Why's the Feast so spiffy? Maybe it's those once-a-year friends

The writer is the 15-year-old daughter of Dixon and Linda Cartwright of Big Sandy and a member of The Journal's staff. For more Feast reports, see "Church of God Brethren Tell About Their Festivals," beginning on page 1.

By Jamie Cartwright

SAN ANTONIO, Texas--'Twas the day before Feast time, and all through the van, not a creature was stirring, except for Dad, who all the way to San Antonio checked off a loud, mental list of all the things we forgot to bring.

Yet six hours of talk radio, several varieties of rest stops and everything below your waist going numb were a small price to pay for the Feast of Tabernacles we had in store for us.

Ours was held in San Antonio beginning the evening of Sept. 24 by Jeff Booth and the Amarillo-based Christian Church of God, the group we attended with last year, in the same hotel with the same dumb elevators on the same beautiful San Antonio Riverwalk.

You know your Feast is going to be cool when, not five minutes after you've entered your rooms, the smoke alarm goes off. It wasn't anything serious; Mom's and Dad's room heater had exploded, and my 19-year-old brother, Trey, and I spent several minutes of meaningful conversation on what it smelled like. ("Burning hair." "A men's room." "Burning hair." "You've never been in a men's room, have you?")

Embarrassing your friends

Ha! Well, a big part--shoot, the main part--of any Feast is the people you spend it with, and attending with the same group for the last couple of years provides you with a collection of already-made friends.

I refer to (and intend to embarrass) the teens Trey and I hung out with: Emily Wertz of Harrisburg, Pa. (whom I humbly bow to as a bigger Star Wars fan than I); her sister Chelsea; Matt Maloney of Amarillo, Texas; Tom Vines of Stevensville, Mont.; his brother James "My Girl Friend's Dead, You Know" Vines; and Jason "You're Not Going to Write About Me, Are You?" Kirkpatrick of Portales, N.M.

It was with this assemblage of elite personages (sans the Wertzes, who didn't come till a couple days later, and Tom, who was off doing who knows what) that I went to Sea World with one day after services.

Okay, if you've ever been to Sea World you know the bit: some whales, a lot of water and a quarter of the world's population standing in line for popcorn with most of their clothes gone. Cool, huh?

Actually, it was cool, but I'm going to tell you only about the highlights of that trip: for one, the dolphins.

At this particular Sea World sits a large poolful of dolphins that you are allowed to pet and, at times, feed. Of course, unless it is their feeding time the dolphins completely ignore you and you are reduced to hanging over the pool's edge like a wet rag, alternately crying and begging for the stupid so-called mammals to come over and let you pet them.

A lot of people (myself included) thought it might help to dip their hands in the water and splash the dolphins, because maybe getting them wet will induce them to swim on over (it doesn't work, so don't bother).

Eventually we left, but not before James managed to pick a brief but bloody fight with one of those shark-costumed Sea World mascots (the shark gave him the, uh, flipper for his trouble).

Pink enchiladas

On with the Feast! Picture this: The Riverwalk is at your back doorstep, and just a few minutes' walk along the Riverwalk brings you to a three-story mall--with a Godiva Chocolate store in it!

Ah! This is, in my opinion, a sort of physical version of the resurrection, especially when they give out free samples.

The food court also gives out a lot of free samples, enough so you just have to walk up and down a few times, not daring to refuse the morsels for fear of getting your eyes poked out with those little toothpicks, until you get filled up.

There were other after-service activities, some I didn't participate in, like toobing down the River With a Funny Name, but some I didn't dare miss, like the dinner on the boats on the actual river part of the Riverwalk where they serve vivid-pink enchiladas.

Boy, if you had to go to the bathroom you were definitely out of luck.

We teens also ended up at Malibu Grand Prix one day, one of those activity places with arcades and bumper boats and miniature golf and race-car tracks with the little warning signs that say if your hair is longer than shoulder length you'd better put it up or you'll die a slow, painful death (I didn't), and don't run into each other or cut each other off or give each other the flipper or you'll die a second slow, horrible death.

We went to the Imax theater in the mall. For those who don't know, the Imax is a theater with a screen about the size of Ohio, maybe bigger, that shows really cool educational videos. We saw the one about the Nile River. With the huge, curved screen and clifflike theater seating, you feel sort of like you're there, right in the movie, and end up swaying along with the camera till your neighbors politely ask you to get out of their laps.

Time flies

It was a wonderful Feast. The sermons were good, the special music was great, the brethren downright spiffy. It ended all too quickly.

Afterwards I settled into my usual post-Feast depression, mourning the loss of my once-a-year friends, the schoolfree days full of nothing but worshiping God and having fun, and the memory of the Godiva chocolate, which has somehow managed to stick with me.

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