Catcon?? Yeah, Catcon. Not just for single cat ladies anymore. Catcon LA is a gathering place for cat owners, vendors, artisans and anybody who loves cats and the company of cat people.
What is Catcon and what kind of people would attend?
The obvious answer – people ‘crazy’ about cats, us included. Our kids dragged us to all kinds of Cons since they were full-fledged teenagers. Catcon was supposed to be our ultimate revenge. This is Dreya’s (Ed’s youngest) last summer before college so we thought we could force her attended one of ‘our’ Cons. At last, some level of sweet revenge for all that Anime. She ended up going to Germany instead, so we could not inflict our kind of weirdness on her, but we enjoyed our weekend in LA none the less.
All about the voyage
Like any good road trip story, we have to talk about the voyage and not focus on the destination. We’ll start our story in San Diego. Ed just finished his short course race at Iron Champs, the final race of the Iron Outrigger Canoe season. You can tell from the pictures that everything didn’t go quite as planned, but it was so fun. Once we got the canoe upright, we passed all kinds of boats to finish in a respectable middle of the pack. The beach was filled with people who came hundreds of miles to be here and we were leaving for Catcon. We said goodbye to our team and bid our adieu to San Diego. Our friends didn’t understand Catcon or why we would be leaving the season finale party to attend, but they certainly wanted a trip report and a lot of pictures.
Wine tasting in Capistrano
Plowing through LA traffic is never fun. You have to be in the right mindset. We’re not encouraging drunk driving, but we needed to tune our hostilities properly. Too mellow and you’ll never make your merge. Too hostile and you’ll never survive. Somewhere in between, you can find your LA zen and just enjoy the show. The Rancho Capistrano Winery was a great place to start. The bartender paired us with nice wine that matched our neophyte tastes, and the steak salad was amazing. It was more of a tasting room than winery but still fun and super yummy. Capistrano itself was a neat little stop as well. We did a little window shopping while the food (and wine) settled. We were well off season for the mid-March celebration of the swallows returning to San Juan Capistrano Mission, but the Mission Gift Shop was filled with tchotchkes for the adults. We learned about the ‘21 Missions of California’ which seems to be a somewhat modern grouping of Spanish Missions in order to attract tourists. Across the street was the Capistrano Trading Post filled with all the trinkets we begged our parents for during our travels. We typically choose to take pictures and create memories, more than to collect memorabilia so it was easy to leave empty handed with a deliciously full belly and smiles on our faces.
Walking tour of the Fashion District
We arrived in downtown LA and waited for the show to start by taking a walking tour of the Fashion District. There were all kinds of colors and textures of fabric to buy, each one more exotic than the next. The area claims over 200 wholesale and retail textile shops with the largest selection of textiles and notions in the US. We could believe it from the vast array of wares we saw offered. What we didn’t see were the wholesale showrooms that set the trends in fashion, or Santee Alley, that hosts hundreds of vendors selling just about everything. Then again, we didn’t look that hard, and it was a weekend. After a little meandering, we returned to the Ace Theater for the video fest.
The Magnificent Ace Theater
The Ace fully embodies Spanish Gothic style. It was built 1927 as the flagship theater for United Artist and has been meticulously restored including modern sound and projection systems. The first thing you notice is the size of the theater compared to modern multiplexes. It is huge with 1600 seats including balcony seating. You could imagine the United Artist world premiers in all their gold age gala happening there. The next thing you notice is the intricate detail of… everything. Every nook and cranny held a hidden gem. If we were filming American Horror Story Theater it would definitely take place at the Ace. Imagine a horror film festival on Halloween with a candlelight walking tour of nearby South Central / Skid Row. Perhaps that would be a little too scary.
Watching Cat Videos with Friends
Finally, it was time for the evening’s main event – CatVideoFest. The MC very eloquently said, “you could watch cat videos on YouTube at home but this is an opportunity to watch cat Videos with friends.” The organization makes a video reel of the year’s best submissions and some classic clips that tours the country to raise money for local cat charities, animal welfare organizations, and shelters. The reel premiers every year at Catcon LA. Lil’ Bub and her owner, Mike Bridavsky made a cameo appearance, and pretty soon we settled into videos. We don’t want to steal the thunder from their production reel, so aren’t disclosing too many of the selections, but this one was for a very good cause so we wanted to pass it along. Watch it and don’t be afraid to cry, we did. One of the many joys of the shared experience of watching videos with friends is the collective reaction. The oohs, ahhs and the times when nobody in the house has a dry eye.
Best Wurst is LA
Wurstkuche has been on our list for some time and it was walking distance from the Ace so it was the obvious dinner stop. We are so glad that at the last minute we decided to drive since we were feeling particularly hungry as well as lazy. As it turned out, that was a stellar decision since GoogleMaps took us right through Skid Row to get there. 2000 homeless people in a 54 block area is pretty dang scary, and within the heart of Skid Row, the tarps and tents lined the entire sidewalk for blocks, even spilling out into the street. In the future, we will just avoid the area defined by the streets: Main, 7th, Alameda, and 3rd. Wurstkuche’s sausages are inventive and exquisite with a great beer selection and many quirky sodas. We tried duck and bacon with jalapeno peppers and sun-dried tomato with mozzarella but our favorite was the mango jalapeno. Three sausages plus the large Belgian fries was, perhaps, too much food but it was so worth it. We needed it all to try out the gourmet mustards. The entrance so unassuming. The line strung outside the narrow foyer, but it moved quickly. Once we ordered we went into the surprising back room. It was a dark, hip patio with a great vibe. There was a DJ spinning tunes, and we laughed and dined with our fellow patrons. How could a place this cool be right next to the harsh poverty of Skid Row?
The Destination – Catcon LA
Sunday morning we reached our destination, Catcon LA. For some reason, we were expecting the same rigamarole of Anime Expo at the LA Convention Center. We had a much more mellow Con at the Reef Hotel. We could park in an attached lot and tour the exhibits in one day. We could also walk up to all of the panels we were trying to attend. We wonder if we’ll have that same experience in Comic-Con when we go later this month?
The Floor Show
The Catcon expo floor spread across two levels and you could find just about everything cat related, including cats for adoption (about 90 cats were adopted during the show). The most extensive booth we saw was a cat box based escape room. The funniest was definitely the Purvana catnip. “Transcend the usual seeds and stems and elevate your feline with Purrvana Kitty Kush. Small batch and highly potent, any of the natural blends will deliver your cat to Purrvana.” If we didn’t have a year’s supply of the ‘nip’ at home, we would have got some for the packaging alone. We also would have purchased a petcube so we could watch our cats as we travel if we didn’t have a similar product at home. We almost got one anyway, just so we could talk back to our cats and shine a laser pointer for them to play with remotely when we travel. The one purchase we did make was a super cute card for Dreya’s birthday. Without a doubt, it was the most fun cat shopping we have ever done.
Call out for kind travelers everywhere
There were many good causes represented too. One we were particularly excited about as travel bloggers, Kind Traveler. We spoke with them at length and they are very excited about their platform. They describe themselves as a Public Benefit Corporation offering the travel industry’s first digital ‘give’ + ‘get’ platform. Travelers’ give to their preferred local or global charity. As a reward for their donations, they get an exclusive rate to book directly with Kind Traveler’s curated properties. For us, saving money and helping animals at the same time sounds like a win/win. One of our goals for Coleman Concierge is to promote ethical travel: preservation, humane treatment of animals, and tourism funding local economies. Kind Traveler is an easy way for everyday travelers to be a force of good in the world.
Furr-ocious Fashion Face Off
We attended two special events in the Cloud Room, The Furr-ocious Fashion Face Off and Lil Bub’s Big Show. The fashion show was super cute, and the winner was a vivacious character from New York, Jeremy Tjhung. As you can see from the pictures, he had some stiff competition, there were some highly creative costumes. Luckily for him, he sewed one heck of a costume including a hand stitched cat patch. The backstories were cute too. One lady from Covina was honoring her recently passed feline with a cat-themed Dio De Los Muertos outfit. The panel kept it lively and entertaining as well. Having spent countless afternoons shopping, assisting or simply cleaning up messes from the kids making cosplay outfits, we have an appreciation for what it takes to craft these looks. We can tell you with absolute certainty that Attack on Titan 3-D Maneuver Gear is a labor of love. We savored the opportunity to send pics of cat cosplay to my youngest, to which she responded: “Oh god this is what an Anime conventions look like to normal people”. Oh yeah.
Lil Bub’s Big Show
This presentation surprised us with its simple heartfelt warmth. Bub’s cameo at the CatVideoFest felt a bit contrived and commercial. The venue at the Cloud Room was more personal and interactive. The show was fun too. We learned about Bub’s life transformation from a virtually un-adoptable kitten to her current status as a world-famous cat. We could also see the love story. Mike Bridavsky, her owner, obviously loves her. He was crazy for her and just really liked hanging out with her. Bub loved him too. She is so calm and gentle naturally, but she loves having him nearby and it showed. Mike’s voice wavered as he described Lil Bub’s medical issues. She has an extremely rare condition called osteopetrosis where her bones grow denser as she ages. As a result, she could hardly move by the time she was one. Mike searched and finally found an effective treatment, and Lil Bub is now thriving. Jenn had a similar experience with our little cat Toki. Many vets said she should be put down because she kept having seizures, and walked as though she were perpetually dizzy. She wasn’t expected to live past four. Through selective medication, careful diet, and a whole lot of love little Toki is eight and happier than ever. It’s the Anna Karenina principle of cat ownership – happy cat families are all alike. You love your cat (or pet as it may be) every day and in every way, they keep finding ways to give that love back to you. If you get a chance to go to a Catcon or CatVideoFest you should, but only if you’re a cat person (or Pudge the dog). Otherwise, you might not get it.
Wrapping Up Cat-Con
Cat-Con was all about crazy cat people of all breeds. Even Earnest Hemingway loved cats. More than just cat love, this was a great excuse to visit LA for a weekend and see new places. Instead of our usual bike ride in Santa Monica, we got to explore the hip, cool, artsy vibe of downtown. All in all, a purrfect weekend getaway.