Please forgive typos, lack of links and other errors. I’m typing this in the middle of an estimated 60,000 people on a computer that is here for video gamers. I had better be swift, or someone will role-play my death. Read on.
This summer has offered me new glimpses into the fascinations of others.
With Our Town, I found the fascination of my own younger years, but I also met hundreds of people for whom theatre has been a constant ambition and achievement. What a treat to find the mothership.
Speaking of Motherships
Right now, I’m at the Fan EXPO in Toronto.
I am surrounded by a typology of weird.
Wait. Let’s be fair. I am surrounded by people who are deeply engaged in hobbies and subjects that are weird to me.
At times, I’ve avoided this experience. If I’m surrounded by weirdness, my own prejudices are hung out for all to see. It’s a defensive thing: it’s easier to disqualify a subject than learn about it. But isn’t that the very definition of closemindedness and prejudice? And in me?
An example: this summer, Alisa and I attended a bluegrass festival. It was a big deal. Family come from Arizona to see the line-up of nationally known musicians. Thousands attended the weekend of music.
Years ago, I would have let my prejudice get the best of me. Then, I’d heard so little bluegrass and ignorantly held it in such disregard that I had never heard bluegrass with an open mind. I’d drawn snap judgments about the music and thought myself superior.
At the festival, I finally heard enough — and the best — so that I came to understand (and even enjoy) the music, the people, and the culture.
But, later that night, back in the suburbs, I heard a bluegrass musician, pausing between songs, asked this question by someone who doesn’t know bluegrass: "Do you know how to read music?" The question sounded like (my additional words and emphasis added): "Do you even know how to read music, or is bluegrass really just for the unqualified?"
Again, I know I’m inserting words here. But when have you asked a musician, in the middle of a performance in front of other people, "Do you know how to read music?" and meant it as a compliment?
So Here I Am In The Land Of The Many Varied Weird
I am surrounded by thumping music, devoted fans of a variety of cultural phenomena. Half of the weirdness is seeing them all juxtaposed.
And the experience is further complicated by where we are staying each evening. My son and I are camping at a luscious campgrounds in downtown Toronto. We are living as primitives, but going into the high-tech of the nation’s best videogamers each day.
Begging your forgiveness for my engaging in my own small-mindedness, here’s the typology, from my own prejudices:
The most normal are the chaperones. It’s no surprise that I most understand the other parents who are here for the ride. This goes also for the kids who are here because the parents are ga-ga for EXPO.
The next most normal are the gamers. While many of my son’s cohort are fixated on games that simulate killing, the people seem to be ordinary. Some of the graphics are truly horrifying. But the competitions at MLGpro (the gaming corner of this Expo) are fierce and inspiring to the audience.
The gamers are tied with the anime artists and publishers. Anime, the Japanese art form for graphic novels and movies is worth a look.
Next on the weirdness scale: sci-fi. Buzz Aldrin and Kate Mulgrew are here to sign autographs. (The whole autograph thing is based on the value of collectables, another thing I’m not into.)
Next come the comic books people. They’re like the anime folks, but have a longer-standing fetish, so they are a rung lower.
At the bottom are the horror folks. Imagine people dressed and made-up (by Hollywood experts) for Halloween. In August. Older than 20 years old. Re-enacting death for anyone who holds up a camera.
After the second day, my son and I decided to stop guessing. As in these two questions from my son: "Are they (the two adults in front of us on the escalator arguing while wearing giant cat mittens) role-playing?" Or: "Is that a real skin condition?"
But who am I to judge?
A friend a fellow Youngster has great knowledge and fascination with a variety of Japanese art forms: from the culinary to the literary and beyond. When a major Expo comes near, she takes days off for it. And a day off before it, to get ready.
Afterward, she can show photographs of costumes and role-playing that are faithful to original artwork and storylines.
When her seriousness about the subject clashed with my ignorance, I had to dig deep to understand. It took me months to understand.
Understand what? To understand that her devotion is no less valid than my devotions. If I call her devotion a fetish, then I had better be prepared to call my devotions fetishes.
After all, I’m the one who takes days off to fast for an ancient Day of Atonement. Talk about your fetishes.