Thursday, December 31, 2009

He's the Greatest!

He's Fantastic! Wherever there is Danger he'll be there...
He's the Ace!
He's Amazing! He's the Strongest; he's the quickest, he's the Best!!!

Inspired by this deviation; I've been on kind of a Danger Mouse kick since Christmas. After watching Series (season) One and half of Two, I had to see what I could do with it.

Up next, Penfold! Colonel K! Agent 57! Baron Silas Greenback! Stilletto! Nero! The Mark III! Count Duckula! and J.J. Quark.

'Danger Mouse' is a registered trademark of Cosgrove Hall Productions Ltd.. The 'Danger Mouse' logo is copyright Cosgrove Hall Productions Ltd. no copyright infringement is intended.

Monday, December 28, 2009

An atypical ride home

Bear with me here.

I'm a little worried for my sanity. There was a good three or four minutes on the bike ride home when I was Davik Ryn, former Jedi turned Swoop messenger - slash - data-smuggler (think Johnny Mnemonic with a broken lightsaber and "Lobot" deck stuck in his head) piloting my restored Bespin Motors JR-4 Heavy Swoop on an high-value mission - and on the run from the empire. The shadows and debris on the sidewalk, the plasteel jungle of Coruscant - buildings, speeders, aircars and other speederbikes. I was weaving in and out of traffic, down alleys and through air vents.

I was even making "vwoom - verrrr -clik- vvvvvvvvmmmmmmmmmm" sounds as I flicked intangible switches and dials on my swoop - er, bike - handlebars.

Luckily enough, I'd stopped all that by the time the Empire actually caught up to me.

Huh? Wait a minute.

Luckily enough, I'd stopped all that by the time the cop flagged me down and had me pull over for a talk. Poor pudgy bastard was waiting for me (I don't actually think he was a bastard, but I'm not smart enough to say pudgy -something else- that sounds right in my voice).

Can you imagine that? Uh, Officer Whatever'isnamewas? We need you to drive out to the island and wait next to your car for some guy who bikes by there every night at about 11:30 - 12.

That would've been my last day as a cop. Whatever'isnamewas was a better cop than me. He'll probably still be a cop tomorrow. Though I need to bring up something funny.

After I took off from work, I realized how cold it was for a bike-ride up A1A, so I pulled over and put my jeans on over my work slacks - extra armor, you know. That's actually how I got into Swoop-jockey-mode. As I was pulling up my second pair of pants, I laughed a little to myself and actually said out loud "I'm sorry officer, I do have ID; but I'm gonna' have to drop my trousers to get it."

Officer Whats'isnamewas smirked when I said it to him, and answered, "no, that's alright." He ran my license over the radio with my name and birth date and let me go. I got stopped because - a couple nights ago, some poor schmuck got creamed on his bike up on the north side of town. He told me I needed to have lights, because of a city ordinance. I could be fined up to $100.00; but not tonight. My ID came back clean and he let me go.

All in all, a pretty dull encounter; but funny to me, considering how I'd been playing smuggler on the run just eight minutes before. And for half a second as I rounded that corner, he was an imperial stormtrooper standing beside his armored transport ready to blast me to dust with his blaster rifle.

Gonna watch the new Star Trek, then go to bed. Night.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Gaslight & Brass

Look out that window and tell me what you see. No, don't be shy about it.

London? Yes, but what else?

A Jäger? Really? Point it out to me. This close to the Palace...

Amazing, truly; but slightly off topic I think. What else?

A dirigible. More. People? Feh, what else? Mecha? The Lightning Rail? The Steam Engines? The infamous Towers of London?

Can I tell you what I see? No, don't flinch. I'm not going to hurt you.

Marvels. Miracles. We live in an age of Wonder, friend. An age of Triumph. The empire stretches across a full third of the known world. The Queen has laid claim to the Moon itself; and I am not alone in believing it possible to actually travel there. We have dragged the savage world around us, kicking and screaming into the modern era; and we have given them - even the Jägerkin - Utopia.

I awake each day and I am honestly and perpetually astonished at the marvels of the 19th century. We are gods of the Earth, my friend. And we will be gods of the Moon, if the Queen's Education Pope is to be believed. What?

Yes, I know about the Aether quandry and I've read McCrarey's - what was it called? "The dispersion of Solar Heat in the Outer [whatever]." I think it's poppycock.

They told Galileo he would never measure the speed of light. They praised Newton for his physics, but laughed him out of Cambridge when he claimed to be able to transmute base metals. Da Vinci almost never flew because of the skeptics. Can you imagine a world where that never happened?

Because I can; and it's horrid. We overcome. Science, I mean. Men of Knowledge, of Wisdom and Reason. Men with the SPARK. We overcome. Even if McCrarey is right about the - what did he call it? Radio-what? Ah, Radiation. Well, fitting. We'll overcome it. We always do.

We live in the Age of Science! The Age of Reason. As I've said, the Age of Wonder.

Do you know what they call it in the pubs and common houses? Shall I tell you? You must already know.

When they're being polite and a little less blasphemous, they call it the Age of Iron. Euler's Eyes. Iron! Half of what's useful isn't even made of iron any more. What?

Oh, well. When they're well into their sauce and their tongues are good and loose, the call it the Age of Absinthe. Feh.

They think the SPARK has gone out of us. They imagine - in their depraved commoner imaginings - that we no longer create of our own talent. They say the Empire is doomed because the Science has gone wrong.

And I'm so afraid that they're right.

Already there is open talk of dissent in the American Colonies, perhaps stirred on by this remarkable Tchaka fellow in Africa, I don't know. Maybe it's been brewing for a long time.

Rumor alone of the Queen's mighty intellect was once enough to cow even the most fervent anti-royal assassins. I haven't had to bring one of you poor bastards up here for nearly fifty years.

No, don't start blubbering now. You've done so well. Stiff upper and all that. It's distasteful to me too, you know. Not to mention untidy and unseemly. But the law is.

Here. I hope the noose isn't too tight. It's got to have enough slack in it so that your head doesn't come loose when you hit bottom.

I'm sorry.

Listen. I deplore this; but an example must be made.

How's this? I promise you, on my honor and the Queen, after two days, I'll find some excuse to bring in your body. I'll put it in the ground. I'll even have a preacher speak for you if you're a religious man, no?

Oh well, a priest perhaps. I nice eulogy about the forgiveness of time and the persistency of energy or some such. I'm better at understanding things, really, than talking about them. If you've family, at least they'll get to see you buried properly. Not in one of the Queen's mass graves.

Ah well. I've other duties to attend, my friend. I hate to treat the advent of your end in so ignominious a manner; but I'm afraid I must depart.

Be grateful we're not in Paris with King Louis's deplorable Glass Cages. This will be quick at least, if you show yourself out the window.

Please do. I know the Beastmen Her Majesty employs for the job enjoy cleaning up after those who can't or won't and instead starve themselves up here in the Tower waiting for rescue that never comes; but they smell horrible for weeks afterward. And if you don't end this quickly, I cannot collect your body to bury it.

So you see? It will be better for all if you just get on with it.

Ah, the doom bell. That'll be our Jäger, I suspect.

I must be off. Two in one day...

Goodbye, friend. It really was an ingenious plan. I am quite beside myself with amazement. I suppose it's just lucky for the Queen that not all of us must rely on the Absinthe to see through to the heart of things, yes?

Oh. You've already gone. That's good, at least. Maybe there's a next life, like the Celestials say. We'll have a drink down the pub in a few years. My treat.

It started out as a Star Wars story. It wasn't that I particularly really wanted to run Star Wars - I like it, really - but my main draw to Star Wars gaming is that I don't have to create the setting.

Now don't get me wrong. I love creating campaign worlds. I love it too much. I'll put together a game based on some new setting or gimmick; and that will be it. The story will fall flat because once the newness wears thin (pretty quick sometimes, because I find it hard to articulate certain things "in-game") the story is just another "Go there, fetch this, bring it back and defeat the villain with it" deal.

So I started putting together a Star Wars story because (like a number of my players), I was tired of not finishing anything. My D&D game isn't one that can be finished. It's just adventure. A sandbox. So I wanted something with meat. I put it together and I was ready to go.

And then we didn't game. We haven't played in - more than a month. Months? I miss it.

But I didn't want to give up on this story. I didn't want to start working on something else. So I started flailing around a bit for my gaming fix.

And then I discovered Girl Genius. It's sweet as hell (won a Hugo); and got me interested in Steampunk. In Victorian England. In Jägermonsters and Brass Mechs and Dirigibles. Then I remembered the Steampunk Star Wars, which was awesome. And then I remembered why I was using Star Wars in the first place. So I wouldn't let the story get bogged down in my love of set design.

Only now I had a story. A pretty awesome story I think; and I very intentionally tried to steer away from focusing on Jedi things because Star Wars is (or was before the Prequels) about so much more than the Jedi. So I started working out the setting. 19th Century London with Steam-tech and Clockwerks thrown in, a rabid Protestant church and a Vatican City given over to Science.

A world where men of Intellect may have "the Spark" - that special something that spurs genius and allows for the fantastic in the Age of Science. Science so advanced, it may well be magic. A world where, sometimes that Spark falls flat, and can be spurred by the Green Demon, Absinthe (a very similar, but very different concoction than our own history gives us). A world of Science and Sorcery and grand adventure in the tradition of the old Pulp Fictions.

It's pretty much an Operatic, Swashbuckling adventure of Good vs. Evil set against the backdrop of a corrupt Empire bent on the subjugation of all life amidst a ragtag band of rebels fighting for independence. So... Star Wars. In the 1840's.

Hope someone wants to play.

No image used with permission. I pretty much just yoinked 'em.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

My Last Twilight Post

(Until the Breaking Dawn movie comes out)

To paraphrase, I know this is the Optimus Prime of young adult relationship-abuse vampire romance stories; and I know nothing I do or say will stop it. Or convince you that it's trash. That there are better stories out there. Better characters. Better writers. Better young adult relationship-abuse vampire romance stories. But here's my top 10 (or so) reasons why Twilight sucks, for those of you just going on instinct, and who didn't torture yourself with the actual reading.

SPOILER ALERT. There, you've been warned.

10. Vampires don't sparkle. No. That's too easy.

9. Every rule Meyer (and every better, more esteemed author who came before her) set up for vampires is broken by the end of the series.

8. Bella has no goals and no future. Her life revolves around Edward.

7. It's predictable and childish. Also, Edward is HOT, we get it.

6. Zero. Character. Development. I guess perfect characters don't really need that much development though, so - okay; I'll let that slide.

5. Flawless main characters (clumsy isn't a flaw if it's endearing and there's always someone there to catch you) result in too little actual conflict. There were actually a couple of interesting characters (Jasper and Alice, anyone?) who were ignored to focus on Mary Sue (look it up) and her perfect boyfriend.

4. If Bella is so "plain," why do so many guys fall for her within the first two chapters?

3. Bella can't do anything without Edward; and when he leaves she attempts suicide. If she leaves, he will. That's a co-dependent relationship, and it's not healthy.

2. Bella teaches women to let the men handle everything, which is pretty much a huge step backward for women everywhere, who have fought for equality.

1. "T.Pain would totally win Bella's heart and beat up Edward because he's on a boat."

And falling in love with a baby is just fucking creepy.

A lot of people are saying, "at least it's got kids reading." But it's no excuse. It's got kids reading sappy pap that has no business on my bookshelf. Here's a short list of books that are better than Stephanie Meyer's:

Not Eragon.

There you go. Go out and get you one of those amazing stories and have a blast. What? Okay, okay. For those of you looking for something along the same lines as Twilight but written by someone who wasn't a halfwit (as in "no one who reads my blog so why am I adding this link anyway?"), Amazon suggests Five books better than Twilight.

Of things that I've read and can actually recommend, the Narnia series are actually great books. If you haven't read Harry Potter, do it. Much better than Twilight. Stephen King's Dark Tower series is remarkable, there are even a few Vampires here and there. Snow Crash, Lord of the Rings, His Dark Materials, Ender's Game, Ender's Shadow, Wheel of Time, Three Musketeers, Redwall, Dune, Neverwhere, the Scarlet Pimernel, The Color of Magic, The Last Unicorn, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland & Through the Looking Glass, Good Omens, American Gods, hell, even the True Blood books, Anne Rice, damn man, Dracula, any other book who's main message isn't that a regular girl cannot protect herself without her supernatural stalker hanging around - that perfect relationships contain no anger or disagreement, and that it's perfectly okay to feel so utterly attached to someone that you accept it as your fault when they hurt you utterly and irreversibly, A Game of Thrones. Like I said, not Eregon.

Les Miserables is a very hard book to read but is really quite good and one that I think a Twilight fan would really get into once Cosette shows up and starts batting her eyelashes.

Anyway. I'm done complaining about this abortion of Literature and her all to serious dalliance with pop. I'm actually very sorry that I read these books; and that's saying a lot. I read a book once in the 80's that was about giant green space bunnies who crashed their ship in the grand canyon ten-thousand years ago and it wasn't that bad. My only consolation is that I pirated the e-books instead of shelling out my all-to-limited funds for this trash.

I'm done ranting. There are probably a hundred other (maybe better?) books I could have added, and I feel like I'm just wasting bandwidth here now that I've reread this; but I wrote it and now you've read it.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

So you want to be a writer?

if it doesn't come bursting out of you
in spite of everything,
don't do it.
unless it comes unasked out of your
heart and your mind and your mouth
and your gut,
don't do it.
if you have to sit for hours
staring at your computer screen
or hunched over your
searching for words,
don't do it.
if you're doing it for money or
don't do it.
if you're doing it because you want
women in your bed,
don't do it.
if you have to sit there and
rewrite it again and again,
don't do it.
if it's hard work just thinking about doing it,
don't do it.
if you're trying to write like somebody
forget about it.

if you have to wait for it to roar out of
then wait patiently.
if it never does roar out of you,
do something else.

if you first have to read it to your wife
or your girlfriend or your boyfriend
or your parents or to anybody at all,
you're not ready.

don't be like so many writers,
don't be like so many thousands of
people who call themselves writers,
don't be dull and boring and
pretentious, don't be consumed with self-
the libraries of the world have
yawned themselves to
over your kind.
don't add to that.
don't do it.
unless it comes out of
your soul like a rocket,
unless being still would
drive you to madness or
suicide or murder,
don't do it.
unless the sun inside you is
burning your gut,
don't do it.

when it is truly time,
and if you have been chosen,
it will do it by
itself and it will keep on doing it
until you die or it dies in you.

there is no other way.

and there never was.

-Chales Bukowski

Tuesday, November 3, 2009


I wanted to take a moment to discuss my writing process (and to find another way to put off the actual writing). It can be very difficult for me; but it makes no sense to me why it should be so.

Today, for instance: I decided some time yesterday that today should be devoted to
  1. Writing (Catching up on my Nano book, blogging some-any-thing, scripting more Rotworld)
  2. Laundry (I really have an awful lot of it and need to do more. Right now)
  3. Drawing (Been working on the Rotworld storyboards, character designs for a web comic about the horrors of working at the W/D, and TQU - which you probably don't know about yet, but I don't want to spoil [spoilers coming soon]).
So, I put a load of laundry in the washing machine and I turned on some music (I started with Regina Spektor, but gradually moved over to Amanda Fucking Palmer. That album just finished and I haven't put anything else on my recently re-formatted PC. Maybe some Cash? Anyway...

Filled with dread, I took a seat before the cluttered, cramped, dirty drinking glass-infested space that is my writing desk. I logged onto Facebook, because - well, you've got to tell people you're writing, don't you? Then a quick Twitter and a couple more stumbles. Check out my RSS feeds.

Why am I putting this off? I asked the mess on my desk. The answer, of course, was fear. Fear that I'm not good enough, fear that I'll never finish by the "deadline," fear that I don't really like writing after all, and it's just something I say to people to make being a directionless bum sound more palatable.

Eventually, I found the keyboard and my fingers made there way into the story and Gan began seriously to flow. And it was good. It was fun. Writing a story for me... I know what story I want to tell, and it usually comes out, at least, similar to that; but I never really know what's going on until it happens. But still...

I went to Taco Bell for some Bean Burritos (no cheese, sub guacamole). I came back and sat down filled up with run-for-the-border goodness (which, of course is nothing like actual goodness); and...

I couldn't do it. I didn't want to. I didn't think I'd be able to. I didn't know how to start or where to begin. Picking up where I left off seemed like a horrible idea. I just completely fail as a writer and there's no fucking reason for me to keep doing this. There's no real creativity and imagination in me anyway. Fuck it.

So I diddled around on the internet some more, wrote a few comments on Facebook. Looked at some friends' MySpace changes. Finally, I looked at someone else's Nanowrimo stats and she (and her buddies) were writing. Getting it done. I tried again. I just put my fingers on the home rows and started fucking typing.

And it was great. The story moves itself along nicely, the characters seem to know what they want, even if I don't. The thing doesn't quite have a mind of its own yet; but it wants to go somewhere. It wants to be told.

Something new happened today. I wrote something that made me cry. Maybe I'm turning into an old woman. I don't know. I've only known these characters for a week - well, I've known one of them for over a decade; but not like this. I didn't know this about her, and - well, that was new.

I ran out of laundry detergent. My sister was going to the grocery store in a little bit, so I asked to go along. I decided to take a little nap until then, then write when I got back. We ended up going to Dragon Cafe with friends. It was nice. I always forget how much I like Edamame until you put Edamame in front of me and I start eating it.

And we came home and here I am again. Paralyzed. It seems that whenever I'm not writing, I cannot do it, I'm going to suck at it, no one's ever going to read it and if they do they're going to hate it so much they're going to come over to my house and take a dump on my front lawn. And then somehow -

when that miracle happens -

-when I start writing and I find the story and I begin to understand it again... Nothing else matters. It doesn't have to be written and I don't need to write it; but I get to - and it's fucking fun.

I'm a writer, a storyteller, because, on those rare, wonderful occasions when I'm writing, telling a story - I'm home. I'm doing what I was put here to do. And fuck you if you don't read it, or if you don't like it. And who the hell takes a crap on someone's front lawn anyway? What the fuck's wrong with you?

Now the trick is to start writing. . . . . .C'mon!

Friday, October 2, 2009

Reptile - Part 5 (Tripping the Light)

I met a woman once who thought that I was her soul mate. She knew within the first fifteen minutes of meeting me that I was - for certain - the love of her life. I hope she was wrong.

She was beautiful, wearing a bikini when we met - body that wouldn't quit. Long, straight brown hair, tanned and toned with crazy-bright blue eyes. Really, her only physical flaw was a noticeable but faint cesarean scar. So yeah, she was a mom. I don't really hold that against her. I can handle dating a mom.

But she was older than me by a bit - which was kind of new. She also a smoker; and I swore I would never date a smoker. She wasn't dumb, but she also wasn't a very good conversationalist. I could get good stuff out of her; but it was always tied in the middle of paparazzi fodder, MTV, which stars eating what, dating, ditching, dancing with which. If she had more imagination than your average vapid cheerleader, she kept it pretty well hidden.

I'm probably being too hard on her because I was still too screwed up over the Reptile to entertain the slightest notion. She was kind of fun. Her kid was pretty neat sometimes too. She painted with her fingers. Yeah, like fingerpaint. But with actual beauty and these weird, wild colors, and abstract... I don't know what. Some part of her was like this bizarre, younger Maude Lebowski. We didn't date long; but she encouraged my own art. Outside of Texas, hers were the only canvases I ever painted on myself. She probably threw away the drawings I left her. We drew sketches of each other. I did a charcoal portrait of the kid. Whether she actually believed we were destined to be together or she was just one of those insta-cling codependent types, I guess I'll never know; but she started talking life and...

more kids, and...

apartments or houses, and...

I got pretty freaked out pretty quick. Like the once great Richie Tozer, I took a powder. It's not a regret; but I definitely don't know whether it was a mistake. The lonely bachelor in me right now wants me to remind you what a smokin' hottie she was.

The Demon was a smokin' hottie too, though. She called herself artistic. I don't want to belittle craft-people; but she bought plaster statues and busts and painted them copper and added patina to make them look old. It was pretty good for what it was, but... not art.

Her talents lay in something else. That reptile coiled up underneath her skin. The way she used it, manipulated it - the way she used & manipulated those of us around her - that was her real talent. And we - no.

That's me trying to justify myself by identifying with others. I was hopelessly caught in its grip.

That first trip to Reno - when we were still just becoming friends, though - that was fun. We parked near Virginia Street, and hopped between a few of the Casinos. Circus Circus is the only name I remember. We watched an acrobatic show, some small bears. We had dinner in the buffet and played a few games. On the casino floor we played...

I think it was nickel slots; and enjoyed the freely flowing liquor that comes along with gambling in Nevada. On the trip back we stopped in Fernley (it lies about 20 miles out of Fallon, where we lived - on the road from Reno. We spent about an hour in one of the truck stops there (it's nicer than it sounds - they're like little Casino/ Restaurant/ Gas Stations), playing with one of those stuffed animal crane-machines. I honestly can't remember if we won anything; but we were out late.

When we got back to Fallon, and I dropped her off - I made the first bitch-move. Not the first one I've ever made; but the first one that really counted. She invited me in. We slept.

"I'm not interested in you," she said. "We're not going to sleep together." Nonetheless, I stayed the night. We even slept in the same bed. I assumed she was being coy. I made a move. I got shut down. Hard. With what I know now - I should've been more aggressive. It's what she was really looking for. Thanks Mom & Dad - I'm not that guy.

If I were, we would've hooked up that night and that would've been it. I might've been just some dude, and things would have turned out a lot better. I wouldn't have this story to tell.

Instead, we slept. She wore these stupid, pink footie pajamas. Later, I would enjoy holding her when she wore those - almost as much as I enjoyed peeling her out of them; but she was the first adult I ever met who wore them and they were pretty dumb. On "my side" of her bed, now with a pillow between us, I slept like a baby.

And in the morning I awoke to the sound of screaming.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

What if there is no tomorrow? There wasn't one today.

Like most people, I usually watch movies and television shows I've already seen because I want to recapture some of what I felt the first (or 42nd) time I watched them; and I'm sure there was some of that when I decided to sit down to Groundhog Day last night for the god-knows-how-many'th time. But I read somewhere that - and I didn't bother to check on the veracity of this - the French view this film as a cinematic masterpiece of deep psychological meaning.

I always just thought it was funny.

Bill Murray was in great form, and everyone else in the cast (mostly delivering the same scene over and over again) did a wonderful job. Even Andie MacDowell.

I have friends who can't stand the movie because of the repetition; but I just think they're focusing on the wrong part of the film. It got 96% at Rotten Tomatoes. The movies I enjoy hardly ever get over 40% (and before you ask, no - it's not my intention to compare Pandorum or Blankman or even Lebowski to Groundhog Day - I know they're apples and coconuts). Pandorum got 32%, I enjoyed the hell out of that one. Inglorious Basterds only got 88% and that was a hell of a fun flick (did you know there was an Inglorious BastArds made in 1977? Me either). The Big Lebowski only got 78%? And Blankman with a paltry 13% (okay, yeah - I can see that).

An amazing delivery.

So I decided to try to watch the movie again with my brain switched on for a change. It makes me apprehensive to admit that I had to make the distinction; but there you go.

Okay. Spoilers Ahead!

The biggest thing I got out of it had more to do with the sameness of our (and by our I mean you and me and people in the western world in general) day-to-day grind. Phil Connor (Murray) doesn't have to be experiencing some magical time-loop - or, at least we don't. He could just be waking up to the banality of the daily grind. It's funnier in the movie - and easier to explain, strangely enough - to throw in the magic; but we all go through what Phil had to go through (to some degree) every day. Our minds are just really good at deleting the repetitive crap so we don't steal the groundhog and try to drive a truck into the ravine.

That deletion-machine aspect of our brains keeps us sane; but it's one of the reasons time seems to "speed up" the older we get. When time feels like it's getting away from us, when the month's already almost over (never mind the month, where's the Year gone?), no matter the lies we tell ourselves, we just aren't doing enough that's new and different every day. There's not enough going on for our minds to hold onto, so it all gets deleted and the spaces in between the good stuff seem shorter and shorter.

I used to think this was because of the relative comparison to the lengths of our lives (a year to a four year old is one quarter of his whole life; but to a 24 year old, considerably less so). I just don' t think that any longer.

When I was a kid, everything was "the first," or near enough to it that I was still working out what it was, what it meant, how it worked. It was all new and exciting and beautiful and wonderful and awesome. But as I get older, I find myself doing the same things every day.
Wake up later than I meant to, splash some water on my face, brush my teeth, go for a walk, exercise, clean-up, eat something, write (or come up with some excuse not to write), eat something else, get dressed, bike to work, change into work clothes, work, eat again, bike home, look at the internet, read a book, watch something on tv, go to bed later than I meant to. Wake up later than I meant to, splash some water on my face, brush my teeth, go for a walk, exercise, clean-up, eat... ad nauseum
Even when you throw in days off and trips out of town, they're either the same days off I had last week or the same trips I took last year, or - on those rare occasions - they're something different. Something to anchor to. Something memorable. Something that won't get deleted, maybe.

I imagine I'm not alone in this. Maybe my friends dislike the film because it feels truer than any of us would like to think?

So Phil Connors, in the movie, is given this gift, really. He gets the chance to see the rut for what it is. At first he runs wild with it (my first inclination when it occurs to me how dull and repetitive I've allowed my life to get), then he slowly succumbs to depression when he realizes he can't escape his fate, and finally stops trying to get out of the cycle and just starts living - taking an interest in the lives of the people around him, doing what he can to help those he can help (including himself) and (I imagine) comforting those he cannot.

So I feel a little bit weird right now. "You might be a redneck if an episode of Walker, Texas Ranger ever changed your life." What about Groundhog Day?

I think all these changes I've been making (and most of them for the better) have all been about getting out of this boring fucking repetitive bullshit "comfort zone" of a holding pattern my life has been in for the last decade or longer. I don't know if I have the courage to do more, though. The life I want to live is not a reasonable life. Deep inside this socially retarded cubicle monkey lurks the heart of a very unreasonable man.

Some part of me always wanted so desperately to take it to heart when my teachers told me to "seize the day," when my Lit teacher read Leaves of Grass, when "Gather ye rosebuds" or "Collige, virgo, rosas" (Gather, girl, the roses) were explained. I wanted to scream my name from the rooftop, or over the P.A. even. I wanted to tell every beautiful girl how amazing they were, every hero how they touched me, tell my parents thanks. I wanted to live a life of meaning and culture and joy and passion. But in the end, I was afraid.

I locked that glorious monster away deep inside me. He got out every once in a while. But as time goes on, as my days begin to melt into one another he grows smaller, weaker. The bars of his cage are almost too strong for him now.

I don't have the luxury of knowing that no one will remember what an ass I make of myself today if I try something new and fall on my face. But I do know that tomorrow is just going to be another today. Same shit on the radio, same people speaking the same meaningless garbage day-in-day-out.

Fuck it. I'm tired of screwing around here - killing myself every day with this trivial horse shit. I'm not ready, yet to just quite my job and blindly chase my passions without a plan; but the only way I'm going to get anything out of this same stupid day that keeps repeating itself over and over and over again is to do something with it.

I'm tired of being afraid all the time. I'm tired of wishing I'd said or done or even tried something. I'm tired of getting by; and I'm fucking tired of keeping this beautiful bastard locked up inside me.


I think I'm going to get into a lot of trouble.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Reptile - Part 4 (Come into my Parlour)

I enjoy listening to female vocalists, but I can't explain why. When I work out, I'd rather hear something loud and obnoxious, like Metallica or Beethoven. When I'm driving, I want anything fast. Marilyn Manson's Antichrist Superstar is, in my opinion, one of the absolute best albums for driving fast. Elastica was great for that too. When I'm in a drinking mood, it's Great Big Sea all the way. When I'm just hanging out, or working, or thinking. When I just want to be alone with my thoughts


I prefer Regina Spektor, or Sarah McLachlan, or Alanis, or Natalie Merchant. Even though (or maybe because) Regina Spektor makes me think of K. Sarah McLachlan (for some ungodly reason) makes me think of J. Alanis makes me think of A. And Natalie Merchant makes me think of M.

I think I like female singers who remind me of women I've known. Friends and lovers and those I just longed for from a distance or the seat beside her. Maybe I make the connection on an emotional-memory level. Certainly, other music reminds me of other people.

I can't hear Mary Mac without thinking of driving to see Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. I can't listen to Metallica's black album without waxing nostalgic about High School. Most 80's metal makes me think of my friend's house where we would crash every once in awhile and watch MTV (this was way back when MTV actually played music videos all day). Bolero makes me think of drinking with my dad. Savage Garden and Elastica both remind me of Japan. That's what music is for, though, I think. Stirring us, making us feel. Reminding us who we are and were.

Meredith Brooks makes me think of the Reptile, though. The sound of Shania Twain's voice pisses me off for exactly the same reason. Tanya Tucker too. That Two Sparrows song makes me want to shove screwdrivers in my ears.

But enough about that.

When I danced with the Demon, it was usually to country music. We listened to Nine Inch Nails and White Snake and Poison. She liked AC/DC, so I learned to listen to it. I liked Metallica, so she did too. I introduced her to Marilyn Manson. She loved it - though not until she'd given it time. She liked Elvis and I liked Cash; but at the clubs we danced to Country and Western. Just the slow stuff. I think we might have line-danced twice the whole time we were together.

I'm pretty sure her outfit was the only reason we made it to third place in a Twist contest at Dick Clark's American Bandstand. But we got third - a gift certificate, I think. I want there to have been a trophy, but I can't remember. It was a damn fine get-up, though. It always was.

She was wearing jeans a white button-down, cinched at the waist and pulled up to show off her stomach, when I went back two days later.

I don't know what I was thinking. I don't know why I went back. I certainly wasn't entertaining any conscious notion of the future. The animal draw


of her was undeniable, maybe; but - in my mind at least - she was gay. I was involved, seriously - if over an excruciating distance - with the first woman I'd ever actually been in love with. I was a respected leader in a local church. I was probably going to be engaged within the year. Married before my tour was up. I was going to be a pastor with the Assemblies of God - get my own Church. I'd pursue art and writing on the side; but - Well, the point was... I had a plan forming in my fevered little head; so what the hell was I doing at the Depot?

I can't come up with a good answer for that. Maybe I just wanted to spend time with her. Talking to K was difficult because of the distance, the phone costs, and the lack of physical proximity (distance, I know; but it's different. Closeness. When we were apart, we felt... apart. If you don't get it, I can't explain it).

Maybe I just needed someone to talk to. Some woman. There was D in the church; but - I don't know. She was hot; but she was one of the guys. I loved her like a sister, but I couldn't really talk to her.

I probably had a rum and coke. I wasn't drinking Scotch yet; and I didn't really enjoy beer until I started drinking it with my Demon in my lap, encouraging me to chug, chug, chug. Open your throat. And laughing.

The casino bar of the Depot was a big "L"-shaped thing, underneath or beside the staircase leading to the nightclub and facing the casino floor. It was fully stocked and dimly lit (even in the daylight with the desert sun streaming in through dirty windows), with a massive television screen mounted in back corner.

Usually there was sports on that screen during the day, music videos at night; and in the months to come, as my life became more and more entangled in hers, we'd sit at the end of the bar and eat breakfast together while we watched Dinosaurs.

We talked. All these conversations run together, so that all or none of them could have taken place at that bar or in the park or at the petting zoo or sitting on her friend's couch or playing pool. But first we just talked. I'm sure, with hindsight, that there must have been more than a little flirting going on; but it was - on my part, at least - the unconscious kind that comes about naturally, when I don't think I seriously have a chance. The kind that works, I guess.

Most nights it was dead. Just the two of us and maybe the bar-back from upstairs coming down to change a keg or stock the limes. She'd sit on a stool or on the beer cooler, and we'd talk. And talk.

I make a big deal now about the sex; and how it was only the sex that kept us together, but I argued then - as I must do now, I suppose - that we were actually quite good together when we weren't having sex. Just sitting alone in an empty building sharing stories with each other.

It hurts me to write that. I want there to have been nothing good between us other than immediate gratification. I don't like admitting that we had a relationship long before we found each other between the sheets. It was inevitable, our split - but not because we despised or even disliked each other.

One of the reasons our conversations were so engaging - so entertaining (for both of us, I hope even today) was because we were so different. Or, because we were so different and being together was an impossibility, so I spoke my mind.

I was making a friend here. A weird, broken and put-back-together, wild creature of a friend, but a friend. We talked about her move from Portland, her friend who had a stroke at 23 because of drugs, bar tending, life in the Navy, astrology, music, drinking, the merits of Johnny Cash and (in her eyes) his obvious inferiority to Elvis. Cartoons, Muppet's, television and radio and a thousand other things I'm sure I could have just as easily talked to K about. Over the course of a week or two, I probably spent every second or third night at the Depot, nursing a drink and chatting up the pretty girl behind the bar.

Of course, she made the first move. If a move it was. It was a coy, girly kind of move - a clever way of manipulating me into asking her out, maybe. She casually hinted that she hadn't had the chance to get out and see Reno. She'd only come to town, gotten the job at the casino, just before I'd met her; and she didn't have anyone to show her around, and no car to go by herself. Plus, who wants to go out alone, anyway?

I told her that I didn't know jack-squat about Reno, but I had a car and we could easily get lost in the city together. At least we'd both be lost with someone we knew. And so - whether the next night or the night after - I picked her up from her friend's house and we made our first trip to Reno.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Reptile - Part 3 (title here)


I don't know how to start again. A woman once told me to just put a little star at the top of the paper, so I wouldn't be looking at a blank page. It's nice. I understand the sentiment; but since that asterisk doesn't really cut it as a star, I think I'll start with Elvis Aaron Presley.

Elvis was a decent performer. He had a great voice and he knew what his audience liked. Most of Elvis's music was stuff I might've really enjoyed if it had been covered by Primus or maybe the Dead Milkmen. The only things I knew about Elvis's life were from an episode of the Twilight Zone (or maybe it was the Outer Limits) where an Elvis impersonator goes back in time and accidently kills his idol and has to take his place.

I met Elvis.

This was one of those things that definitely happened and may or may not be true, but the story - life, really - is better if you just believe it.

My friends and I were in Tennessee, driving the back woods somewhere,


when we found a little Mom & Pop gas station on the side of the road. We stopped to ask for directions and get a fill-up. Someone got out of the car and went to start pumping gas when he came out of the little store.

He was about 6-foot, 6'2" maybe. He was lean with age, but you could see where the weight used to hang on his frame. His hair was graying black, and he still had those mutton-chop side burns.

"Hey now," he said, waving one hand at us and speaking in a low, country drawl, "we pump our own gas here. This is a full service station."

We stood just stood there a moment, mouths agape. We were in awe. None of us were really fans; but with all the "Elvis Lives!" bullshit everywhere, we all knew him well enough to recognize the man, the voice, that walk.

Here now, walking - no - striding toward us was a god. A Legend. I don't think anyone said anything other than to exchange a few banal pleasantries.

I wish I could tell you his name-tag said "Elvis," or "E.P." or even "Aaron." It didn't. But what it did say was 10,000 times better. Embroidered above the breast pocket in white and gold lettering, much too fine for the dirty blue cover-alls he was wearing was one word:


We told him we were fans and wished him well. I can't remember whether or not he actually said "thank you very much," or we just thought he should have.

The Reptile was an Elvis fan. She didn't like that story - I think - because she couldn't comprehend how a man with all that talent, fame, & money could ever long for anything other than life in the spotlight. I always thought the drugs and the eating and the excess were symptomatic of Elvis's longing to return to the simplicity of his former life. It warmed my heart to think the man faked his own death to find contentment in a full-service gas station in the hills of Tennessee. I thought - and still think - his Momma would have been proud.

She thought it was stupid and didn't get how I could suspend my disbelief long enough to believe this cockamamy story (for the record, the Demon never used the word "cockamamy." I might've forgiven her anything if she'd said it just once. I bet K says it once every year or so). This was one of the fundamental differences between us that I didn't understand until years after we parted.

Demons were angels once - and they danced through Time and Space and Thought and for all the corrupting influence, the addiction, and the downward spiral, there is something magical about them. My Demon was no different.

She didn't weigh a hundred pounds when I met her. Attractive enough without being anything more than pretty. She wore her hair long and in this archaic style that - well, it certainly didn't belong in the real world - but it made her stand out, and she managed to pull it off.

"Not hot, but porn-star hot," someone said once about another woman, but it fits here. She carried herself like a diva though - an actual Diva - not some famous tart with too much money, too many demands, and no substance or truth. She seemed to belong. Something inside her


resonated with everyone around her. She commanded a room when she entered it. I'm beating a dead horse here to say that she was a flame and we were all just moths flitting around waiting to sacrifice ourselves for her.

I sat at her bar and cashed in my chips and she congratulated me. I have no idea what we talked about. The same idle small-talk that happens at every bar in the world, I'm sure. Just a lot of nothing.

The Arkansas Redneck came back down toward the end of the night to check on me. In his drunken bravado, he locked right on the Redhead behind the bar and fired the first salvo of what promised to be an epic pick-up. And she shot him down.

The Redneck (who was probably more of a Hillbilly, really) kept coming back for more. He wasn't goign to take "no" for an answer; but the Demon was ruthless, and in the end, he conceded defeat.

She let me have the beer, so I tipped her the money I would've paid for it, and a little more. I helped the Redneck (Hillbilly? Redbilly?) into his truck and drove us back to the base, after taking a little side-trip so he could get some strange at the nearest brothel.

Nothing was fucked yet. It would've ended there if that six-foot piece of shit hadn't opened his damn mouth when we got back to the barracks.

"She was totally into you," he said.

"She was a lesbian," I replied, dismissing him. The seed was planted though; and I went back the next night.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Reptile - Parts 1&2 (Prelude & Top o' the World)

I was told once that I would lose at life until I die in a fire if I didn't finish this, so here's the first two parts for those of you who've not read them...

(Originally posted in August, 2007)

I want to write about my demon. She's been a monkey on my back since I met her (over 10 years ago now); and I think my only options for getting rid of her are to talk it out or write it down.

I can't do the first (I love all you crazy people who read this bullshit - I just don't know how to talk to you); so I guess I'll have to do some writing. I'm hoping for some kind of catharsis. I need to let this go; and I haven't. My intent is that, by coming clean, I can clean it off. Heh - wash that bitch right out of my hair?

The story is a short one, really; but - for me at least - it was pretty jarring, so I've got a lot to say about it. I may end up attacking it in installments. We'll see. Like the hot dog companies, I'm going to try to keep my bullshit & rat content down to reasonable - non-toxic - levels. I might fail; but I'll say [Edit]after going back and reading over this again, that it's only about 1-2% fecal matter so far[/Edit].

Before I start into it though - I think it's pretty important to tell you something about K.

I'm only going to use initials here because - well - because I'm going to say some pretty fucked-up things aobut at least one of these people, and I'd like to avoid any threat of libel. Also, it just feels wrong to name names outright.

When I met K, I was just coming out of some really bad (not bad meaning bad; but bad meaning good - er... and bad) times. I'd just come from Boot Camp and A-School, where I'd made a real ass of myself and behaved generally in the way that Drunken Sailors were expected (if not supposed) to behave. Those who know stories from Memphis ought to know that they're all true - with one caveat.

The whole thing - the car wreck, E & K1, the drugs, Use-the-Force-Bowling, a moon as big as the sky (I'm talking Joe Vs. the Volcano Big), the drug-dogs, sneaking girls into the barracks and running Fire-Drills just to get them out without notice, all of it - all happened in the span of about two, maybe three months. I call it one of the best years of my life; but the sad addendum to the story is that nine or ten months of that year were spent studying and working, going to bed before 10 and waking before 5. Hitting clubs on Saturday Night, and not much else. That year was like this:

Boring, Boring, Mono, Boring, Boring, Boring, Kissed a Hot Army Chick (we called her a WAC), Boring, Boring, Porn, Boring, Graduation-Yay!, Boring Boring, Boring, Holy Shit! I am having the best fucking time of my life - Oh my GOD!, Boring, Boring, Graduation Part Two, time to go to California.

I didn't learn any of the important lessons in Memphis, and a great deal of what I did learn has really held me back, emotionally; but I definitely had my eyes opened.

That's how I arrived in California. Still hot on the excitement of a rockin' summer - itchin' for action and ready to get down to some serious womanizing and even more serious Drinking (notice the capital "D" - at the Coronado Naval Base, active-duty sailors were allowed to drink if they were 18 - so long as they did so at on-base clubs).

Somehow, instead of reliving that wicked, wicked time - I ended up at church. I...

I went to church. I found Jesus (he was hiding in the azaleas), and I spent the rest of the year comparing notes with my roomate about how hot the selection was at San Diego First Assembly. Mostly, I just made some friends. I bought an iguana. I confronted a huge glass elevator, white-knuckling it all the way to the top just so K wouldn't know I was scared of elevators. I went to the beach and met a Sea Lion. Two of the scariest moments of my life, by the way.

I had the hots for the church's youth leader - a tall, skinny blonde, who may not have been all that attractive, but was the first woman I'd met who didn't seem dependent upon my reaction to her and I fell for her instantly. I spent a lot of time hanging out with that church group. A lot of time helping the other "College-Age" kids volunteering for Youth functions. That's how I first met her.


There aren't many names that start that way. I feel silly using initials now. Oh well. She was a kid. 15 or 16, I think. There wasn't anything there. There wasn't going to be anything there. She was off-limits - even in a strict no-sex zone like church.

But there was this trip to the beach. And this one time, at a pool party - where I just hoped she'd be there and she wasn't. I had a picture of her at one of those big stadium events - you know the ones...

Where too many Christians come together to hear someone speak about how we probably aren't being Christian enough, and then we all congratulate ourselves on what great Christians we're going to be. Usually spells doom and misery for the hard-core athiests and pagans in the community. Furvor dies off after a few weeks if everyone lucky.

The photo was taken from the other side of our group. I just used the zoom to snap the shot while she wasn't looking.

I can still see it. The skinny blonde was standing "in front" of her - closer in to the stadium. I think her brother (my friend - how I met her, and how I met her again years later) was in the shot. I'd intended to take the picture of the blonde - why can't I remember her name - but I saw K and my focus was shot.

She had one hand on her hip. I'm pretty sure she was wearing a blue and green flannel shirt, but the memory is tricky; and that might have been something she was wearing one of those times at the airport. No. I'm pretty sure it was that shirt in the picture. Her hair was long and straight. It was half pulled-up, like a loose I-don't-give-a-damn ponytail. I don't know what she was looking at - but... well, you get the point.

See what I mean about installments..? haven't even got to the build-up and I've got to stop for a bit and do some work. Probably more to come today.

REPTILE - PART 2 (Top o' the World)

A bunch of us were just hanging out for my friend's bachelor party. Horsin' around, playin' games, eating steak and sending him swimming in the intercoastal to find the Lost Sword. We ended up at the Gold Club.

It was weird being back there. Things have changed so much. I'm sure part of it was being there as a guest and not an employee (the first half-hour or so I was there, I couldn't get out of bouncer mode - I kept watching everything and everybody but the show, totally unable to relax); but the new management (I guess) has really cleaned things up nicely. Better (if not more) lighting, cleaner restrooms... They've moved away from the latex covered breasts and chosen instead to go with full covers, but that was for the best. It was a good show; and I think fun was had by all.

The fireplace was so small. In my head it was huge. I drew a portrait of one of the dancers after hours one night. She was sitting on the stone fireplace in her fuck-me boots and not much else - she had long straight hair too; but she was - I think - 1/2 Seminole. So bloody gorgeous you'd crawl through a half-mile of broken glass on your hands and knees just to...

Well, you get the idea. The whole place just seemed smaller, somehow. It was always larger-than-life when I worked there. At least - it was in my memory. The bars were huge, the dancers were beautiful, and the security-team (re: bouncers) was bad-ass. Skin-heads and prison guards and a psychotic ex-marine (slash-skinhead slash-prison guard). I can hold my own; but I was so out of place there. The pussycat of the bunch, maybe. Now the security guys (there were 2 plus a well-dressed manager) look like wimps.

I'm almost sure they're not - but there used to be guys in that club that I know I could not have taken in a fight. They're all gone. Now there are just guys. Now it's just another club. No different than Caesar's, or JR's or any of a dozen other joints.

Before I got back into the story, I thought it might be important - maybe only important to me - to address how drasticaly things can get warped in your mempory.

I left San Diego for my first duty station full of piss and vinegar and the righteousness of the Holy Spirit pumping through my veins. I left K and her church and her brother (and my iguana), and to be honest - out of laziness, and distraction, and then shame and fear - I didn't look back.

I met D - a half-Japanese/ half-Mexican hottie who was a youth-leader at the Assemblies of God church I ended up teaching at. We never slept together. Hell, we never even dated. She was a good Christian girl who (in hindsight) might've had a thing for me - and I definitely liked her; but the group dynamic was so weird that neither of us made a move. I met a man who became a very good friend and who might've been gay, or might've had a thing for D, or both. I guess he wasn't such a good friend after all - or, I guess I wasn't - judging by my ignorance. I met an exotic dancer named C - no shit, that was her real name - on stage, she was called Roxi. We dated for - like - a week. She was crazy.

She was a bitch too. I had a crazy-powerful crush on a girl in Admin for - god - months. She dominated my life for far too long. We went to dinner a couple of times. I took her to see Independence Day. I can't even remember her damn name now. She was so important then. M. I can't believe I couldn't remember that. I haven't thought of her since before my marriage. Holy crap, that makes me feel like a schmuck.

A year-and-a-half, maybe two-years into my tour in Nevada, the Powers That Be decided they were going to refurbish the barracks. New carpet, new plumbing, new paint & new furniture. This has almost no bearing on the story except that I had to pack up everything I owned and move into the "Transient Barracks" for a month.

In the bottom of my Sea Bag, in a little black book that said "Phone Numbers," or some shit, there was a number:


That's really the number. Check it out.

What the hell, huh? I called 'em. I really thought they weren't going to remember me. Or they'd be all pissed that I brushed 'em off like I did. But my old friend was happy to hear from me. I talked to him for awhile and he put his sister on. I talked to K for awhile, then with their mother. I called back two or three times when I was asked to come visit.

I should explain a little more. K's brother was the first person my roomate and I met in the church (who was our age). And he was the kind of guy who tried to include everyone - no matter what. You couldn't help but like the guy. A bunch of us would usually go somewhere to eat after church on Sundays, and then end up at his place. His mom was awesome. He got a lot of his "friendly, easy-going" from her. He had a kid brother who was my brother's age (holy crap I just realized how old that would make him now); and then, of course, there was K. I tried not to put her in that place in my mind (too young); but she definitely didn't detract from the experience of hanging out at A's house.

I don't remember how long I lived in San Diego - less than a year, I'm sure. But I ended up spending a lot of time with K's brother and his crew. I spent a lot of time watching his mother's extensive video collection.

Even after a year or two of silence, it wasn't that weird of him to ask me to be groomsman in his wedding when someone had to beg-out. Plans were made. I took a few days off before a weekend, rented a car, and drove back to San Diego.

I stayed at K's house. I slept on the couch; and during the day, she and I talked and drew and went to the park. She was taller now, thin - but filled out nicely. And she was still this amazing person who could just completely capture my attention with a few words. During her brother's wedding, my job was to escort her down the isle (she was a bride's maid).

The ride back to her house after the reception was at once way too uncomfortable and wonderfully incredible all at the same time. We were in her mother's car - along with all of the wedding presents. There was no room. She sat in my lap.

She was warm and light, and my hands didn't have anywhere to go, so they were around her waist and resting, folded in her lap. I could feel her heartbeat thorugh her back. I'm pretty sure that it was there - in the back of that car that I first realized that I could love her.

I've never had another moment like that with anyone else. I knew this girl. I knew who she was and who she wanted to be. I knew what she believed. I misunderstood one or two things about her; but she was the perfect woman for the man I was so desperately trying to be. I would've become that guy too, if she'd been by my side. I knew it then. It wasn't frightening, wasn't overwhelming. It just was. I not only could spend the rest of my life getting to know this person, I wanted to.

Over the course of the next six months or so, I spent every moment I could get away in San Diego. And when I wasn't down there, we were on the phone, we probably wrote two letters a week, each. Drawing pictures back and forth, and talking about our day, and missing one another.

I bought her a promise ring. That moment made it a little scary. To believe that this was the one. Not just to know it, but to believe it. It was exhilerating and wonderful and the tiniest bit frightening.

That little bit of fear, though - that killed it.

I miss K so much more than I have any right to. I don't go around every day - or even every week or every month pining for what won't ever be; but sometimes the most random shit makes me think of her.

Listening to Regina Spektor reminds me of her scent. I don't know why - but it does - and the scent makes me think of being near her - of her room - her art - watching TV on the floor of her living room - debating religion. Mostly, it makes me think of holding her in my arms. Of holding her hand in Mexico. Of her sitting in my lap one evening as we drove home in an over-packed car.

The six-foot Arkansas Redneck who lived in the room by mine asked me one night why I don't ever go out drinking with him. He'd taken a real shine to me, see - because I was kind of funny and a "real stand-up guy." He wanted me to have a beer with him. At that point in my life, I was over 21; but didn't drink. He said he knew that - but I wasn't an alkee or anything, so I should ocme out and have one beer with him.

I caved. We went to the Crow's Nest or the Dirty Bird or some shit like that. I can't remember the name. Just this little piece of shit hole in the wall that the permanent resident sailors liked to hang out in. We had a beer and shot some craps. Lost our asses. Then we went to the Dept - a combination night-club/ casino a few blocks from the Dirty Bird(?) in Fallon. The wallpaper in the club was this horrid red space-ship wallpaper - like you might see on some eleven-year-old's bedroom in hell. Ladies Night at the Depot was called "Pigs In Space" around the base.

We were up there in the nightclub part, but I wasn't drinking. I was just going along with it, enjoying the company and watching these people make total asses of themselves. But being sober makes that sort of thing tedious after an hour or so, so I went downstairs to the casino - where it was quiet. Where would my life be today if I'd just taken a damn shot?

Downstairs, I played some blackjack - I won, like 20-30 bucks; and took my chips to the bar; and there she was.

My Demon.

The Reptile. The monkey on my back. She was pale and frail, wrapped in a miniskirt and some kind of animal print, with long, red hair. If I'd known what she was going to do to me - If I'd understood what I was going to let her do to me - Id've run screaming that night and never looked back.

Instead, I bought another beer and sat at the bar listening to her tell some chick about how all men were evil and she (this chick who was so broken up over some dude who didn't treat her right) didn't need them anyway.

The first words I ever heard come out of the mouth of the woman who would become my ex-wife amounted to a militant-lesbian rant about the superiority of female companionship and how men amounted to not much more than a nuisance. I've only myself to blame for what came next.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

The Trouble with Dave

The trouble with Dave isn't that he can't find inspiration, or even motivation. His Muse is seated in comfy chair across the room, in plain view; and she comes up with the best stuff. He has lofty - impossible - unreasonable goals for his life, because reasonable goals never amounted to more than two point five kids, a house a dog a yard a mortgage (and an eviction in today's market); and that's not enough. Dave wants more; and he knows the only way he's going to get it is by doing more about it.

The trouble with dave isn't even that he has a colony of these little brainsquids living inside his head. Though that's a big part of it.

The brainsquids feed off of guilt and repressed desire and procrastination and loneliness. But more importantly, the seek out (through their host) mediocrity, banality and repetition.
The brain squids want television, movies, video games; and they don't care - or rather, they relish - what their host has to give up to get at them.

Dave's colony of brainsquids is already too big for his head. He's fed them well over the years; and now the normal methods of brainsquid extermination just won't work. He's tried outthinking them; but they're a hive-mind - the more of them there are, the smarter they grow. Also, they live in his brain and they can "hear" the impulses of his thoughts before he can think them.

Study and application through self-improvement won't work now. The colony has established enough of a foothold that they inevitably lead the man to simply repeat what he's already studied, but never mastered until they've gorged themselves on the repetition, grown fat and happy and allow him to stop - thinking he's done good; but knowing he's fooled himself into quitting yet again.

Sleeping only seems to give them more purchase in the oozy grey lands of their struggle.

Pounding on his head never seems to work. They just move to the other side, or swim down the obdula Oblongata to get out of the way. He's considered putting them into a stupor by obliterating himself with Scotch; but (while that may be fun), it puts a damper on the writing skilz, and almost always sends the muse over to her mother's house.

Dave's muse detests a drunkard.

Only in rare moments like these - when the colony sleeps - does the man feel he can escape the pop-culture prison he's locked himself in, and attempt (however feebly) to make contact with the world.

The muse in the corner eagerly wrings her hands. The only way to kill the brainsquids is to fight them, she says.

The trouble with Dave is, he doesn't know how to fight the brainsquids. The muse tells him he must drown himself in things the brainsquids don't feed on. He must find a way to access his inspiration and motivation, he must write and dream and compose and draw and paint and sculpt and build and fix and study and style and all the ten-thousand things that make an unreasonable man grin.

But the brainsquids are waking up again. Already they've stopped him from being to work on-time, without aid. Already they're whispering that there's another episode of Lost on Hulu. That Yellow Beard is probably still funny as hell and so easily accessible. Or hell, what about Urban Dead? Does Rotten Stan have enough energy yet to break down another barricade and drag another hapless survivor out into the street? Maybe Dave can finally beat Alizon's score in this round of Bejeweled Blitz.

The muse slumps back in her chair, not defeated; but exhausted. She'll have to wait until they're dormant again. Maybe next time she can get through to the man. Maybe one day, he'll break through to her. Until then, she sits in her chair in the corner and laughs and loves and longs for the words yet unwritten while the brainsquids grow and multiply and crowd themselves out of Dave's head.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Aggrydar - the First Session - Rats in the Cellar

This is incredibly rough & will get a rewrite; but
I wanted to write down what I could recall first.

, the Beffraen Ranger from East of the Dawnforge Mountains has traveled far in search of answers. Who, what is he? Where can he go? At every turn he is met with hostility - even the famous Five-League House turned him out. He slept instead in the Inn's stable, the raptor Locke his only companion. But in the City of Fallcrest, there is a Shrine to Bahamut; and the great Silver man-dragon has learned that more tolerance comes from worshippers of the Platinum Dragon than from others. Ghesh and Locke make their way to the old city.

At the House of the Sun, he met the Paladin, Travin Sunare, a Man of great faith and courage, if only little wit. Travin takes an instant liking to the Beffraen, as the seven-foot Ranger reminds him of a statue to his God that resides in within the Temple.

In the Low City, below the falls, Travin introduces Ghesh to his friend Alek, an infinitely disturbing man who talks to spirits and unnerves most other folk. Even the Riverrats, the local bandits who plague the Lower Quays and much of the rest of Fallcrest, leave the haunted man to himself; but the Shaman finds he too has a liking for the draconian; and our party is formed.

As luck would have it, there is a seat for even one such as Ghesh within the Lucky Gnome Taphouse, and our trio of adventurers found themselves at ales in the late afternoon, when they were approached by Kelvan - the tavern keeper.

"I've a problem with rats," the man tells the strange two armed men and their great beast of a companion, "and I think you can help. I'll give you this Potion of Healing and 60 gp - plus any rat pelts & meat you can collect, if you'll rid me of the foul vermin."

The spirits whisper in Alek's ear that something isn't right; and he says as much - or tries to - but heroes are what they are and ours are no different, they accept and are shown the door to the cellar.

They fought & killed a great swarm of rats, two of which were larger and fiercer than any the three of them had ever seen. As the swarm dispersed, however, they noticed a number of the vermin fleeing through a small hole in the wall - apparently the base of what was once a secret door!

"Should we go up and check with the tavern keeper?" Travin asked; but they were here to kill rats, the Beffraen replied; and that was good enough for him. On they went, and were nearly skewered by the falling portcullis that closed off their exit.

The Shaman cursed - he knew something was wrong upstairs. Try as they might, however, they couldn't lift the iron gate more than a few inches. There was nothing to do but continue onward.
They fought many more of the vile creatures - learning again that the adventuring life is a dangerous one - before coming to a closed door, from behind which emanated the most foul odor of death and rot. Once opened, they found a room filled with carnage.

Half-and-mostly-eaten corpses littered room, strewn about with blood and entrails. The Men could not keep their lunch, but the Beffraen held his own until - while searching the lower half of an armored Dwarf - he managed to find more mess along with an intricate & well-fashioned metal belt. He stuffed the befouled thing into an empty pack before they continued on.

Eventually, the heroes found what appeared to be a storeroom, and the Wererat leader of the Riverrat street gang! They make quick work of the lycanthrope and it's lackeys (and our dm learns just how F'n useful Action Points really are); and discover crates of stolen goods, a small personal shrine to Torog, the King that Crawls, an ancient shortblade, quite a nice sum of gold, and a rope hanging down from a tiny hole in the ceiling. Ghesh absently pulled the rope and the sound of bells in distance could be heard by all. They waited to see who would come running; but none did.

The party continued on through a hidden passage (opened by a fleeing bandit) and found themselves in the High City, and at the mercy of waiting guards. Some fast-talk, and a tour of the carnage below, and the heroes find themselves in the company of City Councilman Fehr - who happily awards the trio 100 gold in return for destroying the foul werebeast before it could spread its evil further in the city.

They manage not to tell Councilman Fehr of Kelvan's involvement; and once they leave the Aristocrat's home, they make their way back down to the Lucky Gnome...

Which is shut up tight.

The Ranger, Ghesh - who has lived on the outskirts of society his entire life, and has often been forced to resort to thievery - deftly opens the Taphouse lock and they find within, only an empty tavern.

Willy the Drunk (what was his name dammit? It wasn't Willy) stuck his head in, and asked if they was opening. No. Got anything to drink then? Ghesh gave the man an ale from one of the deserted tables. Thanks! And off he went.

A search for the tavernkeep's home turned up nothing but rumors of bandit activity on the Trade Road to the East - possibly the Riverrats expanding their territory? And a quick attempt to find a buyer for Ragebiter - the ancient, and likely magical blade found on the Wererat - revealed a tale about a magical sword buried nearly to the hilt in a standing stone amidst the southern Moon Hills.

The trio decided to pursue Kelvan to the East (if, indeed, that is where he went) after some much needed rest. And as they made their way out the Wizard's Gate, they encountered Skeeter Wanaminga, looking for help - any help - fighting off gigantic monsters plaguing his Pa's farm in the North.

And that was it. Time to call it a night. I'll flesh out some (and fix the tense discrepancies) tomorrow or Thursday. All in all, I heard it was good. Everyone was afraid of dying (lower hp, but no lower weapon damage); and I felt like I could have roleplayed more (or better) - but maybe alcohol & practice can help that? I dunno. More to come, I hope.

Aggrydar - a D&D4e Campaign Rundown

We began running a new 4e Campaign tonight. The game-world, Aggrydar, isn't all-inclusive of published material. Lots of house-rules. I'm stealing a lot from Middle Earth, a bit from just about everything else, Races, Monsters, Magic. I'm looking to add more "grit" to the game - something I feel 4e is lacking. I'm not messing with the core mechanic, though, or (hopefully), the overall balance.

The game is set in the Nentir Vale, with the heroes "home-basing" in the City of Fallcrest.

The races are quite different:

Dragonborn, called "Beffraen," are rare, and by rare, I mean "you've probably never even heard of one." And Ghesh - the Beffraen in the party - has definitely never heard of another like him; and doesn't even know what he is. Viewed my most men as a monster, Ghesh can look forward to fear, horror, or - in some cases - overwhelming curiosity from the villages they visit (including Fallcrest).

The "Khazad" are a race of Dwarves who rarely leave their Mountain homes. Though not as rare as some other races (and less likely to face heavy social stigma), Khazad too are met with curiosity and mistrust in the lands of Men. Most villages will open their gates to a Dwarf, but the Khazad will not feel welcome. Dwarves of the Nentir Vale hale from Hammerfast to East.

The High elves of Aggrydar, the Eladrin "Noldor" once resided in the Blessed Realm of Aman (in the Feywild), and are the most mystical of all the Races. Noldor in the Vale have journeyed far from their Ancestral Home in the Naith Wood to the West. In the Vale, they are rare - but treated with a mixture of awe and fear. Noldor are likely to be treated somewhat like celebrities in the lands of Men.

The Sylvan elves come to the Nentir Vale from the great and expansive Harkenwold, which marks the southern border, though the majority of Wood Elves dwell in Mirkwood - the deep Jungle at the center of Harkenwold. The Harken Forest - the northernmost part of the Harkenwold - is home only to the Woodsinger Clan - which dwells in the eastern part of the North Forest.

The Sindar (and here's where the cosmetic changes begin to get serious) are the most "common" of the Elvish races, and the most likely to be found among the cities of men. In Aggrydar, Half-Elves are not half-elven at all; but a third elven people. Sindar are just as long-lived as their Noldor & Sylvan cousins; and they come to the Vale from Ossiriand in the heart of the Winterbole forest.

The Auflin, called "Halflings" by Men, because it was a "clever" bastardization of their own word for themselves) mostly come from Nenlast which - in Aggrydar is a Halfling settlement.

Numenorean are the last descendants of the First Men, and are indistinguishable from normal humans. They have all the game statistics, but none of the Demonic Aspect of Tiefling characters. They are gifted with long lives - often as long as three times the length of a "human" life. When a Numenorean's heritage is revealed, he is often met with either reverence or jealousy & scorn.

Said to have gifted mortal men with the knowledge of Magic, the Maiar are the reincarnated servants of the Ancient Gods. Pretty much exactly like the Deva in the Player's Handbook II, but more human/elven in appearance; and Maiar reincarnate with most of their memories from their former lives (or, at least, they regain those memories eventually); and Maiar are more often Wizards then anything else. Maiar may select any number of Multi-class feats.

Of the classes, there are no Clerics or Warlocks in Aggrydar; which are replaced with Shaman & Warden respectively.

Players rolled Ability Scores using 3d6 dice with no rerolls, though they gained a bonus action point for every three 1's rolled (rounded up). This was for every two, but that's too much. Hit points were lowered, brought in line with previous editions of the game (and Monster hp was halved to do the same.

Beyond that, I'm incorporating an Injury system when massive amounts of damage is taken - which represents wounds the character may suffer beyond the scope of hit points (detremental game effects which may heal over time); and I'm trying to roleplay more - bring some NPCs to life & be "in-character" when I can. I should bring beer or rum to game night.


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