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, January 29, 2004  
A bit of a conflict with the guy in the office next to me. He's the low man on the totem in the art department, an ex-Texan with a patchy beard that's no doubt a holdover from art school. We're not close or anything, but he's a decent sort, some hippie tendencies, a penchant for the hookah, but otherwise nice enough. One of the more tolerable people around here. (In the office Secret Santa a few years back, he gave me a Murakami novel, which was a drastic improvement over the pen/clock I'd received the previous year.) We both live in the same neighborhood in Brooklyn, and during the blackout last year, me, Jace, and his Japanese wife made the three-hour walk back to Park Slope together. I sort of became the de facto guide of the group, the Aragorn. Jace and his wife were like a couple of bumbling hobbits, wanting to stop along the way, rest, buy ice cream, take photos of everything, etc.

Jace has this tendency to play music while doing his work. All kinds of music. Bluegrass, reggae, salsa, jazz, a little Japanese New Wave. In the early afternoons, the volume always creeps up to a level that I find unacceptable. I can feel the bass in the arms of my chair, in my elbows.

Something about people who play their music loud, indiscriminately, without the slightest bit of concern for those around them, has always troubled me. No, not "troubled"--angered. It makes me angry. Gets under my skin. There's a sense of entitlement there, an irritating If-I-like-this-song-then-everyone-else-will-like-it attitude, a complete lack of concern for your fellow man's comfort.

Every day Jace turns his music up loud. And every day I go in and ask him to turn it down. Makes me feel like a fucking den mother. I hate it. And I hate it that he makes me do it.

Living in the same neighborhood, we take the same trains home together, and last night Jace and I found ourselves alone in the lobby together, waiting for the elevator. I'm having a bad week, I'm a little punchy, so I decided to confront him. My aim was to be light-hearted about things, be casual, but I'm not sure I was successful. I told him that I didn't understand why he felt the need to play his music so loud, why he made me come in every day and ask him to turn it down. "I mean, come on, man. Makes me feel like a den mother," I said. He giggled a little. Wiped his nose. "Well," he said. "I guess I like music."

This wasn't exactly the answer I'd hoped for. "I understand you like music," I said, "but why do you have to play it so everyone else can hear it?"

His eyes narrowed. "You're the only one who complains," he said.

This threw me a little, surprised me, was far more confrontational than I'd expected. "That's because it comes through my wall," I said, getting angry. "It shakes my desk. I was on the phone today, and I couldn't even hear the person I was talking to." (A small exaggeration.)

The elevator came, we boarded. I stood close to Jace, trying to keep the conversation going. "Can't you get headphones or something?" I said. "When I listen to music, I use headphones. Wouldn't that make more sense for everybody?"

"I'll look into it," Jace said quietly.

Outside the building, Jace and I made our way to the subway stairs, but I could feel him pulling away from me, wanting to be shut of me, to be shut of this conversation. Once we got down into the station, it was clear that things were strained between us, had turned awkward.

"So, how's your wife doing?" I asked, trying to warm things up again.

"Good," he said with an icy finality that I knew meant there would be no elaboration on the subject.

The two of us kept walking the length of the platform in silence. When the train pulled into the station, he suddenly moved away from me, entering the train through another door. Jace and I rode in the same car together, him at one end, me at the other. At Broadway-Lafayette, where we needed to change to the F, he bolted, running through the station like a gazelle, without even a glance in my direction. (We usually say goodnight to one another.)

I rode home feeling crummy about the whole thing. Goddammit all.

As I type this, I can feel him, through the wall. His presence. I haven't seen him all day. He's avoiding me, the bastard. Really, all I wanted was a dialogue, all I wanted was a little mutual understanding.

One good thing: there hasn't been a single note of music coming from his office. Nothing. Quiet as a church in there.

4:09 PM

Tuesday, January 27, 2004  
(Found this in my inbox this morning....)

Pink Panty Hat Now Available Online.

The original Pink Panty Hat is now available for purchase online. The Pink Panty Hat features a white ball cap style hat with a pair of pink panties attached
to the top of the hat.

Why is this important? The Pink Panty Hat was developed for sports enthusiasts who want to crown a player who makes a lame effort in a particular sport. Let's say you are a male golfer and you fail to drive
your ball past the Ladies tee. The Pink Panty Hat is just the accessory for you. If you leave a putt less than halfway to the hole, once again, you deserve the ceremonial crown of the Pink Panty Hat.

Shooting some hoops and fail to hit the rim on a 10-footer? The Pink Panty Hat is all yours, my friend.
In softball, did you fail to run out a base and would have been safe? Well, there s a spot on your head
reserved for the Pink Panty Hat. Do you tend to throw a football like a girl? Yep, the Pink Panty Hat is
your trophy.
For more information on the Pink Panty Hat, check out the webpage at:>

(Feeling too lazy to write a blog entry and instead used a lame press release about Pink Panty Hats? Sounds like I deserve a Pink Panty Hat....)

11:52 AM

Friday, January 23, 2004  
So Piffty and I were supposed to organize the video room yesterday. Only Piffty ended up giving me a line of excuses all afternoon until I ended up organizing the video room by myself.

Lately the old German woman who has worked here as the photo editor for 700-800 years had been complaining about the state of the room. "THERE'S FUCKING SHIT EVERYWHERE," she said in her thick German accent. "YOU CAN'T EVEN GET IN THE FUCKING DOOR. JESUS." She has a unique way of saying "Jesus." It sounds more like "Sheez-oose." She fights with the printer in the art room every day; it eats her documents and she shouts "JESUS, THIS FUCKING PIECE OF SHIT" while she pounds away on it.

She was right; a decent-sized pile of VHS and DVD boxes, fresh from California, had accumulated. One of my co-workers had already pillaged a few of them, leaving a trail of packing peanuts across the floor, and empty boxes, like discarded husks, scattered around.

Piffty has been very big on developing a new organizational system in the video room, very gung-ho about it. According to him, the old system, aka my system, wasn't working anymore. Each video and DVD arrives with chromes, i.e. pictures from the movie. My system: put videos on the shelves and toss the chromes all together in a big bin. Piffty's system: Keep the chromes for each video with the actual video.

Piffty's system has some obvious advantages, yes. It's very difficult to search through a big bin of chromes when you're looking for a specific sheet, so keeping the chromes attached to the videos makes perfect sense. My counter-argument is that we only need 4-5 sheets of chromes each month, so instead of spending hours rubber-banding every sheet of chromes to its respective video, I would prefer to spend 10-15 hellish minutes tossing through the big bin. But that's me.

Piffty has seniority on me, so Piffty's system is now the new system. Approved by corporate and everything.

I was standing there rubber-banding chromes to videos when the photo editor passed by the room. "OH HAPPY DAY. IT'S ABOUT FUCKING TIME. JESUS," she said. She stood there or several minutes with her arms folded, observing me. After realizing that I wasn't going to respond to her, she left.

Once she was gone, I got down to business and did some serious organizing. Once in awhile I can really get into a mindless task like this. Oh, I went to town, moving videos from shelf to shelf, putting the really lousy ones (so bad no one has stolen them) on top of a filing cabinet. The video room is a small, windowless, airless office. I actually broke a sweat and noticed that ink from the box covers was turning my fingers black. It's probably the closest I've come to real manual labor in months.

Once I finished, I gave the room one last once over, then returned to my office. I phoned Galvin, having decided to close out the day by bullshitting with him. Galvin was the one who gave Piffty his nickname. He'd met Piffty once, and aptly observed that Piffty has a way of dismissing whatever you've just said with a "pfffttt"-ing sound. For example, asking Piffty if McHale's has the best hamburgers in New York, his response most likely would be "pffft." Translation: "Of course they have the best hamburgers in New York. Why are you even asking me this?" It sounds like air coming from a bicycle tire. Piffty's a nice enough guy, just a little fucked up, as we all our.

So Galvin and I get on the phone and start shooting it when who should appear in my office doorway but Piffty. "So," he says, "what's the new system in the video room?" He's obviously just come from the room and assessed my work. "Bottom shelf, newest videos. Next shelf up, videos that are a few months old," I say.

"What's that stuff on the top shelf?" he asks. "That she-male stuff?"

"All that she-male stuff is on the top shelf," I say. "It's garbage."

Galvin, still on the line, hears me say this and starts cracking up. Hearing Galvin cracking gets me laughing. So there I am, holding the phone to my head, and laughing, with Piffty staring at me. "We've got to get that she-male stuff out of there," I say, still laughing.

Piffty looks like he's trying to think of something to say, something big maybe. Unable to come up with anything, he lets out a very quiet "pffffftt" and heads off down the hall....

4:03 PM

Wednesday, January 21, 2004  
The past few weeks I've been wholly preoccupied with a freelance job--this Sopranos story for Black Book. It's a big story, and I wanted to give it my best shot, which means I've been under a decent amount of pressure lately, certainly far more than I'm used to.

Last Wednesday, I found out that I needed to do a revision. I promised the editor that I'd turn the revision around by morning. That night, predictably, I had trouble sleeping. I couldn't seem to calm myself down. I managed to get a few hours of sleep towards dawn, and when I woke up, I noticed a curious orange glow coming in my bedroom windows. I'd witnessed this phenonmenon before, and knew right away what it was. It meant snow had fallen in the night. (The snow causes the light from the street lights to refract in a strange way, turning everything a dull orange.)

It was quite a bit of snow, too. Each step of the fire escape looked like it had a large loaf of freshly baked bread on it.

A man lives in the apartment across the way from me. From what I can gather, his apartment is identical to mine, only in reverse. He's a school teacher--that's all I know about him--which means he gets up around the same time I do in the morning. I feel like there's a subtle rivalry between us to see who can get up earlier. His lights are almost always on by 5 a.m., so he usually beats me.

I fixed coffee, then checked to see if my neighbor was awake. Sure enough, his lights were coming on: first the bedroom, then the bathroom, then kitchen. Then, moments after they'd come on, they went off again one by one. His apartment was dark.

I obviously don't know what happened to him, but my guess is the snow had closed the New York City schools, and having seen the snow and discovered that his school was closed for the day, the teacher had decided to go back to bed.

With the wind howling down the building elevator shaft (I can hear it from my apartment hallway), I pulled on my boots, jacket, gloves. I gathered the Sopranos notes that I'd made the previous night. Before I headed out, I took one last look at the school teacher's dark apartment across the courtyard. The bastard. What I wouldn't give to be able to just crawl back into bed like that, to not have to deal with revisions, or the cold, or the snow, or the F train. What I wouldn't give....

Envy isn't a strong enough word to describe what I felt. No, what I felt was probably closer to full-blown jealousy.

This happened a full week ago, and for some reason I'm still thinking about it....

4:08 PM

Monday, January 12, 2004  
Joelle is a reader. Always has been. Each week she gets a pile of books from the library--fiction mostly--and spends her spare moments reading her little eyes out.

The weirdo.

She does actually own a television--an older model, 13" TV/VCR combination unit--which she keeps at the back of a closet. Whenever we rent a movie, we'll drag the TV out, but for the most part it stays put in the closet.

Joelle does watch TV when she visits me. (I don't have cable, but with a pair of Radio Shack rabbit ears I can pull in most of the local stations.) The promo ads for "Alias" always excited her for some reason, so for Christmas I took a chance and got her the DVD box set of the first season.

Her parents and I were obviously on the same wavelength this year because they bought her a DVD player for Christmas. I hooked it up for her a few weekends back, and it gives me great pleasure to report that Joelle is now obsessed with "Alias." Her TV has been moved--possibly even permanently--out of the closet. She has, in fact, built a kind of make-shift entertainment center in her house. I saw it for the first time last weekend, and I laughed when I saw it. "Remember the old days?" I said. "When you used to read?"

Truth is, it makes me feel good to think I might have corrupted her a little. All that reading couldn't possibly have been good for her.

Now she watches two or three episodes of "Alias" a night. I get the full report. Over the weekend I watched the show's pilot with her. It was actually pretty good. Joelle has always loved scenes involving girls doing karate or fighting, and "Alias" has no shortage of them. Once, about a year ago, I was sitting close to her on the couch in my old apartment while she/we watched an episode of "Xena." During a fight scene, Joelle broke out into a sweat--literally, she started sweating. She was damp underneath her T-shirt. I asked her about it. "Well," she said, clearly embarrassed, "I get kind of excited during the fights."

Last weekend, while watching a particularly impressive fight scene in "Alias," I suddenly felt her temperature going up. Sure enough, the girl was sweating.

The little weirdo.

3:53 PM

Wednesday, January 07, 2004  
My brother and his wife have a dog. Golden retriever. Name of Baron. He's got a bit of gray around the muzzle, but still manages to be playful on occasion. Christmas Eve, we were all sitting in the living room of my brother's house, eating potato chips along with a Hickory Farms cheese log. Baron was begging, going from person to person, looking at each of us with sad, pleading eyes, and sometimes sniffing the floor for any stray crumbs.

During a break in conversation, my father looked at Baron as he made his rounds, and said, "That must be what a nigger feels like."


Sad thing is, this was one of my father's *better* moments over the holidays....

1:13 PM

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