Posted in Monday Blog

My Summer Vacation Into The Past

FBdragonpuppetFBrenfairsignThis summer, as we did last year, my family and I ventured upstate to the New York Renaissance Faire. This event, that takes place weekends August through early October, features costumed actors portraying royalty and noble persons of the Renaissance age. My daughter, a big fan of cosplay and anime, had a terrific time. She purchased a dragon puppet she’d had her eye on last summer and two new swords.

FBgamingglenFBdebbiedartsWe all enjoyed the gaming glen where we each tried our hands at games of skill. I won the dart toss and was awarded a stuffed dragon. I also took the paddleboat ride FBdebbiehollyboatswith Holly who suggested we go on it again this year. Our 10-minute loop around the lake guarded by a sea monster turned into a longer voyage because boat #3 did not return to the dock after being called several times. Afterwards, Holly took our photo crossing the “Kissing Bridge.” FBkissingbridge

 

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After our day’s sojourn at the Faire, we rested back at our hotel, the Crowne Plaza in Suffern, New York. This hotel, suited for business as well as family travel, boasts a beautiful koi pond full of fish in its lobby and a nice restaurant.

FBprintshopFBmastadonThe following day, we visited several attractions in the Monroe/Chester area. We toured Museum Village first. This site features costumed players–craftspeople of the 1800’s. My daughter was able to create a print in the print shop and make a candle in the candle shop. She also ground some mint in the pharmacy and observed a broom being made. In the natural history museum shop, she saw a Mastadon.

FBcrystalstoreFBpracticalmagicjulescatAfter Museum Village, we headed to Sugar Loaf Village, an arts and crafts village where local artisans sell many interesting wares. Holly was enthralled with the crystal shop where she purchased some special stones and the Practical Magic Shop where she met Jules, the black cat, and bought a few items.

FBcastlefuncenterFBfuncenterarcadeOur last stop was the Castle Fun Center where Holly spent most of her time in the arcade and attempting to earn a high score in the laser maze and laser tag areas.

Like all vacations, time and money went too fast, but we had a great time spending both.

Posted in A Stone's Throw, Cloudy Rainbow, Monday Blog, Writing

Have you been to your High School or College Reunion Recently?

debbiegraduation
I graduated from the Palmer School of Library and Information Science at C.W. Post/Long Island University in 1989 with a Masters in Library and Information Science and a Bachelors in English.

I came up with the idea for this post after I was asked to submit some memories of my time on Long Island University’s C.W. Post College newspaper, the Pioneer, for an article their current advisor, Carolyn Schurr Levin is writing. It was a pleasure to speak to Ms. Levin who is helping arrange a 60th anniversary for the student paper. While collecting my thoughts for this project, I felt it would be helpful to write a blog post about the process of recalling events from over 30 years ago and why some of you might also want to reminisce about your own school days and even plan a reunion with fellow classmates or club members.

I was involved on the Pioneer from 1983 until I graduated C.W. Post in 1989. I came to Post as a slightly “older” student who returned to college after working a year as a secretary. I enrolled part-time as an English major to test the waters before I made the full-time commitment.

Debbiepioneeroffice
I was hired as secretary by Adam Pardonek in 1983 and later became Features Editor.

One of the first things I did was to seek a way to familiarize myself with and participate in campus activities. I remember that September day when I walked down the second-floor corridor of Hillwood Commons to the activity wing where the newspaper office was located. Adam Pardonek, the Editor-in-Chief at that time, spoke to me in his office about my interests in working for the student paper. I explained my situation as a new student who had prior experience as a secretary and also enjoyed writing. He suggested that my skills could be put to good use on the Pioneer. Many of the writers and editors could use help in having their stories typed. There was also an opening for a Features writer on that year’s paper. I accepted both positions.
My part-time job as a secretary was approved by the administration, and I was paid a small wage. The workload sometimes became intense, especially close to deadlines. At that time, I used WordPerfect to input the stories into a computer.

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Editors in the 1980’s laid out the student paper by hand and then brought it to a printer to be printed. (Left to right: Editor-in-Chief Tim Votapka works with Sports Editor, Mike Gannon, in the Production Room laying out the week’s Pioneer.)
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The Pioneer staff members were like a family and, besides production night dinners, we celebrated other special occasions and staff member birthdays.

Unlike today’s technology, the paper’s layout was done in-house in a production room and brought to a printer for copying. My memories of Production night dinners on Wednesdays are still clear after all these years. The advertising manager had an agreement with the local Fireside restaurant where the editors could have dinner each week in exchange for advertising copy in the paper. We all looked forward to these meals. Thinking back about eating with the editors as we discussed our stories, I can still taste the fried mozzarella sticks and recall the comradery and some of the jokes that were told. We also celebrated birthdays and special occasions of staff members.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

lobaughaward
I received the Lawrence C. Lobaugh, Jr. Memorial Award in 1984 for my work as Features Editor on the Pioneer. The award was given in memory of a Pioneer editor who died in his Sophomore year at Post.

I still have my desk plaque that reads “Debbie Smiloff” and fond memories of my time on the Pioneer. I also received a special award for my feature writing my first year on the paper, the Lawrence C. Lobaugh, jr. Memorial Award in Journalism. Along with a plaque that is displayed in the Great Hall, I was given an engraved medal. I was the last Pioneer person to receive this award because the donor passed away that year. The award had been given in memory of his son who had served on the Pioneer and died much too young. It was quite an honor to receive this award, and I have treasured the medal for 32 years.

cloudyrainbow stonesthrowamazon

 

 

 

 

I saw many editor-in-chiefs come and go after Adam who graduated that year. I remained staff secretary but also advanced to Features editor with my own group of writers. Through my interviews for feature articles, I also met professors, students, and school administrators. The experience I gained from working on the paper led me to publish articles in magazines and, after I married, a few books, as well. My first published novel, Cloudy Rainbow, actually features some chapters that take place at the Pioneer. My current book, A Stone’s Throw, includes a librarian, like myself, who is a Post graduate from the Palmer School. One of the book’s settings is Brookville where C.W. Post is located.

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Mike Gannon, the Sports Editor I worked with for several years on the Pioneer, surprised me recently by attending one of my local book signings.

Many people say that college is the best years of one’s life. I agree. Even though classes can be tough and there are many additional stresses as one faces impending adulthood, the opportunity for friendships and extracurricular experiences such as those I gained from the Pioneer, can’t be duplicated. I look back on those days and the person I once was and realize how much my participation at the paper made a difference in my life. I am also happy that, as the Internet and social media has developed ways of staying in touch, that I’ve been able to reconnect with some of my fellow Pioneer friends. Over the summer, I did a book signing at the Levittown Library and was pleasantly surprised when Mike Gannon, a previous Sports Editor on the Pioneer, dropped by. He saw my Facebook post about the event and wanted to surprise me. It was the highlight of my day. I hadn’t seen Mike since he attended a Pioneer reunion during Homecoming in 2000, 16 years ago.

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Pioneer alums gathered at Homecoming 2000 during a Pioneer Reunion in the News Office. (Sitting L to R: Mike Gannon, Adam Pardonek). (Standing: L to R: Marianne Kolbasuk McGee, Bob McGee, Tim Votapka, Mela Gerbasi Stevens, Cheryl Turi Coutts, and Debbie Smiloff De Louise)

I believe the bond formed among Pioneer people remains strong despite time and distance because of the special experiences we shared on the paper. Not all the times were happy or fun, but we were all in them together. We worked to create a product that served the entire campus body. We were proud of our individual achievements but also realized it was a team effort. I imagine that those who belonged to other campus clubs, sports teams, or sororities/fraternities feel a similar bond.

As I complete my notes for Ms. Levin, I’ve formed a Facebook group for previous Pioneer staff to keep in touch. I’ve also scanned some old photos from those days. As people grow older, they realize the importance of preserving these memories. There are also more opportunities to locate old friends and schoolmates today.

debbiescan18 (1)I know some people avoid reunions for fear that don’t look as attractive as they did in their twenties or because they’ve put on weight or simply because they are uncomfortable in social situations. However, as people age, they realize that these are not the important things to care about. Since college, I’ve had many changes in my life. I’ve married, had a daughter, lost my father, mother-in-law, and a close friend. No one knows how long he or she will be around, in good health, and with clear memories. My father had Alzheimers and my 89-year old mother has poor short-term memory. While it’s important to consider the future and live in the present, it’s also nice to look back and find your past and the people who were in it. Homecomings, reunions, and social media are great ways to do this.

Posted in Monday Blog

Where Do You Go to Pokémon Go?

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The loading screen of Pokémon Go
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List of captured Pokémon
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Pokedex
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Pokémon Store
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Inventory (shaded items can’t be used until available)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

By now, I’m sure you’ve heard of, if not tried, the addictive mobile game, Pokémon GO. You’ve probably downloaded the app for your kids or given GO a go yourself. If you haven’t, you’ve probably been living under a rock because Pokémon GO is the latest craze and all over social media.

Unlike most games, Pokémon GO involves traveling in the real world.  According to my daughter, “That means your daily exercise that consists of pressing buttons and getting up to get Doritos and Mountain Dew from the kitchen, is replaced by getting up and doing something for once. Huge breakthrough.”

The main goal of the game is to capture different Pokémon to earn XP points, fill up your Pokédex, and move to the next level. You do this by flicking a ball at the Pokémon to capture them.  The higher the CP (combat points) of  a Pokémon, the harder it is to capture it.

The higher your level is, the more you can do. You also have an inventory of items, some of which are not enabled until you find or buy them. One inventory item is incense which can be used to attract Pokémon to your avatar. Of course, there’s a store where you can buy various items if you wish to or run out of balls and such.

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My avatar on the Pokémon Go map
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My Pokémon Avatar

I won’t go into the mechanics of the game much, as I’m still learning it. I only started a few days ago with my daughter and am on Level 3 at this point. As a noob, I have yet to be able to enter any Pokémon gyms because you need to be at least on Level 5 to do that. I’ve also just discovered that when you come to places designated as Pokémon stops (such as churches, malls. community centers, libraries, museums and other “interesting” places), you can pick up some items by swiping the image. You need to be close enough to do that. My own library where I work is one of the stops.

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My library is a Pokémon stop
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Churches and other community centers are Pokémon stops

Although some people are already pointing out concerns with the game such as safety because a GPS is used in the program, there are a lot of benefits. Instead of sitting around their rooms playing games on a computer or Xbox, kids can travel their neighborhood and get some exercise, fresh air, and knowledge of the area. Maybe when they stop at a library Pokémon stop, they will also pick up a book as well as some in-game items.

Pokémon GO can also bring families together. When my daughter asked me to accompany her on a Pokémon walk with her the other night because I won’t let her go out alone, I was so happy that she wanted to do something with her mother. As a pre-teen, she spends a lot of time in her room and avoids talking or interacting much with her parents. On our Pokémon walk, we found and  captured some Pokémon and even got to talk a little bit.  For those who don’t want to GO it alone, there are also teams and places offering Pokémon events at their locations.

Pokémon GO includes a tutorial that you can take when you sign up or access afterwards by entering the menu. To do so,  tap the poke ball at the bottom center of the screen. In the top right corner is a button called “tips” with a question mark next to it. When you tap it, it will bring you through the tutorial.

For additional information on the game, tips on playing it, and other hints, see the following sites:

http://www.pokemongo.com/en-us/

http://www.techinsider.io/what-is-pokemon-go-how-to-play-find-and-catch-pokemon-2016-7

http://www.cnet.com/how-to/how-to-play-pokemon-go/

This article was written with the help of my 7th grade daughter, Holly De Louise, who is my toughest critic.

 

 

Posted in Monday Blog

What are your Travel Plans this Summer?

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My daughter will be visiting Hershey this summer with Driftwood Day Camp

As the summer races to its end, more people are going on vacation. Some take week-long trips; others, weekends. There are even those who enjoy staycations in their local area. My daughter is participating in a day camp that includes several overnight trips to such pre-teen favorite places as Medieval Times and Great Adventure in New Jersey; Hershey and Gettysburg in Pennsylvania; Mystic, Connecticut; and Newport, Rhode Island. I’m glad she’ll get a chance to see some of the world or at least part of the East coast. We’ll take our own short trip at the end of the summer, before she starts 7th grade, to the Renaissance Faire upstate in Tuxedo, New York. She liked it so much that we decided to go again.

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Me on my honeymoon in Bermuda (1992).

Before we had Holly, we did a lot of traveling on our own including our honeymoon in Bermuda. I have fond memories of many of the places we visited–Chicago, Atlanta, Cape May, The Poconos, the Amish country, Boston, Wahington, D.C., Virginia Beach, and many other places. With her, we’ve only traveled to Sesame, Disney World, a one-day stopover in Canada on a cruise, and the Hudson Valley.

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Me, my daughter, and husband at the Rockefeller Estate in the Hudson Valley last year

 

 

 

 

I’ve always enjoyed traveling, but I’ve also found it can be tiring as much as relaxing and something that requires a good deal of preparation and planning. It’s best to take a few days off before and after a trip. I’m also the type of person who likes to create an itinerary and purchase tickets beforehand. My husband would just wing it if I let him. Like most men, he leaves most of the travel details to me. I’m the one who creates the packing, cat sitting, and emergency lists. I print out the sightseeing info and maps. Even though I deal with all these details, I also leave room for spontaneity. After all, you have to allow for a substitution of activities in cases of bad weather, sights that have closed, or other interesting things you come across as you travel.

mapblogI have some dream vacations in mind for the future. Europe, of course. I’ve only been to England and Wales after college. I’d like to see the Grand Canyon one day and the West. I’d like to see more of Canada–Montreal and Quebec. I’d also like to see more nearby attractions. I’ve been out East on Long Island and to New York City, but these are the types of trips that require more than one visit. I’d love to visit Montauk again, and I’m ashamed to admit I’ve never been to Shelter Island. Now that the city boasts cat cafe’s, I’d love to visit one of those, but seeing another Broadway play or visiting the Statue of Liberty and the New York Public Library would also be on my itinerary.

Also, since I’m an author as well as a librarian, visiting new places can inspire me to feature them in my story settings. However, if I haven’t been somewhere that I’d like to write about, I can always try to plan a trip there. For instance, a novel I’m currently working on takes place in South Carolina. I might have an opportunity to travel to Myrtle Beach next year for a writing conference so that could be ideal timing for my background research. Speaking of conferences, they are a good opportunity to see places you might never consider visiting. If the conference is work-related, it could also be a tax deduction.

Vacation travel whether it’s near or far, affords people a chance to unwind and experience new sights and educational opportunities as they have fun and enjoy a much-needed change of pace from their hectic day-to-day routine.

Whatever your plans this summer, stay safe, and have a great time!

 

 

Posted in Monday Blog

The Pain of Pets Passing

floppymemorial2It’s never easy to say goodbye to a beloved pet. I was reminded of this recently when a fellow author and editor of my publisher had to put her dear dog to sleep and another author friend lost her young cat suddenly. Their stories touched me and brought back sad memories of all the wonderful pets I’ve had through the years who are now gone but still in my heart.

My very first encounter with death as a young child was when a sweet kitten my mother brought home from a pet store died from feline leukemia. I went on to loving and losing many more special pets. My last was Floppy, a gray and white shorthair I had for 15 years. When I first brought Floppy home to the apartment I shared with my new husband, I discovered he suffered from asthma. Our vet put him on Prednisone and warned us it might have some side effects. At 8, Floppy developed diabetes. I learned to administer insulin shots to him, but he started having problems with his liver and also suffered a bout of pancreatitis. My husband and I spent a small fortune on hospitalizations, and he rallied several times, but the time arrived when I knew I had no choice but to let him go. I was just glad I could be there as the vet gave him that final injection. It was one of the saddest days of my life.

cloudyrainbowAfter Floppy passed away, I didn’t get another cat right away. I wrote a book that featured him as a character in it, “Cloudy Rainbow,” and I self-published it in the hope that others who have lost a pet might find some comfort through reading it. My vet even placed a copy in his waiting room. I found some other ways to memorialize Floppy. I enrolled him in an online pet memorial site that features pets (for a fee, although many others are now free) and offers a candle lighting ceremony. I also purchased a framed photo holder that included a copy of the famous Rainbow Bridge poem about pets being reunited with their owners in a special area of heaven reserved for animals.

olivercatI now have two cats. One of them, Oliver, a Siamese, is considered elderly at the age of 16. He was my mother’s cat but has been with us for three years. I was reluctant to take him in initially, but my daughter insisted. She was very young when Floppy passed away but still remembers him. Oliver has bonded with both of us and is a wonderful addition to our family. I know I will miss him immensely when he passes, but I am enjoying every day with him until that time.

Since I thought I’d lose Floppy earlier than I did, I was prepared with a pet casket I purchased online. I am thinking of cremating Oliver and keeping his ashes in a special memorial urn. I’m hoping it will not be necessary to make that decision for some time. No matter how short or long a beloved pet is with you it is never enough.

I’m including some links to sites that offer pet loss support as well as sell pet caskets and urns. These are for information only. I am not endorsing any of them, and you can find dozens and dozens of others.

Losing a pet is like losing a member of the family, and, although the grief subsides eventually, those special fur kids leave pawprints on our hearts forever.

http://www.rainbowbridge.com/

http://www.petcaskets.com/

http://www.petmemorial.com/

https://www.ilovedmypet.com/

http://www.petloss.com/

https://www.animalhumanesociety.org/services/pet-loss-support-group

http://www.memorial-urns.com/Pet-Urns/

http://www.perfectmemorials.com/pet-urns/

 

 

Posted in Monday Blog

Camp’s Coming. Are you Ready?

summer-1403071_1280As the school year winds down, parents’ minds turn to what to do with their children during the summer. Even if a parent is home, having the kids around full time is not something good for parent or child. For working parents, there aren’t many other alternatives to summer camp. Luckily, there are now a variety of choices from day camps to sleep-away camps, part-time and full-time camps. Making the decision about the best one for your child can, however, be as confusing as selecting a college and sometimes almost as expensive. Many camps open registrations in the winter and enrollment can close up before school ends. Deals are also usually offered for returning campers, multiple campers, and early registration campers.

My daughter is trying a new camp this year. She’s going into 7th grade in the fall and will be a pre-teen camper at the Driftwood Day Camp which is a highly-rated camp. As part of the program, campers take many overnight trips to places such as Hershey Park, Mystic Seaport and Aquarium, Gettysburg, Newport, Penn Caves, and Dorney Park. Shorter trips include the Bronx Zoo, Medieval Times, and Six Flags Great Adventure.

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Holly at Thomas School of Horsemanship, Summer 2011
Holly at Camps-R-Us, Summer 2012
Holly took Graphic Arts as part of Hofstra’s summer camps program at BOCES, 2015

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Previously, my daughter attended Hofstra Summer Camps and enjoyed the experience especially the wonderful counselors and programs, but she wanted to change this year. Her very first camp was Thomas School of Horsemanship. She also loved it there, but it became very expensive and her interest in horses lessened as she grew older. The only camp that she didn’t like was Camps-R-Us that was based at her old school. Although the price was reasonable, she had a problem with one of the counselors.

Starting a new camp can be much like starting a new school, something my daughter also did when she switched from Catholic School to public Middle School this past year. It can be intimidating at first because people may know one another from previous summers, but camp is a different environment from school. Friendships are made more easily as campers participate in fun activities. It’s also a great learning experience because kids, as well as adults. learn easier when they are enjoying themselves. At Driftwood, campers also must leave their cell phones and other anti-social devices at home to unplug and socialize with others.

Although most people consider summer camps as places for kids, there are camps that cater to adults. Driftwood is actually sponsoring a one-day Camp Mom experience this July. Although I’m working that Saturday, I may consider it next year. There are also adult sleepaway camps and camps for adults and their children. An article about adult summer camps was featured in this New York Times article and this Travel and Leisure story. Below are some links of camp directories of all types. Here’s hoping to a great summer for you and your kids whether it includes a summer camp or a staycation at home.

http://find.acacamps.org/

http://www.kidscamps.com/

http://www.summercamps.com/

http://www.grownupcamps.com/

 

 

Posted in Monday Blog

Why Comic Cons and Cosplay are for Kids of All Ages

2016-06-12 10.42.22I attended a local Comic Con event called Eternal Con on Long Island yesterday with my family. It ran three days this past weekend, but I could only attend on Sunday. I expected the crowds to have died down a bit by then, but there were some diehards who had attended all three days. Even though my husband had purchased tickets in advance for himself, my daughter, and I, we decided to arrive early, and it was a good thing we did. Although we had to wait for it to open, we got a good start before the mobs entered.

It was our first time at such an event, and I had no idea what to expect. I knew it wasn’t my type of gathering, but my daughter and husband are both huge anime fans. I figured I’d accompany them but didn’t anticipate enjoying myself.

eternalconMy husband had signed up for a photo op with Karen Gillian from Dr. Who. My daughter, who loves the show, didn’t want to be in the photo because, as a pre-teen, she now hates to have her picture taken. Her dad finally convinced her to be in it and, after waiting over 20 minutes on line even with a special photo op ticket that cost more than our entry to Eternal Con, the photo was taken in two minutes with no opportunity to talk to Karen. In addition, we later found out it would cost additional to have the photo signed and a digital copy made. My husband thought it was worth it, so he got both. I thought the photo came rather nice especially since my daughter had a rare smile on her face.

eternalcon2Since I wasn’t included in the Karen Gillian Photo Op, my husband felt bad and asked me to be in a photo with Brent Spiner, most well known as Data from Star Trek the Next Generation show but who also appeared in one of my favorite movies, “Independence Day.” The photo cost less, but it was taken with my husband’s Iphone against a wall instead of a photo background.

My daughter’s favorite moment besides spending time at the numerous vendors that were spread throughout the three floors of the Cradle of Aviation Museum in Garden City, was meeting voice actor, Vic Mignogna, who does the voice of one of her favorite anime characters, Tamaki Suou. Although she wouldn’t pose for a photo with him, he signed two photos for her that also featured two of his characters. We all attended his Q&A session later in the IMAX theater, and I even found his talk entertaining as well as a nice respite from the crowds that were growing by the minute around the vendor tables . I was especially interested in hearing about the “Star Trek Continues” series in which he stars as Captain Kirk. Mignogna said Star Trek was his favorite 2016-06-12 11.46.132016-06-12 15.56.46show growing up, and my husband and I could relate to that.

Another highlight for my daughter was discovering a group called the Society for Creative Anachronism located near some of the Cradle’s historical exhibits away from the maddening crowd. Since my daughter loves renaissance fairs and is learning about medieval times in school, she was especially interested in finding out what the SCA offers. We took some brochures and are checking out their upcoming New York events online. She also colored a treasure chest and created a catapult there.

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Dad, please give me more money for Fairy Tail items. I promise I’ll study for finals tonight and clean my room tomorrow.

After we had all purchased more items from the vendors — I found a Catwoman t-shirt and some cat jewelry — we headed home much poorer but richer in our experience of comic cons. I have to admit I had a pretty fun time if only watching all the crazy dressed-up cosplayers. Some of the displays also brought back childhood memories. I guess that’s why comic cons are so popular. They bring out the kid in all of us.

Here are some lists of upcoming Comic Cons and the New York Comic Con

http://www.upcomingcons.com/comic-conventions

http://www.newyorkcomiccon.com/