Wizard World Chicago Clip Show: Memories of 2011, 2010, and 1999

My wife and I have just a few days left until we take off for tiny, action-packed Rosemont, IL, for Wizard World Chicago 2012. Even though this will be our fourth WWC, we’re still preparing and weighing our options. I, for one, have my comics want-lists to update and mull over. Do I really feel like rooting through countless musty longboxes for single issues I’ve been missing since childhood? Do I really think this will be the year I find Steelgrip Starkey and the All-Purpose Power Tool #5 and achieve closure with Alan Weiss’ underrated working-man sci-fi miniseries at last? Or should I aim instead for the bargain boxes stuffed with $5 trade paperbacks, 90% of which are Marvel Ultimate comics?

Then there’s the matter of autograph pricing (is Scott Bakula’s autograph really worth three Amber Bensons?), autograph materials to bring along for the actors (which season of Buffy or TV’s Angel was really Juliet Landau’s best?) as well as for the comics creators (must dig out Hourman #1…or was there a more apropos issue?), and the little things such as emergency snacks and note-taking supplies. Lots to do, lots to put off till the last minute because that’s when I do all my best thinking, unless you count everything I’ll forget because of the time pressure.

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Road Trip Clip Show: a Salute to Vacation Days, Part 1 of 2

Once all the necessary errands are run and all defensive countermeasures are in place, we’ll be taking off this weekend for our annual road trip. Each year we drive hundreds, sometimes thousands of miles to other states to view their museums, witness amazing works of God and man, check out roadside attractions of varying degrees of imagination and quality, and generally see firsthand what lies beyond Indiana.

Our 2012 road trip will take us through Kansas to Colorado, including a circuitous route through Denver, Colorado Springs, and Pueblo. With the Waldo Canyon fire now 70% contained as of today and the other extant fires being beyond the scope of our plans, we’re feeling less intrepid and more emboldened to sally forth toward the Rockies and whatever they might surround. We’re challenging ourselves to find good points about Kansas as well.

In honor of Independence Day, one of America’s busiest traveling holidays of the year, and in honor of the fact that I have less free time this week because of vacation preparations and mandatory family-holiday quality time, I present a cursory look back at our road trips from previous years, select snippets of a few of my favorite faraway things.

2011: Manhattan

Our first time in New York City became my favorite vacation to date. The sights, the sounds, the subways, the cleanliness, the overwhelming density of activity options — it was like three vacations packed into one and then marinated in adrenalin.

Naturally we photographed Times Square too many times. We attended The Lion King, found ourselves blown away and wishing the other shows had been inexpensive enough to attend four or five more.

Times Square ad frenzy

Most people view the city from atop the Empire State Building. For a few dollars less, and with no haranguing from enthusiastic street guides, you can ride to the upper floors of 30 Rockefeller Center and see most of the same rooftops. At that height, the view plus or minus a few stories isn’t appreciably different, unless we missed something really cool on 30 Rock’s roof.

the view from 30 Rock

A couple of New Yorkers we know thought it odd that we included Grant’s Tomb on our itinerary. My wife the history buff insisted after reading his autobiography. This seemed like an awful lot of building just to provide a tomb for two, but I was happy to oblige.

Grant's Tomb: Conveniently on the Way to Harlem

2010: Pennsylvania via Ohio

Our primary destination was Philadelphia — again, because of history — but our attention wandered to numerous other sights along the way.

My personal favorite: Eastern State Penitentiary, a former famous prison that’s now a “stabilized ruin” you can visit and view from within. Most notable features include a cell once occupied by Al Capone and a self-guided audio tour narrated by Steve Buscemi.

Eastern State Penitentiary, second floor

Diverging from the Pennsylvania Turnpike for several miles allowed us opportunities for small-town roadside wonders such as this giant quarter in Everett, created as part of a local contest.

Everett's giant quarter

On the way to Pennsylvania, we stopped for lunch at the Thurman Cafe in Columbus, a certified As Seen on Man v. Food pit stop. Below is the Thurman Burger, which is larger than some house pets. Not even in my overeating college days could I leave a clean plate after this meal.

Thurman Burger, Thurman Cafe

More to come tomorrow!

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