Regular readers will recall that late last month, I betook myself to the wilderness of Johnson County, Kansas, and mingled, to the limits of my own miscibility, with other humanoids devoted to My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic. There were about three hundred of us, and if the Overland Park Convention Center had ever seen anything like this before, well, staff members were loath to say anything.

I wasn't really sure I wanted to go to this thing. I have never been particularly reticent about declaring myself a member of this fandom, and I've made longer road trips with less purpose in mind. Still, I had hot and cold running qualms. This would have been only my second con ever: back in the middle 1980s, I once attended OKon, a science-fiction gathering in Tulsa, where the most transcendent moment, I thought, was a live joust by members of the Society for Creative Anachronism, out in the hotel yard at 71st and Lewis — across the street from Oral Roberts University, where students stopped and stared as though they were expecting three more horsemen in the next few minutes. It was disorienting but fun, and I figured I'd probably get the same results dealing with the pony folk.

And I had a fallback position: even if things did not work out well at the con, I was within an hour of family — my son lives in Independence, Missouri, east of Kansas City, and my daughter lives in Kansas City, albeit farther east than her brother. (City limits in and around KC, at least on the Missouri side, are, amazingly, even more eccentric than the legendarily weird boundaries of Oklahoma City.) So I could justify making the trip even if the convention turned into a catastrophe; after all, I hadn't seen the young'uns since last December.

You can read about the convention itself — and, if you drop a bit farther down, you can read my own commentary — on The Daily Oat. (For some reason, the absolute best television coverage of MLP comes from WTVY, the CBS affiliate in Dothan, Alabama. I am told it's because one of the higher-ups in the news department is a fan.) But what I'm dealing with right now is the mindset into which all this pony seems to have propelled me.

For my children, I suspect this was something of a jolt: they'd known of my fondness for the show, but they were probably expecting me to exhibit the air of amused detachment with which I treat every other cultural phenomenon of the time, an attitude they'd seen before and had every reason to believe they'd see again. I don't think they were alarmed, exactly, but they were clearly surprised at this old man turned into blubbering fanboy. Their mom, who lives nearby, also seemed to notice, and it occurred to me that if I'd had this much capacity (by which I mean "any") for passion thirty-five years ago, this household might never have broken up in the first place.

Perhaps it's just me being the statistical outlier again. Some people went through "I want to be [whatever] when I grow up" and it lasted long enough for them to make it happen. Some people at mid-life find new careers and new delights. And there's the handful of folks just looking out the window, waiting to see where the ride ends; for fifty-someodd years, you could have counted me among them. I have no satisfactory explanation for the current state of my brain, but for now, I'm going with this one: one's latter years are often spent clearing out the debris of one's life, the wreckage of failed relationships, the garbage of discarded prejudices — and when nothing much is left, well, something has to fill that vacuum. When you get right down to it, there are worse things to have than a heart full of pony.

So I let them know that when they have to put me down for the last time, this should be playing somewhere in the background:

Maybe one person in fifty will recognize it; to the rest, it's just a reflective piano piece, eminently suitable for the moment. Whatever my destination — big adventure? tons of fun? — this is how I go.

The Vent

  25 August 2013

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