(Okay, maybe not "learned," exactly—because I knew a bunch of them already—but was struck by them all the same.)
1. Cell phones need to come with a stronger vibrate setting. There's no way to hear a cell phone ring on the convention floor, not with that throng, and the simple act of walking renders my phone's vibrate null and void. I want some kind of industrial-strength, porn-star setting on my next phone. I want to be able to remove fucking barnacles.
2. Bring talcum powder. As I get older and heavier, I find that walking 5 or 6 miles each day surrounded by, essentially, Calcutta in costume, can result in a sort of adult-onset diaper rash. Yeah, I know. The talc would've helped.
3. Jim Lee should take pictures of his house and give copies to every kid who wants to be a cartoonist/comics artist. So, when that kid's parents say "There's no money, no future to be had drawing these stoopid comics," he can just whip out pictures of Jim's San Diego spread and say, "Yeah, there is." Seriously, the nicest house I've ever been in, bar none. And he was a complete gent for inviting us over.
4. "I'm just sayin'" is the perfect capper to every statement. Doesn't matter how serious or slight, "I'm just sayin'" means no one can argue your point. "Pol Pot actually had a lovely eye for haberdashery. I'm just sayin.'" Try it...you'll be doing it all day.
5. Geek chicks are well-endowed. From a sociological point of view, its just interesting. Maybe it has something to do with the lack of sunlight one suffers spending all of adolescence writing in leather-bound journals or listening to Tori Amos or watching The Nightmare Before Christmas for the eleventy-first time. Or maybe its the fact that they were hiding under tent-like blouses at every thespian society gathering or emo outing. It's still unclear why but, even with the natural exceptions to prove the rule, there's enough evidence to support the statement that geek chicks are stacked.
6. Geek guys are stacked, too. And that's all I'm gonna say about that.
7. Some parents should just be ashamed of themselves. Adam and I crashed the giant ballroom a little early for the Snakes on a Plane panel, and caught the tail end of the Lucasfilm presentation. Needless to say, the 6,000 seat Hall H was filled with every stripe of Star Wars character. We grabbed two seats on the aisle, and happened to be next to this knockout of a girl, dressed as slave-girl Princess Leia. I mean, really, really beautiful this girl was, and not wearing much of anything. Then, she started talking to the 40-something guy sitting next to her. Turns out he was her dad. And she was 14 years old. Now, as awkwardly revolting as it is to realize that you were, innocently and inadvertently, lusting for a minor, that's nothing compared to the fact that this girl's father not only allowed her out of the house dressed like an astro-whore, but took her to a place—first among many—where she'd be eyeball-schtupped by men 4 times her age who wouldn't think she was sad or silly for dressing like that, they'd feel entitled. And, as a father, you're not supposed to put your kid in situations like that. You're not supposed to chum the water with your own offspring.
8. Listening is an art. Adam and I had an impromptu pitch meeting with an editor—who shall remain nameless—out in the convention center's lobby. Another, already established writer walked past and exchanged pleasantries with the editor. While we were all looking at this writer/interruptor, the editor, thinking we didn't see him do this, mouthed the words "I have no idea who these guys are" to the writer. But we did. Now, as an editor myself, I get pitches all the time, some over the phone, some via email, and some—when I'm attending an event, like a film festival or a convention—in person. And even if I don't care, or if I know within the first 10 words, that it's something I'm not interested in, I pay attention...or pretend to. It's just a matter of mutual respect.
9. Joshua Hale Fialkov is a good man. A couple of years ago, I reviewed a comic called Elk's Run, written by the aforementioned Joshua Fialkov, being published by a tiny indie outfit called Hoarse & Buggy. It was very, very good, and I said so in EW. He dropped me a very nice note of thanks. I then met him at San Diego last year, and he had a big ol' poster-sized blow up of the review. He thanked me again and I told him what I tell everyone: When I was covering comics for EW, it was all about finding the stuff that was good and telling other people about it. I wanted EW to be an advocate of comics in general, and good comics in particular. We've since traded a bunch of emails and spoken on the phone here and there. Since then, Elk's Run was picked up by another publisher, which subsequently went bankrupt. Now, Random House has decided to collect Elk's Run and publish it as a hardcover. So, I tracked Josh down this year to congratulate him. Then, unbidden, he walked me and Adam over to the Simon and Schuster booth and introduced me to their publisher, telling him that we were writing comics, too. Now, he didn't have to do that...not by a long shot. But he did. Because he's a good man.
10. Avoid San Diego. That is, if you're a writer trying to get any real business done. There's no talking to anyone on that convention floor—it's too busy to keep a real thought in your own head, let alone expect anyone to concentrate on whatever pitch you've got. Hell, you're lucky if they remember your name. I might focus on some smaller cons next year. But San Diego itself is a nice little town, especially the Gaslamp and La Jolla. They've got some of the friendliest homeless people you'll ever see. One guy asked me for some change and I gave him the NYC-standard "Nah, buddy. Can't help you. Sorry." He fired back with a "You got nothing to apologize for, brother. God bless." In Manhattan, that same dude would've tried to crawl up my ass for that penny I swallowed when I was three.