Christmas Time Is Here.

I haven’t written in here for a while, and there’s a story behind that. And like any good story, there’s a reason for that as well. But that’s one for another time.

Actually, I wanted to talk about the holidays for a while, and the lead up to the usual twenty-fiftheries (which is now an official word, by the way).

Christmas has become something different to me over the years. I have so many memories of my early Christmas in Texas: Sitting under the tree and watching all of the twinkling lights and looking at all of my Mom’s ornament’s, my parent’s incredible quests to somehow find those NES or Genesis games (I still remember getting games like Super Mario Bros. 2, DuckTales, Super Star Wars, Sonic the Hedgehog 2) or Star Wars or Masters of the Universe figures. I vividly remember the time that I clotheslined myself on a string of Christmas lights, and how once my Dad realized that I was okay, he’d laugh until tears rolled down his face. I remember Dad and I acting up during the annual light looking at all the neighborhood houses, where we would drive my Mom crazy by chanting “Oooh, Ahhh, Wow…. Can we go home now” in unison after every single house. I remember the last Christmas with my Mom when my family and friends were all at the house. I remember my last Christmas with my Dad when he gave me a MacBook, and Junie tore up wrapping paper.

I remember those two weeks off from school during winter break felt like a blissful eternity.

These days, the lead-in to Christmas feels so fast. I don’t even have time to process the holiday is coming until it is literally setting a cup of cocoa in my lap, and reminding me that I still have to pull a miracle out of my backside and try to get everyone’s gifts on time.

But it’s not so bad, I suppose.

I still do my annual drive to look at Christmas lights with the familiar chant, to which Jen now shakes her head at me. I have a few of Mom’s ornaments on my tree. I still find contentment in the simplicity of A Charlie Brown Christmas, and marvel at how much of a jerkass Santa is in Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer, or how Frosty the Snowman displays some serious child endangerment themes (Have you really watched those Rankin Bass specials? Santa’s got issues, timeless or not). And mostly, I have memories of this day. A lifetime of stories, and lightsaber fights, and getting engaged.

My beliefs are unique, but I am terribly fond of what this day brings.

For me, it’s a time of so many things like bright, colorful lights, timeless music, those old cartoon specials, great food, spending time with family and friends, a lot of memories of laughter and love, and in a larger sense, seeing that extra effort of people being just a little nicer to each other for a day or two. How can anyone not appreciate that little extra bit of goodwill?

I don’t believe in a “War on Christmas”. It’s really up to ourselves to give or take what we want from the holidays. If anything, people pushing each other out of the way for a post-Thanksgiving sale, or rushing through the season to where Valentine’s Day items are now in stores should be a point of contention, not what’s on a coffee cup. The same goes as whatever you wish to honor this time of year. There are so many celebrations going on right now, that if someone wishes me something that’s not what I follow, I accept their words as their expression of intended goodwill to me, extend their greeting in return, and then share my greeting as well. People go the extra effort to be nice this time of year. I want them to run with it. This season makes it easier in seeing the good that can come from other people.

It’s been a unusual year. I’m in better health as opposed to last year. Still not married yet (but I’m working on it, so chill), but I am content where I am until the next step moves forward. I have great friends (and a few reunions this year that meant a lot to me), and a greater little family, but all have been so appreciated and valued to me. I’m not 100% to where I want to be just yet, but as with everything else, I’m working on it, and may have some actual answers soon. And hey, new Star Wars, because that totally happened this year.

So yes, Christmas and this time of year tends to make me a little sentimental. I’m imperfect, but lucky. I’m spastic, but still haven’t lost my sense of adventure. Or penchant for surprise. Or my ability to care for friends old, new, and haven’t been met yet.

So for my friends and family, I most certainly wish you a Merry Christmas, and the happiness that this holiday entails. I expect that for the rest of tonight, I’ll sit under the tree and look at the lights for old time’s sake with a few dogs in tow, enjoying the last few moments that this time of year brings.

Though in being honest, I’ll probably forget to take down the tree until May again this next year, so those good tidings tend to last a little longer in our house.

I’m well used to the head shakings that come with it.

I’m A Writer…. At Least That’s What They Tell Me.

I meant to write a few weeks back, but “legacy” fun from that fraud issue in September left me with a few loose ends that I didn’t catch in time. ProTip: If your HostGator site goes down, call. Don’t online chat. Just trust me on this.

A week and a half later, I’m back.

When we last left Guy, I was contemplating the aftermath of my trip. I could get into all the vagueries of how it confirmed some things, answered some questions, left some other thoughts open for exploration, but frankly, I’m not feeling existential tonight. If anything, it forced me to look at what I think is one of my best talents: My writing.

I’ve been a writer as long as I’ve held a pen or keyboard in my hand. I think I’m a good one. I’ve freelanced for over 10 years now. Let me run unrestrained, and I can fairly write most people under the table. We all have that “one” talent. This one’s mine (well, that and Pac-Man). I’ve started to get back into freelancing on the side. It’s been…. That’s one of the challenges of being any sort of creative type: How people “value” your work. In fact, Wil Wheaton posted an article about this type of situation. I was trying out a few things on Fiverr for editing assistance (I write and edit, and enjoy both). I offered 3,000 edited words for (not surprisingly) five bucks, with an option to “build” a custom order.

Two people came to me with a 13,000+ word document (which I was willing to do for $20), and a 15,000+ word document (for $30). When I told them the price, they balked at the quote because it was “too expensive”. I have a strong suspicion that both cases wanted the whole job for the $5 quote the site’s name implies. And yet they come to me, and hem and haw for a week about something they don’t have the time or ability to do. I’ve faced this in acting as well, productions that have come to me offering to “pay in fun”. Not even in Oz or Wonderland is commerce transacted in units of “fun”. Honestly, I can use the money to buy my own variant of “fun”. In business, many people do not value skills that they are unable to do themselves.

So this leaves me with some choices about my work: Expand my range, and really sit down with some of the concepts that I’ve “halfway” finished, and finish them. And publish them. I’m good at stories, and travel, and gaming, and writing about unusual things that my experiences and imagination have come up with. If I truly believe that my writing is a “gift”, then I need to treat it as such, and not let it lay dormant. Or neglected.

These have been a few thoughts on my mind of late.

I wasn’t really feeling Halloween this year. I’ve been “meh” about some things in the last month, and I really wasn’t in the whole holiday spirit (despite all the Christmas trees at retail). I did dress up for work and go to a early Halloween party and a haunted house, and by the time October 31st came about, Jen and I went to the Golden Tiki for drinks….

Listen....  You smell something?

Listen…. You smell something?

And I later went to this street haunted house called “16th Street House of Hell”, which was put on by this one Halloween enthusiast, and run by his friends/volunteers. It was actually a lot of fun, and the block party atmosphere was nice and low-key, which was fine by me. After the mini-house, I met up with Brenda and her friends for some brief Fremont St. hijinks before calling my night.

I did have to bring poor Frodo to the vet as he had this ugly bump around his groin area that was internally infected, and had to be removed.

The Wee Waggins

The Wee Waggins

As a result, he can’t leap about (but tell him that), so I’ve been sleeping on the floor with him this past week to discourage at least some jumps. Not my ideal sleep spot, but love makes you do funny things.

I did spoil myself this week with a self-gift:

He beeps!

He beeps!

Not even going to downplay this: My Star Wars fandom has been in full rabid swing this year, and I love watching BB-8 scold Stardust for nipping at him, to her surprise. Jen got Fallout 4. I get this.

For right now, however, I am taking steps this week for self-betterment and to consolidate my problems into one manageable lump that I can chisel down in a focused manner. I am normally very reactive to things. Now I am trying to put myself more in a “take charge” role. It’s taken some reminding myself that my best experiences were because I sought them out, and the acceptance that some of those “best moments” are just memory and personal foundation now, and not to be bound to that. I have to do what I want and want to be.

I’ve found that my worst failures have been trying to go down paths that were meant for someone else. Trying to “compete” with seemingly tired and repetitive (yet successful for them) gimmicks. Life’s been more gentle these days in reminding me that I have to be myself and follow my own path, and not others. Too far in, and I wouldn’t be the person that I want to be in the first place.

And maybe that’s what this entry is: A reminder of where to place my own values. I am finding this week that “fixing” problems is really just a matter of just finding a place to start and clearing it out. I’m learning how to set things aside again. I’m finally letting go of a lot of personal feelings that have held me back.

It’s almost been a year now since I ended up in the hospital for “mechanical damage”, which really turned out to be anxiety, depression, and stress. I’m in a very different place now. No more arm and chest pains. For a good while, I wanted to just survive. And now I just want to live. And more than that, live kindly. Happily. Well. The emergency room/hospital sucked, but it woke me up. Same as my last set of travels home.

Things have changed, and so have I.

What that translates into exactly is already starting to happen around me. At least I have some goals to fight for now.

40.

I know, I know: “All the best pics are on Instagram, follow the link, etc.”

(But truth be told, they are.)

So I had my birthday about a week ago. My 40th, as a matter of fact. I suppose that I could have done it in Las Vegas. Then again, I wanted to avoid any police boat situations again. So I chose to go back to Texas for this one.

I’ve learned a few things from my trip, about myself, and travel in general, and wanted to share them with you, o’ gentle reader.

Travelocity sucks. Booked a car for the week for $250, and once we reached the airport and waited a stupidly long line to speak to a representative, I was gobsmacked to find that Dollar wanted a $537 deposit on the car… something that Travelocity neglected to mention. You know, you book something on line, pay the taxes and fees, you kind of expect that to be it. So I called Travelocity, and told them to cancel, which they refused. They wanted to speak to a manager and get a full explanation before they would even consider a refund. Even with the Dollar representative, they needed a full explanation of why I wanted to cancel, and as this went back and forth fighting with both of us, I realized that I was still going to need a car, and told them to hold on a minute until I get this sorted out. To that, they put me on hold, and suddenly had no problem cancelling the car. Better yet, they couldn’t book me a new car as their customer service was based in India, and they were a day ahead of us. So in leaving me with nothing, they wished me best of luck in finding a new car and promptly hung up.

At least I got my money back….

My sister’s house was a much better experience. Hung out with the kids, “educated” my nephew on the fineries of classic video gaming, caught up with my sister…. The next day, we went to the Dallas World Aquarium, one of my old favorite places, and significantly expanded out since last visit. It’s perhaps one of the most impressive aquariums that I have ever been to. So in killing a few hours there, it was time for a brief stop to Northpark Mall to reminisce, and then on route to Corsicana.

Hard to believe it was almost exactly a year since my last visit. I of course had to sample to regional foods of Collin Street Bakery and Old Mexican Inn with a dinner in mind (orange dip courses through my veins), and then a trip to the cemetery to visit my parents. I handled that better… or as well as one can, wanting to visit my parents and grandparents before my birthday. After a few moments, we drove around town.

I found myself at Navarro College where my Dad taught. The main building hasn’t changed since I was a kid, and Jen and I walked around campus. The night was beautiful, and I shared stories of growing up on campus, my own college hijinks, and remembering Dad. For the first time, I felt at home with my little town again. The town is small and a little different, and I’ll never understand the logic of turning Cinema IV into a church (but I guess that goes in line with the first Taco Shop, Fullerton’s Grocery Store, and the original K-Mart), but I spent my time more fondly. I had been, overall, happy there. My family and friends, my first venture into the world of video gaming, too many pranks enacted, and movies watched. The time has passed, but the time was mine.

We drove by Dad’s, then went back to the Dallas area.

The next day was my birthday party. I usually plan these things every year, but outside of the invites and the venue, I let Jen and my sister handle everything. I wanted to be as hands off as possible.

When I pulled into the restaurant, I was a greeted by a lot of friendly faces….

Reunited.

Reunited.

There were a lot of faces, a lot of hugs and laughter, a Star Wars themed birthday party, and to say that I was touched by everyone being there was an understatement. The thing is with that group of friends is that no matter how much time has passed, it all feels the same. We lock into our very comfortable places, and go on like we saw each other the day before.

Gifts....

Gifts….

Reflecting....

Reflecting….

And I needed that.

I looked around the table and couldn’t have asked for a better gift. The sister and missus had outdone themselves. Even my friends went above and beyone. Danny dressed as 2015-era Marty McFly and gave me the Lego Dimensions Back to the Future set. But the presents and the showmanship were fun, though my favorite gift was simply this:

Family....

Family….

A few of us decided to meet in Deep Ellum, as I wanted to relive some of our early hoodlum days. We sat at a little bar, ordered drinks, and just caught up. The in-bar radio played a medley of 1990-era music. It was like we never left.

The old gang.

The old gang.

Jen and I walked around Deep Ellum as the group dispersed. Everything felt… natural. I felt more “me” than I have in a long time, and that’s had me thinking about larger things. During the walk, Jen went back to the car, and as I snapped a picture, a homeless guy came up to me, wanting to give me a shirt he had as it matched my shoes. And so, Cedric the homeless guy wandered off as quickly as he appeared, leaving me more amused than anything that, as far as random goes, I still haven’t lost my touch.

Cedric's Gift

Cedric’s Gift

The next day, Jen and I began our drive to Pensacola. I wish there were epic tales to be told, but the truth is that it was just a long drive. However, if you ever find yourself passing through Natchitoches, Louisiana, I highly recommend Lasyone’s meat pies. It probably explains the church across the street, as those pies were sinful.

But we made it to Florida that night, and after a meal at Flounder’s and a brief walk on the beach, we got ready for the next day.

My birthday was here.

We got up, went to Toys R Us (What… I had gift cards)….

I ran with the birthday theme.

I ran with the birthday theme.

Had oysters for breakfast, went back to the beach, and Jen dropped her other gift on me.

Parasailing.

I believe I can fly....

I believe I can fly….

So I took to the air, and soared over the bay. They dunked us in the water at the end, and that was awesome.

As we got ready for the next adventure, the “neighbors” in the hotel noted that I looked happy, and wished me happy birthday. I told them about my time growing up in Pensacola, and how I loved this town. “You know, if you come here enough, you one day find that you’ll never want to leave again.”

I paused for a moment, taking the comment in. Other thoughts have been contemplating. And while this is not saying that I’m doing anything either way, I do find that in time, I tend to go where my feet take me.

For dinner, my sister’s other gift was used: Dinner at the Fish House. I’ve watched an Emeril special where he went on and on about the place’s grits a ya ya, and those things are stupidly good. I ruined that plate, with a key lime pie for dessert.

As the sun set, we returned to the beach. Jen and I walked hand in hand watching the sun go down as the clock turned me 40. I couldn’t have asked for a better or more perfect day. We went Downtown for a while, and then went to bed early to watch the sun rise.

Morning in Pensacola.

Morning in Pensacola.

No filter needed.

No filter needed.

We explored Fort Pickens, ate at McGuire’s Irish Pub (where you can staple a dollar to the ceiling to add to the already over a million dollars stuck there), and then on to New Orleans.

We wandered Bourbon Street, drank absinthe in a pirate bar, and watched street performers. As October was looming, Halloween items were already filling the streets, and mini parades were throwing all sorts of goodies onto the streets.

The next day was shopping, eating, going to this amazing place called Dooky Chase’s for fried chicken (go ahead and chuckle at the name. Their chicken and gumbo are to die for). All I can say is “Damn”.

As night drew near, we booked a vampire tour. While Interview With the Vampire is mentioned, the tour focuses on the real bloodsuckers and psychopaths of New Orleans: Some crazy, dark stories are covered.

IMG_5553

Including this place:

Ursuline Convent.

Ursuline Convent.

The Ursuline Convent. This gave the most relatable story that I heard (minus the author’s personal side story at the bottom), but holy crap, that’s a story to get your skin crawling and the imagination flowing.

Fun tour, though. And our guide was fantastic.

Our vampire storytelling guide.

Our vampire storytelling guide.

The next day led us deep into the bayous and swamps of Louisiana. The bus ride had some issues, as these European (German, from what I could make of the accents) were incredibly rude and talking over the tour guide as we made our way to the docks. When we got there (after a 45 minute drive), they were furious once they realized that they got on the bus for the wrong tour, and couldn’t go. I nearly fell off the boat laughing so hard, as karma is fun!

But we cruised out for adventure.

No Bayou Billy in sight.

No Bayou Billy in sight.

And those swamps had a few gators lurking about, trolling for food.

They apparently like squeak toys.

They apparently like squeak toys.

I even got to hold one of the little ones.

Rollergator in training.

Rollergator in training.

The rest of the day was spent shopping, eating and drinking. I ate some gator for dinner. Does that make me a bad person?

In any case, it was time to drive back to Texas the next day, where we joined my sister’s family and Toby for some Texas barbecue, and then a trip to a specialty Gamestop.

With the last day having arrived, we cleaned our rental car, and after our good-byes, made our way to the airport. Another travel tip: Don’t ever trust MapQuest’s mobile app. It decided that the car rental place was in a residential neighborhood, and after correcting that hot mess, we made it to our plane with 10 minutes to spare.

So, back in Vegas, and all that comes with it. I’m still unpacking. I’m still sorting out travel stuff, and I have a few new stories that I want to write. This trip was very creatively inspiring to me, so I want to actually sit down and write something a little unique. I was very grateful for my family and friends and Jen. They put on the best birthday that I have honestly ever had. When I hit 40, I wanted to define what it was going to mean for me, and I wanted to do it on my terms. “Set the tone”, as it were. And maybe I expect a lot from my travel plans, but the results are never disappointing. I feel better than I have in a long time, and I have a lot of people to thank for that.

So… “Thank you”. I am truly grateful.

A Shift Of Sorts.

Look at me, writing in my personal blog with some sort of regularity. Who am I?

It’s been a busy week since my last entry. Work, getting ready for roadtrips, taking stock of my life, getting robbed….

Oh yes, that happened. Apparently, thieves putting credit card scanners on gas pumps in Las Vegas is a big thing. And once thieves get your number, they can run with your “virtual” card and go on spending sprees. Mine had high aspirations of Circle K and Wal-Mart dreams. You know, if you’re going to do this, at least have some “Movin’ on up” George and Weezie-level ambition, man. Dine well. Dress well. Probably not travel well because that’s personal info. you can’t corroborate.

In any case, they played havoc with with my financials, in addition to having my PayPal being simultaneously hacked, to which the two together shut down my account for good. While my bank’s phone customer service was less than sympathetic outside of frauding out the bad charges, the in-bank representatives helped me out with a better account. Also while all of this was going on, someone stole all the drinking water off of our front porch.

Yes, it’s been that sort of week.

At least I had a friend help me out until I get matters settled.

If there was ever a time for vacation, this was definitely it, for I. Am. Done. It’s hard to believe I’ll be back in the homeland in a few days, about the same time that I was a year ago. Then again, I can’t believe that this is one of those “milestone” birthdays for me.

Not a big fan of the age, but I’ve decided to accept it on my terms and my rules. In other words, I dictate my age, and not the other way around. I expect that, much like this time last year, this will be another “reunion” for me. My present work was goodly enough to give me this time off without any drama or hassle, so I can enjoy the time more this outing.

I have been… reflective about this trip. Perhaps because my last visit affected me so meaningfully. I had “all the feels” seeing my classmates, my friends and family, and even the changes that have taken place since my last visit. When I wrote about the experience last year, I perhaps sounded a little more somber about it than expected. I had a very enjoyable visit, but it affected me. I was so deeply touched by the genuine and sincere nature of old friends and classmates, that it just made me more nostalgic for “old times” than I’ve been for a while. Because Vegas is…. I think I am at a point where I am having to find my place here again.

That, with my birthday coming up, it does tend to put everything in perspective. My life by default is eccentric and eclectic. Most intentional with some you can’t plan for. I don’t want to turn my age into “a thing”. I don’t need “things” in my life. I need moments. And a sense of order in my chaos. My life doesn’t have to make sense to anyone else but me, but I do value the things in my life. I just have to make sure that things value me in return.

I went out the other night with co-workers for drinks. We played a game/exercise where we imitated the best and worst of ourselves. It was light fun, but when they got to me, I thought I was ready. My attitude was very much “Go ahead: Imitate my mannerisms.” And then, for people who know me, and yet don’t know everything about me, their impression of me was a near direct channeling of my Father from hand gestures to vocal inflections. Of course, they wouldn’t have known that, but I found it striking that I saw them doing more of a Dad imitation than me, and then realized that for all things involved, I have ended up taking after the old man.

Last night, I went to a going away party for another friend. We didn’t hang out as much outside of online, but I’ve thought she’s been a great person, so I wanted to support her in a moment that had meaning and importance to her. I thought about that as well, about how support, or even in some cases just simply showing up to say “Hey, I’m here”, is a sign of respect and value. I want people to know that I care.

Even more noted, that with Jen and I getting into a discussion of the original National Lampoon’s Vacation, Jen compared me to some of the mannerisms of Clark Griswold. I am committed to, and more often that not obsessed with creating “perfect” memories when it comes to roadtrips and even holidays. I want it to be the “Best Experience Ever”, which will cause me to go over the top to make things happen. To do that “one more thing” to just add to the overall experience. And while I haven’t tied any aunts to the roofs of any car (oh, but we all have one), I do manage to bumble my way through situations to provide the best results that I can.

I’ve learned that my personality is a weird combination of my Father and Clark Griswold this weekend.

I don’t expect next week to be anything more than a celebration of life. I’ve earned making it to this age. If it’s going to be “a thing”, it’s going to be one of my making. On my birthday, I plan to step out on the white sands of my one of my most favorite places that I’ve ever been, and just simply be me.

It’s time for me to redefine. Use my past experiences as building blocks for the foundation for who I choose to be. I plan to temper things. Simplify. Focus more on goals and a “greater good” than get stuck in the day to day drudgery of miserable people and politics and things that don’t get resolved. I just can’t do the latter anymore. That’s where my “world weary” sets in. I think I’m going to stick to the idealism of “making the world a better place”, but that has to start with me. And then I’m going to let that spread to others. At this stage, I’ve found that I’ve grown to believe that the only thing you really need to be a good person is yourself. So let’s see what I can make happen for the next ten years.

One “perfect”, bumbling moment at a time.

I carry less tennis rackets on my trips.

I carry less tennis rackets on my trips.

Countdown To A Fourth Decade.

Hard to believe that in two weeks, I’ll be on my way to celebrate my fourth decade with family and friends.

Candidly, it’s a little weird for me to say “40″. I don’t look it. I certainly don’t act it. And I couldn’t tell you the first thing about what “40″ is supposed to act like. Yet here I am (Well, not just yet, anyway).

I will admit to being a little more reflective, however. A lot of roads have taken me to where I am. Some good, some beloved, some amazing, and some a little disappointing. There were a few things that I thought that I would have done or have figured out at this point, yet I still have time. If I’ve passed the due date for Logan’s Run for this long and am still standing, then I’ve got a few more adventures left in me.

A lot of what I’m thinking about is priorities, with where I want to be, and what I want to do. I had two wonderful personal homecomings last year with my last cross-country roadtrip, and my high school reunion. I believe that life experiences are building blocks that we stack up, store, and sometimes have to take out again to sort out and refit them back into the larger picture. With my health scare last year, I had to stop for a moment, and reassess my values. I’ve been holding up well since then, so it was little more than an isolated incident, but I’ve prided myself of my durability, and to have a chink in the armor happen like that takes time to recover from outside of just physically.

Truth of the matter is: I just never saw myself as getting older.

I don’t know what I expected: Perhaps being whisked off to some grand adventure where if I’m not creating things of value, then I am doing something of importance. Paying bills is not my idea of a “life plan”. It still isn’t. I’ve held so many titles and can do so many things, that I guess in some way it’s frustrating that I haven’t found my perfect outlet yet. Whether it’s timing, or just seeing beyond the fantastical storytelling, looking back, I’ve led a full lifetime for each decade. I certainly have no plans of stopping now.

But that leads into “boring” choices like eating healthier and taking better care of myself, and cleaning out all of the excess clutter from my life. That’s always the “safe” thing to do, especially around the beginning of a year. But I’ve also been wanting to take control of my video gaming career. My acting career. My writing career. And I’ve got a family to build. Not set them on the backburner anymore, and reintegrate them back into my personal structure. So I am trying to consider podcasts, and e-books, and Twitch gaming. I’ve got to push my creative outlets again. Repetition has always been my personal Kryptonite.

But life has been fairly subdued of late. Those who want to see some of my visual day to days can always check out my Instagram – A social platform that I have found that I like. Kind of hard to sponge in pissy posts when people are mostly focusing on outdoor vistas, their pets, or a meal they’re currently eating.

Going “home” this time (though I missed Burning Man again this year) is going to be different. I took in a lot of my old days, but I think it will be more settled this time. I don’t want to necessarily turn 40 into “a thing”, but at the same time, I want it to be a celebration of my life with the people that are as such. That, and another roadtrip under my belt is coming. I’m facing my birthday on my terms, and I want that tone to set the stage for my next 10 years.

We all have our talents, and my calling is this: I’m a damn good writer. It’s about time I find out how good I can be.

Boldly Going.

With going from two jobs to one, I am readjusting to a more “normal” schedule again. I’m getting used to the idea of not checking my clock all times of the day, and being able to actually commit to plans again. It’s a weird, but welcoming feeling. It does, however, give me more time to devote to my primary job, and all the potential benefits that they can offer, such as time off, for one. I can take time without feeling guilty or like I’m inconveniencing anyone. With my birthday coming up next month, the timing is perfect for my next roadtrip…. Car willing, that is.

Plans upon plans….

With all the “free time” I’ve been experiencing, the missus and I went to the Star Trek Convention at the Rio. It’s fun checking out the various props, costumes, and general geekery that goes on at these events (though I never really buy anything, now that I think of it. Whoever is in charge of Star Trek these days needs a better marketing/creative team). It’s fun for me to go, and despite the Tribbles and Darth Vader Borg assimilated costumes, there are larger reasons why I enjoy it.

A few years back, I made a post about geekery and what it means to me. Like I said, I grew up with The Original Series and Next Generation. As a kid, I’d watch these shows with my Dad, and the characters were heroes to me. And now seeing them as actors, they just seems to enjoy the love they get from fans and are by and large just warm and wonderful people to talk to. They seem very settled and very content with their place in pop culture, and yes, I do have a small bit of envy to have lived a life being involved in something that enduring. But I suppose that one can argue that I’ve had my moments as well.

But there is something deeper that goes on in just watching the fans of things like this. This really is “their” place. You can feel the comfort from fans because they’re among like-minded daydreamers and believers, and getting a chance to see their heroes as well. And the moments that people connect… to watch it really happen, you really “get” why people love the worlds that fantasy and fiction create.

Sir Patrick Stewart did a talk on one of the stages. He remains one of my favorite actors due to his presence and versatility, so Jen and I went to watch him speak. Of course there are the standard questions of “In this episode” or “In that movie” that come up, but you see moments of realness that goes far beyond scripts. One young girl wanted to know what Mr. Stewart thought about domestic violence (you may not realize that Stewart is an advocate and a patron for preventing domestic abuse), and certainly the mood changed as she revealed that she had been sexually assaulted, but the elegance and grace that Mr. Stewart conveyed to her during their discussion, expressing sympathy and reiterating that violence is never the answer, and that it starts with men to make the change. You could feel the support for the message and the girl, and how it takes a level of bravery to admit such events in a room full of hundreds of strangers.

Another woman had a disability and claimed that would be the one and only time she would ever see Steward in person. She just wanted to talk to him, and her responses were forward and funny as her candor clearly caught him off guard. But at the end, because of her disability and uncertain future, all she really wanted to ask of him is if she could have a hug. And to that, he stepped off the stage and gave her one. Other moments were light teasing back and forth between fans and Stewart. Another was a child that loved X-Men, to which he responded how much fun those roles of Xavier and Picard were for him. You can see why people see these characters… these people… as heroes, because very often, they turn out to be so in reality. Some just see a television show. For others… they see hope. And ultimately, that’s the very message of the show outside of all those props and make-up. It’s about people trying to make a difference.

It wasn’t all contemplation, of course. We did get to meet George Takei, and as you can imagine, he’s a pretty awesome guy.

Oh myyyy....

Oh myyyy….

I’m trying to get better about updating my blog. Perhaps shorter posts, but a little more insight in my life. As always, I tend to post more spontaneous moments of my life on my Instagram, so it you want to see a few more photos of the event there, then there you are.

And so wraps up my entry for tonight. I’d like to say that I’m off to do something deep and introspective, but really, all I want to do is play Goat Simulator on my Playstation.

The fourth decade and I are going to have to have a long discussion next month….

California and Beyond.

Hard to believe it’s been two months since I last posted in here, but when you write all day, one finds that you either don’t have the time or mental energy to do it for yourself. I’m a better narrative than technical writer, but I need to stay in practice, especially if I ever plan to get my own writing projects off the ground.

So what have I been up to of late? I gave up my second job. After my hospital scare last fall, I needed some extra money to pad out my finances, so one job led to two, and while everything is not perfect, I am now back to one. It was a good move for me. Working anywhere for 8-16 hours a day 7 days a week is surprisingly not as much fun as you’d think. But it’s over, and now I get to re-experience what “weekends” are actually like again. It truly is the little things in life.

My regular (and now only) job sent me to Lake Tahoe a few weeks ago to cover a charity event at Shakespeare Ranch. Pictures don’t do the place justice, as it’s unlike any other place I’ve seen in Nevada. For starters, it’s actually green up there, something of which I actually had doubts of existing in this state.

Shakespeare Rock.

Shakespeare Rock.

The charity raises money for Alzheimer’s disease, and while it was a lovely event, I need to rewind a bit.

Getting there was typical for my adventure set.

A co-worker and I went as a team, and while it started out fairly normal, by the time we landed in Los Angeles for our stopover, it was anything but. LAX airport is a dump. There. I said it. And I mean it, for that matter. Our terminal looked like it was out of some third world country, and to access it, we had to take a shuttle that literally had us racing alongside planes, and stopping at intersections for them. By the time we got to the terminal, we looked around for precisely thirty seconds, turned to each other, simultaneously said “Nope” to each other, and immediately hopped back on the shuttle to visit the bar and avoid staying there any longer than we had to.

When it came time to go, they shuttled us on this tiny plane that looked like it had been shipped out of the Warner Bros. prop archives fresh out of Casablanca. As we walked to the loading door, I stopped by co-worker before we got on: “If that plane leaves the ground and you’re not with him, you’ll regret it. Maybe not today. Maybe not tomorrow, but soon and for the rest of your life.” The door opened. “Here’s looking at you kid”, I quipped. I looked again at the plane. “I hope this thing can actually fly”, I muttered as I got on the tiny craft. I also half expected that the pilot would eject us over Mayapore, India, where we would be unexpectedly be dropped off and have to slide down a mountain in a giant raft before being asked to retrieve the neighboring village’s Sankara stones.

I watch a lot of movies, by the way.

But back at Lake Tahoe, the grounds were beautiful, and the people were nice. We got to watch the rodeo as we did social media updates, and there was a lot of cowboy flinging involved by angry bulls and horses.

This lady here could shoot pistols while riding a horse. That made her pretty badass.

This lady here could shoot pistols while riding a horse. That made her pretty badass.

I also got to see Reno. Not so much there, from the limited time we had, but I did get to see the arch.

Reno's arch.

Reno’s arch.

If there’s more to see in Reno, we didn’t get to see it. We did go to a casino where I had an absolutely awful Bloody Mary. Seriously, who makes a clear Bloody Mary? Sacrilege!

The next morning, we decided to go to Tahoe City on the California side of the lake. I love small lake/beach towns, so exploring the sights, and taking in the fresh air (and real trees) was a much needed break before we started the second day of the event.

Everything went well, Michael Bolton performed for the evening’s entertainment, and as the event closed down for the evening, I actually got to chat with Michael for a moment, where we got into a nice discussion about our appreciation of Ray Charles. And this also happened at the last second:

Bolton and I (Not from Office Space or Game of Thrones).

Bolton and I (Not from Office Space or Game of Thrones).

The following morning was brutal as we had to be up at 5:00 A.M. to catch a 6:00 A.M. flight. Added to this was a birthday party to attend right after I landed. Despite my best efforts, I sort of short circuited, began to hallucinate from lack of sleep, and had to call the day.

As the next few weeks passed, I ended my second job, then back to California with Jen, where we went to Disneyland. I can’t believe it’s been a year and a half since my last visit, which is an obscenely long time for me. Still, it was the 60th anniversary, and we had fun.

Following the footsteps.

Following the footsteps.

Two days of theme parkery was a lot of fun, but I was taken aback on how expensive the park is. It’s no longer the jaunty day trip that I knew from my California days. It’s more of a planned vacation event, which makes me a little sad. Disney needs to settle down on their price hikes.

Still, you can’t beat the view….

60 years....

60 years….

Or the Paint the Night parade, which basically merges Disney with art cars from Burning Man.

What a funny girl, that Belle....

What a funny girl, that Belle….

On the following Sunday, we marked off another bucket list item: The Gentle Barn. It’s an animal sanctuary that takes in abused, neglected, abandoned, and overworked animals, emotionally and physically heals them, then just lets them hang out and simply… be animals. Some of the stories are so sad, like this little blind pig named Sydney:

Sydney the Pig.

Sydney the Pig.

He had a pretty rough life and was given up on, but he was just casually bumbling around nudging his tray in case more food was there. There were all sorts of animals, and human and animal alike were in the same spot just interacting together. It was admittedly moving.

It takes all kinds.

It takes all kinds.

Besides, where else are you going to be able to hug a cow?

Buttercup.

Buttercup.

This has been an interesting summer for me. Outside of my car breaking down and the struggle to get it running again, two full jobs and the struggle to get it down to just one, trying to plan a wedding, trying to plan my birthday gathering next month, trying to remain sane through everything, I can’t help but feel that I’ve learned a lot. Mostly about the things I’ve seen and experienced, and what I want to be. What really matters to me. Where my purpose lies. I’ve had some opportunities to reconnect with parts of my earlier days, in projects I can’t discuss just quite yet, and something of a settling within myself, and there has been some internal struggle along the way. Fear of compromising my dreams, mostly. But mostly… mostly is just comes down to the want to try and be a good man, until I won’t have to simply try anymore and will simply be. Stepping outside the routine is good, if only for a little while, and especially with a few new adventures under my belt.

It’s nice to be reminded that I have a few good stories left in me.

The Internet…. What Happened? And A Movie Review.

The Kardashian/Jenner clan have an uncanny knack for “breaking the internet”.

They get giant lips, social media loses its mind. They take a selfie, it’s the equivalent of global news. One of them becomes a woman, the side of humanity that you never wanted to believe existed is shoved in your face, feed after feed after feed.

Anyone who knows me in person well knows my level of disagreement of the Kardashian/Jenner/West clan. They are the pinnacle of being “famous” for merely existing, and I go out of my way to avoid anything to do with them (yet here I am on that very topic now – Screw you, internet). The only one of them that has had any reasonable credibility of actually doing something is the multi-medal winning decathlon athlete, former Bruce, now Caitlyn Jenner. Jenner made this announcement on the cover of a magazine a week back, and there’s talks of some reality show (Because of course there is. How could there not?). Truth of the matter is: Stuff like this doesn’t phase me. I’ve lived in so many big cities, and worked in the entertainment industry for so long, that when I hear something like this, my response is something to the effect of “Oh, okay”, before going back to my journal or 3DS.

Not much shocks me anymore. The response to this has.

My eyes glazed over with post after post from people reacting to this news like it has been the greatest personal affront to their very existence imaginable. Everything from memes to such harshly worded commentary that went from shock, to disappointment, to discomfort. And I realized, after people repeatedly posted the same meme on a daily basis, that none of these feelings had anything to do with Jenner at all. It was like this window opened up, and on the other side were things that I shouldn’t see and know about people. The sheer amount of time people have taken to express disgust and revulsion in worrying and complaining over a person that will: Never directly affect them or hurt their family, cost them their job or lack of financial security, force them to go hungry or homeless, or will force them to unwillingly change their current faith and belief system. Then what is the real underlying problem? Why are we spending so much time caring about such inconsequential matters? Certainly, no one spends their life working to become this.

One of the best examples of said meme was this article about the “hero contest”, which turned out to be photographs of action figures that had been created by a man beaten for being a cross-dresser. People don’t fact check like they should, never asking “Why”, or “Really”?

This is a true account, by the way. For an experiment, I started a timer and used a search engine to find “Terry Coffey” and “Terry Coffey Snopes”, and found both his actual Facebook, and the related Snopes article.

How long did this take me to check the “Bullshit Meter”? 31 seconds.

This is only one event, in several that have been happening more and more lately. When did the internet become such a surly place? Torture. War. Racism. Cruelty. Lack of respect and empathy for other people, or the world we live in. You can’t hold a differing opinion. People blindly post the everything they see without fact-checking (I’m guilty myself of this, posting a video of a couple reuniting after years apart, but the message of the video was emotional and positive, so I just added some disclaimer in the comments). You can’t say what you are. You can’t say who you aren’t. Or what you like, or what you support or believe in. And people increasingly need to be “offended” and “outraged” or “persecuted” by something, especially if they find someone that doesn’t agree with them. I can’t be the only one who finds all of this extremely tiring. People will, at times (and often), do things that we will disagree with. Is it worth opening that window within ourselves to see how deeply we have allowed that to affect us? For decisions that place no actual bearing on our lives?

As a result, I’ve been really watching how and what I post on social media. I am only one voice, but I am choosing mine to reflect support and positivity in lieu of false information and prejudice. And of course I get angry and upset and annoyed by things. My car’s AC has broken down the first real week of Summer here, and some guy wanted $1,200 to fix it. But I can say “No” to that. And I can change that outcome for my situation. I can be pissed off about things happening outside my control that I can’t change and don’t affect directly affect me, but all I get out of it is feeling miserable.

Perhaps seeing Tomorrowland this weekend turned out to be a good counterbalance for my psyche. (Here comes my thoughts with some spoilers).

What can I say? I am a long-time fan of Disney’s sci-fi cult box office flops. And this movie, while based off of the concept of a section of Disney’s theme parks, resonated with my own ideals.

Walt Disney’s view of futurism is nothing new. The original concept of EPCOT in Orlando was not a park, but a self-contained community. Tomorrowland touched upon this concept: The Space Age idea that a community, built on the foundation of artists, dreamers, mathematicians, scientists, and thinkers, could essentially work in a city that acted as a giant laboratory in order to provide advancements that would help humanity evolve without bureaucracy and approval polls, or restraints on optimism or imagination.

Perhaps it’s a little too fantastical to strive a world that hasn’t given up hope on itself and wants to change it (not take it over) for the better. And there’s also the question of if people are given access to change the world, will they actually accept they can, and more importantly, will they actually do something with it? The film, where both of these worlds face their end, is held restrained by a device called “The Monitor” – A probability device that has been creating the self-prophecy in people that we are doomed to inevitability, and can’t change, can’t fix, or even work for something better (though I think we call it “most news outlets” here). It raises some interesting points. How can people be so apathetic or focused on trivial things? How can we be a country that is simultaneously affected by starvation and obesity? What is it going to take for us to realize that in order to change things, we have to do it ourselves, not waiting on some outside source to fix it for us.

“Change” can be a frightening thing to even the most confident, and the understanding and accepting of new points of views that always don’t come from within. Simply accepting and moving forward is perhaps part of that “bravery” we look for.

We’re smart people. We’ve made generations of advancements happen. We don’t need to have others think for us, and we don’t need to worry about people just trying to “be” when we’re all doing the same in our own ways. Are we directly hurting others because of who we are? And if that really is the case, shouldn’t we strive to be something better?

I don’t know about you, but I am damn long overdue for my own jetpack. And I want that future to finally start happening.

In Which I Have A Life.

It’s been no secret that I’ve all but disappeared off the face of the Earth these days. Working two gigs has meant less time with friends, less time at home, less adventures, less sleep… but it has worked out for getting through what are traditionally two brutal months for me. So here I am on the other side, and now that’s it’s Summer, back to brutal 100+ degree days. As I’ve said before in many an occasion: “This is why we can’t have nice things.”

But as things have so turned out, my adventures can’t stay away forever, and for that matter, neither can old commitments. My fifth year of working the Billboard Music Awards came around this month, and as always, was full of stories.

Back on stage.

Back on stage.

I’ve come a long way on this production from a time where it was speculated if I could pull this show off, to making it very much my own thing. I’m very comfortable in my position with the show, and being up on stage these days is more unnatural if I’m not, so it was a very fond return to something where I feel like I belong. And it was fun and interesting. I got to see perennial 1980′s band Simple Minds rehearse/perform “Don’t You Forget About Me”, and Kanye West’s stage? No, you couldn’t see out from it when standing on it, either. I don’t worry often about being set on fire, but when I do….

But the real highlight was Van Halen. Those guys are great performers. David Lee Roth really is a man of the stage, and he looks like he definitely belongs there. Nice guy. Jokes a lot. He looks like a man who enjoys every second of his life. Eddie Van Halen didn’t speak all that much on stage, but he did toss me this during rehearsals:

The Legendary Pick of Rock.

The Legendary Pick of Rock.

Rehearsals came and went, I took part in some great performances, and after lunch the last day, I ran into this guy again:

David Lee Roth and Company.

David Lee Roth and Company.

Again, nice guy. I got to banter with him a little over two days, and again he’s actually pretty inspirational. I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone enjoy more what it is that they do in life. It carry over in his body language and attitude, and it gave me something to think about.

Oh, and I sort of crashed E!’s live broadcast the night of the show.

Strangely, this isn't the first time I've done this.

Strangely, this isn’t the first time I’ve done this.

Reality only returned for a brief moment before I was called back to Forgotten City, Vegas’ regional Burning Man event that happens every Memorial Day weekend. This came along at a perfect time for me for two reasons: This is the first time that I’ve had a true “all mine” day off to myself in nearly three months. There’s also the matter that I had really fallen out of the loop with a good number of my friends, and hadn’t seen anyone in months. My hospital visit, the holidays, and my ever-constant work schedule had me fall of the grid for months. This was a chance to catch up, run a little free, and most importantly, reunite with friends.

Nants ingonyama bagithi Baba! The Lion Car.

Nants ingonyama bagithi Baba! The Lion Car.

My fourth event. And while it may be strange to some to spend a weekend at the inside of a dirt basin, it’s also check full of great people. I spent more time not getting to any one destination because I would run into someone that I needed to catch up with. And you know, that was fine. I did everything from visit the bars out there, to relax at the “Electric Lazy” lounge, to cloud watching, or just simply laughing and catching up on old times. And all of it was exactly what I needed. I did, however, have to work Saturday night, however, so I may or may not have missed Daft Punk, which has been the ultimate in “Schrödinger’s Cat” equations. Ask anyone, and you’ll get a completely different answer. Still, even if it was merely a cover band, I do regret not seeing the experience, and writing to tell that particular tales (And if it really was indeed them, consider me PISSED, as I love me some Daft Punk).

The Cathedral of Souls.

The Cathedral of Souls.

Sunday night, the Cathedral of Souls burned, and it was a fantastic spectacle, complete with fireworks. However, once the final firework popped, the sky opened up and poured down rain. Seeing a mass of neon clad spectators scramble to find cover is as equally an impressive show in itself, and I spent a few hours hiding in a tent with friends until the storm passed.

I was a little sleepy after the weekend, but I felt revitalized for the experience all the same. It’s crazy, it’s insane, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything less.

The Man sees all....

The Man sees all….

Which in turn brought me to a conversation the following day. During one of my constant appointments, errands, and performances, someone said that “You have to love what you do in order to be successful”. And the words have been pressing on the back of my mind for the following days since. By that philosophy, I am simultaneously “successful” and “unsuccessful”. My life and all the adventures that I find myself in aren’t to impress anyone, nor are they done for anyone else but me. I do these things because I love them. And when I don’t “love” something, it affects my spirit in ways that don’t lead me to realize my full potential.

This is a milestone year for me with a lot of promisingly good change coming. It’s for that reason, now that I am entering a new phase in my life, that I have to stop doing things that don’t allow me to reach my full potential. I think I’ve reached the point in my life where I am ready to put to rest the things “that I have to”, and start focusing on the things “that I want to”. Because life really is too short. And it’s not worth stressing about the things that don’t have meaning to me. I’d rather focus on friends and family, and what makes me happy. Whether performing on a stage, or surrounded by a group of old friends out in the middle of the desert, “success” isn’t about having all the money or knowing all the answers. It’s about what you love. I’m finally back at the phase in my life where “because I have to” is going to be regulated to the backseat where it needs to be, and now it’s time to restructure a few things for both me and my life.

Speaking of which, wedding preparations are finally starting to commence after being put on “hold” for a few months. Tomorrow, Jen and I, along with our friend Brenda, will be hitting the road for a very different adventure for myself. It’s time to finally be a little more “respectable” these days, but you’re fooling yourself if you think that I’m not going to have a little fun along the way….

Mortal Kombat and Me: 20 Years Later.

I still have to stare at the title a little bit, trying to really take in what I typed just a few minutes ago. Memory is a funny thing. I was trying to find some photos of all of my Williams/Midway days. I came across old E3 badges, press kits for companies long since gone parties and receptions…. I even stumbled across some old tiles from when my friend Madison and I managed to find our way into the old Heaven’s Gate compound (that’s another story for another time), but this month marks a milestone in my life, one that I will tell without pictures all the same. This month marks my first foray into the video game industry just two decades ago.

May 1995 was one of those turning points in my life. I was 19 and in Junior College, trying to maintain A’s in my Dad’s political science class (the one class I couldn’t fool around in, lest I heard about it at the dinner table). I was entertaining a major in Radio/Television/Film, and never quite sure if I was ever going to land a role in that field (Spoiler alert: I did). I certainly knew of Mortal Kombat. I had the first game’s uncensored version on my Sega CD, and Part II on my Super Nintendo, honed from the previous year’s post- Blockbuster Video midnight trips to the local Super K-Mart.

It was by chance that I saw a flyer on my college’s bulletin board needing skilled video game players. In my small Texas town, we actually had a video game company known as Tradewest, which published NES games like Double Dragon and Battletoads… And Taboo: The Sixth Sense. I applied there once on a whim, and never heard back, but I thought I’d at least play a new game.

That game was Doom for the Super Nintendo. I knew it more from my PC gaming friends, back when dial-up modems were a regular thing, and it could take up to 20 minutes to download a picture of a naked lady on the internet with my hooligan friends. But being able to sit down and play a game that wasn’t released or really in the gaming magazines was so incredibly cool to me, as I mowed down Zombies and Cacodemons like I had spent so many lazy summer days before.

The man in charge of the testing asked me what I thought, and I told him everything that I liked, what I didn’t, what worked, and what needed to be changed. When I finished, he paused and looked at me for a moment and said plainly: “How would you like a job here?”

I couldn’t believe what he had asked me. The idea of me in working video games was mind-numbing. I was spitting out a “Yes definitely” as he led me to a separate room, where a brand-new Mortal Kombat 3 arcade machine was, barely a month released to the public. I placed my hands upon the console, chose Sonya Blade and Sub-Zero as my avatars, and never looked back.

Days turned into weeks, then months as Summer passed. I spent almost all of my time mastering every single move and combo of Mortal Kombat 3, then comparing it to the home versions. I took no small delight walking into arcades and decimating players with every move possible and the then still unknown finishing moves. “How do you know all of this”, frustrated gamers would ask me when minutes before had smugly offed player after player. “I’m just good”, I said, as I walked away. And really, I was. I had never been happier in my life. It truly was my calling, and I was getting paid to do what I love to the point where I could beat the game using a steering wheel or hanging upside down off of the cabinet. And as the Summer went on, my department grew.

We were an odd bunch of testers and game counselors, mostly friends from well before, and looking out for each other to secure this job. The main office called us “The Animal House”, part from the movie, part because they likely thought were an unruly group of boys. This of course wasn’t helped much by one of the staff punching a hole through one of the walls in anger. Who knew you could actually do that?

A year passed, and I was taken on my very first trip to Los Angeles to attend my very first E3. E3 back then was very much the Disneyland of video gaming, and so incredibly fun. It was during one of those mornings that I stepped badly on one of the stairwells, falling down an entire flight of stairs, and twisting my ankle. As I laid there waiting for help, some random businessman asked if I was alright, then handed me a bottled water before he hurried off to his next meeting. The water and I were shuttled off to the talent’s dressing room, where unusual and normal in my life began to collide and become one and the same. It was there that I met Kerri, who played Sonya Blade in the game (and has become a dear friend since). Work wanted to send me home. “No, no, I’m fine. See”, I lied as I tried to put weight on the purple ball with nubs that used to be my right foot. They relented, and I stayed, and it was one of the greatest experiences that I had ever had in my life. I met Mark Hamill for the first time there.

My Mom passed in the Fall, and my work family was there for me. Work changed a lot. We had a new boss for the department that had been given the mission to remove me from my position, but I survived. I don’t know if my co-workers ever really knew how much I loved that job, working for the company that made all of the arcade games I had grown up to since I could hold a controller in my hand. I eventually added Marketing Assistant and Website Coordinator to my work duties. I played through so many games during my years there, but none ever hit the resonant spot with me as Mortal Kombat did, from the best of the series, to ones that inexplicably included “turn” buttons, surviving “Great Cheat Code Dramas” that we had no part in, stealing a Sub-Zero suit to wear while running around the mall or crashing bachelorette parties, or mock the jerky 1990′s era animations that made all the characters “hump dance” during their conversations. There were days that I loved everything that I did. There were days that were frustrating and crushing to me. But I never thought I would ever want to leave that place.

Until one day I did.

I decided to go back to college in 1999, to pick up where I left off with that R/TV/F degree, and so I moved. I had a wonderful going-away party where they pulled out all the stops, and reminded me that they were, above all else, family.

School went fine. I landed a job as an Assistant Manager at a Gamestop, but of course, it wasn’t the same. And yet, when E3 2000 came around, they got me a pass as though I still worked there. All I had to do was provide plane fare, and everything else worked itself out. No longer bound to the set-up/tear-down duties of old, I simply got to enjoy the show, and everyone else in it. Like the old days.

That in itself drew me briefly back into a short-lived visit with another company, but things went south after 9/11, and I decided it was time to leave Texas and move to San Diego. I had years worth of old contacts at the California branch of Midway, so I ended up getting a similar, yet changed job there.

My time at the San Diego branch was…. It must have been weird for some people to have this “new” person come in, yet know and was on pleasant terms with many of the higher ups. Added to that was my unusual relationship with my then-manager who never let go of some “terrible” thing I had apparently done some years back, yet would never tell me what it was, so I had no clue how to ever resolve it. To this day, I still don’t know what that “grave trespass” ever was. But despite that, he did take on a mentor role for me, which I was grateful for.

Because of my experience, I was put on Mortal Kombat V: Deadly Alliance, where I finally got my in-game credit that I never was able to secure in Texas, and a photo of me in the game. But by then, my relationship with Midway was somewhat dysfunctional. I spent years being fired and re-hired, quitting and coming back, with a small, dedicated sub-section of the staff that made no subtle gestures in how much they hated me, and made each subsequent return more trying and short-lived than the last. The funny thing was, I personally didn’t really have any problems with anyone, and did build a few good friendships from the experience, but it is, as they say, what it is, and Mortal Kombat: Shaolin Monks was my last swan song with the company before I left for good. I suppose it was for the best. Midway closed down just a few years later. And it was okay to let it go. My acting career was just starting to take off then, so I was was able to land a nice gig in Los Angeles the following day.

Still, these days, Mortal Kombat has never left my life. From fighting the DC Universe, then the brilliant (and very much needed) reboot, to this year. Mortal Kombat X came out just last month, the continuation of the reboot, and set 20 years later. That choice in timeline hit me hard during the game, and while it may sound unusual to feel sentimental and a bit misty-eyed over a game where ninjas and lightning gods crush every vertebrae in a spinal column, or slice half of a person’s face off, I can never downplay the impact of how the game series, and that company, changed my life. It built my marketing and writing career. I still play games as much as I write about them, and the friendships? Family is still family, and some of the old wounds do eventually heal. I was lucky to have taken part in so much of that madness in the timeline that I did.

So twenty years this month in a game that chose to move its timeline to coincide within my own life. We’re all a little older, and a little greyer, and I can still hold my own with Sonya Blade and Sub-Zero. And much like that 19-year old kid so many years before, I’m still “just good”.

I’m just good.