my girl wants to party all the time, party all the time

I had some time off in the last week of December. Checking my calendar, I realized that I had a lot of social nights scheduled. Moreso than usual for me, even on a day off. So I decided to push it and go out drinking as many consecutive nights as I could.

How’d I do?

Sunday: Dinner and Christmas gifts with Fraley, Melissa, Hawver and Dea. We tried out The Local in Newton – decent plates of tasty food, but I don’t know that they put that much gastro in the gastropub.

Monday: Yelp Elite event at Teatro. After a few drinks to unwind and some catching up with Serpico, Kim and Sarah, I circulated and socialized. I made several new friends out of the evening, got a caricature drawn and took a shiny Yelp lunchbox home. I followed the Elites to the “afterparty” at a bar in the Theater District Alley and got progressively looser, though not ridiculous. I hope.

Tuesday: After jiu-jitsu, I drove into the city to meet Meghan O’ and friends for birthday cocktails at Drink. After kvetching over A Song of Ice and Fire plot developments with the birthday girl, I spent a while chatting up Michelle McN. and Ben S. I only had the one drink, since I was driving several folks home.

Wednesday: Met Rebecca M. for drinks at Flat Top Johnny’s in Kendall Square. We intended to play pool, but ended up shooting the shit for over an hour instead. Ducked into the Blue Room downstairs so we could hear ourselves talk. Good cocktails and good duck ravioli. I ended up at Asgard, like I do, and had maybe one more drink.

Thursday: New Year’s.

Friday: Saw Lisa F. off on one of her last visits to Boston (… sniff). Then I caught the train into Allston and rocked it out at 90s Night at Common Ground.

Six consecutive nights of drinking and staying out late. In an unrelated story, next week I caught a cold.

Here’s the scary part, though: I could see myself living like this.

For years I’ve operated under this assumption that I can’t go out too often, or I’ll get weird and crusty. I base this off of times that I’ve gone to bars or parties, felt out of place, and gone home disappointed. But now I wonder if those nights were nights I should have stayed in, or if it were the result of getting my hopes too high. “This is the party that’s going to make my week!”, I would think. “It’s gonna be off the hook!” And then I’d get there and the party would remain nestled comfortably on its hook, everybody nodding politely and drinking quietly.

But if I set my expectations lower – just get there and have drinks – I do fine.

And even if six nights a week are excessive, it wouldn’t be hard to go out boozing three or four nights a week. Even for someone as antisocial, cranky and stubborn as I am. Facebook, e-mail and text messaging have made gathering a posse – or finding a posse mid-hunt and riding up alongside them – easier than ever. All I’d need to do is give up writing, cut back on jiu-jitsu, and maybe put this directing thing on hold for a bit.

How hard could that be?

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and love, you can’t give it away

Thank you to everyone who made it out for one of my three birthday events in the past week. I deliberately picked times and places that would draw a crowd already – Asgard on Wednesday, Common Ground on Friday, Phoenix Landing on Saturday – to make it easy for people to show up. Also, because I have lots of good memories associated with these places, and would never mind having more.

I drive myself pretty hard on the things I find important – fitness, writing, finances, this weblog. But I picked this past week to indulge. I still worked out, but I ate greasy food I’d normally avoid. I still wrote, but I didn’t force myself to stare at an empty page if the words weren’t coming. I still got up early, but I sat around reading (or watching The Shield) in my pajamas rather than hurrying into the shower. Birthdays are as good a period as any to let the routine slide.

It felt good, of course. I can see why some people want to do it all the time. But idleness like that only works in contrast. I can only let the bills pile up and the novel grow dusty for so long before I start itching to make changes to the world again.

Sometimes I wonder what I’d do if I came into a mythical amount of money – the illusory hot stock tip, the briefcase of money at the train station, the winning lottery ticket. I couldn’t see myself living a life of mindless luxury. At least not for more than a year. Probably travel the globe and weblog about it. Learn some exotic and expensive skill (sailing, hang gliding, wine growing, etc). The hands itch for, as Sterling Hayden put it, “some form of working activity that will yield a sense of accomplishment.”

So: the consumption cycle ends. The production cycle begins anew. Enough cake. Back to work.

so we’ll walk down the shoreline one last time together

Too many of my friends have sent family to the hospital in this past week. And only some of them have come back. So take advantage of this rare moment of unguarded sentiment from me and believe the following:

  • I Like All Of You. Really. If you think I don’t like you, nine times out of ten that’s just me being reserved, or lost in my own thoughts, or distracted whenever I see you. But really, I like you just fine. I ration out my enthusiasm in careful doses (whether I need to or not), so don’t feel bad if you don’t get a share. Give me time; you’ll see it.

  • I Like Hanging Out With You. If it involves drinking and dancing, or drinking and laughing, or drinking and talking about affairs of import, or a small but non-imaginary number of things done sober, I want in. I might not know I do, but I do. I’m like a camel with social contact – I can coast for days on a good night out or an entertaining lunch with friends, until I wake up one morning and find myself starving for extroversion again. And you? You’re fun people. So shoot me an e-mail or a .txt, if I can’t get over myself and do the same to you first.

  • I’m Not Upset. When I get lost in thought, my face tends to fall into this reserved, inward look that makes people think I’m mourning something. I’m not. But I don’t mind you asking. Because, one time in twenty, I actually will be. And it wouldn’t occur to me to say anything if you didn’t ask.

  • I’ll Miss You. I still have no idea how to handle myself at funerals. Doesn’t matter how well I knew you.

Anyhow, that’s all I’ve got for now. Monday the mask goes back up, and it’s one-paragraph movie reviews and sarcastic news commentary again.

’cause I’ve got one hand in my pocket

After my haircut on Saturday, I got a hot chocolate with Dr. Grace at the Starbucks on Boylston St downtown1. We pounced on a table near the window and people watched. “It’s such a gorgeous day out,” she observed.

“It’s supposed to snow on Sunday,” I told her.

“I heard that, but it’s turning to rain later.”

“And it’s going to snow all day Monday into Tuesday, too.”

“See,” she said, half-frowning. “This is why we only hang out once every three months.”

“Not because we’re busy?”

“No.”

# # #

I took my broken iPod to the Apple Store on Boylston St while I was there. The Genius behind the counter regretfully told me that they couldn’t do much with the 4th generation models. “If you trade it in to be recycled,” he offered, “we’ll give you 10% off a new one.”

That’s a pretty exceptional deal, considering the 4th gen is good for nothing but scrap. I may take them up on it if eBay can’t beat that price2.

Browsing through the store on Saturday morning, I remained pretty convinced that the Classic would be the one for me. 120 GB of capacity would keep me in music for years to come. Then my iBook spazzed out on Sunday – freezing up, the display dissolving in a slow rainbow of colors. Considering this iBook is over 5 years old at this point, and that it was one of the models prone to logic board failure, I feel it’s served a good term.

But now I need a portable web browser in addition to a portable music player. I could buy a Classic for $224 (after the recycling discount) and get a cheap laptop in a few months, hoping that nothing happens to my desktop Mac in the interim3. Or I could shell out $269 for a 16GB iPod Touch that’ll also check e-mail, function as a GPS and browse the web. I have just shy of 16GB worth of songs currently, but I don’t need to take all of them with me.

1 Because there’s only the one on Boylston St.
2 From a reliable dealer; I’m not paying $200 for a box full of marbles.
3 Which isn’t at all likely, except that I’ve just commented on it.

and it’s not the time to ossify

I talk about myself a lot on this weblog. So I’m going to switch things up on this awesome Friday and tell you about the excellent people in my life.

Top of the list is Rachel V, who’s been a dear friend for a ridiculous number of years now. Rachel’s been one of the best kind of friends – someone who not only listens to me when I need to vent but who also deflates me when I get too ridiculous.

If you want to learn more about Rachel, you should go see ImprovBoston’s anti-Valentine show, Thorns, this Saturday. You can also see her in MOSAIC, IB’s bizarrely creative Saturday evening sketch show.

I can always count on my man Serpico to bring a good time to whatever it is we’re doing. (That’s not his nickname, by the way – that’s the name he was born with) He’s a limitless font of energy. He’s got ridiculous enthusiasm for everything in his life, but most specifically improv, Boston College (our alma mater) and his girlfriend Kim.

If you want to learn more about Serpico, check out Nerds on Sports. The site used to have a pretty extensive roster of contributors – including yours truly – but everyone’s slowly dropped off except him. The man’s got staying power.

Two people I don’t see often enough: Neil R. and Lynne D. I include them here because they’re two of the smarter, funnier writers I know. And that’s not a compliment I pay to anyone. I’m a conceited ass when it comes to writing, because I think I’m King Kandy of Candy Land. But I’ve worked with these two and they’re better at it than I am. On the real.

Neil doesn’t update his weblog at Brackishwater nearly often enough (although the latest entry suggests he’s busy with more fulfilling projects). Lynne used to weblog a lot but doesn’t anymore, so your best chance to see her creativity is in MOSAIC (see above).

Finally, two people who continue to look after me, even when I don’t think I need it – which is when I especially do – are Fraley and Melissa. They go out of their way to make sure I still hang out with them, even now that they’ve moved all the way to Newton. They also gave me one of the most sincere honors I’ve ever had in my life by asking me to officiate their wedding this May. Marrying two of my best friends together is going to kick ass.

Neither of them writes online that often, although Melissa is also in MOSAIC*.

These people are all awesome in ways that I’d like to be. They don’t talk themselves up nearly enough, so I will.

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* I planned this entry in my head and started writing it before realizing I’d be namedropping MOSAIC three times. It’s like the universe has conspired to force me to see that show.

I said whoa no, William and Mary won’t do now

I had a rare Friday with a choice of four simultaneous engagements to go to. I honored two of them: watching Game 6 of the Celtics / Pistons series at a bar in Watertown with some friends from jiu-jitsu, then catching up with Kate G. for a drink at Bukowski’s. The former involved sliders, talk about Baltimore and two Guinness; the latter, a surprise visit from Dana J. and Orit, the soundtrack to Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels and two PBR.

Melissa and Fraley had their engagement party on Saturday, so I dressed reasonably well and helped toast their upcoming marriage. Dave Green had unearthed the infamous “Reality Bites” photo of Mel, Fraley and I on the night of their first date, way back in … March of ’04? Holy hell … and framed it for the two of them. Now I want a copy. Fraley and Mel ordered catering, so we ate tasty steak tips and exotic cheeses while sipping champagne and toasting the happy couple. Christine and I held court in a small corner with Edward Tufte horror stories. PowerPoint is evil, people! Learn it and fear it!

I excused myself early to stop in on the BC reunion which, as I speculated, did not turn out to be awesome fun. Don’t get me wrong: I enjoyed seeing Lindsay M. (now Lindsay D., and I approve of her husband), and hanging out with Aaron and Tim H. always means a good time, but all of those people live in the Commonwealth. I can do that any weekend – and not in a humid gymnasium that I didn’t need to pay $45 to get into, since I had to write my name on a badge anyway. I saw a roomful of people I took one class with or lived across from, tried to place the names of girls I hadn’t had the courage to talk to as a college student and couldn’t, and drank cheap beer. I left early.

More updates to come re: Sunday.

like a castle in its corner, in a medieval game

CNN confirms the passing of Gary Gygax.

I think I first started recognizing Dungeons and Dragons from ads in the back of the occasional Marvel Comic that I’d buy. One day in 4th grade I discovered a huge standing display of D&D boxed sets in the local Waldenbooks – the black box with the red dragon on the cover, for those who remember it. I begged my parents to let me buy one, which they said I could – out of my own pocket. So I scrimped and saved twenty whole dollars (plus $1 tax) and walked out with one about a month later1. I was already familiar with Choose Your Own Adventure books, and video game RPGs like Dragon Warrior and Final Fantasy. But the idea that I could make and explore my own worlds thrilled me to no end. It turned on an addiction that I’m probably never going to get over.

Now here’s the pathetic part: I spent far more time preparing to play D&D than I spent actually playing. I had a friend, Stephen, who’d play D&D on occasion but liked Champions and Marvel Super Heroes better. My friend Patrick liked Shadowrun – the cyberpunk RPG where the 2050s look just like the nightmare of 1985 – and we played on and off for a couple summers. Other than that, though, I never had a regular gaming crew in high school. I was always too conscious of the judgment of the “cool kids” to risk admitting that yes, I liked half-elven fighter/mages and slaying pit fiends. Those kids at the corner table? With the greasy black hair and the pasty skin and the Dungeon Masters Guide with the cracked spine? They had more cojones than I did.2

I got back into D&D in college, with the gentle coaxing of Kevin H. and Serpico. I played a big, glorious mess of a one-off game with them and about seven other people one spring. Inspired, I took the slow steps necessary to start running my own campaign. Melissa, Serpico, Kevin and Aaron followed the trail I set for them, recovering two ancient artifacts that outlined a ritual for godhood and keeping them out of the hands of the demonic/celestial crossbreed, Duvaran the Fair. There were vicious halfling mercenaries and religious zealots and genocidal elves and half-orc barbarians and snow dragons and kobold traps galore. I think I even worked a barbazu in there. Good times.

Without RPGs, I never would have run the 7th Sea campaign (The Lost Histories) that got Melissa and Fraley better acquainted. Without RPGs, I never would have known Christine any better than I did. I probably wouldn’t still be friends with Bobby, Auston, Dana J., Will S. or half the people I went to school with. I probably wouldn’t still be reading. Or writing.

I’d also probably be at least $1000 richer, judging by the contents of the bookshelf closest to my computer, but that’s neither here nor there.

I’ve had a rich and imaginative gaming life so far and I’ve only been at it sixteen years. You’ll find me and a regular crew at the nursing home, shaking polyhedral dice and arguing over who has initiative. I can almost promise.

“We don’t stop playing because we grow old. We grow old because we stop playing.” – Oscar Wilde

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1 This should be especially funny to anyone still in the hobby, where $20 will buy you about 2/3 of one of the three core handbooks you need to play D&D today.

2 Not hanging out with geeks all the time in my developing years had its other advantages, of course, so I don’t rue the whole experience.