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
Thursday, May 29, 2003  
I phoned a woman today and asked her to send me artwork for a product called a waterproof flicker ballsy. The woman had a pleasant, middle age-y voice, so I made sure to act ever so slightly contrite when saying the words "waterproof flicker ballsy." She promised to send the artwork right away. She was surprisingly very polite about the whole thing.

A few weeks back I phoned a video company and asked them to send me chromes for a movie called Ass Cream Pies 2. Doing these things, making calls like this, is part of my job. Being professional in this business means saying things like "waterproof flicker ballsy" (one more time!) and Ass Cream Pies 2 and keeping a straight face. Though I've been doing it for years now, and made countless calls like this, there's still inevitably a fraction of a second where I hesistate before saying what I need to say. During that fraction of a second I think, *I cannot believe I'm going to say what I'm about to say to this person, but HERE I GO.* Then geronimo. I dive into the abyss....

Found out today that my parents are coming back (oh nooooooo!) this weekend. They got a good deal on some bedroom furniture for me, and since it's supposed to rain all weekend long in the Northeast, they've decided to make the four hour drive down. This is most likely the last time they'll visit me--probably ever--since they move to Florida in the fall. I'll do what I can to make the best of it.

4:48 PM

Tuesday, May 27, 2003  
My mother visited me for a few hours on Saturday morning. She was in New York for a bridal shower or something, so she came out to Brooklyn to see me. The visit went well enough. My parents are moving to Florida later this year, so they're purging all (or at least most) of their material goods. She brought me some old photos, some of her as a school girl. She even brought one of her old report cards (mostly Cs, some Bs). Finally, she brought this phony "olde time" photo that she once coerced me, my brother and my father into taking. We were all wearing turn-of-the-century style clothes--pocket watches, canes, wide ties. My mother held a parasol. I'm wearing a bowler. My dad is wearing a monocle. It's really embarrassing. How she managed to talk us into this, I'll never know.

I winced when she showed me the olde time photo. "I thought you might like to have it," she said. We had a few laughs over it. "Look at your father!" she said. "He looks like Benny Hill!"

The visit went well enough. We ate lunch. She met Joelle. (She seemed to like Joelle.) The three of us went for a walk, took a look around my neighborhood. She offered advice on how I should decorate my apartment. (I have a built-in bookcase, which my mother insists I use for knicknacks. No kidding.)

It was good to see her, but there was something about the visit that left me feeling vaguely sad for the rest of the weekend. Maybe it's the fact that she's looking older all the time. Maybe it was the way she methodically ate her reuben sandwich at the restaurant (taking careful bites, making sure to eat all her food, cleaning her plate). Later, there was a moment when we were sitting in my living room, talking, when suddenly I realized something smelled funny. I noticed that my mom had taken her shoe off. It was her foot I was smelling.


4:54 PM

Friday, May 23, 2003  
Strange week. Been raining for four days straight now. I've been trying to write each day, trying to finish something (so I can finally, finally start looking for a fucking agent) with mixed results. Lots of questioning. Lots of self-examination. Lots of pounding my forehead on my desk. Lots of Advil. Lots of wondering what the fuck I'm doing here, or why I bother doing anything at all. And the capper: my mother is visiting tomorrow.

God help me.

Leaving shortly, as the office is closing down at 12:30 (thanks, boss). Going to do a few loads of laundry, run the vacuum, get ready for Ma's white-glove test. Maybe stop by PC Richards in Brooklyn to price air conditioners. Hopefully I'll do a little gaming later on. Been hankering for some first-person shooter action lately, so I've been playing Jedi Outcast this week. Gives me great pleasure to mow down armies of Stormtroopers. Maybe sneak up on a couple of them and roll a thermal detonator or two their way. (Ker-fucking-boom.) It's exactly what I need right now--to cause mayhem, to blow every last goddamn thing up.

Pass the fucking Xanax, please.

11:57 AM

Wednesday, May 21, 2003  
My knee gave out yesterday and today I'm gimping my way around New York. The whole leg feels unsteady whenever I put any weight on it, and it looks swollen around the knee cap area. I'm not even sure what the hell I did to it. Best theory I can come up with is 1. I was reading on the subway 2. got absorbed in the book and 3. wrenched it somehow during one of the F train's many violent twists and turns.

Just last Sunday I went for a run in the park and felt young, strong, alive, even virile. Now I can't even get my groceries home.


I realize I'm probably just being paranoid, but dragging this leg behind me makes me feel vulnerable on the street. People look at me differently. I imagine that I must be a pretty goddamn pathetic sight. I imagine I look like easy prey, like a wounded deer or zebra or something. To tell you the truth, I'm a little afraid for myself.

Played a fair amount of Aria of Sorrow yesterday on the Game Boy, surprised by how quickly I'm burning through the game (mowed down three bosses last night). Also, worked my way--for the second time--through Victorious Boxers over the past week. It's an excellent boxing game, the best on the market, and easily one of my top 5 favorite videogames of all time. Have also been playing some Wind Waker and some Pride FC. Keep getting the itch to play a first-person shooter for some reason, and I think it's either going to be Halo (yes, again) or else Jedi Outcast (which I never finished).

One last thing: my second opinion of Zone of the Enders: The 2nd Runner is up on today.

4:34 PM

Monday, May 19, 2003  
I found a gray hair last week. My first. It's on my left temple near the top of my ear. My first impulse was to pull the thing out. I tried, tried until my eyes started to tear up from the pain. I mentioned my new gray hair to Joelle and she politely informed me that I already have *several* on the back of my head. "Why the hell didn't you tell me before?" I asked. "I thought you knew..." she said. When she and I were together over the weekend, she picked through my hair while saying, "Here's one. And here's one. And here's one." Etc.

So I'm graying. On my way to being a silverback. This all seems ridiculously premature to me, but my co-workers, who are in their 40s, all claim to have started graying around my age. "Wait until your pubic hair starts to gray," one of them said.


Can't help but feel slightly less virile, less vital, less necessary today. I'm 34 years old. I'm single. I have no children. I own no pets. I have two house plants, but one might be dying. I have about a million crappy-ass relationships behind me. I have a crappy-ass job. I have a drinking problem. I own a Game Boy. And my hair is going gray.

This is some royal Monday bullshit.

4:13 PM

Friday, May 16, 2003  
Ever since Joelle and I met I'd only seen her eat bits of lettuce and bowls of cheerios and the occasional chocolate bar. Then a couple weeks back, she abruptly switched to an all-protein diet. On my most recent visit, I was overwhelmed with joy to open her refrigerator and find it literally loaded with meats and cheeses. Chicken. Irish cheese. Bacon, too. Jesus. I nearly wept with happiness.

I had a vegetarian girlfriend once in grad school and it was mostly a pain in the ass because 1. she was sick all the time with colds and shit, and 2. we'd go to some restaurant and I'd order a hamburger and she'd inevitably beg me for one tiny bite of it and then she'd complain the rest of the night about how much her fucking stomach hurt. Who the fuck needs that? Answer: not me.

I opened more mail today. As usual, there were several letters from Roy George Himsley. He writes to each and every model in the magazine. Every one. His letters are always nonsensical, to the point where I'm almost certain he must be deaf or disabled or some damn thing. Here's a sample of his work:

My Dear Darily Baby "Lana,"
Roy is part your life to you are rest part my life to Roy Lana you my love to Roy life with Roy Lana you are my special lady in Roy life Roy want kissing on my wife beautiful holy red lips me want kissing love on my wife big holy boobs me want socking on my wife me want your holy heart belong all to Roy...

Etc. One piece of notebook paper, covered front and back with this stuff. And all the letters are the same, with only the model's name changed ("Lana" becomes "Rachel," etc.).

I was in the habit of tossing them out each day, throwing away the entire batch of Roy George Himsley's missives, until one of the other editors caught me. "What the hell are you doing?" C. asked, fishing the still-sealed envelopes out of the garbage. I told him that the letters are all the same, etc. "I've opened this guy's letters before," C. says quietly, "and sometimes he sends *money*."

This incident with C. happened a couple weeks ago, and ever since, I've opened every single one of Roy George Himsley's nonsensical letters, hoping to find some green. But I've never found any cash, or anything at all, except a few stray pieces of lint. And each time I open another one, I wonder if C. was effing with me, screwing with my head, the fucker....

After going through today's batch of Roy's epistles, and feeling like I was on the fucking cusp of chucking them again, I unfold a letter to "Windy" and a crisp five dollar bill flutters to the floor beneath my desk. It's an old-looking bill, so old that it's more gray than green. So I'm ending the day $5 richer than when I started it. And I learned that C. wasn't effing with me afterall. Thanks, C.

And thanks, Roy George Himsley, you crazy motherfucker.

4:23 PM

Wednesday, May 14, 2003  
I might quit drinking for the summer. Then again, I might not. Experimented with the notion last night by taking a day off from beer. For the most part I was fine, though all through the evening hours I could definitely feel myself *not* drinking, could feel that ice-cold twelver of pilsner-u. in the fridge calling my name....

I've been steadily cutting down my intake over the past couple months, and it feels right. I'm averaging about two or three bottles a night these day. Once in awhile, like last week, I'll still get drunk, proving that I can still lose control and find myself teetering around my apartment at some un-godly hour.

I'm trying to respect beer, same way I came to respect coffee a couple years back. Used to be a mad coffee drinker, constantly brewing fresh pots of the stuff. Then my teeth started to brown. And I couldn't sleep at night (which only led to drinking more coffee the next day). After a couple of headache-y days, I managed to quit. Now I drink just one cup every morning--French press. Let me tell you, I enjoy the motherfuck out of that cup.

Drinking beer, for me, is inseparable from gaming. When I game, I drink, and vice versa. Nights when I try to game without beer, I find myself subconsciously reaching for the phantom bottle. No kidding.

I quit beer last fall for almost three months, but I still managed to play through all of Grand Theft Auto: Vice City. How did I do it? Ice cream. Started eating pints of Ben and Jerry's. A guy at the office told me that when you quit drinking, your body still craves the sugar that booze has in it. Obviously, I was getting my sugar from the ice cream.

Without beer last night, I didn't feel the least bit inclined to power up my PS2 or Xbox. Instead, I found solace in my Game Boy SP and Advance Wars. I don't feel compelled to drink when I play the Game Boy. Maybe because its an object that hasn't become associated, or tainted, with beer and drinking. I'm pretty sure I'd like to keep it that way....

I verbally agreed to review Aria of Sorrow, the new Game Boy Castlevania game, for Ready or not, I'll be spending the next couple weeks with the Game Boy in my hands....

E3 is in full-swing now, but from all the preliminary reports I've read (mostly from gamespy) it seems like the show has been somewhat of a disappointment. Sounds like none of the big three--Nintendo, PS2, Xbox--exactly burned the place up during the pre-show press conferences.

4:50 PM

Monday, May 12, 2003  
I realized last week that I have calluses at the centers of my palms, on each hand, from holding game controllers. Red marks, rough skin--it's like videogame stigmata.... Strange.

Was walking to work this morning and stumbled through a Spider-Man shoot in Madison Square Park. It was raining and dark in New York, and the huge spotlights were practically blinding me. A crane was hoisting a man in a Spider-Man costume about 10 feet off the ground. He was swaying there, helplessly, back and forth.... I wanted to pause and watch the action for a minute, but I always kind of feel like a jerk--or a tourist--doing so. I hurried to the office....

Picked up a copy of Advance Wars for the Game Boy last week, and played it on the bus enroute to Joelle's this weekend. I've been reading about the game for the past year, how great it is, etc. And it is surprisingly compelling, not to mention much deeper and more mature than I ever thought a Game Boy game could be. Made the bus ride, usually a semi-painful endeavor, pass quickly and painlessly. Before I knew it, we were pulling into Kingston, and I was all bleary eyed from staring at that tiny screen for two straight hours.

Working feverishly on my Zone of the Enders second opinion....

And E3--the annual Electronics Expo, where all the new videogames are debuted--starts this week in L.A. Christ, I wish I was going.

3:45 PM

Wednesday, May 07, 2003  
My Midnight Club 2 review should be up on tomorrow. If you've got a spare five, take a look.... Currently reviewing (a second opinion) Zone of the Enders: 2nd Runner, also for gamecritics, so I managed to spend a few hours over the weekend with the game. It's great. Seriously. I know, I know...seems like I like/love/salivate profusely over every piece of code these days. Shouldn't a critic be just a bit more discerning? Fact is, this is a bountiful time to be a gamer. One or two (sometimes three) must-plays are released each month. Back in the dark ages--when Nintendo roamed the earth--we'd be lucky to get one or two a year. Buying games is like buying food--I tend to gravitate only towards what I know I'll like/eat. And since playing a game requires 15-20 hours of my time, not to mention the fact that they cost $50 a piece, there's really not much of a chance of me trying anything new.

Chances of me going to a gaming store and buying a game based on the fact that box looks cool: Zero. I've become a very discerning consumer. Very discerning. I read all the sites, all the reviews. By the time I get to the point where I've decided to fork over $50 to Electronics Boutique, I've read at least three reviews of the game in question. Because you only have to get burned once....

Here's a list of games that sit on my shelf, untouched and unplayed: Contra: Shattered Soldier, Silent Hill 2, Super Monkey Ball 2, Gungrave, Def Jam Vendetta, Panzer Dragoon Orta. There are more, many more, but that's all I can come up with now.

Granted, these were all freebies. Last time I actually *paid* for a game and got kind of burned: Rygar. It's not bad, or flawed, or offensive in any way. It's just not that great.

The downside to all of this is that I'll rarely take a chance on a game or genre that's not on my tried-and-true list. Which probably explains why Midnight Club 2 was such a bonafide pleasure. "Hey, I thought I hated racing games," I thought as I rocketed down the L.A. freeway, blue flames blowing from my tailpipe. MC2 was the first risk I'd taken in a long, long time--and it paid off in a very big way.

I'll hate something soon. Promise.

(Monday's post...which somehow got printed twice, then deleted. Curse you, Blogger!)

I'm struggling today with a terrific hangover--easily the worst one I've dealt with in ages. Joelle was here Friday and Saturday, so my only chance for beer drinking/videogaming/private time was last night. I made the most of it. Oh, I really went to town.

I ate a huge amount of Chinese food at lunch, then propped my feet on my desk and napped for an hour. Looks like I might get through this afterall....

Saturday I took Joelle to Coney Island. The season doesn't really gear up until Memorial Day, so the park is still virtually deserted. We went to the freak show. We bought our tickets, then went inside and sat with the dozen or so spectators in the bleachers. A woman who was introduced as being from the Fiji islands took the stage and ate a cricket. She chewed it up, then shone a flashlight on her tongue to show us the proof. Two people got up and left. Then the woman ate an earthworm. A few more people left. Then a fire juggler came on, and he was surprisingly impressive. I went to use the bathroom in the lobby, and when I came back, I saw that Joelle was the only person remaining in the bleachers. Everyone else had left.

"Come sit right up front, young lady," the man on the stage said to her. He was a huge, muscular bald man covered with tattoos. His face was tattooed with planets. I watched as Joelle shyly moved to the front and sat down. "What's your name?" the man asked. "Joelle," she said quietly. She looked around nervously. I knew she was looking for me.

I crossed the room and sat down next to her. Since we were the only people there, he began addressing us directly. "Now, some freaks are born," the man began, "and others are made. You understand this, Joelle, right?" he said. She nodded. "And your
*boyfriend* understands this too?" he said, looking at me. "I do," I said.

I felt nervous, edgy. I wanted to get out of there. It was dark, claustrophobic. Joelle wanted out too, I think. But how could we leave...when this guy was trying to perform for us? What would happen if we did leave? Would he just stop the show? Go in the back? Drink coffee? Would he be insulted?

Then I thought, The hell with this, I paid five goddamn dollars to get in here, which means I can come and go when I damn well please.

Just then another couple walked in. They quietly crept up into the bleachers above us. The tattooed man was setting up some kind of bed-of-nails thing on stage. "Let's go," I whispered to Joelle, and I took her hand.

"Uh, sorry," I said to the tattooed man as we stood up, "but we have to go now." He glared at us from the stage with small, angry eyes. "Thanks," I said in a weak voice. And Joelle and I ducked through the curtain and we were back onto the sidewalk, back to the sunlight and the cold ocean air. I half expected the guy to follow us, to harrass us or something, and as we walked away, I kept glancing over my shoulder, certain I'd see him there.

4:45 PM

Friday, May 02, 2003  
I was supposed to go to a porn party last night at a club on 19th Street--the contract girls for Wicked Pictures were in town--but I went home instead. Actually, I met my friend Steve for an early dinner at a Chinese restaurant, and then I went home.

I've been to these porn parties before. Frankly, they're not really much fun. And I never know what to say to porn stars. Nice to meet you? Etc. Hell, these girls don't want to know me. And this particular party didn't even start until 11 last night, which is past my bedtime. (I keep old man hours, early to bed, early to rise, and so forth.)

My co-workers tried to badger me into going all day yesterday, but I stood my ground. I said, "As soon as you guys get there, you'll remember why we stopped going to these things."

Today they all seem vaguely miffed at me. Guess my prophecy came true.

Haven't done much gaming the past couple nights. Finishing my Midnight Club 2 review has had the curious effect of making me completely sick of the game. Guess that means I'm officially between games now. Not sure what to play next. I've got another review--just a second opinion, so nothing to get too worked up over--of Zone of Enders due next week, so I suppose I'll probably put in a little time with that. I'm really excited to see my review of MC2 on It should be posted sometime next week.

4:22 PM

Thursday, May 01, 2003  
Spent the past couple days hammering away at the old keyboard, trying to say something halfway interesting/halfway intelligent about Midnight Club 2. That's why I wasn't able to update my blog on Wednesday as I'd planned to (in case you're keeping score, I try to update it Monday, Wednesday, Friday).

I'm never sure if anyone out there is even reading.... When I listen carefully, all I hear are crickets chirping.

Anyway, said review has been filed. I've got another deadline next week, but I'm going to take a moment and get my breath. I definitely deserve it. I've said it before, and I'll say it again: writing is motherfucking hard-ass work. There HAS to be an easier way to make a living. Digging ditches, Chinese laundry--anything. Takes an enormous amount of will power--not to mention trial and error--just to get the words to say something vaguely coherent. Like I was saying to Galvin the other day, half the battle is just getting the thin film of ignorance off my brain. Most of the time I'm a fairly dull-minded creature--life, I've discovered, is more fun that way--and writing really requires me to wake up parts of my brain that normally lie peacefully dormant.

But I made it. I peeled off the film, blew out the dust, and now my brain is going a thousand fucking miles an hour.

Just reminds me of how much time I spend sleepwalking through this life. Imagine if I could get to this point on a regular basis. Who knows what I might be capable of...? I could probably even be a captain of industry.

Ah, who gives a rat's ass. Sleep, my little brain. Cover yourself in your filmy ignorance blanket and rest. Here's a beer to help you along the way....

(Chirp, chirp, chirp.)

3:09 PM

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