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Archive for May, 2012

I’m in the middle of writing a story that has proven to be more difficult than I thought. I figured having the story set in one studio apartment with no cutaways or flashbacks would be a challenge but not to the point of writer’s block that has lasted nearly 6 months.

I’m probably trying too hard but I want this story to mean something, not just a series of events that seem cool. I have fantasy stories for that. Not that this story doesn’t have elements of fantasy but after going through the English Lit program at my University, I’ve wanted to give my stories more emotional resonance.

At present, I am in the second act, trying to bridge the gap between the established characters and the finale. I think I’ve finally figured out what I want the ending to be so picking up the pen again (or keyboard) has been easier. Good metaphor for life.

Anyway, I’ll continue to post updates on my progress for this story called The Tape. I’m excited about it being completed!

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Out for a rare drink one night, in between showing photos of his new luxury car, my friend told me I should get rid of the old junk filling up a room in my place.

As I cleaned and organized, I discovered things I’d forgotten about. Things that seemed so important at one time or another now hid in dusty boxes or flattened underneath piles of other dusty boxes. A wooden, dinosaur bank with a clear plastic middle to see the collection of pennies my Aunt gave me when I was small; my lettermen jacket decorated with swim team patches from high school that I wore twice; a plush armadillo I bought in Texas as a present for my mom, the hat ripped off long ago by her bite happy dog; a photo book of my trip to Japan with my first and ex-girlfriend; handwritten letters from my friend who moved to Alaska when we were twelve; a small blanket my grandmother knitted for me before she passed away; Christmas lights I use to decorate my tree every year.

My friend came over and looked at the box of stuff I was getting rid. “Just this one thing?”

“Yeah,” I answered. “I can get new lights in December.”

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Maybe it was the fact that I had too much to do on my stay at home vacation but I knew I had to get out of town, for a few hours at least. I had been wanting to go on a roadtrip for a few months and I saw this newfound time off as my opportunity to do just that. So I drove to Portland.

It was late in the day when I left, the clouds making the nighttime fall that much quicker. I drove, sometimes listening to Adam Carolla’s podcast, sometimes listening to music, all the while trying to compose the lyrics for a new song. I finished a verse and half a chorus before it became too dark to write on the pad of paper in the passenger seat. Not the safest thing to do but hey, I’m a professional writer-down-of-things.

I entered the city just after 10pm and the first thing I did was go to Salt and Straw, the local favorite artisan ice cream shop. I had heard about it from my dental hygenist at my appointment earlier that day and it sounded like the perfect place to start. I’m someone who enjoys trying the strangest article of food at any given establishment so when I heard they had a flavor with bleu cheese as a main ingredient, I had to try it. It was very enjoyable but my only complaint would be to add more bleu cheese. 

After that, I decided to check out the place I wanted to stay, a boutique hotel called The Jupiter Hotel. I had stayed there once before and had an average stay but what put this place before any other was their deal of charging nearly half price when getting a room after midnight. This made choosing easy, if not a tad hazardous. It did depend on availability and I didn’t want to stay there until after midnight and be told that there were no vacancies. I decided to chance it. I was prepared to drive back to Seattle that night if I had to.

Adjacent to the hotel was an underground club called the Doug Fir and I noticed a flyer that said that a show was going on that night. With nothing else to do, I descended the yellowish steps. I admit that I was a little surprised at the swankiness of the place. It reminded me of some of the nicer clubs in Seattle. Clean, nice lighting. things that nearly all of the rock clubs I had been to didn’t have. I got there as the last band began to set up so I ordered a beer and decided to wait. One of the artists on the bill was Micheal Learner from Telekinesis who I liked but wasn’t too familiar with his work. The band was called pdxoxo I think. They sounded great, not only mix wise but song wise, a poppy, indie sound with woman vocals.

The show ended at midnight and as soon as it was done, I went to the office and booked a room, which luckily they had. After dropping off my stuff in the room (the amenities included the usual soap, shampoo, tbs, and also a condom) I went to Serious Pie down the street for my late night dinner. The two slices I got were good and I washed it down with a peach flavored beer I don’t remember the name of. 

When I finished, I went back to my place to sleep but my room was right next to the outside firepit area where groups of people talked until closing time. Drowning out there voices with The Matrix Revolutions helped some in putting me to sleep.

The next morning, I looked up places to go for breakfast and came across Genie’s Cafe which boasted a 4.5 star rating. I was still a little full from the pizza, but I was able to almost finish my eggs benedict. After that, a short drive to Chase for some cash, Powells Books for some culture, and VooDoo Donuts for some sweetness before driving back to Seattle.

The one thing I didn’t make time for was the lunch trucks that Portland is famous for. I’ll have to visit them next time.

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Yesterday, I went by my high school, and more specifically, the pool where I had logged countless hours in practice for the swim team. Remembering my schedule, I couldn’t believe how much time I had spent there per day, almost as much as a full-time job. Stepping into the building for the first time in more than a decade, the smell of chlorine brought back all those memories that a thousand photos could never do. Although being away had made the aroma more pungent than I remember, it was still the same smell.

There had been some modifications: a small set of bleachers had been built, new paint gave the walls a fresh look, and the record board, where my name had once been held (only once and only for a relay, but still), now proclaimed the greatness of those who had come after me. I wasn’t sure how I felt about it. Part of me was happy to be there, like coming home after a long trip, but part of me remembered the things I wish I could have done differently (maybe training enough that I would still be on that board).

The place had always been there and will probably outlast me but actually stepping into the building and smelling the familiar smells brought the place back into my reality. Seeing a few familiar faces cemented that feeling even more and it was great fun to catch up.

I believe that was what the creators of American Reunion were counting on. For some of us, the characters in the first American Pie movie were icons as they went through some of the same problems many of us went through in high school.

Now, in the fourth movie of the series, nostalgia is the name of the game as we see nearly everyone from that first movie, all grown up and caught up in the same problems only blown up to adult proportions. The movie had it’s moments and while there were many callbacks to previous events that happened in the other movies, the main theme was one of growing beyond the past, learning from mistakes and working through them because that is the only way we can mature and move on.

That is exactly what the indie video game Braid tries to say with even greater success. The play mechanics are everything a trip down memory lane is, broken up, slowed down, played over and over, sometimes ending the way we remember it, sometimes the way we wish it could have ended.

“What if our world worked differently” and “…we could remove the damage but still be wiser for the experience?” the game asks and succeeds in brilliant ways. The game plays like a standard Super Mario style platformer but with an added twist of time bending. If the player dies, time can be reversed to the point before the player makes the fatal mistake and choose a different action. Time can also be slowed with the help of a meaningful object for the character. Even doubles from the past can be employed in what is an imaginative play mechanic. 

This play mechanic blends with the story of memory and the common wish of correcting past mistakes that this game should be held up as an example of why video games are art. Everything about is a nostalgic trip from the similarities to old video games to the story line to what the story is ultimately about (the two meanings each stand on their own and both are incredibly well pulled off).

So, if I could slow time, and create usable doubles of myself, would I rewind time to that point in high school and apply everything I now know, maybe getting on that board and having it last until now and years past? Maybe I’ll know next time I drop by the pool.

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