I’m going to say it was a sixth sense that led me to break ZSC Command protocol and answer the cell phone when the “BLOCKED” call came through.
“Is this the head of the company?” a gruff voice asked.
I almost hung up. But I’m no chicken. Yeah, yeah I am the head of the “company” so gotta keep it together.
It was the Texas Policemen and Sheriff’s Association.
He instructed me to pull off the side of the road.
“But I’m in Baton Rouge traffic and it says ‘shoulder closed’,” I told him. “This is totally illegal, dude, if a Louisiana cop shows up you’d better back me.”
He laughed long and hard, and I couldn’t stop chills from racing up my back and down my arms as I pulled the truck off to the side of the road. Considering it was about 94 degrees in the shade, that was saying something… but it’s not every day I get pulled over by a law enforcement official from a state away.
The Texas sheriff assured me if one of his Louisiana counterparts showed up I was to put the two of them on the phone and he would take care of it. “We need to talk now,” he told me.
As it turns out… the Association was looking for partners, and the ZSC has been chosen. I can’t divulge any details yet for strategic reasons. We’re due to have another conversation as soon as I stop shaking long enough to hold a phone again and I hope I can fill you all in.
Very early Sunday morning we had to say goodbye to head Vato, Neil Brown Jr, who had to high-tail it back to Hollywood for- ::muffled sentence::
What the heck Juliette!? I wasn’t going to actually tell them that he had to go to a meeting for- ::more muffled words::
Okay, okay! I’ll stop trying to say something I shouldn’t. Just put the friggen crossbow away. (By the way, she really does travel with a crossbow.) Anyways… we said our goodbyes to Neil, before going to bed REALLY early Sunday. Which was a good thing because both Juliette and myself managed to sleep through both of our alarms. How does one sleep through Judas Priest? Pure and utter exhaustion, my friends.
Neil –who left an adorable note under the door because that’s just how he rolls –later reported suffering giggle fits as he heard our alarms going off repeatedly while he prepared to leave.
When we did wake, Juliette stumbled downstairs for coffee and was promptly kidnapped. I remained in the room to get ready. It takes a while. Hello? This look takes a lot of work to accomplish in a way that looks natural. I didn’t realize how long Juliette had been gone until I get a strange text “Don’t freak. Getting food.” It seems our own Anthony Guajardo and his parents abducted the boss for breakfast. My worries over the matter were instantly settled when she returned… with bacon. Bacon makes EVERYTHING better.
Looking more like zombies than zombie slayers, our crew headed over to the convention center for the last day of Dallas Comic Con. We used the energy from the staff to perk up some before the gates to another dimension were flung open. Er, I mean they let the fans in the doors. (What? There were a lot of them and it was my first Comic Con, I’m allowed to be afraid of the crowds, dangit!)
Sunday was slightly less manic crowd-wise, which was both good and bad. Sure, talking to all of those people is draining, but seeing the happiness on a fan’s face when they made it in the room and realized who was there (the Vatos!) was kinda cool. At the same time most of our merry little band were hardly able to string two words together by noon, so the less intense crowd was a bit of a blessing.
Juliette had a fan girl moment with Carrie Fisher and a shock from the Joker. James ended up taking a cat-nap on the floor. At one point, a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle showed up with Jason Voorhees. We even got a visit from the Walking Dead TV Podcast crew –they were awesome as always (especially considering the boss lady was speaking near-gibberish by the time they showed up).
After all of the fans were out of the building, our own Anthony Guajardo was called on to do a quick interview for a local news station. James Gonzaba, who really looked like the undead by the end of the day, took off back home. We hope rest did him some good. Would hate to have to put our newest First Lieutenant down after his first convention!
Juliette and I bee-lined to the nearest Starbucks for much-needed caffeine. We then proceeded to scare other customers while sorting through the nearly 500 pictures taken over the weekend and cackling like the witches from Macbeth. The cackling continued during dinner, as well as many proclamations of, “We kicked some serious butt this weekend!”…or was that “We got our butts kicked this weekend?”
And we really did.
The opportunities we discovered this weekend for everyone were astounding. Not only did the fans respond to the Vatos, but they were eager to get to know the ZSC as well. I’d like to give a shout out to anyone that made it over to the site after Dallas Comic Con. Welcome to the Zombie Survival CrewTM. Grab your go bag and lets go kill some zombies!
Dallas Comic Con started with a bang. As soon as the doors opened, fans of The Walking Dead came pouring in. I threw my arms around Juliette and forced her to stow the crossbow beneath the table, and tossed a “stand down” glare at the boys. Yep, the Zombie Survival Crew was in kill, er, I mean meet-n-greet mode alright. Within a span of less than 20 seconds we couldn’t see the Vatos –Anthony Guajardo, Neil Brown Jr, and James Gonzaba –through the crowd. I released Juliette and that’s when it hit me.
It was hard to know how to react. (Shush, Juliette, running in circles saying “oh my gods” is a legitimate way to react to the situation!)
We dug in our heels and embraced the crowd. Well, and immediately eyed people we could tag for help, as much as they could. Huge, huge thanks to Veronica! Honestly, I have no clue how you managed to keep track of that system you set up. For all I knew you were doing it in hieroglyphics. (This may also be testament to how little sleep I’d had since Wednesday night. . .)
Lisa and Gilbert did wonderfully as ninja photographer and line wrangler, respectively. Seriously, we had to have a person to stand in food lines. They were THAT scary. Why didn’t anyone warn me of this? The rumbling in my tumbly was frightening!
Before I forget, we need to thank the DCC volunteers. Fred, you were a god with that velcro! James, we never went dry. You kept us very well watered. Rebekah, thank you for talking to keep me awake. Stephen and Craig, you rocked…and Tracy, we would not have survived without you!
Saturday had a lot of highlights, not the least of which was Neil leading us in a rather loud rendition of Day-O right after our lunch break. Everyone out in the hall stopped just outside our door and peered in like the bunch of us had lost our minds. . . which was true.
The crowds at DCC absolutely loved the Vatos. James, Neil, and Anthony were brilliant. They handled every twist and turn with a smile. Media folks came by to interview them and walked away astounded with how nice the Vatos are.
At the last minute Juliette got drafted into introducing The Walking Dead panel. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t enjoy watching her squirm when faced with the large crowd and the microphone. She got lucky and we think nobody but me saw her trip-step off the stage when she was done. Neil, Anthony and James fielded dozens of questions from the fans –Anthony was sweeter than sugar, James was articulate and Neil kept the crowd roaring with his antics. And, like Neil, we will repeat –we can neither confirm nor deny that the Vatos will be back for season 2 of The Walking Dead.
That night we all went out to dinner –after Juliette managed to have the strangest conversation ever with Thomas Jane as he took off his boots and socks in the hotel lobby. What? Yeah, you read that right. Let me tell you right now, it is impossible to eat with Neil and Anthony popping off jokes right and left. I almost had to call a time-out just to eat my salad without a tomato shooting out of my nose! (not quite the pickle mishap Juliette had in Jersey, but it was close.) Juliette had to get up and leave the table a couple of times. I’m thinking it was the really loud rendition of Rick Springfield’s Jesse’s Girl that first made her run…no, wait. She’s the one who started it. That, and Neil’s onion rings. Don’t ask.
And because we are a bunch of lunatics, after dinner we went back to the hotel and… worked some more. We tackled a few important missions for the ZSC. Before you ask, no we can’t tell you what just yet. Patience is key. You will find out in time and believe us it will be worth the wait! After missions were confirmed completed (including the successful attempt to bring James on board with the ZSC) everyone loaded into the elevator and went down stairs to the party. Only we were still working!
The guys had an interview with Nerd Heard podcast. We met Kenneth and Chubtoad (Richard) Friday night and right away they blew us away with how cool they were. That coolness passed on to their professionalism. We made quite a sight out by the pool, business-like while the interview was going on. It drew a few positive comments on everyone’s level of commitment to success. Yeah, your commanders kick backside and take names. All for you, ZSC faithful!
After the interview we all hung out at the hotel during an impromptu party. We, uhm, may have been the last ones to leave. Did your commanders pay the price for late night shenanigans? Just wait until you read about Sunday’s adventures.
After the bus ordeal, which I will explain better in a later post, I finally arrived in Dallas. Let me tell you this, no amount of warning from friends and family prepared me properly for the humidity blanketing Texas. The second I stepped out of the bus station, it felt like I’d been dunked in a bucket of warm water. So gross!
As I was musing over how to survive the humidity, this tiny blur shot across the sidewalk and tackled me. While I didn’t get the rib-crushing hug that some of the boys would receive, Juliette made a very firm first impression. (I swear, there were dents in my sides after!)
Our hellos were cut short by a demonic growl. Neither of us had eaten yet. (This would be the theme of our weekend.) We grabbed lunch and then went over to check out the convention center. The Irving Convention Center is brand-spankin’-new… and HUGE. The impression it made when first seeing it stuck. That was before we even made it inside and realized exactly how big it was. I should have asked for a map. (I might have gotten lost trying to find the bathroom one day…)
Very quickly Juliette and I realized the scope of what we were being asked to do. Tracy led us upstairs. She pointed to various doors, all of which bore the name of celebrities. Oh Holy Cow. This was far bigger than anticipated. We played it off cool, but once we left, we both kinda, maybe, sorta, ran around in circles and screamed just a little.
Anthony Guajardo and his parents, Lisa and Gilbert, arrived shortly after in the midst of a thunder storm. Too be honest, I’d never witnessed a storm like this. Texas impressed me with the light show up in the clouds. And scared the heck out of me with thunder that shook the hotel room. My nerves were settled when Anthony began to goof off, hitting poses from Nacho Libre and doing his two-second break dancing routine. We were laughing too hard to get clear pictures.
Anthony wasted no time diving into Zombie Survival Crew missions. He signed, he sang, he videoed –and he put Juliette on the floor, literally, in laughing hysterics. It took us all about 10 minutes to get her back up. I swear we laughed so hard everyone in the room lost five pounds.
Neil Brown Jr. arrived with a bang. Literally. I was in the room talking to Lisa when suddenly we heard a loud banging for the other side of the connecting doors, almost as loud as the thunder earlier. Next thing we know, Neil burst into the room. That man is a ball of energy and set the tone for our insane weekend as soon as he got there. (Which may have included a 4 am Mac Donald’s run after some severe run-ins with a bunch of angry limes. Don’t ask.)
The last of our crew wouldn’t arrive until really late. James Gonzaba and Veronica met with us early Saturday, sometime shortly before the alleged McDonald’s trip. James was smart. He saw Neil –and Juliette and my shell-shocked faces –and ran for his room. There’s a reason we thought it wise to draft him into ZSC command. Just sayin’. James kept his head down until it was time for us all to get shuttled back to the convention center to begin the madness that was Dallas Comic Con 2011.