So there I was, standing behind a booth at the San Diego Comic-Con. I'm working for MVP Media Group, a now-defunct company that did magazines and licensed fan clubs for such shows as "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" and "The X-Files." Basically, I'm there to peddle T-shirts with Sarah Michelle Gellar emblazoned on the front.

I'm looking across the aisle to one of our neighbors nearby, a curtain-draped booth that allegedly contains "adult" material. I'm wondering just what may lie beyond its tantalizing veil when who should wander through the curtains but Walter Koenig.

Yes, TV's Chekov. Icon to Trekkies and Trekkers everywhere. And he's checking out the dirty stuff.

At least, I'm pretty sure it was Chekov. Let's say it was allegedly Chekov, just to protect me from libel. But it doesn't even really matter whether it was Koenig, George Takei, or even William Shatner wandering behind that curtain. Because the anecdote still works--it's the perfect encapsulation of just about everything the San Diego Comic-Con is about.

I'll invoke a one-liner I often quote here: For those who have been to Comic-Con, no explanation is necessary. For those who've never been, no explanation will suffice.

Imagine a couple football fields' worth of exhibits, dealers and geeks, everyone ogling kewl stuff or offering kewl stuff to be ogled. Upstairs, there's massive conference rooms where the devoted will gather to check out some of Hollywood's hottest stars up close and personal, all of them present to pay their respects at the oh-so-vital altar of geek culture. Every year there's another comic book movie or sci-fi blockbuster hitting googolplex screens, and every Comic-Con, the casts and crew of these films make the trip south to insure their project gets the important approval of their core geekly audience. Smaller rooms present panels on everything from women in superhero comics to the artistic legacy of Jack "The King" Kirby. Movies screen, autographs are signed, and the evenings erupt into crazy drunken orgies of nerds gone wild.

Then imagine all of the above stretching over four packed days in one of America's most beautiful towns, and you've maybe scratched the surface of what Comic-Con is all about.

What I perhaps love the best about Comic-Con is, of course, all of the above. Beyond that, it's the electric flow on the convention floor as you make your way through the throngs and scope everything out. Rumors fly fast and furious--Seth Green's somewhere out there in a mask, there's a sneak peek at the next "Legend of Zelda" game, Lou Ferrigno's signing and he still looks like the Hulk. Everyone's talking about the stuff you know and love, Buffy and "The Simpsons" and Superman and Stars Trek and Wars and everything else under the geekly suns. It's this unfettered vibe of tangible excitement; you can feel it with every step and inhale it with every breath. You're feeding off the contented thrills of your fellow fans, each of them just like you, eager to find just the right back issue of their favorite comic, or to hear the latest news on their most-anticipated film, or to get the signature they've been hunting down for years...

There's just no happier place for a geek to be than the Comic-Con's exhibit hall, and that's all there is to it.

I've been lucky enough to attend five Comic-Cons, most of them observed from behind a booth. Yet despite my inability to truly drink in the full Comic-Con experience, I always manage to spend some of my time darting around the convention hall floor or checking out a cool panel...and so I have a treasure trove of unforgettable memories. There was the day I got made up as a vampire by "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" makeup supervisor Todd McIntosh.

Matt Springer (the vampire, right) and "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" make-up supervisor
Todd McIntosh pose at Comic-Con 1999 after McIntosh made Matt up as a vile bloodsucker. )

There was this year's screening of the final episode of "Freaks and Geeks" for an appreciative crowd, everyone laughing and clapping at the same great moments...and everyone filled with bittersweet wonderings of what could have been. I've gotten drunk with X-Files supporting player Chris Owens; sat with a throng as we listened to one of my geek idols, Joss Whedon, pontificate on his projects; and watched Kenny "R2D2" Baker flirt with a convention center employee.

I've also hung out with some of the greatest fans you'll ever meet. There's no better place to interact with folks than from behind a booth, where you're constantly talking up your merchandise and completing transactions. You're also talking all day and every day about stuff you love, so it never stops being fun. Which "Buffy" finale was the best, whether George Lucas can save the ailing "Star Wars" prequels, just how utterly awesome "24" is...so many great chats and so many instant friends.

Ultimately, that's what Comic-Con is about, more than any celebrity or movie screening, more than that incredible steal you got on that limited edition bust you've been hunting forever, even more than any ABSOLUTELY FREE AND COOL EXCLUSIVE COLLECTIBLE! It's about people, geeks like me, congregating in one town for one long weekend of utterly geeking out.

Like I said, no explanation will suffice. Luckily, I don't have to just explain it--I can urge you to plan your 2005 vacation around four days in sunny San Diego. Check out http://www.comic-con.org for info on next year's con, and make your plans early for the closest hotels and cheapest tickets.

Then make your voyage out to the left coast and prepare to immerse yourself in four days of geekly, nerdly, wonderful bliss. Amen.