notes from a man who spends too much time playing video games

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This is where you stick random tidbits of information about yourself.

A Few Points Shy of the High Score
Monday, April 28, 2003  
Friday night I drank too much beer, stayed up too goddamn late, played videogames until my eyes were practically rolling back in my head. It was another one of *those* nights. My plan was to travel upstate and see Joelle the next morning (Saturday), so I knew Friday was pretty much going to be all the gaming (and beer and solitude) I was going to get for the weekend. So I overdid it--for good measure, I guess.

Made a great deal of progress on Midnight Club 2. This game is ready to be put to bed, I think. Working on the final race in the game. Without a doubt, MC2 is the most consistently exciting game I've played in ages. Even if you're a fringe gamer, even if you despise racing games, by all means pick it up. You'll absolutely be thanking me.

Got only three or four hours of jittery sleep on Friday. Woke up late, shaved, fixed coffee, took a handful of Advil, dressed, then made a mad scramble to the Port Authority Bus Terminal in the driving rain. I literally ran, legs pumping, huffing and nauseous, through the crowds, trying desperately to make the 10 o'clock. I made it--with only seconds to spare.

Joelle and I got along fine--this despite the fact that she attempted to break up with me last Sunday. I knew my visit was some kind of re-audition for boyfriend status. (I'd been campaigning all week long over the phone for her to give me another chance.) Despite my awful hangover, I knew I had to put my best self--or at least, better self--out there.

Saturday night we ate dinner in an empty Puerto Rican restaurant near the riverfront. We saw the movie Anger Management at the nearby mall. Sunday was the Beltane festival, this insane Celtic, pagan-y gathering--complete with May Poles--celebrating spring...or something. Giant puppets. Bizarre performances. Vegetarian burrittos. The frigging hippies were out in full-effect. J. and I brought a picnic lunch--turkey sandwiches--and sat with her friends on blankets. (My tailbone is sore today from sitting on the ground for four hours.) Her ex-boyfriends were all over the place. The whole place was like an ex-boyfriend graveyard, and I told her so. I even tried talking with one of them, which was kind of strange.

By the time we left on Sunday, it was far too late for me to travel back to New York, so I ended up spending the night in Kingston (it's just south of Albany). I took the 5:45 Trailways bus this morning. I've taken the 5:45 bus before. Crazy as it sounds, I sort of enjoy it. I buy a cup of coffee and the Post at the nearby diner. The bus makes stops in Rosendale, then New Paltz, then goes express to New York. Takes about two hours. I love sitting in the early morning dark, the coffee burning my mouth, as the bus speeds past houses, most of them dark at that early hour, some of them with kitchen lights on. I feel content, nearly peaceful, despite the fact that I'm crammed into a seat that's far too small for me. I feel like good things might happen to me, that my life just might turn out all right afterall.

That feeling doesn't last long. Soon as I set foot on 8th Avenue and begin the 15-block walk to the office, it pretty much fades completely.

Joelle hates spiders. I hate them too. She found two while I was visiting, including one sort of larg-ish spindly one this morning. I'm the man, so I have no choice but to kill it for her. It's unpleasant work for me, but it must be done.

I haven't seen my apartment since Saturday morning, so I'm anxious to get home, sit quietly, maybe take a run at the final race in MC2. I've got a twelver of St. Pauli Girl waiting for me, calling to me, in the refrigerator.

4:34 PM

Friday, April 25, 2003  
I started a feature in the magazine about a year ago called "The Hideaway Department." It's basically an opportunity for readers to share their favorite adult mag hiding places. Much to my delight, readers responded with elaborate descriptions. One man even sent in a carefully rendered diagram of the false panel he'd created in the drywall in his bathroom.

I got a letter today from a soldier stationed in Iraq. Here's the letter:

I'm a dedicated subscriber serving in Operation Iraqi Freedom. I want you and your staff to know that your magazine gets a 21-cumshot salute. Many a night has been spent "meditating" by red lens flashlight.

Also, I have a submission for the Hideaway Dept. A great tactical place to keep my favorite fuck-sluts and cum-guzzlers close by is behind my armor plate in my Interceptor Armor Vest. Easy access for those "combat jacks." Patriotrically yours, Cpl. P. E.

It was strange holding the letter in my hand. It made the war--this thing that I only read about in the paper, that I see on TV--real and immediate to me. Here was a genuine artifact. Here was something from the desert.

I pictured the man hunched over, writing.

4:56 PM

Wednesday, April 23, 2003  
I'm in therapy. Have been for around three years now. I'm pretty forthright with my therapist about my game playing, though it took quite awhile for me to be so. I was always afraid that if he knew how much time, energy and money I invested in being a gamer, he'd think I wasn't serious enough about life, about my problems, about anything. He'd give up on me. And gaming is an expensive habit, so I was also afraid, on a more practical level, that if he knew how much cash I was spending on games, he'd raise his (ridiculously low by New York standards) fee.

I had my usual Wednesday session today over my lunch hour. Gaming came up. It seemed relevant to mention the marathon sessions I'd had over the past weekend. When describing my experiences to my therapist, instead of saying "videogames" I remember saying "computer games." There's a distinction between the two, though it's subtle. "Computer games" just sounds ever so slightly more sophisticated to me. And, hopefully, to my therapist. The term "videogames" to my therapist--with his glasses and beard and Dockers he resembles a JCPennied version of Freud--must sound terribly juvenile, I would imagine. "Videogames" evokes images of Mario and Pac Man; "computer games" evokes, I don't know, the grizzled, wizard-y Chessmaster mascot.

My therapist isn't supportive of my gaming habit, but he's also careful not to be critical, either. One thing I've learned is to monitor the amount of gaming I do. More gaming--like those recent marathon sessions--is usually indicative that something else is going on with me. There are reasons why I stay up gaming way past the point of exhaustion. What the reasons are, in this specific instance...I'm not quite sure yet.

Opened more office mail today. It was backed up much farther than I previously thought. Some of it was postmarked December! Amount of cash found: $0. Like I said, it goes in streaks....

Still exclusively playing Midnight Club 2. Won a number of races in Tokyo last night. They were tight, down-to-the-wire races--white-knuckle stuff. I must be getting pretty damn close to finishing the game. Have to say, I'll be sad in a way once it's over. I'll probably have to grieve a little.

4:39 PM

Monday, April 21, 2003  
So I work at a porn magazine. I have for almost six years now. We get tons of mail each day--some of it interesting and surprisingly articulate, but most of it unintelligible. (A typical piece of mail: I once got a letter written in crayon on--no kidding--prison-issue toilet paper.) I used to love opening mail and would eagerly anticipate each day's bounty, but lately it's just been depressing the hell out of me. It's left me feeling a bit like Miss Lonelyhearts, all these desperate people needing things--better jobs, wives who'll have anal sex with them, bigger penises--I can't possibly ever give them.

Readers sometimes inexplicably mail in money. It's rare, but it does happen. I decided today that I had the fortitude to go through all the mail from the past month and I discovered a total (so far) of $29. One guy mailed in a $5 bill and a picture of his newborn baby. Another guy sent in $4 mixed in with some random newspaper clippings. Another guy sent in two $10 bills (!) and a bunch of propaganda from the Catholic church.

I used to make attempts to split the money with my co-workers, which only seemed to baffle them. That's when I understood that the unwritten office rule for mailed in cash is pretty much finders-keepers. So now I quietly pocket the money.

$29. Not bad at all.

Played a great deal of Midnight Club 2 over the long weekend (we were off on Friday). Lordy, does this game ever have its hooks into me. It's been ages since I've felt such an uncontrollable compulsion to play (and play and play). Weaving through crowded city streets at high speeds causes vast amounts of adrenaline to flood into my veins, which is making me wonder, quite seriously, if it's possible to become an adrenaline addict. No matter how badly I race, no matter how horribly I finish, when the "Race Again" option comes up on the screen, I don't even think twice--suddenly I'm just doing it again.

Finished Paris last night--which I vastly preferred to L.A.--and now I'm onto Tokyo, the final city in the game. My worries about the game being too tough, and possibly even unfair, are thankfully unfounded. I've realized that each race always has a few trouble spots--places that are basically opportunities for getting into massive time-wasting wrecks--and that if I can manage the 4-5 trouble spots well enough, I almost always have a decent shot at winning.

Had two marathon gaming/beery nights in the past four days. Saturday night, I stayed up until nearly 4 a.m., playing Midnight Club, and then Rocky on the Xbox. Managed to earn a bleary-eyed 15-round decision from Ivan Drago at around 3:30 a.m. and decided, "Okay, fer fucking chrissakes, that's fucking enough."

4:32 PM

Thursday, April 17, 2003  
Drank just a single solitary beer last night and worked my way through a few more races in Midnight Club 2. The game is still holding my interest, though its days could be numbered. Feel like a total pussy saying this, but I'm afraid it might simply be too goddamn hard for me. Don't get me wrong, I enjoy challenging games as much as the next guy, but I'm only about a third of the way through the career mode--finished L.A. and unlocked Paris last night--and the races have already gotten insanely difficult. Must have raced against Dice, the boss of L.A., at least 20 times--probably more--before finally putting together a good enough run to defeat him. Most of those 20 attempts were, admittedly, fun, but somewhere around my 17th or 18th go, my patience was starting to wear thin. The fun was fading, and the grind was setting in. The grind happens when I'm hooked into a game, and therefore unwilling to give up on it, even though the difficulty level has suddenly skyrocketed. I'm forced to soldier forth, often even when it's no longer fun to play. Why do I subject myself to this? Because I inevitably hold out hope that once I endure whatever ridiculous task I'm trying to perform, the game will suddenly become fun again.

Sometimes it works. Other times, once a game gets hard, it never quite lets up again.

After beating Dice--and what a fucking relief it was, too--the difficulty level did seem to abate a bit. The first race in Paris was certainly winnable after only six or seven attempts.

All games, even the best games, have grinds--an un-fun stretch that must be endured. Even Grand Theft Auto: Vice City--probably my favorite game--had several missions that made me grit my teeth.

I'm stopping off at Home Depot on my way home from the office to look for shades for my bedroom. I've had old hole-y blankets pinned over my windows since I moved in last December, and I'm pretty goddamn sick of looking at them. Tonight I'll hopefully do a little gaming, drink a little beer. I've got the day off tomorrow--office holiday--so I'll probably do a little more gaming, run the vacuum, maybe take a crack at hanging those shades (I'm not exactly handy around the house).

4:15 PM

Wednesday, April 16, 2003  
Drank four beers last night and logged a few hours of Midnight Club 2--which was really the first gaming I'd done since last Friday night in Boston. I've agreed to review the game for, so I've got to buckle down a bit and work my way through a fair amount of the game. (The game features three cities--L.A., Paris, Tokyo--and I'm still stuck on L.A.) Reached the champion of L.A. last night, so I'm assuming that once I beat him, L.A. will be behind me once and for all....

MC2 really benefits from having a human audience--Galvin on Friday night, Stenger on Saturday--and I sorely missed having one last night. My victories just weren't as sweet, since there was no one around to share them with, no one there to bear witness. I watched the replays of my races in silence, wishing someone were there to offer commentary ("You took that corner perfectly," etc.).

This warmer weather is a bit of a gaming deterrent. Just makes it that much harded to feel okay about staying indoors and staring at a TV screen for several hours. Cooler air and rain returns tomorrow--conditions much more conducive to gaming.

Enjoying MC2 so much that I've ordered Need for Speed 2 off of, another racing game that garnered good reviews earlier this year. Also, strangely, I've been searching for a decent chess sim for my Game Boy. Been thinking about taking up chess again for some mysterious reason.... The idea of squaring off against computer opponents really appeals to me. Went ahead and ordered Chessmaster--which seems to be the better of the two sims available for the GB--from half.

Feeling quiet today, like my voice won't work or something. Two or three times I've tried to say something to other people and they simply haven't heard me. It's frustrating as all hell. Makes me feel like I'm literally invisible, or in serious danger of becoming invisible.

4:19 PM

Tuesday, April 15, 2003  
Took the 12:05 Amtrak train to Boston on Friday afternoon--the Accela Express. The express, for the uninitiated, costs nearly $50 more than the local train, but you arrive a full hour earlier. I first tried the express a couple years back, and now I'm hooked. The plush seats, the Star Trek-like doors, the huge bathrooms--it's really an experience. Mostly I appreciate the fact that the train, because of the extra cost, is far less crowded than the cattle-car-type locals. Which means I always get my own seat to sprawl out in.

Also, people with crying babies tend not to ride the Express. At worst, I have to deal with an a-hole or two on cell phones, but that's about as bad as it gets.

Spent Friday night with John in Somerville. Played quite a bit of Midnight Club 2. Wasn't sure John would go for a racing game, but I'm fairly certain he enjoyed himself. The structure of MC2, John aptly observed, mimics the old Dreamcast classic Jet Grind Radio--specifically the trail-your-opponents-before-you-can-race-them aspect.

The game also provided a good chance for some bona fide teamwork--namely, me looking at the map in the corner of the screen and shouting "Left! Right! Left again!" while John did the driving. Much fist-pumping, hooting, and high-fiving ensued--as queer as that all sounds.

We stayed up way past the point of exhaustion, drinking beer and playing until almost four o'clock in the morning. We enjoyed ourselves.

The next day--thoroughly hungover--I took the commuter rail to Providence to help my friends Josh and Leslie move into their new house. I recently bought an apartment, so I'm as well-versed on the topic of home-related stress. Worked like dogs on Saturday and Sunday. Josh and Les graciously paid for my meals, but they still managed to squeeze every last ounce of useful-ness out of me. I'm sore across the shoulders and in the ribs, and the insides of my forearms are scraped all to hell. In a strange way, I feel good. I used muscles I haven't used in years. I basically haven't done anything for the past 48 hours except work and eat and sleep, and, as perverse as this sounds, it agreed with me (I come from peasant stock).

Took the Bonanza bus from Providence to Albany yesterday afternoon to visit Joelle. Spent the night at her place, resting and recovering. Returned to NYC this morning on the Adirondack Trailways bus. Haven't seen my apartment since...Friday morning? Was great to get away, clear my head, get out of New York for a couple days. Made me appreciate New York again--something I think I was sorely in need of. Living here has been getting more and more difficult in recent years. I'm not sure how much more of this place I can take, yet at the same time, I'm at a loss for where to go. My next step, since I tend to go to extremes, is probably a woodland cabin. A quiet place far from it all. Just can't imagine myself living near any strip malls anytime soon. I've seen quite a bit of the Northeast from train and bus windows over the past four days. Much of it, as the cliche goes, looks the same--parking lots, gas stations, track houses. And much of it, I'm sad to say, depresses the living hell out of me.

5:08 PM

Thursday, April 10, 2003  
I got a haircut today over my lunch hour. Lorenzo's Barbershop on 27th Street. Been going to him for the past five years or so. Thirteen dollars for a six minute haircut. I don't enjoy getting haircuts at all, so I especially appreciate Lorenzo's speed--more so than his skill.

I bought some organic tomatoes this week at the Foodway. I'd read an article about how organic produce is so much better for you.

They went to mush in a day.

So that's it for organic tomatoes.

Received a package from Rockstar yesterday--makers of Grand Theft Auto (undoubtedly my favorite games). Not sure how I got on their press list, but I'm very happy to be on it. They sent me Midnight Club 2, some racing game for the PS2. Brought it home, loaded it up...and suddenly realized that it was nine o'clock, that I'd been playing for three straight hours. Obviously, it's good. And I usually disdain racing games. (I have no interest whatsoever in cars or car culture.) Here's how the game works: you start out with a little faggy car. You drive around town--in this case, L.A.--pull up behind another car, flash your lights once, and the other car takes off. You do your best to follow the other car to the race point. He'll drag you all over the city, around corners, curves, through traffic, etc. If you can hang with him, then you get to race him. Beat him...and you get his car. Simple.

There's something to be said for that moment when you're weaving through traffic, wholly focused, anticipating erratic behavior from other drivers, etc. It's almost (forgive me) zen. I blank out. I'm lost. When it's going well, it feels like I'm almost in some kind of zone. (Yes, *that* zone--the one athletes always refer to.)

So it's a very good game. Very good. I'm considering writing a review for, even though I know nothing about the genre. Hell, maybe that makes me more qualified to write about it (a racing game for people who don't like racing games).

Spent part of the day writing a preview for Cyber Gaming Network of Aria of Sorrow, the new Castlevania game for the Game Boy. Really having a hell of a time doing this, and I'm not sure why. Just can't seem to get in the right head to write, for some reason. Have actually considered just bailing on the assignment. I won't. It's not my way.

My beer drinking has been fairly under control this week. No more than three beers a night--tops. Certainly makes it a hell of a lot easier to get out of bed in the mornings....

4:45 PM

Tuesday, April 08, 2003  
Called in sick yesterday. Decided to stay home and watch it snow. Did four loads of laundry, fixed coffee, then trudged to the Foodway for food and beer. Bought a 12-pack of Grolsch. Spent quite a bit of the afternoon playing the old Zelda: Ocarina of Time. It's a game that requires a fair amount of time and patience, and yesterday I had plenty of both. Worked my way through the Shadow Temple, exploring, looking at maps, solving puzzles, fighting off enemies, etc. Great, great stuff. Vintage Zelda. Took me about four hours to get through the temple. Enjoyed myself immensely. It's a huge game, probably requiring 30 to 40 hours to get through. I have a feeling that I'm nearing the end....

Needed a break from Zelda, so in the evening I moved on to Zone of the Enders: the Second Runner. Really enjoying this game, far more than I thought I would. Love the fast pace, how quickly the game moves. No matter how much chaos there is on screen at any given moment, what I'm doing is still absolutely clear to me. Never been a fan of the Japanese mech/giant robot games, but I'll make an exception for Zone of the Enders. Worked on a section last night where I had to bring down five enemy airships. The ships were huge, firing barrages of anti-aircraft missiles at me. Each ship needed to be dismantled carefully--first taking out the side turrets, then the missiles on the nose, then the huge laser cannons, etc. Can't express how much I enjoyed this. It was all very convincing. My suspension of disbelief didn't need to be suspended very far. I loved feeling like a lone mech up against impossible odds. I'd bring down a ship, maybe two, then get blasted to pieces, but I was having such a fine time, I didn't mind restarting. Great fun.

At the end of the night, the kitchen counter was littered with beer bottles. I counted them up, trying to guess how hungover I'd be in the morning. I did the dishes--no matter how drunk I get I always manage to do the dishes--then went to bed.

4:17 PM

Friday, April 04, 2003  
Over Christmas I'd mentioned to my parents that I was in the market for a new desk. Dad thought I meant one of those pre-fab jobs they sell at Staples. "What I want is something more along the lines of a farmhouse table," I said. A few weeks later, my parents phoned me to say that they'd found a desk for me--a farmhouse table of sorts--while shopping at Oak Express. "It's beautiful," my mother said. "You'll love it."

Dad brought the table to me this week. As soon as we put it together, I knew it was much too big for my apartment. "It's...nice," I said, looking at this piece of furniture which was now taking up 50 percent of my entryway. I was careful not to let my chagrin show.

Dr. Z.--the man that my father had come down to New York with--picked us up at my apartment around 5:30, then we drove together in rush hour traffic to Greenpoint, Brooklyn. There's a kind of Polish beer that Dr. Z. and my Dad enjoy--Okochim--and the plan was to buy several cases in the Polish neighborhood in Greenpoint, then eat dinner in a Polish restaurant.

After several wrong turns--it's been ages since I've been in a car and lost, and it was really stressful--we finally found Nassau Avenue. We parked, then went into the nearest Polish deli. The place smelled like cats, and the floor was covered with bits of straw. Dr. Z. haggled with the Polish counter boy, eventually settling on a fair price for the beer. Dad and I loaded the six cases into the back of Dr. Z.'s truck, then we went to the Polski Diner across the street.

I was hoping for a dining experience along the lines of Velselka or Kiev, the Eastern European diners on the Lower Eastside. What I got...was something much more hardcore. Raw.

The restaurant was small and harshly overlit. Picnic tables were evenly spaced around the room. Mounted deer heads hung from the walls. One of the heads had blinking Christmas lights in the antlers. Another wore a straw cowboy hat cocked at a jaunty angle. The place was set up like a cafeteria. Dr. Z. ordered from the old Polish woman behind the counter. Dad ordered a pierogie dinner. I ordered a kielbasa dinner. The woman handed us three glasses of pink liquid. "What's this?" I asked. "Froot jooze," Dr. Z. said. I tasted it. Flat and sugary. Like old Kool-Aid. It wasn't good.

Around the room, men with big bushy beards were hunched defensively over their plates. We found an open picnic table and sat down. The silverware was covered with fingerprints and bits of crusted-on food. I figured my father, considering his fastidious ways, was probably pretty unhappy.

I picked at my food. I was hoping for something...more vanilla. More American-ized. This was too raw for me. Strange to suddenly realize how fussy I've become in my old age. Dr. Z. tore through his food like a buzzsaw, then went back to the counter for more. "What are you getting now?" my Dad asked. "Somezing I can't have at home," he said in his Polish accent.

He came back with pig's feet. I'm not kidding. On his plate were two grayish hooves. He began merrily sawing away at the pig's feet. My forehead felt hot. I nearly threw up. I was finished eating for the night.

Dr. Z. is an orthopedic surgeon. My father asked Dr. Z. if he had to work the next day. "Surgery," he said, "7:30 A.M." I knew they had a four or five hour drive ahead. I couldn't believe this man eating pigs feet had to perform surgery in less than 12 hours.
I felt sorry for whoever he was operating on.

The food was extremely cheap--12 or 13 dollars for the three of us. Dr. Z. had paid, and he seemed disappointed that I hadn't eaten more. "Well, I don't eat much these days," I said, then muttered something about "eating only smaller portions."

I walked the two of them to the car. They were leaving me here, beginning their long drive upstate. I thanked Dr. Z. for dinner, then said goodbye to Dad. "This was a nice surprise," I said. "It was good to see you." The crowds on Nassau Ave. moved around us. I shook his hand. I patted him on the back. This is as close as we get to hugging.

And then they were gone. They disappeared into the traffic. I turned my back and walked away. I felt a rush. I was free again. Alone again. I went into a store and bought a six-pack of Okochim--seven dollars--for myself. Then I got on the G train and headed home.

I looked at that farmhouse table and opened a beer. I wondered if I should keep the table and say nothing to my parents. I'd lie to them, tell them that I love it. I pictured myself dismantling it, removing the legs, hiding it in my closet, then taking it out whenever they visit me (they're coming down in May), re-assembling it. I didn't want to hurt anyone's feelings.

I'm still not sure what the hell I'm going to do with it. For now, until I decide, I'll keep squeezing past it on my way to the kitchen.

3:37 PM

Wednesday, April 02, 2003  
My mother phoned me at the office yesterday. "Want a vistor for the night?" she asked. Long story short, my father, through a series of unfortunate coincidences, was going to be in New York City.

I nearly said "no." Just flat out "no." I didn't, but the word was definitely there, on my tongue, ready to fly.

My Dad and I have, at best, an adversarial relationship. He thoroughly enjoys belittling and insulting me, even though I'm a grown man now (albeit one who owns a Game Boy).

Fretted over hiding my videogames--for chrissakes, they're everywhere. Made only a cursory attempt at concealing them, only ratholing the most obvious pieces of equipment. Otherwise, I decided to let my Dad see whatever he wanted to see. Granted, he's not as observant (i.e. nosy) as my mother, so I felt fairly confident that he wouldn't even recognize an Xbox even if he saw one.

As soon as he arrived last night, he began complaining about the heat in my apartment. "Man, I'm dying over here," he said as he peeled off his white turtleneck (a fashion staple for him). There he was, in all of his topless glory, his stomach hanging down, the hair on his shoulders. I was still half in shock over the fact that my father was in my apartment, and the scene was made even more surreal by his shirtless-ness. I nonchalantly lowered the blinds, worrying over what my neighbors across the courtyard might think.

Dad set to work putting together a bar stool he'd brought along--a gift for my apartment. He opened a beer--Old Milwaukee can--and squinted at the directions. He fiddled with the chair and drank. He had some trouble getting the legs to match up on the stool and said, "Some Japanese guy is probably laughing at me right now."

I was worried about his impressions of my apartment. I'd recently bought the place and was concerned that he disapproved of my choice. He remained fairly vague about it, saying only, upon entry, "You seem to be moving up in the world." Later, when he phoned my mother, he said, "You should see his place, oh, it's great," with just enough irony in it to keep me guessing. Dad never gives me anything concrete to work with.

Soon it was time for bed. I pulled the couch out for him, put on some sheets. He took his kit into the bathroom and brushed his teeth. I noticed a nightlight plugged into the outlet in the hall. "What's this for?" I asked when he came out of the bathroom. "I'm old," he said. "I don't want to trip over anything in the night."

The nightlight was eye-searingly bright. Bright enough to shine into my bedroom. I went to bed but couldn't sleep. I listened, to see if he was snoring. He wasn't, and I was worried that he couldn't sleep either. I was worried that he was cold--I'd left the living room window open to keep him cool--or that the traffic from the street was bothering him.

The next morning he was up early, taking one of his four or five craps he needs to take each morning. When he came out of the bathroom, I asked if he'd slept OK. "Fine," he said. "When you're tired enough, you can sleep anywhere."

We walked over to Prospect Park West, to the Terrace Bagel Cafe. We ordered egg sandwiches from a pretty Puerto Rican girl. Dad seemed kind of soft spoken, almost shy, when ordering his sandwich. He seemed a little uncomfortable, and I got the feelign that he was wishing that I'd have done his ordering for him.

We ate, then walked back to my apartment. We set about doing various projects. We replaced the shower head. "Give it a try," Dad said once the new head was in place. Water began shooting all over the bathroom--the head was threaded wrong--and we both looked at each other and laughed.

After the shower, we hung curtains in the kitchen. "You're a regular Martha Stewart," I said as he worked away.

Soon it was time for me to head to the office. I showered, grabbed my things, ran out the door. "Be careful," I said. "If you lock yourself out, call me at work and I'll come get you."

"I'm not a kid, you know," he said.

I fell asleep on the subway, happy to be alone for a little while. I got out at 23rd Street and began the long walk to the office. Half in a daze, I suddenly realized I was standing in the middle of a shoot for Sex in the City (the bane to Scott Noble's existence). Sarah Jessica Parker, wearing sunglasses, was talking into a cell phone a few feet away from me. Then I ran into my friend Abha, who was with some strange man. "Scott Jones!" she shouted and kissed me. "You're so cute," I said, patting her on the head. She promised to call when she gets back from India.

At the office, I made some cracks about my Dad. I told the guys about the nightlight, about him taking his shirt off. They laughed. Later, I phoned Dad. "What did you have for lunch?" I asked. "English muffin with some cheese," he said. I told him he should have eaten the pot pie in the freezer. "But I didn't want the pot pie," he said. I could hear my TV blaring in the background.

He's leaving tonight. We're having dinner tonight at a Polish restaurant in Greenpoint. Then he's heading back home.

4:39 PM

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