A closer look at the costumed customers of Wicked Chicken
THE SANTA CLARA
May 19, 2016
A thick-necked man leaps up, revealing the busty blonde screen-printed on his shirt. The Sharks just scored a fifth goal. Their opponent hasn’t netted one.The seventh game of the NHL’s Western Conference Semifinals is all but over. And he’s hopping around Wicked Chicken, whooping, pounding his chest and smacking any open hand within reach.
Outside, in the cool evening, eight other men sit and stand in a circle. They’re not watching the game. A boombox churns out a catchy pop beat as they talk and smile.They have bad haircuts, soft facial features and slight or doughy builds.
One pairs a white fedora with a dingy grey hoodie. Another ambles about in lumpy cargo pants adorned with clacky keychains. A third rocks a short mumu, light blue jeans and a thick wolf tail hanging off his backside. These are the furries that come every Thursday. And I’m here to do two things: eat wings and interview them.
As I gnaw meat off of tiny bones, another fan gazes at the screen. His hands cover the smile that realizes his team might finally win the Stanley Cup. He bows his head and lifts his palms to the ceiling—thanking who or whatever granted this divine satisfaction.
I don’t know much about hockey. I lose the puck. I fail to grasp the excitement. And I don’t decipher any strategy as they fly around the ice—not that there isn’t a layered appeal to the game. I just haven’t been trained by years of fandom to see it. But I watch garbage time and the post-game celebration because it’s on the screen in front of me. And as the fans exit and my platter turns into a pile of bones, I realize I’ve been procrastinating. I don’t want to talk to the furries.
I don’t want to talk to them because they look happy. And I’m afraid I’ll ruin that. I came to ask them what they’re doing here and why. I came to force them to recognize their difference in the rare place where they’re not an outcast, a creep, a perv, a weirdo, a freak. At Wicked Chicken on Thursday nights after the sports end, I’m the odd one.
And I really don’t want to write about the intricacies of furry culture. If you care, there is a three-part documentary on Youtube that does a far more nuanced and complete job than I ever could with a couple quotes culled from a fifteen minute conversation. And considering that this is the school paper, I don’t want to ask someone—out of the blue—to defend the way they live so I can write an article that my mom and 17 other people will read.
Plus, I can’t imagine what a furry would say to clarify their life choices. Same for the guy who thinks God prefers the Sharks to the Nashville Predators. Short conversations with friends haven’t helped me get America’s fourth largest sport, so a quick chat sure won’t illuminate the appeal of anthropomorphized animals.
Without their life experience, or hours of research that I don’t care to do, their joy will remain beyond my reach. But the world is full of people I don’t understand. And unlike—say—trust funders who shoot giraffes for fun, the furries don’t hurt anybody or anything.
Though steeped deeply in fantasy, they conduct themselves sincerely. They recognize they don’t fit within traditional masculinity and reject it, digging into a bravery I can’t fathom possessing. They keep to themselves and find comfort in those with similar interests—as we all do.
So I licked my fingers, dumped the bones and left. You gotta do something until you die. And on Thursday nights, some guys watch hockey; others wear tails. I don’t understand either.
But luckily, I live on a very large planet.
Contact John Flynn at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (408) 554-4852.