Mesa, You Surprised Me

Jeep

This blog post was supposed to be solely about DinoCon, an inaugural event held this past Saturday at the Arizona Natural History Museum for dinosaur enthusiasts. And part of it will be. After all, the convention is how my boyfriend and I wound up in Mesa – of all places – this weekend.

Let me set the stage for you. We love Phoenix, particularly Central Phoenix, which has been steadily growing and developing its culture the past five years. Personally, I love the entrepreneur spirit of Roosevelt Row, the live music scene that sometimes sprouts up on street corners, the energy of a city on the brink, public meeting spaces, food trucks, all of it.

So, you know, Mesa is definitely outside of that bubble. It’s not normally a place we would visit, because why leave Central Phoenix when it has so much to offer? (Oh God, I’ve become one of them – a Central Phoenix hipster!)

Glitter dinos

But then we saw the flyer for DinoCon after spending a day at Phoenix ComiCon. Our intention to go to the event started off as a joke. Dude, there’s a dinosaur convention! We agreed it was an amusing concept, it was a free event (with reservation), and we’re always down for new adventures, so why not go? Add on the fact that my boyfriend has a soft spot for archaeology and it was a done deal. We reserved our tickets and prepared to travel out of the bubble for something that was either going to be really awesome or a total bust.

DinoCon was extremely fun. When we arrived at the Arizona Natural History Museum, there was a Jeep parked in front tricked out to look like it was from the Jurassic Park movie – right next to a bronze velociraptor – naturally. Inside, we took pictures at a photo booth and then donned dinosaur temporary tattoos. In the auditorium, the first presenter was midway through his speech about why Dinobots (sidekicks to the Autobots Transformers of the 80s and 90s) were the shit. There were old commercial clips from YouTube and photos of rare Dinobots. The next presenter shared how she turned a Martha Stewart craft into a dino craft. I now have the knowledge to create dino snow globes, glitter centerpieces, and corncob holders. Watch out, world!

Comic store

After those two presentations, we decided to stroll down Main Street for a cold drink and to see what other trouble we could get into. We spotted a comic book store with amazing alley art that also offered coffee drinks – score!– and decided this was a much-needed detour. We entered Gotham City Comics through the back entrance and stumbled upon a yo-yo class – like the kind that prepares you for competitions, complete with instructions on how to walk the dog and shoot the moon. After ordering a Thor’s Hammer (espresso and caramel), I seriously considered buying a couple of Sandman graphic novels (my obsession with Neil Gaiman is reaching troublesome levels now).

A few doors down, we visited Milano Music, which was kind of an amazing place for a seasoned musician and a burgeoning one. I’ve never seen such a smorgasbord of saxophones – interesting ones with finishes that made them look like they belonged at a steampunk convention. I’ve been playing my guitar, Lucille, exclusively since I started lessons and it was cool to pick up some other instruments and strum them. I also played my first 12-string guitar. Not gonna lie, I love the sound. And Matt Nathanson plays 12-string, so it’s inherently cool.

I can’t remember the name of the other music store we wandered into, but this one was smaller and looked like virtually everything in stock had already been loved by another musician. Which also means there were some cool vintage pieces, some things I’d never seen before. The owner seemed a little cranky and a lot coarse. He was talking about Rockstar Supernova when we came in, trying to remember the name of that guy “who was fucking all the strippers.” And then he proceeded to recount how Bono’s son was a crybaby. Ah, musicians.

bookstore

Our last stop of the day was my favorite and I’m pretty sure my boyfriend saw me geek out on an entirely new level. The Book Gallery was one of the most beautiful places I’ve even been. When you walked in, you smelled the leather and the worn pages of old books. The hardwood floors squeaked beneath my feet and there were ladders everywhere, so I could check out the books on the very top of the huge bookshelves. And they had everything. Biographies of first ladies, check. Franklin Press books, check. Black studies, check. Collectors’ children’s books, check. I was in heaven. And even better, I felt at home.

I tried to explain why I loved this bookstore so much to my boyfriend and I think it came out a little something like this. Writing a book is hard. I’ve tried to do it. There’s so much work involved – and also so much creativity that has to come into play. It’s very personal. Every book in that shop represented someone who’d had an idea, a story, an inspiration, and they saw it through to publication. I was surrounded by people who’d succeeded. And it was inspiring. It made me think maybe I could do it someday.

I have no idea how long we stayed in the Book Gallery. I could have stayed there all day. But then I would’ve probably made a ridiculous offer to the owner to buy the whole thing – every book, the store, the ladders, all of it. And that’s just not a good idea.

While walking to the car to drive back to our bubble, my boyfriend and I both agreed that it had been a great day full of new adventures, cool finds, and geeking out.

Mesa, you surprised me. We’ll be back.

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