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TFCON: LA 2024, Part One – A New Hope

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TFCON: LA 2024, Part One – A New Hope

The Transformers Convention in Los Angeles (TFCON: LA) is an event that makes its way onto my list of things I want to do every year. It doesn’t always happen. Last year finances made it unrealistic to make the trip to attend the con.

Things didn’t look good for this year’s event, either. In September, 2023 we had a shift bid that would be effective from November through May. The shift with Saturdays off that I had enjoyed for the better part of a decade wasn’t offered. When we had our vacation bid the following week I was forced to use my weeks of vacation to guarantee that select Saturdays in 2024 would remain days off for prior engagements. Unfortunately TFCON: LA did not make the cut list with the new days off.

I tried to go the route of sour grapes and logic. I told myself that my wife’s birthday was the same weekend. She’d be less than thrilled if I spent it out of town. I glanced at the guest list early on. While it was an amazing list of attendees, I’d met them all not at the event in 2022.

Additionally, there was the cost. Between airfare, food, lodging, rental car, and gas not attending TFCON: LA 2024 would save me at least $800. That didn’t include any money being spent on signatures, Transformers memorabilia, and any other incidentals that came up. Plus, what kind of a reporter on all things geek would I be if I didn’t explore comic book stores in the area?! That was guaranteed to add at least another $30 to the tab.

If I were to go, this would be a solo mission. Lord Trekker and Fire were dealing with some personal matters. Cupcake was in the process of trying to purchase a home. True Neutral was dealing with vehicle issues. Lug Nut had just spent two months working out of the country. I was pretty sure he wasn’t eager to leave the comforts of home again quite so soon. Besides, with my nearest and dearest only liked Transformers. Not loving Transformers would result in a long weekend at a convention that primarily focused on them.

I didn’t think about it much over the next few months. We hit our holiday push at my 9-5. With out staffing being what it is that led to insane amounts of overtime. When you only have one day off a week you don’t have time to think about much besides trying to maximize productivity and spending time with family on that day off.

I was okay until I checked my email around New Year’s Day. Nestled in with the hundreds of emails that my filters can’t seem to discern as spam was an email from TFCON: LA. The subject was a reminder that tickets were still available for the 2024 convention. Instead of continuing to scroll down, my thumb opened it.

It was the usual “don’t miss the chance of a lifetime” spiel. Out of curiosity I looked at the guest list to see who had been added and what “chance of a lifetime” I’d be missing. I saw Morgan Lofting’s name. She was the voice actress that played Arcee in Transformers and the Baroness in G.I. Joe. Meeting her would be an interesting  opportunity.  It was not necessarily on my bucket list.

Next I saw Arthur Burghardt, the voice actor that played Devastator in Transformers and Destro in G.I. Joe. We were starting to cook with fire. I made a mental note to reach out to see if any of my friends would be attending. If they were I could cover the expenses involved with getting a book signed for my wall.

Then I saw Bob Budiansky’s name. He was a guest on Quentin’s Enginewerks a couple years ago. I had a phenomenal time speaking with him then. Now the godfather of Transformers was making the trek from New York to Los Angeles to attend the event. Now I was very intrigued.

I continued to scroll down the rabbit hole, imagining what could have been. I dropped my phone when I saw the next two names. I had just seen the names Frank Welker (the voice of Megatron and Soundwave) and Peter Cullen (the voice of Optimus Prime and Ironhide). This changed EVERYTHING.

I had the opportunity to meet the three biggest names on my Transformers bucket list. Even if I didn’t get to meet them all you had better believe my smiling face would be at the panels they were on. I would always regret it if I didn’t at least try to get to TFCON: LA.

I began to think of a plan. I could fly to Los Angeles pop into the convention for a few hours to meet Mr. Budiansky, Mr. Welker, Mr Cullen and the other guests, catch a panel or two and then fly home. By God, it could work!

Then logic prevailed. Then I saw several obvious flaws in this plan. First and foremost, would my wife be okay with me going to California on relatively short notice on the weekend of her birthday? Could I get a Sunday off at work? 

Even if the answer to the first two questions was yes there was still a big problem. For this to work there would be no wiggle room when it came to being on schedule. I’d researched flights. My flight would arrive at 10:00 AM. I’d be at the convention by noon. I’d have to be back at the airport by 4:15 PM for a 5:45 PM departure.

There were too many variables. What if there was a delay on my flight south? Even if it was only an hour, it would make things very tight. A delay combined with a traffic jam would mean never setting foot in the convention center.

Then came the dagger. Looking at the TFCON itinerary I saw that the panel for Mr. Budiansky began at 4:00. The panel for Mr. Welker and Mr. Cullen began at 5:00. With the time I needed to get to the airport I would miss both panels.

Not being willing to admit defeat, I did more brainstorming. What if I spent Sunday night in California and flew back Monday morning? If I had my work clothes in the car I could just grab my luggage, throw it in the car, get changed, a head to work. It was a tight window; but I could make it happen.

Now that I had a plan I let my wife know about the guest list. I acknowledged that it was her birthday weekend and that I understood if she wanted me to stay in town. She told me she didn’t care. We could celebrate her birthday on another day.

Then she asked what the plan was. I told her about my idea for a whirlwind Sunday. She told me it was a good plan; but too much was left to chance. Then she recommended that I leave Saturday so I could actually enjoy myself instead of racing from booth to booth in an attempt to accomplish everything in under three hours. Have I mentioned that I have the coolest wife ever?

Armed with my wife’s blessing I submitted my request for time off to my manager at work. This is where dreams go to die. With staffing being what it is, there’s no way they would approve it. They asked what the time off was for. I explained the situation.

To my surprise they told me that they would make it happen. It was the miracle of miracles. We’ve put a man on the moon. Now we were going to put this Geek on a Budget in the thick of things at TFCON: LA 2024!

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I grew up loving all things geek. I started reading and collecting comics when I was 8. My personal collection has roughly 8,000 books in it. When I’m not doing something geek-related I love spending time with my amazing wife and kids, gaming, and working on cross stitch projects.

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