Podkayne of Mars liked to do things a little differently.
I'd already been well aware of that for the several months I'd been her co-sysop on a local BBS. In that time I'd discovered that Podkayne hadn't used her legal name since high school, was deep into science fiction fandom, liked to dye her hair funky flavors and preferred to go barefoot everywhere -- and when she threw a party, it was bound to be likewise quirky and fun. So I wasn't too surprised to discover that she'd planned a "roughing it" birthday bash in a campground up Provo Canyon, where all the food was to be cooked on site in Dutch ovens over an open fire. Hand-cranked ice cream would follow. I figured I was up for some birthday festivities, and I'm always game for ice cream.
Of course, Podkayne wasn't her real name, just as The Pirate King wasn't my real name. Podkayne and I ran an alias-only BBS where all participants were encouraged to pick their own nicknames. (Podkayne had picked one of her favorite heroines from Heinlein; I chose a name that both reflected my love for Gilbert and Sullivan and camouflaged the fact that I was female. I really didn't want hormonal teenage guys from the board hitting on me.)
It was a beautiful summer evening, and the campground was filled with party guests -- some family, some friends, some regulars from the BBS, and quite possibly a few total strangers who had gotten lost and decided not to pass up a chance to score some free dinner. Podkayne's husband, who went by the alias Ender Wiggin, had enlisted several family members skilled in the art of Dutch Oven Fu to help with the actual cooking. I tried unsuccessfully to elude the mosquitoes, met a handful of new people -- a few Zoobies (the local nickname for BYU students), a guy named George and his roommate, Ender's younger sisters who would later join the BBS crew -- and caught up with quite a few friends who were, unbeknownst to me, mutual friends of Podkayne. (As it turned out we had a phenomenal amount of friends in common. Had Facebook existed at that time, it would have suggested her as a friend forty times over.)
Dutch oven food is usually pretty no-nonsense, but this crowd knew how to make campfire food sing. As the twilight guttered out into night, we ate and warbled songs and goofed off and inhaled ludicrous gobs of homemade ice cream and generally had ourselves a great time... with the exception of Podkayne, who was dreadfully sick the next day. The ice cream had been made with a generous measure of culinary lavender, and while it was delicious, Podkayne found much to her regret that her digestive system prefers lavender for external use only. We tried to avoid using it as an ingredient at subsequent parties.
Fortunately the lavender didn't bother me. I went home happy, smelling of campfire, with half a dozen mosquito-bite welts, not once suspecting that I'd just met the man I was going to marry.
Intrigued? Continue to Part 2!