A lightsaber is a little like a paddle, right?

I’d been driving for about 10 hours when I pulled off the road to find a bathroom in a hotel. It was about one o’clock in the morning and that west side of Nashville.

I pulled into the first hotel I saw that had enough lights outside to make me feel safe with my board if I stayed there. but he parking lot was packed-too packed. I thought it must be a huge wedding. Then saw a girl dressed in a giant Alice in wonderland type dress but with furry ski boots and I thought “a wedding with really pissed off bridesmaids.”

Then I saw a giant banana hiding a weapon.

I stopped in front, and got out. As the automatic doors opened, I stepped into a hotel full of life sizes Japanese anime, comic and sci fi characters.

Jedis, giant foxes, humanoid fruit, waking dead, and gravity-defying hair of every color known on mars.

I asked a guy dressed in a suit what was going on, and he looked at me and said “You’re not with us? You can be if you want. I bet they wouldn’t even pay if you just ask them if you could join us. It’s just an anime convention where we all get together and have a good time.”

I explained that I was driving across the country and Paddling and that I was just looking for a bathroom and a hotel when I wandered into it. One of the kids asked me if anybody could Paddle and I said of course. It’s just something to go out and get a lesson and try. And if you like it when you do it every day you could become really good just like you are with your lightsaber.

And the funny thing happened. It reminded me of Paddling. Maybe not the outfits, but the inclusive atmosphere. Everybody was just who they were. They were comfortable being in their own skin. And we’re here celebrating it just like many of us do when we go to these different races.

I took a few photos. They embraced the name Distressed Mullet. Who knew?

The guy who helped me was dressed as Dr. Who. His name was Matt in real life. His little foxy friend (with bushy tail) told me his name was simply “the doctor: a walking question, answered.”

Oh. Brilliant.

And as I drove away, I thought about how much fun those guys were having. And how nice it was that they had a place where they could go where nobody called they could just be who they are and nobody would bat an eye. Nobody would call them nerds.

Or kooks.

An hour later I found a hotel that was nice and quiet and got some sleep.

I still can’t believe I walked into that.

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