A Pirate's Exile: Comic-con and the San Diego Zoo

Eatonville, WA, September, 27, 2014-Those of you who have been following what I do and where I go have seen me do a few different things but in the big picture, there are two ways I visit somewhere.  Either it’s a week or two and similar to a tourist vacation (like Boston or DC) or it’s a couple of months while I look for work and money (like Colorado or Washington state).  San Diego was a flat out vacation.  I didn’t bother to look for work or money.  I budgeted out a decent amount and just enjoyed myself.  My hosts, Steve and Kaelyn, are friends from NC who relocated a few years ago.  We all worked and played together back in Sneads Ferry and Topsail and as a result became a quite successful drinking team.  Having said all of this, on the first night in San Diego, we discovered time travel.  When I got in, we immediately started to have some drinks.  I was a little more enthusiastic about it than they were as I didn’t have to wake up and go to work in the morning but we all somehow flashed forward to the next day sometime after 10 pm.


We time traveled several times while I was there with the help of whiskey, vodka and an errant few swallows of some horrible light blue liqueur.  It was nice to let the party animal rip a few times.  I don’t get enough opportunity to do it in my life.  My weeks and weekends blur together and I normally don’t have enough money to hit the bars or parties.  A friend of mine that I went to college with used to call it “blowing the soot out.”  Anyhow, as I got comfortable and got to know the animals and the neighborhood, I started to look past the few blocks I could walk.  I don’t want to give the impression that I just partied my butt off while I was there though.  I also got out and saw some stuff.


I found that the transit in San Diego is a lot easier to use than most of the others I’ve been on this year.  The routes are pretty regular and not confusing and the stops have a number you can text for the next time.  My understanding of how their busses got around came up pretty quick.  It was convenient that the bus that came by the closest stop to me ran all the way into downtown San Diego.  Especially when I realized I would be there for Comic-Con, one of the most important annual gatherings of sci-fi and comic fans in the world.


I didn’t have tickets to get in and the cost is pretty high to begin with, so I decided to just walk around and take in the crowds around the convention center.  It wasn’t a disappointing decision.  There were people in all kinds of outrageous costumes all over the place.  It was far more out of place to see me, a normally dressed person, than it was to run across some post-apocalyptic steampunk survivors, zombies or Princess Leia Organa-Solo.


The amount of people milling around was mind boggling.  I’ve been in some heavy crowds in my travels but this was something else entirely.  Seas of people moved like the zombies that they were dressed up as through the streets as the signs told them to “walk” or “don’t walk.”  More and more often I find myself exploring that universal need to gather together, whether it be the ChowderFest in Saratoga, a Seahawks game in Seattle (for a future article…;) ) or even Bonnaroo in TN.  It’s incredible to be a part of something that is huge and happening immediately.  Comic-Con was a lot like that, despite the fact that I wasn’t able to get in.


After a long day of some strange looking folks, I was ready to hit the sack but I wasn’t ready for the next thing I got myself into.  I have to preface this next bit with the fact that from about 8 years old, I was told that the San Diego Zoo was the epitome of what a zoo should be.  My brother and I got monthly newsletters thanks to some friends of the family who sent it as a Christmas gift or something similar.  For years, I dreamed about going to the San Diego Zoo.  I love nature and wildlife and always have but there are some critters that I just can’t seem to lay eyes on in the wild despite my best efforts.


I started the day with the assumption that I would check out Balboa Park and wander around in order to save money.  I made it to the bus and got off a few blocks away.  Once I got to the entrance to the park I started to look around for trails to hit.  As I made my way around, I kept noticing signs for the zoo.  I was short on money and it was already the early afternoon so I decided to just go check out the gates and get the admission rates and hours of operation.


As I got to the ticket booth, I realized I had enough money to get in.  It was a steep price tag but there was enough to get my ticket.  After I realized that they were open until 9pm or so, I started to grin.  I had already decided, subconsciously, before I’d even made it to the gate that it was the day I went to the zoo.  I crossed through the turnstiles and realized a goal that I had been hanging onto since my time at Dixon Elementary School.  I didn’t leave disappointed.


The San Diego Zoo is huge.  It’s bigger than most zoos I’ve been to and if you don’t pay attention to where you are headed, you can wind up a little turned around.  They have it broken down into different areas and once you find a map, it’s relatively easy to find your way around.  If you like animals, you can lose yourself for hours (which is exactly what I did) moving from exhibit to exhibit, watching the critters watch you back.  The only problem I had with the zoo is that with some of the bigger and more impressive animals, like tigers or gorillas, there was only a few small places to see them and more often than not they were crowded beyond belief.  It did, however, allow for some pretty close scrutiny of the animals themselves.





My time in San Diego was short but it was full of fun.  It was nice to put myself in a stress free environment for a little while an it was great to reconnect with my friends and to meet some of their friends and family.  I had put a little pressure on myself in LA to get some money together and despite the fact that I had a lot of downtime there, I spent a lot of time stressing out about how to continue.  By the time I was done in San Diego, I had just enough left to head out for my next stop, Washington state and the Pacific Northwest, where a whole mess of adventure awaited me.  I got on a Greyhound and started the trip north.


Along the way, I made some friends in a couple of fellow travelers.  I can’t tell you how much I enjoy meeting folks on the road.  You get a little bit of time with them and then it’s off on the separate paths but the advent of social media has allowed me to stay in touch with a few of them.  We told jokes and stories up the entire west coast.  Just like the east coast, the vegetation starts to change about halfway up from deserts and mountains to forests and mountains.  Oregon and Northern California is some of the most beautiful country I’ve ever laid eyes on.


I got in touch with my cousin Beverly and she offered to pick me up in Portland, Oregon for the last leg of the trip to Buckley, WA.  I woke up the next morning and saw Mt. Rainier for the first time, with no idea how WA was gonna treat me.  I crossed my fingers and put my feet on the ground.