[Caveat: embarrassing and/or salacious events have been bowdlerized.]
Today marks the end of the annual conference of the American Library Association, held June 26-July 1 near Las Vegas, Nevada. Since it offered a large amount of comics programming as well as a more bibliophiliac experience than BookExpo America, I made my plans to attend months in advance!
Day Zero: Thursday, June 26th
I had an afternoon flight from JFK, on Virgin America via LAX. As soon as we were taxiing down the runway, the personal entertainment centers were immediately tuned to the USA-Germany match on ESPN. I felt I was in a bar, listening to the collective groans. Myself, having run the possibilities, knew that the Portugal-Ghana game was more important. I won’t spoil the surprise…
Virgin is a great airline, if you don’t mind paying for food.
The transfer at LAX was fine, but I made the mistake of eating at the Burger King in the terminal. Six hours later, I would awake to an undigested mass in my stomach, and a need to expel it quickly.
I arrived in Vegas on time, and took the shuttle to Circus Circus, where I had booked a cheap one-night room. ($25+$14.50 resort fee) However, upon entering the room, I noticed all of the lights were on, and one bed was unmade. “Is someone still here?” No…the wardrobe was empty, the room merely uncleaned. Since there were fresh towels in the room, a untouched queen bed, I decided to let it go and go to sleep. I was expecting a “Goldilocks” moment, of some drunkard banging on the door at 3 AM. Instead, my stomach decided to play drunk, making me upchuck what was my dinner from six hours before.
Day One: Friday, June 27th
I moved to my new motel (Roadway Inn), and was able to check in early. What is “one block” in Vegas is five blocks in Manhattan, with broiling heat and no shade. Check-in at the convention center was easy, and I then exited out the back to trek to the nearest Chase bank branch, to clarify some possibly fraudulent transactions. After that, I cut across the street, where the main branch of the public library just happened to be! Very nice, but a strange floorplan… it’s been added to over the years.
I then walked over to Alternate Realities, one of the best comics shop in the country. (My sketchbook was buried in my storage locker, so I defered to the tried-and-true method: bags-and-boards.) Ralph and company were great, and had many nice things to say about The Beat. What amazed me was the customer traffic while I was in the store. Maybe people were there on their lunch break… Or maybe it was because the store offered great selection, service, and community! If I lived here, this would be my LCS! If you visit Vegas, take the bus to the store.
Still oblivious to the heat, I walked up Flamingo, stopping at a few casinos, playing various geeky slots. (Lord of the Rings, Wizard of Oz (three different games), Superman, Batman ’66, Iron Man 2, Back to the Future, Avatar, Willy Wonka…)
By this time, the exhibits hall was due to open at 5:30, so I rode the monorail back to the convention center. I had forgotten to eat lunch, but ALA always offers a cocktail buffet on “preview night”, so I was quickly sated. I said a few hellos to the awesome Artist Alley artists, then quickly hoofed it to the other side of the room, where Gene Yang was signing his latest book, The Shadow Hero.
7 PM came too quickly, and the floor was closed. I made my way back to my room, where I realized that ALA Play was taking place over at Caesar’s Palace. (I could have taken the shuttle…) So I walked halfway down the strip, and thought, “Hey, cut through the Forum shops… it will be quicker.” No. I missed the turnoff to the casino, and had to backtrack. Then, in the casino, I couldn’t find the hotel. Eventually, a security guard pointed the way, and I completed my quest, feeling like Hannibal. ALA Play is for all those librarians who game and run game nights at their local libraries. The room was packed and lively, and I actually got to witness actual game play of “Redshirts”.
Day Two: Saturday, June 27th
ALA opened to a full schedule of exhibits. I had no schedule, and just wandered the floor, discovering books and engaging in the synchronicity that happens at shows like this.
That night, I attended the reception for the Will Eisner Graphic Novel Grants for Libraries program, once again held in Caesar’s Palace. This time, I took the shuttle, but entered differently, so once again I was lost. But I found my way upstairs (I should have followed the service men graduating from the Air Force Weapons College), but had to trek further as the ballroom was much further away from the escalators. Great food and good drink awaited, as did many comics and library people. Afterwards, a group of us trekked over to Carmine’s (in the Forum) where I attended my first publisher’s dinner, hosted by Udon to celebrate their new manga classics. We brainstormed a few new titles (my suggestion: Frankenstein), While otheres continued their night of parties, I accepted a gracious ride from Deb Aoki, cartoonist and comics journalist extraordinaire!
Bedtime: 11 PM
Day Three: Sunday, June 29th
The last full day of the show!
I finished up touring the show floor, and was on my way to the restroom, when I noticed the poster for “Stripped“, the comic strip documentary. Somehow, I had missed an extra aisle of Artists Alley… They were selling the posters, both in a deluxe full sized edition, and a smaller print, as well as the DVD. I bought all three. Ever since they had announced that Bill Watterson had designed the poster, I had wanted to buy one! But…they don’t offer it for sale online. Just at shows.
While chatting with them, I made the acquaintance of an intriguing librarian from New Jersey. She was on her way to listen to Jesse Moynihan, writer for Adventure Time, and creator of “Forming“. The talk was … interesting. Had I read his work before, I probably would have had a better expectation of him.
After the floor closed at 5 PM, I joined John Shableski, and two comics creators I’ve forgotten because I’m tired and a horrible journalist, over at the LVH sports bar for some libation, then we returned to the Stratosphere, where Mr. Shableski used his hotel key to get us to the top of the tower. While not the tallest structure in the United States, it is one of the highest, with a base elevation of approximately 2,000 feet and a height of 1,149 feet. I watched one guy plummet (via cable).
Dinner was had closer to Earth, and I walked home along Las Vegas Boulevard.
Day Four: Monday, June 30th
A half day, with the show floor closing at 2 PM.
I used the day to buy a page of Amelia Rules artwork from Jimmy Gownley, then get some sketches from various artists.
In the last thirty minutes of the show, I met an IT librarian fm the Moscow public library. Not Idaho… RUSSIA. He is trying to create a space for geeks in Moscow, so I gave him a few ideas and encouragement, so maybe one day we’ll see a CCCP-con!
That’s what I love about ALA! The synchronicity of discovery, finding and sharing ideas, and celebrating comics. That seemed to be the theme this year…how librarians have made comics such a strong and integral part of library collections, no matter what type of library it is. Tina Coleman has done an amazing job in just four years, carving out a space at conference for comics and graphic novels.
Mid-Winter is in Chicago, Annual is in San Francisco! (Yes! Comics central!)
Day Five is today, packing, blogging, and catching the redeye back to New York.
I’ve been writing for The Beat since July of 2010.
I’ve been reading comics since 1974, collecting since 1984, and spreading the graphic novel gospel since 1994.
I’m a bookseller, a librarian, an amateur scholar, a cool uncle, and a comics evangelist.
Ask me anything!