March 2, 2014
Over two years ago, before The Only Ones came out, I did a countdown of 99 things (books, movies, art, places, etc.) that inspired it. It was a fun way to revisit some stuff I was actively thinking about when I wrote the book, as well as some stuff I didn’t realize influenced me until I had some time to reflect.
Well, it’s 99 days until The Riverman hits shelves and I figured, why not do it all again? So, without further ado, here is my list of #99inspirations that I’ll be counting down daily on Twitter. This doesn’t represent all of my favorite things (sorry, no bright copper kettles and warm woolen mittens here), though it does include some stuff that I truly love. And hopefully it sparks some conversation about the stuff you love and the stuff that leaks into your creations.
March 10, 2011
I was once an addict. Shocking, I know, but before you go calling Dr. Drew and booking a 20/20 interview, let me provide some clarification. My addiction was a common one for young’ns and agoraphobes and the pasty-skinned of this world . I was obsessed with video games. Many of my pre-teen and teenage years were spent slaughtering goblins and dunking over Larry Bird. Time, money and opportunities to chat up girls were wasted. And what do I have to show for it? An unhealthy knowledge of Kid Icarus and some undying regrets that involve never finishing Metal Gear. All things considered, not so bad. At least I’m not on a street corner, holding some cardboard, and talking about my “radio voice.”
Once an addict, always an addict, they say, but I’m going to dispute that. I set down the video game controller when I went to college, and aside from a few poor showings at Mortal Kombat and NHL Hockey, I didn’t pick it up again. It was an activity I associated with whelps. College meant I was sophisticated, and did sophisticated things. Like drink Gatorade cocktails and run through campus in nothing but my skivvies.
After college, video games occupied the same place in my mind as amusement parks. Sure, I knew they could be fun and they had gotten a lot bigger and better than they were when I was a kid, but I wasn’t about to spend my day riding The Great American Scream Machine and then writing fan fiction about it. I laid off the stuff completely for nearly 10 years.
Then my wife bought me a Wii for my birthday. I’m not sure why. It’s not like I was always comparing her to the masked love of my adolescence, Samus Aran. Perhaps I was talking in my sleep, mumbling, “look out above for Koopa…Paratroopa,” or “up up, down down, left right, left right…” In any case, she tracked a Wii down for me, in the days when they were kinda hard to get. And I was pleasantly surprised.
We had some friends over for a night Wii Sports, and it was just like a commercial. We were laughing and high-fiving as we plowed down bowling pins and beat the stuffing out of each other. The snacks were diverse and plentiful. Good times. And in the following weeks, I played a little bit on the weekends, perfecting my short game and my hook. It was fun, but I was definitely a recreational user.
Then I was reintroduced to Zelda. Just so you know, one of my greatest accomplishments was being the first kid in my 6th grade class to win the original Legend of Zelda. And I did it without the aid of hints and magazines. For a brief time, I was like some guru on a hill. Kids would come to me in the cafeteria with desperate queries and I would answer them in riddles.
“How do I defeat the Digdogger?”
“Well son. I ask you this. Do you have music in your heart?”
As games went, Zelda was bona fide – a top shelf, genuine issue classic. It’s hero, Link, was the sort of icon that Funyon-eaters and children in Kyoto tattooed on their necks. And years later, as I putted around the online Wii store, I realized I had missed out on almost all of Link’s other adventures during my hiatus from the gaming world. And my hands began to shake. I got cotton mouth. I downloaded The Legend of Zelda: The Ocarina of Time. The addiction returned.
This was about two years ago, and I got hooked on the Majora’s Mask too. They are both undeniably cheesy fantasy adventures, where people talk about Triforces of Power and descending darkness and undying pixie love and whatnot. There are amphibious jug bands and rapping scarecrows and kleptomaniacal Amazon women. All manner of ridiculous stuff. But the brilliance of the games is that they never bore you. They are designed so that you can always make progress. There are always puzzles to solve, and livestock to goose, and townspeople’s houses to trash, and woodland creatures to kill. No matter how bad a gamer you are (and trust me, my skills are pedestrian after all those years off ), you will always find something to accomplish, and find yourself proudly saying things like, “I can’t believe I out-swam a beaver in a race for a bottle! My finest moment!”
I dedicated many early morning weekend hours to solving those two games, and had to be pulled away kicking and screaming on more than one occasion. But I beat them both. And I thought I’d beat the addiction too. I set the controller back down and resumed my normal life. It was a relapse, but a minor one.
And then, a few days ago, I found myself on EBay, trying desperately to beat a demon supercomputer in some mildewy Belarusian crime den (or so I imagined) at an auction, so that I might be able to purchase Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess for less than $22 (which is like 75% off retail, if you must know). Yes, the monkey had his claws in once again and his banana-breathed whispers in my ear were working.
“You’d be stupid not to try and get it at a low, low price. Just keep bidding. Your wife will never make fun of you for playing a game called Twilight Princess. Certainly not. Certainly not. Ooo Ooo. Eee Eee.”
Guess what? It arrived yesterday. God help me.
September 14, 2010
It’s been a while. Life and other endeavors have gotten in the way and blogging has fallen far down the list of priorities. My blog ranking has suffered because of it. According to Alexa.com, this is no longer one of the top million web sites in the world. Michelin has taken away one of my three stars.
A friend once told me he hopes that upon death, we will all receive a stat sheet, detailing our minor accomplishments. Miles walked. Daves known. Cumulative hours spent listening to Al Jarreau. The sheet will also feature our all-time world rankings. Have I eaten more buffalo wings than Alexander the Great? Hit more three pointers than Charles Nelson Reilly? Important knowledge for a man to take into the afterlife.
One thing is for sure. Every person is bound to be the best in history at least one thing, though most of us probably wouldn’t know what that thing is.
“Congratulations, my friend, you have spent more time doing annoying, and inaccurate, Austin Powers impressions than any other human in history.
“Fine. Guilty. Just give me a trophy and let me in, St. Pete.”
“Do it first.”
“Come on. I just want to sit on a cloud and flirt with Joan of Arc.”
“Fine. Groovin’ Baby. Groovin’.”
It embarrasses me to tell you this, but one of the important things I’ve been doing instead of blogging is playing Rock Band. Thanks to Craig and is eponymous list, I picked up a full set for a cool $30. For that price, I’d be a fool not to try to master Mountain’s Mississippi Queen on a plastic push-button Fender!
One thing I learned from my foray into Rock Band is that I’m not very good at video games. I used to be okay, back in the days when Kid Icarus was the rage. But I haven’t played many video games as an adult, and I certainly lack the inspiring dedication some of my peers possess.
I remember one lazy summer Saturday a few years back when I turned on the TV and I saw a Guitar Hero competition. On ESPN. With adults involved. All varieties of nerd were collected on stage and they were playing Metallica and, I don’t know, Molly Hatchet or something. They were mugging and fist pumping and throwing the devil horns out to the crowd. All the while their fingers were racing across video game frets like Bishop’s knife trick. They didn’t miss a note.
All I could think was: Good gravy! If these guys dedicated their time to actually learning how to play guitar, then they might have a crowd full of screaming women in front of them. Instead they have some pasty Best Buy employees, the IT department from Chubb, and a small percentage of South Korea’s teenage boy population. Perhaps that’s what they want, but it breaks my heart just the same.
But not as much as this. This guy might just be the greatest video game drummer in the history of mankind. When he dies, we’ll check his stats to be sure. But even if he’s second or third best, I can’t help but want to shake him silly.
To quote his youtube description: “I do not play the real drums.”
Because that would be a waste of time, wouldn’t it?