If you looked up “fun” in the dictionary you’d see a gigantic photo collage of the wild and zany activities my friends have come up with in the last few weeks. It all started on Saturday, August 3rd when one of my friends put out a feeler on Facebook. It triggered a “What should we do tonight?” brainstorm that set in motion a rip-roaring chain of events that shows no sign of stopping. That night we decided to go to a nearby park and “play.” We kicked things off with a lively round of sidewalk chalk sketching before heading to the various playgrounds.
One of the playgrounds had this treacherous wheel ride that I have nicknamed “Spin Cycle.” Everyone (who was willing to risk their neck) took a turn inside while the bystanders spun them around as fast as humanly possible. (I personally took the job of “lighting crew” and so we could film the whole thing.)
Whilst inside the wheel some were more verbose than others. Gwen, for example, managed to exclaim, “I feel like I’m galloping on a horse!” and “I’m catching air!” Having tweaked my neck on a waterslide earlier on the day I decided it was best to give my neck a break. The rest of the evening was filled with swinging on swings, playing a few rounds of a light machine game and spinning on any and every contraption that could spin us. And that was just the beginning.
Two days later we found ourselves in the midst of a less-than-festive tri-ward luau. People were starting to come after us with water balloons so my ward rallied and decided to flee. We stopped at an ice cream shack where I was able to snag one of my all-time favorite treats: a chocolate-dipped cone. After some convening and reconvening we set out for the same park we had gone to nights before. First we checked on our chalk masterpieces. I was quite pleased to see they were completely intact. Next we headed to the Spin Cycle where a few more people were initiated into the Circle of Death (aka the Circle of Friendship.) One of our guys took a bad spill out of the wheel and for a moment everything froze. Once he was on his feet again a few more brave souls took their turn in the wheel. Although I didn’t have an excellent excuse to hang back (no lighting crew was needed because it was still light outside) I did have an excellent time watching my friends scream, “I’m gonna puke!”
After some tranquil climbing on the jungle gym people started chasing each other which led to a chaotic game of tag. I got tagged and chased Gwen for a few hundred feet but I couldn’t manage to tag her. Instead I decided it was best to hide in the bushes and catch a few friends by surprise. There’s just something awesome about hearing your friends approach unawares. They’re just laughing and having a good time and then all of a sudden it’s, “Ahhhhhhhh!!!” Game over. Having completed my mission of tagging someone I continued on with the group to the other playground. For whatever reason tag was just in our blood that night and we needed more. Believe it or not we played Hot Lava Monster for about an hour straight. The last time I played that game was probably eight years ago when I was a summer camp counselor. It is very different to play with adults because they are bigger, faster and louder. I think we had at least 12 people playing and it was just insanely fun.
After banging our knees and elbows on every structural component of that playground (and sacrificing a few ankles) our group finally called it a night. Well, most of us, anyway. Those of us who weren’t quite done moved our cars over to the library parking lot so the cops wouldn’t come looking for us in the park. We pulled out a blanket and settled down on the west boundary of the park. After a few minutes it got a little chilly so we decided to start a dance party to combat the cold. Yes, we’re nuts. Eventually a cop spotted our cars in the parking lot and walked over to our little encampment. “Guys, the park is closed. When you get a minute I’ll need you to head on your way.” “Sorry! We’ll go right now.” “No, no, that’s not necessary. Just when you get a minute. Have a good night.” Score! With the officer’s blessing we bided our time. Eventually the sprinklers came on and we headed for the parking lot. I left after that (yes, even I go to bed sometimes) but apparently another officer visited my friends in the parking lot a little while later “just to say hi.” Rad.
Five very social days later it was once again Saturday. (This time it was August 10th.) With tickets in hand our group struck out for the county fairgrounds where many of us would be witnessing our very first demolition derby. (I thought it was my first time but my dad later informed me that he took me to one when I was very young. My bad!) There’s something unsettling, dirty, cheap and lovely about walking through a county fair. You know it’s a gigantic rip-off. You know it’s probably not safe. You know there are carnies BUT there is also magic in the air. It’s the strangest combination of dust, grime, steel and sparkling light in the known universe. We found our seats on the bleachers and then people started making runs to buy various grease-dipped food. (Oh how I prefer chocolate-dipped food!) The derby began and once the sun lowered behind the clouds we comfortably drifted away to the crash-bang-boom rhythm of the cars. Even still my friends could not hold still. We couldn’t help but notice the almighty Gravitron ride spinning just behind the derby arena. Two friends scouted out the ticket price and found out it was $4. Four dollars for the best fair ride of all time? Let’s do it!
To my great delight we had a few people in our group who had never been on a Gravitron. I tried to describe the gravity-compressing sensation in very placid, nonthreatening terms. “The ride is completely enclosed so you won’t fall out. You’ll just feel like you’re being pressed against the wall but it’s cushioned so it won’t hurt.” (Now that I look back on those words all spelled out I can see that it would have easily been interpreted as, “You’ll be locked into a metal room with padded walls and spun until you can literally climb the walls like the crazy person you are.” I probably should have just said it that way.) We timed our dash for the ticket booth perfectly. (We waited until the penultimate event was over so that we could ride the Gravitron while the tow trucks were cleaning up the mess in the arena.) After snatching up our tickets we got in line and waited for a few nervous minutes until the previous passengers were completely unloaded. Then it was our turn!
We spread out slightly so we could have room to freak out and then the ride started. It had been about six years since I had been on a Gravitron and to be honest I had forgotten what it was like. According to Wikipedia “riders [experience] centrifugal force equivalent to three times the force of gravity” when the ride is at full speed. Can you say a-w-e-s-o-m-e? I felt like my whole stomach was being pressed down to a thickness of about 3 inches. In order to keep my diaphragm from collapsing I very strategically screamed my head off. Big breath in, big scream out. It was hard to keep doing this because I was laughing so hard. I wish wish wish I had kept my iPhone in my hand so I could have taken pictures and videos of my friends – especially the first-timers. Luckily one of my friends took video and this is a still shot from it:
After the ride ended we stumbled then sprinted back to our seats for the final event. We made it just in time! Before I knew it the derby was over and we were cooking up our next plan for the evening. We rendezvoused with a few more friends at Sonic and chatted away for the next hour or so. “Surely,” I thought, “this highflying summer sprint to the finish will slow down eventually.” Surely I was wrong.
Last night I once again witnessed my friends’ constant craving for summer gallivanting. My ward softball team played its first game in a two-night regional tournament and we WON. The game was over before 9:00 which meant the evening was wide open. Much to my delight one of my friends asked, “Okay, what’s next?” before I even had my cleats off. I live off of this kind of energy. Within minutes eight of us were scurrying to the other side of the park to play soccer. Even though two girls weren’t completely comfortable playing soccer they still tried it. I feed off of these kinds of people. Once soccer wound down it was time to come up with something else. Someone suggested “Hands Up Stands Up” (a handstand competition) and I designated myself as the official photographer.
Watching them play was fascinating. These friends of mine are cordial, competitive, goofy, great people. They would rather risk dislocating their shoulder than “call it a night.” (Yes, one of the girls dislocated her shoulder.) I thrive on this kind of determination. Eventually we made a break for the nearest 24 hour restaurant. I fully anticipate that tonight (when we will play at least two more softball games) will be just as action-packed and spontaneous. Whether we are celebrating a few momentous victories or mourning our premature elimination I know that we’ll be having the time of our lives. Someday soon our lives will settle down into autumn routines and early, quiet evenings. In the meantime our summer nights are books waiting to be written. Grab your cleats, your camera, your phone, your lantern, your wallet and your friends. We’ve got stuff to do.