A couple weeks back I bought a bit of kit to record conversations with people. And, in the name of learning how to use said kit, I’m starting to make relatively brief podcasts.
This is my first effort. The audio is all over the place, I know. And, yes, you can literally hear the metaphorical duct tape here and there. But I do love talking to people, and I’m glad I had this chat with a couple of surprisingly articulate counter jockeys at a local video game store here in Vancouver. Click the pizza-shaped button up above and give it a listen.
Once you’re finished, let me know what you think.
Also, FYI, I edited this on GarageBand. I’ll try Audacity next, see how that goes. I’ll be posting more of these conversations in the coming days. So, stay tuned.
Thanks for listening. And thanks for coming to my site. I couldn’t do this without you.
You’re the best.
I’ve been feeling great lately. Borderline spectacular, even. Been going to Grouse Mountain on a regular basis again. Eating right. Going to bed early. Stepping away from the ice cream (my most indulgent indulgence). Blah, blah, blah, etc.
My ferritin level is back up, which makes a pretty dramatic difference in the quality of my days. Low ferritin levels, as I learned last year, are the goddamned worst. Still sucking down the old iron supplements by the handful. (Constipation can be a real danger when taking iron supplements in this quantity, though it hasn’t been for me so far.) (I wish I was a bit constipated sometimes.) Last ferritin test was in the mid 70’s—I should ideally be back in the 150 range—but mid-70’s is worlds away from the 10-15 readings a couple months back. Higher ferritin level means I’ve stopped taking my daily one-hour naps (or sometimes two-hour) in the afternoons. I’m stronger at the gym, too, easily running 5-7 kilometres a day now.
I flew to New York City the first week in March to attend a VR conference at the New Museum on the Bowery. I’d booked a room in an upscale flophouse on 29th Street called the Ace Hotel. The Ace’s Expedia reviews were decent enough. And it was on the east side of midtown, which would make it easier for me to get to CNET, which is also on 29th Street. I had an appointment at CNET later in the week. (This is why.)
I’m 47 years old now. Hard to believe, I know. Though I still look like a sweet little man-angel—for some reason I’ve got the drum-taut, dew-dappled skin of a pre-teen Swedish boy—it’s official: I am really fucking far away from being young.
But I am not old, of course. I am ripe. I’m mature.
And I’m also immature, too.
A few marginally keen observations: I have this new kind of crepe paper-like skin around my eyes, particularly when I squint. I am horrified when I see it in photographs. Is that Burgess Meredith? I wonder. No, Scott; it’s just you and your newly wrinkled visage. Also: As we learned from Peyton Manning in the last NFL season, all the air suddenly goes out of a man’s body around 38, 39. Once the air’s out, he’s henceforth different. He can’t do the things that he used to be able to do, like throw touchdown passes that look like goddamned rainbows, or move his feet with any sort of speed or grace.
His poops are a little off, too. The mature man starts involuntarily eyeballing the crossword puzzle in the newspaper the same way he used to ogle steaks and women. The mature man wonders if 4 p.m. is too early to eat his dinner, then wonders if 8 p.m. (or, sometimes 7 p.m.) is too early to go to bed.
The mature man wonders sometimes if he did it all wrong; wonders if he missed out on something significant, or, at the very least, semi-significant. He tells himself repeatedly that, of course, he didn’t miss out on anything. Then, like clockwork, he worries about the same exact thing the following day.
Even at my somewhat advanced age, I think, My real life should be starting any minute now. Really starting. This is finally it! Here we go!
I’ve felt this way for decades.
And I still brace myself, fastening my invisible seatbelt and putting my invisible tray table in the upright position. I hold on tight, ticking off the seconds of the countdown: 5…4…3…2…
But that’s as far as I ever get. I’ve never completed the countdown. The metaphorical rocket ship just rumbles endlessly on the platform.
The result: I am a grown man who still behaves like a teenager. I like candy and ice cream. I hang sci-fi movie posters on my walls. My life is built around impulses, appetites, indulgences.
Sometimes when I get out of the shower in the morning and I’m towelling off my now-mature body and I look into the mirror, what I see is my father’s old, wizened face looking back at me. I always let out a shriek when this happens.
To the people over there, on the other side of the fence? The people with the families and the responsibilities and all that jazz? I always assumed that at some point I’d be joining you, that I’d eventually find my way over to your side of life.
Now I seek out the single and the divorced; the dullards and the damned; the lonely ones. The cat lovers, and the afternoon vacuumers, and the coffee shop loners. You don’t get to be my age without having some weird shit transpire.
We get together and we honour the weird shit.
It’s really not so bad over here, you know….
The Englishman and I exchanged business cards, wished each other well, said goodnight. As soon as he was gone, I felt a tiny tickle of excitement in the top part of my stomach. I was alone, and that tickle was my body’s way of telling me that I was happy to be alone again.
Was it typical for me to feel excited like this after a seemingly harmless chat? It was. It’s always been this way for me. Once, after a business meeting in a hotel barroom in Vancouver last winter, I stopped off in the lobby Men’s Room and caught a glimpse of myself in the bathroom mirror. What I saw looking back was startling: I had the eyes of a sailor who’d spent too many years at sea; a sailor who’d survived epic, wine-dark tempests and maybe even battled oversized octopi; a sailor who was only now taking his first unexpected steps back on land again. I could see the post-business-meeting gratitude, even subtle flashes of joy, in my eyes in that Men’s Room mirror.
If anyone wonders why I live alone with two idiotic cats and have never been married, well, case closed on that front.
From what I could tell the Englishman was a thoroughly decent man, decent all the way down to his English bones. Had it occurred to me that this situation—two strangers having a drink together in a casino shaped like an Egyptian pyramid—might turn into some sort of sick, twisted, perverted encounter?
Yes, that had occurred to me. All my life I’ve thought that even the most innocuous situations are going to somehow turn into sick, twisted, perverted encounters.
But the truth is this: very few of the situations in my life that I’d thought were going to turn into sick, twisted, perverted encounters actually turned into sick, twisted, perverted encounters. Which is a huge relief. And, also—let’s be honest—a bit of a disappointment, too. Fact: A sick, twisted, perverted encounter once or twice a year can be good for you. They get the old heart pumping, get the adrenaline simmering. They wake up those dormant fight-or-flight instincts.
My cab ride with the Englishman and his stylish cardigan was quick and painless. One of the things that I actually like about Las Vegas—maybe the only thing that I actually like about Las Vegas—is that the airport is bizarrely close to the city itself. From the airport to The Strip takes only fifteen minutes. Twenty minutes, if traffic is congested.
The Luxor’s main entrance was, like all things in Las Vegas, oversized and melodramatic. It looked like a shabbier version of the backlot of the 1963 film Cleopatra. But the entrance was also somewhat rundown in small ways. Several overhead lights were burned out; bits of trash rolled around the drop-off area like tumbleweeds.
Once we’d exited the cab, I made a display of taking out my wallet. I said to the Englishman, “Let’s split this.” I even opened the wallet a little, to show the Englishman how serious my intentions were.
The Englishman mercifully waved me off. He fished around in his (much fancier) wallet with his delicate English fingers, and said the words I had been hoping to hear: “I can expense this.”
“Are you sure?” I asked.
And with those magic words, it was decided. Final score: Disheveled Frankenstein 1, Las Vegas 0. More…
The first week of January 2016 I traveled to Las Vegas for the Consumer Electronics Show. It was only my second CES ever. My first was seven or eight years ago.
I’m not sure that Las Vegas is the best place to get the new year up and running. The tech industry seems to think it is.
The company I was working for had booked me a room at the Luxor, which is the hotel-casino that, from the outside, looks like the illegitimate child of a pyramid and a horny disco ball.
When I deplaned at McCarran, it was obvious that everyone in the airport was there for CES. Lots of backpacks, and virtual maps, and foreign accents, and index fingers pushing the bridges of eyeglass frames back up the lengths of oily noses, etc., etc. Oh, the narrowed, nearsighted eyes of nerds! Eyes ruined by decades of comic-book reading, staring at computer screens, playing video games, etc., etc. What beautiful eyes they have, truly.
A bit of science information for us to puzzle over today: My ferritin level is low. A normal ferritin level is about a 100. Mine, right now, is a couple of ticks below 20.
So what exactly is “ferritin,” kids? And why do we care about its so-called “level”? I have no idea what the word ferritin means; I was pre-med for a tad less than 1.5 semesters in college. Chemistry is what finally drove me off. Though I do now know that ferritin has something vaguely to do with iron (thanks, WebMD). And I also know this: if your ferritin level is below 20, as mine is, congratulations, because you are now borderline anemic.
This is not something that you want to be. After all the mysteries and nonsense that I’ve been through over the past two years, after all the times that my body has backfired and threatened to explode (and implode), why do I have a unexpected iron deficiency? And why do I have it now?
The official answer from science is this: Who in the fuck knows. More…
Could I find my way around San Francisco without the use of my phone? To my surprise, it seemed that I could. What I did was this: I looked for real-world objects that I had noticed en route to the Marriott Courtyard earlier. For example, I saw a group of 10 or 15 bored Japanese teenagers hungrily smoking cigarettes in the entryway to a tiny cafe. I saw a health-food store with a weathered cowboy painted on the sign out front. The cowboy was supposed to look intimidating, like he was about to engage in a barroom brawl or a shoot-out. But he didn’t look intimidating to me; he looked like he was vexed by the vague, nagging shit smell that seems to bizarrely permeate the San Francisco streets. Finally, I saw a neon sign, still lighted for some reason despite the daytime hours, hanging in the blacked-out windows of a bar. The sign said: WOODEN CANOE ALE.
San Francisco, man.