I've officially gotten my balloon fiesta fix for the year. As my life-long residency in Albuquerque has taught me, the fiesta was every bit as wonderful as it always is, and also every bit as nerve-wracking. When I went to the balloon glow on Sunday, I had my heart set on getting a cool pin for the Darth Vader balloon. Needless to say, I was crushed when I discovered that every single balloon pin vendor was sold out. Some punk sales economist person was seriously milking the whole supply and demand thing: each pin vendor only got 500 pins at a time. Okay so 500 pins to each of three vendors, that's 1,500 pins. That's plenty, right? Except that about 15,000 people (per event) each want a pin. When you consider how big a field has to be to support almost 1,000 hot-air ballons, and then you add some extra space for shops and everything, and then account for the fact that for each event, you're lucky to find a single square foot of ground that doesn't have at least one person's foot in it, you realize that that's a shit-load of people. And let's face it, they probably all want Darth Vader pins.

Still, Sunday was a fabulous time. I went crazy taking pictures of balloons, because I'm a total balloon nerd, and I went through about a whole roll of film. When it was over, Robert and I decided that we had had so much fun that, hey, we should go back! So we decided to go to the special shapes balloon glow Thursday or Friday.

We opted for Thursday. I was stoked, and throughout the day looked forward to the afternoon and evening. The day went by quickly, thankfully. One of my supervisors brought her Miniature Dachshund puppy in to work, which was a big help. He was so cute! Not to mention rowdy and playful. We got on famously, and by the time he had to leave our company, more than an hour had passed. But then said super's husband? boyfriend? came to pick up the dog. And suddenly I was stuck in Straight World limbo.

Husband Boyfriend Guy: Oh, geez. Honey, is that the collar you bought for the dog? Supervisor: Mmm hmm. Husband Boyfriend Guy: It's kind of feminine, don't you think? Supervisor: I like it, and it looked the best on him compared to the others. Plus it's adjustable and he's comfortable in it. Husband Boyfriend Guy: Yeah, but it's really feminine. Don't you think, Phil?

As he said this, I was in the process of slinking down to hide under my desk. I wanted more than anything else to not have to to be dragged into the debate simply because I was the only other man present in the room. Damn you, straight man! Only you would ever question whether your dog's collar wasn't macho enough. I was tempted to snatch the nearest baby pink bow, attach it to the collar, and then point out that that was feminine. Instead, though, I merely shrugged and responded honestly:

Husband Boyfriend Guy: That collar is totally feminine. Phil: Actually, it looks fine. Are you metro?

Awkward! By the time the dog left, only an hour remained of my work day, and I was ready to go. As soon as I got off, I raced home. Robert and I then got ourselves all set to go, and we headed off to the nearby amusement park for the park and ride. Where we remained for the next hour, standing in line on the hot pavement. So much for a quicker way to get to the fiesta. I even went up and nicely told off the people "working" there. They were, for the most part, total assholes, and instead of feeling bad about voicing my discontent (which is my usual), I wished I'd been more of a jerk.

Eventually, though, we made it to the fiesta! And once we were among the seething masses of sweaty bodies, we were both happy to be there. Because we were going to get to see balloons!

First stop was the pin booths. We headed into the first one came across, and oohed and ahhed at all the cool balloon pins. Afraid they'd say they didn't have any, and half-expecting them not to so as not to get my hopes up too much, I asked if they had any Darth Vader balloon pins. Here's the answer I got:

"No. We're sold out. Only one place here has them and they're selling them for $60, which is totally outrageous and they're a bunch of fascist jerks. Oh, and be sure to look and make sure it says Lucasfilm on the back because if not, then it's a knock-off. See? Fascists."

Disappointed, we left the pin booth. We wandered to the next one, which was super small and didn't have any either. And then to the next one, where, joy of joy, they had the incredible pins from the Dark Side! As it turns out, these people were extremely nice, unlike the name-calling punks from that first booth. They were selling the Vader pins for $40 each, which isn't too bad when you consider how inflated it actually could have been. I mean, $20 cheaper than what we had expected? That's a bargain!

darth pin We knew that if we got the pins, we would be the envy of the town. We also knew that if we displayed them proudly, we might get jumped. So we got the pins and then I kept them safely in my pocket. Once that was said and done, I was walking on air. We set off to go enjoy the rest of the fiesta, now that we had the elusive ring of power Darth Vader pins.

We got to see the Darth Vader balloon himself, in all his glory. He's a massive balloon, and he glows surprisingly well. My theory about his black color being too dark to glow well was proven wrong, and I [hopefully] have the pictures to prove it. I went through another full roll of film that night, and have now only to wait until Tuesday to see how they turned out. I'm counting down the days.