I recently had to collect a stray package from the UPS store. I headed for the West End, where the yellow note that UPS had left on my front door directed me to go.
It was a balmy weekday afternoon. Strong sunshine, but not too strong. Canadians like to stroll on summer afternoons. They seem to have no destination or purpose. They don’t walk, per se; more accurately, they drift. They pause at random moments. They gaze up at trees as if they’ve never seen trees before.
I know West Coast Canadians now. They’re lovely, but most have static in their heads, like TV’s without signals. Or they’re stoned.
I spotted a white chihuahua without a leash cantering on the sidewalk about half a block in front of me. He was on his own, or seemed to be. This was puzzling and vaguely upsetting to me. He had that buoyant dog energy, where all four of his feet never seem to be on the ground at exactly the same time. I wondered if the dog was lost and in need of my assistance. I’m always game for a pet rescue; I’d reunited a lost cat with its owners earlier in the year. I got a terrific amount of satisfaction from doing that.
A figure also loomed in the distance up ahead, about a block in front of the chihuahua. Is the figure this little guy’s owner? I thought. I hoped so.
As I watched, the chihuahua abruptly stopped cantering. He moved into the grass next to the sidewalk and proceeded to sniff the area with purpose. The little guy had a contemplative look in his bulbous eyes. Then he hunkered down and released a turd—a surprisingly good-sized turd too, considering the dog’s size.
Unburdened now, his system cleared, the chihuahua left his effort behind. He sprinted along the sidewalk. He really opened it up, racing all the way to the distant figure.
The leash-less chihuahua, it seemed, belonged to that man.
I caught up with the man about thirty seconds later. I pointed at the dog and said, “Is that your dog?”
The chihuahua was turning figure-eights through the man’s ankles. The man stopped and looked at me. “Well, that’s a difficult question to answer,” he said. He rubbed his stubble-covered chin theatrically, as if he were auditioning for the part of “Seafarer No. 2.” “Somedays I don’t know if he belongs to me,”—another chin rub, another melodramatic pause—”or if I belong to him.”
He chuckled in a self-satisfied way.
“I’ve got some news for you. He took a big shit back there,” I said. I pointed behind me, back along the sidewalk.
“Did he?” the Seafarer asked. He was concerned, or seemed to be concerned. “Where?”
“Two blocks back. Just after that stop sign. Next to the sidewalk.”
The man made a frustrated exhale. He turned around a little too quickly and began to retrace his steps.
I continued on my way to Denman to pick up my UPS package, pleased with myself. He’d probably been doing this kind of thing for years. Now he’d been caught and brought to justice.
The package at the UPS store turned out to be some random trash—boring documents that a colleague had been promising to send for months. I thought about putting the documents directly into the garbage, but reluctantly carried them home out of a bizarre sense of duty. I stopped and bought myself an ice cream cone on Denman Street, figuring I deserved one. I considered taking a different route home, but then curiosity got the better of me. I wanted to see if the Seafarer had made good on his promise.
As I drew closer to the spot, the ice cream began to lose its flavour. By the time I actually saw the stop sign up ahead in the distance, all the satisfaction that I’d previously felt was gone. A pit opened in my stomach. I was sure that I’d made a mistake coming back this way. Yet I had to know. I had to have an answer.
The important thing is that you said something, I told myself. That’s what matters.
I don’t think I have to tell you what I found there.
You know what I found.
[Note: Two editors were initially interested in this story. One editor vanished, because of a few unexpected changes in his life and career. But the other editor bought it, and ran it on his site, in a heavily edited form. Anyway, here’s the entire unedited version of the story. Enjoy. -Scott]
Meet Ela Darling. She’s a porn star. She’s a pioneering phenom in the burgeoning virtual reality [VR] sphere of the porn sector.
I first contacted Ela over the Internet. Then I discovered that she was speaking at a VR conference in NYC that I, coincidentally, was also attending. I met her there, in person, and sat with her for a little over an hour in a dimly lighted coffee shop on the Lower East Side. This was March 2016.
Hello, good people! Went out to New Westminster again, this time to visit a used game store called Press Start. Found two guys behind the counter: Russ and John.
They were smart, thoughtful guys who 1. own a used game store and 2. are both in successful romantic relationships.
Welcome to New Westminster, which is sort of like Vancouver’s version of late-90’s Williamsburg, Brooklyn. In “New West” (that’s what the locals call it, FYI) you’ll find one of the great used game stores in North America: Gamedeals.
I visited Gamedeals during the week before E3, and I got to meet Jade and Celeste. I’ll be honest with you: It’s beyond rare to find two women manning (woman-ing?) the counter of a used game store. We talked about games, collectibles, Platinums, blowing on cartridges, repairing scratched discs, boyfriends, virtual reality, game-making, modding, relationships, etc. etc. In short: It’s a good conversation, as you will discover.
Also, I continued my search for a copy of 2007’s Crackdown. Would I find it at Gamedeals? Click the pizza-shaped button below for the answer. Webside: http://gamedeals.ca
Also, for the record, I live underneath the word “Vancouver” on that map over there. Gamedeals is located directly underneath the words “New Westminster,” on the Fraser River, which, I believe, is named after Dr. Fraser Crane who was a boozy, snobby regular on the TV show Cheers.
It takes about 20-25 minutes to get to New West via the Skytrain from downtown.
In late May I traveled south to Seattle early on a rainy Thursday morning. Took the 9 a.m. Amtrak bus from Central Station here in Vancouver. Yes, North America’s oldest, most decorated passenger railroad also operates a legitimate bus-line.
Why? Who knows. More…
1. This is an older post that I dusted off this morning because a friend of mine mentioned it to me recently. I’d forgotten about it.
2. A couple things before we get started. Game writers have two fundamental fantasies when they get into this business. One is to go to E3 in L.A. The second, somewhat more far fetched fantasy is to one day travel to Japan for the Tokyo Game Show. I’ve been fortunate enough to go to Tokyo—pre-devastation—three times in the last few years. Each time, without fail, I returned to North America wondering if I actually went to Japan or if I dreamed the whole wonderful, terrible, surreal episode. What follows is an account of one of those moments that I am reasonably certain actually happened to me. Enjoy.
3. The “devastation” I refer to above? It’s Fukushima.
While waiting for colleague John Teti to arrive in Tokyo for our Tokyo Game Show Adventure, I had a day all to myself in Shinjuku. I decided to sleep, eat, drink lots of water, read, monkey with my computer, play GeoDefense Swarm on the iPhone, and generally attempt to recover from the 10-plus cruel and unusual hours that I spent yesterday folded into that coach seat on my JAL flight from Vancouver to Narita.
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 slice-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….