Paul and I were friends for 16 years before we realized we were in love. After that, it took us less than a week to decide to leave our spouses for each other.
Wait, it’s not as simple as that. Let me explain. First, we weren’t “friends” in any traditional sense of the word. In reality, we barely knew each other. Our entire friendship had existed entirely within the confines of a burger booth where we both worked at the Oregon Country Fair, an annual three-day summer festival. Every July, the Oregon Country Fair ― or just “Fair” to the over 20,000-member “family” that has been putting it on for the last 50 years.
Temporarily turns a few thousand acres of oak grassland into the third largest city in Oregon. For the uninitiated, Fair is an arts and music festival born out of author Ken Kesey’s tricksters and the early days of the Grateful De-ad. On the surface, it’s the predecessor of Burning Man ― a glow-in-the-dark, hippie-filled, psychedelic playground. Beyond that, Fair is a place where people go to search for something new in their lives, to find some kind of higher meaning, or to just find something that will shake them out of the complacency of their daily existence ― even if that’s just a good time.
Paul and I were relative outsiders to the larger party scene and essentially acted as two worker bees who kept the machine running. We both stumbled into the experience as teenagers through the vast and complicated local network of underground businesses and social circles that drives the Fair.
We met because we were early risers by nature, a rare find at festivals. I worked the breakfast shift each morning, cutting potatoes at the concession stand while Paul sat on a nearby cooler drinking his coffee and chatting with other people.