Right off the bat, I have to say that I have some astonishingly beautiful friends. Something I've long suspected from seeing pictures of these magical creatures, and I'm stunned in an intangibly profound way at just how much more beautiful every single person I had the luxury of spending time with actually is in person. I am completely floored by and in awe of each of you. </gush>
We got to Atlanta, and just as I was about to call arie, the cellphone goes off and it's her. We pressed on to Whitewater, got in the park, and I spotted her in the midst of all these people about 100 feet away. Immediately I got so excited I realized that I had to pee - and after accomplishing said task in the nearest bathroom, continued over towards her. By the time I got to the other side of the bridge that separated us, I threw the backpack off and ran to scoop up my friend in my arms as fast as I could - and it was well beyond wonderful to finally hold her for a minute after such a long, long wait. We let go of one other, though it was clear neither of us wanted to, and finally took a good face-to-face look at each other, and I was instantly struck at how much more beautiful people are when you see them in person. arie, you set the tone for the rest of an amazing day! I got to meet Sage, one of the most gorgeous and truly well rounded children for such an age that I've ever come into association with, her cousin Chase, and Mom - who is also just as warm and welcoming as a good mother is supposed to be. Plus, she likes thrill rides.
After much squeeing and bounciness that we were finally getting to spend a day together, arie, thedigitalghost, and myself headed off to our first ride of the day, the insanely huge and outrageously fun Tornado. For fuck's sake, just look at this thing! It was all made better by the fact that D was there with me for all of this, while it meant the world to me it wouldn't have been as intense an experience without him to share it all with. Nothing ever is. Being that high up off the ground I'd normally be completely panicked, but with thedigitalghost and arie I felt safe. We rode all kinds of fun waterslides, floated around the park for miles on the lazy river, played with the children (you know my day is always made better when there are fun kids involved in the mirth and merriment), laughed our fool heads off at Mr. Yellawood (ROFLMAO!!), and I challenged some of my fears - mainly my paralyzing fear of heights. I ended up backing down only once, but not before pushing myself to my absolute just-before-panic-attack limit, which I'm very proud of myself for. After 5 hours of nonstop OMGIMAKIDAGAIN fun that actually resulted in me somehow spraining my left knee again, it started to rain and we decided to call it a day and head back to arie's place to put Sage down for a nap, and change clothes and hang out together for a while before heading back intown for dinner. I was graciously offered the use of this stellar knee brace that she had, which I'm wearing as I type this and has made a world of difference - thanks again, sweetie! After about an hour and change, it was time to head out even though I really didn't want to. I held her hand up until I absolutely had to let it go and walk to the truck, feeling a mixture of elation and sadness that my time with her was over for the day, but more elation than anything.
We drove to Roxx Tavern, one of my new favorite places in Atlanta. Very cozy and relaxed and no fuss, great staff (we love you, Kim!) and a huge streetside patio. We waited for the others to show up, and eventually I spotted two of them approaching the door - I ran outside and was immediately greeted with this amazing, huge smile from astounded, who also swept me up into a very memorable hug - not to be outdone by icemeltz4u, who took his turn giving me a hug with equal intensity. I know that my excitement had to make me look like a complete fool, not that I care about that even remotely, but I was just very happy and I'm sure it was evident. Had I not screwed up my knee, I'dve been jumping up and down I'm sure. We sat out on the patio and waited for the others to show, had a drink and eventually ordered and had dinner. I'm reminded as I replay this in my head the things I'm left with from my time with the two of them. First, the same thing about beauty - both astounded and icemeltz4u are amazingly handsome and genuine, and I had several interplaying seconds of Ricky Fitz/American Beauty moments in my head and heart just taking them in with my eyes. Then the similarity in them both, that wonderful quality that few people I meet these days have - of being able to walk into a room and simply by being who they are, they bring good energy. Each time icemeltz4u would grin out a mischevious wisecrack and make me think "GET OUT OF MY HEAD!" - each time astounded would smile at me and laugh that musical, infectious laugh of his, I'd burn each of these things into my memory so I would always have them. After dinner we were joined by the adorable and charming (really, he's so handsome and charming it borders on the absurd) old_age, who was yet another living example of how much more gorgeous most people are in person than in photographs - and I've seen every one of them look stunning in pictures, too.
By 8:30 it was time for us to head out to our last stop of the evening before heading home, and I was prepped for an experience I've wanted longer than I can tell you. Not more than three or four miles away at that very moment, a friend from out-of-town was finishing dinner and about to head out into the city for the night. We jumped into the truck after receiving yet more hugs from icemeltz4u, old_age, and astounded, for me not just simple hugs but emotional exchanges that fed my soul in ways I cannot even describe, and drove to Cowtippers. With precious little time to spare, I scanned the patio/deck and then hobbled inside. I found a table of people, some familiar faces and some not so familiar, and was met with a "Holy shit, what the fuck are YOU doing here?" smirk from uber-cute beartard, who rose from the table to continue the night's already-well-established tradition of greeting with an awesome hug and a smile just for me. No sooner had he let me go and I offered an explaination for my appearance was I quickly introduced to redteufel, who seemed very nice, when my reason for being there at that moment came walking open-armed towards me. I finally got the opportunity to smile with and hold in my arms for a precious few minutes the fantastic and beautiful 50poundnote. I wanted desperately just to stand in front of my friend, just for a moment if not longer, and do exactly what I did. I held him tightly as we rocked back and forth, pressed my face against his, told him that I loved him and was sorry I only had a minute to be there, and felt more accomplished than I can convey in words right now. Just as I was turning to leave I caught sight of supercutie woldpup76 across the table and shook his hand - had I not been so ecstatic and mindblown, I'd have run over to hug him as well. But Damien was sitting in the restaurant driveway blocking traffic for me to run in and do this, so I had to cut it short. I was in such a hurry that I forgot to look for profundis and say hello to him, if nothing else. I thought I saw him for a half a second, but having never met him before I wasn't sure and besides - I was in a bit of a race against time. I left the restaurant and hobbled back to the truck with tears in my eyes and a smile that almost hurt me, threw my arms into the air in victory as Damien caught sight of me walking towards him, climbed into the cab of the truck and thanked my amazing, beloved partner for facilitating something so important to me.
Yesterday was so near perfect that I wasn't even bothered as much as I would normally be by the fact that I didn't get to see/spend time with albumlady, belmontx, xtex, and six10steve - but there will be other times, hopefully better planned, with more time to spare, and sans outside forces preventing such things to include everyone. And I'll definitely wait for Sage to wake up from her nap to give me goodbye hugs before ever leaving her disappointed like I did yesterday ever again.
The whole experience of yesterday made me so deliriously happy that I forgot to document it all in pictures, can you believe that? Conversely (and coincidentally enough) it has also reaffirmed for me what my photography is really all about, and I'm more driven than ever now to transfer to image what I see in my head and heart more cleanly and earnestly than ever. It has also made me acutely aware of how much need there is in me to spend as much time with all of these amazing beings as I possibly can, every opportunity I can get. Nothing all day made me feel as happy as having these folks I adore so much smile broadly at me and give me these intense, wholly-consuming hugs, then going the extra mile and including me in part of their day. There's a saying that people come into your life for a reason, a season, or a lifetime. To each of you I had the miraculous opportunity to spend time with over the duration of yesterday, however long or however fleeting, it is my sincere hope that you're all lifetime people. I'll gratefully accept you in whatever way is already chosen for me, but I hope you're all lifetime people. I suspect you will be, and I feel very purposeful and fulfilled by the prospect. To those of you I wished were there but weren't for one reason or another, everything in its own time - I love you just as much.
What a lucky man I am...
Duran Duran - Perfect Day