The worst part of being in California is running on Central Time the entire time I was there. Waking up to find it isn’t even 06:00 yet is rather depressing but I expected as much; I did the same thing the last time I was in LA, I just didn’t go strolling along the beach this time… *sigh*
As much as I hated being up way before the rest of the world, I didn’t have to grumble too long. Another of my lovely friends was flying into LA that morning which meant another trip to the airport was in order. My poor friend Sue! She spends her entire life being a mom-taxi and on the one weekend she’s free she still ends up being the friend-taxi! Where’s the fairness in that!?! Still, she was kind enough to offer her taxi services so how could we refuse? Friend taxis are way more fun than regular taxis. Unless they’re driven by the Cab Man… But that’s a story for another day.
Meeting up with our sweet Lola at the airport was another happy moment for me as it was this was the first time we were meeting in person. I’m sure many of you know what it’s like to spend countless hours chatting with friends you’ve met via Twitter or whatever but you’ve never actually met face-to-face. Well, when you actually get to meet these friends in person, there’s not really any way to describe how you feel. It’s like meeting up with a long-lost friend, even though in reality you’ve only just met. Needless to say, being able to spend the weekend chatting and fangirling with two of my most favorite Twitter friends in person was one of the highlights of my trip. The squeals were real… No, wait! That’s not right! We were three respectable women responsibly enjoying a weekend away from home… *smirks*
From the airport it was off to Koreatown to find breakfast. Sadly, when you get to Koreatown anytime before 10:00 there’s not really a lot open, a lessons we learned the hard way. Though Iota wasn’t open, we did manage to find a Tous les Jours and that was more than good enough for me! I’m not even going to try to deny the fact I splurged on breakfast that day. If I found something yummy looking, I bought it because why not? It’s not every day you get to have breakfast in a French-Asian bakery in the middle of LA’s K-Town, surrounded by friends. It was one of those YOLO (and yes, I cringed as I typed that) moments so I just went for it. I even splurged on a mocha and I regret nothing!
After breakfast we spent a bit of time wandering around one of the best new and used book shops in Koreatown, browsing the K-Pop section and whatnot. Of course letting a group of book loving K-Pop fangirls loose in a book shop that also sells K-Pop albums is a dangerous thing but miraculously we managed to keep ourselves from buying out the entire store. I think it was our general lack of ability to read Hangul that deterred us but maybe it was just the lure of the KCON goodies that we knew were waiting for us that kept our money in our pocket… I’m not really sure which was the case. Maybe it was a combination of the two?
Whatever the case, we left the bookstore almost empty-handed and headed to downtown Los Angeles where we spent the next hour or so surrounded by equally excited fans, all waiting to begin the dreaded KCON registration process. Now for those of you who don’t know what it’s like to suffer through hours of never-ending lines, in the merciless heat of a LA summer, let me try to describe it for you… Imagine you’re a sardine, squashed in a tin can with about a thousand other sardines. Now imagine that over-stuffed tin can is sitting, wide open, in the middle of the Sahara Desert. The sun is beating down on you, there’s no shade, no water and you can feel yourself roasting but there’s nowhere to go because you’re crammed in the middle of a thousand other roasting sardines. Sounds pleasant, doesn’t it?
To be fair, there were a couple of lines outside of the Los Angeles Convention Center that were blessed with shade but those lines were reserved for Platinum and P1 ticket holders. (aka those able to shell out the big bucks) For those of us who weren’t fortunate enough to be granted shade, the time spent in line wasn’t the most pleasurable but it did give you a chance to meet some new people and make some new friends. After all, what brings people together better than a love of all things Hallyu and heat stroke?
Though there aren’t nearly as many perks to being a KCON “special” guest as one might suppose, the ability to skip lines is definitely one of them. (Dare I say the only one?) While my friends suffered in the heat, I spent my time waiting for the doors to open, catching up with friends and colleagues, some I hadn’t seen in months, others I hadn’t seen since last year. It was great, being able to meet new people and chat with old friends but I spent a lot of time feeling guilty for enjoying myself while my friends suffered. (In my defense, I did try to talk them into waiting with me, they just refused. Which honestly, is something I didn’t really get. I mean why go to KCON with a guest if you’re not going to take advantage of the perks?)
Despite my guilt, I wasted no time in getting checked in and I have to say, things at registration were much improved over last year. Of course I could be completely biased on this front, seeing as how there were only a handful of us guests checking in on Thursday so the wait was non-existent. Biased or not, I was all squared away and ready to go in a matter of minutes and the reality of everything hit me as I held that shiny blue “panelist” badge in my hand.
It’s kind of hard to describe what it’s like to be a part of something as monumental as KCON. There’s a lot of stress and frustration and occasional moments of panic but then you get there and you find yourself surrounded by thousands of people and the reality of everything begins to sink in and you suddenly realize that no matter how stressed you were, it’s all been worth it because even if it’s in the smallest of ways, you’re a part of the magic that is KCON . It’s a rather humbling moment, actually. It’s also very surreal. I mean who am I to have my name on the same program as SHINHWA and Super Junior? (The answer is: I am no one.)
But back to my adventures…
After registration things at the convention center got… interesting. As anyone who’s ever been to KCON knows, the fate of many is determined by the handful of scratchers you’re handed upon registering. Those innocent looking little cards are the key to ultimate fangirl/fanboy happiness and the anxiety you feel as you hold your breath and scratch off that little silver box is intense. Needless to say, I was incredibly nervous as I began scratching away, terrified I was going to get nothing but a bunch of “SORRY”s. Fortune, however, was rather kind to me that day and I found myself the proud owner of an audience pass to both GOT7 and Daniel Henney/Soo Ho Jun. I’m pretty sure there’s no need to describe the sounds I made when I realized that O was actually “GOT7” and not another “SORRY”… The excitement was real! (In my defense, I wasn’t the only one squealing that day!)
And now to the interesting part… After scratching off those little silver boxes, people began wandering the convention center, asking others what passes they got. As anyone who’s been to KCON knows, the trading and selling of artist engagement passes is pretty standard but this year, instead of gathering under that one enormous tree, everyone congregated in the open area under the escalators and what happened next was fascinating. As more and more people joined the group, a mass trading/bargaining began that reminded me quite a bit of the New York Stock Exchange. Passes were flying back and forth faster than you could keep up with… Audience pass for audience pass… Three audience passes for a Red Carpet…. $200 for a High Touch… You name it, deals were being made, all in this noisy, pushy mass of people desperate to get the pass of their dreams.
I spent about an hour and a half in that mess, bartering and buying passes in an effort to make sure all my friends got the artist engagements they wanted. (I met up with several of my friends while I navigated that mess, including four of my most favorite Chicago peeps who make life at home so much more fun than it would otherwise be. I LOVE YOU GUYS!) It was a rather chaotic hour and a half but it was also kinda fun. I mean the smiles on my friend’s faces when they got the passes they wanted were priceless and I personally walked away with audience passes to the two groups I wanted most to see, so I was happy. Of course one of the drawbacks to attending KCON as a guest is the constant fear your “official” duties are going to conflict with your brief moments of fangirl fun and I was terrified my artist engagements were going to be scheduled during one of my panels. (I tell ya, sometimes being a fangirl and a “professional” is tough!) Despite my fear of missing both of my fan engagements, I was happy for even the possibility of seeing two out of the three groups I most desperately wanted to see and I left the convention center with all my fingers and toes crossed for good things in the future. (In case you’re wondering, the good things did come to me… I got to see both groups before my panel on Saturday but I’ll talk more about that later.)
From the convention center, it was time to head back home. Well, actually it was time for dinner and OH! What a dinner it was! I could sing the praises of a GOOD all-you-can-eat Korean BBQ for the rest of eternity but I’ll spare you that pain by saying this… I ate more meat in that one meal than I usually eat in a month but again, I regret nothing. The spicy baby octopus was one of my favorites, as was the pork belly (but that’s not surprising seeing as how that’s my all-time favorite KBBQ meat), and the banchan… Oh the banchan! I could write sonnets about the banchan but again, I’ll spare you. Instead, all I’ll say is yum! Yum! YUM!
After dinner it was back to the house to make more fan signs but really we just hung out, squealed over concert pictures and biases, munched on chocolate and then fell asleep. Yup! My friends and I know how to PARTAY! If only I could always be this cool…