Get your mind out of the gutter!
I’m talking about what happens when fandoms come out of the basements, from behind computers and drawing boards and televisions and movie screens and appear out in the world amongst us mere mortals.
Over the weekend, I was working in a coffee shop – one of my favorite pastimes and passions! This particular coffee shop, Coffee Connection, is in a very curious location. Directly on State Street, in the more impoverished area of the Salt Lake valley where one can find prostitutes, pimps, and dealers if you have your eyes open, this coffee shop sits sandwiched amongst tattoo parlors, billiards, and pubs. Positioned across from the South City Campus of Salt Lake Community College, it heavily draws a weary college crowd who sit in the “quiet room” studying and collaborating on projects, or mingling at one of the many tables scattered across the vast, open lobby, or lounge in the luxurious leather recliners in the “elevated” room on the way to the restrooms.
Each time I’ve been to this coffee shop that is so much more than a coffee shop, the crowd has been an eclectic blend of “eccentric” and “normal.” It’s in my least favorite area of town, so I don’t frequent here often, but when I do it is always worth it. The coffee rocks, the baristas are awesome, and the sandwiches smell and look delightful, although I’ve never actually tried one yet.
As I worked, focusing on my writing, I glanced up from my table far back in the depths of the quiet room. I went as far in as I could to get away from the distractions of the crowded open space up front, but I positioned myself perfectly so I could peer through the doorway and out the front windows at the trees across the street that were dropping their leaves in a rain of fluttering leaves on an ongoing basis. Each time I glanced up, I saw this fluttery storm and a myriad of cars zipping by. Sometimes, I would stare for a few moments, other times just a brief second.
This time, when I looked up, my view was blocked by a cluster of guys just outside the quiet room who were mingling along the ramp to the elevated room. There, in the middle of the group, was a giant wolf standing on his hind legs. I was intrigued and couldn’t help but smile. I watched as he waltzed with one of his buddies. Grinning, I took a picture of the wolf, posted it on Facebook, and then went about my business.
About a half hour later, I needed to visit the restroom. This meant I would have to climb out of the quiet room, venture up the ramp to the elevated room, and go beyond to the hallway where the restrooms were located. It also meant I would get to see the wolf up close. As I stepped out, I discovered that the wolf had a fox friend and a furry black dragon friend. In addition, there were several young men (probably late teens, early 20’s) who had tails from different animals and/or furry caps with ears.
I couldn’t help myself! It was a perfect opportunity to mingle and bask in the glow of sheer passion. These young men from Utah Furry Forum were passionate about their furries enough that some of them had tags of their cartoon avatars hanging on lanyards around their necks, others had full body (extremely expensive) animal suits that were expertly designed – by them – and put together by some creative genius who builds fantastic costumes. They were fully ON with their passion and giving not one whit of care about what anyone thought of them. They were grown men, dressing up in cartoonesque costumes that were some of the most extravagant animal representations I have ever seen in my life.
What I loved about this experience was how happy they all were! They filled the space with their boisterous conversations and loud laughter. They thumped each other on the back as they one-upped each other in their jokes and stories. They were completely at home in their fandom that they had brought out into the real world.
Live action role playing fandoms such as Utah Furry Forum (or for another example, watch the brilliant movie that was filmed here in Utah called Unicorn City) are some of the most amazing experiences because true fandom members live and breathe their passion. They are passionate evangelists for their cause, calling it out to everyone and anyone who is willing to listen (or not). They spend hundreds, sometimes thousands of dollars on merchandise, costumes, books, movies, music, expo tickets, plane tickets, travel expenses, and anything related to their fandom, just to be with other likeminded people.
What I’m realizing now is live action role playing fandoms are very much like the conscious-mind and empowerment movement that I’m involved in. People spend hundreds, sometimes thousands of dollars on merchandise, proper attire, books, workbooks, movies, cds, downloads, webinars, teleseminars, workshops, retreats, expos, plane tickets, travel expenses, and anything related to the movement just so they can be with other likeminded people.
When you are willing to live your passion, it becomes a way of life, it becomes what you do, what you eat/breathe/study, what you wear, how you talk, how you act, the kind of people you attract, the experiences you have. It becomes who you are. You become this passion without shame and with a heart full of joy and love. And sometimes it also means that you appear in the “real” world dressed head-to-toe in a fantastic costume.
So… what fandom are you a passionate member of?
I always welcome your thoughts, questions, and comments.
Feel free to jot down what you’re thinking in the comment box below.