How many times must a woman crossplay
Before you call her a man?
Yes, 'n' how many times must you use Google maps
Before you confirm the travel plan?
Yes, 'n' how many times must I tell you I've got
Almost no attention span?

I had no intention of attending the Cherry Blossom Festival this year. Without a Traveling Valentine HQ in San Francisco, events taking place in that city commencing in the morning hours grew inconvenient. But after the success of not oversleeping through Wonder-Con, I was ready to chance another early morning trip to San Francisco. Knowing that there would be no new episode of Transformers Animated to watch helped motivate me to leave early.

I woke up at 0-700 hours. What did the "0" stand for? "Oh, my God. It's early." I raided the house pantry for bottles of water and snacks. If it's one thing I learned from previous Cherry Blossom Festivals, it's that the congregation location in front of City Hall lacks adequate drinking and eating facilities.

Victoria again provided the BART route I would have to take and I again initially boarded the wrong train. Public transit was never my strong point. I spent the hour-long ride catching up on my Hugh Laurie. I arrived at about 0-900 hours ("Oh, my God. I'm actually early for a change.") and spotted the familiar meeting ground in front of City Hall. Several cosplayers were standing in line awaiting judgment for their costumes. But judgment would require judges. And the judges were not scheduled for at least another hour.

By the time the judges arrived, the number of cosplayers present increased by many fold. They arrived slowly from many directions. I was surrounded in colors, fabric, and accessories. I shot my way through the mob. In addition to the number of cosplayers picking up, the winds were picking up as well.

The judges arrived and the cosplayers lined up to be judged. The top winners would not only gain the honor of riding the Safeway float during the parade, they had nice prizes waiting for them at the end of the parade. Since I wasn't sure about attending, I did not register for the contest. I wasn't expecting to win the contest. They are bigger things to have expectations in, like paychecks. Nevertheless, the swag for participating in the parade was enough incentive to register. I tried to be a last minute participant but the organizers declined due to the sheer numbers already registered and accounted for. I joined the other photographers in shooting the contest participants. I felt that the life-sized pigeon with functional wings was the best costume. But he was only there for pictures and refused to be judged.

After each participant was judged, the judges vanished to select winners. Registration for parade participants took place and I was able to get in at the last minute. The cosplayers were free to mingle and admire each other's work. I spotted familiar faces. I spotted new faces. I talked to the familiar faces.

The judges returned after an hour or more and announced the winners.

4th Place:

3rd Place:

2nd Place:

Best in Show:

Having confirmed the winners and the float riders, we began to get into formation for the parade. BART Boy went fanboy over Police Chief Heather Fong. After seeing other groups march ahead of us, it was soon our turn to march. Multitasking between shooting pics with two cameras, walking a parade route, and being friendly towards the audience was difficult for me.

As usual, the parade was a nice brisk march with plenty of appreciative spectators to wave at. It's nice to see the community sit and support the wide variety of culture and city pride. I grew hot in my costume and stripped off a few layers. Then the famed San Francisco winds picked up again. Things went from "Oh, my God, it's hot!" to "Christ, it's cold!" in seconds.

We reached the end of the parade and our formation routed into a mob. The foot traffic inside the Japan Town mall was hell. Finding a place to have lunch was difficult since everyone wanted lunch at the same restaurants at the same time. Finding people to have lunch with was difficult because crowds greatly reduced visibility. I found Claudine out of the familiar bunch. While fending off the random elbows of fellow Japan Town visitors, we discussed lunch plans. We walked to the prize area and grabbed our participation prizes.

Claudine made one of the best logical arguments I've ever heard of in the hobby of cosplay. The logic flowed as so:

1: Cosplayers and anime fans are usually cheap with their meal money. They'll eat ramen that costs $.38 a metric ton if it means they'll have more money to spend on their costume or collection.

2: Because they are cheap, the hundred or so cosplayers and anime fans in Japan Town are attracted to the cheap restaurants in the mall like iron filings to a magnet.

3: In order to keep their prices low, cheap restaurants are smaller in size to fit a smaller capacity and contain a smaller staff to wait on customers.

4: Instead of waiting in a long line for a cheap meal, why not spend a few more dollars on a more expensive meal with a shorter wait time?

5: It's not like we eat expensive meals every day. Live a little and enjoy.

6: We're already at the restaurant of choice. Do we REALLY want to fight past the crowds to look for something cheaper?

After making several good points, Claudine suggested Benihana. The average lunch price was about $5 more than my usual lunch budget. But given Benihana's theme of turning food prep into entertainment, it feels like spending $5 on a live show. That is a bargain considering how much movie tickets go for these days. But justifying my lunch budget was a moot factor when I accepted Claudine's offer to treat me to this lunch (I bought our drinks). Thanks, Claudine! It was a wonderful lunch and a better chance to be friends. The chef was talented and provided a lot of good food porn footage.

The crowds grew too heavy, the day grew too late, and I grew too tired. With a little help from Claudine, we got on the Muni and then I got on the BART home.

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