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Sep 7

Someone Asked For it: My Summation of Dragon*Con 2012

Posted on Friday, September 7, 2012 in Games and Gaming, Ramblings, Reviews

It’s Friday and I think I have all of the Con Crud out of me. I’ve also had time to organize my thoughts regarding this year’s Dragon*Con. I also didn’t sleep ’til noon today.

All of that is to say I’m ready to tell you the highlights of Will Kenyon’s Dragon*Con 2012.

1) THE CROWDS. I was having breakfast with two good friends (and partners in crime at the Con) Wednesday, when one of them - Eddie - asked if my concerns about the noise and chaos had been justified. I’d expressed some trepidation, you see, about how prohibitive the massive crowds were to getting around, and how the constant noise level could make even a social animal like me look for silence and solitude. Here’s my wishy-washy answer, and little factoid for you: Yes, the crowds got on my nerves. But no, not as badly as I anticipated and not as much as last year. You see, this year the Con and the host hotels were much more strict about letting people without badges or hotel room keys into the hotels themselves.

That means there was likely more than 10,000 potential onlookers - people who wandered in off the streets to goggle at the costumes - who were NOT in the walkways, nor crowding the bars, nor taking photo ops in the middle of high traffic areas.

And you could feel the difference. Sure it was still an adventure to cross from the Hilton to the other side of the Marriott Marquis. But you could do it, and in decent enough time, too. (As a side note, the elevator wait times were down, too - less party crashers hitting buttons for every floor.)

My friend Jay, who works for the Hilton, seems to think there were probably less incidents which required a visit from the police, because the “football” crowd couldn’t come in. Of course, this reflects poorly, but I think accurately, on a certain type of football fan. (I’m sure you’re not that kind of person, dear reader who happens to like American football.)

2. THE DECATUR BOOK FESTIVAL. This is not to say that the crowds didn’t get to me. Au contraire. On Saturday morning in particular I had to fight them, and I almost gave up and just went back to the gaming pit. You see, I had decided to go to the Decatur Book Festival that morning to visit my friend Jason Snape and to hear my friend Collin Kelley read. I’d neglected to take into consideration the parade, however. So it was that I found myself a salmon swimming upstream - one guy trying to get AWAY from Dragon*Con while literally THOUSANDS of people were converging ON IT. Add to that the problems MARTA was having (don’t get me started on MARTA tonight)….

I got to Decatur an hour and a half later - sweaty, hot, and irritable. I was too late for Collin’s reading, so I just hung out with Snape until I was less sweaty and irritable. And until I thought the parade crowds had dispersed back to the suburbs. Then I headed back.

3. GAMES. All in all, I played a lot less games than I usually do. My trip to Decatur took up over half of Saturday, and being tour guide for my friend Eric Sasson took a chunk out of Sunday. And being an old man now, I only stayed up until 3 a.m. one time. ONE TIME.

Unbelievable, I know.

I did get in games of: Runewars, Shogun, 7 Wonders, Dominion, Twilight Imperium, Al Hambra, Dreadfleet (fully painted!), Lord of the Rings LCG, Mage Knight, and Deadwood.

I didn’t play (and I wanted to): A Game of Thrones, War of The Ring, Battlestar Galactica, and Descent 2.0.

4) PICTURES. People have requested pictures from me, because Dragon*Con IS an opportunity to see some pretty amazing and amusing costumes. Unfortunately, I’m not much of a picture taker, and after 14 straight years of going to the Con, I’m rarely amazed - not because the costumes aren’t still amazing, but that I’m jaded. So I don’t take many pics. My friends DO, however, and I’m in the process of combing their Facebook pages for the best ones. I’ll compile them, resize them and post them as a gallery in the next couple of days. So look for them. As a teaser, there’s one at the top of this post… Avengers Assemble!

Sep 7

Post Dragon*Con Follow-Up

Posted on Wednesday, September 7, 2011 in Explanations and Excuses, Ramblings

First, let me be perfectly clear. All of my previous sentiments regarding Dragon*Con remain exactly the same. I believe I expressed them succinctly here and here.

This year, my birthday fell on the last day of the Con, and so the day was more about saying good-bye, resting up, and winding down than it was about balls out partyin’ and celebratin’. I did plenty of playing and partying the days before, so that was fine. Besides, it would have been IMPOSSIBLE to top the surprise and awesomeness of last year, so I’m glad nobody tried it.

Good times. Great times. And like I said it would be, it was great to see many of my friends again - to speak with them, drink with them, play with them, people-watch with  them. I did miss a few friends this time, for a variety of reasons: Alan, Jen, Shoemaker, others. And I don’t think I spent enough time with Joe or Chris. But I met new friends, who will likely become good friends and/or great acquaintances in the future.

I have to make a complaint though: this year was different than previous years, and I know why, even if I don’t fully comprehend yet the exact ramifications of the “why”.

To quote/paraphrase Henry Jones, Sr., Roger Mutaugh, and John McClane: “I’m getting too old for this shit.”

OK. Not really. I’ll bet money that I am one of the youngest 40-year-olds you’ll ever meet, and the zaniness, cacophony, noise, and fervor of Dragon*Con suits me just fine. For me, relaxing is going to a bar, downing a few, and shooting the shit with good friends. It’s going to Six Flags and riding Goliath 10 times. It’s running a 5K, then splitting a six-pack with your running partner. It’s playing blackjack in a casino.

Sure, I like to read, paint, listen to music, and occasionally just veg. And those are relaxing things - but they’re no more relaxing than the things I listed above.

For some reason, though, late Sunday evening during Dragon*Con, I’d had enough. I remember looking across the table at my buddy Eddie and saying, more or less, “That’s it. I’m done,” and then heading upstairs to crash. I remember getting up to my room at the Hilton and finding it utterly blissful to be able to talk to my other buddy Jim in a normal tone of voice - no need to shout. Truth be told, my nerves were shot, my voice was going, and I needed to detox.

And I don’t know how you other folks who went feel, but this year the crowds REALLY got to me. Supposedly, the Con keeps getting record attendance - and it shows. It takes sooooo much longer to get from one hotel to the other, so much longer to get food, so much longer to get an elevator up to your room or down to the lobby. The dress-up people, like The God of War dude pictured above, are the face of Dragon*Con - the chief reason we get the level of press that we do. But lemme tell you from experience - the fucking picture-taking of the costumed people in the middle of every thoroughfare that “normal” people are trying to traverse is just… annoying. Believe me, I understand the need to be the center of attention, but sometimes their sheer thoughtlessness gets to be too much.

I love crowds, but this year, I wished sometimes there were less of them.

And I know it’s just me, and I know it’s just a symptom of me getting older and crotchetier. I know that in a few years, I’ll be chasing whippersnappers off my lawn with a rake and a garden hose. I know the time is coming when my daughter Madeleine starts to think my musical tastes are quaint. I know. I know. I know.

Let it never be said that Dragon*Con is not a good time. It remains my absolute favorite time of the year. I WILL go again next year.

But next year I’m bringing ear plugs and a taser.

Aug 30

My Favorite Time of Year

Posted on Tuesday, August 30, 2011 in Explanations and Excuses, Featured Friends of Will

I’ve been counting down the hours until Dragon*Con on both my Twitter and Facebook accounts. Someone pointed out to me that my count seemed off, because by my count, the Con starts sometime tomorrow. Wednesday. And yet the official start time isn’t until sometime Thursday.

I know, I know, I know. But you see, for ME Dragon*Con starts at about 2:30 tomorrow (Wednesday) afternoon, when I go to the airport to pick up my friend TAE HO!!!

For a lot of people, Dragon*Con represents the chance to dress up as some character from geekdom and be the center of attention. For others it represents the chance to get face-to-face with their favorite authors, actors, artists, and mavens. For yet others, it represents a chance to totally nerd out - playing games, crossing lightsabers, talking culture and fandom with like minds.

For me, Dragon*Con has become something else entirely. For me, it is the one time of year when I get to see many of my disparate friends from all over the United States. Tae is from South Carolina. Joe Bisz is from NYC. Jay Elgin now hails from Austin. And yet THEY WILL ALL BE AT DRAGON*CON for 5 days. If I could convince my buddy Thomas to fly in from Vegas, Charles Jenkins to come down from Philly, and Buccheri and his crew to drive down from Baltimore, Dragon*Con would be… complete.

Here’s to that happening someday. In the meantime, welcome back to Atlanta all the rest of you whom I love so dearly. I’ll see you soon… starting tomorrow.

Jun 30

I Am A Shitty Roommate

Posted on Thursday, June 30, 2011 in Explanations and Excuses

OK. I’ll admit it. For the most part, I make a shitty roommate. It’s taken my wife over 14 years to settle on the fact that I’m not going to do all the things a perfect roommate (or housemate) would do. I track mud into the house. I hate washing dishes. I like loud music and I like having random people over without my roommate’s permission.

And worse. Much worse. There’s stuff I do that I won’t tell you about because I’m actually embarrassed by it. But it can’t be helped.

In the past I’ve angered two roommates by getting sick. I’ve secretly moved out on two more, leaving them in a bit of a financial lurch, because I was scared they were gonna steal my shit. I’ve butted heads with at least two more because our schedules differed. Wildly. I’ve had cultural differences with at least three roommates, religious differences with a couple, and musical taste differences with every single one of them - with the possible exception of Keifer Sims.

But you know what? When I think about it, while I am indeed a shitty roommate, the truth is… most of my roommates were kinda shitty, too.

My first roommate outside of my parents and brothers was an Indian dude named Amanpal. We lived together for six weeks on the Valdosta State College campus when we were attending the Governor’s Honors Program together. I got along with all the other guys on my hall, but me and my roommate, well… we only talked twice. The first time we talked, I confessed Christianity and he confessed Sikh. At the time, I was being molded into a potential bigot and Bible-thumper, so I immediately started in on the evils of his religion, which A) I didn’t fully understand and B) I didn’t even TRY to understand. It’s no wonder we only spoke once more.

Amanpal was right to avoid me after that first confrontation. Or was he? What if he’d been patient and accepted my ignorance, maybe made an off-handed remark or two that might have made me reconsider my position and see him in a more diffused, less black and white light? Of course, he was 16 like me, and despite NOT being a potential bigot and Bible-thumper, he was still somewhat immature. So instead of taking the high road, he made fun of my ignorance behind my back. Or so he thought, because I caught word through the guys on my hall whom I DID get along with. I never said anything about it until now.

Our other conversation? About music. We were comparing music, and Amanpal played me a song called ‘The Kiss’ by a band I’d never heard of called The Cure. And this much I CAN say about Amanpal: he changed my musical outlook forever. He may not ever know it, but I’m grateful to him for it. Also, I’ve really liked every subsequent Sikh person I’ve met, and I’m fascinated by their religion.

My next roommate was Brian, whom I lived with my freshman year of college. Brian was an essential lesson in roommates - we got along famously for months, but our relationship turned on a dime into something that almost, but not quite, approached hatred. We spent hours playing music for each other, but the only thing we could settle on was Queen. He didn’t care for the old school prog rock I played (classic Genesis, Yes, Marillion), and I really didn’t care for Tone Loc. I’m pretty sure Brian didn’t care much for my new college girlfriend either - if ever two people didn’t see eye to eye on ANYTHING, it was those two.

The clencher came when I caught mono - the kissing disease. There was a small epidemic of it going around campus at the time, and I’m pretty sure I caught it from drinking after my buddy Phil (and not by kissing him). Anyway, several people urged me to drop out of school and come back the next quarter - but I couldn’t. If I left school for ANY reason, I’d lose half of my scholarships - and scholarships were the only reason I was able to afford college. So I suffered through two weeks of illness, and Brian had to suffer, too. He had to suffer skirting around me to avoid getting sick himself. He had to suffer not knowing IF he’d somehow contracted the kissing disease from me (and not by kissing me). And he had to suffer the presence of my girlfriend, who stuck around and took care of me, even at the risk of getting sick herself (she didn’t) and at the risk of incurring Brian’s wrath (to my knowledge this didn’t happen either). Still, I don’t think Brian ever forgave me for being such a pain in the ass, and we remained not on speaking terms for the rest of the year. I’ve never seen him again since we both moved out of that dorm. I hope he doesn’t still like Tone Loc.

The lesson of Brian is that you never know when someone you’re living with - even a good friend - will turn on you. And you never know what will cause that person to turn.

My next roommate was Fred. Fred and I lived together for a quarter until we both agreed - I’d like to think amicably - that we were just unfit to live in the same space. This was in Reed Hall at the University of Georgia, on the second floor.

Basically, Fred and I didn’t get along because Fred was a pentathlete and an ROTC guy who got up at four every morning and needed to be asleep by nine at the latest. I was a social bug with a taste for drinking cheap alcohol and listening to loud music, and I didn’t need to go to bed until midnight or later. You see the problem here.

Thing is, I never yelled at Fred when he woke me up in the morning, and I never questioned the fairness of his demands that either I turned my lights out at ten or stayed out of the room. He yelled at me A LOT, like he was my drill sergeant or something, and never sought to compromise even once regarding how HIS schedule encroached on mine. Good thing for me that I had a lot of friends and that same girlfriend, because I was able to stay out of my dorm room most nights. I only went there to get dressed, really.

I missed my stereo though.

Looking back, Fred was a dick. Sorry, Fred my man - and I’m sure you’ve matured some since we knew each other way back then - but if I had been, at that time, the person I am now, I’d have told you to stick your cross-country skis up your ass and cut me some slack. Nine o’clock lights out is bullshit.

After Fred came Michael, who was as patient as he could be with me, but who eventually moved out as well, after I got sick with the measles and almost started a fight with his friend Ken over Ken’s girlfriend. Michael had great taste in music and a bunch of cool friends who were becoming MY friends until I picked that fight. After that, Michael faded away, along with all those people. Fortunately, that made room for the best roommate I ever had - Keifer Sims - who was my absolute LAST roommate until I graduated from college and met my wife.

More about Keifer, my wife, the measles, and Bong - my Korean roommate from hell - next time….

Oct 13

My Concession Speech

Posted on Wednesday, October 13, 2010 in Explanations and Excuses, Geopolitics

I have had an interesting conversation with several of my friends lately. Same conversation, but with different friends and on different occasions - and that’s what makes it remarkable. Each conversation was with a LIBERAL friend, and each conversation centered around how they refuse to discuss politics with anyone not of a like mind anymore. They gave me a lot of different reasons for their decision, and in the meantime I gave them a hard time about “giving up” and “letting the bad guys win” and “making our voices heard.”

Now, though, I’m joining them in silence. I’m lucky, though: I have this public forum in which to explain why I’m giving up to anyone who cares, and yeah - to take one last jab at “the bad guys” before signing off for good. Writing this feels kind of like quitting a job: I’m sad about leaving something that has meant so much to me, but I’m relieved, too. It’ll be nice to reprioritize and put my energy into other things.

So… why am I quitting? Why am I giving up?

Alienation

I have a lot of conservative friends. I met these people through various means other than politics - through gaming, through past jobs, through other friends - and since I live in a section of the country in which conservativism predominates, it’s natural that I will meet and become friends with people more conservative than I am. When I met these people, our political views are not what attracted us to each other. It was something else.

As I persist, though, in presenting what I believe to be truths regarding U.S. politics today, time and time again I butt heads with my friends. A lot of them are reasonable - more reasonable than I am even - and a lot of our discussions don’t break down into argument. But a lot of them do. We get angry with each other, at the other’s refusal to see that he’s absolutely wrong, and the argument ends with us packing up and stomping away. (A lot of these conversations/arguments take place on Facebook and Twitter, so packing up and stomping away is figurative language - although it has happened that way “in real life” too.)

I don’t like being angry. Also, I don’t like the creeping sensation of disrespect for these friends that grows a little every time we discuss politics. Like I said, their political leanings are not generally what attracted me to them, so it should not color how I feel about them. On the flip side, if I’m feeling this level of disrespect from them, then they’re probably feeling it for me - and I want them to respect me, as I want to be able to respect them.

Finally, I don’t want to be known as “the guy who’s always bringing up politics”. I’ll leave that for Dennis Maguire (if you know Dennis, you know what I’m talking about). I want to be known as “my friend Will who wrote that poem which touched me” or “my friend Will who wrote that kick-ass story” or “my friend Will who has those two beautiful children” or “my friend Will who beat my ass in Twilight Imperium last night.” Hell, I’ll even take “my friend Will who really digs beer” over “Will the politics guy”.

Distraction

To continue on that train of thought - in order for me to be “the guy who…”, then I need to turn my attention - my full attention - to the things that will make me that guy. In other words, I’ve known for a long time what kind of person I was destined to be, what I was supposed to do with my life. And it wasn’t politics. Whenever I engage in heated political discussions, I feel like I’m wasting time - time that I should be using for the things that I’m supposed to be doing.

For example, yesterday I scheduled a whole afternoon for editing my novel. For various reasons, it’s absolutely vital that I finish this last round of rewrites and edits soon. But then, I got sucked into a discussion - one that I started - about political campaign contributions. The discussion went back and forth on Facebook for hours, and in the end resulted in three things: 1) Neither I nor the people I was arguing with gave an inch. 2) Two of us effectively stormed off, throwing our hands up in disgust. 3) I got about half of my intended goal with the novel finished.

I can’t keep arguing politics and get the things I’m supposed to do with my life done.

Exhaustion

Nine times out of ten, when someone posts something which contradicts the standard Republican/conservative talking points, Republican/conservative people retort, and often their retort contains some misunderstanding or some distortion of the facts. Sorry guys, I have to say this one final time, even if you think I’m wrong. I don’t think you necessarily misinterpret information or misconstrue it on purpose. I just think that you’re being led my the nose by entities who are actively trying to make you vote against your self interest and against the interests of your country.

And I know many of you feel the same way about me. Here’s the thing, though, and this is the point I’m trying to make with this part of my post: when I get into a discussion, and something blatantly false pops up (nine times out of ten), I don’t feel justified in just telling you that you’re wrong. I have to do research to make sure of it.  Also, and you may not realize this, so I’m telling you this now: I am totally aware that sometimes I pull stuff out of my ass, too. The thing is, whenever I do and I get challenged on it, I take the time to look at my own sources as well as yours. I have actually lost sleep at night fretting that something I wrote was false. (I don’t think Glenn Beck does.) Even then sometimes I blow it. Most times though, I don’t. Still, the time it takes to fact check so many things is exhausting, and I find that when I’m discussing politics with Republicans who get their facts from Michelle Malkin, Fox News, and their Baptist preacher, that I have to do an awful lot of it.

It shouldn’t have to be that way. I should be able to have a discussion about politics and let it boil down to the ideological differences that separate us: Do you believe that free market capitalism is self-correcting? Do you believe in the redistribution of wealth? Do you believe in a person’s right to own a gun or make her own choice regarding carrying a baby to term. We shouldn’t get bogged down in facts and figures. But because there are so many people out there trying to mislead us, and because there are so many of us who are either too lazy, too busy, or too gullible to question their sources, we do. We get sidetracked by things that we should agree on, and our discussion is derailed.

Fact checking is wearing me out.

The End

I’m proud that I carried the torch this long. I don’t blame my liberal friends who’ve already “agreed to disagree”, and quietly acquiesced, but I’m happy to be able to say that I outlasted them. So, why did I persist for so long?

Part of it is because I’m stubborn as shit. Ask any of the guys who play games with me. We’ll be playing a game, and almost everyone will agree that it’s a foregone conclusion that so and so will win. Well, if so and so isn’t me, and I think I have a chance in hell, I usually insist on playing things out. My dad had an illustration on his wall at work that showed a frog getting eaten by a crane. You could see the lump in the crane’s throat that was the frog’s head and body. But the frog’s legs were sticking out, and he had them wrapped around the crane’s neck just below the lump. The caption read: “Never give up.” That frog is my hero.

Another reason is because I think that the GOP is evil. Seriously. I think the leaders of the Republican Party, along with pundits like Glenn Beck and Sean Hannity, have set up a kind of pyramid scheme, where they get minions to do their bidding while they and only they reap increasing benefits. I think a sizable portion of the Republican leadership has consciously decided to sell the U.S. short for their own material gain, banking that they’ll still be secure and happy when the rest of it goes to shit. Another portion of the Republican Party is just batshit crazy.

And YES. I KNOW that there’s a lot of corruption and impropriety among Democrats. At the end of the day, they’re all politicians, and politicians by definition are corrupt, self-serving liars. I get that. I won’t argue it - I can’t. But while Democrats are mostly guilty of political maneuvering and corruption typical to their line of work, the GOP is taking things to the next level. We can’t tackle the general abuses of power in our political system that we all recognize and despise until we first defeat this threat, which goes beyond anything we’ve experienced in this country before. We’re perhaps the greatest singular nation the world has ever known - but we’re still young. And naive. And right now, vulnerable.

I persisted because I believed I was fighting the good fight.

But now I’ve decided that this is not my fight. I have other things that I must do, so instead of using my time beating my head against the wall in a futile effort to change the world via political debate, I will turn back to the things that I feel more capable at. To things which will not alienate me from people I care about, that do not exhaust me. That I am meant to do.

Now, this is not a call or suggestion that - if you’re liberal - you do the same thing. Giving up like I am is something the GOP WANTS us to do. Instead, as I step aside, I encourage all of you to step up and take my place. The fight must continue - I just can’t participate any more.

Finally, don’t bother arguing any of the things I’ve said in this post - I’m done arguing. And if you’re disgusted or angry with me because I’m throwing out this last shot without any recourse on your part, if you’re disgusted or angry with me because you feel offended and I offer no apology, then remember why I’m doing this. I’m doing it because I want to remain friends. I’m doing this because I need to redirect my energy. I’m doing this because I’m tired.

Believe what you want to believe and I’ll do the same. I know that I won’t change your mind, so I’m finished trying. This is the last I’ll say on the subject.

Until (and if) I can say, “I told you so.”

Sep 9

In The Afterglow of Dragon*Con

Posted on Thursday, September 9, 2010 in Featured Friends of Will, Games and Gaming, Greatest Hits, Ramblings

Seth Rogen, folks!

Seth Rogen, folks!

Well, the weekend certainly didn’t go the way I thought it would.

Ordinarily, when you hear a statement like that, you figure something went wrong. Terribly wrong. But in this case… I THOUGHT the weekend would be fun, tiring, and full. I had no idea it would be so great that it would make the days before seem like a red blur and the days after seem like a gray haze.

On Thursday, I got there with my children - Madeleine and Eli - in tow. The Con had not officially started yet, but all my friends were slowly converging on the downtown Atlanta hotels where everything would take place - the Hyatt, the Sheraton, the Marriott, and the Hilton. In the galleria of the Hilton (downstairs), I met up with my friends Tae and Charlie, and we set up some Heroscape terrain so that Madeleine and Tae’s son could wail on each other with painted plastic miniatures and some dice. That went on for a couple of hours, and then my wife Aida came and took the kids home. After that, the place started filling up, and soon I was drinking beer and playing games (specifically RuneWars) as planned. I left at about 1 in the morning, went home, and climbed into bed to charge up for day 2.

Friday consisted of a morning full of logistical movement. If I have any complaints about Dragon*Con and my status as a Dragon*Con volunteer, it’s that I have to do all this logistical movement. You see, I supply the Con with a number of games, and before I get to sit down and start playing, I have to haul all my games to the library, check them in, and make sure my checklist matches what’s on the shelves.

I’d complain, but when I hear horror stories of how long the lines are to get entry badges into the Con, I thank the powers that be and throw another game onto the cart.

The rest of Friday went the way I expected: I played a bunch of games, started making a dent in my cooler of beer, met some new people, had loads of fun with the people I already knew. Then I stumbled upstairs to the room I was going to share with my best bud Jay Elgin, and crashed.

Another part of what I do at Dragon*Con is run these outrageously huge games of Twilight Imperium. On Saturday and Sunday, that’s what I was scheduled to do. So at noon Saturday, I laid out the map of the game - you can see Seth Rogen playing it at the top of this post - and laid into 9 or 10 hours of galactic conquest and political negotiation. I’m not gonna bore you with a blow by blow of the game - it bores me a little to think about it in retrospect. In sum: the Muaat player played like a kid hitting a piñata, Seth Rogen played the Xxcha, Kevin didn’t win and I did. Oh, and Jay rolled dice like shit.

After the game, I started drinking more beer - THIS time in celebration, not of my victory but of my impending… birthday. That’s right, folks. On September 5th, 2010, while attending the largest science fiction and fantasy convention in the United States, I turned 40. And THAT is where the weekend diverged from my expectations.

A dedicated gamer. Yes, that's his tongue.

A dedicated gamer. Yes, that's his tongue.

I only told a handful of people - maybe 20 - that it was my birthday. But between word of mouth and people overhearing other people wishing me well, I couldn’t go anywhere in the Hilton without someone lauding my nativity. Now I kinda know how Jesus feels on Christmas. A lot of Saturday night/Sunday morning is a jumble, but I remember singing Silversun Pickups in the Rock Band room. I remember Mike Barnes’s entourage following me to the Rock Band room, only to get kicked out because they were drinking. I remember a longish conversation with my buddy Peter about how much we like Dogfish Head - although he likes Palo Santo and I don’t. I remember that Jennifer Sellman left her ID at Hooters, and I remember Eddie’s truck.

 

That’s about it. All else was a fantastic mish mash of Happy Birthdays, smiles, and costumed maniacs.

Then came Sunday. Again, I stumbled down to set up Twilight Imperium. But then something awesome happened: while I was setting up the game and collecting entry fees, up rolled a cart surrounded by a large group of people. And on top of that cart was a huge birthday cake, baked in the shape of a game of TI. The next thing I know, 60 or 70 people are singing the Happy Birthday song to me while several hundred more look on, all likely wondering what the hell was happening.

Was I A) surprised B) blown away C) touched so much that I had to fight back tears (crying in front of bunch of geeks would be BAD, BAD)?

The answer is D: all of the above.

My friends from Americus - Elizabeth, Ray, and Stephanie - made me the best birthday cake I’ve ever had, and with the help of Jay served it up to me and the Con in a flourish that would make Siegfried and Roy envious. I was and still am without adequate words to describe how I felt that moment, and how I still feel today, even though Dragon*Con is over (until next year!) and even though I’m a little bit sad and a lot sick (the cold Eli gave me is raging still). They say that your 40th birthday is often somehow very special. And I thought mine would be, since I’d be celebrating it during one of my favorite times of the year. But the outpouring of love and generosity and friendship that I received both humbled me greatly and filled me with immense pride. An irony I think you can understand without me going into detail.

So I won’t. Instead, I’ll end this post with a general thank you to everyone who wished me well on Sunday, and then a little shout out - kind of like the ones you see on the jackets of CD covers - for a few well-deserving, specific people.

To Elizabeth, Ray, Stephanie, and Jay: You made my day. You made my Con. You might have made my year.

To Chris: I know you wanted to sit down with me and enjoy some quiet conversation. I’m sorry it proved impossible, and I promise we’ll do it. And yes, you can buy.

To Phil and Omarr: Thanks for all the opportunities. I’ll see you guys next year.

To Tae and Charlie: Didn’t see you to say good-bye. So, good-bye and I’ll see you in January (at the latest).

To Kevin, Jay, Sean, Ray, Steve, Joshua, Garand, Alex, Travis, Jonathan, Allen, Vince, James, and Robert: The game is great, but it’s people like you that make me want to play it so much.

To Jerry and Jeff: You frakkin’ toasters!

To Peter: You owe me a beer. I think.

To Eddie: Next time, I’m gonna figure out a way to put it in neutral and let it roll backwards a few yards.

To Brian: You never gave me your keys back.

To Jennifer and her friend: Did you see the show? I bailed. Did you get your ID?

To Freitag: The offer is there. You pull an all-nighter, you get in free.

To Aida, Madeleine, and Eli: Someday you’ll really share this with me. I look forward to it.

To the Con organizers: Mail the damn badges already. So what if a few get counterfeited? You’re making boatloads of money, and one day you’re gonna have a fatality in those obscenely long lines. Will it be worth it?

To that fat girl who made the comment about gamers while we were waiting for the elevator: I’m a gamer, and know why you can’t get laid at Con.

To the kid who just walked up and helped himself to a piece of cake: Sure, go ahead.

To anyone I’m forgetting: Thank you, bless you, may the Force be with you, nanoo nanoo, live long and prosper, go forth and multiply.

Dec 4

My Favorite Bar, and Why

Posted on Friday, December 4, 2009 in Bars and Booze, Featured Friends of Will, Ramblings, Reviews

Stairway to Heaven

I know a lot of you are old enough to remember Cheers, and you remember the opening song, how it went:

Sometimes you want to go
Where everybody knows your name
And they’re always glad you came
You wanna be where you can see
Our troubles are all the same
You wanna be where everybody knows your name

You may also remember how, whenever Norm would walk in, he’d say, “Hey, everybody,” and everybody would say, “Norm!”

Well, Norm - even for the drunk that he was, even though he bemoaned his life and his relationship with his wife - was in truth a very lucky man, because he WAS the guy who had that place - that place where everybody knew his name.

I feel lucky as well, because I have a place like that. And even though there are bars in the ATL with better food and better beer selection, there is no place on Earth like my favorite bar: the East Point Corner Tavern.

It’s down the street from me, literally 5 blocks away - stumbling distance, as many would say (especially those who’ve seen me stumble home). And when I’m there, I feel as safe and welcome as I do in my own home - sometimes safer and more welcome. Plus, believe it or not, I usually don’t keep booze or beer in my house, and there’s ALWAYS booze and beer at the Tavern.

Get this: when I walk into the Tavern, usually in the mid-to-late afternoon, I usually walk in and say, “Hey, everybody!” and several people will always say, “Will/Bill!” (That’s my nickname, because of the confusion over what people call me, which is in fact… both.)

It’s a scene right out of a beloved and trendsetting sitcom.

If you’re visiting for the first time, then I suggest you eat there. Like I said, there are places that MIGHT have better food than the Tavern, but I have NEVER had a bad meal there, and it’s always consistently inventive and tasty. As a side note - although they have excellent “never been frozen” fries, I usually get a side of green beans or asparagus with my sandwiches and hamburgers. I don’t know what they do that makes said side dishes so fucking good, but it’s always reassuring that while I’m consuming something that’s so bad for me (alcohol) I’m at least eating my vegetables.

Of all the Corner Taverns, owned and operated by Mike Rabb, Jayson Da Luz and I THINK one other person, East Point’s establishment has in the past had the absolute WORST beer selection - but I know that this was because it’s a business, and the clientele inherent to East Point have not in the past been the most discerning of beer drinkers. Why stock beer that won’t sell, right?

Ah, but thanks to some small changes - and the awesome addition of an additional row of taps - I can now go in and drink some of my FAVORITE beers, like Dogfish Head’s 60 and 90 Minute ales, Victory’s Prima Pils, and Kona’s Pipeline Porter. And I bet that if I asked really nicely for Andrea Kruse to score my current favorites - Dale’s Pale, the Great Divide Yeti, and Moylan’s Hopsickle - she’d make every effort to have some waiting for me when I returned. It’s like that.

The idea for this blog post came to me a week or so after I stopped writing articles about Atlanta bars for Examiner.com (ask why I stopped and I’ll tell you, but it’s not something I should bring up in a loving, positive post like this one). While I worked for Examiner, I was limited to lauding only bars in Atlanta proper, and East Point Corner Tavern didn’t qualify. BUT IT’S MY FAVORITE BAR, hands down.

I finally started writing this post on Monday, and here it is Friday and I’m just now finishing it up. The point of telling you all that is because, coincidentally, today, THIS Friday, is the last day for Miss Starr Neel, one of my current favorite bartenders at the East Point Corner Tavern. The fact that she’s leaving and that I’ll miss her should give you some indication of how much I adore this bar. I don’t think a lot of people genuinely miss the people who serve them beer when those people go away and the beer is still flowing. It’s kind of like when Coach died on Cheers (although Starr isn’t dying, she’s just moving to Denver).

So yeah, I dig the booze and the food, but most of all, I dig the people who work there and most of the people who go there - at least the ones who are as regular as I am (the ones who recognize something great when they see it). I dig Mike and Jayson and Deb and Angelica and Amy and Anna and Heather and Andrea and Starr and Deedlebug and Tony and Candace and Chris and countless other people who’ve come and gone while I keep coming and going as well.

And speaking of going, I’m finished with this post, and I’m headed to guess where.

Nov 9

Defining Moments From High School

Posted on Monday, November 9, 2009 in Greatest Hits, Ramblings

We all have memories from high school which we believe define us as people - memories of first kisses, first loves, critical exams, abysmal fashion failures. The first time you heard THAT song. THAT first date. THAT football victory.

Also, that car wreck, that pregnancy scare, that alcohol or drug overdose.

Well, I had similar moments in high school as well (nothing from that second paragraph, though - thank God I waited until I was a “mature” college student before that shit happened to me). But now that I’m a 30-something adult with kids of my own and a little bit of hindsight available to me, I realize that moments like that didn’t really define the fantastically sardonic and wonderfully talented asshole I am today.

Rather, it was the little bitty moments - instances that some of you who might be reading this may remember, though most of which you will not - that affected me the most. There are hundreds of them, many still fresh in my mind.

In fact, I could go on for days, but for the sake of SOME brevity, and to keep from boring you to absolute tears, I’ll just tell you four of them. Some of them are pretty funny, most of them as “moments” are pretty insignificant, but all of them changed me integrally as a person. Now, one caveat before I begin: these are MY memories, and much time has passed since these things happened to me. For that reason, what I’m telling you may not be entirely accurate. Or it may be accurate, and YOU’RE the one who’s remembering it wrong. Either way - the truth is in there somewhere, and the greatest truth of it is that these moments changed me. Which is the point.

1. The Boy On the Bicycle

This one actually happened the summer before I started high school, but the ramifications of it echoed throughout the next two decades. One day, I was picking up pecans in my backyard - a pointless chore which my father insisted on me and my brothers doing. The pecans were small, bitter, and wormy, and pecans didn’t fetch much money when we sold them, but it was something we had to do whenever Dad didn’t think we had enough money or didn’t think we had enough to do. As I was picking up pecans, a boy rode up to me on his bicycle. I knew the boy because he lived a few miles down the road and because he was related to one of the kids in my class, but since this boy was a year younger than me and went to a different school (his Dad taught there so he was able to attend it despite zoning bullshit) I didn’t know him very well.

I guess he was bored - he didn’t having any fucking pecans to pick up - so he decided to stop by and see what was up. We said hi, made some small talk, and then he says to me, “I heard you liked to play Dungeons & Dragons.” Which was true - I’d learned the game a couple of years previous from an older cousin, and it appealed to me greatly. I didn’t really PLAY much, because there was no one close by to play with except my little brother, but I goofed around with making up characters and I read all the books and magazines that dealt with it.

Long story short, we started hanging out, and eventually got my brother and a couple of other neighborhood kids into the game, and on many, many weekends throughout high school, we’d all play D&D at my house or his house.

So… how did this define me? Well, first of all, D&D allowed me to exercise my imagination and intellect outside of the usual academic arena, subtly demonstrating for me the value of deep and far-ranging thought. I think that, had it not been for that outlet, I might have devalued such things, because in high school, I actually strived NOT to be a nerd. Sure, I was a little geeky, a little nerdy, and still am - but I might have abandoned altogether the rich possibilities of an intellectual life (in a quest for shitty beer and pussy) had I not had that tether.

Secondly, that boy on the bicycle went on to become my longest-lasting true friend. It’s 27 years later, and I JUST got off the phone with him - we were planning a Thanksgiving excursion together, his family and mine. How many of us can say that we still have a deep and lasting relationship with a non-family member that has endured so long? And at great distance, too - he lives on the other side of the U.S. If you can, then you should count yourself fortunate. I do.

2. You First 

In high school, we had a substitute teacher named Ms. Presley. And when she came to our class to sub for an absent teacher, we… didn’t behave very well. Looking back now, I can say that I really liked Ms. Presley - she was actually pretty cool, even if she was prone to long speeches about really asisine stuff, and even if she never stuck to the teachers’ lesson plans. That was fine, I think, because most of the time the teachers’ lesson plans were “busy” work anyway.

You guys from high school - you remember her, don’t you? Ms. Presley, God bless her, was batshit crazy. In a good, harmless way.

One day, Ms. Presley was substituting for our Honors English class - a class which my grade shared with the one above it. I can’t remember if this thing I’m gonna tell you about happened when I was in 10th grade or 11th, but I don’t think that matters. Anyway, we all started goofing off as we usually did, and Ms. Presley launched into a speech about how we were someday gonna regret our behavior because God was gonna get us. And at some point in her speech, she says, ” If ya’ll cain’t behave, then ya’ll can just leave my classroom.”

Jamie Cooper stood up. He was in the year ahead of me, and this was just the sort of thing Jamie would do. In elementary school, Jamie had been a bully - faster, stronger, and meaner than most of us and a real pain in the ass to wimpy little shits like me - but Jamie was also pretty smart, and in high school, even though he was rough around the edges, he’d mellowed out a bit. Still, this was typical Jamie - defiant and bold - and the envy of all of us who never dared to be rebellious.

Jamie walked to the back of the classroom and headed for the door, with Ms. Presley railing at his back. And then, up stood Tal Milner, who was in my grade and who was obviously trying to emulate the great rebel of our time. Tal followed Jamie to the exit, and Jamie stopped and opened the door for him. Tal walked out, his shoulders squared, his jaw set and… Jamie closed the door behind him and returned to his seat.

Fucking brilliant.

We all cracked up. Ms. Presley laughed so hard she almost hyperventilated. And when Tal came back a few minutes later - he’d made it pretty far down the hall before he realized Jamie wasn’t behind him - the laughter surged again. Class was over for the day - even the part where Ms. Presley preached to us.

There are countless movies and TV shows and books about how tenuous being popular in high school (and even afterward) can be - about how it seems like “rough kids” and jocks and kids with money seem to have the advantage, but can so easily lose their edge if they overextend or defy the repercussions of karma. As I watched Jamie and Tal get up and make to leave the room, a huge part of me wanted to join them, to walk out of the room and make the kids in my classroom wish they were as cool as I was.

But the sheepish look on Tal’s face when he returned reminded me why I didn’t.

3. You Are SO Arrogant

One of my teachers in high school had her hands in a lot of extra-curricular activities which I participated in. She also had a lot of pet students who participated with me - needless to say, I was not one of her pets. I think I could have been, but something in her manner and the manner of her pet students bugged me, so I never went out of my way to suck up to her or try to please her. Also, there was ANOTHER teacher who was also into a lot of extra-curricular activites to which I gravitated, and I WAS one of her pets. I think there was some rivalry between them, too, which fueled the fire that caused this moment.

Not much to it, actually. This teacher and I were talking about my position on one of her “teams” and she was more or less threatening to take me off the team if I didn’t do something she wanted. I told her I didn’t care, but that I thought she was making a mistake,and in response, she gave me this vicious, poisonous look, and told me I was arrogant.

I’ve gotten that a lot over the years. In fact, you may be sitting at your computer right now thinking, ”Well, asshole. You ARE.” But this was the first time anyone had genuinely called me out on it, and for days I had to think about what she said and what might cause her to say it. It stung. I didn’t - I DON’T - want to be arrogant. Arrogant people don’t fare well in the grand scheme of things.

Then I realized a few things, and it is these realizations which changed my attitude about the world and my place in it.

First, if you think I’m arrogant, then you don’t know the meaning of the word. To be arrogant implies an assumption of one’s superiority to others. It also implies an overblown sense of one’s value. Now, we are not all created equally in certain capacities: I may be smarter than you. I may have more money than you. I may have more friends on fucking Facebook than you. But that DOES NOT make me better than you, and I have NEVER believed myself to be better than anyone simply because I had certain advantages over them. I am CERTAIN, in fact, that every person in the world can do SOMETHING better than I can.  I bet you can name at least one thing you can beat me at. I bet you can name more than one.

The problem in the past for me has been that I have no problem with acknowledging those things which I can beat YOU at. If I can do something better than you and we both know it, then what’s the harm in acknowledging it?

But it has taken years of maturing before I became comfortable with not actively competing against people that I personally had no business competing with - in other words, it took becoming a man to be able to openly acknowledge those things which I can’t do so well, and to just “let it go.” As an example - I SUCK at anything car-related beyond changing a battery or a tire. I have no fucking clue where the oil drain is on my car. But in 1988, I’d have bent over backwards to demonstrate that I was as good at automotive stuff as you are, and God forbid I ask your help.

Another thing that took time was understanding that some people, if they cannot do something well, do NOT like to have it pointed out. I have tried over the years since I figured this out to refrain from doing so, but I have a hard time with it because apparently no one has a problem pointing out MY shortcomings (this teacher being a shining example), and because I believe that if you’re sensitive to someone pointing out that you can’t do something, then you are probably in need of some level of self-examination. If you can’t do it, you can’t do it. Let’s call it like it is. Such is life.

As far as an overblown sense of self worth… I am a writer struggling to make headway in an industry which actively resists talent (yes, I said that right). So while I may think my writing is something YOU ALL should pay attention to, apparently not everyone believes the same thing. I AM VERY AWARE OF THAT. I am not a very valuable writer. Not yet anyway.

I am, however, a valuable father. Just ask my kids. And I am a very valuable friend. Try me.

Finally - and I’ve said this before elsewhere - it takes a LOT of arrogance on your part to think that you’re worthy of labeling anyone else arrogant. Who died and made you judge of things like that?

So. Do I think that teacher of mine was arrogant?

Not my place to say.

4. The Talent Show

There are times, though, when other people openly acknowledge that you can do something well, and this was one of them.

We had a bona fide, full-blown talent show once at my high school. To participate you had to sign up ahead of time, you had to have a legitimate talent to display, and you had to follow the rules on stage (length, format, etc.). It wasn’t a bunch of kids goofing around in the theater when they should have been in class. I forget who sponsored it, but it was sponsored and advertised and supported and all that legit shit.

I entered. And I won.

My talent was that I sang a song - a Christian folk song that my youth minister at the time found for me. I sang over a tape that had the whole song on one side and just the musical accompaniment (pretty much just an acoustic guitar) on the other. I sang over just the accompaniment, and I smoked it.

Later that day, in the midst of a flurry of pats on the back and congratulations, one girl walks right up to me and says, “You didn’t deserve to win.” I just gaped at her, stunned into silence.

Well, let me tell you something, little high school girl who’s probably grown up to be a bitter, overweight, and overbearing shithole: I DID deserve to win. I was up against a series of rap acts and some dancers and I THINK one group of kids who sang a four-part harmony a la Boys To Men. And while there were some pretty decent moments of unquestionable talent exhibited that day, and while no doubt there might have been some acts that WERE better than mine, I fucking blew some minds when I hit a couple of those hard-to-reach notes,  and I definitely exhibited some unquestionable talent of my own.

But the question is: did I DESERVE to win?

Well, I chose something that wasn’t immediately easy for me - I “reached for the stars” as it were. And I practiced. I practiced so hard and so much that I was so sick of that song, I never want to hear it again. I wore my voice out at one point and wasn’t sure if I was going to be able to sing. And I was nervous - not because I didn’t think I could sing, but because I knew I was singing a slow, acoustic folk song about God in front of a bunch of people who liked rap and Boys To Men (I like rap, too, by the way - as long as the rappers have talent, which many popular ones do not).

So, did I DESERVE to win, young girl who walked up to me and said I didn’t? I’d say hell yeah I did. Just like you probably deserved everything that’s happened to you in the subsequent years. Most people get what they deserve.

That’s why I think that, while I may not be an indispensable part of the writing world now, if I keep at it I CAN be, because that will be what I deserve. And if you think I’m arrogant to believe that I deserve such a thing, then once again, I direct you to the definition of arrogance.

Being a writer of some import will not make me better than you. The foundation for THAT little life lesson got laid in high school.

Which - although in sharing these little memories I never actually mentioned - I did NOT.

Sep 18

Advances In Technology

Posted on Friday, September 18, 2009 in Greatest Hits, Ramblings

I’m not the biggest science fiction fan you know – but I like quite a few of the trappings, and I’ve read a shitload of the canonical books and seen a bunch of the canonical movies.

One of the themes that runs through a lot of those books and movies is that advances in technology – in particular communications technology – will misshape and distort the way we human beings interact with each other and the world “outside” whatever room we keep our computers in.

I call bullshit.

At least as far as I’m concerned, the advances I’ve seen in the last 25 years or so of my own life have certainly CHANGED the way I interact with friends and family – but not in a bad way. Only good. All good.

This is what we had.

This is what we had.

When I was a kid, my parents only had one telephone – a rotary phone with a cord, which sat on my dad’s desk in a dark, hot corner of the house. We had a party line, and long distance cost a whole lotta money (Mom and Dad fought about the phone bill a lot). I rarely talked to anyone on the phone because it was so prohibitively hot and sweaty and inconvenient. Also, they had no answering machine – so if we weren’t there to get the call, we didn’t get the call.

To correspond with friends and family who lived far away – and by far away I mean even 20 miles – I had to write letters. I wasn’t allowed to make long distance phone calls (neither was Mom, really, but she did it anyway). Letters seemed like a good idea back then, even with their time delay of several days, but now that I have e-mail….

If I wanted to talk to friends who lived some distance away, I had to actually go to them – which got easier once I was able to drive. But until then, living in the boondocks as we did, my friends seemed very, very far away.

Flash forward a few years to when I’m in college. NOW, Mom and Dad get a cordless, and I have one in my room at college as well. We all have answering machines. Communication gets a little easier, but it’s still pretty primitive. We still write letters. We still don’t do the long distance thing. We still actually have to connect to a land line to call anyone.

Then, move forward just a few more years, to the mid 90s. Now, I have access to computers and I have an e-mail address. Not everyone I’d like to talk to has e-mail of their own, but they will soon. I have a cell phone – looks like a walkie-talkie and it costs more than it should, but now I’m connected most hours of the day (I skipped the whole pager thing myself, BTW, but I’d like to remind you how prevalent they were for a few years there).

This is what they had.

This is what they had.

No more letter writing. No more long distance charges (although roaming charges will fuck you up the butt). No more need to have to sit DOWN anywhere to call someone. No need to find the right change to use a pay phone. If you have an urge to speak with someone in the U.S., you pretty much can do it RIGHT THEN. And if you can wait just a few hours, you can converse with someone via e-mail no matter where in the world he or she is.

Now look at us today. Cell phone technology and competition have put us at a point where practically everyone in developed countries has one. In a single day, I can talk to my friends in New York, Las Vegas, North Carolina, Beirut, Chicago, and Israel – at little or no cost. Chat rooms and instant messenger programs put me in constant touch with countless others. I get 100+ e-mails a day and usually send up to 20. (Not counting spam. Yeah – spam is a drawback, but whatever). With Facebook and LinkedIn I have gotten in touch with people that I’d lost track of years ago. With Twitter, I can let my followers know when I’m posting a new post on this blog, or when I’m taking a piss.

My parents and their parents and THEIR parents could NEVER have had the sweeping range of relationships and correspondence and communication and intimacy that I have with so many people. I’m certainly pleased with the level that I have. Think about – without technology being where it is right now, it’s unlikely that I could share these thoughts with you about it so immediately, so thoroughly, and so inexpensively – inexpensively in terms of time as well as money.

The point got driven home to me a couple of weeks ago when I was at Dragon*Con. While at Dragon*Con, I realized that a significant portion of the friends I had there, I’d become good friends with via the telephone and the Internet. Sure, most of them I’d met face to face (although some I had not!), but we became friends – good friends – by correspondence.

I know there are accounts of people corresponding via letter ages ago, and establishing deep, lasting relationships with the person on the receiving end. I don’t doubt that’s possible – but technology amps that possibility up a significant amount.

Simply put, there’s something to be said about being able to call a person up at most hours of the day and pretty much expecting that he’ll answer the phone so you can talk. There’s something to be said about being able to negotiate business or set up meetings (whether professional, amorous, or just friendly) quickly and conveniently. There’s something to be said about the dynamic nature of long distance friendships today.

And while I value the relationships I have with people whom I do see physically everyday, just as my parents and their parents before them did, I’ve discovered similar, more immediate and often just as intimate value in the relationships I have with people whom I DON’T see everyday.

People, that is, like you.

Aug 17

Will’s Most Memorable Moments at The World Boardgaming Championships! Part THREE!

Posted on Monday, August 17, 2009 in Ramblings, Reviews

When last we left off, I was DESTROYING Ben, Jason, and Andy in Twilight Imperium. I had 7 out of the 9 points I needed to win, I had my Secret Objective – and I didn’t tell you this part, but I’d also blown up Andy’s Space Dock on the planet Arcturus, which was enough to get me the 2 points I needed to bring it all home.

Then the phone rang.

Now, I have a policy that when the phone rings, unless I am absolutely unable to, I answer it. I may shoo you off as soon as I’m on with you, but I will pay you the courtesy of at least acknowledging that you called. Unlike Michael Barnes.

You can test me if you want….

Anyway, it was my wife Aida and I answered it – with every intention of saying hey and then shooing her off so that I could get back to the game. I love her, but when I’m in the middle of something like Twilight Imperium, it’s difficult to demonstrate my love – the plastic pieces are calling, my friends/opponents are waiting, and it’s not fair to her that I’m only half listening.

Unfortunately, in this instance, I couldn’t shoo her off; something was up, something akin to a minor midlife crisis: Aida was concerned about her future, her well-being, her health, etc., and she needed me to listen to her vent. I stepped away from the table and strolled around the gaming room, listening – just listening – like a good husband should.

I hope she felt better after that; I’d like to think she did.

I hope it was worth it, too, because when I got back to the TI3 table 15 minutes later, Ben had devised the most elaborate plan imaginable to take my Home System, using Andy (naturally) as an unwitting accomplice. In TI3, if you don’t control your Home System, you can’t score any more points….

I sat down and Ben casually mentioned that he was going to take my Home. I stopped, and for several long minutes stared at the board, breaking down permutations and maneuvers and possibilities. I couldn’t see HOW he could do it, so I confidently continued playing for my win. I figured he was full of shit.

Ten minutes later he had a huge fleet in my Home System and I was locked out.

Now… ordinarily, this wouldn’t be that bad – even though this was a qualifying round for the TI3 final the next day. Except for two things:

1) There is NO WAY Ben and Andy could have concocted a plan like they did had I been at the table. But I wasn’t AT the table….

2) In most games, I would have had to sit there, trying to get my Home back for maybe an hour at the most (I finally got it back the same round Ben crossed the 9-point finish line for the win), but as I mentioned in my previous post, this game took nearly NINE HOURS. I literally sat there for nearly FOUR HOURS, unable to score a point and trying desperately to get back in the game my with a scant fleet and almost no resources. Four hours of just sitting there, suffering.

I think I would have enjoyed having bamboo wedges shoved under my fingernails just about as much. And if you’d have been me and this had been your first or second or third game of TI3, I’d understand completely if you swore you’d never play the game again.

The End/Summation

Okay. I’ve drawn this tale out into three whole posts. And to be honest, as much fun as I had at the WBC, the memory of it is fading and other things are shoving my WBC adventures to the back of my mind – things like last weekend’s gaming session (more Twilight, which I won, plus Smallworld, Dominion, Tales of The Arabian Nights, and Middle Earth Quest), my daughter’s first day at school, and my renewed enthusiasm for my novel. So I’ll simply share a few brief highlights with you and then wrap this up.

Charles

Charles Jenkins is one of my oldest and dearest friends. He lives in Pennsylvania, though, so I only get to see him about once a year. He came down for a few games on Friday and Saturday, and I gotta say – Charles hasn’t changed. In fact, I’d like to apologize now to that guy who was sitting with us at the bar Saturday night. That joke about hollowing out a turd and filling it with “cream” was in poor taste. But that’s Charles and me together for you.

Descent

Runemaster Thron is fucked.

Runemaster Thorn is fucked.

I don’t know what I enjoy more – playing the game of Descent, or the attention all my painted pieces tend to get at conventions. I’m no Richard Launius, but I’m fairly proud of my figurines – and painting them relaxes me kind of like knitting does for some people. The picture here features some of my work.

Battlestar Galactica with Canadians

Is fun. Bob, Dan, and Mike – if you’re out there, thank you for a riotous game that cracked me up and made me very happy, eh.

Everyone who I met at the WBC – thanks for a great time. I WON’T be back next year, since it falls on Aida’s birthday, but I’ll be around.

Eh?