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
Wednesday, July 30, 2003  
Couple brief things about the office.

Someone is storing a tube of toothpaste and box of dental floss in the bottom of the common refrigerator in the back kitchen. I have no idea why anyone in his or her right mind would think that this is a good idea....

Pictorials for the October issue were circulated through the office today for proofreading. I took my turn with the sets, scrutinizing them, hunting for any continuity errors (i.e. her bra is off on page 10, so why does it magically reappear on her breasts on page 12?). Sometimes, depending on my mood, I'll write jokey comments on the sets. Usually I'll write something ironic--for example, if a girl is especially unattractive, I'll write HOTTT!!!! on her photos and draw a crude arrow towards her face. It's a way for me to bring a little levity to the office, I suppose.

One of the sets today featured a girl who was blessed with a great number of very large moles. Out of boredom, I began carefully circling each of Daniella's moles with my Sharpie. On the final spread, I proceeded to circle all of her moles, and even circled a button on a nearby pillow too (because it sort of looked like a mole, I guess). I decided to add a caption--COLLECT THEM ALL!--just beneath the circled moles (and pillow button). Then I sent the whole batch of sets on their way down the hall.

A few hours later, after everyone had gotten a chance to take a look at the sets, they reappeared on my desk. Over the years the editorial department has gotten in the habit of using different pens to distinguish between our various editing remarks. (I use the black Sharpie, J. uses a blue pen, etc.) I took a look at the Daniella pictorial and noticed that C., with his trademark red pen, had seen fit to circle every single mole-like object in Daniella's photos--dresser knobs, a series of tassels on the bedspread, dials on an old TV set in the background, etc. Everything. Everything. He went completely wild with the circling.

I began laughing, probably harder than I have in years. It was giddy, cathartic laughter. Jesus, It felt good to laugh like that. Reminded me that I don't do it often enough. Even as I write this, I still feel like I've got a buzz of some kind from it....

This really isn't such a bad place to work some days.

4:49 PM

Tuesday, July 29, 2003  
I went deodorant shopping over the weekend at the Foodway (the same market where I buy my twelvers). Normally this would be a totally unremarkable event in my daily life, but in this particular case, it's unfortunately very remarkable. It's very remarkable because the particular stick of deodorant I selected was, I believe, slightly used.

I naturally didn't realize this until I got home. I uncapped the stick of Sure and noticed that the usually pristine, untouched, perfectly symmetrical cone shape of the deodorant was slightly lopsided. That was my first clue. The second clue was the large armpit hair. Indeed, there was a very large, very black armpit hair dangling from the snow white cone.

I had a dilemma on my hands: I could go ahead and use the deodorant, or I could take it back to the Foodway and try and explain the situation. After a few seconds of grave debate, I decided the hell with it, and I went ahead and used it (after removing the very large, very black armpit hair, of course).

I'm mostly OK with the situation, but every morning when it's time to "apply," I can't help but think of the goddamn skeevey bastard who used it. I even go so far as to picture him, making sure the coast was clear in the Foodway aisle, then quickly tucking the deordorant stick under his shirt--my future deodorant stick--and freshening himself. The motherfucker.

It's like my fucking deordorant is haunted by this guy.

4:49 PM

Monday, July 28, 2003  
It was a long, lonely, and basically sad-assed weekend. I stopped by Electronics Boutique after work on Friday and bought a second-hand copy of Way of the Samurai (my friend Chi had recommended it). Having just broken up with Joelle this past week, the idea of playing a game about a lonely samurai who wanders the land and gets into fights with strangers appealed to me for obvious reasons.

Another thing: my plan to lay off the beer two weeks ago didn't work out. I bought a couple twelvers at the Foodway this weekend thinking I might need them.

I did. How I needed them....

If you're looking for a little old fashioned escapism, you really can't do much better than the one-two punch of videogames and beer. This potent combination honestly trumps even the strongest narcotics.

I spent an embarrassing number of hours playing The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker--so many hours that I feel like my weekend was spent in Hyrule instead of Brooklyn. It's a fantastic game, and it's one that I think is designed to be consumed only in extremely large doses. The game is vast, and it's full of countless people, places, and things that tend to be forgotten if you're only playing for 15-20 minute intervals once a week. But if you've got the time, like I had, and you're tired of this shit-ass world and looking for a simpler place (a place without ex-girlfriends), you really can't do better than The Wind Waker (or any other Zelda game for that matter). Sure, it's a little queer at times, with all the talking boats and joy pendants and chu chu jelly. But if you can look past the queerness, you'll find one of the most ambitious, aesthetically cohesive videogames ever created. It's truly something to behold.

So my escapism was a marvelous success with one glaring exception: I thought of Joelle whenever I discovered a fairy fountain. Joelle, with her almost white-blonde hair, kind of looked like one of the fairies. And being with Joelle always healed me in a way, restoring me the same way my health (represented with hearts) gets restored in the game by the fairies.

I'm going to miss that girl, goddammit.

4:55 PM

Wednesday, July 23, 2003  
A woman in the office put in her notice last week. She's in her late 20s. Sturdy girl from the rural midwest. Her desk is literally 15 feet from me, though we've never been what you'd call friendly with one another. Said hello to her a half dozen times, maybe chatted once or twice, nothing more. She always struck me as harmless, maybe a bit naive, possibly a little lonely. She once baked cookies and set them out on a tray in the office kitchen with a post-it note that simply said "ENJOY!" She worked as the assistant to the circulation manager, and always moved through the halls with great purpose, as if she was attending to business matters of great importance. She took her job seriously, far more seriously than I take my job.

She sent the following email out earlier today to everyone at the magazine:

As you all know by now, my last official day here at Montcalm is this Thursday (it's just heartbreaking isn't it!?!?). But to make sure I go out in my usual style and try not to mess up my reputation here ("office lush" is not an easy feat for a woman!!), I'm going out for a "few" drinks after work on Thursday. Not too sure where yet, but somewhere near the office (if you have any suggestions, please let me know. MAD28 anyone!?!?!). he he he

You are all welcome to join me (and I hope you do)...I hate drinking alone! ;o)~

Finally, I must say it has been a GREAT pleasure working with ALL of you. You've made me feel like family the last 2 1/2 years and I'm sad to go...but as they say..."On to bigger and better things!" (Dean, please leave your comments to yourself!) :o) But don't start crying just'll see me again in August (they just can't get rid of me that easy!).

My best to all of you,

(My question is: What the hell does the emoticon with the little squiggle beard even mean?)

4:59 PM

Tuesday, July 22, 2003  
Finished my review of Advance Wars 2 moments ago, so I'm completely drained. Came out alright, I suppose. Not great, but not terrible, either. I always seem to come to that exact juncture during the writing process--where I lose hope that my review is going to be great and decide to settle for not-terrible. Why, I wonder, do I subject myself to this?

Why? I'll tell you why.

Because this morning there was a shiny FedEx envelope sitting on my desk when I walked in. I tore it open (like a kid on Christmas morning, I'm telling you) and found a gratis copy of Knights of the Old Republic, the new Star Wars RPG for the Xbox.

Why do I do this? Two words: Free games.

Just tucked the game into my shoulder bag, so it's ready to be transported home. Getting free games tends to lift the spirits. If I'm ever sick or feeling a little low, just tuck a free game in my bag. I'll perk right up. Medicine, I feel, completely underestimates the restorative power of free games.

Nights when I'm on the F train, speeding underneath the East River, with a still-shrink-wrapped videogame in my bag--I'm telling you, those are some of the happiest goddamn nights of my life.

5:14 PM

Friday, July 18, 2003  
This grim-faced lesbian named Marney worked here several years ago as our chief copyeditor. She was quiet and kept to herself. Her office was shockingly clean, almost spare. Her only personal effect was a framed photograph of an immaculately groomed German Shepherd.

One afternoon I decided to make a trip downstairs for a cup of coffee, and because I was in a generous mood, I asked if anyone else would like coffee too. A few people made requests, digging dollar bills out of their pockets--including Marney.

I picked up the coffee at McDonald's, then brought it back to the office. I made a big production out of it, distributing the coffee with sugars, creams, stirs, etc. Everyone thanked me profusely.

Later, as I was sitting in my office sipping my coffee, Marney appeared in my door. Her arms were folded. She was wearing a cardigan even though it was the middle of August. "Coffee costs 94 cents," she said.

I didn't say anything.

"I gave you a dollar," Marney said.

I still didn't say anything.

"Which owe me six cents," she said.

I was stunned. It hadn't even occurred to me to give anyone their change. I located a nickel and a penny in my desk drawer and dropped the coins into her outstretched hand. As she was leaving my office, I said, playfully, "I thought it was my tip."

"Well you thought wrong," she said.

A few weeks later, Marney would accuse one of my co-workers of looking at her feet. "Stop staring at my feet all the time!" she shouted at him.

Another co-worker once spotted her on the subway having a heated argument with strangers.

Then Marney called in sick one day and said that she was having trouble with her eyes, that she couldn't see and needed to go to the eye doctor. She called the next day and said she still couldn't see. The next day, she called again. After a few more days, the phone calls stopped. We never saw or heard from Marney again.

12:25 PM

Wednesday, July 16, 2003  
Monday I decided to quit drinking beer. Since then I've spent the past two nights pacing around my apartment, feeling restless, trying to figure out what to do with all the free time I now have (time that used to be taken up with beer drinking) (because drinking beer requires plenty of time and effort, not to mention money). Monday, I went grocery shopping after work, carefully avoiding the pyramid of Grolsch that's been erected in my local Key Food (it's a truly impressive structure). I bought a quart of ice cream--ice cream always helps when I'm trying to lay off beer--but I somehow bought coffee ice cream, which I can't stand. I went home and put all my groceries away, then fixed a massive pot of spaghetti. I could have fed an orphanage with that pot--it was that big. I kept eating and eating until my stomach started puffing out, the way stomachs do on the Little Rascals. After my dinner, I spent the rest of the night getting increasingly angry at my downstairs neighbor, who is a chainsmoker. His second-hand smoke is seeping up through my windows and it's really teeing me off. I stomped around for awhile--my floor is his ceiling, remember--which I'd decided was a suitable punishment for his rampant smoking.

Tuesday night: More pacing. Then I spent about an hour playing Ultimate Muscle (I reviewed it today for CGN). It's not easy playing videogames without beer, but I'm trying to make the adjustment. Later, I went to a co-op meeting in the downstairs lobby. It was sort of entertaining listening to everyone lodge complaints about the building. One woman said that she'd noticed a rusty pipe in the basement and asked to have it looked at, "before we have a real disaster on our hands." An incredibly fat man--he's one of these fat people who can't help but constantly look uncomfortable--wants the building TV antenna fixed. (I had no idea, in this day and age of cable, that the building even had a TV antenna.) "It hasn't worked since 9/11," he said sadly. While the man bemoaned the loss of the TV antenna, everyone seemed to be discretely rolling their eyes at one another, which I deduced meant that the TV antenna had been the man's "cause" for numerous meetings....

After the meeting, I went back upstairs and put the TV on. I rarely watch TV (I basically gave it up when I started regularly playing videogames), but I decided to see what was going on with TV these days. I watched a show starring Jim Belushi called The World According To Jim or something to that effect. Jim Belushi was supposed to hold his wife's hand during her root canal, but once she goes under the anesthesia, he somehow ends up doing Bo Diddley's laundry instead. Then he catches all kinds of hell from his wife, but in the final five minutes of the show, they are hugging and kissing again.

I felt like taking a shit on top of my TV. The show should have been called not The World of Jim or whatever, but "Son of Dong." It left a bad taste in my mouth--literally. If only I'd had a beer handy. A beer would have washed that taste away. Instead I ate a few seedless grapes. I thought of the fat man for some reason, somewhere on one of the lower floors at that moment, lumbering around his apartment, and I felt sorry for him. He should be grateful that his TV doesn't work.

I went to bed and read a few pages from this book I found at the office. It's a beat up hardcover called Growing Up, by Russell Baker. The book gives off a funny, cheese-like smell for some reason. I'm enjoying the book, enjoying the writing, but that smell is so strong it makes my eyes water. I read last night until the smell overwhelmed me, then fell asleep.

5:00 PM

Monday, July 14, 2003  
I spent the morning editing a story for the October issue and came across a passage that I feel compelled to share (warning: this one gets a bit raw):

While discussing her latest slut exploits, Autumn Haze lets fly that she has just received a 2003 AVN Award for “most outrageous sex scene.” “It was supposed to be the largest penetration ever, and it was called *Autumn Haze vs. Son of Dong*,” she says proudly. “It was a big dildo, as tall as I am, that actually had the little balls on the ground that were hairy.”

“We have a total pro here, ladies and gentlemen,” interrupts the makeup girl.

“Yeah, some ‘pro,’ ” Haze says sarcastically. “I was so pissed off that day. They had Pina Colada mix come out if it for the cum, and I found out that I was allergic to it. After the scene was done, I’m covered in this stuff, and my skin is bright red and itchy. It was hell."

4:25 PM

Friday, July 11, 2003  
I've hoarded quite a bit of contraband in my office desk over the years--videogames, various bottles of pills (including a bottle of now-expired Cipro), credit card statements, old electric bills, a bottle of Listerine, a stick of deodorant, notebooks for failed projects, a copy of Who Moved My Cheese? (which I've never read), a copy of Ball Four (which I've read many times), an ancient granola bar, pieces of my two broken-down, half-assed novels, etc. Not to mention all the incriminating writing--much of it about the office itself--that sits on the harddrive of my Mac. All this stuff together works to form a rather unflattering (and very fireable) version of myself, so I live in near-constant fear that one day they'll "toss the cells" around here (that's prison-speak), discover my eclectic stash, and send me packing.

Before leaving for Maine two weeks ago, I decided to wet a piece of hair and carefully put it over my desk drawers, just like James Bond did in one of his movies. That way, if the hair was either broken or missing upon my return, I'd know for sure that someone had rummaged through my things. Then I reasoned, with the way the sub-zero A/C blows around here, the hair would probably just dry out and fall off on its own. So instead of using the wet hair method, I went for a more direct approach: I got a few pieces of blank paper and a black sharpie and I wrote YOU'VE GOT SOME BALLS LOOKING IN MY DRAWERS on each piece, in big, intimidating letters. Then I tucked the notes inside each of my desk drawers. I figured it might be enough to make someone think twice about the ethical implications of what they were doing. Ideally they'd feel a sense of intense shame, quietly close my desk drawers, then maybe go peer in some else's desk....

When I returned last Monday, I noticed that my office looked to be completely untouched, undisturbed. No one had been in here--I was sure of it. There was even a little fresh dust on top of my phone. I took my YOU'VE GOT SOME BALLS notes from the drawers, quietly laughing at my stern wording as I wadded them up and tossed them in the trash.

I got a copy of the new Pirates of the Caribbean game (Xbox) in the mail yesterday. I've read a few reviews that described it as "beautiful but ultimately flawed." I usually enjoy beautiful, flawed things more than anything else in the world, so instead of promptly posting the game on, my marketplace of choice for games I have no interest in, I took Pirates home, pried it open, then fired up the old Xbox.

Maybe it's a testament to how game-starved I am right now to do something so damn foolish. I mean, today, in the sobering, late-morning light, I wonder just what the hell I was thinking yesterday. I's *Pirates of the frigging Caribbean.*

The game is definitely flawed, in every way imaginable. It plays like it's going to crash on me at any moment, which makes me very tense and nervous (I prefer stable, non-crashing games). As for beauty, I have no idea what those reviewers saw in the game. I don't see it.

I played the game for about an hour last night until I got stuck in some village after dark. I couldn't find the way out, so I wandered from one side of the village to the other, while the night watchman repeatedly ordered me to "clear the streets, matey."



12:15 PM

Wednesday, July 09, 2003  
A final note on the trip to Maine: Only once did I break out the Game Boy. With Joelle in the shower, I decided I had just enough time to sneak in a quick game of Advance Wars. I dug the Game Boy out of my duffel and switched it on. I was working my way through a particularly challenging map--the enemy A.I. in the game can be absolutely ruthless--when Joelle emerged from the bathroom, towel wrapped around her. I tried to concentrate on the game and at the same time gauge her reaction to finding me prone on the bed, staring at the Game Boy (it's not especially attractive, I know). She's always been tolerant of my gaming--she once famously said, "I'd rather have you playing games on weekends instead of fishing or hunting"--but I guess I'm always waiting for her to suddenly have a change of heart, to find it low-brow and juvenile.

She quietly dressed, then--to my surprise--she sort of nudged her way between my arms and rested her head on my shoulder. "I want to see," she said, looking at the game screen with me. I hesistated for a moment, then began explaining to her the logistics of Advance Wars--why I was moving tanks and troops around, what I was trying to accomplish, etc. I figured she'd watch for a few seconds, grow bored, pull away. She didn't. She kept watching. She watched me finish off the map, even offering tactical advice from time to time.

Having Joelle there, at that moment, her head on my shoulder, her hair still damp from the shower, watching me play--I know this sounds corny--but I felt such a sense of peace and well-being. It was a moment I won't soon forget. Indeed, all was right in the world, at least for a little while....

4:46 PM

Monday, July 07, 2003  
I bought one of those reprehensible "For Dummies" books last week. I usually try to avoid these books at all costs. When I was looking at apartments last summer, I once went to an Open House at a claustrophobic condo near Grand Army Plaza in Brooklyn. The owner of the apartment--a 30ish woman--had an entire bookcase of these For Dummies books. Wine For Dummies, Stir Fry For Dummies, Mah Jong For Dummies, Origami For Dummies--she had everything For Dummies. It irritated me for some reason. I felt like asking her if she'd ever, you know, felt curious enough about anything to try reading the primary texts.

Anyway, I was in Barnes & Noble on my lunch hour looking for a chess book. Since reviewing the PS2 version of Chessmaster a few weeks back--and getting manhandled by pretty much every opponent in the game, including a beanie-wearing chimpanzee--I've been interested in improving my chess game. I was amazed to find not a shelf of chess books, or even a bookcase full of them, but an entire section devoted solely to chess books. Seems people have a lot to say about chess. I was scanning the stacks, fussing and fretting, trying to decide what to buy. Chess For Dummies, probably because of its dramatic yellow-and-black color scheme, stood out from the other, more somber looking chess tomes. I picked it up, flipped through it, realized it would probably serve as a perfectly acceptable basics book, and carried it to the register.

I brought Chess For Dummies and a $3.99 cardboard chess set to Maine with me last week. Joelle and I spent four nights in a run down hotel on the ocean, just south of Portland. We were the only guests in the entire hotel for the first couple nights. More than once I thought of The Shining.... We spent the mornings on the beach, but by lunch time, I was sunburned and back in the room, studying my chess board.

The week was unremarkable and restorative--which is really what I was looking for. Joelle and I quickly developed little routines. Each night, on our way back from dinner, we passed through this little amusement park, and I'd roll a few games of Skee-Ball, promising Joelle that I'd win her a prize, an inflatable Hulk or something. Three nights in a row I did this, making the same macho promise every time, but I failed to win her anything.

Other things I learned:
-You need to bring a jacket with you to Maine, even in July.
-Fireworks are vastly overrated.
-I like driving far more than I thought I did.
-Joelle looks quite nice in a bikini.
-That New York might be driving me insane, possibly even killing me.
-Never order fried clams from just any old place.
-Skee-Ball is much harder than it looks.

And I learned how to play chess. As soon as I got back, I played that beanie-wearing monkey again. And oh how I made him suffer....

4:46 PM

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