In some ways Bear nights are an intensified form of Eagle time. As I've often noted, I don't particularly identify with the "bear movement" such as it is, but I do like the context of being able to meet with and talk with folks in an atmosphere tinged with sexual undercurrent. That's why when some friends of mine started to ask me whether I'd be attending the clothing-optional private pool party at a downtown hotel that will kick off the "Minnesota Bear Ball" (a weekend some folks I know organize) I thought "YEAH!". Especially since my initial "I'm not sure" was greeted with pressure and encouragement, and I can be a sucker for that.
The problem, though, is that this pool party is 10pm to 2am on Friday evening July 20th, which conflicts directly with the Harry Potter book release neighborhood party at Birchbark Books, the wonderful local independent bookstore owned by the author Louise Erdrich. My Morris team has danced there for the previous two Harry Potter releases. Two books ago somebody on the team thought of the idea of us dancing very close to the last minute, and there was a wild flurry of emails as we determined whether we had enough interest on the team and whether Ms. Erdrich would think this was a good idea. When we reached her, she said something like, "I have no idea who you are, but that sounds wonderful" and she has been most supportive ever since. That first year she even told us that she had been worried about how to entertain folks for three full hours, and we came to her rescue (which was a slight exaggeration, but only slight). The next time the locals put together their own games and events in the schoolyard across the street. So by now it's a big fun outdoor community party and we are a regular part of it.
A midnight book release is exactly the wrong time for me to attend the 10pm-2am party for any reasonable period of time. But, you know, I really wanted to go to the pool party. And this conflict came clear just at the end of our intense season, when we dance out once a week and I was developing a bit of squire fatigue that was starting to border on resentment. Darn it, I wanted to go to the pool party! So I started to hint to the team that I didn't know whether we'd have a dancing quorum for the Harry Potter event (we're down in numbers this year) and that I had a conflict.
But then I ran into Andy, who said, "But you have to be there to lead the Harry Potter songs!" That's right -- last time I wrote (on the spot) some silly Harry Potter songs: The Butterbeer Song (Butterbeer thou art my darling) and the Train to Hogwarts song (to the tune of "The Rosabella") which we still sometimes sing, particularly when Bob's boys and Anna Bean are around. Then Ironman Matt told me that he wasn't really keen on this particular gig but when he saw that Louise Erdrich announced on her web site that we'd be there he realized that he'd better go. In a sense this shamed me, and I reconsidered, and I changed my mind. Yes, the team and my commitment to it really do take priority here, even when good-looking young men have expressed an explicit desire to splash around naked with me in a pool. I made the decision, and I was happy with it, especially when every member of the Braggarts showed up for our Fourth of July picnic even though that wasn't a particularly formal commitment, reminding me that we all do want to hang out with each other when we can.
As it turns out, nearly all of the team will be at the gig, so I don't even have to be there, but by now I've remembered that my team loyalty and what that provides me is a much deeper pleasure than the pool party will offer. Then my friend Rick who has once or twice danced as a Braggart indicated that he hoped to join us -- and even though it turns out he can't after all (he's a physician and he's on call that night) his excitement reminded me of what a cool thing this is. Then I found out that recent college graduate David F-H, who danced with us when he was in high school, may be in town and joining us. Then Bob W, who lives in the same neighborhood as the bookstore (his children attend the school across the street), suggested we have a barbecue at his place that evening before heading over to the Harry Potter party.
And my gosh, this will be just a wonderful summer evening. With my team and their families. And then we'll dance and I'll lead some songs and I'll buy the new Harry Potter book. I say with absolute honesty and sincerity that nothing the naked flirtatious pool party could possibly offer me compares to this, at the level that matters most.