Yesterday I participated and worked at the first New York UglyCon, which for the unitiated, is the festival-cum-art-opening-cum-costume-contest-cum-signing event that celebrates The Uglydolls, created by David Horvath and Sun-min Kim.
I was originally going to help in something boring, like eying shoplifters and handing out raffle tickets. Carly (the Giant Robot NY manager) and I even discussed me possibly not working at all, if all the staff showed up and things looked par for the course (in GR art openings standards).
All the staff showed up.
Things did not look par for the course, by any standard.
Waiting outside for UglyCon:NYC doors to open, was a throng of families, spotted with handmade Boo and Poe and Jeero costumes. This was at 11am. UglyCon was to start at 3pm.
I went through the line of Uglydoll fans and handed out raffle tickets that would gain them entry. So far so good. One boy excitedly whispered to his dad, who then smiled at me and said:
dad: Are you Sun-min?
me: No. I'm sorry. I don't think she's coming today.
The kid immediately lost interest in me.
At noon we opened the GR store for general merchandise shopping. Things got a little hairy (kids taking vynil displays and my having to grab them by the nape and throw th... I'm kidding. This was just garden variety GR madness).
A line to meet David immediately formed, and kids were stoked to finally have all of life's questions answered.
Kid A, bouncing up and down, fidgeting with a postcard: Um, um, uh, first question. How many Uglydolls are there? Um, um, second question. What's this Uglydoll's name? Um, um...
Halfway down the line was a man looking at me in half-wonderment. We make eye contact and he says:
I'm really sorry if I'm wrong, but are you Sun-min?
me: No. I'm sorry. I don't think she's coming today.
At 2:50pm we sent everyone outside to start the UglyCon raffle drawing. At 2:55pm, the only computer in the store (the computer that functions as the register, the inventory database, the everything)...went blank. More to the point, someone tripped over the power strip and turned off everything plugged into it.
Carly, with a voice from the very depths of Moldor: FUCK.
So now, Jimmy! Mike and I are handing out juice boxes and snacks; asking everyone to be patient while we took care of some technical difficulties.
Fast forward to 3:30pm. A skinny bald man in his late 30s wearing a black leather jacket and jeans, strides up to the building entrance adjacent to GR. He barks at people to get out of the doorway, and the Uglydoll crowd parts like the Red Sea. Very accomodating. This is not good enough for the man. He wants the crowd to part like the hairline he wishes he had (no offense to anyone balding. My insult is dedicated to this single bald jerk.). This bald jerk looks at me and starts yelling, "c'mon! I've had it with you. Your store is a nuisance. This is ridiculous..."
I apologize with my dryest voice, and tell him, "Look. We'll stay away from your door. You don't have to be mean about it. This is a very important day for a lot of kids."
He rants back at me, unable to make eye contact.
me: Hey! They're kids here! Watch your language.
jerk: Yeah yeah. F*** you.
me: There's no need for that! I'm sorry (I repeat this dryly, over and over). You want a juice box or something?
A handful of parents yell at him. They're real close to using bigger nastier curse words. We make do with hating his guts. Man throw up his hands in defiance and goes into the building.
The crowd shares collective disgust at hateful New Yorkers. For a moment we all chastise the jerk in silence. I mean, some people. Not like us. A bunch people standing outside in the freezing cold for the chance to buy something called a Bob n' Beep. (Not hating, of course. I dropped a load of cash on UglyDolls myself.)
I start calling numbers. People are antsy and want to get in. Mostly because it's just cold outside. We've run out of the hot pads I brought for them.
Fast forward to 4pm. Still not a lot of movement in OR out of the store, but not for lack of trying. It's a GOOD thing when people want to stay in your store. We politely asked people to mind the other fans waiting to come in, but hey.
In the midst of the drawing, a middle-aged man comes up to me and asks if he can come in just to look at other stuff. I tell him no. He doesn't like that. We argue. Jimmy takes over and placates him. He doesn't like that either. The parents take over and placate him. He REALLY doesn't like that.
Man: Look at me. I'm not here for the Uglydolls. I promise. I just came in from Long Island to buy other things. Let me look around. I didn't spend 2 hours to be turned away. (etc. etc.)
me: I can't let you in unless you have a ticket right now.
Man: Can I have a ticket?
me: No. We're at capacity.
Man asks people in the crowd for anyone who has a ticket they want to give him. He gets one. His number gets called. Everyone wants to kill him. I'd already told him he'd be going in just to stand in an hour-long line to buy whatever it is he wants, but he really wants to "buy something that's not related to the Uglycon."
Several hours later, I see him talking to David, GETTING UGLYDOLLS AND PRINTS SIGNED. Money for GRNY means we get the last laugh. And I totally believe in karma. He drummed up enough negativity from all of us to last a lifetime.
Back to present.
4:45pm. David has come back from lunch and gotten settled back in so we start the costume contest outside.
There are some wicked awesome costumes. One girl was, I kid you not, wearing a brown polyester laundry bag over her head with two pillows stuffed on top, and the bag was cinched at her chest. This costume had no breathing holes or viewer. Loved it.
Two costume contestants left, when...
THE BALD JERK FROM EARLIER DUMPS A HEAPING BUCKET OF COLD WATER DOWN FROM HIS FOURTH FLOOR APARTMENT BALCONY, DRENCHING HALF THE CROWD.
Feces has officially hit the cieling fan.
David immediately calls the cops who never show up. Thanks, NYPD.
Kids are now crying.
Mothers are yelling at me that this was the worst experience of their lives.
I beg everyone to calm down and at one point mutter that we shouldn't reenact Wal-Mart.
Later, one mother said to me, "there were definitely some Wal-Mart families here for sure." I don't think she knew about what happened at Wal-Mart in Long Island.
We finally decide the raffle tickets aren't going to work. There are only fifty people waiting to get in now, so we get a bunch of them inside the store to fill up GRNY to max cap, and Upper Playground is nice enough to let the remaining freezing and now wet ticket holders hang out inside their store till I call them to the gallery.
I go into Upper Playground at one point to check on the UglyCon-ers, and God bless Upper Playground, really (Priscilla, if you see this, you are a saint.), and I know very little about cutting edge hip hop or hip hop culture, but the music playing in their store featured with crystal clarity, an MC describing what I can only approximate as getting the "cheese" sucked out their "Doritos" and then "dipping" the chip into really wet "guacamole" and then smoking something that rhymes with the Lackawanna Canal.
There was one kid, standing completely still in the middle of the store, unsure of what to look at, and so looking straight at the door.
Fast forward to 5:30pm. Most everyone who came out for the event is in, or has now been through. I tally two children who went home deferred, unable to wait any more, their hearts broken. Possibly more adults, but who knows. Everyone else got in. David promises to mail gifts to the especially heartbroken.
Almost everyone stops to say how great the whole experience was despite everything. A lot of people said it made their experience that much more gratifying after all the difficulty. Kids were stoked. One kid said it was the best day of their lives. All the adults looked at me like we'd just gone through Abu Ghraib. We smiled and hugged and promised to keep in touch. One man had a quivering tear waiting to fall from his left eye as he mouthed, "thank you."
One more man comes up to me and I already know what to expect.
Man: Are you David's wife?
me: No. I'm really sorry. I don't think Sun-min's coming today.
7pm. The last of the UglyCon-ers are getting merch bought and signed. The last man, an Asian guy about my age, gets a bunch of dolls signed, then brings them to me and asks ME to sign them.
For exactly one second, my heart soars, thinking "wow. This guy is in love with me and wants to remember this wonderful experience by getting my autogr..." and I interrupt my false-fantasy with the realization that:
me: I'm not Sun-min. I'm really sorry. I don't think she's coming today.
Man drops the hands that are holding Wage and Wedgehead, and stops smiling. Turns around and leaves.
Sun-min, wherever you are, I hope I did right by you.