The air is cold and the floor scattered with bodies in what feels like a job of war correspondence embedded in an over-joyous makeshift refugee camp. The attendance for this sleep-over of the Star Wars: The Last Jedi panel didn’t disappoint. Within hours, hundreds lined up wrapping themselves around the sprawling complex. With gear in tow, I found my first spot, and within moments the new friends and memories began. First was meeting some outrageously cool people Hallie, Elizabeth, and Gary. The former, part of the impressive ensemble from Blabba The Hutt podcast. Conversations about the day’s events took over, and we found ourselves happy in our little ecosystem floating along a line paved in concrete. Hours later we would finally proceed past security and into the sleep-over waiting area which would be our home for the next 13 hours.
This space draped in high black ceilings and rows of aluminum pipe soon became a high-speed makeshift M*A*S*H unit with people building their camp chairs, blowing up air mattresses and some of the most exotic seating devices you can imagine. I still cannot forget last’s night duo sitting in air blown Barca loungers. A pretentious sight when the guy next to them is sleeping with his face bare on the cold concrete.
Soon enough people made their spaces there own and for most that meant rushing to get something to eat from either Papa Johns, that delivered hundred of 8″ pizzas to hot dogs. Not long after eating people rushed to tuck themselves to sleep. Almost like Christmas Eve in hopes that the sooner they sleep, the sooner the trailer will come. Here in this sea of people, there are large swaths that fit into certain categories. There are those that can sleep through almost anything and those like myself who just can’t sleep at all. In-between are those that are uncomfortable, cold and just want the Sun to rise. There are those scanning their phones, catching up on books and of course watching Star Wars.
Things began to settle in when all chaos erupted as scores of people, not caring for those in their path, rushed to the north side of the floor to witness the Director of Star Wars: The Last Jedi Rian Johnson walking the beat, signing autographs and taking photos with anyone waiting in line. For long moments any reasonable person would assume that Rian would sign and meet the fans eagerly awaiting the trailer for tomorrow’s panel for a short time before mozy on off to nights of rest in a real bed. Instead, the Director has pulled off something quite extraordinary. After nearly three hours, Rian Johnson is still as I type these words, smiling, engaging with the fans of tonight’s sleepover. After a continuous line of souls, he is still there committing one of the great Con moments probably ever seen. When has a Director of a major motion picture spent the time to engage with fans on the front lines for over three hours? Standing, pressing the flesh, smiling for camera’s and signing your name so much that it just might induce onset adult arthritis.
But here in this cornucopia of the odd and jubilant, there is more. Like another Lightsaber battle competition with boisterous “OHHHHH’s” and “WOOOAAAHHH’s” and the constant THWACK of lit plastic amongst those sleeping just feet away. Adding to that barrage of melee swipes is the odd cacophony of aluminum crowd separation pipes being dislodged and banging against the ground. Each one is erupting in joyous applause. Why? Because these shiny sticks of conformity deserve to fall, that’s why.
Then there are those doing podcasts in the corner where they can find a quiet space and an outlet. People banging on stubborn vending machines and those just plain talking with smiles about Star Wars. I do feel like a war correspondent here, in this sea of happy refugees. I see all these souls laying on the cold cement floor, and I am warmed by their love of Star Wars.