Back towards the future

As I mentioned to Brian recently, the last couple years of my life have been oddly static. Yes, I moved around a bit, but the people I interacted with basically held constant, and my weeks fell into a fairly predictable routine: NCIS and House on Tuesday nights. Dance practice on Wednesdays. RRR (read Thursday-Thursday-Thursday) on (wait for it) Thursday, and Defense Night on Saturdays.

I’ve seen many people pass through ballroom dance practices as they work their way through college. (It’s a bit depressing if I think about it too much.) Still, I’ve had a small but constant group of friends the last few years—increasingly composed of people who stay in-town after they graduate. (Those two statements make logical sense, by the way: my group of friends has remained constant, but many of them have graduated in the last few years and elected to stay in town.)

Even the practice itself generally falls into one of a few patterns. Barry and I will invariably grumble about the length of a salsa. Daniel will dance the one polka that is played with more gusto and joy than I could ever muster, and Janis will study some facet of animal anatomy during songs that she doesn’t care for. Jonathan will chat when he’s not dancing lindy hop—his dance of choice. Christine and I will dance a foxtrot (or, more recently, a nightclub two-step). Britta will hug me from behind. Emerald and I will dance some random dance and be oddly comfortable with our general lack of conversation. Sophie, when she shows up, will dance the last waltz with me with her eyes shut—which will invariably make me sweat bullets as I try to ensure her safety. I’ll dance a west-coast swing with Jenny every once in a while; I don’t know how (and it’s too late for me to try) to begin describing my interactions with her.

For good dances, another set of people from the past will show up: Ae-young, Summer, Tiffany, Connie, Robyn… good times with all of them.

RRR is where Brian and I would meet at the Beanery at 10:00 pm, chat up the baristas (we’ve met a good number of people there, most notably Tom and Jessica, and Amanda, Aubree, and Cassie), and then return to Brian’s place (in the early days) or my place to play video games for a few hours. RRR, in this form, has been going strong since some time in 2004. I can’t possibly recall everything we’ve done on Thursday nights, but the list includes such feats as watching the Kyoto arc of Rurouni Kenshin and playing through all of Bully. At the moment we’re making our way through Growlanser II.

Defense Night is a somewhat-weekly get-together for Brian, Nate, and myself to stave off the boredom of living in a small town. Its roots can be traced back to Movie Night (prominent feature: trying to get multiple people to agree to one movie while standing around in Hollywood Video), through watching Speed Grapher (where the term murder-blood entered our lexicon), and finally in our watching of Ground Defense Force Mao-chan.

Imagine three twenty-something males watching a cartoon made for prepubescent girls. (That’s what it was.) Somehow, though, in the majority of its twenty-odd fifteen-minute episodes, there was a nugget of humor that was like crack to us. Mao-chan wanted to defend the Earth (from cute aliens, of course)… and Defense Night earned its name.

In its current incarnation, Defense Night has taken the form of Earth Defense Force 2017, where we defend the earth by killing giant ants and spiders (and dino-mechs!). It’s pretty much Starship Troopers in video game form, and has been horrifyingly addictive. We are currently 80-some hours into the game (!!!), and are one level away from completing the whole thing. (To give you an idea of what this involved: there are 53 stages in the game, and five difficulty levels. We are finishing up the final difficulty level, “inferno,” which is inexplicably more difficult than “hardest.”)

The days of these patterns are drawing to a close, however. Sophie and others are graduating and leaving, and our Beanery friends are starting to move on as well. Brian will be moving to Portland by the end of the month. Andy (another important friend, despite his absence in the above) is getting married in a few weeks. Time is once again moving forward, and things around here are going to be much more dull for it.

I’m feeling oddly calm about all these changes, though. As I watched the graduates-to-be on the last Wednesday night practice of their college experience, I was reminded of myself at similar points in time: finishing middle school, graduating from high school, and graduating from college. At those points I tended to withdraw when everyone else was partying, preferring quiet reflection instead. Those periods felt momentous, and I tried my best to extract meaning from them.

I guess I still take time to reflect a bit (this post being Exhibit A), though these days I seem to be all out of meaning. My calmness seems to be the result of some level of acceptance that things change—or, in a larger sense, that things will be what they are going to be. I remain uncertain if this acceptance is the wisdom—or the cynicism—that comes with age.


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