lucas Oil Stadium).
I’ve become a father twice over. I’ve figured out a few things and made a few tough calls. I came back as an adult this time, and it was weird. I think I came to peace with some small part of myself on this trip, too. I got to be one of three on a presentation panel (the other two peeps are pretty great too), and thought to myself: Hey, I actually know what I’m talking about and these people are treating me that way. Pretty cool.
The only unfinished piece of business is that I never did get back to that Indian restaurant. Wouldn’t have been the same without Hawk, though…so next time, Indy.