Dude. What a day.
My best friend/roommate Curt and I went to our friend Jessie's birthday party today. Jessie is a really inspiring guy. He's in his mid twenties and is an up-and-coming local artist. He works hard at his art, and his dedication reminds me time and again what a lazy bum I can be. He's funny, he's positive, and he's just the kind of guy that you're always glad you took the time to visit with. I've never left Jessie's company feeling anything but uplifted. One more thing; Jessie was in an accident years back, and is now in a wheelchair. I say in one, not confined to one, because Jessie in no way allows his life or his amazing spirit to be limited by the constraints of his body.
I didn't even know that Jessie existed until Curt called me from The Repair Shop (the computer repair shop where Curt works when he's not directing movies, writing movies, attending parties or antagonizing me) one day and told me that Jessie might want to buy my Wacom digital art tablet that I barely ever used (I realized too late that I still prefer illustrating on paper.) Jessie hangs out with Curt and David (Curt's boss) at the shop some afternoons. So I brought the tablet to Jessie that same day and let him take a look at it. In Jessie I saw an enthusiasm about his art that made me smile, and made me remember that love of art that I thought had been burned out of me over the years. I knew after that first conversation that I'd made a new friend.
Jessie's birthday party today was one of those days that I never saw coming, but turned out to be the kind of day that you tell stories about for years. First off, it was a party on Jessie's family's land, a large tract of farmland at the top of South Carolina. A tiny graveyard surrounded by a few tall trees marked the dirt road that led to the party. In a small clearing between a recently planted corn field and a treeline that masked a gorgeous pond that looked more like a small river, a few cars were parked near a camp setup with a tarped-over kitchen, several camping tents, and a few tables. Jessie's big white van was parked in the midst of it. I met some cool people and had good food and good conversation.
We all knew that it was supposed to rain today. Jessie's parents were adamant that the birthday party would go on, rain or no rain. I was not aware until too late of the tornado watch that was underway for Dillon county (aka. where I'm at.) But I figured we'd be fine. Some rain here and there, but a little water never hurt anyone. Everyone else seemed to be in the same mindset. After a few hours of threatening cloud cover, it started raining in earnest. We all retreated to our vehicles to wait the storm out, then resume Jessie's party.
So Curt and I sat in Old Blue (my blue Ford Explorer that's been in the family for years,) listened to music and waited. The rain fell, and the wind picked up. A few tree branches fell on and around the cars, including Old Blue.
Me: Maybe I should move the car over.
Curt: Nah, we're probably fine...
We opened the skylight and looked up at a huge branch right above us.
Me: Forget this...
Curt: Let's move.
So I moved Old Blue away from the trees, behind another car. The cars were all basically in a straight line on the edge of the field now. The wind and rain picked up, and before I knew it, I looked out of my driver's side window and my eyes grew wide. A huge sheet of gathering rain, wind and dirt/dust came at me and slammed into Old Blue. All the cars were rocking now. I looked at the trees, and the smaller ones were bent nearly in half. By the time I was done looking around in that amazed, dumbfounded, trance-like state, it was over.
We all stepped out of our vehicles, and Jessie's dad, Jake, started pointing at the old graveyard at the entrance to the dirt road. The tallest tree in the graveyard had been broken bust above the base, and the rest of the tree was laying over the graveyard at a right angle. The tornado had passed right beside us. The tarp-covered kitchen was a wreck afterward, but everything else was easily salvaged, and no one was hurt.
A bit shaken up, we continued the party nonetheless. More people showed up, and we had more good food and good conversation. Night fell, and it was time to set off some fireworks. One of Jessie's old friends had brought some primo Black Knight fireworks. Super loud, excellent bang for your buck. Unfortunately, these were set off (I'm not going to say by who, but no, it wasn't myself, Jessie or Curt) too close to the campsite. In general, the fireworks went off in an array of wondrous technicolor fire just above our heads accompanied by really satisfying cannon-like BOOMS. However, two of the "throw it and hope for the best" fireworks were much more interesting.
There were two of the W.T.L.S. (pronounced Wootles.) The first crazy Wartime Terrorist Light Show began when a firework was thrown too close to the cars. The firework went off, propelled itself between two cars, and then went off in a beautiful, if blood-curdling, array that sent people cursing, screaming and scattering like mice. No one was hurt.
The second crazy W.T.L.S. basically landed right in front of the now-huddled group of onlookers. Just as it went off, I watched at least three girls run by me at really admirable speeds. When my head was tucked inside of my outstretched jacket and I was praying for the best. The streams of colorful balefire that flew past me missed everyone (again, no one was hurt except for the newly-singed firework tosser), so I took that as a really good sign, ate a few bonfire-scorched marshmallows, enjoyed the company of friends and new cool people, and chalked all of the day's incredible, unforgettable events up to this:
God still likes me, and I'm doing something right. Happy Birthday, Jessie.