I woke up in the stiff bunk bed of the hostel. Well, maybe “woke up” isn’t the correct term; I had that sleep where you’re aware of your efforts to sleep without actually resting. Still, it was some shut eye.
After scrambling around the hostel, trying to find a bathroom with a working outlet for the hair dresser, I was cleaned up and dressed for the day. There was still a piece–the Samsung one– to finish up, so I sat on the floor of the hostel to work, as the wifi from my bunk bed was too shaky to use and the only available outlet was by the sink. With Andrew Kim feeding me interviews, I stayed there for some hours. I didn’t have any breakfast until I was done. I gave in and strolled the streets to find a pizza place, where I had a damn fine slice for $3.
It was around 1 p.m. when I headed out to my colleague’s hotel. Andrew had a hard time finding me sitting in the lobby since I wasn’t wearing the aviators that cover my eyes in my Twitter profile picture. We ran around, grabbing headphones and granola bars, before heading back to Vince, our boss from Slingshot, to leave for the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium.
The press event was more spacious than the one in Las Vegas for the NA LCS Spring Final. We showed up early enough to snag seats with power strips for devices, and I took a seat next to Tyler Erzberger from ESPN. My laptop set up, my phone connected to an infinite power supply, and a brand new recorder, all there was to do was wait.
As press, we got to watch the opening ceremony from a spot close to the stage on the right side. The audience was riled up by a pre-show entertainer, whose enthusiasm–though extreme–was charming. As the fans caught glimpses of their North American heroes on screen or as they walked the stage, you could hear the rise in their excited cheers. They applauded for everyone, but you could tell who they came to see.
As the games progressed into a chaotic string of non-nonsensical results, the press room was up in arms. We cheered for each play, chattered on about the set ups; those of us who were veterans explained to eager-listening new comers. During RNG vs TSM, there were cheering wars between the Western press and the Chinese media, all in good fun.
That blended sense of excitement and fear one feels when they meet a person they have anxiously waited to do so melted away. I was here for work. I was not just a fan. I was a professional. I had to behave like something of an equal. It did hurt the fantastical feel of everything, but I’ll take having the opportunity to work with the people I have watched over posing with them for selfies everyday.
When everything was done, I walked home in soft lights of San Francisco. It felt suffocating to be flanked by so many tall structures: I’m used to feeling integrated into nature, not cornered within the city. As the buildings reached for the stars, my mind kept returning to the press room: it was a busy world of work and camaraderie, but also a haven for a fellowship. I was addicted to the hustle and sensations.
“I have to stay longer,” I thought to myself.
In the morning, I called home.
“Can we change my flight to Monday?”
It was done. I went to the front desk of the hostel and extended my stay another day.
Comfortable enough to walk the streets alone and distracted, I put my headphones on. I finished the album I was on from the airport two days prior, and my iPod humored me by selecting blink-182’s “California” album to celebrate my extended stay in the state.
There’s a magic at work here. A magic we call esports.