“Get in the car, goomba.”
“I’m not a goomba.”
“You’re a roomba-goomba.”
“That’s… I’m not… that’s not even a thing that’s possible! What is that?”
“Well, a roomba is a robot that vacuums people’s houses, and a goomba is a mushroom person that walks around, so a roomba-goomba is a robot mushroom person who walks around, vacuuming people’s houses… I guess.”
“I’m definitely not a roomba-goomba.”
“I don’t VACUUM.”
I’ve posted two previous iterations of this, but neither felt completely done.
Last night, I had the chance to recite the piece for an audience. I say “recite” because I’d memorized it while driving out from Denver, and that process led to me editing it a bit (changing some of the clumsier lines, removing a couple stanzas, and fiddling with the ending about a hundred times).
The recitation went pretty well, so I think it’s just about there, and in any case I have a ton of other stuff I want to work on this week that is not this, so let’s put a bow on it and call it done.
I was simply going to post it, but one of my friends asked for audio of me reading it, as well – you will find a very basic recording at bottom of this post; enjoy.
Anywhere, here it is.
High School reunion
not exactly fun
until the third rum
Then one school chum
interrupts the hum
and half-drunken fuzz
for a joke.
His Genuine Draft thunks down
(emblematic drink of this small midwestern town)
and he says
“… are you still a nerd?”
(Before I proceed, a disclaimer
about this guy, not me,
a bit of a skeeze
he might say he hasn’t let the years change him
I might say he hasn’t changed his denim
Wranglers. Might be the same pair
he wore down there
under his gown, where
he stood up with the rest of us
mortarboard on like the rest of us
but all the way down at the end of the line
fiftieth out of forty-nine
No real friend of mine
and, certainly, it would feel sickly sublime
to simply dismiss him this time,
ask how his wife likes the wine
or how it feels standing in line
But there would be no enjoyment.)
We’re all together here
Feeling the booze and beer
and good cheer
sitting at folding tables
telling each other fables.
about the last twenty five years.
So rather than rage,
I decide to engage
“A nerd? Me?
I’m not going to waste time talking
about roleplaying games, walking
to school every day hauling
three bulging gym bags full of rule books.
And all the funny looks.
I mean, you know that already, you were there
And at the time, it’s not like I cared
What anyone thought
What kind of stares I got.
No one was going to kick my ass
Not when there were only fifty kids in our class
And the biggest nerds in school at the time
Were five of the varsity football front line.
No: let’s move forward in time.
Am I a nerd?
The person who convinced me to write my first book
I met in college when she came over to look
at photocopied posters for a local gaming convention
(my personal invention)
which I and my friends were hanging… on every wall in campus.
And she wanted to ask us
if we’d ever played
Vampire: the Masquerade.
(We’re still close today.
I introduced her to her husband at one of those college game days.
Their daughter’s name is Ray.)
Am I a nerd?
My wife and I met Online,
the story of our times
but a dating site? Tame.
We met playing video games
Saving the world with ice and flame
Or bows and blades
Looting digital upgrades.
From twenty-player raids.
Our date nights
Were orc fights.
Sure, we became friends because we’re clever and witty
And had things in common, like saving Paragon City.
But you know what charmed her
What floated her
I kept up with her Buffy the Vampire Slayer quotes.
Am I nerd?
My kids would say yes
if I had to guess.
My daughter, nine, at recess
plays the part of a zombie princess
scary, but cool, in a ragged black dress.
Leading her armies onto the field
with a magic sword only she can wield.
(The other kid gets an unbreakable shield.)
Does she get teased?
Not that I’ve seen
And if so, she’d handle it better than me.
“You know who’s a nerd?!?” She calls out at school.
“I am… but all of you are, too.”
A nerd, she explains,
is just a name
For someone who gets excited about video games
Or Science, or Music, going to space,
reading four inch thick books with a smile on your face.
the local sports teams, shooting some pictures
or baking soufflés with just the right lift. Nerds
are just people
So you asked me this question to… what?
Make me blush?
See if my spirit is easily crushed?
I can’t even guess
so let me address
with something far less
than indignant fury:
“A nerd? Me?
What does he say?
“I was just wanted to see
“what you thought of those new Hobbit movies.”
And my wife,
thus far silent throughout the exchange
cries out in pain
“OH GOD, now you’re just trolling.
“Both of you go get drinks
“… before he really gets going.”
This is one of the first and finest pictures I have of me and my daughter. Forgive me the luxury of its size.
It was taken in mid-January of 2006. Kaylee is about three days shy of five months old — about a month older than Sean is right now.
I can’t tell you a lot about the picture. I know some friends were in town to visit and were in the background, chatting away. I know Kate (whom I had just met) took the picture. I have no idea why I was giving my little girl a bath at 10 pm, although I suppose I can make an educated guess.
What I can tell you is that, when I think of pictures of me Kaylee, it is that picture and this one, taken a few months later, that I think of.
It might be safe to say that when I think of Kaylee, these things are what I think of.
Here’s the most recent picture I have of my baby girl.
Kaylee graduates from kindergarten today. My spies tell me that her class will be performing a song called “First Grade”, sung to the tune of “New York, New York.”
I’m leaving, today…
I’ve learned some lessons in the last five and a half years, most of which have been delivered painfully and at regrettable (if ultimately fair) personal cost, and this picture reminds me of the most important.
It will never matter, ultimately, how many promotions you got, or how many pages your wrote, or (certainly) how many levels you gained — the final accounting of your life only tallies one thing: the memories of you held by your loved ones.
I am (quite literally) here to tell you that the time you have in which to create those memories is so infinitesimally, astonishingly, vanishingly small, every chance flickering away like a bad film projection in the space between breaths.
Forgive me for the cliche, my loved ones, but they grow up so fast.
I’m so very proud of my little girl for how far she’s come, and I can’t wait to see where she’s going to go.
But goddammit, I wish she’d hold still for a little while.
Just a little.
Because frankly, this isn’t fair.
Kaylee: Is this chicken, Daddy?
Me: Yes, it’s a special kind of chicken. It’s called ‘tofu’.
I was tired, and I didn’t want to get into a long food debate. Sue me.
SO here’s a talk I had this morning:
Me: …the hell?
Me: You just exploded.
Website: Nuh uh.
Me: Yes. You did. You are still exploded, in fact.
Website: At least you noticed me.
Me: I’ve had a lot on my —
Website: I know. I know. Sorry. I shouldn’t have said that. Here… I’ll unexplode for you. Gratis.
Me: You don’t have to —
Website: It’s fine. It’s fine. Really. Just… it’s fine. You should finish up your job aps and the new coursework. I know it’s how you spend your mornings right now.
Website: *sigh* What?
Me: Well, the apps are in, the course is done — I’m writing this morning.
Website: Oh, on Adrift? I thought I saw something about that on your other site.
Me: My other…
Website: You know. The Twitter.
Me: The Twitter?
Website: Shut up.
Me: The Twitter? Who are you, Betty White?
Website: Maybe I am.
Me: What? What does that even mean?
Website: Nevermind. Shut up.
Me: Listen. *sigh* The reason I noticed you exploded is because I was going to write something with you.
Website: Pff. Sure.
Me: Really. Look, I got some pictures to go along with it.
Website: *glances sidelong* That’s a pretty random collection.
Me: It’s kind of a potpourri post.
Website: … thus marking the one and only time that “potpourri” will show up on your website.
Me: Well, two, now.
Website: Whatever. *rubs scalp with fingers* Grab-bag post, huh?
Me: If you like. I don’t have to if you —
Website: Just get over here and type.
Why Hello There
Yes, it’s been pretty quiet around here, but that’s only because it’s been really noisy everywhere else, and while I love me some oversharing, there’s a point at which the day to day slog of doing contract instructional design and job hunting gets a little banal, and that point is somewhere just before I ever start talking about it on the blog. I’ve been working out my schedule (which keeps changing), and the points during the day when I would normally write here have been swallowed by writing for other stuff.
That picture, by the way? That’s totally me — lots of tappity tappity tap, lots of phone calls, and a growing feeling that I’m having two conversations at once, all the time. I’m hoping that’ll pass.
Let’s see what else is going on…
The death of the paper book! Again!
There’s been a lot of very intelligent talking about books and writing and piracy lately, and while I’ve been keeping my eye on all of it, I haven’t jumped in because my feelings haven’t really changed, which means the music I’d be adding to those jam sessions isn’t substantively different than the stuff I’ve played before, and everyone’s already heard that.
I’ll tell you this for free: I agree with Konrath — the changes that are coming to publishing will, in the end, come from the rainmakers (the writers), not the people manufacturing buckets (huge props to Rob Donoghue for that analogy). I look around at our greatest living shamans today — the mightiest rainmakers — and I examine what they’re doing, and it looks a lot like someone marking a trail for others to follow. That Steven King dude? He’s training a LOT of readers to like ebooks. I’m just sayin’.
There’s a lot more to this conversation than just paper vs. plastic, but it is one of the sides to the dodecahedron, and I truly feel that electronic (self-?) publishing will be the thing that melts traditional publishing down to its composite goo, remoulds it, and forges it into something new in the next two decades.
I’m Done with Facebook
It’s not that I’m a particularly private person. It’s not that I think anything I post on facebook is that inherently valuable.
But it bothers the fuck out of me when someone takes any portion of me — any fraction of my anima — and sells it off like erection-inducing rhino horn powder to the nearest advertising megacorp. No. Not me. Not anymore.
It comes and goes, oscillating between “sea captain” and “gruff grandfather”. At some point in there, Kaylee decides that Daddy Don’t Get No More Lovin’ til the thing comes off, so off it comes. Wail, my brothers, but know that I will soon be with you again.
Hoping for a little tabletop Dragon Age this weekend, maybe even next weekend — two weeks in a row. That’ll be fun.
Still playing the FATE-based Diaspora, and it’s good. It’s probably the best FATE iteration I’ve played, but I suspect that’s only because I haven’t played Dresden Files yet. It’s good – don’t get me wrong, it’s damn good – but it’s good in the way that reading Ekaterina Sedia is good: you simply cannot shake the sense that the authors are not communicating with you in their mother tongue. The Diaspora guys speak FATE fluently, but one gets the sense that they’ll never be wholly comfortable within it.
On the computer front, Kate and I are still really enjoying, of all things, Wizard 101. Enough so that we’re playing when we don’t “have to” with Kaylee, and have a pair that we’ve taken well ahead of the trio we play with our youngest gaming partner. It’s good times, and frankly it’s a good game. I even like the dueling arena, which gets back to the game’s MtG/Pokemon deck-dueling roots in a way that I find very satisfying, even when I’m getting my ass kicked.
Also? Teaming up to play a game with my daughter? Awesome.
Back in Middle Earth
We’re not spending a ton of time in Lord of the Rings Online at the moment, due to our Wizard 101 binge…
… but I’m getting my fix all the same.
Kaylee and I are reading The Hobbit. By my best reckoning, this marks the realization of a personal dream probably 20 years in the making, and I am very very happy about it.
The dwarves are stuck in the barrels now, floating down to Laketown. Bilbo has a cold.
Kaylee keeps telling me that none of this would have happened if they’d stayed on the path, like Gandalf said.
Sooth, child. You speak sooth.
In the Meantime
I write. I’m coming to the tail-end of my contract work, and I’m taking the opportunity to let go of my job-search stress and use the time to find out what I can do when I’m not cramming my writing time in wherever it will fit, like mortar between boredom bricks. It’s a bit scary, and more than a little stressful, but the words keep moving from my fingers to the screen, and some of them really make me happy, and there are so many many worse things than that.
I’ll talk to you soon.
I find myself with not enough time to do the things I need to do today… all that Farscape to watch and those video games to play.
Oh yeah, and work. That. I’m actually more jealously proprietary about my work time now than I was when I was in an office.
Anyway, some quick things on my mind. This is no Painting With Shotguns, but it’s all I’ve got.
This is a phonecam shot of last week’s Diaspora game. It was our second session, and since we’d done a “social combat” the session before, I aimed to introduce the personal combat mini-game this time. It was both awesome and kind of weird. I overdid it on the map — too many zones, meaning that it took too much time and effort to get around the damned base. Still, lots of interesting stuff happened as part of the fight.
It was a weirdly ‘classic game night’ for me, because (due to the crazy map), the fight took up pretty much the whole session. Echoes of DnD, that. Ahh well.
Tonight, we play again. Lasers. In. Spaaaaaace…
My blue-eyed, red-haired daughter has decided that St. Patrick’s Day ranks somewhere just below Christmas and Halloween as her favorite holiday. It might or might not beat out Easter — there’s no candy, but there is themed clothing.
I got those crocs for her, by the way, when she was… 2 and a half (bought them a little big, since they have an elastic heel strap), and they remain the only pair of children’s shoes I can justify spending 30 bucks on. I’ve considered retiring them a couple times, but they fall quite firmly within Kaylee’s “from my cold, dead feet” category.
I feel I should also add: I’m a really lucky dad.
Let’s not dignify this with the title ‘beard’. It barely qualifies, and is hardly anything remotely Wendigian in its grandeur, but hey, it’s been all of a week.
Tim calls this “vacation face”. I call it “freelancer face”. Kate, of all people, loves it, and in fact requested it as soon as she realized (with some audible glee) that I was under no current obligation to shave.
I don’t understand girls.
“Loving Father. Devoted Husband. Never really understood girls.”
A fitting epitaph.
In the past month, I’ve played through Mass Effect 1 once, and Mass Effect 2… four times. Normal paragon mode. Hardcore renegade and middle-of-the-road. Insanity paragon. Everyone lives, though not everyone remains loyal to me. I’m probably going to play it one more time, concurrent with Kate’s play-through.
Kate finished Mass Effect 1 last night, and spent the last two hours of play shouting “whoa!” and “wow!” and “Holy. Crap. Mind. Blown.” and “I’m so AWESOME.” and “This is the best. Game. Ever.”
Afterward, she bought the super-deluxe-digital-download version of ME2 (so she could watch the behind the scenes videos), investigated the purchase of Mass Effect-related novels, and (I daresay) will no longer mock my purchase of an N7 t-shirt. I’m very much looking forward to discussing the possibility of a Quarian/Geth peace accord with her, next month. It’s good to share obsessions. We’re watching Season Four of Farscape together during lunch breaks.
Currently, I’m playing Dragon Age, just because I don’t want to admit to running through ME2 again, then I’m going to do the original BioShock (never finished it before my old machine crashed), finish Braid, and redo Mirror’s Edge and Portal, just because all my save games were lost when my old machine died. (And because I like them.)
But not today. Today I have a training script to write and a game to prep.