In 1999, on a rainy April Friday afternoon, I packed up my things to leave my cubicle at U.S. Figure Skating. I had been working there for a little more than a month; just three days earlier I had celebrated my 30th birthday, and my new co-workers (who are my friends to this day), plastered my office with “30 things of 30” to show how old I was getting. This included 30 Q-tips because I would need to clean my ears more as I got older.
I jumped in my 1997 Geo Prizm and headed to Denver for the weekend. I had no one to be accountable to. I had yet to retain ownership of Patches, the 11-year-old cat who would become my buddy, and I was still slightly melancholy after being dumped about seven months earlier (lame, I know, seven months for a 2.5 year relationship).
I was on my way to Wings Over the Rockies Museum for the first-ever Star Wars Celebration. Although in its infancy, the celebration was still glorious. We had serious rain; it was a mud pile with wooden planks, not unlike the village in the move “The Piano” (without a naked Harvey Keitel). There were giant tents holding vendor areas and the panels. We saw the premiere of the Duel of the Fates video, excited about the scenes and music from the yet-to-be-released Phantom Menace (we didn’t know…). Ray Park made an appearance and did his Darth Maul stunt demonstration. Anthony Daniels was the host. I posed in front of a life-size Jabba the Hutt, played video games, took photos with a REAL camera because we had no phones or social media. I ordered takeout and stayed in a hotel renting science fiction movies.
It was perfect.
Six months later, Adam and I started dating, and from then, I was no longer “solo” at Celebrations. We attended every one from then on except Celebration II in 2002. In 2005, we chose our wedding date based on when Celebration was expected to be held.
It’s possible that 2005 (Celebration III, Adam’s first) was our favorite. The con was in Indianapolis, and to save money we rented a hotel room on the outskirts. It was completely gross and had bullet holes in the walls, so we checked out, splurged and found expensive rooms right across from the convention center. It was worth it. One night, we met some random guy in a speakeasy type of place, and we walked the streets to dinner with him. We were terribly drunk, the guy fell in love with Adam, and we even invited him to our wedding. Of course, we never saw him again.
At Celebration IV in Los Angeles, we bought the Tsuneo Sanda poster that became our autograph poster. We participated in our first Bounty Hunt, winning a prize as Geeks Who Drink, because we were WAY into quiz back then. We stayed at the Bonaventure Hotel, the iconic landmark in downtown L.A., and spent two days at my parents’ home to save money.
Celebrations V and VI were in Orlando, where we started a taxi war, found a great drag show, went on the Last Tour to Endor at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. It was so hot at night we would sit in concession areas just for the A/C.
At one of these events, we renewed our vows with the greatest Star Wars fan ever, Steve Sansweet. We spent time with Margie, waited hours for Mark Hamill and Carrie Fisher autographs, and always spent time in Cocoa Beach.
Celebration VII was in Anaheim, coincidentally a few minutes from where my mom was doing rehab for a broken hip. This was 2015, and the cracks in Adam were beginning to show. He had just quit a miserable job and was dealing with low self-esteem. He was struggling trying to limit alcohol. But it was amazing. We arose early early one morning to wait in line for The Force Awakens event, and we cried when we saw the trailer with “Chewie, we’re home.” We gave a commemorative poster to a guy on the shuttle who could only go for one day and couldn’t believe there was anything this amazing. We bought ONE random souvenir (by then we were experts at what to wait in line for and what not to waste our money on).
In all those times, we met our Star Wars heroes, from Captain (Admiral) Piett, to young Boba Fett, to R2D2 and even Major Derlin (John Ratzenberger from Cheers). We struck up a conversation with one of the droid builders behind BB-8.
In April 2016, I purchased passes for Celebration VIII, back in Orlando again. I reserved a room. Because, of course we were going.
As he grew sicker and transplant was on the horizon, I told Adam that we were probably going to miss it. He said “why?” I said, “Well, you will have a new liver and we will need to be focusing on your health.”
He believed we could go anyway.
But it’s just me this time.
I’ll see you soon, fellow Solos.