41.

A little less than a week ago, I turned 41.

At this point, it just sort of happens. Rather than running from it, or trying to pretend it doesn’t exist, I’ve come to accept who I keep becoming, and all things considered, it’s not too bad.

My journal has made some shifts from “wacky adventures” to more personal introspection, and honestly, that’s not a bad thing. I still have plenty of adventure in me, and in the upcoming months, that reputation is going to define me more as I take some new steps out of my comfort zone. But I still have my moments.

September was a busy month. I had to address a “family emergency” in Texas with my sister, and take on a caretaker role. Besides being family, my sister and I have a long history of being really good friends. Oh sure, we were Hell to each other in our younger years, but we worked as well together as we did against, and as she entered her 20′s, and I entered my teens, we became friends that grew together in simply hanging out. It’s my sister that helped me to get my sarcastic, footloose, “save the world” attitudes, and even after my move to the West Coast, we’ve always worked well when paired together. So when my partner was down, it made sense to answer that call and give her a hand. In her case, more of a break, as she never stops moving.

So I did the “family” thing, and helped where I could. In the meantime, I was left to my own devices during down moments. While I didn’t have much time to see my friends, I did decide to revisit Dallas in a more familiar way.

Dallas in the 1990′s really was my personal playground. Weekends, and even after work meant that my friends and I would drive there to hang out, watch movies, be mallrats, and film pre-Jackass stunts via my camcorder that used actual VHS tapes. Mockingbird Station needed some work, as it looked a fair bit less lustrous since “our time” there, where we did kung fu routines by the tracks, and snicker immaturely as DART police would tell us to stay away as “those trains will suck you off”. But the neighborhood was otherwise unchanged, from the video store that’s been there forever, to the parking lot where I’d go every morning to ride the DART Rail into work at the West End. But it was that night that I decided to return to Deep Ellum.

I spent a lot of time in Deep Ellum growing up. A lot of time. It’s the basis of a lot of my own Bohemian attitudes and beliefs, from walking the neighborhood with friends and checking out shops and venues, to taking part in the film festival that ran there for years. Deep Ellum was my “home”.

The neighborhood’s had its up and downs, and for a while, definitely had a “down” period, but it’s been improving over the years, so I decided to walk the streets as I had once done. One of the most outstanding elements of this last trip was the cataloguing of smells. Certain places have a familiar scent that trigger a flood of memories, and the smell of grime, barbecue, and other substances felt right upon walking the neighborhood again. Minus the absence of friends by my side, the neighborhood looked and felt welcoming again. A little edgy, but comforting. I got a coffee at an old familiar coffee shop, and noted the improvements that are coming. Nights of art, and film premieres, street bands, and watching the Barenaked Ladies play in a tiny venue before they “made” it here flooded back. A reminder of friends that came with me, and those found on the streets. So long a time away, but exactly back where I belonged.

The old homestead.

The old homestead.

Corsicana’s brief visit was the same. I visited with two of Dad’s old colleagues, caught up with them, and found that both are retiring soon, thereby effectively ending “Dad’s era” of teaching at the college. It was a nice hour of conversation, then once they left, I wandered the halls of his old building.

It has never changed, that building. Familiar scent once again took hold as I ran my hands across the tiles of the stairwell. I can still feel my Dad there, his time, and it was a momentary comfort. The same held true for visiting the old Tradewest building, and running into the family that’s owned that little business lot. I did a small drive around town, finally going to see one of the town’s legends about the tightrope walker.

Honestly, I had never seen the grave in all my time living there, so I decided to find it. It was a humid day as I drove to the Jewish cemetery, and sweat was already dripping from my nose as I explored the grounds. I did run into an older woman who was probably in her 80′s and ran the place, where she led me to the grave, and told me in full the story of the walker. That’s the thing about small towns: They know and love their history, and they love sharing stories with their returning children. As I’m getting older, history and storytelling are becoming more important to me.

I visited my parent’s and grandparent’s graves, and said my good-bye, spending the rest of my time with my sister and family before returning to Vegas.

A week later, I found my way to Anaheim as one of my old friends invited me to the Gamestop Expo. – Conveniently located next to Downtown Disney, so I excused myself to those grounds (and Tiki bar) until the show began. The show itself was like the old days when I worked at Midway: A lot of games, though mostly focused on virtual reality these days (it was admittedly badass playing as Batman). I not only saw my friend Paula, who had so graciously invited me, but Melani as well, and even ran into Ed Boon, making it more of a “Midway reunion” than I had expected.

I do miss those “old days”. I sometimes wonder if the industry has progressed to a point where I wouldn’t as easily recognize it, as those earlier days had more of a “pioneer” feel to them, breaking new ground between 2D to 3D gaming, from pixels to polygons. It was, admittedly, a very strange ride for me, but a ride that I’ve grown more grateful to have had all the same.

Weeks passed, and so came my birthday. I turned 41 at the Eiffel Tower Restaurant at the Paris Casino. Jen treated me to a full dinner there, and we had a full window view of the Bellagio fountains as the sun set over the Strip, a reminder that Vegas still has its moments.

Level Up!  HP increased.  MP increased.

Level Up! HP increased. MP increased.

It was a few days later that my friends Tim and Amy came to Vegas to show off Tim’s latest paintings. Tim and Amy have been friends of mine for 15 years, and due to their ever busy schedule, we’ve not seen each other in a few years, but given this chance, I had to go. They are perhaps two of the most timeless, ageless, and gentle souls that I have encountered in my travels. The reunion was brief, but it was a momentary return to those days that I would go to the Gaslamp Quarter in San Diego on the weekends, and spend an evening talking to Amy (and sometimes Tim) in the gallery.

I am starting to believe that the number of reunions that I’ve had in the last two years are all leading to something larger. It’s opened up new feelings… questions in me that I now realize that I have to answer. I think it’s also coupled with this point in my life, and my need to see what next adventure lies ahead. I’ve found my answers here. It’s time to address new ones.

I’ve humorously commented that my not laying every plan out in full detail has been a source of infuriation for some people, and…. Well, that’s not changing. Not yet, anyway. What’s the point of a story if I tell you the rundown of the next chapter before it’s even begun? I have to lay it out first, create it, and then I’ll share when the time is right.

But I can say this: I try not to ask for a lot. I don’t expect anything if I can’t will it to happen myself, but right now, I would appreciate some encouragement from here to there. Right now, I need to stay true to my priorities, and it’s going to take some time. Be patient with me. I’ve come to the conclusion that our lives are a story that we have the control to write, and whatever happens, I want mine to close out to my satisfaction.

Now I have to finish writing out this chapter….

A full photo story of the last few weeks can be found on my Instagram.

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