A week ago right now I was getting ready to run another Panel About Nothing. There are many like it but this one is Angie’s and mine. We were at the Florida Anime Experience and I for one was excited. I’d done all this before (especially “story time”) but something had been on my heart and it was time to take this crazy train up a notch. It was only day one of the con (two if you’re counting set up Thursday afternoon and evening) and little did I know but this seemingly standard weekend of Oriental shenanigans would come to affect me more than most. And in some of the most amazing ways.

It was a P.A.N. just like any other until it wasn’t. I felt the need to challenge the audience to go beyond the drunken revelry, which I love and wholeheartedly take part in as much as my liver allows and then usually more, but this was a challenge to take the energy of our get together, the good feelings, the “I’m so fired up about this X, Y and/or Z” zeitgeist and use that to actually make a difference. I was done talking, it was time for everyone else to take the mic.

In what I’ve been told was a somewhat rousing speech given while Lorde’s rendition of “Everbody Wants to Rule the World” played as a backdrop, I encouraged anyone who felt the call to stand up and speak out about whatever was on their heart because the current state of affairs all over the globe is so negative I figured there was no better time than right then to hear some stories of bringing light into this world instead of darkness. I asked and damn if I didn’t receive:

One young sir shared that his desire had been to start a video podcast so he got off his ass, did it, and is happier every day that he did.

Then a lady spoke about strange twist of fate that saw here being the one responsible for saving a man’s life. A man on the other end of a routine phone call during her routine day, two normal daily occurrences for her that this day ended up being part of a miracle.

Then lastly a young man came forward and shared something he had never shared before, with anyone. A story of his father’s unexpected death during his youth that led him down a spiraling path of suicidal thoughts that only abated after a distant relative made it his mission to make sure that another life so full of promise would not end prematurely.

The audience and I, we were inspired…then amazed…then shown the very definition of bravery.

Our two hours of fuckery now came with feeling! A positive and hopeful feeling. Maybe everyone there would go home at the end of the weekend and start following their dreams, no matter how impossible. Maybe everyone would go home and live their lives more aware of everyone else living theirs and act more kindly to their fellow humans. Maybe everyone would go home more sensitive to those hurting around them everyday and make it a point to reach out a helping hand. I always wanted more for the P.A.N. and that night just seven days ago showed me that “more” is very, very possible. We would always be a party, but now we had a purpose.

The rest of the weekend, as most cons are, was a blur. Sunday arrived before I knew it (and strangely just before Monday!) My last official onstage duty as host and emcee of the weekend was to run an auction. A very special auction and one close to my heart. Many of you know I raised money last December to buy as many toys as I could for Toys for Tots. I sold off many of my own toys and collectibles to do so and, thanks to the generosity of many fine folks, we raised around $3,500. This year, as I was nearly out of things to sell, I was going to need some help. More valuables and more venues too.

So F.A.E. calls and wants to see if we can double our haul from last year. My first thought was along the lines of “fuck, shit, uh…well…maybe…don’t look at me I’m a secret pessimist” but I accepted nonetheless. We had items donated from fans of the P.A.N., Lyn and John Adams gave up some sweet Pirates of the Caribbean statues for the kids, Point of Contact Booking and Talent for Cons both sent me a stash of outstanding autographs and several outright donations poured in all weekend including one from Ron Methvin (a guy I haven’t even met!) who, after working another convention with Green Mustard Entertainment a few weeks ago, heard about my fund raising efforts and wanted to give me all his per diem for the cause. Last but certainly not least is the guy who called me one night to talk first about cars and then about compassion. You can say what you want about Tom Croom (and since this is the internet I know you already have) but he made this spearhead possible. He was ballsy enough to suggest a $7000 target for this year’s endeavor and I was foolishly wise enough to accept. He gave me the time, the promotion, the stage to stand upon and at the end of the day we took in just over $1600 kicking off our campaign to make sure not one kid round these parts goes without at least a little joy this coming holiday season.

One event and we’re almost halfway to last years total and that’s with 8 months and at least 4 more auctions to go before all is said and done. I’m usually a real glass is half full, and cracked, and on fire, kind of guy. But I do believe we’re going to fill this one right up and then to overflowing.

The Florida Anime Experience was very good to me this year. I was encouraged by so many unique interactions with people all over the place. Some expected, some there would be no way I could have anticipated. All important to me. I was encouraged, above anything else, to never stop using my gift of the gab. Last weekend reminded me the good I could do in this world as long as I didn’t stop talking.

Trust me, that will not be a problem.