Summerfest in Logan, Utah is a beautiful time of year when dozens of talented artists converge on the grounds of the old Latter-day Saint Tabernacle to display their beautiful and expensive artworks. Any one of their booths would be jaw-dropping on its own, but clustered together like this in a sea of beauty, only a few have any hope of standing out as special. I just like to go wander around and soak up the vibe as I look at things and pretend there's the slightest chance I might consider buying something. Kind of like my recent brief stint on the Mutual app in that regard. Also there's overpriced food and live, mostly local musicians.
On Thursday I go around to get an overview of the situation, not looking too closely because there will be time for that later, and I run into Jake from the stake and end up having a bonfire at his apartment. It's about 1/20th the size of a bonfire back home because I assume city ordinances and whatnot, but there's a great camaraderie from those assembled and I witness the birth of several inside jokes. From here on out I will be a part of these inside jokes and able to feel like I have friends. Blake from the stake lives there too, and he asks if I've been on any hot dates lately because he thinks that's an appropriate question for some reason. In fact, I haven't been on any since the last time he asked, which I think was in February. But I humor him by telling everyone present who my crush is. I trust them. They'd better not make me regret that.
The next day, I allow myself to partake a little more in the experience by getting some of the overpriced food, because after all this only happens once a year. I stuff myself on chicken legs, watermelon, chips, and a drink called the "Texas Twister" in a plastic boot. Every time someone orders or refills a plastic boot, the lady in charge yells "We've got a boot!" and all the workers have to yell "Yee-haw!" I imagine how much they must hate their job, but then I remember with a chill my time in the call center, and I realize that even if, instead of yelling "Yee-haw!" they had to wear chicken costumes and sing "What is Love" while twerking, their job would still be preferable to working a call center. They should just be grateful they can find work in this economy at all.
As seven p.m. (19:00) approaches, I walk thirty seconds over to the Utah Theatre to continue the original Star Wars trilogy. This week is "The Empire Strikes Back", the one I tried to get my coworker to come see with me, but her absence will do little to deter me from enjoying this near-flawless blend of action, drama, suspense, humor, introspection, and romance, with an incredible score that goes silent in all the right places and the greatest plot twist in cinematic history. Before the movie I watch a bit of a John Denver concert and a Warner Brothers cartoon, "Bad Ol' Puddy Tat", that ruins my hypothesis about Disney cartoons being matched with Disney movies. But hey, I'd much rather watch Tweety beat the crap out of Sylvester in self-defense than a couple of wicked rodents beat the crap out of Donald Duck to steal the food he made for himself. On top of that, it doesn't have a single racist moment. So the experience was a solid improvement over last week.
My coworker, for the second time, asked if I was going to the hike that her ward is doing at seven a.m. (7:00), so I once again set my alarm for 6:20. I hate hate hate getting up early, but my call center job started at seven too, so this is just like that except it's something fun instead of pure hell. And my alarm is "Hyrule Field" from the Ocarina of Time soundtrack. There are worse noises to wake up to. But oh, wouldn't you know it, my brain has decided that when I said "6:20" I actually meant "5:30", and it's not taking no for an answer. At least I'm not up before the sun this time. Still, I'm not yet convinced that the tradeoff of these hikes is worth it. They're happening every two weeks. I think two Fridays from now I'll make sure to hide from my coworker and pretend I forgot.
My old friend Christian says he'll be in town today to run some errands, so I tell him I'll be at Summerfest and he can meet me there and I can give him the bit of money I've been unable to pay him back because he's been in Europe for half a year and I can't use Venmo or PayPal because reasons. While I'm wandering around waiting for him, I run into my old classmate Stormy, whose face lights up. Stormy was in two of my classes, and she was the second best writer in my Advanced Non-Fiction Writing class (I suggested she might be the first, but she said "No, you definitely are" and I'm not going to argue the point), and after every class I asked to walk with her and she usually said yes, and I watched a play she was in and I interviewed her about her faith for an assignment. When I went incognito to my own graduation, she hugged me and told me it meant a lot that I had come out to see her, but of course I was probably there to see other people too but it still meant a lot.
So on this occasion, she's there with some friends and I run into her and she asks if I'm there alone, I say yes, and she's like, "That's great that you can just go to things by yourself and be cool with it. I love that about you. I couldn't do that. I'd be awkward." I'm startled to see her back in town for the weekend after I thought she'd left forever, he's got a temporary (I hope) tattoo on her neck and it's very distracting, but I catch enough to marvel at her implication that I'm not awkward. Still, she has a point. I learned some time ago when I went to see "The Lego Movie" by myself after several failures to find a viewing buddy that the need to not be alone when doing things is more an assumption we tell ourselves than a reality. When "The Lego Movie 2" was out, I didn't even try. I just went. And I go to Summerfest alone every year, but Logan is a small town and this is a relatively large event and I'm guaranteed to see people I know anyway. Stormy has to go follow her friends but then I meet up with Christian and pay him back and make myself right before the Lord.
Then I'm minding my own business when Blake is suddenly there asking if the big sack of Kettle Corn I bought is for him. It isn't, but I give him a little bit because I can be surprisingly generous to people who are just honest about what they want. He tries to trade his empty Texas Twister boot for the rest of my Kettle Corn, but I explain that I already have one and his friends laugh at him. I recognize some of them from the fire or the stake, and others are entirely new to me. Terrah is one of the new ones, but before I so much as know her name I'm already making jokes about her diminutive stature. Regan is the only one to hear me the first time, and she tells me how funny I am, but Stephen hears me the next time and makes sure to repeat it louder for everyone's benefit. Terrah pretends to be hurt, and truly I shouldn't have started doing this without verifying whether she'd be okay with it, and I'm kind of a dirtbag, but I just feel like we're already a big family and this is how I bond with people I care about. I'm glad she takes it in the spirit it's intended and doesn't get mad at me. I'm glad she doesn't have a short temper.
We go to Angie's, a local restaurant where I went on the first date that I ever went on, where I learned that there was nothing to be nervous about, before I learned that there was in fact very very much to be nervous about. The next year I went there on another date that amounted to much the same. But none of the bad memories are directly connected to the restaurant itself, which is good because I see its name on bumper stickers literally all the time. We go over to a section I've never been in with room for all of us. But some of the people from earlier are nowhere to be found, and as I note our seating arrangement - boy-girl-boy-girl-boy-girl-me - it dawns on me that I seem to have crashed some kind of group date. Oh well, there are worse things than being a seventh wheel. I'll just roll with it. And look, I won't even have to be the only one because here come the others finally, let's see, two more boys and two more girls. Well. There are worse things than being an eleventh year. I wonder what the record is. Let's go for the record. The newcomers sit boy-girl-girl-boy-me and Stephen says the gender ratio here is a coincidence, but a good ratio nonetheless.
I distinctly remember that my first time here I had ravioli, but now I'm looking through the menu and there's no ravioli nor pasta of any kind. Lots of chicken, though. I don't want anything with chicken. I had enough chicken yesterday to last a week. I don't want breakfast food either because I already got pancakes today after the hike. Reluctantly I settle for a cheeseburger. While we wait, my tablemates act like children and Sierra persuades me to take part in a game of Russian Roulette, but with packets of sugar and salt. I know how stupid it is for me to participate in this game but I want these people to like me. The mouthful of salt is worth that. Terrah asks me what I do for fun, and says that after twenty years she's just discovered books, and asks me for recommendations which I happily supply because this is my chance to inculcate her with my views of the world. I try to gauge her potential interest in "The Adventures of Tintin" by asking if she's into comics as well. She says she's occasionally read one "about a cat thing and a human thing." I'm the only one at the table who correctly guesses that she's talking about Calvin and Hobbes.
Most of us go back to Blake's place to chill, and it's already about eleven p.m. (23:00) and I've already been up too long and I know that tomorrow I'm really really going to regret staying up as late as it looks like we're going to be up, but screw it, I'm making friends. We talk and listen to music and play a card game. Somehow the topic of conversation periodically returns to my crush even though most of these people weren't at the fire. For example, Colby asks why I chose her to be my crush. I say her intellect, her maturity, her spirituality, her kindness, and she has a nice face, and she has the cutest smile, especially when she shows her teeth; she has nice teeth. They can't argue with that logic. Terrah wants to know where I would take her on a date if money and other logistical concerns were no object. I say the moon because I'm thinking in terms of what today's technology allows. With the benefit of hindsight, though, I'd like to change my answer to Saturn's moon Titan, where the thick atmosphere and low gravity would literally enable us to strap on plastic wings and fly through the air. I'm not kidding. Wikipedia says so and everything.
Also, we laugh. A lot. And not to brag or anything, but at a conservative estimate I'd say ~70% of the laughter is attributable to my dance moves and witty comments. Admittedly the bar for what consitutes a witty comment falls lower as the night wore on. Soon all I have to do is reference something we nearly peed ourselves laughing about ten minutes ago, and we'll nearly pee ourselves laughing all over again. I'm not the type to laugh out loud on my own but when other people do, even if the joke was mine to begin with, it's contagious. It's cleansing. This is great. I'm becoming so popular. I knew I was capable of being funny, but this must be the crowning moment of glory of my entire life. "The party never dies, with Chris," Terrah says. And yet, I wonder as I go to bed at almost two a.m. (2:00), at what cost? Will they invite me back every weekend, only to consistently deprive me of the ability to form a coherent thought or write an engaging blog post the following day? As with the hikes, I wonder if the tradeoff is worth it.
I wonder something else too. How is it that tonight/this morning I had seven to nine people (it fluctuated) rolling on the floor laughing for two and a half hours, yet all I can elicit from my crush is an occasional smile or giggle? Perhaps the one truly laughing at me is God.
I neglected to mention last time that as of the day after Labor Day, I have now worked at Jenson Online for a year. It went by faster than my less than four months at the call center. My worst day here (Valentine's Day, when none of my equipment was working right and there was a new quality control guy who was stupidly strict and I felt like I was being eaten alive all day) was better than most days there. I can't say all days there because I did enjoy doing surveys for the Office of Medicare Hearings and Appeals, and near Independence Day we had a picnic. But mostly it sucked so I always try to remember and be grateful for what I have now. I feel that it's like a marriage. You start out all excited and happy and in love, but as the months and years go by the novelty wears off and the more mundane realities of life set in and take over, and you need to make a proactive effort to remember how blessed you are and how wonderful your spouse is. But I'm not married so I wouldn't know that for a fact.
There's a Facebook page called USU Memes that doesn't really do anything anymore, but during my freshman year when I discovered it, around the same time I discovered what memes are, it posted a lot of stuff. I made a few of my own and shared them to the page, and now I feel like sharing them again because what else am I supposed to do here? I couldn't find them, so I recreated them from memory. If there were more I've forgotten about them.
Like, every other week it was broken again. One time there was a note that said: "Seriously guys? If the elevator won't go down, you do not jump on the floor to make it go down. This is why we can't have nice things." That was the first time I'd heard the expression "This is why we can't have nice things" and I thought he was being original.
But this story has a happy ending! After I stood there silently for a couple minutes, she noticed her mistake.
Christian Thrapp was his name. He became USUSA president. I wish he were USA president too, because I'm 99% sure he'd be more qualified than our current tool. This was by far my most popular contribution and Christian himself was quite pleased with it.
Here is my take on the wedding cake thing that everybody, by which I mean nobody, was asking for. First of all, it's quite annoying that people keep misrepresenting what the issue actually is, claiming that the businesses in question are "refusing to serve gay people". As if they make prospective customers fill out a survey on their sexual orientation and then refuse to sell any goods or services to the gay ones. In reality, they are merely declining to provide goods and services for a specific ceremony that violate their religious beliefs. To my knowledge, every one of them is perfectly willing to serve these same customers under any other circumstances, and has done so.
Now from a fairness point of view, both sides have a compelling argument. But from a legal point of view, it appears to me that the businesses have it hands down. The First Amendment protects their religious practice as well as belief. It doesn't include a caveat that says "only in church" or "unless you own a business" or "unless your beliefs are deemed to be discriminatory". The Fourteenth Amendment that many people have fallaciously cited refers only to the State, and says literally not one word about citizens or privately owned businesses. Many people who have never looked at the Constitution don't seem to realize that it actually tells the government what it can and can't do, not the citizens. I'm not sure why a constitutional right that actually exists (practicing your religion) is now considered to be trumped by one that doesn't (getting cake/flowers/whatever from whichever business you want).
Myself, I would have no problem serving a same-sex wedding because I really couldn't care less, just like I would provide birth control for employees, and of course this is all very hypothetical because I don't anticipate ever owning a business or being able to bake a cake. But I don't believe the government has any right to coerce anyone else to if it violates their conscience. Just like it has no right to force anyone to buy there. If you think they're being discriminatory, take your business elsewhere. Why would you want to give money to people you hate anyway?
Also, this is a thing that happened: a teenager with Down syndrome confronted German chancellor Angela Merkel over the fact that nine of ten German babies with Down syndrome are aborted. I thought Germany was super paranoid about not letting anything resembling Nazi stuff happen ever again, but here it is embracing eugenics again. Herpa derp derp.
My family used to have a VHS tape (ask your parents what that is) of Riverdance that my sister watched all the time. I made fun of her for watching it all the time but secretly liked it. Shhhh. This was my favorite part and it still is. The good bit starts about 1:49, but it isn't the same without the buildup. Then about 3:22 (SPOILER ALERT) Michael Flatley comes along like "A powerful, independent woman? I must put her in her place." And then he's like, "You can twirl around? That's cute. I literally have the fastest feet in the world." As a kid this part where they stare each other down made me think of taming a tiger. Unfortunately, this video omits the bit at the end where he kisses her on the cheek and they walk off stage with their arms around each other. That's how every mixed-sex battle for supremacy should end.
USU graduation last year came on the heels of the first week at my terrible call center job, so now that this milestone has come around again with unreal speed I can look back and feel very good about how far I've come even though I haven't come very far. The weather has been cloudy today, keeping the heat down to a reasonable level, with just a bit of rain for a while that didn't disrupt the proceedings. Debbie has her Master of Social Work now and I'm very proud of all the hard work she put into it while still prioritizing and making time for people. Fortunately she's sticking around Logan and I pray we'll get to hang out all summer like we did all last summer. I wanted to write all about how great she is and what an incalculably profound influence she's had on my life and the kind of person I want to become, but that was a daunting task far beyond my skills so I gave up before I started. Many of the coworkers I have grown to know and love are, alas, going home for the summer. The conclusion I've drawn from this is don't care about people because then they'll always hurt you somehow even if they don't try. I'm kidding, but not really.
Now it is very difficult to find an unbiased source, and I'm not a doctor or anything, but as far as I can tell, Trumpcare is little more than Obamacare with a couple of the bad parts and all of the good parts removed. In any case, it's a testament to the Republican Party's pettiness and hypocrisy. They are not proponents of limited government - just limited Democrat government. And they don't give a crap about the gullible voters who for seven years have supported them and counted on them to get government out of healthcare. In fairness, they are trying to restore much of the insurance companies' unfettered freedom to screw their customers whenever they get a chance, so there's that. Corruption in government = bad; corruption in corporations = fine. Oh, but I'm not shedding any tears over their attempt to defund Planned Parenthood, even thought this could potentially force women to go to any of the thousands of other women's health centers that are available in the US. So there's that.
In last week's post I quoted Bill Nye as saying that "Many, many, many, many more hundreds of eggs are fertilized than become humans", and this wasn't the main point so I just tacked it on to the end with little context. The context, in case you were wondering and/or objecting, was that many fertilized eggs never implant and continue to develop, and for political or arbitrary reasons he and some other people don't consider them part of the human species despite being fully comprised of human DNA. He made this argument in an effort to persuade pro-lifers that they're hypocritical and wrong. In contrast, as I made sure to point out, this time around I made no effort to persuade anyone of anything as far as abortion is concerned. In asserting that these fertilized eggs are human, I was not saying they can think or feel or are entitled to the full rights and protections of a grown adult, and I don't think they are, but I was rejecting Nye's political and moral assertions based on a scientific facade. (Also, someone pointed out that different cultures have had varying ideas on when life begins, but there's a scientific definition of that and they're not entitled to their own facts.)
We are all well aware of the ongoing violence in Syria, largely because of the refugee crisis and the tens of thousands of men, women and children who remain in dire need of whatever help we can offer them. You've probably heard a lot less about the ongoing violence in Central African Republic and South Sudan. The battles and atrocities in these two nations are unrelated to each other, but they're both awful and tragic and the biggest crises going on in Africa right now. Every once in a while I Google these nations in the hope of some happy news, but despite occasional positive developments there just is no end in sight. So that's what I'm fasting and praying for this weekend and I just felt like bringing it up since they don't get nearly as much attention as Syria.
Palette-Swap Ninja - Princess Leia's Stolen Death Star Plans
So, this is one of the most creative and interesting things ever - the entire "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band" album parodied as the story of "A New Hope" with great faithfulness to the original instrumentation, lyrics, and cadence. I am thoroughly impressed and don't understand why it doesn't have ten million views already.
I already devoted part of a post some months ago to the topic of my dog's inevitable death and the effect it would have on me, so there's no need to rehash that here. It just seems perverse that dogs have such short life spans. It seems as perverse to me as if a human child were to die of old age when he was twelve. And now I have to wait so very, very long to see him again. I keep thinking about how I can no longer scratch his head and feel his cold, wet nose. I loved the feeling of his nose so much that I went out of my way to touch it with my arm whenever I scratched his head.
Milo was quite annoying at times. He constantly wanted attention, and if he came up to you and you didn't pay attention to him, he went and sulked. Sometimes, for reasons unknown to me, scratching his head would prompt him to start licking his lips noisily. We tried to discourage that by holding his mouth closed, and he got the message, so sometimes his tongue would just out and quiver as he visibly strained with the effort of not doing it. Why? Sometimes when I walked him, he would move behind me to my other side, so that I had to spin around so the leash wasn't behind me. When I could tell I was about to do that I would stop walking, and he would stop too, and we would have a brief stalemate. But even at the height of annoyance, it never obscured the feeling of love that was always present.
Milo's love was not unconditional, but was predicated on the right conditions. I fed him, walked him and lavished affection on him, and in return he loved me. So I had to do something to deserve that love, but nothing excessively difficult or arbitrary. I kind of like that even better than unconditional love because I don't see why I should feel particularly good about a love that would be the same if I were Hitler. This kind of love convinces me that I'm a good person but that I'm not expected to be perfect. I also felt my own love for Milo more overtly than for anyone else ever. I'm sure I love my family more, but that's more of the subdued taking-for-granted kind. Anyway, George Gordon Byron long ago expressed how I feel better than I or probably anyone else could.
Epitaph to a Dog
"Guys. Chris's blog is the stuff of legends. If you’re ever looking for a good read, check this out!"
- Amelia Whitlock
"I don't know how well you know Christopher Randall Nicholson, but... he's trolling. You should read his blog. It's delightful."
- David Young
C. Randall Nicholson
This is where I occasionally rant about life, the universe, and/or everything. I'm a white cisgender male and a Latter-day Saint, so you can hate me without guilt, but I'm also autistic, so you can't. Unless you're an anti-vaxxer, in which case the feeling is mutual.