~Nekocon 2010 - Sunday, Monday, & Tuesday~
The original plan for Sunday was to sleep as late as we possibly could, skipping breakfast in favor of random snacks and leftovers, but of course these things rarely go as planned. First I was awakened around 8:00 in the morning by Roger calling on behalf of someone who'd forgotten something in our room. I took care of that and went back to bed... but Roger woke me up again around 10 ordering me to go have breakfast with him, because all the band guys had already eaten and he didn't want to go down by himself. e_e Sure enough, You (who was also up by now) found out from Hiro that everyone else in the band was already long awake and had gone down for breakfast while we were still zonked out. Yeah, must've been nice being able to get to bed before 6am unlike You and me. >>
Anyway... meh. So since I was already awake, I agreed to meet Roger downstairs for breakfast. I asked You if I could bring her anything, but she said she'd be fine with the stuff in our room, so off I went... and found Roger sitting at a table eating with Male Angel. So much for me being there to keep him from eating by himself. >_> It could've been worse, though - after a few minutes we spotted Hiro randomly walking by the breakfast line, and when Roger and had me ask him what was up, he said he was just out for a walk, haha. So he went to grab a mug of coffee and came back to sit with us.
Other than random discussion about the con and the concerts and stuff, at one point Roger decided to remark that Hiro seemed so different from the other four members somehow, and asked how he had come to join the band in the first place. Hiro was sorta confused at first and asked if there was something wrong with that... he was laughing though, so I don't think he was offended lol... but we clarified that he just had a different aura about him than the other four. And he told us that he and Yuichi were friends since they'd been in another band together before, and Yuichi had joined Sound Bee first and invited Hiro soon after. And another random but cute moment was when he pointed to a green apple sitting on Angel's tray and asked what it was. We told him "...it's an apple" and he was all surprised, and said they only have red apples in Japan. XD; Then he was surprised that people here eat apples by just biting straight into them, because apparently in Japan everyone cuts them into slices to eat them. Haha, spoiled city folk... XD;;
But yes, breakfast didn't last too long since there were so few of us... so soon enough we were all heading back to start getting ready for the band's only event of the day, an autograph/photo event at 12:30. This was a pretty cool moment though, because as we were heading upstairs, Hiro took the opportunity to converse with me about his recommended spot to visit in Japan, the shrine famous for housing the grave of Tokugawa Ieyasu. He showed me all these pictures of it on his phone and talked about all there was to see there and everything. No idea where all this came from, but it was pretty cool. :D
So yeah, Roger wanted everyone ready to head over to the con by noon, so we had about an hour to get ready. Of course the band decided to go casual again, so an hour was plenty of time. I grabbed my shower, the band did what they needed to do, and soon enough we were all meeting up (on time!) to make our way downstairs. Roger had once again made arrangements to film the band being led to their event by a security team, so there was a bit of waiting and shuffling around when we got to the convention center, but at last we were trooped into the... bazaar room? whatever it was called... to the table in the back set up for The Sound Bee HD's autograph and photo session. Actually turned out to be in the exact same spot we'd had Suicide Ali in last year, heh. But yeah, not much to say about this event... though one amusing moment was when I walked over to Hiro's end of the table and spotted a piece of paper in front of him. It was a gift from a fan - a photo of some chick in Sailor Moon cosplay with Hiro's face photoshopped onto it. It looked like Hiro hadn't even seen it yet, so I laughed and pointed it out until he looked at it for a minute and then said "Oh, because I said Sailor Moon a lot yesterday?" Then he showed it to the other band members and they all died laughing. XD
But yeah, soon enough the autograph/photo session came to an end, as did the band's official participation in the Nekocon schedule. Or so we thought, until some of the members asked me if they'd be able to go hang out at the booth where their CDs were being sold, and sell stuff to fans personally. How awesome are these guys? They thought of this before even Roger did. :D So yeah, of course this proposition was more than welcome, so once again the security guys were rounded up to make a big show of leading us next door to the Tainted Reality booth in the dealers' room.
The band immediately and happily settled themselves behind the table when we arrived, ready to sell more CDs, sign more autographs, and meet more fans. It wasn't long before someone came along and gave them all Halloween goodie bags, full of all kinds of amusing candies and goodies and even little packets of Silly Bandz. Hiro took interest in those and asked me if they were food (lol), so I explained to him what they were and how they're the in-thing with kids recently and stuff. He found it pretty interesting, hehe. Also of note: Don had his laptop set up at the booth playing music by all the bands Tainted Reality works with (mostly Starwave and Darkest Labyrinth bands, namely), and me being the fangirl I am, I stood there bopping around and singing along to most of it. Soon enough a Suicide Ali song came on, and Hiro suddenly took interest and asked me what band this was. I told him it was Suicide Ali, and this led to a little conversation about my history working with them, which turned into one about my history with all of Kiwamu's bands and with Kiwamu in general. ^^ There was also a nifty moment later on when all4cyanide happened by the booth and found me again to say hey one more time before the con ended. :D
And now we come to what just might be the most awesome thing any of our bands has EVER done at a convention. Hiro, somehow, got an idea in his head. That idea was: What if he were to take his shirt off, paint their CD titles and prices and "BUY OUR MUSIC" notes and stuff all over him, and walk around the con luring people to their booth? Yes, he asked me if he could do this... and of course I told him BLOODY HECK YES. So he filled in the other members, and got up to head back to his hotel room. Meanwhile I told Female Angel what was about to go down, and she was in agreement that this was going to be EPIC. XD
A few minutes later Hiro returned, wearing an old T-shirt and carrying the orange and black paints that he normally uses for his makeup... and the good times rolled. He stepped outside the booth, took off his shirt, and passed around paintbrushes. DEAR GOD, YES.
You was the first to get to work, starting off by painting his nipples orange. XDD Then she set about writing the kanji for "Hachi" on his chest to advertise that, and soon enough Tak and Yuichi joined in on the action too, and every available inch from the top of Hiro's head to his waistband was turned into a big fleshy billboard. Soon enough Yuichi handed me a brush and told me to paint something too, but I didn't really know what to do, so I just made some lame kitty face on his back >>; haha. I got to make a better contribution later though, with a big black command of "BUY OUR CDs!" across his stomach. :3 And yeah, along the way he ended up with cat features painted on his face, "I Am Hiro PAINT ME!!" on his back, a kitty-ears hat on his head... and most epic of all, he made sure not only all the staff, but also PASSING FANS got a chance to paint something on him. As you can expect, it wasn't long at all before we had a little group of congoers gathering around to watch the spectacle, and Hiro would just walk up to people saying "Paint me please!" and handing them paintbrushes.
IT. WAS. AMAZING. XD
Seriously, could there BE any better promotion than this?? The whole band had a blast, the staff had a blast, the security guys had a blast, the fans had a blast, we attracted customers... and best of all, this had all been HIRO'S idea. Most bands we work with, no matter how awesome they are, require a few reminders and a little convincing just to get them to put in an appearance at their merch booths during their rare downtimes. And when they do, most of them are reluctant to show up if they're not in full costume and makeup. Yet here's The Sound Bee HD not only REQUESTING to hang out at their own merch booth in their off-hours, but the drummer VOLUNTEERING to strip down and turn himself into a walking billboard.
Best bunch of people we have EVER worked with. Hands down. Absolutely awesome. ♥
And of course, pictures were taken. LOTS of pictures.
Anyway... unfortunately time decided to fly away from us now that we were having a blast. At 3pm the announcement came over the loudspeaker that Nekocon was officially ending, and it was time for attendees to vacate the dealers' room and the dealers to start packing up. Our booth wrapped up its activities with an awesome round of applause :D, and the band wandered around the room a bit to check out the variety of goods on display before all the dealers got everything torn down and packed away. Then we congregated in the hallway just outside the dealers' room, ready to head back to the hotel... but first Roger called the band over to join in a HUGE gathering of congoers, guests, and fans huddled together in front of a video camera to record a little wrap-up video. So the band squeezed into the group, I hung off to the side watching in utter geeky pride, Sid of Tainted Reality held the camera, Roger and Male Angel made their final statements, video was filmed, photos were taken, a final massive cheer was raised in honor of The Sound Bee HD, and Nekocon was officially over. The band still lingered around shaking hands with congoers and posing for photos and stuff for as long as they could before we were finally herded on our way back to the hotel. What an amazing end to an amazing convention. ♥
So with our work done, it was decided that we'd meet up again at 4pm to take the band out for shopping and dinner. I can't remember much of what went on in this little break (except talking and laughing with You forever about Hiro's awesome stunt XD), but it was only about half an hour anyway, so You and I soon headed right back down to the lobby. Turned out we were there considerably earlier than the others, heh... so we just waited around in the lobby for everyone else to join us. Somehow during this span of time, the subject of Ameba came up, and You was asking me what my name there was, if I was on Kiwamu's friend list, etc. We agreed to friend each other there after this was all over. :D
Eventually more of the band found their way down to the lobby... Daisuke and Tak were next, I think... and we continued to loiter while we waited for the rest of our gang. Meanwhile, the band members we did have present decided they wanted to take pictures again. I think Female Angel and myself were the only staffers there so far, so they took solo shots with us (some of which very quickly appeared on Daisuke's blog after the con :D ...along with really sweet comments about us *cries*)... and it was somewhere in the middle of all this when our little group finally finished coming together and we were heading outside to load up.
Roger had decided that he and I would be driving everyone to where we were going, and he had already pulled his Jeep around to the entrance, so I went to fetch my little Corolla and let the band know that we'd be going in these two cars. They had watched me (like, very closely... lol) as I had driven up behind Roger and immediately started asking, "That's your car??" What is it with these bands and their fascination with my car? XD;; But anyway, so they set about loading up, and Hiro was the first one to climb into the back seat of my car... followed by Tak, then followed by You... until Hiro ended up getting out from the other side and coming back around to take shotgun. XD The rest of the band and staff found this hilarious, haha.
So at last everyone was on board and I followed Roger as we hit the road bound for the Patrick Henry Mall about 15 minutes away. And one short and uneventful ride later we arrived at the mall and piled out... and when we got inside, our first stop turned out to be Hot Topic. And after our mall run with Suicide Ali the year before, I was surprised and pleased to see that EVERYONE stayed together up to this point. XD They all seemed to enjoy Hot Topic, really, because our entire group stayed in there poking around for quite a long time. Some pretty amusing moments came of this too, of course. :3
Let's see... first thing in my memory was when I walked by a display of fuzzy leopard print cat-eared hats with mega-long flaps that wrapped around as a scarf, so I pointed it out to Yuichi, the nearest band member behind me, and he cooed "Ohh, cute!" and picked one up to try it on. XD Then Tak came over to watch and commented on how warm and comfy it looked, haha. Another popular attraction for everyone was the various Star Wars goodies - in fact, Daisuke ended up buying a plush Yoda backpack and aighkejgakdhd so adorable T_T At one point I patted it and squee'ed at its cuteness, and he just laughed and said "I love Star Wars SOOO much ^___^" gaaaah *dies of cute*
Ah, another amusing moment was when Sid and I discovered these little boxes of, like, edible bugs in various flavors... specifically mealworms and crickets and those lollipops with real scorpions inside. So I decided to point them out to some of the band folks... I think Daisuke and Yuichi were the only ones within range though. Of course Daisuke was all cutely shocked and freaked out and wailing "People can EAT those?! No way no way!" XD Yuichi, on the other hand, just seemed kind of intrigued LOL.
Hmm, what else... oh yeah, the band was also amused at the abundance of Mario goodies in the store, so finally I pulled out my phone and played my Super Mario Twins ringtone for the ones close enough to hear. ...Which, I think, was just Daisuke by then. >>; But he was entertained, haha. Oh, and not far away there was a display with earmuffs that were shaped like hamburgers, so I picked up one and showed it to the nearest band guy... who happened to be Yuichi AGAIN lol... and he started laughing, so I put them on him and he modeled them a bit for whoever else was around. XD Oh, and the one other fun moment I remember was when Tak and I encountered each other in a narrow aisle trying to pass in opposite directions, and we ended up doing that little dancing-from-side-to-side thing trying to get out of each other's way... XDD He was a total goofball and hopped back and forth exaggeratedly for a moment before we finally laughed and continued past each other and LOL, he is too adorable.
Anyway, finally everyone was finished in Hot Topic and we all gathered outside the store to figure out what to do next. Actually, Roger informed me that he was going to head back to the hotel to bring back Male Angel, who had stayed behind to sleep when we'd all left the first time. It was decided that everyone could wander around as they pleased, but that each band member should stay near at least one staffer with access to a cell phone. Even after Roger left we still had more than enough staffers - myself, Don, Female Angel, Sid, Eve, Aimee, and maybe one other but I forget. :x So yeah, I told the band all this... and immediately Tak declared "I wanna stay with Becky!" Then Daisuke followed with, in English, "Me too!" and then You followed up with "Everyone wants to stay with Becky!" and they all laughed and agreed and gbkdfbgkadsghad T____T Believe me, guys, I wanna keep all of you toooooo *cries*
Ahem, but yeah... at least that made it easy to figure out what to do from there: we all stuck together. :B;;; So the next store of interest we ended up finding was Spencers. Naturally they all had a great time in there too, especially when checking out the adult section. XP LOL oh, geez... at one point I was looking at adult humor books and Yuichi strolled up beside me, and pointed at one called "What Your Poo Is Trying To Tell You" and asked me what that meant. >____>;;; So after I explained the title he was all "Ohh, I get it! They have books like that in Japan too, and they're actually pretty serious!" So I picked up the book and flipped through it, and found that it was like one of those kiddie activity books with mazes, word puzzles, coloring pages, etc. So I said "...this is obviously NOT one of the serious ones" and we laughed over that for a bit before moving on. XD;
Eventually everyone was finished browsing there, so we congregated around a lounge area with some padded benches not far outside of Spencers. You and Daisuke went off looking for restrooms, but the rest of the band started sitting down (to wait for them I guess?), so we all did the same. I sat at the end of one bench, and Yuichi and Tak soon joined me... Hiro sprawled out on another bench across from us... and the rest of staff sort of sat/stood around somewhere in between.
Anyway, the next thing we noticed was that the stores around us were starting to close. >_o We'd barely been there an hour, and it was only 6pm... wtf Virginia? So yeah, that pretty much took care of any further wandering plans, and we all just sat around waiting for Roger to come back so we could move on. Yuichi noticed the other staff girls behind us playing around and singing and stuff, and said to me "For people who haven't slept much, they're really energetic." I told him it was one of those things where you're so sleepy you can't help but be hyper, heh. >> But anyway, after a few minutes of this, a mall security dude approached us and reminded us that the mall was closing... we told him we were just waiting for our ride and he was ok with it, but we did have to relocate to a spot closer to the doors we'd come in through so we could head out as soon as Roger got back.
So move we did... and this was when Don had me ask the band what they'd like to have for dinner. I asked Daisuke, You, and Tak first since they were closest, and they thought about it for a minute... they had been "complaining" all weekend that they'd already gained weight since coming here and were even having trouble fitting into their clothes by the second day XD... but I believe it was Tak who said "Yeah, but we should just go all out for our last day, get fat and then work it off when we get back home." I love this boy's attitude. 8D Anyway... I remembered hearing You say earlier that she wanted steak, so I suggested that and all three of them immediately brightened up. XD So it was a quick vote for them, lol. That done, I headed over to the other two members to make sure they'd be cool with steak, and... Hiro was a bit reluctant. x_x He asked if they'd have regular burgers and stuff too, and I said yeah, plus chicken and pasta and several other options... and he was cool with it then. Yeah, apparently Hiro's not a steak person. That was a first. :P;;;
But yeah, everyone agreed on steak, I reported that to Don, and soon enough Roger arrived and we all trooped over on foot to the Outback Steakhouse across the parking lot. Yep, again, same place we took Suicide Ali the year before. Of course, we had a group of like 14 and the restaurant was already pretty full, so we were told it would be about an hour before a table opened up... but we knew any restaurant would be the same at this hour on a Sunday night, so we were willing to wait. We decided to sit at the bar in the meantime, so we headed that way... but of course the bar was pretty packed too, so even finding seats for all of us there was a challenge. :x And the next roadblock we hit was that Hiro hadn't brought his passport, and the lady at the counter wouldn't let any of the rest of us use our IDs to buy anything for him, which was kinda lame since I'd had no problem using my ID to cover Goshi and Kozi the year before. :|
Oh well... Hiro said it was ok and he'd just get something non-alcoholic, so we gave up, and by now all the seats along the right side of the bar were open so everyone (the band, at least - the important "everyone" lol) could sit down. So Daisuke sat at the far end, followed by (I think) Tak, Yuichi, You, then Hiro, then me at the corner and Sid on my other side. All the members except Hiro had already ordered, so I helped him pick out a smoothie. He decided on a coconut strawberry one, so I ordered that along with my own drink and the wait began.
Hiro's was the last drink to come up, of course, so he made random conversation with me and Sid while we waited. :3 Then when his drink finally came, it was this really bold, pretty swirl of dark red strawberry and white coconut syrups, and the whole band was all "Ooooo pretty~! What is that?!" and stuff. XD Yuichi even had to come over and try a sip, but decided it was way too sweet for him, LOL. Hiro liked it though, so yay. :3
We still had a pretty long wait for our table though, so I decided to grab a menu and help the band start figuring out their orders. Daisuke wanted whatever steak was closest to the restaurant's specialty, but in the smallest size, so he opted for a 6 oz. Outback Special with no sides or anything. Then... I think Tak, Yuichi, and You all went for the prime rib with various toppings and sides, and Hiro settled on a burger with two sides, and that was pretty easily taken care of, so we were back to waiting for a table. This time the wait wasn't much longer, though, and finally we were all able to move to the same huge booth that we'd sat at with Suicide Ali the year before. XD; Seeing some trends here, lol...
So yes... I let everyone else sit first and then claimed the last chair at the end, across from Tak and next to Daisuke. Soon enough Don came over to have me write down all the band's orders (which, amazingly, I remembered) plus my own, and the wait for our food began. And from this point on the evening was, in so many words, an awesome time. :D I hope I can remember all the good parts... (don't expect them to be in order though >>)
Let's see... of course, first of all the server brought the usual complimentary bread to our table, and the guys (at least the two I was near) seemed to enjoy this. Daisuke probably had half a loaf, and it was cute when Tak tried to cut himself off a chunk and was being all timid about it, so Daisuke told him "Just saw through the thing!" including some serious sawing gestures. XD So Tak did, only he made it even MORE exaggerated and LOL, he's so precious *dies* Anyway, so... salads came out next. Tak had ordered one only to learn that the croutons were too garlic-y for him, plus there was too much of the salad itself, so he shared it with everyone sitting around him. XD;;
But yeah, obviously it took a while for our 14-person order to come around, so in the meantime I got to talk a bit with Daisuke. :D It started when, out of nowhere, he said "Oh, I'll give you my card!" and produced one of his business cards to give me. :DD And Tak saw this and said "Oh, I'll give you one too!" and so I got one of his as well. :DDD He even said "Yoroshiku~" as he handed it to me, LOL. Yeah, that made me all happy for some reason ♥ (Also, I'm proud to say I remembered to accept them with both hands! *geek*)
Anyway, then Daisuke went on to tell me that about 10 years ago was probably the peak of his career, because that was when he had sung the vocals for a song used as the opening theme to a Lupin III movie. O______O WHY IS THIS STUFF NOT BEING USED TO PROMOTE THEM MORE?! And they just finished appearing at an ANIME convention, no less! *dies* Soooo yeah, I was endlessly blown away and impressed by that, so he told me the the movie was called Dead or Alive and I promised to use that info to look up the song when I got home. And of course, I did, by the way. Damage no Amai Wana by Media Youth. I likes it. 8D
Let's see... then somehow he asked again about my work for Kiwamu and Tainted Reality and these conventions and stuff, including asking how frequently I come to events like this, so I told him two or three times a year. Went on to say that I'd love to do it more, since it's always a lot of fun and we have a lot of great bands, etc... and he went on to give me advice just like he'd done with Roger the night before, about keeping after my goals, talking about my dreams out loud to as many people as possible to ensure that the right people will hear them someday, forging new connections whenever possible and treasuring them, etc. Awwww, life advice from a legend. T____T Seriously, I respect this guy like crazy... it really meant a lot to me (and I made sure to let him know that ♥).
Ok, now I'm gonna (probably wrongly) guess that all the rest of the meaningful conversation and fun moments happened after our food came, so moving ahead to the arrival of dinner. Daisuke had been saying that he had already filled up on bread and he hoped they weren't going to bring him a huge steak XD;;... and when the server brought his plate, I personally thought it looked pretty lonely since it was just a little slab of beef that was thicker than it was wide, and no side dishes or vegetables or anything... but Daisuke accepted it saying "Yokatta~~~!" and laughing that if it had been any bigger, he probably would've exploded. XDD Such a legend, yet so adorable too, gah. Tak was also all kinds of happy when his prime rib with lobster & mushroom topping arrived, raving over how yummy it looked and all excited to dig in... and once he did, he said it was the best steak he'd ever tasted. 8D
Hmm... Eve and I had both ordered the one and only pasta dish on the menu, and I quickly learned that this pasta was actually slightly spicy for some reason. Not that I dislike spicy, but I'm not used to it since I avoid it to protect my stupid ulcerated stomach, so it doesn't take much to get to me. So after a few bites I muttered how spicy it was (and Eve agreed), and Tak and Daisuke looked surprised... so Eve let them try some of hers, lol. Tak kinda tilted his head and said it was only a little spicy... but then he realized "Oh, but if you keep eating more and more of it..." So I finished his sentence with "...it gets to you," which is neatly expressed in the Japanese phrase "kuru ne." And Tak immediately started laughing and remarking on how saying stuff like that made me sound so much like a Japanese person it's scary. XD;;; Then Daisuke got in on it, saying if he wasn't looking in my direction and had only the sound to go by, he'd have sworn I WAS Japanese. bsgkjbhdshtf these people *dies*
This sort of thing continued through the whole meal, too - another fun one was when the knife I had been using to cut the chicken on my pasta fell to the floor, and Tak and Daisuke were surprised by the sound and asked if everything was ok, and I said yeah, just my knife fell. But I expressed that as "knife ga okkocchatta," which sent Tak into giggles again as he started going on with "See?! Okkocchatta! Someone who's not Japanese wouldn't know that word!" And eventually Daisuke burst out laughing and said "You've been lying, haven't you? You ARE Japanese! I bet that nose comes off and you look just like us!" ... so I made a show of tugging on my nose to show that it doesn't come off and insisting that I wasn't lying and they laughed and laughed and *dies forever* Yeah, they just kept going on and on like this >__>;;... at one point Tak said I was even good at "tsukkomi"-ing, but I can't for the life of me recall when I did that to any of them... and he also said he felt like if he ever forgot some Japanese word, he could ask me and I could teach him. XD;;; Then to finish it all up, Daisuke started to say "You're even better than... oh, there's a foreign celebrity in Japan named Dave Spector who..." And I said "Ohh, yeah!" and he just about fell out of his chair as he spluttered "You KNOW him?!" XDD God, I was dying by the end of all this, haha. But yeah, his point was that my Japanese was even better than Dave Spector's. Gah yay *dies some more*
Ahem... yes, did I mention these guys were out to give me the biggest ego inflation in the world all throughout this weekend? This dinner was the pinnacle of that. >_> And the best part was yet to come. The part that made me the happiest I've ever been in my "career" with Tainted Reality, with Kiwamu, with the Japanese language itself. The part when Daisuke told me that, in all his 20 years in the music business, I was the best interpreter he had ever worked with.
Seriously... words can't even express how happy that made me. Coming from this man who had created music with members of X Japan, who's friends with former members of bands like Malice Mizer, who had performed a song for one of the most famous anime titles in history, who had done and seen and experienced as much as he had... someone I had grown to respect so much over the course of these few days... And he didn't mean just in terms of my Japanese capability, but also because of my personality, my dedication, and because he trusted me and felt at ease when I was there. I just. I can't even. Unbelievable.
Yeah. *breathes* Ok, writing a report here... moving on...
Ah, there was one other little amusing bit that deserves mentioning: toward the end of dinner, Yuichi was the lucky (lol) band member who kept nodding off at the table. No torture with video cameras this time *coughlikeHisashiahem*, but even better, Tak decided to be a brat and stick a straw up his nose as he slept. Twice. XD And both times Yuichi jerked awake shaking his head and rubbing his nose and looking around, finally spotting the culprit and grumbling "Bikkuri shita...!" LOL
Anyway... I think that's pretty much all there is to say about dinner, so once everybody was done and the check was settled, we gathered ourselves up and headed for the exit. As we marched across the parking lot back to the cars, Hiro brought up the subject of Ameba with me again, asking me if I knew about it, if I had one, etc. Once again I promised to add all of them once this was over, and he and You were all "Yeah, yeah, add! :DD" So I said "Ok, I'll do it when we get back to the hotel tonight :D" and You was all happy, haha ♥
Soon enough we were all piling into our cars - the same three rode with me again - and we were on our way. I followed the car that had been parked beside me, and after a minute realized that it wasn't Roger, as it had a personalized license plate and a bunch of bumper stickers all over the back. So I said "Wait, is this the right car?" And Hiro said yeah, it was Don's. But um, Don rode with ME to Virginia, in MY car. >__>;; So yeah, I was getting weirded out... and as we sat at a red light I took out my phone to call Roger and make sure. But he didn't answer, so I muttered "Dero yo...!" which made my Japanese passengers crack up laughing in fascination AGAIN over how I just naturally spoke in Japanese in situations like this. XD; Anyway, I tried calling Roger one more time, but still no answer, and then our red light turned green so I just growled "Mou...!" and put my phone away, which brought still more giggling from all around me. XD;;
Anyway... so I trusted Hiro's judgment and just kept following this bumper sticker covered car in front of me... and then it made a turn into a gas station. That made something click, and I remembered Eve telling Roger in the restaurant that she was going to have to stop for gas before we got back on the highway. So I finally relaxed and sighed "Asetta...!" leading to more giggles from my passengers XD;;; and we pulled into a parking spot to sit and wait for Eve to gas up her car. Meanwhile Roger pulled into the parking spot beside me, and as I was chatting about something random with Hiro, I glanced past him to spot Daisuke also peeking around Roger to look toward our car, so I waved at him and he waved back and :D it was so cute lol.
So when Eve's refueling was complete, we were on the road again. This time my passengers pretty much slept all the way back, lol. Oh, and sometime earlier in the day they had asked if we could go to Walmart again after dinner so they could buy souvenirs, so we did that... and when we got there, the majority of them made a beeline (lol unintentional pun ♥ *shot*) for the munchies section and grabbed some of those huge variety packs of individual bags of chips/pretzels/etc. Suicide Ali was all about those things the year before too. XD; And yeah... Hiro also asked me where he could find cell phone straps, but I wasn't sure we'd find them since they're not a big trend here like they are in Japan, but I led him off toward the electronics section to check. On the way he asked me where I'd gotten all my straps, and I told him they were all gifts - the Suicide Ali and Sound Bee ones were obvious, the Relakkuma was from the Suicide Ali fan Megumi, and the moogle came from YesAsia thanks to a gift certificate one of my taijiprojectsub members sent me. ♥ Anyway, yeah, we got to electronics and I asked if they had straps, but it turned out they didn't... so Hiro was resigned to try looking again at the airport the next morning.
Not much else to speak of on this Walmart run... Hiro was the first to finish and head on out to the car, and the rest soon followed. I noticed that Tak was still stuck in the middle of a long checkout line, so I waited with him while everyone else headed outside. Seriously, why did this place only have like 2 lanes open? >_> But yeah, at last the massive cartload ahead of Tak got out of the way and he was able to pay for his stuff, and we proceeded outside to where the rest of our crew was waiting. The trip back to the hotel only took a couple minutes, of course, and was naturally uneventful. I let everyone out at the entrance, they thanked me as they unloaded, and I went to park my car before heading back inside to follow everyone back up to our floor.
Earlier discussion had ended in the conclusion that, since the band's flight would be leaving at like 6am, we would be wise to have everyone ready to leave the hotel by 3:30... which meant, at this point, we only had about three or four hours left together. ;_; Of course, we had plans to get together for our usual last-night party, some drinks and snacks and Rock Band and just hanging out to celebrate a job well done, but first Roger had some business to take care of and the band all had to get packed, showered, etc... so there was a bit of a delay before our party could get started. And in that span of time, Hiro somehow ended up in our room, where You and I used my laptop to show him all the pictures Roger had uploaded on the Tainted Reality Twitter over the weekend. He was highly amused to see that so many of the pictures were of him during his little human billboard stunt. XD
Oh, and yes, after he was done on the computer and it was free for a while, I went ahead and sent Ameba friend requests to all five of them. 8D *geek* It wasn't long before You sat down for a turn at the laptop and noticed she had an add request, so when she went to approve it she said out loud "Oh, it was Becky!" and laughed and approved and sent me one back and haha it was cute. XD
Anyway, at last we were all able to file into Roger's room to get the "party" started. He was over in Don's room taking care of some final business, but the other girls on staff got the Rock Band game set up so we could get moving on that. You, Yuichi, and Hiro were the first band members into the room, so they very quickly got Hiro set up on the drums... and Yuichi quickly said to me "Oh, hey, I got your friend request on Ameba :D" haha. Then he chuckled a little and once again swore that I was just like a Japanese person because I'd used a (・ω・)ﾉ smiley in my add request message. XD;; He even imitated the smiley by holding his arm up in the air and laughing "She was all like this!" LOL *collapse*
Buuuut yeah. Before long the other two band guys joined the party, also followed shortly by Male Angel... but of course, the main attraction of the night was Hiro on the drums. Yuichi and Tak also tried out the guitar in turns... at one point Hiro tried to get me to play the drums but I said no thanks >_>... Daisuke was content to just watch and groove along with the music (like me~ haha)... and after a while someone finally handed You the bass to let her give it a shot. This was pretty much all there was to the party portion of our night, though, because even before You finished her song, there were the usual business talks to attend to.
So Roger waved me and Daisuke outside to talk business (we were soon joined by You and Tak, just to note). Mostly Roger wanted to ask if they were happy with how things had gone this weekend, if there was anything they would've had us do differently, etc... but Daisuke had absolutely NO complaints and assured us that he was 100% happy with the way everything had gone. He made sure to stress his eternal gratitude to Roger and me and Don and everyone else on staff, saying he had worked with a lot of sponsors in the past who only cared about money and did a half-assed job, but all of us were hardworking and trustworthy and happily busting our butts for them even if it landed us in a lifetime of debt, and for that he loved us all. ;____;
Tak also contributed that he'd been to Europe before with his other band Calmando Qual, and that it had been nothing but stress from beginning to end, but he hadn't felt any stress at all since he'd come here - only fun and laughter and good times. The others agreed, and Daisuke went on to tell us that he'd been a bit worried before they came here - that things would go wrong, that they'd get homesick, etc. But then as soon as they arrived at the airport in Virginia, Roger was there to welcome them, which made him feel like maybe he could trust this big American nutball sponsor after all and things would be ok. And from then on they had experienced nothing but fun and happiness and smiles and the triumph of success, and everything had gone so perfectly that they didn't want to leave. They had come to trust all of us on staff 100% and felt completely comfortable leaving everything in our hands, and they were thoroughly grateful to all of us for making this weekend the success it was. He also told us that coming to America to perform was his dream ever since he got started in the music industry, and that he was forever grateful to Kiwamu, to Roger, to all of us for making that dream come true beyond his wildest expectations. Roger made sure to let him know that the band was to thank for that too, as they had all been such amazing people, so easy to work with, and such awesome performers... so Daisuke said they'd keep working hard and improve so much that, next time they come to America, people will look back at their Nekocon 2010 appearance and think "What was WRONG with them then?" And... just... yeah. Suffice to say that tears were shed by many throughout this conversation. I don't know what else I can say. Can anything be more gratifying? ;_;
Finally Roger realized that we only had about 45 minutes before we needed to start rounding everyone up to leave, so we finished up and returned to our respective rooms to do what we needed to do. Well, I didn't need to do anything really, since I wouldn't be leaving until later... so I mostly just sat on the couch in our suite chilling while the band finished up their packing. when everyone was done and ready to head downstairs, Yuichi came into our room and... I dunno if he didn't realize I'd be going to the airport with them or what, but he scooted up to me saying "otsukaresama~" and thanking me and whatnot. This was followed by "I know you're actually Japanese, so you better come home to Japan soon, ok?" heh... >_> So again I played along and said ok, I'll come home soon, lol... and he pulled me into a big squeezy hug, then at last we followed You out into the hallway.
Soon enough everyone was together in the hallway and beginning to lug everything toward the elevators. I sort of felt pointless not carrying anything while everyone else was dragging instruments AND multiple bags, so when I noticed Tak having trouble getting one big suitcase to roll the way he wanted it to, I grabbed the handle to pick it up and carry it down the hall the old-fashioned way. Tak was floored. XD He kept laughing and carrying on with "Ooooh!" and "Sugoi!" and "So it turns out you're the strongest one of us all!" LOL he's so adorable ♥
So we made it down to the lobby and outside to where a con car was waiting for us, and they began the process of loading up luggage into the con car and Roger's Jeep. A light rain was falling now, and it was a pretty cold morning (morning? it was like 3:30am...), so Daisuke was all shivering and hopping up and down next to me trying to keep warm, haha. He said to me "Aren't you COLD?! It's COLD!!!" and stuff while he laughed and bounced in place XD *dies of cute*
Anyway, yeah... finally everything was loaded, the band said their goodbyes to the rest of staff (only Roger and I would be going to the airport, and Male Angel since he was flying out too), I followed the band into the con car to ride to the airport, and Roger and Angel loaded up in Roger's car behind us. Not much to say about this ride... I think I might've actually slept through much of it, heh. So we pulled into their terminal, got everything unloaded, and got them inside to the check-in line. During the wait, Yuichi parked himself beside me again and said "Sleepy, huh?" I agreed and he once again started with the "otsukaresama~"s and stuff. Then he told me to be extra careful driving home... aww.
Not much else to mention about the check-in process. It went pretty quickly, and soon enough the band had dropped off all their check-in luggage... and with that, it was time to say goodbye. Roger started things off, beginning with Angel and then working his way through the band. Meanwhile Angel grabbed me and pulled me into a hug so tight it actually hurt >> lol... and after he continued to his gate, I moved on to the band. And darn it, I had long since decided that they were all getting hugs from me whether they wanted to or not. XP So I started with Hiro, who thanked me and promised to come back. Then came Tak, who gave me a good cuddly hug and made me promise to find him on Ameba and stay in touch. T__T Then I reached Daisuke and gave him a "ganbatte" as I released him from his hug, then came You with more promises to stay in touch and meet again... and finally I came to Yuichi, who gave me one last long, tight, laughing, rocking-back-and-forth hug as he thanked me for everything and promised we'd meet again.
And with that, Roger and I headed toward the door as the band continued toward their gate, all of us frequently turning back to wave more and call out "baibai"s and "mata ne"s and whatnot until they'd reached the escalator and we were out the door. And that, in my mind, concluded the most uplifting, gratifying ending to the hands-down best convention experience I've ever had. I would spend the ride back to the hotel with Roger reflecting on everything that had happened (no matter how hard he tried to hold business conversations lol... sorry dude, I was too busy floating), and when we got back to the hotel to crash for a few hours before departing for home, I was still too giddy to sleep.
But of course, I did have a very long day of driving ahead, so sleep was necessary. I only managed about 4 hours of it before I woke up around 10am, and I didn't have much packing to do so I used my extra time to work on this report and help Roger and Don load up their stuff. It was around noon when we finally got everything downstairs, loaded up our cars, and hit the road. Roger took us to Waffle House for a quick breakfast/lunch/whatever to celebrate a job well done, then he continued on his way while Don and I hit the highway back toward Pittsburgh. Wasn't a terrible drive this time (at least the weather was on our side), but it was 10:00 at night before we actually made it to Don's, so I decided it would be in my best interests to crash in the same Motel 6 I'd used the previous Wednesday night and finish my trip home the following morning.
So, around 2:30 Tuesday afternoon, I finally rolled into my own driveway and returned (though reluctantly lol) to my daily life... which would never feel the same after the incredible experience I'd just had. All that worrying and fretting I had done before leaving the previous Wednesday all seemed like a waste now, as I came home from Nekocon 2010 in such a great mood that, for days afterward, I literally felt like I was floating.
Daisuke, You, Tak, Yuichi, Hiro: thank you eternally for the best, most gratifying, most encouraging experience in my career thus far, such as it is. I really, really needed that. You were the best bunch of people I've ever had the pleasure to work with, and you BETTER come back! Often! ♥
And that's it! If anyone managed to survive the entire report, I hope you enjoyed it :D