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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