We Are….

I got a book in the mail today about my old college called We Are Navarro. While my old college was part of my younger days in my hometown, the need to buy the book took on a deeper meaning for me:

My Dad taught there.

For about 35 years, actually (though closer to 40 as he went part time in his later years). My Dad taught state & local and national government classes. He was a long-time fixture at the school, and I grew up on campus. I once ate almost an entire bowl of coffee creamers out of the teacher’s lounge when I was five. I sat in his office and did homework during his night classes, wandering around campus when I was bored of studying. I worked with him to introduce SimCity to his class on Super Nintendos that the college bought and then later flew to Washington D.C. with him and the family when he won a teacher’s award for it. The faculty members always visited the house, so I grew up with them as well, knowing them all on a first name basis (something I struggled with, not knowing what to call them when I actually did become a student). I got all A’s in my Dad’s classes. Not because he was easy on me, but out of fear. I screwed up on a test, I heard about it over dinner or the weekend.

I found out my Dad was mentioned in the book, and so I ordered a copy. I saw old faces, friends, remembered a lifetime growing up on that campus, and how even recently just last fall, Jen and I walked the campus on a cool September night. My Dad was on page 52. I felt a rush of emotion and tears as I read through the pages. Not quite sad, but something deeper as I saw a part of my life in book form as I realized, perhaps more than most, that “I Am Navarro”. That school affected me deeper than most places ever will.

I heard recently that if you come from a small town that in order to really love it, you have to hate it first. And I think for a brief time or two, I did. When I left for San Diego in 2001, I felt “over” my life in Texas, as things had changed so much. When Dad passed in 2008 and I left our family home for what would be the last time, I thought that was truly the end of my life there. I returned once in 2009, and it felt more like a museum to me, a life that I used to be, and that I couldn’t return to.

And I didn’t return to Corsicana until 2014, and that was for my high school reunion. It was there that I reunited with so many people that I grew up, and felt the pride, and community, and friendship that I thought was “over” for me, but it really wasn’t. My friends and schoolmates restored my faith in a life that wasn’t “over” anymore. It was just different now, and I could find something of solace in that as well. Last year’s visit reaffirmed that my hometown will always be a part of my life, and all the things I’ve done now could never have been possible without that time there.

So tonight, I shed tears for Navarro, my friends, and my Father, remembering my childhood there, and an autumn night’s stroll with my fiancee a few short months ago.

I realize now that I’ve had a shift in my priorities, and the importance of “roots” and “legacy”. Someone recently told me that I’ve done enough to have filled three lifetimes, and perhaps there’s a truth to that. I love adventure, but I don’t need unnecessary fast pace. I save that for the moments that are worth it. I’ve relaxed in some ways. I don’t need dramatic spectacles, and I don’t need to discard friendships and burn bridges to prove some short-term point or over some superficial “slight”. And people are far too quick to make other people “disposable”. I’m not interested in this line of thinking. A “time out” does not mean “forever”. I was reminded of that with three friends in the last year that I haven’t seen in 10-20 years. We lost touch, we reconnected, and it was just picking up from last time.

I also realize that in a society of “extremes” everything is either “all or nothing”, which has caused me to step more out and away from some topics. It’s one of the biggest reasons that I never really discuss political or religious views. It’s not that I don’t have beliefs or opinions, I just don’t need to polarize my relationships with all of my various friends. Right now, my more prominent goals are: How can I help people, and how can I be more kind. Life’s too short to antagonize. Everyone deserves a fair shot at this thing called life, and it’s not my place to disrupt another’s journey. I’ve also removed a lot of “clickbait” sites to help me better reconnect with people. There’s a tinge of loss in the pioneered simplicity of the early days of the internet, something I’ve been researching in my spare time. I even found my old Geocities site, which was another unique online chapter of mine.

And perhaps it’s those “multiple lifetimes” that cause me to be more reserved these days. I’ve seen a lot, more than the stories that I love to share. And I certainly haven’t run out of things to do. Jen and I visited Utah a week ago on the grounds that we’ve never been, and that was enough incentive. We drove through St. George and saw a Dinosaur Discovery Site museum that was built over an in-progress dig. The locals apparently don’t like them due to the whole “evolution” thing, so I donated a few dollars and told them to “keep up the good work”. You have to defy convention sometime. It’s how we keep discovering. Jen and I continued our drive to a tiny trading post in Virgin, Utah where we petted tiny bossy horses that wanted carrots in a petting zoo. And then we continued on to Zion National Park, which I’ve seen enough rocks to last me a lifetime out here, but this view… was well worth the drive.

Welcome to Utah.

Welcome to Utah.

As always, those travel pics are found here.

I’m at an interesting crossroads of realizations and waiting for things to line up. Perhaps stepping back has been good for me. And I think perhaps my priorities are changing to where I am finding my own sense of peace, and that means shifts in interactions, and avoidance of stressors. And I’ve found some unusual affirmations. I ended up beating a fairly difficult video game last night, and it felt good. Despite some changes, I still have some skills that aren’t going away anytime soon. As Kevin Flynn once said: “It’s all in the wrists”, and those first and early days of Midway treated me well. All of these lifetimes still reside within one person. Thing is, I’m now ready to accept it all.

While I don’t think I’ll settle back in Texas anytime soon, I think my story there still has a few more things to say.

After all, if my Dad’s story can still continue on, so can mine.

Purple Rain.

I was planning to write today, but now I have to mark today….

Today is the day that Prince died.

I was fortunate enough to see him during the 2013 Billboard Music Awards, and while my mention of him was brief, it’s something that you don’t forget.

As part of any of my awards shows, I and my colleagues are fortunate enough to have front row experiences to watching the artists rehearse. Sometimes, right in front of the stage, and sometimes, on stage with them. It’s an experience that’s hard to describe, but certainly not easily forgotten.

I watched Prince rehearse a selection of songs, and the set ended with his classic “Let’s Go Crazy”, complete with that guitar solo ending. Bear in mind I’ve been doing these shows for 7-8 years now, and I’ve been fortunate to see some legends up close and personal, from Stevie Wonder to Dolly Parton. But Prince…. That man had an energy about him. I don’t use phrases like “electrifying” in normal conversation unless I’m writing some descriptive show review… but he was.

We were probably about 10 feet away from him, and the hairs on my arms set on end when he went off on that guitar. And I knew that I was seeing something special. Being a rehearsal, we got to see it a few times, and each time was just as solid as the one preceding it. I viewed watching Prince perform as one of my “life goals” back then, and even before I heard the news this morning, it still was today. I took this news hard. It’s hard to sit writing content all day while trying to stifle back tears.

I don’t get starstruck often, nor do I really cry much when a celebrity passes. Michael Jackson, Steve Irwin, Harold Ramis, Robin Williams, Leonard Nimoy. Those, I did. Prince, I just struggled with silently all day because I wasn’t really able to absorb that moment. I’ve listened to my Purple Rain record tonight and just reminisced. In 2013, I also said he was a God. That too still holds firm on my opinion of him, and I’m so grateful to have had that moment.

Purple Rain

Purple Rain

What’s funny is that I was going to write about award shows tonight anyway. My mind’s been going back to the ACMAs, and the people I work with. It’s a special group of people to me, as it’s always the same core selection of actors, and we’ve built years of these experiences together. The first day at the ACMAs really stuck with me as someone commented that I seemed more mature these days, like I had grown into myself. I’ve thought about that, and overall, I suppose it’s true. My priorities have changed so much, especially in the last two years where I was at my worst and my best. Seeing both sides of the spectrum in so short a time really sorted out a few priorities that I needed to.

These days, I focus more of my time on kindness and generosity, and I’m more wearied of fools and those that take advantage. Or those that idolize the trivial. I’m less eager to please, because I’ve seen the effects of telling people what they want to hear, and making promises that never could be delivered on. Misguided priorities and neurosis. The fragility of life and the relationships around us. And how burning bridges can be so easy to do if someone hurts us, but it’s not always the right decision. You don’t have to forget, but you can change the interactions… or in some cases mend them.

I feel a lot more at peace with myself now. More certain of my talents, and where it is that I want to be. I’ve finally come to accept that I am that square peg that people sometimes try to force into that round hole, and try as hard as they can, neither of us are going to end up happy. The thing is, I am okay with that. I’ve accepted who I am, and at the end of the day, it’s not so bad. If people can’t understand the talents that I have or fit me into their box, that doesn’t make me “stupid”. I don’t need to “save the world” anymore, but I’ve figured out how I can help all the same. I am more interested in contributing and making an impact. After all, who are we if not a summation of our memories, our experiences, and the risks that we are willing to take?

I’ve done what I’ve needed to survive for so long, and I’m at a point to where I don’t have to be afraid anymore. Afraid of surviving, or making mistakes, or not meeting up to someone else’s expectations. I’ve thought about “what next”, and where that’s going to take me.

Funny thing is, I realize that some of those answers have been right in front of me the whole time….

Mr. Waggins.

Mr. Waggins.

But that’s a story for another time.

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.

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.

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.

As Always, Running Behind.

I hadn’t really noticed that the last time I updated my blog was a month ago… from a time 10 years ago.

Well, certainly, things have happened since, both a a decade and two months ago-wise.

January certainly started off with a bang: I got a new job.

I’ve worn a lot of hats over the years, and outside of my super-fast growing “five o’ clock shadow”, the other Homer Simpson quality I share with him is the litany of varied and multiple careers over the years. From grocery bagger, to video store clerk, to professional video gamer, to freelance writer, to TV/Film actor, to sous chef, to pre-show award host, to paranormal investigator, to wine server, to travel agent, to promoter, to tour guide, I’ve been all over the spectrum. And so, opportunity brought me back into the writing and marketing aspect with a new social media company Downtown. It’s definitely interesting. And unquestionably busy.

And I had to leave the Neon Museum a little faster than I anticipated in a departure that felt more like a bad break-up in an awkward relationship the way it all went down, but I suppose at the end of the day, I did entertain the guests there, and reviews like this, as well as a great number of the people I worked with there, remind me that I did affect some good during my time. It’s all we can do in any aspect of life, really.

But things have certainly changed since then. A lot busier to be sure. New people, and new clients. Some of it very much at my own pace, or relearning acceptance that the world doesn’t always change in a few minutes. I feel more at peace with a promise of definite goals for the future. My arm and chest no longer ache. It’s a good thing. And the way things are shifting, performance and entertainment is definitely not out of my future, either.

Somewhere in there, I even affected a very brief trip to San Diego to see Jen’s Mom, who has been a little under the weather, but was thrilled for our engagement, and now I am starting to call her “Mom” as well. It’s… been a few years since I’ve used that term in context for myself. Again, not a bad thing.

But I did use the remaining time to really give myself a chance to reopen myself to what San Diego offered, either things I couldn’t see, or had forgotten. From a dog beach, to a little coffee shop, a stroll through Old Town, the Gaslamp, and Coronado, and even sitting on the hill where my first home was in Point Loma, overlooking the bay where the bridge is and the cruise ships would come to port. It was definitely a view that I did not take advantage of enough. Still, not everything was perfect. Our hotel left much to be desired. But the overall trip was a positive one.

Coming back home has been a series of shows at the Smith Center (Nice Work If You Can Get It), a several hour bicycle pub experience, and another ghost hunting experience. I admit to being a little more reclusive of late after last Winter’s injury/scare, but the call of adventure doesn’t leave me for too long, and I expect that the next few weeks are going to lead into quite a few exciting things for me.

I’m actually doing a lot more with my Instagram these days, so for what lacks in photos for this entry, you can see all the strange and unusual and artsy things I’ve been encountering the last few weeks. My schedule has been more than busy, so I write for myself when I can.

I write, and catch up on my strange reawakening of 1990′s-era hip-hop. As of this writing, I am indeed down with O.P.P.

Christmas.

The last few days have been quite the event.

With every passing day, I have been back on the mend. The left arm gets a little stupid from time to time, but it becomes less and less frequent.

With everything that has gone on, it becomes more and more clear that some of my current options need to change, be approached from a different angle, or just disappear entirely. And I’ve thought on that, and what all of it has been worth, and what my life is worth.

Part of it, admittedly, is that I had a personal crisis of faith. I had grown stagnant for a while. I wasn’t enjoying things that brought me pleasure, or simply stopped doing them entirely. My routine had been interrupted some time back, and I never really returned to being “me” again. Well, not the “me” that I liked and want to be: The video gamer. The writer. The actor. The guy who went everywhere from the beaches of Kauai to the deserts of Burning Man, or just had an adventure within his own city. I didn’t feel like that person anymore, and I panicked, feeling that my most “interesting” days were behind me. I didn’t want all of that to be over.

But as I had realized earlier, I remain the very definition of those old stories, and they will remain a part of me wherever I go. They are “over”, so that I can keep moving forward and adding new ones. If I ever need to revisit them, all I have to do is tell that story to bring it back.

In realizing this, I took a look at those stories, and noticed the patterns that take place in each one. Some of my best were shared, and as independent as I have always been, I realized that it was time to no longer go alone. Not that I have been, mind you. I’ve had someone by my side for quite a while now, but I never stepped up properly like I should have. Too proud of my eternal “Toys R Us Kid” lifestyle, I suppose. It’s not so much that I owed the next step, as it was more the proper thing to do. It wasn’t a compromise in any way, but a compliment to the life I’ve lived.

And so I hatched a masterful plan within the last few months. Granted, there have been obstacles. The “sue” thing put a damper on some, and my body shutting down was another. It’s not been a cheap ride, let me tell you. But I was determined. A few traditional bills could remain angry at me for a little while longer.

And so I found the one item that said “This is the one”, same as one chooses a puppy, or the wand chooses the wizard. I made my payments, and smuggled it around like Gollum for several days until this morning. And it culminated with this:

The one ring.

The one ring.

I asked Jen to marry me. Properly. No “implied”. No “You know where this is heading anyway” or “We’ll get around to it eventually”…. No more half-ass from me. She deserves better than my occasional half-cocked and overzealous stupidity.

Of course, life has a funny way of making things happen. A flu bug has been growing in me the last few days, making me a globby, wheezing mess of a human being (just in time for Christmas, of course). But as the last gift, I made her close her eyes and wait until she again opened them to find me on one knee with ring in hand saying: “I suppose you’ll know the next four words: Will you marry me?”

(To those wondering, after the initial squeak, the “Yes” came quickly.)

And so, Christmas took on a whole meaning this year, one where I put shared needs over anyone or anything else, the return to a clearer path of getting back on track for my life, and learning that love can also come in the form of a 1980 Lando Calrissian themed Burger King glass.

I am, admittedly, a little melancholy about Christmas as years have passed. I love the cheerfulness that the season brings, the lights, the music, and even that brief moment where everyone behaves a just little longer, and acts a little nicer. But I do miss my old home at times, the family that lived there, and even old friends that have long since gone.

And like my life and the things I’ve done, I realize that none of that can ever be taken away either. There will always be those frozen moments in time where I laughed and loved with my Mom and Dad, my grandparents, Sparkle, Junie…. And I can return to them with pictures and videos, and memories that I will never forget. It’s not as direct as I would like at times, but in a sense, I will always find ways to “return home”. This year reminded me of that with revisiting old homes, reunions, and a picture sent to me of my Dad that I had never seen before. It brought me a moment of comfort seeing his face again.

But it’s time for new memories. New traditions. New doors to be opened, and all new paths to explore. And none of it has to change or replace the old ones. I wouldn’t want it to. I just find a new area of canvas to fit them in and keep building on. Unify everything into one picture of my life that I have been painting for a very, very long time. And it’s time to restore my routine, and no longer be limited. I should have done that a long time ago. Turns out that I don’t have to grow up after all. Not entirely, anyway.

My life is not perfect. It is not always easy. But I am reminded that friends and family, and friends that have become family, will be there beside me as I stride into this next evolution to make sure that I am not alone.

No one is alone. Not completely.

The next chapter.

The next chapter.

And for those wondering, Dad once told me many a year ago that if I ever chose to go down this particular path, then I would have his support.

Merry Christmas.

Life.

It’s been a long road the last few months since I chose to follow my “Quest for Happy.”

No path is a straight line, though it started off well: I crossed off a few overdue “bucket list” items, reunited with aspects of my childhood in some very unique ways, and added some new adventures to my backlog. It was very much “typical” me, and how I have always done things.

I wasn’t expecting life to change so drastically once I got back from Texas.

To be fair, some changes were well in the works before my “quest” began. Some aspects of my life simply weren’t working, and although getting sued just absolutely sucked, I suppose that was simply its time in coming (though I didn’t know that those particular events could go down like that). But it stressed me out, and put me in a several week-long funk. In our “Ultra PC” society where no one ever wants to call things for what they are, I fell into a depression over it.

But it wasn’t just the money. I was learning that some career prospects were far more limiting than I imagined, while other beloved aspects have been simply just disappearing entirely. I have a number of things that I need to get organized and repaired in my daily life, and money had become a little tighter in the last few weeks. Some friends were going down a self-destructive path to where I couldn’t offer support (and was losing the energy to), while others only really seemed to call anymore when they were needing something. There were a lot of annoyances of people turning everything I said into comedy bits, or offering to help and then just completely disappearing when it came time to “cash in the friend chips”. And I felt conflicted by feelings after I came home. Nostalgia versus things have changed, and a bout of homesickness that washed over me really badly. I started physically feeling it as well. And instead of the sensations getting easier, it kept getting worse. My left arm was aching and going numb. I was lacking the energy to do things or go out. And then my chest started aching.

And it wouldn’t stop.

My arm felt like it had died or was on fire. I was breaking out into sweats. I started sleeping a lot more to find some sort of rest, and my chest kept getting worse and worse. It was affecting everything until I couldn’t take it anymore, and finally drove to the hospital and told them my symptoms.

They rushed me to the emergency room and put me on bedrest.

This is not how you do a glamour shot.

This is not how you do a glamour shot.

They poked and prodded me. Drew blood, and scanned me all over, but couldn’t find anything “wrong” with me (but really, who wants the doctors to find something “wrong”?). And when I went to another doctor, it was the same thing, though process of elimination did find two aspects: An old injury that I got back in 2011 from an acting gig had flared up again, and I was undergoing some massive stress, which was causing the other aspect of the physical problems.

People undermine stress in the same way that they undermine depression as it being some “no big deal” kind of thing. And certainly, it isn’t… for them. They aren’t the ones that have to deal with it every morning. But both are incredibly toxic to a person, and in light of some of the people (like Robin Williams) that we have lost this year, the more extreme effects have finally found a public face for once.

But I was sent home and told to stay off my feet for a few days. Rest. Relax.

It gave me a lot of time to think (and a lot of curling up with the dogs). I’ve worried so much about my “past” in the sense that I was once in the video game industry, and a decade’s worth of roles in the acting world have been getting smaller in the last year or two. I felt like I was losing those parts of me. But I’ve begun to realize that no matter what happens, whether I remain in or return to those aspects at a later point in my life, have been and are “mine”. I lived them, and they can never be taken away from me. I have always been that person, but I have also evolved into new things as well.

The same goes for some of the people that I have had to deal with lately: I’ve had people that I have thought were friends rip me off. I’ve had others start to really only see/use me as a tool in order to get things done for them. And I’ve had others that have told me that I am not as good as everyone else, deciding that repetition and routine is the place that I need to be. I don’t thrive without creativity. Or with insult. But at the same time, I’ve been reminded of an old adage that really does ring true: If you really want to know the true colors of who your friends are, have something really good or really bad happen to you. The last few weeks have been a lot of support, and a lack of surprise in many aspects.

But I am trying to take something from all of this, while remaining true to my more humanistic values. This is the first time that I’ve really been sick like this (or in the hospital, for that matter). My wallet was the thing that bled the most from this experience, but there is some genuine comfort in finding out what I don’t have. But I am changing my life up a little bit in a few aspects: I am going to limit some of my social media time. Not everything is “comedy hour”, nor am I under obligation to act as a surrogate CNN. There’s more than enough bad news in the world to easily find via the click of the button. I’d rather spend my time focusing on the good, even if it is smaller. I did an event last month that, instead of the standard birthday party, was a session to create gift bags full of basic toiletries for homeless people. I’ve been handing those out from time to time as I see people on a corner or digging in a garbage can.

I’m not going to be the one-stop “fix all” for people anymore. I will still choose to help people, but when it becomes apparent that “fixing” is the only role I’m playing whenever they do make the effort to call me… well, that’s ending. I am changing up my social life a little bit. I am needing more substance and less drama. For that matter, I think social media was painting me too much with a drink in hand. I have NEVER had a problem with drinking or related control issues, and those are one-offs for days of undocumented events, but I don’t like the image that seems to be getting portrayed, so I have been really toning that down as well. Social media can paint a very skewed portrait of a situation that may not be necessarily true.

And recent events have reminded me of the importance of creativity in my life. I am getting back into writing. I plan to get back into my travel work. I’d love to combine the two one day, along with my love for film. Gaming? I was fortunate enough to be drafted into a gig for the Playstation Experience this last weekend, and that felt like more play than work, and was the first time I’ve really gotten back out. I’ve never outgrown my love for video games, as it is equal parts nostalgic, exciting, and bittersweet. I have so much more to give, and I do not need anyone in my life to tell me that my contributions are not good enough.

Perhaps… all of this that has happened in the last few weeks has been part of my “quest” all along. I needed to really sit down and have the time to view the flaws in my day to day routine that I don’t enjoy, need to be changed, or removed entirely. Part of my growth is going to require me to let go. And part of it is going to be the reminders of days on my childhood beach, or life in a small Texas town that are still very much of who I am, and always will be. I’ve realized yet again that those are my values. And so are my friends and family. If anything, it has renewed my personal journey, and the need to “fix” things. Just this time, it’s for myself.

A very hard lesson these last few weeks, but a needed one. Things that cause me that much (physical) pain need to go, and I need to quit being foolish and focus on the good that is in front of me.

And that… is another announcement to come in the next few weeks….

A Month of Reconnection.

When I wrote my last post, I had made the declaration that I was going to seek out what makes me happy. And now that August has come to an end, I think I had a pretty high success rate overall. It ranged from little things such as seeing shows like Rock of Ages at the Venetian, to larger things like finally paying off my car once and for all.

But I wanted to go bigger. More meaningful. More personal, but with a twist of larger than life? And what better way to do the latter than meeting William Shatner?

KIickin' it with the Shat.

Kickin’ it with the Shat.

I’m not going to lie: I’ve wanted to meet William Shatner since I was a little kid, and while I have passed/missed the opportunity for years on end, I decided that this was going to be the year it was going to happen. So Jen and I went to the Star Trek Convention in Las Vegas, and to paraphrase that other Captain: We made it so.

As I was leaving, I told him that he was one of my heroes, which he took graciously enough. And that was true. The man has enjoyed an incredible career, and he’s still just cruising along and enjoying his life in his 80′s. I could only be as fortunate.

And in a bit of the random, we also met Will and Holly from Land of the Lost, and they too were just really nice people.

Guy, Jen, Will and Holly....

Guy, Jen, Will and Holly….

A few more days of waiting in between, and I was finally able to take a long overdue vacation and get the Hell out of Dodge. Or Vegas, in this case. Regardless, I had to escape town for a few days.

The drive over there was fraught with peril. while I can spin a good yarn with dramatic emphasis from time to time, the drive over to our first destination sucked. While still in New Mexico, we had to get the two front tires fixed as they were about to blow out. Upon hitting the state line, we hadn’t even driven in Texas for one physical minute when there were already five churches back to back, along with a sign claiming in huge letters how much they hate Obama. Welcome home indeed.

While that was more notable and amusing, the rest of the drive wasn’t. As long as I live, I shall never solely use phone GPS again to navigate cross-country. In an attempt to be “helpful”, it rerouted us every time we took a gas, food, or pee break, putting us on every possible backroad it could find. From New Mexico to Austin, Texas, we never hit one single highway. And the road itself were full of wandering deer that had no issue whatsoever stepping in front of your car. A few minutes later, a police officer pulled us over for having our brights on. As we sat and traded info., we collectively realized that GPS had added an extra four hours to our trip, thanks to these stupid back farm roads. He felt sorry for us as we explained what happened. Upon getting to Austin, we nearly lost our room as they have to have people check in at a certain time, and you guessed it: That was well over four hours ago. We told the same story, and he also felt sorry for us, giving us a room after all.

We crashed hard that night.

Austin itself was an interesting place. Among the many things we did, we visited the Cathedral of Junk:

Cathedral entrance.

Cathedral entrance.

This was a two-story Burning Man style structure made out of all kinds of trash, scrap metal, and assorted refuse… in someone’s backyard. You would never know it was there as you passed through the residential area, but expert sleuthing skills found the place, and it’s massive.

Other places of interest we found were the Salt Lick Ranch, with contestably the best barbecue I have ever eaten in my life.

A feast of meats.

A feast of meats.

Found the house of Lord British (aka Richard Garriott of Ultima fame):

Quest for the Avatar.

Quest for the Avatar.

The house has all kinds castle related things, from secret passages to observatories.

I also went on Austin’s Bat Cruise, where one bridge on Congress Street houses over a million bats that all fly out at dusk.

The Bat Signal.

The Bat Signal.

Batdance.

Batdance.

We went to 6th Street, once completed, than began to travel to New Orleans.

Bayou Country.

Bayou Country.

New Orleans is perhaps one of the most magical cities that I’ve visited in these United States. Unlike the manufactured feel of Vegas, everything feels real and alive here. The city itself is as old as it can be, founded on the stories of pirates, aristocrats, jazz, and voodoo, and it all blends perfectly here, from the neighborhoods to Bourbon Street.

The Magical City.

The Magical City.

And that goes for the food and the drink here as well. If you’re not eating, you’re drinking anything from coffee to hurricanes. Music is always playing somewhere. People are hustling. Some poor wretch is invariably in a corner somewhere for not handling his alcohol. But it makes for good times.

Jazz.

Jazz.

Steamboats.

Steamboats.

Above ground cemeteries.

Above ground cemeteries.

We were only able to stay one day due to our hectic schedule, and I could have easily stayed more. From ghost tours to muffalettas, it remains one of my favorite cities.

But we had to make time to drive over to Florida. And you know, that in itself is not a bad thing at all.

Home again.

Home again.

I was born and raised in Texas, but Florida retains a soft spot in my heart. I lived there in the early 1980′s. I well know the beach, the food, and a few other non-touristy and personal places. And for that reason, I found myself going home deeper than I ever could have imagined.

I still remember where my Grandmother, Mother and I lived while my Grandfather was sick. I was five years old, and despite it being a sad time with him passing away, my being so young remembered it as more than just that. I lived a life of beaches and Pac-Man, and playing in our little home. And on return trips, I’ve found myself driving past looking at the place where I once knew, yet would never know again.

And yet…

At Jen’s prompting, I found myself at the door, ringing the doorbell. A friendly looking lady answered. “Hi. Um, this is going to sound weird….” I began, relaying the story of my life in what is now her house. At the end of my story, she blinked for a moment before opening the door wider. “Why don’t you come inside”, she said.

I found myself in a home I thought I would never see again. There were changes, yes, but there was familiarity. Moreso than I expected, and a flood of memories washed over me as I walked around. My grandparent’s room, my Mother’s room….

My room.

For the first time in 32 years, I stood inside my childhood bedroom. The furniture was different, but everything else was the same. It was a gentle feeling, but I also felt the pang of loss of my Mother and Grandparents. And my Dad as well. I could feel my eyes beginning to water, but it wasn’t entirely sadness. There was a feeling of gratitude for that life lived, and for one moment, with a stranger being kind to this stranger, I got to touch it again.

Jen and I talked a little more, then wished her well, promising to send photos of my time there. We also got this photo:

The path of memories.

The path of memories.

After we left, I decided to track down my old school, Little Flower.

I graduated kindergarten in 1982 there, you know:

The old days.

The old days.

And yet, with another “Hi. Um, this is going to sound weird….”, I found myself with another reunion:

The new days.

The new days.

During our remaining time in Pensacola….

Pensacola Lighthouse.

Pensacola Lighthouse.

We climbed all 177 steps of this beast.

Fishies!

Fishies!

Ate ridiculously fresh fish every single day.

The last night.

The last night.

And watched the sunset from the beach.

After the next morning’s sunrise, we drove back into Texas to have a small family reunion with my Uncle, my sister, and her kids. It’s been since 2008-2009 since I’ve seen them, and although the trip was long, seeing them was worth it.

The drive back was about as random as it could get:

In which I really did wait a cotton picking minute.

In which I really did wait a cotton picking minute.

Still no basement in the Alamo.

Still no basement in the Alamo.

The UFO Museum of Roswell, New Mexico.

The UFO Museum of Roswell, New Mexico.

Walter White's House, I presume.

Walter White’s House, I presume.

And the roadtrip, while over perhaps too soon to properly process it all, was exactly what I needed.

I may still be on my own quest for happiness. I was on social media less, and chose to make my memories though photos. I made an effort (and did so) to meet one of my heroes. I reconnected with my past, my childhood, and the parts that I sometimes forget to in my present due to work, or something else in my constant schedule. I needed to remind myself where I began. I did new things. Went new places. Connected with people that I had never met before. I took time out to watch a sunset and a sunrise. I hadn’t done that since Burning Man. I realize that I had simply forgotten to live my life, and along the way, the jarring loss of Robin Williams reminded me that laughter is perhaps a gift that we often take for granted in our day to day lives.

I don’t suppose that every month will be like August. “Responsibility”, for all of its benefits, can also be a very ugly word in those times when it is all you are able to focus on.

With a clearer head, and a coming break from my own storms, I think it will be time to move forward again myself. That part isn’t totally clear yet, but I have a better idea of what I do want… and what I don’t.

“The Month of Happy” is going to have be extended. Indefinitely, I think, until I reach the place where I truly want to be.