I want to start this post with a personal callout – it was going to be something else entirely for almost the whole week, but I never actually started that “something else” until now, about 11 a.m. on Saturday. I don’t like to cut posts so close to the deadline like that, so many apologies if the quality suffers as a result.
On Wednesday of this week, I drove my friend Marie and myself to Cincinnati to see “The Adventure Zone Live,” the McElroys live show tour promoting their new graphic novel version of the first arc of their incredible Dungeons and Dragons podcast (which I’ve talked about on two occasions before). The graphic novel is really good from the leafing through it I’ve done so far, and I’ll to get to that in a bit, but this trip was notable for more than just its destination.
See, I started driving, actually driving, late in my Junior year of high school. For a lot of reasons, I didn’t hop into a car immediately after turning 16 like many people do. For one, I know lots of kind and lovely people who would drive me where I needed to go most of the time. And for two… driving represented a lot of things I was uncomfortable with, and am uncomfortable with now.
Even now, almost 20, it’s still a little weird to imagine my own independence. But I’m certainly a lot more comfortable with it than I was at 16, or 17 when I actually started driving. I also am a lot more aware of my anxiety for new and unfamiliar situations, which driving was (and still is, a little) even now.
I’m thankful of all the ways I’ve grown since first learning to drive, due in a lot of part to my job requiring me to drive all over the place the summer after my senior year and this summer as well. But until last Wednesday I had never driven more than a half an hour from my house. And I certainly had never driven myself and a friend somewhere, stayed the day there and planned my own trip.
Admittedly, both Marie and I had a lot of help from our parents actually planning the trip, but once we got there we were able to figure out for ourselves what we wanted to do. That was new, and big.
Not to get ahead of myself, though, I first want to focus on the drive itself. I think what surprised me the most about it was how unremarkable it was. I know about my habit of hyping new things way up in my head before doing them, but it was incredibly true of the drive itself. It was really easy, and I never got panicked or overwhelmed. I stopped for lunch midway through and was able to locate the Wendy’s at the exit without the use of Google Maps just like I had seen my parents do so many times before. I didn’t run out of gas, or hit anyone, or even come close to.
And I found our airbnb just fine, and we introduced ourselves to the very kind owner and made friends with him just fine, and we walked into town just fine, found dinner just fine, and hailed a Lyft to the theater just fine. Unremarkable, all of it.
I guess that’s all to say that I’ve come a long way. I think the Gillian from… maybe even a year ago wouldn’t be able to say that any of that was unremarkable. Not to say it would be bad, but I’d be shocked to be taking part in any of that, if that makes sense.
The show was great. I wasn’t expecting to see all four McElroys there, partly based on how they were talking about the show on their podcasts and social media (apparently tickets didn’t sell very quickly in Cincy for some reason, which made me wonder if we would only be getting, like, one brother). But no, there they all were in the flesh on stage, talking in the voices I’ve heard hours and hours of from my podcast app.
The theme of the night was adaptation, which makes sense. The graphic novel is an adaptation of a purely audio story into a purely visual one, and as such they spent a lot of time explaining the particular challenge of making that switch. Personally, I think they did an incredible job capturing the spirit of the podcast without trying to literally adapt it. While many of the jokes made it more or less verbatim into the novel, those that didn’t were at least captured through the pictures, or through tiny background details.
It is a shame that they couldn’t use all of the same names from the original arc of their campaign, since it was at first adapted from a premade Wizards of the Coast campaign. Klarg couldn’t be called Klarg, nor Phandolin Phandolin, plus a few other small yet definitely noticed name changes. It’s a small thing but it is a shame.
But the art by Carey Pietsch (who I always thought was “Carey Peach” from all of the times the brothers talked about her on their podcast until I saw her name on the cover of the book), is lively and colorful and beautiful and fun and so perfect for this story. I cannot wait for the rest of the arcs to be adapted in her artwork and I can’t wait to get my grubby hands on a copy of every single one.
Speaking of a copy though, I got a free copy with my ticket and Griffin signed it! My favorite McElroy! What luck!
After the show, Marie and I Ubered home in the first instance of panic the whole trip for me. See, Marie had hailed us the Lyft getting there, but her phone was on the fritz and died partway through the show, leaving the responsibility of figuring out how to get home to me. She was super apologetic, but in theory it really shouldn’t have been a big deal. I didn’t even have to pay, thanks to my Dad’s family plan he shared with me.
But the app wouldn’t update and my battery power was slowly draining, and during the fifteen-minute intermission, I found myself standing in the lobby quietly considering a future where Marie and I were stranded at the theater, having to beg for a ride from the shady, probably violent strangers around us. That’s not what happened at all, though, because the app finally updated and I was able to get a ride from a man named Frank, who told us we should visit the gorilla exhibit at the Cincinnati Zoo, because his construction crew had just laid the concrete there and it was really beautiful.
We got back to the airbnb and sat on the front porch for probably an hour with the owner, Buddy, talking about all sorts of things. It was mainly Buddy and Marie talking about their endless knowledge of nature and the outdoors, two topics I’m a little lacking in, but it was fun all the same. Then Marie and I went inside and watched Buzzfeed videos until we went to sleep like the garbage millennials we are.
The next morning, Buddy made us cheese omelettes and walked us to the zoo, where he had a membership and was able to get us in for free. It had been probably years since I had visited any zoo, so I was really excited. It was hot, but not unpleasantly so, and though by the end of the day I was thoroughly wrecked, it was still a great experience. I think my favorite part was either the manatee exhibit, where Marie and I sat and watched the big sweet sea-cows sleep on the sides and bottom of the tank while the zookeeper talked about them, or the Galapagos tortoises, who we were allowed to pet and were all named after Harry Potter characters.
After that, Marie and I packed up the car and headed to our final Cincinnati stop – a vintage store. Unfortunately I’m never very successful in these places, but it was still fun to root through mounds of ugly 80s sweaters and oddly-shaped bathing suits from the 40s.
And then, the drive home. Slightly more stressful thanks to one botched turn landing us in standstill traffic behind an accident, and yet, sitting there in that standstill traffic, I was surprisingly calm. Annoyed, of course, but calm.
And I came home, exhausted, but proud of myself. It was a great two days, a nice reward for the four hours driven.