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.
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About the Author
C. Randall Nicholson is a white cisgender Christian male, so you can hate him without guilt, but he's also autistic and asexual, so you can't, unless you're an anti-vaxxer, in which case the feeling is mutual. This blog is where he periodically rants about life, the universe, and/or everything.