Every November for the last few decades, Doctor Who fans have gathered in Chicago to celebrate the world's longest-running Science Fiction TV show. The current incarnation of the event is called Chicago TARDIS and coincides with both the broadcast of the first episode on 23rd November 1963 and the American holiday of Thanksgiving.
This year the convention is marking the 7th Doctor' era with main man Sylvester McCoy (about to appear on the big screen as Radagast the Brown in Peter Jackson's new version of The Hobbit) and the lovely Sophie Aldred who played his companion, Ace (now voicing Tree Fu Tom, the hugely successful computer animated series on CBeebies).
Of course, most people in the UK will be familiar with the concept of Thanksgiving from US films and TV, but one thing I never knew about until I came for the first time last year is the mysterious shopping event known as Black Friday.
Every year many retailers in the USA slash prices by huge margins and open their doors at midnight on Thursday 22nd November and let the punters who have often been queuing around the block and in their hundreds storm the aisles.
This is nothing like our own rather tame January sales or the myriad mid-season sales that litter the high streets of the UK like Autumn leaves. No. There is a feeling of Mardi Gras to a Black Friday event. Last year I donned a Viking helmet to wait in a freezing line of jovial, upbeat Americans and enter into the merchandising madness, running up and this year was no different. Except for the headgear.
That's not to say this was any less crazy, with those who had waited patiently at the front of the line coming away with shopping trolleys full of electronic goods (huge LCD TVs being the highest badge of honour). Later arrivals then strip the shelves of lesser but still impressive bargains like a plague of locusts on retail therapy.
It's fun and frenetic and everyone has a good time (pictured above are the queues at Target, Westin, circa 11pm last night). The closest I can think of an equivalent in the UK is the pictures we used to see of Harrods Sale in which hundreds of bepearled ladies would vie for the finest furs and crash crockery into baskets in a peculiarly British frenzy of bargain hunting. Only, Black Friday seems so much more good natured.
This morning the Doctor Who convention begins in earnest and I'll be bringing you edited highlights as the weekend progresses. And if you think black Friday looks and sounds strangely eccentric, then you ain't seen nothing yet! Wait for the Doctor Who costume pageant on Saturday night...
Richard Dinnick is a writer of TV, comics and books who has contributed to the Doctor Who and Moshi Monsters ranges that Penguin publishes including: Doctor Who: Alien Adventures, The 50th Anniversary Doctor Who Sticker Book coming next year. You can follow him on Twitter (www.twitter.com/richarddinnick) or find out more by visiting his website (www.richarddinnick.com).