Robert Kirby: FanX, TRAX and entertainment vs. derangement

Robert Kirby

When I climbed on TRAX last week, my head suffered a time skip. I froze in the doorway. Something was off. Nearly everyone on the car was wearing some kind of uniform.

There were dark villains, Middle-Earthers, outer ringers, dumpy Avengers and scrawny throne-types. There was even a Spider-Man, but since he weighed twice what I do, I’m pretty sure it wasn’t the real one.

I paused to have a short conversation with my brain.

Note: Yeah, my brain isn’t me. It’s just a rudimentary survival tool I use to remind me to breathe and to recognize the subtle but dangerous changes in my wife’s tone of voice. Sometimes my brain and I get along. Mostly we don’t. This time was an even split.

Me • “Brain! Everyone is dressed up. What the hell happened to the past seven weeks?”

Brain • “Wait one minute. [Squeal] Checking damaged areas. [Rattle] It’s still September, not Halloween. [Clicking] Best estimate: FanX.”

Me • “You’re sure?”

Brain • “[More clicking] You know, this would be [wheeze] so much easier if you had treated me with respect 50 years ago. It’s Salt Lake City’s version of Comic-Con.”

FanX. Of course. It had been all over the news. But I’m not a comic book, cosplay, LARP-er (live-action role-play) guy.

I crept down the aisle and sat next to the most reasonable person on the car, a ragged homeless person. Across the aisle, several dumpy Avenger-types debated the best skills and powers to have, including nuclear-tipped arrows.

The homeless guy next to me saw my concern and transformed into a regular person pretending to be an orc. He lent me a brochure of FanX events and celebrity encounters.

Not only did I have zero clue as to the nature of most of the television shows or movies being featured, the only celebrity who caught my eye was Lindsay Wagner, “The Bionic Woman,” from the ’70s.

I had a thing for the Bionic Woman, but I got over it. We’re both old enough to be great-grandparents now. What was she doing at FanX? Probably still cashing in on the days when she could pull the bumper off a Mack Truck.

It’s hard to process another person’s fantasy interests through your own head. My brain hates it when I try. I chalk this anger up to its being gun-shy from all the earlier times when I didn’t give it a choice.

But FanX is just a hobby to most of the attendees. True, some might actually believe they are the characters they pretend to be. But if it’s harmless behavior, who cares?

While I don’t understand FanX, I’m aware that my own interests might seem bizarre to others. As you know, I like blowing up stuff. Also shooting bowling balls at junk machinery, and finding ways to frighten (but not hurt) livestock.

The secret is not to let your fantasy/hobby grow into an obsession. It’s easy, then, to lose track of reality and become a danger to passersby and those unfortunate enough to care about you.

There are some really stupid hobbies. A few even come to mind, mostly because I’ve seen the aftermath — tattooing the inside of your mouth, believing you can fly off a tall building, driving the wrong way on the interstate, taunting armed gang members, petting crocodiles and playing golf.

Robert Kirby is The Salt Lake Tribune’s humor columnist. Follow Kirby on Facebook.