Anime Matsuri 2017

Anime Matsuri is an annual anime convention held in Houston, Texas. This year it was held over the weekend of April 7-9, 2017 at the George R Brown Convention Center in downtown Houston.

Because it is a two-day trip, we headed out early on Tuesday. Normally it wouldn't be that difficult, but I'd picked up some kind of a con crud the previous weekend while we were at Who's Yer Con. On Sunday I'd had a mild sore throat, so I'd increased my Vitamin C dosage and taken measures to sooth the scratchiness. When we set out, I thought I was pretty much over the bug and should be good to go.

However, by the time we reached Southern Illinois, I started feeling really, truly drained. It was taking more and more effort just to stay awake and reasonably alert, and didn't really leave much energy for recognizing landmarks from the time in the late 90's when I lived in the area.

By the time we crossed the Mississippi and stopped at Boomland to get gas, I was so tired it was all I could do to stay vertical while I pumped gas. I could tell that even caffeine wasn't going to keep me awake and safe to drive. So I told my husband that he was going to have to take over, for the simple reason that I just could not continue.

We switched seats and I slept through most of Missouri. We didn't even stop at the New Madrid Fault-themed rest area like we had in 2016. However, at the first rest stop in Arkansas, he was getting tired enough that he really wanted me to take over.

Unfortunately, the nap had only done so much to restore my energy. Even with another energy drink, the drive across Arkansas to the hotel in Texarkana proved to be a very unpleasant slog. By the time we got checked in and I got our possessions hauled into the room, I was pretty much done. I scribbled a few notes on a story, just so I could say I'd written that day, and we turned in for the night.

On Wednesday we got up and had the hotel's complimentary breakfast. Then we carried our stuff back out to the van and hit the road south toward Houston. At first I wasn't feeling too bad off, but by the time we got into the Texas Piney Woods, the drowsiness started crowding back in. Worse, when I tried to eat lunch, I almost gagged on the last few bites of my wrap and thought I was going to throw up. It was pretty clear that I was still dealing with the lingering effects of that con crud from Who's Yer Con, even if I didn't feel truly sick. That's often worse than being completely knocked flat, because it's harder to justify the time to convalesce when you're just feeling a little cruddy. So you never really recuperate, and the illness just drags on and on.

When we finally pulled in at the hotel, I was very glad to be done with the drive. However, when we went to check in, we discovered a couple of unpleasant facts. First, they required that the cost of the entire stay be charged to our credit card up front. Second, they required a security deposit on top of the cost of the room itself.

Perhaps we shouldn't have been so surprised, since we were staying at an extended-stay suite hotel rather than a typical place. Our suite might not have been as fancy as the one we stayed in for the first night in Omaha for Kanpai! Con, but it was like a one-bedroom apartment, complete with a full-size refrigerator, a little stove and even a tiny dishwasher. There were real plates and silverware for our meals. It was the sort of place that could really be a home for someone who needed to stay a few weeks on an assignment, not long enough to rent an actual apartment, but too long to stay in a regular hotel.

However, when I first got into our suite, I wasn't exactly in much shape to appreciate the amenities. I just carried everything in and went to bed for a good, long nap. When I did get up and fix supper, I really didn't have a whole lot of appetite, since I still felt rather off. But I made myself eat the food, and then I made some more notes on my writing, since I didn't feel up to actual narrative prose.

We also got an unpleasant bit of news from the convention promoters: because the event before us had decided to continue into Thursday, the convention center wouldn't have enough time to change over the setup of the halls for us to load in on schedule. So they would try to work as fast as they could to get things ready for us, and vendors would be loading in by waves, according to our placement in the vendor hall. In addition, they'd be keeping the vendor hall open for setup until midnight.

On Thursday we got up and headed downstairs to the dining area to have breakfast. I was very happy to have a complimentary breakfast after all, since we'd been under the impression that there wouldn't be one and we'd need to rely on our own supplies. Then we went back up to our suite and took a nap before getting ready for the day, since we knew we'd need to start setup with as much sleep as we could manage.

I did make some more notes on my writing, although the story in question was no clearer when I finished than when I started. It probably didn't help that I was still feeling under the weather. Not so sick that I couldn't function, but just enough that I had very little energy.

In the afternoon we headed downtown to the convention center. At least this time we knew how to get there and find the loading dock, so we didn't lose precious time going in circles. However, we still had to deal with the delay in getting our booths ready, and then the problem of having no one working at 100%. By the time I got the van unloaded and was ready to start setting up, I was feeling pretty crappy. And by the time we called it a night and headed back to the hotel, I was so exhausted that it was a wonder we even made it back to the hotel. I was very glad to be able to turn in for the night.

On Friday we still had to get up early, never mind we were operating on a crumb of sleep. We had to get things set up, and there was no time for weakness. So I had to get us driven in to the convention center (at least now we knew that vendors could park in the loading-dock area) and push through the process of getting all our merchandise out. As it was, we were still setting up when the doors opened, and there were a couple of boxes of merchandise that never did get put out.

Sales weren't bad, but I had been hoping for more. I was still feeling pretty weak from weariness and whatever con crud I'd caught the previous week, and midway through the day a knee started bothering me. After a while it got to the point that I simply could not remain on my feet any longer, so I pulled out a chair, set it at the very edge of our setup, and did business as best I could.

When the dealers' room closed for the evening, we headed back to the hotel and had supper. Then I made some notes for a novel, mostly enough to say that I'd written. Then we turned in for the night and I tried to make at least a little headway on catching back up on all the sleep that I lost because of having to set up until midnight.

On Saturday we got up and had breakfast. Then we headed back down to the convention center to try to make some decent money. At least this time I got a little bit of a chance to look around, instead of spending all my prep time trying to get our store looking like something.

Sales did pick up, but they weren't anything extraordinary, and really not what we needed to see to justify a trip of this distance. It probably didn't help that I still felt like crap and wasn't able to be as energetic in interacting with customers. But even if I had been feeling great, I still noticed that I was getting way too much down time in which I could fiddle around on the Internet.

In the evening I tried to find something to eat that wasn't going to turn my stomach, since I still had no appetite to speak of, but knew I needed the energy. Then I wrote a few more notes before we turned in for the night.

On Sunday we had breakfast, then headed downtown for our last day of Anime Matsuri. Once we got our store open for business, I walked around and talked to some of the other vendors. Some of them had done very well, while others hadn't even made expenses and had no real expectation of doing so before closing. So it looked like there was money in this crowd, but it just depended upon what you were selling.

Once the doors opened, one of my biggest problems was staying present and not drifting off into the world of my stories or onto the Internet. It didn't help that we weren't getting a lot of traffic, so there wasn't a lot to hold my attention.

However, we did start getting some real traffic and sales in the afternoon. Unfortunately, that was when we needed to start packing if we were to have any hope at all of being out of there at a reasonable time. And of course people always become hesitant to shop when you start packing, even if you're trying to do it discretely under the guise of "loosening up the displays" or "making things less cluttered and busy-looking."

We did empty a fair number of boxes, and I managed to make several of them nest inside each other. However, it was still taking an awful long time to get everything packed and loaded out. Because we were running so far behind, the convention center finally let the last few dealers drive their vehicles right onto the convention floor and load directly into them. It did speed things up, especially since I was still working at about half-capacity. But I was feeling very disinclined to come back to this convention, especially if any of our other usual conventions were to fall on the same weekend. I definitely was not going to pre-pay for next year, even if it would give me a discount.

Once we finally had everything into the van, we headed back to the hotel for a very late supper. I also scribbled a few more notes before collapsing into bed exhausted.

On Monday we got up and had breakfast in the hotel's breakfast nook for one last time. Then we gathered up our belongings and got them loaded out to the van before checking out. We were able to pay cash, and were promised that the charge would come back off our credit card within a few days.

The drive out of Houston wasn't that bad, and we even found a Vitamin World where we could pick up some essential vitamins. But as we drove through the Texas Piney Woods, the weather got steadily worse and I got steadily wearier. Driving across Arkansas was a misery of pouring rain and exhaustion, compounded by road construction in several places. There was no way we could've gone all the way to Sykeston, Missouri like we did in 2016. By the time we reached our hotel in West Memphis, I was hanging on by my fingernails, barely able to drive safely.

It was a really nice hotel with a huge atrium and spacious sleeping rooms, and I think I would've enjoyed it a lot more if I hadn't been feeling like crap. However, we weren't able to figure out how to work the controls on the room's heating and air conditioning system. I finally turned it off altogether because it was blowing cold air and I was already chilling from the bug that I still hadn't managed to throw off. I did manage to get supper fixed and a few more notes scribbled before I collapsed into bed, trying to at least make a little headway on my massive sleep debt.

On Tuesday we got up and had the hotel's complimentary breakfast. They had a pretty nice one and I was able to find foods that didn't turn my stomach. I also snagged a banana for the road, since I'd found that a banana was always good unless I was totally sick to my stomach.

I felt pretty good when we set out. We stopped at Boomland to get gas again, and I was able to enjoy the complimentary popcorn. But as we got into Southern Illinois, my energy began to flag and I just couldn't seem to stay awake. I went through our remaining energy drinks, and we finally had to stop at a truck stop and buy some more to make sure we got home without incident.

We stopped in Plainfield to make the deposit at a branch of our bank. It was a bit smaller than I'd been hoping, but I also had to replenish our change supply for Indiana Comic Con the following weekend. Then we continued toward home. Driving through downtown Indianapolis in rush hour is not enjoyable, but at least we made it safely. I was very glad to pull into our driveway and be able to rest at last.

Copyright 2017 by Leigh Kimmel

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Last updated December 8, 2017.